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Football star’s injury proves “rent of talent” = wages

“Rent of Talent”, a notion that grew up some time around the 1900s, has cast a fog of confusion over the term “Rent”. The talents in question were those of opera singers, sportsmen, and the like. The argument went that if land rent should be taxed, so should natural talent, thereby opening up the case for progressive income taxes. This helped the landowning interest, as it diverted attention away from their own privilege. But “rent” is the wrong term for the these high earnings.

These are the rewards for labour: wages. Nobody becomes rich just by having a good voice or a talent for kicking a ball; famous stars work with commitment, learning and practising, honing their talents. High earners might avoid LVT by living with their mothers in a little terrace house in the suburbs and keeping their pay under their beds, but apart perhaps from Ken Dodd, they quickly acquire a mansion in a salubrious area.

If you in any doubt on this point about rent of talent, yesterday’s report about the injury suffered by  footballer David Beckham should clarify the matter. Following damage to his Achilles tendon, the 34-year-old’s career as a sports star is almost over, and with it his ability to command this alleged “rent”. If it were rent of land, Beckam would be collecting it in perpetuity. In truth, it is as precarious as any other worker’s earnings, because this so-called “rent of talent” is payment for labour – in other words, it is wages.