Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 21.djvu/351

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339
PROBLEMS OF PROPERTY.

where monopolists like himself do not exist, or, in conjunction with other such monopolists, order people off the face of the earth!

The second objection made to the present nearly absolute holding of real estate is that, particularly in America, and in Great Britain during the past century, the growth of population, the advance of manufacturing towns, and general progress in trade and commerce, have had the effect of enormously enhancing the value of land, increasing rents, without owners having given the community any equivalent whatever. Now, this unearned increment, as it is called, has bestowed upon some British noblemen and American land-owners many millions of value conferred by the mass of the people. This evident injustice is especially pressing in America, where there can be no doubt that, if the tenure of land remains as it is, the value of land apart from the improvements which labor may effect upon it, will be multiplied greatly within a century. Various remedies have been proposed to correct the evil.

The nationalization of land as suggested by Mr. Herbert Spencer has special reference to the United Kingdom. He would have the Government buy all the land from its owners at current market rates, and let it on competition. Mr. Fawcett, in his criticism of this suggestion, estimates the value of British lands and houses, apart from mines and railways, at £4,500,000,000. This enormous sum exceeds by six times the British national debt, and the raising of so large a sum as a loan in purchase would probably enhance the rate of interest one per cent beyond its present rate, and beyond the present rate of return received as rent. An annual deficit of £50,000,000 is calculated as the probable result of carrying out the proposal. Besides the special value attaching to individual possession, a value forming part of the current prices of land would be abolished when nationalization took place, and purely economic rents, minus the expense of an objectionable government control, would form the revenue to be credited against the interest on the purchase-money.

One of the leading pleas for nationalization of the land is the deprivation suffered by those who own none; but could not complaint be directed with equal propriety against lessors by all other citizens who would have to accept subleases? The sole benefit that could be hoped for from this scheme of nationalization would be the absorption in coming time of the appreciation in value due to increased density of population and other causes. This appreciation, if it takes place at all in the generations of the near future, is not likely to be other than moderate in the United Kingdom.

Mr. Henry George, of San Francisco, in his striking book, "Progress and Poverty," advocates much more heroic treatment of the evil of unearned increment. The constantly increasing tax of landlords, as tenants multiply and advance in industry, he regards as the main reason why a wedge seems to be dividing more and more widely the rich