Wealth and Want
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How many wars have been fought — and how many more will be fought if we continue on the course we're on today — over land and other natural resources? We hear the expression "our oil under their sand." Corporations are seeking natural resources we've become reliant on, and our military are brought in to help insure that we will have a continued supply of the world's resources. Meanwhile, other countries will assert their equal right to those resources, and none of us seem willing to consider to whom those resources rightly belong, and who should receive payment for them, and what new institutional structures might be necessary to today's realities.

Does our assertion that all people are created equal mean that we acknowledge the basic equality of all the world's people with us? Do we acknowledge their equal claim on the world's natural resources, and their claim on clean air and clean water? How do we make that real and secure, for everyone? Henry George's ideas provide an excellent foundation — and a valuable alternative to war.

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

CAPITAL, which is not in itself a distinguishable element, but which it must always be kept in mind consists of wealth applied to the aid of labor in further production, is not a primary factor. There can be production without it, and there must have been production without it, or it could not in the first place have appeared. It is a secondary and compound factor, coming after and resulting from the union of labor and land in the production of wealth. It is in essence labor raised by a second union with land to a third or higher power. But it is to civilized life so necessary and important as to be rightfully accorded in political economy the place of a third factor in production. — The Science of Political Economy unabridged: Book III, Chapter 17, The Production of Wealth: The Third Factor of Production — Capital abridged: Part III, Chapter 10: Order of the Three Factors of Production

IT is to be observed that capital of itself can do nothing. It is always a subsidiary, never an initiatory, factor. The initiatory factor is always labor. That is to say, in the production of wealth labor always uses capital, is never used by capital. This is not merely literally true, when by the term capital we mean the thing capital. It is also true when we personify the term and mean by it not the thing capital, but the men who are possessed of capital. The capitalist pure and simple, the man who merely controls capital, has in his hands the power of assisting labor to produce. But purely as capitalist he cannot exercise that power. It can be exercised only by labor. To utilize it he must himself exercise at least some of the functions of labor, or he must put his capital, on some terms, at the use of those who do. — The Science of Political Economy unabridged: Book III, Chapter 17, The Production of Wealth: The Third Factor of Production — Capital abridged: Part III, Chapter 10: Order of the Three Factors of Production

THUS we must exclude from the category of capital everything that may be included either as land or labor. Doing so, there remain only things which are neither land nor labor, but which have resulted from the union of these two original factors of production. Nothing can be properly capital that does not consist of these — that is to say, nothing can be capital that is not wealth. — Progress & Poverty — Book I, Chapter 2: Wages and Capital: The Meaning of the Terms

THUS, a government bond is not capital, nor yet is it the representative of capital. The capital that was once received for it by the government has been consumed unproductively — blown away from the mouths of cannon, used up in war ships, expended in keeping men marching and drilling, killing and destroying. The bond cannot represent capital that has been destroyed. It does not represent capital at all. It is simply a solemn declaration that the government will, some time or other, take by taxation from the then existing stock of the people, so much wealth, which it will turn over to the holder of the bond; and that, in the meanwhile, it will, from time to time, take, in the same way, enough to make up to the holder the increase which so much capital as it some day promises to give him would yield him were it actually in his possession. The immense sums which are thus taken from the produce of every modern country to pay interest on public debts are not the earnings or increase of capital — are not really interest in the strict sense of the term, but are taxes levied on the produce of labor and capital, leaving so much less for wages and so much less for real interest. — Progress & Poverty — Book III, Chapter 4: The Laws of Distribution: Of Spurious Capital and of Profits Often Mistaken For Interest

CAPITAL, as we have seen, consists of wealth used for the procurement of more wealth, as distinguished from wealth used for the direct satisfaction of desire; or, as I think it may be defined, of wealth in the course of exchange.

Capital, therefore, increases the power of labor to produce wealth: (1) By enabling labor to apply itself in more effective ways, as by digging up clams with a spade instead of the hand, or moving a vessel by shoveling coal into a furnace, instead of tugging at an oar. (2) By enabling labor to avail itself of the reproductive forces of nature, as to obtain corn by sowing it, or animals by breeding them. (3) By permitting the division of labor, and thus, on the one hand, increasing the efficiency of the human factor of wealth, by the utilization of special capabilities, the acquisition of skill, and the reduction of waste; and, on the other, calling in the powers of the natural factor at their highest, by taking advantage of the diversities of soil, climate and situation, so as to obtain each particular species of wealth where nature is most favorable to its production.

Capital does not supply the materials which labor works up into wealth, as is erroneously taught; the materials of wealth are supplied by nature. But such materials partially worked up and in the course of exchange are capital. — Progress & Poverty — Book I, Chapter 5: Wages and Capital: The Real Functions of Capital

... go to "Gems from George"

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

[09] And so come new dangers. The rude society resembles the creatures that though cut into pieces will live; the highly civilized society is like a highly organized animal: a stab in a vital part, the suppression of a single function, is death. A savage village may be burned and its people driven off — but, used to direct recourse to nature, they can maintain themselves. Highly civilized man, however, accustomed to capital, to machinery, to the minute division of labor, becomes helpless when suddenly deprived of these and thrown upon nature. Under the factory system, some sixty persons, with the aid of much costly machinery, cooperate to the making of a pair of shoes. But, of the sixty, not one could make a whole shoe. This is the tendency in all branches of production, even in agriculture. How many farmers of the new generation can use the flail? How many farmers' wives can now make a coat from the wool? Many of our farmers do not even make their own butter or raise their own vegetables! There is an enormous gain in productive power from this division of labor, which assigns to the individual the production of but a few of the things, or even but a small part of one of the things, he needs, and makes each dependent upon others with whom he never comes in contact; but the social organization becomes more sensitive. A primitive village community may pursue the even tenor of its life without feeling disasters which overtake other villages but a few miles off; but in the closely knit civilization to which we have attained, a war, a scarcity, a commercial crisis, in one hemisphere produces powerful effects in the other, while shocks and jars from which a primitive community easily recovers would to a highly civilized community mean wreck.

[10] It is startling to think how destructive in a civilization like ours would be such fierce conflicts as fill the history of the past. The wars of highly civilized countries, since the opening of the era of steam and machinery, have been duels of armies rather than conflicts of peoples or classes. Our only glimpse of what might happen, wore passion fully aroused, was in the struggle of the Paris Commune. And, since 1870, to the knowledge of petroleum has been added that of even more destructive agents. The explosion of a little nitro-glycerin under a few water-mains would make a great city uninhabitable; the blowing up of a few railroad bridges and tunnels would bring famine quicker than the wall of circumvallation that Titus drew around Jerusalem; the pumping of atmospheric air into the gas-mains, and the application of a match, would tear up every street and level every house. The Thirty Years' War set back civilization in Germany; so fierce a war now would all but destroy it. Not merely have destructive powers vastly increased, but the whole social organization has become vastly more delicate.

[11] In a simpler state master and man, neighbor and neighbor, know each other, and there is that touch of the elbow which, in times of danger, enables society to rally. But present tendencies are to the loss of this. In London, dwellers in one house do not know those in the next; the tenants of adjoining rooms are utter strangers to each other. Let civil conflict break or paralyze the authority that preserves order and the vast population would become a terror-stricken mob, without point of rally or principle of cohesion, and your London would be sacked and burned by an army of thieves. London is only the greatest of great cities. What is true of London is true of New York, and in the same measure true of the many cities whose hundreds of thousands are steadily growing toward millions. These vast aggregations of humanity, where he who seeks isolation may find it more truly than in the desert; where wealth and poverty touch and jostle; where one revels and another starves within a few feet of each other, yet separated by as great a gulf as that fixed between Dives in Hell and Lazarus in Abraham's bosom — they are centers and types of our civilization. Let jar or shock dislocate the complex and delicate organization, let the policeman's club be thrown down or wrested from him, and the fountains of the great deep are opened, and quicker than ever before chaos comes again. Strong as it may seem, our civilization is evolving destructive forces. Not desert and forest, but city slums and country roadsides are nursing the barbarians who may be to the new what Hun and Vandal were to the old.

[12] Nor should we forget that in civilized man still lurks the savage. The men who, in past times, oppressed or revolted, who fought to the death in petty quarrels and drunk fury with blood, who burned cities and rent empires, were men essentially such as those we daily meet. Social progress has accumulated knowledge, softened manners, refined tastes and extended sympathies, but man is yet capable of as blind a rage as when, clothed in skins, he fought wild beasts with a flint. And present tendencies, in some respects at least, threaten to kindle passions that have so often before flamed in destructive fury.

[19] The progress of civilization requires that more and more intelligence be devoted to social affairs, and this not the intelligence of the few, but that of the many. We cannot safely leave politics to politicians, or political economy to college professors. The people themselves must think, because the people alone can act.

[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

Mason Gaffney:  Rent Seeking and Global Conflict

National governments originate historically to acquire, hold and police land. Other functions are assumed later, but sovereignty over land is always the first business. Private parties hold land from the sovereign: every chain of title goes back to a grantor who originally seized the land.

When economists today speak of "rent-seeking" they usually are thinking not of basic land rent, but in subtle and sophisticated terms, looking at dribs and drabs of transfer rent derived from contracting advantages. They develop abstract models for gaming optimally with imperfect information, and so on. By emphasizing the arcane while ignoring the basic they are in danger of matching the proverbial expert who fine-tunes all the details and elaborations as he forges on to the grand disaster.

Indeed, we have had one such disaster. Viet Nam was viewed by many as an economists' war, rationally planned and led by the best and the brightest systems' analysts, exemplified by the brilliant, energetic Secretary of Defense. One should not be surprised at the post-Viet Nam decline of interest in applying modern economic theory to questions of global conflict.

We would be more useful to statesmen if we looked first at rent-seeking in the grosser sense of “land-grabbing,” where the whole bundle is at stake. When William of Normandy conquered England the prize was land rent, all of it. He and his retainers dispossessed the local rent-collectors. It was simple, gross, and basic, and much more consequential than the trivial rent-seeking we model today. The bulk of the natives may have been affected only marginally: they just paid Lord B instead of Lord A. But it made all the difference to Lords B and A, the ones who made basic decisions about global conflict and cooperation.

Again, from the 17th century Europeans invaded North America, dispossessed the natives and each other, until today we meet here, overlooking beach and ocean, paying our daily rent for a little slice of land which has been won and kept by a long chain of wars.

The roof over our heads is different, it is the product of capital formation. Someone saved from income, and paid workers to construct the building. Its present value is that less the obvious depreciation and obsolescence, so it is rentable today mainly for its appreciated site, to which therefore an economist or an appraiser must impute most of the market value here.

But the site never was nor could be the product of capital formation. It pre-existed man, who could only acquire it by taking. It is fair to say that throughout most of history that is what warfare was about, seizing and holding and policing land. This is not to deny ancillary causes and issues of war, such as disputing the pathway to Heaven, ethnic pride, paranoia, acquisitive genes, and a leader's need to divert people from domestic problems. Economists should certainly make it their business to address the last, a major source of global conflict. Neither is this to deny that territorial expansion is often self-defeating, economically. Many empires, probably most, cost more than they return, a discovery that accounts for the well-being of small nations like Sweden, Austria, Denmark and The Netherlands, which gained by abandoning destiny and empire. But we would miss the point to bury particulars in aggregates. By disaggregating benefits and costs we gain the key to understanding. The whole nation loses, but certain parties gain, and it is they who promote and sustain aggressive behavior.

Economists conventionally bury this point when they submit that "national defense is a public good".

  • "Defense" is a loaded word which rationalizes as it describes. "Military spending" is more neutral, and will be used here. It is worth remembering that the German Schutz (as in Schutz-Staffel) and Wehr (as in Wehrmacht) both translate as "defense". Lebensraum is a more forthright term, and explains much more about Nazi aggressions.
  • "Public good" says that all gain equally. But that is not true even of pure defense proper. What is defended behind the defense wall is land previously seized. The Lords and Barons have much at stake; the serfs and vagrants very little. Rent is what is being defended, along with, no doubt, traditional feelings of machismo and some local folkways and mores.

Wages, as well as the return for capital formation, ultimately need little defense because they are economically functional. They are paid for real service and sacrifices, and will command a return in almost any viable system. Labor is also more migratory. "Fixed" capital also migrates economically as capital recovery funds are reinvested elsewhere. Land, in contrast, does not migrate among nations. Nations are defined as areas of land.

But it is outside the defense wall of the nation proper that rent-seeking is most dynamic and destabilizing. Military force (often in tandem with finance) is used to project sovereignty into foreign nations, and over no-man's-lands like the oceans, polar regions, radio spectrum, and outer space.

Offshore rent-seekers are of two general kinds.

1. "Caciques." Cacique is a generic term for local cooperating rulers from the native population. It is more neutral than Quisling, and most caciques are more independent than he was. Imperial metropolitan powers normally work through caciques. Turnover among individual caciques is sometimes high, but they are drawn from the matrix of the local landholding oligarchy which is quite stable, often thanks to our support.

We relieve the caciques of collecting and/or paying taxes for their own military, which often double as domestic police as well. The life of some caciques is risky, but the rewards to caciques and local landholders are often very high. The Sultan of Brunei is the richest man in the world; the extravagance of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos is legendary.

Unit land values in Tokyo have, in mid-boom. exceeded those in New York and Chicago by a factor of about 10. One reason (of several) for the difference is that New York and Chicago pay taxes to defend Tokyo, plus what the Japanese once called the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. Roosevelt in 1941 stopped Japan at Viet Nam, precipitating Pearl Harbor. But Eisenhower said in 1959 we must defend Viet Nam to protect the Japanese resource base.

2. Rent-seekers of the second kind are U.S. or allied multinational interests, mostly corporations. The cacique is expected to assign to them, or be complaisant in their taking concessions and resources like minerals, transportation routes, communications, bank charters, plantations, etc.

Natives normally control more of the traditional resources like farmland. Foreigners specialize more in less visible, more novel and sophisticated resources like

  • undiscovered minerals (exploration rights),
  • navigation rights,
  • radio spectrum,
  • overflights,
  • bank charters, etc.

Both these groups have the acutest incentive to influence U.S. policies, and large discretionary funds at hand. Therefore they tend to dominate U.S. statecraft. The U.S. government is probably more vulnerable to such foreign influence than most, because of our size and weakly developed sense of honorable dedication to the national interest. The English once terminated a dynasty, the Stuarts, which was caught taking support from France; but Americans hardly notice when retired Congressmen take work lobbying for foreign sugar producers etc.

Self-evidently, rivalry to appropriate limited rent-yielding resources must lead to conflict. It has to, because land is not produced, nor stored up like capital by saving. Modern economics glosses over this by stressing that land, like other resources, is allocated by the market. That may be, but distribution is something else. Every land title in the world goes back to a taking by force.

It will be objected that one can buy in peacefully once a tenure is firmly established, with alienable titles. There is certainly no intent to deny this. The problem is that a successor-in-interest stands on no firmer footing than the original. There is no laundering: every landholder can consult his chain of title and see how it originated.. Indeed, it has been said that those who buy stolen property are the chief cause of crime. Fencing itself is a crime.

However one may side on that question, it helps account for the extreme alarm with which US statecraft startles at any foreign country, however weak and innocuous, which expropriates any such successor-in-interest. Demonstration effects are contagious and threatening. The defensiveness of the insecure is a major cause of global conflict.

More destabilizing yet is the ambitious rent-seeker offshore, who finds his biggest gains in the riskiest ways, ways that unfortunately impose high risks on the U.S. The biggest gains to rent-seekers come from buying in on the ground floor, cheap, when tenures are precarious or uncertain.

Then one invokes the U.S. armed forces and the sanctions of ancillary statecraft to raise the value of one's acquisition. The three main concerns are

  • to firm up precarious tenures (as by supporting the government that granted them);
  • to hold down taxes (as by lending the U..S. armed forces); and
  • to avoid pure competition (as by giving preferential access to the U.S. market, or Pentagon procurers). ... Read the whole article

Henry George: The Condition of Labor — An Open Letter to Pope Leo XIII in response to Rerum Novarum (1891)

... Nor do we hesitate to say that this way of securing the equal right to the bounty of the Creator and the exclusive right to the products of labor is the way intended by God for raising public revenues. For we are not atheists, who deny God; nor semi-atheists, who deny that he has any concern in politics and legislation.

It is true as you say — a salutary truth too often forgotten — that “man is older than the state, and he holds the right of providing for the life of his body prior to the formation of any state.” Yet, as you too perceive, it is also true that the state is in the divinely appointed order. For He who foresaw all things and provided for all things, foresaw and provided that with the increase of population and the development of industry the organization of human society into states or governments would become both expedient and necessary.

No sooner does the state arise than, as we all know, it needs revenues. This need for revenues is small at first, while population is sparse, industry rude and the functions of the state few and simple. But with growth of population and advance of civilization the functions of the state increase and larger and larger revenues are needed.

Now, He that made the world and placed man in it, He that pre-ordained civilization as the means whereby man might rise to higher powers and become more and more conscious of the works of his Creator, must have foreseen this increasing need for state revenues and have made provision for it. That is to say: The increasing need for public revenues with social advance, being a natural, God-ordained need, there must be a right way of raising them — some way that we can truly say is the way intended by God. It is clear that this right way of raising public revenues must accord with the moral law.


It must not take from individuals what rightfully belongs to individuals.

It must not give some an advantage over others, as by increasing the prices of what some have to sell and others must buy.

It must not lead men into temptation, by requiring trivial oaths, by making it profitable to lie, to swear falsely, to bribe or to take bribes.

It must not confuse the distinctions of right and wrong, and weaken the sanctions of religion and the state by creating crimes that are not sins, and punishing men for doing what in itself they have an undoubted right to do.

It must not repress industry. It must not check commerce. It must not punish thrift. It must offer no impediment to the largest production and the fairest division of wealth.

Let me ask your Holiness to consider the taxes on the processes and products of industry by which through the civilized world public revenues are collected — the octroi duties that surround Italian cities with barriers; the monstrous customs duties that hamper intercourse between so-called Christian states; the taxes on occupations, on earnings, on investments, on the building of houses, on the cultivation of fields, on industry and thrift in all forms. Can these be the ways God has intended that governments should raise the means they need? Have any of them the characteristics indispensable in any plan we can deem a right one?

All these taxes violate the moral law. They take by force what belongs to the individual alone; they give to the unscrupulous an advantage over the scrupulous; they have the effect, nay are largely intended, to increase the price of what some have to sell and others must buy; they corrupt government; they make oaths a mockery; they shackle commerce; they fine industry and thrift; they lessen the wealth that men might enjoy, and enrich some by impoverishing others.

Yet what most strikingly shows how opposed to Christianity is this system of raising public revenues is its influence on thought.

Christianity teaches us that all men are brethren; that their true interests are harmonious, not antagonistic. It gives us, as the golden rule of life, that we should do to others as we would have others do to us. But out of the system of taxing the products and processes of labor, and out of its effects in increasing the price of what some have to sell and others must buy, has grown the theory of “protection,” which denies this gospel, which holds Christ ignorant of political economy and proclaims laws of national well-being utterly at variance with his teaching. This theory sanctifies national hatreds; it inculcates a universal war of hostile tariffs; it teaches peoples that their prosperity lies in imposing on the productions of other peoples restrictions they do not wish imposed on their own; and instead of the Christian doctrine of man’s brotherhood it makes injury of foreigners a civic virtue.

“By their fruits ye shall know them.” Can anything more clearly show that to tax the products and processes of industry is not the way God intended public revenues to be raised?

But to consider what we propose — the raising of public revenues by a single tax on the value of land irrespective of improvements — is to see that in all respects this does conform to the moral law.

Let me ask your Holiness to keep in mind that the value we propose to tax, the value of land irrespective of improvements, does not come from any exertion of labor or investment of capital on or in it — the values produced in this way being values of improvement which we would exempt. The value of land irrespective of improvement is the value that attaches to land by reason of increasing population and social progress. This is a value that always goes to the owner as owner, and never does and never can go to the user; for if the user be a different person from the owner he must always pay the owner for it in rent or in purchase-money; while if the user be also the owner, it is as owner, not as user, that he receives it, and by selling or renting the land he can, as owner, continue to receive it after he ceases to be a user.

Thus, taxes on land irrespective of improvement cannot lessen the rewards of industry, nor add to prices,* nor in any way take from the individual what belongs to the individual. They can take only the value that attaches to land by the growth of the community, and which therefore belongs to the community as a whole.

* As to this point it may be well to add that all economists are agreed that taxes on land values irrespective of improvement or use — or what in the terminology of political economy is styled rent, a term distinguished from the ordinary use of the word rent by being applied solely to payments for the use of land itself — must be paid by the owner and cannot be shifted by him on the user. To explain in another way the reason given in the text: Price is not determined by the will of the seller or the will of the buyer, but by the equation of demand and supply, and therefore as to things constantly demanded and constantly produced rests at a point determined by the cost of production — whatever tends to increase the cost of bringing fresh quantities of such articles to the consumer increasing price by checking supply, and whatever tends to reduce such cost decreasing price by increasing supply. Thus taxes on wheat or tobacco or cloth add to the price that the consumer must pay, and thus the cheapening in the cost of producing steel which improved processes have made in recent years has greatly reduced the price of steel. But land has no cost of production, since it is created by God, not produced by man. Its price therefore is fixed —

1 (monopoly rent), where land is held in close monopoly, by what the owners can extract from the users under penalty of deprivation and consequently of starvation, and amounts to all that common labor can earn on it beyond what is necessary to life;
2 (economic rent proper), where there is no special monopoly, by what the particular land will yield to common labor over and above what may be had by like expenditure and exertion on land having no special advantage and for which no rent is paid; and,
3 (speculative rent, which is a species of monopoly rent, telling particularly in selling price), by the expectation of future increase of value from social growth and improvement, which expectation causing landowners to withhold land at present prices has the same effect as combination.

Taxes on land values or economic rent can therefore never be shifted by the landowner to the land-user, since they in no wise increase the demand for land or enable landowners to check supply by withholding land from use. Where rent depends on mere monopolization, a case I mention because rent may in this way be demanded for the use of land even before economic or natural rent arises, the taking by taxation of what the landowners were able to extort from labor could not enable them to extort any more, since laborers, if not left enough to live on, will die. So, in the case of economic rent proper, to take from the landowners the premiums they receive, would in no way increase the superiority of their land and the demand for it. While, so far as price is affected by speculative rent, to compel the landowners to pay taxes on the value of land whether they were getting any income from it or not, would make it more difficult for them to withhold land from use; and to tax the full value would not merely destroy the power but the desire to do so.

To take land values for the state, abolishing all taxes on the products of labor, would therefore leave to the laborer the full produce of labor; to the individual all that rightfully belongs to the individual. It would impose no burden on industry, no check on commerce, no punishment on thrift; it would secure the largest production and the fairest distribution of wealth, by leaving men free to produce and to exchange as they please, without any artificial enhancement of prices; and by taking for public purposes a value that cannot be carried off, that cannot be hidden, that of all values is most easily ascertained and most certainly and cheaply collected, it would enormously lessen the number of officials, dispense with oaths, do away with temptations to bribery and evasion, and abolish man-made crimes in themselves innocent.

But, further: That God has intended the state to obtain the revenues it needs by the taxation of land values is shown by the same order and degree of evidence that shows that God has intended the milk of the mother for the nourishment of the babe.

See how close is the analogy. In that primitive condition ere the need for the state arises there are no land values. The products of labor have value, but in the sparsity of population no value as yet attaches to land itself. But as increasing density of population and increasing elaboration of industry necessitate the organization of the state, with its need for revenues, value begins to attach to land. As population still increases and industry grows more elaborate, so the needs for public revenues increase. And at the same time and from the same causes land values increase. The connection is invariable. The value of things produced by labor tends to decline with social development, since the larger scale of production and the improvement of processes tend steadily to reduce their cost. But the value of land on which population centers goes up and up. Take Rome or Paris or London or New York or Melbourne. Consider the enormous value of land in such cities as compared with the value of land in sparsely settled parts of the same countries. To what is this due? Is it not due to the density and activity of the populations of those cities — to the very causes that require great public expenditure for streets, drains, public buildings, and all the many things needed for the health, convenience and safety of such great cities? See how with the growth of such cities the one thing that steadily increases in value is land; how the opening of roads, the building of railways, the making of any public improvement, adds to the value of land. Is it not clear that here is a natural law — that is to say a tendency willed by the Creator? Can it mean anything else than that He who ordained the state with its needs has in the values which attach to land provided the means to meet those needs?

That it does mean this and nothing else is confirmed if we look deeper still, and inquire not merely as to the intent, but as to the purpose of the intent. If we do so we may see in this natural law by which land values increase with the growth of society not only such a perfectly adapted provision for the needs of society as gratifies our intellectual perceptions by showing us the wisdom of the Creator, but a purpose with regard to the individual that gratifies our moral perceptions by opening to us a glimpse of his beneficence.

Consider: Here is a natural law by which as society advances the one thing that increases in value is land — a natural law by virtue of which all growth of population, all advance of the arts, all general improvements of whatever kind, add to a fund that both the commands of justice and the dictates of expediency prompt us to take for the common uses of society. Now, since increase in the fund available for the common uses of society is increase in the gain that goes equally to each member of society, is it not clear that the law by which land values increase with social advance while the value of the products of labor does not increase, tends with the advance of civilization to make the share that goes equally to each member of society more and more important as compared with what goes to him from his individual earnings, and thus to make the advance of civilization lessen relatively the differences that in a ruder social state must exist between the strong and the weak, the fortunate and the unfortunate? Does it not show the purpose of the Creator to be that the advance of man in civilization should be an advance not merely to larger powers but to a greater and greater equality, instead of what we, by our ignoring of his intent, are making it, an advance toward a more and more monstrous inequality? ...

Your use, in so many passages of your Encyclical, of the inclusive term “property” or “private” property, of which in morals nothing can be either affirmed or denied, makes your meaning, if we take isolated sentences, in many places ambiguous. But reading it as a whole, there can be no doubt of your intention that private property in land shall be understood when you speak merely of private property. With this interpretation, I find that the reasons you urge for private property in land are eight. Let us consider them in order of presentation. You urge:

1. That what is bought with rightful property is rightful property. (RN, paragraph 5) ...
2. That private property in land proceeds from man’s gift of reason. (RN, paragraphs 6-7.) ...
3. That private property in land deprives no one of the use of land. (RN, paragraph 8.) ...
4. That Industry expended on land gives ownership in the land itself. (RN, paragraphs 9-10.) ...
5. That private property in land has the support of the common opinion of mankind, and has conduced to peace and tranquillity, and that it is sanctioned by Divine Law. (RN, paragraph 11.) ...
6. That fathers should provide for their children and that private property in land is necessary to enable them to do so. (RN, paragraphs 14-17.) ...
7. That the private ownership of land stimulates industry, increases wealth, and attaches men to the soil and to their country. (RN, paragraph 51.) ...
8. That the right to possess private property in land is from nature, not from man; that the state has no right to abolish it, and that to take the value of landownership in taxation would be unjust and cruel to the private owner. (RN, paragraph 51.) ...

5. That private property in land has the support of the common opinion of mankind, and has conduced to peace and tranquillity, and that it is sanctioned by Divine Law. (11.)

Even were it true that the common opinion of mankind has sanctioned private property in land, this would no more prove its justice than the once universal practice of the known world would have proved the justice of slavery.

But it is not true. Examination will show that wherever we can trace them the first perceptions of mankind have always recognized the equality of right to land, and that when individual possession became necessary to secure the right of ownership in things produced by labor some method of securing equality, sufficient in the existing state of social development, was adopted. Thus, among some peoples, land used for cultivation was periodically divided, land used for pasturage and wood being held in common. Among others, every family was permitted to hold what land it needed for a dwelling and for cultivation, but the moment that such use and cultivation stopped any one else could step in and take it on like tenure. Of the same nature were the land laws of the Mosaic code. The land, first fairly divided among the people, was made inalienable by the provision of the jubilee, under which, if sold, it reverted every fiftieth year to the children of its original possessors.

Private property in land as we know it, the attaching to land of the same right of ownership that justly attaches to the products of labor, has never grown up anywhere save by usurpation or force. Like slavery, it is the result of war. It comes to us of the modern world from your ancestors, the Romans, whose civilization it corrupted and whose empire it destroyed.

It made with the freer spirit of the northern peoples the combination of the feudal system, in which, though subordination was substituted for equality, there was still a rough recognition of the principle of common rights in land. A fief was a trust, and to enjoyment was annexed some obligation. The sovereign, the representative of the whole people, was the only owner of land. Of him, immediately or mediately, held tenants, whose possession involved duties or payments, which, though rudely and imperfectly, embodied the idea that we would carry out in the single tax, of taking land values for public uses. The crown lands maintained the sovereign and the civil list; the church lands defrayed the cost of public worship and instruction, of the relief of the sick, the destitute and the wayworn; while the military tenures provided for public defense and bore the costs of war. A fourth and very large portion of the land remained in common, the people of the neighborhood being free to pasture it, cut wood on it, or put it to other common uses.

In this partial yet substantial recognition of common rights to land is to be found the reason why, in a time when the industrial arts were rude, wars frequent, and the great discoveries and inventions of our time unthought of, the condition of the laborer was devoid of that grinding poverty which despite our marvelous advances now exists. Speaking of England, the highest authority on such subjects, the late Professor Therold Rogers, declares that in the thirteenth century there was no class so poor, so helpless, so pressed and degraded as are millions of Englishmen in our boasted nineteenth century; and that, save in times of actual famine, there was no laborer so poor as to fear that his wife and children might come to want even were he taken from them. Dark and rude in many respects as they were, these were the times when the cathedrals and churches and religious houses whose ruins yet excite our admiration were built; the times when England had no national debt, no poor law, no standing army, no hereditary paupers, no thousands and thousands of human beings rising in the morning without knowing where they might lay their heads at night.

With the decay of the feudal system, the system of private property in land that had destroyed Rome was extended. As to England, it may briefly be said that the crown lands were for the most part given away to favorites; that the church lands were parceled among his courtiers by Henry VIII., and in Scotland grasped by the nobles; that the military dues were finally remitted in the seventeenth century, and taxation on consumption substituted; and that by a process beginning with the Tudors and extending to our own time all but a mere fraction of the commons were inclosed by the greater landowners; while the same private ownership of land was extended over Ireland and the Scottish Highlands, partly by the sword and partly by bribery of the chiefs. Even the military dues, had they been commuted, not remitted, would today have more than sufficed to pay all public expenses without one penny of other taxation.

Of the New World, whose institutions but continue those of Europe, it is only necessary to say that to the parceling out of land in great tracts is due the backwardness and turbulence of Spanish America; that to the large plantations of the Southern States of the Union was due the persistence of slavery there, and that the more northern settlements showed the earlier English feeling, land being fairly well divided and the attempts to establish manorial estates coming to little or nothing. In this lies the secret of the more vigorous growth of the Northern States. But the idea that land was to be treated as private property had been thoroughly established in English thought before the colonial period ended, and it has been so treated by the United States and by the several States. And though land was at first sold cheaply, and then given to actual settlers, it was also sold in large quantities to speculators, given away in great tracts for railroads and other purposes, until now the public domain of the United States, which a generation ago seemed illimitable, has practically gone. And this, as the experience of other countries shows, is the natural result in a growing community of making land private property. When the possession of land means the gain of unearned wealth, the strong and unscrupulous will secure it. But when, as we propose, economic rent, the “unearned increment of wealth,” is taken by the state for the use of the community, then land will pass into the hands of users and remain there, since no matter how great its value, its possession will be profitable only to users.

As to private property in land having conduced to the peace and tranquillity of human life, it is not necessary more than to allude to the notorious fact that the struggle for land has been the prolific source of wars and of lawsuits, while it is the poverty engendered by private property in land that makes the prison and the workhouse the unfailing attributes of what we call Christian civilization.

Your Holiness intimates that the Divine Law gives its sanction to the private ownership of land, quoting from Deuteronomy, “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, nor his house, nor his field, nor his man-servant, nor his maid-servant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything which is his.”

If, as your Holiness conveys, this inclusion of the words, “nor his field,” is to be taken as sanctioning private property in land as it exists today, then, but with far greater force, must the words, “his man-servant, nor his maid-servant,” be taken to sanction chattel slavery; for it is evident from other provisions of the same code that these terms referred both to bondsmen for a term of years and to perpetual slaves. But the word “field” involves the idea of use and improvement, to which the right of possession and ownership does attach without recognition of property in the land itself. And that this reference to the “field” is not a sanction of private property in land as it exists today is proved by the fact that the Mosaic code expressly denied such unqualified ownership in land, and with the declaration, “the land also shall not be sold forever, because it is mine, and you are strangers and sojourners with me,” provided for its reversion every fiftieth year; thus, in a way adapted to the primitive industrial conditions of the time, securing to all of the chosen people a foothold in the soil.

Nowhere in fact throughout the Scriptures can the slightest justification be found for the attaching to land of the same right of property that justly attaches to the things produced by labor. Everywhere is it treated as the free bounty of God, “the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.” ...

How true this is we may see in the facts of today. In our own time invention and discovery have enormously increased the productive power of labor, and at the same time greatly reduced the cost of many things necessary to the support of the laborer. Have these improvements anywhere raised the earnings of the mere laborer? Have not their benefits mainly gone to the owners of land — enormously increased land values?

I say mainly, for some part of the benefit has gone to the cost of monstrous standing armies and warlike preparations; to the payment of interest on great public debts; and, largely disguised as interest on fictitious capital, to the owners of monopolies other than that of land. But improvements that would do away with these wastes would not benefit labor; they would simply increase the profits of landowners. Were standing armies and all their incidents abolished, were all monopolies other than that of land done away with, were governments to become models of economy, were the profits of speculators, of middlemen, of all sorts of exchangers saved, were every one to become so strictly honest that no policemen, no courts, no prisons, no precautions against dishonesty would be needed — the result would not differ from that which has followed the increase of productive power.

Nay, would not these very blessings bring starvation to many of those who now manage to live? Is it not true that if there were proposed today, what all Christian men ought to pray for, the complete disbandment of all the armies of Europe, the greatest fears would be aroused for the consequences of throwing on the labor-market so many unemployed laborers?

... read the whole letter

Proving Title

Years ago, a New Orleans lawyer sought an FHA loan for a client. He was told the loan would be granted IF he could prove satisfactory title to a parcel of property being offered as collateral. No big deal; customary request.

The title of the property dated back to 1803. Instead of tracing title back 50 years, the customary amount, the lawyer traced it all the way back to 1803. This took him three months.  ...

"For the edification of uninformed FHA bureaucrats, the title to the land prior to U.S. ownership was obtained from France, which had acquired it by right of conquest from Spain. The land came into possession of Spain by right of conquest made in the year 1492 by a sea captain named Christopher Columbus, who had been granted the privilege of seeking a new route to India by the Spanish monarch, Isabella. The good queen Isabella, being a pious woman and almost as careful about titles as the FHA, took the precaution of securing the blessing of the Pope before she sold her jewels to finance Columbus' expedition.

Now the Pope, as I'm sure you may know, is the emissary of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and God, it is commonly accepted, created this world. Therefore, I believe it is safe to presume that God also made that part of the world called Louisiana. God, therefore, would be the owner of origin and His origins date back to before the beginning of time and of the world as we AND the FHA know it. I hope to hell you find God's original claim to be satisfactory. ... "

The first man who, having enclosed a piece of ground, bethought himself of saying, “This is mine”, and found people simple enough to believe him, was the real founder of civil society.

From how many crimes, wars and murders, from how many horrors and misfortunes, might not anyone have saved mankind by pulling up the stakes, filling in the ditch, and crying to his fellows, “BEWARE OF LISTENING TO THIS IMPOSTOR; YOU ARE UNDONE IF YOU ONCE FORGET THAT THE FRUITS OF THE EARTH BELONG TO US ALL, AND THE EARTH ITSELF TO NOBODY.”

Nic Tideman:  Peace, Justice and Economic Reform
Any conception of justice may seem to be no more than one person's opinion. And yet there are things that we all know about justice. If I tell you that I stand before you as justice, you know that across my face you will find -- a blindfold. In my left hand I hold aloft -- a pair of scales. You know that in my right hand I have -- a sword that I will use if necessary. And my gender is female.

The blindfold, the scales, the sword, and the feminine gender. These features of the traditional symbol tell us much about justice. The blindfold might seem out of place, since it prevents justice from either seeing what the scales say or wielding the sword effectively. But we know that the blindfold has a distinct and essential meaning. The blindfold ensures that justice will not be swayed by any visible characteristics of those who plead before her. Justice is not concerned with whether you are black or white, short or tall, beautiful or ugly. Every person receives the same treatment from justice. ...

The scales have at least two possible interpretations. The first interpretation is that the disputants at the bar of justice each place their arguments in one of the pans of the scales, and justice determines who has the weightier arguments. Our language supports this interpretation with references to the scales of justice tipping in one direction or another. But there is different use of the scales that is particularly relevant to questions of social justice, as opposed to personal disputes. The scales can be used to achieve an equal division. Justice is done when the contents of one pan of the scales are exactly balanced by the contents of the other. This is the meaning of the scales that I shall apply.

And then the sword. The sword represents the fact that justice is prepared to use the threat of force, and force itself, to see that her decrees are carried out. In a world where men have so often used weapons to achieve selfish dominance, the feminine gender helps make credible the claim that the sword is used only to achieve justice, and not to advance the selfish interests of the person who wields it.

Thus if we know that justice is the blindfolded woman with the scales and the sword, then we know that justice is the principles of equality and evenhandedness that command and prohibit the use of force in resolving conflicts. ...

Consider what this tells us. It tells us first that if we wish to claim that justice authorizes the force we wish to use, or that justice forbids the force that others wish to use against us, then we must be able to show that our claim is consistent with equality and evenhandedness.   ...

One tradition in classical liberalism concerning claims to land is that of the "homesteading libertarians," as exemplified by Murray Rothbard, who say that there is really no need to be concerned with Locke's proviso. Natural opportunities belong to whoever first appropriates them, regardless of whether opportunities of equal value are available to others.[13]

The other tradition is that of the "geoists," as inspired if not exemplified by Henry George, who say that, whenever natural opportunities are scarce, each person has an obligation to ensure that the per capita value of the natural opportunities that he leaves for others is as great as the value of the natural opportunities that he claims for himself.[14] Any excess in one's claim generates an obligation to compensate those who thereby have less. George actually proposed the nearly equivalent idea, that all or nearly all of the rental value of land should be collected in taxes, and all other taxes should be abolished. The geoist position as I have expressed it emphasizes the idea that, at least when value generated by public services is not an issue, rights to land are fundamentally rights of individuals, not rights of governments.

There are two fundamental problems with the position of homesteading libertarians on claims to land. The first problem is the incongruity with historical reality. Humans have emerged from an environment of violence. Those who now have titles to land can trace those titles back only so far, before they come to events where fiat backed by violence determined title. And the persons who were displaced at that time themselves had titles that originated in violence. If there ever were humans who acquired the use of land without forcibly displacing other humans, we have no way of knowing who they were or who their current descendants might be. There is, in practice, no way of assigning land to the legitimate successors of the persons who first claimed land. And to assign titles based on any fraction of history is to reward the last land seizures that are not rectified.

The second fundamental problem with the position of the homesteading libertarians is that, even if there were previously unsettled land to be allocated, say a new continent emerging from the ocean, first grabbing would make no sense as a criterion for allocating land.  ...   Read the entire article

Nic Tideman:   The Case for Taxing Land
I.  Taxing Land as Ethics and Efficiency
II.  What is Land?
III.  The simple efficiency argument for taxing land
IV.  Taxing Land is Better Than Neutral
V.  Measuring the Economic Gains from Shifting Taxes to Land
VI. The Ethical Case for Taxing Land
VII. Answer to Arguments against Taxing Land

There is a case for taxing land based on ethical principles and a case for taxing land based on efficiency principles.  As a matter of logic, these two cases are separate.  Ethical conclu­sions follow from ethical premises and efficiency conclusions from efficiency principles.  However, it is natural for human minds to conflate the two cases.  It is easier to believe that something is good if one knows that it is efficient, and it is easier to see that something is efficient if one believes that it is good.  Therefore it is important for a discussion of land taxation to address both question of efficiency and questions of ethics.

This monograph will first address the efficiency case for taxing land, because that is the less controversial case.  The efficiency case for taxing land has two main parts. ...

To estimate the magnitudes of the impacts that additional taxes on land would have on an economy, one must have a model of the economy.  I report on estimates of the magnitudes of impacts on the U.S. economy of shifting taxes to land, based on a mathematical model that is outlined in the Appendix.

The ethical case for taxing land is based on two ethical premises:  ...

The ethical case for taxing land ends with a discussion of the reasons why recognition of the equal rights of all to land may be essential for world peace.

After developing the efficiency argument and the ethical argument for taxing land, I consider a variety of counter-arguments that have been offered against taxing land.  For a given level of other taxes, a rise in the rate at which land is taxed causes a fall in the selling price of land.  It is sometimes argued that only modest taxes on land are therefore feasible, because as the rate of taxation on land increases and the selling price of land falls, market transactions become increasingly less reliable as indicators of the value of land.   ...

Another basis on which it is argued that greatly increased taxes on land are infeasible is that if land values were to fall precipitously, the financial system would collapse.   ...

Apart from questions of feasibility, it is sometimes argued that erosion of land values from taxing land would harm economic efficiency, because it would reduce opportunities for entrepreneurs to use land as collateral for loans to finance their ideas.  ...
Another ethical argument that is made against taxing land is that the return to unusual ability is “rent” just as the return to land is rent.  ...

But before developing any of these arguments, I must discuss what land is. ...

The processes that humans employ to determine who shall have exclusive use of natural opportunities are complex.  To some extent, opportunities are assigned to those who first make use of them.  However, another important component of the natural-opportunity-assignment process is the ability and willingness to use deadly force to exclude others.  Americans from Europe undertook some negotiations with the native American Indians, but primarily they threatened to kill the Indians if they did not agree to move into smaller territories.  All over the world, nations emerged when war-minded leaders imposed their rule where they could.  We have built a relatively humane world on this violent foundation, but the origins of the assignment of natural opportunities cannot be characterized as just.

Nor would have been just (or efficient) to adhere to a rule of initial assignment based on first use.  It would not be just because a person who arrives later than another is not inher­ently less deserving.  (It would not be efficient because a rule of assignment based on first use promotes inefficient, excessive investment in being first.  Still, to motivate efficient discovery, it pays to provide some reward for discoverers.)  ... Read the whole article
Karl Williams:  Social Justice In Australia: INTRODUCTORY KIT
There's an amusing story of a Georgist who challenged a land baron as to the baron's right to his vast tracts. The baron knew the history of the estate of his noble bloodlines, and told how one of his ancestors had paid good money for the land, rather than gaining it by some royal grant. To this the Georgist replied, "But how did the previous owner obtain it?" Again the baron explained how that person had also once paid good money for it. Yet again and again, the Georgist persisted with, "But how did that owner obtain it?" Finally, the baron said, "He fought for it in battle, and won it". To which the Georgist said, "Good! I'll fight you for it!"  Read the entire article

Karl Williams:  Social Justice In Australia: ADVANCED KIT
"But when the sky darkens, and the prospect is war
Who's given a gun and then pushed to the fore?
Aye, and expected to die for the land of our birth
We who have never owned one handful of earth."

Would Geonomics lead to an outbreak of multi-ethnic tea parties all over the Balkans? We repeat, Geonomics is not a panacea. Without it, though, there will never be any real prosperity or social justice. Similarly, Geonomics isn't the panacea for all conflict, but without it there will always be incentives to wage war.

The issue is territorial conquest. If you examine the causes of war, you won't be able to identify many for which territorial conquest was not an important factor. This is especially the case if you broaden the term territory to include water (one of the things over which scores of future wars will be fought, many say) and minerals (including oil).

Wherever a society exists in which individuals or groups can own the Earth outright and thereby profit enormously, then there's going to be a great temptation to seize a few of the best chunks. Of course, there'll be some ostensible justification for this confiscation, such as:
  • Some silly nationalistic "principle", like ethnic pride or vengeance
  • Some historical justification, like "we had it first" (selectively choosing how far back in history to go)
  • A pre-emptive move of forward self-defense in the face of imminent (or beat-up) threats by a hostile neighbour
One way or another, nearly all war is about territory in the end. As humans are physical beings, somehow stuck in time and three dimensions, this must be ever so. If we are going to claim exclusive and eternal possession of some of the physical environment where our bodies - pretty much locked to our consciousnesses - want to move, then it's no wonder that one may hear big, loud, angry-sounding bumps sometimes.

Land is limited, a minimum of it is essential for survival, and its quality varies greatly. This presently gives a big incentive to some individuals/clans/tribes/ethnic groups/nations to grab more than their fair share. And, seeing how generals or demagogues in charge usually ensure that their own nests are pretty well-feathered, the poor old plebs are often led into a war from which they will gain little if anything - as the poem at the head of the page well illustrates.

So how would LVT change all this? Well, it wouldn't change it all but it would, for starters, eliminate or greatly reduce that particular incentive for individual or group gain arising through the possibility of claiming ownership of natural resources, including land.

And here's a completely different tack: while greed, malice and cynicism rule human hearts, no system of government can hope to eliminate war. But, given enough time, perhaps an enabling environment would nurture more the virtuous than the vicious side of humanity and eventually bring about peace on a personal level - a sort of bottom-up approach. For instance, the more people there are who understand the philosophy of social justice (not to mention the potential prosperity) that LVT confers, the less likely they are to believe and follow some ranting populist playing the cheap nationalist card to drag a bewildered population into yet another war.

On that very point, Henry George also believed in the innate goodness of humanity, and seemed to inspire it among those who knew him. George was not naïve of our human flaws, yet was convinced that our system of land monopoly capitalism had degraded many of our higher virtues, and herein lay great hope. As Helen Keller said of George, "Who reads shall find in Henry George's philosophy a rare beauty and power of inspiration, and a splendid faith in the essential nobility of human nature." Contrast this to the cynicism of Hitler, who wrote in Mein Kampf "If you wish the sympathy of broad masses, then you must tell them the crudest and most stupid things."

If Hitler was right, humanity is irredeemable. If George was right, the principles he enunciated and elaborated could encourage humanity to such a level of social development that few would feel the need to respond to rabble-rousing warmongers. But whatever the case, it cannot be denied that LVT would greatly reduce the financial incentive to violently grab natural resources.  ...   Read the entire article

Jeff Smith: How Sharing Earth Brought Peace
Since forever, humans have claimed and counter-claimed every square inch of this planet. Occasionally, these disputes have ended peacefully. What has worked in other times and places might work again in the Mideast. Delivering a double dividend, what settled land disputes also developed moribund economies and revived developed ones. Among others, New York, now aiming to rebuild, has used this policy before. Because it's growing popular among environmentalists, greens could lead the US to geonomics.

...  These cases involved different classes, not different cultures. Yet with a new twist the rent rebate that worked within society may work between societies. The Koran urges landlords to not gouge tenants but to consider land a trust. In Israel, admonished to not own land forever, since the land is Mine (Leviticus), the National Trust leases all the land to the occupants. These strictures could lead to geonomics.

Israel and Palestine would establish a steward to collect land dues and disburse rent dividends a la Alaska's oil dividend. Since land is more valuable in Israel than in Palestine, Jews would pay in more than Arabs, yet everyone would get back the same. And since Israelis prosper, they drive up land values; having Jews as co-owners developing land, raising its value, fattening everyone's Citizens Dividend Arabs might accept that. Profit does make for strange bedfellows. Two archrivals, China and Taiwan, recently agreed to explore for oil together.

While sharing rent may soothe hurt feelings, collecting it stimulates development.  ...

Using geonomics, people have turned some of the poorest lands into the richest economies. Hong Kong is a barren rock owned by the public. The city collects enough site-rent to keep taxes on effort way down.  ...

Where to draw a line in the sand becomes a lot less contentious when land and oil are no longer spoils of war and when neighbors do not endure drastically different standards of living. Growing up, we learn to not fight over toys but to take turns. Societies need to learn this, too.

Early last century, Gifford Pinchot, first head of the US Forest Service, said: "The earth belongs of right to all its people and not to a minority, insignificant in numbers but tremendous in wealth and power. The people shall get their fair share of the benefit which comes from the development of the country which belongs to us all with equal opportunity for all and special privileges for none." A man in a Republican administration could say that then. We need to hear it again now.   Read the whole article

Dave Wetzel: Justice or Injustice: The Locational Benefit Levy
We all have our own personal interpretation of how “justice” can be achieved.

Often “justice” is interpreted in a very narrow legal sense and only in reference to the judicial system, which has been designed to protect the status quo. ...

Of course, all citizens (and subjects in the UK) -- need to know exactly what are the legal boundaries within which society operates.

But, supposing those original rules are unfair and unjust. Then the legal framework, being used to perpetuate an injustice -- does not make that injustice moral and proper even if within the rules of jurisprudence it is “legal.”

Obvious examples of this dislocation between immoral laws and natural justice is
  • South Africa's former policy of apartheid;
  • the USA's former segregated schools and buses;
  • discrimination based on race, religion, disability or sex;
  • slavery;
  • the oppression of women;
  • Victorian Britain's use of child labour and colonialism.
All these policies were “lawful” according to the legal framework of their day but that veneer of legality did not make these policies righteous and just.

Any society built on a basis of injustice will be burdened down with its own predisposition towards self-destruction. Even the most suppressed people will one-day, demand justice, rise up and overthrow their oppressors.

Human survival demands justice. Wherever slavery or dictatorship has been installed -- eventually, justice has triumphed and a more democratic and fairer system has replaced it. It is safe to predict that wherever slavery or dictatorship exists today -- it will be superseded by a fairer and more just system.

Similarly, let's consider our distribution of natural resources.

By definition, natural resources are not made by human effort. Our planet offers every inhabitant a bounty -- an amazing treasure chest of wealth that can supply our needs for food, shelter and every aspect for our survival.

Surely, “justice” demands that this natural wealth should be equally available to all and that nobody should starve, be homeless or suffer poverty simply because they are excluded from tapping in to this enormous wealth that nature has provided. ...

If our whole economy, with the private possession of land and other natural resources, is built upon an injustice -- then can any of us really be surprised that we continue to live on a planet where wars predominate, intolerance is common, crime is rife and where poverty and starvation is the norm for a huge percentage of earth's population.

Is this inherited system really the best we can do?

There must be a method for fairly utilising the earth's natural resources.

Referring to the rebuilding of Iraq in his recent speech to the American Congress, Tony Blair stated “We promised Iraq democratic Government. We will deliver it. We promised them the chance to use their oil wealth to build prosperity for all their citizens, not a corrupt elite. We will do so”.

Thus, Tony Blair recognises the difference between political justice in the form of a democratic Government and economic justice in the form of sharing natural resources.

We have not heard any dissenting voice from this promise to share Iraq's natural oil wealth for all the people of Iraq to enjoy the benefits. But if it is so obviously right and proper for the Iraqi people to share their natural wealth – why is it not the practice to do the same in all nations?

No landowner can create land values. If this were the case, then an entrepreurial landowner in the Scottish Highlands would be able to create more value than an indolent landowner in the City of London.

No, land values arise because of natural advantages (eg fertility for agricultural land or approximity to ports or harbours for commercial sites) or because of the efforts of the whole community -- past and present investment by both the public and private sectors, and the activities of individuals all give rise to land values. Why do we not advocate the sharing of these land values, which are as much a gift of nature and probably in most western economies are worth much more than Iraqi oil? ...

The Location Benefit Levy is a simple way to start addressing the world's last great injustice.   Read the whole article

Weld Carter: An Introduction to Henry George
What is the law of human progress? 
George saw ours alone among the civilizations of the world as still progressing; all others had either petrified or had vanished. And in our civilization he had already detected alarming evidences of corruption and decay. So he sought out the forces that create civilization and the forces that destroy it.

He found the incentives to progress to be the desires inherent in human nature, and the motor of progress to be what he called mental power. But the mental power that is available for progress is only what remains after nonprogressive demands have been met. These demands George listed as maintenance and conflict.

In his isolated state, primitive man's powers are required simply to maintain existence; only as he begins to associate in communities and to enjoy the resultant economies is mental power set free for higher uses. Hence, association is the first essential of progress:

And as the wasteful expenditure of mental power in conflict becomes greater or less as the moral law which accords to each an equality of rights is ignored or is recognized, equality (or justice) is the second essential of progress.

Thus association in equality is the law of progress. Association frees mental power for expenditure in improvement, and equality, or justice, or freedom -- for the terms here signify the same thing, the recognition of the moral law -- prevents the dissipation of this power in fruitless struggles.

He concluded this phase of his analysis of civilization in these words: "The law of human progress, what is it but the moral law? Just as social adjustments promote justice, just as they acknowledge the equality of right between man and man, just as they insure to each the perfect liberty which is bounded only by the equal liberty of every other, must civilization advance. Just as they fail in this, must advancing civilization come to a halt and recede..." 

However, as the primary relation of man is to the earth, so must the primary social adjustment concern the relation of man to the earth. Only that social adjustment which affords all mankind equal access to nature and which insures labor its full earnings will promote justice, acknowledge equality of right between man and man, and insure perfect liberty to each.

This, according to George, was what the single tax would do. It was why he saw the single tax as not merely a fiscal reform but as the basic reform without which no other reform could, in the long run, avail. This is why he said, "What is inexplicable, if we lose sight of man's absolute and constant dependence upon land, is clear when we recognize it."  ... read the whole article

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

This world of ours is currently threatened with disaster of awesome magnitude on two fronts. The first is the danger of nuclear warfare, most likely occurring between the United States and the Soviet Union; the second disaster, of even greater likelihood, is that the currencies of all the major countries of the world may soon be rendered worthless by inflation. Because the possibility of nuclear war may be lessened dramatically by the elimination of inflation, this article will address this second horror which currently engulfs us all.

This paper is predicated on the fact that there is one reform basic to the extent that no other reform, in its very nature, can possibly avail until this basic reform is fully adopted and instituted. The whole tenet of this paper is to demonstrate the verity of this statement.

The above appeal is based on the obvious fact that our entire socio-economic order has become riddled with lies, corruption and injustice. These claims, too, will be widely verified.

There must come a yearning for sanity, for honesty, for justice – and now – else we shall surely perish from the earth. ... read the whole essay


Judge Samuel Seabury: An Address delivered upon the 100th anniversary of the birth of Henry George

WE are met to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birth of Henry George. We meet, therefore, in a spirit of joy and thanksgiving for the great life which he devoted to the service of humanity. To very few of the children of men is it given to act the part of a great teacher who makes an outstanding contribution toward revealing the basic principles to which human society must adhere if it is to walk in the way which leads to freedom. This Henry George did, and in so doing he expressed himself with a clarity of thought and diction which has rarely been surpassed. ...

Henry George's teachings involved more than the prescription of specific remedies for particular evils. The specific remedies which he proposed were means to an end. The end was the philosophy of freedom as applied to human relations. I do not say that the majority of the people of the world have given acceptance to many of his most important teachings. Indeed, in view of the world tendency since his death to aggrandize the powers of the political state and limit and subordinate the power of the people, it is self-evident that in this environment the principles of Henry George could not have won general acceptance. Had they done so, the world would have made greater progress toward the attainment of the goal of human freedom and economic contentment which is still the unrealized aspiration of humanity.

Moreover, many who have believed in the necessity for basic social changes preferred to ignore the simple and fundamental teachings of Henry George, and to adopt, instead, the philosophy of Marx and Lenin. It is the wide acceptance of the doctrines of these false prophets which has contributed to making the economic condition of the masses worse, has reduced their standard of living and has made of Europe an armed camp. It is their disciples who are now attempting to introduce here the political and economic theories which in other countries have culminated in the totalitarian state, together with the host of iniquities which are inseparably connected with it.

... The second principle to which I wish to refer is Henry George's advocacy of freedom of trade among the nations — not free trade introduced overnight, but freedom of trade as an end toward which the nations should move. When he wrote his great work on "Protection or Free Trade," he demolished the protectionist argument and in chapter after chapter he showed the absurdities to which the protectionist principle led if carried to its logical conclusion. But even he, penetrating as his vision was, could not foresee that mankind was heading for a world order of economic nationalism and isolation, based upon the principle of protection carried to its utmost extreme. And yet that it is precisely the doctrine which is now currently accepted. If it becomes general, it can serve only to sow the seeds of destruction of that measure of civilization which we now have and force a lowering of the standard of living throughout the world.

There are two ways by which the people of one nation can acquire the property or goods of the people of another nation. These are by war and by trade. There are no other methods. The present tendency among civilized people to outlaw trade must drive the states which prescribe such outlawry to acquire the property and goods of other peoples by war. Early in man's struggle for existence the resort to war was the common method adopted. With the advancement of civilization men resorted to trade as a practical substitute for war. The masses of men wish to trade with one another. The action of the states alone prevents them from so doing. In prohibiting trade, the state gives an importance to territorial boundaries which would not exist if freedom of trade existed. In accentuating the importance of mere boundary disputes, rather than assuring the right of peoples to trade with one another, the nations put the emphasis upon the precise issue which is, itself, one of the most prolific causes of war.

All the great modern states are turning away from freedom of trade, and indeed, from trade itself, and forbidding their people the right to earn their own livelihood and to associate freely with one another in industry. In order to accomplish this end they are compelled to regiment the lives of their people under state bureaucracies and this can be accomplished only by a despotic state. If the powers of the modern states are to be augmented by conferring upon them the right to run all industry, despotism is inevitable. A dictator may, by reducing the standard of living and regimenting the people, run all industry within the state over which he rules, but a democracy, which, if it is to be true to itself, must preserve individual initiative, can not do so without transforming itself into a dictatorship. ... read the whole speech

Peter Barnes: Capitalism 3.0 — Chapter 2: A Short History of Capitalism (pages 15-32)

About ten thousand years ago, human agriculture and permanent settlements arose, and with them came private property. Rulers granted ownership of land to heads of families (usually males). Often, military conquerors distributed land to their lieutenants. Titles could then be passed to heirs — typically, oldest sons got everything. ... read the whole chapter

Henry Ford Talks About War and Your Future - 1942 interview

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