Wealth and Want
... because democracy alone is not enough to produce widely shared prosperity.
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Henry George is only the most famous of those who have advocated these ideas.  He was certainly not the first.  Interestingly, he arrived at his ideas quite independently.  The process by which he got there is described in Progress & Poverty.

H.G. Brown: Significant Paragraphs from Henry George's Progress & Poverty: 10. Effect of Remedy Upon Wealth Production (in the unabridged P&P: Part IX — Effects of the Remedy: Chapter 1 — Of the effect upon the production of wealth)

The elder Mirabeau, we are told, ranked the proposition of Quesnay, to substitute one single tax on rent (the impôt unique) for all other taxes, as a discovery equal in utility to the invention of writing or the substitution of the use of money for barter.

To whosoever will think over the matter, this saying will appear an evidence of penetration rather than of extravagance. The advantages which would be gained by substituting for the numerous taxes by which the public revenues are now raised, a single tax levied upon the value of land, will appear more and more important the more they are considered.

  • This is the secret which would transform the little village into the great city.*
  • With all the burdens removed which now oppress industry and hamper exchange, the production of wealth would go on with a rapidity now undreamed of.
  • This, in its turn, would lead to an increase in the value of land — a new surplus which society might take for general purposes.
  • And released from the difficulties which attend the collection of revenue in a way that begets corruption and renders legislation the tool of special interests, society could assume functions which the increasing complexity of life makes it desirable to assume, but which the prospect of political demoralization under the present system now leads thoughtful men to shrink from.

    *At the beginning of Book IX of the complete Progress & Poverty, Henry George quotes from Themistocles: "I cannot play upon any stringed instrument, but I can tell you how of a little village to make a great and glorious city." ... read the whole chapter

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.

Proposals to share rent have surfaced before - in antiquity by Moses in the West and Mencius in the East. In the modern era, the idea appears in a century cycle:
  • In the 1600s, philosopher John Locke questioned "the 'sacredness' of property". Biblical scholar Spinoza proposed public ownership of land. Quaker William Penn and Pilgrim William Bradford urged the shift from taxes to Ground Rent.
  • In the 1700s, the physiocrats, which included Quesnay and Turgot, Thomas Jefferson and Tom Paine, advocated taxing only land. One wise man, Mirabeau the Elder, called the discovery of l'impot unique (the single tax) as momentous as the invention of writing.
  • In the 1800s Europe had J. S. Mill and America Henry George, author of Progress and Poverty which outsold every book but the Bible. Candidate for mayor of New York, he was cheated out of his victory by Tammany Hall. George inspired most of the real-world implementations of the land tax that some jurisdictions enjoy today. ...  Read the whole article

William Ogilvie: An Essay on the Right of Property in Land (1782) and D. C. MacDonald's Preface to that essay, found in the 1891 edition of Birthright in Land by George Morton

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