Wealth and Want
... because democracy alone is not enough to produce widely shared prosperity.
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Single Parents

Thirty years ago, one salary, even a woman's (on average 75% or so of a man's salary) was enough to support a family — not luxuriously, but manageably.  This meant that a divorced woman could provide for her family, or a single mother could provide provide for herself and a child.  It also meant that while children were young, a married couple could afford to have one parent at home caring for the children full-time, if they chose.

Today, the picture is very different.  It takes two salaries to support a family, and the families of single parents are at a distinct disadvantage.  Where has all the money gone?  Gone to landholders, every one.  When will we ever learn?

Take a look at Elizabeth Warren and Amelia Tyagi's book "The Two Income Trap ..." for some of the specifics.

But had we as a society been wise enough -- that is, our parents', or grandparents', or great-grandparents' generations -- to start collecting the annual value of the land from its holders, we might not have found ourselves in that position.  The rise in incomes created by the entry of women into the workforce would not have, like all other benefits under land monopoly capitalism, accrued to the individual, corporate and other landholders, and while the value of choice land would have risen, its price would not.  Only its rent would be higher, and that rent would be collected for the commons, instead of taxing our income and our transactions.

But there is another question worth thinking about. Why is it that so many women are willing to "go it alone," rather than waiting until they are married, to have children? Are they more sure that they want to have children while they are young, and expect to be able to see them through to adulthood, even if it means raising them alone? Is our current economy not leading to a large number of our young men not being considered marriageable by our young women?

What might we change in society to create jobs and prosperity for all?

Henry George: Thou Shalt Not Steal  (1887 speech)

Natural religion and revealed religion alike tell us that God is no respecter of persons; that He did not make this planet for a few individuals; that He did not give it to one generation in preference to other generations, but that He made it for the use during their lives of all the people that His providence brings into the world. If this be true, the child that is born tonight in the humblest tenement in the most squalid quarter of New York, comes into life seized with as good a title to the land of this city as any Astor or Rhinelander.

How do we know that the Almighty is against poverty? That it is not in accordance with His decree that poverty exists? We know it because we know this, that the Almighty has declared: "Thou shalt not steal." And we know for a truth that the poverty that exists today in the midst of abounding wealth is the result of a system that legalizes theft.

The women who by the thousands are bending over their needles or sewing machines, thirteen, fourteen, sixteen hours a day; these widows straining and striving to bring up the little ones deprived of their natural breadwinner; the children that are growing up in squalor and wretchedness, underclothed, underfed, undereducated, even in this city, without any place to play — growing up under conditions in which only a miracle can keep them pure — under conditions which condemn them in advance to the penitentiary or the brothel — they suffer, they die, because we permit them to be robbed, robbed of their birthright, robbed by a system which disinherits the vast majority of the children that come into the world.

There is enough and to spare for them. Had they the equal rights in the estate which their Creator has given them, there would be no young girls forced to unwomanly toil to eke out a mere existence; no widows finding it such a bitter, bitter struggle to put bread into the mouths of their little children; no such misery and squalor as we may see here in the greatest of American cities; misery and squalor that are deepest in the largest and richest centers of our civilization today.

These things are the results of legalized theft, the fruit of a denial of that commandment that says: "Thou shalt not steal." How is this great commandment interpreted today, even by men who preach the Gospel? "Thou shalt not steal." Well, according to some of them, it means: "Thou shalt not get into the penitentiary." Not much more than that with some. You may steal, provided you steal enough, and you do not get caught. Do not steal a few dollars — that may be dangerous, but if you steal millions and get away with it, you become one of our first citizens. ...  read the whole article

Karl Williams: Two Cow Economics

You have two cows and several hectares of land.

Your neighbour is a single mother, has no cows, no land and works a part-time job.

You tell her that if she works longer and harder she could buy one of your cows and become an enterprising capitalist. So she takes on full-time work so that, after 3 months, she has saved enough money to buy one of your cows.

But what use is a cow (or anything, for that matter) without a plot of your land, which is now worth $20,000?

So your neighbour takes on a night shift in addition to her day job, leaving for work after the kids are in bed and arriving home just in time to get them dressed for school.

After a year she has saved enough money to buy that land.

Expressing great regret you explain that, in the meantime, the taxes on her income have paid for the infrastructure that have boosted the value of your land, so that the current market price for that plot is now worth $30,000. Back to the grindstone, baby!

Another year of sweat and toil follows, after which she returns with the money. But, with hand on heart, you break the news that economic circumstances have recently driven most single and married mothers to bring in an extra income in order to save for the ever-escalating price of land. As no-one’s making any more land, the greater number of bidders has pushed up the price of the fixed amount of land (this is called a “healthy, buoyant property market”). It’s now worth $40,000 but it would be a lot easier if she just got a bank loan, you tell her. However, all those eager bidders for land have also bid up the rate of interest they’re prepared to suffer, so that interest rates are now prohibitive. Your neighbour collapses in tears at your feet, but what can you do? – you didn’t invent the system! Just as our poor mum relents and considers taking out a mortgage, she finally gets some good news – in a surprise move, the Reserve Bank has decided to make it easier on prospective home-owners by reducing interest rates. However, this has had the effect of making the owning of property more attractive, so – immediately the interest rate decision is announced – landowners raise the selling price of land. The “fair market price” of that plot is now $50,000.

However, under political pressure because of the unaffordability of property, the federal government announce that it will institute a First Home Owners’ grant of $7,000. Suddenly that plot is selling for $57,000.

You have two cows and several acres of land.

Your neighbour is a single mother, has no cows, no land and works a minimum wage job.

You’ve had an amazing vision wherein you see the geoist paradigm in all its glory and realise that all other reforms are just band-aids, so you become an activist with ProsperAustralia. You share your insight with your neighbour and so everyone pulls together to successfully reform our insane tax laws and system of land tenure. As a result:
(1) your neighbour can keep all of her hard-earned income, and
(2) those who have enclosed substantial amounts of the Common Wealth for their own private domain now pay fair land value taxation (LVT) to society.

Your LVT bill arrives and you realise you have been holding more land than you really need, so auction off the title to your land and the improvements on it. Because of genuine tax relief, your neighbour can now afford to buy the property.

And so - with LVT and trust and angel dust - they all live happily ever after.  ... read the whole article

Jeff Smith: What the Left Must Do: Share the Surplus

What would you do if you could work two days and take five off? Write? Play soccer? Tend to the community garden? Time off is an option made increasingly viable by our relentlessly rising rate of productivity. French Marxist and media critic Jean Baudrillard, while still advancing the interests of labor, implores the Left to move on from seeing humans as workers to seeing workers as human beings, with more needs than merely the material. Enabling people to live their lives more fully is an issue made to order for rescuing the Left from the doldrums that descended when “history ended”.

What would single mothers do with enough income to stay home? What would minorities do with the wherewithal to begin their own businesses? What would communities do if they did not leak resources up to an upper class and out to a distant lender or tax collector? What would the elite do without our commonwealth? The means to these ends is an extra income apart from labor or capital (savings), that is, a “social salary” from society’s surplus, a “Citizens Dividend” from all the rents, natural and governmental, that people pay for land and to the privileged, redirected to everyone equally.  Merely demanding a fair sharing of the bounty from nature and modern society would raise people’s self-esteem, a key component for political involvement. Actually receiving an income supplement would transform our lives and restructure society.

Unless humanity needs militarism, corporate welfare, and debt service, it’s fair to say most public revenue gets wasted. Demanding a dividend – similar to Alaska paying residents a share from oil royalties – forces a new dialog on spending priorities. Beyond arguing “bread not bombs,” a dividend replaces expenditures by politicians (necessarily influenced by donors) with spending by citizens, the people who generate the surplus in the first place. With a dividend, citizens get to see themselves as direct beneficiaries from reigning in the wild spending spree on imperial aggression, disloyal multinationals, and on “borrowing” money that never existed until “lent” by the Federal Reserve.  ...

Demanding jobs rather than a fair share of society’s surplus implies that there is no commonwealth or that expropriating it by a few is OK. Neither is true. Rents are real, and they are ours. There is a free lunch (just ask the privileged), as those downing it do get money for nothing. And since society, not lone owners, generates these values, that flow of funds belongs to everyone. 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