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Louis Post: Outlines of Louis F. Post's Lectures, with Illustrative Notes and Charts (1894) — Appendix: FAQ
Lindy Davies: Land and Justice
John Dewey: Steps to Economic Recovery
Mason Gaffney: Henry George 100 Years Later: The Great Reconciler
In 1879, George electrified the world by identifying one underlying cause for two great economic plagues:
These twin plagues arose from concentrated ownership of land, compounded by land speculation. Large landowners and speculators (often one and the same) held the best land idle or underused, forcing labor onto marginal land and driving down wages. Collapse of speculative land price bubbles caused periodic slumps.
(By "land" George meant exclusive rights to use natural resources in a specified territory. It included mining, water, fishing, and timber rights, road and rail rights-of way, and some patents. George emphasized the high value and productivity of urban land, which facilitated communication and trade. Today, we would add to "land" such items as taxi medallions, telecommunications licenses and pollution "rights".) ...
Neo-classical economists give us only a hard choice: we may have equity, or efficiency, but not both. By contrast, George's program reconciles equity and efficiency. Think of it! George takes two polar philosophies, collectivism and individualism, and composes them into one solution. He cuts the Gordian knot. Like Keynes after him, George inspires us by saying, "Forget the bitter tradeoffs; we can have it all!" ... read the whole article
It is part of George's genius that his proposals solve one problem by resolving it with another, turning two problems into one solution. It is something like tuning up the orchestra for a concert, turning dissonance into harmony, and keeping the beat together, turning cacaphony into rhythm. It is the mark of good solutions that they reconcile and resolve, rather than simply "trade-off." 1
1 If you ever immerse yourself in mathematics deeply enough to find different proofs of the same proposition, you recognize the epiphany when it all comes together, and everything supports and confirms everything else. Then you know you have the right answer. Good ideas and good policies support and reinforce each other.
That is what George means when he writes that "the laws of the universe are harmonious." That is what Founding Fathers like Washington, Jefferson and Franklin meant by a "natural order." Like them, George is a deist in spirit, a believer in the consistency of the universe. The concept that some things are more "natural" than others is not arbitrary. The clue that one has found the "natural" law is that it makes forces harmonize and team together instead of clashing, and neutralizing each other. 2 The principle of constructive synthesis - a touch of Hegel - is another way of perceiving the value of turning cacaphony into harmony. 3
2. In this view, the "natural harmony" is recognized by its power to reconcile. Deadlocks and standoffs resolve into teamwork, yielding gains at little or no cost. Today, philosophers may avoid terms like "natural law." Call it what you will, it is a powerful idea and a worthy goal. Fashions and terms change: principles endure.
Economists today offer us mainly "trade-offs" and hard choices. For every good thing we must give up another, so net gains are just marginal. That is the approved posture: it makes one seem hard-headed, worldly, and practical. Too much positive thinking sounds suspiciously optimistic, and invites rebellious cynical muttering that "there ain't no free lunch." It goes back at least to Malthus, who offered mankind the hard choice of food vs. sex. That sort of thinking is what made people call economics "the dismal science."
A true resolution is much more to be desired. To get one good thing we get a second one as well. It is remarkable how many "hard choices" are turned into benign resolutions in George's program. He is a genius at finding the essential harmony of interests now concealed beneath confused thinking. Instead of a dismal trade-off, there is a "free lunch," or "synergy": the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Such grand resolutions, when possible, deserve to be called "true win-win solutions." 4
4. As commonly used today, "win-win solution" is just a euphemism for a trade-off, in which the loser of a resource "wins" by getting paid. Often it is worse: the "winnings" of one or both parties represent resources stolen from the public domain, while concealing the loss to the public.
The most obvious such true win-win solution is putting the unemployed to work. Recognizing this truth is no monopoly of George: Keynesian economists long insisted that there is no social cost in putting the unemployed to work. It is a measure of the bankruptcy and myopia of many economists today that even those voices are muted, and that obvious gain is denied: working is called a "sacrifice of leisure," just another trade-off. Unemployment has become "job-searching." 5 It is more likely a sacrifice of burglary, vandalism, drug-use, jail time, loitering, looting, collecting welfare, and sullen misery. Trading such bad time for the gratification, pride, on-the-job learning, and moral uplift of working is not a trade-off, but a double gain. It is a true "free lunch," if you will.Many economists today react to such ideas with reflexive disbelief. They put down optimistic claims by calling them "panaceas," too good to be true. TAANSTAAFL 6 is their slogan; cynicism their preferred posture. However, false pessimism is just as false and damaging as false optimism. A truer slogan is TITSTAAFL: "There Is Too Such a Thing As A Free Lunch." It's rather a question of WIGGI?: "Who Is Going to Get It?". Many dismal alleged trade-offs are just someone's mental blocks that stand athwart the path to abundance, or, worse, ways to control and exploit us. Often, in fact, "we can have it all." Is it too good to be true? Let us itemize the many resolutions of alleged trade-offs and standoffs that George's program will achieve.
Epilogue: how the public demonstrates its preference for resolutions over dismal choices6 "There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch."
Preaching hard trade-offs is not popular. Voters see through it as a confession of cluelessness. We hear a lot about voter apathy, but voters have responded positively at various times to candidates with positive resolutions, or apparent ones.
Remember the "Phillips Curve" of the late 1970s? "The public has to grow up and choose," the gurus said with some condescension. It's either inflation or unemployment. Soon the voters came up with a third choice, they retired those unavailing later Keynesians.
Next it was Reagan and Laffer, who said you can have lower tax rates and higher tax revenues, more defense and a lower deficit. Talk about panaceas! This one proved to be a fraud, but the voters loved it until they slowly realized the promise couldn't possibly be delivered.
Now it is the privatizers. They have learned to sell the product by soft-pedaling "trade-offs." Instead, they talk about "win-win" solutions, a new euphemism for trade-offs that camouflages them as resolutions, and hides the sneaky truth that much of the wins come from privatizing public property without compensation. The public will stop falling for it as they finally realize that most of these are really "win-win-lose" solutions, with the public as the loser.
30 years ago, it was "demand-side economics" (as it was later called). It was mostly Keynesian "fiscal policy," with some monetary policy, also demand-sided, as its Tweedledum rival. Keynes became popular because orthodox economists, unavailing, had reduced themselves to posing a hard choice. To escape from depression, they said, you must first suffer dismally: cut wages, consume less. It's like a hangover, you must repent of the good times you had in the roaring twenties. The voters rejected that preaching thumpingly.
Keynes had better news. He said you can have it all: raise wages, consume more, enjoy more public services, and in result find people saving more and working more! People who followed his ideas won elections for years. With all its faults and charlatanism, Keynesian economics was at least optimistic and hopeful. It lasted until his successors fell into the dismal trade-off mode of the Phillips Curve.
Before that it was the New Deal panacea: national planning. Before that, at least in the States under Herbert Hoover, it was business "Associationism": cartels, plus peace pacts, red-baiting, debt retirement, the corporate state, two chickens in every pot and a car in every garage. We know where that led.
Before those panaceas there was Henry George. He, like popular figures after him, was anything but dismal. He, too, said "we can have it all." It made his ideas very popular. We are often told that Georgism never really made it, but that is warped history. It never "took over" lock, stock and barrel, but it won substantial minorities, to whom real concessions were made. His ideas were at their political crest roughly from 1901-20. 14 They were incorporated into The Progressive Movement.
14 They were carried towards the top by such well-known figures as David Lloyd George in England, Alexandr Kerensky in Russia, Sun Yat-sen in China, hundreds of local and state, and a few powerful national politicians in both Canada and the U.S.A., Billy Hughes in Australia, Rolland O'Regan in New Zealand, Chaim Weizmann in Palestine, Francisco Madero in Mexico, and many others around the world. In the States, they were an integral part of the Progressive Movement, which for a time dominated both our major parties. In England, Lloyd George's budget speech of 1909 reads in part as though written by Henry George himself; some of Winston Churchill's speeches were written by Georgist ghosts.
Unlike the other panaceas cited, George's never failed. It would be fairer to say it fell to the loss of young leaders in World War I, and the marathon Red Scare that dominated much of the world from 1919 to 1989. The Red Scare energized property defenders everywhere; by confusion, its victims included Georgism. It made Georgists pull in their horns until their message lost its vigor and excitement: its resolving qualities, which were derided as "panaceas." Now, with the fall of the Soviet Empire, is a good time to pick up where the Progressive Movement was aborted. ... read the whole article
TPR - Explain exactly what would happen if America began shifting taxes off of everything else and onto land value.
MG - Exactly? The effects are too great, too pervasive to predict exactly.
One could go on at length, but Henry George summed it up in three words: "Association in Equality." Civilization advances when those conditions are met, and declines when they are denied. America has been denying them; we are all paying the price. ... read the whole article
Fred E. Foldvary — The Ultimate Tax Reform: Public Revenue from Land Rent
Frank Stilwell and Kirrily Jordan: The Political Economy of Land: Putting Henry George in His Place
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Wealth and Want
... because democracy alone hasn't yet led to a society in which all can prosper