James Leroy Wilson's blog

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Because the State Owns the Land

Stephan Kinsella writes, "In my view, our libertarian movement and philosophy should have nothing to do with Georgism," and cites an essay by Murray Rothbard refuting Georgism and the "Single Tax."

But the same could be said for other tax schemes as well, or any proposal at all that involves the State. There will always be problems no matter where you turn, and this could be no less true for the Single Tax. The purist libertarian line will always be the anarchist line.

Yet Kinsella himself has written that "when the state assumes ownership of a resource, then it has to establish some rules as to the resource's usage," and "one reasonable rule of thumb used to judge the validity of a given usage rule for a publicly owned resource is to ask whether a private owner of a similar resource might adopt a similar rule."

Though Rothbard calls the Single Tax the "nationalization of land," that implies that the the government is not already the ulitmate "owner" of land. But that's what's what government is; the government's ultimate control over the land is the basis for its coercion over individuals. (That's why we resent it so.)

And what do owners of land do? They collect rent. If I owned all the land in the United States but also had to provide it with security and amenities (like the owner of an apartment building), I would charge rent according to what I believed the site value of a parcel of land was worth. Otherwise, what's the point of owning the land?

In the free market, individuals don't collect taxes, but they collect rents. If the State owns all the land - and ultimately, it does whether we like it or not - it still makes more sense to me for the State to collect rents than to collect taxes any other way.

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