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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 72

Effect on Land Values

Effect on Land Values.

One of the first effects of the adoption of the new system I should expect to be the restoration of land values. And what would this mean? Land values are the basis of every other kind of value. On what does the security for Life Insurance policies, Bank Deposits, accumulated savings of every kind rest, if not on land values, and if the depreciation in these, that has been going on for years past is to continue, what is to be the result?

This depreciation is universal throughout the civilised world, and it demands our serious consideration. Various reasons have been assigned. The favourite one in England is the competition of America and the colonies, but if this were the cause, how is it that land has depreciated in value in these countries also? The fact is, that where there is a universal page 37 result there must be a universal cause, and there is no use in seeking for it in any local one. Land being the greatest interest in the world, it must be some very great cause that can so seriously effect it. What is there large enough? I say again nothing except its railways; and it is impossible to doubt that the right or wrong administration of an institution costing £6,000,000,000 and directly dealing with the transit of the world's people and products, must have an enormous influence for good or for evil. If wrongly administered it must depreciate land values, if rightly dealt with it must increase them.

We do not enough consider the fact that everything exists by motion, and that without motion there is not, there cannot be, any life. If, therefore, we bar the flow of trade, commerce, and social intercourse by the interposition of a turnpike at every mile, what can we expect but a decrease in land values, and consequently a decrease in the value of in every other thing. These invisible turnpikes clearly limit the profitable uses to which land can be applied, and therefore limit its value, and also limit the employment of labour.

But why should the new system restore laud values? Because, by removing the turnpikes and regulating the stages as proposed, it would encourage population to spread over the land, and more especially over the thinly populated portions of it. It would no longer be necessary for all our great factories to be crowded in or around a few great cities, and consequently the labour employed in them could live on land, and their presence, and the presence of those that would follow them, would give it value. For instance, in the distance from London to Manchester instead of 186 of these invisible turnpikes there would be but 22. The effect of the removal of the 164 would be magical. The impulse given to trade and commerce would probably be more than equal to that given by the introduction of railways.

Seeing that all wealth is produced by the application of labour to land, or to the products of the land, it is manifest that any transit system that will enable labour to move to and fro freely, and that will enable population to spread over the land, must add largely to land-values and to the public wealth, and that the stage system would do this admits of no doubt.

Some people are apprehensive that the stage system will injuriously affect the owners of land situated within a radius of say fifteen miles round the chief cities. They argue that it will destroy their existing monoply, and thus depreciate the value of their lands. These gentlemen forget that they adduce one of the strongest arguments in favour of its introduction, for what right have they to this monoply at the expense of the community generally? They, however, are quite mistaken as to the effect on the value of their land. There is no land that it would so much and so rapidly increase in value.

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One of the first effects would be to cause all that class of land to be very greatly subdivided and taken up for residence sites. Under the stage system every clerk and workman could have their little patch of laud, and have their patch they would. This would give to this class of land a value it could not possibly obtain as farm land. What then would happen? Why, these small farms would be pushed out into the next fifteen or twenty miles, and so the value of that land would be raised. These, again, would push the farmers proper further out, close up to the sheep and cattle runs. It would simply mean a pushing out of the people and the creation of an enormous trade for our railways and great seaports, and thus the value of land would be raised everywhere to the great advantage of the whole community. There can be no doubt that this would be the result.