Academic journal article The American Journal of Economics and Sociology

Foreword

Academic journal article The American Journal of Economics and Sociology

Foreword

Article excerpt

IT GIVES ME great pleasure to introduce this erudite and eminently readable book as another in our series "Studies in Economic Reform and Social Justice." Captain James Cook claimed Australia for England in 1770 and from that point on an individual-rights-oriented privatized system of land ownership replaced the communal understanding of land that had long prevailed among the Aboriginal Australians. Them would be no lasting harm here if only the privatized owners paid a tax based on the unimproved value of that land but they do not pay such a tax. Community land management and approved changes in land use spring into capital gains that are captured by a lucky few. And in some cases by a corrupt few. The community as a whole loses as a few well-connected or astute speculators reap gains where they have not sown.

There is a moral norm implicit in the discussions that make up this valued series of books. That moral norm is simply stated in the following way--"no one should be permitted to make an unearned profit merely from acquiring possession of land [because land is] a natural resource that no man has created" [see Day's discussion on p. 14, below]. And if that moral argument does not convince the reader, then perhaps a pure economic efficiency argument might serve just as well. That efficiency argument is simply that since land is given more or less in fixed supply, the imposition of a tax on the unimproved value of land will have no adverse effects on the allocation of resources (neither land nor any other resources will have to be shifted around, especially if we ignore wealth changes resulting from the first initiation of that tax). …

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