A Polarity in Thinking essay

If land is treated as private property, then land speculation will inevitably result. Pieces of land that are deemed to have the highest commercial potential will become increasingly overvalued as time goers by, with one eye looking forward to ever-higher valuations in the future. The net effect will be to seal off the land for investments of capital and labor, which, in the course of the normal economic cycle, will result in lower production, lower wages, and poverty.

As long as tracts of land are held by private individuals for purposes of selfish profit, inefficiencies in the economic system will persist. Those who own land will gain wealth at the expense of those who do not, even if they contribute nothing else to the productive process. In fact, the inequality of wealth distribution can be traced to the inequality in land ownership and access. Unless this situation is remedied, one must always expect societal problems to arise, as a necessary offshoot of wealth inequality.

Today there is a select, powerful few who are in possession of much of the world’s resources. The term ‘resources’ not only encompasses land, but also natural riches and the economic rents and franchises that go along with them. The power and financial position of this select few must be seen as monopolistic; in large part because governments are either unwilling or unable to break their economic stranglehold. On the other side of the coin, the poor have almost nothing, surviving on the charity and alms of the extremely wealthy.

In the majority of cases, the rich do not even undertake to provide for this section of society, though it would not be too unreasonable a burden for them to do so. In fact, oftentimes it is the poor and middle-class who are made to pay for national expenses, in the form of taxes on the production process. This inherently inequitable arrangement makes it very difficult for many people to enjoy the fruits of their own labor. Inevitably, this situation will produce masses of discontented people, who will no longer abide a system which takes advantage of them with such impunity.

Add to this the insult of ostentatious opulence as visible in the great cities of America, and one can justifiably expect social upheaval to envelop the country at one point or another –unless steps are taken to redress the economic imbalance. Lest one take lightly the risk of such an event, it must be pointed out that some of the greatest empires in human history entered their decline when they allowed extreme socio-economic inequality first to exist, and then to persist. Thus, if governments are to safeguard the future of the nation-state, it must remove the imbalances that plague the economy.

First, the government must declare all land as common property. This will free up the nation’s resources for further development – development that will benefit all corners of society, not just the landowners. Second, the government must impose a single tax on the value of the land, instead of taxing productive activities. This will remove the barriers that prevent most men from not only from exerting the full sum of their efforts, but also those that prevent them from benefiting directly from their work.

This two-pronged approach will result in new economic opportunities, increased wealth production, and a general decrease in the inefficiency and transaction costs that plague all economies. As wealth becomes more and more dispersed and available to those who want it, society will become more and more homogenous, rendering radical elements without any base on which they can build their power. There is perhaps no greater duty for a government than to build the wealth of the landless, if only to secure its future stability.

As laws in the past have been framed in favor of the rich and landed, future laws can be framed in favor of the poor and landless. While the former class may be disadvantaged at the beginning of such reforms, they will in time gain as much – if not more – than the latter class. II. An overruling majority that imposes a law on a minority will consider its own self-interest, and do economic injustice to minority individuals and to groups. This is an assumption that is not necessarily based on actual fact.

The opposing argument can apply as well as this one. After all, what prevents a minority from imposing laws that do economic injustice to the majority of individuals? Indeed, it is this sort of situation that has prevailed throughout most of human history, with patently undesirable results. The definition of economic injustice, of course, is open to question. Private land ownership was the result of social convention; and because social conventions can be (and often are) reversed, there is no good reason why such an arrangement should not be carried out.

If landowners and rent-collectors receive reduced incomes because of the communalization of property, they will be more than compensated by the accompanying increase in social goods. They might have to sacrifice in the short-term, but in the long term they will be repaid by the positive changes that will occur in society. The abolition of all taxes except that of the land tax will benefit all consumers alike. At present, workers and consumers are taxed at every point of the economic process. Wage-earners are taxed when they receive their salaries; they are taxed when they use it.

Consumers are taxed when they consume goods; they are even taxed when they give to others. Obviously, this arrangement does not favor anyone who wishes to build wealth – rather, it favors the government which wishes to extract more funds from its citizens. And government, of course, is dominated by a minority of men – most of them highly educated, independently wealthy, and with large economic interests to add to and protect. For thousands of years, the great mass of men have entrusted their economic fates to a select few. Some were fortunate enough to have benevolent leaders to lead them to greater prosperity.

Unfortunately enough, such leaders are the exception, not the rule, and logic dictates that since minority rule has brought us to our current impasse, an alternative must be pursued. This alternative can be called the “enlightened majority,” a large group of men and women who have good grasp of the problems of the nation, as well of the methods that might be used to solve them. While the majority itself may have leaders to guide it, such leaders will not be allowed to impose their will on the larger group. If anything, the opposite should be true.