Free Use of the Earth
In your May number W. H. Stuart makes a lop-sided argument against the single tax and then says: "My single tax opponents never answer this argument." What is his argument? Simply that farmers cannot now compete with capitalists and have abandoned farms in sight of factories, and that "all the advantages to be derived from improved tools, machinery or other capital would go, as now, to the capitalists." This latter is an unsupported assertion which he cannot prove. The reason why not only farmers but other laborers can not make a living on those abandoned farms, and barely exist anywhere, is because everything they consume or produce is taxed—their industry is lined, while the speculator in land is almost exempt.
The value of land is purely the value of the privilege of exclusive possession. The privilege to exclude others is all that ground-rent is paid for. Where that privilege does not exist land has no value. The degree of that value is determined by the advantages such privilege gives. The more people desiring that privilege over any locality, the greater advantage, and hence the more valuable it becomes. I defy Mr. Stuart, or anyone else, to show any other way of securing both equal freedom in the use of the earth, and exclusive possession of certain portions of it, than by requiring each exclusive possessor to pay to the whole excluded community the full annual value of that privilege.
I also defy him, or anyone else, to show how, with such a land tenure system in America, capitalists or any other class could dictate wages or keep men out of employment who desired work.
Property rights all spring from the individual's right to himself—self ownership. He who does not own himself cannot own anything. Self ownership is manifested in control of one's own faculties and the re suits of their exertion. Without equal freedom in the use of the earth one cannot be equally free to exert his faculties and control the results. If not equally free he is partially a slave-and that's how it comes that another becomes possessor of the fruits of his toil. There is no other way. The single tax will secure that equal freedom in the use of the earth, and nothing else will. The veriest savages, under such freedom, could soon amass great wealth, independently of all "capitalists'" producing their own capital. But without labor the capitalists would starve in a short time.
Whether Mr. Stuart has ever been answered through your columns or not I do not know. But he has been answered from the platform in his own city of Los Angeles, where he wilfully or ignorantly misrepresented utterances of Henry George, and failed to come forward manfully and admit it after being corrected. Such men may deceive the uninitiated by their bombastic claims, but they cannot convince the cool reasoner who will take the pains to study the single tax. To one who has been as many years in the agitation as I have, meeting leaders of thought of all schools, it becomes exceedingly monotonous to read such stale objections, continually rehashed, as Mr. Stuart advances.
One thing more, concerning your editorial on the labor problem. You pay: "We urge the wage method of solving the labor problem because it alone can solve it," and then add: "Why clamor for single tax?" I answer, because nothing else will secure to each his full wages. Because, no matter what other reforms you adopt, or solution you try, the benefit, if any, goes to "the robber" that takes all that is left." See "Protection or Free Trade," chap. XXV.; and the single tax is the only thing that will kill off that robber.
Source: Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen and Enginemen's Magazine. Volume 18, 568.