ARTHUR DESMOND writing to the Editor of The CHRISTIAN SOCIALIST
"PAPER MONEY TO BUY OUT LANDLORDS"
DEAR SIR,-I have been a careful reader of your ably-conducted paper ever since it started, but am still of opinion that the whole weight of the rising power of democracy that unshorn Samson should be concentrated on that part of the enemies lines which is weakest. I allude to the unjust privilege of a few individuals in holding, as private property, the land of the nation, to the exclusion of a whole people. Land Nationalization must, I sincerely believe, be the first coming reform which will clear the way for the full realization of the ideal commonwealth of the near future.
THE CHRISTIAN SOCIALIST: A Journal for those who Work and Think.
The oppressive power of concentrated capital, which you so often dwell upon, would fade away like a nightmare if the income from land rents was the income of the nation. For it is an undoubted economic fact that upon the monopoly of land is the monopoly of capital based. Remove this base and the selfish super-structure of capital will crumble away. Take away from the private rent receiver his present power of exploiting the labours of the disinherited and landless, then capital will cease to accumulate in excessive quantities in the possession of private interest receivers. The nation would become the great capitalist, and would be able (with mutual advantage) to lend its credit to private individuals without the payment of interest. Usury would thus die a natural death, because. there could be none or few individual capitalists, and who would borrow money and pay interest when he might get advances from the proposed National Bank in proportion to his securities without interest. Capital, in private hands, would be unable to compete with the State Bank. Any increase in national prosperity would increase the national income, and make it easier for the National Bank to lend its credit to individuals, industrial armies, or co-operative companies.
An easy means of nationalizing the land, without any undue shock to existing institutions (except the banks) would be to issue paper-money in exchange for land on the same principle as that on which private banks now issue their "promises to pay" in exchange for gold, &c. Land is more valuable than gold, and fluctuates less in value, therefore as a currency, base and security it would be more stable than any kind of coined metal. This theory of issuing bank notes in exchange for land is financially sound, as every argument used to advocate a "gold" basis for paper currency applies with tenfold force to a "land" basis. And as regards flooding the market, I think that would be an impossibility, while every bit of paper represented so much land pledged as security. The machinery for inaugurating this scheme is already in existence, viz., the Post Office Savings Bank, and postal notes are now issued for coin which might, with equal if not superior soundness, be issued in exchange for land.
Government notes circulating among the people, and based on land value, and redeemable in rent would, for all practical purposes, pass from hand to hand as legal tender.
I throw out this idea as a hint, because I am convinced that in it is the germ of the solution of the whole difficulty. It is possible to elaborate upon this to an indefinite extent, but in the meantime I will leave that to some of your intelligent readers.
A National Bank to first nationalize the land, and afterwards to act as a universal clearing-house, a National Bank of deposit and exchange where all were depositors and all shareholders, would realize the ideal socialistic theory in its full significance.
The history of the world is teeming with instances where paper-money has been used successfully for slaughtering human beings, and surely it is possible in these enlightened (?) times to issue it on a sound basis for national regeneration.
With most hearty good wishes for all those true-hearted reformers who in England have given their lives to put on the crown of thorns for others, I remain, dear Sir, yours sincerely,
Hawkes Bay, New Zealand.
March 26th, 1886.
(Even if the landlords were thus bought out, we fail to see how the Stock Exchange would collapse, or how the innumerable harpies, who snatch at produce on its way from producers to consumers, would be cut off; nor yet how markets could be no more forced. By all means nationalize the land, but to make interest irrecoverable in the courts would be a greater step still.—ED. C.S.)