Berkeley Mayor J. Stitt Wilson's Vision of the City, 1911

Stephen E. Barton

[Reprinted from GroundSwell, May 2012]

The following article was contributed by Dr. Mason Gaffney, Riverside, CA, with the permission of Stephen E. Barton, El Cerrito, CA. “J. Stitt Wilson was Mayor of Berkeley from 1911 – 1913 and helped lead the efforts in 1912 and 1914 to allow local governments to tax land differently from improvements. He was a socialist, feminist and single-taxer and this statement is a remarkable synthesis of all three.” – Stephen Barton, letter, May 1, 2012

“Man is a social animal. Every aspect of his nature, physical, intellectual and moral, tends to community life. … Land is the physical basis of his social existence. The earth is his home… and since land is limited in quantity and varied in quality, there is a struggle or competition among men for the most desirable sites and values in land. Hence, as the community grows, site values and land values increase. This increase in site values is not made by the industry, skill, labor or forethought of any individual. It is an increase in value arising out of the association or coming together of men. It is an outgrowth of his life as a public or social or communal being in competition or association with his fellows. ...

The wealth the individual creates should go to the individual. The values which are created by the social body by its very sociality should go to the social body. That social body is as much a reality as the individual person. It is the city or the state. And the city or the state has great public needs which must be supplied.

If we should personify the city or state we would say that this Social Mother, in whose household we all live, needs streets and sewers for us all; schools for all our children; peace officers and fire fighters; and social administrators of all these affairs. She, the city, provides or ought to provide social necessities, public utilities, communal enjoyments and civic equipment for all the people. And to do these things she must have money. She must have her own purse. That purse must fill and refill from her own earnings. She is well able to take care of herself. She has no need to be a pauper, or a beggar, or a thief. The social body, the city or state, should pay its own bills out of that wealth which it has itself socially created. Let the values she herself socially creates fall into her own treasury, and from this, her own treasure, let her pay her own bills. … The city or state should be a queen in her own domain, living on her own legitimate earnings… taxation on land values.”

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