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The Land Value Tax Campaign, and an epilogue

The Campaign was a single-issue non-party/all-party organisation based in the UK, which was active from the mid-1980s until the early 2010s. It originated as a group within the Liberal Party before its merger with the SDP, but became an non-party group around 1988, at about the time of the merger. The Campaign was run by a group of volunteers. The founder members included Roy Douglas (1924-2020), Liberal Party campaigner and author of “Land, People and Politics”, David Mills, Norman Barraclough, Tommas Graves, Anthony Haviland-Nye, Ben Rae, and Henry Law, of a generation which has now mostly passed on.

Its prospectus stated that

“We propose that the rental value of land should be collected and used as the principal source of public revenue, as a replacement for present taxes on wages, profits, goods and services. It is not an additional tax. This policy is a prerequisite if chronic economic problems are to be significantly ameliorated.

Nearly every country in the world is affected by poverty and unemployment; widening divisions between rich and poor; boom-slump cycles; housing shortages; inadequate infrastructure; and damage to the environment. These economic ills persist, seemingly intractably, despite unprecedented developments in science and technology. All of them are ultimately related to the different economic behaviour of “land” in contrast to man-made consumer and capital goods, whose supply can be, and normally is, varied and transported in response to demand.

“Land is otherwise. No more can be made: each plot of land is unique and immovable. Its total supply is fixed. Consequently, the market in land behaves differently from the market in products. Land value comes from the natural and man-made advantages of location, which derive from the presence and activities of the community as a whole, and the protection and security which governments give to the owners of land titles.

“It follows that the value of land, its rent, is peculiarly suitable as the basic source of public revenue. This is not really taxation, but payment for the right to occupy land and enjoy the benefits of occupation; however, the policy is usually known as “Land Value Taxation” It operates as an annual charge on the rental value of land, assuming that each site was in its optimum permitted use. Since the idea cuts across all political divisions, the Campaign has no party political affiliations.”


The web site of of the Land Value Taxation Campaign was transferred to the Henry George Foundation for preservation as an archive and resource for future campaigners. A great deal of thought and discussion went into the work it produced over a period of nearly 25 years. Most of those responsible belong to the generation who came to adulthood at the end of the Second World War and were active in politics in the period from about 1950 to 1985. They worked mostly within the former Liberal Party, the lineal descendants of the 18th century Whig Party, which at the time still represented a third position away from the left-right spectrum on which Labour and Conservative were placed. Free trade and land value taxation were the cornerstones of its economic policies, as they had been since the end of the nineteenth century.

After about 1970, the Liberal Party itself forgot these principles and began to place itself inside the left/right spectrum. This paved the way for the merger, in 1988, with the Social Democratic Party; the latter had begun as a breakaway from Labour at a time when Labour was strongly influenced by Marxist thinking brought in by Trotskyite factions such as Militant.

Thus the Campaign was in the first instance an attempt by a small group of traditional Liberals to keep alive the ideas of free trade and land value taxation. The merger with the SDP, which was essentially committed to Keynesian economics, made it impossible to maintain its party affiliation and it cut free of party political ties.

As the last survivor of the active campaigners, I wonder whether the effort was worthwhile? We achieved no wins. The land value tax movement has, if anything lost ground, to the point that few supporters of land value taxation understand the theory that lies behind it. On the other hand we created and have left behind a body of material which future generations may be able to draw upon.

As a final thought: present day campaigners could usefully ask why a movement which was active and vigorous at the end of the nineteenth century made next to no progress in the twentieth, and by the second decade of the twenty-first has been consigned almost to oblivion? Far from going away, the underlying problems are giving rise to acute social and economic problems which have no apparent solution.

There seem to be deeper reasons for the resistance to land value taxation and the ideas that underpin it. It is telling that the similar policies advocated by the French Physiocrats met the same fate in the decade before the Revolution, despite having the support of the king himself, and of his finance minister Turgot.

If I were to be campaigning today, I would be searching for the deeper reasons for the ingrained resistance to our ideas.

Henry Law

How to make the most use of this web site

The website was redesigned after about fifteen years so as to make it readable on mobile devices, and this is substantially what has been transferred to the present site. More than 1100 articles were transferred from the old website, including many pdf downloads which can be printed as properly formatted documents. Also included are most issues of the monthly publication Practical Politics, which was a current affairs and news newsletter produced by David Mills. It was distributed to Members of Parliament and subscribers to the Campaign over a period of almost 20 years.

The main function of the web site is now as a resource library covering most aspects of land value taxation. There are some important documents here which cannot easily be found elsewhere. These include the London Rating (Land Values) Bill, 1938, the Whitstable Land Values survey reports of 1964 and 1973, and the summary of the Brisbane Report on Local Taxation produced by the committee headed by Sir Gordon Chalk in 1986. There are also texts of reports submitted to the UK government in response to consultation exercises, notably the report to the Lyons Committee on Local Taxation produced in 2005; this describes a means of transition from existing property taxes to an LVT system. Also discussed on the website are controversial issues including national versus local LVT and capital value versus annual rental value assessment.

The quantity and diversity of the material means that it no longer fits neatly into tidy categories. The use of the search box facility is therefore recommended as a starting point. If you are unable to find what you are looking for, please feel free to use the “contact” facility.