A Proposal for Structuring and Developing
a Dynamic Georgist Movement

Marion Sapiro

[2 January, 2000]

In previous years I presented the following model for the organization of a Georgist movement. Ted Gwartney presented an outline of it at the convention in NewJersey/New York in 1997, but it was never presented to a larger constituency nor was it discussed and critiqued and it was certainly not inspected and considered by the very persons in each of the major Georgist organizations who should be most concerned. So, here goes again.

Our principal need is to create a unified, integrated, synergistically operating assembly of the various disparate entities which currently exist.

As our organizations operate presently, there is no focus, no coordination, and no movement.

The various organizations came into existence at different times, launched By different benefactors, in response to different conditions of the day, as they saw them, but without a vision of the larger, encompassing, unified organizational structure essential to build an effective movement. (Some of our organizations also need to look inward to revise their constitutions in order to function effectively in today's environment and advance toward the attainment of our common mission.) The time to create such a structure and to logically integrate the various disparate bits and pieces of our current "movement" is now. And there are a number of propelling forces that can drive us toward fulfilling our mission.

(1) New officers and key operating personnel with professional caliber knowledge of the science of economics, managerial skills, and an enlarged scope of the Georgist movement have and are joining the boards of our major organizations or associating with them as older members of these boards retire.

(2) The Lincoln Foundation, with its (now) $350 million in assets is currently being legally challenged to redirect its assets and efforts to SUPPORTING, rather than disparaging and undermining the fundamental philosophy and thrust of our movement.

(3) New communication technology opens infinitely many pathways to reach huge audiences. Professional, academically renowned economists and social scientists have endorsed and aligned their work with Georgist principles, if not with existing Georgist organizations.

(4) In all, the various components are in place or can be constructed, obtained or assembled to create an impactful Georgist movement which can bring about the cultural change, social accommodation, and political applications required for the implementation of Georgist principles, internationally, nationally, by states, and by localities.

The required components are these:

1. A Theoretical and Applied Research Organization

We need to assemble a cadre of qualified professional economists and social and political scientists, with Ph.D.'s or the equivalent, to proactively determine, plan and conduct the theoretical and applied research and model building required to assemble the body of evidence and data required to establish the efficacy and practicality of George's proposals (re collection of ground rent, fees for the use or depletion of natural resources). These professionals must be paid to do this work. We cannot depend on random, big-hearted, volunteer efforts. Presently, a very small number of ad hoc applications for funding are presented to the Schalkenbach Foundation and the Henry George School and some have been parsimoniously funded. But they bear little, if any, relationship to one-another, few, if any quality control parameters exist, and there is little if any follow through to utilize the products of these research and development projects. The Center for the Study of Economics (CSE) presently conducts a highly limited number of studies of site worth in municipalities-primarily in Pennsylvania. Meanwhile, critical and fundamental data needs go unanswered. We must have accurate data on the total real value of land, the full value of natural resources-minerals, timber, water; the value of government granted franchises, leases (timber cutting, grazing, concession locations), and legitimate licenses. This needs to be assembled for the nation as a whole, state by state, and county by county, preferably with supporting GIS (Geographic Information Systems) maps. This must include legal research as to requirements and prospects in each state, at the Federal level, and, also, municipal property tax research. Without this, we can't build credibility for George's proposals or establish their practicality. The activities of the Center for the Study of Economics, the American Institute of Economic Research, and even the Lincoln Institute could be integrated here.

2. An Education Organization

The Henry George School -- which would serve universities and professional associations, junior colleges and college extension divisions, high-schools, and adult education programs, including those of civic organizations and church affiliated programs. It would develop educational products using new communications technology. The correspondence institute (The Henry George Institute) would be merged with the School and its reach infinitely expanded through the use of the Internet and new media. Key instructional staff would be professional (not lay) educators well versed in educational product development and the use of the new media as well as traditional classroom instruction. The services of lay educators and volunteers could certainly be integrated here, but not as the principal operatives. It would have a far broader scope of operation than the existing Henry George Schools of Social science. It would use the output of the research organization described above.

3. Political/Lobbying/Popular Outreach Organization (of individuals and affiliate organizations)

Merges the HGF (Henry George Foundation) & CGUSA (Common Ground-USA), combines their functions and operations and adds a legal challenge function. Governed as a democratic open membership organization designed for numerous chapters & thousands of members, nationwide & beyond. Local chapters and affiliate organizations (such as the Wisconsin Property Owners League and Alanna Hertzok's Earthrights League) address local issues as well as contribute toward the projects of the national organization.

4. A Publishing Organization

The Schalkenbach Foundation, governed by a restricted board of publication professionals, qualified social science scholars and business/management professionals to fulfill the publishing (including the new media) requirements of the three primary organizations noted herein; . Acts proactively to develop new writers and publications focused on contemporary issues as well as reactively. Reprints HG classics and related classics, using top quality publication standards and processes; publishes scholarly and popular publications & a popular magazine corresponding to Reason (magazine published by the Libertarians). Archives and maintains a computerized database of articles, books, and publications subdivided by issue, topic, title, author, date, etc., which can be accessed through the Internet. The Internet can and should become a primary mode of publication and distribution of these publications and could generate a major part of Schalkenbach's income.

5. A Coordinating body

The Council of Georgist Organizations -- composed of key management representatives of the 4 organizations noted above, coordinate the plans, programs & projects of these organizations and provide the following professionally generated support services:

A. Public Relations/Publicity Staff to serve each & all of the four functional organizations with releases, articles, radio/TV interviews/presentations & networking assistance.

B. Fundraising Support Staff to serve all of the 4 functional organizations with grant applications & professional fundraising campaigns keyed to projects & general operation.

I propose further that each of the 4 organizations described above adopt a common name if Alanna Hertzok would cede the title she developed and uses for her organization -- Earthrights.

The organizations above would then be renamed:

(1) The Earthrights Research Association,

(2) The Earthrights School of Social Science,

(3) The Earthrights Political League

(4) The Earthrights Publishing Foundation.

This would in one word describe our common purpose and mission in an appealing, contemporary and emotionally compelling manner. This is what we're about and what Henry George was about.


Clifford Cobb makes the valid point that arrangements required for Social Justice (collection and equitable distribution of economic rent) cannot be attained without widespread cultural change encompassing value systems. "If the environment isn't right, seeds won't sprout." I contend that what has taken thousands and/or hundreds of years to come about in ages past can be precipitated in just a few seasons now, given the revolution in communication technology. Look at what the fashion and music industry accomplishes every year, all over the world. The Civil Rights movement precipitated radical cultural change through legislation first.

Dan Sullivan makes the valid point that widespread change grows from local political action geared to compelling local issues--oppressive payroll taxes, sprawl, slums, homelessness. But these "local" issues are seldom unique and can be addressed in a wholesale manner, given today's advertising / PR / political campaign technology. Politicians communicate and spread the word among themselves very rapidly. So do special interest groups such as the Greens, real tax reform groups, community development organizations, etc. We can organize and operate to accommodate today's realities. See what the environmentalists have accomplished, or the Humanists (relative to maintaining separation of church and state).

We delude ourselves in assuming that only one approach is right or that the time and circumstances must be right. To achieve radical social change we need to employ engineering systems technology with many coordinated arrangements going in parallel simultaneously. It's no big deal. This can be accomplished in time for and launched at our September convention. It would require that each of our key organizations engage in intensive strategic planning and information exchange starting now, the first days of the new millenium. We need to adapt to this new millenium and we, engaged in this discussion, need to make this happen. Where there is a will there is a way.