Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 54.djvu/518

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

supply of land can neither be increased nor diminished. In answer to it we have the indisputable fact that the owners of land, whenever taxes are increased, attempt to obtain an increased rental for it if the circumstances will permit it. And the very attempt tends to increase the rent. Nothing but adverse circumstances, such as diminishing population or commercial and industrial distress, can prevent a rise in the rental of land on which the taxes are increased; and in the case of dwellings and warehouses the rise is almost always very prompt, because no man will erect new dwellings or warehouses unless their rent compensate fully the increase of taxation. And in any prosperous community, in which population increases in the natural ratio, there must be a constant increase of dwellings and warehouses to prevent a rise of rent, independent of higher wages and higher taxation. In no other occupation is capital surer of obtaining the average net remuneration than in the erection of dwellings and warehouses, and nothing but lack of general prosperity and diminishing population can throw the burden of taxation on real estate or its owners, without the slightest attempt at combination on their part. If the owners of land are not reimbursed for its taxation by its occupants, new houses "would not be erected, the old ones would wear out, and after a time the supply would be so small that the demand would raise rents, and house building begin again, the tax having been transferred to the occupier."

It is pertinent at this point to notice the averment that is frequently made, that cultivators of the soil can not incorporate taxes on the land in the price of their products, because the price of their whole crop is fixed by the price at which any portion of it can be sold in foreign markets. In answer to this we have first the fact that, to give the population of the world an adequate supply of food and other agricultural products, it is not only necessary that all the land at present under cultivation shall continue to be so employed, but further that new lands shall each year be brought under cultivation, or else the land already cultivated shall be made more productive.

The population of the world steadily increases, notwithstanding wars, epidemics, and all the evils which are consequences of man's ignorance and of his improper use of things, his own faculties included. Hence, in case of increased taxation on land, the cultivator of the soil is generally enabled to transfer easily and promptly the burden of the tax to the purchasers of the products he raises, without abandoning the cultivation even of the least productive soil.

Furthermore, the exports of many agricultural products are due not to the cheapness of their cost of production, but to the variations which occur in the productiveness of the crops of other countries. M.