Wealth and Want
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Social Problems

While "the remedy" is not a panacea, most Georgists see it as a necessary reform if we are ever to resolve many of our most serious social problems. Necessary, if not sufficient.


Henry George: The Increasing Importance of Social Questions (Chapter 1 of Social Problems, 1883)

[21] 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

Henry George: Political Dangers (Chapter 2 of Social Problems, 1883)

[12] Beneath all political problems lies the social problem of the distribution of wealth. This our people do not generally recognize, and they listen to quacks who propose to cure the symptoms without touching the disease. "Let us elect good men to office," say the quacks. Yes; let us catch little birds by sprinkling salt on their tails! ... read the entire essay

Mason Gaffney:   Privatizing Land Without Giveaway (1990)

Some of our unresolved problems today include

  • rising homelessness, the counterpart of low affordability of housing. This problem persists in spite of massive subsidies and tax breaks for housing that make America "overhoused" next to, say, Japan.
  • Unemployment persists.
  • Income and especially wealth are distributed with increasing inequality.
  • American industry grows obsolescent faced with foreign competition: replacement is too slow, as in later 19th Century Britain. Britain then at least saved and exported capital, but America's net domestic capital formation is dangerously weak, leading to capital imports and alienation of American wealth.
  • Real wage rates are level or falling.
  • Crime rates are frightening, with many Americans choosing to live in an underground economy.
  • Anomie and substance abuse are everywhere.
  • National security hangs on precarious foreign oil.
  • A large piece of our financial system has just collapsed, and the rest looks shaky.

There is much to be humble and concerned about.

Western capitalism has shown the world that "personal interest is the irreplaceable motive power of production and progress." Let us trumpet this showing with pride, and preach to the world. Let us also allow that personal interest can, if badly handled, lead to inhumane excesses and abuses. A worthy goal is to combine capitalist drive and efficiency with socialist egalitarianism. How? Synthesis does not mean some vaguely compromising "middle way," but the best constructive combination of workable elements from each way. The specific centerpiece of policy proposed here is social collection of land rent, coupled with private collection and retention of incomes drawn from labor and from creating capital. ... read the whole article

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

Karl Williams:  Social Justice In Australia: ADVANCED KIT

We're going to look at some of our worst social problems and reflect on the extent to which they might arise from our economic and social systems.

Many good, caring parents bring up children who turn out to be a real mess. There must be something wrong, somewhere, with a society where so many people become depressed, cynical, disenchanted, hopeless, alienated etc. as to resort to drugs, vandalism, suicide (the escalating youth suicide figures are deliberately under-reported) or just end up apathetic or anti-social. And it could be argued that rampant, mindless and expensive consumerism is a low-intensity but widespread indicator of underlying discontent.

One can see some pretty obvious causes, but it still doesn't add up. Institutionalised religions (or, at least, its purveyors) have clearly failed to supply an adequate explanation of our current dilemma, let alone offer just solutions, as people continue to turn away from it in droves. Our cynicism of politicians is somewhat justified, as even a few of the best seem to sell out once they get into power. The bombardment of advertising and trash culture, with all its emphasis on glamour and image, must screw up a lot of impressionable kids. I like the graffiti sprayed on a Melbourne wall stating: " Obedient sheep love to shop".

No, it still doesn't add up, but here's a partial explanation why. All the aforementioned problems take place in an economic environment which simply is not and cannot be understood, and for that reason can never be respected. In particular, taxation - which hits us in the hip pocket more than anything else - springs from a mass of legislation completely beyond the capacity of any individual to understand. In addition, there's disrespect for our tax (and governance) system because there's no clear rationale or validation for its principles. Compared to the elegant beauty of Pay for what you take, not what you make, the present tax system is seen as a necessary nuisance at best, but more commonly as an arbitrary means of milking us. Furthermore, the economic and tax systems make cynics and cheats of us all. Cynics - the wage-earning workforce, both blue and white collar - stand in disgust as they witness the rich getting richer as they confiscate the economic rent. Cheats, because everyone else is a cheat when it comes to filling tax returns, so why should I be a mug and be honest?

Lastly, social alienation is partly a result of an economic system that cannot afford to invest in community-building amenities and infrastructure. We have seen how such spending effectively disappears into the black hole of landowners' pockets instead of being recycled back to the community through LVT, and we have also imagined A Day in the Life which illustrates what affordable community amenities could bring people together. But the whole area of the personal and social benefits conferred by a stronger community network is a vast and debatable subject in itself, and is beyond the basics of Geonomics in these kits.   ...   Read the entire article

Mason Gaffney: Interview: Is There a Conspiracy in the Teaching of Economics and History within the American Education System?

TPR - If Earth's ecosystem and poorest people will be the largest beneficiaries of the reform you advocate, how will it ever gain public acceptance in America's increasingly money-driven political system? If the press will never acknowledge it and the education system is so lost and blind, how can this reform ever happen? Are Georgists like the character in 1984?

MG - Every system must purify itself from time to time, or be destroyed. How long that takes depends on how strong a base you started from, and how strong your rivals are. The USA started from a strong base, built in part by the Progressives (including many Georgists) and the New Dealers (in spite of some of their destructive moves). Now, our leaders think we are riding high, just because the stock market is rising, even though real wage rates have fallen for 25 years, our debts are staggering, our liabilities and contingent liabilities exceed our assets, our biggest growth industry is building jails, our population is losing its literacy, our major cities have decayed, and so on. Marx was right about one thing, at least: the system carries the seeds of its own destruction.

Our leaders have done a good job of subverting our rivals, in part by forcing on them the ideas of neo-classical economics, the ideas that originated as part of the anti-Georgist campaigns. Japan gave us a good run for a while, but got suckered into aping our worst habits, and hence a good old-fashioned American-style land boom and bust that has knocked them out of the race for a while. Most of S.E. Asia has now followed suit.

It's a delicate balance. The haves can brainwash the have-nots just so long, until reality breaks through, as in 1929. When it does, you want to be ready with a plan tailored to the times, which Georgists at that time were not. Meantime, we keep the idea alive by recording and publicizing important facts, such as that the prosperity of Hong Kong was a product of Georgist policies; likewise that of Taipei, Sydney, Johannesburg, and other great cities.

  • We support object lessons like those in Allentown, Pa., and go for a really visible one like Philadelphia.
  • We combat moves to raise sales and income and payroll taxes, and awaken people to the benefits of lowering them.
  • We awaken people to the possibilities of including more land income, and less payroll income, in the base of the income tax.
  • We support efforts to democratize the media.
  • We alert people to the corruption of academia and the kept think-tanks, and provide alternative venues by mobilizing the resources of the few Georgist-oriented foundations.
  • We get on social action committees of various churches, and try to give their well-meant but often foggy-minded efforts some clearer focus, with more punch and less platitude.
  • We remind people of their common rights, and the history of common property in land.
  • We expose and ridicule the inconsistencies and hypocrisies of kept economists, hoping that embarrassment will convert those whom truth will not.

We avoid the temptation to play Jeremiah, but seek to join the system and make it work better, even as Henry George and his friends did.  ... read the whole article 

Weld Carter: A Clarion Call to Sanity, to Honesty, to Justice

... Our problem today, as yesterday, and the days before, back to the earliest recorded times, is POVERTY.

There are times when this problem is lesser. We call these "booms." There are also times when the problem is greatly exacerbated. These are called "busts." But, as the Bible says, "the poor have ye always with ye."

The purpose of this paper is to explore the core of the problem. It is not the position that there is only one single error afoot in our social organizations. There may be several, there may be only a few things to remedy. The position is, as stated earlier, that there is one basic cause of the problem. Therefore, the removal of this one basic error is the first, the primary step, for the simple reason that, until this basic social evil is eradicated, no other reform will avail. ... read the whole essay




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