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

DWARFED into mere revenue reform the harmony and beauty of free trade are hidden; its moral force is lost; its power to remedy social evils cannot be shown, and the injustice and meanness of protection cannot be arraigned. The "international law of God" becomes a mere fiscal question which appeals only to the intellect and not to the heart, to the pocket and not to the conscience, and on which it is impossible to arouse the enthusiasm that is alone capable of contending with powerful interests. — Protection or Free Trade — Chapter 29: Practical Politics - econlib

THEY [the Physiocrats) were — what the so-called "English free-traders" who have followed Adam Smith never yet have been — free traders in the full sense of the term. In their practical proposition, the single tax, they proposed the only means by which the free trade principle can ever be carried to its logical conclusion — the freedom not merely of trade but of all other forms and modes of production, with full freedom of access to the natural element which is essential to all production. They were the authors of the motto that in the English use of the phrase "Laissez faire!" "Let things alone," has been so emasculated and perverted, but which on their lips was "Laissez faire, laissez aller!" "Clear the ways and let things alone." This is said to come from the cry that in medieval tournaments gave the signal for combat, The English motto which I take to come closest to the spirit of the French phrase is, "A fair field and no favor!" — The Science of Political Economy

HERE is a traveler who, beset by robbers, has been left bound, blindfolded, and gagged. Shall we stand in a knot about him and discuss whether to put a piece of court-plaster on his cheek or a new patch on his coat, or shall we dispute with each other as to what road he ought to take, and whether a bicycle, a tricycle, a horse and wagon, or a railway, would best help him on? Should we not rather postpone such discussion until we have cut the man's bonds? Then he can see for himself, speak for himself, and help himself. Though with a scratched cheek and a torn coat, he may get on his feet, and if he cannot find a conveyance to suit him, he will at least be free to walk.

Very much like such a discussion is a good deal of that now going on over "the social problem" — a discussion in which all sorts of inadequate and impossible schemes are advocated to the neglect of the simple plan of removing restrictions and giving Labor the use of its powers. — Protection or Free Trade — Chapter 28: Free Trade and Socialism - econlib -|- abridged 

... go to "Gems from George"

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

Though "the single tax" is the English form of "l'impot unique" the name of the French physiocratic doctrine of the eighteenth century, the names have no historical connection, and they stand for different ideas. ... read the book

Fred Foldvary:  The Rent, the Whole Rent, and Nothing but the Rent

... The philosophy and economics of using rent for community services and sharing the rent equally is called "geoism." The economist Henry George popularized this idea, so it has been called "Georgism" after him, although the concept was proposed a hundred years earlier by the French economists calling themselves the Physiocrats, physiocracy meaning the rule of natural law.
  • Some geoists think that land rent belongs equally to members of local or global communities, so it should be distributed to the residents in equal shares as a "citizens' dividend" to spend on personal or civic services as the individuals choose.
  • Other geoists think that all the natural rent and the rentals due to government civic works and services should be the "single tax" spent primarily on governance and public goods, with any remaining revenues distributed as dividends.
  • Anarchist geoists consider the rent and civic rentals as the best source of community revenue, but only among those who choose to belong to such a community network. ... 
The public and community collection of rent puts land at its most productive use, maximizing the wages of workers while minimizing sprawl as well as boom/bust cycles. We need to understand rent to fully understand the market process and the cause and remedy of many of today's social problems. Read the whole article

Mason Gaffney:  Oil and Gas Leasing: a Study in Pseudo-Socialism
Thus, to define Distributive Socialism we need to define "surpluses." These are primarily rents from lands and resources given by nature. In an open tax jurisdiction, labor and capital are mobile and their supply is elastic; only land is fixed. Land rent is the basic taxable surplus. Where there is no land rent, an attempt to levy any tax can only abort production and land use, rather than collect the tax. Where is there no land rent?
  • First, there is no rent generated on "marginal" land that is just barely worth using at all.
  • Second, and more generally, there is no rent generated by marginal increments of labor and capital applied on any land, from the best to the worst.
  • Otherwise, all production on land generates some rent, which is a taxable surplus.

The statement above expresses "The Physiocratic Doctrine" of tax incidence, harking back to Francois Quesnay, and even earlier writers like John Locke and Jacob Vanderlint. The Doctrine has staying power: it is used, for example, by Bogart, Bradford, and Williams writing in the National Tax Journal, December, 1992, on tax incidence in New Jersey. ...

Capital, unlike land, migrates among taxing jurisdictions. The return to reproducible, depreciable capital is not, therefore, generally a surplus. Capital differs from land. Capital has to be attracted, and, if domestically generated, dissuaded from emigrating. It is true that in the short run existing capital, if affixed to land, cannot be exported. Its returns thereby become a temporary taxable surplus -- hence the name "quasi-rent." Capital can still be dissaved, however, through neglect of maintenance, and will not be replaced. The demonstration effect of disappointing old investors' earlier expectations will have a high cost in repelling future investing by them and others. Old buildings, unmaintained, will shed blight on their surroundings. Non-replacement, in a dynamic world, guarantees early obsolescence. Capital finds many subtle ways of emigrating, or being disinvested and consumed. Its yields are not really a taxable surplus when we factor in the consequences of trying to tax them: withering away of the community.

The Physiocratic rule, which may seem novel and subtle in tax discourse, stands out nakedly whenever landowners, public or private, negotiate leases. If a lessee is required to pay a share of his gross sales (a royalty), he compensates by offering that much less on the "bid variable," (often a "bonus" paid up front). Lessors and lessees understand this well: it is central to all their negotiations. Whatever the twists and turns, the rule of compensation applies: take more here, get less there. The lessee is to supply labor and capital at full cost; acquiring use of land will yield him a surplus above costs. That surplus is all he can and will pay for. The maximum of economic surplus is the rent of land in its highest and best legal use. ...

...Distributive Socialism, then, means tapping land and resource rents for the public. On the public domain, acknowledged to be public property, the institutional basis of Distributive Socialism is fully in place. We need only apply a good leasing system, keeping rent payments up to current values. On fee simple lands, Distributive Socialism means and requires modifying tax systems to rifle in on rents.

Rifling in is essential. Recall, the Physiocratic rule of compensation says all taxes are shifted to rents anyway; some take that to mean any tax will do. However, "broad-based" taxes like VAT or a general sales tax sterilize lands that would be just marginal before tax. They also abort all marginal and near-marginal activity on all lands, for marginal inputs (where marginal cost equals price) generate no rent. That in turn forces rates to be kept low, to avoid destroying half the economy. Such taxes socialize all the rent from lands that are now made marginal after-tax, but leave most rent untapped on the most rentable lands and resources. Taxes that rifle in on rent, on the other hand, inherently exempt marginal activity. They may be set at very high rates, tapping more of the taxable surplus, or rent. Read the entire article

Mason Gaffney: The Taxable Surplus of Land: Measuring, Guarding and Gathering It

1. Common Property in Land is Compatible with the Market Economy.
2. The Net Product of Land is the Taxable Surplus
A. To socialize the taxable surplus, land rent, effectively, you must define and identify it carefully, and structure your taxes to home in on it.
B. Taxable surplus is also what you can tax without driving land into the wrong use.
C. To tax rent we must be sure there is rent to tax, and we must adopt public policies to husband and maximize it, and avoid policies that lower and dissipate it.
i. Avoid "perverse subsidies."
ii. Avoid letting lessees of public land conceal their revenues.
iii. Avoid letting lessees or taxpayers pad their costs to understate their net revenues.
iv. Avoid dissipating rent by allowing open access to resources like fisheries,
v. Avoid trying to distribute rents to consumers by capping prices below the market.
D. Raising output by removing tax bias
E. Maximizing public revenue.
F. Sustaining the tax base
3. Taxing the Net Product of Land Permits Untaxing Labor
4. Taxing the Net Product of Land Permits Untaxing Capital
5. Taxing the Net Product of Land Provides Ample Public Revenues: a Master Solution to Many Problems
A. Public revenues will support the ruble.
B. Your public credit will, of course, recover to AAA rating when lenders see that there is a strong flow of revenue to pay public debts.
C. Never again need you bend to any "advice" or commands from alien lenders, nor endure patronizing, humiliating homilies from alien bankers, nor beg any foreign power for aid.
D. If you again feel the need (as I hope you will not) to rebuild your military, you will of course require strong revenues.
E. Strong national revenues are required to unite Russia, and keep it one nation.
1. Common Property in Land is Compatible with the Market Economy.
You can enjoy the benefits of a market economy without sacrificing your common rights to the land of Russia. There is no need to make a hard choice between the two. One of the great fallacies that western economists and bankers are foisting on you is that you have to give up one to enjoy the other. These counselors work through lending and granting agencies that seduce you with loans and grants to learn and accept their ideology, which they variously call Neo-Classical Economics, or "monetarism," or "liberalization." It is glitter to distract you and pave the way for aliens to acquire and control your resources. 

To keep land common while shifting to a market economy, you simply use the tax system. Taxation is the form that common property takes in a monetary, market-oriented economy. To tax is to socialize. It's then just a simple question of what you will socialize through taxation, and how; but in the answers lie success or failure.

Not only can you have both common land and free markets, you can't have one without the other. They go together, like love and marriage. You need market prices to help identify land's taxable surplus, which is the net product of land after deducting the human costs of using it. At the same time, you must support government from land revenues to have a truly free market, because otherwise you will raise taxes from production, trade, and capital formation, interfering with free markets. If you learn this second point, and act on it, you will have a much freer market than any of the OECD nations that now presume to instruct you, and that are campaigning vigorously to make all nations in the world "harmonize" their taxes to conform with their own abysmal systems.

The very people who gave us the term laissez-faire -- the slogan at the core of a free market economy -- made communizing land rents a central part of their program. These were the French economistes of the 18th Century, sometimes called "Physiocrats," who were the tutors of Adam Smith, and who inspired land reforms throughout Europe. The best-known of them were François Quesnay and A.R. Jacques Turgot, who championed land taxation. They accurately called it the "co-proprietorship of land by the state."

Mason Gaffney: Full Employment, Growth And Progress On A Small Planet: Relieving Poverty While Healing The Earth

12. George and religion. Georgist value judgements come from the world’s great religions. George’s overt religiosity contrasts sharply with the militant atheism of Marx. This did not stop the Vatican under Pope Leo XIII from putting George’s works on the Index of Forbidden Books, where they evidently still remain. Leo excommunicated George’s ally, Fr. Edward McGlynn, and let Archbishop Michael Corrigan of New York order his flock to vote against George for mayor, 1886. George was not anti-Catholic – he married one. It was Pope Leo who was anti-Georgist. (Gaffney, 2000, and works there cited). At the same time, George’s icons included Enlightenment Deists like the French Physiocrats, Paine, and Jefferson, and Radical Republican land reformers like Lincoln, and Sen. George Julian of Indiana.... read the whole article

Albert Jay Nock — Henry George: Unorthodox American

Progress and Poverty is the first and only thorough, complete, scientific inquiry ever made into the fundamental cause of industrial depressions and involuntary poverty. The ablest minds of the century attacked and condemned it — Professor Huxley, the Duke of Argyll, Goldwin Smith, Leo XIII, Frederic Harrison, John Bright, Joseph Chamberlain. Nevertheless, in a preface to the definitive edition, George said what very few authors of a technical work have ever been able to say, that he had not met with a single criticism or objection that was not fully anticipated and answered in the book itself. For years he debated its basic positions with any one who cared to try, and was never worsted.

... Like John Bright, nearly every one credited the “American inventor” a brand-new discovery in his idea of confiscating economic rent. George did in fact come by the idea independently, but others whom he had never heard of came by it long before him. Precisely the same proposal had been made in the eighteenth century by men whom Mr. Bright might have thought twice about snubbing — the French school known as the Economists, which included Quesnay, Turgot, du Pont de Nemours, Mirabeau, le Trosne, Gournay. They even used the term l’impot unique, “the single tax,” which George’s American disciples arrived at independently, and which George accepted. The idea of confiscating rent also occurred to Patrick Edward Dove at almost the same time that it occurred to George. It had been broached in England almost a century earlier by Thomas Spence, and again in Scotland by William Ogilvie, a professor at Aberdeen. George’s doctrine of the confiscation of social values was also explicitly anticipated by Thomas Paine, in his pamphlet called Agrarian Justice.

George’s especial merit is not that of original discovery, though his discovery was original — as much so as those of Darwin and Wallace. It was simply not new; Turgot had even set forth the principle on which George formulated the law of wages, though George did not know that any one had done so. George’s great merit is that of having worked out his discovery to its full logical length in a complete system, which none of his predecessors did; not only establishing fundamental economics as a true science, but also discerning and clearly marking out its natural relations with history, politics, and ethics. ...read the whole article

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

The concept of taxing land values for public finance is ancient. The Bible declares “the profit of the Earth is for all” (Ecclesiastes 5:9). Land rent financed government in England during the Middle Ages.9 During the 1700s, some French economists proposed an “impöt unique” or single tax on land value. Calling their theory “physiocracy” (the rule of natural law), they outlined a model of economic development that used land value taxes to finance public works, which increased the value of the land (and thus increased taxes paid to the treasury), resulting in an upward spiral of development and prosperity. The principal physiocratic economist, François Quesnay, wrote

Taxes ... should be laid directly on the net product of landed property, and not on men’s wages, or on produce, where they would increase the cost of collection, operate to the detriment of trade, and destroy every year a portion of the nation’s wealth. [Emphasis in the original.]10 ... read the whole document

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