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Page:Harvard Law Review Volume 1.djvu/295

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what truth there is in the prophecy so modified. The destruction of the speculative element in the value of land cannot hurt the farmers as a class. The farmers do not hold their land, as they do their corn and potatoes, for sale. They hold it to use; and it will be every whit as useful when the speculative element of its present value is wiped out. Only such farmers as desire to sell their farms run any risk, and even then only if their purpose is to invest the proceeds otherwise than in land; for if they wish to buy another farm they will find its price has fallen proportionally. How many farmers are likely to wish to sell their farms and invest the proceeds otherwise than in land? Are there more than one in a thousand? As to the burden upon the farmers of the tax on normal land values (i.e., the value due solely to differences in fertility, situation, and generally in desirableness) it should be remembered that by reason of cheap transportation, distance from market, so far at least as the great farming staples are concerned, is now in this country a very small factor in the value of land. It is said that the produce of Iowa farmers competes on favorable terms in the Eastern markets with the produce of Eastern farms grown three miles or more from a railroad station. So that the normal value of agricultural land will depend almost entirely upon differences in fertility and differences in situation so far as situation affects the production of garden products, and so far as one situation may be more desirable than another for residence. Now, these differences are not very large so far as the land which the needs of the present population require to be cultivated is concerned. Hence for a long time, till population shall have greatly increased and recourse shall so be made necessary to much poorer lands than are now in use, the normal value of agricultural lands would be small and the tax would be small. Moreover, whatever the tax may amount to, there will be an offset against it in that present taxes upon houses and other improvements and upon clothing, tools, and other commodities which farmers do not produce, but have to buy, will be abolished or considerably reduced.

So much for the consequences. What will happen no man can foresee with certainty, but, so far as probability goes, there appears to be no reason why we should flinch from pronouncing the judgment upon the justice of George’s plan which the argument would lead us to if consequences were left out of account altogether. We will now turn to objections of another sort.