Gaston Haxo's "The Free Land League"
John T. Tetley
[Reprinted from The Gargoyle,
At the Annual Conference sponsored by the Henry George Foundation of
America in Chicago lat July, Gaston Haxo presented a paper, "Reforming
the Georgist Movement" in which he set forth the following,
quoting from Progress & Poverty how equal rights to land
may be asserted. But a question of method remains. How shall we do it?
We should satisfy the law of justice, by at one stroke abolishing all
private titles, declaring all land public property."
Quote from Haxo: "This plan is the one that Henry George should
have advocated, but he did not
Quote from Progress &
Poverty. "But such a plan, though perfectly feasible does not
seem to me the best, or rather I propose to accomplish the same thing
in a simpler, easier, and quieter way. I do not propose to confiscate
private property in land. Let the individuals who now hold it still
retain possession of what they are pleased to call their land.
may safely leave them the shell if we take the kernel. We already take
some rent in taxation. We have only to make some charges in our modes
of taxation to take it all. What I, therefore, propose, as the simple,
yet sovereign remedy ... is to appropriate rent by taxation."
Haxo feels this method, "by taxation" is responsible for
the failure of the land reform advocated by Henry George. Haxo stated
this to be the reason that Georgist movement has become a mere tax
reform. He points out that "the main purpose of collecting the
rent of land was not to provide public revenue, it was to give equal
opportunity to labor. To tax the rent of land into the Public Treasury
would defeat this purpose.
Herein, as I see it, there is great opportunity for serious thought
by the leaders, as well as others, in the present Georgist movement.
The points set forth by Haxo, "The equalization of economic
opportunities requires compensation from those having land advantages
above the average to those with advantages below the average. This can
be accomplished automatically by collecting the rent into a common
fund to be distributed in equal shares, in cash, to all the people. In
as much as this rent fund could not possibly be distributed in equal
shares in the form of public services. I would favor the creation of
an independent body, elected by the people and accountable to them,
for the administration of their common heritage.
All citizens having thus been given equal rights in the land and an
equal share of the rent, it becomes their duty to pay a direct tax to
their government for the services rendered to them. On the other hand,
all taxation now levied on improvements; business; goods and services,
which increases prices and the cost of living, should be abolished. In
this way we can achieve a just land tenure system and a just tax
system to give the people equal rights and opportunities."
Haxo proposes, and has organized to promote his views, The Free Land
League, a Constitutional amendment to declare all land in the United
States the common heritage of all its citizens ... the rental value to
be collected yearly and distributed in equal shares to all U.S.
citizens living in this country.
Some may say this is a distinction without a difference. Mot so.
There is a difference. Haxo is saying, as did George, we need a
change, a reform in our Land Tenure system. To bring about equality of
opportunity. The difference between natural resources and man-made
things must be recognized. Once this is recognized then the need for
treating land in a manner different from that presently in effect will
pave the way for a truly private-market economy and a limited
government with a monetary system to serve rather than hinder the
operation of the economy.
Where should our efforts be directed? Toward Land Reform or Tax
Reform? If the thought is that by bringing about Land Reform through
Tax Reform, then of course the direction of effort will be in that
On the other hand, if the Land Reform we envision is brought about, a
tax reform would be almost automatic. Perhaps" and most likely
our efforts will continue along both lines. The people in the Georgist
movement are extremely individualistic for the most part -- some of
them will not be at all interested in working in one direction.
Likewise, some not in the other. Both education and political action
will be required in each field.
Much must, can and should be done with adults. Perhaps, much thought
ought be given to ways and means of getting basic economic principles,
advantages of limited government, a just public revenue system, a
system of purchasing media and credit to promote the economy, in the
public schools and colleges, so the young people will understand
It seems to me it is not enough to endeavor to get people to read and
study Progress & Poverty; it is not enough to endeavor to
teach basic economics; to advocate removing taxes from improvements
and placing them on the land.
It seems we ought to decide which of the two "divisions" we
will join with and devote our efforts toward bringing about a change
in the Land Tenure system AS SOON AS POSSIBLE!