Political speaking before lies and propaganda

Read in this issue of Labour Affairs a speech by Winston Churchill in 1909, on taxing empty property: not only does the speech use arguments  the Labour Party could deploy, but it is also a model of plain speaking (as well as witty), in the days when politicians called a spade a spade. 

[Tax on Capital Value].

“But there is another proposal concerning land values which is not less important. I mean the tax on the capital value of undeveloped urban or suburban land.

 The income derived from land and its rateable value under the present law depend upon the use to which the land is put, consequently income and rateable value are not always true or complete measures of the value of the land. 

Take the case to which I have already referred of the man who keeps a large plot in or near a growing town idle for years while it is ripening – that is to say, while it is rising in price through the exertions of the surrounding community and the need of that community for more room to live. Take that case. I dare say you have formed your own opinion upon it. Mr. Balfour, Lord Lansdowne, and the Conservative party generally think that that is an admirable arrangement. They speak of the profits of the land monopolist as if they were the fruits of thrift and industry and a pleasing example for the poorer classes to imitate. We do not take that view of the process. We think it is a dog-in-the-manger game. (Hear, hear.) We see the evil, we see the imposture upon the public, and we see the consequences in crowded slums, in hampered commerce, in distorted or restricted development, and in congested centres of population, and we say here and now to the land monopolist who is holding up his land – and the pity is it was not said before – you shall judge for yourselves whether it is a fair offer or not – we say to the land monopolist:-

“This property of yours might be put to immediate use with general advantage. It is at this minute saleable in the market at ten times the value at which it is rated. If you choose to keep it idle in the expectation of still further unearned increment, then at least you shall be taxed at the true selling value in the meanwhile.””

[Churchill is proposing a communist budget]:

“That is the proposal of the Budget – and that is robbery, that is plunder, that is communism and spoliation, that is the social revolution at last, that is the overturn of civilized society, that is the end of the world foretold in the Apocalypse.”

[The poor pay nearly as much as the rich in tax]:

“this Budget, which is denounced by all the vested interests in the country and in all the abodes of wealth and power, that, after all, it draws nearly as much from the taxation of tobacco and spirits which are the luxuries of the working classes, who pay their share with silence and dignity. It draws nearly as much from them (renewed cheers) as it does from those wealthy classes upon whose behalf such heartrending outcry is made”.

Read the complete speech in this issue

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