The Edwin Burgess Letters on Taxation



LETTER II.
TAXATION CONSIDERED.
In my last, I endeavoured to show that "Taxing Personal Property" is corruptive and costly, and promotive of land monopoly, pauperism, and crime. I will now consider a few more of its evils.
     7th. Taxing personal property promotes the monopoly of capital (as well as land), because whenever labour can be bought for a small portion of its produce, the larger portion (or the unpaid labour) is owned by the capitalist in the name of profit, with which he can starve the landless workers into worse terms, as long as they continue landless, in proportion to their numbers and necessities.
     8th. Taxing personal property, by preventing production and promoting the monopoly of land and its products, makes the means of living the most precarious, especially for the landless, because there is less produced in proportion to the wants of the community; and as the land is high and labour low (from the taxes on industry and competition of the landless), it is proportionally beyond the means of the cheaply-paid labourer to purchase the land, or even to rent it; and when the means of living are the most precarious, the greatest anxiety is suffered by the landless, and the continuance of that anxiety causes nervousness, sleeplessness, misery, and insanity, which is transmitted to the offspring with increased force, and thus is insanity made hereditary.
     9th. Taxing personal property promotes intemperance by making labour so cheap that the labourer must toil excessively for a living, thus causing bodily exhaustion as well as mental anxiety to the landless workers, and indolence also on the part of those who live on the labour of others. Those whose bodies are exhausted by excessive toil, and whose minds are suffering from mental anxiety, crave stimulants to recruit the body and make the mind forget its care; while those who live in idleness on others' toil, crave stimulants to quicken the circulation which should be sustained by honest, temperate toil, carrying with it the moral satisfaction, that for all they enjoy no one suffers. Then, and not till then, will the good be transmitted to the offspring, instead of the evil, as now.
     Do we not find the most intemperance and insanity among those whose means of living are the most precarious? Look to the gold regions among miners; when they are fortunate, many will drink for joy, and when unfortunate, many will drink to drown their disappointment.
     I was told recently that California has a beautiful climate, but that it produced much insanity. I asked if the insanity was not caused by the uncertainty of the means of living instead of the climate; for there is much gambling there also, and among gamblers the means of living are still more precarious, and the moral perception and sympathy still lower; and there we find more intemperance, insanity, and suicide, and these qualities being transmitted, must bear fruit accordingly.
     10th. Taxing personal property by making land dear and labour cheap, promotes prostitution and disease to a fearful extent. Is not woman more sensitive and weaker physically than man, and when she can get no just reward for her labour, and frequently no right to labour, need we wonder that she sells herself legally or illegally for the means of living? Are not the high price of land, and the low price of labour, or the no right of land and consequently no right of labour, the main cause? Is not the right of land denied to man and woman and given to money and its owners, as though money had more right to land than man or woman? And thus is woman driven by injustice, poverty, and misery, into temptation, and prayed out occasionally in revivals.
     Pray folks out of temptation, while driving them in,
     Is the usual way to atone for the sin;
     To fight the effect, while feeding the cause,
     You will find the foundation of most of our laws.
     11th. Taxing personal property is the main cause of rent, interest, and usury; for rent of land is but interest on the price, so that when the land is high the rent will be in proportion, and all the wages of the landless are required for their support; they cannot buy land or build houses, or have capital for business, but must pay rent or interest for all. Usury is but interest or rent of money, more than the law allows, which is sustained by the extremes of rich and poor, caused by land monopoly and its causes.
     Let us not flatter ourselves that we are innocent of the effects, while we are sustaining the cause by our votes, advocacy, and laws. Do we really want permanent prosperity, and the interest of all to be honest and live on their own labour instead of speculating on the unpaid labour of others? Do we desire purity and truth instead of corruption and perjury to prevail? Then repeal all taxes on industry, and let the monopolists of land, the source of our living and the rightful inheritance of all, pay taxes in proportion to the value of what they monopolise, then poverty, prostitution, and intemperance, will soon be among the things that were.
To: Burgess Letters

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Summary of pages in English: Land and taxation
  
March 2009