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Page:Harvard Law Review Volume 1.djvu/300

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It is said that there is still an abundance of unappropriated land in the West, and that in the East land is cheap a few miles from cities and railroads; that any one who craves land can get it by going to these places; and that, therefore, there is not, now, at any rate, any just ground of complaint against the present system. Now, is not this a clear begging of the question? The argument for the change is, that all the people have an equal right to the land, and that, therefore, if one is permitted to have the exclusive occupancy and use of a particular parcel, he ought to pay to those who are excluded from that parcel a sum of money representing the difference, in respect of desirableness, between that parcel and other land which is still open to them to occupy. How is this argument met by saying that other land is still open to occupation?

Again; it is said to be unfair that a poor man should have to pay as much for the use of the land on which his cottage stands as the wealthy man pays for the land on which he has erected a palatial residence or a stately warehouse, even though the land is equally valuable in the two cases. But why? If the poor man and the wealthy man went to the same hotel, and took equally good rooms, ought not one to pay for what he takes as much as the other, regardless of their means or the use they put the rooms to? The cases are parallel, unless there is a difference between the relation of the two men to the hotel and their relation to the land. This objection assumes that there is a difference without proving it, and, therefore, begs the only question there is.

We are also told that material progress makes the condition of all the people better; George, it is asserted, is mistaken in supposing that progress and poverty go hand in hand. Assume that George is wrong about this; what then? Suppose twelve men engaged as partners in a business which is very profitable; suppose that five of the twelve take many times as much of the profits as by the partnership articles they are entitled to; if the seven call upon the five to account, will it be open to the five to say that they left so much of the profits untouched that the share of each of the seven was more than he could have got in any other business? George contends that the natural rights of men stand for partnership articles, so far as the land is concerned, and that by means of the legal institution of private property in land, some men take more than their just share of the profits according to the articles.