Mines and Minerals
Henry George: Political
Dangers (Chapter 2 of Social Problems,
 The rise in the United States of monstrous fortunes, the aggregation
of enormous wealth in the hands of corporations, necessarily implies the loss
by the people of governmental control. Democratic forms may be maintained,
but there can be as much tyranny and misgovernment under democratic forms as
any other — in fact, they lend themselves most readily to tyranny and
misgovernment. Forms count for little. The Romans expelled their kings, and
continued to abhor
the very name of king. But under the name of Cæsars and Imperators, that
at first meant no more than our "Boss," they crouched before tyrants
more absolute than kings. We have already, under the popular name of "bosses," developed
political Cæsars in municipalities and states. If this development continues,
in time there will come a national boss. We are young but we are growing. The
day may arrive when the "Boss of America" will be to the modern world
what Cæsar was to the Roman world. This, at least, is certain: Democratic
government in more than name can exist only where wealth is distributed with
something like equality — where the great mass of citizens are personally
free and independent, neither fettered by their poverty nor made subject by
their wealth. There is, after all, some sense in a property qualification.
The man who is dependent on a master for his living is not a free man. To give
the suffrage to slaves is only to give votes to their owners. That universal
suffrage may add to, instead of decreasing, the political power of wealth we
see when mill-owners and mine operators vote their hands. The freedom to earn,
without fear or favor, a comfortable living, ought to go with the freedom to
vote. Thus alone can a sound basis for republican institutions be secured.
How can a man be said to have a country where he has no right to a square inch
of soil; where he has nothing but his hands, and, urged by starvation, must
bid against his fellows for the privilege of using them? When it comes to voting
tramps, some principle has been carried to a ridiculous and dangerous extreme.
I have known elections to be decided by the carting of paupers from the almshouse
to the polls. But such decisions can scarcely be in the interest of good government. ... read the entire essay
Louis Post: Outlines of Louis F. Post's
with Illustrative Notes and Charts (1894) — Appendix: FAQ
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.
Note 11: This is usually a stumbling block to those who,
without much experience in economic thought, consider the single tax
first time. As soon as they grasp the idea that taxes upon commodities
shift to consumers they jump to the conclusion 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 production more
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
"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,
"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 cannot be transferred. 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 land-owners 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, by compelling 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, and thus 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 cannot charge higher prices for goods than their
competitors do, merely because they pay higher ground rents. A country
storekeeper whose business lot is worth but few dollars charges as much
for sugar, probably more, than a city grocer whose lot is worth thousands.
Quality for quality and quantity for quantity, goods sell for about the
same price everywhere. Differences in price are altogether 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 for
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 more expensive
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 reputation 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 than in 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 profit, 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 to be 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 outlay of
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 will 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
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
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
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.
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 your 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 is to 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 rings. The right of ownership
is radically different. ... read the book
Charles B. Fillebrown: A Catechism
of Natural Taxation, from Principles of
Natural Taxation (1917)
Q8. How about fertility value?
A. On the surface of the globe are countless varieties of exhaustible fertility,
i.e. chemical constituency, differing in kind and degree, from the nitrogen,
hydrogen, oxygen, and carbon of the soil to the carbon of the coal, the gold,
and the diamond. Fertility as an attribute need not be predicated of agricultural
land alone. Economic fertility belongs equally to any other land which yields
to labor its product whether in food, mineral, or metal. Land may be fertile
in wheat, corn, and potatoes. It may be fertile in cotton, in tobacco, or in
rice. It may be fertile in diamonds, in gold, silver, copper, lead, or iron.
It may be fertile in oil, coal, or natural gas, in a water power or water front.
The value of artificial fertility is an improvement value. The value of natural
fertility of any kind is a site value.
... read the whole article