per cent. would yield not more than fifty per cent. of what is now raised. One-half of the present taxes taken from productive industry and put upon land values, where the tax could not in any manner affect production, would doubtless have an important stimulative effect. Professor Harris, however, in his estimates makes no deduction for the annihilation by the enactment of the new tax laws of the speculative element in land values; so that the amount that (according to his figures) could be taken off from the present objects of taxation would be much less than fifty per cent. Suppose it were but twenty per cent., would there not still be a substantial beneficial effect upon industry?
The advocates of George’s plan believe that many other advantages would follow, the chief of which is the abolition of poverty for all who will work. It is enough to mention these only in this place.
What, now, is offered upon the other side? The disturbance and readjustment of investments would be proper to be considered in determining upon the most judicious method of bringing the change about; but, being temporary merely, they may be disregarded for all other purposes. So, also, we may pass over the effect of the destruction of the speculative element in land values; such destruction cannot affect the land itself, which will remain as useful in all respects as now.
It is claimed that George’s plan involves a great extension of the ordinary functions of government, which would be evil. This claim seems to rest on the floating general notions and theories which are summed up in the words laisser faire. It is not necessary now to discuss the soundness or the limits of the principle of laisser faire, or how far it can properly be invoked when the ques-
- In a series of articles on “Land, Labor, and Taxation,” by Prof. R. T. Ely, of Johns Hopkins University, published in The Independent (Dec., 1887), George’s plan was criticised as inadequate to accomplish all that is claimed for it. To this criticism George replied in his weekly journal, The Standard (Dec. 31, 1887), and pointed out, more clearly than he has elsewhere done, his reasons for supposing that the startling result stated in the text would follow. While Professor Ely denies that George’s reasons for this conclusion are sufficient, it is easy to infer that, in his opinion, many very beneficial results would reasonably be anticipated; but, like most professional economists, he balks at the question of justice. The discoveries of the economists as to the nature of rent lie at the base of George’s plan. With this acknowledgment I beg to be permitted to suggest that the economists would do well to drop the question of justice, stick to their proper functions, and tell us frankly and distinctly, with reasons, what the economic effects of George’s plan, if adopted, would be. I conceive that as economists they have nothing to do with the question of justice. That question belongs to jurisprudence.