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Page:Harvard Law Review Volume 1.djvu/294

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It is anticipated by some of George’s critics, who, however, can have taken little pains to understand his plan, that it necessitates the sacrifice of the many great advantages which undoubtedly go with the system of private land-ownership. That system as we have it took definite form about two centuries ago, when the last strong chain of feudalism was broken. Its establishment then marked a distinct advance in the development of the principle of personal liberty. Since that time it has been associated with many political and material improvements upon which all people of Anglo-Saxon lineage greatly pride themselves. Under it individuality and personal independence have been fostered. The security of possession, which is an element of it, exerts a powerful influence towards the making of lasting improvements and towards thorough cultivation of the soil. Other advantages of the system might be specified and admitted. But under George’s plan houses and other improvements will be as secure as now. Individuality and personal independence will be promoted even more than now, for the land will be open to every man as a resource when all other resources fail. The plan threatens nothing that is good in the present system. Enumerate the present system’s advantages, label them, tell them over one by one, and then point out any one that will not also exist if George’s plan goes into effect. The matter may be tested thus: At present the tax on real estate falls in some small measure, say ¼ per cent., on the land value, and yet we have all the advantages of private ownership of land; now suppose the tax to be taken off the houses and other improvements, and that, instead of the ¼ per cent. which now falls on land values, an amount equal to 4 per cent. be levied; can any reason be given why we should not continue to have all that is advantageous in the present system?

Finally, it is said that the proposed tax would “ruin the farmers.” The farmers for the most part are the descendants of the men who cleared this country of its forests, dug up the roots, piled the stones in strong walls, made the roads, and occasionally gave some attention to the savages while they were doing these other things. Is it the children of such man who are to be mined? How are they to be ruined? Is it by having the land again free and open before them almost as their fathers had it? Surely they who say ruin do not measure their words; they must mean that the farmers will be “sort of” ruined. Let us consider