LAND AND THOSE WHO LIVE ON IT
The history of the United States could almost be written in terms of a gigantic real estate speculation. Kings claimed titles to lands which they never saw and gave them for a consideration to loyal subjects or chartered companies which as a matter of course regarded themselves as landlords entitled to make all that they could out of the uncharted wilderness. By and large the men who did the work, who cleared and settled the wilderness, who built great cities, and connected them by roads and by steel rails across rivers, and plains and mountains, have paid enormous tribute to that singular institution known as absentee landlordism. Where the landlord was not altogether an absentee, as he was not and is not even to-day, his rewards were out of all proportion to any risk he took for staking his tenants or any energy he expended in directing their activities.
The Dutch East India Company bought Manhattan Island for $24 from the Indians. In 1929, before the great depression, the assessed value of this land was $4,765,047,235. In 1931 it had risen to $5,488,688,395! No man living can accurately compute the total rent-roll taken by landlords from this one small island in the 308 years since the Manhattan Indians made a better rather than a worse bargain than some of their fellows with the grasping white men. All this rental value was a social creation and all this vast wealth was the result of the labor of men with hand and brain. Yet at the height of the golden epoch of American prosperity the characteristic home of one group of the workers who have built and