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Tolstoi and Agrarian Reform: From Levin to Nekhliudov to Anarchism

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Starting with Anna Karenina, Tolstoi developed an abiding interest in reform of peasant landholding to encourage the initiative of individual peasants. He eventually became an advocate of Henry George’s “single tax,” under which each person possessing land would pay an annual tax to the national government equal to the economic rent of the unimproved land. George and Tolstoi believed that such a tax would make each farmer a stakeholder and encourage productivity. At the same time, however, Tolstoi came to believe that the national government should be eliminated and that the peasant commune should be the only organ of government. Tolstoi eventually reconciled these two inconsistent positions by modifying George’s system to have the single tax paid not to the government but to the commune.

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