|Wealth and Want|
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If we manage to create a democracy in
Iraq, but fail to create the economic environment where every Iraqi
citizen has equal call on to Iraq's land and natural resources, have we
left them better off? Have we achieved what we set out to
do? Have we done something we can be proud of? Or will what
we've done be necessary, but not sufficient, to create a truly free
society in Iraq?
Think also about the extent to which the young people America is sending to fight in Iraq tend to be from places where opportunities, wages and land rent are all well below average.
THE Land Question is not merely a question between farmers and the owners of agricultural land. It is a question that affects every man, every woman, and every child. The Land Question is simply another name for the great labor question, and the people who think of the Land Question as having importance simply for farmers forget what land is.
If you would realize what land is, think of what men would be without land. If there were no land, where would be the people? Land is not merely a place to graze cows or sheep upon, to raise corn or raise cabbage. It is the indispensable element necessary to the life of every human being. We are all land animals; our very bodies come from the land, and to the land they return again.
Whether a man dwells in the city or in the country, whether he be a farmer, a laborer, a mechanic, a manufacturer, or a soldier, land is absolutely necessary to his life. No matter what his occupation may by, if he is engaged in productive labor, that productive labor, if you analyze it, is simply the application of human exertion to land, the changing in place or in form of the matter of the universe.
WE speak of productive work. What is productive work? We make things. How do we make them? Man does not create them. Man cannot create something out of nothing. All the things that we call making are producing; bringing forth, not creating.
-- always a bringing forth, never a creation, so that human exertion -- that is to say labor upon land, is the only way that man has of bringing forth those things which his needs require and which are necessary to enable him to sustain life. Land and labor -- these are the two necessary and indispensable factors to the production of wealth.
NOW, as to the rights of ownership -- as to that principle which enables a man to say of any certain thing --"This is mine; it is my property" -- where does that come from? If you look you will see that it comes from the right of the producer to the thing which he produces. What a man makes he can justly claim to be his. Whatever any individual, by the exercise of his powers, takes from the reservoirs of nature, molds into shapes fitted to satisfy human needs, that is his; to that a just and sacred right of property attaches. That is a right based on the right of the individual to improvement, the right to the enjoyment of his own powers, to the possession of the fruits of his exertions. That is a sacred right, to violate which is to violate the sacred command, "Thou shalt not steal." There is the right of ownership. Now that right, which gives by natural and Divine laws, the thing produced to him whose exertion has produced it, which gives to the man who builds a house the right to that house, to the man who raises a crop the right to that crop, to the man who raises a domestic animal a right to that domestic animal-how can that right attach to the reservoirs of nature? How can that right attach to the earth itself?
WE start out with these two principles, which I think are clear and self-evident:
As no man made the land, so no man can claim a right of ownership in the land. As God made the land, and as we know both from natural perception and from revealed religion, that God the Creator is no respecter of persons, that in His eyes all men are equal, so also do we know that He made this earth equally for all the human creatures that He has called to dwell upon it. We start out with this clear principle that as all men are here by the equal permission of the Creator, as they are all here under His laws equally requiring the use of land, as they are all here with equal right to live, so they are all here with equal right to the enjoyment of His bounty.
We claim that the land of Ireland, like the land of every country, cannot justly belong to any class, whether that class be large or small; but that the land of Ireland, like the land of every other country, justly belongs in usufruct to the whole people of that country equally, and that no man and no class of men can have any just right in the land that is not equally shared by all others.
We say that all the social difficulties we see here, all the social difficulties that exist in England or Scotland, all the social difficulties that are growing up in the United States--
--are all due to one great primary wrong, that wrong which makes the natural element necessary to all, the natural element that was made by the Creator for the use of all, the property of some of the people, that great wrong that in every civilized country disinherited the mass of men of the bounty of their Creator. What we aim at is not the increase in the number of a privileged class, not making some thousands of earth owners into some more thousands. No, no; what we aim at is to secure the natural and God-given right to the humblest in the community--to secure to every child born in Ireland, or in any other country, his natural right to the equal use of his native land. ...
THESE are the plain, simple principles for which we contend, and our practical measure for restoring to all men of any country their equal rights in the land of that country is simply to abolish other taxes, to put a tax upon the value of land, irrespective of the improvements, to carry that tax up as fast as we can, until we absorb the full value of the land, and we say that that would utterly destroy the monopoly of land and create a fund for the benefit of the entire community. How easy a way that is to go from an unjust situation like the present to an ideally just situation may be seen among other things in this. Where you propose to take land for the benefit of the whole people you are at once met by the demands of the landlords for compensation. Now, if you tax them, no one ever heard of such an idea as to compensate a people for imposing tax. Read the whole speech
Joseph Stiglitz: October, 2002, interview
Nic Tideman: Global Economic Justice, followed by Creating Global Economic Justice
I. The Functions of a Theory of Justice
II. Henry George's Principles of Justice
III. Applying the Theory of Justice to Land Rights Among Nations
IV. Applying the Theory of Justice to Other Connections among Nations
V. Differences in Ability and in Wealth
VI. Resources that Fluctuate over Time
VII. Justice and the Demographic Equation
Humanity is emerging from eons of development during which survival has been promoted both by the ability to grab resources from others and by the ability of groups to cooperate and share natural resources within communities that occupied territorial homelands. In recent centuries we have been developing a consensus that taking from the weak is wrong, and that we ought to have a social order that prevents all such behavior. But we have not yet worked out how to do it.
Some people think of preventing grabbing in terms of preserving the status quo. There are two difficulties with this.
A practice of allowing an appropriation to be treated as just if it has survived long enough gives aggressors an incentive to see if they can grab and hold on long enough. The result is actions like Indonesia's seizure of East Timor and Iraq's invasion of Kuwait. Only if we have a standard of justice that is independent of history can we expect to end such actions.
Henry George's theory of economic justice--that every person has a right to his or her productive powers, and that all persons have equal rights to all natural opportunities--provides a simple formula around which opinion about the shape of a peaceful world can coalesce.
This may seem hopelessly optimistic. But no other theory that I have seen has anything like the clarity, coherence and power of this theory. ...
What to Do When Some Nations Fail to Fulfill Their Obligations
THE THEORY that has been developed incorporates all of the ways that nations impinge upon one another by their appropriations of natural opportunities-through their claims to land, natural resources, the frequency spectrum, and geosynchronous orbits, through their appropriations of fish in the ocean, through their use of natural resources that are embedded in goods, through their emissions of pollutants that cross international borders, including the ones that produce global warming and ozone depletion, through their decisions to have population growth rates that differ from the world average, and in any other way that nations appropriate scarce natural opportunities. The theory describes what nations must do to fulfill their obligations to other nations. But how will unwilling nations be compelled to fulfill their obligations if they do not wish to do so?
The theory is not designed to coerce recalcitrant nations. The theory is designed to describe what must be done by those who wish to fulfill their obligations. But universal acceptance is not needed for the theory to work. In the first place, under the theory that has been presented only some nations have obligations. The others have claims. Until a careful analysis is done, it is not possible to specify which nations have the obligations and which have the claims. But only the nations with obligations need to be persuaded to fulfill their obligations under the theory, and these are likely to be predominantly rich nations. Because the magnitudes of transfers to recipient nations depend on what those nations do, they receive incentives to economize on their appropriations of natural opportunities, even if they do not agree with the theory.
But suppose that only some of the nations with net obligations are willing to honor those obligations. How should these nations respond to the lack of cooperation by others?
What if a nation refuses to share the value of natural opportunities among its citizens? A reasonable test of whether a nation can properly be treated as the agent of its citizens and the appropriate recipient of its citizens' shares of the value of natural opportunities is whether the nation allows its citizens to leave. If a nation does not allow its citizens to leave, then it is not proper to treat the nation as the agent of its citizens. The citizens are effectively imprisoned. We have no way of honoring our obligations to them. We might put their shares in trust, but if they are not allowed to leave, then we should not trust their government to use their shares of the value of natural opportunities as they would wish. On the other hand, if the citizens could leave and decline to do so, and if there are some other nations that would accept them, then we are justified in regarding their continued citizenship as evidence of their implied consent to the decisions of their government about how their shares of natural opportunities will be used. This rule may induce governments that would otherwise keep their citizens captive within their borders to instead allow them liberty.
Thus the proper application of a principle of equal rights of all persons to natural opportunities will generate incentives for increased compliance and increased liberty for all. It is not necessary to have a world government that has the power to coerce all nations to abide by a single authority's determination of what they owe. Every nation can make its own determination of what, if anything, they owe to others. Within broad limits people can accept differing interpretations of obligations. If some nation exceeds the limits of tolerance, other nations can reasonably respond by declining to regard that nation or its citizens as the true owners of the things they seek to trade. What is created is a diverse, tolerant, and responsible international community.
It is not necessary to achieve
universal acceptance of this theory
for it to be effective. What is necessary is acceptance by the major
economic powers, plus a willingness to condition economic relations
on an assurance that traded goods are not unjustly appropriated from
nature, and are not made with the labor of persons who are deprived
of their liberty to migrate if they choose. ... Read
the whole article
“Free to Choose: A Conversation with Milton Friedman” — July 2006: http://www.hillsdale.edu/imprimis/ The following is an edited transcript of a conversation between Hillsdale College President Larry Arnn and Milton Friedman, which took place on May 22, 2006, at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in San Francisco, California, during a two-day Hillsdale College National Leadership Seminar celebrating the 25th anniversary of Milton and Rose Friedman's book, Free to Choose: A Personal Statement. excerpt:
General recognition of the equal rights of all to the use of land and other natural opportunities is hard to find. When the powerful nations of the world got together to eject Iraq from Kuwait, very little was heard of the bizarreness of supposing that Emir of Kuwait and his relatives had a right to all the oil that lay under Kuwait. Some recognition of equal rights to the use of natural opportunities can be found in the proposed Law of the Sea Treaty, which would have had all nations benefiting from the granting of franchises to extract minerals from the sea. From an economic perspective, the treaty was flawed by the fact that it would have created an artificial scarcity of seabed mining activities in order to raise revenue, and it was opposed by the U.S. and not implemented. But it did suggest general recognition of global equal rights to at least those natural opportunities that no one has yet begun to use.
One impediment to the recognition of equal rights to the use of natural opportunities is that some system of assessment would be needed to identify the transfers that would compensate for unequal access to natural opportunities. Another impediment is that a system of rewards for those who discover new opportunities would be needed. But if there were a will to address them, these technical difficulties could be solved adequately, as they are in jurisdictions such as Alberta, Canada, that claim all mineral rights for the government. ... Read the whole article
James Kiefer: James Huntington and the ideas of Henry George
Charles T. Root — Not a Single Tax! (1925)
Dave Wetzel: Justice or Injustice: The Locational Benefit Levy
We all have our own personal interpretation of how “justice” can be achieved.
Often “justice” is interpreted in a very narrow legal sense and only in reference to the judicial system, which has been designed to protect the status quo. ...
Of course, all citizens (and subjects in the UK) -- need to know exactly what are the legal boundaries within which society operates.
But, supposing those original rules are unfair and unjust. Then the legal framework, being used to perpetuate an injustice -- does not make that injustice moral and proper even if within the rules of jurisprudence it is “legal.”
Obvious examples of this dislocation between immoral laws and natural justice is
All these policies were “lawful” according to the legal framework of their day but that veneer of legality did not make these policies righteous and just.
Any society built on a basis of injustice will be burdened down with its own predisposition towards self-destruction. Even the most suppressed people will one-day, demand justice, rise up and overthrow their oppressors.
Human survival demands justice. Wherever slavery or dictatorship has been installed -- eventually, justice has triumphed and a more democratic and fairer system has replaced it. It is safe to predict that wherever slavery or dictatorship exists today -- it will be superseded by a fairer and more just system.
Similarly, let's consider our distribution of natural resources.
By definition, natural resources are not made by human effort. Our planet offers every inhabitant a bounty -- an amazing treasure chest of wealth that can supply our needs for food, shelter and every aspect for our survival.
Surely, “justice” demands that this natural wealth should be equally available to all and that nobody should starve, be homeless or suffer poverty simply because they are excluded from tapping in to this enormous wealth that nature has provided. ...
If our whole economy, with the private possession of land and other natural resources, is built upon an injustice -- then can any of us really be surprised that we continue to live on a planet where wars predominate, intolerance is common, crime is rife and where poverty and starvation is the norm for a huge percentage of earth's population.
Is this inherited system really the best we can do?
There must be a method for fairly utilising the earth's natural resources.
Referring to the rebuilding of Iraq in his recent speech to the American Congress, Tony Blair stated “We promised Iraq democratic Government. We will deliver it. We promised them the chance to use their oil wealth to build prosperity for all their citizens, not a corrupt elite. We will do so”.
Thus, Tony Blair recognises the difference between political justice in the form of a democratic Government and economic justice in the form of sharing natural resources.
We have not heard any dissenting voice from this promise to share Iraq's natural oil wealth for all the people of Iraq to enjoy the benefits. But if it is so obviously right and proper for the Iraqi people to share their natural wealth – why is it not the practice to do the same in all nations?
No landowner can create land values. If this were the case, then an entrepreurial landowner in the Scottish Highlands would be able to create more value than an indolent landowner in the City of London.
No, land values arise because of natural advantages (eg fertility for agricultural land or approximity to ports or harbours for commercial sites) or because of the efforts of the whole community -- past and present investment by both the public and private sectors, and the activities of individuals all give rise to land values. Why do we not advocate the sharing of these land values, which are as much a gift of nature and probably in most western economies are worth much more than Iraqi oil?
One solution would be to introduce a Location Benefit Levy, where each site is valued, based on its optimum permitted use and a levy is applied – a similar method to Britain's commercial rates on buildings but based soley on the land value and ignoring the condition of the building.
The outcome of this policy would be to give all citizens a share in the natural wealth of the nation. ...
It is an injustice that landowners can speculate on empty sites, denying their use for jobs or homes.
It is an injustice that a factory owner can sack all their workers, smash the roof of their building to let in the rain and be rewarded with elimination of their rates bill.
It is an injustice that the poorest residents pay the highest share of their incomes in Council Tax.
It is an injustice that people are denied their share of the earth's resources.
The Location Benefit Levy is a simple way to start addressing the world's last great injustice. Read the whole article
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Wealth and Want
... because democracy alone hasn't yet led to a society in which all can prosper