The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 72
In proposing this new method of procedure we are largely influenced by the suggestions made by Michael Flürscheim in his book, entitled, "Rent, Interest, and Wages" (Wm. Reeves, London; price 1s.). Mr. F. is an admirer of our leader, Henry George, and differs from him only in the method to be pursued in making ground-rent the only source of colonial and local revenue. We earnestly commend this work to your careful study. He estimates that the new method would completely effect this reform and pay off the debentures in twenty-five years. The most sanguine of us can hardly hope for an earlier success by the old proposal to take ground-rent by taxation.
|That it would, to use Flürscheim's simile, enclose the existing ground-rent fund as with an iron hoop, and prevent its further growth as a possession of private landowners. The simile of cutting off a dog's tail inch by inch has been used with some effect against the former plan. The dog would squeal at, and resist, each successive operation jus much as the first one. It has been suggested that it would be as well to cut it all off at once. There is much force in the suggestion, and we now propose to adopt it and to make the operation as painless as possible.
|That it would reconcile those who (while fully recognising that the adoption of the Single Tax would produce juster and freer conditions if commenced in a new community, yet) are so impressed with the severity of the struggle they have experienced in getting a foothold that they fear lest the introduction of ill now would imperil their hard-won savings. Many of these, it may be exacted, will be won over to the reform by the presentation of our new method. This expectation increases the probability of its earlier acceptance.
|That it would do away with the uncertainty at present, affecting all dealings with, and use of, land. That it would substitute for this a condition of general stability and confidence.
|That its adoption would involve the immediate and full acceptance of our principle of using ground-rent as the only public revenue.
|That the further operation of gradually securing ground-rent by redeeming debentures would then proceed steadily with the page 25 loyal support of all. Thus the constant agitation and unrest that would attend the former plan, besides the risk of temporary reversal of the reform, would be avoided.
|That it would not, even temporarily, cause any dislocation of colonial, local, or private finance. That it could not be accused, as our former plan was, of reducing the stability of any institutions on which the security of the savings or insurances of the people depend.
|That it would lead owners of all unused, or partially used, land to desire an immediate surrender of it to those who would relieve them from the ground-rent charge and make the best use of the land. The former owners would thus secure a State guaranteed income of 5 per cent, upon their 1891 land value.
|That many more of our sympathisers could freely, and even publicly, express their views. This is not safe now owing to the restraint brought to bear upon many by their employers. The latter look upon the Single Tax as endangering their interests, and they, therefore, denounce the plan as confiscatory. This accession of freedom to many individuals would in itself prove a great moral elevator and educator.
We believe, with a confidence that emboldens us to predict, that the colony which first adopts our proposal will solve the greatest social problem of the age, and by doing so produce a hitherto unknown contentment amongst its people; will do much to lay the growing spirit of speculation and its accompaniment, gambling, replacing these unhealthy growths with steady, because hopeful, industry; will enjoy a stable and redundant revenue; will put an end to financial crises; will attract to its shores the best specimens of modern civilised men, and thus build up a great State upon a basis of moral and financial stability such as the world has not yet seen.
On the other hand, we would ask the opponents of reform to consider seriously what is likely to be the alternative. Do they imagine that the social strife which is manifest throughout the world can continue indefinitely without producing results disastrous to them as to us? Socialistic ideas are gaining ground daily, and landlordism has no place in the Socialist's theory. Taxation of land values is already a leading idea in all progressive legislation. Is it not evident that a public opinion is arising under which the privilege of appropriating ground-rent will melt like snow in summer? Surely, then, our opponents would be wise to welcome a proposal which at once guarantees existing land values (not because they are just, but because it recognises that the actual owners are not personally culpable) but at the same time effectually prevents the further extension of an unjust system. They may rest assured that if the position were generally understood they could not hope for such easy terms.page 26
The contemplation of the reasonable and moderate expectations foreshadowed herein forces us to the conclusion that loyalty to our principle leaves us now no option but to advocate a new method, which appears likely to supersede retrograde political movements and to offer an earlier prospect of success to the cause. We therefore venture to; commend it to your earnest consideration.
Edwd. Withy, President.
F. M. King, Hon. Secretary.