Christopher Erskine (Time for a new lease on life, March 9, p7) is correct that it was the writings of American political economist Henry George that inspired Canberra’s founders to put in place a leasehold system of land tenure. It was envisaged by many, including Walter Burley Griffin, that land rent payments to the Commonwealth would provide an ever-increasing fund for the maintenance and development of a self-supporting national capital. Mr Erskine asks whether we should keep those remnants left of our leasehold system. However, we need to start with a deeper question. How can we secure equality of opportunity for our citizens?
Perhaps the most important part of Henry George’s work was his discernment of the ”Law of Human Progress”. Hereby George demonstrated that there can be no real and sustainable social progress without association in equality, which in turn necessarily requires an equal right to use and enjoy the Earth. George then famously showed how the collection of land rent in lieu of taxes on labour could establish such an equal basis for economic and social relations.
Land rent may be collected under a variety of land tenure arrangements ranging from leasehold to fee simple.
It is the rent of land not the land itself that naturally belongs to the people in common. Further reform and extension of the ACT Land Rent Scheme is one means by which Canberra could realise the original progressive ideals espoused by our founders.
Association for Good Government, ACT Branch