BY ALFRED R. WALLACE.
THE following paper, which the Author has kindly permitted us to add to our
series of tracts, is an interesting and valuable contribution to the literature
of Land Nationalisation. The writer is himself a considerable landholder
in Tasmania, and it says much for his independence of thought and freedom
from prejudice that he has arrived at conclusions, which are practically
identical with ours as to the evil results of private property in land.
Tasmania is by nature one of the most favoured countries
in the world. It possesses a delightful climate free from the extreme heats
and long droughts of Australia; its soil is fertile, its forests are magnificent,
its streams numerous and overflowing; all the products of the temperate zone
flourish there, while for fruits of every kind it is unsurpassed; it has
excellent roads, with railroads and navigable rivers; its population is small,
and a large proportion of the land still remains uncultivated; yet instead
of universal happiness and well-being we find the inevitable complaint, (as
with us,) of trade depressed, capital unemployed, farming unprofitable, and
labourers out of work!
The Author shows us clearly the cause of this state
of things, and what is still more important, he explodes one of the commonest
fallacies of our opponents–that large farms lead to better cultivation and
higher production than small farms or peasant holdings. This part of his
work is especially valuable, because he shows, as the results of observation
and owing to the inevitable working of the law of self-interest, that the
large owner or large tenant will often cultivate his land badly, or even
leave much of it uncultivated, because he obtains the largest net return
by doing so. The peasant farmer, on the other hand, working a small area
by the help of his own family finds his profit in high culture and the maximum
of production from the land. By the former system one man gets a large profit
but small proportionate produce by employing say ten men on a large area
of land; by the latter system twice that number of men work for themselves
on the same area, produce double the amount of crops and stock, and live,
all of them, in independence, and in that healthy enjoyment of life which
a man obtains when he works freely upon the soil and knows that the whole
produce of his labour is his own.
These points, and many others of equal interest
are so well discussed and illustrated by the Author, that I strongly recommend
the study of his paper to all who are interested in the greatest problem
of the day–how to abolish pauperism by enabling every working man to obtain
some portion of his food directly from his native soil.
A COLONIST'S PLEA FOR
THE UNEARNED INCREMENT: ITS NATURE.
Let us begin by taking the increment in its simplest and clearest form.
Suppose I buy Government land at £1 per acre,
and quietly holding on while roads are being pushed forward, settlement extending
and land values rising, refuse offer after offer till the price reaches £2,
when I sell out. Of these £2, one I have acquired by direct purchase;
£1 worth of money for £1 worth of land; but the other I have
done nothing to acquire.
It is not interest on the purchase-money, for interest
is payment for the use of capital, and comes out of the use. Who would expect
interest on money tied up in an old rag? There has been no use here.
It is not compensation for risk, for the land could
not disappear or deteriorate, and was sure to be wanted.
It may be quite right for all that, that I should
have it. That is not the point at present. The point at present is simply
to explain the term, and to show not only what it directly means, but what
it indirectly implies, for it implies a great deal–much more than most people
have any idea of.
I have neither done anything to create this increase
of value nor rendered any service in return for it. If a sovereign were suddenly
to drop into my pocket from the sky, it would not be more completely unearned.
But it has not only been unearned. If that were
all, it would be no great matter. If, like the sovereign, it had dropped
from the sky, then, though I might be undeservedly the richer, nobody else
would be the poorer. My gain would be a clear addition to the sum total of
human wealth, out of which others besides myself would in one way or another
derive benefit; and, whether or no, whatever benefits one without injuring
another is fair subject for congratulation.
But it has not only been unearned; it has been drawn from the earnings of
others. My gain is others' loss.
If I sell goods or perform work for another, then
no matter how high I may charge for the goods or the work, I am rendering
goods for goods, service for service, earnings for earnings. What I offer
is my labour, or the fruits of it, and as the public are free to get the
same goods or services elsewhere if any terms don't suit, or to go without
them, the fact of their accepting my terms shows that the thing I offer is,
under the circumstances, worth the money.
But in the case of this unearned increment on land
there is no pretence of any exchange. I offer for it neither labour nor the
produce of labour. All I do is to place my hand on a certain portion of the
earth's surface, and say, "No one shall use this without paying me for the
mere permission to use it." I am rendering no more service in return for
this extra pound, either to the purchaser or to society, than if I had acquired
exclusive title to the air, and charged people for permission to breathe.
And, if instead of selling my land for an additional pound I let it at a
proportionately additional rent the principle would be the same.
The increase of value in my land has arisen from
the execution of public works and increase of population, causing an increased
demand for the land; in other words, it has arisen from the additional progress;
and I, so far from aiding in this progress have actually hindered it, by
keeping my property locked up and so forcing on intending producers to inferior
or less accessible lands; and by holding so much land back have helped to
make land so much scarcer, and, therefore, so much dearer, and so have helped
to increase the tribute which industry has to pay to monopoly for the mere
privilege of exerting itself.
I have employed my land not as an instrument of
production, but as a means of extortion. I have bought it, not to use but
to prevent other people from using it without my purchased leave; not to
earn anything by it but to obtain the power of demanding the earnings of
Suppose certain parties, knowing that a road would
shortly be made into a particular region, bought from Government the privilege
of placing bars across the road (when made) and forbidding anybody to pass
until he had paid toll; toll not (as under the old State tolls) to pay for
the maintenance of the road, but toll for the mere permission to pass along
the road. Every one would recognise that this toll was pure blackmail and
not earnings, and the obstructers mere parasites licensed to prey upon the
public. But where is the difference between blocking the road and blocking
the land that the road leads to? Where is the difference between levying
blackmail on the transport of goods and levying it on their production?
But it will be said, "It was with real earnings
that I bought the right to demand this payment."
True. But the point is that whether I bought it
or stole it, the thing I have bought or stolen is the privilege of levying
blackmail upon industry; of demanding something and giving nothing in return;
of laying my hand on the earth's surface and saying to all and sundry, "Give
me of the produce of your labour or be off with you; so much a year if I
choose to let it; so much in a lump sum if I prefer to sell it." Whichever
of the two forms the demand assumes it is called by political economists
"rent," and by that name I shall henceforth call it, because that is the
accepted name, and because there is no other compact and handy term by which
to express it; but it is not to be confounded with rent in the legal and
commercial sense, which includes interest on the cost of improvements. The
rent I shall mean is economical rent only; the price charged I for the mere
use of the land as such, either without any improvements or apart from them:
I shall mean "ground rent" in short.
The fact that it was with real earnings that I bought
the land for which I charge rent does not make rent earnings. I may invest
earnings in buying a share in a pirate vessel (as a great writer puts it),
but the proceeds of piracy are not therefore earnings.
It is the nature of the business whereby I make
money, and not the manner in which I got into it that makes the difference
between earnings and appropriation.
Earnings mean taking payment for goods or service
rendered; appropriation means taking something and giving nothing in return;
no matter whether the taking be legal or illegal, or how I acquired the privilege
of taking. Anyone can recognise that it is one thing to charge for the fish
I caught in the sea, and quite another thing to charge for permission to
fish in the sea; one thing to charge for produce I have raised from the land,
and quite another thing to charge for permission to raise produce from land.
"Still I have the right to make this charge?"
I am not disputing that.
If Government, with the full consent of the governed,
issued licenses authorising to rob on the highway, the robbers, I suppose,
would be justified in acting on their privilege; but their gains, all the
same, would be appropriation and not earnings, no matter how high they paid
for their license or how honestly they came by the money to pay for it. And
if the public, disgusted with the system, demanded its immediate abolition,
the robbers would have a claim to compensation; but their compensation would
have to be assessed, not by the amount of plunder they had expected to make,
but by the fee they had paid for their license and the actual loss to which,
in one way or another, they had been put by the sudden abolition of a privilege
they had honestly paid for. –
But it will be said, "Rent is the result of a free
Is it? The Italian peasant who agrees to pay to
the brigand on the mountain so much a year in consideration of not being
robbed makes a contract, but is it a free contract?
If he refuses to pay it the brigand will take his
earnings; if the applicant for land refuses to pay rent the landlord will
refuse to let him make any earnings. Where is the great difference between
the two cases? There is a contract in each case, and the one is about as
free as the other.
In neither case is anything given in return for
the payment received, except permission to work unmolested in a particular
"But," it will be said, "in practice the rent of
an estate represents real earnings in the shape of improvements made, as
well as mere permission to use the land, and how can you separate the two
Not only is it quite possible to separate them,
but the thing is often done. In London, for instance, the ground rent and
the rent for the house often belong to quite different persons. In Ulster,
again, the retiring tenant receives the value of his improvements while the
landlord keeps the value of the land. And in America, I am told, the land
and the improvements are assessed separately and taxed separately.
But all this has really nothing to do with the subject
in hand. My concern at present is simply to explain the nature of the unearned
Whether the value of land and the value of the improvements
can be separated or not, they are quite distinct elements, just as in a glass
of grog, the brandy is brandy and the water water, each with its own distinctive
properties and effects, notwithstanding their indistinguishable commixture;
and he therefore who lets land levies blackmail upon industry by charging
for something which represents no service at all, none the less that at the
same time he charges for something else that does represent service.
No doubt there are many other things besides land
in which a monopoly of the article will enable the possessor to levy something
resembling blackmail; but there are points of difference that distinguish
them all from the pure and simple appropriation of land monopoly.
The first is that none of them excludes other people
from making a living or from making earnings to any extent by other means
than the article monopolised.
If by a day's labour or by pure accident I find
a diamond, I may ask a price entirely disproportionate to the value of my
labour; but then the public need not buy my diamond unless they like. My
finding a diamond does not prevent other people from looking for diamonds
with as much chance of finding them as I had, and if they don't think they
are likely to find any by looking for them they can go without, and be none
But every piece of land appropriated shuts out so
many other people from that land, and as all the land (practically speaking)
is appropriated, or in one way or another out of reach of the masses, they
are at the mercy of the landholders, and have no choice but either to rent
it from them as tenants or work for them as labourers on the hardest terms
to which competition can drive them; which means that the landowner has the
power of appropriating the greater part of their earnings in return for the
mere permission to them to earn anything.
Or suppose that, instead of finding a diamond, I
buy tin, and that next week the price goes up to double–here there is an
additional distinction between my gains and the land speculator's; for not
only are the public under no compulsion to buy tin (while they are to rent
land), and not only does tin represent the results of labour, and so represent
earnings (which land does not), but the magnitude of my gain in most cases
represents compensation for great risk.
The earnings of farmers and of miners may average
the same, but the farmers' average is made up of pretty equal profits all
round, while the miners' average is made up of a few big prizes and many
blanks. And what applies to the miner applies also to the speculator in mining
products. His occasional large profits represent compensation for great risks,
and is thus as much of the nature of insurance as of profit. No one would
think of either mining or speculating in mining products unless the many
blanks were compensated by occasional large prizes. They are the necessary
inducements to engage in those callings, and therefore fair earnings when
they come. Land, however, is not a speculation in this sense (though even
if it were, its profits would still be appropriation and not earnings for
reasons already given); it is a sure investment in the sense that it is subject
to no extraordinary risks: to no more risks, that is, than such as are inseparable
from all human enterprise, even the safest.
The value of land, as of everything else, will oscillate
within certain limits, and even in some exceptional cases, as in the sudden
diversion of traffic, fall for an indefinitely prolonged period; but these
occasional or exceptional perturbations are but as the advance and recession
of the waves in a flowing tide. The tide still comes in.
In every country, which has any enterprise and progress,
land values must rise. The movement may be fast or slow, continuous or interrupted,
but it is up not down.
There is not a single factor in a nation's progress
that does not add to the value of land. Every road improved and railway laid
down; every machine invented and process perfected; every opening of new
markets; every improvement in fiscal policy, in order and good Government,
in the knowledge and skill, in the morals, manners, and even numbers of the
people, every conceivable element, in short, that adds to the productiveness
of industry adds to the value of land, and increases the tribute which monopoly
can wring from industry; which the man who merely owns the land can exact
from him who uses it for the mere permission to use it.
This is why the gradual rise of land value or rent
(ground rent only, remember), is called the unearned increment. So far for
its nature. Our next consideration will be its magnitude.
THE UNEARNED INCREMENT: ITS MAGNITUDE.
Under the system prevailing all over the civilised world every country is
cut up into square pieces, and appropriated by a (comparatively) few owners.
What these owners do with the land is a matter the
State concerns itself very little about. Whether they occupy and use it themselves,
or let it to a tenant and live in idleness on the fruits of his labour; whether
they cultivate It like a garden, making it yield abundant wealth and maintain
hundreds of families, or leave it in a state of nature to carry sheep, excluding
the whole rising tide of population from the opportunity of developing its
boundless resources because the sheep pay them rather better; whether they
open out the mineral treasures hidden in its depths or lock them up by demanding
such exorbitant royalties that enterprise either will not attempt the work,
or attempts and fails; whether they construct factories and build cities
upon it, or turn out the whole population and burn down their dwellings (as
in the Scottish Highlands) because a foreign millionaire offers them a higher
price for the privilege of turning it into a wilderness to shoot deer in
than the children of the soil can give for the mere privilege of earning
a living; all these things the State regards as matters of quite secondary
consideration with which it is not called upon to interpose, because that
would be interfering with the "sacred rights" of property.
The one thing it does concern itself energetically
about is to establish these "sacred rights" as fast as possible and in all
directions, and ensure that every acre shall have its blackmailer privileged
to exclude everybody else from the land he has acquired possession of, and
to forbid access to all industry except on payment of the heaviest toll which
the keenest competition can compel.
The whole country (that is the whole country worth
occupying at any given moment) being thus apportioned amongst these privileged
few, they are masters of the situation. The first thing a man requires is
room to stand in; and there is no unappropriated room available for the purpose.
If he stands on private land he is liable to an action for trespass. If he
goes out into the street, the policeman may order him to move on. When night
comes on, matters are worse. If he sleeps on somebody's premises he can be
apprehended for being on the premises for an unlawful purpose. If he sleeps
in the bush he may be locked up as a vagrant without any visible means of
support. The State insists that he shall pay blackmail to somebody; not payment
for service of any sort rendered, but payment for the mere permission to
Land is the basis of all industry.
All Industry consists either–
1. In extracting the raw materials of wealth from
the land; or
2. In working up, shifting about, or distributing
these materials, or in aiding in one way or another some of these processes.
We shall call the one class primary and the other
Farming and mining are the chief examples of the
primaries. As to the secondaries, they are legion; and not only are all the
materials these last have to operate upon drawn from the land, but so are
the tools they work with as well as the food the workmen consume.
It is clear that the extent of the secondary industries
will be strictly limited by the primaries; that is, there can be no more
persons engaged in working up, shifting about and distributing materials
than there are materials (extracted from the land) for them to work up, shift
about and distribute–and not only is the extent of the secondaries determined
by the extent of the primaries, but so also are the profits in the secondaries
determined by the profits in the primaries.
Materials must be extracted (or produced) from the
land before they can be put to any further use, and men will not leave this
necessary preliminary work to take to the secondary work unless they can
make as much by the new industry as they could by the old; and they cannot
hope to make more, because, if they did, the opening in the secondary industries
being strictly limited, competitors would at once flock in and bring their
If profits in the primary industries are high, that
is, if the land yields abundantly, and no one steps in to appropriate the
fruits, profits in the secondaries will be high too, for otherwise people
would leave the secondaries and betake themselves to the land.
If, on the other hand, profits in the primaries
are low–that is, if either nature is niggardly or someone (the land- lord
for instance) appropriates the fruits, profits in the secondaries will be
low too; for otherwise people would leave the land and crowd into the secondaries
till they brought profits down.
Now, if all the land is held by a comparatively
few people (as is the case), then since the land is the basis of all industry,
there will be keen competition for it–a competition becoming keener year
by year as the competitors multiply and wealth increases, the result of which
competition will be that the man of average means and capacity will have
to give the very highest price for the land that he will consent to give,
rather than go without it, and this highest price will be determined, not
by the amount that it takes out of his pocket, but by the amount it leaves
Here, for instance, are three farms of differing
fertility estimated to yield to the customary system of farming, £200,
£300, and £400 net profit respectively. Then, if the first of
these fetches, after a pretty close competition £100 a year, this shows
that no bidder will give more than will leave him £100 to himself,
but that the competition of the others will not allow him to retain more;
in other words, that £100 is the lowest he will consent to keep, and
the highest he will be allowed to keep, so that £100 a year is the
average profit of farming amongst farmers of that class and means. But since
he cannot hope to keep more than £100 it does not matter to him what
the surplus may be which he is compelled to give up to his landlord; consequently
the other two farms will fetch respectively £200 and £300. Of
course it is the rate of profit, and not the actual profit of which we are
speaking of. The £100 is only quoted as an example. Amongst one class
of farmers the reserve will be higher, among another lower, according to
their means and the magnitude of their operations.
This is the theory, and it corresponds exactly with
the facts; for whether a farmer settles here or there, near a market or far
off, whether he pays £100 a year for an indifferent farm, £150
for a better, or £200 for a better still, he finds that except by some
lucky accident his profits as a farmer remain much the same; which shows
that his rent is determined, not by what he has to pay away, but by what
he is determined to keep; and this amount, this rate of profit, will, for
reasons already given, determine the rate of profit in all the secondary
industries, though they have no visible connection with the land at all.
To put it compactly, the profits of industry all
around are determined by the rent of land. That amount of profit which the
worker on the land can save from his landlord will be all that the worker
at any industry can hope to get, and it will represent that minimum margin
to which he will consent to be beaten down rather than go without the land.
What is the minimum margin?
The applicant for the land has a certain amount
of capital (otherwise he could not be an applicant), and for this he knows
he could get interest, and he also has the capacity to work. Consequently,
the least he will determine to keep will be what he could earn as a labourer,
plus the interest he could get on his capital. Actually (except in the case
of the poorest competitors for the smallest and worst farms) it will be something
rather more than this, for his capital, such as it is, gives him a certain
advantage in the position. He and his competitors being none of them in danger
of immediate want, and therefore not pressed by necessity, will have a tendency
to hold back in the bidding when it begins to run high, and to cling to something
more than the closeness of the competition might seem to demand; and the
larger his capital the greater will be his advantage, not only because of
his greater power and stronger inclination to hold out for better terms,
but also because the men of sufficient means to require a large farm, such
as he wants, and fewer in number, and the competition in every way less keen
and forced. Hence the smallest and worst farms are always the highest rented,
which is only another way of saying that the profits on them are smallest.
Still, be the farms large or small, competition
will always force rents up, and therefore profits down to the smallest return
the average applicant of his class will consent to accept rather than go
without the land.
Land, as we have said, is the basis of all industry, and agriculture is the
Everyone recognises this; and in view of the hard
struggle and hand-to-mouth existence of the farmer, all sorts of projects
are proposed to ameliorate his lot.
One party advocates protection, another the lightening
and equalising of taxation, another cheapness of labour by assisted immigration
(making the labourer the scapegoat), another pins its faith on railways,
and so on.
Of these proposals some are good, some bad; but
their effects, whichever way they tend, will not, except for the moment,
affect the farmers' profit one way or the other.
Let us suppose protection to be the true policy,
and raising the price of some particular article by a duty, say meat, see
what the result would be.
The rise of price in meat will produce two opposite
effects. It will immediately injure one class of farmers and benefit another.
Those who by reason of distance from market, unsuitability of their land
for grazing, or its still greater suitability for something else, do not
fatten stock, notwithstanding the rise in price (and these will be a very
large number), will suffer a distinct appreciable loss in increased household
expenses and increased cost of feeding their men, without any advantage to
set off; while those on the other hand, with land specially adapted for grazing,
who already made a profit by it will make a larger profit still; and those
on land passably suited for it, who formerly made their profit by something
else, may, perhaps, change their system, and make their profit by grazing
instead of by those other things.
But the point is, that after the first start neither
those who gain nor those who lose will be any the better or the worse off,
for their gain or loss, because at the first renewal of their lease they
will transfer the gain or loss to their landlords.
For so long as all the land of the country is in
the hands of a comparatively few, so that there are more farmers wanting
farms than there are farms for them to have, so long will competition force
land values up to their maximum, and rent will mean to the farmer the utmost
that he can see his way to giving for the land rather than go without it
and let another take his place. But for the very reason that competition
is thus already at its full stretch, it cannot be stretched any farther,
and those farmers whose narrow margin of profit is trenched on by their increased
expenses consequent on the rise in meat will insist on having that margin
restored, and they will be able to carry their point; for they were already
giving full value for their farms, and their farms (since they produce no
more and yet cost more to work) are now worth less, less not only to the
present occupants, but to any one else who might want to take their place;
therefore, the landlords cannot play off one against another, and so must
Conversely, where the profits on land already profitable
for grazing have been increased by the duty, those lands will have become
just so much more valuable and will fetch so much more rent.
So, if you made a railway to every farmer's door
you would simply make the land more valuable. Compare those districts that
have railways with those that have none. In the former you will see a greater
population: probably, more cultivation, certainly higher rents, but no higher
farm profits; for where the carcase is there will the eagles be gathered
together; where returns are high, thither will competitors flock. There may
be no actual bidding against each other among the applicants, but this is
only because the landlord will kindly take that trouble off their hands.
He will put up the rent as high as he thinks he can–too high at first perhaps–if
so his vacant farm will soon cause him to correct his error; but whatever
the process, the result will be the same.
So, if by assisted immigration, you reduce the cost
of labour by half, or if by mechanical inventions you enable the farmer to
do with half the number of men (which would come to much the same thing to
him) you would be simply reducing the cost of working the land and so increasing
the return to be got out of the land, and so increasing the value of land,
and so raising rents.
One after another labour-saving appliances have
been introduced within the last 20 years; double-furrow ploughs, reapers
and binders, horse rakes, steam threshers, without improving the condition
of the farmer in the least. Never have there been so many aids and appliances
to industry as there are now, and never has the struggle of the farmer been
So if you lightened taxation, or even abolished
it altogether, it would make no difference to the farmer, beyond the moment.
At present some leases stipulate that the landlord shall pay all rates; others
that the tenant shall pay them; others again that each shall pay half, but
it is all a mere adjustment of rent. The more taxes the less rent, and vice
If the farmer pays more rent it is because he has
to pay less taxes, and whether this is owing to the landlord paying them,
or to there being none to pay, makes not the least difference to the farmer.
So if nature herself instead of the mere instruments
of production were improved; if the soil were suddenly doubled in fertility;
if the Sun could be got to shine and the rain to fall exactly when and where
it was wanted; if all weeds and plagues were abolished, it would come to
the same thing, and for the same reasons.
The Press is continually preaching that the fault
of things all lies with the farmer. He should be more industrious or more
provident, he should know something about chemistry, he should buy the best
appliances, and use the most advanced methods. It is very good advice in
its way perhaps, but it does not touch the question in the least.
If you passed every farmer through a technical college,
if by a network of meteorological stations and commercial agencies you supplied
him every day with a forecast of the weather, and the state of the markets,
if you supplied him gratis with all the best machinery, if you trained him
in habits of industry and economy, foresight and skill, till you made him
as much superior to what he now is as a steam thresher is superior to a flail,
you would enormously increase his efficiency no doubt, but you would not
add one farthing to his profits. The whole benefit would go as before to
the landlord, and for the same reasons. You would not have eased the pressure
of competition, but only have put it into the power of every competitor to
offer more. Still as before, rent would mean the utmost the farmer could
be forced to bid for the land rather than go without it.
Granting that there are many things that swallow
up much of the surplus that would otherwise come to the farmer; heavy taxes,
injudicious laws, bad roads, scarce labour; all these matter nothing (as
a great writer says) so long as behind them stands something which swallows
all that is left. So long as that something stands waiting with open mouth,
abolishing any of these only leaves so much more for it to swallow.
Some people shrink from these conclusions saying,
"it is a hard doctrine" (as if truths could be dodged by shrinking from them.)
Others say that the remedy is the fixing of a fair
But what is meant by a fair rent?
If Brown objects to his present rent of £100,
saying it is too high, and should be reduced to £80, and yet Jones
is standing by prepared to give £100, why should the rent be reduced?
Why should Jones be forbidden to have what he is ready to give £100
for, in order that Brown should have it for £80? It is fair neither
to Jones nor to the landlord whatever it may be to Brown.
What would Brown think if Jones objected to pay
the 5s. for his wheat that he had agreed to pay, saying it ought to
be reduced to 4s., when Smith is standing by ready to give 5s.?
In the open market a "fair price" has no meaning.
Hudibras' saying still holds good that "The value of a thing is just as much
as it will bring."
There is a remedy for this evil, and a very simple
one, but it is not the fixing of a fair rent.
"But," it will be said, "all farmers are not tenants.
Many own the land they occupy." True; but all that this proves is, not that
the preceding remarks are incorrect, but that there is a certain class to
whom they do not apply. For the present we will let the exception go for
what it is worth. What I shall undertake to show by-and-bye is that it is
But we shall have to present one or two other considerations
at some length before we are prepared to deal fully with this. For the present
we will let it stand over, only remarking (to quote from a previous letter)
that in farming, tenants are the rule, occupying owners the exception, and
that the exceptions grow steadily fewer year by year. Not only in Tasmania,
but in all the other colonies, in the United States, and wherever, in short
land is recognised as absolute private property, the divorce between occupation
and ownership is proceeding apace, and the very institution which was designed
to secure to the producer the full fruits of his labour is becoming the means
by which he is compelled to surrender them to another.
THE REAL SUFFERER.
As the landlord by virtue of his monopoly of the land holds the applicant
for it at his mercy, so the applicant once in possession holds the labourer
at his mercy.
The competition was first for possession of the
land, it is now for employment on the land. The competition is in the one
case open and direct, in the other disguised and indirect.
Labourers do not usually underbid each other for
employment as tenants overbid each other for possession, but it comes to
much the same thing as if they did: The more numerous the labourers in proportion
to the work to be done the lower the wages, and vice versa.
If the landlords were to divide their land into
as many pieces of equal value as there were applicants for it, and were to
offer these pieces separately, there would be no competition to run rents
up, and the landlord would have to take what he could get for it–a merely
To make money by his monopoly he must keep up its
character as a monopoly; that is, he must offer his land in a single block,
so to speak, and so compel competition.
And just as the landlord forces rents up by offering
his whole land for one tenant's occupation, and so setting all to compete
for the privilege of being that one, so the occupier in his turn forces wages
down by employing as few labourers as he can, and so setting all to compete
for the privilege of being among those few. The secret of his power over
the labourer is the same as that of his landlord over him. It is not in his
capital as is generally supposed, but in his getting possession of more land
than he can use by his own personal labour, and preventing other people from
using it by their personal labour, except for his profit. The landlord makes
the occupier give him his money; the occupier makes the labourer give him
his work. In so far as the occupier can keep his wage expenditure below the
general level by doing the same work with fewer men, or paying them less
wages, he can retain the saving to himself; but in so far as he only succeeds
in keeping down the general cost of labour, he is only keeping down the recognised
cost of working the land, and so increasing the value of land, and so raising
rent; and the result of his efforts (as a rule), is only to keep down the
general level, for all are playing the same game, and any saving effected
by one is soon copied by all, and absorbed in a general reduced cost of production,
increasing the value of land and raising rent.
The productiveness of any industry–that is, the
amount it adds to the general wealth or to the material comforts and enjoyments
of the people–is measured by the difference in value between the thing produced
and the materials used up in producing it.
Thus, if a carpenter in a day makes a door worth
£1, using up 8s. worth of timber and nails in the process, the result
of his work has been to convert 8s. worth of rough timber into 20s. worth
of finished product, exhibiting as the measure of its productiveness a net
increase of 12s. How this increase is distributed and applied–whether, being
an independent artisan, the maker can keep it all to himself, or whether,
being a hired servant, he must be content with his day's pay, leaving the
surplus to his employer; whether he receives his share in advance or has
to wait for it; whether he consumes it or saves it up–all these make no difference
to the fact that the increase was 12s.
From which we can see that the maintenance of the
labourer forms no part of the real cost of production, but only of his share,
as distinguished from the employer's share, of the profit.
If he is working on his own account and not for
an employer everyone sees that all that he gets for his work is profit, and
his maintenance the use (or one of the uses) to which he puts that profit,
just as an employer's maintenance is the use (or one of the uses) to which
he puts his profit.
Or if the labourer, working for an employer, chooses
to fast till his employer has realised the product and paid him out of that
product the wages agreed upon, again everyone will see that they are not
cost but profit; the labourer's share and the employer's share being the
two parts into which the total profit is divided.
But if instead of working for himself or waiting
and fasting, he arranges to receive in advance from his employer the value
(or part of it) of that profit which he would have made if he had been working
for himself, or the value of the wages he would have received out of the
product if he had waited and fasted, still what he receives remains essentially
the same, the profit and not the cost of the work. It is only the time and
the manner of his receiving it that is changed; still as before, the proposition
holds good that wages (of which maintenance forms a part) is something to
be added to employer's profit, not set off against it, in the national account,
and that to reduce wages is not to increase the general profits of industry
but only to apportion a smaller part of it to the labourer who is worst off
and most in need of it, and so leave a larger part for the employer, the
landlord or some other person who is generally better off and less in need
An industry that does no more than provide bare
maintenance for a single man from day to day is to that extent a productive
industry, a gain and not a loss, though it provide neither rent to a landlord
nor profit to an employer.
An industry that provides not only for a man but
for a family is more productive still, a greater gain still, notwithstanding
that it represents increased consumption.
One that not only provides bare maintenance but
comforts and enjoyments as well is a still greater good, and gain to the
country, a cause for rejoicing not regret. And yet if labourers' maintenance
and wages are, as is generally thought, the cost and not the profit of industry,
all these earnings should be lamented as expense, and the greater the productiveness
of any such industry as we have supposed, the greater the loss to the country.
The proceeds of labour, generally speaking, are divided amongst three people,
the labourer, the employer, and the landlord. No one reckons the landlord's
or the employer's maintenance as part of the cost of production, and yet
they persist in reckoning the labourer's as such. Relatively, to the employer,
it may be, but absolutely, to the country it is not. However, this is but
a side issue, of small consequence to my main purpose, so we will pass on.
The employer always has to wait for his share till the product is realised,
while the labourer generally, and the landlord sometimes, receives his in
advance; and the employer sometimes makes a miscalculation and gives more
to the landlord in rent, or to the labourer in wages than a due regard to
his own profit would warrant; or the enterprise may miscarry, and there may
be no increase to divide, or to make good what he has advanced. But such
miscalculations and failures do not affect the general proposition that,
taking industry as a whole, wages, profits, and rent, are the three different
portions into which its proceeds are divided. And since, as we have seen,
the competition for possession of the land keeps profits down to a minimum,
either rent will be determined by wages, or wages by rent; that is to say,
the larger the share of the proceeds the labourer gets, the less will there
be left for the landlord, and vice versa; but as the landlord owns the land,
he is master of the situation, and rent determines wages. But to say that
rent determines wages, is to say that rent devours wages. The labourer gets
so little because the landlord gets so much.
[NOTE.–I have adopted the division into rent, wages,
and profits, instead of into rent, wages, and interest, because though less
scientifically accurate, it is sufficiently accurate for my present purpose,
and enables me to keep my subject within more manageable limits.]
Rent devours wages.
Suppose the labourer to ask for a rise and the farmer
to refuse, on the ground that he cannot afford it.
But presently something happens. A railway is made
or a mine opened in the neighbourhood, or some improved process enables a
greater yield to be obtained at the same cost, and there is now an appreciable
surplus. The labourer comes forward again and says, "You can afford it now."
"Unfortunately, no," replies his employer. "I might
have done so, but my lease is nearly up, and these advantages you refer to
having made the land more valuable, my landlord has notified that he means
to raise the rent; and as there certainly is a great surplus available for
rent than there was, I must give it, for if I don't someone else will; and
so, as far as I am concerned, the surplus you calculate upon has vanished."
In short, whenever there is an increase in the productiveness
of industry creating an additional surplus, and the labourer stretches forth
his hand for a share of it, the landlord pushes him aside, and takes it all
himself; but as he keeps well out of sight in doing so, using the employer
as his instrument, his action is not perceived. And as it is in the present
so it has been in the past. Inventions and discoveries have within the last
century doubled the productiveness of industry over and over again, but the
labourer has no more benefited by them than the employer has. The increase
has been enormous, but in the primary industries at any rate, the landlord
has taken it all.
But some will say, "The labourer's exertion is a
fixed quantity. The increased productiveness of his industry is in no degree
due to himself, but to the improved appliances he works with, and, that being
so, the person who supplies these appliances–that is, the employer–has a
right to the increase."
There is enough prima facie appearance of reason
in this to have made it worth discussing if the employer really got it, but
he does not. He gets interest no doubt on the additional expense he has incurred
in procuring the appliance, but he gets none of the increase of wealth due
to the increased efficiency of labour when aided by the appliance, (once
the appliance has come into general use); that as we have seen goes to increase
the value of land and raise rents, and while the employer does not gain,
the labourer in most cases actually loses; for the usual result of labour-saving
inventions, in the primary industries at any rate, is not that the employer
retains the same hands to do more work, but that he discharges some of his
men and does the old amount of work with fewer hands.
It is the landlord, who has neither invented, nor
supplied nor put to use the appliances, who gets the whole benefit of them.
To see that it is rent that devours wages, look
at it another way.
Suppose the labourers demanding an increase and
being refused, were to say "Well, in six months we shall strike, so look
out; meanwhile we shall prepare for the struggle." So they save money, subscribe
funds, and organise; and at the time appointed present themselves, provisioned
What would happen?
Would the farmers refuse, and so all industry cease,
or would they consent to pay more than they could afford and go bankrupt?
Neither of these things would happen. The farmers
would simply turn to their landlords and say, "You see how it is. We cannot
afford higher wages, and the labourers won't work without them. Accept a
reduced rent, or we throw our farms "On your hands."
What could the landlords do? Their rents are determined
by competition, and here is competition suddenly come to a stop. They must
make the best of the situation, and accept the reduction.
And so industry would go on as before, and the farmers
make the same profit as before. All that would have happened is that labour
would have gained a march upon monopoly and the labourer have wrested from
the landlord a part of the blackmail he was accustomed to pay.
For it is the labourer from whom it is wrung. It
is by keeping down wages that the landlord thrives. The employer is merely
the instrument, who, for a consideration cut down by competition to the lowest
figure, undertakes all the trouble, the risk, and the odium of the squeezing.
The price of labour, like the price of everything
else, is determined by supply and demand, and it is said that if employment
is scarce it is because there is not profitable employment on the land for
all. Ah! but profitable for whom? For the labourers, for the country, or
for one or two privileged people?
Here is a farm, selected from the assessment roll
of this district as a fair sample of a so-called agricultural farm consisting
of 640 acres and rented at £150. It keeps, believe, at the outside,
two men at work the year round; any other applicants for employment being
dismissed with the formula, "No work for you."
Two men to a whole square mile! And this on a farm
within 15 miles of the port of Hobart, and containing hardly an acre unfit
All the produce that comes off this farm has to
be raised by the labour of these two men, and must realise over and above
their wages and keep and all collateral working expenses, a surplus of rent,
£150; rates and taxes, £20; employer's profit (say), £100;
total £270; being a profit of £135 to each man. No man, in short,
is allowed the opportunity to earn a living on this square mile of cultivable
land unless he produces, over and above the supply of his own modest wants,
a net annual surplus of £135 to hand over to somebody else.
If employment is restricted, it is land monopoly
that restricts it.
It is not that there is not abundance of land to
use, abundance of use to put it to, and abundance of profit to be made from
it, but that the tendency of monopoly is to keep hungry mouths off rather
than to take willing hands on. It is naturally concerned only to get as big
a share as possible to itself, and is not concerned whether other people
have a chance to get a share or not.
The occupier will not engage more men than he can
help. But suppose his hand is forced.
Suppose the Trades Unions were to change their tactics
(as they may do any day), and instead of trying to restrict the field of
employments were to undertake to extend it.
Suppose a Trades Union of farm labourers were to
say to the farmer, "You have been accustomed to employ two men only on this
farm. Well, not a man shall take service with you unless you undertake to
engage four, and at the same wages."
Does anybody doubt that the two extra men could
produce more than they consume and use up, and so be productively employed?
And if the net surplus to hand over to the landlord were less, why he
would have to take less.
The earnings of the two extra men, reckoning their
wages and keep only, would be £100 a year, and if that left a surplus
of £20 less for the landlord, there would still be £80 to the
good. For, as I have elsewhere pointed out, the labourers maintenance (much
more his whole earnings), so long as he replaces what he receives, is not
cost of production but profit;–the labourer's share of it. If an industry
does nothing more than maintain one man continuously it is to that extent
But the landlord's position is too strong for him
to stand in much fear of such combinations as these, and the whole tendency
of affairs is to increase his power.
The landlords as a class get more, without the least
exertion, outlay, or risk, out of the labour of the community than they could
if the whole working community were their slaves.
PROLETARIANISM V. SLAVERY.
Suppose I own a sugar estate and 100 slaves, all the land about being held
in the same way by people of the same class as myself.
It is a profitable business, but there are many
expenses and annoyances attached to it.
I must keep up my supply of slaves either by breeding
or buying them.
I must pay an overseer to keep them continually
to their work with the lash. I must keep them in a state of brutish ignorance
(to the detriment of their efficiency), for fear they should learn their
rights and their power, and become dangerous.
I must tend them in sickness and when past work.
And the slaves have all the vices and defects that
slavery engenders; they have no self-respect or moral sense; they lie, they
steal, they are lazy, shirking work whenever they dare; they do not care
what mischief their carelessness occasions me so long as it is not found
out; their labour is obtained by force, and given grudgingly; they have no
heart in it.
All these things worry me.
Suddenly a brilliant idea strikes me. I reflect
that there is no unoccupied land in the neighbourhood, so that if my labourers
were free they would still have to look to me for work somehow.
So one day I announce to them that they are all
free, intimating at the same time that I will be ready to employ as many
as I may require on such terms as we may mutually and independently agree.
What could be fairer? They are overjoyed, and falling
on their knees, bless me as their benefactor. They then go away and have
a jollification, and next day come back to me to arrange the new terms. Most
of them think they would like to have a piece of land and work it for themselves,
and be their own masters. All they want is the few tools they have been accustomed
to use, and some seed, and these they are ready to buy from me, undertaking
to pay me with reasonable interest when the first crop comes in, offering
the crop as security. As for their keep they can easily earn that by working
a few weeks on and off on any of the plantations, or by taking a job of clearing,
fencing, or such like. This will keep them going for the first year, and
after that they will be better able to take care of themselves.
But "Softly," I observe, "you are going too fast.
Your proposals about the tools and seed and your own maintenance are all
right enough, but the land, you must remember, belongs to me. You cannot
expect me to give you your own liberty and my land too for nothing. That
would not be reasonable, would it?" They agree that it would not, and begin
to propose terms.
A fancies this bit of land and B that. But it soon
appears that I want this bit of land for my next year's clearing, and that
for my cows, and another is too close to my house, and would interfere with
my privacy, and another is thick forests or swamp, and would require too
long and costly preparation for men who must have quick returns in order
to live, and in short that there is no land suitable that I care to part
with. Still I am ready to do what I promised–"to employ as many as I may
require, on such terms as we may mutually and independently agree to." But
as I have now to pay them wages instead of getting their work for nothing,
I cannot of course employ quite so many of them. I can find work for ninety
of them, however, and with these I am prepared to discuss terms.
At once a number volunteer their services at such
wages as their imagination has been picturing to them. I tell the ninety
whose demands are most reasonable, to stand on one side. The remaining ten
look blank, and seeing that since I won't let them have any of the land,
it is a question of hired employment or starvation, they offer to come for
a little less than the others. I tell these now to stand aside, and ten others
to stand out instead. These look blank now, and offer to work for less still,
and so the "mutual and voluntary" settlement of terms proceeds.
But, meanwhile, I have been making a little calculation
in my head, and have reckoned up what the cost of keeping a slave, with his
food and clothes, and a trifle over to keep him contented, would come to,
and I offer that.
They won't hear of it, but as I know they can't
help themselves, I say nothing, and presently first one and then another
gives in, till I have got my ninety, and still there are ten left out, and
very blank indeed they look. Whereupon, the terms being settled, I graciously
announce that though I don't really want any more men, still I am willing
(in my benevolence) to take the ten, too, on the same terms, which they promptly
accept, and again hail me as their benefactor, only not quite so rapturously
So they all set to at the old work at the old place,
and-on the old terms, only a little differently administered; that is, that
whereas I formerly supplied them with food, clothes, etc., direct from my
stores, I now give them a weekly wage representing the value of those articles,
which they will henceforth have to buy for themselves.
There is a difference too in some other respects,
indicating a moral improvement in our relations.
I can no longer curse and flog them. But then I
don't want to; it's no longer necessary; the threat of dismissal is quite
as effective, even more so; and much pleasanter for me. I can no longer separate
husband from wife, parent from child. But then again, I don't want to. There
would be no profit in it; leaving them their wives and children has the double
advantage of making them more contented with their lot, and giving me greater
power over them, for they have now got to keep these wives and children out
of their own earnings.
My men are now as eager to come to me to work as
they formerly were to run away from work.
I have neither to buy nor to breed them; and if
any suddenly leave me, instead of letting loose the bloodhounds, I have merely
to hold up a finger or advertise, and I have plenty of others offering in
I am saved the expense and worry of incessant watching
I have no sick to tend, or worn-out pensioners to
maintain. If a man falls ill, there is nothing but my good nature to prevent
my turning him off at once; the whole affair is a purely commercial transaction;
so much wages for so much work. The patriarchal relation of slave-owner and
slave is gone, and no other has taken its place.
When the man is worn out with long service, I can
turn him out with a clear business conscience, knowing that the State will
see that he does not starve. Instead of being forced to keep my men in brutish
ignorance, I find public schools established at other people's expense to
stimulate their intelligence and improve their minds, to my great advantage,
and their children compelled to attend these schools.
The service I get, too, being now voluntarily rendered
(or apparently so) is much improved in quality.
In short, the arrangement pays me better in every
But I gain in other ways besides pecuniary profit.
I have lost the stigma of being a slave driver, and have acquired instead
the character of a man of energy and enterprise, of justice and benevolence.
I am a "large employer of labour," to whom the whole country, and the labourer
especially, is greatly indebted, and people say, "See the power of capital!
These poor labourers, having no capital, could not use the land if they had
it, so this great and far-seeing man wisely refuses to let them have it,
and keeps it all himself, but, by providing them with employment, his capital
saves them from pauperism, and enables him to build up the wealth of the
country, and his own fortune together."
Whereas it is not my capital that does any of these
things. It is not my capital but the labourer's toil that builds up my fortune
and the wealth of the country. My capital at the most only puts a few better
instruments into his hands than he could procure for himself.
It is not my employment that keeps him from pauperism,
but my monopoly of the land forcing him into my employment that keeps him
on the brink of it. It is not want of capital that prevents the labourer
from using the land, but my refusing him the use of the land that prevents
him from acquiring capital. All the capital he wants (to begin with) is an
axe and a spade, which a week's earnings would buy him; and for his maintenance
during the first year, and at any' subsequent time, he could work for me
or for others, turn about, with his work on his own land. Henceforth with
every year, his capital would grow of itself, and his independence with
it; and that this is no fancy sketch, anyone can see for himself by taking
a trip to our North-West Coast, (Tasmania) where he will find well-to-do
farmers who began with nothing but a spade and an axe (so to speak) and worked
their way up in the manner described.
But now another thought strikes me. Instead of paying
an overseer to work these men for me, I will make him pay me for the privilege
of doing it.
I will let the land as it stands to him or to another,
to, whomsoever will give the most for the billet.
He shall be called my tenant instead of my overseer,
but the thing he shall do for me is essentially the same, only done by contract
instead of for yearly pay.
He, not I, shall find all the capital, take all
the risk, and engage and supervise the men, paying me a lump sum, called
rent, out of the proceeds of their toil, and make what he can for himself
out of the surplus.
The competition is as keen in its way for the land,
among people of his class, as it is among the labourers for employment, only
that as they are all possessed of some little means (else they could not
compete) they are in no danger of immediate want, and can stand out for rather
better terms than the labourers who are forced by necessity to take what
terms they can get.
The minimum in each case amounts practically to
a "mere living," but the mere living they insist on is one of a rather bigger
standard, than the labourer's; it means a rather more abundant supply, and
better quality of those little comforts which are next door to necessaries.
It means, in short, a living of the kind to which people of that class are
For a moderate reduction in my profits then (a reduction
equal to the tenant's narrow margin of profit) I have all the toil and worry
of management taken off my hands and the risk too, for, be the season good
or bad, the rent is bound to be forthcoming, and I can sell him up to the
last rag if he fails of the full amount, no matter for what reason, and my
rent takes precedence of all other debts.
All my capital is set free for investment elsewhere,
and I am freed from the odium of a slave-owner, notwithstanding that the
men still toil for my enrichment as when they were my slaves, and that I
get more out of them than ever.
If I wax rich while they toil from hand to mouth,
and in depressed seasons find it hard to get work at all; it is not, to all
appearance, my doing, but merely the force of circumstances, the law of nature,
the state of the labour market; fine sounding names that hide the ugly reality.
If wages are forced down, it is not I who do it,
it is that greedy and merciless man, the employer (my tenant) who does it.
I am a lofty and superior being, dwelling apart and above such sordid considerations.
I would never dream of grinding these poor labourers, not I! I have nothing
to do with them at all, I only want my rent–and get it. Like the lilies of
the field I toil not, neither do I spin, and yet (so kind is Providence!)
my daily bread (well-buttered) comes to me of itself. Nay, people bid against
each other for the privilege of finding it for me; and no one seems to realise
that the comfortable income that falls to me like the refreshing dew is dew
indeed, but it is the dew of sweat wrung from the labourer's toil. It is
the fruit of their labour, which they ought to have; which they would have
if I did not take it from them.
Is this caricature?
Take the farm of 640 acres before referred to, rented
at £150, and keeping two labourers. Could I, the landlord, make £150
a year net profit out of the labour of these two men if they were my slaves,
and the tenant my hired overseer, working them under the lash? I trow
I should have to pay him about £150 a year
as overseer instead of getting it from him as a tenant, which makes £300
a year leeway to make up, to begin with. I should have to find all the capital,
which he now finds (practically) for my use; to run all the risks where I
now run none; while the men, working in sullen discontent, would not produce
near as much as they do now. No, thank you! If the lot were offered me as
slaves for nothing, I wouldn't have them at the price. I get more out of
them as things are, and I give absolutely nothing in return; all that I get
is pure blackmail.
Some of these days the labourer will wake up to
the facts of the situation. If the awakening be sudden and universal he will
seize the broom and make a clean sweep, taking small account of the beetles
he may tread upon, or the crockery he may break. An awakening of this sort
happened once in France, and we know what it was like. He had terrible wrongs
to avenge, and he went mad over them, and in his madness committed great
crimes; but where he swept he swept clean; the abuses he swept away have
never shown their heads since.
But then was one abuse that he did not recognise
to be an abuse, and so he left it standing–to his loss.
Next time he sweeps he will clear that away too.
There is small fear of his ever going mad over it
again, for his knowledge, and the consciousness of his power are growing
year by year; and by the time that he recognises the facts of the situation,
and sees what the change is that is wanted, he will be strong enough to say
calmly, "Let it be done;" and it will be done forthwith without violence
LAND MONOPOLY NOT ONLY ABSORBS THE FRUIT OF INDUSTRY BUT ALSO HINDERS ITS
This system of allowing anyone person to obtain absolute ownership of as
much land as he can get, and to use it (or not use it) in what way he likes,
not only absorbs the fruits of industry, keeping down employers' profits
and labourers' wages, and making life, to all who have to live by work, a
struggle for existence, but it also restricts the field of employment, locking
up the greater part of our resources from full productive use, and so hindering
progress; and it can only secure its profit by so doing.
It is claimed in favour of the system that once
the land is appropriated to an owner, it becomes that owner's interest to
see that it is put to the most productive use; and that rent is the test
of productiveness since that form of industry that can offer the most rent
must be the most productive.
Never was there a greater mistake. The man who can
afford to give the highest rent is not he who can make the land produce most,
but he who can secure the largest share of the produce to himself; and he
can often more easily do this by keeping other people off the land than by
engaging them to make it produce more' for more produce generally implies
more hands to produce it, and more hands imply more claims to a share in
If by one form of industry (say sheep) I can make
the land produce £100, of which I can keep £70 to myself, I will
evidently prefer it to another (say agriculture) by which I could make the
land produce £200, but would have to pay away £150 to other people
for their share in the work, and this none the less that it may take many
times more land to produce the £100 than it would to produce the £200.
Here is an estate divided into five farms, each
farmer employing two labourers the year round, and raising £400worth
of produce apportioned as follows:–
Direct assistance in the shape of wages to the two
representing their earnings... ... ... ... .. £100
Indirect assistance in the shape of blacksmiths,
carriers work, goods bought, and services hired
sorts equal to the earnings of two men more … £100
Rent ... ... ... ... ... ... ... £100
Profit to farmer ... ... ... £100
Total: ... £400
These five farms together, then produce annually
£2,000 worth of produce, and maintain 25 men with their families, viz.,
one employer, two labourers, and indirect assistants equal to two men more,
to each farm; besides the landlord, who receives £500.
If now a stockbreeder sees his way, with the help
of one man as shepherd and general assistant, to produce £800 worth
of wool and fat sheep off the five farms lumped together, he can offer £550
rent (£250 more than the five agricultural farmers put together), and
yet, after paying £50 to his man and £50 more for such goods
and services as he may require (representing the maintenance of another man)
keep £150 for himself (half as much more than any of the agriculturists).
His offer of course will be accepted, and the five agriculturists with their
retainers will all have to go.
The amount of produce raised from the land will
be only £800 instead of £2,000, and the number of men (with their
families) will be three instead of 25•
The productiveness of the land will have been reduced
to less than half, and the population to about 1/8.
But suppose the land instead of being apportioned
amongst five farmers, producing £400 and paying rent £100 each
had been divided amongst 100 cottier labourers, producing only £50
of produce and paying £3 rent each.
Then the land would have been producing £5,000
worth of produce instead of £2,000, and maintaining 100 men, (with
their families) instead of 25; but inasmuch as the landlord would only have
been receiving £300 rent, this arrangement would have been even more
certainly and speedily outbid and swept away than that of the five farmers.
"But the 100 cottier labourers could not have turned
the land to account if they had had it.
Could they not?
Here is a market garden, there an orchard. The owner
in each case, a man of means, making a handsome income by the labour of a
few men with common spades and hoes. Would the land yield any less, or the
produce be worth less if these labourers were working it for themselves instead
of for an employer?
Could they not buy all the tools they want by merely
saving up a week or two's wages?
Could they not turn any proportion they liked of
their produce into bacon, eggs, poultry, butter, thing s for which the demand
is practically unlimited?
Could they not sell for less if need were, than
an employer, and yet thrive, seeing that wages alone would satisfy them,
while an employer must make a good profit over and above their wages? But
as we have seen, the whole surface of the earth (so to speak) is parcelled
out amongst a body of monopolists, who will not allow the labourer to produce
any thing unless he produces a large surplus over and above for their enrichment.
While the landlord gets all the profit (so to speak) of the men's work the
occupier gets all the credit. He is the producer. The men are merely the
tools he works with, like the spades and hoes.
Producer! He produces nothing. It is the labourers
who produce all, only, as he holds the land, he will not allow them to produce,
except for his profit.
There is not a shilling of his income that is not
due to their labour.
If he decides to apply manure they fetch and spread
it; if be keeps the ground clean and well worked it is their arms that do
it; when he sells his produce it is they who gather and deliver it.
I count it nothing that he finds the tools; that
he arranges the work; that he keeps the accounts; that he takes the risk.
I count as nothing anything he does which the men could do just as well for
themselves, and they could do all these things.
"Then why doesn't the labourer get the land and
Who will sell him the three or four acres he requires
for any price within his means? Near a town the labourer would have to pay
£20 to £100 an acre; in the country no estate owner will sell
him what he wants except at an extravagant fancy price, hardly at any price
at all. Owners do not like to cut pieces out of their estates, nor to have
small independent settlers about them. They would rather sacrifice something
generally to keep them out.
They will let the land no doubt sometimes, but not
only do they usually ask an extravagant price as rent directly a small piece
of land is asked for, greatly in excess of what they could make off it themselves,
but they offer no security of tenure, no guarantee for improvements.
What heart will the labourer have in effecting the
high cultivation which his system demands when he may be turned out any time
at short notice? How can he plant a tree when he has no certainty of ever
gathering the fruit? How build himself a dwelling when he knows it can never
be his home?
How can he throw his heart into his work with the
shadow of an irresistible hand ever over him ready to turn him out and confiscate
his improvements whenever self-interest, caprice, or a change of ownership
Here is explanation enough why the labourer is not
in possession of land, but there are other reasons still which it is not
necessary here to stay to consider. I shall be told though that the term
"most productive" does not mean producing the greatest bulk or weight or
even the greatest gross value, but the greatest net profit.
Quite true; but profit to whom? To one particular
person only, or to all engaged in it?
Take the case of a farm–
The earnings of all the blacksmiths, saddlers, importers,
carriers, etc., who assist the work, as well as of the labourers who carry
on the work are as much net profit as the earnings of the farmer who conducts
All alike represent services rendered in furthering
the work, the production of a crop; and for all alike there can be no return
from the work till the work is finished; till the crop is gathered.
But as there would be great inconvenience if all
had to wait for their returns till the work was finished an arrangement has
been naturally fallen into by which, while the work is divided amongst many,
the control, the responsibility and the risk are concentred in one, the farmer,
who advances to each his share, by giving him what is supposed to represent
the value of his service, and makes what he can out of the surplus.
The profit of the crop is the gross value of the
crop less the seed, manure, and other goods consumed and wear and tear of
tools; all the rest represents profits apportioned amongst a number of people,
some of whom receive their share in advance, and others have to wait.
The profit made by the manager of the enterprise,
(the farmer,) no more represents the productiveness of the enterprise than
the salary of Mr. Manager Kayser represents the productiveness of Mount Bischoff.
All that the farmer's or manager's profit represents, is that share of the
produce, which the competition of his class for the office of farmer or manager
compels him to be content with.
Our habit of estimating the productiveness of every
industry by the profit of one person, only out of the many concerned, viz.,
the employer, is about as sensible as if we estimated the size of a building
by the size of a particular brick in it.
That industry is the most productive which converts
raw material into finished product to the greatest value and in the shortest
time, and the greater the number of people who are engaged in it and the
larger the share of the proceeds that each can get the better; but the tendency
of land monopoly is to allow as few people as possible to take part in the
work, and to let them get as small a share of the proceeds as possible; for
in the eyes of the monopolist, whether owner or occupier, other people and
their earnings are merely so many expenses to be kept down.
As the landlord's interest is for each to own as
large a portion of the earth's surface as possible to the exclusion of other
people so that competition for its possession shall be stimulated and rents
forced up, so the interest of the occupier is for each to cultivate as small
a portion as possible so that the field of employment may be restricted and
wages kept down.
If each occupier were to put to full productive
use all the land in his possession the demand for labour would run wages
up, and so, though the production of wealth would be enormously increased,
it would be divided amongst a much larger number of people in much larger
shares, leaving less for himself; but by shutting out say 9-10th of his land
from full productive use and inviting employment on the 1-10th only the field
of employment is narrowed and wages are kept down.
It is true, as we have seen, that though he gets
the profit of this he cannot keep it, the landlord taking it from him. Still
the necessities of his position compel him to try to get it, and in this
I do not say that either landlord or occupier acts
in this way of set design. Each simply acts for his own interest in what
he would call a "practical" way; that is he guides his conduct by results,
without troubling himself how the results are brought about.
The landlord, for instance, lets his land in such
sized pieces as he finds fetch most rent (that is in large pieces) without
caring why pieces of such size fetch most rent, and, therefore without being
conscious that the reason is that by this means its character as a monopoly
is kept up and competition for it stimulated.
Similarly the occupier keeps most of his land under
natural pasture, and only cultivates a small part, the best, because the
larger part so used, though it yields much less, costs nothing, and so he
gets all the profit there is, and does not see, or care to see, that it is
his keeping this larger part out of cultivation, that by restricting the
field of employment and so keeping wages down enables him to secure to himself
the fruits of the labourer's toil on the part he does cultivate.
In Great Britain this abuse by which the rights
of the many are sacrificed for the profit of one has been carried to such
an extent that whole counties have been nearly depopulated; and districts
in the Highlands that, as Geo. Macdonald tells us, once turned out 1,000
fighting men now only carry a few gamekeepers.
The children of the soil have had their dwellings
burnt down before their eyes, and they themselves have been driven forth
in thousands to emigrate to distant lands, to crowd into the already overcrowded
cities, or, as in some cases, to die on the mountains; not because they could
not pay their old accustomed rent but because a foreign millionaire offered
the landlord more for the privilege of turning the country into a wilderness
to shoot deer in than they could give for the bare permission to live.
A system that permits such atrocities is self-condemned.
As to Ireland, her population has within half a
century sunk from 8 millions to 5 millions, though knowledge and invention
have within that period so increased the productiveness of industry that
it ought to have risen to 16 millions; and yet the cry is still that it is
over-populated, and her sons have to emigrate by thousands yearly.
But to see the fruits of land monopoly in hindering
industry and keeping down population we need not go out of our own island.
Within five miles of this is an estate that was
once called the granary of Tasmania. It is now a sheep run.
First came the absentee landlord, who living 12,000
miles away cared nothing for his estate, but to squeeze all he could out
Next came a worse form of landlordship still, a
landlordship of trustees, in which the very possibility of a personal interest
was destroyed, and under which the estate fell into worse and worse condition,
houses in ruins, fences falling to decay.
Last came the kind of landlord on whom so many pin
their faith, the occupying landlord, and he swept all the farmers off the
land, and turned it into a sheepwalk.
I am not blaming him. He acted on his strict legal,
and in one sense equitable right. The law allowed, and we may say encouraged
him to buy the land in absolute possession to do with it absolutely as he
liked, and he naturally liked to do with it in the way that paid him best.
It is the system, not the individual that we denounce.
But to judge of the system by such cases as these
is to get a very inadequate idea of the evil of it. To get a true idea of
this we have to consider the cases not only of cultivation stopped that was
already in existence, but of cultivation prevented where it has never been
allowed to come into existence at all. The holders of such lands are only
doing what everybody else does, and has a recognised right to do, making
the most they can for themselves out of their capital; and their land, though
land is not capital, is to them the same thing as capital; it is what they
have exchanged so much capital for, and from which therefore they have a
right to draw the best profit they can in the way that seems best to them.
The wrong was in allowing them to acquire this right-in
selling the people's birthright for a mess of pottage-in giving over, for
the trumpery consideration of £1 an acre or so, to any purchaser the
legal power to exclude the whole human race from as large a portion of the
earth's surface as he chooses to buy.
William Rufus was considered a cruel despot for
turning all the inhabitants out of what was afterwards called the New Forest
to make himself a hunting ground, but the landlords in this free self-governed
country could do the same thing to-day with the whole of Tasmania if they
liked, and call in the officers of the law to help them to do it.
I am myself a representative of the system I denounce.
I might sell, no doubt, and so get out of it; but what good would that do?
that would be only to change one landlord for another, a landlord who at
least sees and deplores the evils of the system for one who probably does
not recognise or care about them at all. I can serve the good cause better
in a number of ways by staying in than by going out–amongst other ways, by
affording one standing example of a landlord pleading for land nationalisation
and offering his own land, or so much of it as may be wanted as the first
to be taken for the purpose at its actual value, as may be decided, on whatever
system may be adopted.
REVIEW OF THE SITUATION.
Let us review the situation.
Here, in the primary industries, are farmers running
rents up to the point at which they can barely make both ends meet; temporary
outsiders–men who have been outbid, mainly looking out for a farm for months,
and forced to take one at last on almost any terms; permanent outsiders–men
brought up to farming and thoroughly understanding it, but squeezed completely
out of the competition who are now dealers, butchers, one thing to-day and
another to-morrow, scraping up a living as best they can. And as profits
in the secondaries are determined by profits in the primaries, the state
of affairs is the same in these. Here are traders, half as many again as
are wanted in every township, running each other down in prices, touting
for custom with travelling agent and flaming advertisements, giving reckless
credit in their scramble for customers, and every now and then the weakest
breaking down and falling out of the ranks only to be succeeded by fresh
aspirants trying to force themselves into the throng, and each with capital
more or less which he is eager to invest in the business he is trying to
This in a country not a century old, containing
barely six inhabitants to the square mile, a country with resources that
its Press and public speakers are never weary of extolling, a country containing
more natural resources than countries with ten times its population, with
tens of thousands of acres fit for cultivation and untouched, with timber
in such quantities that we pile it in heaps and burn it to get it out of
the way, with minerals in abundance, with fish in our seas, with an equable
climate, with everything in our favour; and yet men struggle for employment
and capital bids for investment.
Surely if we saw half a dozen men in a 10-acre field
struggling for room and gasping for breath, we should think it a strange
spectacle, and wonder what it meant; and yet it would not be a bit more strange
than our own condition, and not half so interesting.
For the production of wealth there are but three
factors required, land, labour, and capital. Strictly speaking, two only;
land and labour (= matter and force) for capital is but the product of labour
saved up and accumulated. Still it is customary to reckon the three, so we
shall continue to do so.
Which of the three is it that is wanting to us?
Is it land? The question is absurd. The land lies
all around us crying out to be used.
Is it capital? There is not an enterprise put forth
offering good promise for which capital is not forthcoming in abundance.
Whether it be a brewery, a trusteeship company, or a mine, the shares are
snapped up at once; not to speak of that other capital without practical
limit across the water ready to pour in at the slightest encouragement.
Is it labour? Why, the very essence of our complaint
is that people are struggling for work to do, not work languishing for want
of people to do it.
What are chiefly the resources that we talk so much
Surely not the untrodden forests beyond the farthest
roads; not the minerals we suspect but have not yet located; not the inaccessible
and the undiscovered; but the resources that lie all about us, visible to
the eye and palpable to the touch; the occupied lands with roads through
them and houses on them of which a mere fraction has been cleared, the cleared
lands of which a mere fraction is cultivated, the cultivated lands that,
tilled in the roughest fashion, yield but a fraction of what they might be
made to yield.
It is not the want of land on the one hand, or of
labour and capital on the other that is the matter with us, but the artificial
barrier of monopoly that keeps these factors apart.
We spend vast sums in roads and railways to open
up new land, and as fast as we open it up we sell, for a paltry £1
an acre or so to anyone who applies, the right of shutting it all up again
if he likes, with the certainty that he will like to shut up the greater
part of it.
We try to import labour and entice over capital.
Labour and capital into a country where labour (that is people trying to
earn a living) is struggling for every opportunity to live, and capital has
burnt its fingers so often by rushing into rash ventures that it hangs back
Labour and capital! As if the way to ease the pressure
of a crowd was to squeeze more people into it.
Break down the barrier that confines the crowd,
and let it spread, and then if there is room for more, more will come of
itself, more both of labour and capital, only too glad of the chance.
How can labour or capital find employment when every
national resource is in the hands of some monopolist who has got hold of
other people's shares as well as his own, and puts the greater part of it
to the mere mockery of a use, while for the rest he either frightens enterprise
away by his extravagant demands or forcing competition runs his blackmail
up to the uttermost the user will give, so that new-comers, if you had them
by the thousand, would not offer more; and if they did, could only get in
by displacing others.
Take any natural advantage you like to name–extent
of area, mineral deposit, or commanding situation–and what is not in reasonable
use already is either locked up for sheep or barred by extravagant demands
for royalties or paid-up• shares; or, if in use, is let out for the uttermost
it will fetch.
We have now reached the point at which we can take
up the objection, previously postponed, that "all farmers are not tenants,"
and the implication that were they all to own the land they occupy, objections
But it ought to be clear by this time that if all
existing landlords were swept away and all the land in use confirmed absolutely
upon the occupiers, things would be no better than they are now.
For the evil that weighs upon society, hindering
progress, forcing down earnings, and making life to all who have to live
by work a struggle for existence is the monopoly of the land; and whether
it is A or B who monopolises it, is of no consequence to anybody but A and
Wherever one man is allowed to acquire more land
than he can use by his own labour for the purpose of preventing other people
from using it by their labour except for his profit, that man is master of
the situation, and the class of which he is the representative has the world
at its feet. And whether the monopolists turns his monopoly to account as
an occupying owner by working the labourers for his profit directly, or as
a non-occupier by selling to somebody else (called a tenant) for a yearly
payment (called rent) the privilege of working them, is a difference not
worth talking about.
Indeed if the system is to go on, it is better,
in some respects at any rate, for society at large and the labourer in particular
that the owner and the occupier should be separate persons.
For where the land is in the hands of a mere tenant
he is forced to put it to sufficiently effective use, to make it realise
enough to pay his rent over and above his own profit, where–as, as experience
shows, when he has no rent to pay, he is often tempted to take things easily,
and working enough of the land to keep himself comfortable, put the rest
to very poor Se indeed in order to save himself trouble, expense, and risk.
This is by no means an unusual result of occupying
ownership. There are many occupying owners who having no rent to pay, yet
make no more off their farms than other men not more competent, who have
a good stiff rent to meet, and this merely because finding themselves able
to make enough easily to keep themselves in the style they have been accustomed
to, they do not trouble themselves to earn more.
And the easier the occupier takes matters, and the
less use he makes of his land, the less employment there is for labour, the
more wages and profits are kept down, the less raw material is there raised
for the secondary industries to concern themselves with, the more difficult
it is for carriers, artisans, tradesmen and workers of all sorts to get a
living, and the keener the struggle for existence all round.
No. King Log is worse than King Stork. The whole
system is a legalised robbery of the public, and what we want is not to change
the robbers but to stop the robbery.
In Ireland they are now trying to set matters right
by changing their robbers. The landlord's rent is to be reduced bit by bit
till nothing of it is left, but the monopoly of the land is to continue.
The tenant is to become the landlord.
What difference will that make to the labourers
who will still have to compete for the privilege of working for their employer's
profit so much of the land as he graciously allows them employment on?
That difference to the thousands who have no land
nor employment on the land, but are forced to struggle for existence because
the land is not put to its full use?
What difference to the country whose natural resources
are still left in the absolute power of a class whose interest it is to hold
back the greater part of those resources in order to narrow the field of
employment, and so force wages and earnings down and their own profits up.
There is but one remedy for this great wrong, the
NATIONALISATION OF THE LAND.
We in Tasmania, like our co-thinkers in other parts, have established a society
for this purpose, viz, for "the gradual nationalisation of the land as opportunity
offers and public opinion ripens;" and my whole purpose in these pages has
been to lead up to the elucidation and advocacy of our views, and to give
notice and opportunity to all who may wish to join our ranks.
The State, gradually resuming possession of the
land on equitable terms, is to apply the ever-increasing unearned increment
to the reduction of taxation, and the multiplication of public benefits.
The occupier is to become a State tenant, but on a tenancy that while it
secures to the State the full value of the land from year to year and provides
for its bona fide use, yet assures the tenant as perfect security of tenure
and of the fruits of his labour as if the land belonged to him,
The occupation of large tracts by a single person
(except for temporary use in places where it is not yet wanted for other
people) will be done away with, and the land eventually made so accessible
to all that every person, even the humblest, shall have the opportunity,
if he wishes it, of acquiring, within accessible distance of a market, enough
land to make himself a home and for the exercise of his own personal labour.
OUR PRINCIPLES AND PROPOSALS.
Our principle is that the legitimate use of the land is as an instrument
of production, not as a means of extortion, and its possession to be permitted
to secure to its possessor the fruits of his own labour, not the fruits of
Our aim is to break down the barrier that keeps
the two factors of production, land and labour (the matter and force of industry)
apart, and throw open to full productive use the resources of the country;
to abolish the accursed monopoly that lives upon industry as the tick lives
upon the sheep, sucking its juices and hindering its growth, and thrives,
not by doing a hand's turn or contributing a penny's worth for the' good
of society, but by getting possession of the means of existence, and making
people pay for the permission to live; to appropriate the unearned increment
of the future to the State, taking its vast and constantly accumulating wealth
from those who do not create it, and giving it those who do, by applying
it to the reduction of taxation and the multiplication of public benefits;
above all, though unfortunately not before all, to give the labourer access
to the land, and consequently the choice between
working for himself and working for another,
instead of, as at present, between hired employment
This last, which should be first, we are obliged
to postpone, because till the labourer begins to recognise his rights, and
to demand their recognition by the State it is useless for others to move
on his behalf. He must be his own deliverer. Others may point out the way
for him to go, his must be the force to break down the barriers of vested
interest and class prejudice that bar the way.
For the present we propose four simple measures
only; not one of them representing any new or revolutionary principle, but
giving principles already recognised and acted on a more extended application;
not one of them seeking to confiscate the wealth of anyone, no matter how
improperly that wealth may have been acquired; not one of them interfering
with the course of industry but on the contrary all together opening out
a thousand fresh channels for it to flow in. These four proposals are:
1. That no more public land be alienated on any
2. That the State be empowered to retake possession
of any particular land which may be required in the public interest, giving
fair compensation for the land taken, and letting this land out in lots of
limited size at a rent subject to periodical revision at stated intervals,
and the rent raised as the value of the land (apart from its improvements)
rises, or lowered if it should chance to fall, and to give the occupier the
assurance of undisturbed possession so long as he fulfils the simple and
reasonable conditions of his tenure (unless it should be required for a railway
or some such very special purpose) with recognition of his right to the value
of his improvements (if the land should be taken from him) at the time of
3. That it is the surface of the land only that
is let for productive purposes; all mineral rights being reserved.
4• That the absorption by the state of the unearned
increment on lands, which it does not retake in possession be commenced by
taxation on the unimproved value of the land, beginning with a moderate percentage,
and gradually increasing.
This is all we propose for the present. For the
future we will be guided by circumstances.
In regard to the first proposal–"That no more public
land be alienated," the State already exercises its power of reserve, often
over large areas, as in the case of mineral lands. We propose to apply it
to all cases.
In regard to the third–"The reservation of mineral
rights," the practice of reserving rights in letting land is so common that
nothing further need be said about it.
In the case of minerals being discovered, the State
could either let by tender the right of working them, compensating the occupier
for loss and disturbance, or could leave them to be worked by the occupier
at a fixed royalty, or on such terms as might seem best.
In regard to the fourth, "The taxation on unimproved
value," it has been objected that it is a class tax. Well, there are many
class taxes levied for different reasons, generally good and sufficient;
there is (or was) the carriage tax, levied as a tax on luxuries; there is
the auctioneers' license fee, levied as an indirect way of taxing the transfer
of stock at public sales. There is the chemists' license fee, a way (in part)
of securing that the making up of prescriptions and the dispensing of drugs
be confined to properly qualified persons; so also we propose a tax on the
unimproved value of land as a step towards the gradual abolition of the system
of blackmailing industry, and towards the restoration to the State of what
it should never have parted with.
In regard to the second (kept till the last because
it requires most comment) the power to the State to retake land wanted in
the public interest, and the re-letting of it on the conditions sketched
out; the State already has the power to take land for railway purposes. But
as there is nothing specially sacred in the nature of a railway to make it
an exception to all other works of public utility, as it is simply a concern
of great public importance, and that is all the justification there is for
taking the land required for it, then if we can show (as I think I may fairly
claim to have shown) that the breaking up of land monopoly and the throwing
open to use of the national resources is a matter of more consequence than
all the railways in the world, there seems no conceivable reason why the
State should not take the land for this purpose too.
As to the circumstances under which the land shall
be taken, the manner in which compensation shall be determined and rent re-valued
and so on, all these are questions of detail to be well thought out and freely
and thoroughly discussed, but the discussion of which would be for many reasons
out of place in a preliminary address like this. One thing only must be insisted
on; that the taking, the re-valuing, the letting, the recovery of rent, and
every process connected with the disposal of the land shall be entirely removed
from the control of party politics and personal influence, and be made strict
processes of the law, guided by definite rules and administered by properly
appointed and independent courts, just as the valuation of property, the
granting of mineral leases, and the recovery of rates and taxes are now.
"But," we are told, "you forget the land hunger.
Man naturally craves for the absolute ownership of the soil he tills, and
without it loses half the stimulus to exertion. He wants to sit under his
own vine and fig-tree."
Here are three statements rolled into one. Take
the last first.
"He wants to sit under his own vine and fig-tree."
True; and the result of your system of absolute
ownership is that 99 men out of 100 can get no vine or fig-tree to sit under,
and the hundredth finds that the vine and fig-tree under which he sits are
not his but his landlord's who charges him heavily for the privilege, and
this even though he has planted the tree himself, and watered it with the
sweat of his toil.
Year by year, all over the civilised world the ownership
of the land is passing out of the hands of the occupier. One man rears the
fruit, another stretches forth his hand and takes it. The very institution,
which you defend as securing to the producer the full value of his produce
is the institution that compels him to part with it.
How comps this?
Because the unearned increment, though certain,
is deferred, and falls, therefore, to him who can afford to wait, and who
accordingly lies in wait.
Sooner or later the day comes when a mortgage has
to be redeemed, or death brings the property into the market, and then the
man of large and independent means, who does not mind getting a low rate
of interest for a while in consideration of large profits hereafter, easily
out-bids the working owner, who has to earn his living, and must have quick
Thus, it is that not only is the rich non-occupying
owner fast superseding the poorer working owner, but the large nonoccupying
owners are also eating up the small ones, and the tendency of the times is
for the whole land of the country to pass gradually into the hands of a few
enormously rich people.
We have not got into this second stage yet out here,
but we are well on into the first. And so inevitably and steadily land is
coming to belong, not to him who has the best right to it, not to him who
wants it most, not to him who will put it to the most productive use, or
even to any use at all, but to him who can afford to give most for it for
the mere purpose of squeezing other people.
You offer the name, but you cannot confer the reality.
We withhold the name, but guarantee the reality. For what is the land-hunger?
It is the natural craving for a permanent home, and for the fruits of our
labour; and we guarantee both these; you do not.
The natural desire of a man is for a dwelling that
he can regard as his home for so long as he chooses to dwell in it; for a
piece of land which he can cultivate and build upon and improve as his interest
or fancy may dictate without the fear of a notice to quit, and the certainty
that when he quits of his own accord he can realise the full value of his
improvements at the time of his retiring.
If you say further that all these things shall be
his own you are conferring no further privilege. You are only summing up
the privileges already enumerated in a compact, sweetsounding phrase.
That he shall possess his home so long as he chooses
to dwell in it, his land so long as he chooses to till it, this is the land
hunger. But to want to own the land without using it, to leave it and yet
retain the ownership for the mere purpose of preventing other people from
using it except on payment, this not the land hunger at all.
Directly a man has lost the desire to dwell in his
home and till his land, and wants to go elsewhere and live on the rent, he
has lost the land hunger, and retains only the ordinary desire to make money.
Therefore, when under these circumstances we require
him to give up the land, securing to him the value of his improvements, we
violate no craving of his nature; we only take from him what he has ceased
to value, the land; and allow him the one thing he continues to value, his
money, to invest elsewhere. Further, it is the nature and not the extent
of the occupancy that satisfies the land hunger. A home and land enough to
afford employment are all that is wanted for the purpose.
The Irishman's poor cabin is as much his home to
him, as the Duke's palace is to him; and an acre or two satisfies the craving
to be working for one's-self as thoroughly as 1,000 acres would. Therefore
so long as we leave a man land enough to provide him full employment, much
more when we leave him enough to employ many hired servants, we may take,
at a valuation, the broad acres on which he merely runs his flocks without
jarring any legitimate feeling.
Now let us note the results of our plan to each of the parties concerned.
1. In regard to the dispossessed landlord.
So much land is taken from him, so much money of
equal 'value is returned to him. He is certainly no worse off than before.
He is really much better off.
Formerly his income ceased every time the land was
vacant between one tenancy and another, and disappeared altogether every
time a tenant bolted or broke. Now it is guaranteed to him with absolute
Formerly he was constantly liable to demands from
his tenants for repairs and improvements, to which he was compelled, to some
extent at any rate, to attend. Now he is freed from all this, his income
comes to him without deductions.
He is better off all round for his dispossession.
2. In regard to the occupier.
He holds at present on (say) a five or seven years'
lease. All his operations are bounded by this prospective limit. No improvement
or enterprise can he attempt, which will not be completely repaid with interest
within that ever narrowing period. But such a limit is fatal to the proper
development of the resources of the land. The very first condition necessary
is security of tenure; not for five or seven years, but for so long as the
occupier desires to hold it, with assurance of full compensation for unexhausted
improvements should he decide to retire. A hand to mouth system that farms
from year to year is but a step in advance of the practice of the savage
who supplies his wants from day to day. To get the full results from the
land you must improve it. To work the land without being free to improve
it is to work it with one hand tied. The most valuable works, those that
return the greatest results to a given labour, are those that are most farreaching,
but slowest in yielding their results.
To drain, to plant, to build, for example are things
the occupier must not dream of. Many a thing that he sees the land wants,
and that it seems a pity to neglect, must he leave undone; and his interest
in the land, little enough at any time, diminishes daily, till in the last
year of his lease he is in the position of a yearly tenant a position proverbially
unproductive and unsatisfactory for both landlord and tenant. It is no longer
his interest to manure, to keep down weeds, to effect a hand's turn of repairs
more than is absolutely and immediately necessary.
As the end of the lease approaches he is further
paralysed by the uncertainty whether his lease will be renewed or not, on
such terms as he can accept. He does not know often whether to fallow or
what crop to sow, or what to undertake; and if through the landlord's asking
too much or wanting to resume possession, or for any reason he is obliged
to leave, he has to sell off everything, no matter whether the times are
favourable or not, and be at a loose end for months looking out for another
farm, wasting his time and consuming his capital.
Finally he has to take a new untried farm, the peculiarities
of which he has to learn by gradual experience, and has hurriedly to get
together fresh stock and implements. Never has he any abiding interest in
the land; never is it anything more to him than a temporary residence, and
an instrument out of which to squeeze as much money as possible within a
Turn to State ownership and all this is reversed.
The tenant is now in as secure possession of the land as if he owned it (only
subject to a yearly payment) without having to find the capital to buy it.
It is practically his; his as a home to dwell in;
his as an instrument to put to fullest use; his as a trust, not his a possession;
but as a trust in which he knows he will never be disturbed so long as he
fulfils its reasonable conditions; conditions devised for the public good,
not for the aggrandisement of an individual.
He holds a portion of the public estate to the exclusion
of other people with equal rights, and therefore he must pay from year to
year the fullest value of that privilege. As the land rises in value through
the execution of public works and the growing prosperity of the country he
will naturally have to pay so much the more for the use of it, but nothing
the more for the improvements he may have made on it. If from any cause it
falls in value, he will have to pay less. Whatever its value from time to
time, as ascertained by periodical valuations, he will have to pay it.
What could be more reasonable?
Moreover, the more he improves the smaller will
become the proportion which his rent bears to the total value, or productive
power, of the property; and therefore the easier will it be to meet it, and
the more the remote the chance of his ever being disturbed in his possession.
Formerly his hands were tied by the shortness and
uncertainty of his tenure and the absence of any claim for improvements.
Now his hands are free; the land is practically his, though nominally the
State's. It will be less in extent no doubt; that is, he can no longer hold
large areas to the exclusion of other people, except temporarily, in remote
parts where the land is not yet wanted for more productive use.
He can no longer hold more than he can personally
use for the mere purpose of preventing other people from using it except
for his profit; but he can hold as much as is his fair share and whereon
his home stands, in perpetuity, and as much more as is not wanted by other
people until it is wanted; and as the State is not likely to want it so long
as it is being put to full productive use, and will have to pay him the full
value of his improvements if it does, the more he improves it the less likely
will he be ever to be disturbed.
Secure in his tenure, and in the fruits of
his labour the occupier will acquire a permanent interest in his land, and
a pride in and affection for it such as he has no chance of acquiring now,
and will have every inducement man can have to put it to the fullest use,
and draw the greatest enjoyment from it.
"But as he has still to pay rent, it seems–rent
to the full value–how is he better off, after all? What difference can it
make to him whether he pays his rent to the State or to a private landlord?"
Just the difference between paying money into the
bank to your account and paying it in to another's. For by so much the more
as the State receives in rent the less it requires in taxation.
In paying rent to a private landlord the tenant
pays it away to a stranger for the stranger's enjoyment or enrichment, and
the payer sees it no more. But in paying it to the State he gets back with
one hand what he gives with the other; what he gives goes to the great public
trustee to be turned into public benefits of which he has the full use and
enjoyment in common with other people.
His payment to the State, in short, is not a payment
away at all, but an investment, and generally speaking, the best investment
he makes. After making every allowance for Government mismanagement, jobbery
and extravagance, there is yet no outlay from which we receive so many and
so great returns. It secures for the payer benefits, which he could not by
his own resource, labour or outlay secure at all, and without which he could
secure nothing else.
What sort of a living could any man make if in addition
to his ordinary business he had to be his own policeman, road-maker, schoolmaster,
What we pay to the State in taxation we get back
in full measure, running over.
But the returns from State rents are far greater
than the returns from taxation; for taxation gives you those public benefits
only in return for your money, while for State rents you get the use of a
piece of land in itself worth the money, and you have all the public benefits
thrown in; or (to put it differently) for taxation you get your money back
once only, for the State rent you get it twice over.
At the commencement of the system there may be no
immediate gain, as far as mere money payment goes; for great part of what
the tenant pays to the State in rent, the State will have to transfer to
the dispossessed landlord as compensation.
It is only as the land increases in value (which
it will quickly begin to do), and the unearned increment begins to accrue,
that the State revenue will begin to expand and to go to the reduction of
taxation and multiplication of public benefits; but, from the moment it begins
to accrue, it begins to increase, and increases at accelerating speed.
3. In regard to the labourer.
As for the labourer's full rights, which it is the
ultimate aim of our policy to secure, that is a subject on which I may have
something to say on another occasion; but for the present all I am concerned
about is to show how the particular initiative measures which our society
proposes will affect him.
Rent, as we have seen, devours wages; and what enables
it chiefly to do so is the power the landowner or land occupier has of restricting
the field of employment; of keeping back the greater part of the national
resources from full productive use, and compelling the labourers to compete
for the privilege of employment on the small portion which he permits to
We have but to notice how the opening up or enlargement
of one particular department of employment affects the labour market to form
some idea of the effect that would be produced by throwing open the whole
The undertaking of a single line of railway sends
wages up at once perceptibly along the whole line and for some distance on
each side. The discovery of mineral deposits on Crown land, where the labourer
requires nothing but a pick and shovel and a miner's right to find employment
for himself at once, sends them up with a rush.
Throw open all the land for cultivation and all
the minerals for development, and, whether the labourer or the capitalist
takes possession, work is wanted in all directions; the labourer either finds
work for his own hand or somebody calling out for him, and can ask any wages
he likes up to the limit of the productiveness of his labour.
If the land is thrown open to the labourer himself,
as in the case of minerals discovered on Crown land, or of allotments for
cultivation on unused land, he will not work for an employer for less than
he can make for himself; nor even for as much, for independence is sweet,
and he will rather work for himself than for another for the same money.
To get labour, the employer will have to offer him
even more than he can make for himself.
Some people are quite shocked at the idea of such
a state of things. They think high wages are ruin to the whole country, not
seeing that the very fact that wages are so high is a sign that labour is
highly productive and industry prospering; not seeing either that it is impossible
for wages ever to rise so high as to check the progress of enterprise; for
no employer, no matter under what pressure, will continue to give such high
wages as will leave him without sufficient profit to maintain himself and
carry on his business. If, therefore, he continues to give high wages, no
matter how high, it can only be because his business is so profitable that
he finds it pays him better to give those high wages rather than to throw
up or contract his business, and so business goes on.
And if any employer can not pay the high wages going,
then if wages do not at once, of themselves so to speak, come down to his
requirements it is clear either that his business is less productive than
those other businesses that can and do give the wages that he cannot, or
that he is an incapable manager; in which case, since the labourer cannot
be in two places at once, it is better, both for himself and for the country,
that he should go to the business or manager where he can do best, best in
every sense; and thus High Wages, like Free Trade, are a potent factor in
the work of natural selection, weeding out the weak enterprises and incapable
managers and concentrating labour where it is most effective.
But high wages are not only a sign of progress,
they are also a factor of progress in many ways; for high wages stimulate
the invention and adoption of labour-saving contrivances, which add to the
productiveness of labour. Where wages are low, employers do not much trouble
themselves to seek for such contrivances or even to adopt them when placed
In making the Suez canal, the earth was excavated
with common hoes and carried out in baskets on women's heads though steam
dredges and lifts were in full use elsewhere, and this simply because labour
was so cheap that it was scarce worth while to buy machinery to save it.
So in England where wages are higher than on the
Continent, improved appliances are in fuller use: and in Australia and America,
where wages are higher still, improved appliances (such at any rate as are
suited to their circumstances) are in fuller use still. In Tasmania the scythe
and the sickle may be said to be obsolete instruments, all harvest work being
done with horse-mowers and reapers and binders; but nearly all the hay I
saw lately cut in England was cut with the scythe.
People are so used to seeing the labourer toiling
for a mere subsistence, and never rising above his condition, while the employer
and the landlord share the produce of his toil between them, that they have
come to look upon this as the order of Nature; they seem to think that those
who have money have a right to the labour of those who have none; that the
whole purpose of industry is to provide rent for landlords, interest for
capital, and profits for employers, and that the wages of the labourer are
an unfortunate necessity of the position, to be minimised as much as possible;
in short that Providence has evidently designed and ordained that the fruits
of labour shall go not to him who produces them, but to somebody else who
permits or employs him to produce them. The idea (which you will hear expressed
any day in all directions) that wages should be kept down or the labourer
forbidden to have access to the land because employers in such case could
not make sufficient profit, means (put in plain terms) that A, who has little,
should get less, in order that B, who has much, should get more; a proposition
too absurd to be discussed, but which seems to be a fundamental article of
belief with almost the whole class of employers.
If the labourer will not work for an employer for
wages that will yield the employer a profit, it is clearly because he can
put his labour to better use himself, and if so, it is but just to himself
and good for society that he should so employ himself. Indeed it is much
better for society that in such case he should work for himself rather than
for an employer, for it sets the employer's capital free to make his own
labour more effective, or his life more comfortable.
If I have 1,000 acres and £1,000 capital,
and have hitherto employed 10 labourers on my land to produce £500
of produce, and the land being now thrown open for selection, the labourers
can make the £500 for themselves on half the land, this simply sets
free the other half of my land, and all my capital, for other use.
But even if the vast resources which we propose
to throw open are not thrown open to the labourer personally, but are at
once taken up by capitalist employers, still it will require a greatly increased
number of employers and amount of capital to take them up and put them to
use, and this means a proportionate increase in the demand for labour and
consequent rise in wages.
4. In regard to society.
The throwing open of the resources of the land means
the great increase of both production and population.
The more farm produce there is raised and mineral
wealth extracted, the more commerce, manufactures, and secondary industries
of all sorts will there be; for the greater the produce extracted from the
land, the greater the number of people must there be required to work up,
shift about, and distribute that produce.
Again, the greater number of people in the country,
and the greater the number to the square mile, the greater the variety of
their wants, and the greater the number of trades to satisfy those wants.
Also the more the labourers within the given area,
the greater the opportunity for the division of labour, for the acquirement
of skill, and for the economy of production.
The greater the number of people and the more they
produce the greater will be the amount of rates that can be levied (if more
rates should be wanted) and the better the roads, the better and more numerous
the schools, libraries, hospitals, and public conveniences of all sorts,
and the greater the number of people who will benefit by them.
In short, the advantages to society are endless.
5. In regard to Revenue.
The greater the number of people settled on the
land, and the greater the productiveness of their labour, the greater the
value of the land and the higher the rent, and the rent will be State rent,
And though this increase of rent will be checked
at first, and even thrown back by the rise of wages (for as rent formerly
devoured wages, so wages will now devour rent) still this increase of wages
will soon reach its limit, while the increase in population and in the productiveness
of labour will be practically without limit.
The condition of both employer and labourer will
be continuously improving, though neither profits nor wages will increase
(after the limit spoken of is reached.) Increasing rent will swallow up increasing
profits and wages; but increasing rent will mean increasing revenue, and
increasing revenue will mean increasing public benefits, benefiting all.
Employers and labourers will continue to gain, only
not as employers and labourers but as citizens of the State.
Tax after tax, will be knocked off as increasing
State rent swells State revenue till no taxes are left, and still the increase
The farmer will have his roads put and kept in first-rate
order without paying any rates; the parent will be able to get the best education
for his children without paying any school fees; the traveller for a sixpenny
or shilling railway ticket will be able to go from one end of the island
to the other, as his letter will go from one end of 'the island to the other
for a penny stamp.
Scholarships and rewards of one kind or another
will, by a sort of natural selection, pick out all the special talent of
our youth and develop it to its utmost pitch, to the advantage of society
and the enrichment of its possessor.
Railways and telegraphs can be made in all directions,
libraries established in every township, the best medical attendance obtained
at numerous hospitals and dispensaries at nominal charges. But the prospect
is boundless. The further we go the wider it opens out.
Advantages now confined to the wealthy will be available
to the humblest, and yet no one will be pauperised, because the help that
pauperises is that which takes unjustly from one to give to another, or assumes
the form of degrading charity.
But this steady and continuous multiplication of
public benefits will no more pauperise because it is free to all, than the
rain and the sun pauperise because they are free to all; for it represents
neither robbery nor charity. It will be the product of the natural growth
of wealth from sources to which all have an equal and just claim. It will
all spring from State rent, and represent the price paid by each appropriator
of natural advantages for the privilege of using those advantages–advantages
to which, being the free gift of nature, all have an equal right, and for
the use of which it can therefore injure no one's self respect to receive
All that increase of wealth, in short, which now
goes as blackmail to privileged monopolists will go to public benefits, and
the amount of that increase will at the same time be swelled to proportions
yet undreamt of.
But to those who wish to master the whole subject
I cannot do better than refer them to the works of far deeper thinkers and
better writers than I; to the Progress and Poverty of Henry George, a work
which revolutionized all my thoughts and feelings, and which ought not only
to enlighten, but to fire every thinking man–and to the Land Nationalisation,
and later writings of our great leader in England, Alfred Russel Wallace.
Our Agents in Hobart are Mr. Leo Susman, Murray
street; Mr. E. Ivey, Liverpool and Murray-streets.