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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 71

Auckland — Anti-Poverty Society. — Fifth Annual Report

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Anti-Poverty Society.

Fifth Annual Report.

In presenting our Fifth Annual Report, we regret the necessity of adopting a somewhat apologetic tone. The question of Land Reform is no longer a novelty, and, several of our most active members having left Auckland, we have had to discontinue our regular public meetings for the present, and confine ourselves to the distribution of the literature of the Land Question and an occasional letter to the papers.

We might, indeed, be somewhat despondent if the principle for which we contend were one of "parish politics," or of merely local application; but, as the most radical and far-reaching of modern ideas, it is universal in its scope, and we must extend our survey beyond out own shores to gain any adequate idea of the flow of the tide of public opinion.

It is apparent to all who read and think that the "labour" question is the vital question of the day, and that "land" and "labour "are (figuratively speaking) the two sides of the social shield. The "labour side," being constantly turned towards us, attracts universal notice, and thus it is not surprising to find that most of those who deal with the question approach it on the "labour" side.

Convinced that the root of modern economic misery is to be found in the misappropriation of "the land," we contend that the true remedy is to be found only in restoring it to its proper function in the national economy.

It is self-evident that the proper function of the land is to furnish to all its inhabitants the natural opportunities necessary to enable them to produce wealth for themselves; and therefore it is one of the first duties of the State to take care that none shall use it as a means of taxing the wealth produced by others.

To do this it is not necessary to interfere with any man's property; it is only necessary to take annually for public purposes the annual value created by the public. The Single Tax alone will ensure to every man the full possession of his own liberty and property, by gradually appropriating public rent to public purposes, and thus cancelling the unjust and spurious value of the private taxing power hitherto held by the landlord.

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It is to mighty London that we must look for the most vivid illustration of the iniquity of the landlord's taxing power, and we rejoice to find that it is London, also, that has shown most clearly during the past year the dawn of the idea of social justice on the land question.

In 1870 the gross rental of London was 22 millions sterling; this rental rises steadily year by year. In 1880 it was over 30 millions; it is now over 40 millions. Careful calculations prove that three-fifths of the gross rental is a full allowance for the yearly value of town and city improvements; the remaining two-fifths represent "ground rent." The honest rental of London, for which service is rendered in the shape of houses and improvements, is therefore 24 millions; the immoral tribute paid to the landlords, and for which no human service is rendered, is 16 millions annually! Every city and town in the kingdom pays tribute in similar proportion; the total tribute levied on the nation by the landlords in the form of "ground rent" being 150 millions per annum.

As it is in London that this frightful iniquity reaches its hugest development, it is fitting that London should lead the way to its abolition. This duty has been undertaken by the London County Council, in their "Owners' Rate Bill," which is now made a condition of proceeding with public improvements. This grand object-lesson on the principle of the Single Tax has been followed by Mr. Dalziel's bill for the taxation of ground values, with separate valuation of land, and power to levy rates thereon, and authorising tenants to deduct such rates from rent. The Royal Commission on the Housing of the Working Classes has recommended that the increased value of land arising out of building operations should be rated at 4 per cent, on its capital value.

These are cheering signs of the rising tide, which is destined to sweep the landlord's taxing power into the limbo of the past.

The power of wealth production has reached a point hitherto inconceivable; what is lacking is merely the power of distribution. The Socialists, in despair at the apparent complexity of the problem, would adopt arbitrary measures.

We say, Let "labour value" alone stand in exchange between man and man, and then distribution will be natural and just. We rest our whole case on the axiom that "the ownership of land does not entitle any man to share in the produce, of labour." This is the real issue, and it involves a mightier question than ever Luther raised. It is not one of forms of creed or modes of faith—no; it goes far deeper than any of these, for the social iniquity caused by Landlordism is forcing men to ask themselves whether there can indeed be "a soul of justice at the heart of things?" and on the answer to that question must depend the hope of all religion, or else a blanker atheism than man has yet dreamed of.

Landlordism stands condemned, not only on ethical grounds, or page 5 intellectual considerations—it stands condemned by its own fruits. It brings the abomination of desolation into town and country alike; the slums of English cities are living nightmares; the village life of England is perishing in pauperism and degradation. The London Daily Chronicle has lately employed a "Special Commissioner" to investigate and report on the conditions of rural life in England, and the result, as recorded in a little book just published ("Life in Our Villages"), constitutes the most crushing indictment of Landlordism conceivable.

We would urge the clergy to ponder this question, for it touches them closely. We hear of Christian Single Taxers who express themselves thus: "If it be indeed true that modern Christianity is in consonance with modern Landlordism, it will Income necessary for us to reconsider our connection with such Christianity." We would point out that our cause has its adherents among all sections of Protestantism as well as in the ranks of the freethinkers. The Roman Church also counts them among her priests: it was a Roman priest (Father McGlynn) who, in 1887, founded the first Anti-Poverty Society in New York. It is true that he was afterwards excommunicated, and! hat the Pope issued an Encyclical Letter, which some of our local advocates of land monopoly (who would not take the Pope's word for a brass farthing on any other subject) were not ashamed to quote in defence of Landlordism!

The Papal Encyclical was fully answered by Henry George in his letter to the Pope "On the Condition of Labour," in which he recites the following declaration, made by Dr. Nulty, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Meath, who thus sets forth the fundamental principle of the Single Tax: "God was perfectly free in the act by which He created us: but, having created us, He bound Himself by that act to provide us with the means necessary for our subsistence. The land is the only source of this kind now known to us; the land, therefore, of every country is the common property of the people of that country, because its real owner, the Creator who made it, has transferred it as a voluntary gift to them; terrain autem dedit filiis hominum (the earth hath He given to the children of men). Now, as every individual in that country is a creature and child of God, and as all His creatures are equal in His sight, any settlement of the land of a country that would exclude the humblest man in that country from his share in the common inheritance would be not only an injustice and a wrong to that man, but, moreover, would be an impious resistance to the, benevolent intention of hit Creator."

It is satisfactory to know that the Pope has lately sent a special legate to New York to reinstate Dr. McGlynn in his priestly office, without his having recanted one word of his teaching on the land question.

We have thus every reason to be hopeful for the progress of our ideal in the old world, although the Socialists, who point only to the page 6 monstrous results of social iniquity, gain the popular ear more readily than we, who merely point out the simple (though hidden) cause of that iniquity, and its equally simple remedy.

In this Colony we rejoice that the tide has risen high enough to carry a Land Tax on to the. Statute Book. It is indeed of a most imperfect and rudimentary character, but it shows that the idea is working; and it must he our endeavour to secure representatives who will insist on a measure which shall he not merely a half-hearted and tentative recognition of the Single Tax principle, hut shall he fully and frankly based on that, principle.

In the meantime our greatest obstacles are apathy and misrepresentation, and we are happy to express our obligation to Mr. Edward Withy for the assistance he has rendered by his letters to the Press, which we had the pleasure of publishing in pamphlet form in September last, and also for a clear and concise exposition of the rationale of the Single Tax, which we hope to publish shortly.

For the Anti-Poverty Society,

Adam Kelly,


F. G. Platt,

Hon. Sec.