Beyond Henry George
to an Unfolding World
Ian T.G. Lambert
[An autobiographical paper describing his
introduction to the writings of Henry George and subsequent
involvement in the Georgist movement. October, 1996]
This paper is a highly personal record of my experiences as a
Georgist. If it interests even only one person beyond the author, it
will have done its job.
I attended my first Georgist conference in Philadelphia in 1989. The
Georgist conference at Ottawa in 1996 closes a seven year stretch in
which I have attended every one of the North American Georgist
conferences, and more.
The Nagging Questions
The story begins, however, not seven years ago but seventeen. In
1979, I went up to Trinity College, Cambridge to read Mathematics. I
was lucky enough to win the Cambridge Union Society's Freshmen's
Debating Cup in (for me) a nerve-wracking debate before a packed
chamber, including Chancellor of the Exchequer, Sir Geoffrey Howe and
former Foreign Secretary Dr. David Owen, and judged by Lord (R. A.)
Butler. My victory launched me into a world of current affairs and
debates, and a host of subjects. One thing became clear to me quite
early on. Every political issue seemed at bottom to be
politico-economic. I knew absolutely nothing about economics, and
consequently felt at a significant disadvantage. Distinguished
economists would come and go, blinding us with science, and leaving me
I determined to do something about my ignorance. I talked to
undergraduate friends who were economists. One changed to read Law,
another to read English. One of the Mathematicians changed to read
Economics. It seemed that, at Cambridge at least, Economics was a
branch of Applied Mathematics. Not only did this make it extremely
complex, it meant the subject was based on all sorts of premises that
I found very troubling. What was it like at Oxford, I thought, where
the subject was still (at least nominally) "Politics, Philosophy
I bought a copy of Samuelson, but could not "get into it".
I switched directions and read E.F. Schumacher's
Small is Beautiful, which had a cult following with certain
environmentalists. I also thrashed around in Philosophy, Theology and
And that was that.
After two years of Pure Mathematics, I switched to read Law,
providing me four years in total at Trinity College. I took an
interest in philosophy and jurisprudence, and contract law gave me a
new perspective on the economy.
After a year's professional qualification as a solicitor, I went to
the City of London, where I became an articled clerk with the renown
commercial firm of Linklaters and Paines. Tax interested me and, as
well as spending time in the firm's Tax Department, I decided to read
for the Institute of Taxation's exams, becoming an ATE in 1987.
But the interest in economics did not go away. By now, it was a kind
of frustration. No economist seemed to "speak my language"
or address (let alone answer) the questions that interested me.
And then it happened.
I can vividly remember standing on the platform of a London
Underground station, and staring blankly across the tracks at the bill
poster opposite, when I suddenly awoke to what I was looking at.
The advert had a list of 10 Questions, such as "Why Are There
Food Surpluses in a Hungry World?" and "Why is There
Unemployment When There is Work to be Done?". It exhorted the
reader that, if he wanted to find out the answers to these questions,
he should attend a series of Economics lectures at The School of
Economic Science, in Kensington.
So off I went, not knowing what to expect. Judging by the questions
which were clearly as political as they were economic, I suspected
this was a Left Whig organisation, and we'd be invited to sell copies
of the Trotskyite "Militant" newspaper in shopping malls on
It is common experience, I think, that many of us owe our love of a
subject to our love of the teacher, lecturer or tutor who first
introduced us to it. Conversely, it requires great dedication to have
and pursue a subject which is taught by someone one finds repellent.
The School of Economic Science is in Queen's Gate, Kensington. By
day, I believe, the rooms are used as children's classrooms. That
first Tuesday evening, I walked into a classroom with a lectern at
front and wooden chairs laid out in amphitheatre style. The gathering
was a very pleasant social cross-section: a schoolboy, some
housewives, some retired people, a few unemployed, some students, some
businessmen, and more. The lecture began on schedule. A gentleman in a
dark suit, well groomed, came to the lectern. He was personally
authoritative, without being intimidating. His manner made it clear to
me he was a "teacher" not a lecturer, and certainly not a
self-proclaimed "expert" with all the egotism that brings
To this day, I still admire those lectures as much as any I have ever
attended. Why? They were not particularly "brilliant"; they
were not very "exciting"; they were not "entertaining".
They were, quite simply, an education. As someone who taught A Level
Mathematics and Physics to a class of highly mixed ability, I could
not but admire Mr. Woolf s determination to take everyone in our class
with him on our journey of discovery into the economy. He spoke to
everyone. In the Socratic style, he would stop and throw out
questions. He would stop half-way through and get someone to agree
they were now hopelessly lost and perhaps they had better go back over
the ground just covered, together. The man loved his subject, but more
importantly he loved his audience. Tolerant and appreciative of
everyone there, he was also skilled (a rare gift) at not letting
particular individuals divert the class on to their own pet obsession.
The lecture, as I dimly recall, would go on for about an hour. There
would then be a break of fifteen or twenty minutes, and the second
part would last half to three-quarters of an hour. In the break, we
would adjourn to the basement, where tea and open sandwiches were
graciously served, and there was a bookstall, mostly full of
philosophy (and spiritual) books, but also a goodly number of
The Unbounded Savannah
In one of Mr. Woolf s lectures, he read from a chapter written by
some American, entitled "The Unbounded Savannah". Wow! Who
was this guy? I had a sense of homecoming. Here was somebody I could
relate to. In the break, I discovered his name was Henry George, and
the chapter was from a book called
Progress and Poverty. True to my "winning formula",
I purchased a copy of the condensed edition from the bookstall.
And this was IT.
I had read some of Adam Smith, whose prose was superb, and whose
writing insightful. But with Henry George there was a powerful
continuation of passion -- a passionate longing for justice - and the
coolest head for logic. Here there was anger - anger at injustice and
complacency - unlike Smith, but no hatred - unlike Marx.
And so I was launched. I read the condensed edition of Progress
and Poverty. I read the complete edition. I read Protection or
Free Trade. I read Social Problems. All by Henry George.
By then I had exhausted the bookstall, and so I hunted down the
British Georgists at 177 Vauxhall Bridge Road.
And then I became aware of something lingering from the past. The
School and 177 had obviously gone their separate ways some time
previously. The School had seemed to react to Georgist fanaticism, by
rather down-playing George, and indeed economics, and embracing
philosophy - which (unlike economics) attracted large audiences. The
School thrived. The Georgists seemed to want more political action and
to want to confine their focus on economic theory to George's work.
They became more and more fanatical. All this was, and still is, pure
speculation on my part. But the estrangement between the two I found
Undaunted, however, from 177 I obtained a copy of George's last work
The Science of Political Economy, which I still maintain is
his best theoretical work, easily his most philosophical.
Go West Young Man
At this time, my outside interests fascinated me, but professionally
I felt "stuck in the slow lane".
Then, just as surprisingly as my stumbling across The School of
Economic Science, I opened the
Times Newspaper in early 1987 and saw an advert for Maples and
Calder, attorneys-at-law, in the Cayman Islands. I typed up a
curriculum vitae overnight and mailed it off. Within a few months, I
found myself one of two successful applicants out of 120, moving to
the tax haven and financial center of Grand Cayman, to a firm thick
with Oxbridge graduates who had left the City.
Being one hour due south of Miami, a hub well placed for springing
off into the U.S.A., I got the contact names and addressed of Georgist
organisations in America. The first two years, I spent reading a lot.
I did a correspondence course with Vic Blundell at 177 Vauxhall Bridge
Road in London, and having finished that I took up Bob Clancy's
correspondence course, with the Henry George Institute in New York. I
loved his course, and I loved his Georgist Journal. Both were
clearly, for him, a labour (or should I say "labor"?) of
And then came the sesquicentennial Henry George Conference in
Philadelphia in 1989, my first.
The Philadelphia Conference
This was my first conference, and I was really excited to be going. I
can vividly remember meeting Michael Horsman, Mason Gaffney, Frank
Peddle, Jack Schwartzman, Dick Noyes, Pat Aller, George Collins, Jim
Busey and many others. But why were there so many old people there?
And why did people dress quite so casually?
The Conference highlights included: the finest address I have ever
heard at a Georgist conference, by Sir Richard Body M.P.; a visit to
the birth-place of Henry George, in South 10th Street; the memorial
tie and first day cover, and the silvery plaque with a quotation from
George, distributed to us all at the banquet, which still hangs in my
In retrospect, this was (for me) one of the best organised
conferences I have been to. It was great that the British and American
organisers were able to put aside their differences and work together
for our benefit. One excellent session included a lively debate
between Georgists and Libertarians. The Libertarians steadfastly
refused to move on the land question, but otherwise they were rather
shocked to find out that Georgists agreed with much of their
philosophical approach, and predated them!
The Journey of a Thousand Miles
I was rounding off my correspondence course with Bob Clancy. He
recommended me to speak at the Santa Fe Conference in 1990.
This conference was a lot of fun. Jim and Marion Busey were excellent
hosts, and I well remember, in an alcoholic stupor, helping Jim and
friends push a piano across the College quad to our meeting room, only
to find they had already found one!
Prior to the Conference, I wrote my first Georgist paper, and in many
ways I think still my best. So what was it about?
Well, in the five years or so I had got to grips with Georgist
economic theory, I was deeply attracted by its logic, its elegance and
its harmony. How could anyone honestly disagree with this, I thought?
Yet, disagree they did. The phenomenon was fascinating. While I was
open to contrary arguments, I never received a cogent
counter-argument. In most cases, I got the now-familiar resigned, or
cynical, response: "It'll never work."
It was clear to me from my discussions with people that the
conclusions of Georgism generated some conflict within their minds.
The propositions contradicted some deeply held belief. As a
mathematician, I was well-used to coming across conclusions that
contradicted our view of the world; but I was also well-disciplined in
the process of doggedly investigating that contradiction and
determining: was the new proposition wrong or did we need to change
our views about the world? Sometimes it was the former, but frequently
it was the latter. But in the field of economics, people seemed to
behave differently. As J.K. Galbraith wrote:
"Faced with the choice between changing one's mind
and proving there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on
So, it struck me, and continues to strike me, that the power of
Georgist ideas lies in getting people to discard existing fallacious
beliefs which they cling on to. And the process is not giving new
ideas or taking away existing beliefs, so much as encouraging people
to drop their existing beliefs. In truth, you cannot take someone's
beliefs away. They have to let them go (and in this sense it
increasingly seems to me that a Georgist political movement may be
almost a contradiction in terms).
The paper was entitled "Georgism: ideas that have fallen on
stony ground", alluding to Jesus' parable of the sower. The stony
ground was the ears and minds of people hardened by existing
fallacious beliefs, and therefore not fertile soil hi which to sow the
seeds of new Georgist ideas. It examined a number of beliefs about
economics and the economy, which from a Georgist perspective are
clearly fallacious, although they are sincerely held by many people in
the world. The talk at the Conference was different. Generally, I do
not like to read papers, and in any event the "stony ground"
paper was far too long. I called the talk "The Journey of A
Thousand Miles", alluding to Lao Tsu's saying: "The journey
of a thousand miles begins with one step". Perhaps the heart of
my talk lay in an Irish story of an American driving around Dublin,
getting hopelessly lost in one-way streets and no-right-turns. Pulling
over to the curb, he asked a bystander: "Excuse me, could you
tell me the way to Cork?" only to get the reply: "Well,
sure, if I was going to Cork I wouldn't go from here!"
The one step is a step towards the other person. It is reaching out
to another. Jesus, for example, could have set himself up as a guru in
palatial surroundings whom people came to as the fount of wisdom and
healing; but he didn't. He wandered near and far, reaching out to
people with much narrower horizons than his own. That is how a gospel
message is spread, and Georgist ideas are a part of a new, yet
timeless, social gospel. So, in the same way, as I outlined in my
paper, one needs to reach and move out, to step into another person's
world, and work with him (or her) from there. Saying "I wouldn't
set out to understand Georgist ideas from the position you're in now"
is nonsensical. The position they're in is the position they're in.
And one might have to start with some basic themes, such as love,
justice, honesty, responsibility, despair, and confusion.
Quite inconsistent with the spirit of my paper was an event at the
Conference, which could have been of major importance. It was a debate
between Georgists and Greens, which degenerated into Georgists "making
Greens wrong" on just about the whole of their platform. It was a
glorious chance missed. The Georgists really were not interested in
hearing what the Greens had to say; the step towards the other person
did not happen. It set me thinking: would we rather be right as
Georgists, and yet have no-one listen to or agree with us, or do we
have a real thirst for the truth, however unpalatable? Are we really
martyrs, or perhaps just incompetents - and how would we know?
A Matter of Inherited Insolvency
Around this time, I composed a short piece entitled "A Matter of
Inherited Insolvency". What intrigued me was that so many people
and businesses seemed to be on a knife-edge commercially, but in
countries where starvation or death by other natural means was not a
major concern. What was this? Why did we seem to spend our lives just
chasing our tails? The concept was very simple. Henry George had said
that there were only two ways in which one generation could (in a
legal manner) impose a burden on the next. One was through the tax
system, the other through private land titles. If, as George argued,
land titles had "value from obligation", and values from
obligation do not enter into national or aggregate wealth, why did
economists and statisticians proclaim increasing prosperity as a
result of a land boom?
The paper explored this phenomenon, my conclusion being that whereas
land is an asset that shows up in someone's balance sheet, the
corresponding obligation to pay future rent shows up in no-one's
accounts. One cannot tell who the future tenants might be -- they
might not even be born yet. The same thing happens (conceptually) when
governments borrow and spend into the economy. The money put in shows
up as assets in the economy, the corresponding obligation to pay
higher taxes in the future does not show up as a liability, so an
illusion is created of growing prosperity (as in the USA under
Reagan). This is just one of the ways in which Keynesians try to "con"
the economy into picking up.
Henry George. Ludwig Von Mises and the Problem of Free Will
At the Philadelphia Conference, during the session with the
Libertarians, I overheard one man saying to a small group gathered
around him that, if they were to read only two books, they should be
Progress and Poverty by Henry George and Atlas Shrugged
by Ayn Rand. Dutifully, I started to read Rand, whose work --
particularly her non-fiction -- I continue to find fascinating. As a
thinker, she is a true system builder in the tradition of the Greats
in the History of Philosophy. In my view, it is only by academic
convention that she is dismissed as a philosopher -- as George was and
is by economists.
Rand's work led me to various objectivist and libertarian catalogues,
and through them to Ludwig Von Mises. As a mathematician, I found (and
still find) Mises' whole approach stimulating and congenial. Reading
the first part of his treatise on Human Action, I realised
that he and George had reached complementary conclusions on the
problem of free will in the social sciences, working from opposite
ends. The result was my paper "Henry George, Ludwig Von Mises and
the Problem of Free Will", which was eventually published by
Frank Peddle's "Institute of Speculative Philosophy" in its
I still think that the test of any politico-economic theory is
whether it addresses properly the age old issue of free will versus
determinism. Much modern economic theory -- almost all econometrics --
is based on a mathematical determinism that effectively negates the
possibility of any free will. Mises faced up to this issue
philosophically, George in a more practical, but equally rigorous
For George, our concept of causation is derived from our own personal
experience of our own ability to cause something to happen (or not) by
intentionality, by exercise of our will. Without that, we would not
experience or understand causation. So for George the concepts of free
will and causation are really opposite sides of the same coin. Mises,
on the other hand, takes a more philosophical approach. His point is
that until we understand cause and effect in some sense, we are not
able to act in any meaningful sense, and cannot exercise our free will
in any meaningful sense. So Mises sees the same two-sided coin, but
For both thinkers, the apparent contradiction between free will and
determinism is essentially illusory. Indeed, the whole point of
learning about causes and effects is so that we can acquire knowledge
which will enable us to act more effectively, and thereby produce
different effects. But if everything in the world is pre-determined
then so is our learning and our acting and our apparent freedom of
choice, including an economist's decision to study and research in
economics, so that the economist becomes an automaton in his own
world. It is not surprising, therefore, that so many people find
modern economic theory dehumanising. It is precisely that.
But for George and Mises it is different. We do have free will. In
particular, George would have agreed we have the freedom to decide
which questions are important and worth investigating and which are
not. That is a crucially important issue, the sovereignty over which
most universities have in this century abandoned to "the market",
and thereby to vested interests, rendering them increasingly
conservative and sterile. Awkward truths are evaded by ensuring that
the questions are no longer asked.
This paper is one of my earliest and my most basic. I still look on
its theme as a bedrock fundamental to building a sound theory of
political economy. It also lay the ground for two later papers, which
I was to give in France.
Henry George's Theory of Value
Along came 1991. Around Easter, I attended the I.U.L.V.T.F.T.
Conference, originally planned for Israel, but moved to London because
of the Gulf War, and at that time met my future fiancee, Gill Edwards,
who had won the British Sales and Marketing Award in 1987.
In the spring, Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania hosted a
joint conference with CGO. The first two days were an academic
symposium, which was followed by CGO's conference. For the symposium,
I prepared my longest and most taxing paper, on "Henry George's
Theory of Value and Concept of Wealth". It included an
elaboration of all the major theories of value put forward by
political economists up to Keynes, in whom the quest for an objective
theory of value finally ended, with its total abandonment.
For me, George's theory of value is one of the most important aspects
of his whole theory, which is still largely misunderstood. One
actually only needs the theory of value to debunk a lot of
politico-economic theory. Sadly, in my view, George had not been able
to read the Austrians in English, and only had second-hand reports of
their theories. The Austrians saw George as an old labour-value
theorist, in the tradition of Ricardo and Marx, which was quite wrong,
since George emphasised the subjective and psychological aspect of the
labour saved or "commanded". To George, the Austrians were
mere subjectivists who were undermining the project of finding an
objectively true theory of political economy. I was (and still am)
convinced that the differences between the two camps were in many
respects more of style, approach, and indeed nomenclature, than
One important corollary of George's theory of value was his concept
of wealth, as something essentially material, separate from land (the
natural environment) and labour (the human person). Those who produce
services -- now a large part of the economy in any country -- can be
divided into three broad categories: first, those whose service
directly helps and promotes the production of wealth,
e.g. an accountant engaged by a shoe manufacturer; secondly,
those whose services are immediately consumed as a consumer item, e.g.
a performing musician or other artist providing consumer satisfaction;
and thirdly, those whose services result in no further, additional or
enhanced wealth production, or real consumer satisfaction.
George would have been the first to point out that this third
category is essentially parasitic on the economy, and that while
service-providers in it may boast that they work as hard as anyone and
that their returns (to employees and staff) are only wages, in truth
all these service-providers are just sharing in economic rent. As an
example, think of the landlord's agent, who shares in the economic
rent which accrues to his employer. He may consider he is paid wages,
but in a politico-economic sense he and his employer are collectively
sharing the rent.
I believe that George would argue today that it is in this way that a
huge amount of economic rent is masked in the economy, and that the
real economic rent is far greater than any national statistics will
The Georgist theory of value, and the confusion with the Austrians in
particular, set me thinking on the possibility of another paper that
might reconcile the Georgist and Austrian theories (which I eventually
gave in Australia).
Three Further Papers
Three further papers from that period were: "Where the
Georgists, the Greens and the Indians Meet", which effectively
explored whether there is a Georgist justification for "severance"
taxes; "Liberty: Where the Georgists and the Austrians Meet",
in which I stretched out a hand of friendship to our Austrian friends
(it is still stretched out); and "A Perplexed Libertarian",
which was never presented or published. It was a Georgist response,
paragraph by paragraph, to the outrageous non-sequiturs of Murray
Rothbard's "Power and Market".
Some Modern Canons of Taxation -- Adam Smith Revisited
In January, 1992 I traveled to Rio de Janeiro, in Brazil, to present
at a new (for me) conference: the Congress of Political Economists. I
chose as the title of my paper "Some Modern Canons of Taxation --
Adam Smith Revisited" and it was sub-titled "Is Taxation
Just Democratic Theft?".
As a pure mathematician by training, I have always been interested in
the mathematician's solution of problems by generalising them first,
then solving them, thereby providing a solution to every specific or
particular problem in that field. It is the unique power of
The modem taxation system is too complex to be fair or efficient. A
Georgist economist could write volumes in criticism of any one of the
current taxes we have. But to do so only adds to the inertia and the
preservation of the status quo. While a complex tax system is a
terrible drag on an economy over all, there are many who benefit by
its very complexity. Indeed, the complexity is compounded by the fact
that lawyers, accountants and economists all have different
conceptions of what a "simpler" tax might look like.
Adam Smith himself had noticed that the complexity and haphazard
nature of a taxation system has little to do with its being exhaustive
in its pursuit of justice and far more to do with special pleading
from vested interests. Complexity muddies the waters, which is very
convenient for some. In this regard, Smith, being the speculative
philosopher he was, had devised some canons or principles of taxation
according to which taxes could be assessed and criticised. There were
only four canons and they were very simple.
Henry George shared Smith's dislike of complexity in taxation, but
never seems to have formulated principles of taxation, as such.
Perhaps this was because for him, land value taxation was so morally
compelling that it did not need a system of taxation principles to
In my paper, I took Smith's four canons and expanded them to sixteen.
Some were simple: "Taxation must be simple" was the first.
That meant real, dead simple. Like the US$10 (per head) departure tax
at Grand Cayman Airport -- that simple. Others were perhaps less
obvious, but in my opinion are a very sharp tool indeed, for example:
"Continuous variations in circumstances should not result in
discontinuous variations in the amount of tax levied" and "The
points at which taxation ceases or starts to be payable should be
drawn along borders of economic substance, not legal form".
The final principle was, and still is for me, the most important,
because it provides the moral bedrock on which any tax system should
"Since there is no contractual basis for taxation,
taxation should be based on the principle of restitution, and should
therefore restore to the taxing community the value bestowed on the
taxpayer by that community."
I still think this paper was and is one of my most far-reaching. The
ideas it lay down could bear fruit over many decades. Any country that
seriously pursued a tax system based on those principles could steal a
march on the rest of the world. They could become a tax haven almost
overnight. But it is too radical for most people -- too radical for
socialists, capitalists or liberals, even for libertarians.
The Rest of 1992
In June, I traveled to Santo Domingo and spoke on the subject "Marketing
Georgism in the Culture of Contentment" (alluding to J.K.
Galbraith's recent book). I still think Georgism needs to be marketed
-- all part of taking that step towards the other person. But the
paper was a bit dry.
Around that time, I had devised my Georgist symbol and produced some
high quality cards. I still think symbols are an extremely powerful
way of getting through to the popular imagination. The swastika, for
example, will be a reminder of the Nazis long after faces, names,
buildings and theories have faded into oblivion.
In November, I traveled with Gill to stay with Professor Robert
Andelson, and his wife Bonnie, in Auburn, Alabama. We met Jim Dawsey,
who had co-authored
From Wasteland to Promised Land with Bob, and I addressed his
New Testament ethics class on the topic "Christianity and the
language of rights -- did the Victim have a right to be saved by the
Good Samaritan?" Is it possible to talk of being under a duty
where there is no corresponding right? In my view, one of the cardinal
errors of socialism is the attempt to create and promote bogus rights
of this kind, in an attempt to create equality, rather than to unwind
the system of privileges which has created the inequality in the first
place. Giving everyone the right to rob their neighbour creates
neither a just society nor a prosperous one, although it can in a
twisted sense be said to be based on some "equality" -- but
equality is not a primary value.
Around this time, musing further on George's and Mises' work, I
composed another piece entitled "You Can't Have Your Cake and Eat
it Too", which led me part of the way to reconciling the Georgist
and the Austrian theories of value. It paved the way for my 1994 paper
in Australia on the topic, as indeed my Christian ethics paper on
rights paved the way for my 1995 presentation on rights in Denmark.
How the Economy Affects Economists
In January, 1993, Gill and I flew for the COPE Convention in Paris.
It was here that I started my practice of delivering two papers at
each COPE convention, so I could cover one subject effectively in two
more detailed halves.
The theme really led on from my early paper on George, Mises and free
will. Modern economists divorce themselves from their subject, in the
name of objectivity and "value-free" social science. The
more I contemplate this, the more pathological it seems. If economists
subscribe to strict determinism, what is the point in economics? Is it
merely so that we can try to profit privately from the inevitable?
Surely the only reason for acquiring knowledge is so that one can act
more effectively; one makes decisions, acts and changes how things
would otherwise have turned out; and one can act individually or
The first paper was entitled "Economics and the Poverty of
Determinism", and set the scene for my second: "How the
Economy affects Economists". This latter was presented directly
after a paper by Gill on the theme "How Economists affect the
Economy", which explored how economists' predictions of woe, in
particular, may serve to deepen and prolong a recession. The purpose
of my paper was to bring a shift to how economists see themselves.
Most economists are like nineteenth century physicists, who pretend
they are looking at an objective, independent, real world "out
there". But economists are a part of the very economy they study,
and profoundly interact with it.
What most economists, and many universities, have abandoned is any
profound contemplation of the criteria according to which subjects of
study are chosen within a field of inquiry. There is more than we can
possibly find out and know; therefore, we must decide ahead of time
what is worth inquiring into, what is worth teaching, and what is not.
This is necessarily a value-based decision. Many economists flee from
this decision in horror. The result is they either research into and
teach what they personally like at the time (an abandonment to pure
subjectivism) or research into and teach what others (the university,
government, fee-paying students etc.) are prepared to pay for (an
abandonment to the market).
George saw this coming more than one hundred years ago. Political
economy would be corrupted and effectively neutered by powerful vested
interests. Real debate would be silenced by ensuring the important,
the radical, questions are never asked -- not by legal and political
censorship, but by an equally effective economic censorship, where the
right to inquire and speak freely is formally upheld, but the radical
fields of inquiry are starved of resources.
On the aeroplane back, I found myself sitting next to Prof. Ted Lowi
of Cornell University, who (quite unprompted by me) mentioned that, in
his opinion, the two most effective commentators on the nature of
American society had been Alexis de Tocqueville and Henry George, whom
he deeply regretted nobody read any more.
Out of the Crisis
I had met Drew and Matt Harris at the Lafayette College Conference.
Drew had mentioned to me that he was studying with the famous
management consultant, Dr. W. Edwards Deming (whom I had not heard
of). He was convinced that there was a significant tie-in between
George's politico-economic ideas and Deming's ideas on quality. After
all, George's critique of modern society and the modern economy would
be that it is hugely inefficient, unjust and leaves people with an
overall low quality lifestyle and general environment.
Inspired, I obtained a copy of Deming's great book
Out of The Crisis. After much reading, reflection and
doodling, I came up with a paper called "Out of the Crisis with
George, Mises and Deming", which the British Deming Association
published in the Spring of 1993. I was also asked to present at their
conference, and chose the topic "From the Deming Company to the
Deming Economy and the Win-Win Society".
The presentation went badly. I made the mistake, as Georgists often
do, of getting too far ahead of my audience. I was not in touch with
them. The presentation came across as too idealistic and impractical.
To borrow a phrase from LandMark, I was not "speaking into their
Still, Dr. Henry Neave had been very keen on my "Out of The
Crisis" paper, so I duly followed up with a rough draft of
another, entitled "Education, Competition And The Bureaucratic
Mentality". I forwarded it to him for his thoughts, and received
an extraordinary response. He apologised that he had not read the
draft paper, but had given it to friends who had. They admonished me
for thinking too much for myself and said that I should try to read
and learn more from Deming's writings. The letter still makes me
shudder when I think of it. It seemed so contrary to the spirit of
Deming, whose thought was constantly evolving. I didn't receive a
single comment on any of my ideas or propositions. Ayn Rand would
never have written such a letter - even if my paper was hopelessly
flawed. Oh well, I thought, and pressed ahead.
Out of the blue, I was invited by Dr. Hector Raul Sandler to travel
and present at a symposium in Argentina on the broad theme of ecology
and social justice. While I have many Georgist friends, I have few
Georgist heroes and mentors, but two are: Dr. Hector Sandier from
Buenos Aires; and Professor Mason Gaffney from the University of
California at Riverside. Hector has survived threats and attempts on
his life while living in Argentina, and lived in exile in Mexico for a
decade. All his life, he has championed Georgist ideas, but was quite
wrongly branded a "communist" by political adversaries.
The trip was one of the most inspiring of my Georgist "career"
(if I can be allowed to use such a pretentious expression). Hector had
surrounded himself with a small, but ever growing, group of very
impressive young men and women. They were well-educated,
well-mannered, incisive in thought, lively in conversation, dedicated
to Georgist ideas, but not mere followers or pawns.
My paper in Buenos Aires was entitled "Beyond Eurocentrism to a
Green Political Economy", and I ended up delivering it in Buenos
Aires University and in the delightful University town of Cordoba.
George's vision is extraordinarily holistic, yet individualistic. With
George, you realise that our economic system is both inefficient,
unmoral and ecologically harmful and that all three aspects are merely
different manifestations of the inherent deficiency. In this respect,
socialism and communism rank no better than capitalism. Communist
countries have an appalling environmental record.
By contrast, there is a system that can be economically efficient,
moral and just, and ecologically protective, if we could but generate
the moral will to embrace it.
I enjoyed that trip, perhaps more than any other Georgist conference
or event. Partly, it was our hosts, Hector and his young friends.
Partly, it was the excellent organisation. Partly, it was the
excellent company -- Jim Dawsey, Bob Andelson and Dick Noyes. We
worked together as a very effective team. I recall with particular
fondness a long conversation with Jim on the aeroplane back from
Buenos Aires to Miami.
In July I flew with Gill to the CGO Conference in L.A. I am very glad
I went to that conference, if only because it introduced me to Dr.
Irene Hickman, the hypnotherapist, and her work on past lives and
depossession. Gill presented at the Conference, I did not. I was
preoccupied with various chaotic business matters. I was starting to
find the Georgist Conferences rather enervating. They were becoming
like veterans' reunions. They were perhaps a little too familiar, too
safe. Was it just me? It's not always easy to tell. As CGO Conferences
go, this was one of the better ones, including an excellent cultural
evening. Our hosts, Mason Gaffney and the Shapiros, were to be
But was America really that interested? In an age of narcissism, a
profoundly unideological age, Georgism just did not hit the "spirit
of the age", I thought.
Later that year, in October, I visited London (where Gill and I
painfully broke up), and joined Fred Harrison and some of his group on
their trip to Moscow, including Sir Kenneth Jupp.
Adam Dixon had kindly arranged for some of my papers to be published
in Russia, mainly by journals interested in agricultural economics. It
was a start. I looked forward to visiting Moscow, if only for a few
I have never felt as spiritually uncomfortable generally as I felt in
Moscow. There was a palpable spiritual vacuum. It was as if the soul
of Russia had been exorcised but it was not clear whether the Holy
Spirit or other demons would make their dwelling there. I had a
deep-seated sense of foreboding. Not that anything dramatic would
happen. Quite the reverse. That Russia would stagnate and slowly rot,
its economy dominated by organised crime. Or was it just my
The disappointment of my trip was that I never got a chance to speak,
despite indications to the contrary. It highlighted to me the truth
that, just as there is no land but our land, there is no time but our
time. Time is a peculiar Georgist blindspot. Georgists are frequently
not on time (certainly at conferences), frequently run over time, and
monopolise others' time. So eager to tell our good news, we do not
seem eager to share others', by listening. Perhaps the spirit was just
teaching me to listen in Russia.
I still cherish from the visit to the Academy of Sciences, a copy of
Adam Smith's "Wealth of Nations" in Russian translation. It
was a good meeting there, and I only wish we had had the chance to
speak more with the Russian lady, particularly about Tolstoy,
Kropotkin, Ouspensky and other Russians.
I came away from Russia wondering whether we were speaking into their
listening. There had been a large conference, the very time we were
there, on the subject of freedom of speech. But we were not there. The
Russians instinctively understand the idea that the land belongs to
us, but they do not understand - certainly not profoundly - the free
market. A free market cannot exist in an unfree society. Markets
depend for their efficiency on basic freedoms, in particular the free
flow of information, for which freedom of speech is essential. Was the
spirit of Henry George, I wondered, really with that conference, or
with us? How would we have known? Were we, through our listening,
providing the space for people to open up and raise and speak about
the problems and issues that most deeply touched them? I thought not.
We were too closed, too much "true believers", too
evangelical, too confident that we already had the answer ahead of
time. We, unlike Henry George, were "Georgists".
Georgian as a Form of Social Psychotherapy
In January, 1994,1 flew to Sydney, to attend the COPE Convention, the
last to be hosted by Prof. Tej Saini before his sudden death. The
Georgist presence at the conference was substantial: Prof. Lowell
Harris, who gave the Banquet speech, Dr. Jim Horner from Oklahoma (an
Institutionalist Georgist), Dr. Fred Foldvary, Dr. Joe Horton from
Pennsylvania (an Austrian Georgist), myself and Bernard Rooney and
various other Australian Georgists. There were more papers on Georgist
themes than any other topic.
The hotel, in central Sydney, was one of the best I have ever stayed
at. Owned and run by Japanese, it epitomised the difference between a
quality service and a luxury service. Luxury it was, but more
importantly it was very high quality.
Before the Conference started, I traveled to the seedy Georgist
headquarters (the contrast with the hotel was striking), where I gave
an exploratory paper with the title "Georgism as a form of social
psychotherapy". This was a turning point in my life -- both
personally (I had recently broken my engagement) and philosophically.
In the latter part of 1993,1 had also had a recurring dream of a monk
in a green robe. It was a static image, of a man climbing a goat path
directly up a mountain. He wore simple brown leather sandals and a
simple green habit or robe. The face was not clear. Was it me, I
wondered? I discussed it with a dear friend of mine who is a Church of
Ireland priest and chaplain at Christ Church, Oxford: Rev. Dr. Michael
Jackson. I told him I thought I was the monk in the dream. The message
seemed clear to me. A religious person lives his beliefs, tries to
embody his ideas in who he is. His life speaks more profoundly than
what he says. I told Michael I was thinking of having a green habit
made, with sandals, and I would see where it would take me. Was I mad?
No, Michael did not think so, at least not necessarily. I now realise
the important thing for me was to "be" with the question of
what the dream meant. Maybe, it had no answer; maybe it did not "mean"
anything; maybe it was an opportunity, just a catalyst for change. To
me, the green habit has a profound message for today. St. Francis wore
a brown habit eight hundred years ago. Its simplicity represented the
simplicity of Christ's life, its rags demonstrated closeness with the
poor and less fortunate, and the brown represented closeness to the
earth and those closest to the earth. In a symbolic form, Francis
urged the Medieval Church that it had become disconnected from the
poor and the earth. But what was profound and useful in the past may
become gradually sterile. For me, all our metaphors and symbols for
the earth, for our natural environment and for everything that is
alive, are now green. So, in some ways I think a green habit might
today be closer to the spirit of St. Francis than a repetitious brown.
Or was it all just an ego trip?
In any event, for me as a Georgist I had experienced a profound
shift. "Georgism as a form of social psychotherapy" explored
that shift. One theme was that politics may be a form of
psychopathology. The politicians' message is typically disempowering,
urging that you cannot experience change and transformation without
their help. They will take away the external obstacles. It also struck
me that dabbling in politics was often a distraction or escape from
one's personal problems. Also, that the public elect and follow
politicians who tell them the lies they want to hear. A core theme of
the paper was the idea of "addictive thinking".
Where did Georgism fit into this? Perhaps less as a political
movement or philosophy than as a form of social psychotherapy, urging
people in society to take back responsibility for their own lives,
urging them to see through and reject short-term economic "wonder
drugs". Do we have to adopt Georgist policies? No, you don't have
to do anything except die. But if you don't, if you evade the real
issues, if you evade your own responsibilities, there is inevitably a
price that has to be paid.
For me, having trodden the Georgist path, the conclusion was like
this: you have walked the wilderness in the hope that there is a "promised
land"; finally, you reach the top of a cliff; you look across and
see the promised land; it is there; it exists; there is a feeling of
tremendous euphoria; but then you notice the cliff, which leads down
into a ravine, with a raging river, and there is no apparent way
across; your euphoria collapses into despair; for me, that is the
Georgist temper of soul, a peculiar mixture of euphoria and despair;
but maybe that is just a projection of the temper of my own soul.
The Georgist politico-economic system is a promised land. It is an
ideal, an end state. I suspect that is why so many people do not find
it useful. They want something that can help them in the present. Such
an ideal could be a guiding light, like the quest to build the kingdom
of heaven on earth, the inspiration of a whole way of life. Or it can
be used as a constant excuse for business and social failure,
effectively a loser's philosophy. The problem may be less in the
Georgist ideal than in how it is used by us.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the Australian Georgists, although
stimulated by the talk, were not sure quite where it left them. It was
certainly not a speech to rally the troops and put them on the
Subjective Labour Value Theory
In terms of economic theory, the two papers I presented at the COPE
Conference in Sydney are perhaps the most important. The first was on
the subject "Economics as A Form of Synthetic Axiomatic Truth",
arguing that economics is not an empirical science. Like Ayn Rand and
Ludwig von Mises, I see economic truth as essentially
a priori, but not in the sense of abstract logic. Economic
truths are derived by careful reasoning from axiomatic concepts and
propositions - from "the way things are".
This means that the test of truth in political economy is the most
rigorous sifting of our premises and our reasoning. Experiments and
data sampling provide no ultimate test. Nevertheless, one does need to
test one's theories in practice, only because if they do not produce
the intended results, that should prompt the most rigorous
soul-searching of our ideas.
This is exactly how George worked. He took common everyday truths -
the way things were -- and reasoned from there. He may not, strictly
speaking, have reasoned from axiomatic propositions or concepts; he
just worked from propositions agreed by his audience. George had no
great theory of epistemology, not because he was inept, but because
there was not the same crisis of method in the social sciences that
there is today. To George, it would have seemed absurd to argue in
favour of his common sense approach, although it is clear from his
last work The Science of Political Economy that he foresaw the
chaos the social sciences would descend into.
In this respect, economic truths are rather like proverbs. What are
proverbs but portable wisdom? They are of no consequence if of no
practical use. No-one would carry out formal empirical experiments to
test the validity of a proverb, they would simply apply it in life.
Proverbs both inform about, and are derived from, human nature.
Proverbs that embody truth and are useful last, and are spread and
kept current through practical use. Those that do not rapidly
disappear. But in an age that insists that there is no truth beyond
logical tautology and falsifiable empirical science, there is no real
room for wisdom. Knowledge displaces wisdom, and in due course
information displaces knowledge -- hence Deming's talk of the need to
develop a "system of profound knowledge".
The second paper was entitled "Subjective Labour Value Theory -
Georgist and Austrian Theories Reconciled". In many ways, I think
it is the most important of my papers on pure economic theory. I
personally believe that the Georgist and Austrian theories of Value to
date have been imperfect formulations of a subjective labour value
theory which could lay the basis of a whole new economic theory, in
which the Austrians' preoccupation with man's being in relation to
time and Georgists' preoccupation with man's being in relation to the
natural world, would be united.
That June, my father died. I traveled back to England for his
funeral; half of his ashes were to be interred in the old country
graveyard close by my parents' cottage in Oxfordshire. In September, I
traveled to Ulster with my third brother Robert, to our old cottage in
the Mourne Mountains, where the other half of my father's ashes were
to be scattered. It was a moving journey, prefaced by a paper
delivered at my old school, in honour of my father and my late
prep-school headmaster, on the subject "Beyond Capitalism and
Socialism to a New Vision of Society", taking a bigger picture
approach to the possibility of a Georgist society, in the vein of an
Alvin Toffler. It formed the inspiration for a Sixth Form Essay Prize
which I was to sponsor at the School in 1995, on the topic "A New
Vision of Society in Ulster".
It was the first time I wore my green habit, and sandals, in Europe,
and I felt very comfortable in them, very much at peace. In October, I
wore them for the first time hi America, at the Georgist Conference in
In January, 1995,1 finally decided not to fly to the COPE Convention
at the University of Korea in Seoul, but I sent two long papers to be
presented by Jim Homer and Joseph Horton in my absence: "The
Economics of Henry George and Space-Time Physics" and "Henry
George, Ludwig von Mises and the Idea of Mathematical Economics".
In the former, I pointed out how George in his great book
The Science of Political Economy had anticipated the major
concepts put forward by Albert Einstein in his theory of relativity,
twenty years before Einstein.
The latter was a profound attempt to rescue George's and Mises'
reputations from the smear that they were not mathematical. As a pure
mathematician, I experienced George and Mises as true to the spirit of
mathematics in a way that econometrics is not. Modem mathematical
economics is essentially deterministic and tends to undermine its own
usefulness for that very reason. Could mathematical economics predict
its own advent? Can it predict its own future theories or discoveries?
If not, does the work of the economist stand outside the rest of the
economy, and if so, what else does? The paper thus drew on themes
explored in Paris and in my paper on free will.
Georgian And The Bahai Faith
On the way back from Australia in 1994, I had spent two days in the
Cook Islands, and there I had stumbled across the Bahai Faith, and its
guiding principles, including the oneness of God, the oneness of
religion, and the essential unity of religion and science. Upon my
return to Grand Cayman, I discovered that there were Bahais in Cayman,
and since then I have irregularly attended their Bahai Firesides on a
After much reading and reflection, I could see how Georgism and the
Bahai Faith could complement one another. The Bahais believe in a
spiritual solution to the economic problem, which is one way of saying
that the economic problem is at heart a spiritual problem. As a
Georgist, I believe our economic problems stem from a failure of the
will -- sometimes a wilful refusal to do what is right, sometimes a
wilful refusal to ascertain what is right. In may respects, our
ignorance of economic truths is the result of wilful evasion and
To me it was fascinating to watch Georgism and the Bahai Faith
arising at the same period, yet in the century since Georgism has
declined to the vanishing point, whereas the Bahai Faith has spread
throughout the world and today has six million adherents.
What lies behind the power of religion? Usually the power of one
man's message, supplemented by the message of those who follow after
him. But somehow the prophet-founder's message is far more than what
he says. He embodies a new possibility; he is the incarnation, the
embodiment, of something; and he encourages others to step into a new
possibility for themselves. The message acknowledges and embraces the
free will of its listener. It encourages voluntary change and
This contrasts with a political message, which is so often one of
criticism and complaint. The spiritual leader comes not to judge, not
"to make others wrong", but to give them hope, to invite
them to step into a new possibility for themselves, to enroll them in
their own lives. The message spreads of its own accord. People cannot
wait to share it. It is directly and immediately empowering. At its
most powerful, it gives them direct access to a new world.
All these themes came to a head in July 1995, with the CGO Conference
being held in Chicago, site of the national Bahai Temple for North
America. I visited the Temple with some Georgist colleagues, and met
with some Bahai spokesmen and women. We had a very lively
conversation, but were the Georgists really open to what the Bahais
might have to say to us?
Dr. Robert Stockman, author of a history of the Bahai Faith in
America, came to hear my Sunday talk: "A Spiritual Solution to
the Economic Problem -- Where the Georgists and the Bahais Meet",
which seemed to get a good reception. (It is the only one of my
presentations which I have on video tape.)
But I left Chicago with the firm impression that Bahais and Georgists
were more eager to prove themselves right, and others wrong, to
explore their differences and argue, than to share and learn from one
another. How profoundly antithetical this was to where I felt myself
to be going. It led me back to a quote from the journal for 1941 of
the great Trappist monk Thomas Merton:
"O Lord, I want nothing more than never to have to
argue with anyone again as long as I live! Argument with words only
strengthens us in our stubborn resistance to everything that gives
us peace - only increases our own prejudices and does little for the
truth at all. First we must argue by our example: and when we are
totally devoted to God then we can speak truth, which is not our own
opinion, but the truth we would rather die than violate or corrupt
-- and then we will either keep silent, or only talk to praise what
is good and true."
Nothing better expresses my own sentiments, then and now.
In July, I flew to the I.U.L.V.T.F.T. Conference in Denmark, where I
presented two papers: "Righting Wrongs - An End to The Language
of Political Rights And The Rebirth of Freedom"; and "The
Spirit of Freedom And The Spirit of Monopoly". The Rights paper
brought a number of things into focus since my presentation to the New
Testament Ethics class in Auburn. The language of right might have
been stimulating and helpful to Eighteenth Century Americans, but now
it has become counter-productive. This is because it presumes that the
creation and extension of more and more rights is a measure of social
progress. Socialism is the language of rights, and the two have
dominated the Twentieth Century.
Rights, when analysed, are really freedoms or entitlements to enforce
the duties of others. So, instead of rights, we can talk in terms of
freedom and duty. The creation or extension of rights may then be the
recognition and protection of an important freedom (
e.g. freedom of speech, or freedom of movement, labour and
abode within the European Union) or the enactment of a legal duty,
which may do no more than increase burdens on the economy and society.
But socialism tends to do the reverse. It enacts rights where there
are currently no freedoms or duties, then seeks to impose duties to
carry those rights into effect. Often this is by increasing the tax
burden. The proliferation of such rights, which are not freedoms,
serves to create bigger and bigger government (what Mrs. Thatcher
called "the Nanny State"), which becomes a growing drag on
The theme of righting wrongs was that, in America quite noticeably,
land owning privileges had posed as "property rights". The
failure to recognise that the earth belongs to all of us, to uphold
and protect a man's freedom of movement, labour and abode, is the
source of the great social dislocation, of poverty with progress.
I used the term "political rights" in the title not because
I wished to deal with rights in the narrow political sense, but
because I intend to title a subsequent paper (which is not yet
written): "Towards A Psychological Bill of Rights". The
theme here, taken from cognitive behaviour and other psychological
theories, will be the personally empowering nature of affirmations to
oneself of certain rights; for example "I have the right to
change and grow", "I have the right to be angry with someone
I love" or "I have the right to be uniquely me without
feeling I'm good enough". This would then address those freedoms
which we actually have but which for psychological reasons we feel
inhibited from exercising.
A free society is built on freedoms, but if its members feel unable
to exercise them, they become partially enslaved or imprisoned. This
may be a significant reason why former countries where restrictions on
freedoms have been abolished -- particularly in relation to the
economy -- still have floundering societies. Merely telling a man he
is no longer prevented from owning and running his own business does
not make him into an entrepreneur.
The second paper, on the spirit of freedom and the spirit of
monopoly, explored love as the spirit of freedom and fear as the
spirit of monopoly. The Georgist programme sees the enactment of a
system of land value taxation, or similar societal means of collecting
the economic rent, as the primary goal; but we have been singularly
unsuccessful. Perhaps the "enemy" (if that is not too
pejorative a term) is not so much private land ownership or
speculation as the spirit - a spirit of contest, thirsting for
monopoly, a spirit of fear - that keeps it in place. Perhaps the
battle is not so much political as spiritual in its broadest sense
(i.e. not simply metaphysical). Is our most effective weapon not so
much anger at injustice as the love that conquers all?
Money And Credit
In the Fall, I traveled to Texas for a Ludwig von Mises Institute
weekend conference, at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Houston, on the
subject of money and credit, a subject on which Georgists are often
very weak (myself included).
Shortly afterwards, I was in New York for a legal conference, and
gave a paper at the Henry George School on "Henry George and the
Real Balance of Trade Problem". My key point was that a nation
(such as the USA) could restore their balance of trade with other
countries through the sales of land and issuance of national debt
instruments, which involved asset-stripping ("selling the family
silver" it had been called in Mrs. Thatcher's time). This is the
real balance of trade problem, and the mechanism whereby Americans can
return to being the serfs of overseas (and domestic) landlords.
By contrast, however, if there was a proper LVT system and a free
market, this problem could not arise in the same way.
In November, I broke my leg and was unable to walk without crutches
for ten weeks. I was supposed to go to the interim COPE Convention in
San Francisco, but was unable to do so. I did not even send any
papers. I did hope to go to the COPE Convention in South Africa,
however, in August 1996.
But there was a sea change occurring. I found it more difficult to
write. Did my papers make any difference to anyone? I now rather
doubted it. Would I write the bestseller that Gill and others wanted
me to? I had delayed, only because I knew the challenge was to make it
as short as possible. It needed to catch the spirit of the times, in
the way that "The Road Less Traveled" and "The
Celestine Prophecy" seem to have done.
In April 1996,1 attended the LandMark Forum, and in June, its
advanced course. I was then sent to Hong Kong to help run our office
out there for five weeks, over August; so I was unable to go to the
COPE Convention in South Africa. Instead, I wrote two papers which
were presented by Jim Horner and Joe Horton in my absence. The first
was entitled "Why Stabilising The Price Level Leads to an
Obsessive Desire for Economic Growth". It questioned the
long-accepted wisdom of the monetarist prescription that the economy
should be steadily inflated at the same rate as the natural fall in
prices (of goods, in particular), so as to "stabilise the price
level", principally because this falsifies the reality of
workers. Everyone has a natural need to feel they are making progress
in life. A worker who does the same job over time cannot realistically
expect any increase in wages. But if the society and economy around
him are progressing, the natural result is that prices of many things
actually fall over time. So, the worker is able to make the same wages
go further; he can afford a better quality car and compact disc
player, watch better movies, etc. But this natural phenomenon of
steady wages and falling prices is offset by hidden monetary
inflation. This creates stagnant wages and prices and undermines a
belief in economic progress. To break out of this, workers then insist
on wage increases which can only be realised out of growth, which may
or may not be desirable or even possible in mature industries and
It is not a particularly good paper, but it may be the germ for
something better from someone else in the future. Its moral thrust is
that monetary inflation is immoral, period. It steals value from the
community and the mere stability of prices cannot justify this theft.
Theft is theft, and if done by the government, has pervasive
consequences on its economy and society.
The second paper, which apparently was well received, was entitled "A
New Vision For The South African Economy" and was an exposition
on how the Georgist Paradigm could be implemented in South Africa.
LandMark and Bevond
And then there was LandMark. As of writing this paper, I have
attended the LandMark Forum, the LandMark Advanced Course, and the
first of its two Communication Programmes. They are all run by
LandMark Education Corporation, an employee-owned corporation.
LandMark's orientation towards the world is the exact inverse of
Georgism's. In this sense, the two may stand to complement each other
The Georgist vision is essentially of a society with a particular
structure of means -- a politico-economic system of land-value
taxation and the free market - working within which, the individual is
freed to pursue his own freely chosen ends. Georgism does not
prescribe ends for any individual. But, collectively, Georgists see
the creation of a Georgist society as their collective end. Yet there
is no agreed means (even among Georgists) for achieving that end.
Georgists have no particular strategy for bringing about a Georgist
society. This is not entirely surprising because neither did Henry
George himself. He wrote; he educated; he campaigned; he preached. He
hoped people would do the right thing and embrace an honest system by
democratic vote at the ballot box. George saw, and described
graphically, the gradual process of decay within society, of
increasing poverty with material progress. But he did not have a clear
vision of the process of transformation reversing that decay. He does
indeed have a very clear image of the end goal -- the "promised
land" of a Georgist society - but not a very clear image of the
Interestingly, this seems to tie in with man's relation to time being
an essential blind spot for George and Georgists. Georgism is (by and
large) not a dynamic system; it is not continually evolving or
unfolding. A comment made to me by Drew Harris some time ago was that
one of the most refreshing things about Dr. Deming was that he was
always coming up with new ideas, new insights, new innovations, new
(more powerful) formulations of his essential ideas. He was an
educator. Drew felt that George had not really bequeathed the same
thirst for knowledge and education.
In some ways, George did do so, but I personally feel that George's "achilles
heel" -- his character flaw - was his predisposition to anger.
Anger is an important emotion. Dr. Edith Packer maintains that it is
the emotion experienced when there is a mental evaluation that some
injustice is being done to someone, or some thing, which is important
to us. Anger is a valuable emotion. It prompts us to action. It may be
that anger, more than anything else, drives people into politics.
For me, Henry George and Ayn Rand were uniquely angry people, in the
same way that perhaps Ludwig von Mises was proud (or smug).
Anger, or "wrath", was, in Medieval times, one of the Seven
Deadly Sins. By this, I do not think was meant that it is always wrong
to be angry. Each of the Deadly Sins is a kind of perversion of a
valuable emotion or way of being. Anger as a sin is exhibited as
spontaneous, uncontrolled, and destructive wrath, or as constitutional
anger, including impatience and bad-temperedness. The latter is a kind
of "anger with God" -- a continual cry of "this
shouldn't be!". Constitutional impatience is, in this sense,
anger with God hi relation to time.
George, I see as someone who was prone to constitutional anger, and
constant frustration that America (in particular) was not making the
right decisions fast enough. There is, at times, an air almost of
desperation in his writings. He can see the promised land -- and can
share his vision with the people -- but is frustrated that society
seems to be journeying gradually further and further away from it.
My conclusion -- and I should preface this by saying I am an enormous
admirer of Henry George and his work; I do not put myself in quite the
same class - is that he had no theory and technique of personal and
societal transformation, and therefore no real strategy for ushering
in a Georgist society. One gets the impression that in his view we
should just enact the right laws and the Georgist free society will
not be long in arising.
But what if the process of societal transformation was entirely
different? What if you could transform the "world" and
individual lives in it, even if reality has not changed, and even if
the "worlds" of others has not changed. What is the
possibility that you could live in and experience, a kind of "kingdom
of God" now, in the present, and seek to bring that world to
others, to share in and experience? As a "Georgist" -- if
the term were to remain - I could create a Georgist world for myself -
a Georgist "lifestyle" if you will - and seek to encourage
others to do the same, in their own way, at their own time.
This necessarily embraces the free will of the listener. The
conversation is not a "make wrong" or "you must"
conversation. Perhaps our biggest stumbling block (certainly one of
mine) is recognising people's right to vote against, to reject, the
idea of a Georgist society -- and not just their "legal"
right, but also their "moral" right, to do so. Georgist
conversation rarely shows up as an invitation to step into a new
possibility, much more often as a "what's wrong"
conversation, and usually "what's wrong" conversations are
not personally empowering.
This shift in attitude is a part of the whole LandMark approach to
life and the world. It is centered on the possibility of
transformation - first, personal transformation, then societal. This
is achieved by transformational experience, through a series of
interactive seminars or programmes. There are no writings, no papers,
no books. The whole process is centered on the transformational power
of conversation, of the spoken word. And the key to spreading
thoughts, ideas and possibilities is their distinction "Enrolment".
But the possibility of transformation, of entering a world of the new
and undiscovered, requires one to give up a fixed idea of how it must
be, what it must look like. One has to open oneself up. Think back,
for example, to a time before you knew of George and Georgism. What
was your world like? In what sense did your world have the possibility
for something like George and Georgism? In what sense were you a "clearing"
for George and Georgism to come into your life, your world.
If we are to go beyond Henry George and Georgism, we must each
constitute ourselves as just such a "clearing" again, in
which we can discover new worlds as yet unknown. And the process
starts with you and me - with the individual willing to take a lead.