Under this heading two very interesting articles were contributed to the October issue of Sperling’s Journal by Mr Alfred Hoare and an “Ex-M.P.,” and the subject is clearly one to which, now that the end of the war has been brought appreciably nearer by the feats of the Allied armies, too much thought and discussion can hardly be given. How are we going to face the problem that has been built up for us by the bad finance of the war, the low proportion of its cost that has been paid for out of taxation, and the consequent huge debt with which—it is already over L7000 millions gross—the State will be saddled? Mr. Hoare answered the question by proposing a scheme of taxation of what he called Rente, by which he meant all forms of “unearned income”—“rentals from freehold and leasehold property, interest upon loans whether public or private, and dividends on joint stock companies or sleeping partnerships.” He added that in his opinion earned income above a certain figure might reasonably be added to this category on the ground that it has, in some instances, very much the same characteristics as unearned; the income of a “successful professional man or clown or jockey or opera star” being due to peculiar qualities; “and it would be no great hardship if earned income above, say, a thousand a year for a married couple, with an additional three hundred for every child under twenty-five years of age were regarded as unearned, and taxed accordingly.” Income was thus the basis of Mr Hoare’s scheme. Rente he regards as an agency regulating distribution, and requiring to be constantly checked. “It is,” he says, “an elementary principle of social health, and economic prosperity that the share of the national wealth enjoyed by the Rentier, by the owner, that is, of unearned income, should not be excessive,” Most people who can follow his admirable example and take a detached and unbiassed view of questions which affect their pocket so closely, will agree with him In this opinion. The Rentier lives on the proceeds of work done in the past by him or by some other person; and it is not good for our economic health that he should grow too fat at the expense of those who are working now, lest the latter be discouraged and work with less spirit.
At the same time we have to remember that the work done in the past by the Rentier or those whom he represents, has given us the plant and equipment (in the widest sense of the phrase) with which we are now working. If, therefore, we penalise the Rentier too severely we shall discourage his future creation; the present race of earners, if they see that those who are living on past savings are shorn too close will be deterred from saving, will put their surplus earnings into extravagant spending instead of into plant and equipment, and the economic future of the nation, and of the world, will be pro tanto less hopeful. If once our fiscal system is going to propagate the view—already so rampant among the happy-go-lucky