The Scandal of Wealth alongside Gigantic Misery did not Disappear
By Will SIMCOCK, of Britain
|Tom Paine wrote late in the 18th century:
'The contrast of abundance and poverty is similar to dead and living bodies
being chained together.' Also, late in the 19th century, the major book of
Henry George has the same theme: 'the persistence of poverty amidst advancing wealth.' Professor John Dewey, Dean of the Faculty of Philosophy at
Columbia University wrote: 'For counting those sociological philosophers
of the world, who from the time of Plato until now are equal in rank with
Henry George, one needs less than the fingers of two hands.
No person, no graduate of any expert teaching institution, is entitled
to believe that he is well-informed about society's functioning, if he does
not directly know the theoretical contributions of the magnificent American
'The Scandal of Wealth alongside Gigantic Misery did not Disappear.' Those were the words of Mr Yves Peuraut, president of the executive committee of the Sennacieca Asocio Tutmonda
Non-nationalist Association), during the formal opening of the 69th Congress of S.A.T. in St Petersburg [Russia] in 1996.
I have just re-read a biography of Tom Paine. Late in the 18th century he wrote similar words: 'The contrast of abundance and poverty is similar to dead and living bodies being chained together.'
Also, late in the 19th century, the major book of Henry George has the same theme: 'the persistence of poverty amidst advancing wealth.'
Professor John Dewey, Dean of the Faculty of Philosophy at Columbia University wrote:
For counting those sociological philosophers of the world, who from the time
of Plato until now are equal in rank with Henry George, one needs less than
the fingers of two hands. No person, no graduate of any expert teaching
institution, is entitled to believe that he is well-informed about society's
functioning, if he does not directly know the theoretical contributions of
the magnificent American thinker.
When in France they wrote the 'Declaration of Rights' and in
the United States the 'Declaration of Independence' they only emphasized
civil rights. Philosophers also during the 19th century discussed natural
rights a lot.
But Henry George extended the concept to economic affairs, accenting the right of all people to the use of the earth and the right of all to the fruit of their labour.
About the problem of progress and poverty he proposed a simple solution: allow everyone to have land which they desire, on condition that they pay in to the public money-chest its total rental value in the form of a tax.
Let us think about the nature of land. George distinguished between land-ownership and the ownership of man-made things. One supposes that he was the first who wrote about that distinction. [Editor's Note: No, others had; for example, the French Physiocrats.] But of course the indigenous peoples of the United States, Australia, New Zealand, etc., knew the distinction – and by that they surprised the early colonists from Britain, Spain, and the rest. Even in Britain until the 18th century land was not private property. [Editor's Note: Well, it was as good as private, even though most officially belonged to the Crown in theory.] As Proudhoun said: 'La propriété c'est la vol'
and he chose to say that possession of the land was theft.
All that we have in life – nutriment, clothes, houses, furniture, and the rest, come from the land. Humanity's dependence on the land is absolute.
But land is treated similarly to a commodity. But it is totally different to a commodity: Land is a fixed stock; land is not a product of humans; humanity cannot live without land.
It did not , the scandal
of wealth alongside gigantic poverty
The equal right of all human beings to the use of the earth is similar to the equal right to breathe the air. Furthermore, no right to own the earth exists. The justification of private possession from anyone
else is, that wealth production belongs to those who produce it. But
who can produce even a little bit of mud? The origin of the enormous
landholdings of the Dukes is thievery.
As Paine wrote: 'It is incorrect to say "and God made the rich and poor;" He only made men and women; and He gives to everyone the earth
as their heritage.'
The billionaire Duke of Westminster owns many thousands of hectares of our country [Britain], including the most valuable land in London, for which he receives rent of millions of pounds a week. It is the ownership of land that gives to a few people the power to become rich. With every economic advance rent becomes greater, but wages remain more or less constant. [Editor's Note: Not so. Real wages in developed countries rose from the 1940s to the late 1960s.] Those who own land become rich without exertion.
Generation after generation grants the 'right' of that Duke, but the
poorest London child has as much right as the son of the Duke. Paine
calculated two centuries ago that the Duke of Richmond received income that
equalled that of 2000 ordinary people added together.
Why has the land of Mayfair and Knightsbridge, which enriches the Duke of Westminster, become so valuable? – the high value of land comes
about by the continued presence and increase of the community. And
in many parts of our country the value is exceedingly great also, the location
or situation is more valuable than the buildings on it. For example,
one of my sons bought a cottage in a nice part of Didsbury, Manchester; you
enter the sitting-room from the footpath. If you were to move the cottage
to another part of Manchester – among hovels – you would pay a quarter of the price.
The solution is to tax the rent or value of land. This would
enable private occupation of land to continue, but on condition that the
occupant of each location pays the community for the privilege of its exclusive
use. So, the tax on land value ensures equal rights to the use of land.
So, what ought a progressive government do? Here's the plan:
Collect public income and simultaneously cut taxation!
After a valuation of all land in the country, they will be able to calculate the total annual rental. That is the public income available for the first year, and experts calculate that it equals 20% of the Gross National Product.
Then we will be able to cut taxation, particularly taxes which discourage employment – V.A.T. [Value-Added Tax] and taxes on wages.
Poor, homeless and unemployed people will gain greatly after the changes. In fact they do not own land. Anyone who profits solely from ownership of land will lose.
There would be a big quantity shift in the economy, and the land would undoubtedly gain value again. There would be a new fund out of
which we would be able to cut taxes again. And at long last we
could get rid of traditional taxes. We could call this plan:
'Land Tax for Public Revenue.'
(Translated from the Esperanto language original
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