The township’s announced purchase of the Holly Ravine Farm prompts me to write about the property rights system that enables someone to purchase and hold land for years or decades, make no improvements thereto and eventually sell that land for an enormous gain. The ethics of profiting from the selling of land has been debated for centuries. Adam Smith, Thomas Paine and Benjamin Franklin are among those who saw great injustice in the system.
Most of the framers of our constitution were of the landed class. They were not about to relinquish control over their huge land holdings or agree to tax themselves. Instead, they put the burden of taxation on producers and consumers. With population growth the value of land kept increasing, enriching the landed. Today, land prices are so high that more and more of us find it difficult to afford housing, or even renting an apartment. Another result has been sprawling development that has made us automobile dependent.
Solving these problems requires that we tame our land markets. To do this we need to listen to what some economists advise and restructure the property tax so that housing and other buildings are exempt and revenue comes from the taxation of land values only.
Edward J. Dodson
Cherry Hill, NJ