Outlines of Louis F. Post's Lectures
on The Single Tax ~
Absolute Free Trade ~ The Labor Question ~ Progress and Poverty
~ The Land Question ~ The Elements of Political Economy
~ Socialism ~ Hard Times
with Illustrative Notes & Charts and
I. The Single Tax Defined
II. The Single Tax as a Fiscal Reform
1. Direct and Indirect Taxation
2. The Two Kinds of Direct Taxation
(1) In proportion to ability to pay; and (2) in proportion to benefits received.
3. The Single Tax Falls in Proportion to Benefits
4. Conformity to General Principles of Taxation
(a) Interference with Production
(b) Cheapness of Collection
III. The Single Tax as a Social Reform
1. The Source of Wealth (Charts)
2. The Production of Wealth
(a) Division of Labor (Charts)
(b) Trade (Charts)
(c) The Law of Division of Labor and Trade (Charts)
Note 72. Mechanism of Trade (Charts)
(d) Dependence of Labor Upon Land (Chart)
3. The Distribution of Wealth
(a) Explanation of Wages and Rent
(b) Normal Effect of Social Progress upon Wages and Rent
(c) Significance of the Upward Tendency of Rent
(d) Effect of Confiscating Rent to Private Use
(e) Effect of Retaining Rent for Common Use
These "Outlines," while giving neither the substance
nor the arrangement of any of the lectures named in the title, contain the
leading points of
all. But to make the points consecutive they have been woven into one of
the lectures — that on the Single Tax. This, however, is not arbitrary,
for the philosophy of the single tax involves the elementary principles of
absolute free trade, of the labor question, of poverty with progress, of
the land question, and of political economy; and while exposing the fallacies
of socialism it explains the problem of hard times.
The "Outlines" do not take the place of the lectures. They are
published merely to prepare the mind of the reader in advance to more fully
appreciate the lectures during delivery, and to assist afterward in recalling
and deliberately considering and criticizing what is advanced from the platform.
To this end the principal charts of all the lectures are reproduced.
The text in large type is a connected explanation. It may be read and fully
understood without reference to the notes. But the notes elaborate and illustrate
points which from the conciseness
of their statement in the text may seem obscure to readers who are unaccustomed
to economic thought.
I. THE SINGLE TAX DEFINED
The practical form in which Henry George puts the idea of appropriating economic
rent to common use is "To abolish all taxation save that upon land
1. "Progress and Poverty," book
viii, ch. ii.
This is now generally known as "The Single Tax."2 Under its operation
all classes of workers, whether manufacturers, merchants, bankers, professional
men, clerks, mechanics, farmers, farm-hands, or other working classes, would,
as such, be wholly exempt. It is only as men own land that they would be taxed,
the tax of each being in proportion, not to the area, but to value of his land.
And no one would be compelled to pay a higher tax than others if his land were
improved or used while theirs was not, nor if his were better improved or better
used than theirs.3 The value of its improvements would not be considered in
estimating the value of a holding; site value alone would govern.4 If a site
rose in the market the tax would proportionately increase; if that fell, the
tax would proportionately diminish.
2. In "Progress and Poverty," book viii, ch. iv, Henry George speaks
of "the effect of substituting for the manifold taxes now imposed, a single tax on the value of land; but the term did not become a
distinctive name until 1888.
The first general movement along the lines of "Progress and Poverty" began
New York City election of 1886, when Henry George polled 68,110 votes as
an independent candidate for mayor, and was defeated by the Democratic candidate,
Abram S. Hewitt, by a plurality of only 22,442, the Republican, Theodore
polling but 60,435. Following that election the United Labor Party was formed,
the Syracuse Convention in August, 1887, by the exclusion of the Socialists,
came to present the central idea of "Progress and Poverty" as distinguished
from the Socialistic propaganda which until then was identified with it.
Coincident with the organization of the United Labor Party the Anti-Poverty
formed; and the two bodies, one representing the political and the
other the religious phase of the idea, worked together until President Cleveland's
tariff message of 1887 appeared. In this message Mr. George saw the timid
beginnings of that open struggle between protection and
free trade to which he had for years looked forward as the political movement
that must culminate in the abolition of all taxes save those upon land values,
and he responded
at once to the sentiments of the message. But many protectionists, who had
followed him because they supposed he was a land nationalizer, now broke
away from his leadership,
and the United Labor Party and the Anti-Poverty Society were soon practically
dissolved. Those who understood Mr. George's real position regarding the
land question readily acquiesced
in his views as to political policy, and a considerable movement resulted,
which, however, for some time lacked an identifying name. This was the situation
when Thomas G. Shearman, Esq., wrote for the Standard an article
on taxation in which he illustrated and advocated the land value tax as a
fiscal measure. The article had been submitted without a caption, and Mr.
then the editor of the
Standard, entitled it "The Single Tax." This title was
at once adopted by the "George men," as they were often called,
and has ever since served as the name of the movement it describes.
Though "the single tax" is the English form of "l'impot
name of the French
physiocratic doctrine of the eighteenth century, the names have no historical
connection, and they stand for different ideas.
3. When it is remembered that some land in cities is worth millions of
dollars an acre, that a small building lot in the business center of even
village is worth more than a whole field of the best farming land in the neighborhood,
that a few
of coal or iron land are worth more than great groups of farms, that the
right of way of a railroad company through a thickly settled district or
important points is worth more than its rolling stock, and that the value
of workingmen's cottages in the suburbs is trifling in comparison with
of city residence sites, the absurdity, if not the dishonesty, of the plea
that the single tax would discriminate against farmers and small home owners
and in favor of the rich is apparent. The bad faith of this plea is emphasized
when we consider that under existing systems of taxation the farmer and
the poor home owner are compelled to pay in taxes upon improvements,
and other objects of consumption, much more than the full annual value of
their bare land.
4. The difference between site value and improvement value
is much more definite than it is often supposed to be. Even in what would
seem at first
most confusing cases, it is easily distinguished. If in any example we
imagine the complete destruction of all the improvements, we may discover
remaining value of the property — in the price it would after such
destruction fetch in the real estate market — the value of the site
from the value of the improvements. This residuum of value would be the basis
of computation for levying the single tax.
The distinction is frequently made in business life. Whenever in the course
of ordinary business affairs it becomes necessary to estimate the value
of a building lot, or to fix royalties for mining privileges, no difficulty
is experienced, and substantial justice is done. And though the exigencies
business seldom require the site value of an improved farm to be distinguished
from the value of its improvements, yet it could doubtless be done as easily
and justly as with city or mining property. Unimproved land attached to
any farm in question, or unimproved land in the neighborhood, if similar
and location, would furnish a sufficiently accurate measure. If neither
existed, the value of the contiguous highway would always be available.
It should not be forgotten that land for which the demand is so weak that
its site value cannot be easily distinguished from the value of its improvements,
is certain to be land of but little value, and almost certain to have no
value at all.
The objection that the value of land cannot be distinguished from the value
of its improvements is among the most frivolous of the objections that
have been raised to the single tax by people with whom the wish that
it may be
impracticable is father to
the thought that it really is so.
The single tax may be concisely described as a tax upon land alone, in the
ratio of value, irrespective of improvements or use.
II. THE SINGLE TAX AS A FISCAL REFORM
1. DIRECT AND INDIRECT TAXATION
Taxes are either direct or indirect; or, as they have been aptly
described, "straight" or "crooked." Indirect taxes are
those that may be shifted by the first
payer from himself to others; direct taxes are those
that cannot be shifted.5
5. "Taxes are either direct or indirect. A direct tax is one which
is demanded from the very persons who, it is intended or desired, should
it. Indirect taxes are those which are demanded from one person in the
expectation and intention that he shall indemnify himself at the expense
of another." — John
Stuart Mill's Prin. of Pol. Ec., book v, ch. iii, sec. I.
"Direct taxes are those which are levied on the very persons who it
is intended or desired should pay them, and which they cannot put off upon
the prices of the taxed article.. . . Indirect taxes on the other hand
are those which are levied on persons who expect to get back the amount
of the tax by raising the price of the taxed article." — Laughlin's
Elements, par. 249.
Taxes are direct "when the payment is made by the person who is intended
to bear the sacrifice." Indirect taxes are recovered from final
purchasers. — Jevons's Primer, sec. 96.
"Indirect taxes are so called because they are not paid into the treasury
by the person who really bears the burden. The payer adds the amount of the
tax to the price of the commodity taxed, and thus the taxation is concealed
under the increased price of some article of luxury or convenience." — Thompson's
Pol. Ec., sec. 175.
The shifting of indirect taxes is accomplished by means of their tendency
to increase the prices of commodities on which they fall. Their magnitude
and incidence 6 are thereby disguised. It was for this reason that a great
French economist of the last century denounced them as "a scheme for
so plucking geese as to get the most feathers with the least squawking."7
6. Jevons defines the incidence of a tax as "the manner in which it
falls upon different classes of the population." — Jevons's
Sometimes called "repercussion," and refers "to the real as
opposed to the nominal payment of taxes." — Ely's Taxation, p. 64.
7. Though his language was blunt, the sentiment does not
essentially differ from that of "statesmen" of our day who meet
all the moral and economic objections to indirect taxation with the one
reply that the people
consent to pay enough or the support of government if public revenues were
collected from them directly. This means nothing but that the people are
actually hoodwinked by indirect taxation into sustaining a government that
if they knew it was maintained at their expense; and instead of being
for continuing indirect taxation, would, if true, be one of the strongest
of reasons for abolishing it. It is consistent neither with the plainest
principles of democracy nor the simplest conceptions of morality.
Indirect taxation costs the real tax-payers much more than the government
receives, partly because the middlemen through whose hands taxed commodities
able to exact compound profits upon the tax,8
and partly on account of extraordinary expenses of original collection;9 it favors
corruption in government by concealing from the people the fact that they contribute
support of government; and it tends, by obstructing production, to crush legitimate
industry and establish monopolies.10 The questions it raises are of vastly more
concern than is indicated by the sum total of public expenditures.
8. A tax upon shoes, paid in the first instance by shoe
manufacturers, enters into manufacturers' prices, and, together with the
usual rate of
profit upon that amount of investment, is recovered from wholesalers.
The tax and the manufacturers' profit upon it then constitute part of the
wholesale price and are collected
from retailers. The retailers in turn collect the tax with all intermediate
profits upon it, together with
their usual rate of profit upon the whole, from final purchasers — the
consumers of shoes. Thus what appears on the surface to be a tax upon shoe
proves upon examination to be an indirect tax upon shoe consumers, who
an accumulation of profits upon the tax considerably more than the government
The effect would be the same if a tax upon their leather output were imposed
tanners. Tanners would add to the price of leather the amount of the tax,
plus their usual rate of profit upon a like investment, and collect the
whole, together with the cost of hides, of transportation, of tanning and
from shoe manufacturers, who would collect with their profit from retailers,
who would collect with their profit from shoe consumers. The principle
applies also when taxes are levied upon the stock or the sales of merchants,
money or credits of bankers; merchants add the tax with the usual profit to
the prices of their goods, and bankers add it to their
interest and discounts.
For example; a tax of $100,000 upon the output of manufacturers
or importers would, at 10 per cent as the manufacturing profit, cost wholesalers
at a profit of 10 per cent to wholesalers it would cost retailers $121,000,
and at 20 percent profit to retailers it would finally impose a tax burden
of $145,200 — being 45 per cent more than the government would get.
commodities the number of profits exceeds three, so that indirect taxes
may frequently cost as much as 100 per cent, even when imposed only upon
are commercially known as finished goods; when imposed upon materials also,
the cost of collection might well run far above 200 percent in addition
to the first cost of maintaining the machinery of taxation.
It must not be supposed, however, that the recovery of indirect taxes from
the ultimate consumers of taxed goods is arbitrary. When shoe manufacturers,
or tanners, or merchants add taxes to prices, or bankers add them to interest,
it is not because they might do otherwise but choose to do this; it is because
the exigencies of trade compel them. Manufacturers, merchants, and
other tradesmen who carry on competitive businesses must on the average sell
their goods at cost plus the ordinary rate of profit, or go out of business.
It follows that any increase in cost of production tends to increase the price
of products. Now, a tax upon the output of business men, which they must
pay as a condition of doing their business, is as truly part of the cost of
their output as is the price of the materials they buy or the wages of the
hire. Therefore, such a tax upon business men tends to increase the price
of their products. And this tendency is more or less marked as the tax is
or less great and competition more or less keen.
It is true that a moderate tax upon monopolized products,
such as trade-mark goods, proprietary medicines, patented articles and
is not necessarily shifted to consumers. The monopoly manufacturer whose
prices are not checked by cost of production, and are therefore as a rule
competitive prices would be, may find it more profitable to bear the burden
of a tax that leaves him some profit, by preserving his entire custom, than
to drive off part of his custom by adding the tax to his usual prices. This
is true also of a moderate import tax to the extent it falls upon goods that
are more cheaply transported from the place of production to a foreign market
where the import tax is imposed than to a home market where the goods would
be free of such a tax — products, for instance, of a farm in Canada
near to a New York town, but far away from any Canadian town. If the tax
the difference in the cost of transportation the producer will bear the burden
of it; otherwise he will not. The ultimate effect would be a reduction in
the value of the Canadian land. Examples which may be cited in opposition
principle that import taxes are indirect, will upon examination prove to
be of the character here described. Business cannot be carried on at a loss
— not for long.
9. "To collect taxes, to prevent and punish evasions, to check and
countercheck revenue drawn from so many distinct sources, now make up probably
perhaps seven-eighths, of the business of government outside of the preservation
of order, the maintenance of the military arm, and the administration of
justice." — Progress and Poverty, book iv, ch: v
10. For a brief and thorough exposition of indirect taxation read George's "Protection
or Free Trade," ch. viii, on " Tariffs for Revenue."
Whoever calmly reflects and candidly decides upon the merits of indirect
taxation must reject it in all its forms. But to do that is to make a great
stride toward accepting the single tax. For the single tax is a form of direct
taxation; it cannot be shifted.11
11. This is usually a stumbling block to those who, without much experience
in economic thought, consider the single tax for the first time. As
soon as they grasp the idea that taxes upon commodities shift to consumers
jump to the
that similarly taxes upon land values would shift to the users.
But this is a mistake, and the explanation is simple. Taxes upon what
men produce make
difficult and so tend toward scarcity in the supply, which stimulates
prices; but taxes
upon land, provided the taxes be levied in proportion to value, tend toward
plenty in supply (meaning market supply of course), because they make
it more difficult to hold valuable land idle, and so depress prices.
"A tax on rent falls wholly on the landlord. There are no means by
which he can
shift the burden upon anyone else. . . A tax on rent, therefore, has no
effect other than its obvious one. It merely takes so much from the
landlord and transfers it to the state." — John Stuart
Mill's Prin. of Pol. Ec., book v, ch. iii, sec. 1.
"A tax laid upon rent is borne solely by the owner of land." — Bascom's Tr., p.159.
"Taxes which are levied on land . . . really fall on the owner of the land." — Mrs.
Fawcett's Pol. Ec. for Beginners, pp.209, 210.
"A land tax levied in proportion to the rent of land, and varying with
every variation of rents, . . . will fall wholly on the landlords." — Walker's
Pol. Ec., ed. of 1887, p. 413, quoting Ricardo.
"The power of transferring a tax from the person who actually pays
it to some other person varies with the object taxed. A tax on rents
A tax on commodities is always transferred to the consumer." — Thorold
Rogers's Pol. Ec., ch. xxi, 2d ed., p. 285.
"Though the landlord is in all cases the real contributor, the tax is commonly
advanced by the tenant, to whom the landlord is obliged to allow it in
payment of the rent." — Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations, book v,
ch. ii, part ii, art. i.
"The way taxes raise prices is by increasing the cost of production and
checking supply. But land is not a thing of human production, and taxes
upon rent cannot check supply. Therefore, though a tax upon rent compels
to pay more, it gives them no power to obtain more for the use of their
land, as it in no way tends to reduce the supply of land. On the contrary,
those who hold land on speculation to sell or let for what they can get,
a tax on land values tends to increase the competition between owners,
to reduce the price of land." — Progress and Poverty,
book viii, ch. iii, subd. i.
Sometimes this point is raised as a question of shifting the tax in higher
rent to the tenant, and at others as a question of shifting it to the
consumers of goods in higher prices. The principle is the same. Merchants
higher prices for goods than their competitors do, merely because they
pay higher ground rents. A country storekeeper whose business lot is worth
dollars charges as much for sugar, probably more, than a city grocer
lot is worth thousands. Quality for quality and quantity for quantity,
goods sell for about the same price everywhere. Differences in price
in favor of places where land has a high value. This is due to the fact
that the cost of getting goods to places of low land value, distant villages
example, is greater than
to centers, which are places
of high land value. Sometimes it is true that prices for some things are
higher where land values are high. Tiffany's goods, for instance, may be
than goods of the same quality at a store on a less expensive site. But
that is not due to the higher land value; it is because the dealer has a
for technical knowledge and honesty (or has become a fad among rich people),
for which his customers are willing to pay whether his store is on a high
priced-lot or a low-priced one.
Though land value has no effect upon the price of good,
it is easier to sell goods in some locations than in others. Therefore,
though the price
and the profit of each sale be the same, or even less, in good locations
poorer ones, aggregate receipts and aggregate profits are much greater
at the good location. And it is out of his aggregate, and not out of each
that rent is paid, For example: A cigar store on a thoroughfare supplies
a certain quality of cigar for fifteen cents. On a side street the same quality
of cigar can be bought no cheaper. Indeed, the cigars there are likely
poorer, and therefore really dearer. Yet ground rent on the thoroughfare
is very high compared with ground rent on the sidestreet. How, then, can
the first dealer, he who pays the high ground rent, afford to sell as good
or better cigars for fifteen cents than his competitor of the low priced
location? Simply because he is able to make so many more sales with a given
labor and capital in a given time that his aggregate profit is greater.
This is due to the advantage of his location, and for that advantage he pays
a premium in higher ground rent. But that premium is not charged to smokers;
the competing dealer of the side street protects them. It represents the
greater ease, the lower cost, of doing a given volume of business
upon the site for which it is paid; add if the state should take any of
it, even the
whole of it, in taxation, the loss would be finally borne by the owner
of the advantage which attaches to that site — by the landlord. Any
attempt to shift it
to tenant or buyer would be promptly checked by the competition of neighboring
but cheaper land.
"A land-tax, levied in proportion to the rent of land,
and varying with every variation of rent, is in effect a tax on rent; and
as such a tax
not apply to that land which yields no rent, nor to the produce of that
capital which is employed on the land with a view to profit merely, and which
never pays rent; it will not in any way affect the price of raw produce,
but will fall wholly on the landlords." — McCulloch's Ricardo
(3d ed.), p. 207
2. THE TWO KINDS OF DIRECT TAXATION
Direct taxes fall into two general classes: (1) Taxes that are levied upon men
in proportion to their ability to pay, and (2) taxes that are levied
in proportion to the benefits received by the tax-payer from the public.
taxes are the principal ones of the first class, though probate and inheritance
taxes would rank high. The single tax is the only important one of the second
There should be no difficulty in choosing between the two. To tax in proportion
to ability to pay, regardless of benefits received, is in accord with no principle
of just government; it is a device of piracy. The single tax, therefore, as
the only important
tax in proportion to benefits, is the ideal tax.
But here we encounter two plausible objections.
One arises from the mistaken but common notion that men are not taxed in proportion
benefits unless they pay taxes upon every kind of property they own that
the protection of government; the other is founded in the assumption that it
is impossible to measure the value of the public benefits that each individual
enjoys. Though the first of these objections ostensibly accepts the doctrine
of taxation according
to benefits,12 yet, as it leads to attempts at taxation in
proportion to wealth, it, like the other, is really a plea for the piratical
doctrine of taxation according to ability to pay. The two objections stand
or fall together.
12. It is often said, for instance, by its advocates, that house owners should
in justice contribute to the support of the fire departments that protect
them and it is even gravely argued that houses are more appropriate subjects
of taxation than land; because they need protection, whereas land needs none.
Read note 8.
Let it once be perceived that the value of the service which government
to each individual would be justly measured by the single tax, and neither
objection would any longer have weight. We should then
no more think of taxing people in proportion to their wealth or ability to
of the benefits they receive from government than an honest merchant would
think of charging his customers in proportion to their wealth or ability
to pay, regardless of the value of the goods they bought of him." 13
13. Following is an interesting computation of the cost and loss to the
city of Boston of the present mixed system of taxation as compared with
the single tax; The computation was made by James R. Carret, Esq., the
Valuation of Boston, May 1, 1892
Land... ... . .. ... .. ... .. $399,170,175
Buildings ... ... ... ... ..$281,109,700
Total assessed value of real estate $680,279,875
value of personal estate $213,695,829
... ... ... ... ... ... .... .... .... ... .... ...
Rate of taxation, $12.90 per $1000
Total tax levy, May 1, 1892 $11,805,036
Amount of taxes levied in respect of the different
subjects of taxation and percentages of the same:
Land .... .... .... .... $5,149,295 43.62%
Buildings .... .... .. $3,626,295 30.72%
Personal estate .. $2,756,676 23.35%
Polls ... .... ... .... .... ...272,750 2.31%
But to ascertain the total cost to the people of Boston of the present system
of taxation for the taxable year, beginning May 1, 1892, there should be added
to the taxes assessed upon them what it cost them to pay the owners of the
land of Boston for the use of the land, being the net ground rent, which I
estimate at four per cent on the land value.
Total tax levy, May 1, 1892 ... ... ... ... .... .... ....
.... .... ..... .... .... .... .... .... .... ..$11,805,036
Net ground rent, four percent, on the land value ($399,170,175).....
... ... ...$15,966,807
Total cost of the present system to the people of Boston
for that year ... $27,771,843
To contrast this with what the single tax system would have cost the people
of Boston for that year, take the gross ground rent, found by adding to the
net ground rent the taxation on land values for that year, being $12.90 per
$1000, or 1.29 per cent added to 4 per cent = 5.29 per cent.
Total cost of present system as above .. .... .... ....
.... .... .... .... .... ....$27,771,843
Single tax, or gross ground rent, 5.29 per cent on $399,170,175 ... ..$21,116,102
Excess cost of present system, which is the sum of
taxes in respect of buildings,
personal property, and polls .... ...... .. $6,655,741
But the present system not only costs the people more than the single tax
would, but produces less revenue:
Proceeds of single tax ... ... ... ... ..... .... .... ..... .... .... ....
..... ..... .... $21,116,102
Present tax levy ... ... ... ... ... .... .... .... ..... .... .... ....
.... .... .... .... ....$11,805,036
Loss to public treasury by present system ... .... ....
.... .... .. ..... ..$9,311,066
This, however, is not a complete contrast between the present system and the
single tax, for large amounts of real estate are exempt from taxation, being
held by the United States, the Commonwealth, by the city itself, by religious
societies and corporations, and by charitable, literary, and scientific institutions.
The total amount of the value of land so held as returned by the assessors
for the year 1892 is $60,626,171.
Reasons can be given why all lands within the city should be assessed for
taxation to secure a just distribution of the public burdens, which I cannot
take the space to enter into here. There is good reason to believe also that
lands in the city of Boston are assessed to quite an appreciable extent below
their fair market value. As an indication of this see an editorial in the Boston Daily
Advertiser for October 3, 1893, under the title, "Their Own Figures."
The vacant lands, marsh lands, and flats in Boston were valued by the assessors
in 1892 (page 3 of their annual report) at $52,712,600. I believe that this
represents not more than fifty per cent of their true market value.
Taking this and the undervaluation of improved property and the exemptions
above mentioned into consideration, I think $500,000,000 to be a fair estimate
of the land values of Boston. Making this the basis of contrast, we have:
Proceeds of single tax 5.29 per cent on $500,000,000 ... .... .... .... $26,450,000
Present tax levy ... .... ... .... .... .... .... .... .....
.... .... .... .... ..... .... .... ..$11,805,036
Loss to public treasury by present system ... ... ... ...
.... .... .... ....$14,644,974
3. THE SINGLE TAX FALLS IN PROPORTION TO BENEFITS
To perceive that the single tax would justly measure
the value of government service we have only to realize that the mass of individuals
everywhere and now, in paying for the land they use, actually pay for government
service in proportion to what they receive. He who would enjoy the benefits
of a government must use land within its jurisdiction. He
cannot carry land from where government is poor to where it is good; neither
can he carry it from where the benefits of good government are few or enjoyed
they are many and fully enjoyed.
He must rent or buy land where the benefits of government are available,
or forego them. And unless he buys or rents
where they are greatest and most available he must forego them in degree.
Consequently, if he would work or live where the benefits of government are
available, and does not already own land there, he will be compelled
to rent or buy at a valuation which, other things being equal, will depend
value of the government service that the site he selects enables him to
enjoy. 14 Thus does he pay for the service of government in proportion to
its value to him. But he does not pay the public which provides the service;
he is required to pay land-owners.
14. Land values are lower in all countries of poor government
than in any country of better government, other things being equal. They
are lower in
poor government, other things being equal, than in cities of better government.
Land values are lower, for example, in Juarez, on the Mexican side of the
Rio Grande, where government is bad, than in El Paso, the neighboring city
American side, where government is better. They are lower in the same city
under bad government than under improved government. When Seth Low, after
a reform campaign, was elected mayor of Brooklyn, N.Y., rents advanced before
he took the oath of office, upon the bare expectation that he would eradicate
municipal abuses. Let the city authorities anywhere pave a street, put water
through it and sewer it, or do any of these things, and lots in the neighborhood
rise in value. Everywhere that the "good
roads" agitation of wheel men has borne fruit in better highways, the
value of adjacent land has increased. Instances of this effect as results
improvements might be collected in abundance. Every man must be able to
recall some within his own experience.
And it is perfectly reasonable that it should be so. Land and not other property
must rise in value with desired improvements in government, because,
while any tendency on the part of other kinds of property to rise in value
is checked by greater production, land can not be reproduced.
Imagine an utterly lawless place, where life and property
are constantly threatened by desperadoes. He must be either a very bold
man or a very
avaricious one who will build a store in such a community and stock it with
goods; but suppose such a man should appear. His store costs him more than
the same building would cost in a civilized community; mechanics are not
plentiful in such a place, and materials are hard to get. The building is
however, and stocked. And now what about this merchant's prices for goods?
Competition is weak, because there are few men who will take the chances
he has taken, and he charges all that his customers
will pay. A hundred per cent, five hundred per cent, perhaps one or two
thousand per cent profit rewards him for his pains and risk. His goods are
dear, enormously dear — dear enough to satisfy the most contemptuous
enemy of cheapness; and if any one should wish to buy his store that would
for the difficulties in the way of building continue. But land is cheap! This
is the type of community in which may be found that land, so often mentioned
and so seldom seen, which "the owners actually can't give away,
But suppose that government improves. An efficient administration
of justice rids the place of desperadoes, and life and property are safe.
prices then? It would no longer require a bold or desperately avaricious
man to engage
in selling goods in that community, and competition would set in. High profits
would soon come down. Goods would be cheap — as cheap as anywhere
in the world, the cost of transportation considered. Builders and building
be had without difficulty, and stores would be cheap, too. But land would
be dear! Improvement in government increases the value of that, and of that alone.
Now, the economic principle pursuant to which land-owners are thus able to
charge their fellow-citizens for the common benefits of their common government
points to the true method of taxation. With the exception of such other monopoly
property as is analogous to land titles, and which in the purview of the single
tax is included with land for purposes of taxation, 15 land is the only kind
of property that is increased in value by government; and the increase of value
is in proportion, other influences aside, to the public service which its possession
secures to the occupant. Therefore, by taxing land in proportion to its value,
and exempting all other property, kindred monopolies excepted — that
is to say, by adopting the single tax — we should be levying taxes according
15. Railroad franchises, for example, are not usually thought of as land titles,
but that is what they are. By an act of sovereign authority they confer rights
of control for transportation purposes over narrow strips of land between terminals
and along trading points. The value of this right of way is a land value.
16. Each occupant would pay to his landlord the value of the public benefits
in the way of highways, schools, courts, police and fire protection, etc.,
that his site enabled him to enjoy. The landlord would pay a tax proportioned
to the pecuniary benefits conferred upon him by the public in raising and maintaining
the value of his holding. And if occupant and owner were the same, he would
pay directly according to the value of his land for all the public benefits
he enjoyed, both intangible and pecuniary.
And in no sense would this be class taxation. Indeed, the cry of class taxation
is a rather impudent one for owners of valuable land to raise against the single
tax, when it is considered that under existing systems of taxation they are
exempt. 17 Even the
poorest and the most degraded classes in the community, besides paying land-owners
for such public benefits as come their way, are compelled by indirect taxation
to contribute to the support of government. But landowners as a class go free.
They enjoy the protection of the courts, and of police and fire departments,
and they have the use of schools and the benefit of highways and other public
improvements, all in common with the most favored, and upon the same specific
terms; yet, though they go through the form of paying taxes, and if their holdings
are of considerable value pose as "the tax-payers" on all important
occasions, they, in effect and considered as a class, pay no taxes, because
government, by increasing the value of their land, enables them to recover
back in higher
rents and higher prices more than their taxes amount to. Enjoying the same
tangible benefits of government that others do, many of them
as individuals and all of them as a class receive in addition a tangible pecuniary
benefit which government confers upon no other property-owners. The value of
their property is enhanced in proportion to the benefits of government
which its occupants enjoy. To tax them alone, therefore, is not to discriminate
against them; it is to charge them for what they get.18
17. While the landholders of the City of Washington were paying something
less than two per cent annually in taxes, a Congressional Committee (Report
of the Select Committee to Investigate Tax Assessments in the District of
composed of Messrs. Johnson, of Ohio, Chairman, Wadsworth, of New York,
and Washington, of Tennessee. Made to the House of Representatives, May 24,
1892. Report No. 1469), brought out the fact that the value of their
land had been increasing at a minimum rate of ten per cent per annum. The
land-owners as a class thus appear to have received back in higher land values,
actually and potentially, about ten dollars for every two dollars that as
land-owners they paid in taxes. If any one supposes that this condition is
peculiar to Washington let him make similar estimates for any progressive
locality, and see if the land-owners there are not favored in like manner.
But the point is not dependent upon increase in the capitalized value of
land. If the land yields or will yield to its owner an income in the
nature of actual
or potential ground rent, then to the extent that this actual or possible
income is dependent upon government the landlord is in effect exempt from
taxation. No matter what tax he pays on account of his ownership of land,
gives it back to him to that extent.
18. Take for illustration two towns, one of excellent government and the other
of inefficient government, but in all other respects alike. Suppose you are
hunting for a place of residence and find a suitable site in the town of good
government. For simplicity of illustration let us suppose that the land there
is not sold outright but is let upon ground rent. You meet the owner of the
lot you have selected and ask him his terms. He replies:
"Two hundred and fifty dollars a year."
"Two hundred and
fifty dollars a year!" you exclaim. "Why, I can get just as good
a site in that other town for a hundred dollars a year."
"Certainly you can," he will say. "But if
you build a house there and it catches fire it will burn down; they have
no fire department. If you
after dark you will be 'held up' and robbed; they have no police force.
If you ride out in the spring, your carriage will stick in the mud up to
and if you walk you may break your legs and will be lucky if you don t
break your neck; they have no street pavements and their sidewalks are
out of repair. When the moon doesn't shine the streets are in darkness,
for they have no street lights. The water you need for your house you must
from a well; there is no water supply there. Now in our town it is different.
We have a splendid fire department, and the best police force in the world.
Our streets are macadamized, and lighted with electricity; our sidewalks
are always in first class repair; we have a water system that equals that of
York; and in every way the public benefits in this town are unsurpassed.
It is the best governed town in all this region. Isn't it worth a hundred and
fifty dollars a year more for a building site here than over in that poorly
You recognize the advantages and agree to the terms. But when your house
is built and the assessor visits you officially, what would be the conversation
if your sense of the fitness of things were not warped by familiarity with
false systems of taxation? Would it not be something like what follows?
"How much do you regard this house as worth? " asks
is that to you?" you inquire.
"I am the town assessor and am about to appraise your
property for taxation."
"Am I to be taxed by this town? What for?"
"What for?" echoes the assessor in surprise. "What
for? Is not your house protected from fire by our magnificent fire department?
from robbery by the best police force in the world? Do not you have the
use of macadamized pavements, and good sidewalks, and electric street lights,
and a first class water supply? Don't you suppose these things cost something?
And don't you think you ought to pay your share?"
"Yes," you answer, with more or less calmness; "I
do have the benefit of these things, and I do think that I ought to pay
them. But I have already paid my share for this year. I have paid it
to the owner of this lot. He charges me two hundred and fifty dollars a
one hundred and fifty dollars more than I should pay or he could get
but for those
very benefits. He has collected my share of this year's expense
of maintaining town improvements; you go and collect from him. If you do
insist upon collecting from me, I shall
be paying twice for these things, once to him and once to you; and he
won't be paying at all, but will be making money out of them, although
the same benefits from them in all other respects that I do."
4. CONFORMITY TO GENERAL PRINCIPLES OF TAXATION
The single tax conforms most closely to the essential principles of Adam
four classical maxims, which are stated best by Henry George 19 as follows:
The best tax by which public revenues can be raised is evidently that which
will closest conform to the following conditions:
- That it bear as lightly as possible upon production — so as least
to check the increase of the general fund from which taxes must be paid
and the community
- That it be easily and cheaply collected, and fall as directly as may
be upon the ultimate payers — so as to take from the people as
little as possible in addition to what it yields the government. 21
- That it be certain — so as to give the least opportunity for
tyranny or corruption on the part of officials, and the least temptation
and evasion on the part of the tax-payers. 22
- That it bear equally — so as to give no citizen an advantage
or put any at a disadvantage, as compared with others. 23
19. "Progress and Poverty," book viii. ch.iii.
20. This is the second
part of Adam Smith's fourth maxim. He states it as follows: "Every
tax ought to be so contrived as both to take out and to keep out of the pockets
of the people as little as possible over and above what it brings into
the public treasury of the state. A tax may either take out or keep out of
the pockets of the people a great deal more than it brings into the public
in the four following ways: . . . Secondly, it may obstruct the industry
of the people, and discourage them from applying to certain branches of business
which might give maintenance and employment to great multitudes. While it
obliges the people to pay, it may thus diminish or perhaps destroy some of
which might enable them more easily to do so."
21. This is the first part of Adam Smith's fourth maxim, in which he condemns
a tax that takes out of the pockets of the people more than it brings into
the public treasury.
22. This is Adam Smith's second maxim. He states it as
tax which each individual is bound to pay ought to be certain and not arbitrary.
The time of payment, the manner of payment, the quantity to be paid, ought
all to be clear and plain to the contributor and to every other person.
Where it is otherwise, every person subject to the tax is put more or less
power of the tax gatherer."
23. This is Adam Smith's first maxim. He states it as follows: "The
subjects of every state ought to contribute towards the support of the
as nearly as possible in proportion to their respective abilities, that is
to say, in proportion to the revenue which they respectively enjoy under
the protection of the
state. The expense of government to the individuals of a great nation is
like the expense of management to the joint tenants of a great estate,
who are all obliged to contribute in proportion to their respective interests
in the estate. In the observation or neglect of this maxim consists what
is called the equality or inequality of taxation."
In changing this Mr. George says ("Progress and
viii, ch. iii, subd. 4): "Adam Smith speaks of incomes as enjoyed
'under the protection of the state'; and this is the ground upon which the
of all species of property is commonly insisted upon — that it is
equally protected by the state. The basis of this idea is evidently that
of property is made possible by the state — that there is a value
created and maintained by the community; which is justly called upon to meet
expenses. Now, of what values is this true? Only of the value of land. This
is a value that does not arise until a community is formed, and that, unlike
other values, grows with the growth of the community. It only exists as the
community exists. Scatter again the largest community, and land, now so valuable,
would have no value at all. With every increase of population the value of
land rises; with every decrease it falls. This is true of nothing else save
of things which, like the ownership of land, are in their nature monopolies."
Adam Smith's third maxim refers only to conveniency of payment, and gives
countenance to indirect taxation, which is in conflict with the principle
of his fourth maxim. Mr. George properly excludes it.
a. Interference with Production
Indirect taxes tend to check production and cause scarcity, by obstructing
the processes of production. They fall upon men as they work, as they
do business, as they invest capital productively. 24 But the single
tax, which must be paid and be the same in amount regardless of whether the
or plays, of whether he invests his capital productively or wastes it, of
whether he uses his land for the most productive purposes 25 or in lesser
degree or not at all, removes fiscal penalties from industry and thrift,
and tends to leave production free. It therefore conforms more closely than
indirect taxation to the first maxim quoted above.
24. "Taxation which falls upon the processes of production interposes
an artificial obstacle to the creation of wealth. Taxation which falls upon
labor as it is exerted, wealth as it is used as capital, land as it is cultivated,
will manifestly tend to discourage production much more powerfully than taxation
to the same amount levied upon laborers whether they work or play, upon wealth
whether used productively or unproductively, or upon land whether cultivated
or left waste" — Progress and Poverty, book viii, ch. iii,
25. It is common, besides taxing improvements, as fast as they
are made, to levy higher taxes upon land when put to its best use than when
put to partial use or to no use at all. This is upon the theory that when
his land is used the owner gets full income from it and can afford to pay
high taxes; but that he gets little or no income when the land is out of
use, and so cannot afford to pay much. It is an absurd but perfectly legitimate
illustration of the pretentious doctrine of taxation according to ability
Examples are numerous. Improved building lots, and even
those that are only plotted for improvement, are usually taxed more than
contiguous unused and unplotted land which is equally in demand for building
purposes and equally valuable. So coal land, iron land, oil land, and sugar
land are as a rule taxed less as land when opened up for appropriate use
than when lying idle or put to inferior uses, though the land value be
the same. Any serious proposal to put land to its appropriate use is commonly
regarded as a signal for increasing the tax upon it.
b. Cheapness of Collection
Indirect taxes are passed along from first payers to final consumers through
many exchanges, accumulating compound profits as they go, until they take enormous
sums from the people in addition to what the government receives.26 But the
single tax takes nothing from the people in excess of the tax. It therefore
conforms more closely than indirect taxation to the second maxim quoted above.
26. "All taxes upon things of unfixed quantity increase prices, and
in the course of exchange are shifted from seller to buyer, increasing as
go. If we impose a tax on money loaned, as has been often attempted, the
lender will charge the tax to the borrower, and the borrower must pay it
obtain the loan. If the borrower uses it in his business, he in his turn
must get back the tax from his customers, or his business becomes unprofitable.
If we impose a tax upon buildings, the users of buildings must finally pay
it, for the erection of buildings will cease until building rents become
to pay the regular profit and the tax besides. If we impose a tax upon manufactures
or imported goods, the manufacturer or importer will charge it in a higher
price to the jobber, the jobber to the retailer. and the retailer to the
consumer. Now, the consumer, on whom the tax thus ultimately falls, must
not only pay
the amount of the tax, but also a profit on this amount to everyone who has
thus advanced it — for profit on the capital he has advanced in paying
taxes is as much required by each dealer as profit on the capital he has
in paying for goods." — Progress and Poverty, book viii, ch.
iii, subd. 2.
No other tax, direct or indirect, conforms so closely to the third maxim. "Land
lies out of doors." It cannot be hidden; it cannot be "accidentally" overlooked.
Nor can its value be seriously misstated. Neither under-appraisement nor over-appraisement
to any important degree is possible without the connivance
of the whole community. 27 The land values of a neighborhood are matters
of common knowledge. Any intelligent resident can justly appraise them, and
every other intelligent resident can fairly test the appraisement. Therefore,
the tyranny, corruption, fraud, favoritism, and evasions that are so common
in connection with the taxation of imports, manufactures, incomes, personal
property, and buildings — the values of which, even when the object
itself cannot be hidden, are so distinctly matters of minute special knowledge
only experts can fairly appraise them — would be out of the question
if the single tax were substituted for existing fiscal methods. 28
27. The under-appraisements so common at present, and alluded to in note
25, are possible because the community, ignorant of the just principles of
taxation, does connive at them. Under-appraisements are not secret crimes
on the part of assessors; they are distinctly recognized, but thoughtlessly
when not actually insisted upon, by the people themselves. And this is due
to the dishonest ideas of taxation that are taught. Let the vicious doctrine
that people ought to pay taxes according to their ability give way to the
honest principle that they should pay in proportion to the benefits they
which benefits, as we have already seen, are measured by the land values
they own, and underappraisement of land would cease. No assessor can befool
community in respect of the value of the land within his jurisdiction.
And, with the cessation of general under-appraisement, favoritism in individual
appraisements also would cease. General under-appraisement fosters unfair individual
appraisements. If land were generally appraised at its full value, a particular
unfair appraisement would stand out in such relief that the crime of the assessor
would be exposed. But now if a man's land is appraised at a higher valuation
than his neighbor's equally valuable land, and he complains of the unfairness,
he is promptly and effectually silenced with a warning that his land is worth
much more than it is appraised at, anyhow, and if he makes a fuss his appraisement
will be increased. To complain further of the deficient taxation of his neighbor
is to invite the imposition of a higher tax upon himself.
28. If you wish to test the merits in point of certainty of the single tax
as compared with other taxes, go to a real estate agent in your community,
and, showing him a building lot upon the map, ask him its value. If he inquires
about the improvements, instruct him to ignore them. He will be able at once
to tell you what the lot is worth. And if you go to twenty other agents their
estimates will not materially vary from his. Yet none of the agents will have
left his office. Each will have inferred the value from the size and location
of the lot.
But suppose when you show the map to the first agent you ask him the value
of the land and its improvements. He will tell you that he cannot give an estimate
until he examines the improvements. And if it is the highly improved property
of a rich man he will engage building experts to assist him. Should you ask
him to include the value of the contents of the buildings, he would need a
corps of selected experts, including artists and liverymen, dealers in furniture
and bric-a-brac, librarians and jewelers. Should you propose that he also include
the value of the occupant's income, the agent would throw up his hands in despair.
If without the aid of an army of experts the agent should make an estimate
of these miscellaneous values, and twenty others should do the same, their
several estimates would be as wide apart as ignorant guesses usually are. And
the richer the owner of the property the lower as a proportion would the guesses
Now turn the real estate agent into an assessor, and is it not plain that
he would appraise the land values with much greater certainty and cheapness
than he could appraise the values of all kinds of property? With a plot map
before him he might fairly make every appraisement without leaving his desk
at the town hall.
And there would be no material difference if the property in question were
a farm instead of a building lot. A competent farmer or business man in a farming
community can, without leaving his own door-yard, appraise the value of the
land of any farm there; whereas it would be impossible for him to value the
improvements, stock, produce, etc., without at least inspecting them.
In respect of the fourth maxim the single tax bears more equally— that
is to say, more justly — than any other tax. It is the only tax that
falls upon the taxpayer in proportion to the pecuniary benefits he receives
from the public;
29 and its tendency, accelerating with the increase of the tax, is to leave
every one the full fruit of his own productive enterprise and effort. 30
29 The benefits of government are not the only public benefits whose value
attaches exclusively to land. Communal development from whatever cause produces
the same effect. But as it is under the protection of government that land-owners
are able to maintain ownership of land and through that to enjoy the pecuniary
benefits of advancing social conditions, government confers upon them as a
class not only the pecuniary benefits of good government but also the pecuniary
benefits of progress in general.
30. "Here are two men of equal incomes — that of the one derived
from the exertion of his labor, that of the other from the rent of land.
just that they should equally contribute to the expenses of the state? Evidently
not. The income of the one represents wealth he creates and adds to the general
wealth of the state; the income of the other represents merely wealth that
he takes from the general stock, returning nothing." — Progress and
Poverty, book viii, ch. iii, subd. 4.
III. THE SINGLE TAX AS A SOCIAL REFORM.
But the single tax is more than a revenue system. Great as are its merits
in this respect, they are but incidental to its character as a social reform.31
And that some social reform, which shall be simple in method but fundamental
in character, is most urgently needed we have only to look about us to see.
31. There are two classes of single tax advocates. Those
who advocate it as a reform in taxation alone, regardless of its effects
upon social adjustments,
are called "single tax men limited"; those who advocate it both as a reform
in taxation and as the mode of securing equal rights to land, are called "single
tax men unlimited."
Poverty is widespread and pitiable. This we know. Its general manifestations
are so common that even good men look upon it as a providential provision
for enabling the rich to drive camels through needles' eyes by exercising the
virtue of organized giving.32 Its occasional manifestations in recurring
periods of "hard times"33 are like epidemics of a virulent disease,
which excite even the most contented to ask if they may not be the next victims.
of violence threaten society with anarchy on the one hand, and, through panic-stricken
efforts at restraint, with loss of liberty on the other. And it persists and
deepens despite the continuous increase of wealth producing power.34
32. Not all charity is contemptible. Those charitable people, who, knowing
that individuals suffer, hasten to their relief, deserve the respect and affection
they receive. That kind of charity is neighborliness; it is love. And perhaps
in modern circumstances organization is necessary to make it effective. But
organized charity as a cherished social institution is a different thing. It
is not love, nor is it inspired by love; it is simply sanctified selfishness,
at the bottom of which will be found the blasphemous notion that in the economy
of God the poor are to be forever with us that the rich may gain heaven by
Suppose a hole in the sidewalk into which passers-by continually
fall, breaking their arms, their legs, and sometimes their necks. We should
people who, without thought of themselves, went to the relief of the sufferers,
binding the broken limbs of the living, and decently burying the dead.
But what should we say of those who, when some one proposed to fill up
to prevent further suffering, should say, "Oh, you mustn't fill up
that hole! Whatever in the world should we charitable people do to be saved
if we had
no broken legs and arms to bind, and no broken-necked people to bury?"
Of some kinds of charity it has been well said that they
are "that form of
self-righteousness which makes us give to others the things that already belong
to them." They suggest the old nursery rhyme:
"There was once a considerate crocodile,
Which lay on a bank of the river Nile.
And he swallowed a fish, with a face of woe,
While his tears flowed fast to the stream below.
'I am mourning,' said he, 'the untimely fate
Of the dear little fish which I just now ate.'"
Read Chapter viii of "Social Problems," by Henry George, entitled, "That
We All Might Be Rich."
33. Differences between "hard times" and "good times" are but differences
in degrees of poverty and in the people who suffer from it. Times are always
hard with the multitude. But the voice of the multitude is too weak to be heard
at ordinary times through the ordinary trumpets of public opinion. They are
not regarded nor do they regard themselves as people of any importance in the
industrial world, so long as the general wheels of business revolve. It is
only when poverty has eaten its way up through the various strata of struggling
and pinching and squeezing and squirming humanity, and with its cancerous tentacles
touched the superincumbent layers of manufacturing nabobs, merchant princes,
railroad kinds, great bankers and great landowners that we hear any general
complain of "hard times."
34. "Could a man of the last century — a Franklin or a Priestley — have
seen, in a vision of the future, the steamship taking the place of the sailing
vessel, the railroad train of the wagon, the reaping machine of the scythe,
the threshing machine of the flail; could he have heard the throb of the engines
that in obedience to human will, and for the satisfaction of human desire,
exert a power greater than
that of all the men and all the beasts of burden of the earth combined; could
he have seen the forest tree transformed into finished lumber — into
doors, sashes, blinds, boxes or barrels, with hardly the touch of a human
hand; the great workshops where boots and shoes are turned out by the case
with less labor than the old-fashioned cobbler could have put on a sole;
the factories where, under the eye of a girl, cotton becomes cloth faster
than hundreds of stalwart weavers could have turned it out with their hand-looms;
could he have seen steam hammers shaping mammoth shafts and mighty anchors,
and delicate machinery making tiny watches; the diamond drill cutting through
the heart of the rocks, and coal oil sparing the whale; could he have realized
the enormous saving of labor resulting from improved facilities of exchange
and communication — sheep killed in Australia eaten
fresh in England and the order given by the London banker in the afternoon
executed in San Francisco in the morning of the same day; could he have conceived
of the hundred thousand improvements which these only suggest, what would he
have inferred as to the social condition
"It would not have seemed like an inference; further
than the vision went, it would have seemed as though he saw; and his heart
would have leaped and
his nerves would have thrilled, as one who from a height beholds just ahead
of the thirst-stricken caravan the living gleam of rustling woods and the
glint of laughing waters. Plainly, in the sight of the imagination, he would
beheld these new forces elevating society from its very foundations, lifting
the very poorest above the possibility of want, exempting the very lowest
from anxiety for the material needs of life ... And out of these bounteous
conditions he would have seen arising, as necessary sequences, moral conditions
golden age of which mankind have always dreamed. ... More or less vague or
clear, these have been the hopes, these the dreams born of the improvements
give this wonderful century its
preeminence. ... It is true that disappointment has followed disappointment,
that discovery upon discovery, and invention after invention, have
neither lessened the toil of those who most need respite, nor brought
plenty to the poor. But there have been so many things to which it
seemed this failure could be laid, that up to our time the new faith
has hardly weakened. ... Now, however, we are coming into collision with facts
can be no mistaking. ... And, unpleasant as it may be to admit it, it is at
evident that the enormous increase in productive power which has marked the
present century and is still going on with accelerating ratio, has no tendency
to extirpate poverty or to lighten the burdens
of those compelled to toil. It simply widens the gulf between Dives
Lazarus, and makes the struggle for existence more intense. The march of
invention has clothed mankind with powers of which a century ago the boldest
imagination could not have dreamed. But in factories where labor-saving machinery
has reached its most wonderful development, little children are at work; wherever
the new forces are anything like fully utilized, large classes are maintained
by charity or live on the verge of recourse to it; amid the greatest accumulations
of wealth, men die of starvation, and puny infant suckle dry breasts; while
everywhere the greed of gain, the worship of wealth, shows the force of the
fear of want. — Progress
and Poverty, Introduction.
That much of our poverty is involuntary may be proved, if proof be necessary,
by the magnitude of charitable work that aims to help only the "deserving poor";
and as to undeserving cases — the cases of voluntary poverty — who
can say but that they, if not due to birth and training in the environs of
degraded poverty, 35 are the despairing culminations of long-continued struggles
for respectable independence? 36 How can we know that they are not essentially
like the rest — involuntary and deserving? It is a profound distinction
that a clever writer of fiction 37 makes when he speaks of "the hopeful and
the hopeless poor." There is, indeed, little difference between voluntary and
involuntary poverty, between the "deserving" and the "undeserving" poor, except
that the "deserving" still have hope, while from the "undeserving" all hope,
if they ever knew any, has gone.
35. The leader of one of the labor strikes of the early eighties, a hard-working,
respectable, and self-respecting man, told me that the deprivations which
he himself suffered as a workingman were as nothing compared with the fear
for the future of his children that he felt whenever he thought of the repulsive
surroundings, physical and moral, in which, owing to his poverty, he was
compelled to bring them up.
Professor Francis Wayland, Dean of the Yale law school, wrote in the Charities
Review for March, 1893: "Under our eyes and within our reach,
children are being reared from infancy amid surroundings containing every
element of degradation, depravity and vice. Why, then, should we be surprised
that we are surrounded by a horde of juvenile delinquents, that the police
reports in our cities teem with the exploits of precocious little villains,
that reform schools are crowded with hopelessly abandoned young offenders?
How could it be otherwise? What else could be expected from such antecedents,
from such ever-present examples of flagrant vice? Short of a miracle,
how could any child escape the moral contagion of such an environment?
could he retain a single vestige of virtue, a single honest impulse,
a single shred of respect for the rights of others, after passing through
such an ordeal of iniquity? What is there left on which to build up a
In the Arena of July, 1893, Helen Campbell says, "It
would seem at times as if the workshop meant only a form of preparation
for the hospital,
the workhouse and the prison, since the workers therein become inoculated
with trade diseases, mutilated by trade appliances, and corrupted by trade
associates till no healthy fiber, mental, moral or physical, remains."
Such testimony is abundant. But no further citation is necessary
to arouse the conscience of the merciful and the just, and any amount of
not affect those self-satisfied mortals whom Kipling describes when he
says that "there are men who, when their own front doors are closed,
will swear that the whole world's warm."
36. Some years ago a gentleman, now well and favorably known in New York
public life, told me of a ragged tramp whom he had brought, more to gratify
a whim perhaps than in any spirit of philanthropy, from a neighboring camp
of tramps to his house for breakfast. After breakfast the host asked his
guest, in the course of conversation, why he lived the life of a tramp. This
in substance was the tramp's reply:
"I am a mechanic and used to be a good one, though not so exceptionally
good as to be safe from the competition of the great class of average workers.
I had a family — a wife and two children. In the hard times of the
seventies I lost my job. For a while we lived upon our little savings; but
sickness came and our savings were used up. My wife and children died. Everything
was gone but self-respect. Then I traveled, looking for work which could
not be had at home. I traveled afoot; I could afford no other way. For
days I hunted for work, begging food and sleeping in barns or under trees;
but no work could I get. Once or twice I was arrested as a vagrant. Then
I fell in with a party of tramps and with them drifted into the city. Winter
came on. I still had a desire to regain my old place as a self-respecting
man, but work was scarce and nothing that I could do could I find to do,
except some little job now and then which was given to me as pennies are
given to beggars. I slept mostly in station houses. Part of the time I was
undergoing sentence for vagrancy. In the spring I tramped again. But now
I did not hunt for work. My self-respect was gone so completely that I had
no ambition to regain it. I was a loafer and a jail-bird. I had no family
to support, and I had found that, barring the question of self-respect, I
was about as well off as were average workmen. After years of tramping this
opinion is unchanged. I am always sure of enough to eat and a place to sleep
in — not very good often, but good enough. I should not be sure of
that if I were a workingman. I might lose my job and go hungry rather than
beg. I might be unable to pay my rent and so be turned upon the street. I
might marry again and have a family which would be condemned to the hard
life of the average workingman's family. And as for society, why, I have
society. Tramps are good fellows — sociable fellows, bright fellows
many of them. Life as a tramp is not half bad when you compare it with the
workingman's life, leaving out the question of self-respect, of course. You
must leave that out. No man can be a tramp for good until he loses that.
But a period of hard times makes many a chap lose it. And as I have lost
it I would rather be a tramp than a workingman. I have tried both. By the
way, Mr. ——, this is a very good cigar — this brand of
yours. I seldom smoke much better cigars."
The facts in detail of this man's story may have been false;
they probably were. But so were the facts in detail of Bunyan's "Pilgrim's Progress." There
is, however, a distinction between fact and truth, and
no matter how false the man's facts may have been, his story, like Bunyan's,
was essentially true. Much of the poverty that upon the surface seems to
be voluntary and undeserving comes from a growing feeling among those who
work hardest that, as Cowper describes it, they are
"Letting down buckets into empty wells,
And growing old with drawing nothing up."
At Victoria, B.C., in the spring of 1894, I witnessed a canoe race in
which there were two contestants and but one prize. Long before the winner
had reached the goal his adversary, who found himself far behind, turned
his canoe toward the shore and dropped out of the race. Was it because he
was too lazy to paddle? Not at all. It was because he realized the hopelessness
of the effort.
37. H. C. Bunner, editor of Puck.
But it is not alone to objects of charity that the question of poverty calls
our attention. There is a keener poverty, which pinches and goes hungry, but
is beyond the reach of charity because it never complains. And back of all
and over all is fear of poverty, which chills the best instincts of men of
every social grade, from recipients of out-door relief who dread the poorhouse,
to millionaires who dread the possibility of poverty for their children if
not for themselves.38
38. A well known millionaire is quoted as saying: "I
would rather leave my children penniless in a world in which they could
at all times obtain
employment for wages equal to the value of their work as measured by the
work of others, than to leave them millions of dollars in a world like this,
where if thy lose their inheritance, they may have no chance of earning am
It is poverty and fear of poverty that prompt men of honest instincts to steal,
to bribe, to take bribes, to oppress, either under color of law or against
law, and — what is worst than all, because it is not merely a depraved
act, but a course of conduct that implies a state of depravity — to enlist
their talents in crusades against their convictions. 39 Our civilization cannot
long resist such enemies as poverty and fear of poverty breed; to intelligent
observers it already seems to yield. 40
39. "From whence springs this lust for gain, to gratify which men tread
everything pure and noble under their feet; to which they sacrifice all the
possibilities of life; which converts civility into a hollow pretense, patriotism
sham, and religion into hypocrisy; which makes so much of civilized existence
an Ishmaelitish warfare, of which the weapons are cunning and fraud? Does
it not spring from the existence of want? Carlyle somewhere says that poverty
is the hell of which the modern Englishman is most afraid. And he is
right. Poverty is the openmouthed, relentless hell which yawns beneath
society. And it is hell enough. The Vedas declare no truer thing than when
the wise crow Bushanda tells the eagle-bearer of Vishnu that the keenest
pain is in poverty. For poverty is not merely deprivation; it means shame,
the searing of the most sensitive parts of our moral and mental nature
as with hot irons; the denial of the strongest impulses and the sweetest
the wrenching of the most vital nerves. You love your wife, you love your
children; but would it not be easier to see them die than to see them reduced
pinch of want in which large classes in every highly civilized community
live? ... From this hell of poverty, it is but natural that men should
effort to escape. With the impulse to self-preservation and self-gratification
nobler feelings, and love as well as fear urges in the struggle. Many a
man does a mean thing, a dishonest thing, a greedy and grasping and unjust
in the effort to place above want, or the fear of want, mother or wife
or children." — Progress
and Poverty, book ix, ch iv.
40. "There is just now a disposition to scoff at any
implication that we are not in all respects progressing ... Yet it is evident
that there have been
times of decline, just as there have been times of advance; and it is further
evident that these epochs of decline
could not at first have been generally recognized.
"He would have been a rash man who, when Augustus was changing the Rome
of brick to the Rome of marble, when wealth was augmenting and magnificence
increasing, when victorious legions were extending the frontier, when manners
were becoming more refined, language more polished, and literature rising
to higher splendors — he would have been a rash man who then would
have said that Rome was entering her decline. Yet such was the case.
"And whoever will look may see that though our civilization
is apparently advancing with greater rapidity than ever, the same cause
which turned Roman
progress into retrogression is operating now.
"What has destroyed every previous civilization has
been the tendency to the unequal distribution of wealth and power. This
same tendency, operating
with increasing force, is observable in our civilization today, showing
itself in every progressive community, and with greater intensity the more
progressive the community. ... The conditions of social progress, as we have
traced the law, are association and equality. The general tendency of modern
development, since the time
when we can first discern the gleams of civilization in the darkness which
followed the fall of the Western Empire, has been toward political and legal
equality ... This tendency has reached its full expression in the American
Republic, where political and legal rights are absolutely equal ... it is
the prevailing tendency, and how soon Europe will be completely republican
is only a matter
of time, or rather of accident. The United States are therefore in this respect,
the most advanced of all the great nations, in a direction in which all are
advancing, and in the United States we see just how much this tendency to
personal and political freedom can of itself accomplish. ... It is
now ... evident that political equality,
coexisting with an increasing tendency to the unequal distribution of wealth,
must ultimately beget either the despotism of organized tyranny or the worse
despotism of anarchy.
"To turn a republican government into a despotism the basest and most brutal,
it is not necessary formally to change its constitution or abandon popular
elections. It was centuries after Cæsar before the absolute master
of the Roman world pretended to rule other than by authority of a Senate
that trembled before him.
"But forms are nothing when substance has gone, and the forms of popular
government are those from which the substance of freedom may most easily
go. Extremes meet, and a government of universal suffrage and theoretical
equality may, under conditions which impel the change, most readily become
a despotism. For there despotism advances in the name and with the might
of the people. ... And when the disparity of condition increases, so does universal
suffrage make it easy to seize the source of power, for the greater is the
of power in the hands of those who feel no direct interest in the conduct
of government; who, tortured by want and embruted by poverty, are ready to
sell their votes to the highest bidder or follow the lead of the most blatant
demagogue; or who, made bitter by hardships, may even look upon profligate
and tyrannous government with the satisfaction we may imagine the proletarians
and slaves of Rome to have felt, as they saw a Caligula or Nero raging among
the rich patricians. ... Now this transformation of popular government into
despotism of the vilest and most degrading kind, which must inevitably result
from the unequal distribution
of wealth, is not a thing of the far future. It has already begun in the
United States, and is rapidly going on under our eyes. ... The type of modern
growth is the great city. Here are to be found the greatest wealth and the
deepest poverty. And it is here that popular government has
most clearly broken down. ... In theory we are intense democrats. ... But
is there not growing up among us a class who have all the power without any
of the virtues of aristocracy? ... Industry everywhere
tends to assume a form in which one is master and many serve. And when one
is master and the others serve, the one will control the others, even in
such matters as votes. ... There is no mistaking it — the very foundations
of society are being sapped before our eyes ... It is shown in
greatest force where the inequalities in the distribution of wealth are greatest,
and it shows itself as they increase. ... Though we may not speak it openly,
the general faith in republican institutions is, where they have reached
their fullest development, narrowing and weakening. It is no longer that
confident belief in republicanism as the source of national blessings that
it once was. Thoughtful men are beginning to see its dangers, without seeing
how to escape them; are beginning to accept the view of Macaulay and distrust
that of Jefferson. And the people at large are becoming used to the growing
corruption. The most ominous political sign in the United States today is
the growth of a sentiment which either doubts the existence of an honest
man in public office or looks on him as a fool for not seizing his opportunities.
That is to say, the people themselves are becoming corrupted. Thus in the
United States to-day is republican government running the course it must
inevitably follow under conditions which cause the unequal distribution of
wealth." — Progress and Poverty, book x, ch. iv.
But how is the development of these social enemies to be arrested? Only by
tracing poverty to its cause, and, having found the cause, deliberately removing
it. Poverty cannot be traced to its cause, however, without serious thought;
not mere reading and school study and other tutoring, but thought.
41 To jump at a conclusion is very likely to jump over the cause, at which
no class is more apt than the tutored class.42 We must proceed step by step
from familiar and indisputable premises.
41. "The power to reason correctly on general subjects is not to be learned
in schools, nor does it come with special knowledge. It results from
care in separating, from caution in combining, from the habit of asking ourselves
the meaning of the words we use, and making sure of one step before building
another upon it — and above all, from loyalty to truth." — Henry
George's Perplexed Philosopher, p. 9
42. "Harold Frederic, the London correspondent of the
New York Times,
reports Mr. Gladstone as having said, in substance, in one of his campaign
speeches, that the older he grew the more he began to conclude that the highly
educated classes were in public affairs rather more conspicuously foolish
than anybody else. Mr. Frederic thinks that the Tories have since done much
to 'breed a suspicion that therein Gladstone touched the outskirts of a great
and solemn truth.' But it needed not the action of the Tories to breed that
suspicion. In this country as well as in England it is patent to any close
observer that the highly educated classes, or to speak with more exactness,
the highly tutored classes, when compared with the common people,
are in public affairs but little better than fools. The explanation is simple.
The common people are philosophers unencumbered with useless knowledge, who
look upon public affairs broadly, and moralists who pry beneath the surface
of custom and precedent into the heart of public questions. The minds of
the tutored classes, on the contrary, are dwarfed by close attention to particulars
to the exclusion of generals, and distorted by such false morality as is
involved in tutorial notions regarding vested rights. — The Standard,
July 27, 1892.
The tendency of tutoring to elevate mere authority above observation and
thought is well illustrated by the story of two classes in a famous school.
The primary class, being asked if fishes have eyelids, went to the aquarium
and observed; the senior class being asked the same question, went to the
library and consulted authorities.
"One may stand on a box and look over the heads of his fellows, but he no
better sees the stars. The telescope and the microscope reveal depths which
to the unassisted vision are closed. Yet not merely do they bring us no nearer
to the cause of suns and animalcula, but in looking through them the observer
must shut his eyes to what lies about him ... A man of special learning may
be a fool as to common relations." — Perplexed Philosopher,
1. THE SOURCE OF WEALTH
The first demand upon us is to make sure that we know the source of the things
that satisfy want.43 But it is quite unnecessary to tediously specify these
and trace them to their origin in detail. In searching for the source of one
we shall discover the source of all.
43. For it is ability or inability to satisfy his wants that determines whether
or not a man is poor. He who has the power to procure what he wants, as he
wants it, and in satisfactory quality and quantity, is not poor. No matter
how he gets the power, provided he keeps out of the penitentiary, he is accounted
As a common object of this kind, the production of which is a familiar process,
bread is probably the best example for our purpose. Let us, then, carefully
trace bread to its source. To make the results of our work clear to the eye
as well as to the ear we will construct a chart as we proceed. The chart should
begin with a classification of Bread with reference to Man, for it is as an
object for satisfying the wants of man that we consider bread at all. Is Bread
a part of the personality of Man? or is it an object external to him? That
is our first question. The answer is so obvious that a child could make no
mistake. Bread is external to Man. It should, therefore, be classified with
what for brevity we will call "External Objects." It is also a product having
Let us so arrange the chart as to indicate these facts and also to provide
a place for particularizing the constituents of bread as we ascertain them.
Chart 1 (page 28)
Now let the necessary constituents of bread be inserted. Any housewife, any
kitchen girl, knows what they are as well as does the most expert baker or
learned chemist. They are named in the place reserved for them in the chart:
Chart 2, page 29
In respect of Man the constituents of Bread all fall into two general classes:
Man, and objects that are external to him — or, briefly, External Objects.
Chart 3, page 29
While all these External Objects are alike in the one particular that they
are external to Man, some of them may differ from others in respects which,
for clear thinking, must be distinguished. Compare the first two External Objects — the lot of land and the oven — and
a radical difference at once appears. The lot of land is a natural object.
The oven is an artificial object.
The lot exists independently of man's art; the oven can have no existence whatever
as an oven but for man's art. 44 And when the remaining External Objects are
considered the same difference appears. Objects are considered the same difference
appears. All of them, Bread included, differ from the lot of land precisely
as the oven does; they are artificial.45 Let us note this difference upon
Chart 4, page 30
44. This difference is frequently ignored, even by political economists; but
it is plain to any intelligent mind that no reasoning can be trusted which
does not distinguish a difference so radical.
45. As to the flour and the yeast, there is no doubt of this. And though
not so obvious, it is equally true of the fire, which but for the art of
not exist in the oven; of the water, which but for that would not be at hand;
and of the salt, which without man's art would be neither in proper form
nor place. It follows that, either as to form or place or both, all the external
objects, except the lot of land, are artificial. The bread itself is of course
It is no longer necessary to name the specific constituents of Bread, and
we may simplify the chart by erasing them, together with the word "bread" itself,
retaining only the class names. It will be more appropriate, too, if we substitute
the term "factors" for the term "classification." Thus:
Chart 5, page 31
Grave danger of confusion here arises. Artificial Objects, it will be seen,
are classified both as the "product" and as a "factor." Yet it cannot be that
any factor of a product is exactly the same as the product; there is surely
some difference which we should try to discover.
Turn to the chart on page 30, which specifies the artificial constituents
of Bread, namely: oven, fire, flour, yeast, salt, water. How do these artificial
factors differ from the artificial product, bread? Simply in this, that the
artificial factors are unfinished bread, while the product is finished bread.
46 The difference, then, between artificial objects as a factor, and artificial
objects as a final product, is that the former are unfinished and the latter
are finished. Let us note the distinction:
Chart 6, page 32
46. It is because man desires bread that he constructs ovens,
builds fires in them, grinds flour, digs or evaporates salt, prepares yeast,
water to the doughtrough. And going farther back, it is because he desires
bread that he raises grain, erects mills, and produces machinery for bread-making.
This is plain enough in a community of one like that of Robinson Crusoe.
But it is just as true in a community
of millions. In the community of one the solitary individual performs all
the steps necessary to produce bread because he wants bread. In the great
society individuals divide their work, some doing one part and others other
but the motive, still the same, is the desire of the community for bread.
All the processes of industry to the extent that they are directed to the
production of bread, whether they be in the departments of mining, of lumbering,
of railroading, of navigation, of engineering, of farming, of storekeeping,
of baking, or what not, are steps or stages in bread-making; and every artificial
object produced for the purpose of facilitating bread-making is to that
extent unfinished bread. But bread itself, from the time it comes into
of the consumer (for it is not complete until the final deliverer has accomplished
his work regarding it), is a finished object. The essential difference,
the artificial objects that are classified as product,' and those that are
classified as "factors" is that the former are finished and the
latter are unfinished.
Professor Marshall (Marshall’s Prin., Book ii,
divides artificial objects into "goods of the first order, which satisfy wants directly,
such as food, clothing, etc.;
goods of the second order, such as flour mills, which satisfy wants, not directly
but indirectly, by contributing toward the production of goods of the first
order; and "goods of the third order," under which he arranges all
things that are used for making goods of the second order, such as the machinery
for making milling machinery." He says we might carry the analysis further if necessary,
And so we might. We might drag it out into an interminable catalogue; but every
item would be an unfinished artificial object, and for all purposes of economic
reasoning nothing else. His own classification into “consumers’ goods” (finished
artificial objects), and “producers’ goods” (unfinished
artificial objects) is complete.
The language of the chart may now be supplemented with the technical terms
that political economists adopt, which, when comprehended and used with discrimination,
distinguish the differences we have discovered with equal precision and greater
brevity than the more cumbrous terms upon which
have so far relied. 47 Thus:
Chart 7, page 33
47 It makes no difference what terms are adopted, for they
serve only as symbols; but it is of vital importance that the same terms
that essentially differ. As the technical terms that usage forces upon
us in connection with our subject are also loose colloquial words, they
are especially liable to abuse in this respect. The term "wealth" is
a bewildering example. It has been used to symbolize as of one class such
diverse things as building lots, houses, farm sites, farm improvements,
deeds, mortgages, promissory notes, warehouse receipts and the goods they
call for, book accounts, and slaves, thus confusing three or four different
kinds of things, instead of distinguishing one kind from all others. Made
to include building lots and farm sites, the term is a symbol for natural
objects; made to include houses, farm improvements, and goods, it is a
symbol for artificial objects; by including slaves it symbolizes man; and
by including deeds, promissory notes, warehouse receipts, and book accounts,
it symbolizes nothing but evidences of legal title as between individual
men. When the same term is used to include things so essentially different
as natural objects external to man, artificial objects external to man,
man himself, and indicia of title, it is hopeless to attempt to
reason about the mutual relations of those things.
At this point we find all essential differences distinguished. Every factor
of industry and every material object of desire that can be imagined falls
into one or another of the four classes of the chart. 48 And from mere inspection
of the chart we may see, what was promised when we began its construction,
that in searching for the source of one of the objects that satisfy human
wants we have discovered the source of all. For it is self-evident that the
material wants of men are satisfied in no other way than by the consumption
of finished artificial objects, technically called Wealth; and the chart
shows that such objects have their source in a combination of the three "factors,"
namely: (1) the activities of man, technically termed "Labor;" (2)
natural objects external to man, technically termed Land; and (3) unfinished
objects, technically termed Capital.
48. For example: Flour, which is unfinished bread, and
therefore unfinished wealth — Capital, appears upon analysis to be
a compound of grain, a mill site, and a miller. The mill site and the miller
and labor; but the grain and the mill are unfinished wealth — Capital,
and may be further analyzed. Passing the mill for the moment to analyze the
grain, we find it composed of a farmer, a farm site, and farming improvements
and implements. The farm site, like the mill site, is land; and the farmer,
like the miller, is labor; but the improvements and implements, like the
mill and the grain, are unfinished wealth — Capital, and may be still
further analyzed. And so on.
If analyzed to the last, every constituent of bread, and every constituent
of that constituent, would resolve into labor and land. To follow them step
by step would be tedious work and require much special knowledge. It would
involve consideration of factories and factory sites, stores and store sites,
railroads and railroad sites, mining and mines, lumbering and forests, rivers,
docks, oceans, and ships. But analysis in full detail is not necessary. The
conclusion is self-evident the moment it is understood.
But while these three factors combined produce all the material objects that
tend to satisfy human wants, they do not constitute the ultimate source of
those objects. Our analysis is not yet ended; our chart is still incomplete.
Reflection assures us that all artificial objects, finished and unfinished,
resolve upon final analysis into the two factors, the activities of man
and natural external objects; or, in technical language, all Wealth,
finished and unfinished, resolves upon final analysis into Labor and Land.
Therefore, Capital is in final analysis eliminated as a factor of production.
nothing which the two remaining factors do not imply; for it is by the conjunction
of those two factors that Capital itself is produced. 49 Unfinished artificial
objects and their technical term, Capital, should, therefore, be erased from
the chart. Following is the result:
Chart 8, page 35
49. The primary error in all forms of socialism consists
in ignoring the fact that Capital is but a product of labor and land; or
what in effect is
thing, in disregarding the necessary inference that land is the only implement
of labor. Intelligent socialists insist that they do not ignore it; but
that, while acknowledging land to be the primary implement of labor, they
this only an abstract formula, having at the present stage of civilization
no practical importance. Society, they urge, is impossible without Capital;
and he who would live in society must have Capital, or be the slave of
those who do have it. Therefore, they, argue, Capital is in the social
as indispensable as land. Their reasoning hinges upon the mistaken assumption
that Capital is
an accumulation of the past instead of being a product of the present. As
socialistic author puts it, "Though labor may originally have preceded
Capital, yet it is now as absurd to place one before the other as it
is to attempt to say whether the hen originates the egg or the
egg the hen." The
explanation of division of labor and trade. the effect of which is overlooked
by socialistic philosophies, affords a better opportunity than the present
for considering this elementary error of socialism, and a brief discussion
of the subject will be given in that connection. See post, note 81.
Thus all artificial objects external to man — Wealth, are found to have
their ultimate source in the conjunction of man's activities — Labor,
with natural objects external to man — Land.
Finally, by dropping the cumbrous language altogether, and using only the
technical terms, we complete our chart. 50 Thus:
Chart 9, page 36
The chart may be read as follows:
Wealth is produced solely by the application of Labor to Land.51
50. It may at first seem like a great waste of time and space to have gone through
this long analysis for no other purpose at last than to demonstrate the self-evident
fact that land and labor are the sole original factors in the production of Wealth.
But it will have been no waste if it enables the reader to firmly grasp the fact.
Nothing is more obvious, to be sure. Nothing is more readily assented to. Yet
by layman and college professor and economic author alike, this simple truth
is cast adrift at the very threshold of argument or investigation, with results
akin to what might be expected in physics if after recognizing the law of gravitation
its effects should be completely ignored.
51. There is ample authority among economic writers for this conclusion.
Professor Ely enumerates Nature, Labor, and Capital as
the factors of production, but he describes Capital as a combination of
Nature and Labor — Ely's
Introduction, part ii, ch. iii.
Say describes industry as " nothing more or less than human employment
of natural agents." — Say's Trea., book i, ch. ii.
And though John Stuart Mill and numerous others speak of Land, Labor, and
Capital as the three factors of production, as does Professor Jevons, most
of them, like
Jevons, recognize the fact, though in their reasoning they often fail to
profit by it, that Capital is not a primary but a secondary requisite. See Jevons's
Pol. Ec., secs. 16, 19.
Henry George says: "Land, labor, and capital are the factors of production.
term land includes all natural opportunities or forces; the term labor, all
human exertion; and the term capital, all wealth used to produce more wealth.
. . Capital is not a necessary factor in production. Labor exerted upon land
can produce wealth without the aid of capital, and in the necessary genesis
of things must so produce wealth before capital can exist." — Progress
and Poverty, book iii, ch. i.
Also : "The complexities of production in the civilized state, in which
so great a part is borne by exchange, and so much labor is bestowed upon materials
after they have been separated from the land, though they may to the unthinking
disguise, do not alter the fact that all production is still the union of
the two factors, land and labor."— Id., ch. viii.
By intelligent observers no authority is needed. In all the phenomena of human
life, whether primitive or civilized, the lesson of the chart stands out in
bold relief. Nothing can be produced without Labor and Land, and nothing can
be named which under any circumstances enters into productive processes that
is not resolvable into either the one or the other. To satisfy all human wants
mankind requires nothing but human labor and natural material, and each of
them is indispensable.
This is the final analysis. In the union of Labor, which includes all human
effort,52 with Land, which includes the whole material universe outside
of man,53 we discover the ultimate source of Wealth, which includes
all the material things that satisfy want.54 And that is the first great
truth upon which the single tax philosophy is built.
52. The term labor includes all human exertion in the production
of wealth." — Progress
and Poverty, book i, ch. ii.
53. "The term land necessarily includes, not merely the surface
of the earth as distinguished from the water and the air, but the whole material
outside of man himself, for it is only by having access to land, from which
his very body is drawn, that man can come in contact with or use nature." — Progress
and Poverty, book i, ch. ii.
54. "As commonly used the word 'wealth ' is applied to anything
having exchange value. But ... wealth, as alone the term can be used in political
economy, consists of natural products that have been secured, moved, combined,
separated, or in other ways modified by human exertion, so as to fit them
for the gratification of human desires." — Progress and Poverty,
book i, ch ii.
2. THE PRODUCTION OF WEALTH
When considered in connection with primitive modes of production, the vital
importance of this truth is self-evident. 55 If those modes prevailed,
involuntary poverty would be readily traced either to direct enslavement through
ownership of Labor, or to indirect enslavement through ownership of
Land. 56 There
could be no other cause. If both causes
were absent, every individual might, if he wished, enjoy all the Wealth that
his own powers were capable of producing in the primitive modes of production
and under the limitations
of common knowledge that belonged to his environment.57
55. If we imagine upon a lonely island a solitary man, without
capital, without clothing, without adequate shelter, what would be our
of his poverty?
We certainly should not say that it was caused by a superabundance of goods — by
over-production; nor should we be any more likely to attribute it to scarcity
of money. We should first ask if the land of the island were barren.
assured that it would yield far more than the solitary inhabitant could consume,
we should ask if he were physically or mentally incapable of producing the
things he required. If told that not only was he quite capable, but that
in the years
he had been upon the island he had continually improved in industrial knowledge,
in inventive acuteness, in manual dexterity, and in muscular power, and yet
that he was scarcely if any better able to satisfy his wants than when
ashore, we might ask if he were lazy. If informed that he was not lazy, that
he worked almost as many hours as ever and quite as hard and far more productively,
we should ask if he were the chattel slave of an exacting master. Satisfied
that this was not the case, we should then say:
"The only explanation left is that in some way that man's opportunities
the island are restricted — the Labor of the island and the Land of
the island do not freely meet."
And if we were thereupon advised that a neighboring cannibal chief, who
claimed the island as his private property, had granted the lone inhabitant
to live, upon the sole condition that he yield tribute for the land, and
that the tribute had a way of advancing as the worker's productive power increased,
we should understand the cause of his poverty. And we should advise him to
find a way at once of throwing off the land-owner's yoke, and to postpone
secondary questions as the money supply until their proper settlement could
operate for his own benefit instead of for the benefit of the proprietor
of the island.
56. The ownership of the land is essentially the ownership of the men who
must use it.
"Let the circumstances be what they may — the ownership of land
will always give the ownership of men to a degree measured by the necessity
for the use of land. Place one hundred men on an island from which there
is no escape, and whether you make one of these men the absolute owner of the
ninety-nine, or the absolute owner of the soil of the island, will make no
difference either to him or to them." — Progress and Poverty,
book vii, ch. ii.
Let us imagine a shipwrecked sailor who, after battling
with the waves, touches land upon an uninhabited but fertile island. Though
hungry and naked
shelterless, he soon has food and clothing and a house — all of them
rude, to be sure, but comfortable. How does he get them? By applying his
Labor to the Land of
the island. In a little while he lives as comfortably as an isolated man
Now let another shipwrecked sailor be washed ashore. As he is about to
step out of the water the first man accosts him:
"Hello, there! If you want to come ashore you must
agree to be my slave."
second replies: "I can't. I come from the United States, where they
don't believe in slavery."
"Oh, I beg your pardon. I didn't know you came from
the United States. I had no intention of hurting your feelings, you know.
But say, they
believe in owning
land in the United States, don't they?"
"Very well; you just agree that this island is mine,
and you may come ashore a free man."
"But how does the island happen to be yours? Did you
"No, I didn't make it."
"Have you a title from its maker?"
"No, I haven't any title from its maker."
"Well, what is your title, anyhow?"
"Oh, my title is good enough. I got here first."
Of course he got there first. But he didn't mean to, and he wouldn't have
done it if he could have helped it. But the newcomer is satisfied, and says:
"Well, that's a good United States title, so I guess
I'll recognize it and come ashore. But remember, I am to be a free man."
"Certainly you are. Come right along up to my cabin."
For a time the two get along well enough together. But on
some fine morning the proprietor concludes that he would rather lie abed
around for his breakfast and not being in a good humor, perhaps, he somewhat
his "brother man" to cook him a bird.
"What?" exclaims the brother.
"I tell you to go and kill a bird and cook it for my
"That sounds big," sneers the second free and equal member of the
little community; "but what am I to get for doing this?"
"Oh," the first replies languidly, "if you
kill me a fat bird and cook it nicely, then after I have had my breakfast
off the bird
you may cook the gizzard for your own breakfast. That's pay enough.
The work is
"But I want you to understand that I am not your slave,
and I won't do that work for that pay. I'll do as much work for you as
you do for me,
and no more."
"Then, sir," the first comer shouts in virtuous wrath, "I
want you to understand that my charity is at an end. I have treated
you better than
you deserved in the past, and this is your gratitude. Now I
don't propose to have any loafers on my property. You will work for the wages
off my land! You are perfectly free. Take the wages or leave
them. Do the work or let it alone. There is no slavery here. But if you are
satisfied with my terms, leave my island!"
The second man, if accustomed to the usages of the labor
unions, would probably go out and, to the music of his own violent
of capital," destroy as many bows and arrows as he could,
so as to paralyze the bird-shooting industry; and this proceeding
a strike for
honest wages and the dignity of labor. If he were accustomed
to social reform notions of the namby-pamby variety, he would
mildly indignant when told that there was
nothing to arbitrate — that he had only to accept the other's
offer or get off his property. But if a sensible man, he would
the privilege of owning islands in that latitude had expired.
57. While in the Pennsylvania coal regions a few years ago I was told of
an incident that illustrates the power of perpetuating poverty which resides
in the absolute ownership of land.
The miners were in poverty. Despite the lavish protection bestowed upon
them by tariff laws at the solicitation of monopolies which dictate our tariff
policy, the men were afflicted with poverty in many forms. They were poor
as to clothing, poor as to shelter, poor as to food, and to be more specific,
they were in extreme poverty as to ice. When the summer months came they
lacked this thing
because they could not afford to buy, and they suffered.
Owing to the undermining
of the ground and the caving in of the surface here and there, there were
great holes into which the snow and the rain fell in winter and froze, forming
passable quality of ice. Now it is frequently said that intelligence, industry,
and thrift will abolish poverty. But these virtues were not successful among
the men of whom I speak. They were intelligent enough to see that this ice
if they saved it would abolish their poverty as to ice, and they were industrious
enough and thrifty enough not only to be willing to save it, but actually
to begin the work. Preparing little caves to preserve the ice in, they went
the holes after a long day's work in the mines, and gathered what so far
as the need of ice was concerned was to abolish their poverty in the ensuing
But the owner of this part of the earth — a man who had neither made the
earth, nor the rain, nor the snow, nor the ice, nor even the hole — telegraphed
his agent forbidding the removal of ice except upon payment of a certain
The miners couldn't afford the condition. They controlled the necessary
Labor, and were willing to give it to abolish their poverty; but the Land
was placed beyond their reach by an owner, and in consequence of that, and
not from any lack of intelligence, industry, or thrift on their own part,
their poverty as to ice was perpetuated.
But in the civilized state this principle is so entangled in the complexities
of division of labor and trade as to be almost lost in the maze. Many, even
of those who recognize it, fail to grasp it as a fundamental truth. Yet it
is no less vital in civilized than in primitive modes of production.
a. Division of Labor
The essential difference between
primitive and civilized modes of production is not in the accumulation of capital
which characterizes the latter, but in the greater scope and minuteness of
its division of labor.58 Capital is an effect of division of labor rather
than a cause. Division of labor, by enhancing labor power and relieving man
the perpetual pursuit of mere subsistence, utilizes capital and makes civilization
58. It is his failure to realize this that
accounts for the theory of the socialist that laborers in the civilized
state are dependent upon accumulated capital as well as upon land for opportunities
to produce. See ante, note 49, and post, note 81.
59. Here are two men at a given point. Each has an errand to do a mile
to the east, and each has one to do a mile to the west. If each goes upon
each will travel a mile out and a mile back in one direction and the same
in the other, making four miles' travel apiece, or eight miles in all. But
does both errands to the east and the other does both to the west, they will
travel but two miles apiece, or four in all. By division of labor they free
half their energy
and half their time for devotion to other work, or to study, or to play,
as their inclinations dictate.
The productive power of division of labor may be illustrated by considering
it as a means for utilizing differences of soil and climate. If, for example,
the soil and the climate of two sections of a country, or of two different
countries (for the effects of division of labor are not dependent upon
political geography 60), differ inversely, one being better adapted
to the production of corn than of sugar, and the other, on the contrary,
being better adapted to the production of sugar than of corn, they will
yield more wealth in corn and sugar with division of labor than without
6o. No more than are the effects of a healthful climate.
Protectionists who argue that there should be free trade between villages,
and states in the same nation, but protection for nations, thus making
effect of trade to depend upon the invisible political boundary line that
separates communities, are like the colored woman who, when her house,
without being physically removed, had been politically shifted from North
to Virginia by a change of the boundary line, expressed her satisfaction
in the remark that she was very glad of it, because she "allus yearn
tail dot dat yah Nof Kline was an a'mighty sickly State," and she was
glad that she didn't "live dyeah no me'!"
Let us imagine a Mainland
and an Island, which, as to the adaptability of their soil and climate to
the production of corn and sugar, so differ
if the people of each should raise their own corn and their own sugar they
would produce, with a given unit of labor
force, but 22 of Wealth — 11 in corn and 11 in sugar. Thus:
Chart 10, page 41
Production in that manner would ignore the opportunities afforded by nature
to man for utilizing differences of soil and climate; but by such a wise
division as Labor would adopt in similar circumstances, if unrestrained, the
of labor force almost doubles
the product. Thus:
Chart 11, page 42
Nor is it alone because it utilizes differences of soil and climate that
division of labor is so effective. Its effectiveness is enhanced in still
by its lessening of the labor force necessary to accomplish any industrial
result, whether in mining, manufacturing, transporting, store-keeping, professional
agriculture, or the incidental occupations. Minute division of labor, instead
of accounting for poverty in the civilized state, makes it all the more unaccountable.
But division of labor is dependent upon trade. If trade were wholly stopped
would be no division of labor; 61 if it be interfered with, division of
is obstructed. 62 In the last preceding chart, which illustrates the effect
of division of labor without trade, the Mainland gets 20 of corn, but no sugar,
and the Island gets 20 of sugar, but no corn. Yet each wants both sugar and
corn; and if they freely trade, their wants in these respects will be better
satisfied than if each raises its own corn and sugar.
61. Men who devoted themselves to specialties, unable to exchange their products
for the objects of their desire, which alone would be the motive for their special
labor, would abandon specialties and resort to less civilized methods of supplying
62. Division of labor, whether adopted to take advantage of the different
varieties of land or to secure the benefits of special skill in labor, cannot
continue without trade; and to the degree that trade is impeded, to that
degree division of labor will languish. It is only under absolute free trade
between all people and in respect of all products that division of labor
can flourish. Any interference with it is economically an enslavement of
labor in a degree proportioned to the degree of interference.
Compare the first chart of this series with the following: 63
Chart 12, page 43
The comparison 64 illustrates the advantage to each individual, community
and country, of division of labor and trade over more primitive modes of production.
It is like the difference between raising weights by direct application of
and by means of block and tackle.65
63. It will be seen from this chart that the people
of the two places, by dividing their given expenditure of labor in such
a manner as to utilize
advantage peculiar to each place, secure a clear profit of 18. And this is
a substantial profit, consisting not merely of figures upon paper, but
of real wealth — artificial
external objects which serve to satisfy human desires.
64. The people of the Mainland have now sent 10 of their corn to the Island,
and the people of the Island have paid for it by sending 10 of their sugar
to the Mainland.
For simplicity, the cost of effecting the trade is omitted. It does not
affect the principle. If the cost were so high that more sugar and corn could
without division of labor than with, division of labor would be abandoned
as unprofitable; if low enough to admit of any profit at all, the trading
would go on, unless restrained, precisely as if it involved no cost. It
may be well to state, however, that the nearer we get to no cost in trading,
better are we off. Hence, any tariff on trading, whether domestic or foreign,
like railroad and shipping rates for freight, is prejudicial; for tariffs
add to the cost of trading just as freight rates
do. Protection has that for its object. When it does not add enough to
the price of a foreign product to prevent importation it fails of its purpose.
And though revenue tariffs have no such object they produce the same effect,
only in minor degree.
65. If every man were obliged, unassisted by the co-operation of others,
to supply his own needs directly by his own labor, few could more than
meagerly satisfy even the simplest of those desires which we have in common
with lower animals. Though each labored diligently the aggregate of wealth
would be exceedingly small compared with the necessities of those who wished
to consume it, while in variety it would be very limited and in quality
of the poorest kind. But by division of labor, which has been carried to
marvelous lengths and is still developing, productive power is so enormously
increased that the annual wealth products of the present time, in quantity
and quality, in variety, usefulness and beauty, almost appear to be the
work of giants and fairies.
And what this series of charts illustrates regarding two places and two forms
of wealth, is true in principle of all places and all forms of wealth. That
every one is better served when each does for others what relatively he does
best, in exchange for what relatively they do best, is as true of communities
and nations as it is of individuals. Indeed, it is true of communities and
nations because it is true of individuals; for it is individuals that
trade, and not communities or nations as such.66
66. Mankind as a whole may be likened to a great man, with
eyes to see, brain to invent and direct, nerves for intercommunication,
and various muscles
various actions. As different parts of the bodies of men do different things,
each part contributing co-operatively to a general result, so it is with
the body politic, whose different parts — individual men — contribute
in different ways to the common good. Trade is to the body politic what digestion
is to the physical body. To prohibit it is to deprive the great man of his
stomach; to restrict it is to give him dyspepsia.
Says Emerson in the "American Scholar," an oration delivered at
Cambridge in 1837: "It is one of those fables which out of an unknown
antiquity convey an unlocked-for wisdom, that the gods, in the beginning,
divided man into men, that he might be more helpful to himself; just as the
divided into fingers, the better to answer its ends."
Reflection upon the labor-saving power of trade makes it
clear that the notion of protectionists that free trade is prejudicial
to home industry has no
foundation. It would interfere with "home industries" that could
be better conducted elsewhere; but by that very fact it would strengthen
that belonged at home.
When we decide to buy foreign goods we do not thereby decide to employ foreign
labor instead of American labor; we decide that the American labor shall
be employed in making things to trade for what we buy, instead of making
the things that we buy. And we get a better net result or we wouldn't do
Free trade and labor-saving machinery, which belong in the same industrial category,
increase the aggregate wealth of the country where they flourish. Whether or
not they tend to impoverish individuals or classes, depends upon the manner in
which the increased wealth is distributed. If they do so tend, the remedy surely
does not lie in the direction of obstructing trade and smashing machines so that
less wealth may be produced with given labor, but in altering the conditions
that promote unjust distribution.
c. The Law of Division of Labor and Trade
Now, what is it that leads men to conform their conduct to the principle
illustrated by the last chart? Why do they divide their labor, and trade
its products? A simple, universal and familiar law of human nature moves them.
Whether men be isolated, or be living in primitive communities, or in advanced
of civilization, their demand for consumption determines the direction
of Labor in production.67 That is the law. Considered in connection with
a solitary individual, like Robinson Crusoe upon his island, it is obvious. What
he demanded for consumption he was obliged
to produce. Even as to the goods he collected from stranded ships — desiring
to consume them, he was obliged to labor to produce them to places of safety.
His demand for consumption always determined the direction of his labor in
production.68 And when we remember that what Robinson Crusoe was to
his island in the sea, civilized man as a whole is to this island in space,
may readily understand the application of the same simple law to the great
body of labor in the civilized world.69 Nevertheless, the complexities of civilized
life are so likely to obscure its operation and disguise its relations to
social questions like that of the persistence of poverty as to make illustration
67. The term "production" means not creation
but adaptation. Man cannot add an atom to the universe of matter; but he
can so modify the condition
of matter, both in respect of form and of place, as to adapt it to the
satisfaction of human desires. To do this is to produce wealth.
"Consumption" is the ultimate object of all production.
We produce because we desire to consume. But consumption does not mean
more power to destroy than to create. His power in consumption, like
his power in production, is limited to changing the condition of things.
As by production
man changes things from natural to artificial conditions to satisfy his
desires, so by consumption he changes things from artificial to natural
the process of satisfying his desires.
Production is the drawing forth of desired things, of Wealth, from the
Land; consumption is the returning back of those things to the Land.
"All labor is but the movement of particles of matter from one place to
another." — Dick's
Outlines, p. 25.
Production consists merely in changing things — Ely's Intro.,
part ii, ch. i; Mill's Prin., book i, ch. i, sec. 2.
"As man creates no new matter but only utilities, so he destroys no matter,
but only utilities. Consumption means the destruction of a utility." — Ely's
Intro., part v. ch. i., p. 268.
Production means "drawing forth." — Jevons's Primer, sec. 17.
"Man cannot create material things. . . His efforts and sacrifices result
in changing the form or arrangement of matter to adapt it better for the satisfaction
of wants." — Marshall's Prin., book ii, ch. iii, sec. i.
"It is sometimes said that traders do not produce; that while the cabinet
produces furniture, the furniture dealer merely sells what is already
produced. But there is no scientific foundation for this distinction." — Id.
"As his [man's] production of material products is really nothing more
than a rearrangement of matter which gives it new utilities, so his consumption
of them is nothing more than a disarrangement of matter which diminishes
destroys its utilities." — Id.
"In like manner as by production is meant the creation not of substance
but of utility, so by consumption is meant the destruction of utility and
substance or matter." — Say's Trea., book ii, ch. i.
"All that man can do is to reproduce existing materials under another
form, which may give them a utility they did not before possess, or merely
one they may have before presented. So that in fact there is a creation
not of matter but of utility ; and this I call production of wealth. . .
is no actual production of wealth without a creation or augmentation of
Say's Trea., book i, ch. i.
68. It is highly significant that while Robinson Crusoe had unsatisfied wants
he was never out of a job.
69. Demand for consumption is satisfied not from hoards of accumulated
wealth, but from the stream of current production. Broadly speaking there
can be no
accumulation of wealth in the sense of saving up wealth from generation
to generation. Imagine a man's satisfying his demand for eggs from the
stores of his ancestors! Yet eggs do not differ in this respect from
other forms of wealth, except that some other forms will keep a little
some not so long.
The notion that a saving instinct must be aroused before
the great and more lasting forms of wealth can be brought forth is a mistake.
for example, are built not because of any desire to accumulate wealth,
but because we need houses to live in and locomotives to transport
us and our goods.
It is not the saving, but the serving, instinct that induces the production
of these things; the same instinct that induces the production of
a loaf of bread.
Artificial things do not save. No sooner are the processes of production
from land complete than the products are on their way back to the
land. If man does
not return them by means of consumption, then through decay they
return themselves. Mankind as a whole lives literally from hand to mouth.
What is demanded for consumption in the present must be produced by the labor
of the present. From
current production, and from that alone, can current consumption be satisfied.
"Accumulated wealth" is, in fact, not wealth at
all in any great degree. It is merely titles to wealth yet to be produced.
A share in a mining
company, for example, is but a certificate that the owner is legally entitled
to a proportion of the wealth to be produced in the future from a certain
Titles to future wealth may be both morally and legally
valid. This is so when they represent past labor or its products loaned
in free contract for
future labor or its products; for example, a contract for the delivery of
goods of any kind today to be paid for next week or next month, or next
year, or in ten years, or later.
They may be legally but not morally valid. This is so when they represent
the product of a franchise (whether paid for in labor or not) to exact tribute
from future labor; for example, a franchise to confiscate a man's labor through
ownership of his body, as in slavery, or a franchise to confiscate the products
of labor in general through ownership of land.
Or they may be both legally and morally invalid, as when they are obtained
by illegal force or fraud from the rightful owner.
The following chart classifies about every kind of wealth that man requires,
and also "personal services," which, though as useful as wealth,
do not crystallize in material products — such services as those of
lawyers, barbers, doctors, teachers, actors, and so on:
Chart 13, page 47
The circle of variegated colors represents the commercial reservoir into which
Wealth is poured by production, and from which it is drawn for consumption,
each color typifying the kind of wealth or service
named in it. Now, let us suppose that Personal Servants tap the commercial
reservoir for food.70 They do it by applying at retail stores for what will
relieve their poverty as to food, and food flows out to them" as indicated
by the blue arrow, which we now insert in the chart:
70. If it be asked how Personal Servants can draw this food out of the retail
stores unless they have money, let the questioner inform himself as to the
ways in which business is done. No man, unless he be a notorious cheat, needs
money in order to obtain goods at retail stores, provided he has or can presently
get profitable employment. All he needs is employment, or an early prospect
of employment, and a reputation for honesty. There is therefore no unwarranted
assumption in the example, even if we exclude the use of money from consideration.
See post, note 72.
Chart 14, page 48
How would the outflow of food affect managers of retail stores? Every merchant's
office-boy knows. It would admonish them to order further supplies from wholesalers.
Wholesalers would fill these orders, and replenish their stock by ordering
from manufacturers. Manufacturers would thereupon send all over the world for
materials; would call for new machinery and better machinery; would order
new buildings and repair old ones, and would scour the country for workingmen
to come into their factories and renew their lowered stock of goods. Thus all
kinds and grades of labor that could assist in producing food, from farm hands
to inventors, from bookkeepers to sailors, would feel the influence of the
demand for food in a demand for their labor. What Personal Servants really
do in demanding food is to direct the expenditure of labor to the production
of food and food-producing implements and materials.
Let us indicate this point upon the chart by running a blue arrow from Food-makers
to the food reservoir:
Chart 15, page 49
No complaint may now arise of lack of work in food-producing lines.71 But
work is only a means to an end. It is done for the compensation it yields.
And how are Food-makers to be compensated? In services from Personal Servants?
Suppose they are not in want of services.
But they must be in want of something; if they need nothing they have no poverty
to relieve. Let it be clothing that they lack. Then they are compensated for
making food by taking clothing from retail stores in exchange for their unpaid
claim against Personal Servants. Clothing thereupon flows out of the commercial
reservoir to them as food flowed out to Personal Servants; and with similar effect,
namely, the setting to work of all clothing-making labor, from sheep-raisers
and cotton-growers to sewing-women and salesmen.
71. Farmers, millers, bakers, ranchers, butchers, fishermen, hunters, makers
of food-producing implements, food merchants, railroad men, sailors, draymen,
coal miners, metal miners, builders, bankers who by exchanging commercial
paper facilitate trade. together with clerks, bookkeepers, foremen, journeymen,
laborers, seeking for them instead of their seeking for work. To specify the
labor that would be profitably affected by this demand would involve the
all workmen, all business men, and all professional men who either directly
or indirectly are connected with food industries, and the naming of every grade
of such labor, from the newest apprentice to the largest supervising employer.
Would not this be putting an end to "hard times"? For what is
the most striking manifestation of "hard times"? Is it not "scarcity
of work"? Is it not that there are more men seeking work than there
are jobs to do? Certainly it is. And to say that, is not to limit "hard
hired men. The real trouble with the business man when he complains of "hard
times" is that people do not employ him as much as he expects to be
employed. Work is scarce with him, just as with those he employs, or as he
it, "business is slack."
Let there be ten men and but nine jobs, and you have "hard times." The
tenth man will be out of work. He may be a good union man who abhors a "scab" and
will not take work away from his brother workman. So he hunts for a job which
does not exist, until all his savings are gone. Still he will not be a "scab," and
he suffers deprivation. But after a while hunger gets the better of him,
and he takes one of the nine jobs away from another man by underbidding.
a "scab." And who can blame him? any one would rather be a "scab" than
a corpse. Then the man who has lost his place becomes a "scab" too,
and turns out some one else by underbidding. And so it goes again and again
until wages fall so low that they but just support life. Then the poorhouse
or a charitable institution takes care of the tenth man, who thereafter serves
the purpose of preventing arise in wages. Meanwhile, diminished purchasing
power, due to low wages, bears down upon business generally.
But let there be ten jobs and but nine men. Conditions would instantly reverse,
Instead of a man all the time seeking for a job, a job would be all the time
seeking for a man; and wages would rise until they equaled the value of the
work for which they were paid. And as wages rose purchasing power would rise,
and business in general would flourish.
If demand freely directed production, there would always be ten jobs for
nine men, and no longer only nine jobs for ten men. It could not be otherwise
any wants were unsatisfied.
The yellow arrows denote this:
Chart 16, page 51
The poverty of Food-makers as to clothing is thus removed. They are working
all they care to at food-making, their own chosen employment, and they are
paid in clothing, their own chosen compensation. So
long as Personal Servants withdraw food and Clothing-makers supply clothing,
Food-makers cannot be poor. With them business will be brisk, labor will be
in demand, and wages will be high. That all the other workers may enjoy the
same prosperity we shall see in a moment. Clothing-makers pour clothing into
the commercial reservoir because they wish to take something out, and know
that in this way they can get a larger quantity and better quality of what
they require than if they undertake to make it themselves. They are skilled
in making clothing; they are not skilled in other ways. Accordingly they
utilize the claim against Personal Servants, which has passed to their credit
in exchange for clothing, by drawing from the commercial reservoir the particular
commodity they desire. Suppose it to be shelter. They proceed as Personal Servants
and Food-makers have already done, and so set Shelter-makers at work. Shelter-makers
in turn utilize the claim against Personal Servants which has now been credited
to them, by taking luxuries out of the reservoir. This sets Luxury-makers at
work. Luxury-makers then pass the claim over in exchange for services, and Personal
Servants redeem it by rendering such services as Luxury-makers demand.72 Everybody
is now paid for his own products with the products of others; and by demanding
more food, Personal Servants may perpetuate the interchange indefinitely.73 And
Personal Servants will continue to demand more food until their wants as to food
are wholly and finally satisfied.74
72. The mechanism of these exchanges should be explained.
Personal Servants upon demanding food may pay money for it. The retailers might
thereupon pass the money along, and it would ultimately return to Personal Servants.
Or the Personal Servants may give notes payable at a future time, which being
endorsed over would at last be redeemed by them in services. Or they may give
checks on banks, which assumes previous work done by them or the discounting
of their notes by the banks. As the world's exchanges are almost wholly adjusted
by means of checks, and other commercial paper which is in economic effect the
same as checks, let us illustrate that mode by a series of charts adapted from
We will begin with two traders, A and B. They have no money,
but every time that one demands anything of the other he must offer in
other wants. There must be what is called "a double coincidence" of
demand and supply; each must want what the other has. This is primitive barter.
It may be represented by the following chart :
Chart 17, page 52
In the civilized state, even in its beginnings, primitive
barter must be obstructive to trade, and it gives way to the use of currency — some
common medium which is taken for goods not because the taker wants it but
because he knows
can readily exchange it for the goods that he does want. With currency in
use, when A wants anything of B he is not obliged to find something that
All he needs is currency. Thus currency reduces the friction of trading.
But as the volume of trade augments, demand for currency increases; and
because it is scarce, or troublesome or dangerous to transmit, or all
means of exchange are resorted to, and bookkeeping takes the place of currency
as currency took the place of primitive barter. At this stage, when A wants
anything of B, B charges him; and when B wants anything of A, A charges
him. Their mutual
accounts being adjusted, the small balance is paid with currency. Thus
the demand for currency is greatly lowered by bookkeeping, and the friction
of trading is
Now let us bring in two more traders, C and D:
Chart 18, page 53
Though all four of these traders keep mutual accounts,
the settlement of balances requires more currency than before, and scarcity
the danger and expense of transmission, evolves an extension of bookkeeping.
A common bookkeeper, called a "Bank," is employed, and all need
for currency disappears:
Chart 19, page 53
Balances are now settled by checks, and all accounts are adjusted in the central
ledger at the bank.
But the introduction of another group of traders, another community, renews
the demand for currency, and another bank appears. Thus:
Chart 20, page 53
And now the two banks are in the same position that A and B
were in before any bank came. They keep mutual accounts, but they must have
to settle their balances. And if we bring in more communities the demand
further increases. Thus:
Chart 21, page 53
Now the four banks are in the same situation that A,
B, C and D were in before there were any banks. This evolves a bank of
banks — a clearing-house.
All necessity for currency once more disappears.
These charts illustrate the principle by which mutual trading is effected.
In practice, the need of currency is never wholly done away with, but the
tendency is constantly in the direction of doing away with it. And it is
said that over ninety per cent of the trading transactions of the world
are adjusted in this manner, and less than ten per cent by means of currency.
The clearing-house principle extends over the civilized world. In illustration
of this, observe the following chart:
Chart 23, page 54
These five cities are like the five banks. The bookkeeping of each city
is conducted by local banks and clearing-houses, and the central
bookkeeping by those of the market town of the world, which at present
In this way the mobility of labor is in effect enormously increased. Labor
in every corner of the world is brought into close trading relations with labor
everywhere else, so that only war, pestilence, protection, and land monopoly
interfere with the full freedom of its movement.
73. Personal Servants, on the basis of their employment by Luxury-makers,
demand more food, which keeps Food-makers at work; Food-makers demand more
which keeps Clothing-makers at work; Clothing-makers demand more shelter,
which keeps Shelter-makers at work; Shelter-makers demand more luxuries,
which keeps Luxury-makers at work; Luxury-makers demand more services, which
Personal Servants at work. And so on indefinitely.
If now we add progressive invention, so that every one
produces more and more wealth with less and less labor, instead of finding
poverty upon the
instead of being harried by periodical "hard times," we shall
find business brisk and every one becoming richer and richer. That is to
all labor less than before, each obtains better results from others while
giving better results in exchange.
And should we improve the verisimilitude of the illustration
by bringing in the fact that all workers in civilized society are specialists
in a much
minute degree than the division into Clothing-makers, Food-makers, etc.,
would imply — that every one who works does over and over some one
thing in one of these branches, as the making of shoes or the baking of
bread, or even only
part of a thing, as the cutting of shoe soles, and that while giving out
a great deal of his own product he demands in pay a little of every other
of product — the same effect would naturally result.
Every man who demands anything for consumption thereby determines
the direction of labor toward the production not only of that thing, but
also of all the
artificial materials and implements, from the simplest tool to the most expensive
and complex machine, that are used in its production. The actual process
is much more intricate than that of the charts, but the charts illustrate
principle so that any intelligent person who understands them can apply — it
to the most complex affairs of industrial life.
"This principle is so simple and obvious that it needs no further illustration,
yet in its light all the complexities of our subject disappear, and we thus
reach the same view of the real objects and rewards of labor in the intricacies
of modern production that we rained by observing in the first beginnings
of society the simpler forms of production and exchange. We see that now,
each laborer is endeavoring to obtain by his exertions the satisfaction of
his own desires; we see that although the minute division of labor assigns
to each producer the production of but a small part, or perhaps nothing at
all, of the particular things he labors to get, yet, in aiding in the production
of what other producers want, he is directing other labor to the production
of the things he wants — in effect, producing them himself. And
thus, if he makes jackknives and eats wheat, the wheat is really as much
of his labor as if he had grown it for himself and left wheat-growers to
make their own jackknives." — Progress and Poverty. book i, ch.
74. There is no end to man's wants.
"The demand for quantity once satisfied, he seeks quality.
The very desires that he has in common with the beast become extended,
is not merely hunger, but taste, that seeks gratification in food; in
clothes, he seeks not merely comfort, but adornment; the rude shelter becomes
a house; the undiscriminating sexual attraction begins to transmute itself
into subtle influences, and the
hard and common stock of animal life to blossom and to bloom into shapes of
delicate beauty." — Progress and Poverty, book ii, ch. iii.
A labor agitator was arguing the labor question with a rich man, the judge
of his county, when the judge as a clincher asked:
"what do workingmen want, anyway, that they haven't
Promptly the agitator replied with the counter-question
"Judge, what have you got that you don't want?"
Let the chart be now advanced to show, in accordance with the text, the perpetual
flow of trade which this action and reaction of demand and supply maintain:
Chart 24, page 56:
Thus each class of workers by its demands for consumption determines the
direction of the labor of some other class. And in final analysis every person
by his own demands for consumption determines the direction of his own labor
in production as truly as Crusoe determined his; for the demands of Personal
Servants for food, of Food-makers for clothing, of Clothing-makers for shelter,
of Shelter-makers for luxuries, and of Luxury-makers for services, by enabling
all to procure what they require in exchange for what is demanded of them,
determine each as to the kind of employment to adopt.75
75. Regarding society as a unit, the operation of the law is no less indisputable
in social than in solitary conditions. The demands of society as a whole
determine the degree of activity for each department of production, much
as Robinson Crusoe's demand for baskets imposed greater activity upon his
arms than upon his legs, or as his demand for goats imposed greater activity
upon his legs than upon his arms.
But it is not necessary to regard society as a unit in order to see that
in the social as in the solitary state, labor in production is expended in
the direction of demand for consumption. Each individual, in the social as
in the solitary state, produces the identical wealth that he demands for
consumption. The man, for example, who wants a coat, and to get it makes
shoes that he does not want, but with which he hires some one to make him
a coat, really produces the coat; while he who wants shoes, and to get them
makes coats which he does not want but which lie trades for shoes, really
produces shoes. Similarly, through the whole range of industry, each individual
hires other individuals to do what he wants done, and pays for it by doing
for others what they want done. The condition is one of reciprocal hiring,
and under the common-sense legal maxim, qui facit per alium facit per
se (what one does by another he does himself), as sound in economics
as in jurisprudence, each laborer, by inducing others to make the things
that he demands, in order to exchange them for what he makes, really produces
what he demands. But for his demands, supplemented by his labor, these things
would not be produced.
True it is that in general trade goods are usually made in advance of specific
demand for them. But it would be superficial reasoning to infer from this
that production determines consumption instead of being determined by it.
The collection of commodities in the market is analogous to the collection
of water in reservoirs for the accommodation of the inhabitants of cities.
Water is so collected in advance of specific demand, not to induce the people
to consume water, but because, being accustomed to consuming water, they
make a steady demand for it. And this demand determines the supply. There
are large reservoirs for large cities and small ones for small cities. So
with the commercial reservoir. Stores are filled with goods in advance of
specific demand, not to induce demand but in obedience to it. There is an
approximate constancy to the demand for wealth, upon which labor relies,
and in consequence of which wealth is continually in process of completion.
Though orders be supplied from existing stock. the stock is at once replenished
in accordance with the demand upon it. And this is equivalent to the proposition
that demand for consumption determines the direction in which labor will
be expended in production. For it makes no difference in economic principle
whether a show dealer takes his customer's measure and makes him a pair of
shoes, or keeps shoes in stock, and when he sells a pair buys another like
them. In either case the shoe dealer is providing shoes pursuant to order.
In the one, he anticipates the order and has the goods ready when they are
called for; in the other, he obliges his customer to wait until the goods
can be made.
Though production may often seem to precede demand, as when goods are stored
months in advance of any possible demand for consumption, and may sometimes
actually precede it, as when a new nostrum is placed upon the market, the
fact remains that production in any direction rises and falls with the rise
and fall of demand for consumption; in other words, is determined by that
And this law regulates the supply of wealth not only as to quantity, but
also as to quality and variety.
Let us now complete this chart. When we began it a distinction was noted between
Personal Servants, who render mere intangible services, and the other classes,
who produce tangible wealth. But essentially there is no difference. By referring
to the chart and observing the course of the arrows, Food-makers are seen
working for Personal Servants precisely as Personal Servants work for Luxury-makers.
We may therefore abandon the distinction. This makes it no longer necessary
to mention particular classes of products in the chart; it is enough to distinguish
the different kinds of labor.76 Thus:
Chart 25, page 58
76. "This, then, we may say is the great law which binds society — 'service
for service.' "— Dick's Outlines, p. 9.
For simplicity the workers have been divided into great classes, and each class
has been supposed to serve only one other class. But the actual currents
of trade are much more complex. It would be practically impossible to follow
them in detail, or to illustrate their particular movements in any simple
way. And it is unnecessary. The principle illustrated in the chart is the
principle of all division of labor and trade, however minute the details
and intricate the movement; and any person of ordinary intelligence who wishes
to understand will need only to grasp the principle as illustrated by the
chart to be able to apply it to the experiences of everyday industrial life.
All legitimate trade is the interchange of Labor for Labor.77
77. In the light of this principle how absurd are some of the explanations
of hard times.
Overproduction! when an infinite variety of wants are unsatisfied
which those who are in want are anxious and able to satisfy for one another.
Hatters want bread, and bakers want hats, and farmers want both, and they
all want machines, and machinists want bread and hats and machines, and
so on without end. Yet while men are against their will in partial or complete
idleness, their wants go unsatisfied! Since producers are also consumers,
and production is governed by demand for consumption, there can be no real
overproduction until demand ceases. The apparent overproduction which we
see — overproduction relatively to "effective demand" — is
in fact a congestion of some things due to an abnormal underproduction of
other things, the underproduction being caused by obstructions in the way
Scarcity of capital! when makers of capital in all its forms are
involuntarily idle. Scarcity of capital, like scarcity of money, is only
an expression for lack of employment. But why should there be any lack of
employment while men have unsatisfied wants which they can reciprocally satisfy?
Too much competition! when competition and freedom are the same.
It is not freedom but restraint, not competition but protection, that obstructs
the action and reaction of demand and supply which we have illustrated in
d. Dependence of Labor upon Land
We have now seen that division of labor and trade, the distinguishing characteristics
of civilization, not only increase labor power, but grow out of a law of human
nature which tends, by maintaining a perpetual revolution of the circle of
trade, to cause opportunities for mutual employment to correspond to desire
for wealth. Surely there could be no lack of employment if the circle flowed
freely in accordance with the principle here illustrated; work would abound
until want was satisfied. There must therefore be some obstruction. That indirect
taxes hamper trade, we have already seen;78 but there is a more fundamental
obstruction. As we learned at the outset, all the material wants of men are
satisfied by Labor from Land. Even personal services cannot be rendered without
the use of appropriate land.79 Let us then introduce into the preceding chart,
in addition to the different classes of Labor, the corresponding classes of
Land-owning interests, indicating them by black balls:
Chart 26, page 60
78. See ante, pp. 9, 6 and 16.
79. Demand for food is not only demand for all kinds and grades of Food-makers,
but also for as many different kinds of land as there are different kinds
of labor set at work. So a demand for clothing is not only a demand for Clothing-makers,
a demand for shelter is not only one for Shelter-makers, a demand for luxuries
is not only one for Luxury-makers, a demand for services is not only one
for Personal Servants, but those demands are also demands for appropriate
land — pasture land for wool, cotton land for cotton, factory land,
water fronts and rights of way, store sites, residence sites, office sites,
theater sites, and so on to the end of an almost endless catalogue.
Every class of Labor has now its own parasite.
The arrows which run from one kind of Labor to another, indicating an out-flow
of service, are respectively offset by arrows that indicate a corresponding
in-flow of service; but the arrows that flow from the various classes of Labor
to the various Land-owning interests are offset by nothing to indicate a corresponding
return. What possible return could those interests make? They do not produce
the land which they charge laborers for using; nature provides that. They do
not give value to it; Labor as a whole does that. They do not protect the community
through the police, the courts, or the army, nor assist it through schools
and post offices; organized society does that to the extent to which it is
done, and the Land-owning interests contribute nothing toward it other than
a part of what they exact from Labor.80 As between Labor interests and Land-owning
interests the arrows can be made to run only in the one direction.
80 See ante, pp. 12, 13, and 14.
Now, suppose that as productive methods improve, the exactions of the Land-owning
interests so expand — so enlarge the drain from Labor — as to make
it increasingly difficult for any of the workers to obtain the Land they need
in order to satisfy the demands made upon them for the kind of Wealth they
produce. Would it then be much of a problem to determine the cause of poverty
or to explain hard times? Assuredly not. It would be plain that poverty and
hard times are due to obstacles placed by Land-owning interests in the way
of Labor's access to Land.
We thus see that in the civilized state as well as in the primitive, the
fundamental cause of poverty is the divorce of Labor from Land. 81 But the
manner in which that divorce is accomplished in the civilized state remains
81. People with socialistic tendencies argue that while it is true that Labor
and Land are the only things necessary in primitive conditions, Capital also
is necessary in civilized conditions. (See ante, notes 49 and
58.) And they want to know, with something like a sneer, what clerks and
and bookkeepers and other specialists in our highly organized industry
would do with land even if it were freely open to them. "They don't know how
to make food, and they can't eat sand!" I once heard a socialist exclaim.
The same notion is widespread among that large class of single tax opponents
in church and college, whom the late Wm. T. Croasdale described as "people
who believe in socialism, but don't believe in putting it into practice."
The idea is best expressed perhaps by a writer of the most brilliant socialistic
verses, Charlotte Perkins Stetson, in the following :
"Free land is not enough. In earliest days
When man, the baby, from the earth's bare breast
Drew for himself his simple sustenance,
Then freedom and his effort were enough.
The world to which a man is born
Is a constructed, human, man-built world.
As the first savage needed the free
We need the road, the ship, the bridge, the house,
The government, society,
and church, —
These are the basis of our life to-day
As much necessities
to modern man
As was the forest to his ancestor.
To say to the newborn, 'Take here your land;
In primal freedom settle where
And work your own salvation in the world
Is but to put the last-come
Back with the dim fore-runners of his race,
To climb the race's
stairway in one life
Allied society owes to the young—
The new men come
to carry on the world—
Account for all the past, the deeds, the keys,
Full access to the riches of the earth.
Why? That these new ones may not be compelled
Each for himself to do our work
But reach their manhood even with to-day,
And gain to-morrow sooner.
To go on,—
To start from where we are and go ahead
That is true progress, true humanity."—In This Our World.
If one man were turned loose alone upon the earth, or shut off from trading
with his fellows, it might in great degree be true, as Mrs. Stetson says,
that he would be put "back with the dim forerunners of his race, to
climb the race's stairway in one life";
but her criticism does not apply to millions of free men who freely trade.
To them the land would be enough. Even though they were denied existing roads
and ships and bridges and houses, they would soon make new ones, and starting "from
where we are," would "go ahead." For free land means access
to all natural materials and forces, and free trade means unobstructed industrial
between laborer and laborer. These are the essential conditions, the only conditions,
of all production — even of the most civilized.
The root of the socialistic idea is the thought that we are dependent
for social life upon accumulated capital. This is a mistake. Social life
upon accumulated capital, but upon accumulated knowledge made effective by
interchange of labor. A laborer who operates some great machine seems to be
dependent upon the owner of his machine for opportunity to work; but the only
people upon whom he really depends are laborers who are competent co-operatively
to make such machines, and who have access to both the land from which the
materials must be drawn and that upon which they must group themselves while
doing the work. When socialists lay stress upon the importance of accumulated
capital they are attributing to accumulated capital the power that resides
in land and trade; for to control these is to command the benefits of accumulated
Since the production of a machine precedes its use, the inference is
almost irresistible, upon a superficial consideration, that opportunities
and compensation for labor are governed by the existing supplies of machinery
to which labor is allowed access. But this is of a piece with the old notion
of classical political economy that opportunities to labor are dependent upon
the existing supplies of subsistence that are devoted to the maintenance of
laborers. The inference is wrong in either form. When we once grasp the essential
truth of the law illustrated in the text, that the production of subsistence,
or machinery, or any other unfinished object, that is to say, of Capital, is
but a form of general wealth production, and that all forms of wealth production
are in obedience to demand, we clearly see that labor is in no respect dependent
upon capital either for employment or compensation. In the social as in the
solitary state, Labor and Land are the only factors of wealth production. It
is not Capital but Land that supplies materials to Labor for its subsistence
and its machinery. Instead of capitalists supplying laborers with subsistence
and machinery, laborers themselves continuously produce subsistence and machinery
from the materials that land supplies. Capitalists neither employ nor pay laborers;
laborers employ and pay one another.
Read "Progress and Poverty," book i, chs. iii, iv, and v. Also read "The
Story of My Dictatorship" (No. 4, Sterling Library), chs. v, vi, vii,
3. THE DISTRIBUTION OF WEALTH
The chart on the following page displays the fundamental principle of Production,
which we considered at the beginning, and also the fundamental principle
of Distribution, which is yet to be considered. In the development of the
will be found the explanation of the divorce in the civilized state of Labor
Chart 27, page 64
This chart reminds us that Labor (human exertion), by application to Land (natural
materials and forces external to man), produces Wealth (the generic term for
all those things that tend to satisfy the material Wants of man), and so tends
to abolish poverty. No man's poverty can be abolished in any other way, unless
it be by gifts, or vulgar robbery, or legalized spoils.
The chart shows also that Wealth distributes ultimately in Wages 82 (a
fund made up of the aggregate of the earnings of individual laborers), which
corresponds to Labor; and Rent 83 (a fund made up of the aggregate premiums
for specially desirable locations), which corresponds to Land.84
82. "What is paid for labor of any kind is called wages. We are apt to
speak of the payment given to the common day laborer only as wages; and we
give finer names to the payments which are made for some other kinds of services.
Thus we speak of the doctor's or the lawyer's fee; of the judge's salary;
of the teacher's income; of the merchant's profit; of the banker's interest,
and of the professor's emoluments. They are all in reality only payments for
labor of different kinds, or for different results of labor, — that is,
they are all wages." — Dick's Outlines, p. 23
"Wages is what goes to pay for all the trouble of labor." — Jevons's
Primer, sec. 39
"His [the manager's] share is called the wages of superintendence, and although
usually much larger than the share of a common laborer, it is really wages
of the same nature." — Id., sec. 41.
"The common meaning of the word wages is the compensation paid to a hired
person for manual labor. But in political economy the word wages has a much wider
meaning, and includes all returns for exertion. For, as political economists
explain, the three agents or factors in production are land, labor, and capital,
and that part of the produce which goes to the second of these factors is styled
by them wages. . . It is important to keep this in mind. For in the standard
economic works this sense of the term wages is recognized with greater or less
clearness only to be subsequently ignored." — Progress and Poverty,
book i, ck. ii.
83. Rent "is what is paid for the use of a natural agent, whether land,
or beds of minerals, or rivers, or lakes. The rent of a house or factory is,
therefore, not all rent in our meaning of the word." — Jevons's
Primer, sec. 40.
"The term rent in its economic sense . . . differs
in meaning from the word rent as commonly used. In some respects this economic
the common meaning; in other respects it is wider.
"It is narrower in this: In common speech, we apply the word rent to payments
for the use of buildings, machinery, fixtures, etc., as well as to payments
for the use of land or other natural capabilities; and in speaking of the
rent of a house or the rent of a farm, we do not separate the price for the
use of the improvements from the price for the use of the bare land. But in
the economic meaning of rent, payments for the use of any of the products
of human exertion are excluded, and of the lumped payments for the use of houses,
farms, etc., only that part is rent which constitutes the consideration for
the use of the land — that part paid for the use of buildings or other
improvements being properly interest, as it is a consideration for the use
"It is wider in this: In common speech we only speak
of rent when owner and user are distinct persons. But in the economic sense
there is also
rent where the same person is both owner and user. Where owner and user are
person, whatever part of his income he might obtain by letting the land
to another is rent, while the return for his labor and capital are that part
of his income which they would yield him did he hire instead of owning
Rent is also expressed in a selling price. When land is purchased, the
payment which is made for the ownership, or right to perpetual use, is rent
or capitalized. If I buy land for a small price and hold it until I can
sell it for a large price, I have become rich, not by wages for my labor
interest upon my capital, but by the increase of rent.
"Rent, in short, is the share in the wealth produced which the exclusive
right to the use of natural capabilities gives to the owner. Wherever
land has an
exchange value there is rent in the economic meaning of the term. Wherever
land having a value is used, either by owner or hirer, there is rent
actual; wherever it is not used, but still has a value, there is rent potential.
It is this capacity of yielding rent which gives value to land. Until its
ownership will confer some advantage, land has no value." — Progress
and Poverty, book iii, chap ii
84. "The primary division of wealth in distribution is dual, not tripartite.
Capital is but a form of labor, and its distinction from labor is in reality
but a subdivision, just as the division of labor into skilled and unskilled
would be. In our examination we have reached the same point as would have
been attained had we simply treated capital as a form of labor, and sought
the law which divides the
rent and wages; that is to say, between the possessors of the two factors,
natural substances and powers, and human exertion — which two factors
by their union produce all wealth." — Progress and Poverty, book
iii, ch. v.
Care must be taken not to confuse the hire of a house, commonly
and legally termed "rent," with
economic Rent. House rent is really Wages; it is compensation for the labor
of house building. But economic Rent is not compensation for anything; it
is simply the premiums for advantages of location.
a. Explanation of Wages and Rent
Differences in the desirableness of land divide Wealth into the two funds,
Wages and Rent. Labor naturally applies its forces to that land from which,
all the existing and known circumstances, most Wealth can be
produced with least expenditure of labor force. Such land is the best. So
long as the best land exceeds demand for it, laborers are upon an equality
of opportunity, and the entire product goes to them as Wages in proportion
to the labor force they respectively expend. But when the supply of the best
land falls below demand for it, some laborers must resort to land where with
an equal expenditure of labor force they produce less wealth than those who
use the best land. The laborers thus excluded from the best land naturally
offer a premium for it, or what is the same thing, offer to work for its
owners for what they might obtain by working for themselves upon the poorer
land. This condition differentiates Rent from Wages. Rent goes to land-owners
as such, irrespective of whether they labor or not; Wages go to laborers
as such, irrespective of whether they own land or not.85
85. Land of every kind may vary in desirableness from other land of
the same kind. Certain farming land, for example, is so fertile that it will
to a given application of labor two bushels of wheat to every bushel that
certain other farming land will yield; and it is obvious that, other things
equal, farmers would prefer the more fertile land. But some fertile land
lies so far away from market that less fertile land lying nearer is more productive,
because it costs less to exchange its products for what their producer demands;
in such cases farmers would prefer the less fertile land. The same principle
applies to all kinds of land.
Building lots at or near a center of residence or business are preferable for
most purposes of residence or business to lots equally good in other respects
which are far away.
Now, the land that is preferable is of course most in demand; and if
it be all in use, with demand for it unsatisfied, competition for the preference
and gives value to it.
All land cannot be equally desirable. Some excels in fertility. Some is
rich with mineral deposits, a species of fertility. On some, towns and cities
thereby adding to the productiveness of the labor that uses it, because these
sites are thus made centers of co-operation or trade. And yet production
in the civilized state requires that the producer shall have exclusive possession
the land lie needs. This necessity inevitably gives to some people more desirable
land than others have, even though all should have an abundance. Consequently
the returns to equal labor are unequal. The man who has land that is more
or better located than that of another gets more wealth than the other in
return for a given expenditure of labor. If, for example, one with given
10 bushels of corn from fertile land, equal, say, to $5 worth of any kind
of wealth in the market, and the other with the same labor produces 8 bushels
of corn, or $4 worth of any kind of wealth in the market, the first receives
(or $1) more for his labor than the other receives for his, though each
labors with equal effort, skill, and intelligence. Or, if the fertility of
be the same, but its situation in reference to the market be such that the
cost of transportation still preserves the relation of $5 to $4, the same
of wages results. It is this phenomenon that gives rise to Rent. Rent is
the market value of just such differences in opportunity as are here illustrated.
It is a premium for choice land, for preferential locations, for site, for
This premium is a very different thing from compensation for labor. Nor
is the difference modified when premium owners first obtain Wages for
them buy the premium-commanding land. Rent can no more be turned into compensation
for labor by exchanging labor products for the power to exact it, than
a man can be turned into Wealth by exchanging Wealth for him. Whether
of purchase or of conquest, or of fraud, Rent always constitutes that part
which is deducted from current production as premiums for superior opportunities
Wages and Rent are both drawn from Wealth, and both go often to the
same individual and in the same form of payment, as when a freehold farmer
enjoys the use of
the grain he raises from more fertile land than his neighbors have, or
a city freeholder occupies or receives hire from his house and lot:
but Wages flow
from Wealth to labor as compensation for production, while Rent flows from
Wealth to land-owners in premiums for allowing labor to produce Wealth
locations. Wages are appurtenant to Labor; Rent is appurtenant to Land.
It is as laborer that the individual takes Wages, but as land-owner that
To illustrate: On the following page are four closed spaces representing
land which varies in productiveness to a given expenditure of labor force, 86
from 4 down to 1. There is also an open space at the right, representing land
that is yet so poor as to yield nothing to the given expenditure of labor force.
Chart 28, page 68
86. A unit of labor cannot be definitely measured save by the value of some
labor product. The day's labor of one man may produce less than an hour's
labor of another. But for purposes of illustration it is competent to refer
unit of labor force as an abstraction, intending thereby to denote all
the labor of muscle and brain requisite to acquire the necessary knowledge
skill and to produce wealth to a given value from given natural sources.
For simplicity let the market be equally convenient to each space. Let it
be assumed also that one space is as accessible to labor as another, and that
the differences in their productiveness are known. Now, to which space would
labor first resort? Obviously to that which would yield most Wealth to the
given expenditure of labor force — the space to the extreme left.
Suppose, then, that labor appropriates only as much of the best space as is
required for use — say half of it. We may note the fact with red color
upon the chart:
Chart 29, page 68
Here we see that Wages are 4 and Rent 0. The laborers, as such, take the
entire product, dividing it among themselves in proportion to their services.
is no Rent because other laborers find equally good opportunities to produce
in the uncolored part of the space; the supply of the best land exceeds the
demand for it, and of course it commands no premium.87
87. "No land ever pays rent unless in point of fertility or situation
it belongs to those superior kinds which exist in less quantity than the demand." — Mill's
Prin., book ii, ch. xvi, sec. 2.
"The produce of labor constitutes the natural recompense or wages of
labor. In that original state of things, which precedes both the appropriation
of land and the accumulation of stock, the whole produce of labor belongs to
the laborer." — Smith's Wealth of Nations, book i, ch. viii.
"Rent or land value does not arise from the productiveness or utility
of land. It in no wise represents any help or advantage given to production,
but simply the power of securing a part of the results of production. No matter
what are its capabilities, land can yield no rent and have no value until some
one is willing to give labor or the results of labor for the privilege of using
it; and what any one will thus give, depends not upon the capacity of the land,
but upon its capacity as compared with that of land that can be had for nothing.
I may have very rich land, but it will yield no rent and have no value so long
as there is other land as good to be had without cost. But when this other
land is appropriated, and the best land to be had for nothing is inferior,
either in fertility, situation, or other quality, my land will begin to have
a value and yield rent. And though the productiveness of my land may decrease,
yet if the productiveness of the land to be had without charge decreases in
greater proportion, the rent I can get, and consequently the value of my land,
will steadily increase. Rent, in short, is the price of monopoly, arising from
the reduction to individual ownership of natural elements which human exertion
can neither produce nor increase." — Progress and Poverty, book
iii, ch. ii.
But if demand
for land should continue until the best space was monopolized, 88 and
some laborers were forced to resort to the next, the best space would command
premium; 89 Rent
would rise and Wages would fall. Even though but few laborers were forced to
the poorer space, they would be perpetual bidders for the advantages of the
other space. The effect may
be illustrated by indicating with red in our chart the overflow of labor
from the first into the second space:
Chart 30, page 70
88. "Rent is the effect of a monopoly; though the monopoly
is a natural one, which may be regulated, which may even be held as a trust
community generally, but which cannot be prevented from existing. . . If
all the land
of the country belonged to one person he could fix the rent at his pleasure.
. . The effect would be much the same if the land belonged to so few
people that they could and did act together as one man and the rent by agreement
among themselves . . . The only remaining supposition is that of free competition. — Mill's
Prin., book ii, ch. xvi, sec. I.
Rent "considered as the price paid for the use of the land is naturally
a monopoly price." — Smith's Wealth of Nations, book o, ch. xi.
89. The line of separation between the poorest land thus
commanding a premium, and the best land for which labor will not pay a
premium, was formerly called "the
margin of cultivation," probably because the law of rent was not understood
with reference to any but agricultural land; but it is now more generally
called "the margin of production," since it is understood that the
law of rent applies to all kinds of land, including, of course, the building
lots of cities.
The premium for land falls not into the fund termed Wages, but into the
fund termed Rent. Henceforth Wages consist not of the entire product of labor,
of so much of that product as might with the same expenditure of labor force
be produced from the best land that commands no premium. The remainder goes
to the owners of the land from which it is in fact produced, in proportion
to the advantages which their land respectively contributes to its production.
This excess is the premium. It is what constitutes Rent as distinguished
from Wages. And both the amount of the general fund Rent, and the amount
which each land-owner obtains, are determined by the competition of labor
for superior opportunities.
Thus, in the beginnings all Wealth would be Wages; but as labor was
forced from better to poorer lands, or, what is the same thing in its principle
of operation, as greater capabilities attached to particular lands in consequence
of social development, good government, industrial improvement, etc. Rent
would arise, and as a proportion of the gross Wealth-product, would increase
as labor was forced to poorer land or new capabilities were added to land
by society. The law derived from these phenomena is known as Ricardo's law
of rent. Henry George formulates it as follows:
"The rent of land is determined by the excess of its produce over that
which the same application can secure from the least productive land in use." — Progress
and Poverty, book iii, ch. ii.
As will be noticed, the law is the law of Wages as well as the law of Rent.
For whatever determines the proportion of Wealth to be taken as Rent necessarily
determines the proportion to be left as Wages.
This illustrates the elementary principle of Distribution, that Wages fall
and Rent rises as demand for land forces labor to land of lower productiveness.90
The principle may be more graphically illustrated by supposing that demand
spaces in the
chart advances so far as to include all the closed spaces, except part of the
poorest one. Thus:
Chart 31, page 71
90. Though figures are used, these charts are to be understood not as mathematical demonstrations, but
simply as illustrations.
We now find that all Wages have fallen to the level of Wages on the poorest
land that yields anything to the given unit of labor force; while the Rent
of all but that has, at the expense of Wages, risen in proportion to its superior
91. The labor that was forced to the poorest lands would continually bid
for the opportunities that the better lands offered, until an equilibrium
was reached at the point shown in the preceding chart, where the given expenditure
of labor is
as well compensated in one place as in another.
If laborer and land-owner be different persons, the laborer receives what
is distinguished as Wages, and the land-owner what is distinguished as Rent.
If the same person, he receives Wages as laborer and Rent as land-owner.
Reflection will convince us that this must be so. Wages for a given expenditure
of labor force are no
more anywhere, for any length of time, all things considered, than the same
expenditure of labor force will produce from the best land to be had for nothing.
Rent absorbs the difference.92
92. But we must not jump to the conclusion that there is any essential wrong
in Rent. Rent is nature's method of measuring the value of the differences
in natural opportunity which different laborers, owing to variations in land,
are obliged to accept. And, what in practice is more important, it is nature's
method of measuring the value to each individual of those advantages which
consist in accumulations of common knowledge, in co-operative effort, in
good government, in a word, in the benefits that society as a whole confers
from those which each individual earns. The question is not one of the rightfulness
or the wrongfulness of Rent. Personal freedom necessitates Rent, for it necessitates
the private possession of land, and private possession of land makes Rent
inevitable. Nothing short of communism could abolish it. The real question
is, What shall
society do with Rent? Shall it give it to individuals, or use it for common
"Were there only one man on earth, he would have a
right to the use of the whole earth.
"When there is more than one man on earth, the right to the use of land
that any one of them would have, were he alone, is not abrogated; it is only
limited. . . It has become by reason of this limitation, not an absolute right
to use any part of the earth, but (1) an absolute right to use any part of
the earth as to which his use does not conflict with the equal rights of others
(i. e., which no one else wants to use at the same time), and (2) a co-equal
right to the use of any part of the earth which he and others may want to use
at the same time." — Perplexed Philosopher, p. 45.
It is in adjustment of this co-equal right that rent occurs.
b. Normal Effect of Social Progress upon Wages and
In the foregoing charts the effect of social growth is ignored, it being
assumed that the given expenditure of labor force does not become more productive.93
Let us now try to illustrate that effect, upon the supposition that social growth
increases the productive power of the given expenditure of labor force
as applied to the first closed space, to 100; as applied to the second, to
as applied to the third, to 10; as applied to the fourth, to 3, and as applied
to the open space, to 1. 94 If there were no increased demand for land the chart
would then be like this:
Chart 32, page 73
93. "The effect of increasing population upon the distribution
of wealth is to increase rent .. . in two ways: First, By lowering the margin
cultivation. Second, By bringing out in land special capabilities otherwise
latent, and by attaching special capabilities to particular lands.
"I am disposed to think that the latter mode, to which little attention has
been given by political economists, is really the more important." — Progress
and Poverty, book iv, ch. iii.
"When we have inquired what it is that marks off land from those material
things which we regard as products of the land, we shall find that the fundamental
attribute of land is its extension. The right to use a piece of land gives
command over a certain space — a certain part of the earth's surface.
The area of the earth is fixed; the geometric relations in which any particular
part of it stands to other parts are fixed. Man has no control over them;
they are wholly unaffected by demand; they have no cost of production; there
is no supply price at which they can be produced.
"The use of a certain area of the earth's surface is
a primary condition of anything that man can do; it gives him room for
his own actions, with
the enjoyment of the heat and the light, the air and the rain which nature
to that area; and it determines his distance from, and in great measure
relations to, other things and other persons. We shall find that it
is this property of land, which, though as yet insufficient prominence has
to it, is the ultimate cause of the distinction which all writers are compelled
to make between land and other things." — Marshall's Prin.,
book iv, ch. ii, sec. i.
94. Of course social growth does not go on in this regular way; the charts
are merely illustrative. They are intended to illustrate the universal fact
that as any land becomes a center of trade or other social relationship its
Though Rent is now increased, so are Wages. Both benefit by social growth.
But if we consider the fact that increase in the productive power of labor
increases demand for land we shall see that the tendency of Wages (as a proportion
of product if not as an absolute quantity) is downward, while that of Rent
is upward. 95 And this conclusion is confirmed by observation. 96
95. "Perhaps it may be well to remind the reader, before closing this
chapter, of what has been before stated — that I am using the word wages
not in the sense of a quantity, but in the sense of a proportion. When I say
that wages fall as rent rises, I do not mean that the quantity of wealth obtained
by laborers as wages is necessarily less, but that the proportion which it
bears to the whole produce is necessarily less. The proportion may diminish
while the quantity remains the same or increases." — Progress and
Poverty, book iii, ch. vi.
96. The condition illustrated in the last chart would be the result of
social growth if all land but that which was in full use were common land.
of mines, the development of cities and towns, and the construction of railroads,
the irrigation of and places, improvements in government, all the infinite
conveniences and laborsaving devices that civilization generates, would tend
to abolish poverty by increasing the compensation of labor, and making it
impossible for any man to be in involuntary idleness, or underpaid, so long
was in want. If demand for land increased, Wages would tend to fall as the
demand brought lower grades of land into use; but they would at the same
time tend to rise as social growth added new capabilities to the lower grades.
it is altogether probable that, while progress would lower Wages as a proportion
of total product, it would increase them as an absolute quantity.
c. Significance of the Upward Tendency of Rent
Now, what is the meaning of this tendency of Rent to rise with social progress,
while Wages tend to fall? Is it not a plain promise that if Rent be treated
as common property, advances in productive power shall be steps in the direction
of realizing through orderly and natural growth those grand conceptions of
both the socialist and the individualist, which in the present condition of
society are justly ranked as Utopian? Is it not likewise a plain warning that
if Rent be treated as private property, advances in productive power
will be steps in the direction of making slaves of the many laborers, and masters
of a few land-owners? Does it not mean that common ownership of Rent is in
harmony with natural law, and that its
private appropriation is disorderly and degrading? When the cause of Rent
and the tendency illustrated in the preceding chart are considered in connection
with the self-evident truth that God made the earth for common use and not
for private monopoly, how can a contrary inference hold? Caused and increased
by social growth, 97 the benefits of which should be common, and attaching
to land, the just right to which is equal, Rent must be the natural fund for
public expenses. 98
97. Here, far away from civilization, is a solitary settler. Getting no benefits
from government, he needs no public revenues, and none of the land about
any value. Another settler comes, and another, until a village appears. Some
revenue is then required. Not much, but some. And the land has a little value,
only a little; perhaps just enough to equal the need for public revenue.
village becomes a town. More revenues are needed, and land values are higher.
becomes a city. The public revenues required are enormous, and so are the land
98. Society, and society alone, causes Rent. Rising with the rise, advancing
the growth, and receding with the decline of society, it measures the earning
of society as a whole as distinguished from that of the individuals. Wages,
on the other
hand, measure the earning power of the individuals as distinguished from
society as a whole. We have distinguished the parts into which Wealth is
distributed as Wages and Rent; but it would be correct, indeed it is the
same thing, to
wealth as earnings, and to distinguish the two kinds as Communal Earnings
and Individual Earnings. How, then, can there be any question as to the fund
society should be supported? How can it be justly supported in any other
out of its own earnings?
If there be at all such a thing as design in the universe — and who
can doubt it? — then has it been designed that Rent, the earnings of
the community, shall be retained for the support of the community, and that
of the individual, shall be left to the individual in proportion to the value
of his service. This is the divine law, whether we trace it through complex
moral and economic relations, or find it in the eighth commandment.
d. Effect of Confiscating Rent to Private Use
By giving Rent to individuals society ignores this most just law, 99 thereby
creating social disorder and inviting social disease. Upon society alone, therefore,
and not upon divine Providence which has provided bountifully, nor upon the
disinherited poor, rests the responsibility for poverty and fear of poverty.
99. "Whatever dispute arouses the passions of men,
the conflict is sure to rage, not so much as to the question 'Is it wise?'
as to the question
"This tendency of popular discussions to take an ethical
form has a cause. It springs from a law of the human mind; it rests upon
a vague and
recognition of what is probably the deepest truth we can grasp. That alone
is wise which is just; that alone is enduring which is right. In the narrow
of individual actions and individual life this truth may be often obscured,
but in the wider field of national life it everywhere stands out.
"I bow to this arbitrament, and accept this test." — Progress
and Poverty, book vii, ch. i.
The reader who has been deceived into believing that Mr. George's proposition
is in any respect unjust, will find profit in a perusal of the entire chapter
from which the foregoing extract is taken.
Let us try to trace the connection by means of a chart, beginning with the
white spaces on page 68. As before, the first-comers take possession of the
best land. But instead of leaving for others what they do not themselves need
for use, as in the previous illustrations, they appropriate the whole space,
using only part, but claiming ownership of the rest. We may distinguish the
used part with red color, and that which is appropriated without use with blue.
Chart 33, page 76
But what motive is there for appropriating more of the space than is used?
Simply that the appropriators may secure the pecuniary benefit of future
social growth. What will enable them to secure that? Our system of confiscating
Rent from the community that earns it, and giving it to land-owners who,
as such, earn nothing.100
100. It is reported from Iowa that a few years ago a workman
in that State saw a meteorite fall, and. securing possession of it after
he was offered $105 by a college for his "find." But the owner
of the land on which the meteorite fell claimed the money, and the two
about it. After an appeal to the highest court of the State, it was finally
decided that neither by right of discovery, nor by right of labor, could
the workman have the money, because the title to the meteorite was in the
owned the land upon which it fell.
Observe the effect now upon Rent and Wages. When other men come, instead of
finding half of the best land still common and free, as in the corresponding
chart on page 68, they find all of it owned, and are obliged either to go upon
poorer land or to buy or rent from owners of the best. How much will they pay
for the best? Not more than 1, if they want it for use and not to hold for
a higher price in the future, for that represents the full difference between
its productiveness and the productiveness of the next best. But if the first-comers,
reasoning that the next best land will soon be scarce and theirs will then
rise in value, refuse to sell or to rent at that valuation, the newcomers must
resort to land of the second grade, though the best be as yet only partly used.
Consequently land of the first grade commands Rent before it otherwise would.
As the sellers' price, under these circumstances, is arbitrary it cannot be
stated in the chart; but the buyers' price is limited by the superiority of
the best land over that which can be had for nothing, and the chart may be
made to show it:
Chart 34, page 78
And now, owing to the success of the appropriators of the best land in securing
more than their fellows for the same expenditure of labor force, a rush is
made for unappropriated land. It is not to use it that it is wanted, but to
enable its appropriators to put Rent into their own pockets as soon as growing
demand for land makes it valuable.101 We may, for illustration, suppose that
all the remainder of the second space and the whole of the third are thus appropriated,
and note the effect:
Chart 35, page 79
At this point Rent does not increase nor Wages fall, because there is no
increased demand for land for use. The holding of inferior land for higher
prices, when demand for use is at a standstill, is like owning lots in
the moon — entertaining, perhaps, but not profitable. But let more land
be needed for use, and matters promptly assume a different appearance.
The new labor must either go to the space that yields but 1, or buy or rent
from owners of better grades, or hire out. The effect would be the same in
any case. Nobody for the given expenditure of labor force would
get more than 1; the surplus of products would go to landowners as Rent,
either directly in rent payments, or indirectly through lower Wages.
Chart 36, page 80
101. The text speaks of Rent only as a periodical or continuous
payment — what
would be called "ground rent." But actual or potential Rent may
always be, and frequently is, capitalized for the purpose of selling the
enjoy it, and it is to selling value that we usually refer when dealing
Land which has the power of yielding Rent to its owner will have a selling
value, whether it be used or not, and whether Rent is actually derived from
it or not. This selling value will be the capitalization of its present or
prospective power of producing Rent. In fact, much the larger proportion
of laud that has a selling value is wholly or partly unused, producing
no Rent at all, or less than it would if fully used. This condition is expressed
in the chart by the blue color.
"The capitalized value of land is the actuarial 'discounted'
value of all the net incomes which it is likely to afford, allowance being
one hand for all incidental expenses, including those of collecting the
rents, and on
the other for its mineral wealth, its capabilities of development for
any kind of business, and its advantages, material, social, and aesthetic,
the purposes of residence." — Marshall's Prin., book vi, ch.
ix, sec. 9.
"The value of land is commonly expressed as a certain number of times
the current money rental, or in other words, a certain 'number of years' purchase'
of that rental; and other things being equal, it will be the higher the more
important these direct gratifications are, as well as the greater the chance
that they and the money income afforded by the land will rise." — Id.,
"Value . . . means not utility, not any quality inhering in the thing
itself, but a quality which gives to the possession of a thing the power
other things, in return for it or for its use. . . Value in this sense — the
usual sense — is purely relative. It exists from and is measured by the
power of obtaining things for things by exchanging them. . . Utility is necessary
to value, for nothing can be valuable unless it has the quality of gratifying
some physical or mental desire of man, though it be but a fancy or whim. But
utility of itself does not give value. . . If we ask ourselves the reason of
. . . variations in . . . value . . . we see that things having some form of
utility or desirability, are valuable or not valuable, as they are hard or
easy to get. And if we ask further, we may see that with most of the things
that have value this difficulty or ease of getting them, which determines value,
depends on the amount of labor which must be expended in producing them ; i.e.,
bringing them into the place, form and condition in which they are desired.
. . Value is simply an expression of the labor required for the production
of such a thing. But there are some things as to which this is not so clear.
Land is not produced by labor, yet land, irrespective of any improvements that
labor has made on it, often has value. . . Yet a little examination will show
that such facts are but
exemplifications of the general principle, just as the rise of a balloon
and the fall of a stone
both exemplify the universal law of gravitation. . . The value of everything
produced by labor, from a pound of chalk or a paper of pins to the elaborate
structure and appurtenances of a first-class ocean steamer, is resolvable
on analysis into an equivalent of the labor required to produce such a
form and place; while the value of things not produced by labor, but nevertheless
susceptible of ownership, is in the same way resolvable into an equivalent
of the labor which the ownership of such a thing enables the owner to obtain
or save." — Perplexed Philosopher, ch. v.
The figure 1 in parenthesis, as an item of Rent, indicates potential Rent.
Labor would give that much for the privilege of using the space, but the owners
hold out for better terms; therefore neither Rent nor Wages is actually produced,
though but for this both might be.
In this chart, notwithstanding that but little space is used, indicated with
red, Wages are reduced to the same low point by the mere appropriation of
space, indicated with blue, that they would reach if all the space above
were fully used. It thereby appears that under a system which confiscates
Rent to private uses, the demand for land for speculative purposes becomes
that Wages fall to a minimum long before they would if land were appropriated
only for use.
In illustrating the effect of confiscating Rent to private use we have
as yet ignored the element of social growth. Let us now assume as before (page
that social growth increases the productive power of the given expenditure
of labor force to 100 when applied to the best land, 50 when applied
to the next best, 10 to the next, 3 to the next, and 1 to the poorest. Labor
not be benefited now, as it appeared to be when on page 73 we illustrated
the appropriation of land for use only, although much less land is actually
The prizes which expectation of future social growth dangles before men
as the rewards of owning land, would raise demand so as to make it more
difficult to get land. All of the fourth grade would be taken up in expectation
of future demand; and "surplus labor" would be crowded out to
open space that originally yielded nothing, but which
in consequence of increased labor power now yields as
much as the poorest closed space originally yielded,
namely, 1 to the given expenditure of labor force.102
Wages would then be reduced to the present productiveness of the open space.
Chart 37, Page 82
102. The paradise to which the youth of our country have
so long been directed in
the advice, "Go West, young man, go West," is truthfully described
and Poverty," book iv, ch. iv, as follows :
"The man who sets out from the eastern seaboard in search of the margin
of cultivation, where he may obtain land without paying rent, must, like the
swam the river to get a drink, pass for long distances through half-titled
traverse vast areas of virgin soil, before he reaches the point where land
can be had
free of rent — i.e., by homestead entry or preemption."
If we assume that 1 for the given expenditure of labor force is the least
that labor can take while exerting the same force, the downward movement
will be here held in equilibrium. They cannot fall below 1; but neither can
they rise above it, no matter how much productive power may increase, so long
pays to hold land for higher values. Some laborers would continually be pushed
back to land which increased productive power would have brought up in productiveness
from 0 to 1, and by perpetual competition
for work would so regulate the labor market that the given expenditure
of labor force, however much it produced, could nowhere secure more than 1
in Wages.103 And this tendency would persist until some labor was forced
upon land which, despite increase in productive power, would not yield
the accustomed living without increase of labor force. Competition for work
then compel all laborers to increase their expenditure of labor force,
and to do it over and over again as progress went on and lower and lower grades
of land were monopolized, until human endurance could go no further.104
Either that, or they would be obliged to adapt themselves to a lower scale
103. Henry Fawcett, in his work on "Political Economy," book ii,
ch. iii, observes with reference to improvements in agricultural implements
which diminish the expense of cultivation, that they do not increase the profits
of the farmer or the wages of his laborers, but that "the landlord
will receive in addition to the rent already paid to him, all that is saved
expense of cultivation." This is true not alone of improvements in
agriculture, but also of improvements in all other branches of industry.
104. "The cause which limits speculation in commodities, the tendency
of increasing price to draw forth additional supplies, cannot limit the
speculative advance in land values, as land is a fixed quantity, which human
neither increase nor diminish; but there is nevertheless a limit to the
price of land, in the minimum required by labor and capital as the condition
in production. If it were possible to continuously reduce wages until zero
were reached, it would be possible to continuously increase rent until
it swallowed up the whole produce. But as wages cannot be permanently reduced
point at which laborers will consent to work and reproduce, nor interest
below the point at which capital will be devoted to production, there
is a limit
which restrains the speculative advance of rent. Hence, speculation cannot
have the same scope to advance rent in countries where wages and interest
are already near the minimum, as in countries where they are considerably
it. Yet that there is in all progressive countries a constant tendency
in the speculative advance of rent to overpass the limit where production
is, I think, shown by recurring seasons of industrial paralysis." — Progress
and Poverty, book iv, ch. iv.
105. As Puck once put it, "the man who makes two blades
of grass to grow where but one grew before, must not be surprised when
the grass.' "
They in fact do both, and the incidental disturbances of general readjustment
are what we call "hard times." 106
These culminate in forcing unused land into the market, thereby reducing Rent
and reviving industry. Thus increase of labor force, a lowering of the scale
of living, and depression of Rent, co-operate to bring on what we call "good
times." But no sooner do "good times" return than renewed
demands for land set in, Rent rises again, Wages fall again, and "hard
times" duly reappear. The end of every period of "hard times" finds
Rent higher and Wages lower than at the end of the previous period.107
106. "That a speculative advance in rent or land values invariably
precedes each of these seasons of industrial depression is everywhere clear.
bear to each other the relation of cause and effect, is obvious to whoever
considers the necessary relation between land and labor." — Progress
and Poverty, book v, ch. i.
107. What are called "good times" reach a point
at which an upward land market sets in. From that point there is a downward
tendency of wages
(or a rise in the cost of living, which is the same thing) in all departments
of labor and with all grades of laborers. This tendency continues until the
fictitious values of land give way. So long as the tendency is felt only
by that class which is hired for wages, it is poverty merely; when the
is felt by the class of labor that is distinguished as "the business
interests of the country," it is "hard times." And "hard
times" are periodical because land values, by falling, allow "good
times" to set it, and by rising with "good times" bring "hard
times" on again. The effect of "hard times" may be overcome,
without much, if any, fall in land values, by sufficient increase in productive
power to overtake the fictitious value of land.
The dishonest and disorderly system under which society confiscates Rent from
common to individual uses, produces this result. That maladjustment is the
fundamental cause of poverty. And progress, so long as the maladjustment continues,
instead of tending to remove poverty as naturally it should, actually generates
and intensifies it. Poverty persists with increase of productive power because
land values, when Rent is privately appropriated, tend to even greater increase.
There can be but one outcome if this continues: for individuals suffering and
degradation, and for society destruction.
e. Effect of Retaining Rent for Common Use
If society retained Rent for common purposes, all incentive to hold land
for any other object than immediate use would disappear. The effect may be
by a comparison of the last preceding chart with the following:
Chart 38, page 85
There is but one difference between this chart and the chart immediately
preceding. In that Rent is confiscated to private use, whereas in this Rent
for common use. All the labor force indicated with red in the first of the
two charts would not more than utilize the space to the left and part of the
adjoining one, which would elevate Wages to what, with the given labor force,
could be produced from the poorer of the two spaces. After that, increase of
Rent would not enrich land-owners at the expense of other classes; it would
enrich the whole community.108
108. The laborer would receive in Distribution all that he earned and no
more than he earned in Production; and that is the natural law.
In social conditions, where industry is subdivided and trade is intricate,
it is impossible to say arbitrarily what is the equivalent of given labor.
Hence no statute fixing the compensation for labor can really be operative.
All that we can say is that labor is worth what men freely contract to give
and take for it. But it must be what they freely contract to take as well as
what they freely contract to give; and men are not free to contract for the
sale of their labor when labor generally is so divorced from land as to abnormally
glut the labor market and make men's sale of their labor for almost anything
the buyer offers, the alternative of starvation. Laborers may be as truly
enslaved by divorcing labor from land as by driving them with a whip.
f. The Single Tax Retains Rent for Common Use
To retain Rent for common use it is not necessary to abolish land-titles,
nor to let land out to the highest bidder, nor to invent some new mechanism
of taxation, nor in any other way to directly change existing modes of holding
land for use, or existing machinery for collecting public revenues. "Great
changes can be best brought about under old forms."109 Let land be held
nominally as it is now. Let taxes be collected by the same kind of machinery
as now. But abolish all taxes except those that fall upon actual and potential
Rent, that is to say, upon land values.
109. "Such dupes are men to custom, and so prone
To rev'rence what
is ancient and can plead
A course of long observance for its use,
That even servitude, the worst of ills,
Because delivered down from sire to son
Is kept and guarded as a sacred thing." —Cowper.
It is only custom that makes the ownership of land seem
reasonable. I have frequently had occasion to tell of the necessity under
which the city of
Cleveland, Ohio, found itself, of paying a land-owner several thousand dollars
right to swing a bridge-draw over his land. When I described the matter in
that way, the story attracted no attention; it seemed perfectly reasonable
to the ordinary lecture audience. But when I described the transaction as
a payment by the city to a land-owner of thousands of dollars for the privilege
of swinging the draw "through that man's air," the audience invariably
manifested its appreciation of the absurdity of such an ownership. The idea
of owning air was ridiculous; the idea of owning land was not. Yet who can
explain the difference, except as a matter of custom?
To the same effect was the question of the Rev. F. L. Higgins to a friend.
While stationed at Galveston, Tex., Mr. Higgins fell into a discussion with
his friend as to the right of government to make land private property. The
friend argued that no matter what the abstract right might be, the government
had made private property of land, and people had bought and sold upon the
strength of the government title, and therefore land titles were morally absolute.
"Suppose," said Mr. Higgins, "that the government
should vest in a corporation title to the Gulf of Mexico, so that no one
could fish there, or sail there,
or do anything in or upon the waters of the Gulf without permission from
the corporation. Would that be right?"
"No," answered the friend.
"Well, suppose the corporation should then parcel out
the Gulf to different parties until some of the people came to own the
whole Gulf to the exclusion
of everybody else, born and unborn. Could any such title be acquired by these
purchasers, or their descendants or assignees, as that the rest of the people
if they got the power would not have a moral right to abrogate it?"
"Certainly not," said the friend.
"Could private titles to the Gulf possibly become absolute
"Then tell me," asked Mr. Higgins, "what
difference it would make if all the water were taken off the Gulf and only
the bare land
If that were done it is doubtful if land-owners could any longer confiscate
enough Rent to be worth the trouble. Even though some surplus were still
kept by them, it would be so much more easy to secure Wealth by working for
by confiscating Rent to private use, to say nothing of its being so much
more respectable, that speculation in land values would practically be abandoned.
At any rate, the question of a surplus — Rent in excess of the requirements
of the community — may be readily determined when the principle that
Rent justly belongs to the community and Wages to the individual shall have
recognized by society in the adoption of the Single Tax."'
110. Thomas G. Shearman, Esq., of New York, author of the
famous magazine article on "Who Owns the United States," estimates that sixty-five
per cent of the present annual value of the land in the United States would
the present expenses of American government — federal, state, county,
In "Progress and Poverty," after reaching his conclusion that command
of the land which is necessary for labor is command of all the fruits of labor
save enough to enable labor to exist, Henry George says:
So simple and so clear is this truth that to fully see it once is always
to recognize it. There are pictures which, though looked at again and again,
only a confused labyrinth of lines or scroll-work — a landscape,
trees, or something of the kind — until once attention is called
to the fact that these
up a face or a figure. This relation once recognized is always afterward
It is so in this case. In the light of this truth all social facts group
themselves in an orderly relation, and the most diverse phenomena are seen
to spring from
one great principle.
111. This idea of the concealed picture was graphically illustrated with
a story by Congressman James G. Maguire, at that time a Judge of the Superior
Court of San Francisco, in a speech at the Academy of Music, New York City,
in 1887. In substance he said:
"I was one day walking along Kearney Street in San
Francisco, when I noticed a
crowd around the show window of a store, looking at something inside. I took
myself and saw only a very poor picture of a very uninteresting landscape.
But as I was turning away my eye caught the words underneath the
picture, 'Do you see the cat?' I looked again and more closely, but saw no
the picture. Then I spoke to the crowd.
"'Gentlemen,' I said, 'I see no cat in that picture.
Is there a cat there?'
Some one in the crowd replied:
"'Naw, there ain't no cat there. Here's a crank who
says he sees the cat, but nobody else can see it.'
Then the crank spoke up:
'I tell you there is a cat there, too. It's all cat. What you fellows
take for a landscape is just nothing more than the outlines of a cat. And
needn't call a man a crank either, because he can see more with his eyes
than you can.'
"Well," the judge continued, "I looked very
closely at the picture, and then I said to the man they called a crank:
"'Really, sir, I cannot make out a cat. I can see nothing
but a poor picture of a landscape.'
"'Why, judge,' he exclaimed, 'just look at that bird
in the air. That's the cat's ear.'
I looked, but was obliged to say:
'I am sorry to be so stupid, but I can't make a cat's ear of that bird.
It is a poor bird, but not a cat's ear.'
"'Well, then,' the crank urged, 'look at that twig
twirled around in a circle. That's the cat's eye.'
But I couldn't make an eye of it.
'Oh, then,' said the crank a little impatiently, 'look at those sprouts at
the foot of the tree, and the grass. They make the cat's claws.'
"After another deliberate examination, I reported that
they did look a little like a claw, but I couldn't connect them with a
"Once more the crank came back at me. 'Don't you see
that limb off there? and that other limb under it? and that white space
space is the cat's tail.'
"I looked again and was just on the point of replying
that there was no cat there so far as I could see, when suddenly the whole
cat burst upon
it was, sure enough, just as the crank had said; and the only reason
that the rest of us couldn't see it was that we hadn't got the right point
But now that I saw it I could see nothing else in the picture. The
landscape had disappeared and a cat had taken its place. And, do you know,
never afterward able, upon looking at that picture, to see anything in it
From this story as told by Judge Maguire, has come the
slang of the single tax agitation. To "see the cat " is to understand
the single tax.
Many events subsequent to his writing have gone to prove that Henry George
was right. Each new phase of the social problem makes it still more clear that
the disorderly development of our civilization is explained, not by pressure
of population, nor by the superficial relations of employers and employed,
nor by scarcity of money, nor by the drinking habits of the poor, nor by individual
differences in ability to produce wealth, nor by an incompetent or malevolent
Creator, but, as he has said, by "inequality in the ownership of land." And
each new phase makes it equally clear that the remedy for poverty is not to
be found in famine and disease and war, nor in strikes which are akin to war,
nor in the suppression of strikes by force of arms, nor in the coinage of money,
nor in prohibition or high license, nor in technical education, nor in anything
else short of approximate equality in the ownership of land. This alone secures
equal opportunities to produce, and full ownership by each producer of his
own product. This is justice, this is order. And unless our civilization have
it for a foundation, new forms of slavery will assuredly lead us into new forms
112. "Our primary social adjustment is a denial
of justice. In allowing one man to own the land on which and from which
other men must live, we
have made them his bondsmen in a degree which increases as material progress
on. This is the subtile alchemy that in ways they do not realize is extracting
from the masses in every civilized country the fruits of their weary toil;
that is instituting a harder and more hopeless slavery in place of that
which has been destroyed; that is bringing political despotism out of political
freedom, and must soon transmute democratic institutions into anarchy.
"It is this that turns the blessings of material progress
into a curse. It is this that crowds human beings into noisome cellars
and squalid tenement
houses; that fills prisons and brothels; that goads men with want and consumes
them with greed; that robs women of the grace and beauty of perfect womanhood;
that takes from little children the joy and innocence of life's morning.
"Civilization so based cannot continue. The eternal laws of the universe
forbid it. Ruins of dead empires testify, and the witness that is in every
that it cannot be. It is something grander than Benevolence, something
more august than Charity — it is justice herself that demands of us to
right this wrong. justice that will not be denied; that cannot be put off — justice
that with the scales carries the sword." — Progress and
Poverty, book x, ch. v.
BRIEF ANSWERS TO TYPICAL QUESTIONS
Q1. Do you regard the single tax as a panacea for all social disease?
A. When William Lloyd Garrison announced his conversion to the single tax in
a letter to Henry George, he took pains to state that he did not believe it
to be a panacea, and Mr. George replied : "Neither do I; but I believe
that freedom is." Your question may be answered in the same way. Freedom
is the panacea for social wrongs and the ills they breed, and the single tax
principle is the tap-root of freedom.
Q2. Would the single tax yield revenue sufficient for all kinds of government?
A. Thomas G. Shearman, Esq., of New York, estimates that sixty-five per cent
of the rent that the land in the United States now yields actually and potentially
to its owners, would be sufficient. But whether it would or not is as yet an
unimportant question. If all revenues ought to be raised from land values,
then no revenues should be drawn from other sources while any land value remains
in private possession. Until land values are exhausted the taxation of labor
cannot be excused.
Q3. In an interior or frontier town, where land has but little value, how
would you raise enough money for schools, highways, and other public needs?
A. There is no town whose finances are reasonably managed in which the land
values are insufficient for local needs. Schools, highways, and so forth, are
not local but general, and should be maintained from the land values of the
state at large.
Q4. What disposition would you make of the revenues that exceeded the needs
A. The people who ask this question ought to settle it with those who want
to know whether the single tax would yield revenue enough. I do not believe
that public revenues under the
single tax would exceed the just needs of economical government; in better
highways, better sidewalks, better wharves, better schools, better public
service of various kinds, we should find sufficient demand for all our revenues.
But the question of deficiency or surplus is one to be met and disposed of
when it arises. The present question is the wisdom and the justice of applying
land values to common use, as far as they will go or as much of them as may
be needed as the case may prove to be.
Q5. If the full rental value were taken would it not produce too much revenue
and encourage official extravagance? If only what was needed for an economical
administration of government, would not land still have a speculative value?
A. In the first part of your question you are thinking of a vast centralized
government as administering public revenues. With the revenues raised locally,
each locality being assessed for its contribution to the state and the nation,
there would be no such danger. The possibility of this danger would be still
further reduced by the fact that private business would then offer greater
pecuniary prizes than would public office, wherefore public office would be
sought for purer purposes than as money-making opportunities. As to the second
part of your question, the speculative value of land would be wiped out as
soon as the tax on land values was high enough and that on improvement values
low enough to make production more profitable than speculation. And this point
would be reached long before the whole rental value was absorbed in taxation.
Q6. If a land-owner builds, does not that increase the value of his land and
consequently the amount of the tax he would have to pay? If so, would not
he be taxed for his improvement?
A. No. Upon the value of the building he would never pay any tax. It is true
that his improvement might attract others to the locality in such numbers
as to make land there scarcer and consequently dearer. His own lot would in
that case rise in value with the other land and be taxed more, just as the
rest would be. But that would not take any of his labor in taxes; he would
still have his building free of taxation. Thus: If on a lot worth $1000 a
building worth $1000 were erected, making the whole worth $2000, the
tax would fall only upon the $1000 which represents the value of the lot.
If land then became so scarce that the lot rose in value to $1500 the tax
be raised. But the owner's
improvement would be still exempt. When his property was worth $2000 he was
taxed on $1000, the value of the lot, leaving $1000, the value of the building,
free; and now, though he is taxed on $1500, the value of the lot, $1000,
the value of the building, is still free.
Q7. If a man owns a city lot with a $5000 building on it, what, under the
single tax, would hinder another man, perhaps with hostile intent, from bidding
higher tax than the first man was able to pay, and thus ousting him from
A. The question rests upon a misapprehension of method. The single tax is not
a method of nationalizing land and renting it out to the highest bidder. It
is a method of taxation. And it would not only hinder, it would prevent the
unjust ousting of another from his building. The single tax falls upon land-owners
in proportion to the unimproved value of their land; and this value is determined
by the real estate market — by the demands of the whole community — and
not by arbitrary bids. No one could oust a man from his building by bidding
more for the land on which it stood than the occupier was paying; the single
tax would not be increased in any case unless the land upon which it fell was
in so much greater demand that the owner could let it for a higher rent.
Q8. What would be the expense of collecting the single tax as compared with
that of collecting present taxes?
A. Much less. It is easier to assess fairly, and easier to collect fully; the
machinery of assessment and collection would be simpler and cheaper, and
it would not enable first payers to collect the tax with profits upon it
from ultimate payers.
Q9. How would you estimate land values?
A. As we do it now. As real estate dealers estimate them. As appraisers in
partition would estimate them. Read note 28.
Q10. How would you value the land of a farm when all the land of the neighborhood
was fully improved?
A. By ascertaining the value per square rod of the adjacent highway.
The value of that, for the purpose of adding it to the farms along which
denote the land value of the farms. Read notes 4 and 28.
Q11. How can mines be taxed without increasing the price of the out-put?
A. By taxing the royalty, or, what is essentially the same, by taxing
their capitalized value as mining opportunities. This would tend to
lower rather than increase the price of the product. Read note 11.
Q12. How would the single tax be assessed on a railroad which passed through
a farm worth (without its improvements) $30 an acre?
A. According to the value, not of the adjacent farms, but of the total right
of way, much as the value of a navigable river might be determined if it were
Q13. How would you assess the land value tax of a man who, by making levees,
had reclaimed land from the Mississippi? Say that the land when reclaimed
was worth $50 an acre, but that the levees cost a great deal less.
A. The fact that the levees cost less than the value of the land when reclaimed,
shows that the opportunity for reclaiming such land has a value. That value,
the value of the opportunity to reclaim, is the land value of the property,
and would be the basis of the tax.
Q14. How would you adjust mortgages to the single tax scheme?
A. Mortgages are modified deeds, and mortgageors are landowners in degree.
I would make no adjustment, but would warn mortgageors and mortgagees to
their interests as they see fit when they make their mortgages, just as
I would warn buyers and sellers of land to guard their interests as between
by their contracts. Full notice has now been given that as soon as possible
and as fast as possible we propose to induce the people to bring about
condition in which land values will be taken for public use and improvement
left for private use. People who in the face of this notice neglect to
protect themselves in their contracts have no one else to blame if when the
comes they suffer pecuniary loss in the re-adjustment.
Q15. How will the single tax affect leases already made? Will the loss of
declining values fall upon the owner or the lessee?
A. That will depend upon the covenants in the lease. It behooves tenants
to see to it that their leases contain provisions in this respect. If
to protect themselves they cannot complain in case they suffer when
the single tax comes into operation. They will have had ample warning,
will be due to their own negligence.
Q16. Should the whole rental value of land be taken for common use, or
only enough for government purposes?
A. Only enough for government purposes. When the people see that this
method of taxation improves business, increases wages, cheapens land,
promotes prosperity, they will not hesitate to increase their taxes so long
as public improvements are needed and land values are unexhausted. As is
said in "Progress and Poverty" (book viii, ch. ii): "When
the common right to land is so far appreciated that all taxes are abolished
save those which fall upon rent, there is no danger of much more than is
necessary to induce them to collect the public revenues being left to individual
Q17. How would the tax be collected from those who neglected or refused
A. As individuals may now collect rent from tenants who refuse to pay: by
suing for the tax, or evicting the occupant, or both if necessary. I think,
however, that the public would deal more justly with occupants than landlords
do with ground renters. I think it would compensate for any loss in respect
Q18. How would you reach the bondholder, or the man with money alone?
A. Why should we wish to reach him if his bonds or his money represent labor
products to which he has honestly acquired a just title? This question is
a legitimate offspring of the plundering theory that men should be taxed according
to their ability to pay, the merits of which are considered on pages 7-9. It
is a question which may also have been suggested by the fact that "bondholders" and "men
of money" are so often men who have special privileges which coin money
for them. There is a feeling that it would be unfair to allow such special
privileges to escape taxation. It would be. But inquiry will show that the
most important of these privileges rest in the ownership of land, and that
the "bondholders" and "men of money" whom the questioner
probably has in mind, are in fact great landlords; that is to say, that their
fortunes are really based upon land. When land values were taxed, the great
source of unearned incomes — land monopoly — would be practically
abolished, and bondholders and men of money would be only those who earn what
Such property no man of honest instincts should wish to expropriate.
Q19. In your lecture you tell of a meteorite which a poor man found, but
which the law gave to the owner of the land on which it fell. (See note 100.)
Wouldn't the owner, or possessor, or
whatever you choose to call him, of that land get the meteorite just the same
if the single tax were in force?
A. Yes, if only one meteorite fell upon his land. But if meteorites got into
the habit of falling there the land would grow in value, and then the single
tax would operate to take the value of those meteorites for common use, less
the labor expended upon them, the value of which would go to the laborer. I
told of the one meteorite to illustrate a principle. But as a practical question
we need deal only with land upon which, speaking in metaphor, meteorites have
a habit of falling. The occasional diamond, the nugget of gold, or other valuable
thing found here or there as one of the accidents of a day, are of no practical
moment; it is the diamond fields, the gold mines, the fertile farming spots,
the centers of trade, and similar valuable opportunities for labor, that are
of moment as factors in social problems.
Q20. Would not the single tax increase the rent of houses?
A. No. It takes taxes off buildings and materials, thus making it cheaper to
build houses. How can house rent go up as the cost of building houses goes
down? Read pp. 5 to 8 and the related notes.
Q21. Do not the benefits of good government increase the value of houses
as well as of land?
A. No. Houses are never worth any more than it costs to reproduce them. Good
government tends to diminish the cost of house building; how, then, can good
government increase the value of houses? You are confused by the fact that
houses, being attached to land, seem to increase in value, when it is the land
and not the house that really increases. It is the same mistake that a somewhat
noted economic teacher, who advocates protection as his specialty, made when
he tried to show that there is an "unearned increment" to houses
as well as to lands. He did so by instancing a lot of vacant land which had
risen in value from $5000 to $10,000, and comparing it with a house on a
neighboring lot which, as he said, had also increased in value from $5000
At the moment when he wrote, the house to which he referred could have been
reproduced for $5000; and had he been capable of thinking out a proposition
he must have discovered that it was the lot on which the house stood, and not
the house itself, which had increased in value.
Q22. What difference would it make to tenants whether they paid land rent
to the community or to private owners?
A. When they pay it to the community they are paying it in part to themselves,
and what others pay they share in; for they are part of the community. They
are also exempt from taxes. And since there would be no inducement to speculate
in land if rent went to the community, land would be more plentiful and rents
would consequently be lower.
Q23. Would not the merchant shift his land value tax by adding it to the price
of his goods?
A. No. Read note 11.
Q24. Would not the tax on land values increase the value of land?
A. No. Read
Q25. What good would the single tax do to the poor? and how?
A. By constantly
keeping the demand for labor above the supply it would enable them to abolish
Q26. Hasn't every man who needs it a right to be employed by the government?
A. No. But he has a right to have government secure him in the enjoyment
of his equal right to the opportunities for employment that nature and social
growth supply. When government secures him in that respect, if he cannot
work it is because (1) he does not offer the kind of service that people
want; or (2) he is incapable. His remedy, if he does not offer the kind
that people want, is either to make people see that they are mistaken, or
go to work at something else; if he is incapable, his remedy is to improve
In no case has he a right to government interference in his behalf, either
through schemes to make work, or by bounties or tariffs.
Q27. Would working people, whose savings are in savings banks or insurance
companies which own land or have mortgages upon land, lose by the shrinkage
in land values?
A. Not if the companies were managed intelligently. Well managed companies
would shift their investments as they observed the persistent decline of
land values. They would do it even as soon as conditions appeared which
cause land values to shrink. But working people could well afford to give
all their savings for the permanent employment and high wages that the
would bring about. It is not working people but idle people who would
lose anything by the single tax.
Q28. If taxes have to be paid by labor, what difference does it make to laborers
whether they are levied in proportion to land values, or otherwise?
A. When taxes are levied upon earners in proportion to earnings, they take
what the earners would otherwise keep; but when they are levied upon land-owners
in proportion to land values, they take what the earners must in any event
Q29. Under the single tax could employers cut wages to the starvation point?
A. No. Under the single tax employers would be constantly bidding for workmen,
instead of workmen constantly bidding for employers as is the case now. It
is the "oversupply" of labor that makes starvation wages possible,
and the single tax would abolish that; not by reducing the supply of labor,
the Malthusian device, but by allowing the effective demand for labor to freely
Q30. What effect would the single tax have on immigration ? Would it cause
an influx of foreigners from different nations?
A. If adopted in one country of great natural opportunities, and not in others,
its tendency would not only be to cause an influx of foreigners, but also to
make their coming highly desirable. Our own experience in the United States,
when we had an abundance of free land and were begging the populations of
the world to come to us, offers a faint suggestion of what might be expected.
Q31. Will not the capitalist be able under the single tax to undersell the
laborer — to
sell goods for less than cost, at least temporarily — and thereby force
him to accept the capitalist's terms ?
A. With capitalists continually hunting for men to help them fill their orders,
and bidding against each other to get men, as would be the case under the single
tax, such a contingency would be in the highest degree improbable. It is practically
impossible. Nothing short of a trust, an absolutely perfect trust, of all
the owners of capital the world over could produce it. And even then, plenty
of very useful land of all kinds being free and labor products being exempt
from taxation, all people who were outside of the trust would resort co-operatively
to the land, and the trust would be obliged to take them in as the alternative
of falling to pieces under their competition.
Q32. Is not ownership of land necessary to induce its improvement? Does
not history show that private ownership is a step in advance of common ownership?
A. No. Private use was doubtless a step in advance of common use. And because
private use seems to us to have been brought about under the institution of
private ownership, private ownership appears to the superficial to have been
the real advance. But a little observation and reflection will remove that
impression. Private ownership of land is not necessary to its private use.
And so far from inducing improvement, private ownership retards it. When a
man owns land he may accumulate wealth by doing nothing with the land, simply
allowing the community to increase its value while he pays a merely nominal
tax, upon the plea that he gets no income from the property. But when the
possessor has to pay the value of his land every year, as he would have to
under the single tax, and as ground renters do now, he must improve his holding
in order to profit by it. Private possession of land, without profit except
from use, promotes improvement; private ownership, with profit regardless
of use, retards improvement. Every city in the world, in its vacant lots, offers
proof of the statement. It is the lots that are owned, and not those that are
held upon ground-lease, that remain vacant.
Q33. Would not the full single tax destroy the basis of all credit — land
A. The full single tax — one hundred per cent of annual ground rent — would
wipe out land values, which are but the capitalization of rent. But land values
are not the basis of credit. Merchants do not prefer mortgages on land as security
for commercial debts, unless they hope to get the ownership of the land through
foreclosure. The true basis of every man's credit, from the consumer at the
cross-roads store to the great retail merchant at the factory or the jobbing
house, is honesty, opportunity, and ability. He who will pay his debts if he
can, and has an opportunity to earn enough to pay them with, and is able to
make good use of the opportunity, needs no land values to offer as a basis
for commercial credit. He has the ideal basis of all credit. And this basis
of credit every man could have if the single tax were in operation.
Q34. Would the single tax benefit the debtor class? If so, how?
A. It would. By abolishing the monopoly of opportunities to work, and thus
enabling debtors to earn enough, while decently supporting themselves, to
honestly pay their debts. The debtor class deserves sympathy, not because
it is in debt,
but because it is forced by existing institutions to go into debt in order
to work, and is then so hampered and harried by the same institutions as to make orderly
repayment impossible and bankruptcy inevitable.
Q35. What would be the effect of the single tax if you still left railroad,
telegraph, money, and other monopolies in private hands?
A. The real strength of all monopolies is in land monopoly. Observe, for example,
the land holdings of the inside ring of such railroads as the Southern Pacific,
to which the interests of the road are corruptly made subordinate. Abolish
land monopoly, and the power of all the others will go, as Sampson's strength
went with the cutting of his hair.
Q36. How is it possible to determine what part of a man's product is due
and what part is due to labor?
A. All products are due wholly to the union of land and labor. Labor is the active
force, land is the passive material; and without both there can be no product
at all. But the part of a man's product that he individually earns, as distinguished
from the part that he obtains by virtue of advantageous location, is determined
by the law of rent — by what his location is worth.
Q37. What is the value of a man's labor?
A. What he can get for it under competition in a free market. There is no other
Q38. Is there no danger that under the single tax scheming men of great intellect
would be able to take advantage of their less intelligent brethren, and by
the competitive system corral everything as they do now?
A. If they did, it would not be by the competitive system, but because the competitive
system was still imperfectly developed. Competition is freedom, and such a thing
as you suggest could not be done where freedom prevailed. I believe that the
single tax would perfect competition. If it did, and at any rate to the extent
that it did, every one would get what he earned.
Q39. Why does not labor-saving machinery benefit laborers?
A. Suppose labor-saving machinery to be ideally perfect — so perfect
that no more labor is needed. Could that benefit laborers, so long as land
was owned? Would it not rather make landowners completely independent of laborers?
Of course it would. Well, the labor-saving machinery that falls short of being
perfect has the same tendency. The reason that it does not benefit laborers
is because by enhancing the value of land it restricts opportunities for employment.
Q40. Under the single tax theory what right have you to tax the value of "made
land," like the Back Bay of Boston? Is not such land produced by labor?
A. The surface soil is produced by labor. But the foundation —the bottom
of a bay, a swamp, a river, or a hole, is not. "Made land" does
not differ economically from a house. Its materials are produced from one place
to another and adjusted to meet the demand. But nature in the case of the "made
land," as in that of the house, supplies the materials and the foundation.
The value of the Back Bay of Boston is chiefly the value of a location — a
communal value. The single tax would not take the value of "made land";
it would take the value of the space where the "made land" is.
Q41. Why does land tend to concentrate in the hands of the few?
A. Because material progress tends to increase its value, and under existing
conditions valuable things tend to concentrate in the hands of the few.
Q42. Does not the growth of a community increase the value of other things
as well as of land? For example, does it not add to the value of the services
of professional men, or of any other business that is dependent upon
the presence and growth of the community, as truly as it does to the value
A. Granted that the growth of a community primarily tends to increase profits,
the increased profits tend in turn to attract men there to share them.
This intensifies competition and tends to lower profits. At the same
increases demand for land and tends to enhance the value of that. It therefore
be said that the growth of a community finally increases the value of other
things as well as of land. In fact it does not. Appropriate houses in cities
are no dearer than appropriate houses in the country, differences in cost
of production being allowed for. And although some professional men get
wages in thickly populated cities, the average comfort of professional
men in cities is no higher than in the country, if as high. Moreover, even
labor values as well as land values were increased by communal growth,
it must never
be forgotten that labor values must always be worked for by the individual,
whereas land values are never worked for by the individual. A lawyer may
command enormous fees, but he
gets no fee at all unless he works for it; but when land commands enormous
rent the owner gets it without doing the slightest work.
Q43. Is there any land question in places where land is cheap ? In Texas,
for example, you can get land as cheap as two dollars an acre. Is there a land
A. There is no place where land is cheap in the sense implied by the question.
Land commands a low price in many places, but it is poor land; it is not cheap
land. It is true that in Texas there is land that can be had for two dollars
an acre, but it would yield less profit to each unit of labor and capital expended
upon it than land in New York City which costs hundreds of thousands of dollars
an acre. The valuable New York land is the cheaper of the two. The land question
is the question in every place where land costs more than it is worth for immediate
Q44. Though some people have made money by owning land, isn't it true that
others have lost? And don't the losses more than off-set the gains?
A. Possibly. But that has no bearing upon the question. What men lose through
investments in land, the community does not gain; but what they gain the community
does lose. Therefore, as between land speculators and the community, the losses
cannot be charged against the gains.
Q45. What is the difference between speculation in land and in other kinds
A. If all the products of the world were cornered by speculators, but land
were free, new products would soon appear and the ill effects of the speculation
would quickly pass away. But if all the land were cornered by speculators,
though everything else were free, the people would immediately be dependent
upon the speculators for a chance to live. That illustrates the difference.
Q46. How can it be possible that speculative land values cause business
depressions when, as any business man will tell you, the whole item of land
value — whether
ground rent or interest on purchase money — is one of the smallest items
in every business ?
A. You overlook the fact that the item of speculative rent is the only item
which the business man does not get back again. The cost of his goods, the
expense of clerk hire, the rent of his building, the wear and tear of implements,
are all received back, in the course of normal business, in the prices of his
his ground rent, to the extent that it is normal (i.e., what it would be if
the supply of land were determined alone by land in use, and not affected
by the land that is held out of use for higher values), comes back to him
in the sense that his aggregate profits are that much greater than they would
be where ground rent was less. But the extra ground rent which he is obliged
to pay, in consequence of the abnormal scarcity of land, is a dead weight;
it does not come back to him. Therefore, even if infinitesimal in amount, as
compared with the other expenses of his business — and that is by
no means admitted — it is the one expense which may break a thriving
business down. Besides, it is not alone the ground rent paid by the business
man for his location that bears down upon his business prosperity; the
weight of abnormally high land values in general presses upon business in
general, and by obstructing the flow of trade forces the weaker business
units to the wall. It is not altogether safe to deduce general economic principles
from the ledgers of particular business houses.
Q47. Which is the more important, land or money?
A. This is like asking whether to a thirsty man water or a cup is the more
important. Land is a necessity; money is but a convenience. The use of money
is to facilitate trade. But we can live without trade. And even to trade,
money is not indispensable. Trade can be carried on by means of primitive
or by bookkeeping, and in a very high degree it is so carried on. But we cannot
so much as live, either in solitude or in society, without appropriate land. "Give
me all the money in the world," said an objector once, "and you
may have all the land." And this was the answer: "The first thing
I should do would be to order you to give me your money or get off from my
Q48. Would you let money escape taxation, and so favor money lenders ?
A. It is a curious fact that this question is most popular among people who
clamor for cheap money. How they expect to cheapen money by taxing its lenders
on their loans is past finding out. To tax money lenders is to discourage
money lending, and thereby to increase interest on loans. Yes, we should
let money escape taxation. It escapes taxation now, which in itself is a
reason for exempting it; but we should exempt it (by taxing nothing but land
values) for the additional and better reason that a
man's money is his own and the community has no right to it, while a man's
land value is the community's and the man has no right to it. This would not
favor money lenders in any invidious sense. It would favor both lenders and
borrowers; borrowers by enabling them to borrow on easier terms, and lenders
by making their loans more secure.
Q49. Would the single tax abolish interest?
A. I do not think so. Interest properly understood is a form of wages, and
so far from abolishing it, the single tax, which would tend to increase all
forms of wages, would tend to increase interest. But monopoly profits are often
confounded with interest, and by force of association have given to interest
a bad name; these would be minimized if not wholly abolished by the single
tax. It is impossible to answer this question intelligibly to everyone who
asks it, without requiring him to be specific; for it is seldom that two persons
agree as to what they mean by interest. The Western farmer thinks of the high
rate that he pays, partly for risk, partly from his ignorance of the modus
operandi of banking, and partly because legitimate banking facilities are
scarce in his Community; the Wall Street operator thinks of the premiums that
he pays for currency in times of stress to tide him over from day to day;
others think of "interest" on government bonds, and others of dividends
of companies with valuable land rights. None of these payments are really interest,
and the single tax would tend to rid society of them. But that advantage which
the workmen enjoy whose implements and materials are already gathered, over
those who have yet to devote time to gathering implements and materials, an
advantage which is expressed in money and as interest upon capital, will not,
I should think, be abolished by anything that man can do. The value of such
an advantage is part of the wages of the labor that creates it.
Q50. Would not the single tax take away the home place, and so tend to crush
out the home sentiment?
A. When the home place now becomes valuable, it is parted with.
Q51. Yes; but when the home place is parted with now, the home owner is
compensated by the high price he gets.
A. Then your question does not turn upon the home sentiment but upon the
dollar sentiment. As a matter of sentiment, the condition would be no worse
in any case than now, and in many cases far better; as a matter of dollars,
the question is one of justice and not of the home.
Under the single tax any one who wanted a home could have it, and never
be obliged to abandon one home for another, unless such changes took place
in the neighborhood as to make the place inappropriate for a home. He could
not then, as he does now, play dog in the manger, saying to the community, "I
will not use this place for appropriate purposes, nor will I allow any one
else to do so."
Q52. Is not the right of ownership of a gold ring the same as the ownership
of a gold mine? and if the latter is wrong is not the former also wrong
A. If it be wrong for you to own the spring of water which you and your fellows
use, is it therefore wrong for you to own the water that you lift from the
spring to drink? If so how do you propose to slake your thirst? If you
argue in reply that it is not wrong for you to own the spring, then how shall
fellows slake their thirst when you treat them, as you would have a right
to, as trespassers upon your property? To own the source of labor products
own the labor of others; to own what you produce from that source is to
own only your own labor. Nature furnishes gold mines, but men fashion gold
The right of ownership is radically different.
Q53. Is it true that men are equally entitled to land? Are they not entitled
to it in proportion to their use of it?
A. Yes, they are entitled to it in proportion to their use of it and it
is this title that the single tax would secure. It would allow every one
possess as much land as he wished, upon the sole condition that if it has
a value he
shall account to the community for that value and for nothing else; all
that he produces from the land above its value being absolutely his,
from taxation. The single tax is the method best adapted to our circumstances,
and to orderly conditions, for limiting possession of land to its use. By making
it unprofitable to hold land except for use, or to hold more than can be
used to advantage, it constitutes every man his own judge of the amount
character of the land that he can use.
Q54. Is it right that the owners of land should pay all the taxes for the
support of public institutions, while the owners of commodities go untaxed?
A. Yes. Public institutions increase the value of land but not of commodities.
Read notes 14 and 18.
Q55. Our city raises $20,000 for fire protection. Is it fair to tax
land, which doesn't get that protection, and let houses go free
though they do get it?
A. Is not the land worth more with your fire protection than it would be
without it? Which would be better for the owners of
land in your city, to pay the $20,000, or to have no fire protection?
Read notes 14 and 18.
Q56. Rich man with large mansion; poor widow with small
house on same sized lot adjoining. The two pay the same tax.
Is that right?
A. There is no reason in justice why the community should not
charge poor widows as much for monopolizing valuable land as it
charges rich men. In either case it confers a special privilege
and should be paid what the privilege is worth. The question is
seldom asked in good faith. Poor widows who live on lots adjoining large mansions
are not numerous, and when they exist they
are simply land-grabbers. In our sympathy for these widows,
let us not forget the vast armies of widows who not only do not
live next to mansions, but have no place in the whole wide world
upon which to rest.
Q57. If land and labor are equally indispensable factors of production,
why are they not equally entitled to the product?
A. The laborer justly owns his labor, but the land-owner cannot
justly own his land. The question is not one of the relative rights of men
and land, but of men and men.
Q58. Should not the poor man be compensated for the loss of his
A. No. The reasons are numerous. Among them are the following: The poor man's
rights in the community and in common
property are neither more nor less than the rich man's. The better
conditions for the poor man which the single tax would bring about would more
than off-set his loss in land values. The poor
man has no land values worth speaking of.
Q59. How would you compensate the man who has bought a lot
in order to make a home upon it, but is not yet able to build?
A. By letting him, when he is ready to build, have a better lot
for nothing. The single tax would do this by discouraging the cornering of
land which now makes all good lots scarce. When
land was no longer appropriated except for use, and that would result from
the operation of the single tax, there would be an abundance of building lots
to be had for the taking, which would be far more desirable than the kind to
which men who cannot afford to build homes now resort when they buy lots for
Q60. If the value of land be destroyed by the single tax, would not justice
require that land-owners be compensated?
A. No. Land is given for the use of all, and rent is produced by the community
as a whole. To legally vest land-ownership in less than the whole, excluding
those to come as well as those that are here, is a moral crime against all
who are excluded. Therefore no government can make a perpetual title to land
which is or can become morally binding. Neither can one generation vest the
communal earnings of future generations in particular persons by any morally
valid title, as they certainly attempt to do when they make grants of land.
There is both divine justice and economic wisdom in the command that "the
land shall not be sold in perpetuity." In the forum of morals all titles
to land are subject to absolute divestment as soon as the people decide upon
Q61. If a man buys land in good faith, under the laws under which we live,
is he not entitled to compensation for his individual loss when titles are
A. There is no sounder principle of law than that which, distinguishing the
contractual from the legislative powers of government, prescribes that government
cannot tie up its legislative powers. Now, land tenures and taxation are so
clearly matters of general public policy that no one would deny that they are
legislative and not contractual in character. It follows that titles to land,
and privileges of more or less exemption from taxation, are voidable at the
pleasure of the people. And the possibility of such action on the part of the
people is as truly a part of every grant of land as if it were written expressly
in the body of the instrument. Moreover, notice was given when Henry George
published "Progress and Poverty," and has been reiterated often
since in louder and louder tones until the whole civilized world has become
of it, that an effort is in progress to do what is in effect this very thing.
That notice is a moral cloud upon every title, and he who buys now buys with
notice. It will not do for him when the time comes, to say: "I relied
upon the good faith of the government whose laws told me I might buy." He
has notice, and if he buys he buys at his peril. Men cannot be allowed to make
bets that the effort to retain
land values for common use will fail, and then when they lose their bets call
upon the people to compensate them for the loss. Read the chapter on "Compensation" in
Henry George's "Perplexed Philosopher."
Q62. If the ownership of land is immoral is it not the duty of individuals
who see its immorality to refrain from profiting by it?
A. No. The immorality is institutional, not individual. Every member of a community
has a right to land and an interest in the rent of land. Under the single tax
both rights would be conserved. But under existing social institutions the
only way of securing either is to own land and profit by it. To refrain from
doing so would have no reformatory effect. It is one of the eccentricities
of narrow minds to believe or profess to believe that institutional wrongs
and individual wrongs are upon the same plane and must be cured in the same
way — by individual reformation. But individuals cannot change institutions
by refraining from profiting by them, any more than they could dredge a creek
by refraining from swimming in it. Institutional wrongs must be remedied by
LOUIS F. POST'S LECTURES
TESTIMONIALS FROM EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTIONS
"I doubt if the school ever enjoyed any lectures on political economy as much
as yours, because you presented the subject with such simplicity and clearness
that even the most immature minds could follow it." — Sara M.
Ely, of The Misses Ely's School, Riverside Drive, Eighty-fifth and Eighty-sixth
Streets, New York.
"It is the unanimous verdict of the most competent judges, that this lecture
of Mr. Post's is not only the best which has so far been delivered, but shows
extraordinary power of clear and instructive exposition of his theory and
of the fundamental principles of economics. He impressed every intelligent
person with the conviction that he was a very remarkable teacher." — J.
A. Quarles, D.D., LL.D., Professor of Moral Philosophy, Washington and Lee
University, Lexington, Va.
"I had the pleasure of hearing in the chapel of Washington and Lee University
the lecture of Mr. Post on single tax. I was greatly impressed by the ability
of the lecturer, and thought that I had never heard a more simple, full, and
clear exposition of the principles of the science upon which the deductions
of the lecturer were based. Mr. Post has most admirable
and exceptional gifts as a lecturer and a teacher." — Gen. Scott
Shipp, Superintendent, Virginia Military Institute, Lexington, Va.
"Mr. Post's lecture in City Hall last evening on 'Progress and Poverty'
demonstrated that the elementary truths of political economy can be presented
to an audience
in a simple, luminous and deeply interesting way." — Edwin
P. Wentworth, ex-President Maine Chautauqua Union.
"Mr. Post is a clear and pleasing speaker. He is thoroughly familiar
with the single tax theory. He states his case in a clear and convincing manner.
He was especially satisfactory in the exposition of the single tax theory,
which he gave to the class in answer to questions by members of the class." — Prof.
Jesse Macy, Chair of Constitutional History and Political Economy, Iowa
College, Grinnell, Ia.
"I was an interested listener at Mr. Post's last lecture in Seattle.
I did not miss a word, nor lose a thought. While not accepting all his doctrine,
he has no superior on the platform to-day." — Thomas M.
Gatch, President of the University of the State of Washington, Seattle,
LETTERS FROM REPRESENTATIVE MEN.
"Mr. Post's method of presenting the subject of political economy is
admirable. His charts and diagrams, together with his clear, concise, and forcible
of presenting the subject, make his lectures exceedingly entertaining and
instructive." — E.
H. Long, Superintendent of Public Schools of St. Louis, Mo.
"I not only enjoyed your lecture immensely, but think that any one who
had the vaguest interest in social questions could not help being pleased with
it." — Bolton
Hall, New York City
"I am not satisfied to let you leave Boston without an expression
of my enjoyment of your admirable lectures. The approving words that
have since come
to me from many listeners are an assurance that my opinion is unbiased." — Wm.
"Wherever my endorsement may be of any use to you I will be glad unequivocally
to give it — to your personal character, to your ability as a
writer and lecturer, and to the soundness, from my point of view, of
you are so successfully teaching." — Henry George.
EXTRACTS FROM NEWSPAPER REPORTS AND EDITORIALS.
"Mr. Post is eloquent
and entertaining." — San
Francisco (Cal.) Chronicle.
"Mr. Post is a speaker of much magnetism. His lecture was replete with
abounded in humor and illustration." — Los Angeles (Cal.)
"He is not rhetorical; uses plain, simple language, and is a natural
logician. A subject complicated to many was made simple and clear by his instructive
discourse." — Waco (Tex.) Evening News.
"He is an orator, but his style is conversational. His language was
so clear that even
a child could understand." — El Paso (Tex.) Daily Times.
"There was not a dry nor uninteresting moment in the whole discourse." — San
Francisco (Cal.) Star.
"Mr Post's success in the treatment of his subject lies in the charm
of his manner. He talks to his audience, never tiring them, surprising
apt and unexpected
contrasts and illustrations, and running in his explanatory anecdotes with
a fluency and dry humor which sustain interest until the last word. . . He
never spared hypocrisy, winked at dishonesty, or tolerated any means of redress
for wrongs except by peaceable and logical means." — Seattle
"Mr. Post's style was admirable, his utterance rapid, and he crowded
into the compass of a single lecture enough to make a volume." — Raton
(N. M.) Reporter.
"Mr. Post is a clear speaker, not lacking in platform readiness and wit." — Montreal
"Mr. Louis F. Post is a clear, logical, and extremely careful speaker." — Montreal
"A fluent speaker, and states his points very clearly." — Toronto
"Mr. Post's style is lucid and forcible, without anything savoring of
grandiloquence." — Vancouver
(B. C.) Daily News-Advertiser
"He is a splendid speaker, clear, forcible, uses no notes, and besides,
is possessed of the gift of humor, which he brings into welcome play." — Nanaimo
(B. C.) Free Press.
"The large audience was delighted with the lecture, notwithstanding the
fact that many of the ideas advanced were new and strange to the greater part." — Aspen
(Col.) Daily Times
"He is a pleasing and effective speaker, and understands his subject
so thoroughly that he easily gained and held the attention of his entire audience
beginning to the close of his lecture." — Mascoutah
"A very pleasing speaker, easy and natural, with excellent voice and
convincing manner." — Elgin (Ill.) Daily News.
"Mr. Post is an ideal lecturer." — Sioux City (Ia.) Journal.
"Mr. Post is one of the most forcible speakers heard in Des Moines on
any subject in a long time." — Des Moines (Ia.) Saturday Review.
"Louis F. Post turned what would ordinarily be a dry, abstract discussion,
in which only special students would be interested, into a dissertation which
all could understand, and by which all could profit." — Dubuque
"An admirable presentation of the single tax doctrine." — Cedar
Rapids (Ia.) Republican.
"Mr. Post is a very entertaining
talker, and is thoroughly versed in political economy." — Atchison
"For two and one-half hours he held the attention of his audience, interest
in the subject, increasing at every stage of his address." — New
Iberia (La.) Enterprise.
"Held his audience as by the power of a master mind." — New
Iberia (La.) Daily Iberian.
"A masterpiece of earnest eloquence and logical argument." — Boston
"Has a power of clear and graphic
presentation which few men possess."— Editorial
in Boston (Mass.) Herald
"The exposition of the Henry George theory was entertainingly clear,
and furnishes a good basis for future thought upon the subject." — University
of Michigan Daily, Area Arbor.
"The lecture — it was more of a talk — was really a primer
lesson on government and taxation. It was quietly and earnestly given in plain
words." — Detroit
"The lecturer is one of the best on the American platform."— Cadillac
(Mich.) State Democrat.
"Mr. Post strikes one as being a deep thinker, a scholar, a gentleman,
and an unostentatious talker who loses sight of himself in the interest he
the subject he is presenting." — Adrian
(Mich.) Daily Times.
"Mr. Post is a very attractive and convincing speaker, and the impression
he made upon all who heard his address last night was
most favorable, and undoubtedly gave dignity and won intellectual respect for
his cause from many persons who
have not heretofore been disposed to give it serious
consideration." — Editorial
in Minneapolis (Minn.) Times.
"Mr. Post is evidently much more interested in impressing his audience
with the theory he elaborates than with himself as its exponent. His gestures
a secondary consideration, and his appearance is that
of a professor before his class." — Kansas City (Mo.) Times.
"The address was two hours and a half in delivery, but was so clear and
logical that it was listened to with great interest." — Lincoln
(Neb.) State Journal.
"His oratory held the attention of the audience throughout his lecture." — Buffalo
(N. Y.) Enquirer.
"He delighted his hearers by his lucid treatment of the theme." — Philadelphia
"A fluent and entertaining talker, and speaks entirely without notes.
He intersperses his arguments and solid points with illustrations in the shape
anecdotes." — Galveston (Tex.) Daily News.
"An interesting speaker, and his lecture was
occasionally varied by a bright epigram or
laughable anecdote that gave pungency to his
speech." — Spokane
Mr. Post is a clear and forcible speaker, and
presents the Henry George theory of taxation
with fine effect." — Christian