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The author argues that land speculation is the major cause of depressions. He shows how the land market functions to distort the relations between labour and capital and how land speculation periodically chokes off economic expansion.
The economic power landownership confers was clearly understood by Winston Churchill and many of the leading lights in the great Liberal Government elected in 1906. Here is an extract from a speech Churchill delivered in Edinburgh on 17th July 1909:
‘It does not matter where you look or what examples you select, you will see that every form of enterprise, every step in material progress, is only undertaken after the land monopolist has skimmed the cream off for himself, and everywhere today the man or the public body who wishes to put land to its highest use is forced to pay a preliminary fine in land values to the man who is putting it to an inferior use, and in some cases to no use at all. All comes back to land value, and its owner for the time being is able to levy his toll upon all other forms of wealth and upon every form of industry. A portion, in some cases the whole, of every benefit which is laboriously acquired by the community is represented in the land value, and finds its way automatically into the landlord’s pocket. If there is a rise in wages, rents are able to move forward, because the workers can afford to pay a little more. If the opening of a new railway or a tramway or the institution of an improved service of workmen’s trains or a lowering of fares or a new invention of any other public convenience affords a benefit to the workers in any particular district, it becomes easier for them to live, and therefore the landlord and the ground landlord, one on top of the other, are able to charge them more for the privilege of living there.’