Part I - Declaration
Chapter I (This page)
Chapter II
Chapter III
Chapter IV
Chapter V
Chapter VI
Part II -  Repudiation
Chapter I
Chapter II
Chapter III
Chapter IV
Chapter V
Chapter VI
Part III -  Recantation
Chapter I Chapter II
Chapter III
Chapter IV
Chapter V
Chapter VI
Chapter VII
Chapter VIII
Chapter IX
Chapter X
Chapter XI
Chapter XII
Chapter XIII


A Perplexed Philosopher

by Henry George

Part I, Chapter I:   Social Statics - The Right to Land

Our social edifice may be constructed with all possible labour and ingenuity, and be strongly cramped together with cunningly devised enactments, but if there be no rectitude in its component parts, if it is not built on upright principles, it will assuredly tumble to pieces. . . Not as adventitious, therefore, will the wise man regard the faith that is in him, not as something which may be slighted, and made subordinate to calculations of policy; but as the supreme authority to which all his actions should bend. The highest truth conceivable by him he will fearlessly utter; and will endeavour to get embodied in fact his purest idealisms: knowing that, let what may come of it, he is thus playing his appointed part in the worldknowing that, if he can get done the thing he aims atwell: if notwell also; though not so well.—
     Herbert Spencer, 1850
Social Statics - The Right to Land
IN his first book, Social Statics, published in 1850, Mr Spencer essayed to discover some fixed principle that might serve as a starting-point in political ethics and afford a surer guide than shifting notions of expediency or the vague formula of the greatest good to the greatest number. He found it in the principle that "every man may claim the fullest liberty to exercise his faculties compatible with the possession of like liberty by every other man". Or, as he otherwise puts it, that "every man has freedom to do all that he wills, provided he infringes not the equal freedom of any other man."
     The first deduction he makes from this "first principle" is the equal right to life and personal liberty, and the second, the equal right to the use of the earth.
     This first deduction he treats briefly in Chapter VIII, "The Rights of Life and Personal Liberty," saying, "These are such evident corollaries from our first principle as scarcely to need a separate statement."
     The second deduction, only next in importance to the rights to life and personal liberty, and indeed involved in them, he treats at length in a chapter which I give in full:  

     Chapter IX—The Right to the Use of the Earth
Readers are referred to this link to read the chapter in Spencer's Social Statics

 Briefly stated, the argument of this chapter is--
     1. The equal right of all men to the use of land springs from the fact of their existence in a world adapted to their needs, and into which they are similarly born.
     2. Equity, therefore, does not permit private property in land, since that would involve the right of some to deny to others the use of land.
     3. Private property in land, as at present existing, can show no original title valid in justice, and such validity cannot be gained either by sale or bequest, or by peaceable possession during any length of time.
     4. Nor is there any mode by which land can justly become private property. Cultivation and improvement can give title only to their results, not to the land itself.
     5. Nor could an equitable division of land with the consent of all, even if it were not impossible that such a division could be made, give valid title to private property in land. For the equal right to the use of land would attach to all those thereafter born, irrespective of any agreement made by their predecessors.
     6. There can be no modification of this dictate of equity. Either all men have equal rights to the use of the land, or some men have the just right to enslave others and deprive them of life.
     7. As a matter of fact, nobody does really believe in private property in land. An Act of Parliament, even now, supersedes title-deeds. That is to say, the right of private ownership in land exists only by general consent; that being withdrawn, it ceases.
     8. But the doctrine that all men are equally entitled to the use of land does not involve communism or socialism, and need cause no serious change in existing arrangements. It is not necessary that the state should manage land: it is only necessary that rent, instead of going, as now, to individuals, should be taken by society for common purposes.
     9. There may be difficulty in justly liquidating the claims of existing landowners, but men having got themselves into a dilemma must get out of it as well as they can. The landed class are not alone to be considered. So long as the treatment of land as private property continues, the masses suffer from an injustice only inferior in wickedness to depriving them of life or personal liberty.
     10. However difficult it may be to embody in fact the theory of the co-heirship of all men to the soil, equity sternly demands it to be done.

Hovedside: Grundskyld - Henry George
Henry George
Andre Skribenter
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Summary of pages in English: Land and taxation
January 2006