It is quite true that man is not responsible for many of the differences in land values. Nature is responsible for differences of fertility and location, and society has been responsible, no doubt, for many increases in value. The present owners of these better farms or sites frequently have paid the capitalized rental for the privilege of such ownership, and evidently would take unkindly to the following proposition of Mr. George:

I do not propose to purchase or to confiscate private property in land. The first would be unjust; the second, needless. Let the individuals who now hold it still retain, if they want to, possession of what they are pleased to call their land. Let them continue to call it their land. Let them buy and sell, and bequeath and devise it. We may safely leave them the shell if we take the kernel. It is not necessary to confiscate land; it is only necessary to confiscate rent.1

Not All Land Values Unearned. - The institution of private property has been too firmly established, and the principles of transfer and priority too deeply rooted, for landowners to submit passively to any such proposition as the above. A substitute proposal, which will be discussed later, that all future social values be taken in taxes, has been made by some quasi disciples of Henry George. It is interesting to speculate, moreover, as to what would have been the nature of the development in the United States had the single tax principles been active. The government was interested in developing the West, and either gave the lands to settlers or sold them at a few dollars per acre. In successive years, transportation lines would be built, cities would develop, and the lands would increase in value, due to factors other than the efforts of the owner. Under the single tax regime this increased value would go to the state. Had this been the situation there would have been no Western pioneer, and development would have come only as the pressure of population forced expansion. The expected increase in land values was but the remuneration for the hardships of pioneering. Likewise, expected increases in land values are often figured as essential parts of industrial enterprises. The establishment of such cities as Gary and Pullman are examples of this.

1 Progress and Poverty, bk. viii, chap. ii.

Society Responsible for Other Values. - If socially created land values should be turned over to the state, then other socially created values, if they be found to exist, should be treated in a similar manner. A little consideration will reveal the fact that values of every description are more or less the product of society. Industrial stocks, for example, are valuable because society demands the products of industry. One individual invests $10,000 in land, and another $10,000 in sugar stock. Society increases its demand for the product of the land and it becomes worth $15,000 - an unearned increment of $5,000. The demand likewise increases for sugar, and this stock becomes worth $15,000. One $5,000 is just as much an unearned increment as the other.

A janitor in the Woolworth Building receives $75 per month. He receives it because the desires of society have demanded such a building, and his job therefore is a social product. The demand for brick may so increase, or the clay become so scarce, that the value of the house on the farm will increase materially over its initial one. This is a social product as much as the increased land value. So it might be shown that the unearned increment element is coextensive with industry, and that society has as just a claim upon it in one branch as in any other.

Unearned Decrement. - An increment, moreover, does not always exist, but the change in value often takes the form of a decrement. If a socially created value should go to society, then the converse should be true, and socially created losses should be given by society to the loser. Little has been said of this aspect, yet when the broad influence of society upon values is considered, its importance becomes one of no little magnitude. Farm values have soared because of the high prices society has been willing to pay for farm products, yet society may readjust the monetary system, lower prices, and destroy values. Legislation may repress an industry, and by so doing destroy the value of its stocks. A new transportation system may develop, thereby lowering the former value of sites. The abandoned New England farm is a monument to a socially created loss. Such social losses are continually being created just as much as social values, and are simply opposite aspects of the same phenomenon.