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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 69

The Land Should Belong to the State

The Land Should Belong to the State,

and not to individuals; and that the people, through their representatives, should determine the conditions of its occupation with a view to its being put to the most profitable use by the larger number of people. Were such a system in operation, numbers of people with moderate capital could profitably settle upon the lands, because, instead of having their capital sunk in the purchase of the freehold, and having to call upon the mortgagee to supply them with funds to improve and page 8 stock their farms, which in the majority of cases results in the borrower becoming the unpaid servant of the lender, they, by leasing the land, would have their capital in hand for working it. Let us take one illustration. A man, say, with a capital of £500 buys 200 acres of land at a cost of £600. He has to erect his house and other buildings, fence and plough the land, sow crops, purchase stock and implements, and maintain himself and family for one, if not two, years, before getting any return. A farmer of very modest ideas of comfort, and by the exercise of the greatest economy, could not do these things for less than £600, making, with the cost of the land, £1,200 or £700 more than his capital. In order to secure the required funds he would have to mortgage probably the whole of his possessions; and there may come a time of depression, when land may be reduced in value, the mortgagee, getting uneasy, realises his security, leaving the hardworking farmer without a home and without means. Let us suppose that, instead of sinking his money in the purchase of his farm, he rented it at a rental equal to 5 per cent, of its value—say £30 per annum. He would be able, without recourse to borrowing to fence and stock bis farm and erect his buildings, and be a free man and his own master, instead of, as in the other case, being practically the servant of the mortgagee. In regard to extensive blocks of land held by companies and private individuals, I should be in favour of legislation which would make it the interest of these holders to cut up their properties; and whenever it is found the demand for laud for the purpose of bona fide settlement cannot be satisfied, it will be necessary in the interest of the community that the Government should have power to compel the owners of large blocks to surrender them on reasonable terms.