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CAPITAL AND LAND.
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THE FABIAN SOCIETY.
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PEOPLE OF ALL CLASSES and of all political parties are genuinely anxious to revive village life. Thus we may prevent the constant drifting of the people to the towns, with much concurrent misery. Everyone will therefore be interested to read “Mother Earth," by MONTAGUE FORDHAM, a thoughtful and practical book on this question.
It deals not only with the economic changes needed in order that a permanent life should be built up in the country districts, but also gives important information on co-operation, on the financing of small holdings through loan societies, and on agricultural education and productivity. The building up of a stable community of agriculturists and artizans in permanent country homes and the Land Club system are also fully dealt with.
The book has been widely reviewed and highly praised. It can be obtained through all booksellers and from the Fabian Society.
A few press notices follow :
The Economist.—"Mother Earth" should be read by all who are anxious to find remedies for the decay of agriculture.
The Globe.—Students will find much sense and ability in this short practical treatise.
The Church Times.-His book should be read by all who are concerned with the problem. It has the advantage of being a real book, written with a style.
The Manchester Courier.-It may be strongly recommended to the attention of all having any connection with the administration of the 1907 Small Holdings Act.
The Yorkshire Observer. This book should be studied by land reformers of all shades of opinion.
The Manchester Guardian.—This beautifully printed essay has, as Mr. Hobson says, the conspicuous method of outlining a "large, bold, comprehensive and genuinely organic reform.”
The Daily News says: The (Land Club] movement is so full of promise, because it has sprung voluntarily from the country people themselves. It is one of the very few efforts in modern rural England that can be called truly democratic. . . . Homes and land--that is the talisman that has called these clubs into being.
The Morning Leader.—A book so temperate and sane that all thoughtful people should read it.
The book is published in a special Library Edition, beautifully
printed on deckle-edge paper at 58. net, post free; and a Popular Edition will be issued in April at 18. net, postage 2d.
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CAPITAL AND LAND.
The practical aim of Socialists with regard to the materials of wealth is "the emancipation of land and industrial capital from individual and class ownership, and the vesting of them in the community for the general benefit."* Land and capital are instruments with which man works for the production of wealth, material for the maintenance of his existence and comfort. Now it is important to notice that, though in common talk we separate the two, and though political economists have given a scientific dignity to this rough classification of the instruments of production, distinguishing as "land" that which has been provided by “ Nature," and as “capital" that which has been made by human industry, the distinction is not one which can be clearly traced in dealing with the actual things which are the instruments of production, because most of these are compounded of the gifts of Nature and the results of human activity.
" Land.” The only instruments given to us by Nature are climate, physical forces, and virgin soil. The use of these passes with legal“ property" in the land to which they belong, and they are consequently classed with "land." Those virgin soils are called good or fertile which contain in abundance elements which the chemistry of animal or vegetable life can convert into the materials of human food, clothing, etc. Other mineral elements of particular patches of soil are convertible, by the arts of the mining, metallurgic, building, and engineering industries, into a thousand forms of wealth.
How “ Land” gets Value. But even these qualities of virgin soil are of no use or value unless they are found in accessible positions; and their advantage to the proprietor of the land increases rapidly as human society develops in their neighborhood; whilst in all advanced societies we find large areas of town lands whose usefulness and value have nothing to do with their soils, but are due entirely to the social existence and activity of man.' Land in Cornhill, worth a million pounds an acre, owes its value to the world-wide industry and commerce whose threads are brought together there, not to its natural fertility or to the attractions of its climate. “Prairie value” is a fiction. Unpopulated land has only a value through the expectation that it will be peopled.
* See the “ Basis " of the Fabian Society, page 18.
The "natural" capabilities of land are thus increased, and, indeed, even called into existence, by the mere development of society. But, further, every foot of agricultural and mining land in England has been improved as an instrument of production by the exercise of human labor.
First, of human labor not on that land itself ; by the improvement of the general climate, through clearing of forest and draining of marsh ; by the making of canals, roads, railways, rendering every part of the country accessible ; by the growth of villages and towns; by the improvement of agricultural science; and still more by the development of manufactures and foreign commerce. Of all this human labor, no man can say which part has made the value of his land, and none can prove his title to monopolize the value it has made.
Secondly, all our land has been improved by labor bestowed especially upon it. Indeed, the land itself
, as an instrument of production, may be quite as truly said to be the work of man as the gift of Nature. Every farm or garden, every mine or quarry, is saturated with the effects of human labor. Capital is everywhere infused into and intermixed with land. Who distinguishes from the mine the plant by which it exists? Who distinguishes from the farm the lanes, the hedges, the gates, the drains, the buildings, the farm-house? Certainly not the English man of business, be he landlord, farmer, auctioneer, or income tax commissioner. Only the bold bad economist attempts it, and, we must add, some few amongst our allies, the Land Nationalizers. It may be worth while to digress for a while in the company of these latter.
A Word to “ Land Nationalizers." The arguments revived in our generation by John Stuart Mill and Henry George, and the activity of the various societies that have taken in hand the work of diffusing them, have now converted an immense body of public opinion to the Socialist view of the justice of, and urgent necessity for, Nationalization of the Land; or, at least, the absorption, by the State or Municipality, of ground rents, mining royalties, and similar unearned profits from the soil. Land Nationalizers go, generally, so far with Socialists that (in the words of the Fabian "Basis "') they "work for the extinction of private property in land, and of the consequent individual appropriation, in the form of rent, of the price paid for permission to use the earth, as well as for the advantages of superior soils and sites."
But some, who are thus far Land Nationalizers, still shrink from any interference with the legal powers enjoyed by the holders of capital. Hence a most unfortunate separation exists between them and the Socialists, whose design of nationalizing the industrial capital with the land appears to them unjustifiable and unessential.
Capitalist and Landlord in One Boat. They use the argument that capital, unlike land, is created by labor, and is therefore a proper subject of private ownership, while land is not. Socialists do not overlook the facts on which this argument rests, but they deny, on the grounds already partly stated, that any distinction can be founded on them sufficiently clear and important to justify the conclusion drawn. But, supposing we assume it true that land is not the product of labor, and that capital is ; it is not by any means true that the rent of land is not the product of labor, and that the interest on capital is. Nor is it true, as Land Nationalizers frequently seem to assume, that capital necessarily becomes the property of those whose labor produces it ; whereas land is undeniably in many cases owned by persons who have got it in exchange for capital, which may, according to our premisses, have been produced by their own labor. Now since private ownership, whether of land or capital, simply means the right to draw and dispose of a revenue from the property, why should the landowner be forbidden to do that which is allowed to the capitalist, in a society in which land and capital are commercially equivalent? Virgin soil, without labor upon or about it, can yield no revenue, and all capital has been produced by labor working on land. The landlord receives the revenue which labor produces on his land in the form of food, clothing, books, pictures, yachts, racehorses, and command of industrial capital, in whatever proportions he thinks best. The ownership of land enables the landlord to take capital for nothing from the laborers as fast as their labor creates it, exactly as it enables him to squander idly other portions of its product in the manner that so scandalizes the Land Nationalizers. When his tenants improve their holdings by their own labor, the landlord, on the expiration of the lease, remorselessly appropriates the capital so created, by raising the rent. In the case of poor tenants holding farms from year to year in Ireland, the incessant stealing of capital by this method so outraged the moral sense of the community, that the legislature interfered to prevent it long before land nationalization was commonly talked of in this country.* Yet Land Nationalizers seem to be prepared to treat as sacred the landlords' claim to private property in capital acquired by thefts of this kind, although they will not hear of their claim to property in land. Capital serves as an instrument for robbing in a precisely identical manner. In England industrial capital is mainly created by wage workers—who get nothing for it but permission to create in addition enough subsistence to keep each other alive in a poor way. Its immediate appropriation by idle proprietors and shareholders, whose economic relation to the workers is exactly the same in principle as that of the landlords, goes on every day under our eyes. The landlord compels the worker to convert his land into a railway, his fen into a drained level, his barren sea-side waste into a fashionable watering place, his mountain into a tunnel, his manor park into a suburb full of houses let on repairing leases; and lo! he has escaped the Land Nationalizers: his land is now become capital, and is sacred.