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

Alanna Hartzok: Earth Rights Democracy: Public Finance based on Early Christian Teachings
The band-aid safety nets of the 1940s and 50s are unravelling and a new Gilded Age is upon us. The wealth gap is growing. Wages for nearly everyone have stagnated or are declining. Ever escalating land values push housing prices beyond the capacity of millions to secure adequate shelter. Worldwide, a billion people live in degrading destitution lacking basic needs. Local conflicts and global wars are waged for control of land and natural resources. Tax funds that could build a world that works for everyone instead are being directed to biochemical weapons research, building space laser weaponry, and neo-colonial warfare.

It has been said that the only two certainties in life are death and taxes and that the power to tax is the power to create or destroy. The story of the birth of Jesus is on one level the story of a family on a long and onerous journey to pay taxes imposed by the Romans upon the people of the land. We urgently need to establish land tenure and tax policies based on the deepest wisdom of the Judeo-Christian tradition - a truth based on the perception of the unity of life, that all is created by God, and on the realization of the brotherhood and sisterhood of the one humanity. The privilege of holding large amounts of land or highly valuable land as individual private property needs to be a conditional, not an absolute right. For justice to prevail, the right to exclusive access to land must be granted only upon payment of full and fairly assessed land value taxes and resource rents.

We have at hand a powerful solution and a way to secure a world of peace and plenty. We need to constitute democratic governance on the firm foundation of equal rights to the land and resources of the earth, an "earth rights democracy" which removes the burden of taxes from the backs of those who labor and instead directs government to collect the value of our common wealth for the benefit of all. A morally correct form of taxation may not lead to everlasting life, but it WILL promote and sustain the conditions for lives worth living on planet earth....    Read the whole article


Alanna Hartzok: In the History of Thought: Henry George's "Single Tax"

One day, while riding horseback in the Oakland hills, merchant seaman and journalist Henry George had a startling epiphany. He realized that speculation and private profiteering in the gifts of nature were the root causes of the unjust distribution of wealth. The insights presented in Progress and Poverty, George's masterwork, launched him to fame. His policy approach was known at that time as the "single tax" - meaning that taxation should be shifted off of labor and onto the socially created surplus value of land and other natural resources. His message reached as far as the great Russian Leo Tolstoy, who was so taken with the idea that he frequently referred to George and "Georgism" in his novel Resurrection.

During the last 20 years of the 19th century George built an impressive populist movement bent on solving the problem of the wealth gap, and he died in 1897 while campaigning to be New York's mayor. The "Georgists" were determined to free labor and all productive effort from the burden of taxation. Land and natural resources were gifts of nature to be fairly shared by all. The role of government would be to secure democratic rights to the earth for all people via the collection of resource rents, the surplus value accruing to natural wealth, which would be distributed in social goods, services or by direct citizen dividends.

But just as this solution to the rich/poor gap was gaining momentum, the Georgist movement was stopped in its tracks. Wealthy individuals poured their money into leading schools of economics to encourage the writing of treatises against George and the movements he had spawned. The ethical perspective that land is a common heritage and the policy approach of land value taxation were subsequently eliminated from the field of economics. The newly dominant theory focused on only two primary factors -- labor and capital -- with capital having the upper hand as "employing labor." "Labor," of course, is quite capable of self-employment given access to land. This is what the elites and the plutocrats feared most - that labor would gain full power to directly produce capital given conditions of equal rights to the resources of the earth. ... read the whole article



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