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Northern Wisconsin Agricultural and Mechanical Association / Transactions of the Northern Wisconsin Agricultural and Mechanical Association, including a full report of the industrial convention held at Neenah, Wisconsin, February, 1886. Together with proceedings of the Association for 1884, to January 1, '86
Vol. XI (1886)

Bright, C. M.
Taxation,   pp. 273-306 PDF (6.8 MB)


Page 286


286 TRANSACTIONS OF THE NORTHERN WISCONSIN
bad. But it may be prevented. To doubt that there is a
possibility of less poverty and distress is to doubt that a
Divine will had anything to do in planning the world, and
to believe that we and our institutions are creatures of
chance. Call it a Utopian dream if you will, but it is pos-
sible to have a condition in which there would be less mis-
ery and poverty and sorrow in the world, and a nearer
equality in the enjoyment of its blessings. This condition
has not been brought about by a protective tariff, nor by
any system of currency yet invented, nor by laws fixing
wages, nor by laws regulating the number of hours for a
day's labor, nor by co-operation, nor by any restraint upon
the increase of population, nor by combinations of laboring
men, nor from a close sub-division and more general distri-
bution of land. All of these have been tried, and all have
failed.
There is one natural opportunity for man to secure a liv-
ing. It is the land. To how many people does the thought
come why this opportunity should all be owned by one por-
tion of the human family to the exclusion of the other
portion? No man ever made an acre of land. It represents
no labor or enterprise. It is as necessary to all as the air,
the water, or the sunshine. It is nature's gift to man; not
to a few men who happen to get possession of it, and after
using it as long as they want, say who shall use it after
them, but to all men. This patch of the great foot-stool,
called the United States, ought to be the common property
of all the people who claim protection under its laws, or
may be called upon in time of danger to defend it. Still, it
is all owned by a comparatively small number of its citizens,
and the many have got to do without it or pay for the use
of it. What justice is there in this? Why should one man
take from another a portion of what he earns with his labor
in return for allowing him the use of natural opportunities?
I would abolish private ownership in land. Make the land
what it was intended to be, what justice demands that it
should be, what its best use demands it should be, the com-
mon property of all. This can be done by simply placing a
ground rent upon every foot of land that is used by any-


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