Herbert Davenport on the Single Tax: A Second Look


  • J. Patrick Gunning

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      (Professor J. Patrick Gunning is a Professor of Economics at National Chung Hsing University in Taipei, Taiwan.] His interests include the history of economic thought and the modem Austrian school especially the work of Ludwig von Mises. Gunning is now preparing a monograph on the economic theories of H.J. Davenport.


Abstract. Despite a recent claim to the contrary, Herbert J. Davenport was firmly against the Henry George proposal to try to raise all public funds from a tax on land. This is evidenced by two papers he wrote on the subject. Davenport argued that the single tax on land would prompt the inefficient use of substitutes for land, that it would tend to destroy the base upon which the tax was levied, and that it would offend our sense of justice, or the equal treatment principle. The most important and effective of his arguments appears to be the first. It was, more specifically, that in the event of a land tax, individuals would economize on land. They would farm more intensively, they would construct higher buildings, and they would exploit potential underground living space. This paper describes Davenport's arguments and shows why they have been misinterpreted in the past as supporting Henry George's tax theory.