Thursday, October 23, 2003

Michael Hudson / Has Georgism been Hijacked by Special Interests?: "Why has land-rent taxation failed so disastrously in the political arena, if it is so good? The idea of basing the entire tax base on a rent tax rather than taxing profits or wages would make society much richer and be much fairer than the existing system. Most people believe in fairness and economic justice. Why then hasn't the taxation of economic rent (and land rent in particular) attracted more widespread support?

"I believe (1) that the movement to tax economic rent has been trivialized, and (2) that this is the result of its having been hijacked by a group of people whose ideology is basically averse to the ideas of Henry George."

"It has been easier for the wealthy classes in every nation to support social democratic programs than to accept land taxation, for a much larger economic return accrues to land ownership in the form of economic rent than can be made as profit by employing wage-labor. A century ago, socialists recognized this, and embraced Henry George as one of their own. But George rejected their appreciation as he ran for mayor of New York City in 1886-87. Seeking the support of capital rather than labor, he expelled the followers of Daniel de Leon and insisted on rewriting the fusion-party program that had nominated him so as to exclude its labor planks, and put forth land taxation as a cure-all.

"This led to a break between his followers and those of the socialists. More and more intellectuals shifted to the socialists, because they had a broader view of economic reform that encompassed land taxation but did not exclude labor and housing reform and related reforms that subsequently became mainstream in character, most notably during the New Deal decade under Franklin Roosevelt in the United States."

I think Hudson is right here, that the self-isolation and trivialisation of the georgist idea really begins with George himself, perhaps right here in the 1886 campaign. The error is to insist on the land tax as a cure all. The temptation to do this is understandable, as it is such a powerful idea once it has been fully grasped, but to give way to this temptation is a fatal mistake. Instead the idea must be allocated a prominent place in a united socialist/progressive platform, or in modern terms a progressive/green platform.

No comments: