Letter V – Taxation Considered

Another of the evils of taxing personal property, which destroys the uniformity of the tax, is, that much of the personal property is never taxed at all where debts are allowed as an offset to the personal property in possession; for example, merchants’ goods being removed from where they were bought, frequently or generally escape taxing there, and when they are owed for here, or sworn to as such, according to sec. 4, are exempt here also. I am told that the taxed personal property of New York City was only fifty millions, while Broadway alone probably contains much more wealth; so that besides the evils of perjury and extra cost in valuing, and double taxation for property and credits, and taxing what has ceased to be property, preventing production and promoting pauperism, misery and crime, and exempting railroad companies, gas companies, banks, colleges, churches, parsonages, universities, academies, etc., and moneys belonging exclusively to universities, colleges, academies, etc., I think it will be safe to estimate that one-half of the personal property existing is never taxed at all; while the conscientious who pay, must pay more for the exemption of the cunning who escape; not that I have any point to make against merchants or any other class, for I firmly believe that no product of industry should ever be taxed in any form whatever, but the land alone, according to its relative value, as the least injurious means of raising revenue, and to prevent the evil of land monopoly by making that monopoly unprofitable; and for the reasons named I take the affirmative of the land tax, and the negative of every other, and invite anyone to take the negative of the land tax, and the affirmative of any tax or tithe which he thinks better. 

     If all taxes were on the land, would railroad monopolists want to steal the land (the birthright of all) by millions of acres, while they deny to the landless and moneyless any land on which to get their “daily bread;” while they hire ministers to open their robbery meetings in Congress by prayer, an dask the blessing of the Creator on the robbery of His creatures? Do they not know well that it is only by keeping the workers landless that they can buy their labour for the smallest portion of its produce; and if all had what land they needed, their plundered land would be almost valueless for sale; though its value for production and human sustenance would be undiminished? 

     If all the taxes were on the land, and all owned their share, the tax for all would be equal but not oppressive. But if one almighty monopolist should own the whole of the land, unless one person should suffer for the act or wrong of another, then all should live as well by the labour of the monopolist as they could by their own labour on their own land; and if the land tax will not provide the best remedy, I shall be duly grateful to anyone who will show me a tax that will, or any better legal remedy whatever. 

     If all the taxes were on the land, and none on improvements, then there would be the greatest encouragement for improvements and industry; then farmers and merchants would not turn land speculators, and run all over creation to buy land at ten shillings per acre with the produce of their toil, but make and enjoy the comforts of life with their families at home, instead of being a curse to the landless and their families elsewhere; they could then have no fear that their children would suffer for want of land whenever they might need it. 

Were all the taxes on the land, and the people’s land free to the landless–as it should be–then none would be driven into the wilderness to suffer the changes of climate and want of society; but those who desired could then settle nearer to their kindred and friends, and enjoy the blessings of friendship, love and home, with much less cost and inconvenience.

     Were all the taxes on the land, and the people’s land free, then the hitherto landless could soon build their own homes on their own land, and raise all they needed to consume or exchange, and no longer need the land, houses, or capital of others; then rent, interest, and even usury would cease for want of poverty to sustain them, for the curse, land monopoly, being removed, the effect would cease with the cause. Thus would the happiness of mankind be immeasurably increased, and misery be proportionately diminished; then would earth be redeemed from the giant sin of land robbery, and the Paradise of the present or future be as far above that of the past, as the intelligence of the philosopher is beyond the ignorance of the child.