Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 30.djvu/527

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.
507
SOME POINTS ON THE LAND QUESTION.

SOME POINTS ON THE LAND QUESTION.
By OLIVER B. BUNCE.

IN a recent number of a religious periodical there occurred the following sentence: "There can be no question as to the abstract proposition that land is not a proper subject for private ownership; that labor alone creates wealth, and labor does not create land."

It is obvious from the appearance of a statement like this in a publication of high standing that many worthy people are half ready to accept Mr. Henry George's theory of a common ownership in land. They are not ready, perhaps, to sanction his scheme of ruthless confiscation, but they are saying to themselves that at bottom his theory is right, and they are wondering whether land can not ultimately be restored to the community, to which, it is said, it rightfully belongs. My purpose, therefore, in reply to the proposition so confidently affirmed by the writer I have quoted, is to make good the following points:

1. That land, no less than other things, is a proper subject for private ownership.
2. That labor alone does not create wealth.
3. That labor creates the conditions that make land wealth just as much as it creates the conditions that make other things wealth.

And, in continuance of the subject, I hope to show—

4. That the greater part of the land is now practically held by the community, for it enjoys in common all that the land produces.
5. That the confiscation of the rental value of land by means of taxation would in the main be a confiscation of the proceeds of labor.
6. That unearned increment in land, of which so much is said, is not more hurtful to the community than other forms of unearned increment.
7. That the accomplishment of Mr. George's purpose would be destructive to the best interests of the community.

It will be said that this is attempting a great deal in the space of one short magazine article, but let us see what can be done.

Now, it is true that labor does not create land, for land primarily comes from the hand of Nature, but then it is equally true that labor does not create gold, or silver, or coal, or timber, or grain, or wool, or any other of the primary gifts of Nature, commonly accounted in the market as wealth. Labor discovers, transports, cultivates, fashions, blends, makes useful in some way the free gifts of Nature, and they become wealth; labor also clears the land, drains it, fences it, fertilizes it, plants it, builds roads and bridges that make it accessible, and it becomes wealth. We find, therefore, at the very beginning of our quest, that land stands just where other kinds of property stand, and be-