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Page:Harvard Law Review Volume 1.djvu/289

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has a value which will go on increasing as population and the demand due thereto increases; and to such increase there appears to be no limit save that those who want land must retain enough of what they have or earn barely to keep soul and body together. Hence, it follows that the value of land in any community at any given time measures both the natural differences in the quality or desirableness of land and also the need of the people of the community generally for land. If now we annually exact from each occupant of land a sum equal to what such land alone, irrespective of its improvements, would rent for, and if we divide annually the fund thus raised equally among all the people of the State, or apply it to the use of all, is it not evident that all the people will stand on equal terms, or substantially so, with reference to the land? And if that is a result which justice requires us to bring about if possible, why are we not bound to make the exaction?

The fact that land has a value which is unearned by the occupant is no ground at all for exacting such value from him if the land is really his. But if it is not his, the fact that its value measures natural differences and the general need of the people for land enables us to do with great simplicity and with reasonable approximation to accuracy what otherwise (so far as now appears) there would be no practicable way of doing at all.

Such, in outline, is the argument based upon the principles of justice as distinguished from the principles of political economy, for the radical change of the positive laws which George advocates. It is next in order to test the strength of this argument by a general consideration of the objections that so far have been made to the proposed change.

Many objections are nothing more than evil consequences, which are anticipated if the change be made. In strictness, such considerations are irrelevant. Without attempting in any degree to lift the veil of the future, we can determine whether, according to admitted principles, George’s proposition is just or not; if it is just, that itself is a sufficient reason for adopting it; and we may confidently leave the future to take care of itself. Still, before dismissing the consequences of the innovation in this way, it is natural that we should try to find out as well as we can what they are likely to be, and it is material to do so for the purpose of ascertaining whether we can discern from that point of view