On Neurotic Georgism

The MeltFund has recently blogged a post condemning the Georgist movement of lacking sophistication in its ability to perceive the world in an accurate and healthy manner. Georgism, supposedly, is a dogma held by its holders as fervently as any other religious creed. This faith acts as filter to all other perspectives, making Georgists loose touch with reality. In other words, becoming neurotic.

The condemnation mainly relies on how Georgists seemingly will solve most of societies ills through the implementation of one tax and eradicating all the rest. The source of this remedy is that economic difficulties we face today and in the future are all to do with rent seeking. The dedication that Georgists have to this theory the MeltFund finds troubling. It is not the analysis itself that is necessarily the problem. No where in the article does the MeltFund criticise Georgist’s for having the wrong analysis about today’s problems.

In fact, the trouble lies in that Georgists don’t go as far as they could. As with all creeds, the purpose of Georgism is to give a meaning to the lives of it devout followers, not to tackle the problems it has identified. The supposed proof of this is when Georgists primarily attack landowners , forgetting that  million people in the UK own a house. The meaning Georgists get out of life is finding an enemy to attack, forgetting that the type of people they will want support from also happen to be part of the landowner class.

The MeltFund’s criticism strikes me as a strawman formulation of Georgism. First, Georgist’s are willing to adopt a Land Value Tax which they see as a remedy for tackling the land problem and the rent seeking problem. Rent seeking seems intricately linked to land in the modern economy. This hardly a sign of stopping your analysis so you can focus upon a good old rant about landlords.

Second, Georgism is not an economic theory and moral philosophy which condemns people from owning land. The fact that so many people owns household is not a concern for Georgist’s. Georgist’s want to tax the rent that the owners of the home would demand if they were to rent out their house, rather than the income they earn from labour. The rise in the number of home owners as merely allowed banks a greater opportunity to use land as collateral for loans they make to others.

The key point is that the rich own better quality and higher quantities of land, yet don’t get sufficiently taxed on it if at all. Also that most land is owned by a select few, rather than being open to the vast majority of people to freely use means we have people needlessly homeless. Georgist’s see the same thing that social democrats do when a select few in society take the lion’s share of the nation’s income, except land rather income is the object of concern.

Third, Georgists come in all shapes and sizes. Some are social democrats who support nationalising some public utilities and advocate a mixed economy. Others are geolibertarians who support a full on laissez-faire market economy while believing that social justice will be achieved through taxing land and other natural resources. Others argue that nationalising land while supporting a laissez-faire economy. Some Georgists are influenced by Henry George himself. Others are Steiner-Vallentyne libertarians.

Personally, I consider myself to be a Georgist Mutualist, or a Geo-Mutualist. I advocate a economically liberal market economy in which taxation is based primarily on land, natural resources, pollution and some Pigouvian taxes. I advocate cooperatives as the best form of business entity in the economy. Not only are cooperatives, particular worker owned co-ops, more productive than traditional business entities in the capitalist system, they will decentralise economic power among individuals more effectively due to economic democracy.

This decentralisation is liberty enhancing as it allows workers, or consumers, a much more participatory role within the governance of market entities. It is fundamentally a left libertarian concept because of the more egalitarian approach to maximising the liberties of individuals.

Why should I support a corporation tax? I’m a market socialist. Supporting a corporation tax is a tax on workers, it is tax on the fruits of a workers labour. How unjust is that? Let the profits of cooperatives be spread among workers, and for investment purposes to help make the population more prosperous. The more investment that occurs in the economy, the more prosperous everyone will become in the long run. The short and medium run will be different as some co-operatives will fail because they have bad business ideas, while others will become successful. Some inequalities will reside, but the overall decentralisation provided by co-operatives will overall mean they will not become too influential in the overall scheme of things.

What if my analysis is wrong? I’m more than willing to change aspects of my world view to accommodate them. If necessary, the whole of my world view will change.

Henry George was an insightful writer about the nature of the economy, not a prophet from God.

Gareth Mawer
I consider myself a left libertarian committed to promoting the philosophy of liberty, even though I do not always support proposals that are normally considered libertarian. Georgism and mutualism have had profound influences over my beliefs, though I'm not afraid to digress from them were necessary. My mains interests are politics, economics and philosophy.
  • robin smith

    With all due respect, MeltFund is critical of Georgism *because* its an ideology. Its not a straw man at all, MeltFund is deadly serious about the acute danger observed in the psychological facts initiated by ideological world views of any kind. You are correct to state MeltFund is saying Georgists do not go far enough though. For example everything they say in the economic sense, at least for the LVT purist, is perfect technically, that is, in theory. But in the real world its the most failing economic policy in history. In fact, Georgism stops abruptly short of WHY does every single person born oppose something which in theory will improve their lives? The answer even MeltFund has yet to find. What MeltFund is calling out for is that Georgists devote their energy to that deeper cause now they’ve reached a new frontier. And not a single Georgist has agreed to step over that new frontier into that forbidden zone. Where might this ‘undiscovered country’ be? MeltFund cannot say. But it does know exactly in which direction to travel in search of it… in the psyche. And the psyche of the collective. Think ‘fish ball’, or starling flock and homoestasis. We hear you, that is a very scary place to go. Remember the Planet of the Apes?