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"The neoclassical economists' view of their proper role is rather like that in The Realtor's Oath, which includes a vow 'To protect the individual right of real estate ownership.' The word 'individual' is construed broadly to include corporations, estates, trusts, anonymous offshore funds, schools, government agencies, institutions, partnerships, cooperatives, the Duke of Westminster, the Sultan of Brunei, the Medellin Cartel, Saddam Hussein, congregations, Archbishops, families (including criminal families) and so on, but 'individual' sounds more all-American and subsumes them all. This is a potent chant that stirs people to extremes of self-righteousness and siege mentality when challenged." - Professor Mason Gaffney, US Geonomic academic
Henry George: The Wages of Labor
The same hopelessness attends the suggestion that working people should be encouraged by the State to obtain a share of the land. It is proposed that, as is being attempted in Ireland, the State shall buy out large land owners in favour of small ones, thus establishing peasant proprietors.
Supposing that this can be done, even to a considerable extent, what will be accomplished save to substitute a larger privileged class for a smaller privileged class? What will be done for the still larger class that must remain the laborers of the agricultural districts, the workmen of the towns, the proletarians of the cities?
Is it not true, as Professor De
Laveleye says, that in such
countries as Belgium, where peasant proprietary exists, the tenants
(for there still exist tenants) are rack-rented with a mercilessness
unknown in Ireland? Is it not true that in such countries as Belgium
the condition of the mere laborer is worse than it is in Great
Britain, where large ownerships obtain? And if the State attempts to
buy up land for peasant proprietors, will not the effect be, what is
seen today in Ireland, to increase the market value of land and thus
make it more difficult far those. not so favoured, and for those who
will came after, to get land? ... read
the whole article
Henry George: The Land for the People (1889 speech)
Now, rent is a natural and just thing. For instance, if we in this room were to go together to a new country and we were to agree that we should settle in that new country on equal terms, how could we divide the land up in such a way as to insure and to continue equality? If it were proposed that we should divide it up into equal pieces, there would be in the first place this objection, that in our division we would not fully know the character of the land; one man would get a more valuable piece than the other. Then as time passed the value of different pieces of land would change, and further than that if we were once to make a division and then allow full and absolute ownership of the land, inequality would come up in the succeeding generation. One man would be thriftless, another man, on the contrary, would be extremely keen in saving and pushing; one man would be unfortunate and another man more fortunate; and so on. In a little while many of these people would have parted with their land to others, so that their children coming after them into the world would have no land. The only fair way would be this-- that any man among us should be at liberty to take up any piece of land, and use it, that no one else wanted to use; that where more than one man wanted to use the same piece of land, the man who did use it should pay a premium which, going into a common fund and being used for the benefit of all, would put everybody upon a plane of equality. That would be the ideal way of dividing up the land of a new country.
THE problem is how to apply that to an old country. True we are confronted with this fact all over the civilized world that a certain class have got possession of the land, and want to hold it. Now one of your distinguished leaders, Mr. Parnell in his Drogheda speech some years ago, said there were only two ways of getting the land for the people. One way was to buy it; the other was to fight for it. I do not think that is true. I think that Mr. Parnell overlooked at that time a most important third way, and that is the way we advocate.
That is what we propose by what we call the single tax. We propose to abolish all taxes for revenue. In place of all the taxes that are now levied, to impose one single tax, and that a tax upon the value of land. Mark me, upon the value of land alone -- not upon the value of improvements, not upon the value of what the exercise of labor has done to make land valuable, that belongs to the individual; but upon the value of the land itself, irrespective of the improvements, so that an acre of land that has not been improved will pay as much tax as an acre of like land that has been improved. So that in a town a house site on which there is no building shall be called upon to pay just as much tax as a house site on which there is a house. Read the whole speech
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
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 REVOLUTIONMason Gaffney: Land as a Distinctive Factor of Production
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
The initial distribution of land - the origin of property in land - is military, legal, and political, not economic. The prime business of nations throughout history has been to gain and defend land. What was won by force has no higher sanction than lex fortioris, and must be kept and defended by force.Henry George: The Land Question (1881)
After land is appropriated by a nation the original distribution is political. The nature of societies, cultures and economies for centuries afterwards are moulded by that initial distribution, exemplified by the differences between Costa Rica (equal partition) and El Salvador with its fabled "Fourteen Families" (Las Catorce), or between Canada and Argentina.
Political redistribution also occurs within nations, as with the English enclosures and Scottish "clearances", when one part of the population in effect conquered the rest by political machinations, and took over their land, their source of livelihood. Reappropriation and new appropriation of tenures is not just an ancient or a sometime thing but an on-going process. This very day, proprietary claims to water sources, pollution rights, access to rights of way, radio spectrum, signal relay sites, landing rights, beach access, oil and gas, space on telephone and power poles(e.g. for cable TV), taxi licences, etc. are being created under our noses. In developing countries of unstable government the current strong man often grants concessions to imperialistic adventurers who can bolster his hold on power by supplying both cash up front, and help from various US and UN agencies from the IMF to the United States Marine Corps.
Ordinary economic thinking today would have it that a nation that distributes land among private parties by "selling to the highest bidder" is using an economic method of distribution. Such thinking guides World Bank and IMF economists as they advise nations emerging from communism on how to privatise land. The neutrality is specious, at best. Even selling to the highest bidder is a political decision, as 19th century American history makes clear.
The right to sell was won by force, is not universally honoured, and must be kept by continuous use of force. In practice, selling for cash up front reserves most land for a few with front-money advantage, inside information, good contacts, corrupt aids, etc. The history of disposal of US public domain leaves no doubt about this and it is still going on with air rights, water, radio, landing rights, fishing licenses, etc. Choices being made currently are just as tainted as those of 19th century history.
Selling land in large blocks under frontier conditions is to sell at a time before it begins yielding much if any rent. It is bid in by those few who have large discretionary funds of patient money. Politicians, meantime, treat the proceeds as current revenues used to hold down other taxes today, leaving the nation with inadequate revenues in the future.
The ability to bid high does not necessarily come from legitimate savings. The early wealth of Liverpool came from the slave trade. High bidders for many properties today are middle eastern potentates who neither produced nor saved the wealth they control. Other high bidders are criminals, who find the "sanctity of property" a splendid route for laundering their gains, and a permanent shelter against further prosecution. 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