Wealth and Want
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Monopoly and Oligopoly

Unlike products and capital goods, we cannot produce more land, particularly centrally located land in valuable places, which can be worth 100,000 times what good agricultural land is worth.  Those who have title to such sites thus exercise monopoly power over the rest of us.  (The board game Monopoly is an adaptation of The Landlord's Game, created in 1903 to teach these ideas.)

Rev. A. C. Auchmuty: Gems from George, a themed collection of excerpts from the writings of Henry George (with links to sources)

THE term Labor includes all human exertion in the production of wealth, whatever its mode. In common parlance we often speak of brain labor and hand labor as though they were entirely distinct kinds of exertion, and labor is often spoken of as though it involved only muscular exertion. But in reality any form of labor, that is to say, any form of human exertion in the production of wealth above that which cattle may be applied to doing, requires the human brain as truly as the human hand, and would be impossible without the exercise of mental faculties on the part of the laborer. Labor in fact is only physical in external form. In its origin it is mental or on strict analysis spiritual. — The Science of Political Economy unabridged: Book III, Chapter 16: The Production of Wealth, The Second Factor of Production — Labor abridged: Part III, Chapter 10: Order of the Three Factors of Production

IT seems to us that your Holiness misses its real significance in intimating that Christ in becoming the son of a carpenter and Himself working as a carpenter showed merely that "there is nothing to be ashamed of in seeking one's bread by labor." To say that is almost like saying that by not robbing people He showed that there is nothing to be ashamed of in honesty. If you will consider how true in any large view is the classification of all men into working-men, beggar-men and thieves, you will see that it was morally impossible that Christ during His stay on earth should have been anything else than a working-man, since He who came to fulfill the law must by deed as well as word obey God's law of labor.
See how fully and how beautifully Christ's life on earth illustrated this law. Entering our earthly life in the weakness of infancy, as it is appointed that all should enter it, He lovingly took what in the natural order is lovingly rendered, the sustenance, secured by labor, that one generation owes to its immediate successors. Arrived at maturity, He earned His own subsistence by that common labor in which the majority of men must and do earn it. Then passing to a higher — to the very highest-sphere of labor. He earned His subsistence by the teaching of moral and spiritual truths, receiving its material wages in the love offerings of grateful hearers, and not refusing the costly spikenard with which Mary anointed his feet. So, when He chose His disciples, He did not go to land-owners or other monopolists who live on the labor of others but to common laboring men. And when He called them to a higher sphere of labor and sent them out to teach moral and spiritual truths He told them to take, without condescension on the one hand, or sense of degradation on the other, the loving return for such labor, saying to them that the "laborer is worthy of his hire," thus showing, what we hold, that all labor does not consist in what is called manual labor, but that whoever helps to add to the material, intellectual, moral, or spiritual fulness of life is also a laborer. - The Condition of Labor

NOR should it be forgotten that the investigator, the philosopher, the teacher, the artist, the poet, the priest, though not engaged in the production of wealth, are not only engaged in the production of utilities and satisfactions to which the production of wealth is only a means, but by acquiring and diffusing knowledge, stimulating mental powers and elevating the moral sense, may greatly increase the ability to produce wealth. For man does not live by bread alone. He is not an engine, in which so much fuel gives so much power. On a capstan bar or a topsail halyard a good song tells like muscle, and a "Marseillaise" or a "Battle Hymn of the Republic" counts for bayonets. A hearty laugh, a noble thought, a perception of harmony, may add to the power of dealing even with material things.

He who by any exertion of mind or body adds to the aggregate of enjoyable wealth, increases the sum of human knowledge or gives to human life higher elevation or greater fulness — he is, in the large meaning of the words, a "producer," a "working-man," a "laborer," and is honestly earning honest wages. But he who without doing aught to make mankind richer, wiser, better, happier, lives on the toil of others — he, no matter by what name of honor he may be I called, or how lustily the priests of Mammon may swing their censers before him, is in the last analysis but a beggarman or a thief. — Protection or Free Trade, Chapter 7 econlib

THE primary purpose and end of government being to secure the natural rights and equal liberty of each, all businesses that involve monopoly are within the necessary province of governmental regulation, and businesses that are in their nature complete monopolies become properly functions of the State. As society develops, the State must assume these functions, in their nature co-operative, in order to secure the equal rights and liberty of all. That is to say, as, in the process of integration, the individual becomes more and more dependent upon and subordinate to the all, it becomes necessary for government, which is properly that social organ by which alone the whole body of individuals can act, to take upon itself, in the interest of all, certain functions which cannot safely be left to individuals. — Social Problems — Chapter 17, The Functions of Government

IT is not the business of government to make men virtuous or religious, or to preserve the fool from the consequences of his own folly. Government should be repressive no further than is necessary to secure liberty by protecting the equal rights of each from aggression on the part of others, and the moment governmental prohibitions extend beyond this line they are in danger of defeating the very ends they are intended to serve.— Social Problems — Chapter 17, The Functions of Government

ALL schemes for securing equality in the conditions of men by placing the distribution of wealth in the hands of government have the fatal defect of beginning at the wrong end. They pre-suppose pure government; but it is not government that makes society; it is society that makes government; and until there is something like substantial equality in the distribution of wealth, we cannot expect pure government. — Protection or Free Trade, Chapter 28 econlib
THE poverty to which in advancing civilization great masses of men are condemned, is not the freedom from distraction and temptation which sages have sought and philosophers have praised: it is a degrading and embruting slavery, that cramps the higher nature, dulls the finer feelings, and drives men by its pain to acts which the brutes would refuse. It is into this helpless, hopeless poverty, that crushes manhood and destroys womanhood, that robs even childhood of its innocence and joy, that the working classes are being driven by a force which acts upon them like a resistless and unpitying machine. The Boston collar manufacturer who pays his girls two cents an hour may commiserate their condition, but he, as they, is governed by the law of competition, and cannot pay more and carry on his business, for exchange is not governed by sentiment. And so, through all intermediate gradations, up to those who receive the earnings of labor without return, in the rent of land, it is the inexorable laws of supply and demand, a power with which the individual can no more quarrel or dispute than with the winds and the tides, that seem to press down the lower classes into the slavery of want.

But, in reality, the cause is that which always has, and always must result in slavery — the monopolization by some of what nature has designed for all. . . . Private ownership of land is the nether millstone. Material progress is the upper millstone. Between them; with an increasing pressure, the working classes are being ground. — Progress & Poverty — Book VII, Chapter 2, Justice of the Remedy: Enslavement of laborers the ultimate result of private property in land

IT is not in the relations of capital and labor; it is not in the pressure of population against subsistence that an explanation of the unequal development of our civilization is to be found. The great cause of inequality in the distribution of wealth is inequality in the ownership of land. The ownership of land is the great fundamental fact which ultimately determines the social, the political and, consequently, the intellectual and moral condition of a people. And it must be so. For land is the habitation of man, the storehouse upon which he must draw for all his needs, the material to which his labor must be applied for the supply of all his desires; for even the products of the sea cannot be taken, the light of the sun enjoyed, or any of the forces of nature utilized, without the use of land or its products. On the land we are born, from it we live, to it we return again — children of the soil as truly as is the blade of grass or the flower of the field. — Progress & Poverty — Book V, Chapter 2: The Problem Solved: The persistence of poverty amid advancing wealth

THERE is nothing strange or inexplicable in the phenomena that are now perplexing the world. It is not that material progress is not in itself a good, it is not that nature has called into being children for whom she has failed to provide; it is not that the Creator has left on natural laws a taint of injustice at which even the human mind revolts, that material progress brings such bitter fruits. That amid our highest civilization men faint and die with want is not due to the niggardliness of nature, but to the injustice of man. Vice and misery, poverty and pauperism, are not the legitimate results of increase of population and industrial development; they only follow increase of population and industrial development because land is treated as private property — they are the direct and necessary results of the violation of the supreme law of justice, involved in giving to some men the exclusive possession of that which nature provides for all men. — Progress & Poverty — Book VII, Chapter 1, Justice of the Remedy: Injustice of private property in land

LABOR may be likened to a man who as he carries home his earnings is waylaid by a series of robbers. One demands this much, and another that much, but last of all stands one who demands all that is left, save just enough to enable the victim to maintain life and come forth next day to work. So long as this last robber remains, what will it benefit such a man to drive off any or all of the other robbers?

Such is the situation of labor today throughout the civilized world. And the robber that takes all that is left, is private property in land. Improvement, no matter how great, and reform, no matter how beneficial in itself, cannot help that class who, deprived of all right to the use of the material elements, have only the power to labor — a power as useless in itself as a sail without wind, a pump without water, or a saddle without a horse. — Protection or Free Trade — Chapter 25: The Robber That Takes All That Is Left - econlib  | abridged

THERE is but one way to remove an evil — and that is, to remove its cause. Poverty deepens as wealth increases, and wages are forced down while productive power grows, because land, which is the source of all wealth and the field of all labor, is monopolized. To extirpate poverty, to make wages what justice commands they should be, the full earnings of the laborer, we must therefore substitute for the individual ownership of land a common ownership. Nothing else will go to the cause of the evil — in nothing else is there the slightest hope. — Progress & Poverty — Book VI, Chapter 2, The Remedy: The True Remedy ... go to "Gems from George"

Henry George: Political Dangers (Chapter 2 of Social Problems, 1883)

[07] Thus the mere growth of society involves danger of the gradual conversion of government into something independent of and beyond the people, and the gradual seizure of its powers by a ruling class — though not necessarily a class marked off by personal titles and a hereditary status, for, as history shows, personal titles and hereditary status do not accompany the concentration of power, but follow it. The same methods which, in a little town where each knows his neighbor and matters of common interest are under the common eye, enable the citizens freely to govern themselves, may, in a great city, as we have in many cases seen, enable an organized ring of plunderers to gain and hold the government. So, too, as we see in Congress, and even in our State legislatures, the growth of the country and the greater number of interests make the proportion of the votes of a representative, of which his constituents know or care to know, less and less. And so, too, the executive and judicial departments tend constantly to pass beyond the scrutiny of the people. ... read the entire essay

Louis Post: Outlines of Louis F. Post's Lectures, with Illustrative Notes and Charts (1894)

Indirect taxation costs the real tax-payers much more than the government receives, partly because the middlemen through whose hands taxed commodities pass are able to exact compound profits upon the tax,8 and partly on account of extraordinary expenses of original collection;9 it favors corruption in government by concealing from the people the fact that they contribute to the support of government; and it tends, by obstructing production, to crush legitimate industry and establish monopolies.10 The questions it raises are of vastly more concern than is indicated by the sum total of public expenditures.

8. A tax upon shoes, paid in the first instance by shoe manufacturers, enters into manufacturers' prices, and, together with the usual rate of profit upon that amount of investment, is recovered from wholesalers. The tax and the manufacturers' profit upon it then constitute part of the wholesale price and are collected from retailers. The retailers in turn collect the tax with all intermediate profits upon it, together with their usual rate of profit upon the whole, from final purchasers — the consumers of shoes. Thus what appears on the surface to be a tax upon shoe manufacturers proves upon examination to be an indirect tax upon shoe consumers, who pay in an accumulation of profits upon the tax considerably more than the government receives.

The effect would be the same if a tax upon their leather output were imposed upon tanners. Tanners would add to the price of leather the amount of the tax, plus their usual rate of profit upon a like investment, and collect the whole, together with the cost of hides, of transportation, of tanning and of selling, from shoe manufacturers, who would collect with their profit from retailers, who would collect with their profit from shoe consumers. The principle applies also when taxes are levied upon the stock or the sales of merchants, or the money or credits of bankers; merchants add the tax with the usual profit to the prices of their goods, and bankers add it to their interest and discounts.

For example; a tax of $100,000 upon the output of manufacturers or importers would, at 10 per cent as the manufacturing profit, cost wholesalers $110,000; at a profit of 10 per cent to wholesalers it would cost retailers $121,000, and at 20 percent profit to retailers it would finally impose a tax burden of $145,200 — being 45 per cent more than the government would get. Upon most commodities the number of profits exceeds three, so that indirect taxes may frequently cost as much as 100 per cent, even when imposed only upon what are commercially known as finished goods; when imposed upon materials also, the cost of collection might well run far above 200 percent in addition to the first cost of maintaining the machinery of taxation.

It must not be supposed, however, that the recovery of indirect taxes from the ultimate consumers of taxed goods is arbitrary. When shoe manufacturers, or tanners, or merchants add taxes to prices, or bankers add them to interest, it is not because they might do otherwise but choose to do this; it is because the exigencies of trade compel them. Manufacturers, merchants, and other tradesmen who carry on competitive businesses must on the average sell their goods at cost plus the ordinary rate of profit, or go out of business. It follows that any increase in cost of production tends to increase the price of products. Now, a tax upon the output of business men, which they must pay as a condition of doing their business, is as truly part of the cost of their output as is the price of the materials they buy or the wages of the men they hire. Therefore, such a tax upon business men tends to increase the price of their products. And this tendency is more or less marked as the tax is more or less great and competition more or less keen.

It is true that a moderate tax upon monopolized products, such as trade-mark goods, proprietary medicines, patented articles and copyright publications is not necessarily shifted to consumers. The monopoly manufacturer whose prices are not checked by cost of production, and are therefore as a rule higher than competitive prices would be, may find it more profitable to bear the burden of a tax that leaves him some profit, by preserving his entire custom, than to drive off part of his custom by adding the tax to his usual prices. This is true also of a moderate import tax to the extent it falls upon goods that are more cheaply transported from the place of production to a foreign market where the import tax is imposed than to a home market where the goods would be free of such a tax — products, for instance, of a farm in Canada near to a New York town, but far away from any Canadian town. If the tax be less than the difference in the cost of transportation the producer will bear the burden of it; otherwise he will not. The ultimate effect would be a reduction in the value of the Canadian land. Examples which may be cited in opposition to the principle that import taxes are indirect, will upon examination prove to be of the character here described. Business cannot be carried on at a loss — not for long.

Whoever calmly reflects and candidly decides upon the merits of indirect taxation must reject it in all its forms. But to do that is to make a great stride toward accepting the single tax. For the single tax is a form of direct taxation; it cannot be shifted.11

Q31. Will not the capitalist be able under the single tax to undersell the laborer — to sell goods for less than cost, at least temporarily — and thereby force him to accept the capitalist's terms?
A. With capitalists continually hunting for men to help them fill their orders, and bidding against each other to get men, as would be the case under the single tax, such a contingency would be in the highest degree improbable. It is practically impossible. Nothing short of a trust, an absolutely perfect trust, of all the owners of capital the world over could produce it. And even then, plenty of very useful land of all kinds being free and labor products being exempt from taxation, all people who were outside of the trust would resort co-operatively to the land, and the trust would be obliged to take them in as the alternative of falling to pieces under their competition.

Q34. Would the single tax benefit the debtor class? If so, how?
A. It would. By abolishing the monopoly of opportunities to work, and thus enabling debtors to earn enough, while decently supporting themselves, to honestly pay their debts. The debtor class deserves sympathy, not because it is in debt, but because it is forced by existing institutions to go into debt in order to work, and is then so hampered and harried by the same institutions as to make orderly repayment impossible and bankruptcy inevitable.

Q35. What would be the effect of the single tax if you still left railroad, telegraph, money, and other monopolies in private hands?
A. The real strength of all monopolies is in land monopoly. Observe, for example, the land holdings of the inside ring of such railroads as the Southern Pacific, to which the interests of the road are corruptly made subordinate. Abolish land monopoly, and the power of all the others will go, as Sampson's strength went with the cutting of his hair.

Q49. Would the single tax abolish interest?
A. I do not think so. Interest properly understood is a form of wages, and so far from abolishing it, the single tax, which would tend to increase all forms of wages, would tend to increase interest. But monopoly profits are often confounded with interest, and by force of association have given to interest a bad name; these would be minimized if not wholly abolished by the single tax. It is impossible to answer this question intelligibly to everyone who asks it, without requiring him to be specific; for it is seldom that two persons agree as to what they mean by interest. The Western farmer thinks of the high rate that he pays, partly for risk, partly from his ignorance of the modus operandi of banking, and partly because legitimate banking facilities are scarce in his Community; the Wall Street operator thinks of the premiums that he pays for currency in times of stress to tide him over from day to day; others think of "interest" on government bonds, and others of dividends of companies with valuable land rights. None of these payments are really interest, and the single tax would tend to rid society of them. But that advantage which the workmen enjoy whose implements and materials are already gathered, over those who have yet to devote time to gathering implements and materials, an advantage which is expressed in money and as interest upon capital, will not, I should think, be abolished by anything that man can do. The value of such an advantage is part of the wages of the labor that creates it. ... read the book

Charles B. Fillebrown: A Catechism of Natural Taxation, from Principles of Natural Taxation (1917)

Q29. How does privilege affect the distribution of wealth?
A. Wealth as produced is now distributed substantially in but two channels, privilege and wages. The abolition of privilege would leave but the one proper channel, viz., wages of capital, hand, and brain.

Q30. How would the single tax increase wages?
A. By gradually transferring to wages that portion of the current wealth that now flows to privilege. In other words, it would widen and deepen the channel of wages by enlarging opportunities for labor, and by increasing the purchasing power of nominal wages through reduction of prices. On the other hand it would narrow the channel of privilege by making the man who has a privilege pay for it.

Q31. How can this transfer be effected?
A. By the taxation of privilege.

Q32. How much ultimately may wages be thus increased?
A. Fifty percent would be a low estimate.

Q33. What are fair prices and fair wages?
A. Prices unenhanced by privilege, and wages undiminished by taxation.

... read the whole article

Robert H. Browne: Abraham Lincoln and the Men of His Time, quoting Lincoln, circa 1850

“Christ knew better than we that 'No man having put his hand to the plow and looking back is fit for the kingdom of God;' nor is any man doing his duty who shrinks and is faithless to his fellow-men. Now a word more about Abolitionists and new ideas in Government, whatever they may be: We are all called Abolitionists now who desire any restriction of slavery or believe that the system is wrong, as I have declared for years. We are called so, not to help out a peaceful solution, but in derision, to abase us, and enable the defamers to make successful combinations against us. I never was much annoyed by these, less now than ever. I favor the best plan to restrict the extension of slavery peacefully, and fully believe that we must reach some plan that will do it, and provide for some method of final extinction of the evil, before we can have permanent peace on the subject. On other questions there is ample room for reform when the time comes; but now it would be folly to think that we could undertake more than we have on hand. But when slavery is over with and settled, men should never rest content while oppressions, wrongs, and iniquities are in force against them.

“The land, the earth that God gave to man for his home, his sustenance, and support, should never be the possession of any man, corporation, society, or unfriendly Government, any more than the air or the water, if as much. An individual company or enterprise requiring land should hold no more in their own right than is needed for their home and sustenance, and never more than they have in actual use in the prudent management of their legitimate business, and this much should not be permitted when it creates an exclusive monopoly. All that is not so used should be held for the free use of every family to make homesteads, and to hold them as long as they are so occupied.

“A reform like this will be worked out some time in the future. The idle talk of foolish men, that is so common now, on 'Abolitionists, agitators, and disturbers of the peace,' will find its way against it, with whatever force it may possess, and as strongly promoted and carried on as it can be by land monopolists, grasping landlords, and the titled and untitled senseless enemies of mankind everywhere.” ... read extended excerpts

H.G.Brown: Significant Paragraphs from Henry George's Progress & Poverty: 14 Liberty, and Equality of Opportunity (in the unabridged P&P: Part X: The Law of Human Progress — Chapter 5: The Central Truth)

The truth to which we were led in the politico-economic branch of our inquiry is as clearly apparent in the rise and fall of nations and the growth and decay of civilizations, and it accords with those deep-seated recognitions of relation and sequence that we denominate moral perceptions. Thus are given to our conclusions the greatest certitude and highest sanction.

This truth involves both a menace and a promise. It shows that the evils arising from the unjust and unequal distribution of wealth, which are becoming more and more apparent as modern civilization goes on, are not incidents of progress, but tendencies which must bring progress to a halt; that they will not cure themselves, but, on the contrary, must, unless their cause is removed, grow greater and greater, until they sweep us back into barbarism by the road every previous civilization has trod. But it also shows that these evils are not imposed by natural laws; that they spring solely from social maladjustments which ignore natural laws, and that in removing their cause we shall be giving an enormous impetus to progress.

The poverty which in the midst of abundance pinches and embrutes men, and all the manifold evils which flow from it, spring from a denial of justice. In permitting the monopolization of the opportunities which nature freely offers to all, we have ignored the fundamental law of justice — for, so far as we can see, when we view things upon a large scale, justice seems to be the supreme law of the universe. But by sweeping away this injustice and asserting the rights of all men to natural opportunities, we shall conform ourselves to the law

  • we shall remove the great cause of unnatural inequality in the distribution of wealth and power;
  • we shall abolish poverty;
  • tame the ruthless passions of greed;
  • dry up the springs of vice and misery;
  • light in dark places the lamp of knowledge;
  • give new vigor to invention and a fresh impulse to discovery;
  • substitute political strength for political weakness; and
  • make tyranny and anarchy impossible.

The reform I have proposed accords with all that is politically, socially, or morally desirable. It has the qualities of a true reform, for it will make all other reforms easier. What is it but the carrying out in letter and spirit of the truth enunciated in the Declaration of Independence — the "self-evident" truth that is the heart and soul of the Declaration —"That all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness!"

These rights are denied when the equal right to land — on which and by which men alone can live — is denied. Equality of political rights will not compensate for the denial of the equal right to the bounty of nature. Political liberty, when the equal right to land is denied, becomes, as population increases and invention goes on, merely the liberty to compete for employment at starvation wages. This is the truth that we have ignored. And so

  • there come beggars in our streets and tramps on our roads; and
  • poverty enslaves men who we boast are political sovereigns; and
  • want breeds ignorance that our schools cannot enlighten; and
  • citizens vote as their masters dictate; and
  • the demagogue usurps the part of the statesman; and
  • gold weighs in the scales of justice; and
  • in high places sit those who do not pay to civic virtue even the compliment of hypocrisy; and
  • the pillars of the republic that we thought so strong already bend under an increasing strain.

We honor Liberty in name and in form. We set up her statues and sound her praises. But we have not fully trusted her. And with our growth so grow her demands. She will have no half service!

Liberty! it is a word to conjure with, not to vex the ear in empty boastings. For Liberty means Justice, and Justice is the natural law — the law of health and symmetry and strength, of fraternity and co-operation.

They who look upon Liberty as having accomplished her mission when she has abolished hereditary privileges and given men the ballot, who think of her as having no further relations to the everyday affairs of life, have not seen her real grandeur — to them the poets who have sung of her must seem rhapsodists, and her martyrs fools! As the sun is the lord of life, as well as of light; as his beams not merely pierce the clouds, but support all growth, supply all motion, and call forth from what would otherwise be a cold and inert mass all the infinite diversities of being and beauty, so is liberty to mankind. It is not for an abstraction that men have toiled and died; that in every age the witnesses of Liberty have stood forth, and the martyrs of Liberty have suffered.

We speak of Liberty as one thing, and of virtue, wealth, knowledge, invention, national strength, and national independence as other things. But, of all these, Liberty is the source, the mother, the necessary condition. ...

Only in broken gleams and partial light has the sun of Liberty yet beamed among men, but all progress hath she called forth. ...

Shall we not trust her?

In our time, as in times before, creep on the insidious forces that, producing inequality, destroy Liberty. On the horizon the clouds begin to lower. Liberty calls to us again. We must follow her further; we must trust her fully. Either we must wholly accept her or she will not stay. It is not enough that men should vote; it is not enough that they should be theoretically equal before the law. They must have liberty to avail themselves of the opportunities and means of life; they must stand on equal terms with reference to the bounty of nature. Either this, or Liberty withdraws her light! Either this, or darkness comes on, and the very forces that progress has evolved turn to powers that work destruction. This is the universal law. This is the lesson of the centuries. Unless its foundations be laid in justice the social structure cannot stand.

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 subtile 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?

Though it may take the language of prayer, it is blasphemy that attributes to the inscrutable decrees of Providence the suffering and brutishness that come of poverty; that turns with folded hands to the All-Father and lays on Him the responsibility for the want and crime of our great cities. We degrade the Everlasting. We slander the Just One. A merciful man would have better ordered the world; a just man would crush with his foot such an ulcerous ant-hill! It is not the Almighty, but we who are responsible for the vice and misery that fester amid our civilization. The Creator showers upon us his gifts — more than enough for all. But like swine scrambling for food, we tread them in the mire — tread them in the mire, while we tear and rend each other!

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 fiftyfold 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.

This is not merely a deduction of political economy; it is a fact of experience. We know it because we have seen it. Within our own times, under our very eyes, that Power which is above all, and in all, and through all; that Power of which the whole universe is but the manifestation; that Power which maketh all things, and without which is not anything made that is made, has increased the bounty which men may enjoy, as truly as though the fertility of nature had been increased.

  • Into the mind of one came the thought that harnessed steam for the service of mankind.
  • To the inner ear of another was whispered the secret that compels the lightning to bear a message round the globe.
  • In every direction have the laws of matter been revealed;
  • in every department of industry have arisen arms of iron and fingers of steel, whose effect upon the production of wealth has been precisely the same as an increase in the fertility of nature.

What has been the result? Simply that landowners get all the gain.

Can it be that the gifts of the Creator may be thus misappropriated with impunity? Is it a light thing that labor should be robbed of its earnings while greed rolls in wealth — that the many should want while the few are surfeited? Turn to history, and on every page may be read the lesson that such wrong never goes unpunished; that the Nemesis that follows injustice never falters nor sleeps! Look around today. Can this state of things continue? May we even say, "After us the deluge!" Nay; the pillars of the State are trembling even now, and the very foundations of society begin to quiver with pent-up forces that glow underneath. The struggle that must either revivify, or convulse in ruin, is near at hand, if it be not already begun.

The fiat has gone forth! With steam and electricity, and the new powers born of progress, forces have entered the world that will either compel us to a higher plane or overwhelm us, as nation after nation, as civilization after civilization, have been overwhelmed before. ...

  • We cannot go on permitting men to vote and forcing them to tramp.
  • We cannot go on educating boys and girls in our public schools and then refusing them the right to earn an honest living.
  • We cannot go on prating of the inalienable rights of man and then denying the inalienable right to the bounty of the Creator.

Even now, in old bottles the new wine begins to ferment, and elemental forces gather for the strife!

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 chapter

Henry George: Thy Kingdom Come (1889 speech)

One cannot look, it seems to me, through nature — whether one looks at the stars through a telescope, or have the microscope reveal to one those worlds that we find in drops of water. Whether one considers the human frame, the adjustments of the animal kingdom, or any department of physical nature, one must see that there has been a contriver and adjuster, that there has been an intent. So strong is that feeling, so natural is it to our minds, that even people who deny the Creative Intelligence are forced, in spite of themselves, to talk of intent; the claws on one animal were intended, we say, to climb with, the fins of another to propel it through the water.

Yet, while in looking through the laws of physical nature, we find intelligence we do not so clearly find beneficence. But in the great social fact that as population increases, and improvements are made, and men progress in civilisation, the one thing that rises everywhere in value is land, and in this we may see a proof of the beneficence of the Creator.

Why, consider what it means! It means that the social laws are adapted to progressive humanity! In a rude state of society where there is no need for common expenditure, there is no value attaching to land. The only value which attaches there is to things produced by labour. But as civilisation goes on, as a division of labour takes place, as people come into centres, so do the common wants increase, and so does the necessity for public revenue arise. And so in that value which attaches to land, not by reason of anything the individual does, but by reason of the growth of the community, is a provision intended — we may safely say intended — to meet that social want.

Just as society grows, so do the common needs grow, and so grows this value attaching to land — the provided fund from which they can be supplied. Here is a value that may be taken, without impairing the right of property, without taking anything from the producer, without lessening the natural rewards of industry and thrift. Nay, here is a value that must be taken if we would prevent the most monstrous of all monopolies. What does all this mean? It means that in the creative plan, the natural advance in civilisation is an advance to a greater and greater equality instead of to a more and more monstrous inequality.  ... Read the whole speech

Henry George: The Crime of Poverty  (1885 speech)
  Now, think of it — is not land monopolisation a sufficient reason for poverty? What is man? In the first place, he is an animal, a land animal who cannot live without land. All that man produces comes from land; all productive labour, in the final analysis, consists in working up land; or materials drawn from land, into such forms as fit them for the satisfaction of human wants and desires. Why, man's very body is drawn from the land. Children of the soil, we come from the land, and to the land we must return. Take away from man all that belongs to the land, and what have you but a disembodied spirit? Therefore he who holds the land on which and from which another man must live, is that man's master; and the man is his slave. The man who holds the land on which I must live can command me to life or to death just as absolutely as though I were his chattel. Talk about abolishing slavery — we have not abolished slavery; we have only abolished one rude form of it, chattel slavery. There is a deeper and a more insidious form, a more cursed form yet before us to abolish, in this industrial slavery that makes a man a virtual slave, while taunting him and mocking him with the name of freedom. Poverty! want! they will sting as much as the lash. Slavery! God knows there are horrors enough in slavery; but there are deeper horrors in our civilised society today. Bad as chattel slavery was, it did not drive slave mothers to kill their children, yet you may read in official reports that the system of child insurance which has taken root so strongly in England, and which is now spreading over our Eastern States, has perceptibly and largely increased the rate of child mortality! — What does that mean?

Robinson Crusoe, as you know, when he rescued Friday from the cannibals, made him his slave. Friday had to serve Crusoe. But, supposing Crusoe had said, "O man and brother, I am very glad to see you, and I welcome you to this island, and you shall be a free and independent citizen, with just as much to say as I have except that this island is mine, and of course, as I can do as I please with my own property, you must not use it save upon my terms." Friday would have been just as much Crusoe's slave as though he had called him one. Friday was not a fish, he could not swim off through the sea; he was not a bird, and could not fly off through the air; if he lived at all, he had to live on that island. And if that island was Crusoe's, Crusoe was his master through life to death. ...

We talk about over-production. How can there be such a thing as over-production while people want? All these things that are said to be over-produced are desired by many people. Why do they not get them? They do not get them because they have not the means to buy them; not that they do not want them. Why have not they the means to buy them? They earn too little. When the great masses of men have to work for an average of $1.40 a day, it is no wonder that great quantities of goods cannot be sold. Now why is it that men have to work for such low wages? Because if they were to demand higher wages there are plenty of unemployed men ready to step into their places. It is this mass of unemployed men who compel that fierce competition that drives wages down to the point of bare subsistence. Why is it that there are men who cannot get employment? Did you ever think what a strange thing it is that men cannot find employment? Adam had no difficulty in finding employment; neither had Robinson Crusoe; the finding of employment was the last thing that troubled them.

If men cannot find an employer, why cannot they employ themselves? Simply because they are shut out from the element on which human labour can alone be exerted. Men are compelled to compete with each other for the wages of an employer, because they have been robbed of the natural opportunities of employing themselves; because they cannot find a piece of God's world on which to work without paving some other human creature for the privilege.

I do not mean to say that even after you had set right this fundamental injustice, there would not be many things to do; but this I do mean to say, that our treatment of land lies at the bottom of all social questions. This I do mean to say, that, do what you please, reform as you may, you never can get rid of wide-spread poverty so long as the element on which and from which all men must live is made the private property of some men. It is utterly impossible. Reform government — get taxes down to the minimum — build railroads; institute co-operative stores; divide profits, if you choose, between employers and employed -- and what will be the result? The result will be that the land will increase in value — that will be the result — that and nothing else. Experience shows this. Do not all improvements simply increase the value of land — the price that some must pay others for the privilege of living?  ... read the whole speech
Henry George: Thou Shalt Not Steal  (1887 speech)
"Thou shalt not steal." That means, of course, that we ourselves must not steal. But does it not also mean that we must not suffer anybody else to steal if we can help it?

"Thou shalt not steal." Does it not also mean: "Thou shalt not suffer thyself or anybody else to be stolen from?" If it does, then we, all of us, rich and poor alike, are responsible for this social crime that produces poverty. Not merely the people who monopolize the land — they are not to blame above anyone else, but we who permit them to monopolize land are also parties to the theft. ...  read the whole article
Henry George: The Wages of Labor
Thus Cain and Abel, were there only two men on earth, might by agreement divide the earth between them. Under this compact each might claim exclusive right to his share as against the other. But neither could rightfully continue such claim against the next child born. For since no one comes into the world without God's permission, his presence attests his equal right to the use of God’s bounty. For them to refuse him any use of the earth which they had divided between them would therefore be for them to commit murder. And for them to refuse him any use of the earth, unless by laboring for them or by giving them part of the products of his labor he bought It of them, would be for them to commit theft. ....  read the whole article

Henry George: The Condition of Labor — An Open Letter to Pope Leo XIII in response to Rerum Novarum (1891)

With both anarchists and socialists, we, who for want of a better term have come to call ourselves single-tax men, fundamentally differ. We regard them as erring in opposite directions — the one in ignoring the social nature of man, the other in ignoring his individual nature. While we see that man is primarily an individual, and that nothing but evil has come or can come from the interference by the state with things that belong to individual action, we also see that he is a social being, or, as Aristotle called him, a political animal, and that the state is requisite to social advance, having an indispensable place in the natural order. Looking on the bodily organism as the analogue of the social organism, and on the proper functions of the state as akin to those that in the human organism are discharged by the conscious intelligence, while the play of individual impulse and interest performs functions akin to those discharged in the bodily organism by the unconscious instincts and involuntary motions, the anarchists seem to us like men who would try to get along without heads and the socialists like men who would try to rule the wonderfully complex and delicate internal relations of their frames by conscious will.

The philosophical anarchists of whom I speak are few in number, and of little practical importance. It is with socialism in its various phases that we have to do battle.

With the socialists we have some points of agreement, for we recognize fully the social nature of man and believe that all monopolies should be held and governed by the state. In these, and in directions where the general health, knowledge, comfort and convenience might be improved, we, too, would extend the functions of the state.

But it seems to us the vice of socialism in all its degrees is its want of radicalism, of going to the root. It takes its theories from those who have sought to justify the impoverishment of the masses, and its advocates generally teach the preposterous and degrading doctrine that slavery was the first condition of labor. It assumes that the tendency of wages to a minimum is the natural law, and seeks to abolish wages; it assumes that the natural result of competition is to grind down workers, and seeks to abolish competition by restrictions, prohibitions and extensions of governing power. Thus mistaking effects for causes, and childishly blaming the stone for hitting it, it wastes strength in striving for remedies that when not worse are futile. Associated though it is in many places with democratic aspiration, yet its essence is the same delusion to which the children of Israel yielded when against the protest of their prophet they insisted on a king; the delusion that has everywhere corrupted democracies and enthroned tyrants — that power over the people can be used for the benefit of the people; that there may be devised machinery that through human agencies will secure for the management of individual affairs more wisdom and more virtue than the people themselves possess.
This superficiality and this tendency may be seen in all the phases of socialism.

Take, for instance, protectionism. What support it has, beyond the mere selfish desire of sellers to compel buyers to pay them more than their goods are worth, springs from such superficial ideas as that production, not consumption, is the end of effort; that money is more valuable than money’s-worth, and to sell more profitable than to buy; and above all from a desire to limit competition, springing from an unanalyzing recognition of the phenomena that necessarily follow when men who have the need to labor are deprived by monopoly of access to the natural and indispensable element of all labor. Its methods involve the idea that governments can more wisely direct the expenditure of labor and the investment of capital than can laborers and capitalists, and that the men who control governments will use this power for the general good and not in their own interests. They tend to multiply officials, restrict liberty, invent crimes. They promote perjury, fraud and corruption. And they would, were the theory carried to its logical conclusion, destroy civilization and reduce mankind to savagery.

Take trades-unionism. While within narrow lines trades-unionism promotes the idea of the mutuality of interests, and often helps to raise courage and further political education, and while it has enabled limited bodies of working-men to improve somewhat their condition, and gain, as it were, breathing-space, yet it takes no note of the general causes that determine the conditions of labor, and strives for the elevation of only a small part of the great body by means that cannot help the rest. Aiming at the restriction of competition — the limitation of the right to labor, its methods are like those of an army, which even in a righteous cause are subversive of liberty and liable to abuse, while its weapon, the strike, is destructive in its nature, both to combatants and non-combatants, being a form of passive war. To apply the principle of trades-unions to all industry, as some dream of doing, would be to enthrall men in a caste system. ...

As for thoroughgoing socialism, which is the more to be honored as having the courage of its convictions, it would carry these vices to full expression. Jumping to conclusions without effort to discover causes, it fails to see that oppression does not come from the nature of capital, but from the wrong that robs labor of capital by divorcing it from land, and that creates a fictitious capital that is really capitalized monopoly. It fails to see that it would be impossible for capital to oppress labor were labor free to the natural material of production; that the wage system in itself springs from mutual convenience, being a form of cooperation in which one of the parties prefers a certain to a contingent result; and that what it calls the “iron law of wages” is not the natural law of wages, but only the law of wages in that unnatural condition in which men are made helpless by being deprived of the materials for life and work. It fails to see that what it mistakes for the evils of competition are really the evils of restricted competition — are due to a one-sided competition to which men are forced when deprived of land. While its methods, the organization of men into industrial armies, the direction and control of all production and exchange by governmental or semi-governmental bureaus, would, if carried to full expression, mean Egyptian despotism.

We differ from the socialists in our diagnosis of the evil and we differ from them as to remedies. We have no fear of capital, regarding it as the natural handmaiden of labor; we look on interest in itself as natural and just; we would set no limit to accumulation, nor impose on the rich any burden that is not equally placed on the poor; we see no evil in competition, but deem unrestricted competition to be as necessary to the health of the industrial and social organism as the free circulation of the blood is to the health of the bodily organism — to be the agency whereby the fullest cooperation is to be secured. We would simply take for the community what belongs to the community, the value that attaches to land by the growth of the community; leave sacredly to the individual all that belongs to the individual; and, treating necessary monopolies as functions of the state, abolish all restrictions and prohibitions save those required for public health, safety, morals and convenience.

But the fundamental difference — the difference I ask your Holiness specially to note, is in this: socialism in all its phases looks on the evils of our civilization as springing from the inadequacy or inharmony of natural relations, which must be artificially organized or improved. In its idea there devolves on the state the necessity of intelligently organizing the industrial relations of men; the construction, as it were, of a great machine whose complicated parts shall properly work together under the direction of human intelligence. This is the reason why socialism tends toward atheism. Failing to see the order and symmetry of natural law, it fails to recognize God. ...

This is not to say that all wages must fall to this point, but that the wages of that necessarily largest stratum of laborers who have only ordinary knowledge, skill and aptitude must so fall. The wages of special classes, who are fenced off from the pressure of competition by peculiar knowledge, skill or other causes, may remain above that ordinary level. Thus, where the ability to read and write is rare its possession enables a man to obtain higher wages than the ordinary laborer. But as the diffusion of education makes the ability to read and write general this advantage is lost. So when a vocation requires special training or skill, or is made difficult of access by artificial restrictions, the checking of competition tends to keep wages in it at a higher level. But as the progress of invention dispenses with peculiar skill, or artificial restrictions are broken down, these higher wages sink to the ordinary level. And so, it is only so long as they are special that such qualities as industry, prudence and thrift can enable the ordinary laborer to maintain a condition above that which gives a mere living. Where they become general, the law of competition must reduce the earnings or savings of such qualities to the general level — which, land being monopolized and labor helpless, can be only that at which the next lowest point is the cessation of life.

Or, to state the same thing in another way: Land being necessary to life and labor, its owners will be able, in return for permission to use it, to obtain from mere laborers all that labor can produce, save enough to enable such of them to maintain life as are wanted by the landowners and their dependents.

Thus, where private property in land has divided society into a landowning class and a landless class, there is no possible invention or improvement, whether it be industrial, social or moral, which, so long as it does not affect the ownership of land, can prevent poverty or relieve the general conditions of mere laborers. For whether the effect of any invention or improvement be to increase what labor can produce or to decrease what is required to support the laborer, it can, so soon as it becomes general, result only in increasing the income of the owners of land, without at all benefiting the mere laborers. In no event can those possessed of the mere ordinary power to labor, a power utterly useless without the means necessary to labor, keep more of their earnings than enough to enable them to live.

How true this is we may see in the facts of today. In our own time invention and discovery have enormously increased the productive power of labor, and at the same time greatly reduced the cost of many things necessary to the support of the laborer. Have these improvements anywhere raised the earnings of the mere laborer? Have not their benefits mainly gone to the owners of land — enormously increased land values?

I say mainly, for some part of the benefit has gone to the cost of monstrous standing armies and warlike preparations; to the payment of interest on great public debts; and, largely disguised as interest on fictitious capital, to the owners of monopolies other than that of land. But improvements that would do away with these wastes would not benefit labor; they would simply increase the profits of landowners. Were standing armies and all their incidents abolished, were all monopolies other than that of land done away with, were governments to become models of economy, were the profits of speculators, of middlemen, of all sorts of exchangers saved, were every one to become so strictly honest that no policemen, no courts, no prisons, no precautions against dishonesty would be needed — the result would not differ from that which has followed the increase of productive power. ... read the whole letter

William Ogilvie: An Essay on the Right of Property in Land (Scotland, 1782)

All property ought to be the reward of industry; all industry ought to be secure of its full reward; the exorbitant right of the landholders subverts both these maxims of good policy. It is the indirect influence of this monopoly which
  •  makes a poors-rate necessary;
  • requires unnatural severity in penal laws;
  • renders sumptuary laws unpolitical, and
  • the improvement of machinery for facilitating labour unpopular, and perhaps pernicious.
The oppressed state of the cultivators, being universal, has been regarded by themselves and others as necessary and irremediable. A sound policy respecting property in land is perhaps the greatest improvement that can be made in human affairs. ...

The chief obstacle to rapid improvement of agriculture is plainly that monopoly of land which resides in the proprietors, and which the commercial system of the present age has taught them to exercise with artful strictness, almost everywhere. Hereafter, perhaps, some fortunate nation will give the example of setting agriculture free from its fetters. A new emulation will then arise among the nations hastening to acquire that higher vigour and prosperity, which the emancipation of the most useful of all arts cannot fail to produce.

The actual state of Europe, with respect to property in land, is very different from what might be desired. That exclusive right to the improvable value of the soil which a few men, never in any country exceeding one hundredth part of the community, are permitted to engross, is a most oppressive privilege: by its operation, the happiness of mankind has been for ages more invaded and restrained, than by all the tyranny of kings, the imposture of priests, and the chicane of lawyers taken together, though these are supposed to be the greatest evils that afflict the societies of human kind.

... By exacting exorbitant rents, they exercise a most pernicious usury, and deprive industry that is actually exerted of its due reward. By granting only short leases, they stifle and prevent the exertion of that industry which is ready at all times to spring up, were the cultivation of the soil laid open upon equitable terms. ...

The monopoly of rude materials, indispensably requisite for carrying on any branch of industry, is far more pernicious than the monopoly of manufactured commodities ready for consumption. The monopoly possessed by landholders is of the first sort, and affects the prime material of the most essential industry.

The monopoly possessed by land-holders enables them to deprive the peasants not only of the due reward of industry exercised on the soil, but also of that which they may have opportunity of exercising in any other way, and on any other subject; and hence arises the most obvious interest of the landholder, in promoting manufactures.

That nation is greatly deceived and misled which bestows any encouragement on manufactures for exportation, or for any purpose but the necessary internal supply, until the great manufactures of grain and pasturage are carried to their utmost extent -- it can never be in the interest of the community; it may be in that of the landholders, who desire indeed to be considered as the nation itself, or at least as being representatives of the nation, and having the same interest with the whole body of the people.

(When mention is made in political reasonings of the interest of any nation, and those circumstances, by which it is supposed to be injured or promoted, are canvassed, it is generally the interest of the landholders that is kept in view.)

In fact, however, their interest is, in some most important respects, directly opposite to that of the great body of the community, over whom they exercise an ill-regulated jurisdiction, together with an oppressive monopoly in the commerce of land to be hired for cultivation.

Property in Land, as at present established, is a monopoly of the most pernicious kind. The interest of landholders is substituted for that of the community; it ought to be the same, but it is not. The landholders of a nation levy the most oppressive of all taxes; they receive the most unmerited of all pensions: if tithes are oppressive to industry, rents capable of being raised from time to time are much more so. ...

While the cultivable lands remain locked up, as it were, under the present monopoly, any considerable increase of population, though it seems to add to the public strength, must have a pernicious influence on the relative interests of society, and the happiness of the greater number. By diminishing the wages of labour, it favours the rich, fosters their luxury, their vanity, their arrogance; while on the other hand, it deprives the poor of some share of their just reward and necessary subsistence. ...  Read the entire essay

Henry George: The Great Debate: Single Tax vs Social Democracy  (1889)
We would abolish all taxes, and begin with the most important of all monopolies, the fruitful parent of lesser monopolies, that monopoly which disinherits men of their birthright; that monopoly which puts m the hands of some that, element absolutely indispensable to the use of all; and we believe not that labour is a poor weak thing that must be coddled or protected by Government. We believe that labour is the producer of all wealth – (applause) – that all labour wants is a fair field and no favour, and, therefore, as against the doctrines of restriction we raise the banner of liberty and equal right in the gospel of free, fair play. (Loud cheers.) ...

What we want is full competition. (Hear, hear.) What we want to do is to abolish monopolies, and it is to these monopolies, and not to the earnings of capital, that the great fortunes to which my opponent has alluded are due.

What are the causes of these big fortunes? In the United States, go wherever you please, you find that the real element is land ownership. It is a great mistake to think that the only landlords are those which pose as such. today, who are the great owners of the Irish estates? Not so much the Irish landlords as the English banks and insurance societies. (Hear, hear.) Take our, Jay Gould, the most conspicuous example of a great fortune made outside the rise of land values. He made his first stride by getting hold of a piece of land and taking advantage of its rise in value, and he is today the owner of millions of acres. He made his money in what? In a public franchise, that we would abolish.  ...

Capital is wealth produced by labour from land, used again in increasing the production of wealth. And not only will it not hurt labour to leave to capital its full reward but we must leave to capital its full natural reward, if we would have a progressive community – (cheers) – and if we would give each what is his due. (Hear, hear.) What the labourers have to fight against is not competition – (hear hear and “Yes”) – but the restriction of production to their injury. Let there be competition all around from the highest to the lowest, fencing in no class against competition. Abolish monopoly everywhere, put all men on an equal footing and then trust to freedom. In that way we would have the most delicate system of co-operation that can possibly be devised by the wit of man.

The fight of labour is not against capital; it is against monopoly. Why just think of that state of things. when all the means of production belong to the community and all production is regulated by the State, when every individual would have, his work, his time of work, and everything else prescribed for him; when it would be utterly impossible for men to employ themselves! To abolish competition you must have restriction; you must call on the coercive powers of the State. How else are you going to do it? Supposing you organise industry in the way our friends dream of, if any individuals go outside of this organization and propose to compete with it, how are you going to stop their competition but by coming in with the strong arm of the law, and putting an end to it? Why such a state of society, instead of being the ideal to which the Anglo-Saxon community ought to aspire, would be going back to a worse despotism than, that of ancient, Egypt. (Applause and cries of “No, no.”)  ...

Mr Hyndman says that in San Francisco as in other new countries he has seen men looking vainly for work though there is unemployed land there. That is true; but he never saw a man looking vainly for work where the land was not fenced in and monopolised. (Applause.). What the Single Tax would do would be to break down that monopoly; to make it impossible for any man to hold valuable land without putting it into use; compel those who are now holding land unemployed to use it themselves or sell out to someone else who would. (Hear, hear.)  ...  Read the entire article
Henry George: The Land for the People (1889 speech)
I said that rent is a natural thing. So it is. Where one man, all rights being equal, has a piece of land of better quality than another man, it is only fair to all that he should pay the difference. Where one man has a piece of land and others have none, it gives him a special advantage; it is only fair that he should pay into the common fund the value of that special privilege granted him by the community. That is what is called economic rent.

BUT over and above the economic rent there is the power that comes by monopoly, there is the power to extract a rent, which may be called monopoly rent. On this island that I have supposed we go and settle on, under the plan we have proposed each man should pay annually to the special fund in accordance with the special privilege the peculiar value of the piece of land he held, and those who had land of no peculiar value should pay nothing. That rent that would be payable by the individual to the community would only amount to the value of the special privilege that he enjoyed from the community. But if one man owned the island, and if we went there and you people were fools enough to allow me to lay claim to the ownership of the island and say it belonged to me, then 1 could charge a monopoly rent; I could make you pay me every penny that you earned, save just enough for you to live; and the reason I could not make you pay more is simply this, that if you would pay more you would die. 

THE power to exact that monopoly rent comes from the power to hold land idle -- comes from the power to keep labor off the land. Tax up land to its full value and that power would be gone; the richest landowners could not afford to hold valuable land idle. Everywhere that simple plan would compel the landowner either to use his land or to sell out to some one who would; and the rent of land would then fall to its true economic rate--the value of the special privilege it gave would go not to individuals, but to the general community, to be used for the benefit of the whole community.   Read the whole speech
Henry George Concentrations o:f Wealth Harm America (excerpt from Social Problems)  (1883)
But to the changes produced by growth are, with us, added the changes brought about by improved industrial methods. The tendency of steam and of machinery is to the division of labor, to the concentration of wealth and power. Workmen are becoming massed by hundreds and thousands in the employ of single individuals and firms; small storekeepers and merchants are becoming the clerks and salesmen of great business houses; we have already corporations whose revenues and pay rolls belittle those of the greatest States. And with this concentration grows the facility of combination among these great business interests. How readily the railroad companies, the coal operators, the steel producers, even the match manufacturers, combine, either to regulate prices or to use the powers of government! The tendency in all branches of industry is to the formation of rings against which the individual is helpless, and which exert their power upon government whenever their interests may thus be served.

It is not merely positively, but negatively, that great aggregations of wealth, whether individual or corporate, tend to corrupt government and take it out of the control of the masses of the people. "Nothing is more timorous than a million dollars -- except two million dollars." Great wealth always supports the party in power, no matter how corrupt it may be. It never exerts itself for reform, for it instinctively fears change. It never struggles against misgovemment. When threatened by the holders of political power it does not agitate, nor appeal to the people; it buys them off. It is in this way, no less than by its direct interference, that aggregated wealth corrupts government, and helps to make politics a trade. Our organized lobbies, both legislative and Congressional, rely as much upon the fears as upon the hopes of moneyed interests. When "business" is dull, their resource is to get up a bill which some moneyed interest will pay them to beat. So, too, these large moneyed interests will subscribe to political funds, on the principle of keeping on the right side of those in power, just as the railroad companies deadhead [transport for free] President [Chester A.] Arthur when he goes to Florida to fish. ...

That he who produces should have, that he who saves should enjoy, is consistent with human reason and with the natural order. But existing inequalities of wealth cannot be justified on this ground. As a matter of fact, how many great fortunes can be truthfully said to have been fairly earned? How many of them represent wealth produced by their possessors or those from whom their present possessors derived them? Did there not go to the formation of all of them something more than superior industry and skill? Such qualities may give the first start, but when fortunes begin to roll up into millions there will always be found some element of monopoly, some appropriation of wealth produced by others. Often mere is a total absence of superior industry, skill or self-denial, and merely better luck or greater unscrupulousness.

Sources of Great Wealth
An acquaintance of mine died in San Francisco recently, leaving $4,000,000, which will go to heirs to be looked up in England. I have known many men more industrious, more skilful, more temperate than he -- men who did not or who will not leave a cent. This man did not get his wealth by his industry, skill or temperance. He no more produced it than did those lucky relations in England who may now do nothing for the rest of their lives. He became rich by getting hold of a piece of land in the early days, which, as San Francisco grew, became very valuable. His wealth represented not what he had earned, but what the monopoly of this bit of the earth's surface enabled him to appropriate of the earnings of others.

A man died in Pittsburgh, the other day, leaving $3,000,000. He may or may not have been particularly industrious, skilful and economical, but it was not by virtue of these qualities that he got so rich. It was because he went to Washington and helped lobby through a bill which, by way of "protecting American workmen against the pauper labor of Europe," gave him the advantage of a sixty-per-cent, tariff. To the day of his death he was a stanch protectionist, and said free trade would ruin our "infant industries." Evidently the $3,000,000 which he was enabled to lay by from his own little cherub of an "infant industry" did not represent what he had added to production. It was the advantage given him by the tariff that enabled him to scoop it up from other people's earnings.

"Beneath all political problems lies the social problem of the distribution of wealth."

This element of monopoly, of appropriation and spoliation will, when we come to analyze them, be found largely to account for all great fortunes....

Take the great Vanderbilt fortune. The first Vanderbilt was a boatman who earned money by hard work and saved it. But it was not working and saving that enabled him to leave such an enormous fortune. It was spoliation and monopoly. As soon as he got money enough he used it as a club to extort from others their earnings. He ran off opposition lines and monopolized routes of steamboat travel. Then he went into railroads, pursuing the same tactics. The Vanderbilt fortune no more comes from working and saving than did the fortune that Captain Kidd buried.

Or take the great Gould fortune. Mr. Gould might have got his first little start by superior industry and superior self-denial. But it is not that which has made him the master of a hundred millions. It was by wrecking railroads, buying judges, corrupting legislatures, getting up rings and pools and combinations to raise or depress stock values and transportation rates.

So, like wise, of the great fortunes which the Pacific railroads have created. They have been made by lobbying through profligate donations of lands, bonds and subsidies, by the operations of Credit Mobilier and Contract and Finance Companies, by monopolizing and gouging. And so of fortunes made by such combinations as the Standard Oil Company, the Bessemer Steel Ring, the Whisky Tax Ring, the Lucifer Match Ring, and the various rings for the "protection of the American workman from the pauper labor of Europe."

Or take the fortunes made out of successful patents. Like that element in so many fortunes that comes from the increased value of land, these result from monopoly, pure and simple. And though I am not now discussing the expediency of patent laws, it may be observed, in passing, that in the vast majority of cases the men who make fortunes out of patents are not the men who make the inventions.

Through all great fortunes, and, in fact, through nearly all acquisitions that in these days can fairly be termed fortunes, these elements of monopoly, of spoliation, of gambling run. The head of one of the largest manufacturing firms in the United States said to me recently, "It is not on our ordinary business that we make our money; it is where we can get a monopoly." And this, I think, is generally true.

The Evils of Monopolists
Consider the important part in building up fortunes which the increase of land values has had, and is having, in the United States. This is, of course, monopoly, pure and simple. When land increases in value it does not mean that its owner has added to the general wealth. The owner may never have seen the land or done aught to improve it. He may, and often does, live in a distant city or in another country. Increase of land values simply means that the owners, by virtue of their appropriation of something that existed before man was, have the power of taking a larger share of the wealth produced by other people's labor. Consider how much the monopolies created and the advantages given to the unscrupulous by the tariff and by our system of internal taxation -- how much the railroad (a business in its nature a monopoly), telegraph, gas, water and other similar monopolies, have done to concentrate wealth; how special rates, pools, combinations, corners, stock-watering and stock-gambling, the destructive use of wealth in driving off or buying off opposition which the public must finally pay for, and many other things which these will suggest, have operated to build up large fortunes, and it will at least appear that the unequal distribution of wealth is due in great measure to sheer spoliation; that the reason why those who work hard get so little, while so many who work little get so much, is, in very large measure, that the earnings of the one class are, in one way or another, filched away from them to swell the incomes of the other.

That individuals are constantly making their way from the ranks of those who get less than their earnings to the ranks of those who get more than their earnings, no more proves this state of things right than the fact that merchant sailors were constantly becoming pirates and participating in the profits of piracy, would prove that piracy was right and that no effort should be made to suppress it.

I am not denouncing the rich, nor seeking, by speaking of these things, to excite envy and hatred; but if we would get a clear understanding of social problems, we must recognize the fact that it is due to monopolies which we permit and create, to advantages which we give one man over another, to methods of extortion sanctioned by law and by public opinion, that some men are enabled to get so enormously rich while others remain so miserably poor. If we look around us and note the elements of monopoly, extortion and spoliation which go to the building up of all, or nearly all, fortunes, we see on the one hand now disingenuous are those who preach to us that there is nothing wrong in social relations and that the inequalities in the distribution of wealth spring from the inequalities of human nature; and on the other hand, we see how wild are those who talk as though capital were a public enemy, and propose plans for arbitrarily restricting the acquisition of wealth. Capital is a good; the capitalist is a helper, if he is not also a monopolist. We can safely let any one get as rich as he can if he will not despoil others in doing so.

There are deep wrongs in the present constitution of society, but they are not wrongs inherent in the constitution of man nor in those social laws which are as truly the laws of the Creator as are the laws of the physical universe.  They are wrongs resulting from bad adjustments which it is within our power to amend. The ideal social state is not that in which each gets an equal amount of wealth, but in which each gets in proportion to his contribution to the general stock. And in such a social state there would not be less incentive to exertion than now; there would be far more incentive. Men will be more industrious and more moral, better workmen and better citizens, if each takes his earnings and carries them home to his family, than where they put their earnings in a "pot" and gamble for them until some have far more than they could have earned, and others have little or nothing.  ...   Read the entire article

Robert V. Andelson  Henry George and the Reconstruction of Capitalism
The purely economic ramifications of land monopoly are so vast as to be staggering. Land monopoly does not affect rents alone. It affects wages, prices, production, the cost of government, and the distribution of purchasing power. It is the major cause of slums and blighted areas. It is the greatest single breeder of revolution around the world. ...

Well, exactly how did Henry George propose to deal with the problem of land monopoly? Did he advocate that privately held land should be expropriated and divided up? Quite the contrary. That remedy is as ultimately ineffective as it is ancient. There is more truth than fiction in the aphorism that the French Revolution delivered the peasants from the aristocrats only to hand them over to the usurers, and what was true of the peasants was equally true of the soil they tilled. Thus has it ever been with programs of expropriation and redistribution.

Under Henry George's system, private land titles would not be disturbed one iota. No one would be expropriated. Instead, the community would simply take something approaching the total annual economic rent of land for public purposes. This amount would be determined by the value of each site on the free market, not by any arbitrary governmental fiat. In other words, the privilege of monopolizing a site is a benefit received from society and for which society should be fully compensated; and so, under the Georgist system, the person who wished to monopolize a site would pay a rent for it to the community, approaching 100 percent of its annual rental value, exclusive of improvements. ...

I have spoken of land monopoly as a cancer, and so it is. Yet land often cannot be used efficiently unless monopolized. The Georgist remedy does not provide for the excision of land monopoly but rather for its transformation from malignant to benign. For the monopoly of land can be fair and even salutary if the monopolizer pays into the public treasury a sum that reflects substantially the market value of his privilege.  Read the whole article

Fred E. Foldvary — The Ultimate Tax Reform: Public Revenue from Land Rent

Several prominent libertarians have recognized land value or rent as the source of public finance most compatible with liberty. Albert Jay Nock, for example, distinguished between the improper political means of obtaining wealth, such as from arbitrary taxation, and the proper economic means, from enterprise. He regarded public revenue from land rent as within the economic means, since the “monopoly of economic rent, on the other hand, gives exclusive rights to values accruing from the desire of other persons to possess that property; values which take their rise irrespective of any exercise of the economic means on the part of the holder.”25 (He used the term “monopoly” in its classical meaning, in which a new entrant cannot increase the supply, hence together, the landowners have a monopoly.) ... read the whole document

Clarence Darrow: How to Abolish Unfair Taxation (1913)

Everybody nowadays is anxious to help do something for the poor, especially they who are on the backs of the poor; they will do anything that is not fundamental. Nobody ever dreams of giving the poor a chance to help themselves. The reformers in this state have passed a law prohibiting women from working more than eight hours in one day in certain industries — so much do women love to work that they must be stopped by law. If any benevolent heathen see fit to come here and do work, we send them to gaol or send them back where they came from.

All these prohibitory laws are froth. You can only cure effects by curing the cause. Every sin and every wrong that exists in the world is the product of law, and you cannot cure it without curing the cause. Lawyers, as a class, are very stupid. What would you think of a doctor, who, finding a case of malaria, instead of draining the swamp, would send the patient to gaol, and leave the swamp where it is? We are seeking to improve conditions of life by improving symptoms.

Land Basic

No man created the earth, but to a large extent all take from the earth a portion of it and mould it into useful things for the use of man. Without land man cannot live; without access to it man cannot labor. First of all, he must have the earth, and this he cannot have access to until the single tax is applied. It has been proven by the history of the human race that the single tax does work, and that it will work as its advocates claim. For instance, man turned from Europe, filled with a population of the poor, and discovered the great continent of America. Here, when he could not get profitable employment, he went on the free land and worked for himself, and in those early days there were no problems of poverty, no wonderfully rich and no extremely poor — because there was cheap land. Men could go to work for themselves, and thus take the surplus off the labor market. There were no beggars in the early days. It was only when the landlord got in his work — when the earth monopoly was complete — that the great mass of men had to look to a boss for a job.

All the remedial laws on earth can scarcely help the poor when the earth is monopolized. Men must live from the earth, they must till the soil, dig the coal and iron and cut down the forest. Wise men know it, and cunning men know it, and so a few have reached out their hands and grasped the earth; and they say, "These mines of coal and iron, which it took nature ages and ages to store, belong to me; and no man can touch them until he sees fit to pay the tribute I demand." ... read the whole speech

Albert Jay Nock — Henry George: Unorthodox American

About this matter of wages, George had had other testimony besides the old printer’s. On his way to Oregon a dozen years before, he fell in with a lot of miners who were talking about the Chinese, and ventured to ask what harm the Chinese were doing as long as they worked only the cheap diggings. “No harm now,” one of the miners said, “but wages will not always be as high as they are today in California. As the country grows, as people come in, wages will go down, and some day or other white people will be glad to get those diggings that the Chinamen are working.” George said that this idea, coming on top of what the printer had said, made a great impression on him — the idea that “as the country grew in all that we are hoping that it might grow, the condition of those who had to work for their living must become, not better, but worse.” Yet in the short space of a dozen years this was precisely what was taking place before his own eyes.

Still, though his two great questions became more and more pressing, he could not answer them. His thought was still inchoate. He went around and around his ultimate answer, like somebody fumbling after something on a table in the dark, often actually touching it without being aware that it was what he was after. Finally it came to him in a burst of true Cromwellian or Pauline drama out of “the commonplace reply of a passing teamster to a commonplace question.” One day in 1871 he went for a horseback ride, and as he stopped to rest his horse on a rise overlooking San Francisco Bay —

“I asked a passing teamster, for want of something better to say, what land was worth there. He pointed to some cows grazing so far off that they looked like mice, and said, ’I don’t know exactly, but there is a man over there who will sell some land for a thousand dollars an acre.’ Like a flash it came over me that there was the reason of advancing poverty with advancing wealth. With the growth of population, land grows in value, and the men who work it must pay more for the privilege.”

Yes, there it was. Why had wages suddenly shot up so high in California in 1849 that cooks in the restaurants of San Francisco got $500 a month? The reason now was simple and clear. It was because the placer mines were found on land that did not belong to anybody. Any one could go to them and work them without having to pay an owner for the privilege. If the lands had been owned by somebody, it would have been land-values instead of wages that would have so suddenly shot up.

Exactly this was what had taken place on these grazing lands overlooking San Francisco Bay. The Central Pacific meant to make its terminus at Oakland, the increased population would need the land around Oakland to settle on, and land values had jumped up to a thousand dollars an acre. Naturally, then, George reasoned, the more public improvements there were, the better the transportation facilities, the larger the population, the more industry and commerce — the more of everything that makes for “prosperity” — the more would land values tend to rise, and the more would wages and interest tend to fall.

George rode home thoughtful, translating the teamster’s commonplace reply into the technical terms of economics. He reasoned that there are three factors in the production of wealth, and only three: natural resources, labor, and capital. When natural resources are unappropriated, obviously the whole yield of production is divided into wages, which go to labor, and interest, which goes to capital. But when they are appropriated, production has to carry a third charge — rent. Moreover, wages and interest, when there is no rent, are regulated strictly by free competition; but rent is a monopoly-charge, and hence is always “all the traffic will bear.”

Well, then, since natural resource values are purely social in their origin, created by the community, should not rent go to the community rather than to the Individual? Why tax industry and enterprise at all — why not just charge rent? There would be no need to interfere with the private ownership of natural resources. Let a man own all of them he can get his hands on, and make as much out of them as he may, untaxed; but let him pay the community their annual rental value, determined simply by what other people would be willing to pay for the use of the same holdings. George could see justification for wages and interest, on the ground of natural right; and for private ownership of natural resources, on the ground of public policy; but he could see none for the private appropriation of economic rent. In his view it was sheer theft. If he was right, then it also followed that as long as economic rent remains unconfiscated, the taxation of industry and enterprise is pure highwaymanry, especially tariff taxation, for this virtually delegates the government’s taxing power to private persons.

George worked out these ideas in a tentative way in a forty-eight page pamphlet with the title, “Our Land and Land Policy, National and State,” which did not reach many readers, but added something to his reputation as a tribune of the people. The subject mulled in his mind through five years of newspaper work, at the end of which he lost his paper and was once more on the ragged edge. He had begun a magazine article on the cause of industrial depressions, but was dissatisfied with it — one could do nothing with the topic in so little space. What was needed was a solid treatise which should recast the whole science of political economy.

He felt that he could write this treatise, but how were he and his family to live meanwhile? He had used his influence on the Democratic side in the last State campaign, and had been particularly instrumental in selecting the governor; so he wrote to Governor Irwin, asking him “to give me a place where there was little to do and something to get, so that I could devote myself to some important writing.” The governor gave him the State inspectorship of gas meters, which was a moderately well-paid job, and a sinecure. This was in January, 1876; and in March, 1879, he finished the manuscript of a book entitled Progress and Poverty: an Inquiry Into the Cause of Industrial Depressions, and of Increase of Want With Increase of Wealth; the Remedy.

... He laid down the law to organized labor in the same style, showing that there was no such thing as a labor-problem, but only a monopoly-problem, and that when natural-resource monopoly disappeared, every question of wages, hours, and conditions of labor would automatically disappear with it. ...read the whole article

Mason Gaffney: Land as a Distinctive Factor of Production
Land with differentiated special qualities is fixed, e.g. land on Wall Street, or land suitable for growing macadamia nuts, or unloading ocean vessels, or relaying radio signals; or residential land within the New Trier Township High School District, or with ocean views and breezes.  Substitution is generally possible but only at higher costs, resulting in rent gradients out from the best locations.  This phenomenon is well studied and associated with the names of Von Thunen, Ricardo, and many modem location theorists.

This quality makes land a natural basis for oligopoly control of markets, or attempts at control.  Land bearing certain minerals, like diamonds or oil, is fixed and limited, in spite of new discoveries and technologies.  Sites most suitable for refining oil are limited: they must be near markets, with access to cheap water transport and pipelines, with "offset rights" to pollute air, with "grandfather rights" to endanger or downgrade surrounding residential lands and occasionally spill oil, with access to rails and a freeway system and a labor pool, with vast backlots for tank farms, inside supportive political jurisdictions, and so on.

The fixity of land also lends itself to stability of association among oligopolists.  People come and go; capital turns over, flows in and out; corporations, partnerships and syndicates are collapsed, merged, refinanced, bankrupted and reorganized.  Land remains: it is always in the same place, unmistakably identifiable and findable.  It is the permanent, underlying resource whose control is always the objective of the shuffling and roiling and strife above it.  Its owners, whoever they may be, will reliably join and support the local employers' association and their respective trade associations. ...

Tip O'Neil, the former Speaker of the US Congress, is oft-quoted that "All politics is local politics." One might say the same of market power. Some lands are sold or leased with covenants against competition, as Gimbel's Department Store holds a covenant on a lot adjoining its parent store on 3rd Street and Wisconsin Avenue, Milwaukee.  Such anticompetitive arrangements, however blatant, are intra-state, and apparently immune from sanctions under US Federal anti-trust laws.  Scholars of industrial organization, many of them doing outstanding work otherwise, pay these grass-roots matters little heed.  Researchers and activists concentrate on commodity markets at national and world levels - the ones subject to Federal sanctions, such as they are.  They could probably find more severe and blatant market failure in local land markets.

Bargaining power increases with the number of options one has.  A large landowner with a chain of holdings in different jurisdictions is positioned to bargain, to play off one against the other.  Thus, the Disney Corporation, 1991-93, considered rebuilding and expanding Disneyland at its current site in Anaheim, or in Long Beach where it had tenure over another suitable site.  Using this leverage it won concessions from both cities, "finally" choosing to expand in Anaheim.  It has yet to do so, however, and nothing is really final.  Disney has many other sites around the world.

Likewise, land is a basis for oligopsony power in local labor markets. A city's labor pool is often faced with a local employers' association whose membership is limited by the amount of industrial land within reach of the labor pool.  Migrant farm labor is faced with statewide employers' associations who have the advantages of limited numbers, wealth, ancient roots and stability.  Labor unions that organize a local plant are faced with the threat of the "runaway shop", or merely reallocating work among plants, when the employer owns plants elsewhere.

Custom has dulled us to it, but a corporation is a pool of separate individual landowners bargaining in concert.  A century ago, corporations and limited liability were viewed with suspicion and apprehension.  Today, hundreds and thousands of separate landowners pool their corporate strength against labor, as a matter of course.  Some employees bargain through unions, but not as a matter of course, and hardly ever with international options.  In the US, less than 20% of the labor force is unionized, yet many, probably most economists treat labor as the only threatening monopoly.  They see corporations as benign; a prime cause carried by many economists today is to eliminate the corporate income tax completely.  Would we saw such support for eliminating the payroll tax, the most obvious cause of unemployment.

Land is the basis of cartels.
There is too much farmland to permit of monopoly control through private action.  However, production controls are exerted through public action and force of law.  These controls operate through control of land, limiting the allowable acreage in certain crops.  Seldom is there any attempt to control other farming inputs like labor, fertilizer, farm capital or pesticides.

The best-known world cartel, OPEC, also works through control of a natural resource.  It is important in its own right, obviously, but only one of a whole genus that it represents so conspicuously.  There is a tendency for cartels to overexpand under the price umbrella they support, and then collapse, taking with them a lot of wasted capital.  The effect of short-run monopoly may thus be long-run instability.  Either way, the effects are harmful and impoverishing.

Land puts the lock on monopoly.
A monopoly that limits output to raise price, or a monopsony that limits hiring, both throw workers on the street, and release other resources too.  Why do not these workers and these raw materials combine in new firms?  The monopoly would defeat itself if they could.  Clearly the monopoly must preempt some key bottleneck.  Land is the most likely one, because of limited supply and non-reproduceability.  Somehow, ordinary micro "price theory" never addresses this question.36 It is crippled by the absence of one leg: land.  Read the whole article

Mason Gaffney:  Who Owns Southern California?
1. HOLDINGS BY ALIENS  ... Non-resident aliens own about 75% of the "major" buildings in the L.A. CBD west of Broadway ...
2. AMERICANS FROM OTHER STATES ... A second kind of holder is the out-of-state American, individual or corporate.
3. CALIFORNIANS Many of our largest landholders also live in California. This is partly because the lands are here, but moreso because certain places in California are good places to live. One of the advantages of receiving property as opposed to labor income is it lets one choose his residence. California ranks after New York in the number of rich Americans (using Forbes' list) who reside here.

Also included here are California-based corporations. A corporation's "base" refers simply to the site of its headquarters: its shareholders are scattered around the world, and the major shareholders, who exercise control, are effectively screened behind layers of trusts and financial institutions, so they are impossible to identify with certainty.
Institutions acquire land for their operations and then it tends to stick to them for various reasons. It is tax free, for one, so long as they retain it (and do not use it commercially). They are not subject to corporate raids. Thus there is no mechanism whereby the current opportunity cost of land is felt by management. It never appears in their budgets; they never need compete for or justify it. College Boards are not accountable to any public body, a precedent set by Marshall's U.S. Supreme Court in Dartmouth College v. Woodward, 1819.
Karl Williams: Landlording It Over Us
Geoism seeks to expose the many forms of unearned wealth, or privilege, that exist in our monstrous economic system. Monopoly rights are the more obvious examples of economic privilege, but less noticeable is the massive wealth to be gained by using the Global Commons (especially land) without reimbursing the rest of us. ... Read the whole article

Karl Williams:  Social Justice In Australia: INTERMEDIATE KIT
Let's examine further why we insist these distinctions between land and capital are so important. Now the price of monopolised things is unrelated to their costs of production - that of land dramatically so, for land is not produced and its cost of production is zero. Rather, the price extorted depends on what the buyer can afford to pay over and above the wherewithal to survive- hence, the origin of the term "rack-renting". Non-corrupt governments everywhere intervene to prevent monopolistic practices, but why not do so with land, which is an essential need for all?

We've heard the philosophical justification for sharing the Earth equitably through LVT, but now you know the basic economic reasons. LVT takes the annually-assessed rental value of land, created by the community, and returns it to the community, thereby preventing extortionate monopolistic price-gouging. And remember: collecting the LVT enables us to slash and ultimately eliminate all taxes on labour and capital.  Read the entire article
Jeff Smith: Subsidies at Their Worst: Privileges
Money is the mother's milk of politics. Yet the milk invested by lobbyists and those they represent is a drop in the bucket compared to the flow they get back from the public tit, thanks to the milkmaid state. Politicians grant well-connected big businesses:
a. direct cash outlays, such as cash to corporations for advertising overseas,

b. lucrative contracts, such as with weaponeers et al campaign contributors, and

c. tax breaks that burden would-be competitors, such as tariffs that protect GM and Ford but not autoworkers. Even if we were to abolish subsidies (a) and taxes, eliminating the advantage of tax breaks (c), and negotiate responsible contracts (b), that'd still leave in place

d. seven subtle privileges, mere pieces of paper that government grants its customers at nowhere near market value, positioning the privileged to claim all the surplus value of society.

1. The corporate charter's salient feature is to limit the liability of those choosing to profit by putting others at risk. ...

2. Pollution permits, performance waivers, land use exemptions -- whether granted by bureaucracies, legislatures, or courts - are worth much more than however much government charges and business pays. ...

3. Patents protect the basement inventor, right? Wrong....

4. Utility franchises create monopolies in exchange for some public service, such as providing electricity, phone communication, etc. ...

5. Communication licenses for TV, radio, cell phones, and the like are given away for free or for far less than market value, turning recipients into "instant billionaires" (the business press gleefully notes). ...

6. Resource leases for public oil, minerals, forests, and grazing land, are often let at "fire-sale" prices. ...

7. Land titles do protect the average homeowners but because they cost virtually nothing (a paltry filing fee often about $2.00), they also protect enormously wealthy absentee landlords. ... 

Land titles are the granddaddy of all privileges. Historically, titles preceded all others and created a class of elite owners with the power to win the six other indirect subsidies, along with the more direct ones – grants, contracts, and tax favors. To undo and reverse this history, it's necessary to collect and share the natural rents from all seven inconspicuous privileges.

For these pieces of paper, government should charge full market value. ... 

Getting a Citizens Dividend would not only eliminate poverty, it'd also erase any rationale for subsidies - direct or indirect - to the poor or to the privileged. Repealing the free ride of privileges would be like repealing capitalism. Without those subtle detours imposed upon public revenue, owners would have to work to amass a fortune, and work is one of the worst ways known to strike it rich.

What you can do: Dry up the milkmaid state. Dispense with the notion that the state must meddle in enterprise. Dispense the notion from others, too. Focus government on its lone raison d'etre - defend rights. Demand your right to a fair share of natural revenue. ...  Read the whole article

Herbert J. G. Bab:  Property Tax -- Cause of Unemployment  (circa 1964)
... Ricardo believed that ground rents and the value of land have a tendency to rise continuously and that this benefits solely the landowners. The progress of industrialization and urbanization in the second half of the 19th century resulted in a rapid increase in the value of urban land and the owners of such land reaped tremendous profits. This led John Stuart Mill to observe, that "Only the landowners grow richer, as it were in their sleep without working, risking and economizing". He called for the taxation of land in order to recapture the unearned increment accruing to the land owners.

The apostle of land taxation is Henry George. In his famous book Progress and Poverty he develops his single tax theory. He tries to show that poverty and unemployment and other evils are caused by the land monopolists. Henry George's theory is similar to that developed by John Stuart Mill. Land values are based on ground rents which are created by the community and not by the land owners. Therefore the community is justified in recapturing these rents by a single tax on land. ...

"Sir Winston Churchill has been most of his life an advocate of land taxation. He stated on one occasion that 'Land monopoly is not the only monopoly, but ... it is the mother of all other forms of monopoly' ".  ...  Read the whole article
The Most Rev. Dr Thomas Nulty, Roman Catholic Bishop of Meath (Ireland): Back to the Land (1881) 
Land Monopoly Usurps God's Gifts to All.
Thus, on the highest and most unquestionable authority, are we forced to conclude that, owing to the monopoly which the landlords have usurped in the land of the nation, they sell out the "use of the original and indestructible powers of the soil"; of "the natural and inherent powers of the soil"; of "the natural powers of the soil"; that is to say, they sell the use of God's gifts like so many articles of private property, and as if they were purely the result of their own toil and labour. ...

The Price of Land a Monopoly Price.
This privileged class not merely sells the use of God's gifts, but extorts for them a price which is most unjust and exorbitant; in fact, they hardly ever sell them at less than scarcity or famine prices. If a man wants to buy a suit of broadcloth, the price he will be required to pay for it will amount to very little more than what it cost to produce it -- and yet that suit of clothes may be a requirement of such necessity or utility to him that he would willingly pay three times the amount it actually cost rather than submit to the inconvenience of doing without it. On the other hand, the manufacturer would extort the last shilling he would be willing to give for it, only that he knows there are scores of other manufacturers ready to undersell him if he demanded much more than the cost of its production. The price, therefore, of commodities of all kinds that can be produced on a large scale, and to an indefinite extent, will depend on the cost required to produce them, or at least that part of them which is produced at the highest expense.

But there is a limited class of commodities whose selling price has no relation or dependence at all on the cost at which they have been produced; for example, rare wines that grow only on soils of limited extent; paintings by the old masters; statues at exquisite beauty and finish by celebrated sculptors; rare books, bronzes and medals, and provisions or articles of human food in cities during a siege, and more generally in times of scarcity and famine -- these commodities are limited in quantity, and it is physically impossible in the circumstances existing to increase, multiply, or augment them further. The seller of these commodities, not being afraid of competition, can put any price he pleases on them short of the purchasers' extreme estimate of the necessity, utility, or advantage to themselves of such commodities.

Fabulous sums of money, therefore, have been expended in the purchase of such commodities -- sometimes to indulge a taste for the fine arts; sometimes to satisfy a passion for the rare and the beautiful; and, sometimes, too, to gratify a feeling of vanity or ambition to be the sole proprietors of objects of antiquarian interest and curiosity. On the other hand, enormous sums of money have been paid in times of scarcity or during a siege for the commonest necessaries of life, or, failing these, for substitutes that have been requisitioned for human food, the use of which would make one shudder in circumstances of less pressing necessity.   Read the whole letter

synopsis of Robert V. Andelson and James M. Dawsey: From Wasteland to Promised land: Liberation Theology for a Post-Marxist World

Speculators in both urban and rural areas hoard land on which the hungry, the homeless, and the jobless could feed, shelter, and employ themselves.Land hoarding deserves much of the blame for creating the Wasteland: it forces people into the "desert." There, people find the oases controlled by more land monopolists who must be paid a ransom for access to nature's life-sustaining water. And as we will see, the primary focus of Biblical economic laws was the prevention of precisely this sort of usurpation of God's gifts to all creatures. ...

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 Keeping valuable lands idle causes artificial shortages that drive up rents which poor people must pay for poor land.
Henry George: Justice the Object -- Taxation the Means (1890)
Suppose that in answer to the prayers that ascend for the relief of poverty, the Almighty were to rain down wealth from heaven, or cause it to spout tip from the bowels of the earth. Who, under our present system, would own it? The landowner. There would be no benefit to labour. Consider, conceive any kind of a world your imagination will permit. Conceive of heaven itself, which, from the very necessities of our minds, we cannot otherwise think of than as having an expansion of space — what would be the result in heaven itself, if the people who should first get to heaven were to parcel it out in big tracts among themselves?
Bill Batt: The Nexus of Transportation, Economic Rent, and Land Use
What is Land Rent?
John Houseman, an actor perhaps most widely known as Professor Kingsfield in the long-running TV series, The Paper Chase, later became the pitchman for Smith Barney. In that advertisement, his tag line was "We make money the old-fashioned way -- we earn it."

That we should earn our money rather than live off the efforts of others seems a simple enough moral tenet. But it seems to have lost its cogency in contemporary economic thought. More than a century ago John Stuart Mill noted that
Landlords grow richer in their sleep without working, risking or economizing. The increase in the value of land, arising as it does from the efforts of an entire community, should belong to the community and not to the individual who might hold title.(1)

Today, on the other hand, the unearned surplus which classical economists called rent attaches to monopoly titles -- largely the scarce goods and services of nature like locational sites, and has totally disappeared from economic calculus. Yet this is the primary vehicle by which wealth is captured by economic elites. If government recaptured the socially-created economic rent from land sites that comes from the investment of the collective community, we could eliminate other taxes that are both more onerous and create a drag on the economy that makes us all poorer. There are many websites that explain how this can be done, ways that not only beget greater economic efficiency but also bring about economic justice.(2) The surplus economic rent that derives from community effort is its rightful entitlement.

Where does economic rent most tend to lodge? In the center of cities where people are. And also proximate to heavy social investments -- such as railroad and metro stations, public and office buildings, hotels and conference centers, and anywhere there is high traffic in personal or market exchanges. The land value in New York City is higher than all the rest of the New York state combined, even though it is only a minute fraction of the area. One 9-acre site south of the United Nations Building was recently sold to a developer intent on building luxury condominiums facing the East River. That site sold for $680 million, and would have been higher had the existing structure, an obsolete power plant, not have to be razed.(3) Land values in any given area tend to rise and fall together, and tend also to form a contour somewhat comparable to a topographical survey map. In a city's center are the highest value locations, analogous to a mountain peak. Once one departs from that center, land values fall in direct proportion to the value of their use, made more or less attractive by whatever social attributes are provided in the proximate areas. Two illustrations from small and medium sized cities in the United States illustrate the point. ...  read the whole article

Bill Batt: The Compatibility of Georgist Economics and Ecological Economics
Any failure to pay back that increment to society, or of government to recapture it in the form of taxes, constituted not only an injustice to the poor but a distortion of economic equilibrium. He witnessed first hand the perverted configurations of land use that today we know as sprawl development— even in his time it was apparent that urban, high value land parcels were being held off the market for speculative gain by meretricious interests. He witnessed also the boom and bust cycles of the land markets on account of such speculation, effects which spread far wider than just land prices. These inevitable cycles would dislocate labor and capital supply, giving impetus to the impoverishment and suffering which he himself had experienced. He understood that holding the most strategically valuable landsites out of circulation constituted a burden on the economy. He understood that financial resources spent to pay exorbitant land prices had a depressing effect on capital and labor. And because government was taxing labor and capital instead of recovering land rent, it was further restricting the job market and the growth of capital. He realized that people who captured monopoly control of strategically valuable landsites could do so because they were privy to information prior to its public release. It was not by any means his insight alone; it was captured also by George Washington Plunkett writing at the same time:
There’s an honest graft, and I’m an example of how it works. I might sum up the whole thing by sayin’: “I seen my opportunities and I took ‘em.”

Just let me explain by examples. My party’s in power in the city, and it’s goin’ to undertake a lot of public improvements. Well, I’m tipped off, say, that they’re going to lay out a new park in a certain place.

I see my opportunity and I take it. I go to that place and I buy up all the land I can in the neighborhood. Then the board of this or that makes its plan public, and there is a rush to get my land, which nobody cared particularly for before.

Ain’t it perfectly honest to charge a good price and make a profit on my investment and foresight? Of course, it is. Well, that’s honest graft. 32

32William L. Riordan, Plunkett of Tammany Hall. New York: Dutton, 1963, p. 3.

All society needed to do was to collect the economic rent from landholders as its rightful due, a solution that became part of the subtitle of his book, “the remedy.” Taxing the land (or, alternatively, collecting the economic rent) was something common citizens could understand. ...

The justice in the Georgist tradition grows out of the premise that one is entitled to what one makes with one’s own hands or mind, but one is not personally entitled to the gains that grow out of communal efforts. Those are owed to and should be returned to the community. The justice inherent in ecological economics, to the extent that it has solidified, involves a recognition that preservation of natural capital is in the interest of everyone. Both recognize and value the preservation of a world commons in nature. Both appreciate the diversity preserved in local community institutions and cultures. Both accept models based on self-regulating assumptions — in one case using the phrase “steady state” economics, in the other case the recovery of land rent in the pursuit of open and stable markets over monopoly control. There is great promise in the confluence of the two perspectives: they offer a solution to the age-old challenge of resolving what in the world ought to be public and common, and what else ought to be individual and private. It remains now for proponents of each perspective to continue exploring commonalities.

  Alternatives that have been tried in the past, both classic capitalism and socialism, suggest that neither has served the interests of humanity well in the long term. Ecological economics has no theory of property as such, and Georgism here offers a proven course of application. To Georgists, ownership is linked to use and not to freehold title. Holding individual property under license of the community, and under terms which the community stipulates, is an idea with a long tradition, well accepted, and needing only to be revived in contemporary political, legal and economic discourse. Combined with the pricing device of collecting land rent, ecological economics will have a tool by which to circumscribe and even reverse the centrifugal forces of a new economic imperialism. This is truly the beginning of a “Third Way” when other theories seem to be moribund. ... read the whole article
Hanno Beck:  Bathroom Policy
We were four college sophomores. And we were not going to live in a dorm, no sir, we figured that we were smart, mature fellows and so we arranged to rent a house. Each person would have his own private bedroom and we would share the bathroom. Four guys, one bathroom. That sounds reasonable, right? ...

Andrew was a nice fellow. He was thrifty and neat. But there was a difficulty. Once inside the bathroom, he wouldn't come out! The rest of us would be waiting around to use the bathroom, pleading, urging, begging. It did no good. Andrew took long stretches of time in the bathroom. That restricted access for the rest of us, and yet we got no compensation. Andrew was a monopolizer. That felt unfair. ...

Look what happens to our planet.
  • We see people or corporations like Edward, taking more than their fair share of oil, fresh water, minerals, without compensating the rest of us.
  • We see people or corporations like Charlie, polluting the land, water and air with toxic wastes, chemicals, carbon in the atmosphere, making the world less safe, forcing others to clean up, and they are not compensating the rest of us.
  • We see people or corporations like Andrew, monopolizing resources such as land -– an urban land speculator who holds an acre out of use, anticipating a price rise, is displacing the rest of us, forcing development out into the countryside. A single acre of downtown land brought into use would save a dozen outside acres from premature sprawl development.
Those who take, monopolize, and pollute, are imposing costs on the rest of us and on the economy in general. We are forced to be less efficient, or forced to endure hardships, so that the takers, monopolizers and polluters can benefit. That is not fair.

Is there a solution? Of course there is. It's a simple solution. To respect our common interest in our planet's resources, those who take or monopolize or pollute more than their fair share of our planet should compensate those of us who they are taking from.   ... read the whole article

Mason Gaffney: Geoism, Recession and Control of Monopolies

It seems that a great deal of anti-trust legislation from the Progressive Era had been aimed at monopoly in the flicks, which had started with Thomas A. Edison, who was as much a patent-litigation bully as he was a pure inventor. Much of this legislation became unravelled under President - guess who? - Ronald Reagan, spawn of the "entertainment" industry, and political voice for same. Vertical integration and media mergers and monopolization then ran wild. Disney under Eisner, of course, has played a role in this. Disney as real estate developer throws its heavy weight around brutally.

This question arose in connection with Georgist taxation, and what it would do about Mr. Eisner, and overpaid CEOs like him. The answer, I think, is that "Georgism" involves more than taxation. It also involves promoting competitive markets and smiting or breaking up mergers, monopolies, and restraints of trade, by various means. It was, after all, part of first the Populist, and later the Progressive Movements.

"Georgism" may be construed narrowly as a limited fiscal reform. Some of its votaries present it that way. As such, it is rightly suspected of being a bit cranky, and too limited. I see it as a broad front program to limit centralized monopoly control of industry, and promote free entry and free competition with proper regard for both consumers and workers.
Some free market purists may look askance at anti-trust actions. Consider, however, that we are dealing with people who hold patents, which are inherently anticompetitive, especially when used as clubs in the Edison manner. Consider also we are dealing with corporations, which are inherently combinations of capital made possible by the device of limited liability. When government gives an anticompetitive privilege, it seems fitting that government should limit the resulting abuses of power.  Read the whole article

Judge Samuel Seabury: An Address delivered upon the 100th anniversary of the birth of Henry George

WE are met to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birth of Henry George. We meet, therefore, in a spirit of joy and thanksgiving for the great life which he devoted to the service of humanity. To very few of the children of men is it given to act the part of a great teacher who makes an outstanding contribution toward revealing the basic principles to which human society must adhere if it is to walk in the way which leads to freedom. This Henry George did, and in so doing he expressed himself with a clarity of thought and diction which has rarely been surpassed.

... Indeed, if we try to envision, in view of our present location this afternoon, "The World of Tomorrow," I have no hesitation in saying that if the world of tomorrow is to be a civilized world, and not a world which has relapsed into barbarism, it can be so only by applying the principles of freedom which Henry George taught. The principles to which I refer are:

First, that men have equal rights in natural resources, and that these rights may find recognition in a system which gives effect to the distinction between what is justly private property because it has relation to individual initiative and is the creation of labor and capital, and what is public property because it is either a part of the natural resources of the country, whose value is created by the presence of the community, or is founded upon some governmental privilege or franchise.

Henry George believed in an order of society in which monopoly should be abolished as a means of private profit. The substitution of state monopoly for private monopoly will not better the situation. It ignores the fact that even where a utility is a natural monopoly which must be operated in the public interests, it should be operated as a result of cooperation between the representatives of labor, capital. and consumers, and not by the politicians who control the political state.

We should never lose sight of the fact that all monopolies are created and perpetuated by state laws. If the states wish seriously to abolish monopoly, they can do so by withdrawing their privileges; but they cannot grant the privileges which make monopoly inevitable and avoid the consequences by invoking anti-trust laws against them.

It is strange that the state, which has assumed all sorts of functions which it cannot with advantage perform, still persists in neglecting a vital function which it should and can perform — the function of collecting public revenues, as far as possible, from those who reap the benefits of natural resources. In view of public and social needs, it is remarkable that no effort has been made by governments to reduce the tax burdens on labor and capital, which are engaged in increasing production, by transferring them to those who restrict production by making monopoly privileges special to themselves.

These monopolistic privileges are of course disguised under many different forms, but the task of ascertaining what they are, and their true value, is a task within the competency of government if it really desires to accomplish it. ... read the whole speech

Peter Barnes: Capitalism 3.0 — Chapter 8: Sharing Culture (pages 117-134)

In due time, cable companies began offering their thicker cables to Internet users. Phone companies also came up with a system — DSL — that squeezes more data through their skinny wires. There are thus now two good ways to get high-speed access to the Internet — if you can afford roughly $30 a month, or $360 a year. Since not everyone can afford this, however, we have what some people call a digital divide — a financial barrier to universal access.

This is where the airwaves come in. Using digital signals, it’s now possible to bridge the last mile to the Internet through the public’s own airwaves. Not only that, it’s incredibly cheap to do so, using technologies like wi-fi. At the same time, another technical breakthrough is imminent: the Internet — including this last wireless mile — will soon be “thick” enough to carry data, telephone calls, and television pictures. In theory, a small public investment could bring all these services to the doorsteps of virtually everyone. There’d be no more need for private TV networks, telephone and cable companies. The so-called information highway would be, like public streets, truly open and free.

This is an extraordinary possibility. Americans now pay some $300 billion a year for telephone and cable services; perhaps half of this could be saved. That’s the equivalent of raising every worker’s take-home pay by about $1,000 a year. It should be cause for celebration.

What’s more, free universal Internet access would be a boon to the corporate side of the economy — another example of a commons having positive external benefits. Think of an urban shopping street, or Main Street in a small town. Merchants on these streets depend on foot traffic; the more passersby, the more sales they make. If someone put checkpoints or tollbooths on these streets, merchants would scream. So it is with the Internet. Everyone doing business on the Internet wants more traffic. Making the Internet free to all would be the best thing that ever happened to merchants.

Except, of course, for the phone-and-cable duopoly. In several states, these powerful companies have pushed through laws prohibiting cities from offering wireless Internet service, and they’ve sponsored a similar ban in Congress. The companies say their right to profit trumps the consumer’s right to save money and a city’s right to serve its citizens. Many politicians still buy that argument, so the end of this story has yet to be written.

A similar battle looms over what’s called “net neutrality.” At the moment, the Internet — like the telephone system — treats all content equally. No one’s data is discriminated against, and no one’s gets favored either — your personal webste is treated the same as Google’s. However, cable and phone companies want to create a two-tiered Internet, with some content providers getting slow speed and others — who pay the phone and cable companies — getting high speed. That would mean more revenue for the companies, but also a permanent divide between corporate content providers and everyone else.

Congress is now considering bills both to allow and to ban such tiering, and the outcome as this is written is uncertain. ... read the whole chapter




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Wealth and Want
... because democracy alone hasn't yet led to a society in which all can prosper