On the 20th of August last "S, S." replied
to my letters on an exclusive land tax for revenue under the head of "Taxation
Reconsidered." He thinks it wrong that the farmers who, he says, "make
the least cost of Government" should pay in proportion to the land, which
they own. 'I think if the farmers do make the least cost of Government
it is because they enjoy their right of land, and are less exposed to the
destitution, privation, and temptations of the landless; and this is one
of the reasons why I put all taxes on the land, that none might monopolize
the land which should belong to others, to support themselves, and thus
diminish crime and the cost of Government, and create the best home market
for our home manufacturers. For when the land is free and priceless, as
it would be without law, or as the land tax would make it, then the people
can either farm or manufacture, whichever will pay better than the other,
but with the high price of land caused by the labour tax, the landless and
moneyless have IlI0 choice but to labour for others if they can get the
work, or beg, steal or starve. So that it is not the honest and thrifty,
but the lazy and greedy farmers and land monopolists, who own vast quantities
of land and cultivate but little, who make paupers, drunkards, and criminals
of the landless, which "S. S." charges on the citizens and would fain make
the citizens support all the drunkards, paupers, and criminals whom the land
monopolists have made. Why, he might as well buy up and monopolize the breasts
of the mother, and then blame the babe for crying for its food, for the land
is to mankind what the breast is to the babe, the source of subsistence.
I believe that
no one has a moral right to land because he has bought it, and paid for
it, any more than the slaveholder has a moral right to the man, woman,
or child he has bought and paid for; because no one can have a moral right
to sell the land which belongs equally to all, or the man, woman, and child
whose persons, liberty, and labour belong to themselves.
Does not "S.
S." know that the land contains all the food of mankind, and that the
landowners would charge the tax on the food they sold, just as the importer
charges the duty, which he advances on the goods which he imports? And thus
the land tax would be the most equal Possible and the least costly and corruptive
also; for when the taxes are on imported goods, only those who buy the goods
pay the tax. Thus, the North buying three-fourths of the imported goods
pays one-half of the taxes of the South, and when the taxes are on personal
property, the most industrious and saving pay while the idle and extravagant
escape. And when the personal property consists of imported goods, which
have paid one tax on importation, they will be taxed again in the hands
of the wholesale and retail merchants for state, county, town, and city
purposes, while the land pays taxes only for local purposes and not for
the general government, and the product of labour is frequently first
taxed as raw material and afterwards as manufactured goods.
Then, look at
the folly of taxing hundreds of different things, when the land tax reaches
everything and destroys land monopoly as well, because every dollar of
the millions will then be expended in the produce f the land, raw or manufactured,
and thus do all pay taxes in the most equal manner possible and at the
least possible cost, whereas when you tax hundreds of different things
you make hundreds of times more cost, labour, and difficulty to raise "revenue,"
while you give a premium on war, smuggling, piracy, robbery and murder,
perjury and fraud, thus morally degrading mankind. "S. S." prints the word
"tailor" in capitals-I suppose to remind me of my business. I am really
proud of its usefulness. But does he suppose that telling me what I was will
alter the truth of what I say, or be a sufficient reply to my arguments?
"S. S" says
that the land tax would cheapen food and raise manufactures, but, as I said
before, the enterprising would equalize the value of their labour by working
at whatever pays best which they cannot do without the use of the land.
"S. S." says
the whole system of balances and averages would be changed, and this to
the detriment any pecuniary ruin of the present and future farmers. Now,
the farmers, as well as mechanics, could change their occupation if they
found manufacturing more profitable, and much more easily than at present,
because the land for the factory would cost probably nothing, and there would
be no inquisitorial, pauperizing "labour tax" on manufactures to prevent
them, so that it would be easier to commence farming because the land would
cost less, and every implement and machine needed for cultivation would cost
less also, and there would be no tax on the stock of the farmer or manufacturer,
or on the improvements of either, so that the changes in values would be
good for farming and manufacturing, and no "ruin" could result to present
or future farmers or manufacturers from the land tax, but permanent prosperity
"S. S." charges
me with "class legislation, and professedly, designedly, unequal taxation."
My conscience and, 1 think, my life denies it. But do we not judge others
much by our own moral condition? What facts are referred to show my dishonesty?
Rogue often cries Rogue to avoid suspicion and cast it on the innocent.
The least truthful and honest have the least reason to suppose truth and
honesty in others. "Judge not lest ye be judged." I think "S. S." professes
to believe good of us all.
What the argument
of the French nobles or lords was I know not, but the English nobles
put nearly fifty millions of taxes annually on the labour and less than
two millions of taxes on the land-this enables the nobles to own most
at the land. There humanity must starve to keep parks, pleasure grounds,
game preserves, moors, etc., for the splendour of the nobility and aristocracy,
while the landless must manufacture, beg, steal, or starve, and rely on
foreign countries for their food. And this is what I would fain prevent
in America and every country and nation of the world, and I proposed and
advocated the land tax for that purpose.
"If skilless I've performed my part,
The error lies not in my heart,
My head's alone to blame."
"S. S." would
claim that taxing all property has destroyed the aristocracy of France,
which exists, to a great extent, though much less than in England. The
following figuring may tell why:
Taxes on land.
On industrial produce
England £ 183,000
The above I
copied from an English paper about the year 1849. In all the above countries
except England, more than half the taxes are on the land, and the riches
of the aristocracy are just in proportion as the land is exempt from taxes.
"S. S." says:
"If the great burden of the land tax causes one to sell out, the same
cause will prevent others buying." I contend that the taxes will be much
less, and consequently less burdensome, because, the land being priceless,
any persons, or, at least, many, could till the lands for themselves,
whom we now keep as paupers and crim¡nals. This would diminish the
cost of government (or taxes), which will be less burdensome in proportion
to the cheapness of land, and only the land kept idle or badly cultivated
would be obliged to be sold because it would not pay the tax. And none
can rightly keep land idle and make others suffer for their indolence,
else, if one man could buy all the land he might keep all of it idle except
enough to support himself, and starve everyone else to death.
"S. S." says:
"At the low price of produce resulting from an increase of producers
and a decrease of consumers, the farmer cannot sustain himself and pay
his increased and increasing tax." This is the old fallacy of supposing
that cheap land would compel people to farm while manufacturing paid better.
"S. S." says:
"But supposing the prices remain relatively the same, what better is'
he off by paying a large tax to a government than paying the same amount
in rent to a landlord?" I reply: Not only would the taxes be diminished
by all the cost of the revenue service, but by that of every pauper and
criminal who ceased to be landless, because of the free or cheap land,
also by that of every pauper and criminal who found labour in manufacturing
for the increased supply of the produce of the land, while the very rent
to which "S. S." refers would be saved also by any houses that were placed
on the free or cheap land by their owners, and all interest and usury would
cese also, as all could easily own their own homes and make all the capital
they needed. Then bankers, brokers, and usurers would soon die out from
the universal prosperity of man¡ kind.
"S. S." complains
that the land tax would change the actual and relative value of land.
The actual value is its productive power, which it would not change except
by encouraging its use and making its idleness unprofitable. Its relative
or money value might be changed by the Homestead Bill, which "S. S." might
charge with destroying the hard-earned property of millions of monopolists
by giving their birthright to millions of mankind. Let us remember that
when we trade in the rights of others in buying risk, and not at the cost
of the innocent or the wronged.
"S. S." says:
"No man can have any more right to the soil another has bought than to
the food that others have raised from it, or to the clothing or other
products that he has earned by its cultivation." "S. S." still fails to
distinguish between the land, which naturally and morally belongs to all,
and the produce of the land, which naturally belongs to the producer. Suppose
one man or many could buy all the land, who has the right to sell it? Would
the buyers have the right to starve all the rest of mankind, and entail
the land to their children with the eternal power of starving all other children?
I think not, and therefore think the right of land is as inalienable as our
existence, and that everyone who buys the land of others ought to lose
it, just as the slaveholder who buys a man, woman, or child ought to lose
what he paid for his covetous villainy.
"S. S." says:
"When there is no other soil which he may acquire, and to which he may
go, and no other food which he may procure, then he may assert a claim
which It will be the duty of others to heed." Now, as "no one can rightly
make others suffer for what he enjoys," so no one can rightly own land to
the injury of others-to drive them out of any country or neighborhood. And
this is it is the duty of all speculators to heed, now and forever. And to
make it the interest of the land monopolist to let such land alone, and to
prevent the taxes on the product of labour which prevent production and employment
and to make it as easy as possible to commence and continue farming and
manufacturing, and consequently to follow whichever will pay the best,
are my principal reasons for advocating the land tax exclusively, and my
continued examination only strengthens my conviction that I am right in
theory as in practice.