In 1897, Frank D. Larrabee, a forty-one year old general practitioner in Minneapolis, published "Functions of Government," subtitled "A Development of Principles That Necessitate the Existence of Government." He was influenced by Henry George's "Progress and Poverty" (1879) then a best seller advocating a "single tax" on land. Larrabee expresses his admiration for George when comparing the existing economic system to one that is more "just":
"The prevailing system is responsible for all of the evils indicated, because the government does not take to itself, in the form of taxes
to be expended for the benefit of all, the advantages it confers upon some to the detriment of others. The just system, then, can be adopted simply by increasing the taxes upon the land values. With this land value there must not be confused any improvements made upon land, which, according to the present nomenclature of the law, are, together with the land, called real estate. Taxes upon them must not be increased; but, since they are the product of labor, the taxes upon them, together with the taxes upon all other forms of personal property, must be lessened as the taxes upon land values are increased.
"The function of government relative to land, herein advocated, is not new. What is said is certainly not complete; but there is accessible to every reader a full, thorough and scientific treatise upon this subject in the form of 'Progress and Poverty,' by Henry George.
"I take the liberty of referring to this book without intending to commit anybody but myself to the idea that the foregoing sets forth, even in a feeble way, any of the ideas for which he contends, but certain it is that 'Progress and Poverty,' to a large extent, at least, must be held accountable for the ideas herein advanced upon this subject.
"If enough has been said herein to induce any considerable number to study 'Progress and Poverty' I shall not consider my efforts to have been in vain. My estimation of this work is such that today I would rather bear the reputation of having been its author than that of any other book published within the last one hundred years. I believe that in the main it sets forth the truth upon the most important subject to mankind at a critical and opportune time."
Larrabee was general counsel for the Soo Line Railroad in the 1880s. In 1890 he left that post and resumed private practice in Minneapolis. He ran unsuccessfully as a Democrat for Attorney General in 1902 and for Congress in the Fifth Congressional District in 1906. He retired in 1931, and died on August 22, 1932, at the age of seventy-six, in Los Angeles.
Larrabee's "Functions of Government" is posted here. Excerpts from Henry George's "Progress and Poverty" can be found in the "Theory" category in the archives of the MLHP.