When I wrote this page in February 2000, I had not discovered the volume "progress & poverty" by Henry George 1879. Below is an extract of the prescription from that book:
BOOK 6 CHAPTER 2
We have traced the unequal distribution which is the curse and menace of modern civilization to the institution of private property in land. We have seen that so long as this institution exists no increase in productive power can permanently benefit the masses; but, on the contrary, must tend still further to depress their condition. We have examined all the remedies short of the abolition of private property in land, which are currently relied on or proposed for the relief of poverty and the better distribution of wealth, and I have found them all inefficacious or impracticable.
There is but one way to remove an evil-and that is to remove its cause. Poverty deepens as wealth increases, and wages are forced down while productive power grows, because land, which is the source of all wealth and the field of all labor, is monopolized. To extirpate poverty, to make wages what justice commands they should be, the full earnings of the laborer, we must therefore substitute for the individual ownership of land a common ownership. Nothing else will go to the cause of the evil�in nothing else is there the slightest hope.
This, then, is the remedy for the unjust and unequal distribution of wealth apparent in modern civilization, and for all the evils which flow from it:
We must make land common property.
We have reached this conclusion by an examination in which every step has been proved and secured. In the chain of reasoning no link is wanting and no link is weak. Deduction and induction have brought us to the same truth�that the unequal ownership of land necessitates the unequal distribution of wealth. And as in the nature of things unequal ownership of land is inseparable from the recognition of individual property in land, it necessarily follows that the only remedy for the unjust distribution of wealth is in making land common property.
But this is a truth which, in the present state of society, will arouse the most bitter antagonism, and must fight its way, inch by inch. It will be necessary, therefore, to meet the objections of those who, even when driven to admit this truth, will declare that it cannot be practically applied.
In doing this we shall bring our previous reasoning to a new and crucial test. Just as we try addition by subtraction and multiplication by division, so may we, by testing the sufficiency of the remedy, prove the correctness of our conclusions as to the cause of the evil.
The laws of the universe are harmonious. And if the remedy to which we have been led is the true one, it must be consistent with justice; it must be practicable of application; it must accord with the tendencies of social development and must harmonize with other reforms.
All this I propose to show. I propose to meet all practical objections that can be raised, and to show that this simple measure is not only easy of application; but that it is a sufficient remedy for all the evils which, as modern progress goes on, arise from the greater and greater inequality in the distribution of wealth�that it will substitute equality for inequality, plenty for want, justice for injustice, social strength for social weakness, and will open the way to grander and nobler advances of civilization.
I thus propose to show that the laws of the universe do not deny the natural aspirations of the human heart; that the progress of society might be, and, if it is to continue, must be, toward equality, not toward inequality; and that the economic harmonies prove the truth perceived by the Stoic Emperor-
We are made for
feet, like hands, like eyelids, like the rows of the upper and lower
My own earlier ruminations paralleled those of Henry George. It seemed obvious that all government revenue should derive from the rental of land and other public resources (minerals, the airwaves) at the maximum price offered in an open (lassaiz faire) market. Monies so gathered should be paid to all persons equally as a "negative income tax" (nit). Having handed most of the revenue back to the people, services presently performed by government would be on a "user pays" basis. Welfare pensions, hospital subsidies and free education would of course not be necessary, as individuals would be able to make provision out of their own (or their children's) negative income tax. The only prior charge on the distributed monies should be for the maintainence of defense, government and the management of the census of persons to whom the "nit" is distributed.
Most governments in the world were conceived in force. Land was held at the will of the King. The modern philosophy on the ownership of land is:
When government was formed the unfenced land of the tribe was unowned. Industrious persons fenced off and improved portions of land and became absolute owner of the portion they fenced. Land rates are only to be used to provide services to the land.A more equitable philosophy would be:
When government was formed the unfenced land of the tribe was owned by all members of the tribe as tenants in common. Industrious persons fenced off and used portions of the land, and became lessees of the portion they fenced, and owed rental to the rest of the tribe for the land that they occupied.The Internet is rapidly destroying government collection of income and other types of tax not based on resource rental. It is doing this by allowing everybody access to the rorts that have previously been the preserve of the very wealthy. (A common ploy was for the very wealthy individual to so arrange his or her financial affairs so that most income was earned offshore in a country with low or zero income tax, and most goods were purchased from the cheapest worldwide source, usually a location where there was no sales or GST.) As lower income people become more internet savvy, it can be anticipated that they will so arrange their earning and purchases as to minimize tax. Eventually the only source of revenue left for national government will be the land.
If our politicians were responsible for government legislative and fiduciary policy, it could be predicted that their ethical position would so drift that "any person who had land should pay a rent to the rest of the national tribe for the use of that land" would eventually become an obvious revenue source. On the other hand, if those who ultimately determine legislation have a substantial proportion of their wealth invested in land, then it is likely that the sanctity of real assets would remain inviolate.
The only inflation proof method of storing wealth is by investment in land. The only times that land loses value is when three of the four horsemen of the apocalypse (plague, famine, war) range.
"we live in interesting times..."