Page:Rise and Fall of Society.djvu/131

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"Social Services"

demanded are those that are conducive to better living, security from fire hazards, sanitary conditions, better streets, a water supply. And as these aids to better living appear, the place becomes attractive to more people, and the bidding for locations becomes more lively. The rental values of these locations increase. But so do the productive possibilities. Rent is the reflection of density and productivity of population. Procreation and immigration are only partial boosters of rent; even more important are the wealth-producing capacities and facilities of these occupiers of sites.

The cause-and-effect relationship between rent and population productivity suggests that rent is a proper fund to apply to those services that cannot be ascribed to the efforts of individual producers, but which are necessary to all of them. This is the device first suggested by the French Physiocrats in the eighteenth century and later advocated by Henry George under the name of the "single tax." As a fiscal measure it commends itself on several grounds. In the first place, it is really not a tax, because the element of coercion is absent from the collection of rent. Rent has to be paid even as one must pay for the services of a doctor or the acquisition of any economic good. It is a price paid for the exclusive use of a desirable site and is determined by free competition. As in the case of a necktie or a ticket to the circus, the price is set by voluntary bidders; the owner of the site has nothing to do with establishing its rental value. The only question involved is whether it is in the best interests of Society, which creates this rental value, that it be paid to the owner or to the public treasury to defray the costs of the social services. To the occupier the matter is of no consequence; he does not care whether the recipient of the rent is an idiot, a genius, a corporation, or the community.