Skip to comments.Henry George: We must make land common property - inch by inch
Posted on 08/17/2012 10:33:17 AM PDT by ProgressingAmerica
In "Progress and Poverty" (1879) on page 295, Henry George wrote the following:
We have traced the unequal distribution of wealth which is the curse and menace of modern civilization to the institution of private property in land. We have seen that so long as this institution exists no increase in productive power can permanently benefit the masses; but, on the contrary, must tend still further to depress their condition. We have examined all the remedies, short of the abolition of private property in land, which are currently relied on or proposed for the relief of poverty and the better distribution of wealth, and have found them all inefficacious or impracticable.
There is but one way to remove an eviland that is to remove its cause. Poverty deepens as wealth increases, and wages are forced down while productive power grows, because land, which is the source of all wealth and the field of all labor, is monopolized. To extirpate poverty, to make wages what justice commands they should be, the full earnings of the laborer, we must therefore substitute for the individual ownership of land a common ownership. Nothing else will go to the cause of the evilin nothing else is there the slightest hope.
This, then, is the remedy for the unjust and unequal distribution of wealth apparent in modern civilization, and for all the evils which flow from it:
We must make land common property.
We have reached this conclusion by an examination in which every step has been proved and secured. In the chain of reasoning no link is wanting and no link is weak. Deduction and induction have brought us to the same truththat the unequal ownership of land necessitates the unequal distribution of wealth. And as in the nature of things unequal ownership of land is inseparable from the recognition of individual property in land, it necessarily follows that the only remedy for the unjust distribution of wealth is in making land common property.
But this is a truth which, in the present state of society, will arouse the most bitter antagonism, and must fight its way, inch by inch.
This is one of the earliest that I've seen that is word for word exactly the kind of thing that a modern progressive will say. Early reform/progressives took time to become the uniform statists that we would recognize in the early 20th century progressives to today.(and it's likely that George himself is no different - I am hardly the George expert, knowing every minute detail) But in just these short few paragraphs, we have the following:
Government stealing of property - while that theft is mis-labeled as 'justice'? Check.
Incessant focus on 'the unequal distribution of wealth'? Check.
But most importantly, "inch by inch". The directive is given: You must make progress!
But likewise "unequal distribution" can equally be a benefit. One could easily construct an analogy concerning two brothers, one chooses to be a carpenter, and the other chooses to be a brain surgeon. In this instance, it's good that the wealth is not "distributed" equally.(In this instance, the word distribution doesn't really apply - "earn" becomes the proper word. Different labor has different value)
But regarding making progress inch by inch, it's little wonder why the British Fabians took to George so fondly. See http://freerepublic.com/focus/f-bloggers/2775931/posts
One of the things that made America so great was the open availability of land for anyone instead of the European model where land was owned and controlled by the "royalty".
The lives of “the masses” were pretty dismal in 1879 Great Britain which is why so many of the fled to America.
We’ve had 100 years to test the theory of collectivism.
Its only strength is profound involuntary population reduction. If you can call that a strength.
We now just pay rent once per year so the government will allow us to live on a certain piece of land.
Don't pay your property taxes and see if you own your land.
I have found in many decades of fighting against the Leftist orientation in Western Academia & the mass media, that when challenged, the Egalitarian cannot defend his philosophy; hence the frenzied need to insult all who do not give lip service to his cries for "social justice," "fair shares," "new world orders," etc..
The reality is that Collectivist/Egalitarianism Sabotages Human Potential. But, even were it otherwise, the moral imperative is that productive people not be reduced to a form of bondage to Leftwing theorists. Nothing could be further from the principles on which America was founded than that.
This was Marx's case in 1848. From that point of view in history it was obvious that the proletariat would experience what he termed increasing "immiseration" - falling wages, universal illiteracy, (and, interestingly, falling profits on the part of the capitalists).
It didn't happen, although devout Marxists have been continuing to predict it ever since, recodifying it to fit current circumstances. Marx was a god that failed, but don't try to tell the worshippers that.
The real difficulty with thinking of wealth in this way is that it is necessarily static; that perfectly even distribution will engender no economic activity at all. In basic capitalism wealth is created from surpluses resulting from one economic activity and it is used to create further economic activity - that's what capitalism, and capital, are, and nothing more. There is a necessary inequality of distribution built into the system - Marxism recognizes this but treats it as theft. And suppresses it, and that explains why Marxian economic systems grow steadily poorer. In fact, real theft and real corruption are still permitted if one happens to have the proper party affiliation, and that accounts for what little wealth creation there is. Lift the cover, as happened in 1989 in the Soviet Union, and voila! There actually is a wealthy class after all, and it's pretty much who you'd think it would be. Not Jewish bankers. Not the despised petit bourgeoisie. It's the Party.
In short, George's flight of hopeful theory about collective economic behavior only works in the absence of the very thing it always seems to create - a predatory ruling class. Marx's broad model of economic progress was feudalism, capitalism, communism, but in practice this turns out to be feudalism, capitalism, more feudalism.
Wealth is created and earned.
Handouts are dispersed.
I’ll take 48 inches in the East Hamptons, preferably prime beachfront, please. Just enough space to spead a towel
Or if that won’t do, Malibu
I’m sure Spielberg Streisand or another obama supporter wont mind sharing their wealth
They fled England where as a rule, it was nearly impossible for a normal man to own land. America, where land could be privately owned by the masses created a standard of living the average Briton never dreamed of back then.
How’s this? We find the followers of this robber fascist and “share” what they think is “their” land, property, and wealth with them.
I wonder how long the “sharing” philosophy will continue to please them.
While the rest of the economy is relatively free the result is something like socialism so far as land is concerned. I don't quite understand how the system would work. Tax away any source of income and it dries up. Also, taxing unused land to bring it into productive use goes against current liberal/progressive thinking about fighting sprawl and preserving undeveloped space. In that sense, Henry George was totally at odds with current efforts to control landed property.
In practice Georgists acted locally, forming utopian communities with publicly own land. Fairhope, AL and Arden, DE are two that, after a fashion, still exist. In its day, Georgism was a half-way house to socialism. People who started to question social conditions embraced George's thinking, then moved on to more radical ideas. But Henry George also had an influence on some conservatives, like Albert J. Nock, and through Nock, William F. Buckley. The idea that it might possible to do away with all taxes but one on land values was an appealing one to some.
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