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These ideas are known by a number of names.  Geonomy, Property Tax Shift, Geo-Libertarian, Geo-classical, Georgist, Community Ground Rent, Land Value Taxation, Single Tax, ...  Here are references and etymology for a few of them...

Kris Feder: Progress and Poverty Today

Georgist (or "geoclassical") economic analysis

  • bears directly upon the current difficulties of Russia and other nations emerging from communism, upon the international debt crisis, and upon the world-wide pressure on environmental and natural resources.
  • It is relevant to the common experience of chronic budget deficits, both municipal and federal.
  • It can be applied to the problems of corruption in government, and of the concentration of political power associated with concentration of wealth.
  • It provides an ideal framework for the analysis of environmental pollution and the design of environmental policy.
  • Indeed, readers will notice that the modern environmental movement in certain respects seems to be grappling toward a rediscovery of Georgist proposals.

Many American cities are plagued by the twin problems of urban decay and suburban sprawl. An expanding network of roads and highways carries commuters ever farther to their jobs. Fleeing the problems of the city, citizens build new homes in the quiet countryside only to find that traffic congestion, pollution, noise and urban social problems are flung outward with the movement of population. Sociologists decry the loss of community, while environmentalists warn of the potentially disastrous consequences of automobile pollution, habitat loss, deforestation and ecosystem disruption. Economists point to the billions of dollars worth of wasted physical and human capital left behind in the crumbling central cities - where the urban poor remain stranded to fend for themselves, with few jobs and, as municipal tax revenues shrink, declining public services. Yet several years before the automobile appeared, Henry George analyzed the dynamics of urban growth and decay. He explained the basic processes that yield an inappropriate geographic distribution of population, inefficient land use, and urban blight. Enlightened urban economists and transportation planners today advocate Georgist policy reforms at the municipal level.

Thus, George's synthesis informs a research program of remarkable breadth. Some writers understand Georgism to constitute a distinct paradigm of political economy, one which reconciles the contradictions between the two competing paradigms dominant in the world today - the mainstream neoclassical school, which tends to focus on the impressive efficiency properties of free markets, and Marxist socialism. Other Georgist writers believe that Georgism can and should be explained in the modern language of neoclassical economics. What is certain is that geoclassical thought bears crucially on some of the foremost controversies in America and the world today. Read the whole article

Nic Tideman: The Shape of a World Inspired by Henry George
How would the world look if its political institutions were shaped by the conception of social justice advanced by Henry George?
I. Social Justice as the Climax and Logical Foundation of Progress and Poverty
II. The Functions of a Theory of Justice
III. Applying George's Theory of Justice to Land Rights Among Nations
IV. Applying George's Theory of Justice to Some Other Connections Among Nations
V. Differences in Ability and in Wealth
VI. Resources that Fluctuate over Time
VII. Justice Among Nations with Respect to Population Growth
VIII. What to Do When Some Nations Fail to Fulfill Their Obligations
IX. Justice Within Nations
X. Conclusion

The theory needs a simple name. I suggest calling this theory, this perspective on social justice the Geoliberal perspective. Liberal for its commitment to individual liberty. Geo- for its attention to land, for its planetary perspective, and for its reliance on the ideas of George. If you like these ideas, I invite you call yourself a geoliberal. I invite you to help me work out its implications, to explain geoliberalism to others, and develop a public dialogue about its value and implications. As Henry George said, "Until there be correct thought, there cannot be right action; and when there is correct thought, right action WILL follow." ...   Read the whole article

Nic Tideman: Basic Principles of Geonomics
A geonomy respects the freedom of individuals, the limits of the environment, and the claims of future generations. Individuals must be free to organize their economic lives as they wish, within bounds determined by the equal freedom of others and the recognition that land, natural resources and environmental amenities are the common heritage of all generations.  ...

To summarize, the basic principles of geonomics are:

1. Equal sharing of land and natural resources, achieved by:
a. public collection of the rental value of land and of appropriate fees for broadcast rights and other opportunities that must be assigned exclusively, for depletion of natural resources, and for causing pollution or engaging in other activities that reduce the value of surrounding land;
b. equal sharing among the population of that part of rent and other public revenue not attributable to public services;
2. Elimination of taxes on labor, capital and enterprise, limiting government revenue to the items mentioned in 1.a. above;
3. Economic freedom, encompassing free enterprise, free trade, and freedom to use foreign currencies;
4. Assignment of the ownership of previously centralized enterprises to all workers in proportion to the number of years they have worked, through shares in mutual funds whose managers are rewarded in proportion to the profits earned. ...  Read the whole article

Jeff Smith and Kris Nelson: Giving Life to the Property Tax Shift (PTS)
John Muir is right. "Tug on any one thing and find it connected to everything else in the universe." Tug on the property tax and find it connected to urban slums, farmland loss, political favoritism, and unearned equity with disrupted neighborhood tenure. Echoing Thoreau, the more familiar reforms have failed to address this many-headed hydra at its root. To think that the root could be chopped by a mere shift in the property tax base -- from buildings to land -- must seem like the epitome of unfounded faith. Yet the evidence shows that state and local tax activists do have a powerful, if subtle, tool at their disposal. The "stick" spurring efficient use of land is a higher tax rate upon land, up to even the site's full annual value. The "carrot" rewarding efficient use of land is a lower or zero tax rate upon improvements. ...

A big problem needs a big solution which in turn needs a matching shift of our prevailing paradigm. Geonomics -- advocating that we share the social value of sites and natural resources and untax earnings -- does just that. Read the whole article

Karl Williams:  Social Justice In Australia: INTRODUCTORY KIT
Geonomics (geo- earth, -onomy law) is the alternative. It represents the most radical and breathtaking examination of human rights you'll ever come across, backed up with detailed economic solutions. But isn't something drastic to be expected, for an economic and social system like our current one that is so flawed surely requires a radical remedy? If it's busted big time, it surely needs to be fixed big time.

Let's approach it from a number of different angles to try and try to shed light on its many facets.
  • The philosophical appeal could be embodied as "Land and natural resources - the Global Commons - should be the equal and common birthright of all humanity."
  • From an economic perspective, we could characterise our standpoint as a radical reform of the tax system and our form of land tenure.
  • Coming from a social justice angle, we could be seen as striving to abolish all forms of privilege (including some massive injustices which are presently almost completely concealed).
  • Environmentally, we are monitoring and conserving a whole range of natural resources, rather than selling them off forever to the highest cash bidder.
  • From libertarian eyes, Geonomics restores a number of basic human liberties which are particularly violated through our current tax system.
  • Putting on our visionary spectacles, we see a possible world of almost unimaginable prosperity - not in merely material terms, but with regard to leisure time, our natural environment, human relations, and personal & spiritual growth.
If we appear to be dreamers, then you should know that the solutions underlying these grand declarations are expressed in detailed economic policies rather than vague principles and motherhood statements. Furthermore, these policies have been put to the test in many parts of the Western world. While Geonomists are agreed on important issues, some still disagree on a number of minor aspects - but it will be some time before we need to get to this level of detail.

Essentially, the basis of our proposals is the replacement of nearly all forms of taxation with a system of rentals or taxes on the Global Commons, in particular on land values. ...

Prosper Australia (also known as EarthSharing) and its far-flung sister organisations are brought together by a social conscience underpinned by a belief that there really is a practical way to a much more just, green and prosperous society. Because our proposals are so radical, far-reaching and thereby so difficult to briefly describe, perhaps it's no surprise that it goes under so many names, such as:
  • Geonomics - this is the term mainly used here
  • Land Value Taxation
  • Georgist Economics or Georgism
  • Community Ground Rent
  • Site Value Rating · EarthSharing
  • Ground Rent Collection
  • Land Value Recapture
  • Resource Rentals
Prosper Australia is the new name for an organisation that is over 100 years old. It is an educational body set up to advance the cause of Geonomics, in particular through the ideas of Henry George. Presently, while we are expanding our numbers, we are an educational rather than a political organisation. There are allied organisations all over the world, mainly in English-speaking countries. ...

We are philanthropists of a sort, all working for the love of a great cause except for our office manager who receives a very modest allowance. We see ourselves striving to bring about a vision of an immeasurably-improved world seen through our studies of a radical economic and social system. ...

Some of us consider ourselves followers of the 19th century American social philosopher and economist, Henry George, and hence call ourselves Georgists. Henry George didn't "invent" Geonomics or Georgism, but he did rediscover it and elaborate its finer details and full consequences more than anyone else to date. Unbeknown to George, some of the world's greatest thinkers had already independently proposed much the same thing - Rousseau, Spinoza, Voltaire, the French Physiocrats, Paine, Jefferson, Cobden, Carlyle and Mill are just a few.  Read the entire article

Jeff Smith: Sharing Natural Rents to Sustain Human Society
To get rich, or more likely to stay rich, some of us can develop land, especially sprawling shopping centers, and extract resources, especially oil. While sprawl and oil depletion are not necessary, they are more profitable than a car-free functionally integrated city. Under the current rules of doing business, waste returns more than efficiency. We let a few privatize rent -- ground rent and resource rent -- although rent is a social surplus. As if rent were not profit enough, winners of rent have also won further state favors -- tax breaks, liability limits, subsidies, and a host of others designed to impel growth (20 major ones follow herein).

If we are to sustain our selves, our civilization, and our eco-system, we must make some hard choices about property. What we decide to do with rent, whether we let it reward our exploiting or our attaining eco-librium, matters. Imagine society waking up to the public nature of rent. Then it would collect and share its surplus that manifests as the market value of sites, resources, the spectrum, and government-granted privileges. Then we could forego taxing labor and capital. On such a level playing field, this freed market would favor efficiency -- the compact city -- not waste -- the mall and automobile. ...

Drawing their cue from the public, governments tolerate "rentention", the private retention of publicly-generated land values. Lacking this Rent, states turn to taxes. But to grow the economy, all governments -- left, right, or undecided -- hustle to stimulate development; they cut taxes and slop subsidies. Going beyond the call of duty, the state excuses producers' their routine pollution and limit liability, thereby cutting the cost of insurance. Companies that don't impose on nature, worker, or customer are not benefited at all but lose a competitive advantage. On this tilted playing field, one with the lumps of subsidies and the tilts of taxes, technologies lean and clean have a hard time competing as suppliers of materials, homes, food, rides, and energy. ...

Geonomics draws its power to predict and fix what ails economies by being grounded in reality. It holds to the notion that economies are not apart from but part of the embracing eco-system. As part of whole, economies self-regulate by the same natural feedback loops. The prey/predator cycle is mimicked by the pricing cycle, also known as the Law of Supply and Demand. This familiar pattern is found, too, in the Share Rent Cycle.

(1)  Getting more rent, people work less, so output drops.
(2)  Less output lowers land values and deflates the rent-share.
(3)  Getting less rent, people work more.
(4) More output raises site values and swells the rent-share.
(1) Again, ad infinitum.

Thus, production is put into balance with consumption and work with play. Geonomics yields a policy that's not at war with but aligned with nature as model. Perhaps the most central feature of economics is price. Price is to production what DNA is to reproduction, the guides to growth. Rather than distort price with taxes and subsidies, with license (so-called "externalities") and rent-retention, geonomics respects the integrity of price, allowing it to accurately reflect our costs and values, by sharing rent. Then economies ("geonomies") can operate without the deadweight losses of taxation and rent seeking. ...

To sustain that which we love, we must transform our relationships to nature, to government, and to each other. We need to become geonomists in worldview, theory, discipline, and policy. Geonomics creates an economy that's not at war with but aligned with the natural world. ...  Read the whole article

Fred Foldvary: A Geoist Robinson Crusoe Story

Once upon a time, Robinson G. Crusoe was the only survivor of a ship that sunk. He floated on a piece of wood to an unpopulated island. Robinson was an absolute geoist. He believed with his mind, heart, and soul that everyone should have an equal share of land rent.

Since he was the only person on this island, it was all his. He surveyed the island and found that the only crop available for cultivation was alfalfa sprouts. The land was divided into 5 grades that could grow 8, 6, 4, 2, and zero bushels of alfalfa sprouts per month. There was one acre each for 8, 6, and 4, and 100 acres of 2-bushel land. For 8 hours per day of labor, he could work 4 acres. So he could grow, per month, 8+6+4+2 = 20 bushels of alfalfa sprouts, much more than enough to feed on.

One day another survivor of a sunken ship floated to the island. His name was Friday George. Friday was a boring talker and kept chattering about trivialities, which greatly irritated Robinson. "I possess the whole island. You may only have this rocky area," said Robinson. ... Read the whole piece

Bill Batt: The Compatibility of Georgist Economics and Ecological Economics
In the Georgist view, this economic rent is the public’s birthright,47 and the failure to collect it and to use it to pay for the general costs of government services is a moral as well as a public policy lapse. Georgists regard the private confiscation of public wealth as mistaken policy if not actually an immoral transgression — in a word, theft! He himself was an advocate of the public owning and protecting “the commons” and what is today often called “natural capital.” Studies have shown that if economic rent were collected in full as well as other appropriate revenues such as user fees and green taxes, the total income would likely be enough to pay not only the costs of all government services but provide a citizens’ dividend of significant amounts as well.48 Statistical data is difficult to compile, but what studies have been attempted to date indicate that economic rent in all its forms and from all its sources comprises approximately a third of the economy as it is currently calculated.49 Arrangements such as these are to the followers of Henry George a far more efficient and moral system of public finance. ...

The commonalities of Georgist economics and ecological economics appear to be organizable into six general points:
1) preservation of the commons,
2) sustainable development,
3) appropriate valuation of natural capital,
4) ensuring social and biological community,
5) fostering individual self-realization, and
6) securing economic justice.
Implicit in all these points is the view that market activity needs to be circumscribed and juxtaposed to the non-human, biological realm. It appears that there is lots to be gained by some synthesis of the two fields of discourse.

Ecological economists worry about the encroachment, and even the elimination, of those elements of nature to which private property title has not been granted. In their concern about the need to protect the “commons,” they are torn between the view that only through privatization can all the world’s assets be preserved and the alternative view that any private appropriation of the commons constitutes a moral compromise. They fear a repeat of Garrett Hardin’s “tragedy of the commons.” Their argument often proposed is rather complex to explicate: it assumes that private property titles may perhaps provide the best incentive not to exploit the fruits of the earth and the earth itself.126 To Georgists, on the other hand, the earth and all its resources are already in fact the birthright of all humanity; individuals are entitled to its use in return for the payment of rents. Further privatization is anathema. The key rather is in distinguishing the various components of ownership and getting prices right— mainly in the collection of economic rents.... read the whole article

Bill Batt: How the Railroads Got Us On the Wrong Economic Track
The Corruption of Economics

As I explained, classical economics emerged from a school of thinkers known as the Scottish moralists in the latter part of the 18th century. There ultimately evolved three major schools of economic thought a century later,

  • one continuing tradition of Adam Smith through J.S. Mill,
  • a second being the aggressive and emerging school of Marxism, and
  • the third a proposal for two-factor economics being pressed largely by interests in America.

Marxism was never a major force in United States; the primary challenge to the classical tradition came from what has since come to be known as neo-classical economics.

Professor Gaffney has for the first time shown how powerful economic interests in American society essentially bought the leading figures of the newly-established American Economics Association with all the blandishments that can be used to influence academicians. Leading scholars were induced to change definitions of terms so that special interests would be advantaged. What were those interests? Primarily the railroad industry, which at the time was probably the most powerful political force in America. By changing definitions and conflating the land factor into capital, it was no longer essential for land rent to be paid in taxes, and the railroads, holders of some of the most valuable land in the nation, were thereby able to escape their full duty. This is an astonishing story, one never fully spelled out until now, and it explains both how the academic community was beholden to powerful interests and how many of the social problems we see today could have been avoided.

The classical tradition of economic thought was ably synthesized and represented by one dominant figure of the age: Henry George. All but forgotten today, perhaps in good part due to the assiduous disparagement of his economic foes, one should note that he was more widely known in his time in America than anyone except Thomas Edison. His 1879 book, Progress and Poverty, sold more copies throughout the world than any book till that time except the Bible. Born in Philadelphia the son of a publisher of religious books, he travelled to California as a young man to make his fortune as a journalist. But what he saw in land speculation and the exploitation of labor soon led him to study the classical economists and to write his ideas down. Upon publication of his book he shortly became known throughout the world, and travelled and lectured widely as a social reformer for the rest of his life. By the time he died he had become so famous that he almost won the mayoralty of the city of New York. He ran twice, losing to Tammany Hall the first time in what was probably a corrupt election (but beating the third-place finisher, Theodore Roosevelt) in 1886, and died four days before a second election he might have won in 1897. As a spellbinding orator and lucid writer, he captivated the world with his vision of societies made more just by a proper understanding of economics. Gaffney shows that it was George, not Marx, that was the primary threat to dominant interests in end-of-century United States. He had to be stopped, and he was.

In classical economics, the definition of capital grew out of labor mixed with earlier capital. Land, by conventional definition, was not capital, nor was it a component of wealth. Rather land was its own category. Conflating land into capital allowed land rent to be hidden and diluted in ways so that the unearned increment arising from social improvements fell to speculators rather thabeing returned to society in rent.

The failure of society to recapture the appropriate level of land rent from titleholders led also to depression of labor wages at the margin, creating poverty and artificial scarcity of labor where otherwise it could be relieved. Hence the title of George's book, Progress and Poverty. George recognized that the value of any land parcel arose out of its social activity, not from anything which a titleholder might have done to it. He recognized that many, perhaps most, titleholders in land were speculators, reaping the benefit of others' investments, and selling out at last when their price was met. Hence it made sense that society had a right to a return on what it had brought about, as well as from the fact that those titles could never be other than leaseholds. That land rent, shortly confused by use of the words "single tax," was, to George, the rightful return to society.

The railroad barons of the 19th century were not just coincidentally the land barons. They also had strong holds on the founding and growth of the major American universities of the period, some of which carry their names. Johns Hopkins, Andrew Dickson White, Daniel Gilman, John D. Rockefeller, George Leland Stanford, Nicholas Murray Butler were all as attached to various universities in the country as they were to powerful railroad interests. They were able, through their control of universities either as actual presidents or as benefactors to influence the dominant figures responsible for establishing the American Economic Association in 1885. The actual intrigue is too complex to be recounted here: who got appointed and promoted, who was funded in research, which were given endowed chairs, who got stock options, and so on. The preoccupation with defeating Henry George, Gaffney shows, was a paramount preoccupation of all of these figures. The central figures were:

  • Francis Walker, first president of the AEA, then President of MIT and Director of the Census Bureau.
  • Richard Ely, also founder of the AEA, and professor of economics at University of Wisconsin and later Northwestern, there granted his own Institute with railroad money.
  • John Bates Clark, Professor of Economics at Columbia University, and whose patron was Julius Seelye, President of Amherst College and then Smith College.
  • E.R.A. Seligman, Chairman of the Economics Department at Columbia University and scion of a wealthy banking family.

These figures are even today the honored founders of an esteemed profession. So great was their victory over rival schools of thought that they are a century later seen as paragons of clear thinking and virtue. The intrigue and the inside deals are long forgotten. The lineage to contemporary scholarship continues in a "chain unbroken from Seelye to Clark to Johnson to Knight to Stigler, Friedman, Harberger and now thousands of Chicago-oriented economists." Indeed, when Henry George ran for mayor of New York in 1897, it was against the wealthy patrician Seth Low, President of Columbia University, who had recently recruited Clark to come to Columbia. To really understand the academic tension of the period, one must look at the published papers, the speeches and debates, the newspaper articles, and the citations at the end of those articles. These, even more than the interlocking directorates of faculty appointments, explain how much George was opposed, perhaps more feared. Was it for the falsity of his views? Clearly not, as few critics then or since then have managed to strike a knock-out blow against his theories. Rather, it was the threat George represented to powerful interests that required him to be defeated, and in doing so they succeeded but only in the short run, as they were within decades victims of their very successes. Today we see that the railroads have failed in this country for lack of traffic. It will soon be evident why.

There were many arguments to be made for the classical tradition the result of which would be to rely upon payment of rent of land according to its value to society. George recognized that land value is largely a function of how society has elected to invest in any general neighborhood; there is no argument for any one titleholder to reap the reward of what others have invested. Gaffney points out that, from the standpoint of economic theory, the framework had the following virtues:

  • It reconciled common land rights with private tenure, free markets and modern capitalism, a growing and persistent problem as the industrial society took hold.
  • It enabled the lowering of taxes on labor without raising taxes on capital.
  • It reconciled equity and efficiency. It constituted a progressive tax because land is concentrated so much among the wealthy and because the tax cannot be shifted. It was efficient because it is neutral among different land-use options.
  • It constituted no disincentive to business location or population settlement. In this way it encouraged the most efficient land use and discouraged sprawl.
  • It created jobs without inflation, and raised government revenue without any penalty upon its base.
  • It strengthened public revenues and at the same time promotes economy in government.

Those economists who today still persistently hold to the view that there is something special about land that make it unwise to treat as a form of capital are known as Georgists. They represent a small minority of the economics profession, but, little known as they are, they are among its most esteemed members.

Two-factor economics, however, had advantages to influential individuals and special interests. Land speculators who were positioned to profit from knowing where locational values would increase, or were in a position to cause those increases, could quickly and easily reap a private gain. Simply by holding title to parcels of real property, without doing anything at all to increase their value, one could quickly turn a profit. This is because the increment of unearned increases resulting from social investments were left for owners to reap rather than recovered by society. In three-factor economics, land rent reverted to society in an automatic and efficient manner. When a railroad magnate like George Leland Stanford extended the Southern Pacific track to the east of Los Angeles on land that he was granted by the government, all he then needed to do was to sit back and wait for the land sales to give him a return on that which was made more valuable by his investment in the line. All across America, land speculators learned that capturing monopoly titles to tracts of land allowed them to quickly and easily turn a "profit" on their investment yet hardly raising a finger. ...

Professor Gaffney has for the first time shown how powerful economic interests in American society essentially bought the leading figures of the newly-established American Economics Association with all the blandishments that can be used to influence academicians. Leading scholars were induced to change definitions of terms so that special interests would be advantaged. What were those interests? Primarily the railroad industry, which at the time was probably the most powerful political force in America. By changing definitions and conflating the land factor into capital, it was no longer essential for land rent to be paid in taxes, and the railroads, holders of some of the most valuable land in the nation, were thereby able to escape their full duty. This is an astonishing story, one never fully spelled out until now, and it explains both how the academic community was beholden to powerful interests and how many of the social problems we see today could have been avoided.  ... read the whole article

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