1960s >> 1969 >> no-778-june-1969

50 Years Ago: Land Nationalisation and the Workers

A new organisation has been formed called ‘The Commonwealth League’, having for its object:

The foundation of a Commonwealth based on the establishment of the common right of the land by the payment by each landholder of the economic rent, which is the commercial value of the site he holds.

The economic rent of any piece of land is the difference between the natural properties of that piece, either in fertility or situation, and that of the poorest piece in demand. How is the amount of this difference arrived at? By competition. To quote the words of one of the Commonwealth League’s leaflets, “He, (the landholder) will pay what another would be willing to pay for the privilege of using the piece of common property he holds’’. (The Vision and the Realisation).

We are told that this method “will throw the land open to all”. Quite true if we add “who are able to pay for it” as it will be the highest bidder who will hold the land, exactly as he does now.

But, it will be objected, at present this price goes into the pockets of private individuals, whereas under the League’s scheme it would go into the ‘common fund’. Yes, but what common fund? To this the answer is: the fund required to meet the social expenses of the community. But how are these met now? By the rates and taxes. Thus the final result of the appropriation of ‘economic rent’ or ‘land values’ is to reduce the amount paid for rates and taxes from other sources.

As a class the workers are not concerned with taxation under capitalism. Out of the total wealth, which they produce by applying their labour power to the materials given by nature, they receive on an average about enough to keep them in the working condition that the masters’ interests demand. Obviously they have no margin left over out of which to pay either taxes or economic rent.

The method might not please the section of the master class who are solely, or mainly, landholders, but it would undoubtedly be beneficial to the industrial or commercial capitalists, and is really the ideal capitalist form of taxation.

[From an article ‘Nationalisation —its Futility Exposed’ by J. Fitzgerald, Socialist Standard, June 1919].