Henry George (1839-1897)

For justice to be done between men it is not necessary for the State to take the land; it is only necessary to take its rent. 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 goes on. A tax on land values is of all taxes that which best fulfils every requirement of a perfect tax. As land cannot be hidden or carried off, a tax on land values can be assessed with more certainty and can be collected with greater ease and less expense than any other tax, while it does not in the slightest degree check production or lessen its incentive. It is, in fact, a tax only in form, being in nature a rent - a taking for the use of the community of a value that arises not from individual exertion but from the growth of the community. For it is not anything that the individual owner or user does that gives value to land. The value that he creates is a value that attaches to improvements. This, being the the result of individual exertion, properly belongs to the individual, and cannot be taxed without lessening the incentive to production. But the value that attaches to land itself is a value arising from the growth of the community and increasing with social growth. It therefore properly belongs to the community, and can be taken to the last penny without in the slightest degree lessening the incentive to production. (Introduction to Protection or Free Trade) -- 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 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 for 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 8, Chapter 3.

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