Q: I want to follow-up on what you had said some months ago about land
JES: "The main, underlying idea of Henry George is the taxation of
land and other natural resources. At the time, people thought, "not
really that too," but what was underlying his ideas is rent associated
with things that are inelastically supplied, which are land and natural
resources. And using natural resource extraction and using land
rents as the basis of taxation is an argument that I think makes an awful
lot of sense because it is a non-distortionary source of income and wealth. ...
Q: A former Director of Robert Schalkenbach Foundation was given a grant
recently to research the adequacy of land as a tax base. He's a professor
at the University of California, Riverside, named Mason Gaffney, and he wrote
a book titled, "The Corruption of Economics." Are you familiar
with his work?
Q: I'll send you a copy of the book. Basically, he argues that the founders
of neo-classical economics, which, as you know, is the paradigm taught in
schools such as the University of Chicago, distorted the science of economics
to protect vested interests. For example, Rockefeller money was spent to
hire professors of economics with a view to their discrediting the ideas
of Henry George. Did that happen?
JES: My general impression is that most donors that give money to universities
don't take a very strong view of [who should be on] the faculty. Sometimes
it ends up on one side, sometimes on the other. It would have been unusual
[at Chicago], but it could have happened there. What is striking about Chicago
as a school of economic theory is that it's very conservative. One would
have thought that Henry George was someone who would have been liked by "Conservatives."
Q: In that George wanted to reduce tax on the fruits of one's own labor?
JES: Exactly. And you want non-distortionary taxes, so I would have
thought that every "Conservative" would be in Henry George's
camp. Now, as far as I know, I'm one of the few people who keeps
emphasizing that you ought to view Henry George in a broader way, to include
natural resources. I didn't think that people thought about that a hundred
years ago. But if they had, and maybe Rockefeller was smart — he
realized that he obviously didn't want a tax on natural resources.
Q: He wouldn't have wanted rents flowing from natural resources to go to
the people rather than to him.
JES: Yes, he obviously wouldn't like that perspective. But I don't know
if that view was at that time recognized, and I just don't know whether he
actively intervened at Chicago. ... read
the entire interview