The Wealth and Want Website
GroundSwell, May-June 2006]
online in October, 2005, after being in development for about 4 years.
The name came to me about 2 years into the process. I was looking for
a title that would appeal to an audience that knew nothing about our
ideas, and would be recognizeable to those with some acquaintance with
Henry George. The website is still a work in process: two layers are
reasonably complete, but the portion that I think will attract the
curious googler is only beginning to be show up.
1. What's There
The website has three layers, two of which are fairly complete.
The first layer is a collection of about 200 documents, gathered
mostly from other websites, and mostly with the generous permission
of the authors. A few people have sent me additional material to
round out their collections there. (I have another dozen or so
articles I currently intend to include.) A few of the articles are
things I've found in hardcopy and scanned in: an article of HG's on
how to help the unemployed, found on ebay; some things my Georgist
grandparents wrote; two versions of Harry Gunnison Brown's
Significant Paragraphs from Progress and Poverty, one in html and
the other as a PDF, which runs to 35 pages printed out; and a
cross-referenced hyperlinked table of contents for the various
versions of P&P, which I hope might encourage people who have
been intrigued by something in a synopsis to go explore in a longer
version. I'll be adding Bob Drake's updating of P&P to that when
it becomes available.
The second layer is a collection of themes which serve as an index
to the 200 or so documents. At first, the themes were my way of
finding my way back to material that had caught my attention in some
way. Searching my folders on remembered key words wasn't working
well enough for me. When I first started creating the website, I
thought the indexing might require about 25 themes. Well, the count
currently stands around 630, and I have another 100 or so that I
will post after my next pass through the documents!
About 30 of the themes show up on the front page as a sort of
teaser. These include such things as poverty, pork, charity,
justice, equality, monopoly, all benefits ..., and a few questions:
"Is democracy enough?" "Is this socialism?" "Is
this just a quaint agrarian idea?" On the longer list are such
things as boom-bust cycle, land includes, land different from
capital, land share of real estate value, usufruct, wealth
concentration, absentee ownership and externalities.
2. Design Principle
I've designated about 25 of the documents as "Essential
Documents" -- that is, pieces I hope the reader will eventually
read, once they discover the overall quality of the material! (And
yes, I know that is much too much to hope for, given the quantity!)
My goal for the themes structure is to provide a way for each user
to find their own way through the website, and for Georgists to
share the website with their non-Georgist friends based on their
knowledge of each friend's interests and concerns. I see the themes
as a huge geodesic dome, with each panel serving as someone's door
into the website. Once through that initial door, one finds extended
excerpts from the documents which pertain to that topic, with links
to the documents themselves; a list of related themes; and a list of
the "essential documents" which pertain to that theme. My
own repeated experience in trying to use search engines when
starting out with an unfamiliar body of knowledge led me to design
this structure. Any starting point will do; it will provide you a
way in, and open doors to related topics.
I hope that each reader will quickly find the theme that most
interests them, even if the first theme they click on was only sort
of close. From there, they will find their way to one to 20 or more
articles that are relevant to that topic. By zigzagging back and
forth between themes and documents (each document has a sidebar of
related themes, too), the reader can satisfy his own curiosity and
create his own path around the website.
3. How I Use the Website to Share These Ideas
I find that these themes are useful when I write letters to the
editor or to journalists. I don't always intend the LTE for
publication, so I don't always write to keep it to the 250 or so
words that are more likely to get published. Rather, my goal is to
alert the editor and/or journalist to ideas that they may not have
thought about, and provide a credibility for the ideas. On two
occasions, this has resulted in a request that I provide an 800-word
version which has been published. I've also had LTE's published in
newspapers in towns and cities far from my home.
I also make liberal use of opportunities to post comments to local
newspapers' online articles and discussion boards. I become aware of
such articles via a collection of about 25 standing "google
alerts" on such phrases as "land value," "Proposition
13," "working poor," "teardown," "Henry
George," and "split-rate," which I receive daily if
those words appear in an article. (I also have an alert on "wealthandwant.")
After I post, I may keep the article or comments window open on my
computer for a few hours to see if there are other comments which
call for a response.
More recently, I've dipped a toe into the world of blogging. I
haven't gotten to the point of writing my own blog yet. Blogging,
for those of you who aren't familiar with it, is the online
publication of one's thoughts in a web log. Most blogs will accept
comments, and that's where I've been experimenting a bit. I respond
to points others have made, and include the URLs of the documents
and themes that pertain to the topic. Frequently the weblog includes
the capability for providing hyperlinks, and even for bolding them.
When I discover a blog or other website to which one can post
comments, I register my preferred name so that I have the right to
post when something calls out to me. I post under the name LVTfan.
Generally, when one registers, one is asked to provide an email
address and given the option of providing a URL; posting name;
otherwise, one's email may appear there.
4. How You Might Use the WealthandWant Website in Your
Get to know the list of themes on the website. Print out the
themes index if that would help; it is linked from the "themes"
link at the top of each page. You might also want to print out the
list of documents as well. When you see a news article that merits a
comment, put together your response, and then see whether your
argument would be strengthened by a reference to one of more of the
In general, I try to make my point without reference to the
themes, and simply list the pertinent ones, with hyperlinks to the
appropriate theme pages, in the final paragraph, along with my
willingness to explore the ideas further with them if they're
interested. If it seems relevant, I also encourage them to pass
along the email to others in their organization who might be
interested in these ideas.
You might also think about using a selected theme or two as a way
to share our ideas with individuals you know socially. Based on
their particular interests, pick a couple of themes, and tell them
why you think each might appeal to them, via an email with the
hyperlinks built in.
Finding the URL's for the Themes: In order to minimize my use of
my bandwidth (that is, the service that the webhost provides me),
I've saved a copy of the themes page to my desktop. When I want to
include the URL for a theme in something I'm writing, I open that
page, right-click on the name of the theme and select "copy
link location" or "copy shortcut". Then I paste that
URL into the email or blog entry.
If your conversations include academics, you might share with them
the existence of the Significant Paragraphs from P&P document,
with the comment that it is of a length that would fit well into a
There is a page on the website for P&P, and another to
introduce Henry George to those who don't know more than his name. I
generally encourage people who don't know his ideas to read Al
Katzenberger's synopsis and Chapter 3 of Significant Paragraphs (the
Savannah), or I send them to Thou Shalt Not Steal and Thy Kingdom
Come. All these are linked from the front page of wealthandwant.
5. How to Get Started
If you're shy about your primary email address appearing online
(so far it hasn't been a problem for me), create a new email address
for yourself, perhaps based on the name under which you plan to post
(e.g., CTgeoist), either at your current ISP or at gmail, yahoo or
hotmail. Then start registering this username and email at the
various places that you might want to post. DailyKos might be one;
you can't post there until a week after registering, so
pre-registering will allow you to jump in when inspiration strikes.
Finding the Blogs: Google has a fairly new "blog search"
capability. You might try it out with key words like Henry George,
or sprawl, or peak oil, or poverty, or whatever interests you, and
see what turns up. You'll find out where the conversations that
interest you are taking place. Some will be current ones; more will
be completed conversations, where something you post is less likely
to be read. But they will still give you a sense of the venues.
When you see a good conversation going on at a website you visit,
alert your Georgist friends. Matt Stillman passed along a DailyKos
posting he'd seen
(http://www.dailykos.com/story/2006/6/22/102510/361), and within a
couple of days there were nearly 200 posts there, of which about 40
were from two of us, one of whom is a Georgist, Jamie Reynolds, I
had met a few weeks earlier through his blog,
From time to time, you might search on your blogging name to see
what you get. (They call this a vanity search, and sometimes it
yields interesting results.) Blogs tend to stay online for a long
time, and as more people get into searching them, you may reach
people beyond the original conversation participants.
6. What's Next?
Part of my plan for this website is to write to journalists and
others who write or talk about issues related to poverty, economic
growth, justice, liberty, cities, tax reform and topics we care
about. I want to be able to address each one based on something they
care about. For each of them, I plan to pick out one, two or three
existing "theme" pages that I think might capture their
interest and lead them to look further into the website. Ideally, I
may be able to point them to a particular document on the website,
too, that speaks to something they've already explored. But I
suspect that I will only have one shot at each of them, and I want
to get the third layer of the website more complete before I do
The third layer of the website is currently planned to contain 6
modules. This layer is intended to attract people searching on
topics for which we have answers. The modules are these:
- poverty, and the perverse ways our country defines it;
- income distribution;
- wealth distribution;
- asset poverty;
- California's Proposition 13; and
In addition, there is to be a section for Wealth and Want Issues
in the News. My planned discipline of putting up one module at a
time fell apart shortly after I started, as new and intriguing
studies came out that just begged to be included. But I've been
using the wealth distribution tables, which come out of the Federal
Reserve Board's Survey of Consumer Finances and include what I think
are some original calculations I've done, on some blog comments. For
each section, I plan to generate a "questions" section,
which will lead people into what I think is the most interesting
data on the site. My intention is to make these modules data-heavy,
with lots of tables.
I'd like to index P&P into the themes system. If you're handy
with copy-and-paste, and you get comfortable with the list of
themes, you might take on indexing a favorite chapter. I'd welcome
your help with that. Email me if you'd be interested, and I can tell
you how to go about it. I'm also perfectly willing to create
additional "theme" pages for specific audiences --
audiences as narrow as a single individual, if that happens to be
relevant, though I'm not sure I want to make it obvious that I've
designed specifically for them, and I might or might not that page
from elsewhere on the website. What I'm trying to do is throw out
baited hooks that I hope will attract folks based on what they're
already interested in. Your suggestions -- link of individuals or
groups, and of how to approach them -- would be very welcome. I'm
not shy about writing to them, as long as I've got an email address.
I have dreams of being able to provide audio versions of some of
the documents, as MP3's that users can download and listen to at
their leisure, perhaps away from their computer, while they commute
or exercise. If you can help with that, I'd like to hear from you!
A couple of months ago, I claimed a second website name,
whatwouldjesustax.com (and its .org sibling, for good measure). I
see it as a much less complex site than wealthandwant. It will have
some of the same documents, and perhaps have its own themes
structure. I'll keep you posted! In the meantime, I welcome your
suggestions for both sites, and will be glad to help you get started
using the wealthandwant website as a resource for your web postings.