If Not Liberalism, And If Not Socialism ...

Chapter 6 (Part 3 or 4) of the book

The Discovery of First Principles, Volume 3

Edward J. Dodson

Those of us associated with the Henry George School experienced a deep shock when Phil Finkelstein died of a heart attack late in November, 1982. Phil had been instrumental in building the Center for Local Tax Research into a resource for advancing the Georgist cause. He was well-connected in both academic and political circles, and we knew he would be impossible to replace. The trustees of the School called on Stan Rubenstein to take over on an interim basis, a situation made difficult because Stan had recently retired from teaching high school and was living at the far eastern tip of Long Island. Moreover, the School had never recovered its student population after the departure of Bob Clancy in the early 1970s. Most of the volunteer faculty in New York had disappeared, and few new instructors had come through the School's program in the intervening years. The School's location at 5 East 44th Street in Manhattan turned out to be less attractive than anticipated. Commuters were not interested in the School's intellectually-stimulating but noncredit program. So, Stan focused his energy on the development of supplemental materials for use by high school social studies teachers. He accepted the probability that the adult education program could not be reinvigorated because of citizen apathy, the proliferation of adult education programs in the high schools, the loss of leisure time for many adults and the heavy cost of recruiting students.

This was also about the time I learned of the existence of the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions and began to read books and articles written by Robert Hutchins and Mortimer Adler. In October, 1983, I wrote to Donald McDonald, editor of the Center Magazine, in response to a dialogue published on Adler's proposal for educational reform. There was no acknowledgment; however, shortly thereafter I received notification from the Center of plans to hold a three-day conference on human rights. To this I responded with a letter extensively quoting Winston Churchill on the power of the landed interests and land monopolists to subvert efforts to protect human rights. Although the transcript from the conference ignored the land question, my letter appeared in a later issue of the Center Magazine. As the year was ending I also finished a paper on the causes of unemployment for publication in the Philadelphia business periodical, Focus Magazine. In October, the weekly newspaper The Greater Philadelphia Economist had published an article I wrote, giving it the title, "Enact 'site values' tax on all land to stimulate real economic growth." This was written in response to an essay on New Federalism by Henry Teune, professor of political science at the University of Pennsylvania. At minimum, all this activity was keeping up my interest and stimulating my activism. My hope was that at least a few thoughtful persons might reach out to contact me. Occasionally, my efforts were rewarded.

In the Fall of 1983, Paul Nix, an oil company executive and President of the Board of Trustees of the Henry George School, asked me to come to New York City to meet with him. He told me that many people thought highly of my contribution to the School and that he would like to bring me on as a trustee. I accepted with moderate hopes that I might accomplish something tangible by bringing a business management perspective and a willingness to experiment with the School's program. Around the same time, I also made formal application with Temple University for acceptance into the Master of Liberal Arts program. In April, John Kenneth Galbraith responded to an earlier letter with an explanation of his doubts about the Georgist ideas. "My problem with Henry George," he wrote, "has always been whether it is in the art of the possible and also of course whether there is, indeed, that much to be gained from the [unearned] increment."[71] That year, I also engaged in an intermittent correspondence with a publisher, John Burkhart, who occasionally offered political or economic commentary in his newspaper, the Philadelphia Business Journal. At the 1984 CGO conference, this time held during July at a conference center in Pawling, New York, I followed the showing of the documentary film "The Moneylenders" (produced by the U.S. public broadcasting program Frontline) with a discussion on the global debt bomb and its repercussions. My dire predictions failed to materialize. The international bankers and IMF officials successfully imposed severe austerity measures on the people of those nations most in danger of outright default. These were countries where democratic processes were, at best, nominal, and where the ability of dissident forces to mount a successful armed insurrection was not a serious threat. And so, those at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder either drifted into poverty or more deeply into poverty. To satisfy credits and the IMF, a high percentage of goods produced or resources extracted was sold in the global markets in order to obtain foreign reserves with which to repay debt. The bankers also lessened their risks and losses by swapping debt or selling off loan assets at a sizeable discount. Remarkably, this all worked reasonably well for the creditor nations, although many smaller banks and more than a few very large ones became insolvent and were forced to close their doors. The U.S. and European governments borrowed to honor their obligations to protect depositors from the poor lending decisions of the bankers. And, gradually the crisis subsided.

Another project I initiated during this period was to produce a special issue of Equal Rights with essays specifically dealing with human rights. I wrote the lead essay and solicited contributions from two Georgist academics, James Busey and Donald Hurford. My essay responded to the observations and conclusions of participants in a conference on human rights held at the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions. Several copies were sent to Allen Weinstein, the Center's President; and, subsequently, I received requests for additional copies from Karl Meyer of the New York Times and Marilyn A. Zak of the Agency for International Development. Unfortunately, funds for a large printing of the issue were not available, and the project never reached very many readers.

In the Fall of 1984, I began my formal studies at Temple University. What attracted me was the fact that the program was interdisciplinary and came close to how a degree program in political economy might be structured. And, in each course, I took the opportunity to perform research from the perspective of the political economist -- bringing in the Georgist perspective wherever possible. Somehow, I was able to balance the demands of graduate school, my position in the banking industry and family -- while staying active within the Georgist community. My activities at the School did change, however; I no longer had the time to prepare for and teach a weekly class. Instead, from time to time, I put together presentations based on research and writing I was doing in connection with my graduate work.

Another Georgist with whom I had become acquainted, Walt Rybeck, had in 1981 decided to form a new organization to promote the taxation of land values. Supported by grants from the Robert Schalkenbach Foundation, Walt started the Center for Public Dialogue (CPD) in Kensington, Maryland. CPD produced a 30-minute documentary film examining the experience of Pittsburgh and four other Pennsylvania cities that had adopted the two-rate real estate tax, with a higher rate levied on assessed land values than on improvements. Nearly 250 people attended its premier in September in the Caucus Room of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Thanks to Bob Clancy, I was made aware in 1985 of an essay contest on the promotion of world peace, sponsored by the Council on International and Public Affairs. My submission, entitled "Democracy at Risk," was one of a final group chosen for publication. Other than from a few Georgist friends, however, the essay attracted no attention that I am aware of. And yet, the effort had to be made. More of us who understood the true nature of societal problems had a responsibility -- an obligation -- to try to do something to heighten the awareness of others. At times, of course, the results were anything but encouraging. With high hopes, many of us joined together at the CGO conference, held at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, to form a new activist organization, Common Ground U.S.A., that would attempt to form chapters all across the country. During the months leading up to the conference, I served on a committee to draft a constitution and by-laws for Common Ground and agreed to serve on the initial board of directors. Steve Cord was elected President, with the understanding that Common Ground's affairs would be handled by Steve out of the offices of the Henry George Foundation of America. Later in the year, Bob Clancy organized a program in New York marking the 200th anniversary of the passage of the Land Ordinance of 1785. Although I could not attend, I submitted a paper (read by Mark Sullivan) entitled, "Frederick Jackson Turner and the Frontier Dichotomy."

Sometime during 1985, Paul Nix approached me with a request that I accept his nomination to succeed him as President of the Board of Trustees of the Henry George School. Despite demanding professional responsibilities, graduate school, the beginning research undertaken for the writing of this book, and a desire to leave some time for a private life, I agreed to serve if elected. The Board, and Paul, knew I would press them to expand the School's program and outreach. And so I did.

My activist orientation now had a far more directed focus than ever before. Every day I was filling in gaps relating to the intellectual continuity of the socio-political philosophy I had come to accept as guiding principles. I was becoming somewhat frustrated with teaching, which required a tremendous commitment of time and energy but produced very few activists. This provided the motivation to develop a parallel program that would attract to the School individuals who were already activists, already intensely committed to change, but were also searching for guiding principles. My model came from the seminars conducted by Mortimer Adler at the Aspen Institute. Additionally, I looked to the dialogues held at the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions, a format involving recognized scholars, experts, opinion makers and activist leaders. These programs could be video- and audio-taped, with publication of transcripts as booklets, so that we might reach a much larger audience than those able to attend these programs. Here, again, my hopes were significantly disappointed. There was no one in New York willing to take on the challenge, and in Philadelphia the avenues of promotion available were not effective in attracting the type of participants I hoped for.

To my dismay, I learned in mid-1987 that Donald McDonald had stepped down as acting director of the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions, and its future was rather in doubt. Early in 1988 I received -- in lieu of the Center Magazine -- an issue of New Perspectives Quarterly, which prompted me to write to the editor, Nathan Gardels, for an explanation. In June, I received a response from the publisher, Stanley K. Sheinbaum, advising me that the University of California had withdrawn its financial support for the Center and the programs were no longer in operation. I could not help but wonder how Robert Hutchins would have felt.

That July, I traveled to San Diego, California to participate in the annual CGO conference being held at Point Loma Nazarene College. There, I delivered a paper analyzing the U.S. Constitution against the philosophy of cooperative individualism, the term I had come to believe best described the basis for societal justice. This essay proved to contain the central arguments and historical evidence expanded upon in this book.

For 1988, the CGO conference venue was Oglethorpe University in Atlanta, Georgia. My contribution that year was a presentation on the national problem of declining affordability of housing. Walt Rybeck also provided advance copies of a report[72] prepared by the Center for Public Dialogue that clearly demonstrated the link between high land prices, low taxes on land values and the housing crisis. On September 22, the report was formally released at a meeting held in the U.S. House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee assembly room.

While I and others associated with the Henry George School were in Atlanta, work was feverishly continuing on the School's new headquarters, a four-story building located in a neighborhood of greater residential character than the East 44th Street location. A Japanese firm purchased the old building from the School for a price that allowed the School to acquire and renovate the new space while adding significant financial reserves to the School's assets. That Fall I also proposed to the Board of Trustees that the School also undertake the restoration of the Henry George birthplace building in Philadelphia. The building had fallen into serious disrepair and was in desperate need of rebuilding and renovation. Moreover, 1989 was the 150th anniversary of the birth of Henry George, and Philadelphia had been chosen to be the location for a conference co-sponsored by the CGO and International Union for Land Value Taxation and Free Trade. Needless to say, there was much work to be done if the birthplace restoration was to be completed by the following July. In fact, the work continued up to the very moment of the building's reopening for a tour by conference attendees.

The conference in Philadelphia was held at the University of Pennsylvania. I put together and chaired a panel discussion on housing affordability problems, presenting the concept of the scattered site community land trust as a vehicle for building up a rent fund that could be recycled to assist lower income home buyers. The community land trust would simultaneously purchase the parcel of land underneath a house being purchased by the home buyers. Then, based on household income, the home buyer would pay some portion of the full annual rental value of the land. That portion of the market rent left uncollected would accrue as a lien against the dwelling to be repaid should the property be sold at some future date. I had been trying to promote this program to Chuck Matthei, head of the Institute for Community Economics (then in Great Barrington, Massachusetts), and he participated on the panel by explaining the Institute's community land trust initiatives -- targeted at preservation of open space, affordability of homes in rural areas undergoing transition to second home communities (e.g., towns near winter or summer resort destinations) and infill rehabilitation of inner city homes for permanent affordability. One of my professors at Temple University, Sandra Featherman, accepted an invitation from George Collins to participate on the panel; she expressed interest in my proposal and also indicated her somewhat conditional support for the Georgist proposal of collecting the annual rental value of land in lieu of taxation.

As detailed above, Georgists were also hard at work attempting to respond to the window of opportunity opened by Gorbachev's ascendancy to power in the Soviet Union and the casting off of communist government elsewhere within the Soviet bloc. The Danish Georgists announced in the Spring of 1990 their intent to establish a Georgist educational program in Poland. Jeff Smith, who for a number of years was associated with the Georgist educational program in San Diego, California,[73] and had become very involved with the Greens, made contact with Green leaders in Western and Eastern Europe and followed up with an extensive tour during 1990. A return trip during 1991 included meetings with the Russian Vice-President, testimony before the Russian Parliament, scores of meetings with Russian economists and planners and an appearance on Russian television. Thus, although Georgist activists were few in number, our message was finding a growing audience. Always there seemed to be more to do than time or financial resources available.

I continued to serve as President of the Board of Trustees of the Henry George School through the end of 1996. I had become dismayed at the level of discord and what I perceived to be a lost sense of mission on the part of the Board. Although the new location was working well to attract students, and George Collins worked hard to create an attractive learning atmosphere, the School still proved unsuccessful as a vehicle for building the Georgist community into a growing movement. I remained on the Board through 1997, then resigned so that I could devote time to my own project, an internet-based educational project to which I gave the name "The School of Cooperative Individualism" (SCI). Building SCI into a repository of much of the best writing by Henry George, other Georgists, as well as other writers who have contributed significantly to the understanding of moral principles has been a major focus of this project. Other important components of SCI include a searchable encyclopedia on political economy and a biographical history of the Georgist Movement. Readers are encouraged to visit and explore the wealth of material available at the SCI website (www.cooperativeindividualism.org).

As committed as I was to the cause first identified by Henry George, I had attended only one international conference over the years, held at the University of British Columbia. In 2001, I finally managed to attend my second international conference, this one held at Edinburgh University in Scotland. At this conference I delivered a paper making the case for the creation of a system of banks of deposit that would issue currency backed by specific quantities of commodities. I presented the historical evidence to support this proposal, concluding as follows:

The lesson learned, the solution is to unleash competitive forces t use sound money as the means of driving out unbacked, central bank issued legal tender. Banks of deposit are the cornerstones of this process. Electronic exchanges and transfers will make it possible. When individuals and businesses become members of these banks, they can engage in a system of exchange absent float and absent exposure to currency devaluations. In time, governments will be forced to become members and relinquish their long cherished privilege of being able to self-create credit. Sound money will have arrived.[74]

Roughly sixty Georgists attended the Edinburgh conference, most from the United Kingdom, but with attendees coming from Denmark, Russia, South Africa, Australia, the United States, Canada and Spain. I was not able to attend the CGO conference that year, held in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, nor the following year in London, Ontario, Canada. Bridgeport, Connecticut was chosen for the 2003 conference, and I volunteered to help plan the program. A regular component of the CGO conferences in recent years has been one day devoted to dialogue with non-Georgist groups. For Bridgeport, we invited officials from Connecticut's cities to participate in a discussion of how shifting to a rent as revenue policy could help revitalize some of the state's distressed urban centers. A bill was already under consideration by the state legislature to permit Connecticut cities to make the shift. The conference opened new doors for consideration of the Georgist proposals and opportunities for legislative activists, such as Josh Vincent, Director of the Henry George Foundation of America (based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), to work with elected officials on model legislation and the means of gradually removing taxes from property improvements and shifting increasingly toward a land-only tax base. The 2004 conference is scheduled to be held in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Then, in 2005, the Georgist community will assemble in Philadelphia.

Publish or Perish
The Search for a Mainstream Audience

For a time in its history, the Robert Schalkenbach Foundation had been quite active as a publisher of new Georgist books -- if only those authored by a select few individuals, such as Francis Neilson. By the 1980s, however, rarely were manuscripts solicited or accepted for publication. Henry George's works were reprinted, as necessary, and funding was provided to the American Journal of Economics and Sociology. Attempts to distribute existing titles to other than a narrow academic constituency or beyond the Georgist community were essentially unsuccessful.

The person most committed to bringing the Georgist message to the broad transnational community was Fred Harrison. He understood that classroom discussions, conferences and even journals such as Land & Liberty provided little opportunity to reach a large number of people. Moreover, he also realized that books had to be published by a commercial publisher with the means of international distribution. Fred began a collaboration with the publishing house Shepheard-Walwyn. In 1983, they published Fred's book, The Power In The Land. He gave the reader much about which to think, including those of an activist orientation:

This enquiry has demonstrated that neither of the extremes of political philosophy, nor a mixture of the two, can deal effectively with the problem at its source. Yet the realignment of property rights entailed by the introduction of land value taxation is not even on today's political agenda. Why?

The debate about the legitimate divide between private and social property is distorted by the misrepresentation of the alternative systems that are available. One is either a socialist, seeking to nationalize indiscriminately all the means of production; or a conservative, for whom all of the means of production must be privately owned. Thus, fiscal reform is resisted because it is interpreted as an attack on the sanctity of private property. Land value taxation does not fit neatly into this dualistic model of alternatives because it establishes property rights at a new level of sophistication. It guarantees individual possession of land on which people can put their labour and capital to best use; while people in society share on an egalitarian basis that portion of economic wealth that can be attributed to the distinctive contribution of nature and of the community to the process of wealth creation. This complex set of rights is accomplished by the simple device of a 100% tax on the rental value of the land, raising an income for the exchequer that is offset by a reduction in other forms of taxes.

This third model is neither communism nor conservatism. Nor is it a model of reform that most people would find either offensive to their libertarian aspirations or difficult to grasp in its administrative implications. Indeed, it merely requires a change measured in degrees. For people today lose a large portion of their earned incomes which are taxed away by the exchequer. ...To tax away the whole of the annual income from land instead, then, is only to adapt this system while leaving the present occupants in possession of the land and free to use it as they see fit.[75]

Equally important, Fred's research revealed a very prevalent eighteen-year land market cycle covering a period of over two hundred years. Here was yet another sound reason for Georgists to do whatever was possible to develop an econometric forecasting model -- one that distinguished between the three separate factors of production and also tracked land markets as distinct from markets for residential housing, industrial and commercial property and other types of real estate. And, in fact, Fred eventually initiated just such a project in 1990 with Ray Ward of the University of London. Once again, however, the lack of financial resources prevented this effort from advancing very far.

For a very long time, Georgists in Britain were frustrated by their lack of progress. Even the educational effort had collapsed. There was no longer an institution equivalent to the Henry George School, nor were the surviving Georgists having much success impacting Britain's public policy choices. The British emphasis on central government planning prevented the use of the tactics pursued in the United States, where (theoretically) local communities could control their own destinies. Fred Harrison felt (and a number of others agreed with him) that unless the Georgist message could be popularized and made part of the mainstream political discussion, the funds then available would dwindle to nothing and there would be no one left to continue the work. The Power In The Land had to be followed by more books of a hard-hitting nature, written in a manner that was relevant to the issues of the day. Well-written books could become an important source of revenue required to carry on activist campaigns around the globe.

After reading The Power In The Land, I wrote to Fred with the suggestion that more Georgist writing might find its way into the popular press if a literary agent could be found. From my own experience, I knew that the actual writing is less challenging than the process of finding a willing publisher. I instinctively felt there were enough good writers within the Georgist community to produce polemics, research articles and book manuscripts -- if only there was a central clearinghouse and a willing editor and agent ready to promote them. Although Fred had established a good relationship with Shepheard-Walwyn, he was required to take on the job of rewriting and editing the material submitted by others. The market for the Georgist perspective was not strong enough to generate the revenue to pay someone else.

Fred followed his own first book with an effort to subject public officials and policy analysts in Britain to a broadly-distributed scrutiny of their decisions. A new organ, the Centre for Incentive Taxation (CIT), began to publish a monthly newsletter entitled Economic Intelligence (EI). CIT joined with Shepheard-Walwyn in 1989 to publish a collection of essays and research articles under the title Costing the Earth. To lower the cost of publication and increase the potential audience, this book came out in soft cover. The book contained a warning to readers of a prolonged economic downturn linked to the problem of rising land values and destructive tax policies. Early in 1990, Fred went on the offensive in EI to challenge the forecasts of a powerful industry lobby, the Confederation of British Industry. Not only was Fred explaining the causes of deteriorating business conditions in Britain, he warned of a serious recession on the horizon for the Japanese. A breakthrough of sorts occurred when economist John Muelllbauer (Nuffield College, Oxford) publicly criticized officials at the Bank of England and Treasury Department for failing to include in their forecasting models any equations relating to housing markets. "Ultimately, it is the rise in the value of the underlying land that is the problem,"[76] wrote Professor Muellbauer. Fred advised the government that the appropriate public policy response is to impose a tax on land sufficient to discourage hoarding and thereby keep prices stable at a low level.

Another book, Now The Synthesis, appeared during 1991 out of the CIT and Shepheard-Walwyn partnership, this one designed to provide readers with a roadmap for a future in which the failings of state-socialism and industrial landlordism were identified and purged from a new social contract. Richard Noyes, a long-time Georgist and New Hampshire newspaper publisher, edited the volume, which consisted of essays by Fred Harrison and a number of Georgist academics[77] covering a broad range of socio-political, ecological and economic issues. Richard Noyes observed that the modern world awakened with the possibilities as presented first by John Locke, which were attacked by the Marxists because of clear and unrelenting distributional injustices. Now, civilization had reached an impasse that could only be resolved by adopting a new set of socio-political arrangements and institutions (based, of course, on the principles I identify by the term cooperative individualism). Thesis and antithesis had had their day. The world now required synthesis:

The mainspring of the thesis is liberty. The mainspring of the antithesis is equal justice for all. They are the essentials. The synthesis, when and if it emerges, must accommodate them both. The claim made here is that Henry George's realisation about the practical terms on which people must relate to each other, and to the planet, stands the test on both counts. The Georgist philosophy also provides the vision that nurtures the fervor and the spiritual yearning that are the driving force of millennial hopes, which are the emotional responses of human beings to the concepts of liberty and justice.[78]

From here, Fred Harrison and others established the Land Research Trust and in the Fall of 2000 launched Geophilos, a quarterly journal designed to reach a wide audience and offer "a multi-disciplinary approach to addressing the problems of the new millennium."[79] The Spring 2003 issue, which included a paper I authored directing readers to several key books documenting the failure of neo-classical economics, turned out to be the last. Geophilos had difficulty finding a large enough audience to make it self-supporting despite some excellent research and hard-hitting writing. Another reorganization followed. Fred gathered supporters and established the Land Research Trust and returned to the challenge of bringing out new and important books in support of the Georgist cause.

A sometime criticism of Georgists, particularly early during the twentieth century, is a disdain for the academic community. This can be traced back to Henry George and his generally negative relationship with the professional political economists of his era and the first and second generation of neo-classical and Marxist economists who followed. And yet, Henry George's writings have always found a receptive audience among those with advanced formal credentials. I have already documented many of the significant efforts by key intellectuals and public persons - Tolstoy, Churchill, Sun Yat-sen, Frederic C. Howe, Harry Gunnison Brown - to convert George's proposals into law. There have been thousands of others scattered all around the globe. For more than two decades, I have made a determined effort to obtain and review as much of the output by Georgists and Georgist sympathizers as I could find, creating an on-line library of this material at the School of Cooperative Individualism website. What is certain is that after several decades of struggling to sustain even a minimal level of interest in Henry George's intellectual contributions to the science of political economy, some of the more senior members of the academic community began to re-evaluate George, and younger scholars and researchers began to choose George and his writings as a subject for their dissertations and published articles.

Within the community of economic professors there was a small group strongly influenced by Harry Gunnison Brown. Brown is described by Christopher Ryan as "of the second generation of American economists who followed the pioneering generation…"[80] But, then, adds Ryan, "his was the most notable attempt by an economist to translate and carry forward this message of George's 'remedy' for 50-some years."[81] Equally important, his legacy as a teacher was enormously important:

Many of Brown's students achieved prominence in the field of economics or in related fields. …Alfred Kahn, Russell Bauder, Mason Gaffney, and Paul Junk have indicated his influence on them through their association with him at Missouri without having been students. …At the University of Missouri for many years Brown was remembered through an annual memorial lecture given in his honor by the late Professor Walter L. Johnson in the introductory class Brown had taught for so many years.[82]

Less prominent than Harry Gunnison Brown was Aaron M. Sakolski, who earned his doctorate in 1905 at Johns Hopkins University, then taught at New York University from 1910 thru 1924 and later at the College of the City of New York. His book, Land Tenure and Land Taxation in America, was published in 1957, two years after his untimely death as a result of an automobile accident. In some important respects, his book adds further clarity to some of the historical analysis I have presented here. I could not agree more with his summary of the source of so much of misery experienced by people everywhere over the centuries:

In general, it may be said that in the evolution of civilizations landownership changed from a collective concept, wherein absolute title to the soil was held by no individual or group (but was regarded as a necessity available for general use of society or the community), to a legal status, whereby individuals or groups, through political or economic power, where able to hold, use, transfer, and transmit its use and tenure for their own benefit or aggression, without any necessary regard for public welfare. This evolution, almost universal in the history of mankind, may be regarded as one of the principal sources of political upheavals and agrarian discontent, accompanied by political corruption and economic ruin, which have marked the course of great nations and empires both past and present. It is for this reason that the study of the land question assumes a paramount importance in solving the ever-recurring problems of human welfare.[83]

The land question and the Georgist solution also attracted a young political scientist in the 1950s named James L. Busey, on the faculty at the University of Colorado. He had already traveled extensively and had written on comparative government, organization and law. His interests extended as well to social science and political theory. In 1958, he contributed an essay to the Henry George News titled "Free Trade and International Peace," in which he offered advice that we considerably ahead of his time:

The advocates of free trade commonly argue that elimination of barriers to commerce would facilitate prosperity, and that the resultant improvement in world economic conditions would contribute to maintenance of peace.

I should like to add what I consider to be a compelling political reason for advocating unhampered commerce as a bulwark to preservation of peace and security.

The national state lies at the very heart of international problems of peace and war. Periodicals are full of references to Great Britain, France, the U.S.S.R., the U.S.A., the United Arab Republic, Argentina, and so forth. These names of national states are bandied bout with the greatest air of familiarity. Yet national states are seldom analyzed or understood in a profound sense. They are things that are forever being talked about, but are seldom given careful thought.

To understand national states and the international relations which prevail among them, we must conceive of the world as existing in a pattern of political anarchy. In this maelstrom of international lawlessness, each national state tries to secure its "national interest" as determined by itself. Such "national interest" is likely to be defined by the one, few or many who run the national state in terms of their own political security and economic well-being, but seldom if ever in terms of the general betterment of mankind.

As long as the national state is the star performer in a world of international lawlessness, there will be wars and rumors of wars. Until the roles of national states can somehow be markedly reduced, peace must remain a hope, a dream, an aspiration, but a shibboleth.

National states are defined by their boundaries as well as by their governments. Governments provide needed functions; but boundaries provide the lines of cleavage between individual national states, and are basic to the continuance of international chaos. As long as boundaries remain relatively impassable, national sovereign states must continue to perform as individual, competing entities divided by deep gulfs of misunderstanding, prejudice and separate interest. It is the impermeable character of boundaries that makes states both national and sovereign.

It seems hopeless to try to prevail upon the states of the world to agree to the reduction of their boundary functions in any real sense; and it is well known that no national state is going to unilaterally adopt any proposals which will tend to weaken its position in relationship to other national states. "The lamb thinks one thing, the wolf another."

Here is the point where the United States is in a position to take unilateral action toward the preservation of peace and simultaneously strengthen its own security. The United States -- or any other country, for that matter -- can begin at its own frontiers. A reduction, for example, of the economic barriers which prevail between ourselves and Mexico and Canada would begin the long process of reducing the danger of war and at the same time would even add to the security of the participants. This is a development which can be begun at home and then extended outward in all directions without any need to rely either on frustrating international negotiations or on complex, bureaucratic international organization. Once a large country such as the United States begins lowering its own barriers on its immediate frontiers, its neighbors are likely to follow suit, and a chain reaction be initiated. A North American free trade area would go a long way toward reducing political cleavages on this continent, and would undoubtedly be expanded into South America and into the North Atlantic area of Europe. It is here, then, that the argument for free trade can be turned into a political contention. The inauguration of free trade, beginning at home, can serve as a substantial contribution to the modification of the national state, but in a pattern of enhanced security for all who contribute to the effort.[84]

In 1968, Professor Busey produced a condensed edition of Henry George's book, Progress and Poverty. Beginning in 1961, editions of his booklet, Latin American Political Guide, achieved a wide distribution within the academic community. Through the 1980s, Professor Busey was a frequent presenter at the annual CGO conferences. In 1991, he contributed a chapter on the situation in Central America to the volume, Now The Synthesis, edited by Richard Noyes. He expressed his hope that the ancient influence of Physiocratic ideals among Spanish reformers could emerge in the wake of the collapse of Marxism-Leninism as the ideological path to progressive change in the southern hemisphere of the Americas:

Is there a chance that despite all the obstacles in its path, an enlightened development of classical liberalism, inspired by utopian idealism and illuminated by the thinking of Henry George and physiocracy, might still play a role in the future of Central America? …

Today, with the collapse of Marxist ideology around the world, a vacuum, a virtual mental chaos, must prevail in the minds of idealists who were captivated by the simplistic Marxist analysis of class struggle, workers' revolution and dictatorship of the proletariat. …

In the scheme of things, it is not inconceivable that geocracy, which already has its old French-Iberian philosophical traditions in parts of Latin America, and its contemporary advocates in Argentina, Columbia, the Dominican Republic and perhaps Costa Rica, could exercise influence on the thinking of both the right and the left.[85]

Professor Busey retired from teaching in the early 1980s but has remained an active member of the Georgist community. He and a group of Georgists living in the region of the United States sharing portions of the Rocky Mountains formed the Intermountain Single Tax Association, with Busey as its President. From time to time, his commentaries appeared in the publication Groundswell, distributed by the Georgist organization Common Ground, U.S.A.

One of the most consistent champions of Henry George's socio-political philosophy was Robert A. Andelson, who died late in 2003. Andelson, an ordained minister of the Congregational Christian Church, received his doctorate in philosophy from the University of Southern California in 1960. He had been teaching for several years at Arlington College, a small denominational college near Riverside, California. And, from 1959 until 1962, he served as Executive Director of the Henry George School of Social Science in San Diego, California. He left California to take a faculty position at Northwestern State College in Louisiana. A few years later he moved on to join the Philosophy Department of Auburn University (where he remained until his retirement in 1992). He later recalled how his activism on behalf of Georgist rent as revenue policies brought about his dismissal from Northwestern. He and a colleague, Professor LeGrand Weller, worked together on a study the results of which supported the case for "land value taxation." They then "assembled a board of prominent citizens, and used the occasion of Churchill's death to … blanket the state with a three-color announcement carrying his picture and endorsement of LVT. The state tax commissioner, Wilma Lockhart; the state president of the AFL-CIO, Victor Busey; and the director of the Public Affairs Research Council, Ed Steimel, were all for us. But shortly thereafter, I received notice that my contract at Northwestern State College (now "University") of Louisiana would not be renewed, and I left for Auburn. A year later, Weller, too, got the axe, and there was nobody left who was able to carry on the work."[86] While still an associate professor at Auburn, Andelson authored his first book, Imputed Rights, based on his doctoral dissertation. He acknowledged the challenge he faced attracting interest to his chosen subject:

The modern temper is not friendly to theoretical disquisitions n the nature of justice. One hears it said that such efforts are a waste of time, that mankind is in fundamental accord as to what is meant by justice, and that the area of disagreement lies in the question of what means are to be utilized in attaining it.[87]

Andelson's targeted audience was other Christians, and he began by making a statement meant to stir his readers from any complacency they might enjoy:

Christian affirmations of the rights of man betray, almost monotonously, a rationale which contradicts fundamental Christian tenets, a rationale unconsciously borrowed from humanism, whether of the Classical or the Enlightenment variety.

Since the Christian theories of human rights have, in fact, for the most part depended upon essentially secular arguments, the question may be raised as to why a theocentric view of human rights is needed. …My answer to this question is two-fold: first of all, it must be said that although a concern for human welfare is indeed implicit in the Christian faith, any effort to translate it directly into the language of rights will founder on the doctrine of the Fall of Man, which renders untenable any simple deduction of rights from the order of creation. …No view of human rights which fails to take thoroughgoing account of man's fallen nature can be considered consonant with the demands of normative Christian theology - or, for that matter, even of psychological realism. Secondly, …only a theocentric position can provide a really secure anchor for the concept.[88]

From the perspective of a person of faith, Andelson goes on to argue the case for voluntary associations as the basis for just law. "Contrary to the popular delusion, there is no magic which can transmute a contemptible relationship to one of honor simply because the state is part to it,"[89] And, as history and our contemporary experience clearly demonstrate, the hierarchies formed long ago as ancient peoples began to settle and compete with one another for territory remain. Just law remains everywhere a distant hope. For Andelson, achieving justice meant that those of true faith must begin to understand how existing socio-political arrangements and institutions failed to meet a Christian test of justice:

Only an impersonal framework can provide for the fullest growth of the human relationships which make for personality's burgeoning and fulfillment. The principles of public order most favorable to love's optimal exercise are necessarily general and abstract. They are the principles of justice, and justice is no respecter of persons. Yet justice enhances personal dignity and fosters genuine communion because instead of leaving the individual with nothing to rely upon but sentiment and subjective impulse, it creates a stable field of mutual expectation within which voluntary cooperation finds free play and ample scope, opening the way to deeper levels of creative fellowship.[90]

One of those to review Andelson's book was the Jack Schwartzman, who escaped with his family from Russia after the Bolshevik revolution and, after an education in the law, taught literature at Nassau County Community College on Long Island, New York. He was one of the century's top Georgist scholars and taught at the Henry George School of Social Science in New York during the 1950s and 1960s. In most recent years, he served as a member of the School's Board of Trustees. In his 1974 review, which appeared in the Henry George News, Schwartzman wrote:

Could freedom be "an end in itself?" No, cogently argues Professor Robert V. Andelson in a thoroughly-reasoned, well-written book on human rights. "Personal fulfillment requires that freedom be directed toward an object that transcends the self," namely, God. Without such direction, freedom has no meaning.

Does man, qua man, possess rights automatically, as argued by many humanists? No, answers Andelson. However, "in spite of man's total depravity he still possesses rights by virtue of the image of God." Thus preaches Calvin, and Andelson accepts the thesis. Furthermore, although "strictly speaking, only the elect may be said to possess rights 'de jure' rights accrue 'de facto' also to the non-elect. This is because there is no absolute objective human means of determining who are elect and who are not. Hence, rights must be attributed to all who accept their correlative obligations …" Thus the title: "Imputed Rights." (Apart from God, emphasizes the noted Russian philosopher Berdyaev, rights are meaningless, and Andelson agrees, although he disputes Berdyaev's claim that religious rights should be zealously safeguarded while "other rights" could be encroached upon by the state.) …

Does the end justify the means? There are times, indicates our author, when "reciprocal freedom is an end which hallows any means required for its defense" - although he urges (for each circumstance where this may appear necessary) a "prayerful and diligent contextual study and consideration." …

Those who are familiar with the Georgist teachings are aware of George's stress on the theory of human rights. How foreign it is to the average college student (or teacher) who today accepts the thesis that rights are privileges "conferred" upon the populace by an all-powerful state!

It is Andelson's contention that the function of government is to guarantee the right of self-expression. All other rights are dependent upon such basic, primary, right. Andelson is emphatic in his philosophy: "The only legitimate goal of any nation as a political unit is that of insuring the reciprocal freedom of its citizens to pursue goals of their own choosing." (Freedom is, of course, necessary, according to the author, so that each person may worship God and recognize the reciprocal freedoms of his fellow-citizens.)

The Calvinist view, even though it is as pessimistic about man as is the Lutheran view, does not stress blind obedience to the state but, on the contrary, limits the power of the state. "And when the expanding state, forgetful of its proper task of guaranteeing rights, engulfs whole spheres of service it is extending the borders of the Realm of Caesar at the expense of the territory of the Realm of Spirit." ("For the use of coercion," says Andelson elsewhere, "other than to guarantee rights, is an infringement upon rights,..." Thus, drunkenness, gluttony, sex abuse, perversion, and other moral violations are not, "in themselves," grounds for state interference.)

The second half of the book deals with the specific "rights" (although, our author informs us, basically all rights are "one"). Such rights, all to be "protected" by the government, are the rights to 1) physical integrity, 2) freedom of expression, 3) freedom to pursue an occupation of one's choice (but not the "right to work"), 4) ownership of labor products (but not private ownership of land and natural resources. "They were not created by human labor... And regardless of how innocently bought and sold, how toilsomely acquired, or how ancient its pedigree, every existing land title will be found to be spurious if traced to its origin.") Government exists to protect individual rights, not to perpetuate privilege, dispense welfare, cause wars, or regulate morals. This is the theme of the second half of the book.[91]

Professor Andelson dedicated his many years to the difficult but necessary task of urging his contemporaries and students to think more objectively and critically about the basis for the values they held to. In the "Introduction" to a 1979 collection of essays looking at the treatment Henry George received from critics over the previous century, Andelson demonstrated his own open-mindedness toward the large body of Henry George's writing:

"People do not argue with the teaching of George, they simply do not know it." This sentiment, expressed by Tolstoy in 1905, had a degree of validity even then. The writers of economic textbooks in particular, when deigning to mention George at all, have tended to dismiss his contribution with a few patronizing sentences that, more often than not, display a lamentable absence of real acquaintance with his thought. …

Yet there have been those who, Tolstoy to the contrary notwithstanding, have argued with the teaching of George. Not all of their arguments have been sketchy, crude, or ill-informed; several have been detailed, closely reasoned, and based upon a careful study of his works. Had most of his disciples in this century taken Tolstoy's assertion … less literally, they might have discovered not a few criticisms worthy of their analysis and possible refutation, together with some areas in which the master's legacy could profit from judicious modification or supplementation.[92]

In the aftermath of the collapse of state-socialism in Soviet Russia and Eastern Europe, Andelson delivered an address to the fellows, staff and others at the American Institute for Economic Research (AIER) in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. His other strong interest, in monetary reform, brought him to AIER as a Distinguished Research Fellow. He talked of Henry George and the critical importance of George's central observations and teachings. At the end of his presentation, he provide the essence of his definition of justice in the realm of property:

There are two things which a government can never do and still be just: The first of these is to take for public purposes what rightfully belongs to private individuals or corporations. The second is to give to private individuals or corporations what rightfully belongs to the public. All wealth that is privately produced rightfully belongs to private individuals or corporations, and for the government to appropriate it is unjust. But land rent is publicly produced, and for the government to give it to private individuals or corporations is equally unjust.[94]

There are many others who feel similarly and have committed themselves to the cause that came closest to achieving real progress in the decades immediately following Henry George's death. Of some concern, however, is that attrition is taking from the Georgist community strong and important voices not easily replaced. There are, to be sure, younger people of considerable capability and energy who continue to write and teach and engage in activism. Fewer new adherents to Henry George's philosophical principles have emerged to replace those who have died or have drifted away for personal reasons. The Georgist movement has proven to be remarkably resilient despite its numerical decline. Here and there around the globe are signs that the Georgist perspective on the land question is finding new audiences.

Outside the Core: Oligarchies of the Americas

Most activists within the Georgist community have concentrated their efforts on either the Anglo-American or former Soviet bloc societies as the places where energy and financial reserves were justifiably spent to make real the synthesis. At the same time, through its correspondence courses, the Henry George Institute continuously attracted students and activists from all parts of the globe. The most successful classroom program conducted outside the United States has been in the Dominican Republic. There, as in all of what is commonly referred to as Latin America, agrarian and urban landlordism continue to impoverish the overwhelming majority of citizens. Searching for the causes of widespread poverty in the southern Americas, Raymond E. Crist concluded after years of research that land monopoly was both pervasive and all-absorbing:

Traditional agriculture should be made more productive, but land concentration in the hands of elite groups or large corporations spell bleak prospects for the small plot farmer and landless laborer. Case studies of selected Latin American countries show the political implications of how land scarcity is induced by a tiny upper crust, often supported in power by the military. Agribusiness emphasizes export crops rather than food crops for domestic consumption. The rich get richer. Many are absentee owners, living abroad. Wages are low, food prices are high. Peasants clamor unsuccessfully for land on which to grow some of their own food to help make ends meet.[94]

Despite the obstacles presented by Latin America's history and entrenched landlordism, something rather remarkable had occurred in the Dominican Republic. Beginning in the 1960s, Lucy de Silfa established an extension of the Henry George School, introducing the ideas of Henry George to persons at every level of Dominican society. Not only did the School survive, literally thousands of Dominicans have attended its courses over the years, adding their voices to a quiet, peaceful call for structural change in their society. They have not achieved success, yet, but the effort continues.

Lucy and other Georgists in the Dominican Republic had resisted the Trujillo dictatorship (until his assassination in 1961), then worked for the redistribution of land during the brief presidency of the democratically-elected socialist President, Juan Bosch. The opposition retaliated quickly after Bosch orchestrated adoption of a new constitution that restricted the acquisition of land by foreigners, instituted a system of profit-sharing for Dominican agricultural workers, and required existing owners to sell off or distribute free to landless peasants what the government defined as excess acreage. For his trouble, Bosch was ousted by a military coup. For awhile, the monopolistic interests of Gulf & Western, the island's largest landowner, were re-established. Then, while the Dominican Republic was still under U.S. military occupation in 1966, Joaquin Balaguer (who had been a figurehead president during the Trujillo years) was returned to the presidency. As observed by James Busey, "he turned out to be an unusually able president."[95]

Subsequently, Balaguer served three successive constitutional terms, 1966-1978. His administration actively promoted education and culture, and revived university life; cleaned up and beautified Santo Domingo and other cities, restored the old colonial section of the capital where so much fighting had taken place in 1965, sponsored a successful program of public housing for the poor, broke up some huge estates, increased the number of independent proprietors, introduced improvements into rural life, and breathed more hope into the Dominican society and economy than the country had ever known.[96]

Yet, Balaguer's zeal for reform stopped short of accepting his own democratic removal from office. Only U.S. intervention prevented Balaguer from overturning the election of 1978 and his defeat by Antonio Silvestre Guzman.

After a lapse of eight years, Balaguer was re-elected. He still occupied the office of president when Georgists convened in Santo Domingo for the 1992 annual conference. Over the years, Lucy de Silfa had managed to expose a significant number of public officials to Henry George's writings and proposals. Her prestige was such that a number of us even had an audience with President Balaguer. Yet, the question remained in our minds whether her efforts held much chance of breaking the chains that keep the Dominican people impoverished. The Dominican experience adds to the body of historical evidence that permanent change never comes willingly when at the expense of the privileged. The lifespan of an enlightened leader is brief and is too infrequently followed by others willing to turn government into the servant of a small portion of the citizenry or even multinational corporate interests. Leaders will respond only when the struggle for change has reached critical mass, and in the Dominican Republic (as elsewhere) the number of activists supporting the public collection of rent remains a small minority. Despite a significant shift to a service-oriented and tourist-driven economy, the concentration of wealth and income continues to weigh heavily on the population. What we observed during our brief visit over a decade ago was deep-rooted poverty and armed military personnel guarding every building. Not much seems to have changed. The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency website reports that the country continues "to suffer from marked income inequality; the poorest half of the population receives less than one-fifth of GNP, while the richest 10% enjoy nearly 40% of national income."

Georgists have a small but important presence in Nicaragua. The Instituto Henry George has operated since 2000 in Managua under the direction of Paul Martin. Around 500 Nicaraguans each year have completed the school's program.

If there is one nation that seems above all other poised to move in the direction proposed by Georgists, that nation is South Korea. The effort to introduce the Korean people to Henry George's ideas was initiated in the 1950s by Rev. Archer Torrey, head of the Jesus Abbey in Taebaek, who died in 2002. His work led to the establishment of the Henry George Association of Korea in 1984. This group holds frequent seminars and annual Land School meetings which last for three days. One of Rev. Torrey's strong allies was Dr. Yoon-Sang Kim, a Professor in the Department of Public Administration, Kyungpook National University (who received his doctorate in City and Regional Planning from the University of Pennsylvania). Dr. Kim lectured at both the 1995 and 1996 Land Schools. He also translated both the abridged and full editions of Progress and Poverty. As of he mid-1990s, several Masters theses had been written on Georgist themes and nearly a dozen professors and researchers were meeting monthly to read and discuss Progress and Poverty with the intent to write papers for publication relating to George's concepts. Recently, a collection of five addresses and important passes from George's writings were translated by Kim Yoon-sang and Jun Gango-soo, published under the title The Essence of Henry George.

Early in 2004, Kim Myung-whan was elected as the new president of Henry George Association of Korea, succeeding Jun Gang-soo who had served for six years. One of the top policy staff of the incumbent President Roh's administration of South Korea is a Georgist, Lee Joung-woo, the editor of the book Henry George: Revisited 100 Years Later, published in late 2002. During 2003, he set out a new set of real estate policies to curb speculation including raising the assessed value gradually.

If there can be said to be any one organization working globally on behalf of Georgist ideals, the International Union for Land Value Taxation and Free Trade, based on London since its beginnings. In 1993, the "IU" (as Georgists generally refer to the International Union) was given Non-Governmental Organization status with the United Nations. This provided an opportunity to participate in important international conferences, including the 1996 Habitat II conference in Istanbul. As the number of Georgists has declined over the decades, activists have adopted a strategy of working with other groups and organizations with similar objectives but who are pursuing very different changes in policy. Global concerns regarding the environment, over-development and sprawl in the most automobile-dependent societies, and the disparities of wealth ownership and income distribution have opened doors and minds to the Georgist message. Slowly but methodically, this work continues.


As the Soviet experience revealed, hierarchical systems eventually become so internally corrupt they implode; the question is not if this will occur but when. We of the social democracies have not been ready to assist these desperate people very well as they struggle to survive long periods of upheaval and chaos. Our world is still thought to be one plagued by a scarcity of resources, of contracting opportunities and unsympathetic attitudes toward those whose living conditions are so much worse than our own. We have been nurtured by our experience to believe in the zero sum game. Only a few decades separate many of us from generational poverty, and many of us are fearful past conditions may return. The fruits of agrarian and industrial landlordism - structural unemployment and volatile land markets -- threaten our opportunity to acquire a decent home if we do not now have one, and promise to take from us what we do have. These are the everyday fears of those who have much of what is required for a decent human existence but whose margin of safety from falling into unmanageable debt due to prolonged unemployment or serious illness is precariously thin.

The dismal failure of social democracy to generate and sustain full employment without inflation continues to be downplayed. Among those who have been outspoken critics, Mortimer Adler was among those who continued to offer solutions that ignored the land question and the problem of the private monopoly of rent. In his book Haves Without Have-Nots, published in 1991, he repeated his failure to recognize nature as the source of individual wealth (i.e., of natural property) as distinct from being wealth itself. He appropriately credits John Locke with remarkable courage in championing a labor theory of property, although failing to mention that Locke could not bring himself to challenge the socio-political arrangements that perpetuated agrarian landlordism. What Locke offered was mitigation, suggesting justice was served so long as no individual took more land than was required to provide for a decent human existence. Thus, Locke assigned rights of ownership in land to the individual who "staked out his claim to owning a plot of land"[97] then cut down trees and put up a fence. That titles to land are inherently monopolistic forms of economic license not equally available to all is left out of his treatment of equality of opportunity. Even Marx and Engels, in the Communist Manifesto -- which Adler analyzes at length -- list as a principal axiom of socialism the abolition of private property in land and application of all rents of land to public purposes. By adhering to the scheme of universal capitalism developed in concert with Louis Kelso, Adler remains outside the framework of cooperative individualism and condemned to efforts that mitigate rather than eliminate injustice.

Fortunately, the transnational community has been invigorated by the expanding influence of those holding deep feelings for the protection and preservation of the earth as an ecosystem. Many individuals have come to recognize the system of nation-states as a serious threat to life on earth. Their efforts have engaged the interest of thoughtful people everywhere in a manner Georgists have longed to emulate. Two organizations based in the United States have been particularly influential. The first, Global Economic Associates, published a series of papers in the 1980s that awakened the consciousness of activists everywhere. Number seventeen in the series, published in 1982, was titled Land And World Order. Contributing authors challenged conventional wisdoms and the monopolistic nature of existing systems of land tenure -- and the claims by nationalistic groups to sovereignty over portions of the earth. Robert Swann, who worked closely for years with Ralph Borsodi to promote self-sustaining communities, described the concept of putting land in trusts so that communities rather than individuals would govern the use of land while sharing in its locational value:

The CLT has a purpose which goes beyond simple preservation of land. It recognizes that human beings are ultimately a part of the total ecological reality and that in order to reach ecologically sound goals, we must also support economically sound objectives. For this reason the CLT encourages an approach to land use planning which includes a mixture of housing and farmland in ways that are mutually compatible and supportable. ...

The user pays the trust a regular monthly rental for the land and the trust in turn pays the taxes as well as the cost of the land purchased from the income. Properly managed and financed, the income from such rentals is generally sufficient to create a revolving loan fund for the purchase of additional land. The trust, in return for helping users gain access to land, imposes lease conditions that prevent the user from building more than necessary structures, or farming it in ways that might damage the soil.[98]
Into the 1980s, Bob Swann and others connected to the E.F. Schumacher Society (based in Great Barrington, Massachusetts) worked to establish self-sustaining communities and spread the adoption of community land trusts around the globe. In more recent years, their efforts also extended to the former Soviet bloc nations.

Transnational interest in the land question has greatly expanded over the last decade or so in response to the work performed by another activist organization, the Washington, D.C. based Worldwatch Institute. Under the leadership of Lester Brown, the institute has undertaken controversial research and advocated solutions to a full range of socio-political, economic and ecological problems few other organizations have dared to approach. Worldwatch Institute researcher Holly B. Brough produced a powerful article, published early in 1991, that directly linked land monopoly with desertification, deforestation and environmental degradation. She also reported that land redistribution efforts had little impact on these global problems. "In most cases," Brough found, "a fraction of landless families have benefited. Measured against the enormous obstacles facing land reforms -- resistant landowners, uncommitted leaders, unorganized peasants, and sketchy land records -- these results are not surprising."[99] In response to those who supported land redistribution in LDCs but contended there was nothing problematic about the land tenure or distribution of ownership in the developed world, Marcia Lowe responded with a penetrating article early in 1992. She identified land hoarding as one of the great causes of urban sprawl. "Many cities have so much underused space that they could develop for decades to come without bulldozing another square yard of undisturbed land,"[100] wrote Lowe. The consequences of sprawl are many and deeply-felt, in particular the enormous quantities of time and energy (both human and that derived from fossil fuels) created by automobile dependency. Among Lowe's proposed solutions is the public collection of the rental value of locations:

By taxing vacant land according to its true worth in the market, cities can make these parcels less attractive as an investment vehicle. Local governments typically assess such properties at far less than their market value, effectively rewarding property owners for keeping their land idle. More accurate property assessment encourages redevelopment. Cities can go a step further to tax vacant land more heavily than developed parcels. ...

Cities can further spur the regeneration of their blighted land through a differential property tax, levying a higher charge on land than on buildings. This dual approach is now in effect in 15 U.S. cities -- mostly in Pennsylvania, which, unlike most other states, has specific "enabling" legislation that allows localities to make such a change. When Pittsburgh introduced a sharply graded dual tax system in 1978, the number of vacant lot sales, new building permits, and new dwellings quickly increased. At the same time, demolitions declined.[101]

Much of the credit for the progress achieved in Pittsburgh and the other Pennsylvania cities mentioned by Lowe goes to Steven Cord of the Henry George Foundation, along with handful of dedicated activists in Pennsylvania. Still, the connection between taxation and ecologically-sustainable economic growth remains understood by far too few citizens; and, the task of educating even the world's activists is daunting.

Considerable further discussion and debate over the control and use of nature arose during the June, 1992 United Nations Conference on the Environment and Development, held in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. A real concern of environmental activists was the threat to existing international agreements on grounds that the laws of nations conflicted with the free flow of goods. To monitor and coordinate international environmental cooperation, the member nations created a Commission on Sustainable Development with powers to censure governments that fail to live up to their treaty commitments. Equally important, for the first time non-governmental groups were included and provided access to data obtained by the Commission. Despite these positive signs, however, the lingering global recession took a serious toll on activist groups that relied on private funding. Greenpeace, for example, was forced to reduce its staff and curtail much of its more costly activities. Other organizations faced similar problems.

Of note was the fact that at least some economists were beginning to listen to criticisms of the failure of economic science to take into account the costs associated with environmental degradation and clean-up. A meaningful attempt to address this challenged appeared in 1993 from World Bank economist Herman E. Daly,[102] in which he argued against superfluous consumption and for the dedication of more time to nurturing and to relationships as steps toward rebuilding a sense of community for people no longer connected.

By late 1993, the attention of environmental activists was focused on the proposed revisions to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). U.S. activists had good reason for concern, despite the fact that in 1992 (in connection with NAFTA) the House of Representatives had passed without opposition a resolution stating that the Congress would not approve any trade agreement that compromised U.S. standards for health, safety, labor and environmental protection. Language in the vast documentation of the GATT strongly suggested that environmental protections would fall to the lowest common denominator; that is, the nation with the least enforced controls. The instrument for forcing social democracies with strict laws and environmental regulations into submission is the World Trade Organization (WTO). Worldwatch Institute's Hilary French detailed environmentalists' concerns that governments had given little or no consideration to the environmental ramifications of the GATT reforms (or, which is probably closer to the truth, were heavily influenced by lobbyists representing multinational corporations):

[G]overnments seem to be heading toward committing themselves to these changes with little study -- or understanding -- of their implications. For this reason, three U.S. groups ... (Friends of the Earth, Public Citizen, and the Sierra Club) filed suit with the U.S. District court, arguing that trade negotiations should be subject under U.S. law to environmental impact statement procedures. In an important victory, Judge Charles Richey ruled in the groups' favor in June, finding that such an assessment is required for the North American Free Trade Agreement.[103]

As French later reported, despite assurances from officials of many governments to maintain existing environmental safeguards, changes to the GATT opened the door for challenges to a wide variety of product standards considered to be technical restrictions against trade. A frightening characteristic of WTO is that each member -- regardless of the size of its economy -- has an equal vote on all issues. Writing in the periodical Liberty, Fred L. Smith, Jr. observed how the votes of small countries might be bought and sold by special interests:

One danger inherent in an unweighted, veto-free voting system is that [narrow pressure] groups could work with foreign protectionists to advance the ideologues' domestic agendas. For example, a German firm might argue that American's lower rates of recycling or higher rates of energy consumption are "non-sustainable," and thus constitute an unfair trading practice.[104]

In the midst of these adjustments to trade practices, representatives of more than sixty of the world's governments finally agreed in December of 1993 (after more than nine years of negotiations) to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, declaring in part that seabed deposits of minerals are a common heritage. Momentum toward international cooperation accelerated following hearings in the mid-1980s under the auspices of the World Commission on Environment and Development, chaired by Gro Harlem Brundtland (Norwegian minister of the environment from 1974-79). "We now need to build new coalitions that cross sectors, generations, and nations," Brundland later wrote. "Time is short and the need for change acute. We must build a new global ethic. We must fashion a global concept of security that will embrace the notion of sustainable development, the need to combat poverty, the unequal distribution of wealth, the degradation of our environment, and the depletion of our resources. And we must make clear our commitment to aid the developing countries on their way to sustainable development."[105] In 1988, more than 150 nongovernmental organizations, business and trade unions, international institutions and development banks came together to form the Centre for Our Common Future, with headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. Early in 1993, Land & Liberty published an article by geophysicist Pat Willmore (a leading member of Britain's Green Party) which challenged Georgists as well as other activists not to ignore in programs for solving economic, environmental and socio-political problems the entrenched nature of money creation. Willmore's proposed solution has considerable appeal within currency reform circles; however, my own feeling is that if government (or, a private bank of issuance, for that matter) is to be authorized to issue currency, the issuer should possess actual goods or commodities with which to back the currency. Willmore's approach is for government to issue currency restricted to specific types of investment:

Undertake an environmentally-friendly capital-investment programme, funded by a special issue of government-created money. Counter the inevitable accusations of inflationary irresponsibility by pointing out that this created money is no more inflationary than the same amount borrowed from commercial sources, while being free from the burden of interest which commercial sources impose.[106]

Such schemes ignore history. The key to preventing monetary-induced inflation, I have long felt, is for new banks of deposit to issue lines of credit linked to specific baskets of precious metals, commodities, or other material assets. For small communities, currency backed by promises to perform specific services have proven successful as well. Government must not be permitted to create its own credit by mandating the issue of currency printed by a central bank or government agency in exchange for government bonds. In short, the private sector must galvanize its power to require governments to pay for goods and services with sound currency. Citizens might not be able to force governments by legislative change to abandon the practice of self-creation of credit; however, market forces and currency traders are already pushing governments in the right direction. How this might be accomplished was the subject of my own final research paper[107] in 1990. As another monetary reformer, Thomas Greco, has written: "The single most important feature of any potential monetary system is that the unit used to measure value be relatively invariant over time in terms of real goods and services."[108]

Another great concern (and area of disagreement among Georgists) is whether the rapid increase in human population threatens the earth's ability to sustain life. Henry George led the way in arguing with great persuasion that mass poverty was caused not by actual scarcity but by contrived scarcity attributable to monopolistic socio-political arrangements and institutions. He was not oblivious to the destructive processes associated with the unbridled conquest of nature but viewed these problems as independent of population. In less than a hundred years, however, the aggregate impact of human activity has, perhaps, pressed the earth near the edge of its systemic endurance. So much damage is being done by people either desperate to somehow find the means for survival or by the unthinking exploitation of nature by multinational corporations that activists have been hard pressed to know where to focus their energy. Population increases have in this century remained highest in societies with the lowest per capita wealth and meanest distribution of wealth and income. On the other hand, millions of people in these societies live at the margin; they consume almost nothing in comparison to citizens in the social democracies. The problem, of course, is they not only live at the margin of production, they exist on lands unable to sustain the presence of human populations. I have joined with those who believe the fate of the earth cannot wait until we somehow solve all of our socio-political problems and create an atmosphere of equality of opportunity. We must work simultaneously to educate people in all societies on the virtue of curtailing the growth in human population as an essential component to the preservation of life on earth.

Within the Georgist community, one person who had given the problem of population expansion considerable attention was Robert V. Andelson. His interest in the population dilemma had been prompted when University of California professor of human ecology, Garrett Hardin, visited Auburn in 1986. What Hardin had to say about the impact of human activity on the earth troubled Andelson. He decided to look more closely at the evidence and respond to Hardin from a Georgist perspective. A few years later, Andelson shared his conclusions with other Georgists attending the CGO conference in Philadelphia:

Over the past few years I have become persuaded that the problem [of overpopulation] is quantitative as well as qualitative. This change in my position stems from ecological instead of narrowly economic considerations. No doubt, with proper land arrangement and the application of advanced technology, the earth could support, after a fashion, a vastly greater population well into the distant future. But when account is taken of the quality of life, and of the environmental degradation that significant increase in population would inevitably entail, the issue assumes far more ominous perspective. ...

I shall probably be accused of being alarmist. While I realize that the scientific community is not unanimous as to the precise magnitude or imminence of the ecological ills portended by exploding population, there is broad consensus that at the very least the prospect of such ills is not to be dismissed as nugatory. To do nothing in the hope of some technological miracle would be to court disaster. Mandatory population control, the only long-run safeguard against possible environmental doom, presents a threat only to sentimental and conventional notions of rights and freedoms. ...Self-interest and prejudice must not be permitted to place at risk the condition and perhaps even the very survival of the essential joint-heritage of the human race.[109]

Not long thereafter, Fred Harrison convinced Andelson that this subject deserved broader treatment. Andelson agreed to serve as editor for a book of essays later published in 1991(by Shepheard-Walwyn and the Centre for Incentive Taxation) under the title Commons Without Tragedy. In addition to Andelson and Fred Harrison, the volume included essays by historian Roy Douglas, economists Alexandra R. Hardie, David Richards and T. Nicolaus Tideman -- and Garrett Hardin. This volume is a beautifully-written and thought-provoking exposition on the human condition. Andelson, sensing the opening of a window of opportunity through which transnationals might influence the course of history, introduced the book stating: "The time is now upon us, then, for Great Ideas to display their wares. These must be subjected to the correct tests by social scientists and by the standards of acceptability required by representative government. We are obliged to hope that people will rationally select appropriate models to meet the challenges of the future."[110] With Hardin's contribution to the volume, Andelson increased the potential for a broader readership than might otherwise have been the case. Hardin's central message is that the Commons have never been managed for the benefit of entire communities. Almost always, political power held by the few exerts itself on the public domain. Hardin provides particularly valuable insight into the conflict between the exercise of license over liberty,/i> where the global Commons are concerned:

By long tradition, the open ocean -- far beyond the reach of national sovereignties -- is an unmanaged common. That is why the stocks of most oceanic fisheries are now accelerating toward exhaustion. Oceanic fisheries haven't a chance of survival so long as their exploitation is guided by the rubric, 'freedom of the seas' (read, 'laissez-faire' once more). An apparent exception is the Alaska fur-seal resource which has prospered for nearly a century, but that is because the commons of its breeding grounds in the Pribilof Islands are in fact managed jointly by only two exploiters, Russia and the United States.

A more serious case is that of air pollution which is out of control because the absorptive capacities of the atmosphere are treated as unmanaged commons. As people have become concerned with the proven damage of acid rain and the possible disaster of an atmospheric greenhouse, nations have moved closer to converting the global atmosphere from an unmanaged common to a manageable one. (The political roadblocks to this reform are, of course, formidable.)[111]

In another volume to which Hardin contributed several essays, he very appropriately demonstrated by repeating the observations of Thomas Gresham that without the effective enforcement of just laws, people tend to act in their own perceived self-interest even when the known aggregate impact is the destruction of cooperative societal activity. "Let us imagine someone who was absolutely convinced that laissez faire is the only right approach to all problems," writes Hardin. "Were we to follow such advice in monetary matters, we would allow genuine and counterfeit coins to compete freely in the market place, confident that an invisible hand would protect us. Needless to say, disillusionment would soon follow."[112] The distinctions in behavior are those recognized only when the principles of cooperative individualism are understood. Freedom must be constrained by justice in order to preserve liberty. Otherwise, the exercise of freedom results in an act of criminal or economic license. Hardin had been in the vanguard of the scientific wing of transnational activism, individuals who seemed to understand just how integrally linked were socio-political inequalities and the devastation of the earth. This message came through loud and clear, for example, in the introductory essay to Worldwatch Institute's 1992 State of the World report:

Eliminating [the] threats to our future requires a fundamental restructuring of many elements of society -- a shift from fossil fuels to efficient, solar-based energy systems, new transportation networks and city designs that lessen automobile use, redistribution of land and wealth, equality between the sexes in all cultures, and a rapid transition to small families. It demands reduced consumption of resources by the rich to make room for higher living standards for the poor. And with notions of economic growth at the root of so much of the earth's ecological deterioration, it calls for a rethinking of our basic values and vision of progress.[113]

A definitive answer to the question of whether -- once contrived scarcity is eliminated -- will there be more than enough of the goods for a decent human existence to go around, is not possible. Perhaps there will need to be limits placed on a person's accumulation of property or consumption of goods in order to ensure all persons have enough. Clearly, we are even now capable of producing sufficient goods for all to enjoy a much better existence than is now the case for half or more of the world's population. Achieving even this objective, however, will require fundamental changes in law in every society. Moreover, I join those who make the case for a significant redistribution of wealth as a means of righting past and present wrongs. Wealth acquired by virtue of privilege rather than the exertion of labor or investment of financial reserves in the creation of capital goods is unearned. Those who have acquired such wealth as a result of privilege and economic license are in a position to absorb taxation of their assets and incomes that is redistributive but not punitive. Are there difficulties attached to this proposal? Certainly. However, I believe that ability to pay is, when combined with tests that measure the degree to which one has benefited from license and privilege, a necessary means of mitigation on the road to equality of opportunity. And, if we are ever to establish equality of opportunity, the principles of cooperative individualism must become our guideposts.


At some point in my reading, I encountered the term " cooperative individualism" in connection with the socio-political philosophy espoused by Henry George. For several years, I was certain the term was actually used by George; however, while in Fairhope, Alabama attending the 1994 CGO annual conference I learned from historian Paul Gaston that an early use of the term came from his grandfather, E.B. Gaston, who sought to establish at Fairhope an experimental community based on his concept of cooperative individualism.

The idea of building a society based on cooperative individualism immediately appealed to my own moral sense of right and wrong, of justice. The words offered the prospect of securing and protecting individual liberty within a cooperative societal framework. Continuously over the course of the last ten years, I have endeavored to put these principles into words, subjecting early attempts to the critical analysis of seminar participants, colleagues and individuals strongly committed to liberal, conservative, socialist and libertarian ideas for discussion and reaction. The result has been a gradual unfolding of a set of principles that, I believe, meets a very high standard of reasoning.

My search for first principles ended with the discovery of cooperative individualism as the basis for just law. As the historical evidence provided in the three volumes of this work reveals, these principles have been there for us to find in the writings of many thoughtful individuals. Cooperative individualism argues against the assertion that all belief systems are essentially arbitrary and, therefore, equal. Rather, belief systems are arbitrary the extent to which they conflict with reason and evidence derived from investigation and experience. Divine inspiration may coincidentally provide one with a belief system that stands the test of reason and experience, but only coincidentally. People have attempted to apply reason to argue the existence of one god, a special god, or numerous gods for thousands of years. In the absence of conclusive proof, however, one is left with faith as a repository of belief. Our powers of reason and self-contemplation, on the other hand, arm many of us with a healthy dose of skepticism. One of the great challenges facing the scientific mind is reconciling the necessity for reliance on faith with respect to one's spirituality with the necessity for reliance on observation and reason with respect to the material world.

History also shows us that the belief system that best serves us is that which contributes to our survival as a species by recognizing the complex interdependency we share with one another and as stewards of our delicately balanced ecosystem. In our favor is the fact that as we have evolved and are able to learn from our mistakes. We have gradually acquired a moral sense of right and wrong, an understanding of good and evil, of just and unjust behavior, of wise and foolish ideas. Individually, our moral sense may never be perfected. We are far too frequently harmed by the absence of positive nurturing within our family, our community and our society. Illness or some defect in our genetic inheritance may prevent us from thinking and behaving rationally. Even organized religion by virtue of its long emphasis on unquestioning obedience, reliance on ritual and tradition and hierarchy continues to interfere with the widespread acceptance of transnational values. That we do have a surviving moral sense of right and wrong is evidenced by our everyday actions and the consensus of support for or opposition to certain types of behavior. Where our governing socio-political arrangements and institutions instruments of entrenched privilege, our moral sense is impaired, prevented from expression. For much of history, the isolation of peoples from one another allowed moral relativism to operate unopposed. Today, societal elites have a more difficult time controlling the information to which people are exposed. We are moving, ever so slowly, toward consensus over moral principles, although one would be hard pressed to reach this conclusion based on the upsurge in violence and war between groups committed to imposing their will on others.

There are some societal issues - the appropriate extent to which criminal behavior ought to be punished, the best approach to preventing people from becoming addicted to narcotics, whether a woman has the right to terminate a pregnancy and under what conditions -- on which consensus may never be achieved. In those instances, citizens ought to do all that is humanly possible to minimize the instances in which the coercive power of the State is permitted to intervene. Principle, far more than expediency, must direct us in the formation of societal action. This is not suggest that the most just practices are always self-evident. Reaching the right decisions will often require extended societal debate.

As I described much earlier in this long journey through history, one person who combined the healthy skepticism of experience with a socio-political philosophy rooted in a well-developed moral sense of right and wrong was Thomas Paine. In an era remarkable for challenges to established authority, Paine was one of the few courageous enough to follow reason and evidence to their appropriate conclusions. He refused to compromise principle and paid an enormous price for his convictions. More than a system of beliefs, Paine presented and defended a system of values. He borrowed from John Locke and his Physciocratic contemporaries, and many of his ideas were independently paralleled and further developed late in the nineteenth century by Henry George. Both of these great thinkers were also great teachers. For much of the twentieth century, the person who came closest to equaling their contributions to socio-political philosophy was another great teacher, Mortimer J. Adler. Anyone familiar with Mortimer Adler's writing will recognize in the words below his overwhelming influence. In a very real sense, the first principles of cooperative individualism come directly from Paine, George and Adler.

The First Principles of Cooperative Individualism

That, all persons share the same species-specific characteristics and have a similar need for the goods that make for a decent human existence.

That, such goods include adequate food, clothing, shelter, nurturing, health care, education, civic involvement and leisure.

That, we join together voluntarily to form societies in order to enhance our possibilities to acquire such goods and for our mutual benefit, protection and survival.

That, the source of the material goods necessary for our survival and happiness is the earth, equal access to which is the birthright of every person.

That, in the pursuit of such material goods each person has the sole right to the use and disposition of whatever other material goods are produced by his or her labor (whether produced by labor alone or with the assistance of additional material goods (i.e., capital) created and utilized for that purpose.

That, such material goods, by virtue of acquisition by means of one's labor or voluntary exchange with others, fall exclusively in the realm of natural property.

That, our behavior falls within the scope of liberty when such behavior in no way infringes on the opportunity for other persons to use their efforts to produce or obtain by exchange material goods.

That, human behavior ventures beyond the scope of liberty and within the realm of criminal license when such behavior results in the physical or mental harm to another person or the theft and/or destruction of another person's natural property.

That, human behavior ventures beyond the scope of liberty and within the realm of economic license when such behavior denies to other persons the opportunity to use their efforts to produce or obtain by exchange material goods.

That, a society by virtue of practical considerations, grants economic licenses to persons (individually and collectively) the result of which is to convey privileges not enjoyed by others. To the extent such economic licenses come to have exchange value in the market place, such exchange value is acknowledged to be societally-created. Justice requires, therefore, that society collect this value for distribution to all its members as a social dividend or for use in providing for societal amenities and services democratically agreed upon.

That, a society is just to the extent liberty is fully experienced and protected, equality of opportunity prevails, criminal license is prevented and when prevention fails appropriately penalized, the full exchange value of economic licenses is collected for distribution and/or societal use; and

That, the material goods produced by the labor of individuals (and whatever capital goods they also legitimately acquire) is protected as one's natural property; and, therefore, not subjected to taxation or otherwise confiscated.

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