That land is a gift of nature is accepted as a matter of course; but the principle of natural rights, as propounded by Henry George, has not been indorsed to any great extent. It is for philosophers to decide when a natural right exists, whether there ever was or will be such a thing, or whether the same natural right will continue to exist throughout all time. As far as the single tax proposal is concerned, an individual has a natural property right to the fruits of his labor, but not to the gifts of nature. The conclusion follows that property rights may be had in the improvements on land, but not in the land itself.
A little consideration will show such a distinction to be one without a difference - or, at best, only a difference of degree. Here is a farm, a gift of nature, and on it a dwelling house, a product of man's labor. But when a little closer consideration is given to the house, nature appears to have played a considerable part in making provision for it. The clay in the brick was taken from the hillside; the oak in the floors was taken from the forest; the glass in the windows was accumulated from various places. The entire building was a gift of nature-man has no more power to create houses than to create land. He simply changed the materials of nature to make them more serviceable, the difference being that he exerted more effort on some than on others.
Man also changes the nature of land, in a different way, perhaps, to make it more useful. He plows under vegetation to make it more fertile; he plants the corn in rows around the hillside to prevent erosion; he surrounds the land with a fence to prevent destruction from the trespass of animals. All this is work upon the land to make it more useful, just as work was done upon the materials in the house to make them more serviceable. Either private ownership is justified in land or it is justified in no material thing, for every material thing is based upon some gift of nature.