The Natural Source of Public Revenue
By Clare Tindall. This is an excerpt of a piece that was originally presented almost 50 years ago, at a Georgist Youth Night in 1967. It was published in the October 1967 edition of Progress Magazine.
It is at such a time as this, when we are filling out our taxation forms, and when sales tax on petrol and similar commodities is rising at an outrageous rate, that most people criticise the government. But, they make no attempt to rectify this unjust way of obtaining state revenue. They complain but they do not see any solution to the problem.
The solution is provided very clearly in Henry George’s “Progress and Poverty,” and is centred on the moral justice that the land, is the only natural source of revenue.
If today, a mature adult were to come on to our planet with no knowledge of our system of collecting of Government revenue, and if he surveyed the cities with their highly developed living conditions and social services, and the farms with their produce for the livelihood of the city population, he would expect that the revenue for the upkeep of both city and country would come simply and solely from the land. But, of course, he would be mistaken.
The Government today uses the far less logical, and certainly less just, method of collecting revenue by taxation of the individual according to values which he himself has produced by his own labour. These are income taxes, excises, tariff taxes, motor taxes, amusement taxes. They all take from the citizen part of the results of his own labour quite unrelated to the value of any services he receives from the government.
These are anti-social in their nature and their effect is to limit the production of wealth. The harder a man works and the more he tries to improve his home, the more money he has to pay to the government. On the other hand, there are the groups such as the primary producers, who could do more, but will not; because they are in an income tax range where the government would take most of the extra production.
This is completely illogical, yet few people seem to realise this. Of course, this is partly because we grow up accepting the situation as normal and unchangeable. The ideas that taxing the production of an individual’s labour rather than the taxation of the individual according to the share he holds of values produced by the Community as a whole, apart from his individual effort, are commonly circulated as being the only method of modern revenue raising.
Taxes upon land values are surely the most just and equal of all taxes. According to the natural law, land is common property and only recognition by our governments, of this factor, will remedy the unjust and unequal distribution of wealth apparent in modern civilisation. When all ground rent is taken by taxation for the needs of the community, then will the equality ordained by nature be attained. No citizen will have an advantage over any other citizen save as given by his industry, skill, and intelligence; and each will get what he fairly earns.
But I must return to my primary point: that those people who complain about the high income tax and sales tax that they are forced to pay to the government for state revenue do nothing to correct the situation. It is in the higher educational institutions, where the fertile minds can be fed with the aid of books and discussions, that the Georgist philosophy should be made popular, in an endeavour to make the government of the next generation a just one.