James Leroy Wilson's blog

Friday, December 30, 2005

Plugging the Single Tax II

Here are excerpts from four posts to a list, following up on the topic below. The posts are separated by dashed lines:

For those interested in my previous post on taxing land values only, here are a couple of resources:

In Henry George's own words;
From the Henry George Institute

For more on Henry George, who was somewhat of a godfather to both the progressive movement (before it went quasi-fascist) and old-school libertarianism (before Ayn Rand), here's a biographical essay by the great early-20th century libertarian Albert Jay Nock (two long web pages).

My own political philosophy could be described as the "landlord state." The landlord doesn't care what the tenants do or how much they make, as long as they pay the rent (which will vary according to space and view), do not deface the public areas, and don't disturb the other tenants. In exchange, the landlord provides security, clean hallways, and safe elevators. In such a deregulated, tax-free environment, the opportunities to both help the poor and for the poor to improve their lot would be limitless.

The land value tax idea is making a bit of a comeback in some libertarian circles. The founders of the fledgling Democratic Freedom Caucus endorse it, and many who were once allies with conservatives but distancing themselves away from the current
Administration and its apologists, are becoming receptive to it.


The problem with the rich is the state-sanctioned system of monopoly privileges and regulations, especially in land and natural resources. Free markets and land monopoly are mutually exclusive; if the land problem is resolved, then the rich would have to
compete like everyone else. As it is, the rich monopolize both land AND the coercive power of the state, and the entire tax and regulatory structure works entirely to their benefit, keeping lower classes in perpetual wage slavery and shutting off
entreprenurial opportunities. (Yes, even if we are to be "thankful" that most American slaves are relatively affluent.) It is this form of inequality that the LVT
addresses, and it most emphatically does not rely on the rich being moral and ethical.

And even if it did (and to be clear, it doesn't), that would hardly be any more at odds with history and reality than the assumption that politicians will be moral and ethical.


What I mean by the "landlord state" is that the state itself acts as the landlord of "private" landowners, extracting the profits not of their labor or sales, but on the unearned appreciation of their land. Much of the boom-bust cycle can be explained in that we charge but a pittance on land value (usually about 20% of the property tax bill). People can buy and hold land, speculating that they can pay this paltry property tax bill, while anticipating big profits from a future sale on the land.

Because land is "off-limits," held by speculators and denied those who would otherwise be free to use it, people have therefore that much less opportunity -
fewer options for living and working. Rather than jobs being plentiful and workers choosing the highest wagepayers, more people and fewer opportunities means depressed wages - work goes to the lowest bidders of a desparate workforce.

But with the land value tax, 100% of the property tax bill would be on the land value, and none of it on construction, cultivation, or other improvements. There would be no profit in holding on to undeveloped land. The incentive would be to build and establish businesses and residences.

I got the following passage from a "BGreen" on another, public list a while ago. A very cogent description of the problem of capitalism, poverty, and urban slums, which was the state-granted privilege to "enclose the commons for private use".
[BGreen posted:]
In his essay, "The God's Lookout," Albert Jay Nock (author of Our Enemy, the State) explains how this particular form of welfare (private appropriation of the social surplus called economic rent)conflicts with the principles of laissez-faire free markets:

"This imperfect policy of non-intervention, or laissez-faire, led straight to a most hideous and dreadful economic exploitation; starvation wages, slum dwelling, killing hours, pauperism, coffin-ships, child-labour -- nothing like it had ever been seen in modern times....People began to say, perhaps naturally, if this is what state absentation comes to, let us have some State intervention.

"But the State had intervened; that was the whole trouble. The State had established one monopoly, -- the landlord's monopoly of economic rent, -- thereby shutting off great hordes of people from free access to the only source of human subsistence, and driving them into the factories to work for whatever Mr. Gradgrind and Mr. Bottles chose to give them. The land of England, while by no means nearly all actually occupied, was all legally occupied; and this State-created monopoly enabled landlords to satisfy their needs and desires with little exertion or none, but it also removed the land from competition with industry in the labour market, thus creating a huge, constant and exigent labour-surplus."


I'm not saying it's [the land value tax or single tax] perfect, but that is more just
than confiscating high percentages of our income and purchases. Some systems are better than others. What it would come down to, is that property taxes would shift away from the value of buildings and improvements, and assessed only on the land itself.

Other "pollution" taxes, oil royalties, and other payments for the privilege of the private use of the commons would be collected as well. Other taxes would fall by the wayside.


  1. BillG (not Gates)3:00 PM PST

    Thanks for the plug!

    keep on eye on Vermont as we try and combine mutualist, distributist, georgist & social credit/binary theory into a unified movement...

  2. Thanks. You inspired a new post on social credit.