But I'm not a land monopolist, am I?
It took me a while to understand why landownership is a monopoly, since
millions of us own land (many subject to a mortgage, but we consider ourselves
Land is different from those things we can produce more of. If we
can produce more of something, supply can respond to demand. But
land is finite in supply. We can't produce another acre or even a fraction-of-an-acre
lot downtown. We all must rely on what already exists. It is
more like air or water — we all depend on them and we can't make more.
So is the small landholder a land monopolist? If so, does this
make him/her/it a bad person/entity?
As Churchill put it, we do not seek to punish the landlord; rather
it is the system we must change.
All of us operate within the existing system, and there is nothing
wrong with trying to succeed within the existing rules.
70% of us own our own homes, and some of us own more than one.
The 30% of us who don't own a home are certainly not land
monopolists. Those of us who own homes in places where land has
no value — that is, where no one else happens to want to live or work
— would generally not be regarded as land monopolists. But most
of us live in places where land has some value.
X% of us own our own businesses (and another Y% aspire to). The
large majority of those businesses are operated in rented quarters, and
on sites which are probably significantly more valuable than the site
on which the owner lives. So, like those who rent their homes
from another, most of those business owners are tenants more than they
are owners, even those who own their homes outright.
Consider also the fact that urban land, particularly land in the
Central Business District, is far more valuable than land on the fringe
of that same city. The difference between urban land and average
agricultural land has been pegged as a factor of 100,000 or more.
Yes — 100,000. An acre of agricultural land in Vermont might be
worth $2500 or so. A one-acre site in midtown Manhattan sold a
few years ago for $250 million. Were that single acre owned by
a single family, their land value would be equal to that held by the
owners of 100,000 acres — 156 square miles — of Vermont agricultural
land, or 1.7% of the state!
Most of us benefit a bit from the existing system, and since our homes are
our main asset, it might appear that we are net beneficiaries. But the benefits
of replacing land monopoly capitalism with free market capitalism would be
a lot larger than the loss of land equity that would begin. Our children
and their entire generation would be able to afford homes. We and our children
would receive wages that better matched our worth, and might be able to choose
whether both parents would work when children were young. Those who wanted
to open their own business would face fewer barriers to entry. Most of all,
we'd be moving toward being the society we dream of when we talk about the
American dream, with widely shared prosperity, and no victims.
Rev. A. C. Auchmuty: Gems from George, a
themed collection of
excerpts from the writings of Henry George (with links to sources)
INNOCENT purchasers of what involves wrong to others! Is not the phrase
absurd? If, in our legal tribunals, "ignorance of the law excuseth no man," how
much less can it do so in the tribunal of morals — and it is this to
which compensationists appeal.
And innocence can only shield from the punishment due to conscious wrong; it
cannot give right. If you innocently stand on my toes, you may fairly ask me
not to be angry; but you gain no right to continue to stand on them. — A
Perplexed Philosopher (Compensation)
WHEN a man exchanges property of one kind for property of another kind he gives
up the one with all its incidents and takes in its stead the other with its incidents.
He cannot sell bricks and buy hay, and then complain because the hay burned when
the bricks would not. The greater liability of the hay to burn is one of the
incidents he accepted in buying it. Nor can he exchange property having moral
sanction for property having only legal sanction, and claim that the moral sanction
of the thing he sold attaches now to the thing he bought. That has gone with
the thing to the other party in the exchange. Exchange transfers, it cannot create.
Each party gives up what right he had and takes what right the other party
had. The last holder obtains no moral right that the first holder did not have. — A
Perplexed Philosopher (Compensation) ... go
to "Gems from George"
Louis Post: Outlines of Louis F. Post's
Lectures, with Illustrative Notes and Charts (1894) — Appendix:
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 institutional reforms. ... read the book
Winston Churchill: The
hope you will understand that when I speak of the land monopolist I
am dealing more with the process than with the individual landowner. I
have no wish to hold any class up to public disapprobation. I do not
think that the man who makes money by unearned increment in land is
morally a worse man than anyone else who gathers his profit where he
finds it in this hard world under the law and according to common
usage. It is not the individual I attack, it is the system. It is not the man who is bad, it is the law
which is bad. It is not the man who is blameworthy for doing
what the law allows and what other men do; it is the State which would
be blameworthy were it not to endeavour to reform the law and correct
the practice. We do not want to
punish the landlord. We want to alter the law.
We do not go back on the
past. Look at our actual proposal. We do not go back on
the past. We accept
as our basis the value as it stands today. The tax on the increment of
land begins by recognizing and franking the past increment. We look
only to the future, and for the future we say only this, that the
community shall be the partner in any further increment above the
present value after all the owner's improvements have been deducted. We
say that the State and the municipality should jointly levy a toll upon
the future unearned increment of the land. The toll of what? Of the
whole? No. Of a half? No. Of a quarter! No. Of a fifth -- that is the proposal of
the Budget, and that is robbery, that is Plunder, that is communism and
spoliation, that is the social revolution at last, that is the overturn
of civilized society, that is the end of the world foretold in the
Apocalypse! Such is the increment tax about which so much chatter and
outcry are raised at the present time, and upon which I will say that
no more fair, considerate, or salutary proposal for taxation has ever
been made in the House of Commons. ... Read the whole piece