The Edwin Burgess 

Letters on Taxation



LETTER IX.
In considering the best means of promoting the production and distribution of wealth, we are naturally led to consider the advantages of home markets and manufactures, and how we can best encourage them without violating the right of free commerce, or putting any unnecessary tax upon any portion of the community. For this purpose I propose the Land Tax exclusively, and the repeal of all laws for the collection of debts contracted after the passage of the repal.
     Mr. Cobb says, in his report as Secretary of the Treasury, for 1857, that the theory of a protective tariff is, that it must be high enough to prevent importation or diminish it, or the home manufacturer will not be benefited; and if I the tariff is high enough to exclude foreign imports, then we get no revenue, but every dollar Which the manufacturer gains the consumer loses, and as the consumer must ~ay more for his goods he must buy less. But the remedy which I he proposes is, what he calls a remunerative tariff, so that while the consumer buys his goods cheap, he at the same I time pays the expenses of Government. Now I think I can show a much clearer case with the land tax for revenue than any remunerative or protective tariff whatever; for, while all the taxes are on the land, not only does the land tax defray all the cost of government, and diminish the cost of government, but the land sells for the lowest price also, instead of the highest, thus keeping the land Within the means of all, or at least he great majority of the people; so that we can have the greatest number of land owning producers of food, who having no rent to pay, can supply us with cheaper food minus the rent, or divide what was hitherto paid in rent between the producer and the consumer. And with land at the lowest price. rents would be the lowest also, and ultimately cease; so that the rent hitherto paid by mechanics, labourers, merchants, and manufacturers, would then be divided between the maker, the seller, and the consumer.
     For, with all the taxes on the land, it would not pay to keep it idle, therefore speculation in land would soon cease and be transferred to untaxed manufactures or labour, which would increase the demand and raise the wages of labour and reduce the profits of capital and speculation; and at the same time we should create and sustain the most permanent and profitable home market for produce and manufactures, and settle for ever that oft-mooted question of political economists, how to realize the utmost economy in the production and distribution of wealth; and in this way it could be done with the least possible cost of government and with the protection of free commerce and free land instead of the violation of both.
     Then, when food becomes cheap in the country, from cheap land and no tax on improvements, mechanics, manufacturers, and merchants can go Where food is cheapest whenever it will pay better than having the food transported to them, as they will then have the increased means, which were hitherto paid in rents, with which to ravel. And when farmers desire to settle near factories for the benefit of market and exchange, they may be sure the land will never be high nor manufactures either; because the tax is on the land, and not on the manufactures, which keeps the landlord's rent, and the speculator's profit from the land, and the robber tariff from the manufactures also.
     But when all the revenue is raised by a tariff on commerce, the land being comparatively exempt from taxes, sells for a higher price ; then we have fewer landholding producers and more land speculators and landlords, and thus the high tariff on manufactures tends to destroy that very home market which it was intended to create, by reducing the number of landowning producers, who are inevitably the best customers of the manufacturers and mechanics, and by which their means of living is rendered the most certain instead of the most precarious. So that the tariff, high or low, for protection or revenue, proportionately diminishes the home market for manufactures, while it robs us of our right of free commerce, increases vastly the cost of government, and pauperises and debases the community!
     In England the landowners and farmers claim protection against the cheap food of other countries to sustain their high rents and high prices of land and food; there the 25 lords have thousands of acres each in parks, pleasure grounds, and game preserves, while the landless are comparatively destitute, and their means of living exceedingly precarious; there land monopoly flourishes amazingly; there, in 1824, the land tax was only £1,183,00, while the tax on labour, or its product, was £49,432,000; there the land-monopolists, the descendants of the Norman pirates, have been the law-makers and tax-makers, and have for their exclusive interest put nearly all the taxes on labour; there, for a small commutation, they can now redeem the land from nearly all the little tax that is left on it forever, if the government of the landocracy should last so long, and the valuation of the land for the redemption of the tax is n01: its present valuation, but the small valuation at the time the law was made. Obedience to wrong is treason to justice and to man.
     Land is frequently advertised for sale in England, "land tax and tithe redeemed,'" for these tithes are commuted for in the same manner, and there God is still professedly worshipped by priests sustained by public plunder; there the protection demanded is more against cheap food than cheap manufactures. What an idea, protection against cheap food, against the fertility of the earth and the freedom to eat of it! But what is the remedy? I say put all the taxes on the land, and repeal your stamp duties, your duties on imports, your inquisitorial excise laws, your robbing legacy duties, which tax nothing for the inheritance of land, because the land monopolists made the laws. Put all the taxes on the land, and then the landlord's rent will pay the cost of government, and keep the land at the lowest price forever; then cultivation, production, and plenty, will prevail, and much of the manufactures which you are now exporting will be needed at home; your home market will be vastly increased, you will be prosperous and permanent customers to each other, your poor laws will be diminished, your credit will not be needed; then poverty, beggary, and a land robbing aristocracy, and a tithe-eating Church and State priesthood will soon be among the things that were.
     Then free trade, by removing the necessity for standing armies and navies, would open the reign of peace on earth and good will to all mankind; then arts, industry, commerce, and morals, would progress with accelerated force; our whole attention and energies would be devoted to the promotion of human good, the supplying permanently and bountifully our wants, and elevating our condition physically, mentally, morally, and socially; all nations would become as one family, in which a wrong done to one would be resented by all. The universal brotherhood of man would be realised, and the earth in its fruitfulness, bloom, and beauty would become the Eden home of the free, the noble, and the good.
To: Burgess Letters

Hovedside: Grundskyld - Henry George
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Summary of pages in English: Land and taxation
  
March 2009