We did not create the world. God did. But he created it for us - for all of us. Genesis says he gave us “dominion” over it. But can the fact that the earth (or the creation) is our common inheritance reconcile itself with a modern economy? A modern farmer needs a great deal of land in order to be productive. A high-rise office building is normally situated on a small, but extremely valuable site in the middle of a bustling downtown. Conversely, a person may choose to be an apartment renter rather than a homeowner, thereby forgoing any legal land ownership at all. Do these situations offend justice? Does the principle of our common inheritance in the creation square with the requirements of today’s economy?
Well if God created all this, he probably gave us some rules that can answer the question. After all, as the creator, he has the right to set the rules. And usually, rules that God sets are not to be ignored, both for moral and for practical reasons. God does know what he’s doing.
As found in The Tithe (sources) and The Tithe (uses) God set the terms for our use of his land. He said we must pay a tithe of the land’s productive value every year. Only ten percent of that tithe was to go to the religious establishment. The other ninety percent of it went to fund what we now call civil government. So a rent on land value is to be at least one source of the government’s revenue. At the same time, levies against labor (income tax, etc.) were forbidden. So were levies against people’s capital. Such levies by a powerful government were considered theft, regardless of whatever civil law made them “legal.”
People create their own labor. Labor is owned by the laborer. No one has the right to take labor from the laborer. Remember, we found slavery to be immoral. So wages (salaries, etc.), being the economic return on our labor, are sacrosanct, under God’s rules.
If a person saves some of his wages, that savings is called wealth. If wealth is put to use to create more wealth, we call it capital. Capital comes from wages and is owned by the laborer or by the person to whom the laborer freely gives it. Taking a person’s capital by force is also forbidden in God’s Law for the same reason that taking labor is forbidden.
So, under God’s rules, we should tax land value and untax labor and capital. Some would say that there would not be enough money to run the a modern government if we did enact such a system. However, God said the tithe would suffice.
And now we get back to justice. Justice does not demand that I take part of your wage or your possessions and hand it over to folks who have little. In fact, Justice is offended at such a thing – it’s just theft. On the other hand, the whole community created land value – and God created the land. So paying rent for using something I didn’t make but have exclusive use of and using it to benefit the common good – this does seem just. We have established governments to provide common societal benefits like roads, police, contract enforcement, etc. This land rent would be the natural and just source of revenue to provide these goods for the benefit of all.
God is pretty smart.