Henry George --- "Progress and Poverty"

“Both the ethical and economic reasoning behind taxing land rest on one disarmingly simple insight: land cannot be produced. As a result, nobody is naturally entitled to it and taxes cannot discourage its production.

What’s more, increases in the value of land are unearned, since when an area is more desirable it is a result of the collective efforts of the community rather than the individual efforts of the landowner. Leafing through Henry George’s magnum opus, Progress and Poverty, he makes this point beautifully.

He is also extremely careful with his definitions and logic, and for these reasons is worth quoting at length;”

“The term land necessarily includes, not merely the surface of the earth as distinguished from the water and the air, but the whole material universe outside of man himself, for it is only by having access to land, from which his very body is drawn, that man can come in contact with or use nature.

The term land embraces, in short, all natural materials, forces, and opportunities, and, therefore, northing that is freely supplied by nature can be properly classed as capital.”

It is, he says, inherently unjust to own land:

“The right to exclusive ownership of anything of human production is clear. No matter how many the hands through which it has passed, there was, at the beginning of the line, human labor – some one who, having procured or produced it by his exertions, had to it a clear title as against all the rest of mankind, and which could justly pass from one to another by sale or gift.

But at the end of what string of conveyances or grants can be shown to or supposed a like title to any part of the material earth?”