How many wars have been fought — and how many more will be fought
if we continue on the course we're on today — over land and other natural
resources? We hear the expression "our oil under their sand." Corporations
are seeking natural resources we've become reliant on, and our military
are brought in to help insure that we will have a continued supply of the
resources. Meanwhile, other countries will assert their equal right to
those resources, and none of us seem willing to consider to whom those
rightly belong, and who should receive payment for them, and what new institutional
structures might be necessary to today's realities.
Does our assertion that all people are created equal mean that we acknowledge
the basic equality of all the world's people with us? Do we acknowledge their
equal claim on the world's natural resources, and their claim on clean air
and clean water? How do we make that real and secure, for everyone? Henry
George's ideas provide an excellent foundation — and a valuable alternative
Rev. A. C. Auchmuty: Gems from George, a
themed collection of
excerpts from the writings of Henry George (with links to sources)
CAPITAL, which is not in itself a distinguishable element, but which it
must always be kept in mind consists of wealth applied to the aid of labor
in further production, is not a primary factor. There can be production without
it, and there must have been production without it, or it could not in the
first place have appeared. It is a secondary and compound factor, coming
after and resulting from the union of labor and land in the production of
wealth. It is in essence labor raised by a second union with land to a third
or higher power. But it is to civilized life so necessary and important as
to be rightfully accorded in political economy the place of a third factor
in production. — The
Science of Political Economy unabridged:
Book III, Chapter 17, The Production of Wealth: The Third Factor of Production — Capital • abridged:
Part III, Chapter 10: Order of the Three Factors of Production
IT is to be observed that capital of itself can do nothing. It is always a subsidiary,
never an initiatory, factor. The initiatory factor is always labor. That is to
say, in the production of wealth labor always uses capital, is never used by
capital. This is not merely literally true, when by the term capital we mean
the thing capital. It is also true when we personify the term and mean by it
not the thing capital, but the men who are possessed of capital. The capitalist
pure and simple, the man who merely controls capital, has in his hands the power
of assisting labor to produce. But purely as capitalist he cannot exercise that
power. It can be exercised only by labor. To utilize it he must himself exercise
at least some of the functions of labor, or he must put his capital, on some
terms, at the use of those who do. — The Science of Political Economy unabridged:
Book III, Chapter 17, The Production of Wealth: The Third Factor of Production — Capital • abridged:
Part III, Chapter 10: Order of the Three Factors of Production
THUS we must exclude from the category of capital everything that may be included
either as land or labor. Doing so, there remain only things which are neither
land nor labor, but which have resulted from the union of these two original
factors of production. Nothing can be properly capital that does not consist
of these — that is to say, nothing can be capital that is not wealth. — Progress & Poverty — Book
I, Chapter 2: Wages and Capital: The Meaning of the Terms
THUS, a government bond is not capital, nor yet is it the representative of capital.
The capital that was once received for it by the government has been
unproductively — blown away from the mouths of cannon, used up in war ships,
expended in keeping men marching and drilling, killing and destroying. The bond
cannot represent capital that has been destroyed. It does not represent capital
at all. It is simply a solemn declaration that the government will, some time
or other, take by taxation from the then existing stock of the people, so much
wealth, which it will turn over to the holder of the bond; and that, in the meanwhile,
it will, from time to time, take, in the same way, enough to make up to the holder
the increase which so much capital as it some day promises to give him would
yield him were it actually in his possession. The immense sums which are thus
taken from the produce of every modern country to pay interest on public debts
are not the earnings or increase of capital — are not really interest in
the strict sense of the term, but are taxes levied on the produce of labor and
capital, leaving so much less for wages and so much less for real interest. — Progress & Poverty — Book
III, Chapter 4: The Laws of Distribution: Of Spurious Capital and of Profits
Often Mistaken For Interest
CAPITAL, as we have seen, consists of wealth used for the procurement of
more wealth, as distinguished from wealth used for the direct satisfaction
of desire; or, as I think it may be defined, of wealth in the course of exchange.
Capital, therefore, increases the power of labor to produce wealth: (1) By
enabling labor to apply itself in more effective ways, as by digging up clams
with a spade instead of the hand, or moving a vessel by shoveling coal into
a furnace, instead of tugging at an oar. (2) By enabling labor to avail itself
of the reproductive forces of nature, as to obtain corn by sowing it, or animals
by breeding them. (3) By permitting the division of labor, and thus, on the
one hand, increasing the efficiency of the human factor of wealth, by the utilization
of special capabilities, the acquisition of skill, and the reduction of waste;
and, on the other, calling in the powers of the natural factor at their highest,
by taking advantage of the diversities of soil, climate and situation, so as
to obtain each particular species of wealth where nature is most favorable
to its production.
Capital does not supply the materials which labor works up into wealth, as
is erroneously taught; the materials of wealth are supplied by nature. But
such materials partially worked up and in the course of exchange are capital. — Progress & Poverty — Book
I, Chapter 5: Wages and Capital: The Real Functions of Capital
... go to "Gems from George"
Henry George: The
Increasing Importance of Social Questions (Chapter 1 of Social
 And so come new dangers. The rude society resembles the creatures that
though cut into pieces will live; the highly civilized society is like a
highly organized animal: a stab in a vital part, the suppression of a single
function, is death. A savage village may be burned and its people driven
off — but, used to direct recourse to nature, they can maintain themselves.
Highly civilized man, however, accustomed to capital, to machinery, to the
minute division of labor, becomes helpless when suddenly deprived of these
and thrown upon nature. Under the factory system, some sixty persons, with
the aid of much costly machinery, cooperate to the making of a pair of shoes.
But, of the sixty, not one could make a whole shoe. This is the tendency
in all branches of production, even in agriculture. How many farmers of the
new generation can use the flail? How many farmers' wives can now make a
coat from the wool? Many of our farmers do not even make their own butter
or raise their own vegetables! There is an enormous gain in productive power
from this division of labor, which assigns to the individual the production
of but a few of the things, or even but a small part of one of the things,
he needs, and makes each dependent upon others with whom he never comes in
contact; but the social organization becomes more sensitive. A primitive
village community may pursue the even tenor of its life without feeling disasters
which overtake other villages but a few miles off; but in the closely knit
civilization to which we have attained, a war, a scarcity, a commercial crisis,
in one hemisphere produces powerful effects in the other, while shocks and
jars from which a primitive community easily recovers would to a highly civilized
community mean wreck.
 It is startling to think how destructive in a civilization like ours
would be such fierce conflicts as fill the history of the past. The wars
of highly civilized countries, since the opening of the era of steam and
machinery, have been duels of armies rather than conflicts of peoples or
classes. Our only glimpse of what might happen, wore passion fully aroused,
was in the struggle of the Paris Commune. And, since 1870, to the knowledge
of petroleum has been added that of even more destructive agents. The explosion
of a little nitro-glycerin under a few water-mains would make a great city
uninhabitable; the blowing up of a few railroad bridges and tunnels would
bring famine quicker than the wall of circumvallation that Titus drew around
Jerusalem; the pumping of atmospheric air into the gas-mains, and the application
of a match, would tear up every street and level every house. The Thirty
Years' War set back civilization in Germany; so fierce a war now would all
but destroy it. Not merely have destructive powers vastly increased, but
the whole social organization has become vastly more delicate.
 In a simpler state master and man, neighbor and neighbor, know each
other, and there is that touch of the elbow which, in times of danger, enables
society to rally. But present tendencies are to the loss of this. In London,
dwellers in one house do not know those in the next; the tenants of adjoining
rooms are utter strangers to each other. Let civil conflict break or paralyze
the authority that preserves order and the vast population would become a
terror-stricken mob, without point of rally or principle of cohesion, and
your London would be sacked and burned by an army of thieves. London is only
the greatest of great cities. What is true of London is true of New York,
and in the same measure true of the many cities whose hundreds of thousands
are steadily growing toward millions. These vast aggregations of humanity,
where he who seeks isolation may find it more truly than in the desert; where
wealth and poverty touch and jostle; where one revels and another starves
within a few feet of each other, yet separated by as great a gulf as that
fixed between Dives in Hell and Lazarus in Abraham's bosom — they are
centers and types of our civilization. Let jar or shock dislocate the complex
and delicate organization, let the policeman's club be thrown down or wrested
from him, and the fountains of the great deep are opened, and quicker than
ever before chaos comes again. Strong as it may seem, our civilization is
evolving destructive forces. Not desert and forest, but city slums and country
roadsides are nursing the barbarians who may be to the new what Hun and Vandal
were to the old.
 Nor should we forget that in civilized man still lurks the savage.
The men who, in past times, oppressed or revolted, who fought to the death
in petty quarrels and drunk fury with blood, who burned cities and rent empires,
were men essentially such as those we daily meet. Social progress has accumulated
knowledge, softened manners, refined tastes and extended sympathies, but
man is yet capable of as blind a rage as when, clothed in skins, he fought
wild beasts with a flint. And present tendencies, in some respects at least,
threaten to kindle passions that have so often before flamed in destructive
 The progress of civilization requires that more and more intelligence
be devoted to social affairs, and this not the intelligence of the few, but
that of the many. We cannot safely leave politics to politicians, or political
economy to college professors. The people themselves must think, because
the people alone can act.
 The intelligence required for the solving of social problems is not
a thing of the mere intellect. It must be animated with the religious sentiment
and warm with sympathy for human suffering. It must stretch out beyond self-interest,
whether it be the self-interest of the few or of the many. It must seek justice.
For at the bottom of every social problem we will find a social wrong. ...
read the entire essay
Mason Gaffney: Rent Seeking and Global
National governments originate historically to acquire, hold and police land.
Other functions are assumed later, but sovereignty over land is always the
first business. Private parties hold land from the sovereign: every chain
of title goes back to a grantor who originally
seized the land.
When economists today speak of "rent-seeking" they usually are thinking
not of basic land rent, but in subtle and sophisticated terms, looking at
and drabs of transfer rent derived from contracting advantages. They develop
abstract models for gaming optimally with imperfect information, and so on.
By emphasizing the arcane while ignoring the basic they are in danger of
matching the proverbial expert who fine-tunes all the details and elaborations
forges on to the grand disaster.
Indeed, we have had one such disaster. Viet Nam was viewed by many as an economists'
war, rationally planned and led by the best and the brightest systems' analysts,
exemplified by the brilliant, energetic Secretary of Defense. One should not
be surprised at the post-Viet Nam decline of interest in applying modern economic
theory to questions of global conflict.
We would be more useful to statesmen if we looked first at rent-seeking
in the grosser sense of “land-grabbing,” where the whole bundle
is at stake. When William of Normandy conquered England the prize was
land rent, all of it. He and his retainers dispossessed the local rent-collectors.
It was simple, gross, and basic, and much more consequential than the trivial
rent-seeking we model today. The bulk of the natives may have been affected
only marginally: they just paid Lord B instead of Lord A. But it made all
the difference to Lords B and A, the ones who made basic decisions about
global conflict and cooperation.
Again, from the 17th century Europeans invaded North America, dispossessed
the natives and each other, until today we meet here, overlooking beach and
ocean, paying our daily rent for a little slice of land which has been won
and kept by a long chain of wars.
The roof over our heads is different, it is the product of capital formation. Someone
saved from income, and paid workers to construct the building. Its present
value is that less the obvious depreciation and obsolescence, so it is rentable
today mainly for its appreciated site, to which therefore an economist or an
appraiser must impute most of the market value here.
But the site never was nor could be the product of capital formation. It
pre-existed man, who could only acquire it by taking. It is fair to say that throughout
most of history that is what warfare was about, seizing and holding and policing
land. This is not to deny ancillary causes and issues of war, such as
disputing the pathway to Heaven, ethnic pride, paranoia, acquisitive genes,
and a leader's need to divert people from domestic problems. Economists should
certainly make it their business to address the last, a major source of global
conflict. Neither is this to deny that territorial expansion is often self-defeating,
economically. Many empires, probably most, cost more than they return, a discovery
that accounts for the well-being of small nations like Sweden, Austria, Denmark
and The Netherlands, which gained by abandoning destiny and empire. But we
would miss the point to bury particulars in aggregates. By disaggregating benefits
and costs we gain the key to understanding. The whole nation loses, but certain
parties gain, and it is they who promote and sustain aggressive behavior.
Economists conventionally bury this point when they submit that "national
defense is a public good".
- "Defense" is a loaded word which
rationalizes as it describes. "Military spending" is more neutral, and will
be used here. It is worth remembering that the German Schutz (as in Schutz-Staffel)
and Wehr (as in Wehrmacht) both translate as "defense". Lebensraum is
a more forthright term, and explains much more about Nazi aggressions.
- "Public good" says that all gain
equally. But that is not true even of pure defense proper. What is
defended behind the defense wall is land previously seized. The Lords and
much at stake; the serfs and vagrants very little. Rent
is what is being defended, along with, no doubt, traditional feelings of
machismo and some local folkways and mores.
Wages, as well as the return for capital formation, ultimately need little
defense because they are economically functional. They are paid for real
service and sacrifices, and will command a return in almost any viable system.
is also more migratory. "Fixed" capital also migrates economically as capital
recovery funds are reinvested elsewhere. Land, in contrast, does not migrate
among nations. Nations are defined as areas of land.
But it is outside the defense wall of the nation proper that rent-seeking
is most dynamic and destabilizing. Military force (often in tandem with
finance) is used to project sovereignty into foreign nations, and over no-man's-lands
like the oceans, polar regions, radio spectrum, and outer space.
Offshore rent-seekers are of two general kinds.
1. "Caciques." Cacique is a generic term for local cooperating
rulers from the native population. It is more neutral than Quisling,
and most caciques are more independent than he was. Imperial metropolitan
powers normally work through caciques. Turnover among individual caciques
is sometimes high, but they are drawn from the matrix of the local landholding
oligarchy which is quite stable, often thanks to our support.
We relieve the caciques of collecting and/or paying taxes for their own
military, which often double as domestic police as well. The life of some
caciques is risky, but the rewards to caciques and local landholders are
often very high. The Sultan of Brunei is the richest man in the world; the
extravagance of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos is legendary.
Unit land values in Tokyo have, in mid-boom. exceeded those in New York
and Chicago by a factor of about 10. One reason (of several) for the difference
is that New York and Chicago pay taxes to defend Tokyo, plus what the Japanese
once called the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. Roosevelt in 1941
stopped Japan at Viet Nam, precipitating Pearl Harbor. But Eisenhower said
in 1959 we must defend Viet Nam to protect the Japanese resource base.
2. Rent-seekers of the second kind are U.S. or allied multinational interests,
mostly corporations. The cacique is expected to assign to them, or
be complaisant in their taking concessions and resources like minerals,
transportation routes, communications, bank charters, plantations, etc.
Natives normally control more of the traditional resources like farmland.
Foreigners specialize more in less visible, more novel and sophisticated
- undiscovered minerals (exploration rights),
- navigation rights,
- radio spectrum,
- bank charters, etc.
Both these groups have the acutest incentive to influence U.S. policies, and
large discretionary funds at hand. Therefore they tend to dominate U.S. statecraft.
The U.S. government is probably more vulnerable to such foreign influence than
most, because of our size and weakly developed sense of honorable dedication
to the national interest. The English once terminated a dynasty, the Stuarts,
which was caught taking support from France; but Americans hardly notice when
retired Congressmen take work lobbying for foreign sugar producers etc.
Self-evidently, rivalry to appropriate limited rent-yielding resources must
lead to conflict. It has to, because land is not produced, nor stored up like
capital by saving. Modern economics glosses over this by stressing that land,
like other resources, is allocated by the market. That may be, but distribution
is something else. Every land title in the
world goes back to a taking by force.
It will be objected that one can buy in peacefully once a tenure is firmly
established, with alienable titles. There is certainly no intent to deny this.
The problem is that a successor-in-interest stands on no firmer footing than
the original. There is no laundering: every landholder can consult
his chain of title and see how it originated.. Indeed, it has been said that
those who buy stolen property are the chief cause of crime. Fencing itself
is a crime.
However one may side on that question, it helps account for the extreme alarm
with which US statecraft startles at any foreign country, however weak and
innocuous, which expropriates any such successor-in-interest. Demonstration
effects are contagious and threatening. The defensiveness of the insecure is
a major cause of global conflict.
More destabilizing yet is the ambitious rent-seeker
offshore, who finds his biggest gains in the riskiest ways, ways that unfortunately
impose high risks on the U.S. The biggest gains to rent-seekers come from buying
in on the ground floor, cheap, when tenures are precarious or uncertain.
Then one invokes the U.S. armed forces and the sanctions of ancillary statecraft
to raise the value of one's acquisition. The three main concerns are
- to firm up precarious tenures (as by supporting the government that granted
- to hold down taxes (as by lending the U..S. armed forces); and
- to avoid pure competition (as by giving preferential access to the U.S.
market, or Pentagon procurers). ... Read the whole article
Henry George: The Condition of
Labor — An Open Letter to Pope Leo XIII in response to Rerum Novarum (1891)
... Nor do we hesitate to say that this way of securing the equal right
to the bounty of the Creator and the exclusive right to the products of labor
the way intended by God for raising public revenues. For we are not atheists,
who deny God; nor semi-atheists, who deny that he has any concern in politics
It is true as you say — a salutary truth too often forgotten — that “man
is older than the state, and he holds the right of providing for the life
of his body prior to the formation of any state.” Yet, as you too perceive,
it is also true that the state is in the divinely appointed order. For He
who foresaw all things and provided for all things, foresaw and provided
that with the increase of population and the development of industry the
organization of human society into states or governments would become both
expedient and necessary.
No sooner does the state arise than, as we all know, it needs revenues.
This need for revenues is small at first, while population is sparse, industry
rude and the functions of the state few and simple. But with growth of population
and advance of civilization the functions of the state increase and larger
and larger revenues are needed.
Now, He that made the world and placed man in it, He that pre-ordained civilization
as the means whereby man might rise to higher powers and become more and
more conscious of the works of his Creator, must have foreseen this increasing
need for state revenues and have made provision for it. That is to say: The
increasing need for public revenues with social advance, being a natural,
God-ordained need, there must be a right way of raising them — some
way that we can truly say is the way intended by God. It is clear that this
right way of raising public revenues must accord with the moral law.
It must not take from individuals what rightfully belongs to individuals.
It must not give some an advantage over others, as by increasing the prices
of what some have to sell and others must buy.
It must not lead men into temptation, by requiring trivial oaths, by making
it profitable to lie, to swear falsely, to bribe or to take bribes.
It must not confuse the distinctions of right and wrong, and weaken the
sanctions of religion and the state by creating crimes that are not sins,
and punishing men for doing what in itself they have an undoubted right to
It must not repress industry. It must not check commerce. It must not punish
thrift. It must offer no impediment to the largest production and the fairest
division of wealth.
Let me ask your Holiness to consider the taxes on the processes and products
of industry by which through the civilized world public revenues are collected — the
octroi duties that surround Italian cities with barriers; the monstrous customs
duties that hamper intercourse between so-called Christian states; the taxes
on occupations, on earnings, on investments, on the building of houses, on
the cultivation of fields, on industry and thrift in all forms. Can these
be the ways God has intended that governments should raise the means they
need? Have any of them the characteristics indispensable in any plan we can
deem a right one?
All these taxes violate the moral law. They take by force what belongs to
the individual alone; they give to the unscrupulous an advantage over the
scrupulous; they have the effect, nay are largely intended, to increase the
price of what some have to sell and others must buy; they corrupt government;
they make oaths a mockery; they shackle commerce; they fine industry and
thrift; they lessen the wealth that men might enjoy, and enrich some by impoverishing
Yet what most strikingly shows how opposed to Christianity is this system
of raising public revenues is its influence on thought.
Christianity teaches us that all men are brethren; that their true
interests are harmonious, not antagonistic. It gives us, as the golden
rule of life,
that we should do to others as we would have others do to us. But out of
the system of taxing the products and processes of labor, and out of its
effects in increasing the price of what some have to sell and others must
buy, has grown the theory of “protection,” which denies this
gospel, which holds Christ ignorant of political economy and proclaims laws
of national well-being utterly at variance with his teaching. This theory
sanctifies national hatreds; it inculcates a universal war of hostile tariffs;
it teaches peoples that their prosperity lies in imposing on the productions
of other peoples restrictions they do not wish imposed on their own; and
instead of the Christian doctrine of man’s brotherhood it makes injury
of foreigners a civic virtue.
“By their fruits ye shall know them.” Can anything more clearly
show that to tax the products and processes of industry is not the way God
intended public revenues to be raised?
But to consider what we propose — the raising of public revenues by
a single tax on the value of land irrespective of improvements — is
to see that in all respects this does conform to the moral law.
Let me ask your Holiness to keep in mind that the value we propose to tax,
the value of land irrespective of improvements, does not come from any exertion
of labor or investment of capital on or in it — the values produced
in this way being values of improvement which we would exempt. The value
of land irrespective of improvement is the value that attaches to land by
reason of increasing population and social progress. This is a value that
always goes to the owner as owner, and never does and never can go to the
user; for if the user be a different person from the owner he must always
pay the owner for it in rent or in purchase-money; while if the user be also
the owner, it is as owner, not as user, that he receives it, and by selling
or renting the land he can, as owner, continue to receive it after he ceases
to be a user.
Thus, taxes on land irrespective of improvement cannot lessen the rewards
of industry, nor add to prices,* nor in any way take from the individual
what belongs to the individual. They can take only the value that attaches
to land by the growth of the community, and which therefore belongs to the
community as a whole.
* As to this point it may be well to add that all economists
are agreed that taxes on land values irrespective of improvement or use — or
what in the terminology of political economy is styled rent, a term distinguished
from the ordinary use of the word rent by being applied solely to payments
for the use of land itself — must be paid by the owner and cannot
be shifted by him on the user. To explain in another way the reason given
in the text: Price is not determined by the will of the seller or the
will of the buyer, but by the equation of demand and supply, and therefore
as to things constantly demanded and constantly produced rests at a point
determined by the cost of production — whatever tends to increase
the cost of bringing fresh quantities of such articles to the consumer
increasing price by checking supply, and whatever tends to reduce such
cost decreasing price by increasing supply. Thus taxes on wheat or tobacco
or cloth add to the price that the consumer must pay, and thus the cheapening
in the cost of producing steel which improved processes have made in
recent years has greatly reduced the price of steel. But land has no
cost of production, since it is created by God, not produced by man.
Its price therefore is fixed —
1 (monopoly rent), where land is held in close monopoly,
by what the owners can extract from the users under penalty of deprivation
and consequently of starvation, and amounts to all that common labor
can earn on it beyond what is necessary to life;
2 (economic rent proper), where there is no special monopoly, by what
the particular land will yield to common labor over and above what may
be had by like expenditure and exertion on land having no special advantage
and for which no rent is paid; and,
3 (speculative rent, which is a species of monopoly rent, telling particularly
in selling price), by the expectation of future increase of value from
social growth and improvement, which expectation causing landowners to
withhold land at present prices has the same effect as combination.
Taxes on land values or economic rent can therefore never
be shifted by the landowner to the land-user, since they in no wise increase
the demand for land or enable landowners to check supply by withholding
land from use. Where rent depends on mere monopolization, a case I mention
because rent may in this way be demanded for the use of land even before
economic or natural rent arises, the taking by taxation of what the landowners
were able to extort from labor could not enable them to extort any more,
since laborers, if not left enough to live on, will die. So, in the case
of economic rent proper, to take from the landowners the premiums they
receive, would in no way increase the superiority of their land and the
demand for it. While, so far as price is affected by speculative rent,
to compel the landowners to pay taxes on the value of land whether they
were getting any income from it or not, would make it more difficult
for them to withhold land from use; and to tax the full value would not
merely destroy the power but the desire to do so.
To take land values for the state, abolishing all taxes on the products
of labor, would therefore leave to the laborer the full produce of labor;
to the individual all that rightfully belongs to the individual. It would
impose no burden on industry, no check on commerce, no punishment on thrift;
it would secure the largest production and the fairest distribution of wealth,
by leaving men free to produce and to exchange as they please, without any
artificial enhancement of prices; and by taking for public purposes a value
that cannot be carried off, that cannot be hidden, that of all values is
most easily ascertained and most certainly and cheaply collected, it would
enormously lessen the number of officials, dispense with oaths, do away with
temptations to bribery and evasion, and abolish man-made crimes in themselves
But, further: That God has intended the state to obtain the revenues it
needs by the taxation of land values is shown by the same order and degree
of evidence that shows that God has intended the milk of the mother for the
nourishment of the babe.
See how close is the analogy. In that primitive condition ere the need for
the state arises there are no land values. The products of labor have value,
but in the sparsity of population no value as yet attaches to land itself.
But as increasing density of population and increasing elaboration of industry
necessitate the organization of the state, with its need for revenues, value
begins to attach to land. As population still increases and industry grows
more elaborate, so the needs for public revenues increase. And at the same
time and from the same causes land values increase. The connection is invariable.
The value of things produced by labor tends to decline with social development,
since the larger scale of production and the improvement of processes tend
steadily to reduce their cost. But the value of land on which population
centers goes up and up. Take Rome or Paris or London or New York or Melbourne.
Consider the enormous value of land in such cities as compared with the value
of land in sparsely settled parts of the same countries. To what is this
due? Is it not due to the density and activity of the populations of those
cities — to the very causes that require great public expenditure for
streets, drains, public buildings, and all the many things needed for the
health, convenience and safety of such great cities? See how with the growth
of such cities the one thing that steadily increases in value is land; how
the opening of roads, the building of railways, the making of any public
improvement, adds to the value of land. Is it not clear that here is a natural
law — that is to say a tendency willed by the Creator? Can it mean
anything else than that He who ordained the state with its needs has in the
values which attach to land provided the means to meet those needs?
That it does mean this and nothing else is confirmed if we look deeper still,
and inquire not merely as to the intent, but as to the purpose of the intent.
If we do so we may see in this natural law by which land values increase
with the growth of society not only such a perfectly adapted provision for
the needs of society as gratifies our intellectual perceptions by showing
us the wisdom of the Creator, but a purpose with regard to the individual
that gratifies our moral perceptions by opening to us a glimpse of his beneficence.
Consider: Here is a natural law by which as society advances the one thing
that increases in value is land — a natural law by virtue of which
all growth of population, all advance of the arts, all general improvements
of whatever kind, add to a fund that both the commands of justice and the
dictates of expediency prompt us to take for the common uses of society.
Now, since increase in the fund available for the common uses of society
is increase in the gain that goes equally to each member of society, is it
not clear that the law by which land values increase with social advance
while the value of the products of labor does not increase, tends with the
advance of civilization to make the share that goes equally to each member
of society more and more important as compared with what goes to him from
his individual earnings, and thus to make the advance of civilization lessen
relatively the differences that in a ruder social state must exist between
the strong and the weak, the fortunate and the unfortunate? Does it not show
the purpose of the Creator to be that the advance of man in civilization
should be an advance not merely to larger powers but to a greater and greater
equality, instead of what we, by our ignoring of his intent, are making it,
an advance toward a more and more monstrous inequality? ...
Your use, in so many passages of your Encyclical, of the inclusive term “property” or “private” property,
of which in morals nothing can be either affirmed or denied, makes your meaning,
if we take isolated sentences, in many places ambiguous. But reading it as
a whole, there can be no doubt of your intention that private property in
land shall be understood when you speak merely of private property. With
this interpretation, I find that the reasons you urge for private property
in land are eight. Let us consider them in order of presentation. You urge:
1. That what is bought with rightful property is rightful property. (RN,
paragraph 5) ...
2. That private property in land proceeds from man’s gift of reason.
(RN, paragraphs 6-7.) ...
3. That private property in land deprives no one of the use of land. (RN,
paragraph 8.) ...
4. That Industry expended on land gives ownership in the land itself. (RN,
paragraphs 9-10.) ...
5. That private property in land has the support of the common opinion of
mankind, and has conduced to peace and tranquillity, and that it is sanctioned
by Divine Law. (RN, paragraph 11.) ...
6. That fathers should provide for their children and that private property
in land is necessary to enable them to do so. (RN, paragraphs 14-17.) ...
7. That the private ownership of land stimulates industry, increases wealth,
and attaches men to the soil and to their country. (RN, paragraph 51.) ...
8. That the right to possess private property in land is from nature, not
from man; that the state has no right to abolish it, and that to take the
value of landownership in taxation would be unjust and cruel to the private
owner. (RN, paragraph 51.) ...
5. That private property in land has the support of the common opinion
of mankind, and has conduced to peace and tranquillity, and that it is
by Divine Law. (11.)
Even were it true that the common opinion of mankind has sanctioned private
property in land, this would no more prove its justice than the once universal
practice of the known world would have proved the justice of slavery.
But it is not true. Examination will show that wherever we can trace them
the first perceptions of mankind have always recognized the equality of right
to land, and that when individual possession became necessary to secure the
right of ownership in things produced by labor some method of securing equality,
sufficient in the existing state of social development, was adopted. Thus,
among some peoples, land used for cultivation was periodically divided, land
used for pasturage and wood being held in common. Among others, every family
was permitted to hold what land it needed for a dwelling and for cultivation,
but the moment that such use and cultivation stopped any one else could step
in and take it on like tenure. Of the same nature were the land laws of the
Mosaic code. The land, first fairly divided among the people, was made inalienable
by the provision of the jubilee, under which, if sold, it reverted every
fiftieth year to the children of its original possessors.
Private property in land as we know it, the attaching to land of
the same right of ownership that justly attaches to the products of labor,
grown up anywhere save by usurpation or force. Like slavery, it is the result
of war. It comes to us of the modern world from your ancestors, the Romans,
whose civilization it corrupted and whose empire it destroyed.
It made with the freer spirit of the northern peoples the combination of
the feudal system, in which, though subordination was substituted for equality,
there was still a rough recognition of the principle of common rights in
land. A fief was a trust, and to enjoyment was annexed some obligation. The
sovereign, the representative of the whole people, was the only owner of
land. Of him, immediately or mediately, held tenants, whose possession involved
duties or payments, which, though rudely and imperfectly, embodied the idea
that we would carry out in the single tax, of taking land values for public
uses. The crown lands maintained the sovereign and the civil list; the church
lands defrayed the cost of public worship and instruction, of the relief
of the sick, the destitute and the wayworn; while the military tenures provided
for public defense and bore the costs of war. A fourth and very large portion
of the land remained in common, the people of the neighborhood being free
to pasture it, cut wood on it, or put it to other common uses.
In this partial yet substantial recognition of common rights to
land is to be found the reason why, in a time when the industrial arts
wars frequent, and the great discoveries and inventions of our time unthought
of, the condition of the laborer was devoid of that grinding poverty which
despite our marvelous advances now exists. Speaking of England, the highest
authority on such subjects, the late Professor Therold Rogers, declares that
in the thirteenth century there was no class so poor, so helpless, so pressed
and degraded as are millions of Englishmen in our boasted nineteenth century;
and that, save in times of actual famine, there was no laborer so poor as
to fear that his wife and children might come to want even were he taken
from them. Dark and rude in many respects as they were, these were the times
when the cathedrals and churches and religious houses whose ruins yet excite
our admiration were built; the times when England had no national debt, no
poor law, no standing army, no hereditary paupers, no thousands and thousands
of human beings rising in the morning without knowing where they might lay
their heads at night.
With the decay of the feudal system, the system of private property in land
that had destroyed Rome was extended. As to England, it may briefly be said
that the crown lands were for the most part given away to favorites; that
the church lands were parceled among his courtiers by Henry VIII., and in
Scotland grasped by the nobles; that the military dues were finally remitted
in the seventeenth century, and taxation on consumption substituted; and
that by a process beginning with the Tudors and extending to our own time
all but a mere fraction of the commons were inclosed by the greater landowners;
while the same private ownership of land was extended over Ireland and the
Scottish Highlands, partly by the sword and partly by bribery of the chiefs.
Even the military dues, had they been commuted, not remitted, would today
have more than sufficed to pay all public expenses without one penny of other
Of the New World, whose institutions but continue those of Europe, it is
only necessary to say that to the parceling out of land in great tracts is
due the backwardness and turbulence of Spanish America; that to the large
plantations of the Southern States of the Union was due the persistence of
slavery there, and that the more northern settlements showed the earlier
English feeling, land being fairly well divided and the attempts to establish
manorial estates coming to little or nothing. In this lies the secret of
the more vigorous growth of the Northern States. But the idea that land was
to be treated as private property had been thoroughly established in English
thought before the colonial period ended, and it has been so treated by the
United States and by the several States. And though land was at first sold
cheaply, and then given to actual settlers, it was also sold in large quantities
to speculators, given away in great tracts for railroads and other purposes,
until now the public domain of the United States, which a generation ago
seemed illimitable, has practically gone. And this, as the experience of
other countries shows, is the natural result in a growing community of making
land private property. When the possession of land means the gain of unearned
wealth, the strong and unscrupulous will secure it. But when, as we propose,
economic rent, the “unearned increment of wealth,” is taken by
the state for the use of the community, then land will pass into the hands
of users and remain there, since no matter how great its value, its possession
will be profitable only to users.
As to private property in land having conduced to the peace and tranquillity
of human life, it is not necessary more than to allude to the notorious fact
that the struggle for land has been the prolific source of wars and of lawsuits,
while it is the poverty engendered by private property in land that makes
the prison and the workhouse the unfailing attributes of what we call Christian
Your Holiness intimates that the Divine Law gives its sanction to the private
ownership of land, quoting from Deuteronomy, “Thou shalt not covet
thy neighbor’s wife, nor his house, nor his field, nor his man-servant,
nor his maid-servant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything which is his.”
If, as your Holiness conveys, this inclusion of the words, “nor his
field,” is to be taken as sanctioning private property in land as it
exists today, then, but with far greater force, must the words, “his
man-servant, nor his maid-servant,” be taken to sanction chattel slavery;
for it is evident from other provisions of the same code that these terms
referred both to bondsmen for a term of years and to perpetual slaves. But
the word “field” involves the idea of use and improvement, to
which the right of possession and ownership does attach without recognition
of property in the land itself. And that this reference to the “field” is
not a sanction of private property in land as it exists today is proved by
the fact that the Mosaic code expressly denied such unqualified ownership
in land, and with the declaration, “the land also shall not be sold
forever, because it is mine, and you are strangers and sojourners with me,” provided
for its reversion every fiftieth year; thus, in a way adapted to the primitive
industrial conditions of the time, securing to all of the chosen people a
foothold in the soil.
Nowhere in fact throughout the Scriptures can the slightest justification
be found for the attaching to land of the same right of property that justly
attaches to the things produced by labor. Everywhere is it treated as the
free bounty of God, “the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.” ...
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
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.
Nay, would not these very blessings bring starvation to many of those who
now manage to live? Is it not true that if there were proposed today, what
all Christian men ought to pray for, the complete disbandment of all the
armies of Europe, the greatest fears would be aroused for the consequences
of throwing on the labor-market so many unemployed laborers?
the whole letter
Years ago, a New Orleans lawyer
sought an FHA loan for a client. He was
told the loan would be granted IF he could prove satisfactory title to
a parcel of property being offered as collateral. No big deal;
The title of the property dated back to 1803. Instead of tracing
back 50 years, the customary amount, the lawyer traced it all the way
back to 1803. This took him three months.
"For the edification of uninformed FHA bureaucrats, the title to
land prior to U.S. ownership was obtained from France, which had
acquired it by right of conquest from Spain. The land came into
possession of Spain by right of conquest made in the year 1492 by a sea
captain named Christopher Columbus, who had been granted the privilege
of seeking a new route to India by the Spanish monarch, Isabella. The
good queen Isabella, being a pious woman and almost as careful about
titles as the FHA, took the precaution of securing the blessing of the
Pope before she sold her jewels to finance Columbus' expedition.
Now the Pope, as I'm sure you may know, is the emissary of Jesus
Christ, the Son of God, and God, it is commonly accepted, created this
world. Therefore, I believe it is safe to presume that God also made
that part of the world called Louisiana. God, therefore, would be the
owner of origin and His origins date back to before the beginning of
time and of the world as we AND the FHA know it. I hope to hell you
find God's original claim to be satisfactory. ... "
The first man who, having
enclosed a piece of ground, bethought himself
of saying, “This is mine”, and found people simple enough to believe
him, was the real founder of civil society.
From how many crimes, wars and murders, from how many horrors
misfortunes, might not anyone have
saved mankind by pulling up the stakes, filling in the ditch, and
crying to his fellows, “BEWARE OF LISTENING TO THIS IMPOSTOR; YOU ARE
UNDONE IF YOU ONCE FORGET THAT THE FRUITS OF THE EARTH BELONG TO US
ALL, AND THE EARTH ITSELF TO NOBODY.”
conception of justice may seem to be no more than one person's
opinion. And yet there are things that we all know about justice. If
I tell you that I stand before you as justice, you know that across
my face you will find -- a blindfold. In my left hand I hold aloft -- a
pair of scales. You know that in my right hand I have -- a sword that I
will use if necessary. And my gender is female.
The blindfold, the scales, the
sword, and the feminine gender.
These features of the traditional symbol tell us much about justice.
The blindfold might seem out of place, since it prevents justice from
either seeing what the scales say or wielding the sword effectively.
But we know that the blindfold has a distinct and essential meaning.
The blindfold ensures that justice will not be swayed by any visible
characteristics of those who plead before her. Justice is not
concerned with whether you are black or white, short or tall,
beautiful or ugly. Every person receives the same treatment from
The scales have at least two
possible interpretations. The first
interpretation is that the disputants at the bar of justice each
place their arguments in one of the pans of the scales, and justice
determines who has the weightier arguments. Our language supports
this interpretation with references to the scales of justice tipping
in one direction or another. But there is different use of the scales
that is particularly relevant to questions of social justice, as
opposed to personal disputes. The
scales can be used to achieve an
equal division. Justice is done when the contents of one pan of the
scales are exactly balanced by the contents of the other. This
meaning of the scales that I shall apply.
And then the sword. The sword
represents the fact that justice is
prepared to use the threat of force, and force itself, to see that
her decrees are carried out. In a world where men have so often used
weapons to achieve selfish dominance, the feminine gender helps make
credible the claim that the sword is used only to achieve justice,
and not to advance the selfish interests of the person who wields
Thus if we know
that justice is the blindfolded woman with the
scales and the sword, then we know that justice is the principles of
equality and evenhandedness that command and prohibit the use of
force in resolving conflicts. ...
this tells us. It tells us first that if we wish to
claim that justice authorizes the force we wish to use, or that
justice forbids the force that others wish to use against us, then we
must be able to show that our claim is consistent with equality and
One tradition in classical
liberalism concerning claims to land is
that of the "homesteading libertarians,"
as exemplified by Murray
Rothbard, who say that there is really no need to be concerned with
Locke's proviso. Natural opportunities belong to whoever first
appropriates them, regardless of whether opportunities of equal value
are available to others.
The other tradition is that of the
as inspired if not
exemplified by Henry George, who say that, whenever natural
opportunities are scarce, each person has an obligation to ensure
that the per capita value of the natural opportunities that he leaves
for others is as great as the value of the natural opportunities that
he claims for himself. Any
excess in one's claim
generates an obligation to compensate those who thereby have less.
George actually proposed the nearly equivalent idea, that all or
nearly all of the rental value of land should be collected in taxes,
and all other taxes should be abolished. The geoist position as I
have expressed it emphasizes the idea that, at least when value
generated by public services is not an issue, rights to land are
fundamentally rights of individuals, not rights of governments.
There are two fundamental problems
with the position of
homesteading libertarians on claims to land. The first problem is the
incongruity with historical reality. Humans have emerged from an
environment of violence. Those who now have titles to land can trace
those titles back only so far, before they come to events where fiat
backed by violence determined title. And the persons who were
displaced at that time themselves had titles that originated in
violence. If there ever were humans who acquired the use of land
without forcibly displacing other humans, we have no way of knowing
who they were or who their current descendants might be. There is, in
practice, no way of assigning land to the legitimate successors of
the persons who first claimed land. And to assign titles based on any
fraction of history is to reward the last land seizures that are not
fundamental problem with the position of the
homesteading libertarians is that, even if there were previously
unsettled land to be allocated, say a new continent emerging from the
ocean, first grabbing would make no sense as a criterion for
allocating land. ... Read the
Nic Tideman: The Case
for Taxing Land
I. Taxing Land as Ethics
II. What is Land?
III. The simple efficiency argument for taxing land
IV. Taxing Land is Better Than Neutral
V. Measuring the Economic Gains from Shifting Taxes to Land
VI. The Ethical Case for Taxing Land
VII. Answer to Arguments against Taxing Land
There is a case for taxing land based on ethical principles and
for taxing land based on efficiency principles. As a matter of
logic, these two cases are separate. Ethical conclusions
follow from ethical premises and efficiency conclusions from efficiency
principles. However, it is natural for human minds to conflate
the two cases. It is easier to believe that something is good if
one knows that it is efficient, and it is easier to see that something
is efficient if one believes that it is good. Therefore it is
important for a discussion of land taxation to address both question of
efficiency and questions of ethics.
This monograph will first address the efficiency case for taxing land,
because that is the less controversial case. The efficiency case
for taxing land has two main parts. ...
To estimate the magnitudes of the impacts that additional taxes
would have on an economy, one must have a model of the economy. I
report on estimates of the magnitudes of impacts on the U.S. economy of
shifting taxes to land, based on a mathematical model that is outlined
in the Appendix.
The ethical case for
taxing land is based on two ethical premises: ...
The ethical case for taxing land ends with a discussion of the
why recognition of the equal rights of all to land may be essential for
After developing the efficiency argument and the ethical
taxing land, I consider a variety of counter-arguments that have been
offered against taxing land. For a given level of other taxes, a
rise in the rate at which land is taxed causes a fall in the selling
price of land. It is sometimes argued that only modest taxes on
land are therefore feasible, because as the rate of taxation on land
increases and the selling price of land falls, market transactions
become increasingly less reliable as indicators of the value of
Another basis on which it is argued that greatly increased taxes
land are infeasible is that if land values were to fall precipitously,
the financial system would collapse. ...
Apart from questions of feasibility, it is sometimes argued that
erosion of land values from taxing land would harm economic efficiency,
because it would reduce opportunities for entrepreneurs to use land as
collateral for loans to finance their ideas. ...
Another ethical argument that is made against taxing land is
return to unusual ability is “rent” just as the return to land is
But before developing any of these arguments, I must discuss
The processes that humans employ to determine who shall have
use of natural opportunities are complex. To some extent,
opportunities are assigned to those who first make use of them.
However, another important component of the
natural-opportunity-assignment process is the ability and willingness
to use deadly force to exclude others. Americans from Europe
undertook some negotiations with the native American Indians, but
primarily they threatened to kill the Indians if they did not agree to
move into smaller territories. All over the world, nations
emerged when war-minded leaders imposed their rule where they
could. We have built a relatively humane world on this violent
foundation, but the origins of the assignment of natural opportunities
cannot be characterized as just.
Nor would have been just (or efficient) to adhere to a rule of
assignment based on first use. It would not be just because a
person who arrives later than another is not inherently less
deserving. (It would not be efficient because a rule of
assignment based on first use promotes inefficient, excessive
investment in being first. Still, to motivate efficient
discovery, it pays to provide some reward for discoverers.)
the whole article
Karl Williams: Social Justice In Australia:
There's an amusing
story of a Georgist who challenged a land baron as
to the baron's right to his vast tracts. The baron knew the history of
the estate of his noble bloodlines, and told how one of his ancestors
had paid good money for the land, rather than gaining it by some royal
grant. To this the Georgist replied, "But how did the previous owner
obtain it?" Again the baron explained how that person had also once
paid good money for it. Yet again and again, the Georgist persisted
with, "But how did that owner obtain it?" Finally, the baron said, "He
fought for it in battle, and won it". To which the Georgist said,
"Good! I'll fight you for it!" Read the entire article
Karl Williams: Social Justice In
Australia: ADVANCED KIT
-- WHO'S THE REAL VILLAIN!
when the sky darkens, and the prospect is war
Who's given a gun and then pushed to the fore?
Aye, and expected to die for the land of our birth
We who have never owned one handful of earth." Anon.
Would Geonomics lead to an outbreak of multi-ethnic tea parties
over the Balkans? We repeat, Geonomics is not a panacea. Without it,
though, there will never be any real prosperity or social justice.
Similarly, Geonomics isn't the panacea for all conflict, but without it
there will always be incentives to wage war.
THE TIMELESS CAUSE OF CONFLICT
The issue is territorial conquest. If you examine the causes of
you won't be able to identify many for which territorial conquest was
not an important factor. This is especially the case if you broaden the
term territory to include water (one of the things over which scores of
future wars will be fought, many say) and minerals (including oil).
Wherever a society exists in which individuals or groups can own
Earth outright and thereby profit enormously, then there's going to be
a great temptation to seize a few of the best chunks. Of course,
there'll be some ostensible justification for this confiscation, such
- Some silly nationalistic "principle", like ethnic pride or
- Some historical justification, like "we had it first"
(selectively choosing how far back in history to go)
- A pre-emptive move of forward self-defense in the face of
imminent (or beat-up) threats by a hostile neighbour
One way or another, nearly all
war is about territory in the end. As
humans are physical beings, somehow stuck in time and three dimensions,
this must be ever so. If we are going to claim exclusive and eternal
possession of some of the physical environment where our bodies -
pretty much locked to our consciousnesses - want to move, then it's no
wonder that one may hear big, loud, angry-sounding bumps sometimes.
WHAT MAKES LAND SO SPECIAL
Land is limited, a minimum of it is essential for survival, and
quality varies greatly. This presently gives a big incentive to some
individuals/clans/tribes/ethnic groups/nations to grab more than their
fair share. And, seeing how generals or demagogues in charge usually
ensure that their own nests are pretty well-feathered, the poor old
plebs are often led into a war from which they will gain little if
anything - as the poem at the head of the page well illustrates.
So how would LVT change all this? Well, it wouldn't change it
it would, for starters, eliminate or greatly reduce that particular
incentive for individual or group gain arising through the possibility
of claiming ownership of natural resources, including land.
A CHANGE IN CONSCIOUSNESS?
And here's a completely different tack: while greed, malice and
cynicism rule human hearts, no system of government can hope to
eliminate war. But, given enough time, perhaps an enabling environment
would nurture more the virtuous than the vicious side of humanity and
eventually bring about peace on a personal level - a sort of bottom-up
approach. For instance, the more people there are who understand the
philosophy of social justice (not to mention the potential prosperity)
that LVT confers, the less likely they are to believe and follow some
ranting populist playing the cheap nationalist card to drag a
bewildered population into yet another war.
On that very point, Henry George also believed in the innate
of humanity, and seemed to inspire it among those who knew him. George
was not naïve of our human flaws, yet was convinced that our
land monopoly capitalism had degraded many of our higher virtues, and
herein lay great hope. As Helen Keller said of George, "Who reads shall
find in Henry George's philosophy a rare beauty and power of
inspiration, and a splendid faith in the essential nobility of human
nature." Contrast this to the cynicism of Hitler, who wrote in Mein
Kampf "If you wish the sympathy of broad masses, then you must tell
them the crudest and most stupid things."
If Hitler was right, humanity is irredeemable. If George was
principles he enunciated and elaborated could encourage humanity to
such a level of social development that few would feel the need to
respond to rabble-rousing warmongers. But whatever the case, it cannot
be denied that LVT would greatly reduce the financial incentive to
violently grab natural resources. ...
Jeff Smith: How Sharing Earth Brought Peace
Since forever, humans have
claimed and counter-claimed every
square inch of this planet. Occasionally, these disputes have ended
peacefully. What has worked in other times and places might work
again in the Mideast. Delivering a double dividend, what settled land
disputes also developed moribund economies and revived developed
ones. Among others, New York, now aiming to rebuild, has used this
policy before. Because it's growing popular among environmentalists,
greens could lead the US to geonomics.
... These cases
involved different classes, not different cultures.
Yet with a new twist the rent rebate that worked within society may
work between societies. The Koran urges landlords to not gouge
tenants but to consider land a trust. In Israel, admonished to not
own land forever, since the land is Mine (Leviticus), the National
Trust leases all the land to the occupants. These strictures could
lead to geonomics.
and Palestine would establish a steward to collect land
dues and disburse rent dividends a la Alaska's oil dividend. Since
land is more valuable in Israel than in Palestine, Jews would pay in
more than Arabs, yet everyone would get back the same. And since
Israelis prosper, they drive up land values; having Jews as co-owners
developing land, raising its value, fattening everyone's Citizens
Dividend Arabs might accept that. Profit does make for strange
bedfellows. Two archrivals, China and Taiwan, recently agreed to
explore for oil together.
While sharing rent may soothe hurt
feelings, collecting it
stimulates development. ...
people have turned some of the poorest lands into
the richest economies. Hong Kong is a barren rock owned by the
public. The city collects enough site-rent to keep taxes on effort
way down. ...
Where to draw a line in the sand
becomes a lot less contentious
when land and oil are no longer spoils of war and when neighbors do
not endure drastically different standards of living. Growing up, we
learn to not fight over toys but to take turns. Societies need to
learn this, too.
Early last century, Gifford
Pinchot, first head of the US Forest
Service, said: "The earth belongs of right to all its people and not
to a minority, insignificant in numbers but tremendous in wealth and
power. The people shall get their fair share of the benefit which
comes from the development of the country which belongs to us all
with equal opportunity for all and special privileges for none." A
man in a Republican administration could say that then. We need to
hear it again now. Read the whole article
Dave Wetzel: Justice or
Injustice: The Locational Benefit Levy
We all have our own personal interpretation of how “justice” can be
Often “justice” is interpreted in a very narrow legal sense and only in
reference to the judicial system, which has been designed to protect
the status quo. ...
Of course, all citizens (and subjects in the UK) -- need to know
exactly what are the legal boundaries within which society operates.
But, supposing those original rules are unfair and unjust. Then the
legal framework, being used to perpetuate an injustice -- does not make
that injustice moral and proper even if within the rules of
jurisprudence it is “legal.”
Obvious examples of this dislocation between immoral laws and natural
- South Africa's former policy of apartheid;
- the USA's former
segregated schools and buses;
- discrimination based on race, religion,
disability or sex;
- the oppression of women;
Britain's use of child labour and colonialism.
All these policies were
“lawful” according to the legal framework of their day but that veneer
of legality did not make these policies righteous and just.
Any society built on a basis of injustice will be burdened down with
its own predisposition towards self-destruction. Even the most
suppressed people will one-day, demand justice, rise up and overthrow
Human survival demands justice. Wherever slavery or dictatorship has
been installed -- eventually, justice has triumphed and a more
democratic and fairer system has replaced it. It is safe to predict
that wherever slavery or dictatorship exists today -- it will be
superseded by a fairer and more just system.
Similarly, let's consider our distribution of natural resources.
By definition, natural resources are not made by human effort. Our
planet offers every inhabitant a bounty -- an amazing treasure chest of
wealth that can supply our needs for food, shelter and every aspect for
Surely, “justice” demands that this natural wealth should be equally
available to all and that nobody should starve, be homeless or suffer
poverty simply because they are excluded from tapping in to this
enormous wealth that nature has provided. ...
If our whole economy, with the private possession of land and other
natural resources, is built upon an injustice -- then can any of us
really be surprised that we continue to live on a planet where wars
predominate, intolerance is common, crime is rife and where poverty and
starvation is the norm for a huge percentage of earth's population.
Is this inherited system really the best we can do?
There must be a method for fairly utilising the earth's natural
Referring to the rebuilding of
his recent speech to the American Congress, Tony Blair stated “We
promised Iraq democratic Government. We will deliver it. We promised
them the chance to use their oil wealth to build prosperity for all
their citizens, not a corrupt elite. We will do so”.
Thus, Tony Blair recognises the difference between political justice in
the form of a democratic Government and economic justice in the form of
sharing natural resources.
We have not heard any dissenting voice from this promise to share
Iraq's natural oil wealth for all the people of Iraq to enjoy the
benefits. But if it is so obviously
right and proper for the Iraqi people to share their natural
wealth – why is it not the practice to do the same in all nations?
No landowner can create land values. If this were the case, then an
entrepreurial landowner in the Scottish Highlands would be able to
create more value than an indolent landowner in the City of London.
No, land values arise because of natural advantages (eg fertility for
agricultural land or approximity to ports or harbours for commercial
sites) or because of the efforts of the whole community -- past and
present investment by both the public and private sectors, and the
activities of individuals all give rise to land values. Why do we not
advocate the sharing of these land values, which are as much a gift of
nature and probably in most western economies are worth much more than
Iraqi oil? ...
The Location Benefit Levy is a simple way to start addressing the
world's last great injustice. Read the whole article
Weld Carter: An Introduction to
is the law of human progress?
George saw ours alone among the civilizations of the world as
still progressing; all others had either petrified or had vanished.
And in our civilization he had already detected alarming evidences of
corruption and decay. So he sought out the forces that create
civilization and the forces that destroy it.
He found the incentives to
progress to be the desires inherent in
human nature, and the motor of progress to be what he called mental
power. But the mental power that is available for progress is only
what remains after nonprogressive demands have been met. These
demands George listed as maintenance and conflict.
In his isolated state, primitive
man's powers are required simply
to maintain existence; only as he begins to associate in communities
and to enjoy the resultant economies is mental power set free for
higher uses. Hence, association is the first essential of progress:
And as the
wasteful expenditure of mental power in conflict
becomes greater or less as the moral law which accords to each an
equality of rights is ignored or is recognized, equality (or justice)
is the second essential of progress.
association in equality is the law of progress. Association
frees mental power for expenditure in improvement, and equality, or
justice, or freedom -- for the terms here signify the same thing, the
recognition of the moral law -- prevents the dissipation of this
power in fruitless struggles.
He concluded this phase of his
analysis of civilization in these
words: "The law of human progress, what is it but the moral law? Just
as social adjustments promote justice, just as they acknowledge the
equality of right between man and man, just as they insure to each
the perfect liberty which is bounded only by the equal liberty of
every other, must civilization advance. Just as they fail in this,
must advancing civilization come to a halt and recede..."
However, as the primary relation
of man is to the earth, so must
the primary social adjustment concern the relation of man to the
earth. Only that social adjustment which affords all mankind equal
access to nature and which insures labor its full earnings will
promote justice, acknowledge equality of right between man and man,
and insure perfect liberty to each.
This, according to George, was
what the single tax would do. It
was why he saw the single tax as not merely a fiscal reform but as
the basic reform without which no other reform could, in the long
run, avail. This is why he said, "What is inexplicable, if we lose
sight of man's absolute and constant dependence upon land, is clear
when we recognize it."
... read the whole article
Weld Carter: A Clarion Call to Sanity, to Honesty, to Justice
This world of ours is currently threatened with disaster of awesome magnitude
on two fronts. The first is the danger of nuclear warfare, most likely occurring
between the United States and the Soviet Union; the second disaster, of even
greater likelihood, is that the currencies of all the major countries of the
world may soon be rendered worthless by inflation. Because the possibility
of nuclear war may be lessened dramatically by the elimination of inflation,
this article will address this second horror which currently engulfs us all.
This paper is predicated on the fact that there is one reform basic to the
extent that no other reform, in its very nature, can possibly avail until this
basic reform is fully adopted and instituted. The whole tenet of this paper
is to demonstrate the verity of this statement.
The above appeal is based on the obvious fact that our entire socio-economic
order has become riddled with lies, corruption and injustice. These claims,
too, will be widely verified.
There must come a yearning for sanity, for honesty, for justice – and
now – else we shall surely perish from the earth. ... read the whole
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. ...
Henry George's teachings involved more than the prescription of specific remedies
for particular evils. The specific remedies which he proposed were means to
an end. The end was the philosophy of freedom as applied to human relations.
I do not say that the majority of the people of the world have given acceptance
to many of his most important teachings. Indeed, in view of the world tendency
since his death to aggrandize the powers of the political state and limit and
subordinate the power of the people, it is self-evident that in this environment
the principles of Henry George could not have won general acceptance. Had they
done so, the world would have made greater progress toward the attainment of
the goal of human freedom and economic contentment which is still the unrealized
aspiration of humanity.
Moreover, many who have believed in the necessity for basic social changes
preferred to ignore the simple and fundamental teachings of Henry George,
and to adopt, instead, the philosophy of Marx and Lenin. It is the wide acceptance
of the doctrines of these false prophets which has contributed to making
economic condition of the masses worse, has reduced their standard of living
and has made of Europe an armed camp. It is their disciples who are now
attempting to introduce here the political and economic theories which in
have culminated in the totalitarian state, together with the host of iniquities
which are inseparably connected with it.
... The second principle to which I wish to refer is Henry George's advocacy
of freedom of trade among the nations — not free trade introduced overnight,
but freedom of trade as an end toward which the nations should move. When he
wrote his great work on "Protection or Free Trade," he demolished
the protectionist argument and in chapter after chapter he showed the absurdities
to which the protectionist principle led if carried to its logical conclusion.
But even he, penetrating as his vision was, could not foresee that mankind
heading for a world order of economic nationalism and isolation, based upon
the principle of protection carried to its utmost extreme. And yet that it
the doctrine which is now currently accepted. If it becomes general, it can
serve only to sow the seeds of destruction of that measure of civilization
now have and force a lowering of the standard of living throughout the world.
There are two ways by which the people of one nation can acquire the property
or goods of the people of another nation. These are by war and by trade. There
are no other methods. The present tendency among civilized people to outlaw
trade must drive the states which prescribe such outlawry to acquire the property
and goods of other peoples by war. Early in man's struggle for existence the
resort to war was the common method adopted. With the advancement of civilization
men resorted to trade as a practical substitute for war. The masses of men
wish to trade with one another. The action of the states alone prevents them
from so doing. In prohibiting trade, the state gives an importance to territorial
boundaries which would not exist if freedom of trade existed. In accentuating
the importance of mere boundary disputes, rather than assuring the right of
peoples to trade with one another, the nations put the emphasis upon the precise
issue which is, itself, one of the most prolific causes of war.
All the great modern states are turning away from freedom of trade, and indeed,
from trade itself, and forbidding their people the right to earn their own
livelihood and to associate freely with one another in industry. In order to
accomplish this end they are compelled to regiment the lives of their people
under state bureaucracies and this can be accomplished only by a despotic state.
If the powers of the modern states are to be augmented by conferring upon them
the right to run all industry, despotism is inevitable. A dictator may, by
reducing the standard of living and regimenting the people, run all industry
within the state over which he rules, but a democracy, which, if it is to be
true to itself, must preserve individual initiative, can not do so without
transforming itself into a dictatorship. ... read the whole speech
Peter Barnes: Capitalism
3.0 — Chapter 2: A Short History of Capitalism (pages 15-32)
About ten thousand years ago, human agriculture and permanent settlements
arose, and with them came private property. Rulers granted ownership of land
to heads of families (usually males). Often, military conquerors distributed
land to their lieutenants. Titles could then be passed to heirs — typically,
oldest sons got everything. ... read
the whole chapter
Henry Ford Talks About War and
Your Future - 1942 interview