Page images

as Joseph, the first monopolist of whom history makes mention, despoiled the ancient Egyptians. He has cornered, if not the subsistence of the country, what amounts to the same thing. He is master of our tools of trade of the money, machinery and transportation facilities. No matter how much land and muscle you may have, without the co-operation of capital you cannot profitably produce. It is an easy matter to obtain the use of land; the trouble is to obtain the use of capital.

How would the single tax afford people easier access to the earth-enable us to so multiply capital that it begs for employment? Under the present system, when you have acquired a piece of land it is exchangeable wealth, enables you to command any other form of wealth in the world. If you exchange gold or labor for land, you can exchange land for gold or labor; and wherein is the giving of value for value any more to be decried that the giving of nothing for nothing? I am told that if one does not have to purchase land he may put his capital or labor in improvements. Quite true; but he may do that as well under lease from the private owner as under lease from the government. If a change from private to public landloraism would reduce the rent, that were a point in favor of the poor; but if it does this, how will it compel the release of land now held for speculative purposes? If we are to meet all governmental charges, both general and local, from ground rent, and it amounts now to but 750 millions, it must be doubled instead of reduced. And how will the man who cannot pay $5.00 an acre rent, manage to pay $10.00? True, he will be relieved of all other taxation, both direct and indirect, but will this offset a raise of $5.00 an acre on a 40-acre farm?

Mr. George has refined his logic too far for any practical purpose in assuming that land is the source of all wealth. Technically this is true, but only technically. One great trouble with the single taxers is their ambition to save the country by the science of definition. Logomachy will never make two pieces of pie to grow in place of one sun-burned potato. The product of the land is, for the most part, merely potential wealth. The taxes taken by government are estimated in money, but are in reality a portion of labor's annual product. They are so many pounds of sugar and soap, so many barrels of molasses and bourbon, so many watches and wagons. The raw material for all these things comes from the soil, and they are made on the earth's surface to be sure; but while the prime factors in the production of a $10.00 log are labor and land, the prime factors in its transmutation into a $500.00 suite of furniture

[merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small]

are capital and labor. Government might as well ask a horse for furniture as to require it of the land and the logger. They have not produced any furniture; they have only produced a log. Mr. George's government would resemble the country editor who is trying to run a paper on cordwood and cabbage. But the land occupied by the furniture factory would be taxed. Quite true, but a factory producing a million dollars' worth of goods per annum may occupy land of less value than a 10-acre farm. The man who produces five bales of cotton may pay more rent than the man who manufactures 500 into muslin. Mr. George is going to the wrong place for this revenue. But he is a professing Christian, and doubtless thoroughly scriptural, for the Bible says that "From him who hath not shall be taken even that which he hath."

You may theorize until the cows come home, but you cannot extract sunbeams from cucumbers nor blood from turnips. Taxation being but a toll taken from the product of each, the government may appropriate a part of the farmer's potatoes but cannot pull his leg for a piano. "Without land to produce raw material, there could be no wealth; ergo, land is the source of all wealth and the one proper subject for taxation." Without rain the land would be sterile, but for the ocean there would be no rain; ergo, the ocean is the source of all wealth, and will please step up to the captain's office and settle!

Wealth consists of things adapted by labor to the wants of man. It is upon the brawn and brain of the human race that society and government rest. The land, like the atmosphere, like time and space, is merely an incidental, economically considered. no more tax the land than you can tax the moon, which, like the "cat" of the single taxers, is by no means where it appears to be, the line of vision being oblique. I may have 50,000 acres of land, and all the tax-chasers this side of Sheol cannot collect 50 cents from it. They can only confiscate a portion of what labor produces thereon. If it produces nothing they can fine me for possessing it, but to meet this mulct I've got to produce or steal-something desired by others.

Ever since I can remember, this country has been full of people who were "land poor"--people who were working themselves to death to pay taxes on land that nobody seemed to have any use for, Millions of dollars are paid into the treasury every year by holders of unused land simply because nobody will buy or lease. Under the George system all taxes will be taken off idle lands and placed on that in use. Why does fertile land often lie idle in states like

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

You can

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

Ohio and Illinois? “Rent so high nobody can afford to pay it?": Oh, no! We have seen that it is cheaper for a man to rent land than to own it. Idle land presses for employment just as do capital and labor. When its owner cannot get much, he will take little. Rent can never remain exorbitant in a community where there is always considerable idle land. It would undoubtedly do so if one man, or a syndicate of men, owned the earth. In that case the landlord would dictate to both capital and labor. But such a condition does not, never did, never can exist except in the uneasy dreams of the single taxers. I defy any man to organize a landlord's league sufficiently powerful to raise the average ground rent one iota in a single American state.

“Land monopoly!" What is a monopoly? It is, says Webster, "exclusive possession." Who has exclusive possession of the earth? Nobody. Some millions of people, each acting independently and for his individual interest, own the arable land of America-and to the south of us, a few hours' sail from New York, Galveston and San Francisco, is a vast and fertile continent where land may be had for the asking. True, it is not provided with macadamized streets and cable-cars. It is well-nigh as wild as was Virginia when our ancestors struggled in there from everywhere. If the single taxers will migrate thither and take chances with the aborigines and wild beasts for a century or so, I will not question the right of their.descendants to charge newcomers somewhat for the privilege of enjoying the blessings of a civilization founded by their fathers.

If the world were peopled up to something like its ability to sustain life, Mr. George's system would deserve more serious consideration; but land owners cannot grievously oppress labor or dictate to capital until they form an effective "combine" or the demand for land exceeds the supply. Can high wages exist when the supply of labor exceeds the demand? Can high rents exist when there are not men enough living to utilize half the land? Is population increasing so rapidly? During the present century there has been a vast gain in America, but a marked decline in many foreign countries. London has risen, but Babylon has fallen. San Francisco and Sydney are of the present, but Memphis and Palmyra are of the past. Not for ages hence will the fears of Malthus be realized, nor will the great-grandsons of Henry George live to see a “monopoly of land." It is idle to urge that the poor cannot emigrate from where land is dear to where it is either cheap or free, for it is ever the poor who do emigrate. America has been peopled by the poor.

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

the capitalist-to compel them to yield him the bulk of their earnings or drive them into the ocean or off the earth how comes it that men occupying land of little value, and that often upon lease, can form combinations that fix the price of the land products? A man possessing $100,000,000 may occupy a flatboat anchored in midocean vet take a heavier toll from the annual product of labor than can the man who owns 1,000 acres of land in the heart of Ohio. The American landlord and the American laborer are paying heavy tribute to men who reside in Europe on land that would not grow bunch grass. The American landlord has no more power over them than though they made their home in the moon or existed in the atmosphere. The relatively rich and poor we have had with us since the dawn of history, but not until the change in productive methods, making necessary the co-operation of vast capital, did we see scores of men become suddenly richer than sceptred monarchs, while others, able and willing to work, are compelled to beg their bread.

The foregoing are a few reasons why I am inclined to doubt the efficacy of the single tax.

[ocr errors]

Single tax advocates frequently refer to British Columbia, Alberta and New Zealand as successful illustrations of their theory. As a matter of fact these colonies do not have single tax, their revenues being derived chiefly by taxes other than on land and including the income tax, which is diametrically opposite in principle. They have, however, for purely local reasons (mainly to discourage alien ownership, which is a problem there not paralleled with us) experimented with exemptions upon land improvements. Such exemptions transfer an insignificant proportion of their entire taxes to land, but, even at that, it has had far from a beneficial effect upon the affected municipalities. And to claim a growing sentiment toward universal single tax is direct misrepresentation. W. Downie Stewart, the leading New Zealand tax authority and co-author of "State Socialism In New Zealand,” says not only that single tax has never become an issue in that country, but that no one of responsibility would ever dare advocate it in a community so pre-eminently agricultural. New Zealand is an income tax country, drawing a bare trifle of its revenue from a low graduated land tax designed to prevent English ownership of too great areas. As to the experiments in Western Canada, we quote two reliable investigators, one Canadian and one American.

F. C. Wade, King's Counsel, Vancouver, B. C.

(In Vancouver “Sun," January 7, 1914.) We are expected to forget that the customs receipts for Vancouver alone consisting entirely of taxes on the products of man's industry-amounted in the year just closed to $8,235,273.19, while the inland revenue tax was $666,237.48. The entire Dominion is financed by taxing the products of industry. If all the skyscrapers and apartment houses in Canada were exempt from taxation, the whole expenditure of the Dominion would continue to be provided by taxes, direct or indirect, on the products of human industry.

Similarly, persistent effort is made to mislead the gullible portion of the electorate by mixing up the Vancouver system of taxation and the Henry George theory. Henry George is a name to conjure with. Many who have never read a line of Henry George, will rush under anything held up as a Henry George banner. As a matter of fact there is no resemblance between the Henry George theory and single tax, as we have it in Vancouver. The Henry George system precluded all customs taxes, all inland revenue, as well as income taxes, personal property taxes, poll taxes, death taxes and all the other exactions, which we have to bear in Vancouver. Rent alone was to pay all the taxes of the community under the Henry George system. By single tax he meant one single solitary tax, and no other. Here we live under a dozen systems of taxation. Each one of the twelve may be single, but the aggregate, for all that, is none the less.

« PreviousContinue »