Keywords: economic fairness, ordinary Americans people, wealth concentration, income concentration, poverty, tax reform, wealth distribution, income distribution, justice, land,
equality, Henry George, land value taxation, Progress and Poverty
A democratic republic
alone is not enough to produce general prosperity ...
Wealth and Want
in 21st Century America
an inquiry into the cause
of the increase of poverty
with the increase of wealth
... the Remedy
New on the site:
What can we do to turn our economy around? Georgists will tell you that there is a great deal left undone and many opportunities to unburden the economy and correct the perverse incentives inherent in our current structure. Here are some resources:
As we consider investments in infrastructure, we might want to consider the effects of improved infrastructure and new technologies in an economy, and how and whether we leverage that for the common good, or are content to permit the gains to be privatized — Henry George: What the Railroad Will Bring Us
And, as we consider simplifying and improving our tax code, you might appreciate this: Charles Root: Not a Single Tax!
Four speeches that move me —
In several different places, I've found myself wanting to share four
of Henry George's speeches, because they are very moving, and provide
both a sense of George's ideas and a distillation of much longer works.
So I'm going to link to them right up front, and hope that if you haven't
had the pleasure of reading them, you will take a look. If your orientation
is not theological, don't be put off by the titles: the topic is the
universal one of how we might order ourselves so as to create a just
and prosperous society — for all! (Would that our worship communities devote themselves to that goal!) Is poverty necessary? Is poverty natural?
Here are some excerpts
from Moses, The
Crime of Poverty, Thy Kingdom Come and Thou
Shalt Not Steal:
Moses — Trace
to its roots the cause that is producing want in the midst of plenty,
ignorance in the midst
democracy, weakness in strength – that is giving to our civilisation a
one-sided and unstable development – and you will find it something which
this Hebrew statesman three thousand years
ago perceived and guarded against. ...
Everywhere in the Mosaic institutions is the land
treated as the gift of the Creator to His common creatures, which
no one has the
right to monopolise. Everywhere it is, not your estate, or your property,
not the land which you bought, or the land which you
conquered, but "the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee" – "the land
which the Lord lendeth thee".
The Crime of Poverty — Whose
fault is it that social conditions are such that men have to make
that terrible choice between what conscience tells them is right, and
the necessity of earning a living? I hold that it is the fault of
society; that it is the fault of us all. ...
If poverty is appointed by the power which is above us all, then
it is no crime; but if poverty is unnecessary, then it is a crime
for which society is responsible and for which society must suffer.
I hold, and I think no one who looks at the facts can fail to see,
that poverty is utterly unnecessary. It is not by the decree of the
Almighty, but it is because of our own injustice, our own selfishness,
our own ignorance, that this scourge, worse than any pestilence,
ravages our civilisation, bringing want and suffering and degradation,
destroying souls as well as bodies. ...
Why, today, while over the civilised world there is so much distress,
so much want, what is the cry that goes up? What is the current explanation
of the hard times? Overproduction! There are so many clothes that
men must go ragged, so much coal that in the bitter winters people
have to shiver, such over-filled granaries that people actually die
by starvation! Want due to over-production! Was a greater absurdity
ever uttered? How can there be over-production till all have enough?
It is not over-production; it is unjust
I say that all this poverty and the ignorance that flows from
it is unnecessary; I say that there is no natural reason why we
should not all be rich, in the sense, not of having more than each
other, but in the sense of all having enough to completely satisfy
all physical wants; of all having enough to get such an easy living
that we could develop the better part of humanity. ...
There is a cause for this poverty; and, if you trace
it down, you will find its root in a primary injustice. Look over
today—poverty everywhere. The cause must be a common one.
You cannot attribute it to the tariff, or to the form of government,
or to this thing or to that in which nations differ; because, as
deep poverty is common to them all the cause that produces it must
be a common cause. What is that common cause? There is one sufficient
cause that is common to all nations; and that is the appropriation
as the property of some of that natural element on which and from
all must live. ...
Take away from man all that belongs to the land,
and what have you but a disembodied spirit? Therefore he who holds
the land on
which and from which another man must live, is that man's master;
and the man is his slave. The man who holds the land on which I
must live can command me to life or to death just as absolutely
as though I were his chattel.
Talk about abolishing slavery — we have not abolished slavery; we have
only abolished one rude form of it, chattel slavery. There is a deeper and a
more insidious form, a more cursed form yet before us to abolish, in this industrial
slavery that makes a man a virtual slave, while taunting him and mocking him
with the name of freedom. ...
Think of any article of wealth you choose, any of those things
which men struggle for, where do they come from? From the land.
It is the bottom question. The land question is simply the labor
question; and when some men own that element from which all wealth
must be drawn, and upon which all must live, then they have the
power of living without work, and, therefore, those who do work
get less of the products of work. ...
Nature gives to labor, and to labor alone; there must be human
work before any article of wealth can be produced; and in the natural
state of things the man who toiled honestly and well would be the
rich man, and he who did not work would be poor. We have so reversed
the order of nature that we are accustomed to think of the workingman
as a poor
... you never can get rid of wide-spread poverty
so long as the element on which and from which all men must live
is made the private
of some men. It is utterly
impossible. Reform government — get taxes down to the
minimum — build railroads; institute co-operative stores; divide profits,
if you choose, between employers and employed -- and what will be the result?
The result will be that the land will increase in
value — that will be the result — that and nothing else. Experience
shows this. Do not all improvements simply increase the
value of land — the price that some must pay others for the privilege of
Thy Kingdom Come — “Our Father!” “Our Father!” Whose?
Not my Father — that is not the prayer. “Our Father” — not the
father of any sect, or any class, but the Father of all humanity.
The All-Father, the equal Father, the loving Father. He it is we
ask to bring the kingdom. Aye, we ask it with our lips! We call
Him “Our Father,” the All, the Universal Father, when we kneel down
to pray to Him.
But that He is the All-Father — that He is
Father — we deny by our institutions. The All-Father who made
the world, the All-Father who created us in His image, and put us
upon the earth to draw subsistence from its bosom; to find in the
earth all the materials that satisfy our wants, waiting only to be
worked up by our labor! If He is the All-Father, then are not all
human beings, all children of the Creator, equally entitled to the
use of His bounty? And, yet, our laws say that this God’s earth
is not here for the use of all His children, but only for the use
of a privileged few! ...
What God gives are the natural elements that are
indispensable to labor. He gives them, not to one, not to some,
not to one generation,
but to all. They are His gifts, His bounty to the whole human race.
And yet in all our civilized countries what do we see? That a few
people have appropriated these bounties, claiming them as theirs
alone, while the great majority have no legal right to apply their
labor to the reservoirs of Nature and draw from the
Thus it happens that all over the civilized world
that class that is called peculiarly ‘the laboring class’ is
the poor class, and that people who do no labor, who pride themselves
having done honest labor, and on being descended from fathers and
grandfathers who never did a stroke of honest labor in their lives,
revel in a superabundance of the things that labor brings forth.
“Thy kingdom come.” No one can think
of the kingdom for which the prayer asks without feeling that it
must be a kingdom
of justice and equality — not necessarily of equality in condition,
but of equality in opportunity. And no one can think of it without
seeing that a very kingdom of God might be brought on this earth
if people would but seek to do justice — if people would but
acknowledge the essential principle of Christianity, that of doing
to others as we would have others do to us, and of recognising that
we are all here equally the children of the one Father, equally entitled
to share His bounty, equally entitled to live our lives and develop
our faculties, and to apply our labor to the raw material that He
has provided. ...
There is a way of securing the equal rights of all,
not by dividing land up into equal pieces, but by taking for the
use of all that
value which attaches to land, not as the result of individual labor
upon it, but as the result of the increase in population, and the
improvement of society. ...
Thou Shalt Not Steal — We are told, in the first place,
by the newspapers, that you cannot abolish poverty because there
is not wealth enough to go around. We are told that if all the
wealth of the United States were divided up there would only be
some eight hundred dollars apiece. Well, if that is the case, all
the more monstrous is the injustice which today gives some people
millions and tens of millions, and even hundreds of millions. If
there really is so little, then the more injustice in these great
But we do not propose to abolish poverty by dividing
up wealth. We propose to abolish poverty by setting at work that
vast army of
men — estimated
last year to amount in this country alone to one million — that
vast army of men only anxious to create wealth, but who are now, by
a system which permits dogs-in-the-manger to monopolize
God’s bounty, deprived of the opportunity to toil.
And then, you might be interested in either reading or hearing read
Bob Drake's recent abridgment of Henry George's most famous book, Progress
& Poverty. You can read the book online at henrygeorge.org,
download the MP3 version from hgchicago.org, and order hardcopy from Amazon or Schalkenbach. (Check the Amazon reviews for a novel sequence for reading this one!)
Henry George's book of essays: "Social Problems." I've been rereading this book, with great pleasure, and want to share it here. The process of adding links to the hundreds of themes takes time — it is a very rich resource — so I am putting the chapters up now, and will add sidebar links as time permits. The topics are very 2009, though the book was written in 1883. The new administration — and America as a whole — would benefit from a reading of this one. Read the essays in any order.
- The Increasing Importance of Social Questions — our institutions need to adapt to changing realities and advancing complexity
- Political Dangers — wealth concentration, corruption and our liberties
- Coming Increase of Social Pressure — population growth, land, capitalism, absentee owners
- Two Opposing Tendencies — technological progress, inequality
- The March of Concentration — wealth, income, population; opportunities
- The Wrong in Existing Social Conditions — is poverty natural? how many
great fortunes can be truthfully said to have been fairly earned?
- Is It the Best of All Possible Worlds? — workers, wealth, charity, poverty, civilization
- That We All Might Be Rich — leisure, comfort, abundance; sound sleep; is poverty natural?; jobs, war; intelligence; justice
- First Principles — distribution of wealth; child poverty; workers, beggars & thieves; equal freedom; justice; charity
- The Rights of Man — natural rights, social organization, self-evident truths, blessings of liberty, earning a living, raw materials, permission to live, inequality in distribution of wealth
- Dumping Garbage immigration, making a living, poverty, landlordism, land tenure, producing wealth, opportunity
- Over-Production — really? supply, demand, interconnectedness, trade, unemployment, Adam Smith, incentives, urban land value, hard times
- Unemployed labor — why we work; scarcity of work?, man a land creature; land, labor and capital, distribution of wealth, the supply of labor and demand for labor
- The Effects of Machinery — negative and positive, necessary and optional; civilization, interdependence; productivity; who benefits? monopoly; wages
- Slavery and Slavery — Robinson Crusoe, chattel slavery, landlordism, private property in land; robbery of labor; sharecropping; a bare living; equal and inalienable rights
- Public Debts and Indirect Taxation — natural rights, tyrannies, monopoly in land, great-grandfathers' debts, intergenerational equity; borrowing from the future; infrastructure; wars, wasteful expenditure; Jefferson and usufruct; indirect taxes unjust and corrupting; vicious taxation
- The Functions of Government — Declaration of Independence, unalienable rights, equal right to land, military, English precedents, classes, institutions must adapt to social progress; civilization, concentration, infrastructure, special interests, public schools, libraries, civilization, concentration
- What We Must Do — distribution of wealth, effects of private property in land, progress, new country, landowners grow richer, monopolies, unnatural inequality
- The First Great Reform — the land question, private property in land, speculation, leased land, security of possession, ground rents to public treasury, equal right to land, sharing an inheritance, not a mere fiscal change, growing the pie, natural opportunities, smaller government, natural laws
- The American Farmer — land users; absentee ownership, landlordism, land value taxation favorable, concentration of landownership, labor cheap
- City and Country — man is social, tenements, population density, sprawl, land monopoly
- Conclusion — civilization, adapting institutions, social reform, education, progress, man a social being, loving one's neighbor as oneself, civilization
And then explore Fred Foldvary's paper The Ultimate Tax Reform: Public Revenue from Land Rent (pdf version)
Still on the Mountaintop: Economically Rational Racism
Gavin Putland wrote an article entitled Still
on the Mountaintop: Economically Rational Racism, which was
picked up by OpEd
News. The article is available here both as a 6-page
PDF file and
in html, with links to the
themes on this website which speak to related issues. I found it moving
and thought provoking. Not only does it speak to
issues of race, but it makes some important points with respect to
immigration. It speaks to infrastructure spending, schools, bubbles
and bursts, Old Testament land laws...
In the Promised Land of the Old Testament, there was no land
speculation and no possibility of speculative bubbles, because
you couldn’t sell land in perpetuity. According to the
25th chapter of Leviticus, every 50th year was to be a Jubilee,
and you could only sell a lease on the land up to the next
Jubilee. As the time remaining on the lease was always getting
shorter, the lease was always falling in value, so you couldn’t
make a capital gain on it. Nowadays, if we somehow don’t consider
ourselves bound by the commandment that “The land shall
not be sold for ever” (Leviticus 25:23), we need another
method of preventing speculation. Land-value taxation not
only discourages speculation, but also reduces inflationary
pressure, allowing a reduction in the natural rate of
unemployment, so that members of the dominant ethnic group face
of unemployment and have little to gain by trying to offload that
risk onto some minority.
Alternatively, America can retain the present inflationary taxes,
and the Fed can fight the inflationary pressure by creating
unemployment, the burden of which will continue to fall disproportionately
on Blacks. Meanwhile the opportunity to make capital gains on land, together
with the lack of pressure to earn income from it, will maintain
a permanent artificial demand for land, exacerbated by periodic
speculative bubbles. The artificial demand will inflate rents
and prices of residential land, which is a necessity of life,
and for which workers will have to pay out of wages that have
been depressed by the competition for scarce jobs, eroded
by income tax, and devalued by indirect taxes. This is the Ownership
Society, the caricature of the Promised Land offered by those
who call themselves conservatives.
But let’s conclude on a more conciliatory note. In the
present recession, which has been triggered by a collapse in land
prices, land-value taxation would reverse the collapse — not
by re-inflating a temporary speculative bubble, but by
inducing investment in infrastructure that permanently
enhances the utility of the land. So maybe it takes a
recession to induce a conservative appreciation of land-value
taxation as a substitute for existing taxes. Maybe that’s
one way in which “only when it is dark enough
can you see the stars.”
Check out the sibling to this website, the
LVTfan blog! There are over 150 posts there
-- both timely and timeless.
|Another YouTube video for your viewing pleasure: Fred Harrison
has put together a video describing the premise of his new book, Ricardo's
Law: House Prices and the Great Tax Clawback
Scam. The video is at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ZkfmY1PMng.
For more about some of the topics he brings up, check here.
If you want to understand why we have wealth concentration and why we have poverty,
Something to think about: Exxon-Mobil
set a new quarterly profit record of $39 billion. How much did they
in royalties for
they drilled within the boundaries of the US? And to whom did they
pay it? How much did they pay in corporate income taxes? Which is a
fairer way to raise the revenue we need?
Wealthandwant is not enthusiastic about corporate — or individual — income
taxes, but thinks we should be considering who is entitled to the
royalties on our natural resources, and how those royalties should
be calculated. Should individuals be entitled to royalties on natural
resources? Tribal groups? States? The federal government? Corporate
shareholders? Or all of us, as Alaska sees
Should we tax profits, or would we be smarter and more just to simply
collect royalties on the natural resources that are removed from under
Check out Henry George's ideas on YouTube
... eight films, each from 8 to 10 minutes ... if you care about
services, wealth distribution, privilege, privatization, justice, sprawl,
long commutes, conserving energy, reducing GG, public transportation
& Poverty 1 • Progress
& Poverty 2 • Progress
& Poverty 3 • "Housing
Bubble" is Really a Land Bubble • Exclusive
Use of Land, the Law of the Conqueror • Value
of Land is Created by the Community • Land Value and Free Lunch, Part 1 • Land Value and Free Lunch, Part 2
These come from the Henry George School of San Francisco,
and succinctly explain many of the ideas on which this website provides
And if you've arrived here because
you googled "Henry
George" after watching those videos, you might start with the
There's also a link to a page for
printing out hardcopy bookmarks, if you're inclined to share the videos
Boortz's "FairTax" proposes to get rid of
income taxes, wage taxes, estate taxes and other federal taxes. Wealthandwant
agrees with that goal — but we see a very different
means to get there, a far more fair, just
and desirable approach, which will lead to a very different society
from what the "FairTax" would produce.
What's wrong with the so-called FairTax? Start here,
and follow the links.
What's the better alternative? Taxes which meet the canons
taxes which are direct.
Taxes on finite and scarce resources,
whose efficient and effective use benefits all of us (and those taxes
won't fall on the users). Land
Land includes a lot of things
which currently aren't taxed at all — and which are held by
corporations who didn't create them, and whose benefits therefore largely
to a small class of large shareholders. User
Untax wages! Untax
buildings! Untax sales!
Create a just society and an economy in which all of us can prosper,
without free lunches, without
windfalls, without privilege.
Reverse the perverse incentives inherent
in our current system, and inherent in the FairTax. Wealthandwant
points to a better way.
25 Years After the Mianus Bridge on I-95 Went
Down: Where do we get the money required to build,
maintain and upgrade America's infrastructure?
source — largely untapped in some of its richest lodes — is
in the value of our best land and our natural resources. Is it sufficient?
go a long way to funding this very necessary spending, without burdening
the economy — and without depriving anyone of something they
are morally entitled to. See infrastructure, financing
infrastructure, land includes, natural
resources, privatization for
some starting points.
Property tax caps — why
intelligent states and communities should avoid them. Reform the property
tax, by all means, but don't cap
it. See the reform that shifts us from perverse incentives to logical,
desirable ones. ... read more
Wealthandwant themes relating to issues of the day ...
Iraq ... foreclosures ...
income inequality ...
wealth inequality ...
environment and pollution ...
ending poverty ...
compact cities ... taxes — and
they're all connected — find the common thread!
The Essential Documents —
that is, the ones which move me! I offer these
first because they are informative, inspiring and relatively short.
Even if your own orientation is not theological, I think you might
find little to disagree with in those pieces whose titles are Biblical
references. You'll notice that some of these pieces are 100 or
more years old — and that they describe clearly phenomena
we see today, which we tend to think of as new problems. Read them
in whatever order you like — I hope you'll get to most or
all of them. The first version may be marked up and cross-referenced;
the PDF version will be a clean copy for printing, if you choose.
News and Notes:
Milton Friedman (1912-2006)
“The free market is the only mechanism that has ever been
discovered for achieving participatory democracy.” — quote
in NYT obituary, online November 16, 2006.
"Yes, there are taxes I like. For example, the gasoline tax, which
pays for highways. You have a user tax. The property tax is one of
the least bad taxes, because it's levied on something that cannot be
produced — that part that is levied on the land. So some taxes
are worse than others, but all taxes are bad." — interview,
San Jose Mercury News, Nov 5, 2006
Wealthandwant.com disagrees with that last statement (praising
with faint damns): land value taxation is not merely the
least-bad tax, it is also the best tax. why?
21st Century Issues —
Tag, and other children's games — Tag doesn't
worry me, but musical chairs does. see
300 million population — is population increase
a problem, or a good thing? Who benefits? Does anyone lose? Why?
be changed into a win-win
situation? see how!
Poverty, Asset Poverty, Income Distribution, the Cost of Living — updated
to include 2006 data for Virginia and Pennsylvania
How much does it cost a young
family to live at the "all one's basic needs met" level?
Wealthandwant has answers — and, more important, we have questions!
Wealth Questions — This is a work-in-progress, but there's
enough in place to explore already. Check back for updates!
Detailed data on Wealth Distribution — or,
if you will, Wealth Concentration — from
the Federal Reserve Board's Survey of Consumer Finances (Currents
and Undercurrents: Changes in the Distribution of Wealth, 1989–2004),
with some additional calculations that shed more light on the underlying
dynamics. There is detail here you won't find anywhere else! (See
Table 7 in both of the next two links.)
to the aggregated
tables | detailed tables | introduction | guided
tour | Currents
and Undercurrents in html | Currents
and Undercurrents PDF (original) | SCF
Definitions | wealth:
median, mean and wobegon
and Want in the News ...
He who sees the truth, let
him proclaim it, without asking who is for it or who is against
it. This is not radicalism in the bad sense which so many
attach to the word. This is conservatism in the true sense.
-- Henry George, The Land Question
Who's Henry George? click here
to learn more.
These pages started as my own way of organizing information
as I collected the documents I wanted to share; I wanted to
be able to quckly re-find articles
I only half remembered. Some of the themes were concepts that I struggled
with; others were for
Here are some of the most important themes; a full list is available here.
Start with one of these themes, and then follow the "see
also" links in its sidebar. Keep in mind
that the theme pages contain extended excerpts, not the entire article,
but each excerpt comes with
full article — which I commend to your attention.
and Background Material
North: Songs of the Great Adventure an eloquent 1917 book
of poetry, with a lot to say about justice, land monopoly, war,
death penalty, virtue, hatred, privilege, journalism, and a lot
very current topics
The Henry George School on the Web:
The Henry George School of Social Science
Search Engine: http://www.askhenry.com (use
google or the themes system to explore
this site; wealthandwant is not yet on askhenry.)
The Progress Report http://www.progress.org -
Earth Rights Institute http://www.earthrights.net Alanna
Center for the Study of Economics http://www.urbantools.org/ Josh
Common Ground USA. www.progress.org/cg
Council of Georgist Organizations (CGO) http://www.progress.org/cgo
The Robert Schalkenbach Foundation http://www.schalkenbach.org — check
both the library & the bookstore
Prosper Australia http://www.prosper.org.au/
Earthsharing Australia http://www.earthsharing.org.au/ (see
Cause of Poverty)
The Land Values Research Group
The Geonomy Society http://www.progress.org/geonomy Jeff
The Earth Imperative http://www.landreform.org/
UK's Labour Land Campaign http://www.labourland.org/ Dave
The School of Cooperative Individualism http://www.cooperativeindividualism.org/ Ed
Land Rent Will Save the World http://www.answersanswers.com/ Chris
Saving Communities http://www.savingcommunities.org/ Dan
Mason Gaffney's writings: http://www.masongaffney.org/ — See
particularly "Repopulating New Orleans;" "New Life in Old Cities;" "What's the Matter with Michigan? The Rise and Collapse of an Economic Wonder;" "The Great Crash of 2008;" and "How to Thaw Credit, Now and Forever"
LVTfan's blog — http://lvtfan.typepad.com/ — land
value taxation is the only tax that deserves a fan club!
can you go to "see the cat?" http://www.henrygeorge.org
There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil
to one who is striking at the root.
Reading [get radical: go to the root of the matter!]
|Henry George dedicated Progress and Poverty: An inquiry
into the cause of industrial depressions and of increase of want with
Remedy, "to those who, seeing the vice
and misery that spring from the unequal distribution of wealth and
privilege, feel the
possibility of a higher social state and would strive for its attainment."
A Note to Readers • A Note to my Georgist Friends