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THE SILVER QUESTION.
The silver question in this country to-day is the result of a demand on the part of many people for more money in circulation, stimulated doubtless by the desire of the owners of silver mines to find a market for their product. As the law stands now, gold may be taken in unlimited quantities to the United States mints and there coined into money. The director of the mint has no power, acting as the agent of the Secretary of the Treasury, to refuse to receive the metal or to pay for it, either in gold coin or in United States notes, which are, of course, gold coin in another form.
When England demonetized silver, France was left as the great bi-metallic country of the world. At that time (1792 to 1834) the United States was coining silver and gold at the ratio of 15 to 1. France was coining at the rate of 1542 to 1, and as a result the United States was stripped of its gold coin. In 1834 the United States raised the ratio from 15 to 1 to 16 to 1, and there being 3 per cent. profit in the transaction, the silver left this country and gold came in. Then the United States, in order to keep its subsidiary coinage, depreciated it and thus stopped the drain.
When the war broke out, all questions of metallic coinage were speedily swallowed up in the flood of "greenbacks” and “shinplasters.
When, however, we renewed specie payment, things went on as before. In 1873 France stopped the free coinage of silver in order to escape from the flood of German silver which was draining the country of its gold. Coincident with this came the enormous development of silver-mining in this country, following the discovery of the “Bonanza” deposit in the Comstock in Nevada. All the silver of the world rushed in here and the United States was forced to demonetize the metal.
The demand for more money in circulation, which naturally followed the great development of the country during the seventies and eighties, brought with it the greenback movement. This was a demand made by a large section of the people for the issue by the government of an unlimited and irredeemable currency. The greenback advocates were defeated and so thoroughly beaten that as a party in politics they practically ceased to exist. The nation realized that greenbacks were the notes of hand issued by the government and obtaining their value from the government's credit. It was as absurd to say that a government note should never be redeemed as it was to say that the note of an individual could be circulated in business if there was no redemption provided for it.
But while the common sense of the nation rejected the irredeemable greenback project, this did not in the least affect the demand for more money in circulation. It was apparent to all men that when the time came to move the wheat crop, all other enterprises felt the need of money greatly. It took about all the money in the country for the wheat. Consequently there came a time every year when business generally languished, owing to the fact that the money, which is the life-blood of business, was withdrawn from it. Nor was this all. The scarcity of money brought with it a high price for its use, and the interest demanded on mortgages was such that the net profit derived from the cultivation of the ground would not, except under exceptional circumstances, pay this interest.
Men who were confronted with this situation, and especially the farmers, who feel the bite the most keenly, looked at the vast mass of silver in the country with longing eyes. They declared that silver was as goou a basis as gold on which to rest a currency, and they demanded that the United States once more go back to the bi-metallic standard. They urged that, were there unlimited coinage of silver; were silver put on the same basis as gold in this regard, the dearth of money would cease at once and interest would fall. As a result of this feeling the Bland bill was introduced into Congress providing for the unlimited coinage of the white metal.
It was fiercely opposed. Many able men, led by John Sherman, Ex-Secretary of the Treasury, argued that, were the United States to adopt the bimetallic standard when no other of the great nations would do the same thing, it would at once create a market for the silver of the world, and that it would be drained of its gold. This would result, they declared, in an advance in the price of gold, and as all balances in commerce with nations having a gold standard would have to be paid in this metal, any legislation making gold subject to fuctuations in price would result disastrously to the merchants and manufacturers. The gist of their argument was that the monetization of silver would make gold a commodity subject to changes in price and to all the evils of speculation.
The opposition was strong enough to get the Allison amendment tacked on to the Bland bill. By this the Secretary of the Treasury must buy not less than two millions nor more than four millions each month. This measure has resulted in making silver a commodity.
During the last two years the party in favor of free silver and a bi-metallic standard has grown enormously in this country. The gist of the whole question lies in the ratio given to silver and gold in any law making both legal tender and giving both free coinage. The ratio in the markets of the world to-day is, generally speaking, one of gold to fifteen and a half of silver. But silver, being demonetized, fluctuates in price. Were the United States to adopt this ratio, then it would find itself alternately a purchaser and a seller of silver, as silver went down or up abroad. Whether these would be equal in the long run it is difficult to say.
It is probable that the advantages and disadvantages of free coinage for silver have been exaggerated somewhat by the advocates and opponents of the measure. There remain two facts after all the froth has been blown away. First, the farming and other interests of the country seriously need cheaper money; second, that any ratio established by Congress will force this country to buy or sell silver in accordance with the price elsewhere.*
* For most recent developments as to silver legislation, etc., up to the moment of going to press, see Addenda, preceding Index.
THE SINGLE TAX THEORY.
THERE is a Single Tax National League of the United States of which Henry George, of New York, is the foremost champion. The theory of the League is that all men are equally entitled to the use and enjoyment of what God has created and of what is gained by the general growth and improvement of the community of which they are a part. That no one should be permitted to hold natural opportunities without a fair return to all for any special privileges thus accorded to him, and that that value which the growth and improvement of the community attaches to land should be taken for the use of the community; that each is entitled to all that his labor produces; therefore, no tax should be levied on the products of labor.
The League is in favor of raising all public revenues for national, State, county and municipal purposes by a single tax upon land values, irrespective of improvements, and all the obligations of all forms of direct and indirect taxation. With respect to monopolies other than that monopoly of land, the League hold that when free competition becomes impossible, as in telegraphs, railroads, water and gas supplies, etc., such business becomes a proper social function which should be controlled and managed by and for the whole people concerned, through their proper government, local, state or national.
THE SINGLE TAX PLATFORM.
PLATFORM ADOPTED AT THE CONFERENCE OF THE SINGLE TAX NA
TIONAL LEAGUE OF THE UNITED STATES, AT COOPER UNION, NEW YORK, SEPTEMBER 3, 1890.
At the meeting of the Single Tax National League of the United States held at Cooper Union, New York, September 3, 1890, Henry George, as Chairman of the Committee on Platform and Address, reported the following, which was adopted:
We assert as our fundamental principle the self-evident truth enunciated in the Declaration of American Independence, that all men are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights.
We hold that all men are equally entitled to the use and enjoyment of what God has created and of what is gained by the general growth and improvement of the community of which they are a part. Therefore, no one should be permitted to hold natural opportunities without a fair return to all for any special privilege thus accorded to him, and that that value which the growth and improvement of the community attaches to land should be taken for the use of the community; that each is entitled to all that his labor produces; therefore, no tax should be levied on the products of labor.
To carry out these principles, we are in favor of raising all public revenues for national, State, county and municipal purposes by a single tax upon land values, irrespective of improvements, and all the obligations of all forms of direct and indirect taxation.
Since in all our States we now levy some tax on the value of land, the single tax can be instituted by the simple and easy way of abolishing, one after another, all other taxes now levied, and commensurately increasing the tax on land values until we draw upon that one source for all expenses of government, the revenue being divided between local governments, State government, and the general government, as the revenue from direct tax is now divided between the local and State governments, or by a direct assessment being made by the general government upon the States and paid by them from revenues collected in this manner.
The single tax would:
1st. Take the weight of taxation off the agricultural districts when land has little or no value irrespective of improvements, and put it on towns and cities where bare land rises to a value of millions of dollars per acre.
2d. Dispense with a multiplicity of taxes and a horde of tax-gatherers, simplify government and greatly reduce its cost.
3d. Do away with the fraud, corruption and gross inequality inseparable from our present methods of taxation, which allow the rich to escape while they grind the poor.
4th. Give us with all the world as perfect freedom of trade as now exists between the States of our Union, thus enabling our people to share through free exchanges in all the advantages which nature has given to other countries, or which the peculiar skill of other peoples has enabled them to attain. It would destroy the trusts, monopolies and corruptions, which are the outgrowths of the tariff.
5th. It would, on the other hand, by taking for public use that value which attaches to land by reason of the growth and improvement of the community, make the holding of land unprofitable to the mere owner, and profitable only to the user. It would thus make it impossible for speculators and monopolists to hold natural opportunities unused or only half used, and would throw open to labor the illimitable field of employment which the earth offers to man. It would thus solve the labor problem, do away with involuntary poverty, raise wages in all occupations to the full earnings of labor, make overproduction impossible until all luuman wants are satisfied, render laborsaving inventions a blessing to all, and cause such an enormous production and such an equitable distribution of wealth as would give to all comfort, leisure and participation in the advantages of an advancing civilization.
With respect to monopolies other than monopoly of land, we hold that when free competition becomes impossible, as in telegraphs, railroads, water and gas supplies, etc., such business becomes a proper social function which should be controlled and managed by and for the whole people concerned through their proper government, local, State or national, as may be.
The following are the officers of the Single Tax League of the United States: Chairman, Louis F. Post; Treasurer, August Lewis; Secretary, George St. John Leavens, 42 University Place, New York.*
* For most recent developments of the Single Tax theory, up to the moment of going to press, see Addenda, preceding Index.