W. H. Van Ornum, Wheelbarrow and Land Values

W. H. Van Ornum, “Wheelbarrow and Land Values,” The Open Court, 3, 80 (March 7, 1889), 1506.


To the Editor of The Open Court:—

* * * Wheelbarrow seems to be unable to distinguish between land and land-values, but there is no difficulty in it if he will do a little solid thinking. Let him first find out what value is, and then not confound it with anything else. May be we can help him a little. Suppose we say that value is what people will give for a thing. Now land may be very useful and yet worth nothing. No matter how useful it may be no one will give anything for it if they can get just as good without buying it. If watches like Wheelbarrow’s were free, then watches of that grade would be worth nothing, although they might be very useful timekeepers. When particular land, for any reason, is wanted by more than one person, then a value attaches, and that value is just what any one of them will give for its exclusive use. It is the competition which makes the value at all, and the greater the competition the greater the value, and it is this value which is proposed to be taken under the single tax. Recognizing the equal right of every man, not only to land at all, but to any particular land, then if two or more want the same land the only way to satisfy the rights of all of them and determine which shall have it, is to turn it over to the one who will pay the most into a common fund for them all, and in which they ail share alike. If it was proposed to tax land, as such, then all land would be taxed; but it is only valuable land which we seek to tax, and just in proportion to its value. Now can Wheelbarrow understand how that land[-value?] is something “that attaches to land by the growth of the community?” Growth of the community, increase in population, and increase in competition are synonomous terms, and are only different ways of stating the cause of land values. * * *

Ravenswood, Ill. W. H. Van Ornum.

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