1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Betterment
BETTERMENT (i.e. “making better,” as opposed to “worsement”), a general term, used particularly in connexion with the increased value given to real property by causes for which a tenant or the public, but not the owner, is responsible; it is thus of the nature of “unearned increment.” When, for instance, some public improvement results in raising the value of a piece of private land, and the owner is thereby “bettered” through no merit of his own, he gains by the betterment, and many economists and politicians have sought to arrange, by taxation or otherwise, that the increased value shall come into the pocket of the public rather than into his. A betterment tax would be so assessed as to divert from the owner of the property the profit thus accruing “unearned” to him. (See also Compensation.) The whole problem is one of the incidence of taxation and the question of land values, and various applications of the principle of betterment have been tried in America and in England, raising considerable controversy from time to time.