“The first question which a practical man will ask of one who desires to restore private property is how are you going to do it without violence and injustice? At present, in the industrial world, the mass of those who produce do not own: they live on a wage. Even in the agricultural world most of those who used to be free men are caught in the mesh of usury, and are without institutions for maintaining their independence. How can you, without violence and injustice, change a state of society, however bad, which has crystallized so thoroughly, and is hard set in its mould?
The answer to this main question is that the prime instrument for effecting the change is the Differential Tax.
The principle of the Differential Tax is that a different proportion of taxation, as well as a different amount, may be applied to men in different circumstances. For instance, if you apply an income tax of zero to incomes under $2,000, of 5 per cent between $2,000 and $5,000 of 10 per cent between $5,000 and so on, that is a differential tax. Or again, if you charge an amount of $5 for taking out one license for a particular purpose, $15 for taking out two licenses, $50 for taking out three, and so on, you are applying a differential tax to licenses.
There is nothing revolutionary today about the idea of the Differential Tax. We are all used to it and we all practice it. The trouble is that we do not practice it for the one really useful end it may serve, which is the better distribution of property. When a very rich man dies in England or in France today, half his property may go to the State, but the State does not use that windfall for the re-establishment, as owners, of men now destitute. It uses such capital sums to supplement its own income-expenditure. It spends the estate duties on salaries, social services, public works, and not upon financing the re-establishment of property which is the one thing it ought to do in the case of a tax specially aimed against excessive accumulation.”
Read the rest, from The Distributist Review:
(Drawing by Eric Gill)