PRE-1930 EXPERT OPINIONS

LEADING AMERICAN ECONOMISTS RESPOND TO                  AMERICAN ASSOCIATION FOR SCIENTIFIC TAXATION 
15 Park Row, New York City (pre-1930)

FRANK D GRAHAM
Professor of Economics, Princeton University

The phrase “unearned income” is quite generally used
in a loose and ambiguous way and has consequently
lost much of its real significance. No income is
unearned which is received in payment for such
economic services as would not be rendered in adequate
degree except on that condition.

The real unearned income is that which accrues to an
individual without his having done anything which
contributes to production. Of the several types of such
income the most important is that which issues from the
site-value of land. The recipient of such an income
does nothing to earn it; he merely sits tight while
the growth of the community about the land to which he
holds title brings him an unmerited gain. This gain is
at the expense of all true producers whether they be
labourers, enterprisers or investors in industrial
equipment. The taxation of this gain can do nothing to
deprive the community of any service since the donee
is rendering none. The land will be there for the use
of society whether the return from it is taxed or
free. Society creates the value and should secure it
by taxation.

The approach to scientific taxation involves a
shifting of the burden from productive industry, where
it now lies, to such incomes as these which are in
truth unearned. Like many other reforms this must be
accomplished only step by step but the path along
which we ought to move lies clearly within our sight.
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GLENN E HOOVER
Assistant Professor of Economics and Sociology,
Mills College

The site-value of land is so obviously a socially
created value that few, if any, theoretical economists
worthy of consideration will deny it. Unfortunately,
for reasons which appear utterly inconclusive, many of
them oppose any effort to single out this value as a
special object of taxation. They object that the
right to privately appropriate it has been purchased in
good faith with money which we must presume to have
been earned. The claim of these purchasers is indeed
entitled to consideration, but why it should serve to
perpetuate among future generations, a system which is
as unethical as it is unsound economically, is beyond
me. This claim would but justify, at most, a bit of
gradualness in our programme.

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TN CARVER
Professor of Economics, Harvard University

I favour a special tax on land values insofaras
these values are the result of location rather than of
fertility. Fertility may be easily exhausted, it is
difficult to conserve, and still more difficult to
restore when once exhausted. The farmer must he left with an
adequate motive for conserving fertility. Therefore I
should treat fertility as I would ditches and other
improvements. Location value, however, is a different
thing. It seems to me to be a good subject for special
taxation.

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IRVING FISHER
Professor of Economics, Yale University

I cannot agree that land value should be the sole
source of public revenue. Nevertheless, premising
that so important a change should not be made
abruptly, I favour the gradual reduction so far as
possible of taxes on the products of labour and taking
instead the economic rent of bare land.

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JOHN R COMMONS
Professor of Economics, University of Wisconsin

The present general property tax is unjust to farmers
and uneconomic from the public standpoint, because it
places high taxes on the farmers’ fertility,
improvements, timber and personal property. This
portion of his taxes should be greatly reduced and
even abolished, on the part amounting to more than 60
per cent. of agricultural values; but the bare land
value, amounting to 40 per cent. or less, should he
taxed at higher rates. By no possible effort or
expense can he, as an individual, increase his bare
land values. These are increased by the labour,
management and thrift of other taxpayers and other
industries in the form of highways, railways, schools
and profitable markets.

Farmers’ bare land value for solely agricultural
purposes, distinguished from its speculative value
near cities, scarcely runs as high as 100 dollars per
acre, but urban bare land values run as high as
several million dollars per acre, while bare
water-power values are becoming fabulous. Bare land
values, including the value of mere waterpower, are
due solely to scarcity, while the values of fertility,
improvements, machinery and personal property are due
mainly to thrift, good management and labour.

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RAYMOND T BYE
Professor of Economics, University of Pennsylvania

I believe that we should increase the taxation of
land, exclusive of improvements, at the same time that
we decrease the taxation of the improvements thereon.
Such taxation of land should be increased gradually,
not suddenly; and if extended over a long enough
period of time, it would not be unwise to raise the
tax to the point where it would appropriate to the
State the greater part, if not the whole of, the
economic rent. I do not believe however, in the Single
Tax doctrine that such a land tax should be completely
substituted for an other taxes.

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H I DAVENPORT
Professor of Economics, Cornell University

It is obvious that the bare land with its contents and
the waters that flow through and about it constitute
the nature-provided environment of human beings and
are rightly the subject of their equal claims. Also
that the value-for-use of these natural resources is
conditioned on population. It follows population as
its shadow. It appears with the people and disappears
when they go. This value, therefore, should. by the
best of titles, be retained by the community as its
most excellent source of public revenue.
The more the community draws upon this vast
community-conditioned fund the less will be the forced
contributions from capital and labour. This means
that the greater and better distributed will be the
purchasing power of the people.
Nor is the fiscal retention of bare-land rent to be
regarded as a tax; being the rightful collection of
revenue from the social estate, it is therefore not
taxation, but, to its extent, displaces and avoids
taxation.

I do not however regard as implicit in the principle
of the social retention of land rent, the requirement
that economic rent should constitute the sole source
of public income. Never is any good revenue method
rightly discredited by any other.

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WILLIAM H DINKINS
Dean, and Instructor in Accounting & Economics                                        Selma University, Alabama

I believe that the taxation now levied upon industry
and consumption by our national, state and local
governments should be removed completely and at once,
and that the land-values of the country should be
taxed to raise the revenues for the different branches
of government. The land-value, which is a periodically
accruing value, is the only measure of both community
benefits and community ability to pay public revenues.
When we tax land-values we take, not the labour
product of individuals, but a community product. to
pay community expense.

The single tax on land-values is the only tax that
collects from the people money in proportion to
benefits received and ability to pay. It is the only
tax that will cause reafforestation of our lands and
thus the control of our rivers; the only tax that will
put a check upon oppressive bureaucracy and oppressive
captainship of industry; the only elastic tax whose
elasticity is in direct relation to community needs
and to community ability to pay. “Community” is used
in both the local and the widest senses.

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TJ ANDERSON Jr
Associate Professor of Economics,                                                                        Kansas State Agricultural College

I believe that one improvement in taxation policy
could be made by increasing, gradually, the tax burden
on bare land value and, correspondingly, lowering the
burden on the improvements “in” and “on” the land.
Such a plan would take taxes to a greater degree from
the socially-created portion of the property value and
to a lesser degree from that portion of the value due
to the work and thrift of the owner. Therefore, it
would encourage work, thrift and wise investment.
In conclusion, I wish to say that 1 think the complete
and scientific reform of the American Tax System is
one of the most pressing present,day problems.