The Worldly Philosophers 188

Why, asks Henry George, should rents not exist? Why should a man benefit merely from the fact of ownership, when he may render no services to the community in exchange? We may justify the rewards of an industrialist by describing his profits as the prize for his foresights and ingenuity, but where is the foresight of a man whose grandfather owned a pasture on which, two generations later, society saw fit to erect a skyscraper?

The question of rents is something I’ve thought about before and never got quite a satisfactory answer.

Heilbroner’s answer, in part, that I think is partly satisfactory:

The question is provocative, but it is not so easy to condemn the institution of rent out of hand. For landlords are not the only passive beneficiaries of the growth of society. The stockholder in an expanding company, the workman whose productivity is enhanced by technical progress, the consumer whose real income rises as the nation prospers, all these are also beneficiaries of communal advancement.


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