Land for the People

Excerpted from the book;
Individual Liberty: Selections From the Writings of Benjamin R. Tucker
Vanguard Press, New York, 1926
Kraus Reprint Co., Millwood, NY, 1973.


Although secondary in the study of economics, in the view of the Anarchists, the land question nevertheless ranks high with a large number of persons, hence it was always coming to the front in the columns of Liberty. During the period covered by the matter in this volume the Single Tax was very prominent in most discussions of this subject, and Henry George was very active in his propaganda, hence, in the following pages, there will be many references to his pet theory. The Irish land question also was very much in the public eye, and the Liverpool speech, referred to here, is that in which Michael Davitt, in 1882, first publicly endorsed the doctrine of land nationalization. The term "rent," as here used by Mr. Tucker, means monopolistic rent, paid by the tenant to the landlord, and not economic rent, the advantage enjoyed by the occupant of superior land. This distinction is maintained generally throughout these discussions

The Liverpool speech, it seems, was delivered by Davitt in response to a challenge from the English press to explain the meaning of the phrase, "the land for the people."' We hope they understand it now.

"The land for the people," according to Parnell, appears to mean a change of the present tenants into proprietors of the estates by allowing them to purchase on easy terms fixed by the State and perhaps with the State's aid, and a maintenance thereafter of the present landlord system, involving the collection of rents by law.

"The land for the people," according to Davitt, as explained at Liverpool, appears to mean a change of the whole agricultural population into tenants of the State, which is to become the sole proprietor by purchase from the present proprietors, and the maintenance thereafter of the present landlord system involving the collection of rents in the form of taxes.

"The land for the people," according to George, appears to be the same as according to Davitt, except that the State is to acquire the land by confiscation instead of by purchase, and that the amount of rental is to be fixed by a different method of valuation.

"The land for the people," according to Liberty, means the protection (by the State while it exists, and afterwards by such voluntary association for the maintenance of justice as may be destined to succeed it) of all people who desire to cultivate land in the possession of whatever land they personally cultivate, without distinction between the existing classes of landlords, tenants, and laborers, and the positive refusal of the protecting power to lend its aid to the collection of any rent whatsoever; this state of things to be brought about by inducing the people to steadily refuse the payment of rent and taxes, and thereby, as well as by all other means of passive and moral resistance, compel the State to repeal all the so-called land titles now existing.

Thus "the land for the people" according to Liberty is the only "land for the people" that means the abolition of landlordism and the annihilation of rent; and all of Henry George's talk about "peasant proprietorship necessarily meaning nothing more than an extension of the landlord class" is the veriest rot, which should be thrown back upon him by the charge that land nationalization means nothing more than a diminution of the landlord class and a concentration and hundred-fold multiplication of the landlords power.


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