Wealth and Want
... because democracy alone is not enough to produce widely shared prosperity.
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Think Big

... it is best that the truth be fully stated and clearly recognized. He who sees the truth, let him proclaim it, without asking who is for it or who is against it. This is not radicalism in the bad sense which so many attach to the word. This is conservatism in the true sense.
Henry George:  The Land Question (1881)

As as society, we have a tendency to attempt to solve vast problems with half-vast solutions. Poverty and injustice are vast problems, and their causes must be understood and the problems torn out by their roots! Henry George's analysis goes to the root of the problem, and shows us how to fix it: his Remedy is straightforward and practical.

Henry George:  The Land Question (1881)

To proclaim the universal truth that land is of natural right common property; to abandon all timid and half-way schemes which attempt to compromise between justice and injustice, and to demand nothing more nor less than a full recognition of this natural right would be to do this.

Henry George: Causes of Business Depression (1894)

Socialists, Populists and charity mongers -- the people who would apply little remedies for a great evil are all "barking up the wrong tree." The upas of our civilization is our treatment of land. It is that which is converting even the march of invention into a blight.

Mason Gaffney: Property Tax: Biases and Reforms

"Make no small plans: they have no magic to stir men's blood," quoth Daniel Burnham. As a successful architect and planner, he knew how to stir his clients' blood. However, his ringing phrase is negative and preemptive, hence overstated. Leo Tolstoy noted in War and Peace that wars are won and lost by the sum of individual confrontations on chaotic battlefields, where generals lose control. Folk wisdom says "The Devil is in the details." We do need small plans, lots of them, to implement big visions. My hat is off to the trench warriors who are advancing the two-rate property tax reform plans in Pennsylvania and New York, one small city at a time.

Let's rephrase Burnham in the affirmative: "Make big plans: they have magic to stir people's blood." Big Plans imply Grand Visions. Henry George had few peers at stirring his hearers' blood, and agreed.

"If you would move men, to what shall you appeal? Not their pockets, but their patriotism; not selfishness, but sympathy. Self-interest is a mechanical force, but in loyalty to higher impulses men will give even life."

Big Plans and Grand Visions inspire small ones. They also help orient and coordinate them. They help us divide the major from the minor, to direct our work most efficiently. This is what I will attempt here.

Big Plans can also scare people, it is true. We see this right now when drastic changes and new philosophies are moving in Congress. That does not mean they won't prevail, however. They scare some because they move many others. Abstract philosophies, living only in intellectual undergrounds, build up slowly until suddenly they take command. This is how change occurs.

Superficially it seems "sudden," but intellectually the way has been paved by years of Grand Visions and Big Plans.

The upshot is, we need Big Plans with Details Ready. I speak here of Big Plans with magic to stir the blood of those who see the benefits of supporting government from land and resource rents. I'll sketch the big picture, where details fit in, and how they all fit together. ... read the entire 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


Martin Luther King, Jr: Where Do We Go From Here? (1967)

I want to say to you as I move to my conclusion, as we talk about "Where do we go from here," that we honestly face the fact that the Movement must address itself to the question of restructuring the whole of American society. There are forty million poor people here. And one day we must ask the question, "Why are there forty million poor people in America?" And when you begin to ask that question, you are raising questions about the economic system, about a broader distribution of wealth. When you ask that question, you begin to question the capitalistic economy. And I'm simply saying that more and more, we've got to begin to ask questions about the whole society. We are called upon to help the discouraged beggars in life's market place. But one day we must come to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring. It means that questions must be raised. You see, my friends, when you deal with this,

  • you begin to ask the question, "Who owns the oil?"
  • You begin to ask the question, "Who owns the iron ore?"
  • You begin to ask the question, "Why is it that people have to pay water bills in a world that is two thirds water?"

These are questions that must be asked.

Now, don't think that you have me in a "bind" today. I'm not talking about Communism.

What I'm saying to you this morning is that Communism forgets that life is individual. Capitalism forgets that life is social, and the Kingdom of Brotherhood is found neither in the thesis of Communism nor the antithesis of capitalism but in a higher synthesis. It is found in a higher synthesis that combines the truths of both. Now, when I say question the whole society, it means ultimately coming to see that the problem of racism, the problem of economic exploitation, and the problem of war are all tied together. These are the triple evils that are interrelated.

If you will let me be a preacher just a little bit - One night, a juror came to Jesus and he wanted to know what he could do to be saved. Jesus didn't get bogged down in the kind of isolated approach of what he shouldn't do.

  • Jesus didn't say, "Now Nicodemus, you must stop lying."
  • He didn't say, "Nicodemus, you must stop cheating if you are doing that."
  • He didn't say, "Nicodemus, you must not commit adultery."
  • He didn't say, "Nicodemus, now you must stop drinking liquor if you are doing that excessively."

He said something altogether different, because Jesus realized something basic - that if a man will lie, he will steal. And if a man will steal, he will kill. So instead of just getting bogged down in one thing, Jesus looked at him and said, "Nicodemus, you must be born again."

He said, in other words, "Your whole structure must be changed." A nation that will keep people in slavery for 244 years will "thingify" them - make them things. Therefore they will exploit them, and poor people generally, economically. And a nation that will exploit economically will have to have foreign investments and everything else, and will have to use its military might to protect them. All of these problems are tied together. What I am saying today is that we must go from this convention and say, "America, you must be born again!" ... read the book excerpt and whole speech


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