rent, for which it would for some time increase 
the competition. But the rents of 
every class of houses for which the competition 
was diminished, would necessarily be 
more or less reduced. As no part of this reduction, 
however, could for any considerable 
time at least, affect the building-rent, the 
whole of it must, in the long-run, necessarily 
fall upon the ground-rent. The final payment 
of this tax, therefore, would fall partly 
upon the inhabitant of the house, who, in order 
to pay his share, would be obliged to give up 
part of his conveniency; and partly upon the 
owner of the ground, who, in order to pay 
his share, would be obliged to give up a part 
of his revenue. In what proportion this final 
payment would be divided between them, it 
is not, perhaps, very easy to ascertain. The 
division would probably be very different in 
different circumstances, and a tax of this kind 
might, according to those different circumstances
affect very unequally, both the inhabitant 
of the house and the owner of the ground
The inequality with which a tax of this 
kind might fall upon the owners of different 
ground-rents, would arise altogether from the 
accidental inequality of this division. But 
the inequality with which it might fall upon 
the inhabitants of different houses, would arise
not only from this, but from another cause. 
The proportion of the expense of house-rent 
to the whole expense of living, is different in 
the different degrees of fortune. It is, perhaps, 
highest in the highest degree, and it 
diminishes gradually through the inferior degrees, 
so as in general to be lowest in the 
lowest degree. The necessaries of life occasion 
the great expense of the poor. They 
find it difficult to get food, and the greater 
part of their little revenue is spent in getting 
it. The luxuries and vanities of life occasion 
the principal expense of the rich; and a magnificent 
house embellishes and sets off to the best 
advantage all the other luxuries and vanities 
which they possess. A tax upon house-rents
therefore, would in general fall heaviest upon 
the rich; and in this sort of inequality there 
would not, perhaps, be any thing very unreasonable
It is not very unreasonable that 
the rich should contribute to the public expense
not only in proportion to their revenue
but something more than in that proportion
The rent of houses, though it in some respects 
resembles the rent of land, is in one 
respect essentially different from it. The 
rent of land is paid for the use of a productive 
subject. The land which pays it produces 
it. The rent of houses is paid for the 
use of an unproductive subject. Neither the 
house, nor the ground which it stands upon, 
produce any thing. The person who pays the 
rent, therefore, must draw it from some other 
source of revenue, distinct from and independent 
of this subject. A tax upon the rent of 
houses, so far as it falls upon the inhabitants
must be drawn from the same source as the 
rent itself, and must be paid from their revenue
whether derived from the wages of 
labour, the profits of stock, or the rent of 
land. So far as it falls upon the inhabitants
it is one of those taxes which fall, not upon 
one only, but indifferently upon all the three 
different sources of revenue; and is, in every 
respect, of the same nature as a tax upon any 
any other sort of consumable commodities. In 
general, there is not perhaps, any one article 
of expense or consumption by which the liberality 
or narrowness of a man's whole expense 
can be better judged of than by his 
house-rent. A proportional tax upon this 
particular article of expense might, perhaps, 
produce a more considerable revenue than any 
which has hitherto been drawn from it in any 
part of Europe. If the tax, indeed, was very 
high, the greater part of people would endeavour 
to evade it as much as they could, by 
contenting themselves with smaller houses
and by turning the greater part of their expense 
into some other channel
The rent of houses might easily be ascertained 
with sufficient accuracy, by a policy of 
the same kind with that which would be necessary 
for ascertaining the ordinary rent of 
land. Houses not inhabited ought to pay no 
tax. A tax upon them would fall altogether 
upon the proprietor, who would thus be taxed 
for a subject which afforded him neither conveniency 
nor revenue. Houses inhabited by 
the proprietor ought to be rated, not according 
to the expense which they might have cost 
in building, but according to the rent which 
an equitable arbitration might judge them 
likely to bring if leased to a tenant. If rated 
according to the expense which they might 
have cost in building, a tax of three or four 
shillings in the pound, joined with other taxes
would ruin almost all the rich and great families 
of this, and, I believe, of every other civilized 
country. Whoever will examine with 
attention the different town and country houses 
of some of the richest and greatest families in 
this country, will find that, at the rate of only 
six and a-half, or seven per cent. upon the 
original expense of building, their house-rent 
is nearly equal to the whole neat rent of their 
estates. It is the accumulated expense of several 
successive generations, laid out upon objects 
of great beauty and magnificence, indeed, 
but, in proportion to what they cost, of 
very small exchangeable value.[58] 
Ground-rents are a still more proper subject 
of taxation than the rent of houses. A 
tax upon ground-rents would not raise the 
rent of houses; it would fall altogether upon 
the owner of the ground-rent, who acts always 
as a monopolist, and exacts the greatest rent 
which can be got for the use of his ground