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Page:Harvard Law Review Volume 1.djvu/293

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tion is of paying to a man or expending for his benefit money, which is his of right; that is, when the question is of “establishing justice,” for George’s plan does not necessarily involve any immediate extension of the present functions of government. If there can be any reliance whatever on the census and Professor Harris’ calculations, the aggregate of present land values, deducting nothing for the destruction of the speculative element, would not yield a tax equal to one-half the necessary expenses of government; and making that deduction the proceeds of the tax would very likely not equal one-quarter of those expenses. Population must greatly increase, therefore, and many years pass before any question of what to do with a surplus can arise. Till then the advantage to the people of the new tax would lie partly in the weight of other taxes being lessened, but chiefly in the opening up of natural opportunities. On the other hand, supposing the census and Professor Harris to be in error, if a surplus over the necessary expenses of government were at once to arise, it is arguable that the government would better throw it into the sea or make an annual bonfire of it than leave it to be a bounty, as it is now, upon the locking up of land. It would be open to the advocates of laisser faire to take that view, if they choose, and still to accept a substantial part of George’s plan.

It is said that the plan logically leads to socialism, and that if it be adopted socialism will be the inevitable result. Those who say this, like the socialists themselves, make no distinction between land on one hand and the fixed capital, tools, and instruments of production on the other, which the socialists would have the state take to itself. But if there be a valid distinction between land and these other things as subjects of property, the dread of socialism is groundless; and that there is such a distinction George tries to show. Hence this objection is out of place so long as the reasons for the distinction are not met and overthrown. We have always been socialistic to some extent, and apparently always must be so, more or less. We have the Erie Canal, the Mississippi River improvement, public education, the protective tariff, and the post-office, all of which are socialistic; and yet we have not socialism. And we never shall have socialism so long as we hold fast to the principle that it is the natural right of every man to hold and enjoy whatever he can acquire without infringing upon the corresponding right of other men.