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Page:Economic Development in Denmark Before and During the World War.djvu/95

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hand, the wages of the farm labourer were considerably lower than those of the city labourer. It is not surprising, therefore, that dissatisfaction arose in the rural districts and that socialistic ideas began to spread rapidly.

Meanwhile, a new influence had arisen in certain agricultural circles, namely, that of Henry George, whose doctrine was received with great favour by the middle classes, especially by the small farmers, who saw in the introduction of the single-tax system great possibilities for a happy social life. But it did not take root in the towns, where the workmen based their views of life for the most part upon purely socialistic ideas. There was some agitation on the question of the unearned increment in the towns, but it did not exert much influence upon the course of legislation.

As stated above, the Agricultural Commission of 1910 brought forward proposals to release land held in tail and in fief from these restrictions and to enjoin the sale of lands held by the Crown and by the church. At this point we meet with an interesting turn in the tide of public opinion. Toward the middle of the last century the old-fashioned leaseholds had been abolished. Free proprietorship had come to be considered the best guarantee of social happiness, and there are many people to whom this principle still seems indisputable. Its application brought about, in 1903, the abolition of tithes; in 1918, of leaseholds and other land restrictions, a fixed sum being paid annually instead of the contributions according to the price of grain. Of late, however, the pendulum of public opinion has swung in the opposite direction. Fear has been expressed that if the public lands are sold for cash legitimate interests will be injured by reason of fluctuations in the value of money. A new principle has therefore been advanced, namely, that land, instead of being sold for the full amount in cash, should be subject to an annual assessment to be revised at regular intervals so that it should correspond to the current purchasing power of gold. On these terms the church and other institutions may part with their land without misgivings. This principle was presented by the