Εικόνες σελίδας
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

on good authority that peasant proprietorship has undeniably been the solution of the land question in Denmark, and the great impetus to the national prosperity of that country. The report gives a glowing account of the flourishing state of the agricultural villages and towns, where, it adds, the social conditions of men, women and children were most satisfactory-' sobriety remarkable, and no real poverty existing.'

These statements are fully borne out by the annual Budgets and official reports of the Danish Government. Denmark has a small population of about 27 millions, considerably less than that of Yorkshire. Out of an annual revenue of less than six millions sterling the Government devotes the comparatively immense sum of a quarter of a million annually to the promotion of agriculture. Perhaps the greatest sign of the prosperity of the people of Denmark is the fact that about forty-one millions sterlingequal to about 15l. per head of the whole population-are invested in savings banks.

With regard to the Government's Agricultural Holdings Bill now before Parliament, the Central Chamber of Agriculture, which is an association of all the principal Chambers in England, met on the 4th of June to consider that measure. The meeting did not agree with the opinion of Lord Lincolnshire as to the value of the Bill to tenant farmers. It declared the provisions of the measure to be totally inadequate for the needs of farmers, and after a full discussion passed a resolution rejecting the Bill and asking for immediate legislation to enable tenants to buy their farms by the aid of State loans. The noble Marquess should take note of this, as it upsets his most telling arguments.

Lord Lincolnshire makes some scornful reference to Sir Gilbert Parker, Mr. Ellis Barker, and myself, as a 'trio of townsmen' presumably with no practical knowledge of land and agriculture. The former two gentlemen can take care of themselves. With regard to myself, his remarks would be offensive but for the fact that, though the noble Marquess is known to be given to political posturing, his attacks are always based on good-nature and free from any ill-will, and can therefore be treated leniently. At the time when the ancestors of the noble Marquess were honourably engaged in other occupations my ancestors were working on the land, where they have been in an unbroken line from the time of the Conqueror-first as peasant proprietors, and, after being ousted from that position by unjust laws, as agricultural labourers. It might possibly be the case, therefore, that I have inherited some of the ' inherent qualities of the soil,' made more useful by intimate experience of the conditions of life in towns, which are so closely connected with rural questions.

3 Report published by Alex. Thom and Co., Dublin.

Lord Lincolnshire speaks of our traditional system of landlord and tenant, which has, he says, succeeded in obtaining a larger return per acre than is the case in any other country. In both contentions he is hopelessly wrong. The system of landlord and tenant is a comparatively modern one : the traditional system' is that of ownerships, in the persons of peasant proprietors and veomen farmers, to which classes the defence of England was always entrusted, and to which the making of the Empire is mainly due. As to the produce of the soil, the land under ownerships in Europe is subject to intensive cultivation, and produces twice at least the production of the soil of England."

This is the reason why land in Continental countries is worth double or treble that of similar land in tbis country, and it is not difficult to prove that the price of land is a true gauge of the real prosperity of a nation.

Lord Lincolnshire says that ownerships in England would deprive the farmer of his working capital : that they would be exploited by the money-lender, would lead to subdivision, to land jobbing, and ultimately to the resale of the holdings and to a return to a consolidation of estates. All these are trumped-up difficulties, every one of which is provided against by the ‘Purchase of Land’ Bill, which embodies the Unionist proposals. The noble Marquess derides the idea of the magic of ownership,' but though this has become somewhat of a hackneyed phrase, the principle it contains remains as sound and as true as when Arthur Young invented it. Finally, Lord Lincolnshire avoids the questions of depopulation, of overcrowding in the towns, of excessive emigration, and, above all, the greatest ill-omen that can be attached to the economy of any nation, that of a landless peasantry.


* No doubt the average yield of corn per acre is larger than that of ContiDental countries. I had some communication on this point with the late M. de Laveleye, the eminent Belgian economist. He explained that the peasant owner cultivated in wheat land that would never be used for that purpose in England. He added that though the yield was often no more than ten or twelve bushels per acre, it paid the owner, but, of course, lessened the average yieid.



All readers of the daily papers will have noticed the very frequent references which continue to be made to the land-valuation and land-taxing clauses of the so-called “People's Budget.' One day we read of the hard case of some small builder, required to pay what is facetiously termed 'increment value duty' on the sale of a newly-built house, even when he has made no profit whatever, or perhaps incurred a loss. Another day one hears of some preposterous undervaluation of old cottage property made by Government officials, with the object of extorting from poor and ignorant people, not likely to venture an appeal, a duty which is not properly payable at all. Often examples are quoted of buildingland rendered unsaleable, builders thrown out of work and ruined, while speculation in the erection of new houses is discouraged. As a result there is, of course, a growing scarcity of house-room in some localities, with a tendency for rents to increase. One hears also of mortgages called in, which cannot be replaced, owing to the profound distrust among investors mainly caused by the financial gyrations of Mr. Lloyd George, and the onslaughts on property by the Single Taxers' and 'Robber-Socialists,' among whom may be reckoned the members of the United Committee for the Taxation of Land Values' and the Parliamentary Land Taxing Group. The public has been startled by the revelation that a swarm of new officials, some two thousand in number, has been appointed, without proper examination, at salaries which, with the attendant expenses, amount to not far short of half a million a year, solely to administer the landvaluation clauses of the ‘People's Budget,' and to collect the new land taxes, microscopic in amount up to now. One hears, too, ominous murmurs about the huge expense and trouble cast upon owners of land and house property throughout the country, in furnishing information to the Government valuers, and in disputing their fantastic 'valuations.'

1 The first article on this subject was published in The Nineteenth Century and After for September 1910, and the second in June 1911.

But what one never does hear of is any trifling advantage whatever wbich can be claimed as a set-off against all this national trouble and loss. As yet the new land taxes bring in nothing worth mentioning. Answering a question by Mr. Pretyman in Parliament recently, Mr. Lloyd George had to admit that the whole produce of increment value duty up to the 31st of March last was only 62511., and of undeveloped land duty only 31,2931. ; while no less than 686,0001. had been spent up to that date in the cost of valuation alone.? And it is doubtful whether this estimate includes all the attendant expenses. But anybow, the net result is that every sovereign raised by the new land taxes cost the country eighteen sovereigns in hard cash to obtain ! And this without reckoning the expenses thrown upon landowners. Although Mr. Lloyd George still affects to believe that the valuation may be completed in five years, at a cost of two millions, competent persons, not interested as he is in putting a roseate complexion on its future, think that twenty-five years would be much nearer the mark. If that is the case, it looks as if the direct cost of the valuation to the country, at half a million per annum, would be about twelve millions, and the indirect loss to land and house-property owners and builders many times as great, while pretty nearly all the country will get in return is—the precious valuation itself.

Mr. Lloyd George, when he forced the Finance Act of 1909-10 through Parliament, with the aid of his pocketed Irish party, held out that the Government would undertake the whole cost of the valuation, and declared that there would be no tax on any increment of value except what 'accrued to the land from the enterprise of the community, or the landowners' neighbours.' And this increment was to be strictly an unearned increment.' He foretold that the new taxes would be remunerative to the Exchequer. And he even had the inventiveness to assert that they would promote building operations. Found out as a romancer on all these points, to save his face he now seeks refuge in the new pretence that the precious valuation will compensate for all the bopeless loss and trouble of which he has been the principal cause.

But whether the valuation will be worth sixpence to anyone when completed (if ever it is completed) is a question to which the Government is much at fault for an answer. For when Mr. Lloyd George set about harrying the house and landowners, and robbing them, and impoverishing the country at large by the freak legislation to which he has alluded with somewhat misplaced vanity as bis ‘own patent,' he does not appear to have

: Reversion duty,' another Lloyd George invention, produced up to the end of the last financial year the magnificent sum of 22,8781. This duty is assessed tpon a different kind of valuation.



taken any trouble to find out what is the real value of the presumed sources of revenue which he was going to tax. All bis estimates of yield have been wildly and ridiculously wrong. Evidently they were mere guesses, if he was telling the truth about the real tendency of his new taxation.

For what had be the right to expect as the annual yield of the increment value duty based upon the increment of value accruing to land sites by the enterprise of the community'? What is year by year the capital value of freehold and leasehold property changing hands by sale or on death, or newly leased for ternis exceeding fourteen years, and thus becoming liable to this tax? The figures are not to be disentangled from any official documents to which the public has access.

But however wide of the mark any assumed figures may be, no estimate, be it ever so much higher than it should, will help Mr. Lloyd George in the very least.

The safest basis of computation which I have ready to hand is to be found in Table 28, p. 34, of the fifty-fourth report of the Commissioners of Inland Revenue. This table gives a list of ' Details of the Gross Capital Value of Realty subject to Estate Duty, of which the Department had notice,' from 1900 to 1911.

The total of all the items in the table for the year 1910-11 was in round numbers seventy millions. Taking the sites of houses and buildings at one-fifth of the combined gross value, and eliminating agricultural land and some other items not taxable for increment value duty, one arrives at a figure of about fourteen millions as the basis for assessment of that duty on property passing on death in the year in review. To this must be added a large sum for sales and leases of property not passing on death-say six millions more-making twenty millions altogether. And I think this is a liberal estimate.

Now the passing of the ‘People's Budget' at once automatically threw down all real property values to a very large extent.' This was foreseen by all practical men, and is generally admitted by everyone except Mr. Lloyd George and his myrmi

• Table 28 shows that before Mr. Lloyd George's new land taxation was brought forward, the item · Building Land’ for eight consecutive years averaged 1,589,6741. Even in 1907-8 it reached 1,507,7631. But directly Mr. Lloyd George began tampering with land values the value of building land subject to estate duty sank at once in 1908-9 to 1,062,2251., in 1909-10 to 975,1181., and in 1910-11 to 772,5281. The average of the last three years is only 936,6271. This shows a drop of more than forty per cent., which fairly agrees with outside estimates. How does Mr. Lloyd George explain this? And are these figures unconnected with the attempt of the Commissioners of Inland Revenue to value for estate duty and under the Finance Act at the same time, so as to cover up the apparent loss ? For the gross valuation of all the items in Table 28 for 1910-11 is only 70,191,1511., which shows a decrease of more than fifteen millions from the valuation for 1907-8, a normal year before the Finance Act. This decrease is nearly equal to three-seventeenths, or more than 17' per cent.

Such an

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »