The Edwin Burgess 

Letters on Taxation

The word tariff appears to have its origin in t ne name of an ancient town at the entrance of the Straits of Gibraltar, in Spain, called Tariffe, where a nest of pirates, legal or illegal, levied tribute on all vessels entering Or departing between the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. Whether the tax, or tribute, was levied on the plea of protection, right, duty, or robbery, this deponent sayeth not, but the plunder will be just as manifest, injurious, and degrading to the robber and the robbed under one name us another.
     "The rose by any name will smell as sweet," And wrong by any name be just as great.
     The expense of the United States General Government, from June 30th, 1857, to June 30th, 1858, were over eighty-one and a half million dollars, making about three dollars each for every man, woman, and child in the nation, or fifteen dollars for the head of each family, counting a man and wife and three children as a family. Now, were the public land free to the landless, and all the taxes on the land alone, irrespective of all improvement, would not one dollar per head, or about thirty million dollars be sufficient for all the purposes of the general government to protect their citizens in the possession of their natural rights (for it costs much less to protect us in the possession of the right of land and free commerce than to rob us or those rights)? If that estimate is correct, then we should save one million dollars weekly by ceasing to tax the industry of the country for the benefit of the land monopolist, which would keep the land at the lowest price and Within the reach of the greatest number, and consequently labour would reach its greatest reward; and only when the land is at the lowest price will the competition to supply cheap food be equal to the competition to supply cheap manufactures for all, which cannot be while the many are landless as now. But, with free or cheap land, the country would be much more densely populated, While the cities and villages would be much smaller, and we should much more nearly attain that proportion of population to land, which would be compatible with the greatest Possible protection at the least possible cost. By robbing the majority of their right of land in the country, and by taxing their industry to make the land-robbery profitable, we drive that landless majority into cities. which depopulates the country and over-populates the cities; till the cities become crowded full of cess-pools of pauperism, prostitution, misery, disease, and crime, while the country is comparatively a Wilderness, where isolation and Ignorance must prevail, from the want of that mental communion in which each receives and gives the greatest benefit to all; or why do farmers send their children to be educated in cities, where, unfortunately, they learn as much sensualism as science, and more intemperance than industry? And necessarily so, from the sickly hot-house life of cities, which dwarfs the bodies and limbs of children, Just as the bodies and limbs of hot-house plants are dwarfed instead of developed; and as hot-house plants prematurely bloom and perish and become unfit for healthy reproduction, so it is with our girl and boy fathers and mothers, whose children seldom see many summers. Is not this Nature's just penalty for the sin of land robbery in the country, thus causing the hot-house life of cities, and giving us a doctor tax, frequently greater than the cost of government, besides populating our cemeteries and bereaving our homes; giving sad evidence of errors seldom thought of or reflected on, and still more seldom practically heeded? Look at the landlord tax growing out of the same cause of land monopoly; people generally think of it about rent days, but rarely of the cause or remedy. Who can estimate the rental of the nation, or even of Racine city, every dollar of which is caused by land monopoly, except the rent for wear, risk, and insurance, which is the only natural rent, so that, were it not for land monopoly, everyone might soon become his own landlord?
     Farmers, do you ever think that when lots are rising in cities, rents are rising also, which you, as consumers, must pay when you buy your goods? Merchants, do you reflect that when land rises in the country from 10s. to 10 or 100 dollars per acre, you also pay the rent or interest of that land, in proportion to its price, on all the produce that you consume? Manufacturers, mechanics, and labourers, do you know that you must pay the high rents of store" as well as dwellings, and the high prices, interest, or rents of farm lands also, on all the farm produce and manufactures which you consume? And do we all understand that labour as one inevitably pays the whole? Yes, the mechanical contrivers for productive industry (not war), the manufacturers, merchants, and mechanics, the farmers and labourers, pay the whole expenses of extortionate governments, landlords, doctors, lawyers and legislators, kings, lords, popes, bishops, cardinals, priests and princes, pirates, paupers, prostitutes, gamblers, thieves, loafers, and the standing army and navy to boot.
     Then comes the question how to reduce the government to the least cost with the greatest security and most certain means of living for all.
     Wherever a population is very dense, as in cities, the moral influence is least, while the cost of government is greatest. Take New York City, which costs ten dollars per head, while Racine, with the estimate of thirty-six thousand dollars for 1859, will be four and a half dollars per head, counting eight thousand as the population in round numbers.
     Public opinion is greatest for the moral restraint of evil and promotion of good, where each knows all, and is known by all for the greatest number and distance; and the towns and villages approach the nearest this condition.
     But the cost of roads and schools is large in a thinly settled district, because there are few road makers in proportion to the roads required, and few children and far apart in the school districts. But if the land tax would abolish land monopoly, and make the means of living honestly the most easy and certain for all, and make it unprofitable to keep land idle, then people would settle near each other for convenience, comfort, society and profit; and farmers would not need to send their children to cities for education. In fact, few cities comparatively would exist, with free and cheap land in the country: and I do not think that town and village government now costs over a dollar per head, so that, besides saving a million dollars weekly by the general government, we should save millions weekly by city government, by saving health and morals, by rents, interest and usury, by diminishing pauperism, prostitution, disease, and crime, and the high price of land, which inevitably grows out of our taxing our labour and improvements for the profit of the land monopolist alone.
To: Burgess Letters

Hovedside: Grundskyld - Henry George
Henry George
Andre Skribenter
Hvem er jeg

Summary of pages in English: Land and taxation
March 2009