The Duke of Westminster
economists' view of their proper role is rather like that in The Realtor's
Oath, which includes a vow '
To protect the individual right of real
estate ownership.' The word '
individual' is construed broadly to include corporations,
estates, trusts, anonymous offshore funds, schools, government agencies,
institutions, partnerships, cooperatives, the Duke of Westminster, the Sultan
of Brunei, the Medellin Cartel, Saddam Hussein, congregations, Archbishops,
families (including criminal families) and so on, but '
individual' sounds more all-American and subsumes them all.
This is a potent chant that stirs people to extremes of self-righteousness
and siege mentality when challenged."
- Mason Gaffney
in Economics in Support of Environmentalism
Rev. A. C. Auchmuty: Gems from George,
a themed collection of excerpts from the writings of Henry
George (with links to sources)
MANY landholders are laborers of one sort or another. And it would be hard to
find a landowner not a laborer, who is not also a capitalist — while the
general rule is, that the larger the landowner the greater the capitalist. So
true is this that in common thought the characters are confounded. Thus, to put
all taxes on the value of land, while it would be to largely reduce all great
fortunes, would in no case leave the rich man penniless. The Duke of Westminster,
who owns a considerable part of the site of London, is probably the richest landowner
in the world. To take all his ground rents by taxation would largely reduce his
enormous income, but would still leave him his buildings and all the income from
them, and doubtless much personal property in various other shapes. He would
still have all he could by any possibility enjoy, and a much better state of
society in which to enjoy it. — Progress & Poverty — Book
IX, Chapter 3, Effects of the Remedy: Of the Effect Upon Individuals and Classes
... go to "Gems from George"
Mason Gaffney: Who Owns Southern
Non-resident aliens own about 75% of the "major" buildings in the L.A. CBD
west of Broadway [L.A. Times 21 Sept 86].
Charles Grosvenor, an Englishman, a.k.a.
The Duke of Westminster, is one of these is. Grosvenor owns half
the Wells Fargo Building on a valuable site in downtown L.A. Grosvenor
also holds 17 acres in Silicon Valley. He also holds Annacis Island, 1200
acres near Vancouver, B.C. He is a major owner in downtown Melbourne. He
around the world. These are parts of his overseas holdings. Their value
was estimated in 1985 at $1.3 billion, but they were not for sale and the
for the valuation is not given. Like city land worldwide, they must have
doubled in price, 1985-89 — and then dropped again.
The core of Grosvenor's holdings is 300 acres in central London, including half
the Mayfair District, most of Belgravia, and Grosvenor Square where the U.S.
Embassy is one of his many lessees. His country estate is 4500 acres. Grosvenor,
along with Earl Cadogan, the Duke of Bedford, Viscount Portman, and Lord Howard
de Walden, pretty well control London land. [L.A. Times, 9/85]
Dave Wetzel: Who Should Get the Land Rent?
Transport for London does not own all of the coach station. One third of
the land and the old in-bound coach shed is owned by "Grosvenor Estates."
We pay them £230,000 per annum for the use of their land.
But where do we get the money from?
We charge the coach companies a fee for every coach that comes into the coach
station and a part of that goes to our landlord.
Where do they get the money from?
They get the money from their ticket prices.
So every poor traveller is contributing towards the £230,000 given to
Grosvenor Estates, which is owned by the Duke of Westminster. (His family name
was "Grosvenor" until Queen Victoria elevated one "Hugh Grosvenor" to
the peerage in 1874.) They have owned most of Mayfair, Belgravia and parts
of Victoria for hundreds of years.
So, we have the absurdity, . . . . . . . . nay the obscenity!, of the poorest
travellers in the country, subsidising the third richest man in the country,
to the tune of £230,000 per annum!
Surely, the value of this land only arises because people live and work in
our great city?
So surely it is all the people that should benefit from land wealth?
We SHOULD pay rent for the land.
All of the land.
But not to the rich Duke, but to the Government, so that they can
use this natural wealth to pay for schools and hospitals etc.
And not from this one site, but from all the land in the country.
AND if there is any wealth left over — and I'm sure there would be — the
Government could return it to all of us in the form of a land dividend.
... read the whole passage
Karl Williams: Landlording It Over Us
Britains' wealthiest man gets rich the easy way -- he has his underlings
collect and bank his rent. And if the rents from his vast
land holdings weren’t enough, soaring property prices have escalated his
net worth sky high – to be exact, UK£11.5 billion. To give him
his full title, he is His Grace, Gerald
Sixth Duke of Westminster.
Forget the vast tracts of rural land, including a 100,000-acre estate in Scotland
which contains no less than three mountains. The 300 acres
the duke owns in central London, comprising Mayfair and Belgravia, are
today one of the most valuable patches of ground on the planet.
It was a handy marriage which brought this fortune into the Grosvenor
family’s hands – in 1677, Sir Richard Grosvenor married Mary Davies,
heir to the hundred acres north of Piccadilly and the “Five Fields” south
of Knightsbridge. During the 18th and 19th centuries, Mayfair and Belgravia were
built up as residential areas for London’s wealthy classes, a position
they have occupied ever since. Unlike many other great landowners who have
cashed in, the Grosvenors held on and have benefited enormously from the
in London property prices.
The duke has nowadays diversified his land portfolio. His commercial property
company, Grosvenor, has become a serious player, with a vast array of investments
and developments around the world. These include
office blocks in San Francisco, business
parks in Vancouver, luxury apartments
in Hong Kong and
shopping centres in Spain and Portugal.
In the UK, Grosvenor has developed Festival Place shopping centre in Basingstoke
and is set to undertake a £700m. mixed-use redevelopment in the centre
of Liverpool. Back in his tract of Mayfair, land values are in the stratosphere:
in 2001, BP’s pension fund sold ten acres
of Mayfair for a cool £335m.
Is it any wonder that, given how there is little or no land value taxation,
the duke has all his many eggs in the land investment basket?
But it’s not just for economic considerations that he could never contemplate
selling his vast acreage, for he has a philosophical reason for not selling.
(Have a bucket ready before reading the following!) “This is part of my heritage,
my birthright. It is not to do with anything materialistic,
but is deeply ingrained.”
Henry George: The Land Question
Think of these enormous wastes, and of the others which, like these, are due
to the fundamental wrong which produces an unjust distribution of wealth and
distorts the natural development of society, and you will begin to see what
a higher, purer, richer civilization would be made possible by the simple measure
that will assert natural rights. You will begin to see how, even if no one
but the present landholders were to be considered, this would be the greatest
boon that could be vouchsafed them by society, and that, for them to fight
it, would be as if the dog with a tin kettle tied to his tail should snap at
the hand that offered to free him. Even the greatest landholder! As for such
landholders as our working farmers and homestead-owners, the slightest discussion
would show them that they had everything to gain by the change. But even such
as the Duke of Westminster and the Astors would be gainers.