In Support of the Single Tax

Arthur Brisbane

[An editorial reprinted from Everyman, March, 1918]

"Mr. Brisbane is chief editorial writer for the Hearst line of newspapers. This is a striking indication of how far single tax education has gone and how obvious is the need for its immediate application."

Poverty everywhere is found almost entirely in the big cities, where population huddles.

This congestion in the cities could only occur through the fact that for centuries people were driven off the land by the landlord, and the landlord was a man who owned vast tracts of land.

War in the past has bred vile landlords. This great war will breed good landlords, because it will, by destroying landlordism as it exists, make the majority of men their own landlords. It will send men back to their Mother Earth. Every man will have his farm if he desires it.

Henry George called attention to the fact that much of the land in America and in other so-called civilized nations is monopolized by men who neither improve it nor allow others to do so.

They are holding this land for a rise in values. This land increases in value just as people in the vicinity improve, cultivate and make their own land valuable. And thus the individual who, improves land, increases values all around him.

This increase in value is not on account of anything the owner of unimproved property may do. Often he is an absentee. The increase comes from the enterprise and thrift of the people in whom the owner has no interest and often has contempt.

Moreover, you are taxed by the state for any improvement you make on your land. And this taxation must, of necessity, discourage improvement.

Thus there is a tendency to invest in land in a thrifty neighborhood and hang on to it, with the hope of securing the increase in value by doing nothing.

The remedy proposed by Henry George for this condition is the single tax. That is, all taxes are to be raised on land values. Under these conditions, the man who owns a vacant lot covered with burdock, briars, and brambles would pay the same tax that the man pays who owns a lot, and on it builds a beautiful house. The tax would not be on improvements, but on the naked land.

The tendencies of this policy would be toward causing the gentlemen who owned the vacant lot devoted to cockelburrs, to either utilize it or put up a sign on it, For Sale Cheap.

The only people who oppose the single tax are those who own tracts of land they do not improve. Naturally, these men control the votes of a good many other people who are in their employ, or who are indebted to them. But gradually and surely there is growing up in America a sentiment demanding that land shall be easy of access, and procurable by any one with disposition to use it.