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"Our primary social adjustment is a denial of justice. In allowing one man to own the land on which and from which other men must live, we have made his bondsmen in a degree which increases as material progress goes on. It is this that turns the blessings of material progress into a curse." - Henry George, (1839-1897)
H.G. Brown: Significant Paragraphs from Henry George's Progress & Poverty, Chapter 6: The Remedy (in the unabridged: Books VI: The Remedy and VII: Justice of the Remedy)
H.G. Brown: Significant Paragraphs from Henry George's Progress & Poverty, Chapter 8: Why a Land-Value Tax is Better than an Equal Tax on All Property (in the unabridged P&P: Book VIII: Application of the Remedy — Chapter 3: The proposition tried by the canons of taxation)
Henry George: Thy Kingdom Come (1889 speech)
... The story goes on to describe how the roads of heaven, the streets of the New Jerusalem, were filled with disconsolate tramp angels, who had pawned their wings, and were outcasts in Heaven itself.
You laugh, and it is ridiculous. But there is a moral in it that is worth serious thought. Is it not ridiculous to imagine the application to God’s heaven of the same rules of division that we apply to God’s earth, even while we pray that His will may be done on earth as it is done in Heaven?
Really, if we could imagine it, it is impossible to think of heaven treated as we treat this earth, without seeing that, no matter how salubrious were its air, no matter how bright the light that filled it, no matter how magnificent its vegetable growth, there would be poverty, and suffering, and a division of classes in heaven itself, if heaven were parcelled out as we have parceled out the earth. And, conversely, if people were to act towards each other as we must suppose the inhabitants of heaven to do, would not this earth be a very heaven?
“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 labour to the raw material that He has provided.... Read the whole speechHenry George: Ode to Liberty (1877 speech)
Our primary social adjustment is a denial of justice. In allowing one man to own the land on which and from which other men must live, we have made them his bondsmen in a degree which increases as material progress goes on. This is the subtle alchemy that in ways they do not realize is extracting from the masses in every civilized country the fruits of their weary toil; that is instituting a harder and more hopeless slavery in place of that which has been destroyed; that is bringing political despotism out of political freedom, and must soon transmute democratic institutions into anarchy.
It is this that turns the blessings of material progress into a curse. It is this that crowds human beings into noisome cellars and squalid tenement houses; that fills prisons and brothels; that goads men with want and consumes them with greed; that robs women of the grace and beauty of perfect womanhood; that takes from little children the joy and innocence of life’s morning.
Civilization so based cannot continue. The eternal laws of the universe forbid it. Ruins of dead empires testify, and the witness that is in every soul answers, that it cannot be. It is something grander than Benevolence, something more august than Charity — it is Justice herself that demands of us to right this wrong. Justice that will not be denied; that cannot be put off — Justice that with the scales carries the sword. Shall we ward the stroke with liturgies and prayers? Shall we avert the decrees of immutable law by raising churches when hungry infants moan and weary mothers weep? ...
But if, while there is yet time, we turn to Justice and obey her, if we trust Liberty and follow her, the dangers that now threaten must disappear, the forces that now menace will turn to agencies of elevation. Think of the powers now wasted; of the infinite fields of knowledge yet to be explored; of the possibilities of which the wondrous inventions of this century give us but a hint. With want destroyed; with greed changed to noble passions; with the fraternity that is born of equality taking the place of the jealousy and fear that now array men against each other; with mental power loosed by conditions that give to the humblest comfort and leisure; and who shall measure the heights to which our civilization may soar? Words fail the thought! It is the Golden Age of which poets have sung and high-raised seers have told in metaphor! It is the glorious vision which has always haunted man with gleams of fitful splendor. It is what he saw whose eyes at Patmos were closed in a trance. It is the culmination of Christianity — the City of God on earth, with its walls of jasper and its gates of pearl! It is the reign of the Prince of Peace!... read the whole speech
Henry George: The Single Tax: What It Is and Why We Urge It (1890)
Think about what the value of land is. It has no reference to the cost of production, as has the value of houses, horses, ships, clothes, or other things produced by labor, for land is not produced by man, it was created by God. The value of land does not come from the exertion of labor on land, for the value thus produced is a value of improvement. That value attaches to any piece of land means that that piece of land is more desirable than the land which other citizens may obtain, and that they are willing to pay a premium for permission to use it. Justice therefore requires that this premium of value shall be taken for the benefit of all in order to secure to all their equal rights.
Consider the difference between the value of a building and the value of land. The value of a building, like the value of goods, or of anything properly styled wealth, is produced by individual exertion, and therefore properly belongs to the individual; but the value of land only arises with the growth and improvement of the community, and therefore properly belongs to the community. It is not because of what its owners have done, but because of the presence of the whole great population, that land in New York is worth millions an acre. This value therefore is the proper fund for defraying the common expenses of the whole population; and it must be taken for public use, under penalty of generating land speculation and monopoly which will bring about artificial scarcity where the Creator has provided in abundance for all whom His providence has called into existence.
... It is thus a violation of justice to tax labor, or the things produced by labor, and it is also a violation of justice not to tax land values. ... read the whole article
Henry George: The Wages of Labor
Nor is it asking justice when employers are asked to pay their working-men more than they are compelled to pay – more than they could get others to do the work for. It is asking charity. For the surplus that the employer thus gives is not in reality wages, it is essentially alms.
Among measures suggested for the improvement of the condition of labor much stress is sometimes laid upon charity. But there is nothing practical in such recommendations as a cure for poverty. If it were possible for the giving of alms to abolish poverty, there would be no poverty in Christendom!
Charity is indeed a noble and beautiful virtue, grateful to man and approved by God. But charity must be built on justice. It cannot supersede justice.
What is wrong with the condition of labor is that labor is robbed. And while the continuance of that robbery is sanctioned it is idle to urge charity.
All that charity can do where injustice exists is here and there to mollify the effects of injustice. It cannot cure them.
Nor is even what little it can do to mollify the effects of injustice without evil. For what may be called the super-imposed, and, in this sense, secondary virtues, work evil where the fundamental or primary virtues are absent.
Thus sobriety is a virtue and diligence is a virtue. But a sober and diligent thief is all the more dangerous. Thus patience is a virtue. But patience under wrong is the condoning of wrong. Thus it is a virtue to seek knowledge and to endeavour to cultivate the mental powers. But the wicked man becomes more capable of evil by reason of his intelligence. Devils we always think of as intelligent.
Charity based upon injustice works evil.
That pseudo charity that discards and denies justice works evil.
On the one side, it demoralises its recipients, outraging human dignity, and turning into beggars and paupers men who, to become self-supporting, self-respecting citizens, only need the restitution of what God has given them.
On the other side, it acts as an anodyne to the consciences of those who are living on the robbery of their fellows, and fosters that moral delusion and spiritual pride that Christ doubtless had in mind when He said it was easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven! For it leads men steeped in injustice, and using their money and their influence to bolster up injustice, to think that in giving alms they are doing something more than their duty towards man and deserve to be very well thought of by God.
Worse perhaps than all else is the way in which the substituting of injunctions to charity for the clear-cut demands of justice opens an easy means for professed teachers of the Christian religion of all branches and communions to placate Mammon while persuading themselves that they are serving God!
Had the English clergy not subordinated the teaching of justice to the teaching of charity – to go no further in illustrating a principle of which the whole history of Christendom from Constantine’s time to our own is witness – the Tudor tyranny would never have arisen; had the clergy of France never substituted charity for justice, the monstrous iniquities of the ancient regime would never have brought the horrors of the Great Revolution; and in my own country, had those who should have preached justice not satisfy themselves with preaching kindness, chattel slavery could never have demanded the holocaust of our civil war.
No; as faith without works is dead, as men cannot give to God His due while denying to their fellows the rights He gave them, so charity, unsupported by justice, can do nothing to solve the problem of the existing condition of labor.
Though the rich were to “bestow all their goods to feed the poor and give their bodies to be burned,” poverty would continue while property in land continued. ... read the whole article
Rev. A. C. Auchmuty: Gems from George, a themed collection of excerpts from the writings of Henry George (with links to sources)
Louis Post: Outlines of Louis F. Post's Lectures, with Illustrative Notes and Charts (1894) — Appendix: FAQ
Charles B. Fillebrown: A Catechism of Natural Taxation, from Principles of Natural Taxation (1917)
Winston Churchill: The People's Land
The system to be attacked, not individuals. I hope you will understand that when I speak of the land monopolist I am dealing more with the process than with the individual landowner. I have no wish to hold any class up to public disapprobation. I do not think that the man who makes money by unearned increment in land is morally a worse man than anyone else who gathers his profit where he finds it in this hard world under the law and according to common usage. It is not the individual I attack, it is the system. It is not the man who is bad, it is the law which is bad. It is not the man who is blameworthy for doing what the law allows and what other men do; it is the State which would be blameworthy were it not to endeavour to reform the law and correct the practice. We do not want to punish the landlord. We want to alter the law.
We do not go back on the past. Look at our actual proposal. We do not go back on the past. We accept as our basis the value as it stands today. The tax on the increment of land begins by recognizing and franking the past increment. We look only to the future, and for the future we say only this, that the community shall be the partner in any further increment above the present value after all the owner's improvements have been deducted. We say that the State and the municipality should jointly levy a toll upon the future unearned increment of the land. The toll of what? Of the whole? No. Of a half? No. Of a quarter! No. Of a fifth -- that is the proposal of the Budget, and that is robbery, that is Plunder, that is communism and spoliation, that is the social revolution at last, that is the overturn of civilized society, that is the end of the world foretold in the Apocalypse! Such is the increment tax about which so much chatter and outcry are raised at the present time, and upon which I will say that no more fair, considerate, or salutary proposal for taxation has ever been made in the House of Commons. ... Read the whole piece
winstonchurchill.org: THE PEOPLE'S RIGHTS: OPPORTUNITY LOST?
Publisher's pamphlet, circa 1970:
Apart from Free Trade, the great economic and social issues were taxation and the alleviation of poverty. The Liberals were concerned to remove the basic cause of the problem -- not just to mitigate its undesirable effects.
It was the American economist Henry George who, towards the end of the 19th century, had examined the paradox of the age in his Progress and Poverty. His principles had a major impact, first upon the radicals of Scotland and Ireland, including Campbell Bannerman himself; and later upon the policy of the Liberal Party.
Henry George propounded that whilst people have the right to possess what they produce, or receive in exchange for their work, there is no such right to private ownership of the elements upon which all depend -- air, water, sunshine and land. Indeed, George held the right of access to these basic elements as strong and equal as the right to life itself, and that if private ownership of basic elements is permitted, suppression and exploitation of one class by another is inevitable. The consequent injustice must become more acute as the community develops.
Thus it became a major point of Liberal policy to shift taxation from production, and to raise taxation upon the value of land, on the basis that this value, as witnessed by the tremendously high prices even then demanded for commercial land, is created not by any individual but by the existence and work of the whole community. A natural source thus arises from which the community may meet its growing needs without discouraging production or inhibiting the growth of earnings.
The justice and practicality of this proposition can rarely if ever have enjoyed a more brilliant advocate than Winston Churchill, and today's reader is left to wonder how different might be the present state of Britain had the forces of social change pursued these principles to their enactment. ...
The People's Rights tells a very different story and comes now not as a document of historic interest but as a challenge to politicians, indeed to the entire electorate, to consider again the causes of poverty and the basic issues of social and economic justice. Perhaps current disillusionment with politics springs from a sense that if justice in the community can only be achieved at the expense of individual liberty, the price -- especially in terms of ever-increasing taxation and bureaucracy -- is too high to pay.
As a proposition that justice in the community and the freedom of the individual are complementary and that taxes may be raised without undermining either, The People's Rights comes as a major contribution to current political and economic thought. Indeed it deserves a place in the annals of Man's struggle for freedom and yearning for a society in which the genius of every person would be nurtured and the liberty of every person respected. ... Read the whole piece
There is a bumper sticker that says, "If you want peace, then work for justice." At a superficial level, this simple slogan contains an important half-truth. At a deeper level, it contains a more profound half-truth. To understand these half-truths and why they are only half true, we need to know what peace is, what justice is, and we need to understand the relationship between the two. So in this talk I want to explore the meanings of peace and justice, their relationship, and the role of economic reform in attaining both.
"If you want peace, then work for justice." The more obvious and superficial meaning of this slogan is that people who are treated unjustly will prevent the attainment of peace until the wrongs to which they are subject are righted. Demonstrators shout: "No justice. No peace." The apparent meaning of peace in this case is tranquility, the absence of strife. And if this meaning of peace is accepted, the slogan is true. You cannot expect to end strife as long as people have unresolved grievances. But the reason that this is only half true is that this meaning is only a shadow of what peace really is.
Peace is more than armistice, more than the cessation of violence. Peace is unity and harmony. In a peaceful world people are all pleased to cooperate with one another. When we have attained true peace, there will be no person who has any purpose that any other person seeks to thwart. In a peaceful world, everyone will feel the truth of John Donne's meditation,
No man is an Island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the Continent; a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, and well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friends or of thine own were; any man's death diminishes me because I am involved in Mankind; therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.
Is it imaginable that we might ever attain a world where everyone felt so? And if we do so, what will be the role of justice in that world? What is justice?
There are so many conflicting, strident claims for different conceptions of justice that a person might reasonably despair of ever finding a meaning of justice that people would agree upon. Any conception of justice may seem to be no more than one person's opinion. And yet there are things that we all know about justice. If I tell you that I stand before you as justice, you know that across my face you will find -- a blindfold. In my left hand I hold aloft -- a pair of scales. You know that in my right hand I have -- a sword that I will use if necessary. And my gender is female.
The blindfold, the scales, the sword, and the feminine gender. These features of the traditional symbol tell us much about justice. The blindfold might seem out of place, since it prevents justice from either seeing what the scales say or wielding the sword effectively. But we know that the blindfold has a distinct and essential meaning. The blindfold ensures that justice will not be swayed by any visible characteristics of those who plead before her. Justice is not concerned with whether you are black or white, short or tall, beautiful or ugly. Every person receives the same treatment from justice.
The scales have at least two possible interpretations. ...
And then the sword. The sword represents the fact that justice is prepared to use the threat of force, and force itself, to see that her decrees are carried out. ...
Thus if we know that justice is the blindfolded woman with the scales and the sword, then we know that justice is the principles of equality and evenhandedness that command and prohibit the use of force in resolving conflicts.
Consider what this tells us. It tells us first that if we wish to claim that justice authorizes the force we wish to use, or that justice forbids the force that others wish to use against us, then we must be able to show that our claim is consistent with equality and evenhandedness. ...
Second, the blindfold tells us that we are not in the realm of justice if the principles we offer to explain why our use of force is justified are of the form, "Because I am better than you," or Hitler's, "Because Aryans are better than Jews." Justice compels us to acknowledge the equality of all persons. Claims of individual or group supremacy cannot be accepted by justice.
Third, not only are all persons equal in the blindfolded eyes of justice, but their different goals in life all deserve equal respect. ...
Even the utilitarian proposal that conflicting claims should be settled in the way that yields the greatest possible utility must be rejected as an elitist imposition of a particular goal on people who may have other plans. If I choose to pursue a life that can be guaranteed to lead to depression and despair, I have as much claim to the protection of justice in that pursuit as if I choose the path that leads to bliss. Justice must be neutral in its evaluation of people and their goals. ...
If we commit ourselves to neutrality, does that provide a unique definition of justice? No, it doesn't. There are a number of definitions of justice that might claim to satisfy neutrality, although the claims of some definitions are dubious, and other definitions can be rejected on other grounds.
Consider first the conservative claim that justice is defined by traditional rules. ...
Next, consider the claim that justice is defined by what the majority wants. The majoritarian says, "If you want to know who should prevail in a conflict, take a vote." As appealing as majoritarianism may be on the surface, it cannot provide a coherent theory of justice. ...
If voting cannot be used to define justice, one might entertain the possibility of using a contractarian formulation: What is just is the rules to which people would have agreed if they did not know their personal circumstances. ...
This is a reasonable recipe for implementing the Golden Rule and a fine idea for seeking agreement about the principles by which complaints shall be judged. If people were to follow this suggestion and achieve the agreement that is described, they would achieve fairness.
However, this does not make Rawls's suggestion a good way to identify justice. ...
Next, consider egalitarianism. The egalitarian says that justice is equality. There is a conceptual difficulty in specifying how beings as different from each other as humans are could ever be equal, unless we create a society where all humans are female clones of one another. (This should be technologically feasible within a few decades, if it is not already.) But I do not think that egalitarians want a society of clones. ...
John Rawls has proposed that the talents that individuals possess be regarded as a common pool, so that anyone who has more than his share has an obligation to compensate those who have less then their shares. ...
All of these suggestions should be rejected. Talents are not a common pool from which some persons have taken more then their shares. If we are all fishing in the same pond, the quantity of fish that you take will diminish the quantity that is available to me. But the quantity of talent that you have in no way diminishes the quantity that is available to me. Your talent is not acquired at my expense.
From the perspective of peace, no man is an island; each of us is a part of mankind. And any of us who has been graced with an extra measure of talent should recognize that, often, the best use of our talent is to provide for others. Nevertheless, from the perspective of justice, each of us must be allowed to act like an island if he wishes. .
Suppose that a bone-marrow transplant from me would save your life--or at least prolong it. ...
If you do not mind requiring a bone-marrow transplant of me, then what about a kidney? ...
If you do not mind requiring me to donate a kidney, then what about my heart? ...
A good egalitarian should require me to part with the one available heart after I have had my share of years.
But I don't think you would. I don't think anyone would. We are not egalitarians. We recognize the sanctity of the boundaries of the human body. In a peaceful world I will gladly give a spare kidney to anyone who needs it. But in a just world, no one will forcefully extract a kidney from me, even to save someone else's life. Justice is not egalitarianism.
Just as I own my kidneys, so do I own my talents. In a peaceful world I will use them for the benefit of all mankind. But the sword of justice should not be used to force me to compensate those with less talent. Nor should it be used to force me to abide by the insurance contract that you believe I would have signed, if I had had the chance, before I knew what talents I would have. ...
A proper definition of justice begins with the principles of classical liberalism. In a just world each person is permitted to determine the purposes to which his or her body is put--the hands and the brain no less than the kidneys. We each have rights of self-determination. This includes the right of ownership of what we produce, at least, as John Locke said, when we leave as much in natural opportunities for others as we appropriate for our own productive activities.
We have the right to co-operate with whom we choose for whatever mutually agreed purposes we choose. Thus we have the right to trade with others, without any artificial hindrances, and we have the right to keep any wages or interest that we receive from such trading.
These components of the classical liberal conception of justice are held by two groups that hold conflicting views on a companion issue of great importance: how are claims of exclusive access to natural opportunities to be established?
John Locke qualified his statement that we own what we produce with his famous "proviso" that there be "as much and as good left in common for others." A few pages later, writing in the last decade of the seventeenth century, he said that private appropriations of land are actually not restricted, because anyone who is dissatisfied with the land available to him in Europe can always go to America, where there is plenty of unclaimed land. Locke does not address the issue of rights to land when land is scarce. One tradition in classical liberalism concerning claims to land is that of the "homesteading libertarians" ...
The other tradition is that of the "geoists," as inspired if not exemplified by Henry George, who say that, whenever natural opportunities are scarce, each person has an obligation to ensure that the per capita value of the natural opportunities that he leaves for others is as great as the value of the natural opportunities that he claims for himself. Any excess in one's claim generates an obligation to compensate those who thereby have less. George actually proposed the nearly equivalent idea, that all or nearly all of the rental value of land should be collected in taxes, and all other taxes should be abolished. The geoist position as I have expressed it emphasizes the idea that, at least when value generated by public services is not an issue, rights to land are fundamentally rights of individuals, not rights of governments.
There are two fundamental problems with the position of homesteading libertarians on claims to land. ...
The second fundamental problem with the position of the homesteading libertarians is that, even if there were previously unsettled land to be allocated, say a new continent emerging from the ocean, first grabbing would make no sense as a criterion for allocating land.
It would be inefficient, for one thing, as people stampeded to do whatever was necessary to establish their claims. But that is not decisive because, if we are concerned with justice, it might be necessary for us to tolerate inefficiency. But the homesteading libertarian view makes no sense in terms of justice. "I get it all because I got here first," isn't justice.
Justice -- the balancing of the scales -- is the geoist position, "I get exclusive access to this natural opportunity because I have left natural opportunities of equal value for you." ...
Justice is thus a regime in which persons have the greatest possible individual liberty, and all acknowledge an obligation to share equally the value of natural opportunities. Justice is economic reform--the abolition of all taxes on labor and capital, the acceptance of individual responsibility, the creation of institutions that will provide equal sharing the value of natural opportunities. ...
Getting back to where we started, is it true that, "If you want peace-- real peace--you should work for justice?" and if so why? Well, it's half true. To see why, consider what peace is, and how one might create it.
Peace is unity and harmony. Peace is people recognizing that we are all parts of one another, that it is always for ourselves that the bell tolls.
What keeps us from attaining peace? One of the greatest hindrances to the attainment of peace -- real peace -- is that resistance that so many of us feel to tolerating oppression and injustice. When we know that we, or others we care for, have been treated unjustly, it is ever so difficult to attain a state of unity and harmony with others. The leap to peace is so much easier from a position of justice. So, even though peace and justice are very disparate things, and peace is much the more attractive one, still it make sense, if you want to help people reach peace, to work for justice.
But the reason that this is only half true is that, in fact, justice is not actually necessary to your attainment of peace. If you want peace for yourself, you can have it, at any time, in any circumstances in which you find yourself. Whether you are treated justly or not, you are a part of the being that is all humanity. Each person's joy is your joy. Each person's grief is your grief. You don't have to wait until you are treated justly to see this.
So if you want a peace for others, then work for justice. Work for freedom. Work for the elimination of all taxes on the productive things that people do. Work for equality in the right to benefit from natural opportunities. All these things will make it easier for people to make the leap to peace.
But if you want peace for yourself, simply have it. Read the entire article
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. ... Read the whole article
Nic Tideman: The Shape of a World Inspired by Henry George
How would the world look if its political institutions were shaped by the conception of social justice advanced by Henry George?
Nic Tideman: Basic Tenets of the Incentive Taxation Philosophy
Nic Tideman: Being Just While Conceptions of Justice are Changing
This paper analyzes the issue of compensation in connection with the possible emergence of an understanding that land is the common heritage of citizens, and that therefore the rental value of land should be collected for public purposes or for a guaranteed income. ...Nic Tideman: The Ethics of Coercion in Public Finance
The paper argues that there are a variety of factors that attenuate claims for compensation and make a justifiable system of compensation so complex that it may be unworkable. But if there is to be a system of compensation, the one justifiable source of funds to finance it is assets that have been acquired by appropriating or buying land and then selling it.... Read the whole article
Nic Tideman: The Structure of an Inquiry into the Attractiveness of A Social Order Inspired by the Ideas of Henry George
I. Ethical Principles
A. People own themselves and therefore own what they produce.II. Ethical Questions
B. People have obligations to share equally the opportunities that are provided by nature.
C. People are free to interact with other competent adults on whatever terms are mutually agreed.
D. People have obligations to pay the costs that their intrusive behaviors impose on others.
A. What is the relationship between justice (as embodied in the ethical principles) and community (or peace or harmony)?III. Efficiency Questions
B. How are the weak to be provided for?
C. How should natural opportunities be shared?
D. Who should be included in the group among whom rent should be shared equally?
E. Is there an obligation to compensate those whose presently recognized titles to land and other exclusive natural opportunities will lose value when rent is shared equally?
F. Can a person who is occupying a per capita share of land reasonably ask to be left undisturbed indefinitely on that land?
G. What is the moral status of "intellectual property?"
H. What standards of environmental respect can people reasonably require of others?
I. What forms of land use control are consistent with the philosophy of Henry George?
A. Would public collection of the rent of land provide enough revenue for an appropriate public sector?
B. How much revenue could public collection of rent raise?
C. Is it possible to assess land with sufficient accuracy?
D. How much growth can a community expect if it shifts taxes from improvements to land?
E. To what extent does the benefit that one community receives from shifting taxes from buildings to land come at the expense of other communities?
F. What is the impact of land taxes on land speculation?
G. How, if at all, does the impact of shifting the source of public revenue to land change if it is a whole nation rather than just a community that makes the shift?
H. Is there a danger that the application of Henry George's ideas would lead to a world of over-development?
I. How would natural resources be managed appropriately if they were regarded as the common heritage of humanity? Read the whole article
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
The Most Rev. Dr Thomas Nulty, Roman Catholic Bishop of Meath (Ireland): Back to the Land (1881)
The essential and immutable principles of justice used certainly to be: --
That everyone had a right of property in the hard-earned fruits of his labour; that whatever property a man had made by the expenditure of his capital, his industry and his toil, was really his own; that he, and he alone, had a right to all the benefits, the advantages and enjoyments that that property yielded; and that if anyone else meddled with that property against his will, or interfered with him in its enjoyment, he was thereby guilty of the crimes of theft and of robbery, which the eternal law of God, as well as the laws of all nations, reprobated and punished with such severity.
But the principles which underlie the existing system of Land Tenure, and which impart to it its specific and distinctive character, are exactly the reverse of these. The principles on which that system is based are: --
That one privileged class do not require to labour for their livelihood at all: that they have an exclusive right to all the advantages, comforts and enjoyments that can be derived from a splendid property, which exacted no patient, painful or self-denying efforts of labour to create it or acquire it, and which, in fact, they inherited without any sacrifice at all: that, being a singularly favoured race, and being all God's eldest sons, the rest of the world must humbly acknowledge themselves to be their inferiors in rank, lineage, condition and dignity: that this superiority of rank gives them a right to sell out God's gifts as if they were purely the products of their own labour and industry, and that they can exact in exchange for them famine or scarcity prices. Finally, that they enjoy the enviable privilege of appropriating the hard-earned property of others against their wills, and do them no wrong even if they charge them a rent for the use of what would really appear to be their own....
Now, any form of injustice, oppression or wrong that can possibly exist in any of the great trades or industries of a nation is only felt by the individuals who belong to that industry or trade, and who earn their livelihood by their labour and skill in it. Outside, in the other greater or lesser of the national industries, it is hardly felt at all. But the Irish system of Land Tenure wrongs and impoverishes not only those who live by and of the land, but all other classes in the community as well! It robs not only the cultivators of the soil, but every man in the community, of a substantial portion of the hard-earned fruits of his labour, no matter in what trade or profession he may labour for his living. It is, therefore, not a local or a particular grievance, but a great national injustice, and that, I think, is its most objectionable peculiarity. Read the whole letter
a synopsis of Robert V. Andelson and James M. Dawsey: From Wasteland to Promised land: Liberation Theology for a Post-Marxist World
In How the Other Half Dies, Susan George wrote that "The most pressing cause of the abject poverty which millions of people in this world endure is that a mere 2.5% of landowners with more than 100 hectares control nearly three quarters of all the land in the world - with the top 0.23% controlling half." To recognize this social plague for what it is, and to avert a backlash of despair, requires a clear understanding of two great themes: the Promised Land and the Wasteland.Henry George: How to Help the Unemployed (1894)
The Promised Land is the hope of the landless, literally, land, the gateway to opportunity. Abraham in Mesopotamia and the Israelites in bondage in Egypt so wished for their own land that they left homes and familiar surroundings and risked death to seek the distant place God had promised, a land rich in milk and honey, where a day's labor would put food on the table and allow their children to grow into adulthood. This exodus pattern has been repeated over and over, from the migrations of prehistory to the boat people of our day. For centuries, immigrants have poured into the Americas, looking for the inheritance denied to them in the Old World -- their portion of land.
But the Promised Land is not so much a geographic place as it is a hope and a vision of a just social order. Modern society has many wondrous features, but it certainly is not the Promised Land in its full glory. Indeed, we are "modern captives" who sense the Promised Land as a primitive instinct, as a deep longing, and as a cry from the depths of our captivity that the world should be different.
All of us, no less than the Hebrews in Egypt, are captives of structures imposed upon us. To enslave people, today as three thousand years ago, is to rob them of the value of their labor. Millions of working people living in severe poverty are robbed of the fruits of their labor. Through various forms of exploitation, especially the monopolization of land rights, large segments of humanity are oppressed, dehumanized, held in bondage. One factor enabling governments to legalize land theft and lend respectability to exploitative landlordism is the general silence of religious and intellectual leaders about humanity's common rights to land. ...
Some defenders of the status quo admit that all land titles may be traced either to acts of force or fraud (or to the more respectable-sounding "priority of occupation"). But, they add, we cannot start over; society has for centuries given legal sanction to private landed property. Innumerable contracts have been executed on the basis of this sanction, and these include the good faith purchase of land. For society to withdraw this sanction, they claim, would be a breach of trust.
The passage of time, however, cannot turn a wrong into a right. Kings and popes and governments never had the moral right to vest in perpetual ownership what God intended for the benefit of all. If the acquisition of a benefit under the law were to establish such a vested right, no law could ever be amended, since it would invariably work to someone's disadvantage.
Obviously, change that further rends the fabric of society is usually self-defeating. And the vast majority of beneficiaries of unjust structures -- the beleagured middle classes -- are not intentional wrongdoers but passive recipients of unearned wealth from a flawed system they did not create. The dismantling of these structures, therefore, should, whenever possible, be done in ways that avoid excessive hardship for them. But it must be done. ...
By equalizing opportunity, political and economic liberation tend to draw both poor and rich into the middle class. As an expression of social justice, this constitutes a genuine advance, ethical as well as material. But it is no easy guarantee of spiritual gain. Middle-class traits include virtues such as industry, thrift, restraint, commercial and professional rectitude, but, on the other hand, low prudentialism, self-satisfaction, and an inclination to regard material well-being as a sign of righteousness. Hence, even in the Promised Land, what Paulo Freire calls "conscientization" (roughly, consciousness-raising through social commitment), emphasized and refined by liberation theology, must continue although in a different vein. The Kingdom of God will flourish only when outward liberation gives rise to inward liberation, a victory over the limitations of the bourgeois ethos.
"The Earth Is the Lord's" (Psalm 24:1). This statement tells us something about God. He is attached to the land and loves it. He is not a spiritual abstraction oblivious to the Wasteland in which we live. God is the maker of the world of eating and sleeping, working and begetting. It also tells us something of our place in this world. With God as the true owner of the earth, every person has a right to the produce which equitable usufruct yields to his or her efforts.
To recognize that "the earth is the Lord's" is to see that the same God who established communities has also in his providence ordained for them, through the land itself, a just source of revenue. Yet, in the Wasteland in which we live, this revenue goes mainly into the pockets of monopolists, while communities meet their needs by extorting individuals the fruits of their honest toil. If ever there were any doubt that structural sin exists, our present system of taxation is the proof. Everywhere we see governments penalizing individuals for their industry and creativity, while the socially produced value of land is reaped by speculators in exact proportion to the land which they withhold. The greater the Wasteland, the greater the reward. Does this comport with any divine plan, or notion of justice and human rights? Or does it not, rather, perpetuate the Wasteland and prevent the realization of the Promised Land?
This not meant to suggest that land monopolists and speculators have a corner on acquisitiveness or the "profit motive," which is a well-nigh universal fact of human nature. As a group, they are no more sinful than are people at large, except to the degree that they knowingly obstruct reforms aimed at removing the basis of exploitation. Many abide by the dictum: "If one has to live under a corrupt system, it is better to be a beneficiary than a victim of it."
But they do not have to live under a corrupt system; no one does. The profit motive can be channeled in ways that are socially desirable as well as in ways that are socially destructive. Let us give testimony to our faith that the earth is the Lord's by building a social order in which there are no victims. Read the whole synopsis
... Charity can only palliate present suffering a little at the risk of fatal disease. For charity cannot right a wrong; only justice can do that. Charity is false, futile, and poisonous when offered as a substitute for justice. This is the fatal taint that runs through all the efforts of the rich and influential to aid the unemployed, with which our newspapers now are full. Like the gatherings of clergymen called in Chicago by Editor Stead -- blinded leader of the wilfully blind -- their spirit is that of men pretending to look for what they are determined not to find; of men, like those of Moscow of whom Tolstoi tells, willing to do anything whatever to help the poor -- except to get off their backs.
Yet this is to be expected. For the question of the unemployed is but a more than usually acute phase of the great labor question -- a question of the distribution of wealth. Now, given any wrong, no matter what, that affects the distribution of wealth, and it follows that the leading class must be averse to any examination or question of it. For, since wealth is power, the leading class is necessarily dominated by those who profit or imagine they profit by injustice in the distribution of wealth. Hence, the very indisposition to ask the cause of evils so great as to arouse and startle the whole community is but proof that they spring from some wide and deep injustice.
What that injustice is may be seen
by whoever will really look. We
have only to ask to find. ... Read the entire
What is the law of human progress?
George saw ours alone among the civilizations of the world as still progressing; all others had either petrified or had vanished. And in our civilization he had already detected alarming evidences of corruption and decay. So he sought out the forces that create civilization and the forces that destroy it.
He found the incentives to progress to be the desires inherent in human nature, and the motor of progress to be what he called mental power. But the mental power that is available for progress is only what remains after nonprogressive demands have been met. These demands George listed as maintenance and conflict.
In his isolated state, primitive man's powers are required simply to maintain existence; only as he begins to associate in communities and to enjoy the resultant economies is mental power set free for higher uses. Hence, association is the first essential of progress:
And as the wasteful expenditure of mental power in conflict becomes greater or less as the moral law which accords to each an equality of rights is ignored or is recognized, equality (or justice) is the second essential of progress.
Thus association in equality is the law of progress. Association frees mental power for expenditure in improvement, and equality, or justice, or freedom -- for the terms here signify the same thing, the recognition of the moral law -- prevents the dissipation of this power in fruitless struggles.
He concluded this phase of his analysis of civilization in these words: "The law of human progress, what is it but the moral law? Just as social adjustments promote justice, just as they acknowledge the equality of right between man and man, just as they insure to each the perfect liberty which is bounded only by the equal liberty of every other, must civilization advance. Just as they fail in this, must advancing civilization come to a halt and recede..."
However, as the primary relation of man is to the earth, so must the primary social adjustment concern the relation of man to the earth. Only that social adjustment which affords all mankind equal access to nature and which insures labor its full earnings will promote justice, acknowledge equality of right between man and man, and insure perfect liberty to each.
This, according to George, was what the single tax would do. It was why he saw the single tax as not merely a fiscal reform but as the basic reform without which no other reform could, in the long run, avail. This is why he said, "What is inexplicable, if we lose sight of man's absolute and constant dependence upon land, is clear when we recognize it." ... 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