Alfred Russel Wallace : Alfred Wallace : A. R. Wallace :
Russel Wallace : Alfred Russell Wallace (sic)

 
 
Taxation or Compensation (S426: 1890)

 
Editor Charles H. Smith's Note: A letter to the Editor printed on page 192 of the 1 August 1890 issue of The Democrat. To link directly to this page, connect with: http://people.wku.edu/charles.smith/wallace/S426.htm


     Sir,--I have much pleasure in replying to the four questions which you think I ought to have answered in my address to the Land Nationalisation Society [[i.e., S423]]. (1) I do not suppose that the Land Restorers' programme ends with the 4s. tax; but I have always found that they propose it as the first step. (2) Whatever arguments are valid against the 4s. tax are equally valid against each successive step while the tax is being increased up to 20s. It is, no doubt, possible in the end to make the landlords pay to the tax-collector the "whole annual value" of their land, but so long as they remain landlords and monopolists they will assuredly get it back from the tenants, not ostensibly as more rent, but in the form, perhaps, of a "voluntary bonus" enforced by a speedy and certain notice to quit. (3) I said nothing about the effect of taxing vacant land, because that is a different question, and I wished to deal only with the main problem, whether or no a land-tax for the relief of tenants will or will not ultimately be paid by the tenant. If landlords can always recover the tax from the tenant, the main purpose of land taxation fails. We do not deny that taxation, if heavy, would lead to the utilisation of vacant lands, but we prefer a method which would do this far more effectually, by placing all land required by the people in the hands of their local representatives, and thus securing not only the most complete utilisation of the land but the whole of the future increase of value for the people. (4) Buying land, as required, at a fair present value will not necessarily raise its price. A general valuation might be made based on the actual net rentals of land during the last ten years or so, and all land taken might be paid for on the basis of that valuation. So far from giving a new legal sanction to the monopoly of land it would absolutely destroy it, since it would place the whole land of the country in the hands of the people whenever they required it, and at a fair price. Taxation, on the other hand, does not recognise private property in land, and, by leaving the landlord his power to deal with the land as he pleases, gives to that power the sanction of fresh legislation.

     Mr. Ogilvy has shown, in his excellent tract on "The Ethics of Compensation," how the payment for the land may be made to fall exclusively on those who have benefited by land-monopoly--not landlords only, but capitalists of all kinds whose wealth has been derived through power of obtaining labour for an inadequate and unfair wage which that monopoly has alone rendered possible. By thus making those who have hitherto benefited by land-monopoly pay for extinguishing it, we shall do justice all round, and remove the only valid argument against land-purchase as a means of effecting complete and speedy Land Nationalisation.

Alfred R. Wallace


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