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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 70

National Progress

page 4

National Progress.

New Zealand Herald, To the Editor.

Sir,—I observe that Mr. Ewington, in his article headed as above, in your issue of March 31 refers to views which I expressed before my constituents in 1890. His quotation is very brief, and it would be asking, too much from you to reprint the whole extract. Will you allow me to say, through your columns, that I shall be pleased to send a copy of the whole address to anyone who may ask me for one.

Mr. Ewington writes as an upholder and expounder of the arms of the National Association of New Zealand, of the Council of which I was until recently a member. For a time I had some hope that the Association would agree to a slight measure of land reform. In this I was disappointed, and, believing that the land question is at the root of most of our economic troubles, felt obliged to resign my membership.

Mr. Ewington refers to several of us merely as believers in the writings of Henry George; he considers that the prevalence of his views engender "want of confidence," and by doing so constitute "obstacle number one" to National Progress, It appears to me that such a condemnation is too general, and I am anxious to get him to pronounce more definitely. With that view I beg to ask him to criticise the following ten propositions seriatim. They contain a brief exposition of what I consider to be some of the points of divergence between the Association and myself, and are taken verbatim from my letter of resignation, dated January 27.

1.That land cannot properly be classed with, or treated in the same way as, the products of land. The former is not, but the latter are, produced by labour.
2.That the wealth produced by any use of land should remain the property of the producer.
3.That the enhanced value of land due to the presence and expenditure of a community belongs, not to any section, but to the whole of that com, munity.
4.That as an increase in the number "competitors raises the purchase price of an article (and as this must be specially the case where the quantity of the article cannot be increased) it follows that the bidding of speculator and landlords, in addition to purchasers for use, at land sales must increase the price of land beyond the figure to which users alone would go. This means that users have to pay a higher price for land than they would if speculators and landlords became extinct.
5.That the holding and subsequent sale of land by speculators diverts into their pockets the value added by the community to such land; that such holding of land retards settlement while this value is accruing.
6.That the holding of land by landlords diverts into their pockets, as rent, a part of the wealth produced by tenants; that, as long as the land continues to increase in value, an increasing rent can be demanded; that neither of these gains is the result of the labour of, nor of the useful application of the capital of, the landlord.
7.That the gains of the speculator and the landlord, being a deduction from the wealth produced by others, leaves the latter poorer by the operation of such gains; the operation "equivalent to the nation taking money from its right-hand pocket, and transferring it to the left. Land speculation and land- page 5 iordism give no value in exchange (such as is done by the seller to the purchaser of commodities), as an equivalent for their gains.
8.That the user of land) white entitled to the wealth he products, should not lie allowed, any more than the speculator or the landlord, 10 retain the enhanced value due to the community.
9.That the unimproved value of land, which is produced solely by the community, is eminently suited to be the basis from which a revenue, intended to be spent for the purposes of the community, should be raised; that it should be raised from all land, both in town and country, and levied upon its value at the date of assessment, exclusive of all unexhausted improvements.
10.That such a tax—small at first, and increasing by slow degrees over a period of years—would be equitable to all interests; that it should be imposed in substitution of, and not in addition to, other taxes; that these latter should be reduced as fast as the former was increased, so that it might in time become the "Single Tax."

Note.—Sums already received by the community for any land should be deducted from the present unimproved value.

In conclusion, I should like to thank Mr. Ewington for his courteous reference to me, despite the divergence in our opinions. Such questions should always be treated on public grounds, and on their own merits. I think Mr. Ewington deserve, also the thanks of the public for endeavouring to throw light upon the unsatisfactory position in which many of our economic relationships at preseut stand.

I am, etc.,

Edward Withy.