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Henry George: The Land Question (1881)
When there is famine among savages it is because food enough is not to be had. But this was not the case in Ireland. In any part of Ireland, during the height of what was called the famine, there was food enough for whoever had means to pay for it. The trouble was not in the scarcity of food. There was, as a matter of fact, no real scarcity of food, and the proof of it is that food did not command scarcity prices. During all the so-called famine, food was constantly exported from Ireland to England, which would not have been the case had there been true famine in one country any more than in the other. During all the so-called famine a practically unlimited supply of American meat and grain could have been poured into Ireland, through the existing mechanism of exchange, so quickly that the relief would have been felt instantaneously. Our sending of supplies in a national war-ship was a piece of vulgar ostentation, fitly paralleled by their ostentatious distribution in British gunboats under the nominal superintendence of a royal prince. Had we been bent on relief, not display, we might have saved our government the expense of fitting up its antiquated warship, the British gunboats their coal, the Lord Mayor his dinner, and the Royal Prince his valuable time. A cable draft, turned in Dublin into postal orders, would have afforded the relief, not merely much more easily and cheaply, but in less time than it took our war-ship to get ready to receive her cargo; for the reason that so many of the Irish people were starving was, not that the food was not to be had, but that they had not the means to buy it. Had the Irish people had money or its equivalent, the bad seasons might have come and gone without stinting any one of a full meal. Their effect would merely have been to determine toward Ireland the flow of more abundant harvests. ... read the whole article
Henry George: The Crime of Poverty (1885 speech)
In the Old Testament we are told that when the Israelites journeyed through the desert, they were hungered, and that God sent manna down out of the heavens. There was enough for all of them, and they all took it and were relieved. But supposing that desert had been held as private property, as the soil of Great Britain is held, as the soil even of our new States is being held; suppose that one of the Israelites had a square mile, and another one had twenty square miles, and another one had a hundred square miles, and the great majority of the Israelites did not have enough to set the soles of their feet upon, which they could call their own — what would become of the manna? What good would it have done to the majority? Not a whit. Though God had sent down manna enough for all, that manna would have been the property of the landholders; they would have employed some of the others perhaps, to gather it up into heaps for them, and would have sold it to their hungry brethren. Consider it; this purchase and sale of manna might have gone on until the majority of Israelites had given all they had, even to the clothes off their backs. What then? Then they would not have had anything left to buy manna with, and the consequences would have been that while they went hungry the manna would have lain in great heaps, and the landowners would have been complaining of the over-production of manna. There would have been a great harvest of manna and hungry people, just precisely the phenomenon that we see today. ... read the whole speech
Henry George: Ode to Liberty (1877 speech)
In the very centers of our civilization today are want and suffering enough to make sick at heart whoever does not close his eyes and steel his nerves. Dare we turn to the Creator and ask Him to relieve it? Supposing the prayer were heard, and at the behest with which the universe sprang into being there should glow in the sun a greater power; new virtue fill the air; fresh vigor the soil; that for every blade of grass that now grows two should spring up, and the seed that now increases fifty-fold should increase a hundredfold! Would poverty be abated or want relieved? Manifestly no! Whatever benefit would accrue would be but temporary. The new powers streaming through the material universe could be utilized only through land. And land, being private property, the classes that now monopolize the bounty of the Creator would monopolize all the new bounty. Land owners would alone be benefited. Rents would increase, but wages would still tend to the starvation point! ... read the whole speechNic Tideman: Basic Tenets of the Incentive Taxation Philosophy
Applications Abroad as Well as at Home
As important as our ideas are for the justice and efficiency of the American economy, their application is even more important in less developed countries, where often 80% of the land is held by 3% of the population. To give all the citizens of these countries chances to make something of their lives, it is extremely important to equalize access to land, not by redividing the land (which inevitably winds up putting land into the hands of people who cannot use it well) but by requiring any one who uses land to pay according to the unimproved value of the land that he or she uses. To bring this message to the world, we must first apply it to ourselves. ... Read the whole article
Karl Williams: Social Justice In Australia: INTERMEDIATE KIT
THE FOLLY OF MOST THIRD WORLD AID
"Philanthropy is commendable, but it must not cause the philanthropist to overlook the circumstances of economic injustice which make philanthropy necessary." - Martin Luther King, (1929 - 1968), civil rights leader and Nobel Peace Prize laureate
When you're confronted by those images of mournful young eyes which gaze pleadingly at you from an emaciated body, it's pretty hard to resist reaching for your wallet. Well, I hope that's made you sleep a lot more contently at night, but I'm afraid the grinding poverty of much of the Third World will grind on just the same.
THE GREAT PLANETARY CURSE
'Twas ever thus, within an economic system that, deliberately or not, supports the mother of all monopolies - land monopoly. Landlords get rich in their sleep because of what happens around, not on their land. The vice-like grip of land privileges crosses all national and cultural boundaries, and this writer has spent years tramping around places like Iran, Ethiopia, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Yemen and Uganda, and had this bitter fact confirmed everywhere.
Here is the type of thing I saw again and again. Landless peasants are living on the breadline, working for their relatively wealthy landlords. Some philanthropic organisation funds the building of a well, so that the women don't have to spend so many hours each day tramping to fetch it. Guess what happens to their rents when the well is completed? With amazing certainty, rents rise in proportion to the benefits of access to that well. It's the same deal with the provision of roads, schools, clinics, irrigation schemes, bridges etc. Net result: the living standards of the landless change little, but that of the landlords are considerably enriched. Someone wasn't kidding when he said, "Third World aid is the giving by the poor people of rich countries to the rich people of poor countries."
THE FEEL-GOOD FACTOR
Of course, this is not to deny outright the goodwill and even the occasional good result of aid programs. Indisputably, emergency aid that puts food into starving hands will always be a blessing. Also, where there is a high percentage of land ownership, benefits obviously accrue to more people. But to which people? Some will undoubtedly benefit more than others, and some won't benefit at all. Furthermore, when you factor in the political corruption of many Third World governments, the benefits are more unevenly distributed.
THE ROOT, NOT THE FLOWER
Again, land monopoly and all its privileges would be destroyed by LVT. Whereas landlords had been able to sit back and leave much of their land to be idle or inefficiently used, LVT would force them either to put it to its optimum use or to effectively stand aside to allow others to do so. The boot would then be on the other foot, as vast amounts of land will be thrown onto the market and labourers would be offered a fair wage.
Nor would any landowner - small or large - benefit, in net terms, more than another when a domestic or foreign government finances local development . Land rendered more productive or desirable would pay proportionally more LVT. And, of course, that LVT would not end up in any private pocket but would be the natural source of that society's revenue, benefiting one and all. We'll take this up a theoretical notch in the very next module "Land Reform - Real and Illusory".
"There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil, to one who is striking at the root." - Henry David Thoreau (1817 - 1862), American essayist and poet
LAND REFORM -- REAL AND ILLUSORY
"The teaching of Henry George will be the basis of our program of reform…The (land tax) as the only means of supporting the government is an infinitely just, reasonable and equitably distributed tax, and on it we will found our new system. The centuries of heavy and irregular taxation for the benefit of the Manchus have shown China the injustice of any other system of taxation." - Dr. Sun Yat Sen (1866 - 1925), democrat, reformer and acknowledged "father of the Chinese republic"
In the last module we've just seen how LVT would place the benefits of aid and development fairly and squarely in the hands of the people, not just the landowners. "But, hang on!" comes the objection, "There are other types of land reform besides LVT." This, as the module title suggests, is our subject - how other types of land reform have never delivered and never will.
VIVA LA REVOLUCIÓN!
Certainly there have been endless attempts at land reform. "Viva la revolución!" has been the cry all through Latin America, for instance, but the lot of the average peasant has changed little, even with the best will in the world behind land reform.
Here's the problem. So-called land reform has always been seen as land redistribution, based on the same form of outright land ownership. But there are three cogent reasons why land redistribution, as remarked above, does not work and never will.
Besides the Big Three reasons above, there are two minor ones worth mentioning.
REAL REFORM, NOT REVOLUTION
None of the problems above would exist with LVT, the implementation of which would be far less revolutionary than that of historical land reforms. We need land reform here in Australia, of course - but in the Third World where poverty is so great, matters are urgent. What good has foreign aid done over all these years, when you look at the disparities of wealth in recipient countries? Why do governments even today (as in Zimbabwe) still go down the path of land reform whereby land is doled out to a handful of government supporters?
We all know the proverb: Give a man a fish and he'll be fed for a day, but teach a man to fish and he'll feed himself for a lifetime. One would assume that Western governments, the World Bank and the IMF also knew it, but they continue to hand out fish instead. ... Read the entire article
Karl Williams: Land Value Taxation: The Overlooked But Vital Eco-Tax
I. Historical overview
II. The problem of sprawl
III. Affordable and efficient public transport
IV. Agricultural benefits
V. Financial concerns
VI. Conclusion: A greater perspective
Appendix: "Natural Capitalism" -- A Case Study in Blindness to Land Value Taxation
It should also be noted that the advantages of LVT extend far beyond the immediate and direct contribution to environmental solutions - they give rise to economic efficiency, social justice, individual liberty, world peace, effective third world aid and more. An understanding of the nature of economic rent and rent-seeking behaviour would assist the appreciation of some points made here, but an explanation of this extends beyond the immediate ambit of this paper. This succinct summary, however, may assist:
"For the failure to make people pay rent for access, or possession of, natural resources is at the heart of all major environmental problems, and is the cause of some of the most fractious geo-political problems .... There are no remedies for the ecocrises that do not include a heightened awareness of the value of economic rent and the process of the land market"
For reasons similar to those we've seen with the example of landowners benefiting from investment in infrastructure, much aid to developing countries does little to alleviate the plight and environmentally-destructive practices of the desperate landless, who can only work on the conditions demanded by the landowners because of the aforementioned monopolistic qualities of land. Improvements to infrastructure simply boost land values and the rents demanded of the landless. Furthermore, as Banks notes, "Canceling part of the debt amounts to the infusion of billions of dollars into these less developed countries which, under the existing tenure and tax regimes, would benefit the price of land rather than provide work for the landless." read the entire article
Mason Gaffney: Canada's System of Revenue Sharing
Now another similarity to the two countries us that the subventions that do go from the federal government to the provinces in Canada (and you find a similar thing in the United States) do not come from the richer provinces. They come instead from the general fund, the general taxpayer. There is in other words more vertical balancing than there is horizontal balancing (horizontal balancing you remember means equalization among the different jurisdictions). It's a little like what somebody said about foreign aid. 'Foreign aid is a device by which poor people in rich countries are taxed to subsidize rich people in poor countries.'
We'll see that equalisation in most countries works something like that; that is, in addition to this inter-provincial equalisation, there's a tax shift involved where local sources of taxation like the property tax are being displaced by the federal income tax. I suppose Ferdinand Marcos would be a splendid example of the kind of person I was talking about in the poor country and in West Virginia you have all these coal companies whose owners live in Palm Beach, whose shareholders live in Palm Beach and such places, who benefit from an inter-state equalisation that benefits West Virginia. Well these are similarities. Now differences. ... read the whole article
Lindy Davies: Land and Justice
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Wealth and Want
... because democracy alone hasn't yet led to a society in which all can prosper