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Page:Harvard Law Review Volume 1.djvu/290

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any flaw in the deductive reasoning which otherwise would escape observation.

Whatever else may happen, one beneficial result seems certain. Much land which is now held for the probable future rise in value, but is unused and unimproved or nearly so, will be laid open to all who wish to use land. What the speculative element in the present market value of land (i.e., the element due to the probability of increased demand in the future) amounts to, there are no data for precisely determining. But the fact that nearly the whole of our vast country has been already appropriated, and is now in the hands of private owners, so that a landless man may go from the Atlantic Ocean to far beyond the Mississippi River, and from the Pacific to the great mountains, without finding a place where he can legally dig a hole in the ground for shelter or build a fire of sticks for warmth; the further fact that by very much the larger part of the immense area so appropriated (relatively to its capacity and judged by the standard of cultivation which exists in other parts of the world) is unused or but slightly used; and the further facts that come within our individual observation and experience, — justify the inference that the speculative element in the present value of land must be very great. Whatever that element really amounts to, the proposed tax, if adopted, will wipe it out completely. Land will have no value save what is due to difference in natural qualities and general desirableness. No man will hold more land that then has value than is actually required for his purposes, and the pressure upon him will be towards improving what he holds to the utmost. No man will hold land which he cannot or does not wish to use; for if it is better than other land in use he must pay a tax measuring the difference in quality, for which he will receive no return; and if it is no better than the poorest other land in use there would be no motive for holding it, but rather a motive against holding by reason of the liability at all times that somebody wishing to use land may select that particular land, which would show that it had then become valuable, and be followed by the tax-gatherer’s claim. In brief, a very great body of land would become substantially free, and all the people of this country would stand, so far as abundance of natural opportunities is concerned, where their predecessors stood sixty or eighty years ago. Now, let any one put that result clearly before his mind and (waiving for the moment the justice or injustice of the means by which it is