In Defense of the Single Tax on Land Values

Warren Worth Bailey

[Reprinted from The Century, Volume 58, Issue 1, May 1899]

PROFESSOR JAMES BRYCE, M. P., in his article on British Experience in the Government of Colonies, in the March CENTURY, makes the amazing statement that Oriental empires have usually been run on the single-tax principle, and have not found it so simple or easy to work as it looks in theory. Perhaps some Oriental empires have been run on the land-tax principle, but this is a widely different thing. The single-tax principle involves the taxation of land-values, and not of land; and neither Oriental empires nor Western nations have ever applied that principle. Land taxes have indeed been applied, but a land tax becomes in effect and in fact a tax on land-using, and so becomes a tax at last on labor. But the single tax is a tax on land values, falling only upon valuable land, and in exact proportion to its value, without regard to its use or its improvement. It is thus not a tax on the use of land, but upon the monopoly of land; and it therefore cannot possibly be shifted upon labor, nor can it have any other effect than that of encouraging the best and fullest use of all valuable land. It would simply kill land speculation.