The Single Tax, A Refutation

June 21st, 2012   Submitted by Wendy McElroy

I generally eschew question-and-answer as a format for presenting ideas but the choice I confront is to use this ‘easy’ structure or to delay the promised ‘refutation’ until next week due to deadline pressure. I chose ‘easy’. The following commentaries do not exhaust my objections to the Single Tax – far from it. But they provide a good indication of those objections and (hopefully) a springboard for productive discussion. The questions in bold face represent the Georgist position, followed by my ‘refutation.’

How can someone justify claiming property by the ‘right of first occupation’ when everyone else has a similar claim to the same property?

No system of land ownership is without difficulties, and I do not put forth the ‘mixing one’s labor’ standard as ideal. But every theory is meant to solve a problem and, so, the salient question becomes, “How well does this theory solve the problem compared to every other one?” In other words, all theories face difficulties in establishing the right of first ownership; which one offers the best solution?

I believe the ‘mixing of labor’ standard is superior. Everyone has the same and equal right to mix their labor with unoccupied land according to some reasonable standard that I believe would evolve in common law. Thus, a man could not claim a square mile of land because he planted a tree in the middle of it. Reasonable standards of land ownership would and have evolved under the free market through history, even when the freedoms were imperfect. (Similarly, Georgists believe a reasonable rate for and collection of the single tax would evolve.)

I do not deny that the second person to arrive at the same land is prevented from using it without the first’s consent. The situation is akin to a man gathering a basket of wild berries and sitting down to breakfast. A passer-by can go on a similar berry hunt but he cannot properly snatch the basket of picked berries from the man’s lap. Nor can the passer-by demand payment for the man’s breakfast. The ‘profit’ of the berry-breakfast belongs entirely to the one whose efforts secured the basket.

For me, the most extreme advantage of the ‘mixing labor’ standard is that land quickly becomes available on the open market; indeed, this form of pre-owned property soon dominates the marketplace. Georgists object that land is not created by people’s labor, by the use of their faculties. But property on the open market is an expression of people’s labor and faculties in that they exchange the result of their productive labor – currency, barter, etc. – for the property. In short, the ‘mixing labor’ standard quickly results in property ownership and value being determined by the free market and it becomes possible to write the state entirely out of the dynamics.

By contrast, Georgism cements a land-assessing, tax-collecting authority into the very concept of property and it does so in perpetuity. Even if you believe that a tax-collecting authority would not naturally expand or become corrupt, it remains perilously close if not identical to a State. The free market is the only vehicle that does not have force or privilege embedded in its core.

As a matter of principle, you cannot claim a right to something you do not own – land – simply because you mix it with something you do own – your labor.

If this is true, then it proves more than I believe Georgists wish to accept. If I can make no rightful claim to the riches of nature with which I must mix my labor in order to produce bread, clothing, shelter, and the other necessities of life then I can never claim to ‘own’ the loaf I am baking, the dress on my back, the chair in which I sit, the roof over my head. I am in possession of these goods only because I deprived others of their equal claim to the raw materials consumed in their production.

This means that the cane I whittle from a stick of wood found in a ditch is partially owned by my neighbor and everyone else on the globe because I have no rightful claim of ownership over the original wood. It is futile for the Georgist to point to the high degree of labor mixed with the wood or to the fact the wood had been abandoned because neither observation mitigates his principled argument that the natural resource was and is not mine. Why is it only land to which the Georgist applies his principles and not to sticks or wild berries? Why not make every person pay every other person for all goods that include a natural resource?–which is to say, all goods.

I suspect it is because the Georgist argument would reduce to absurdity if carried to its logical conclusion. When the consistent application of a principle results in absurdity, it is time to reconsider that principle.

The Georgist land system would also block incentives for people to improve themselves by their own efforts; at every turn, an industrious individual would owe positive duties rather than negative ones to the community at large. Actions to improve his life by plowing or whittling would automatically create positive obligations to profit other people which would go far beyond his obligation to merely refrain from using force against them. Even if the single tax were based on the desirability of the land rather than the productivity coaxed from it, that desirability is often a result of the improvements in soil, clearing, etc. that comes from one person’s labor.

In Free Life (1898) Auberon Herbert commented on the adverse impact of such a tax. “The community is entitled to all values arising from land…that are not due to labor. But…it would surpass the skill of men to disentangle these intermixed values. It could only be done by guess work of a very coarse kind. If the principle were just in itself, it would still be used as a mask for taking from others….All taking of so-called unearned increment would be a farce—and a very mean farce.”

Herbert then asks a key question – do Georgists advocate making good the losses that occur as well as profiting from the gains? “A site falls in value owing to the movement of population—will the believers in unearned increment compensate the owner?”

But the point remains that natural resources belong equally to everyone.

Again, I doubt that Georgists wish to follow this argument to its logically conclusion because it would necessitate impartially dividing the benefits of all land among all human beings. If one area of the world was gifted with rich soil and abundant water, then it would owe a debt to areas of barren sand and drought. Any line drawn to include some people in the rich area’s advantages while excluding others would violate the Georgists’ own principle that the earth equally belongs to all. Thus, a single tax that benefits a small portion of the global community reveals itself as being inherently and manifestly ‘unfair’. And, yet, a globally ‘fair’ distribution of value would be nigh well impossible to achieve; it cannot even be envisioned without a sprawling global authority that collects data, assesses and taxes far beyond what libertarian-style Georgists would tolerate. Like absurdity, the impossibility of implementing a principle should make you reconsider it.

Moreover, the idea that a ‘good’ properly belongs to everyone and, yet, cannot be owned by an individual makes no sense. If it is not proper for an individual to do X, then how can it be proper for 10 or 10,000,000 individuals to do X? In this regard, Georgism denies methodological individualism on which so much of libertarianism is based. As Tucker wrote regarding paying a single tax to a ‘society’ or a ‘community’, “‘[T]he community’ is a non-entity that…has no existence, and is simply a combination of individuals having no prerogatives beyond those of the individuals themselves. This combination of individuals has not better title to the land than any single individual outside it.”(Liberty, 1888) Tucker concluded, “land belong[s] not to the people but to the occupant and user.”(Liberty, 1894.)

The foregoing does not contest that social arrangements can and have existed based on “a commons” or collective ownership. But a society that respects the individual also acknowledges the right of individual ownership of natural resources based upon use and occupancy or upon purchase on the open market.

Justice requires there to be an authority to distribute the ‘unfair’ advantages enjoyed by those who use and occupy land.

I can give no better answer than that offered by Auberon Herbert (Free Life, 1898):

“Who is to decide whether it is to be prairie value or market value? Whether a land tax is to be permanent or be liable to increase? Who is to disentangle the share of nature and of human labour and skill? In the second place he has created for his purposes an official body with power to tax and to spend the taxes so imposed; but what reason has he to suppose that an official body–necessarily armed in this matter with absolute power–elected under the false system of a majority possessed of all rights and a minority possessed of no rights–will give a just and true interpretation to his dogma of ‘nature’s gifts the property of everybody’? Is there not an instructive light thrown upon the truth of his dogma by the fact that in order to arrive at a practical application of it he is obliged to perpetuate a large part of the very evils from which we are trying to escape–the absolute power of the majority–the power to take what amount they like and to spend it for such purposes as they like. If compulsory taxation is wrong in itself, how can you concede a land-tax, to be levied by the majority on the minority, without at the same time conceding all the evils and oppressions of compulsory taxation?”

Concluding Thought

Claiming a person owns his labor but not the material upon which it is expended is tantamount to denying the person’s ownership of his labor. Or, at the very least, to deny him the benefit of labor. With the exception of purely intellectual endeavor, work is always expended on something; a good is produced out of material that reduces to a natural resource. To say a worker owns the hands that fashion a wooden chair but he does not own the chair because he has no exclusive claim to that natural resource is to make a mockery or a semantic game of anyone ‘owning their labor’. Where is the advantage to owning your labor when you cannot control what it produces in order to feed yourself? Georgism is not merely a Single Tax but an assault upon the concept of ownership itself.

Tags: , , ,

334 Responses to “The Single Tax, A Refutation”

  1. Edward MillerNo Gravatar says:

    Wendy,

    You write “To say a worker owns the hands that fashion a wooden chair but he does not own the chair because he has no exclusive claim to that natural resource is to make a mockery or a semantic game of anyone ‘owning their labor’”

    Labor is valuable because it adds value to things. When you produce a chair you add value to the raw materials. If that weren’t the case, then the chair would not cost more than the raw materials, and nobody would bother to make chairs in the first place.

    Thus, it is very obvious that a tax on access rights, such as land rights, logging rights, or mineral rights, would not bear down upon the fruits of labor.

    • cb750No Gravatar says:

      Edward –

      If the person picks berries and then is charged a tax for the berries they picked then yes, the charge bears down on their fruits of labor since they would essentially have to part with some berries. This again is no different than someone who did not pick the berries coming along and eating them from the basket.

      As for a tax, why pay the tax at all? If the person who mixes their labor has no property rights to the land then how can a governing body claim control to administer a tax to access the land? Essentially if the individual does not have property rights then the state cannot have property rights. If the argument fails for the individual it fails for the state. What right does the state have to control access to the land if it TOO cannot own land.

      • HReardenNo Gravatar says:

        Aren’t you the Pun dit. Berries- fruits of labor.

        $

      • Who is saying the state has property rights?

        • cb750No Gravatar says:

          Then how can it charge a tax or fee? How can one charge a fee unless property or a service is exchanged. The only other explanation is theft.

      • Dan SullivanNo Gravatar says:

        Read Locke’s Treatise, where this whole berry-picking analogy began. Note that anyone has a right to pick wild berries without the consent of others, so long as he does not pick them to hold them out of use and so let them spoil, and so long as “there is enough and as good left to others” who would want to pick berries.

        Incidentally, when Locke says “acorns,” he means wild produce of the field, from acre (field) plus (corns) produce. What we call acorns today were called “oakcorns” in Locke’s time.

        • George H. SmithNo Gravatar says:

          Not that it matters all that much, but when Locke said “acorns” he meant what we mean by “acorns,” i.e., those things that are “picked up under an Oak” (II.V.28). Similarly, apples are “gathered from the Trees in the Wood.” Last time I checked, apples and most other wild produce are not normally picked up from under oak trees.

          It seems that dedicated Georgists cannot even get trivial points about Locke right.

          Ghs

          • Dan SullivanNo Gravatar says:

            You are right. While it is true that “acorns” in Locke’s day were usually called “oak corns,” and that wild nuts, berries and grains were called “acorns” from “acres” [fields] + “corns” [fruits], Locke did mention oak trees.

      • Hello! I just wanted to ask if you ever have any problems with hackers?
        My last blog (wordpress) was hacked and I ended up losing months of hard work due to no
        data backup. Do you have any solutions to protect against hackers?

  2. John KindleyNo Gravatar says:

    I have seen the principle you speak of taken to absurd lengths, notably by Hillel Steiner recently when he argued that parents with genetically-superior children should pay a tax to parents with genetically-inferior children. But land is different, and what I think makes it different is that the person who claims exclusive unconditional dominion over it is himself analogous to a State — a State ruled by a monarch. Hasn’t the King mixed his labor with his entire Kingdom? Indeed, I firmly believe a man’s home is his castle, but castles need defending. The king in his castle doesn’t have a much better claim to his yard than the King to his Kingdom. Better to make peace with one’s neighbors than to exist in a perpetual state of war.

  3. Edward MillerNo Gravatar says:

    cb750 writes, “If the person picks berries and then is charged a tax for the berries they picked then yes, the charge bears down on their fruits of labor since they would essentially have to part with some berries.”

    Taxes that bear down on income, such as the sale of berries, do indeed bear down on the fruits of labor… literally fruit in this case.

    Yet, fruit trees require access to land and good soil, and selling the fruit requires access to marketplaces and population centers. The value of those access rights are regularly assessed by the market and form the basis of what we call rent.

    Auctioning off these rights on a regular basis, and treating everyone as a shareholder of the land, is much more efficient and fair method than privilege without responsibility.

    One must pay for that privilege to exclude others from accessing the natural world, to which no person has a better claim than any other.

    We also like to ride roads without tolls or congestion charges, but the problem is that without pricing the congestion everyone causes the result is that everyone is made worse off.

    Think of sprawl, abandoned buildings, and vacant lots like congestion. They are evidence of inefficiency and bad incentive structures.

    • cb750No Gravatar says:

      “Auctioning off these rights on a regular basis, and treating everyone as a shareholder of the land, is much more efficient and fair method than privilege without responsibility.”

      What proof do you have that some interfering auction is more efficient? How can stopping the progress on the land to exchange the use to another person be more efficient. As fair as fair, prison is fair, everyone is pretty much equally screwed in prison. So fairness isn’t exactly a desirable goal. Yes you could reduce everyone down to the same miserable state and things would all be fair, just fairly miserable.

      “One must pay for that privilege to exclude others from accessing the natural world, to which no person has a better claim than any other.”

      If one has mixed their labor with the property they have already paid by the labor. There is no “privilege”. Where do you get this? There is no king or queen granting privilege. So if I instead of putting labor into land put it into working out, do others have a fair share of my buff body because my body is a shared resource? Remember your principle applies to all matter in the universe, not just land.

      “We also like to ride roads without tolls or congestion charges, but the problem is that without pricing the congestion everyone causes the result is that everyone is made worse off.”

      That is done through the market. There is no need for some regulatory commission to “make things fair”. If the road is undesirable to drive on then people will avoid it. Humans have built roads for centuries without government.

      “Think of sprawl, abandoned buildings, and vacant lots like congestion. They are evidence of inefficiency and bad incentive structures.”
      Yes but those bad incentives and inefficiencies were created by the same regulatory powers you advocate. The free market would simply eliminate such waste as it arises since waste is unprofitable. Detroit is a grand example. Detroit fell apart due to management, not because of bad market.

      • Dan SullivanNo Gravatar says:

        I don’t agree with auctioning any land that is improved or substantially in use by the current landholder, unless the landholder himself wants to auction it. I agree that such auctioning would unnaturally inhibit long-term investments in (i.e., improvements of) the land.

        Still, the moral obligation to the dispossessed remains. The point of assessing land values is to relieve the land improver from “trial by auction,” in which he would be necessarily be bidding, not only on the value of his land, but on the value of the improvements he had made with his own labor, or had paid some other producer to make on his behalf.

        However, I do not see auctioning vacant, unused land as a problem. There is no reason why the community should provide assessments for such land. On the other hand, it is likely that nobody would hold high-value land vacant in the first place, except as they intend to do something with that land very soon.

  4. John KindleyNo Gravatar says:

    A couple further thoughts. Unless I’m misunderstanding what you called a key question by Herbert, it appears simply answered. If a site drops precipitously in value because of a move in population, the remedy would presumably be a corresponding drop in land value taxation. As for people living in Switzerland owing tax to people living in the desert, I believe it was Sam Kinison who had some good advice for people who live in the desert. But seriously, I liked Dan Sullivan’s suggestion that open borders absolves a locality of the obligation to externalize rent-sharing. But what if by “locality” we mean a city block entirely composed of private residences? No open immigration there. But it seems to me that the most fundamental justification and use of land value tax is the common defense of land rights. A well armed city block would presumably benefit all who live in the vicinity, by deterring potential aggressors, so the benefits even there would be externalized. Suppose a multitude of such city blocks, interspersed with people who don’t hold land. The people who don’t hold land would benefit from the land value tax paid by those who do, and this would be as it should be.

    But the main objection here seems to be that the single tax would involve incorporating into the very concept of landed property a tax-assessing “authority.” I prefer to think of my Georgist societies as mutual defense associations, a term which should not be objectionable to anarchists. They exist for the defense of land rights. And it just so happens that land rights are in fact as the Georgist conceives them, so the mutual defense association funds its defense by means of the single tax. The mutual defense association doesn’t “own” the land held by its members. Nobody does.

    I don’t have a big problem with the fact that some rise in land value is not due to population growth but to labor and capital invested on the land. It is worth spending more to defend Disneyland and its environs than to defend a similar acreage of corn fields. The Articles of Confederation in allocating the respective tax burdens of the Stated according to their land value did not separate the unimproved from the improved value of the land. Nevertheless, it is just that the cost of defending a region whose land value has risen due to improvements made by a few should be dispersed among all those who benefit and not fall solely on those few.

  5. Dan SullivanNo Gravatar says:

    The problem with the question and answer format is that it implies false “straw man” positions that are not actually Georgist positions at all, answering questions that are not Georgist questions, but questions that are wrongly assumed to be Georgist.

    This probably stems from promising a refutation without having actually written one, and publishing a refutation without first privately running it past some actual Georgists to see if the refutation actually addresses the Georgist position or just addresses misconceptions about that position, and to see if it brings up anything new or unasnwerable, or just rehashes refutations that have themselves been refuted, over and over again.

    There is also the problem of throwing a lot of arguments against the wall to see if any of them stick. I am inclined, therefore, to take each assertion, one at a time, in a separate thread.

  6. The first paragraph of your first response displays your ignorance of Georgism. You say, “No system of land ownership is without difficulties.” That is absolutely true, but Georgism is not a system of land ownership, but rather a system of just distribution of natural resources. So, yes, “all theories face difficulties in establishing the right of first ownership,” because there is no such right. When you mix your labor with land, only the results of that labor are subject to ownership. Only Georgists respect the complete and total ownership of the product of one’s labor because any system that allows ownership of things not produced by labor (land), necessarily restricts others’ access to that land, which is a prerequisite to production. Land is a necessary factor of production. Without access to land, there could be no production. Labor is the second necessity, without which there would also be no production. Only the combination of land and labor allows for the production of goods (products) to which there is a legitimate claim of ownership – the producer owns the product. That is the only justification for ownership and cannot be applied to land; so, yes, any other theory would face difficulty in establishing a right of ownership of land. It is impossible.

    More importantly, ownership of land is not even necessary for production. Access to land is.

    • cb750No Gravatar says:

      And how do you define “Just”?

      Who is the dipstick that measures that. Note everyone shoveling coal in the pit of hell is “fairness”. Its the perfect definition of fairness. But its not a desirable goal.

      Who decides “just”. That is one of the flaws of Georgism.

  7. Dan SullivanNo Gravatar says:

    False Georgist Question:

    “How can someone justify claiming property by the ‘right of first occupation’ when everyone else has a similar claim to the same property?”

    As I wrote in reply to the first half of this article, people at the extreme ends of the political spectrum tend to think in simplistic absolutist terms that prevent them from understanding people who set out to reconcile conflicting claims. To both Marxists and Miseans, something is either absolutely owned by the individual or absolutely owned by the collective, each denying any legitimacy in the other.

    Wendy alludes to Locke’s idea of claiming a property by mixing one’s labor with it, not realizing that George repeatedly and enthusiastically endorsed Locke’s views on property, exactly and precisely as Locke wrote them.

    http://www.constitution.org/jl/2ndtreat.htm

    Neolibertarians, on the other hand, jump at Locke’s endorsement of property through “mixing one’s labor” (a term Wendy used above), while pretending not to notice the qualifications Locke put on his endorsement. This is like being a Christian except for the parts about the poor being blessed and the rich man having to pass through the eye of a needle (which need not be so hard, because it actually means humbling himself). Just as the religious right contain many a la carte Christians, so does the neolibertarian right contain many a la carte Lockeans. Here is Locke’s essential statement, from Chapter 5, “On Property”:

    Sec. 27: Though the earth, and all inferior creatures, be common to all men, yet every man has a property in his own person: this no body has any right to but himself. The labour of his body, and the work of his hands, we may say, are properly his. Whatsoever then he removes out of the state that nature hath provided, and left it in, he hath mixed his labour with, and joined to it something that is his own, and thereby makes it his property. It being by him removed from the common state nature hath placed it in, it hath by this labour something annexed to it, that excludes the common right of other men: for this labour being the unquestionable property of the labourer, no man but he can have a right to what that is once joined to, AT LEAST WHERE THERE IS ENOUGH, AND AS GOOD, LEFT IN COMMON TO OTHERS [emphasis added].

    This emphasized text is called “The Lockean Proviso,” and Locke makes reference to it no less than 15 times in 28 paragraphs. (It is actually one of two provisos, the other being that taking up land and wasting it makes one a “spoiler of the commons” and vitiates his claim. Some neolibertarians do recognize this lesser proviso, which got far less attention from Locke.)

    Most neolibertarians who cite Locke are oblivious to his main proviso, and those who begrudgingly acknowledge it try to reduce it to a meaningless absurdity by saying there most only be enough left to others at the time of the claiming.

    Well, of course there is enough left to others at that time, or else someone else would have already claimed it. If that is all that Locke had meant, then he was dwelling on a meaningless triviality. However, an honest reading of Locke shows that he meant that his proviso continues to apply long after the claim, and Locke gives an example that clarifies this.

    Sec. 34. God gave the world to men in common; but since he gave it them for their benefit, and the greatest conveniencies of life they were capable to draw from it, it cannot be supposed he meant it should always remain common and uncultivated. He gave it to the use of the industrious and rational, (and labour was to be his title to it;) not to the fancy or covetousness of the quarrelsome and contentious. He that had as good left for his improvement, AS WAS ALREADY TAKEN UP, needed not complain, ought not to meddle with what was already improved by another’s labour: if he did, it is plain he desired the benefit of another’s pains, which he had no right to, and not the ground which God had given him in common with others to labour on, and whereof there was as good left, as that ALREADY possessed, and more than he knew what to do with, or his industry could reach to.

    Here Locke clearly applies his proviso to land that has already been taken up, and says that the rival claimant should be denied because “there was [still] as good left, as that already possessed.”

    In Sections 45-51, Locke acknowledges that this system (which was, in fact, the prevailing system under ancient Common Law) worked well enough until population growth made land scarce, and the use of money taught people that they could hold land in order that others would pay them to use that land, or would work on that land for the landholder’s benefit, which amounts to the same thing.

    “[Prior to the use of money] what reason could any one have there to enlarge his possessions beyond the use of his family, and a plentiful supply to its consumption, either in what their own industry produced, or they could barter for like perishable, useful commodities, with others? Where there is not some thing, both lasting and scarce, and so valuable to be hoarded up, there men will not be apt to enlarge their possessions of land, were it never so rich, never so free for them to take:…”

    That is, the homestead principle works fine prior to money, because nobody would rush to take up land in order charge others to work that land. However, with money, or what we would call a monetary economy, people will naturally take up more land and better land than they need, in order that someone else will pay them to let go of it. This is precisely where the Lockean Proviso becomes violated, and is also precisely where rent arises.

    This is also where Locke precisely agrees with George, for it is at this point, says Locke,

    “the several communities settled the bounds of their distinct territories, and by laws within themselves regulated the properties of the private men of their society, and so, by compact and agreement, settled the property which labour and industry began; and the leagues that have been made between several states and kingdoms, either expresly or tacitly disowning all claim and right to the land in the others possession, have, by common consent, given up their pretences to their natural common right, which originally they had to those countries, and so have, by positive agreement, settled a property amongst themselves, in distinct parts and parcels of the earth….”

    Note that Locke endorses, neither of the tacit agreement nor the loss of a common right to land. He is just saying that people tacitly consented to whatever arrangements the state made, not that the consent was without duress. But rent arises at precisely the point where good land becomes scarce and money is in circulation, and arises all the same whether under an egalitarian system of governance or under a state.

    That rent is also a precise economic measure of the difference between the desirability of the rentable land and the best land that can still be taken up for free. When the community, under whatever mechanism, collects that rent, the Lockean proviso is still in force. That is, the rentable land, after rent is paid to the community, has no greater market value than the best free land. The newcomer who has access to the free land has no valid claim on the occupied rentable land because, once the rent is deducted, the free land is as good.

    This put’s George foresquare in alignment with Locke, for “mixing one’s labor” with land is essentially the same as improving the land, and George would exempt all improvements, all exchanges, and all non-harmful activity from any tax, restriction or prohibition.

    Now, you might say that Locke did not actually endorse George’s single tax on land, and indeed he didn’t – in this particular treatise. However, Locke did write,

    “It is in vain in a Country whose great Fund is Land, to hope to lay the publick charge of the Government on any thing else; there at last it will terminate. The Merchant (do what you can) will not bear it, the Labourer cannot, and therefore the Landholder must: And whether he were best do it, by laying it directly, where it will at last settle, or by letting it come to him by the sinking of his Rents, which when they are once fallen every one knows are not easily raised again, let him consider.”

    http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/etcbin/toccer-new2?id=LocCons.xml&i mages=images/modeng&data=/texts/english/modeng/parsed&tag=public& part=all

    The essential point is that George never denied a right of first occupancy. To the contrary, he explicitly endorsed it.

    “Were there only one man on earth, he would have a right to the use of the whole earth or any part of the earth.

    “When there is more than one man on earth, the right to the use of land that any one of them would have, were he alone, is not abrogated: it is only limited. The right of each to the use of land is still a direct, original right, which he holds of himself, and not by the gift or consent of the others; but it has become limited by the similar rights of the others, and is therefore an equal right. His right to use the earth still continues; but it has become, by reason of this limitation, not an absolute right to use any part of the earth, but (1) an absolute right to use any part of the earth as to which his use does not conflict with the equal rights of others (i.e., which no one else wants to use at the same time), and (2) a coequal right to the use of any part of the earth which he and others may want to use at the same time.

    “It is, thus, only where two or more men want to use the same land at the same time that equal rights to the use of land come in conflict, and the adjustment of society becomes necessary.

    “If we keep this idea of equal rights in mind — the idea, namely, that the rights are the first thing, and the equality merely their limitation — we shall have no difficulty.”

    – George, Henry, *A Perplexed Philosopher* [referring to Herbert Spencer] cited in “Common Rights vs. Collective Rights”

    http://geolib.com/sullivan.dan/commonrights.html#collectiveproper ty

    Locke also had two general provisos to people who undertook to discuss his book in an honest fashion, and I hope they will prevail here:

    “If any one, concerned really for truth, undertake the confutation of my Hypothesis, I promise him either to recant my mistake, upon fair conviction; or to answer his difficulties. But he must remember two things.

    “First, That cavilling here and there, at some expression, or little incident of my discourse, is not an answer to my book.

    “Secondly, That I shall not take railing for arguments, nor think either of these worth my notice, though I shall always look on myself as bound to give satisfaction to any one, who shall appear to be conscientiously scrupulous in the point, and shall shew any just grounds for his scruples.”

    • George H. SmithNo Gravatar says:

      You have badly mangled Locke’s theory of land ownership, and you have done so by quoting selected passages that appear to support your thesis and ignoring those that do not. In point of fact, Locke never distinguished the ownership of land from any other kind of ownership. Hence his spoilage proviso and his claim that it did not apply after the invention of money, his statements about the conventional aspects of property titles after the formation of political societies — all these and more were generic claims about private property per se, not about a particular type of property, such as land.

      The claim that the earth (i.e., natural resources in general) was given by God to mankind in common was a traditional tenet of Christian political philosophy, one that went back many centuries. It was commonly used to deny absolute private property in land. Grotius and Pufendorf — Locke’s immediate predecessors who greatly influenced his thinking — set out to counter this claim. Pufendorf in particular interpreted “common” in a negative sense to mean “unowned,” so the common right to land was regarded as a right of usufruct, not a right of dominion. At times Locke appears to treat this “common” right in the same way; and though he is not always clear on this matter, he is very clear that the mixing of labor and land creates a “dominion over that land, i.e., the exclusive right of use and disposal.

      There was nothing especially Lockean about the “Lockean proviso.” Locke purpose was to nullify this traditional restriction, and he explicitly claimed to have done exactly this.

      You can support the views Henry George without making nonsense out of Locke in the process. If you want to cite Tom Paine or Herbert Spencer or Patrick Edward Dove or similar thinkers as predecessors to George, then you will get no argument from me. But John Locke is a different matter entirely.

      Ghs

      • Dan SullivanNo Gravatar says:

        I included a link to the passage, so anyone can see whether I twisted the meaning or not. I certainly did not give the neolibertarian interpretation, but that is because the neolibertarian interpretation is based on selective reading.

        Have another look yourself. See if his proviso isn’t repeated throughout the section. (Search the page on “as good.”) See if he does not explicitly apply it to land already claimed.

        Here is the link again:

        http://www.constitution.org/jl/2ndtreat.htm (Chapter 5, “On Property)

        Good luck.

        • George H. SmithNo Gravatar says:

          Dan: The last three paragraphs of Chapter V in the Second Treatise read as follows. I have added caps for emphasis:

          Sec. 49. Thus in the beginning all the world was America, and more so than that is now; for no such thing as money was any where known. Find out something that hath the use and value of money amongst his neighbours, you shall see the same man will begin presently to enlarge his possessions.

          Sec. 50. But since gold and silver, being little useful to the life of man in proportion to food, raiment, and carriage, has its value only from the consent of men, whereof labour yet makes, in great part, the measure, it is plain, that men have agreed to A DISPROPORTIONATE AND UNEQUAL POSSESSION OF THE EARTH, they having, by a tacit and voluntary consent, found out, a way HOW A MAN MAY FAIRLY POSSESS MORE LAND THAN HE HIMSELF CAN USE THE PRODUCT OF, by receiving in exchange for the overplus gold and silver, which may be hoarded up WITHOUT INJURY TO ANY ONE; these metals not spoiling or decaying in the hands of the possessor. This partage of things in an inequality of private possessions, men have made practicable out of the bounds of society, and without compact, only by putting a value on gold and silver, and tacitly agreeing in the use of money: for in governments, the laws regulate the right of property, and the possession of land is determined by positive constitutions.

          Sec. 51. And thus, I think, it is very easy to conceive, without any difficulty, how labour could at first begin A TITLE OF PROPERTY IN THE COMMON THINGS OF NATURE, and how the spending it upon our uses bounded it. So that there could then be no reason of quarrelling about title, nor any doubt about the largeness of possession it gave. Right and conveniency went together; for as a man had a right to all he could employ his labour upon, so he had no temptation to labour for more than he could make use of. This left no room for controversy about the title, nor for encroachment on the right of others; what portion a man carved to himself, was easily seen; and it was useless, as well as dishonest, to carve himself too much, or take more than he needed.

          I don’t know how Locke could have been any more clear than this. He uses his argument about the use of money being based on tacit consent to nullify his “proviso.” and he defends unlimited acquisition of every kind of property, including land. Mixing one’s labor with land bestows “a title of property” to that land. These titles were established in a state of nature, prior to the formation of governments, because of the use of money. After the formation of governments, private property is regulated and determined (to some degree) by the laws of a government. Locke believed that governmental laws are desirable as a mean of clearly defining property rights and insuring their protection, but he did not believe that private property in land (or anything else) originates with government.

          If you can cite even ONE passage in which Locke treats land as significantly different than any other kind of property, then I would very much like to see it. Having read the Second Treatise many dozens of times over the past 40 years, and having written extensively on it, any such passage has eluded me.

          You need to keep in mind that much of the Second Treatise (like the First) was written in response to Sir Robert Filmer. According to Filmer, God gave dominion (i.e., the exclusive right of ownership) over the earth to Adam, and that this right had descended, through a patriarchal lineage, to kings. This dopey argument was easily refuted by Locke in the First Treatise, but Filmer presented a more difficult challenge in his claim that if we begin with common ownership (as Christian philosophers traditionally had), then we will never be able to justify the private ownership of land and natural resources, since this would require the unanimous consent of everyone on earth.

          That Locke viewed himself as having successfully dealt with Filmer’s argument, by showing how the private owership of land could be justified, is clearly indicated in para 39:

          Sec. 39. And thus, without supposing any private dominion, and property in Adam, over all the world, exclusive of all other men, which can no way be proved, nor any one’s property be made out from it; but supposing the world given, as it was, to the children of men in common, we see how labour could make men distinct titles to several parcels of it, for their private uses; wherein there could be no doubt of right, no room for quarrel.

          As I said, your interpretation, aside from being strained beyond the breaking point, makes nonsense out of Locke’s stated purpose in Chapter 5. It is standard Georgist propaganda, nothing more.

          Ghs

          • Dan SullivanNo Gravatar says:

            Your own interpretation is strained. Principles are not “situation ethics.” That is, rights do not change because money is introduced. Your interpretation says, “Yes, you had a right to a portion of the earth, but now that we have invented money, you must purchase what had previously been yours by right.” It is an insult to Locke to think him that absurd.

            As you note, Filmer argued that exclusive occupancy required the impossible permission of all in society, which is absurd. (Henry George corrected Herbert Spencer on the same error, and cited Locke in doing so.) The passage you cite is not Locke saying what is right, but simply stating an historical fact – that, with the introduction of money people did consent to the buying, selling and renting of land. That historical fact does not make a statment of right, any more than consenting to domination by kings makes monarchy right.

            To the contrary, Locke said, in the very last passage you quoted, that

            Sec. 51. And thus, I think, it is very easy to conceive, without any difficulty, how labour could AT FIRST begin a title of property in the common things of nature, and how the spending it upon our uses bounded it. So that there could then be no reason of quarrelling about title, nor any doubt about the largeness of possession it gave.

            Note that this entire passage describes natural bounds before money, and so Locke continues saying that BEFORE MONEY,

            Right and conveniency went together; for as a man had a right to all he could employ his labour upon, so he had no temptation to labour for more than he could make use of [before money]. This left no room for controversy about the title [before money], nor for encroachment on the right of others [before money]; what portion a man carved to himself, was easily seen; and it was useless, as well as dishonest, to carve himself too much, or take more than he needed[before money].

            Right and conveniency went together, because it was useless, AS WELL AS dishonest to carve himself too much, or take more than he needed. What is right vs. dishonest does not change with the introduction of money, but what is convenient vs. useless does. Thus, after the introduction of money, right and convenince no longer goes together.

            Also, have you an answer to Locke’s even more explicit that all taxes should be on the value of land?

            • George H. SmithNo Gravatar says:

              Locke is clearly outlining not only a process historical evolution but also a process that he regards as just. Again:

              “…it is plain, that men have agreed to A DISPROPORTIONATE AND UNEQUAL POSSESSION OF THE EARTH, they having, by a tacit and voluntary consent, found out, a way HOW A MAN MAY FAIRLY POSSESS MORE LAND THAN HE HIMSELF CAN USE THE PRODUCT OF, by receiving in exchange for the overplus gold and silver, which may be hoarded up WITHOUT INJURY TO ANY ONE….”

              What parts of “fairly” and “without injury to any one” do you not understand? And do you not understand the legitimating role of consent, whether tacit or express, in Locke’s social and political theory?

              Unlike you, I do not read Locke to make him say what I wish he had said. There are many flaws in his approach, and I wish he had not made the mistakes he did. But I am not willing to force him into the Procrustean bed of my own ideology. An ideology is fine, but it should not distort one’s reading of history and past thinkers.

              Ghs

              • Dan SullivanNo Gravatar says:

                George asks, “What parts of “fairly” and “without injury to any one” do you not understand?” Well, the part he took out – the part that explains that what Locke was referring to is not what George is referring to. So, I will walk him through this passage as through the other.

                Sec. 50. by a tacit and voluntary consent, found out, a way how a man may fairly possess more land than he himself can use THE PRODUCT OF, by receiving in exchange for the overplus GOLD AND SILVER, which may be hoarded up without injury to any one;

                Now, to those who do not parse their English to suit their dogma, Locke did not say a person may fairly possess more land than he can use, but only more land than he can use THE PRODUCT OF. That is, he may hold land, not only to produce products that he will consume himself, but products that he will trade with others, or sell. Also, Locke did not justify holding land, but said he would exchange the overplus of the PRODUCT for GOLD AND SILVER which may be hoarded up without injury to anyone.

                This is clear and unequivocal. To say that this justifies hoarding the land itself and denying the Lockean proviso is absurd and dishonest.

                • George H. SmithNo Gravatar says:

                  Dan wrote:

                  “Locke did not say a person may fairly possess more land than he can use, but only more land than he can use THE PRODUCT OF. That is, he may hold land, not only to produce products that he will consume himself, but products that he will trade with others, or sell. Also, Locke did not justify holding land, but said he would exchange the overplus of the PRODUCT for GOLD AND SILVER which may be hoarded up without injury to anyone.”

                  Notice how Dan speaks of “holding land,” rather than owning land. In fact, Locke’s entire discussion of land in Chapter 5 revolves around defending the private ownership of land.

                  Earlier I noted that Locke did not distinguish, in any important respects, between land and other private property. Among other places, he indicates this in para 32 (Chapter 5):

                  “But the chief matter of property being now not the fruits of the earth, and the beasts that subsist on it, but the earth itself; as that which takes in and carries with it all the rest; I think it is plain, that PROPERTY IN THAT TOO IS ACQUIRED AS THE FORMER.”

                  Locke continues:

                  As much land as a man tills, plants, improves, cultivates, and can use the product of, SO MUCH IS HIS PROPERTY. He by his labour does, as it were, inclose it from the common. Nor will it invalidate his right, to say every body else has an equal title to it; and therefore he cannot appropriate, he cannot inclose, without the consent of all his fellow-commoners….”

                  Locke’s proviso, as we have seen, limits land ownership before the advent of money to the amount of products that the man who works the land can actually use without spoilage. But this problem vanishes with the advent of money, for the produce of land can now be sold for money, which does not spoil. Unlimited acquisition of land is therefore just in a post-money age, because land not employed for one’s personal use can be used to sell agricultural products, or the land itself can be rented or sold for money.

                  Dan wants to distinguish between land per se and the products of land. But note what Locke says: “As much land as a man tills, plants, improves, cultivates, and CAN USE THE PRODUCT OF, SO MUCH IS HIS PROPERTY.”

                  In other words, if you can use the products of land, you can OWN that land. And since money can be accumulated and used without limit, so can land.

                  Locke was adamant about the private ownership of land: “He that in obedience to this command of God, subdued, tilled and sowed any part of it, thereby annexed to it something that was his property, which ANOTHER HAD NO TITLE TO, nor could without injury take from him.” Many similar passages can be found throughout the Second Treatise.

                  Again, for Locke there was no essential distinction between land and every other kind of private property. Any effort to transform Locke into some kind of proto-Georgist is absurd.

                  Ghs

            • George H. SmithNo Gravatar says:

              One more thing: The last paragraph of the passage I quoted does indeed refer to property in land before the advent of money. According to Locke, at that point land titles were easily discerned and there could be little controversy about who owned what. But with the advent of money and the unlimited (and just) acquisition of land, greater opportunities for disputes over land titles arose. Hence the need for government to resolve such disputes. This was part of Locke’s argument for government. It has no bearing on his defense of private property in land, both before and after the use of money.

              One of Locke’s argument for the private ownership of land is “that he who appropriates land to himself by his labour, does not lessen but increase the common stock of mankind. ” Much of the the fifth chapter of the Second Treatise is a defense of the private ownership of land. As Locke says, his proviso pertains not to the largeness of one’s possessions per se but to the problem of spoilage. And since money does not spoil, the proviso no longer applies after land can be sold or rented for money. (Your analysis of Locke’s theory of rent is completely wrong, btw.)

              I want to be clear about your position. In Progress and Poverty, Henry George wrote: “If chattel slavery be unjust, then is private proper in land unjust.”

              Do you wish to say that Locke agreed, in substance, with this statement? Do you wish to say that Locke opposed the private ownership of land? If not, then what do you mean to say?

              Ghs

              • Dan SullivanNo Gravatar says:

                “One more thing: The last paragraph of the passage I quoted does indeed refer to property in land before the advent of money. According to Locke, at that point land titles were easily discerned and there could be little controversy about who owned what. But with the advent of money and the unlimited (and just) acquisition of land,…”

                Note that “and just” is George Smith’s imagination. Nowhere does Locke say unlimited aquisition of land is just.

                “greater opportunities for disputes over land titles arose. Hence the need for government to resolve such disputes….”

                Exactly. And what fairer way to resolve disputes than that the landed compensate the dispossessed?

                “This was part of Locke’s argument for government. It has no bearing on his defense of private property in land, both before and after the use of money.”

                That is downright specious. It was right in the middle of his chapter on property in land.

                “One of Locke’s argument for the private ownership…”

                Locke never uses the word “ownership.” He says the person acquires “a property in land,” and clearly makes it a provisional property, where ownership (especially to dogmatic neolibertarians) is absolute.

                “of land is ‘that he who appropriates land to himself by his labour, does not lessen but increase the common stock of mankind.’…”

                Note that Locke was saying that the common stock of *wealth* is increased that way, not the common stock of *land*. The context was that Locke was indeed in favor of exclusive possession, as was Henry George. Exclusive possession and ownership are two different things.

                “Much of the the fifth chapter of the Second Treatise is a defense of the private ownership [possession] of land. As Locke says, his proviso pertains not to the largeness of one’s possessions per se but to the problem of spoilage….”

                That is also false. Locke had two provisos. One was failure to leave enough and as good to others, and the other was spoilage. They are two separate provisos, which apply independently. Thus, a person who holds land out of use is wasting it and violating the lesser proviso, and a person who does not leave enough and as good for others is violating the greater proviso.

                “And since money does not spoil, the proviso no longer applies after land can be sold or rented for money.”

                The proviso does not apply to money. If the land is sold or rented for money, the lesser proviso is not violated. But if the land is held out of use and *not* sold or rented for money, the proviso is violated.

                (Your analysis of Locke’s theory of rent is completely wrong, btw.)

                If arrogant declaration trumped analysis, I would have yielded a long time ago.

                “I want to be clear about your position. In Progress and Poverty, Henry George wrote: ‘If chattel slavery be unjust, then is private proper[ty] in land unjust.’

                “Do you wish to say that Locke agreed, in substance, with this statement?

                It is for neolibertarians to put words in Locke’s mouth, and I don’t know of Locke comparing ownership to slavery. However, Locke was clear that the right of property in land is limited by the equal rights of others.

                “Do you wish to say that Locke opposed the private ownership of land? If not, then what do you mean to say?”

                I mean to say that Locke opposed the enlargement of property in land to the exclusion of others; that, when land became scarce, there arose a legitimate role of government in settling disputes between claimants; that the two Lockean Provisos were proper criteria for settling those disputes; and that Locke advocated a land value tax.

                • George H. SmithNo Gravatar says:

                  To my statement that Locke says that “his proviso pertains not to the largeness of one’s possessions per se but to the problem of spoilage,” Dan replied: “That is also false.”

                  Oh, really? From para 46:

                  “And if he also bartered away plums, that would have rotted in a week, for nuts that would last good for his eating a whole year, he did no injury; he wasted not the common stock; destroyed no part of the portion of goods that belonged to others, so long as nothing perished uselessly in his hands. Again, if he would give his nuts for a piece of metal, pleased with its colour; or exchange his sheep for shells, or wool for a sparkling pebble or a diamond, and keep those by him all his life he invaded not the right of others, he might heap up as much of these durable things as he pleased; the exceeding of the bounds of his just property NOT LYING IN THE LARGENESS OF HIS POSSESSION BUt THE PERISHING OF ANYTHING USELESSLY IN IT.”

                  How do you expect anyone to take you seriously?

                  Ghs

                • George H. SmithNo Gravatar says:

                  Dan wrote:

                  “Locke never uses the word “ownership.” He says the person acquires “a property in land,” and clearly makes it a provisional property, where ownership (especially to dogmatic neolibertarians) is absolute. ”

                  Are you serious? The expression “property in” something was a common expression during the 17th and 18th centuries. To say I have a “property in” X was merely another way of saying that X in my property. It is an expression of ownership.

                  From para 35:

                  “The law man was under, was rather for appropriating. God commanded, and his wants forced him to labour. That was his property which could not be taken from him where-ever he had fixed it. And hence subduing or cultivating the earth, and having dominion, we see are joined together. The one gave title to the other. So that God, by commanding to subdue, gave authority so far to appropriate: and the condition of human life, which requires labour and materials to work on, necessarily introduces private possessions.”

                  Here as elsewhere Locke uses the terms “dominion” (which meant absolute ownership — in contrast, to say, usufruct rights), “title” (which meant a just claim of ownership) and “private possessions” in regard to land.

                  I should have known better than to argue with a Georgist about matters of historical interpretation. I went through the same misery over a decade ago, and I vowed never to repeat the ordeal.

                  Ghs

                • George H. SmithNo Gravatar says:

                  I wrote:

                  “(Your analysis of Locke’s theory of rent is completely wrong, btw.)”

                  “If arrogant declaration trumped analysis, I would have yielded a long time ago.”

                  If I attempted to document my corrections to each of of your errors, I would be writing for several days. But here is what Locke said about “rent” in SOME CONSIDERATIONS OF THE CONSEQUENCES OF THE LOWERING OF INTEREST, AND RAISING THE VALUE OF MONEY (1691):

                  “It being evident therefore, that he that has skill in traffic, but has not money enough to exercise it, has not only reason to borrow money to drive his trade and get a livelihood; but has much reason to pay use for that money, as he, who having skill in husbandry, but no land of his own to employ it in, has not only reason to rent land, but to pay money for the use of it: it follows, that borrowing money upon use is not only, by the necessity of affairs, and the constitution of human society, UNAVOIDABLE to some men; but that also to receive profit from the loan of money, is AS EQUITABLE AND LAWFUL, AS RECEIVING RENT FOR LAND, and more tolerable to the borrower, notwithstanding the opinion of some over-scrupulous men.”

                  Thus, according to Locke, rent is unavoidable, equitable, and lawful.

                  You may now consult your Henry George Decoder Ring and explain how John Locke did not really mean what he said.

                  Ghs

                  • John KindleyNo Gravatar says:

                    I wonder why borrowing money / capital and paying for its use is “more tolerable to the borrower” than is borrowing land and paying for its use to the man who has no land of his own?

                • George H. SmithNo Gravatar says:

                  I quoted Locke ‘that he who appropriates land to himself by his labour, does not lessen but increase the common stock of mankind.’…” Dan replied:

                  “Note that Locke was saying that the common stock of *wealth* is increased that way, not the common stock of *land*. The context was that Locke was indeed in favor of exclusive possession, as was Henry George. Exclusive possession and ownership are two different things.”

                  Once again, you have managed to completely miss Locke’s point.

                  The line I quoted appears in para 37. According to Locke the value of all goods, including land, depends “only on their usefulness to the life of man.” Land per se has virtually no value until labor is bestowed upon it. Locke continues:

                  “To which let me add, that he who appropriates land to himself by his labour, does not lessen, but increase the common stock of mankind: for the provisions serving to the support of human life, produced by one acre of inclosed and cultivated land, are (to speak much within compass) ten times more than those which are yielded by an acre of land of an equal richness lying waste in common. And therefore he that incloses land, and has a greater plenty of the conveniencies of life from ten acres, than he could have from an hundred left to nature, MAY TRULY BE SAID TO GIVE NINETY ACRES TO MANKIND: for his labour now supplies him with provisions out of ten acres, which were but the product of an hundred lying in common.”

                  Locke adds that his ratio of ten to one is drastically understated:

                  “I have here rated the improved land very low, in making its product but as ten to one, when it is much nearer an hundred to one: for I ask, whether in the wild woods and uncultivated waste of America, left to nature, without any improvement, tillage or husbandry, a thousand acres yield the needy and wretched inhabitants as many conveniencies of life, as ten acres of equally fertile land do in Devonshire, where they are well cultivated?”

                  All this is part of Locke’s argument for the private ownership of land beyond what an individual can personally consume of its produce. A person who cultivates land, including land not for his personal use, gives back to society as much as 100 times the value that the same amount of “common” uncultivated land would yield. Thus the landowner, by appropriating land for cultivation, may “may truly be said” to be contributing much more land to the common stock than he appropriates.

                  In sum, Locke expressly contradicts your weird interpretation. Par for the course, I’m afraid.

                  Ghs

                  • Dan SullivanNo Gravatar says:

                    Obviously, one who cultivates 10 acres of land produces as much *goods* as 90 acres of land. To say that he literally produces 90 acres of land is so obviously absurd that nobody in his right mind would make such a statement. Locke is arguing for exclusive access to land, and George Smith still can’t get it into his head that exclusive access is one thing and ownership is another.

                    We should have an infinitely expanding planet through cultivation if such an absurd interpretation were true. Absurd interpretations abound here.

                    We have the interpretation that the Lockean Proviso only applies at the time of appropriation, even though Locke gives the explicit example of someone demanding land already cultivated, and being denied because there was *still* enough and as good left.

                    We have Smith’s obvious failure to parse a simple sentence and ten ask what part of “fairly” I do not understand, when anyone who learned how to diagram a sentence in grade school knows that Smith’s interpretation of that sentence was wrong.

                    And now we have the spectacularly absurd interpretation that a person who cultivates 10 acres of land not only leaves 90 acres of produce, but has created 90 acres of land as well, followed by the condescendingly snide rejoinder, “par for the course.”

                    Par for the course, indeed.

                    Yes, it is true that a farming people can get by with 1/9th as much land as a hunting and gathering people, because they can produce a great deal more per acre. That was, of course, Locke’s point. To stretch that into a claim that people can claim more land than they can use, and can thereby deny a right of land access to others, is pure neolibertarian spin.

                    It is the same kind of spin that neolibertarians apply to Thomas Jefferson, Frederic Bastiat, etc., ad nauseum.

                    Indeed, I have run into George Smith before, when he jumped into another conversation with the following, condescendingly arrogant, introductory remark:

                    > You should not presume to speak on behalf of libertarians,
                    > since you are obviously in the position of not understanding.

                    > Instead you should ask for clarifications.

                    I responded with a large number of libertarian quotes. I did not think the exchange worth much, but Earthsharing Australia saved a copy of my initial reply.

                    http://www.earthsharing.org.au/2006/09/15/geoist-responds-to-a-ro yal-libertarian/

                    Smith ignored most of the quotes, and then started ranting about Jefferson believing in allodial tenure. He quoted a letter out of context from Jefferson, not bothering with the introductory, I had never given the matter much thought…” and then went through gyrations trying to deny the many passages of Jefferson that renounced absolute property on land and blamed it on the poverty that prevailed in Europe.

                    So, when George Smith says he should never argue with a Georgist, he is right, but fails to realize the reason is his own lack of understanding. And when he says exchanges like the ones he is presenting now are “par for the course,” he is also right. It is not enough for George to disagree. He must, from the very outset, tell the other person he does not understand, that he is wrong, that he obviously does not know what he is talking about. Such an attitude is a prescription for the kind of ugliness we are seeing now.

                    • George H. SmithNo Gravatar says:

                      Dan wrote:
                      “Indeed, I have run into George Smith before, when he jumped into another conversation with the following, condescendingly arrogant, introductory remark:

                      > You should not presume to speak on behalf of libertarians,
                      > since you are obviously in the position of not understanding.

                      > Instead you should ask for clarifications.

                      I responded with a large number of libertarian quotes. I did not think the exchange worth much, but Earthsharing Australia saved a copy of my initial reply.”

                      I seriously doubt if I ever wrote the passage you attribute to me. The style is not mine at all. If I did write something to this effect, it has been mangled.

                      Moreover, I NEVER claimed that “Georgism is Marxist,” nor have I ever read your rambling missive before. The website you linked gives no indication of who wrote the passage in question.

                      When and where did I supposedly debate Georgism with you before? My last debate on this topic occurred over a decade ago, on the Old Atlantis elist, and it was with Debbie Clark. During that debate I went into considerable detail about Jefferson’s view of private landownership, etc.

                      I recall that Debbie enlisted the aid of one, and possibly two, other Georgists. If you were one of them, then it was you who “jumped into” my conversation.

                      In any case, your memory is faulty. Either that or you are making things up again.

                      Ghs

                    • George H. SmithNo Gravatar says:

                      Dan wrote:

                      “Obviously, one who cultivates 10 acres of land produces as much *goods* as 90 acres of land. To say that he literally produces 90 acres of land is so obviously absurd that nobody in his right mind would make such a statement. Locke is arguing for exclusive access to land, and George Smith still can’t get it into his head that exclusive access is one thing and ownership is another.”

                      Your inability to grasp an argument (Locke’s argument, in this case) is really quite remarkable. Of course Locke never claimed that cultivation can LITERALLY produce additional land. This is an absurdity of your own making.

                      Locke was not as fixated on land as you and other Georgists are. Land, according to Locke, has value only for the utility it provides, and this utility can be created only via labor. As I have demonstrated repeatedly, and as you have ignored repeatedly, Locke justified the ownership of land in EXACTLY the same manner as he justified the ownership of other kinds of property. And he applied the same proviso to other kinds of property that he applied to land.

                      Locke’s point about the productivity of land that has been cultivated and that has thereby become the private property of the cultivator is fairly simple: The private owner has created much more value than other people could otherwise get from many times that amount of “common” land. This value, or utility, refers to the usefulness of land in sustaining and enhancing human life — and this utility is the ONLY thing that makes land valuable.

                      Thus, since the private owner and cultivator has increased the value of land many times over, he has, IN EFFECT, increased the amount of land. That is to say, he has extracted from a small amount of land the same value, or usefulness, that would otherwise require 100 times more land. The private owner has therefore added to the common stock of utility that imparts value to land in the first place — a utility without which land would have no value at all.

                      I don’t seriously don’t expect you to understand Locke’s argument, but I suspect that other readers of this thread will.

                      Ghs

    • George H. SmithNo Gravatar says:

      Dan wrote:

      Now, you might say that Locke did not actually endorse George’s single tax on land, and indeed he didn’t – in this particular treatise. However, Locke did write,

      “It is in vain in a Country whose great Fund is Land, to hope to lay the publick charge of the Government on any thing else; there at last it will terminate. The Merchant (do what you can) will not bear it, the Labourer cannot, and therefore the Landholder must: And whether he were best do it, by laying it directly, where it will at last settle, or by letting it come to him by the sinking of his Rents, which when they are once fallen every one knows are not easily raised again, let him consider.”

      Dan later characterizes this as Locke’s proposal for a single tax on land, or something to that effect. It is no such thing.

      The quoted passage, which is from SOME CONSIDERATIONS OF THE CONSEQUENCES OF THE LOWERING OF INTEREST, AND RAISING THE VALUE OF MONEY, merely states Locke’s belief that in a country, such as seventeenth-century England, in which most wealth consisted of land, most taxes, however contrived and collectied, will ultimately fall on the landowner. This is a trickle down theory of taxation, so to speak, not a call for a single tax. As Locke put it in the same pamphlet:

      “This by the way, if well considered, might let us see, that taxes, however contrived, and out of whose hands soever immediately taken, do, in a country, where their great fund is in land, for the most part terminate upon land.”

      Ghs

  8. Wendy,
    I also had to laugh at your statement that, “The free market is the only vehicle that does not have force or privilege embedded in its core.” Privilege is exactly what is created when you reduce natural resources to individual ownership. Henry George was all about eliminating privilege in all its forms, especially the monopolization of land. The free market consists of the exchange of products of labor. Again, the prerequisite for labor to produce anything is access to land. When anyone is denied that access, there is no free market.

  9. Dan SullivanNo Gravatar says:

    Wendy’s Socialist Gambit:

    Putting incorrect words in George’s mouth….

    “As a matter of principle, you cannot claim a right to something you do not own – land – simply because you mix it with something you do own – your labor.”

    As I already showed, George stated just the opposite, that you can indeed claim a right to something you do not own. You just cannot claim OWNERSHIP of something you do not own. This is hard for neolibertarians to grasp, because they are so absolutist about property that they have fallen into the trap of thinking that liberty flows from property, when in fact property flows from liberty.

    For example, there are countless examples of saying a person must have liberty “because he owns himself.” No, he IS himself, and is not subject to ownership at all. His liberty and his rights derive from the fact of his existence, not from some self-ownership construct. Rather, any system of property must derive from liberty, limited only by the equal liberty of others.

    In any case, George never said what Wendy claims he said, but now she uses an argument invented by socialists to muddy the waters:

    “If this is true, then it proves more than I believe Georgists wish to accept. If I can make no rightful claim to the riches of nature with which I must mix my labor in order to produce bread, clothing, shelter, and the other necessities of life then I can never claim to ‘own’ the loaf I am baking, the dress on my back, the chair in which I sit, the roof over my head. I am in possession of these goods only because I deprived others of their equal claim to the raw materials consumed in their production.”

    This is obviously false. Whether I rent space from a private landlord or from the government, what I produce is mine and mine alone. Does Wendy suppose that, because she made a cotton dress from material she acquired at Joanne Fabrics, that Joanne owns part of her dress? No, she paid for the material, and what she did with it is her own business.

    Similarly, does she suppose that her dress and the Joanne Fabrics store are both partly the property of the cotton farmers from whose produce the dress was made? Or that all three are partly the property of the landlord on whose land the cotton farmers grew the cotton? No, I am confident that she does not believe any of that, because, when she is not in refutation mode, common sense surely prevails. Yet, mysteriously, if the cotton farmer owed rent to the community, and not to some private landlord, then somehow the cotton farmer, Joanne Fabrics, and her hand made dress are all property of that community. She does not really believe that, but she thinks that, but she says her misinterpretation of George “proves” it to be true, and she quotes Auberon Herbert basing the same argument on the same fundamental misconception.

    However, the government has no greater moral right to the fruits of a person’s labor, provided he pays his rent, than the right of a private landlord to the fruits of a tenant’s labor, provided that the tenant pays his rent.

    It is true that socialists tried to claim that everything is state property because everything is made from land, but this is just the flip side of misconstruing the labor-mixing argument. George and Georgists vehemently opposed socialism, and rebuked this nonsense, saying that labor owns all it produces:

    “Our friend on the other [socialist] side says that the coercion is the monopoly of machinery, the monopoly of capital. Monopoly of what? Monopoly of capital? Well, let us stop a moment and see what is meant by capital. Is a factory capital? I suppose it is, with all its equipment of buildings and machinery. Is the ground on which it stands capital? If it is, then you are speaking of two entirely different things under the same name, and may be charging to capitalism evils that result from landlordism. Now, capital – machinery and all such things – is produced by labor itself, by laborers. How does it get away from them? It is not a question of the history of the past; It is a question of the present hour, because all the capital that exists today would last but a little while if labor ceased utilizing and maintaining it. Labor is producing it all the time. How does it slip away? It is not enough to say that it slips away because somebody has got it monopolized. You have to go deeper and inquire what are the conditions under which it is produced.

    “We know that labor produces all that is produced. We also know that labor cannot create it. Then how can it produce it? Only by getting access to the natural source from which it must come. You have got to go to the land.”

    – Louis F. Post, Single Taxers Debate Socialists, 1903

    http://savingcommunities.org/docs/post.louisf/debatesocialists190 3.html#producing

    So, yes, Wendy, those who produce anything should own it, and that is the Georgist position (and the reason George would abolish all taxes on productivity). Yet we see that those who have monopolized land (and those who have used banking privilege to monopolize money) collect rents (and debt interest) that do not rightly belong to them. In this way, they monopolize labor. Socialists would take the fruits of the laborer, and neolibertarians would allow landlords to take the fruits of the laborer. It’s just two roads to the same serfdom.

    (My parenthetical comments about banking are just an acknowledgement that there is more than one fundamental injustice.)

  10. Dan SullivanNo Gravatar says:

    The inseparability gambit:

    “In Free Life (1898) Auberon Herbert commented on the adverse impact of such a tax. ‘The community is entitled to all values arising from land…that are not due to labor. But…it would surpass the skill of men to disentangle these intermixed values. It could only be done by guess work of a very coarse kind. If the principle were just in itself, it would still be used as a mask for taking from others….All taking of so-called unearned increment would be a farce—and a very mean farce.'”

    This is simply not true. Assessing is a refined science, and easily can reach such a quality that disparities between the assessed value an the subsequent selling price can be traced to errors or lopsided pressures on the two parties. For example, it is well known that estates tend to liquidate properties for about 30% less their market value, and that out-of-town buyers tend to pay between 10-15% above market value. Yet good assessors predict future sales with a median variation of less than 10%. Were assessing is bad, it can be traced to political pressures and corrupting influences from large landlords – the same people who insist that taxes must not fall on real estate.

    Moreover, the standard assessment practice is to assess land and buildings separately, even when they are only taxed in the aggregate. This is because the only way to get “comparables” in a complex community is to use matrix equations that separate variables. Unless one building is misplaced, meaning located where there is an inadequate market for such a building, the building values should be similar for similar buildings in different neighborhoods. By the same token, adjacent land values should be nearly equal regardless of the structures on them.

    There are complications that need explaining to novices, but they pose no great problems to assessors. Market value is rather easily deduced, not arbitrarily imposed, in any community that has a genuine commitment to taxing real estate. There are also multiple appeals processes and other protections for the landholders.

    Again, any arbitrary quality comes from the land monopolists themselves. The price of liberty is eternal vigilance, and the price of absolute property in land is eternal cynicism, followed by a landlord class and a tenant class.

  11. Dan SullivanNo Gravatar says:

    A “Key Question” that misses the whole point:

    “Herbert then asks a key question – do Georgists advocate making good the losses that occur as well as profiting from the gains? ‘A site falls in value owing to the movement of population—will the believers in unearned increment compensate the owner?'”

    After a few paragraphs, I will show why the question is based on a misunderstanding of what Georgists actually propose, because, the landholder does not suffer when land values drop in a Georgist system. He only suffers from such a fate in a non-Georgist system.

    But first I want to note the circular reasoning that occurs when apologists for unlimited property in land refer to the landholder as the “owner,” as Auberon Herbert does here. Isn’t the very question whether the landholder is a rightful owner, or just a claimant with rights that are limited by the rights of others?

    Marx defined Capital as a device that exploits labor. So, of course, any argument that Capital does not exploit labor is incomprehensible to a dogmatic Marxist. By the same token, if we define the land holder as the owner, then any argument that he must pay rent on “his OWN land” becomes incomprehensible to a dogmatic defender of landlordism.

    This kind of circular reasoning abounds whenever an institution is presumed to be just. Anyone who questions that institution is violating the sacred rights of property. In replies to the first half of this presentation, I noted several comparisons between land monopoly and slavery by famous abolitionists, libertarians and others. This same circular reasoning was also used to defend slavery. The defense was satirized by a little-known Georgist named Mark Twain, in Huckleberry Finn:

    “Jim talked out loud all the time while I was talking to myself. He was saying how the first thing he would do when he got to a free State he would go to saving up money and never spend a single cent, and when he got enough he would buy his wife, which was owned on a farm close to where Miss Watson lived; and then they would both work to buy the two children, and if their master wouldn’t sell them, they’d get an Ab’litionist to go and steal them.

    “It most froze me to hear such talk. He wouldn’t ever dared to talk such talk in his life before. Just see what a difference it made in him the minute he judged he was about free. It was according to the old saying, ‘Give a nigger an inch and he’ll take an ell.’ Thinks I, this is what comes of my not thinking. Here was this nigger, which I had as good as helped to run away, coming right out flat-footed and saying he would steal his children — children that belonged to a man I didn’t even know; a man that hadn’t ever done me no harm.

    “I was sorry to hear Jim say that, it was such a lowering of him. My conscience got to stirring me up hotter than ever, until at last I says to it, ‘Let up on me — it ain’t too late yet — I’ll paddle ashore at the first light and tell.'”

    When people asked Mark Twain what Huckleberry Finn was about, he said, “superstition.” Circular reasoning is just superstition pretending to be logical.

    ***

    Now, as to compensating the land “owner” if land values fall:

    As soon as you start taxing land, the speculative values pretty much disappear, and after that, there is a lot less of a loss to compensate. Don’t take my word for it, though. Look at California, the state that gets the smallest percentage of its tax burden from real estate of any state in the nation, thanks to Prop 13. They had the most unaffordable housing of any state at the peak of the bubble in 2005, and they have had the most foreclosures of any state since that time, and the greatest drop in real estate values.

    http://savingcommunities.org/issues/taxes/property/affordabilityr ank.html

    All across the nation, within population categories, the higher the property tax the greater the affordability (and the fewer the foreclosures):

    http://savingcommunities.org/issues/taxes/property/affordabilityc harts.html

    So, if taxes had been falling heavily on land, the landholder would not have had to pay as much to acquire land in the first place, and has less land value to lose. If the full rental value were being assessed and collected, then landholders would have been acquiring land (and the tax obligation) for free, paying only for the value of the previous landholder’s improvements. There is nothing to compensate. Also, where the land value falls, so falls the assessment on which his taxes are based. So, yes, he is automatically compensated if his land value falls. If Auberon Herbert thought otherwise, it is because he did not understand the proposal.

    • gdpNo Gravatar says:

      If the higher the tax the better, then obviously all land should be taxed at infinity. Reductio ad Absurdum.

      • Dan SullivanNo Gravatar says:

        It’s really presumptium ad adsurdum, because you can’t tax anything to infinity. The highest you can tax any *produced* item is the amount that will still leave people producing it. However, even a slight tax will give a slight reduction in production, meaning there is an economic drag from even the slightest tax on productivity.

        However, land is not produced, but merely improved. (An extreme case is land that was under water being filled in. Even that is not new land, but merely wet land that was made dry by improvement.)

        So, if improvements are exempt, then the limit is that land can be taxed to 100% of its value, which is still not taxing it to infinity. Any attempt to tax it at more than its value will cause vacant land to be abandoned, and will constitute a tax on improvements where the land is improved.

        Still, taxing land value does, in fact, benefit the economy. Empty assertions to the contrary fail to overcome the mountains of evidence that land value tax promotes economic growth. It also seems to be consistent with economic liberty. Consider that New Hampshire, the state chosen as “The Free State,” gets more of its total state and local revenue (2/3 of it) from real estate. Or, consider that Hong Kong, which wins first place on every index of economic freedom, gets more revenue from charges against land value than any other country. It is followed by Taiwan and Singapore, both in their economic freedom scores and their shares of revenue from charges against land. (In these countries, land is technically owned by the government, but leases are freely traded much as deeds are traded her.) Or, consider that leases in Arden, Delaware (whose land is owned by the Arden Single-Tax Corporation) trade for higher prices than deeds in surrounding communities.

        Or, we have the *Fortune* article, “Higher Taxes that Promote Development,” based on heavily researched analysis of the magazine’s real estate editor and his administrative assistant.

        http://savingcommunities.org/docs/fortune/hightax.html

        Those are verifiable facts. On the other had, we have bluster. If bluster is such a good thing, would infinite bluster be better? Apparently some people think so.

  12. Dan SullivanNo Gravatar says:

    The World Government Gambit:

    “But the point remains that natural resources belong equally to everyone.”

    Yes, we actually do believe that.

    “Again, I doubt that Georgists wish to follow this argument to its logically conclusion because it would necessitate impartially dividing the benefits of all land among all human beings.”

    No it would not, for several reasons but let us continue with what Wendy imagines to be the “logical” application of our perspective.

    “If one area of the world was gifted with rich soil and abundant water, then it would owe a debt to areas of barren sand and drought. Any line drawn to include some people in the rich area’s advantages while excluding others would violate the Georgists’ own principle that the earth equally belongs to all. Thus, a single tax that benefits a small portion of the global community reveals itself as being inherently and manifestly ‘unfair’. And, yet, a globally ‘fair’ distribution of value would be nigh well impossible to achieve; it cannot even be envisioned without a sprawling global authority that collects data, assesses and taxes far beyond what libertarian-style Georgists would tolerate. Like absurdity, the impossibility of implementing a principle should make you reconsider it.”

    First of all, one does not pay rent for using land, but for excluding others from using land. If rent is shared within a community, and there are no barriers preventing outsiders from migrating into that community, then the obligation is satisfied. As a matter of fact, the only barriers to migration into a particular US community are zoning laws, which most Georgists (and all geolibertarians) oppose.

    As for international sharing, we would similarly owe nothing to residents of other countries if we allowed those residents to freely migrate to the United States, for we would not be excluding them.

    At a deeper, metaphysical level, justice is a congruent relationship between individuals, whether organized into associations, municipalites, states, countries or planets. To say that we cannot be just with each other until the whole world is just with each other is like saying to my family that I should not have to stop beating my wife until all husbands have to stop beating their wives.

    Even if global sharing of land and resources were an ultimate goal, it would be unreachable until we had a mechanism of global government that was something other than a federation of tyrannies. But does this mean that the cities of Aliquippa, Altoona, and Clairton PA, which all tax land and have little or no tax on buildings, have to stop being more internally just than other cities?

    To the contrary, local reform is the only reform that is consistent with the decentralist principles of Jefferson and Paine (who both advocated taxing land to prevent monopoly, quite apart from its ability to raise revenue).

    Stepping away from land and using the slavery example again, the question of what is just is quite separate from some notion that one community, state or country must impose its sense of justice on another. William Lloyd Garrison, the most famous abolitionist in American History, not only opposed talk of a Civil War, but led the draft resistance. Was slavery wrong? Absolutely. Did Garrison suppose that he had a right to forcibly impose his opposition to slavery on the people of the South? Absolutely not.

    “Just in proportion as this spirit [of war fever in the North] prevails, I feel that our moral power is departing and will depart. I say this not so much as an Abolitionist as a man. I believe in the spirit of peace, and in sole and absolute reliance on truth and the application of it to the hearts and consciences of the people. I do not believe that the weapons of liberty ever have been, or ever can be, the weapons of despotism. I know that those of despotism are the sword, the revolver, the cannon, the bomb shell; and, therefore, the weapons to which tyrants cling, and upon which they depend, are not the weapons for me, as a friend of liberty. I will not trust the war spirit anywhere in the universe of God, because the experience of six thousand years proves it not to be at all reliable in such a struggle as ours….

    “I pray you, abolitionists, still to adhere to that truth. Do not get impatient; do not become exasperated; do not attempt any new political organization; do not make yourselves familiar with the idea that blood must flow. Perhaps blood will flow – God knows, I do not; but it shall not flow through any counsel of mine. Much as I detest the oppression exercised by the Southern slaveholder, he is a man sacred, before me. He is a man, not to be harmed by my hand nor with my consent. He is a man, who is grievously and wickedly trampling upon the rights of his fellow-man; but all I have to do with him, is to rebuke his sin, to call him to repentance, to leave him without excuse for his tyranny. – Liberator 1858, cited in “Liberty and the Great Libertarians”

    The key point that Wendy misses is that the argument for rent sharing not only requires no global government, but requires no government at all. Wendy is confounding the moral question of what is right with the political question of how (or even whether) such rightness is to be enforced.

    Let us suppose an anarchist society where people are governed only by manners, a sense of mutual respect, and a desire to be respected by others. If, by pure reason, these anarchists agree that those who occupy the most desirable land, have a moral obligation to compensate those who are relegated to the most undesirable land. We will even suppose that, through voluntary subscription, they hire an expert to determine what that compensation should be.

    Now, to be consistent with anarchist principles, let us further suppose that someone refuses to pay what the members of the anarchist community believe he should pay. There is no state eviction, no “land-assessing, tax-collecting authority [cemented] into the very concept of property.” There is just a shared belief that this person is behaving badly and is unworthy of the respect and esteem that other members freely accord one another.

    If the community is truly functioning on these principles, I would expect this person to either make his case to them that he should not have to pay this assessment for whatever reason he has, to go ahead and pay the assessment, or to take some other action to put himself back in the good graces of his peers.

    But suppose he does none of these things, and operates in contempt for the mores of the community. Being an anarchist community, it enforces no sanctions against him. But, neither does it enforce sanctions against others who might refuse to deal with him, might trespass on “his”land, or might even set about to take that land. Again, people might informally rebuke those who set about this person, just as others might rebuke the person himself.

    The point is that even anarchist communities are not without laws and customs, but are merely without an enforcement hierarchy. People who hold more and better land either have a *moral* obligation to the community and/or the dispossessed members of that community, or they do not. How and whether that obligation is enforced is a separate question from what that obligation is.

  13. Dan SullivanNo Gravatar says:

    The Majority Rule diverson:

    Wendy quotes a ranting passage of rhetorical questions by Auberon Herbert, beginning with “Who decides…?

    As an ad hominem criticism of Henry George, it has some merit, because George had what seems to be an unwarranted faith in the ability of the people to rise above various political influences and exercise what he considered to be good judgment.

    Yet, in addressing the actual proposal, the question of “who decides” is something of a tangent. Whatever the proposal, someone decides, whether or not that someone *ought* to be deciding. John Locke and Adam Smith wrote within a monarchy, and so they made the case that it was in the interests of the landed aristocracy to pay taxes on land. (And, of course, Marx railed against him for doing so.) George, regardless of his unwarranted faith in electoral democracy, had no choice but to appeal to the voters. The golf metaphor for this is “playing the ball where it lies,” and making an economic or moral argument to those in power is not an endorsement of those in power, whether they be kings or the masses.

    I happen to share a sense of hopelessness about majority rule, especially when the electorate is too large in number to deliberate with one another, and so are subjected to bombardments of propaganda and the finesse of political machinations. Often the elected candidate was not put in office by a majority at all, but by a majority sub-faction of a majority faction of a majority party, who had only risen enough to be considered through finessing majorities of majorities of majorities at lower offices. It is not the people who are stupid, but the process that is stupid.

    Personally, my ideal process is to submit questions to a jury of randomly selected citizens or residents, to give them complete freedom to consider the question and to accept documents and interview experts as they see fit. But, if I must submit to elected officials, or to opinion makers, etc., then I will try to reason with them as I try to reason with anyone. That would certainly be more productive than trying to reason with powerless anarchists, except that I believe in the underlying principles of genuine anarchism, and have a special affinity for the most reasonable, most non-violent, and most non-blustery anarchists. My own sense of justice is enriched by them.

    Still, when nasty old elected officials are about to make a decision about taxation, I am not too holy to attempt to reason with them. If we do not make an attempt to show them what we think is the right thing, where do we get moral standing to condemn them for doing the wrong thing?

    • Andrew CriscioneNo Gravatar says:

      Dan, you say: “If rent is shared within a community, and there are no barriers preventing outsiders from migrating into that community, then the obligation is satisfied.”

      Where are you getting this logic from? The citizen’s dividend from all land is equally owed to everyone on earth. If I owe someone money, I have no right to say: You must come and live next to me in order to claim the money I owe you.

      • Dan SullivanNo Gravatar says:

        Andrew had this explained to him ad nauseum on another list, and it was just explained here as well. The obligation to pay rent derives from excluding others from using land, not from one using land oneself. If nobody in the US is excluded from migrating into a land-sharing community, the community has no obligation to share rent with other communities in the US.

        The US does indeed have an obligation to allow immigrants into this country, as most anarchists agree. As there is no legitimate rationale for excluding the rest of the world in the first place, calculating some kind of international rent compensation seems to beg the question.

        • Andrew CriscioneNo Gravatar says:

          Dan, you say: “The obligation to pay rent derives from excluding others from using land, not from one using land oneself. If nobody in the US is excluded from migrating into a land-sharing community, the community has no obligation to share rent with other communities in the US.” But by definition anyone who owns property is claiming the right to exclude everyone else in the world from that property. So everyone in the world is owed a citizen’s dividend. If you want to be logical, you would need a world government collecting taxes: The lack of proximity is no excuse not to pay a debt. If I owe you $100, it doesn’t matter where you live, I still owe it to you.

  14. Dan SullivanNo Gravatar says:

    In Conclusion, the most fundamental error of all:

    Wendy’s concluding thought is as follows:

    “Claiming a person owns his labor but not the material upon which it is expended is tantamount to denying the person’s ownership of his labor. Or, at the very least, to deny him the benefit of labor. With the exception of purely intellectual endeavor, work is always expended on something; a good is produced out of material that reduces to a natural resource. To say a worker owns the hands that fashion a wooden chair but he does not own the chair because he has no exclusive claim to that natural resource is to make a mockery or a semantic game of anyone ‘owning their labor’. Where is the advantage to owning your labor when you cannot control what it produces in order to feed yourself?”

    Wow! Wendy nailed it! She could not have said it any better (or any differently) if she had copied George’s own writings word for word. Indeed, “To each the fruits of his labor” is almost a Georgist anthem. It’s the whole point of the single tax on land values.

    For one example among many, Here is what George wrote in *Social Problems*, Chapter 10, “The Rights of Man.”

    “Let us consider the matter. The equal, natural and unalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, does it not involve the right of each to the free use of his powers in making a living for himself and his family, limited only by the equal right of all others? Does it not require that each shall be free to make, to save and to enjoy what wealth he may, without interference with the equal rights of others; that no one shall be compelled to give forced labor to another, or to yield up his earnings to another; that no one shall be permitted to extort from another labor or earnings? All this goes without the saying. Any recognition of the equal right to life and liberty which would deny the right to property – the right of a man to his labor and to the full fruits of his labor – would be mockery.

    “But that is just what we do. Our so-called recognition of the equal and natural rights of man is to large classes of our people nothing but a mockery, and as social pressure increases, is becoming a more bitter mockery to larger classes, because our institutions fail to secure the rights of men to their labor and the fruits of their labor.”

    But, amazingly, Wendy writes, “Georgism is not merely a Single Tax but an assault upon the concept of ownership itself.”

    Her is the Doublethink that makes such a conclusion possible. She rightly says that a person who does not own the material on which he expends his labor does not own his labor. Yet she says nothing about the fact that, where land is treated as absolute property, the overwhelming majority of laborers do not own the materials on which they labor, nor the facilities in which they labor. She fails to see that her own words are an indictment against unlimited property in land, which inevitably leads to a situation where those who labor pay tribute to those who do own the materials without which they cannot labor.

    She supposes that a community that collects the rent and disperses it on a per capita basis is robbing the laborer, but that the landlord who collects the same rent and pockets it is not robbing the laborer. Even if we tie ownership to the homesteading principle, and even if we somehow determine that those who are relegated to poor land can take land back that other people have stopped using, we are left with the fact that two equally talented, equally energetic merchants can have very different returns, or “fruits of their labor”if one happens to hold a prime location while the other is relegated to a marginal location.

    But as soon as we concede that a person may continue to acquire more land, so long as he (or his employees) put that land to use, we see that he may collect rent through the differential between what his workers produce and what they are paid. Either that, or we prohibit employers from holding land worked by employees, making such ventures as steel mills impossible without resorting to syndicalism or other artificial socialistic constructs.

    As Albert Jay Nock, founding editor of The Freeman and author of Our Enemy, The State, noted,

    “The only reformer abroad in the world in my time who interested me in the least was Henry George, because his project did not contemplate prescription, but, on the contrary, would reduce it to almost zero. He was the only one of the lot who believed in freedom, or (as far as I could see) had any approximation to an intelligent idea of what freedom is, and of the economic prerequisites to attaining it…. One is immensely tickled to see how things are coming out nowadays with reference to his doctrine, for George was in fact the best friend the capitalist ever had. He built up the most complete and most impregnable defense of the rights of capital that was ever constructed, and if the capitalists of his day had had sense enough to dig in behind it, their successors would not now be squirming under the merciless exactions which collectivism is laying on them, and which George would have no scruples whatever about describing as sheer highwaymanry.”

    – “Free Speech and Plain Language,” February 1935, p. 159

    Nock is not only a giant among libertarians; he is a giant who had read Henry George’s works voraciously and even wrote a biographical essay (a full book, really) about him. I find myself wondering which of George’s books Wendy had read before writing this refuation.

  15. Martin BrockNo Gravatar says:

    We’ve come a long way since George and his single tax. A single tax on land does not tax interest on Treasury securities and other entitlements to tax revenue, dividends on shares of Lockheed-Martin, royalties on Lockheed-Martin’s software patents, taxi medallions and other licensing rents, radio frequency rents, oil drilling rents on public land, Social Security benefits and countless other monopoly rents.

    I haven’t scratched the surface. Land rents attributable to the value of unimproved land are the tip of a huge iceberg, many huge icebergs. This mountain range of rents now surrounds us so thoroughly that we hardly know it’s there. We can’t see where it isn’t anymore, and we can hardly move around it without more rent seeking.

    The single tax is archaic, but I support a progressive consumption tax on similar grounds. I do not support a central authority spending tax revenue to benefit “the community”. Wendy well describes the perils of this authority. Raising state revenue is not the purpose of a progressive consumption tax. Requiring individual proprietors to reinvest the marginal yield of capital (including rents), rather than consuming the yield personally, is the purpose.

    We don’t want a single, monolithic, central authority directing this reinvestment. We want proprietors themselves to reinvest the yield of their capital (including rents). Limited, monopoly rents are useful, because they enable market capitalism, but we don’t want excessive rents or perpetual rent seeking. We don’t want a class of proprietors entitled to consume the fruits of free labor by writ of their entitlement to rents. These proprietors are the state. Distinguishing wealthy proprietors entitled to rent from state employees or “welfare queens” is a distinction without a difference.

    • Dan SullivanNo Gravatar says:

      This objection would carry weight if the author knew a little more about single taxers, and if a consumption tax were not, out of necessity, far more centralized and invasive than a land value tax.

      “A single tax on land does not tax interest on Treasury securities and other entitlements to tax revenue, dividends on shares of Lockheed-Martin, royalties on Lockheed-Martin’s software patents, taxi medallions and other licensing rents, radio frequency rents, oil drilling rents on public land, Social Security benefits and countless other monopoly rents.”

      Martin should know that George opposed public debts and devoted a chapter of *Social Problems* to it, called, “Public Debts and Indirect Taxation.” He opposed military spending, saying we had no need of a Navy nor of a Standing Army, but only a militia and a small constabulary. Taxi medallions are franchise monopolies, for which George would undoubtedly charge an annual fee, as would virtually all Georgists today. As an economic term, land is all that is created by nature. Therefore, radio frequency rents and oil drilling rents are actually land rents, which all Georgists would collect unless they admitted no titles to these activities at all.

      Finally, the only problem with Social Security is that it is funded from a tax on the labors of others. The first Social Security proposal was contained in Tom Paine’s “Agrarian Justice,” which argued that the rent of land should be distributed on a per capita basis, with a start-up endowment to every person upon reaching his 25th birthday, and an annual endowment to every person upon reaching age 65.

      It should also be emphasized that this is a tax on land *value*, not land acreage. A square yard of prime Manhattan real estate is worth more than an acre of New York State farmland.

      As to why a sales or consumption tax is necessarily a centralized tax, it drives exchange out of the taxing jurisdiction. I documented this with regard to Pennsylvania vs. Delaware, with supporting references to New Jersey vs. New York and New Hampshire vs. Massachusetts.

      http://savingcommunities.org/issues/taxes/sales/destroyscommerce. html

      But the real question is one of moral principle. What exactly does government contribute to the private exchanges between individuals, that it has a right to interpose itself between these exchanges and demand tribute? If you say that it maintains the roads that make exchange possible, I would say that is true in a general and fuzzy sort of way, but that it only makes exchange slightly easier in rural areas where land value is low, and makes exchange extremely easy in the great trading centers where land value is spectacular. yet a tax on “comsumption” (which is really a tax on exchanges) would take the same slice out of a difficult rural exchange as it would take out of an exchange that was facilitated by the convergence of highways, airports, harbors and rail lines.

      Where is the justice in that?

      • Martin BrockNo Gravatar says:

        I’m not picking a fight with Georgists here. That Henry George opposed much of what government does, and half of what we call “property”, today is not relevant to my point.

        I’ll agree to call oil drilling rights “land rents”, but I won’t call Treasury securities or shares of Lockheed-Martin or software patents “land rents”. The total value of all U.S. Treasury securities alone rivals the value of all shares of all of the S&P 500 companies, and last time I checked, the value of S&P 500 companies is 80% of the value of all publicly traded companies in the U.S. If we’re calling all of these rents “land rents”, then then single tax is hardly simpler than an income tax, particularly since we somehow separate the contributions from labor from other values.

        A progressive consumption tax is not fundamentally more centralized and invasive than a land value tax, but it is more extensive, i.e. it taxes every sort of rent beyond a margin, not only land rents. In my utopia, common juries hearing tax evasion cases decide precisely what constitutes “investment” (and thus “not consumption”), not a central authority, and consumption below a high margin (say $50,000 annually for an individual) is not subject to the consumption tax, so most people would not owe the tax at all.

        The problems with Social Security are legion and almost universally misconstrued. Social Security primarily replaced the support of aging parents by their children, not the accumulation of entitlement to rents. Social Security robs parents primarily, but it also robs the short-lived and many other classes of relatively poor people.

        A land value tax imposed only within a jurisdiction drives commerce out of the taxing jurisdiction, so I don’t see how you’ve distinguished a land value tax from any other tax.

        A progressive consumption tax raises no revenue ideally. Again, the purpose of this tax is not to collect revenue from proprietors for expenditure by a state. The purpose is to limit the entitlement of proprietors to consume rents beyond a margin, Proprietors must invest rents beyond a margin, and charity falls into the “investment” category. Proprietors retain the authority to invest rents. They’re only prohibited from consuming them. Rather than an investment/charity state, we have many, independent, competing proprietors with limited entitlement to consume the yield of capital they govern.

        Government contributes forcible monopoly to private exchange. I may exchange with you only because I govern particular goods exclusively, by writ of forcible propriety, i.e. I monopolize these goods, whether or not I ever labored to produce them.

        • John KindleyNo Gravatar says:

          I don’t know why a landlord should be able to determine all by himself where money he hasn’t earned should be invested. I imagine some landlords would invest in the Democratic Party and others would invest in the Republican Party.

          • Martin BrockNo Gravatar says:

            Lords of forcible propriety will invest in states, i.e. they will seek rents. I have no magical solution to this problem, but in my utopia, common juries distinguish “investment” from “consumption”, and proprietors owe a tax only on marginal consumption, and practically any proprietor may avoid the tax by consuming only at a common level. Common juries would judge rent seeking by the wealthy “consumption” rather than “investment”.

            • Dan SullivanNo Gravatar says:

              I like juries. Juries give us much more intelligent results than the electorate can give, because juries deliberate, while voters just respond to propaganda.

              I would prefer that our top officials be chosen by randomly selected and completely autonomous juries (assuming that we must have top officials). I would start with juries selecting judges. Can you imagine the effect it would have on how much a judge respects the jury before him if he knows his career hangs on the decision of another jury?

          • Martin BrockNo Gravatar says:

            The landlord does not decide. Laboring consumers decide, by choosing freely to trade with him. The landlord must organize his capital to satisfy others seeking to satisfy him similarly.

            • Dan SullivanNo Gravatar says:

              The consumers decide, but the landless do not “freely” decide to trade with landlords, because a free trade requires a freedom to not trade. Where all the land is taken up, the landless have no choice but to come to terms with a landlord. Where all the best land is taken up, they must either trade with a landlord or relegate themselves to marginal land and live a marginal existence.

              • Martin BrockNo Gravatar says:

                Owning land is a job. Some people prefer other jobs. Yes, when all land is owned, people owning no land must trade with land owners, but land owners must compete for consumers of the products of land. They earn rents reflecting no value they’ve added to the land, but if they don’t consume all of this value themselves, I don’t have a problem with it. Why expect a state to invest these rents more effectively? Politicians are so virtuous?

                Owning no land hardly relegates someone to a marginal existence. Bill Gates didn’t become the wealthiest person on Earth by investing in real estate. Land owners trade with software developers, because software developers have things that land owners don’t have.

                • Dan SullivanNo Gravatar says:

                  Owning land is a job? I love analysis by metaphor!

                  And what a job! Every month the owner of land had to open a check from his real estate agency, with the risk of a paper-cut. But, unlike other job holders, he was not thrown into unemployment when electronic transfer eliminated the only actual job a landholder, as landholder, had to perform.

                  Yes, some landholders build buildings, or pay to have them built, and those buildings are the fruits of labor, and rightful property. Some manage their own holdings, and this management activity is also labor, and worthy of the value it creates.

                  Most landholders are ordinary people who hold only the land under and around their homes, and, in fact, hold far less than a per capita share of land. In a society with limited government, they would pay very little for the benefits of roads and other infrastructure. If the full rent were collected, and that not spent on infrastructure were returned on a per capita basis, they would probably pay nothing and get dividends back.

                  But, if holding land is a “job,” then there is no coercion, is there? If you don’t want to pay land rent, turn down the job. Nobody is forcing you to be a landholder, are they?

                  And, as you note, many people do fine without holding land. There were also exceptional slaves who earned their freedom and went on to be prosperous. (Again, the apologies for landlordism are remarkably similar to the apologies for chattel slavery.)

                  • Martin BrockNo Gravatar says:

                    If a landlord consumes the yield of hìs land by receiving checks, if he never lifts a finger or fires a neuron to contribute to the yield, then his entitlement is a problem and is no different from any other feudal lord or welfare queen. I never defend this sort of landlordism, much less slavery, so your offense against it has no counterpoint here.

                    Most of the value of roads is the marginal value of human labor, because most of the value of everything is the marginal value of this labor. The labor theory value is not true, but it is a decent, first order approximation, because human beings value artifacts. The classical liberals were not foolish. They were only earlier than the marginalists, as Newton was earlier than Einstein. Because most of the value of roads is the value of labor, people wishing not to enslave others must exchange fruits of their own labor for the use of roads.

                    I elaborate on the job of land owning elsewhere in the thread.

                    • Dan SullivanNo Gravatar says:

                      If the road were privately built by the landowners it serves, then it is an improvement like any other, and its value would not be taxed. Were it built by the government, as is sometimes the case, or the maintenance were turned over to the government, as is often the case, then landholders would be enriched by that building and/or maintenance, and should pay the tax.

        • Dan SullivanNo Gravatar says:

          “A land value tax imposed only within a jurisdiction drives commerce out of the taxing jurisdiction, so I don’t see how you’ve distinguished a land value tax from any other tax.”

          That will be news to the 20 Pennsylvania cities that each enjoyed a surge in construction after shifting to land value tax, or the countless municipalities of Australia and New Zealand that enjoyed the same thing.

          You know what really drives commerce out of a taxing jurisdiction? A tax on commerce itself, which is exactly what a “consumption tax” really is.

          • Martin BrockNo Gravatar says:

            A progressive consumption tax is not a tax on commerce, because the tax rates are progressive, i.e. one owes the tax only on consumption beyond a margin. Commerce below this margin is untaxed, and commerce above this margin is taxed only insofar as it contributes to the consumption of someone who has already consumed far more than most in a given year.

            • Dan SullivanNo Gravatar says:

              Why make it so convoluted? Who is to say how much a person may consume? If he produced more, has he no right to consume more?

              In the absence of a state, which exists that some may consume at the expense of others, do people not consume whatever they produce, both individually and tribally? Does not the person who undertakes to build a fine house have a right to live in a fine house? Does not the person who builds two fine houses have a right to exchange his second fine house for more consumables than the person who builds two shoddy houses? What business is it of yours or anyone else’s to judge what a person consumes unless he does so at the expense of others? Even then, what is the privilege that enables him to exploit others? If it is not land, it is something else that can be addressed in a straightforward, principled way, instead of through paternalistic interferences with consumption itself.

              • Martin BrockNo Gravatar says:

                It’s not so complicated. Common juries decide how much someone may consume by writ of forcible propriety.

                All marginal value is not the product of labor, i.e. the labor theory of value is false. Income is not evidence of a proprietor’s productivity, unless we simply define the yield of a resource as the title holder’s product. We might as well define a King’s crown as his product.

                I don’t imagine the absence of a state. The absence of an artificial state is the state of nature. In the state of nature, leopards eat gazelles with our without the gazelles’ consent.

                I’m not discussing a man on a Lockean frontier building a structure from resources claimed by no other man. I’m discussing men with complex titles to modern property, like passenger airliners and the Burj Khalifa. If you want to discuss a Lockean frontier, we can do that too, but let’s not confuse the former with the latter. The latter is anything but stateless.

                Any gun pointed in my direction is my business, even if it is your gun defending your exclusive use of a structure you’ve built alone using only resources you find unclaimed on a Lockean frontier. On this utopian frontier, you’ll have little argument with me, but in reality, I don’t live on this frontier and don’t anticipate living on it.

                • Dan SullivanNo Gravatar says:

                  I had said nothing of the labor theory of value, so I see you are jumping to preconceived notions. Yes, there is “surplus value” as Marx put it, that exceeds the natural return to labor. That value is economic rent, or the return to privilege. Where there is no privilege, as in nomadic societies, there is no rent. Where there are land titles, there is land rent. Where there are patents, there is patent rent. Where there are monopoly franchises, there are franchise rents, etc. When there is an artificial shortage of money, supplemented by banking privilege, there is what we mistakenly call interest, but is really usury rents. Still, when all these rents are either eliminated or collected and shared, the only thing left is the return to labor.

                  The same laws of economics apply in Manhattan as apply on the Frontier. The base wage that poor people can command in Manhattan is directly related to whether they can make a better living somewhere else. If people can barely subsist on frontier land, they will be offered nothing more than subsistence in Manhattan. If they can prosper in or near the Frontier, they will not take less in Manhattan.

                  Reality lies between Marx and Mises, not in the compromises of establishment economists, which usually embrace what is false from both camps, but in the reconciliation of ideas that is possible only when people let go of the insistence that they are right and genuinely search for the truth.

                  • Martin BrockNo Gravatar says:

                    You said nothing about the labor theory of value. I introduced the subject to juxtapose it with the marginal theory of value.

                    A landlord’s value in a parcel of land, reflecting no value added by his labor, is a monopoly rent, but it is not therefore any portion of another man’s natural return to labor.

                    Suppose the lord owns a mule rather than a parcel of land, and suppose he rents this mule to a farmer. Then the farmer receives less of the harvest that he and the mule jointly produce, but this portion of the harvest is not a natural product of the farmer’s labor. It is a natural product of the mule’s labor, and because the lord owns the mule, the lord is entitled to the value of the mule’s contribution.

                    A parcel of land also contributes to the harvest. This contribution is not a product of the farmer’s labor. It is not a portion of the farmer’s marginal value denied the farmer by the lord. It is the land’s marginal value, and the owner of the land is entitled to it, because that’s what “owner” means.

                    If the farmer owns the land and the mule instead, then he is entitled all of the value of product of the land, the mule and his labor, but all of this value is not therefore the value of his labor, because he claims this value only by forcibly excluding others from the use of the land and the mule. When the former owns the land and the mule, he is entitled to the monopoly rents, but the rents still exist.

                    Interest has many components. One component involves monopoly rent. Interest can also be an insurance premium, insuring against the risk of default, and the price of an accountant’s labor among other things. A monopoly of monetary authority can raise interest rates, but attributing all interest to monopoly rents is a mistake.

                    Until we entitle mules and a parcels of land themselves to the marginal value in productive organizations, monopoly rents will exist. We could distribute the rents somehow through state spending in principle, but I don’t think much of this principle, because I don’t expect a state to be anything but a self-interested monopoly of force.

                    Denying monpoly rents to any proprietor destroys a market in capital. In this market, proprietors hold resources for their marginal value in productive organizations and also trade the resources seeking to increase the value of their productive organizations. I don’t want to eliminate this market dynamic, because it is useful.

                    At the same time, I don’t want capitalists simply entitled to exchange monopoly rents for the fruits of other men’s labor, thus consuming these fruits without producing anything in exchange by their own labor. Another alternative to this parasitic relationship between capitalists and laborers limits the capitalists’ right to consume the marginal value of their resources without limiting their right to invest the resources.

                    Investing resources profitably is itself a productive labor. A dynamic, free market practically guarantees that capitalists must continually reorganize the resources to profit. Owning land is therefore a job. One man may own so much land that the land’s marginal value can employ another man to perform this labor leaving the owner a parasite, but in this scenario, I favor a progressive consumption tax limiting the owner’s consumption of the yield of his capital.

                    Workers in Manhattan need not receive subsistence while frontier farming offers no more than subsistence, because the marginal value of labor in a given productive organization in Manhattan need not be a subsistence wage.

                    I suppose you insist that you are right as much as the next man, and I suppose I search for the truth as much.

                    • Dan SullivanNo Gravatar says:

                      So, and you want to know why land is different from mules.

                      Was this mule taken from nature, or was it bred by someone else, as all other mules in history have been? If it is a bred mule, then the price paid for the mule is largely a return to the labor that went into breeding and raising the mule. To that extent, the return the farmer gets for his mule is a return to purchasing the fruits of prior labor, and is nobody’s business but the parties to the transaction. If the mule breeder occupied valuable land, and especially more than a per capita share of land value, then of course the taxation of land would have applied to him as well, so the farmer who purchases that mule will have not disadvantaged anyone else once that tax was paid.

                      Unless, of course, you suppose that this farmer’s having a mule means one less mule available to others. This ignores the fact that the mule population is demand-driven. That is, the more people purchase mules, the more other people breed mules. In contrast, people do not increase the supply of land on the market in response to increased demand. To the contrary, people who anticipate increased demand rush to take land *off* the market and profit by exacerbating the shortage of land.

                      Breeding a mule (or buying a mule) and then plowing was simply a smarter methodolology (before there were tractors) than pulling the plow yourself. The return to using the mule is not a rent or a return to privilege, but a return to laboring more effectively.

  16. Jason BesseyNo Gravatar says:

    The issue simply boils down to one question:

    “Is ownership of land an equal right or a special privilege?”

    If it is a right, then the Georgist approach is precisely the way to go, because that’s precisely what the Single Tax encourages. People will only use the land they need and leave the rest for others.

    If it is a privilege, (i.e., some can have land to the exclusion of others), then the anacho-capitalist approach is the way to go, because that’s precisely what the anarcho-capitalism encourages, whether they realize it or not. And there lies the the tragic irony of anarcho-capitalism…

    …it precisely lays the very foundation for the instituion of The State!

    For if some can own land to the exclusion of others, and the landless have to pay rent to the landholders in order to have a place to live, then there is no effective difference between calling that payment “rent” or a “a tax”. If the conditions for living on land is “a lease”, then there is no effective difference between a lease and “the law”….it is the law of the landlord.

    In other words, a landlord IS a local government!

    Do anarcho-capitalists think it is a mere coincidence that the words “state”, estate”, and “status” all have common word root origins?

  17. K. GardnerNo Gravatar says:

    anarcho-capitalism or the rebranded voluntaryism is just a rebranding of feudalism or tribalism. any control over land with private protection is called tribalism, colonialism, communism, or feudalism, depending upon the details. the tribal chief can form a confederation with other tribes. the local land baron can enter into a voluntary agreement with a king with knights for protection to exert control over land. the local serfs enter into voluntary agreements of servitude with the local land baron for the right to live and exist on land once all land is claimed in this fashion. or the serfs can agree to the rules of the local chief. or the serfs can agree to drink the Kool Aid given by the head of the local commune. we fought a revolution against such anarcho-capitalism in 1776 where the rights of the land owner were protected by the government and tried to form a better government where rights of the people were protected by the government.

  18. Jason BesseyNo Gravatar says:

    I’ll put this another way:

    The rent a landlord charges to the tenant is his taxation policy.
    His lease is the law.
    His private security is his army.

    When the landlords get together to negotiate their tensions and manage their common interests, their meta-estate — …their estate-of-estates — is, for all practical intents and purposes…

    … THE STATE!

    How ironic that anrcho-capitalists don’t get this!

  19. K. GardnerNo Gravatar says:

    The voluntary nature of such contracts between serfs and local land barons and between local land barons and kings are in question since while the land might not be nearly all occupied, it generally becomes all claimed. Such arrangements tend to involve coercion or the formation of a de facto government once private police are used to enforce claim to territory or land. Such private police become the government, tyranny follows, and violence ensues until such coercion of terrestial governments are resolved to not be worth risking and giving one’s life to fight. A soft tyranny is then formed where people are coerced into paying tributes to the local land baron for the private police and land rights. Like a corporation, such land barons who are most successful at finding serfs and controlling land tend to continue to acquire territory and grow their government into a giant empire.

    The anarcho-capitalism is a contradictory fantasy, if not an attempt in the fashion of Orwell/Huxley to bring back the old world order, where people will love their enslavement and call it freedom. One is not free until they are given rights to land or land rents by government, as they are given rights to life, for they are the same rights.

    Henry George was the best attempt to explain the remedy. With LVT, combined with a citizen dividend and public debt-free legal tender like the Greenback spent into circulation rather than borrowed from private banks chartered by government or borrowed from commodity traders chosen by government, such rights can be secured, where the right to an equal share of the land can be guaranteed to live your life

    • Martin BrockNo Gravatar says:

      A legal tender spent into circulation by a state is never debt free. Everyone less able to purchase particular goods, because a state spending this legal tender into circulation raises prices, owes the debt. Everyone owing rents in the legal tender also owes the state a debt.

      I oppose legal tender laws in general. If I promise gold and you accept this promise, then I pay you when I have the gold and no sooner, unless we agree on another settlement. If I can’t can’t obtain the promised gold ultimately, because the price of gold rises enough to bankrupt me for example, you don’t get it.

      • Dan SullivanNo Gravatar says:

        It would help if you stick to one misconception at a time. Money that is spent into circulation and accepted by the issuer as payment for other obligations is substantially different from debt money. There is a whole mythology about money perpetrated by gold bugs, but pursuing it in depth would be off topic. Suffice it to say that the existence of monetary privilege is not an excuse for privileged land tenure, and vice versa.

        • Martin BrockNo Gravatar says:

          I didn’t introduce a state spending a legal tender into circulation. I responded to the point. To be clear, let’s define some terms.

          Money is anything that people commonly accept in trade only to exchange it soon thereafter for something else.

          A legal tender is something that courts compel traders to provide or to accept, to satisfy legal obligations, regardless of the terms of contracts.

          I am not a gold bug. I’m a mutualist. I want free, mutual credit, and I want promissory notes to be money, assuming that we’re trading and you also want my promissory notes to be money. Promissory notes may promise gold or silver or common labor (my preference) or any other standard of value that traders freely accept, and no standard of value or promissory note is a legal tender. I owe only what I freely promise.

          [I’m a mutualist, not a Proudhonist. I do not worship Proudhon or defend every assertion he ever made. I don’t worship Benjamin Tucker or Kevin Carson or anyone else either.]

          Legal tender and title to property are both products of a state.

          • K. GardnerNo Gravatar says:

            This is why I specified legal tender and not money.

            Distribution/collection of the public’s land rents should be done in the public’s money. For the government to select private money in the collection/distribution of land rents is a corruption and intervention of free markets in private money.

            The only legal tender compatible with free markets is one which the government issues and regulates itself without usury. For the government to select any free market money creates artificial value for that currency at the expense of other currencies. For the government to manage a basket requires constant government action to manage the value of that basket, which will led undoubtly to banking panics, manipulation, and fraud, not to mention, you’re asking government to become money and commodity traders.

            You’re free to use gold or any other money, mutual or not. However, Joe the Self-Sufficient, who just wants to live on a piece of land, without any natural source of gold, made virtually free by LVT and made effectively free by a CD, should not be coerced by the government to pay upon usury for money to pay and collect such land rents in any credit or commodity.

            Private mutual credit is fine. However, the regulation of such would still be required, and it would be difficult to manage since the valuation would constantly change in the free market. A small circulation would be open to manipulation by money market traders. The basic scam is for the money market traders to borrow the inflationary currency and accumulate the deflationary currency. This happened in the colonies and governments became commodity traders. This is why the constitution banned the colonial currencies.

            The legal tender would be required for the collection and distribution of land rents, which would build in demand for the legal tender, and thus, it would be commonly used for more than just land rents and the public needs. As such, the government can further be funded by the demand of the legal tender for other exchanges. Since such demand increases the value, there would be no inflation as long as the government doesn’t issue beyond what is demanded for economic exchanges. Congress should set an inflation rate and issue according to expected economic growth. Funding government in such a way is much better than taxing labor or real capital goods, especially if it can eliminate usury and fraud upon the currency in the process.

            • Martin BrockNo Gravatar says:

              I don’t understand “public’s land rent”. The state is not the public. The state is a group of armed men imposing its will upon the public. States may own land, and individuals may own land, but the public does not own land.

              No legal tender is consistent with a free market. A legal tender violates contract by definition.

              I don’t want the state privileging private currency. It should collect any tax it imposes on me in the currency I accept. If I receive gold, the state collects a percentage of this gold. If I deal in silver, the state collects some silver. If I deal in notes promising common labor, the state collects these notes. The state sorts out how it gets what it wants with the currency it receives.

              If Joe wants to defend a parcel of land entirely by his own force and thus lose the land when confronting a force stronger than his own, as in the state of nature, that’s fine with me, but Joe then has a natural territory, not a property. If he wants help in the defense of his parcel, he pays a state.

              I see no need for regulation of mutual credit outside of the credit market itself. Currency arbitrage is part and parcel of this regulation, and I certainly wouldn’t prohibit it.

          • K. GardnerNo Gravatar says:

            legal tender and land title are entities of the state. money and issurance are also entities of the state since they are complex legal agreements enforced by the state. if you produce a chair and sell it, there is no complex legal agreement. possession is nine tenths of the law.

            if you purchase insurance, what prevents the insurance company from paying themselves big bonuses and bankrupting?

            what prevents a bank from developing your trust and dependence on a circulation, and then either inflate the currency with big bonuses paid to themselves or a general expansion and then contraction of such where they can bankrupt everyone and take all the collateral and real assets?

            a rare natural resource like gold is also land, and thus, property of the common wealth. land rents should be collected upon such until labor is mixed with it.

            • Martin BrockNo Gravatar says:

              Officers of an insurance company may pay themselves big bonuses and bankrupt the company, and the company’s customers may sue the company and its officers for defrauding them. A tort system is a regulatory system. I don’t see the need for another regulatory system.

            • Martin BrockNo Gravatar says:

              A friend may develop your trust and then disappoint you by betraying your trust. That’s life. No state regulatory apparatus can protect you from it. At best, you can avoid trusting any one friend too much, and the state isn’t even your friend.

    • cb750No Gravatar says:

      “The anarcho-capitalism is a contradictory fantasy, if not an attempt in the fashion of Orwell/Huxley to bring back the old world order, where people will love their enslavement and call it freedom. One is not free until they are given rights to land or land rents by government, as they are given rights to life, for they are the same rights. ”

      Actually the system you advocate is the “old” system. Kings and queens in castles essentially managing the dumb serfs. And you talk about enslavement where Georgism has essentially created universal slavery through universal “fairness”. BTW slavery IS fairness… every slave is treated the same as the other slaves, which exposes the flaw of forced “fairness”.

      Sorry but nobody is “given” rights. You always have them. If you can do X and X does not use force against another then you have the right to do X. Georgism MUST exert force against another for it to work. Its not voluntary. Now if a group wishes to VOLUNTARILY pay a fee for a collective service then that’s their wish. If you believe government gives rights then you don’t understand what rights are.

      But we’ve tried the system you advocate for thousands of years. Tribes are governments. Once force is initiated and the collective imposes its will upon the individual you have a government.

      Huxley and Orwell correctly showed us what a collectivist world would be like… a giant prison of forced “fairness”.

      Tell you what. Define “fairness”.

      • Dan SullivanNo Gravatar says:

        “Huxley and Orwell correctly showed us what a collectivist world would be like… a giant prison of forced ‘fairness’.”

        I love it. This is like the scene in Annie Hall when the person in line ahead of Woody Allen pontificates on Marshall McLuhan and Allen says, “Well I have Marshall McLuhan right here,” and McLuhan straightens the guy out.

        Well, I don’t have Aldous Huxley and George Orwell here in person, but I have Huxley’s forward to the later editions of Brave New World:

        “If I were now to rewrite the book, I would offer the Savage a third alternative. Between the Utopian and primitive horns of his dilemma would lie the possibility of sanity… In this community economics would be decentralist and Henry-Georgian, politics Kropotkinesque co-operative.”

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Island_%28novel%29

        I also have Orwell’s essay on property in land:

        “If giving the land of England back to the people of England is theft, I am quite happy to call it theft. In his zeal to defend private property, my correspondent does not stop to consider how the so-called owners of the land got hold of it. They simply seized it by force, afterwards hiring lawyers to provide them with title-deeds. In the case of the enclosure of the common lands, which was going on from about 1600 to 1850, the land-grabbers did not even have the excuse of being foreign conquerors; they were quite frankly taking the heritage of their own countrymen, upon no sort of pretext except that they had the power to do so.

        E”xcept for the few surviving commons, the high roads, the lands of the National Trust, a certain number of parks, and the sea shore below high-tide mark, every square inch of England is “owned” by a few thousand families. These people are just about as useful as so many tapeworms. It is desirable that people should own their own dwelling houses, and it is probably desirable that a farmer should own as much land as he can actually farm. But the ground-landlord in a town area has no function and no excuse for existence. He is merely a person who has found out a way of milking the public while giving nothing in return. He causes rents to be higher, he makes town planning more difficult, and he excludes children from green spaces: that is literally all that he does, except to draw his income. The removal of the railings in the squares was a first step against him. It was a very small step, and yet an appreciable one, as the present move to restore the railings shows. For three years or so the squares lay open, and their sacred turf was trodden by the feet of working-class children, a sight to make dividend-drawers gnash their false teeth. If that is theft, all I can say is, so much the better for theft.”

        http://alexpeak.com/twr/oateotc/

        So much for your invoking Huxley and Orwell to equate Georgism with collectivism. (See also my Albert Jay Nock quote.) Neolibertarian dogmatists are so EASY!

  20. K. GardnerNo Gravatar says:

    without coercion…

  21. K. GardnerNo Gravatar says:

    “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

  22. K. GardnerNo Gravatar says:

    “Claiming a person owns his labor but not the material upon which it is expended is tantamount to denying the person’s ownership of his labor. Or, at the very least, to deny him the benefit of labor. With the exception of purely intellectual endeavor, work is always expended on something; a good is produced out of material that reduces to a natural resource. To say a worker owns the hands that fashion a wooden chair but he does not own the chair because he has no exclusive claim to that natural resource is to make a mockery or a semantic game of anyone ‘owning their labor’. Where is the advantage to owning your labor when you cannot control what it produces in order to feed yourself? Georgism is not merely a Single Tax but an assault upon the concept of ownership itself.”

    Talk about semantic game. George’s LVT is a collection of undeveloped land rents, not the material you gather to produce a chair. George’s axiom is valid. This conclusion is absurd.

    • K. GardnerNo Gravatar says:

      You can still collect a profit on development. In fact, you can earn more on a building than you can on a piece of land. Look at Hong Kong. Land rents are collected by the government, but the producers who develop the land are making a killing on the developed value because LVT made Hong Kong the most popular land in the East.Unfortunately, the aristocrats who funded your school of neoclassical feudalism, semantic games, and contradiction are not into production and development, they’re into enslaving the serfs into a land monopoly and stealing production in their sleep.

    • cb750No Gravatar says:

      A collection of tax from people OUTSIDE the person who used the labor and used the land. In fact how is George’s LVT rent any different than a protection racket?

      So if I am in the middle of no where, I cultivate crops on land, you can then come along and charge me a tax to use that land when you contributed no labor to the crops?

      If I cannot own then land then all of humanity cannot own the land. If property rights do not exist for one they then do not exist for the collective.

      Wendy is correct. She correctly points out that the tax is arbitrary. The definition of “just” is arbitrary. The definition of “fairness” is arbitrary. If I cannot own land, all of humanity cannot own land.

      Also she correctly points out that WHY does this end with land? If Kim Kardashian invests her labor into working out do you then get to charge tax on her body?

      • K. GardnerNo Gravatar says:

        you missed the point. people should rent land from the public, not individuals. to fully “own” land is coercion since you’re denying the rights of others.

        you also open yourselves up to both economic ruin and gain for nothing in the speculation game for land. land is necessary for all life. you don’t produce land. land ownership, money, and insurance are all legal agreements of the state. unless you deal with these entities of the state in a cooperative and fair manner, you’re enforcing tyranny.

        lvt and the law of rent works to make sure people only take the land they can put to productive use, which makes most land virtually free. the citizen dividend (the payment of land rents to the proper owners, the joint and equal owners, the citizens) makes land effectively free. you can use your citizen dividend to rent land to build your home and live upon.

        there are issues where lvt would actually increase demand for land since it is a better form of governance which encourages development and efficient use of land without the taxation of development, production, and labor. therefore, considerations would need to be made or made widespread enough to accommodate for the popularity of such. the solution for the hong kong would be to open up more land under lvt to accommodate more people who want to live under such governance where land rents are public rather than a private monopoly and where your labor is not taxed.

        • cb750No Gravatar says:

          Who is “the public” other than other individuals. There is no public, just other individuals.

          Owning land is NOT coercion because I can do as I like with my land JUST LIKE I can do as I like with MY BODY. So if a woman says NO to you for a sexual proposition is she using coercion against you because she denied you what you wanted? Yes you maybe “hurt” but no force was used against you because again she owns her body and she owns her property.

          “you also open yourselves up to both economic ruin and gain for nothing in the speculation game for land. land is necessary for all life. you don’t produce land. land ownership, money, and insurance are all legal agreements of the state. unless you deal with these entities of the state in a cooperative and fair manner, you’re enforcing tyranny. ”

          And ruin is my choice with MY land. There are a lot of things necessary for life but that is moot. No I do not produce land but I do produce the fruits of that land. Land ownership has occurred well before the state. They are not “of the state”. And I find it funny you condemn this while the system you advocate REQUIRES the state to regulate the use of land so you simply use the very same state in a worse way. Land can be owned without a state. Insurance can be issued without a state.

          It is you that enforces tyranny. Who collects the taxes? How are the distributed? How does the guy in China get the tax for my land? What if I don’t pay the tax? All force. Your whole system requires force for it to work so your complaints about force are hardly justified. You would essentially send Guido onto my land to collect protection for the “widows and orphans fund” and if I do not pay “things will get broken”.

          “lvt and the law of rent works to make sure people only take the land they can put to productive use, which makes most land virtually free. the citizen dividend (the payment of land rents to the proper owners, the joint and equal owners, the citizens) makes land effectively free. you can use your citizen dividend to rent land to build your home and live upon.”
          And all of this still requires force. You’re back to force. Now if people wish to voluntarily work in such a system then fine with me. But what of the people who refuse? You argue about force used to protect property rights but your back to the same use of force to insure your system.

          And again with the “equal”. How do you define “equal”. Slaves on a plantation were “equal”. They had equal ownership… they had no ownership. You talk about the state handing out land yet this is EXACTLY what you advocate.. kings and queens aloting land for the dumb serfs. Who are these “virtuous angels” whole will “fairly” divide up the land and make sure rents are fairly collected and fairly distributed? Who are the representatives of the “public”?

          Again if you wish to do this VOLUNTARILY then by all means do so.

          • ChrisNo Gravatar says:

            I think cb750 has brought up some really good points. It would be helpful if you would define “public”. The public doesn’t actually exist; only individuals exist. So, instead of saying this–,” you missed the point. people should rent land from the public, not individuals. to fully “own” land is coercion since you’re denying the rights of others”.

            Since you’ve not defined these vague abstractions, I’ll help you out. Why don’t you just say, “I think a collective of individuals should own the land, and the individual should “rent” from this collective of individuals.” I’d like to know how you believe an entity that doesn’t actually exist can, in fact, OWN property, and the individual, the thing actually in existence, should only get to rent it from this non-entity. Further, please explain–while defining your vague terms–how this system is more “just” than individual land ownership.

            You’ve got an uphill battle in front of you. How is this non-entity you’ve dubbed “the public” to be stopped when they become bloated and bureaucratic? Let me guess “the people”? Yeah, that’s worked out good hasn’t it? How are they to be stopped when they see the tax revenue rolling in on land improvement, and then they work tirelessly to stuff every piece of land with progress to gobble up more revenue? I’d rather deal with the tyranny of the individual than the tyranny of the collective–any day of the week.

            Not owning a piece of land creates more aggression than it being owned. When will all of you collectivists understand this? My ownership of land does not deny you your “right” to own land; it simply denies you the right to own MY piece of land.

  23. K. GardnerNo Gravatar says:

    “The rent a landlord charges to the tenant is his taxation policy.
    His lease is the law.
    His private security is his army.

    When the landlords get together to negotiate their tensions and manage their common interests, their meta-estate — their estate-of-estates — is, for all practical intents and purposes…

    … THE STATE!

    How ironic that anrcho-capitalists don’t get this!” — JB

    • cb750No Gravatar says:

      The difference, which apparently you cannot see, is that the renter VOLUNTARILY enters into the agreement. They VOLUNTARILY choose to rent from the land lord, VOLUNTARILY exchanging the fruits of his labor as rent payment for the property. That property was acquired VOLUNTARILY by the landlord when he exchanged his fruits of labor for the property from someone else.

      The word VOLUNTARY seems to not be in your vocabulary which is apparent since you seem to view the world in a series of forced exchanges.

      How can you criticize the landlord when you advocate the state coming in and simply wresting the land from the current owner and handing it to someone else to “run for a while”. Or taxing the owner simply for having the land to begin with.

      In fact name ONE part of the system you advocate that is voluntary? And WHY does this also not apply to one’s personal body?

  24. BenjNo Gravatar says:

    Ironic that Anarchists such as Wendy are in the same bed as Marxists. Land is not Capital. If it were we’d expect to see the same results when we tax it.

    Dan Sullivan, thanks for that thorough “going over”. Really interesting. Libertarians need to understand that the need for government revenues are a reality. Monopoly rents are the best source of those revenues, as such it protects Capitalism and free markets. That’s the whole point I’d have thought. Oh well.

    • cb750No Gravatar says:

      Slavery was a reality too but that doesn’t mean we need to practice it.

      There is no need for government revenues and if there were people would see the need and voluntarily contribute to that need. If you think people will not voluntarily contribute then you advocate the use of force to accomplish that contribution. So then what makes that different than a special interest forcing others to support it.

      Oh yes I’m sure monopoly rents are the best source of revenue JUST LIKE bashing someone over their head and taking their money is probably the best way to part someone of their money. So what.

      Just as it protects the free market? Like Guido who protects the neighborhood from “accidents”?

      Government is a claimed solution to a problem that does not exists. But please, show us these virtuous angels who will make things “fair” and equal. I’d love to meet them.

      • BenjNo Gravatar says:

        I thought governments protected your property? I thought it was everyone who gave value to your property’s location? A man’s home is his castle, but he has to lower the draw bridge to make use of the local facilities doesn’t he? There’s no such thing as a free lunch is there?

        There’s is no coercion. If you don’t enjoy the benefits, move to the margins and make room for somebody who will. You still get to keep ALL of your produce and capital.

        The overwhelming majority chooses not to live in anarchy. Civilisation is what raised us to our material well being, however I will grant you it may not be as exciting as your vision of a perfect society.

        • ChrisNo Gravatar says:

          Your statement implies that the State has made us civilized. Tell me, how can the State protect property when it must first violate your property to even exist?

          • Dan SullivanNo Gravatar says:

            Property in land begins with the state. Always has, always will.

            • ChrisNo Gravatar says:

              You’ve failed to address the contradiction.

              • Dan SullivanNo Gravatar says:

                There was no contradiction. You substituted “the state” for “government.” Even anarchism has government; it just doesn’t have hierarchical statist government. I addressed this at great length on this page. No need to repeat. Look under “The World Government Gambit.”

                • ChrisNo Gravatar says:

                  I did not substitute those two concepts.

                  Only the individual can define his property.

                • ChrisNo Gravatar says:

                  “Property in land begins with the state. Always has, always will.”

                  Here’s the contradiction–explain to me how the state can define property in land when it must first violate property in the first place. You cannot be a protector of property, and a violator of property at the same time, and in the same respect.

                  • Dan SullivanNo Gravatar says:

                    Defining land as property *is* violating property in the first place. Until the state interferes, every individual’s right of access to land is not an ownership, but just a right of access. Someone who has cleared a field has a superior claim for as long as the effect of clearing creates value, but a superior claim is not ownership.

                    Ownership of land begins with the state. This was common knowledge among classical libertarians.

                    • cb750No Gravatar says:

                      But then your definition would refer to all things that are considered property and not just land including your labor and body.

                      Again if the state does not exists you’re saying no own could own land? Clearly that’s not the case given that there have been plenty of people who have owned land in history who were not under government.

                    • ChrisNo Gravatar says:

                      “Defining land as property *is* violating property in the first place. Until the state interferes, every individual’s right of access to land is not an ownership, but just a right of access”

                      You say it’s violating property in the first place, but then in the very next sentence you say the right of access to land is not an ownership, which immediately raises the question–how is it violating property in the first place if there was never ownership?

                      I’ll tell you why–you claim ownership over my land for some other idea. The entire thing is about property rights, and about who gets to control the property.

                      You want to control property as badly as anyone else. I believe property can be defined by contract–it’s up to you to respect the contract or not.

                    • ChrisNo Gravatar says:

                      “Ownership of land begins with the state. This was common knowledge among classical libertarians.”

                      Ownweship of land does not begin with the state. A tax funded defender of property is a contradiction in terms. This is merely collectivist propaganda. I’m not a classical libertarian; I’m an egoist.

      • BenjNo Gravatar says:

        We still have slavery. It’s called wage slavery. It performs the same function as chattel slavery, only the state enforces it, not the landowners.

        • BenjNo Gravatar says:

          One more thing. Even if you don’t like government, a charge for the location value of land could be shared as a dividend to everyone What people do with that dividend is up to them. Yes? You can still be an Anarchist and a Georgist. Happy?

        • cb750No Gravatar says:

          Wage earning is voluntary. BTW if you were on a deserted island and there was no food is nature using force against you because you lack the choice to eat. You are confusing a Hobsen’s choice with force.

          How about if you ask a girl for sex and she says no and in fact all the women you meet say no. Are they using force against you because they all denied you sex?

  25. Jason BesseyNo Gravatar says:

    cb750 wrote: “The difference, which apparently you cannot see, is that the renter VOLUNTARILY enters into the agreement. They VOLUNTARILY choose to rent from the land lord, VOLUNTARILY exchanging the fruits of his labor as rent payment for the property.”

    And the difference you’re not seeing is that if the renter is renting because he is denied the natural opportunity to possess a piece of his own land because all the land has been hoarded up by others, then all that his voluntary behavior is is a choice between (A) living/laboring on someone else’s land on the landlord’s terms or (B) stariving.

    In practice, the only difference between choosing between one landlord over another in such a state of affairs or choosing between one state or another is only a matter of degree.

    • cb750No Gravatar says:

      Jason Bessey – What you describe is a Hobsen’s choice ie I have to eat junk food because all the restaurants in town are fast food restaurants.

      Life is not an infinite set of choices. Having no choices is not the same as force unless all those denied choices were created by force. For example the government could easily horde land through force which has occurred countless times in history. The Soviet communist revolution for example in which farms were stolen from their owners. So even in the case of Georgism land can be “horded”.

      What if no one developed land at all? The renter would still be stuck with the same lack of choice. Is nature using force on a lone island dweller because it did not provide that dweller a place to rent.

      How come you’re so concerned about free market, voluntary landlords hording every parcel of land in existence when that has never happened in the history of humanity YET government hording land, stealing it and parceling out has happened repeatedly and usually with the death of millions.

      As for state choice, sorry but that is the fallacious contract with society argument. The state is coercion and force. It does not offer a choice only forces its will upon others. The equivalent would be if a group (call the say Georgians) came to a land owner and forced their system upon him because they declare he is within a geographic area. Again a different argument than merely having a lack of choice. No one “choices” the government they happened to be born with and the government does NOT offer an opt out other than leaving. If you would like to propose that the government OWNS the country then I’d love to see the argument that states government can own land but the individual cannot. Again what power does the state have to tell someone within a geographic area they must obey the dictates of the state or leave? How’d that work out for American Indians?

  26. We should clear up the misconceptions about common land ownership.

    Philosophically, it can be argued that no-one has more right to land than another. That, indeed, we have a common right to land – or, if you wish, we own land in common. When there is common ownership of something, we have to set up rules for management of the common resource. We could for example say that to gain possession of a piece, one must “mix” his labor with the soil. Then we could agree as to how much land a person should have – Wendy suggests common law, but that merely refers to common agreement.

    The point is that once we accept the philosophical notion of common ownership, we then devise practical mechanisms to make it work.This applies whether Georgist or non-Georgist. The libertarian “mixing” is no more than devising a practical scheme for effective use. They have already accepted the philosophical idea of common ownership – that no-one has more right to land than another. Then, they agree that land can become ‘owned’ – removed from common ownership – by working it.

    No big philosophical advance has been offered – just a nuts and bolts decision.

    Georgist collection of Economic Rent is an extension of this practicality. George saw a problem and devised a way to handle it – a very good way, for it did not alter present ownership of land. A landholder can use it, trade it, bequeath it, just as he does now.

    Urban land rents are a consequence of the presence and access of the surrounding community. The landholder has no effect on his own economic rent. Collecting it means returning it to the community that created it, which seems fair.

    Among other points that are raised is assessment, yet assessing economic rent is easy enough. It’s done tens of thousands of times every day. It can be completely open and free from graft if the Danish land-value map system is used. The Danes could buy the complete land value assessments of Denmark, or read them in the local library.

    Complaining that we cannot measure Rents accurately flies in the face of reality.

  27. Dan SullivanNo Gravatar says:

    Ownership of land does indeed begin with the state, and I gave several examples of direct historical observation of this twin genesis by icons of libertarianism. Replies to the contrary have largely been based on bluster and self-identity with egoistic dogma. If unsubstantiated bluster is to carry the day, we might as well declare that truth is irrelevant.

    • ChrisNo Gravatar says:

      Wrong.

      You’ve failed(again) to address the concerns I’ve put forth about the propaganda you peddle. How does ownership of land begin with the state when the state must violate property to even exist? How am I initially violating property rights when there was never ownership in the first place? You say my replies have been based on “egoistic dogma”, but that’s just your way of deflecting my concerns. I’m sure it’s not just me who sees that.

      Telling me I can’t own property in land is your way of usurping my property. You are claiming property rights. And I had to self-identify, because you wrongly committed me to a position I don’t want to be associated with. You’re a tricky one. If I don’t defend against that, then the argument proceeds from there, and again, I’m no classical libertarian…got it?

  28. ChrisNo Gravatar says:

    Dan Sullivan,

    You said…”Defining land as property *is* violating property in the first place. Until the state interferes, every individual’s right of access to land is not an ownership, but just a right of access. Someone who has cleared a field has a superior claim for as long as the effect of clearing creates value, but a superior claim is not ownership.”

    Now, you need to defend this position, because I caught you ADMITTING that you are claiming property rights IN LAND. You said that defining land as property *IS* violating property in the first place. This statement presupposes ownership of land. Do you really not see that?? Then in the very next sentence you say, “every individual’s right of access to land is not an ownership, but just a right of access”. Well, which is it? You contradicted yourself in the very next statement! The only way it *is* violating property in the first place is if there is already ownership of the land–which is exactly what you claim–only you couch it in terms like, “right of access”.

    • Dan SullivanNo Gravatar says:

      “You said that defining land as property *IS* violating property in the first place. This statement presupposes ownership of land.”

      By that logic, defining gazelles as unicorns presupposes unicorns in the first place. Certainly it presupposes imaginary unicorns.

      The property that is violated by the state institution of property in land is the property in the fruits of one’s labor. That form of property exists prior to the state. Property in land exists because there are statutes proclaiming it to exist. Prior to the state, there are various rules pertaining to exclusive access to land, but these are to protect improvements, not to grant ownership of land.

  29. Dan SullivanNo Gravatar says:

    As land is not rightful property (that’s the whole question isn’t it?), property in land violates rightful property by making the producers of rightful property pay tribute to the landholders.

    But, if you say I am wrong, I must be wrong – especially as you say it with such bluster. And, of course, if I am wrong, then John Locke, Adam Smith, William Godwin, Frederic Bastiat, William Blackstone, Herbert Spencer, William Penn, Tom Paine, Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin, William Lloyd Garrison, Wendell Phillips, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Stephen Pearl Andrews, Robert Ingersoll, Tolstoy, Albert Jay Nock, and Frank Chodorov.

  30. Dan SullivanNo Gravatar says:

    Beating Down with Bluster

    The way polarization works is that both sides maintain and intensify a strong “group identity” in which they attack all non-polarized positions and beat them down with bluster and invective. In this climate of people stewing in their own juices and attacking those who disagree, reasoned analysis stands little chance. Among the Marxists, anyone who disagrees with even the most obviously false statements is a capitalist, a fascist, a statist, a shill for the corporations, etc. Among the reactionary anti-Marxists, anyone who disagrees is a collectivist, a commie, a statist, etc.

    This is called “winning through intimidation,” and it is somewhat effective among those who are not ready, willing and able to stand up to that intimidation. We see that even in the case of this comment on C-Span by William F. Buckley:

    Caller: I’ve heard you describe yourself as a Georgist, follower of Henry George, but I haven’t heard much in having you promote land value taxation and his theories, and I’m wondering why that is the case.

    Buckley: It’s mostly because I’m beaten down by my right-wing theorists and intellectual friends. They always find something wrong with the single tax idea.

    http://www.c-spanvideo.org/program/156252-1 2:39:09 to 2:41:49

    Buckley goes on to praise the idea, so obviously his right-wing friends didn’t find something he thought was wrong, just something they thought was wrong. But the key words hers is “because I’m beaten down.” That is the strategy – the necessary strategy – against any measure that cannot be defeated by rational analysis of actual facts, but which causes cognitive dissonance to the collective ego of the anti-collectivist egos.

    As I read Chris and CB750 attack those who dare to disagree with their individualist party line, I am reminded of a scene from Life of Brian where Brian, mistaken for Jesus, says to his followers, “You don’t need a Messiah,” and they dutifully echo his words back. “You can think for yourselves,” which they echo back. “You are all individuals,” again, echoed.

    But one person says, “I’m not!” and the person beside him says, “Shut up, you!”

    That is the tone this discussion has taken since these two characters have joined it. But, as in hockey, when somebody on the other team is scoring too many goals, you send out the goons to take him out of the game.

  31. ChrisNo Gravatar says:

    Dan Sullivan,

    You’ll have to excuse me, I made a mistake in thinking I could engage you in logical discourse. For that I apologize. Your attempt to psycho-analyze me is just one big ad homenim; you need to attack me because you are not rational enough to address my criticisms. I need to correct you; I’m beating you down with logic, not bluster and whatever else you’ve falsely hurled my way. Please show me how I’ve intimidated you in any way. Your accusations are baseless and childish.

    “As land is not rightful property (that’s the whole question isn’t it?), property in land violates rightful property by making the producers of rightful property pay tribute to the landholders.”

    You are telling me what property is rightful, and what property is not rightful. Where in the hell did you get the right to do that? AND, don’t you see that YOU are making an ownership claim by telling me I can’t own something? I don’t buy into your “right of access”, because your right of access is a property rights claim that would usurp my own.

    What goals did you score? You have yet to address my concerns, and I trust you know exactly what that means. Throwing out a bunch of names means nothing to me. The state does not define property in land, only the individual can do that.

    • Dan SullivanNo Gravatar says:

      No bluster here. 😉

      • John KindleyNo Gravatar says:

        Dan, I have been relatively silent on this second half of Wendy’s “refutation,” mainly because you’ve been defending Georgism better than I ever could, but I’ve been following the argument closely. These two posts by Wendy with their comments now constitue one of the best explanations of Georgism on the Internet, mainly due to your contribution, despite the lameness of the commenters you’re arguing with. Too bad Kevin Carson hasn’t deigned to wade into the comments on this second post, but in recent times he has downplayed his supposed disagreement with Georgism, emphasizing instead what Georgism has in common with his preferred mutualism and affirming their commonality of principle. It’s interesting that Wendy herself hasn’t entered the fray to defend her post. Her placing of quotation marks around the word “refutation” was telling and honest. Again, I thank you for taking the time and trouble to shoot the fish in the barrel the commenters you mention have placed in front of you. If the haven’t learned anything from the years of thought and study evident in your responses to them, others have.

  32. Robin SmithNo Gravatar says:

    Will Wendy be commenting here at all? On her own article and the responses. It seems the honourable thing for her to say would be something like:

    “I was wrong about George. I did not really understand what he was saying until now. I will go away and re thinl at the very least.”

    • Dan SullivanNo Gravatar says:

      She mentioned deadline pressures. She might have other deadline pressures that have taken her attention away, or she might want to sort through her thoughts.

    • George H. SmithNo Gravatar says:

      Wendy McElroy was not wrong about Henry George. Her criticisms were on point. From what I have seen, the Georgists on this thread have failed to understand the criticisms. They should take some time to rethink their positions. They can then state that they were wrong.

      Ghs

      • Dan SullivanNo Gravatar says:

        Nothing arrogant in that comment. 😉

        • George H. SmithNo Gravatar says:

          No more arrogant that Robin’s original advice that the honorable thing for Wendy to do would be to admit that she was wrong about Henry George. I didn’ t see you whining about that bit of “arrogance.”

          Although you do whine a lot — much more than the average Internet whiner — your whining is highly selective.

          Ghs

          • Dan SullivanNo Gravatar says:

            Look again. I took Wendy’s case against that statement..

            Besides, it’s a judgement based on cumulative evidence. I did not immediately call you on your first arrogant statement, either.

            Anyhow, as to your error on Locke. Locke was talking about acquiring property by engrossing the commons. That was the entire section. He said nothing about the value one creates by making improvments to that property, but only about the point where property begins, which is the engrossing.

            Locke said, “30. It will, perhaps, be objected to this, that if gathering the acorns or other fruits of the earth, etc., makes a right to them, then any one may engross as much as he will. To which I answer, Not so.”

            Now, some of what Locke said was in the past tense, and some, like the passage I just quoted, was in the present or general tense. Locke is not saying that there *was* a limit to what one could engross, but that there *is* a limit. Just as a direct parsing of other passages make it clear that Locke justified engrossing more than one could use only if one traded to others who used it, and just he said hoarding money, rather than land, did injury to nobody, this makes it clear that his provisos, which were always stated in the present tense, stand out from his historical examples, which were always stated in the past tense.

            This is the point of disagreement, and I’m sure others on this list are capable of having a civil discussion about that point of disagreement – others who are not so arrogant.

  33. Rick DiMareNo Gravatar says:

    I have a rejoinder, too, “Why Henry George’s Views About Income Taxes Need Updating:” http://www.facebook.com/groups/CommonWealthTax/doc/24764108868237 5/

    Wendy, thanks for bringing Auberon Herbert to my attention. It’s funny, but where Henry George wanted the land value tax to be the only tax in “Progress and Poverty” (though I’m not sure how strongly he held this view in his later years), Herbert wanted *the income tax* to be the only tax in “A Politician in Sight of Haven.”

    We’ve experienced over 100 years of income tax law evolution since they died, but in my opinion, both George and Herbert had a major influence on U.S. income tax legal history, George on the concept of taxes on income derived from property sources (land, labor and capital), and Herbert on the concept of taxes on income derived from non-propoerty sources (which includes currency-regulating income taxes that seek to provide a basic income level for everyone).

    However, in recent years Herbert’s income tax is showing some weaknesses because income is supposed to be capped at a certain level, and there are signs that the IRS has lost control over many high income earners. Also, Herbert seemed to think that people would voluntarily pay their income taxes if denied the right to vote on non-payment, but I think history has proven this approach doesn’t work, and that most people would give up the right to vote in exchange for keeping all their income.

  34. Dan SullivanNo Gravatar says:

    I cannot View DiMare’s Facebook page, because he took offense at my exposing his dishonesty with regard to George and banned me. However, I have seen enough to know what his game is, for he was himself chased away from the LVT list because he kept repeating the same things that nobody was buying until the people on that list grew tired of him.

    Anyhow, DiMare is trying to do exactly what the socialists did: co-opt the Georgist idea by equating it with an income tax, which George explicitly opposed. DiMare has taken his arguments to the LVT Facebook page, and has convinced nobody but himself. It is true that, in George’s time, income and earnings were two different things, income being “that which comes in” – what we would call “passive income” today. DiMare would tax incomes that accrue from rents.

    Socialists, seeing how popular George was in the United States (and Ireland), tailored their income tax proposals to make them sound like they would be taxes on land rent, and they succeeded. However, as it was impossible to separate income from rent from the return to labor, especially where rent recipients gave themselves “jobs” and padded their paychecks with what they would have received as rent, the income taxes just levied against very high incomes – at first. But as income tax derives from no fundamental principle, it was easy enough to work it down until, today, we have Republicans upset at those who are still poor enough to not pay income tax.

    Also, virtually all economists have agreed, ever since Ricardo corrected Adam Smith on this question, that taxes on rental income are passed on to the user, while taxes on land values are borne by the land holder. Ricardo’s Law of Rent is explained nicely at:

    http://www.henrygeorge.org/rent1.htm

    Tax the income of WalMart, and you just make their products (and everyone else’s more expensive. Tax the land under WalMart, and you make land cheaper while you restore the natural advantage that land-efficient small businesses have over WalMart.

    “Thus a tax on land values, falling on all land, used or unused, must be paid by the owner; but a tax on buildings or other improvements must be paid by the user. So a tax on land CONDITIONED ON THE USE OF LAND is virtually a tax on use and must be paid by the user.”

    – Henry George, “A Clarification of the Single Tax and Property”

    George repeatedly and explicitly denounced income taxes for very good reasons. They not only failed to prevent people from taking land out of use, but encouraged it by taxing only the proceeds of land that was put into use. This kind of proposal is typical of those who adopt Marx’s fundamental error of ad hominem analysis. That is, while the classical libertarians (Smith, Locke, the French “laissez faire” Physiocrats, etc.) focused on *what* is wrong, Marx focused on *who* is wrong. Since land and genuine wealth tended to be held by the same people, Marx had no problem with taxing or confiscating wealth, i.e., production.

    George wrote:

    “Except by the single-tax men, and possibly by the philosophic anarchists, it [the interest of common people] is thought of as a struggle between capital and labor – a contest between the rights of man and the rights of property. It is not merely that one side charges the other side with proposing to impair the right of property. It is, that, with the exceptions noted, those who would better secure the rights of men, do propose restrictions and denials of the right of property. So, from the thoroughgoing socialists who would have the state appropriate all capital and direct all industry, to those milk-and-water socialists who are willing to play at doing something, by encouraging trades-unions, and by twopenny alms and restrictions, and by attempts to make the rich less rich, and consequently as they think the poor less poor, THROUGH INCOME AND SUCCESSION TAXES and Irish Land Acts, we find those who aim, or profess to aim at improving the conditions of the laboring masses, advocating measures which are violations of the right of property. In this confusion of thought we who hold that the right of property is an absolute right, we who say that the command ‘Thou shalt not steal’ applies to the state as fully as to the individual, are looked upon by one side as deniers of the right of property, and by the other – even by the poor, timid university socialists – as not radical enough.

    “Yet to whoever will grasp first principles it must be evident:

    “That there can be no real conflict between labor and capital – since capital is in origin and essence but the product and tool of labor;

    “That there can be no real antagonism between the rights of men and the rights of property – since the right of property is but the expression of a fundamental right of man;

    “That the road to the improvement of the conditions of the masses cannot be the road of restricting and denying the right of property, but can only be that of securing most fully the right of property; and that all measures that impair the right of property must in the end injure the masses – since while it may be possible that a few may get a living or be aided in getting a living by robbery, it is utterly impossible that the many should.

    “It is not as deniers, but as asserters of the equal rights of man, that we who for want of a better name call ourselves single-tax men so strenuously uphold the right of property. It is not because we would palter with a social system that condemns the masses to hard work and low wages, to absolute want and starvation more or less disguised; but because we would bring about a social system in which it would be impossible for any one to want or to starve unless be deserved to. It is not because we are less radical, but because in the true sense we are more radical than the socialists of all degrees….”

    “The truth is that customs taxes, and improvement taxes, AND INCOME TAXES, and taxes on business and occupations and on legacies and successions, are morally and economically no better than highway robbery or burglary, all the more disastrous and demoralizing because practised by the state. There is no necessity for them. The seeming necessity arises only from the failure of the state to take its own natural and adequate source of revenue – a failure which entails a long train of evils of another kind by stimulating a forestalling and monopolization of land which creates an artificial scarcity of the primary element of life and labor, so that in the midst of illimitable natural resources the opportunity to work has come to be looked on as a boon, and in spite of the most enormous increase in the powers of production the great mass find life a hard struggle to maintain life, and millions die before their time, of overstrain and undernurture.”

    – *A Perplexed Philosopher*

    “The limits within which I wish to keep this book will not permit an examination in detail of the methods in which it is proposed to mitigate or extirpate poverty by governmental regulation of industry and accumulation, and which in their most thoroughgoing form are called socialistic. Nor is it necessary, for the same defects attach to them all. These are the substitution of governmental direction for the play of individual action, and the attempt to secure by restriction what can better be secured by freedom. As to the truths that are involved in socialistic ideas I shall have something to say hereafter; but it is evident that whatever savors of regulation and restriction is in itself bad, and should not be resorted to if any other mode of accomplishing the same end presents itself. For instance, to take one of the simplest and mildest of the class of measures I refer to – a graduated tax on incomes. The object at which it aims, the reduction or prevention of immense concentrations of wealth, is good; but this means involves the employment of a large number of officials clothed with inquisitorial powers; temptations to bribery, and perjury, and all other means of evasion, which beget a demoralization of opinion, and put a premium upon unscrupulousness and a tax upon conscience; and, finally, just in proportion as the tax accomplishes its effect, a lessening in the incentive to the accumulation of wealth, which is one of the strong forces of industrial progress. While, if the elaborate schemes for regulating everything and finding a place for everybody could be carried out, we should have a state of society resembling that of ancient Peru, or that which, to their eternal honor, the Jesuits instituted and so long maintained in Paraguay.

    “I will not say that such a state as this is not a better social state than that to which we now seem to be tending, for in ancient Peru, though production went on under the greatest disadvantages, from the want of iron and the domestic animals, yet there was no such thing as want, and the people went to their work with songs. But this it is unnecessary to discuss. Socialism in anything approaching such a form, modern society cannot successfully attempt. The only force that has ever proved competent for it – a strong and definite religious faith – is wanting and is daily growing less. We have passed out of the socialism of the tribal state, and cannot enter it again except by a retrogression that would involve anarchy and perhaps barbarism. Our governments, as is already plainly evident, would break down in the attempt. Instead of an intelligent award of duties and earnings, we should have a Roman distribution of Sicilian corn, and the demagogue would soon become the Imperator.

    “The ideal of socialism is grand and noble; and it is, I am convinced, possible of realization; but such a state of society cannot be manufactured – it must grow. Society is an organism, not a machine. It can live only by the individual life of its parts. And in the free and natural development of all the parts will be secured the harmony of the whole. All that is necessary to social regeneration is included in the motto of those Russian patriots sometimes called Nihilists – ‘Land and Liberty!'”

    – Progress and Poverty, Book 6, Chapter 1, “Insufficiency of Remedies Currently Advocated”

    In any case, Rick is fond of the income tax, despite all the lessons the rest of us have learned from seeing that tax in action – initially as close as could be to what he wanted, where it did no good but was of little harm, and now to one of the most destructive, invasive taxes there is, the other being sales taxes.

    It is good, though, to get an argument from a socialistically inclined interventionist on this list, that anarcho-capitalists can better see the contrast between Georgists and socialists.

  35. Rick DiMareNo Gravatar says:

    Dan, you were not banned from my site for “exposing [my] dishonesty,” but simply because of your personal attacks and insults, which you, fortunately, seem not to be doing here. (And I regret also that I hit below the belt occasionally, too.) Also, I voluntarily left the LVT site after you and others made it clear that the site was not for discussing anything other than the LVT, and particularly you’re interpretation of it (without considering how the LVT may have morphed or evolved after George died).

    Also, you yourself have often admitted that today the LVT is not sufficient as a stand-alone tax, particularly when you discuss the need for royalty payments from resource extractor/exploiters.

    “However, as it was impossible to separate income from rent from the return to labor, . . . ”

    I disagree with this statement, and would not otherwise be trying to draw a distinction in peoples’ minds between taxes on “income derived from property sources” vs. taxes on “income not derived from property sources.”

    Anyway, here’s my post “Doc #28: Why Henry George’s Views About Income Taxes Need Updating” from my ‘Common Wealth Tax’ Facebook group page:

    In Book 6 of Progress and Poverty (http://www.econlib.org/library/YPDBooks/George/grgPP.html) Henry George states:

    “The limits within which I wish to keep this book will not permit an examination in detail of the methods in which it is proposed to mitigate or extirpate poverty by governmental regulation of industry and accumulation, and which in their most thorough-going form are called socialistic. Nor is it necessary, for the same defects attach to them all. These are the substitution of governmental direction for the play of individual action, and the attempt to secure by restriction what can better be secured by freedom. As to the truths that are involved in socialistic ideas I shall have something to say hereafter; but it is evident that whatever savors of regulation and restriction is in itself bad, and should not be resorted to if any other mode of accomplishing the same end presents itself. For instance, to take one of the simplest and mildest of the class of measures I refer to—a graduated tax on incomes. The object at which it aims, the reduction or prevention of immense concentrations of wealth, is good; but this means involves the employment of a large number of officials clothed with inquisitorial powers; temptations to bribery, and perjury, and all other means of evasion, which beget a demoralization of opinion, and put a premium upon unscrupulousness and a tax upon conscience; and, finally, just in proportion as the tax accomplishes its effect, a lessening in the incentive to the accumulation of wealth, which is one of the strong forces of industrial progress.”

    First, George did not experience, and would not have condoned a graduated income tax that supported what he called a “hybrid currency,” which is the kind of currency we’re presently using, and which is issued by a privately-owned central bank, the Federal Reserve corporation. George’s experience or knowledge about U.S. income taxes would have been solely based on the temporary U.S. Treasury-direct Greenback-regulating income tax initiated by the Lincoln administration in 1862, which ended in 1872. This was the first income tax ever levied under U.S. law. As most Georgists know, Henry George had strong opinions about private money-issuers trying to have their currencies identified with the Treasury Department’s currency.

    Another (similar) income tax was attempted in 1894, a few years before George died, but this tax was struck down as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in Pollock v. Farmers’ Loan (1895) because it did not sufficiently separate income (which is taxable as an indirect tax) from the income’s property source (which is not taxable as an indirect income tax).

    George died in 1897, and the income tax he would have condoned—a tax on income derived from the property sources of land, labor or capital—was not authorized until the Sixteenth Amendment was ratified in 1913. This kind of income tax had nothing to with the graduated income tax George mentions in the above quote, and is a tax George hadn’t experienced.

    As I often say, the tax on income derived from property sources is presently obscured by the Federal Reserve note currency-regulating income tax, but I just want to show the (substantial) difference between these two kinds of income taxes so we don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.

    • Dan SullivanNo Gravatar says:

      Nice spin in all regards. Yes, Rick DiMare thought I was insulting to him because it was about him. He does not think I am insulting on this list because it I was not criticizing him. I’m sure there are others who have felt insulted, and that Rick will soon feel insulted. There is no way to point out dishonesty without insulting the dishonest.

      We speak of many things on the LVT Facebook page. It is only when people say the same things over and over and over until everyone is bored to tears, that we call them on it. You might have lasted a little longer if you had been on topic, but not much longer.

      http://www.facebook.com/groups/260146297351732/

      Anyhow, it is dishonest to assign motives to George that were not expressed in his writings. George was very scrupulous in qualifying his statements, and his repeated denunciations of income tax were never qualified by any of the things you imagine. It is like saying, “If only Gandhi had tasted fillet mignon he would have given up being vegan.”

      • Rick DiMareNo Gravatar says:

        Dan,

        Have you, or have you not, held that royalties or royalty taxes are sometimes necessary to supplement the LVT?

        If you did, and you no longer believe it, do you now believe that assessors are reasonably capable of determining the extent to which rent-seekers will extract natural and artificial rent from land/ocean/atmosphere?

        • Dan SullivanNo Gravatar says:

          Royalties are not income taxes. Income tax falls on revenue. Royalties are charged against the value taken from the commons. The two are different.

          • Rick DiMareNo Gravatar says:

            Dan, I’m afraid we might agree about two things: (1) it is unreasonable today to expect the LVT to be a stand-alone or “single tax,” otherwise we would not need to demand royalties (i.e., tax) from some rent-seekers on top of the LVT, and (2) there is some other kind of tax, other than the LVT, that can properly (and fairly accurately) tax “the value taken from the commons.” The only difference between us on this point seems to be that you call this extra-LVT “royalties,” whereas I call it “taxes on income derived from property sources” (where land, labor and capital are the untaxable property sources, and the profits or royalties are the taxable income part).

            I suppose you could argue that royalties can be taken from the rent-seeker whether or not s/he is profitable, so in that sense, royalties are different from a taxes on profits or income, but nevertheless aren’t you saying that the LVT can’t reasonably be expected to capture the economic rent from land/ocean/atmosphere in many cases?

            • Dan SullivanNo Gravatar says:

              No, Rick, I am saying it is simply impossible to “rent” oil or other scarce resources that are removed from nature and consumed. Charging rent on oil-bearing lands accelerates the extraction of oil, while charging royalties on the oil slows the extraction of oil. It has nothing whatever to do with whether a land value tax could eliminate the need for other taxes, and everything to do with how much we want to suck the oil out for this generation as opposed to leaving more for subsequent generations.

              • Rick DiMareNo Gravatar says:

                I’m asking whether there’s any wiggle room in your mind about the LVT being “a single tax,” but apparently I haven’t framed the question properly. If you will, I’d like to try from a different angle.

                In “A Critique of a Critique of Georgism,” Fred Foldvary states:

                “Properly tapping the economic rent of material land requires a sophisticated policy. A tap on that land value would include bids for leasing land and a lump-sum monthly tax on the estimated economic profit of the current extraction, based on the current price of the resource. The economic profit equals the revenue minus all costs, both explicit and implicit, including normal returns on assets. Possibly the economic profit could be zero, the operation providing only a normal return on the labor and capital goods.”

                Would you say that Fred is any less a “Georgist” because he’s suggesting the LVT often requires additional taxes to supplement it?

                  • Dan SullivanNo Gravatar says:

                    No, because what Fred advocated in your quote was royalties on land, not income taxes. Your inability to distinguish between royalties and rental income tax is a lot like Smith’s inability to distinguish between an exclusive right of possession and absolute ownership. That is, both are driven by a desire to rationalize an agenda, not by a desire to get to the truth.

                    • Rick DiMareNo Gravatar says:

                      So, when Fred Foldvary talks about taxes on “economic profit” (which “could be zero” some months), he means “royalties,” and royalties are the same thing as LVT?

                    • Dan SullivanNo Gravatar says:

                      Fred never talked about taxes on economic profit. He talked about the economic profit sometimes being zero.

                    • Dan SullivanNo Gravatar says:

                      I see he did talk about it higher up. Anyhow, why don’t you ask Fred what he meant? I am not interested in interpreting his words for him, nor in evaluating how much of a Georgist he is. Fred generally makes himself available when inquiries are made. I do know that what he describes is remarkably similar to the system Alberta Canada uses for oil, in which oil companies bid for drilling rights and also pay royalties that are indexed to the price of oil.

      • John KindleyNo Gravatar says:

        Looks like a good group. The administrator must be taking the day off though, since my request to join submitted several hours ago is still awaiting approval. I look forward to joining the conversation when he gets back.

    • Rick DiMareNo Gravatar says:

      In short, the economic/currency/tax problems we’re facing today are primarily due to taxes on “natural rent” being (often deliberately) conflated with taxes on “artificial rent,” whereas taxes on artificial rent should be ADDED to taxes on natural rent.

      ———————————————————————————————

      Doc #1: What Exactly is a “Common Wealth Tax”?
      By Rick DiMare in Common Wealth Tax · Edit Doc · Delete

      Common Wealth Tax (CWT) includes the land value tax (LVT) advocated by Henry George plus a legal concept that materialized after he died, known as taxes on “income derived from property sources” (IDPS), i.e., taxes on “natural rent,” plus the concept known as taxes on “income derived from non-property sources” (IDNPS), i.e., taxes on “artificial rent.”

      In short, Common Wealth Tax = Taxes on Natural Rent + Taxes on Artificial Rent

      NATURAL RENT
      Natural rent is the actual yield or value from land, ocean and atmosphere that was achieved or enjoyed by someone unassisted by government privilege. The two taxes that convert this kind of economic rent into common property are: (1) the Land Value Tax (LVT), and (2) taxes on “income derived from property sources” (IDPS).

      The Land Value Tax is based on the prevailing market price for land, or the price at which auctioned land would sell, and excludes the value of buildings and improvements.

      Taxes on IDPS are primarily taxes on the following: (1) profits derived from hiring labor; (2) interest income and dividends derived from capital; (3) rental income derived from real estate; and (4) capital gains derived from the sale of land, real estate and capital.

      ARTIFICIAL RENT
      Artificial rent is the additional yield of land, ocean and atmosphere due to one’s exercise of government-granted privilege, such as: (1) doing business in a corporate capacity, (2) being a user of an income tax regulated currency, or (3) being protected by intellectual property rights beyond the time reasonably needed to compensate for research and development.

  36. Dan SullivanNo Gravatar says:

    Wow. I see that George Smith’s comments are growing increasingly reactionary, dishonest and ugly. They exude contempt, they take words deliberately out of context in order to make them look stupid, and they grasp at things Locke said as if they negate other things that Locke said.

    It strikes me as a kind of sad desperation that depends on people not going back to see what was actually said in the previous comment, and not actually looking at what Locke said in context, and believing George Smith simply because they want to believe him. And, indeed there will be some who want to believe him, because they are as ego-invested in a reactionary neolibertarian construct as he is.

    It does not surprise me that Smith found a separate passage in Locke that justified a landlord collecting rent on his land. What surprises me is Smith’s silly presumption that somebody here had said otherwise, or that Henry George had said otherwise. To the contrary, George showed that rent was a natural phenomenon, and condemned attempts to suppress or control rent as arbitrary interferences in the market.

    This red herring of Smith’s was his attempt to dance around the quote I had submitted, which showed that Locke did indeed call for all taxes to fall on land. An person interested in honest discussion would have acknowledged that and then made some other point about the right of a landlord to charge rent (or, for that matter the right of a tenant to sublet and also charge rent, with which I would have agreed, but Smith is treating this discussion as some kind of cage match, in which winning is of paramount importance and no tactics are off limits. So, he comes up with all sorts of fanciful interpretations when Locke is unmistakable in his assertion.

    He made a claim to the effect that Locke was only concerned with spoilage. When I pointed out that this was false, because Locke was also concerned with their being enough and as good left over to others, he truncated his quote of my objection so he could pretend that I was denying Locke’s objection to spoilage. Of course I was denying no such thing, but only denying that it was Locke’s only proviso. Smith was being dishonest, but it would be effective among those desperately needing to justify land ownership.

    When he went on about property and ownership being exactly the same thing, he completely obliterated both Lockean provisos, for when someone genuinely and absolutely owns something, it is his to spoil or not spoil, and it is his whether or not there is enough and as good left to others. Locke did not compare land with products of labor, but compared land with fruits of nature.

    That is, he did not compare property in land with property in fruits of a garden, which the proprietor had tended. Rather, he compared them with fruits growing wild on the commons, which all people had an equal right to pick. This right to the fruits of the earth is indeed similar to a right to the earth itself, because everyone has a right to access these fruits.

    So, he uses this to illustrate limits on the right to the earth itself. Each person may pick of these fruits, he may not pick more than he could consume (or trade with others who will consume them), and, clearly, no matter how much Smith tries to deny it, may not pick so much that there is no longer enough and as good left for others to pick. Now, these limits no not apply to property in general, even though they apply in one case as in the other, for neither of these involved real production. In the former case of wild nuts and berries, there is a minimal investment of labor in picking them, but the right to pick them in the first place is subject to Locke’s two provisos.

    Smith insists that land and the fruits of land are not only exactly the same as each other, but are the same as absolute property, just because Locke says one acquires a property in one as he acquires it in the other, but that only shows that goods provided by nature are similar to land.

    Never does Locke, or Henry George, or anyone other than communists say that you may only keep possession of the house you have built if there are enough houses, and as good, left to others. The Lockean proviso does not apply to houses, because houses are unquestionably labor products – but he might well say that people may not harvest so much wood from wild forests that there is not enough wood, and as good, left for others to similarly build houses.

    People who actually read Locke calmly, patiently, and rationally, will see that Smith is ranting. However, all this ranting is tiresome, and I think people would rather have some comic relief. I heartily recommend that you find respite from this grim gnashing by reading some humorous gnashing.

    Take a pleasant read of the chapter, “Sixth Century Political Economy,” from Mark Twain’s *Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court.” Tell me if Dowley doesn’t remind you of someone.

    http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/etcbin/toccer-new2?id=TwaYank.sgm&i mages=images/modeng&data=/texts/english/modeng/parsed&tag=public& part=34&division=div1

    • George H. SmithNo Gravatar says:

      Dan wrote:

      “It does not surprise me that Smith found a separate passage in Locke that justified a landlord collecting rent on his land. What surprises me is Smith’s silly presumption that somebody here had said otherwise, or that Henry George had said otherwise. To the contrary, George showed that rent was a natural phenomenon, and condemned attempts to suppress or control rent as arbitrary interferences in the market.”

      Locke defended rent, as paid to PRIVATE landholders, as unavoidable, equitable, and lawful. You surely don’t mean to say that George held the same position. As he wrote in Progress and Poverty (Schalkenbach ed., p. 365):

      “If the land belongs to the people, why continue to permit landowners to take the rent, or compensate them in any manner for the loss of rent? Consider what rent is. It does not arise spontaneously from land; it is due to nothing that the landowners have done. It represents a value created by the whole community. Let the landholders have, if you please, all that the possession of land would give them in the absence of the rest of the community. But rent, the creation of the whole community, necessarily belongs to the whole community.”

      This contradicts Locke’s position in some important respects, so it appears that my “silly presumption” was warranted. Of course, as you suggested in an early post on this thread, a critic of George cannot be sure what George said until he runs it by an expert on George. So tell me, did George really mean this? If he did, I don’t see how he “condemned attempts to suppress or control rent as arbitrary interferences in the market.”

      We are talking about land rent, remember, not about apartments and other rental property. I can only hope that you were not playing fast and loose with the term “rent.” Or that your escape hatch does not consist of the claim that total confiscation of land rent by the state is not “arbitrary.”

      Ghs

      • Dan SullivanNo Gravatar says:

        Like Mark Twain’s “Dowley,” Smith is a master at taking quotes out of context. There is no point in arguing with such people. George never proposed to stop landlords from taking rent, but only from keeping all the rent. Certainly, if the community or government, as its agent, takes the rent for public purposes, this not only permits, but requires, the landlord to also take the rent, but only to remit that rent, or a significant portion, thereof, to the community.

        And, yes, what Henry George said or what Locke said is not the important thing, but Smith’s entire conversation has been based on misinterpreting Locke. That is, it’s his issue, not mine. I only referred to Locke because Wendy invoked Locke’s mixing-labor metaphor.

        As for this being a Christian concept that no atheist need follow, I would only note that, whether or not one believes the bible to be the word of God, it is certainly an expression of the values of the people who generated it. One need not be a Christian to see wisdom in the bible, any more than one must be a worshiper of Locke, Bastiat, the French (laissez faire) Physiocrats, Adam Smith, Herbert Spencer, John Stuart Mill, Thomas Jefferson, Tom Paine, William Penn, Ben Franklin, William Lloyd Garrison, Wendell Phillips, Stephen Pearl Andrews, Charles Ingersoll, Charles Sprading, David Nolan, Karl Hess, John Hospers, or any of the 7 Nobel laureates in economics to see that their opinions are worthy of consideration.

        I’m sure George Smith can find some point of disagreement between Henry George and each of these people, and take smug satisfaction in doing so. However, they all treated property in land as different from property in the fruits of labor, and most of them explicitly advocated a land value tax.

        • John KindleyNo Gravatar says:

          I have read somewhere else that Karl Hess endorsed Georgism (something to the effect that he believed the single tax was the way to go until the State withered away entirely) but I have never been able to find confirmation of this or the pertinent quote. As Hess is a “hero” of mine, it’d be great if you could point me in the right direction or supply the relevant quote.

          • Dan SullivanNo Gravatar says:

            The quote I cited was delivered at a Libertarian Party Convention in Pittsburgh. I also got to talk to him privately at the convention, where he told me he had often endorsed land value tax, but he did not give me actual citations.

  37. George H. SmithNo Gravatar says:

    Dan claims that I “made a claim to the effect that Locke was only concerned with spoilage. When I pointed out that this was false, because Locke was also concerned with their being enough and as good left over to others, he truncated his quote of my objection so he could pretend that I was denying Locke’s objection to spoilage.”

    I never said any such thing. I said that Locke objected not to the largeness of private property per se but to the spoilage problem, and that this problem had been obviated by the invention of money.

    You called this claim false. I then quote a passage from Locke that said exactly what I claimed he said. I never said that Locke was concerned only with spoilage. What you characterized as a second proviso — i..e, leaving enough for others — is actually not a second proviso at all, but a different aspect of the same proviso. I dealt with this in my comments about how the private appropriation of land has the effect of increasing the overall stock of land by increasing the value of a given unit of land.

    Of course, it took a little thought to see the connection here, since I did not explicitly spell it out, so I’m not surprised that you missed it.

    Btw, Locke never said that all taxes should fall only on land. He said that in a society where most wealth consists of land that most taxes will “terminate” in land, i.e., that the landowner ends up footing most of the bill, one way or the other.

    Time and again, Locke speaks of property in land, of land as property, of land as private possessions, of the title to property in land, of the private appropriation of land, etc., etc. Moreover, he frequently uses “property” to mean “life, liberty, and estate” — and he is clear that by “estate” he primarily means landed property. On and on he goes about private property in land, yet you claim that he did not defend the “ownership” of land. Why? Because he never used the term “ownership.” Well, I’ve got news for you: Locke never used the term “ownership” in regard to acorns, applies, or any other kind of private property, either.

    If you think that my comments “exude contempt,” then you are absolutely right. I have no respect whatever for ideological hatchet-men who cut and paste the comments of earlier thinkers to suit their own ideological agenda.

    In his criticism of Spencer (“A Perplexed Philosopher”), George cited Locke in defense of his own position. But there was no systematic analysis of Locke’s theory of ownership — just some claims here and there. But this is all that a true-believing Georgist needs to know. If George said that Locke believed X, then Locke must have believed X. Similarly, if Rand claimed that Kant believed Y, then Kant must have believed Y, regardless of what Kant himself had to say.

    Welcome to the Wonderful World of of Cults. I personally prefer Randroids over Georgists, however, since the former tend to be more reasonable.

    Ghs

  38. John KindleyNo Gravatar says:

    Ultimately, who really cares what Locke thought? In fact, who really cares what Henry George thought? Admittedly these questions are of some academic interest. In all such matters of textual interpretation, I’m partial to the method used by Lysander Spooner in The Unconstitutionality of Slavery. The ultimate question is one of Justice. In answering that question we must ultimately rely on our own minds. The records of the thoughts of men long dead can be instrumental in helping us see the truth, but they’re hardly Scriptural.

    • George H. SmithNo Gravatar says:

      It matters to historians of thought what Locke thought, but his beliefs are irrelevant to the validity of Georgist arguments, one way or the other.

      As I have learned over the past 40 years, Georgists will frequently bring up Locke. Why? Well, look at the way that Dan introduced him into this thread. He wrong a long post that trumpted his supposed knowledge of Locke for the purpose of showing that the understanding of most modern libertarians is mistaken — that Locke was in fact a kind of proto-Georgist.

      So what was the point of this pointless exercise? Only Georgists who are fixated on Locke can answer this question. But there seems to be a standard catechism here, since Dan’s arguments merely replicate the arguments I have heard from other Georgists. I assume there is a website (or other source) where these stock arguments can be found and then repeated rote by Georgists on the prowl — just as there are websites that Creationists can consult and recite to appear sophisticated.

      My guess is that Locke is the focus of attention because he is generally respected by Rothbardian libertarianism. Thus, if Locke was a proto-Georgist, then Georgism cannot be all that nutty.

      In fact, Locke’s defense of property, including property in land, is deeply flawed. His “proviso” is based on a traditional Christian interpretation that no atheist would accept. Pufendorf was closer to the mark when he argued that “common” natural resources (including land) are simply unowned resources, and that the common right is simply the right of anyone to USE unowned land.

      Locke called Pufendorf’s major work on this topic the best book of its kind, and (as I said before) there are strong indications that Locke followed Pufendorf in viewing the common right to natural resources as nothing more than a usufruct right (a right of use) to unowned resources. But Locke tended to be very ambiguous on this and related topics. His discussion of property is far from an exercise in clarity, in some respects.

      Ghs

      • John KindleyNo Gravatar says:

        Indeed, as you described your interpretation of Locke, my thought was that if you were right about Locke his theory of property was deeply flawed. I read the Second Treatise in undergrad, and don’t have a burning desire or see a compelling reason to give it a closer reason now. I brought up Spooner because my thought was it makes sense, to the extent a text is ambiguous and lacking in clarity, to give it the most charitable interpretation — one that does not fly in the face of justice, is not absurd, is not “deeply flawed” etc.

        I don’t think I buy your assertion that Locke’s “proviso” was based on a Christian interpretation that no atheist would accept. The only Christian teaching that seems applicable here is the Golden Rule, which is really just a command to be just. If atheism means freedom from the constraints of justice, then certainly it indeed means the atheist believes he is morally free, on his own or in combination with others, to enclose as much land as he possibly can, and to reap the benefits to himself caused by depriving other human beings of free access to land.

      • John KindleyNo Gravatar says:

        Despite the fact that Georgism is today not as well known as it once was, I am amazed at the illustrious names which have endorsed it. I don’t know if you’re an an-cap, but if we’re going by the weight of endorsements it seems the an-caps have a far stronger claim to “nuttiness” than Georgists. Given these endorsements, I don’t think the issue of whether Locke was a proto-Georgist or not matters all that much to the issue of whether Georgism is nutty.

        • George H. SmithNo Gravatar says:

          I’m not sure which “illustrious” Georgists you mean. Mencken, Nock, and Chodorov certainly qualify, but those are the only three names that come to mind offhand. I have probably forgotten a few, however.

          Rothbardians and Randians comprise the great majority of modern libertarians. Other than some Chicago-types, almost all these libertarians are Austrians, and both Austrians and Friedmanites categorically reject the Ricardian (embodied) labor theory of value and the Ricardian theory of rent, on which George’s arguments depended.

          Wendy McElroy has already mentioned the hostile reception that the “single tax” got from American anarchists. The reception from British libertarians was not much better. Even Herbert Spencer, who opposed the private ownership of land, did not endorse a single tax.

          Ghs

          • dLNo Gravatar says:

            Georgist rent is not dependent on the Ricardian theory of rent or the labor theory of value.

            • Dan SullivanNo Gravatar says:

              It does not depend on the labor theory of value, but it does draw heavily on the Ricardian theory of rent. That theory is far more flexible than anti-Ricardians care to acknowledge, and has been supplemented with the idea that, while there is a primary margin, below which people will not bother to use the land at all, there is also a margin for housing land (below which people will not build a house, even if the land is free), a margin for industrial, commercial, retail, etc.

              As to the majority of libertarians being more anarcho-capitalist, that is largely a recent phenomenon, a “neolibertarian shift”arising from a reactionary anti-socialism that occurred mostly during the Franklin Roosevelt administration. Rothbard, Rand and von Mises were quite out of step with the libertarian tradition, but brought in enough angry anti-socialists to dominate the libertarian movement, at least in the US. Similarly, the Austrian school of economics was created as a response to the German (Marxist) school. However, as Marx was based on half-truths, the Austrian tendency to nay-say Marx led them to opposite half-truths. Still, even the Austrians were not dominated by truly reactionary polemicism until Mises.

              • George H. SmithNo Gravatar says:

                LOL. I love the way you make up history as you go along, to suit your convenience, with virtually no understanding of the libertarian tradition, Austrian economics, or other things that you blather about. Very handy, indeed.

                You also seem to know very little about Ricardo. His theory of rent depended, lock, stock, and barrel, on his labor theory of value. He attempted to show, in essence, that land rent is not a part of labor costs and so represents an unearned increment (to use a later expression) that accrues to the landowner. This argument makes no sense without a labor theory of value.

                Ghs

                • Dan SullivanNo Gravatar says:

                  Ricardo explicitly developed his “Law of Rent” to show that a statement by Smith was inaccurate. That is, Smith had said that a tax on ground rents would not be passed on to the user. Ricardo showed that, while a tax on the value of *all* land would not be passed on, a tax that fell only on land in use would lead to less land being put into use, and would therefore be passed on to the user.

                  As to the labor theory of value, it is flawed, but it is not as ridiculously dishonest as subjective value theory or as the attack on this theory by Austrians, who misapprehended the difference between market value and personal utility. Air has no market value, but extreme utility. Diamonds have tremendous market value, but almost no utility.

                  Similarly, Austrians dishonestly claim that proponents of the labor theory of value dictated that the labor put into an individual item would dictate the value of that item. No such claim was ever made. Rather, the claim was that, in a free market, items that gave a return that exceeded the normal inputs would either lead to more of that product being produced, until the inputs were equalized, or would lead to those who hold essential land and resources charging more for that land and resources.

                  Smith, George, and even Marx were absolutely clear that they were talking about tendencies of industrial production, not the value of an individual item, and that they were talking about market value, and explicitly *not* talking about personal utility.

                  Now, while personal utility impacts market value, as people will buy what they can use, equating the two on an individual basis is dishonest. For example, I paid $2,000 for my first computer, which did little, and I would pay $2,000 today if I had to, because my computer has that personal utility. However, the market value of my computer, when new, was about $400, and that is what I paid.

                  Marx was wrong in his *application* of the labor theory of value, in that he supposed that it would hold up without the “higgling of the market,” and that socialist bureaucrats could calculate that value in the absence of a market and act accordingly. But reactionary Austrians, in their compulsive desire to nay-say Marx, managed to come up with an alternate theory that is even more useless than Marx’s own misapplication.

                  In all produced goods, the question becomes, what is the cost of production, which is usually mostly labor, and what monopoly advantages can be used to leverage that production, which is sometimes patents, often right-of-way franchise monpolies, but always land rents. “Rent-seeking behavior” is the attempt to maximize the return to privilege.

                  I am also skeptical of the idea that the Constitution was based on Locke, although I don’t doubt that lip-service was given to Locke. What we call the Constitutional Convention was a cabal of special interests, never authorized to write up a new Constitution, but only to propose individual amendments to the Articles of Confederation.

                  If you want to see the influence of Locke on American Politics, you might want to look at Thomas Jefferson’s writings on land, or at Tom Paine’s “Agrarian Justice,” which is a very close paraphrasing of Locke:

                  http://geolib.com/essays/paine.tom/agjst.html#paragraph_05

              • George H. SmithNo Gravatar says:

                Dan wrote:

                “It does not depend on the labor theory of value, but it does draw heavily on the Ricardian theory of rent. That theory is far more flexible than anti-Ricardians care to acknowledge….”

                What anti-Ricardians would those be?

                Many economists, including many critics of Ricardo, have pointed out that Ricardo’s theory of rent, which is essentially a theory of diminishing returns applied to land, can be reconstructed (more or less) within a subjective theory of marginal utility. But this misses the point, because any such reconstruction along subjectivist lines will be unable to make the crucial point that rent is supposedly unearned, since rent supposedly accrues to the landlord without any labor on his part, or without his paying laborers to work the land. Any such distinction between the earned and the unearned, of the sort that Henry George employed, has no relevance within a subjective theory of value.

                So, yes, can keep some version of Ricardo’s theory of rent without his LTV, but it won’t do the Georgist any good, because land will have become indistinguishable, in essence, from all other economic goods; and payment of land rent will have become indistinguishable from all other voluntary economic transactions.

                Ghs

            • George H. SmithNo Gravatar says:

              I suppose that when Henry George decided to devote an entire chapter in Progress and Poverty to “Rent and the Law of Rent,” and when he characterized Ricardo’s law of rent as having the “self-evident character of a geometric axiom,” he did so for no particular reason. He just threw that stuff in on a whim, because it had no relationship to his argument that all land rent should expropriated by the state. Yeah, right.

              Ghs

              • George H. SmithNo Gravatar says:

                Please note: My last post, directly above, was a reply to dL’s remark: “Georgist rent is not dependent on the Ricardian theory of rent or the labor theory of value.”

                Ghs

                • Dan SullivanNo Gravatar says:

                  Your last quote was also dishonest. DL didn’t say that George did not *agree* with the labor theory of value, but only that the case for the single tax does not *depend* on that theory. Many people who did not agree with the labor theory of value none the less agree that land value tax was the best tax, even if some, like Milton Friedman, called it the “least bad tax.”

                  Similarly, I don’t know that Public Choice economist James Buchanan supports the labor theory of value, yet he supports land value tax over taxes that fall on users.

                  It is also dishonest to refer to *the* labor theory of value. Should you actually read that chapter, you will see George note that the value of of an item is not determined by the labor that went into it, but by the subsequent labor that can be avoided in the satisfaction of desires. Thus, there is more than one labor theory of value – another subtlety that is beyond the comprehension of reactionary nay-sayers.

                  Your repeatedly grasping at opportunities to make dishonest, meaningless attacks does a disservice to this list.

                  • George H. SmithNo Gravatar says:

                    “Your last quote was also dishonest. DL didn’t say that George did not *agree* with the labor theory of value, but only that the case for the single tax does not *depend* on that theory. Many people who did not agree with the labor theory of value none the less agree that land value tax was the best tax, even if some, like Milton Friedman, called it the “least bad tax.”

                    My response to DL said nothing about the labor theory of value per se in any form. It referred only to the Ricardian theory of RENT. As you yourself admitted, George’s argument about rent does indeed depend on the Ricardian theory of rent.

                    Learn to read, moron.

                    Ghs

                    • Dan SullivanNo Gravatar says:

                      Moron that I must be if you say so, I did see your assertion that Ricardo’s theory of rent depends on the labor theory of value, which is arguable but false. It might be that Ricardo invoked that theory, but that does not mean that the same conclusion is unreacheable otherwise. For example, Austrian economist Fred Foldvary fully embraces the Law of Rent and often uses the expression “Ricardian Rent,” but does not embrace the labor theory of value. So, you are wrong in asserting that one depends on the other.

                      What I would like to know is whether anybody on this list is actually impressed by your name-calling. Perhaps you should take some time off and try to regain your composure.

                    • George H. SmithNo Gravatar says:

                      Dan wrote:

                      “What I would like to know is whether anybody on this list is actually impressed by your name-calling.”

                      I am not interested in impressing anyone. I leave that goal entirely to you. What, after all, was the point of your initial lengthy and supremely irrelevant post about Locke — as well as your subsequent flood of posts, written prior to my first comment — if not to impress readers with your supposedly vast fund of knowledge?

                      Most readers are not familiar enough with the original sources to know what a fake you are, so they probably tended to take you at your word. But I do know the original sources, and far more thoroughly than you do, and I make a point of exposing such antics whenever I run across them on libertarian sites, which happens fairly often.

                      Ghs

                    • Dan SullivanNo Gravatar says:

                      I am sure that you run across fakes fairly often, since you treat anyone who disagrees with your interpretations as fakes. My first exposure to Locke’s treatise was MacPherson’s Theory of Possessive Individualism, and it seemed strained to me, so I went and read Locke directly and parsed every sentence.

                      Having a very different interpretation from yours makes me a fake, because it is impossible that your interpretation could be wrong.

                    • George H. SmithNo Gravatar says:

                      I couldn’t care less if you or anyone else disagrees with me about Locke (or anyone else). The problem is not your disagreement per se, but how you systematically ignore many of Locke explicit statements that contradict your interpretation, and how you impose upon Locke various Georgist-like distinctions (e.g.,. that between exclusive access versus ownership) that he never made or so much as hinted at.

                      I have repeatedly challenged you to cite even one passage in which Locke distinguishes property in land from any other kind of property. This is crucial because if you are right about Locke’s position on land, this would mean that he opposed the private ownership of ANYTHING — which is absurd.

                      You have, of course, studiously avoided this problem, and for good reason. In the final analysis, your interpretation makes nonsense of Locke’s stated purpose in writing Chapter 5, namely, to justify private property without appealing to the consent of the commoners.

                      And then there was your exceedingly stupid observation that Locke never used the word “ownership” in regard to land — when in fact Locke never used the word “ownership” (in the 2nd Treatise) in regard to any kind of private property. May we therefore conclude that Locke did not believe in the right of ownership to anything?

                      Lastly, you have obviously made no effort to understand what the expressions “property in” and “property of” meant to seventeenth and eighteenth-century philosophers. The Lockean philosopher William Wollaston, writing in 1722, was very clear about this meaning: “To have the property of any thing and to have the sole right of using and disposing of it are the same thing: the are equipollent expressions.”

                      This is exactly what Locke meant when he spoke of property IN land or other goods. He meant the sole right or using and disposing of a good. He meant ownership.

                      The list goes on and on, far past the point where I am willing to give you the benefit of the doubt.

                      Ghs

                      Ghs

                • dLNo Gravatar says:

                  I suppose that when Henry George decided to devote an entire chapter in Progress and Poverty to “Rent and the Law of Rent,” and when he characterized Ricardo’s law of rent as having the “self-evident character of a geometric axiom,” he did so for no particular reason. He just threw that stuff in on a whim, because it had no relationship to his argument that all land rent should expropriated by the state. Yeah, right.

                  Of course, George’s book preceded the marginalist revolution, so your above statement is a bit disingenuous. You can certainly recast georgism in terms of a modern treatment of economic rent and opportunity costs.

                  Now, I agree that you can theoretically treat land as just another factor of production. Neoclassical economics does just that. But I don’t think the standard neoclassical methods model POLITICAL economy particularly well. NCE didn’t even have a conception of rent-seeking agency until the introduction of public choice in the 60s/70s.

                  Concerning “Austrian Economics,” we should keep in mind that AE is itself heterodoxical. So my failure to conform to one particular form of heterodoxy signifies exactly what heresy? And just to be clear, I consider Misean praxeology in many ways to be a “crank” method. Hoppe’s “invited contract theory of property,” which quite few “Rothbardians” apparently adhere to, is one of the most crackpot collectivist theories of property I’ve ever encountered. Property owners are liable for the actions of anyone who has ever stepped foot on their property?

                  You can my blog posts for a more detailed perspective of how I approach the subject, if you so care.

                  • George H. SmithNo Gravatar says:

                    DL: I simply corrected your error when you said that “Georgist rent is not dependent on the Ricardian theory of rent.” For George it certainly was. I don”t fault George for embracing the Ricardian theory of rent or a labor theory of value. Many good economists did likewise, prior to the marginalist revolution of the early 1870s.

                    But, as I said before, if you recast Georgism in terms of marginalism, then you destroy its moral foundation, for the supposedly “unearned” has no relevance to any subjective theory of value, and the notion of rent as unearned is essential to George’s approach.

                    I have noticed the tendency of a number of Georgists on this thread to claim that George’s theory of rent can be saved by tweaking it here and there. This is pointless, in the final analysis, unless his moral case against the private ownership of land can also be saved. One could easily accept some version of the Ricardian theory of rent and still reject, on moral grounds, George’s contention that rent “necessarily belongs to the whole community.”

                    George’s repeated claim that the private ownership of land “involves slavery” is really the crux of his entire approach. Reject that moral claim, and you have rejected Georgism, as defended by Henry George.

                    Ghs

                    • Rick DiMareNo Gravatar says:

                      “George’s repeated claim that the private ownership of land “involves slavery” is really the crux of his entire approach.”

                      George, personally I’d like to see you and Dan continue debating the possible difference between “ownership” of land and “exclusive access” to land. I know you said they’re the same thing, but I’m not quite so sure.

                      If a crab or lobster “claims” a vacant crevice under a bunch of rocks as his/her home, then catches a shrimp for lunch, s/he may have a property right to the lunch that is much stronger than the property right to the space under the rock and its immediate vicinity.

                      The thing with us humans, though, is that we usually have difficulty accepting our mortality or imagining giving up the space under the rock after we’re gone (which “giving up” is what the LVT is designed to induce), so we invent all kinds of legal mechanisms to compensate and keep the space under the rock our own, into eternity if possible.

                    • dLNo Gravatar says:

                      I have a different definition of “save,” one that usually pertains to a reformulation of a theory in order to make it fit with observable reality(after the original theory made bad or inaccurate predictions). In terms of the classical economists, I don’t think we need to “save” their solid observations on the functioning of political economy just because the “labor theory of value” was superseded by a marginalist theory of value.

                      I hold to a maginalist position on value but I also hold close to the classical view regarding political economy(leaning more to the french liberal view). The neoclassical supersession pretty much through out the “political” in economic science, thus resulting in bad and inaccurate modeling(and policy prescriptions). For me it is natural to reformulate the solid observations of the classical economists using modern methods and techniques.

                      I’m not going to dismiss Adam Smith’s observations regarding National Trade policies because he incorrectly cast trade in terms of “absolute advantage.” Likewise, I’m not going to dismiss George’s observation regarding land and rents because he held to David Ricardo’s theory of rent. The original observations were essentially correct despite the original methods not comporting perfectly with our modern methods.

          • John KindleyNo Gravatar says:

            I was thinking Twain, Einstein, Tolstoy, Friedman, Buckley, Ford, Darrow, Churchill, etc., etc. Admittedly some of these endorsed Georgism more wholeheartedly than others, but I think their endorsements such as they were convincingly refutes the notion common among an-caps that Georgism is “nutty.”

            • George H. SmithNo Gravatar says:

              John Kindley:

              I actually like Henry George a great deal. Years and ago I owned his collected works (in something like 8 or 10 volumes), and I eventually read all of them. Since then I have reread Progress and Poverty a few times.

              George’s errors, however serious they may be, are really no more serious than those of Herbert Spencer (whom I greatly admire) about land ownership.

              Given this, I obviously don’t regard all of Georgism as nutty. But it certainly has its nutty aspects, as we see in these remarks in Progress and Poverty:

              “What I, therefore, propose, as the simple yet sovereign remedy, which will raise wages, increase the earnings of capital, extirpate pauperism, abolish poverty , give remunerative employment to whoever wishes it, afford free scope to human powers, lessen crime, elevate morals, and taste, and intelligence, purify government and carry civilization to yet nobler heights, is — to appropriate rent by taxation.”

              Now, this is just plain nutty.

              Ghs

            • Dan SullivanNo Gravatar says:

              Everyone but George Smith knows that land value tax is much more highly regarded by mainstream economists than anarcho-capitalism is. That is not to put down anarcho-capitalism, and would not even have been worth mentioning if Smith had not been attacking Georgists as “cranks.” We are regarded as cranks by anarcho-capitalists, who in turn are regarded by cranks by most of the world. That doesn’t make either group wrong. It just exposes how silly it is for Smith to argue with epithets.

              Milton Friedman called it the “least bad tax,” and the *only* one that does not suppress economic activity. If that isn’t supporting a drift away from all other taxes and toward a single tax on land, I don’t know what is.

              LP founder David Nolan said that, as long as there must be taxation, land value tax was his choice, and that no libertarian supports income taxes.

              Karl Hess, Goldwater speech writer and founder of the LP News, said, “All taxes should be placed on land values until the state is abolished entirely.”

              John Hospers, first LP candidate for President, argued for land value tax and recounted his exchange with Ayn Rand, in which Rand ended up slamming the receiver on him because he thought South American Indians should not have to live as tenants to descendants of Spanish Conquistadors.

              Top libertarian education reformer John Taylor Gatto once came up to me at a Pennsylvania Libertarian Party convention after I was vitriolically attacked by a libertarian and said, “This is a very emotional issue for many people, but there is no rational basis for property in land.”

              As noted earlier, William F. Buckley called himself a “closet Georgist,” and said the reason he did not promote land value tax more often was “mostly because I’m beaten down by my right-wing theorists and intellectual friends. They always find something wrong with the single tax idea.” Smith exemplifies this “beating down.”

              Many “beaters down” invoke Bastiat when defending property in law, quoting him as saying, “Property does not exist because there are laws, but laws exist because there is property.”

              Yet the *very* next thing he wrote is,

              The opposition between these two systems is fundamental. Since the consequences that follow from them keep eluding us, I hope I may be permitted to make the question very precise. First, let me state that I use the word *property* in the general sense, and not in the limited sense of *landed property*. I regret, and probably all economists regret with me, that this word involuntarily evokes in us the idea of the possession of land. By *property* I understand the right that the worker has to the value that he has created by his labor. [emphasis Bastiat’s]

              Bastiat goes on to justify *appropriation* of land, but, as he just rebuked treating *property* in land as the same thing as property in labor. He must have also made a distinction between a right of appropriation and absolute ownership. Still, neolibertarians quote this excerpted passage as endorsing absolute property in land. “Par for the course,” as Smith might say.

              Anyhow, the list of those libertarians throughout history who have either endorsed land value tax or rebuked property in land is huge, including many who do not subscribe to any labor theories of value. If not for feeling “beaten down” by those who use intimidation as an arguing technique, we would surely find more “Georgist cranks” among us.

              • George H. SmithNo Gravatar says:

                “Everyone but George Smith knows that land value tax is much more highly regarded by mainstream economists than anarcho-capitalism is. That is not to put down anarcho-capitalism, and would not even have been worth mentioning if Smith had not been attacking Georgists as “cranks.”

                First, a land value tax is not the same thing as a Georgist single tax. A land value tax is typically added to other taxes, whereas the single tax is exactly that, i.e,. the ONLY tax.

                Second, I never attacked all Georgists as “cranks, ” I merely called you a crank. I did so not because of your Georgism (I have known a number of very reasonable Georgists) but because of your absurd, off-the-wall historical interpretations, especially of Locke.

                Third, as long as we are appealing to authorities, please name even one “mainstream” historian of ideas wo agrees with your interpretation of Locke. Even Marxist historians, most notably C.B., MacPherson, don’t buy it or any part of it. On the contrary, you can find my interpretation of Locke on ownership and land in MacPherson’s classic book, “The Theory of Possessive Individualism.”

                MacPherson systematically explains, step-by-step with relevant quotes, how Locke progresses from the ownership of goods other than land to land itself, and from there he explains how the the invention of money (according to Locke) enabled men to “transcend” the two major restrictions, viz,, the “spoilage limitation” and the “initial sufficiency limitation.” He also discusses a possible third initial limitation that we have not discussed on this thread.

                MacPherson’s treatment of Locke on property is highly detailed and richly documented. And with some variations, MacPherson’s treatment is pretty much standard fare among Lockean scholars. So let’s talk about what is “highly regarded” by “mainstream” intellectuals, by all means. By that standard, your interpretation falls only slightly above the claim that Locke was actually defending the existence of ancient aliens.

                I should note that I disagree with some parts of MacPherson’s book, but he is spot on when it comes to the issues we have discussed. I am not as impressed as you are by what “mainstream” intellectuals happen to believe.

                Ghs

  39. Rick DiMareNo Gravatar says:

    I’ve been impressed by comments about Locke from both George Smith and Dan Sullivan, but tend to favor the view of Henry George as an extension of Lockean thought, whether or not Henry George was conscious of Locke’s influence in the formation of the U.S. Constitution, or of Locke’s thought as a primary cause of the Civil War (through the creation of two classes of taxation by Jefferson/Madison that forced a recognition of the slave’s property right in his/her labor).

    But the main reason for this post is that we seem to be overlooking the fact that giving the individual a property right in his/her mind, body and labor/energy/actions was primary for Locke, and while he often spoke of a property in land, he often simply meant exclusive access to land, and only insofar as the land was being used properly. Therefore I’m in favor of a LVT as a kind of “use or lose it” tax, but not as a “single tax” that tries to capture all the economic rent derived from land/ocean/atmosphere.

    Anyway, to reflect a kind of priority of property rights, I wanted to see what people thought of the following “Property Rights Grading System:”

    —————————————————————————

    Doc #15: Property Rights Grading System

    In an attempt to minimize confusion and ambiguity when discussing vague words like “property” or “ownership” I’ve come up with the following grading system, which will likely be edited often, based on comments and opinions I may receive:

    So, for example, when Georgists speak of ownership of real estate, under the following system, I’d consider one’s ownership rights in buildings to be a #5 grade property right and the underlying land to be a (lower) #6 grade.

    My main goal with Common Wealth Tax is to get government to recognize our #1 and #2 grade property rights, the highest degree of property rights attainable by a natural person.

    Right now, since our money issues from a private central banking corporation, most of us are holding #8 grade property rights, but if we were able to access Treasury-DIrect coin-based money, that would result in an upgrade to #4.

    CORE PROPERTY RIGHTS*
    (1) one’s body and mind;
    (2) the labor, energy or actions that proceed from one’s body and mind (that we often “sell” to employers);
    (3) intellectual property rights to the extent that they reasonably compensate the natural person inventor/author for unpaid labor during research and development;
    (4) external goods acquired through labor, such as food, furnishings, clothing, electronics, personal vehicles, debt-free Treasury-Direct money, etc.;
    (5) buildings and land improvements attached to land, but including boats in the ocean or aircraft flying in airspace;

    NON-CORE PROPERTY RIGHTS**
    (6) land, which can really only be rented, though we often speak of “owning” land, ocean and air space access rights, etc.;
    (7) intellectual property rights that are allowed to exist beyond the point that un-reimbursed labor and development costs have been recouped;
    (8) property held by private corporations or other artificial legal persons, over which we have a significant degree of possessory rights, including property such as monetary instruments, bank loans and mortgages, stocks, bonds, mutual funds, unqualified bank accounts, annuities, pre-taxed income, etc.

    ——————————————————————

    *Core property rights are those acquired by a natural person by mixing his/her labor with natural resources and common property. They are sometimes referred to, not merely as property, but as “property because of ownership,” Property with a capital “P,” or simply “core property rights.” To tax this form of property, the federal government would not be able to Constitutionally tax one’s wages as income, but as property under the apportionment and proportionality requirements of the Direct Tax Clauses.

    **Non-core property rights are those which have not yet be appropriated from the commons, are incapable of being appropriated from the commons, or are partially owned by private persons. The holder has some degree of control or access (i.e., “usufructory” or access rights, possessory rights, “possessory title,” etc.) and legal power to exclude others, but not core property ownership rights. Some forms of property in this category may be Constitutionally taxed by the federal government without following the requirements imposed by the Direct Tax Clauses.

  40. George H. SmithNo Gravatar says:

    Dan wrote:

    “As to the labor theory of value, it is flawed, but it is not as ridiculously dishonest as subjective value theory or as the attack on this theory by Austrians, who misapprehended the difference between market value and personal utility. Air has no market value, but extreme utility. Diamonds have tremendous market value, but almost no utility.”

    This is absolutely absurd. The marginal theory of subjective value dealt explicitly with the so-called water/diamond paradox, and did so in a manner that was far more satisfactory than previous labor theories of value.

    The remainder of your post, a mix of misinterpretations and outright falsehoods, is not much better. I am tired of chasing you down rabbit holes. So babble on to your heart’s content. Anyone who cannot distinguish your bluff and and bluster from someone who actually knows what he is talking about, deserves whatever he gets. Cranks are a dime dozen on the Internet, and your assertions are not even worth that.

    Ghs

    • Dan SullivanNo Gravatar says:

      George, are you capable of saying something without larding it with ad hominem vitriol?

      Many economists have observed that subjective value theory takes a very long way around to mimic labor value theory – not the fabricated caricature of labor value theory that Austrians concocted as a straw man, but the actual theory that Smith put forward, that Marx misapplied, and that George refined slightly. But, you can have keep your opinion that your approach is more “satisfactory,” as it is surely more satisfactory to you. (Perhaps this is the subjective value theory of logical analysis.)

      Just try not to be so spectacularly arrogant.

      • George H. SmithNo Gravatar says:

        Dan wrote:

        “Just try not to be so spectacularly arrogant.”

        Okay, if you try not to be so spectacularly ignorant.

        You speak of” fabricated caricature of labor value theory that Austrians concocted as a straw man.” Which Austrians do you mean? And where were their caricatures presented?

        You also speak of “the actual theory that Smith put forward, that Marx misapplied, and that George refined slightly.” Smith actually employed at least two (and possibly three) different versions of the LTV in different contexts, so which version do you mean? In any case, Marx did not attempt to employ any of Smith’s versions of the LTV, but rather applied Ricardo’s “embodied” version of the LTV — a version that Smith did NOT use.

        Dan wrote:

        “George, are you capable of saying something without larding it with ad hominem vitriol?”

        Are you capable of responding without accusing me of dishonesty?

        Of course, I am capable or responding without vitriol — though you have used “ad hominem” in a misleading manner. I do not say that your assertions are so terribly wrong BECAUSE you are an ignoramus; rather, I say you are an ignoramus because your assertions are so terribly wrong.

        In other words, although I can (and normally do) respond without vitriol, in your case I prefer vitriol. It is the only way I can stand dealing with an ignoramus of your caliber.

        I hope have made myself clear without undue vitriol. I wouldn’t want to offend your delicate sensibilities, after all.

        Ghs

        Ghs

  41. John KindleyNo Gravatar says:

    Part of what attracts me to Georgism is that it seemingly has something to offer everybody. If Nock was right, enacting the Single Tax (and presumably dismantling other forms of State-enforced privilege, such as licensure laws) would spell the end of the State. At that point we could better discern whether what Nock called, and distinguished from the State as, “government,” is necessary. If government is not necessary (which frankly I doubt, citing Nock in support of my right to call myself an anarchist in spite of that doubt), by that point the Single Tax would have gone far in mitigating much of the economic inequality caused by the State, and I think it’s safe to say that all other things being equal economic equality is conducive to liberty.

    On the one hand, Henry George was the best friend the capitalist ever had, as Nock claimed, since the Single Tax does not burden capital and the labor which produces it. On the other hand, the Single Tax is obviously progressive, since those who have nothing will pay no tax, as they do now, which obviously slows their progress towards financial independence and freedom. It seems that the only people for whom Georgism should be really objectionable are those who aspire to accumulate wealth in their sleep.

    Alas, I think the prospects of the Single Tax being enacted on a widespread basis are even dimmer than they were in Nock’s day. Nevertheless, we live in a world with taxation. It seems useful and salutary to advocate the Single Tax as an alternative to the abominable tax regime we live under, an alternative which properly presented and understood should appeal to the capitalist and the progressive alike. And again, if Nock was right, advocating the Single Tax is advocating anarchy.

  42. I’ve lost track of how many “bluff and bluster” (nice phrase!!) poseurs George has dismantled over the years – ignoramuses who swagger onto a list or into a thread proclaiming all manner of nonsense about what they know. And then, something terrible happens to them: they meet George Smith.

    It’s like some epic B movie, like Godzilla vs. Mothra or something, except this movie is: Loud-mouthed Poseur Who Doesn’t Know What The Fuck He’s Talking About vs. Man Who Actually Knows What The Fuck He’s Talking About.

    • ChrisNo Gravatar says:

      I just hope Wendy will refrain from ever posting an article about Georgism here ever again; it really brings out the crazies!

  43. George H. SmithNo Gravatar says:

    A man, his wife and children move to an unclaimed wilderness. They clear and fence off a parcel of land and use it raise crops and breed cattle and other livestock. They are entirely self-sufficient.

    As the years pass, more pioneers settle in the same vicinity, The pioneers exchange needed goods and services with each other, and everyone prospers.

    Then one day a man shows up on the land of the original pioneer, a self-righteous little fellow who claims to represent the “community.”

    ‘What do you want?” asks the pioneer.

    “Money,” comes the reply. “You owe the community money.”

    “Get lost,” says the pioneer. “I don’t owe the community anything. I deal with others only on a voluntary basis.” He slams the door.

    The next day the little bureaucrat shows up again, but this time he is accompanied by an armed man who calls himself a “sheriff.” Money is again demanded, backed by the threat of force.

    “Who the hell are you people?” asks the pioneer. “And by what right do you demand money from me?”

    “We represent the community — or society, call it what you will — and we are here to collect the money that rightfully belongs to the community. We call it the single tax.”

    “What money?”

    “The land rent, of course.”

    “That’s nuts,” protests the pioneer, “since I don’t rent my land to anyone.”

    “You are obviously naive about economics,” explains the little bureaucrat. As Henry George has taught us, “rent” doesn’t require that anyone actually rent anything. “Rent,” in this context, signifies the unearned increment of value in your land. That unearned increment does not belong to you; it belongs to the community. In fact, you don’t even own your land. You cannot own land. Only society can own land, and we speak for society.”

    The pioneer, though not conversant in economic theory, has the common sense to detect a scam when he sees one, so he replies: “The community certainly didn’t earn your fictitious increment, either. You are trying to collect a tax from me by coercive methods, and I never consented to any such tax. Moreover, although I am presumably part of the community you speak of, I never authorized you to act on my behalf, as my agent. You are attempting to steal from me. Go away!”

    As the pioneer begins to close the door, the sheriff draws his gun. “Sir,” he says, “you have no choice in the matter. Henry George has proven with economic science that you owe the community the value of your land rent. We don’t care whether you agree with this theory or not. It is a matter of demonstrated fact.You owe the community the value of your land rent. This is a matter of justice and so does not require your consent. Pay up or go to jail.”

    Then the little bureaucrat chirps in: “We will use the community’s single tax to do all kinds of wonderful things. We will build libraries, schools, museums, and much more. You will benefit in the long run economically as well. Meanwhile, we will not permit you to enslave others by claiming absolute ownership of your land.”

    The pioneer replies: I am not interested in your supposed benefits. And your claim that I am treating others as slaves is absurd. I deal with people voluntarily or not at all. When I exchange and otherwise interact with others in my community, we all benefit. There is no need to force anyone to do anything. Your single tax is one tax too many.”

    The little bureaucrat and the thug with a tin badge are not interested in arguing any longer. They threaten to arrest the pioneer for slavery and to confiscate from his crops and livestock the value they deem equivalent to the unearned increment of his land. As government agents, they must be paid for their services. They cannot be expected to work for nothing on behalf of the community, after all.

    So the pioneer is trotted off to jail and charged with a crime against society. When visited by a friend who asks what he is doing in there. he is reminded of the reply that Thoreau gave to Emerson: “Waldo, the question is what are you doing out there?”

    Ghs

    • John KindleyNo Gravatar says:

      Interesting parable. Here is another parable, this one by John Woolman, which I cite in part because I don’t believe it’s often cited and therefore may be of interest: http://leftlibertarianquaker.blogspot.com/2007/10/john-woolmans-p lea-for-poor-chapter-13.html?m=1

      • Rick DiMareNo Gravatar says:

        Yes, John, that was interesting. The scenario Woolman describes in the last few paragraphs is, in my opinion, what Georgism tries to prevent.

    • Rick DiMareNo Gravatar says:

      I would agree that under the circumstances described here, it would be unjust to extract economic rent from the family, and I think both Locke and Henry George would concur. They are actively managing their land, they are not landlords or absentee owners, there is no indication they have more land than they can use or that they’re causing waste, they are not incorporated and liable for a corporate privilege tax, and there’s no indication they are rent-seeking resource extractors/exploiters.

      But there is a difference between the ownership rights in the fruits of their labor (the crops, cattle, other livestock, buildings, equipment, which property rights are absolute) vs. “ownership” rights in their land, which rights are of a lower grade (more accurately called “exclusive access rights”), and the exclusive access should last only as long as the family can make proper use of the property, after which they should be motivated to sell.

      Also, there should be no tax due on “unearned increment of value” until the land is sold. Capital gain taxes cannot lawfully be extracted under the 16th Amendment until “realized.”

      However, there should be some sort of land value tax reasonably calculated to disincentivize land speculation or idle holding of land.

    • Dan SullivanNo Gravatar says:

      It is ironic that Smith invokes Ralph Waldo Emerson in his parable, because his parable almost parrots Emerson’s own parable, except that it gives the opposite conclusion Emerson gave. For Emerson’s anarchist set out to do just as Smith’s anarchist has done, and ends up saying,

      “I cannot occupy the bleakest crag of the White Hills or the Allegheny Range, but some man or corporation steps up to me to show me that it is his. Now, though I am very peaceable, and on my private account could well enough die, since it appears there was some mistake in my creation, and that I have been *mis*sent to this earth, where all the seats were already taken – yet I feel called upon in behalf of rational nature, which I represent, to declare to you my opinion, that, if the Earth is yours, so also is it mine. All your aggregate existences are less to me a fact than is my own; as I am born to the earth, so the Earth is given to me, what I want of it to till and to plant; nor could I, without pusillanimity, omit to claim so much. I must not only have a name to live, I must live. My genius leads me to build a different manner of life from an of yours. I cannot then spare you the whole world. I love you better. I must tell you the truth practically; and take that which you call yours. It is God’s world and mine; yours as much as you want and mine as much as I want. Besides, I know your ways; I know the symptoms of the disease. To the end of your power, you will serve this lie which cheats you.”

      – “The Conservative”

  44. John KindleyNo Gravatar says:

    ALERT: The George H. Smith who has been commenting here is an imposter. How do I know that? Well, just look at the Wikipedia article on his book Athiesm: The Case Against God, which refers to the author as the late George H. Smith. BTW, although I’m a “believer,” I like the late George H. Smith’s so-called “Smith’s Wager.”

  45. George H. SmithNo Gravatar says:

    John:

    LOL! The fact that I am dead may explain why I get so surly with born-again Georgists. Death tends to put one in a bad mood. 😎

    Ghs

  46. George H. SmithNo Gravatar says:

    I am finished with the useless debate about John Locke, so readers may relax. I don’t even agree with Locke’s arguments, and they are irrelevant to Georgism, in any case.

    Having posted my little story about the Pioneer and the Georgist, I have pretty much said what I wanted to say. Although I agree with Wendy McElroy’s criticism of Georgism, I suspect my presence here has something to do with her lack of participation. So I hereby leave the field of battle. Wendy is free to defend her own arguments, and she should do so. I do not plan to comment further.

    Ghs

    • Dan SullivanNo Gravatar says:

      Your question on what constitutes the community was already answered. Search this page on “The World Government Gambit.”

      You are correct that “the ‘rent’ price of the land is a function of the business that goes on around it,” but land value tax would replace all the taxes that fall on the businesses that go on around it. When you say that land value tax is a tax on labor, you miss the point that land value tax does not fall on this business activity. Rather, the holder of land is already the recipient of the rent these businesses generate. In as much as these businesses and their workers produce this rent, it seems odd that they, the generators of rent, should be taxed while the recipients of the rent are not taxed. Rather, if the recipients of rent pay all the taxes, then labor and capital are freed. Further, if the remaining rent is distributed on a per capita basis, then labor and capital will get their full reward, as the people will spend their money on labor and capital.

      Your example of improving worthless land to make it attractive is not new. The improvements are yours, and the value of those improvements are yours. However, much of the increased land value comes from the people themselves. Without their migration, even your improvements are worthless. It should also be noted that your example need not be hypothetical. Disneyland and Disney World tremendously increased land values.

      However, Disney did not have enough money to build Disneyland *and* buy up all the land around Disneyland, even though the area was basically farmland at the time. He was going to let the “free market” respond to his attraction by building hotels and other amenities around him. However, the frenzy of land speculation in anticipation of Disneyland drove prices up so high that actual hotel builders would not pay those prices and Disneyland almost went under during its first four years, because long distance travellers could not get hotel space. *House & Home*, a trade journal for the residential construction industry, documented this speculation on a two page spread. It showed clearly that the increased value captured by speculation around Disneyland greatly exceeded the value of Disneyland, while Disney struggled to survive.

      In contrast, Disney formed 25 dummy corporations, incorporated in various states, to stealthily acquire as much land as possible in the area around what would become Disney World. Even without people knowing what was going on, land prices started going up due to the new market of these 25 purchasers, and acquisition became difficult.

      Still, they succeeded in buying up almost all of the surrounding land before announcing their interest in building Disney World. Then they asked for and won special concessions on improvement taxes, and finally built Disney World. The land value they generated accrued to Disney because they had speculated on the land first.

      While I cast no blame on Disney for this approach, I note that Disney could not have done this when building Disneyland. Under land value tax, Disney would not have had to do this at all. There would have been no taxes on the value of the Disneyland structures, no taxes on the employees, no taxes on the profits, and no taxes on the ticket sales. Meanwhile, there would be no speculation in idle lands around Disneyland, because a substantial land value tax would make that speculation unprofitable.

      Disney would run its amusement parks, which is what it is good at, and would let people who are good at running hotels and restaurants do those things. Meanwhile, anyone, anywhere, would find that they are no longer taxed for producting, and no longer rack-rented by non-producers.

      Your argument is an old argument. It is not so much a strawman as a failure to follow through and see how the dynamics of land value tax apply.

  47. George H. SmithNo Gravatar says:

    One last thing…..

    Some readers may be interested in the weekly articles, “Excursions Into the History of Libertarian Thought,” that I have been writing for the Cato Institute. The latest essay may be found here:

    http://www.libertarianism.org/publications/essays/excursions/thom as-hodgskin-libertarian-extraordinaire-part-4

    I have posted 34 essays thus far. For a complete list, see:

    http://www.libertarianism.org/publications/essays/excursions

    A new essay is posted every Tuesday. Tomorrow will appear my fifth and final installment on the great English libertarian Thomas Hodgskin — an anarchist in substance, if not in name.

    In the near future I plan to write an essay on the ugly controversy between Henry George and Herbert Spencer.

    Ghs

  48. I’ve never been quite clear on what this “community” consists of. Does HG set any limits against the “everyone on the planet and/or universe” being compensated for being denied access to the land?

    I’ve also heard a lot about how land can’t be increased (obviously false) and how because of this it’s inevitable that some people will be blessed by good fortune with better pieces of land. But ultimately, the “rent” price of the land is a function of the business that goes on around it (which I would think adequately demonstrates that labor/human activity is an inextricable part of land’s value, therefore a land tax is also a labor/person tax)..

    So on one hand geoist see land as possessing some kind of immutable and one-of-a-kind value, while one the other, its value is largely determined by what people do on and/or near it.

    Let’s say I find the most worthless piece of shit land in the world (in fact, I probably wouldn’t have to look far!). Utterly valueless by any conventional measure. No water or electricity or population nearby. But then I bring in some machinery or perhaps invent some process whereby I modify it into something wondrously useful.

    Immediately people flock to the area to partake of the fabulous services or products I’m offering. So suddenly that worthless piece of shit land that I made valuable now owes a massive land rent for everyone being heinously deprived of access to it!!??

    Does a Geoist see anything wrong with this picture? Is it in any way a strawman?

    • John KindleyNo Gravatar says:

      Hayek, who was inspired to become an economist by Henry George, made the same objection. Here is a rejoinder to his objection: http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0254/is_1_59/ai_62789890/

      As I suggested above, I am skeptical of the proposal to distribute a so-called Citizen’s Dividend, which I don’t believe George himself proposed or advocated but which later Georgists have advocated, because of the difficulty in determining who should be entitled to receive a Dividend as a Citizen. Wouldn’t such a policy itself incite immigration of people who otherwise wouldn’t have shown interest in using the land they’ve been “excluded” from? On the other hand, some communities may wish to promote immigration through such a policy, as I understand Alaska is doing. Seems to me each community would have the right to determine whether to distribute a Citizen’s Dividend. No community has the right to prohibit immigration, except of course to the extent landholders paying the single tax have the right to exclude others from the land they hold. If a Citizen’ Dividend is not paid, benefit is nevertheless extended to whomever is able and willing to immigrate to the community by the ordinary investment in the community of the collected single tax.

      • Dan SullivanNo Gravatar says:

        Henry George called for dividends, as a form of pension, several times.

        “For, appropriate rent in this way, and there would be at once a large surplus over and above what are now considered the legitimate expenses of government. We could divide this, if we wanted to, among the whole community, share and share alike. Or we could give every boy a small capital for a start when he came of age, every girl a dower, every widow an annuity, every aged person a pension, out of this common estate.”

        – *The Land Question* (Originally, *The Irish Land Question*), 1881

        “We should think it sin and shame if a great steamer, dashing across the ocean, were not brought to a stop by a signal of distress from the meanest smack; at the sight of an infant lashed to a spar, the mighty ship would round to, and men would spring to launch a boat in angry seas. Thus strongly does the bond of our common humanity appeal to us when we get beyond the hum of civilized life. And yet – a miner is entombed alive, a painter falls from a scaffold, a brakeman is crushed in coupling cars, a merchant fails, falls ill and dies, and organized society leaves widow and children to bitter want or degrading alms. This ought not to be. Citizenship in a civilized community ought of itself to be insurance against such a fate. And having in mind that the income which the community ought to obtain from the land to which the growth of the community gives value is in reality not a tax but the proceeds of a just rent, an English Democrat (William Saunders, M.P.) puts in this phrase the aim of true free trade: ‘No taxes at all, and a pension to everybody.’

        “This is denounced as ‘the rankest socialism’ by those whose notion of the fitness of things is, that the descendants of royal favorites and blue-blooded thieves should be kept in luxurious idleness all their lives long, by pensions wrung from struggling industry, while the laborer and his wife, worn out by hard work, for which they have received scarce living wages, are degraded by a parish dole, or separated from each other in a ‘work-house.'”

        – *Protection or Free Trade*, chapter 28, “Free Trade and Socialism”

        “As an English friend of mine puts it: ‘No taxes and a pension for everybody;’ and why should it not be? To take land values for public purposes is not really to impose a tax, but to take for public purposes a value created by the community. And out of the fund which would thus accrue from the common property, we might, without degradation to anybody, provide enough to actually secure from want all who were deprived of their natural protectors or met with accident, or any man who should grow so old that he could not work. All prating that is heard from some quarters about its hurting the common people to give them what they do not work for is humbug. The truth is, that anything that injures self-respect, degrades, does harm; but if you give it as a right, as something to which every citizen is entitled to, it does not degrade.”

        – “The Crime of Poverty” An address delivered in the Opera House, Burlington, Iowa, April 1, 1885, under the auspices of Burlington Assembly, No. 3135, Knights of Labor, which afterwards distributed fifty thousand copies in tract form.

        “Now it is said that such a thing will injure the poor. Always so! Just as it was in the slavery fight when it was the poor widow that was put to the front, the poor widow who had only three or four slaves upon which she depended for a living – were we going to rob her? – it is the poor widow who is put to the front here. Speaking in St. James Hall the other night I spiked that gun by proposing that the first thing should be to pay all the widows on a good round pension. Haven’t heard anything of the widows since then.”

        – Lecture in Birmingham, England, June 23, 1884

        David Dudley Field: To what purpose do you contemplate that the money raised by your scheme of taxation should be applied?

        Henry George: To the ordinary expenses of government, and such purposes as the supplying of water, of light, of power, the running of railways, the maintenance of public parks, libraries, colleges, and kindred institutions, and such other beneficial objects as may from time to time suggest themselves; to the care of the sick and needy, the support of widows and orphans, and, I am inclined to think, to the payment of a fixed sum to every citizen when he came to a certain age.

        – “A Conversation Between David Dudley Field and Henry George,” Published in the *North American Review,* July, 1885, and circulated in tract form in the United States, Canada, and Great Britain.

        • John KindleyNo Gravatar says:

          I stand corrected on what George thought regarding a Citizen’s Dividend. But as I understand it George also favored restrictions on immigration, particularly with regard to the Chinese. I bet the latter position had a lot to do with the former.

          • Dan SullivanNo Gravatar says:

            I don’t think so. He repudiated anti-Chinese-immigration stance before some of these pro-pension proposals. Also, his anti-immigration stance was not against all Chinese, but against Coolie labor. Coolies were slaves. The word “coolie” comes from the Chinese word-pair “Ku Li,” which literally means “bitterly hard work,” describes the slave caste.

            In some cases, such as the guano mines off the cost of Peru, a steady stream of coollies were worked to death. Here, they were kept in gangs, not allowed to speak English, and not allowed to read or write in any language. Also, with rent sharing, immigration would not be a problem.

            “If you will come to the United States, you will find in a land wide enough and rich enough to support in comfort the whole population of Europe, the growth of a sentiment that looks with evil eye on immigration, because the artificial scarcity that results from private property in land makes it seem as if there is not room enough and work enough for those already here.”

            – *The Condition of Labour*

      • Rick DiMareNo Gravatar says:

        Hasn’t George’s “citizen’s dividend” morphed into what we now call Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, ObamaCare, unemployment insurance, workers’ comp, etc.?

        • Dan SullivanNo Gravatar says:

          Sort of, except that these are funded from taxes on productivity, and are ridiculously bureaucratic, convoluted and counter-productive compared to a simple per capita grant. For example, if you keep working after age 65, you get your benefits cut. George’s approach makes the government oblivious to whether a person continues to work.

  49. Rick DiMareNo Gravatar says:

    ” . . . which I would think adequately demonstrates that labor/human activity is an inextricable part of land’s value, therefore a land tax is also a labor/person tax).”

    Jeff, yes, especially if the laborers are slaves, which was the case in the South prior to the Civil War, and why income tax laws ran into a brick wall in the 1895 Pollock v. Farmers’ Loan case, wherein an 1894 income tax law was struck down as unconstitutional because it did not sufficiently separate income (profits from hiring or from renting land) from its property sources (labor or land).

    Those fighting against the tax argued (successfully) that any tax on employers or landlords is a direct tax on labor or land, and since the Constitution created two classes of taxation (direct and indirect), any tax on employers or landlords is an unconstitutional direct on labor or land because not apportioned among the states and not proportional according to census data under the two Direct Tax Clauses.

    Of course, the 16th Amendment eliminated this problem, so now we have no problem taxing landlords and employers, but this unique and historically unprecedented distinction (between taxable income and untaxable underlying property sources) in American tax law remains.