Sunday, May 30, 2004

Review of the Henry George Movement in Denmark, by Ole Lefmann, June 29 1993: The Georgist movement in Denmark began probably around 1885, when a Norwegian, Viggo Ullman, lectured at various Danish folk high schools about the ideas of Henry George, which he has learned from England.

The Danes were by old tradition accustomed to the concept that the land belongs to the people, but the tradition had already for some time been attacked by privileges achieved by nobles, and attacked more intense as the industrialization grew.

Farmers were pressed in the later years of the 19th Century, and some of them found a hope and support for their wants in the ideas of Henry George. Also intellectual people became aware of the situation of the peasants and of the growing number of workers in the cities having only their hands to sell for a living, and many people found good reasoning in Henry George's ideas.

These were, however, not accepted as the best bid for the workers, as the intellectuals explained free trades for them in a way that most of the workers could only understand as "laissez-faire", which they definitely could not accept. Instead of, the main part of the workers in Denmark, as in most of the world, followed the ideas of Karl Marx, who proposed the workers unite to become strong and to take over control of land and capital.

But from its very beginning in the 1880s, The Danish Social Democracy proposed in its political program taxation on land values.

As the economical situation became more hard to smallholders, and good georgists could explain this with reference to Henry George's ideas, the georgist movement grew, and The Danish Henry George Union was founded in 1902.

Some of its most eager members wanted a more solid platform for their political ambitions, and those members cooperated with other groups around filosophers and public leaders in forming the Radical Left Wing Party that was declaring that a land value taxation should collect all the rent of land for public affairs instead of taxes on income and consumption. (1905)

At this time The Danish Henry George Union had around 2000 enlisted members, but after this the number of members declined.

But many georgists were not satisfied with the progress of georgism in The Social Democracy and The Radicals, and they continued arguing for more political action.

In those years many ideas of freedom and liberty occurred, among which were free traders, pacifists, interest fighters, filosophers, humanists, bringing-up and education specialists, religious people and other reformers, and many of those went to each others meetings discussing matters, and they wrote articles to each others periodical publications.

Finally they knew each other so well, that many of them decided to establish a union with the object to appeal to the voters for seats in the parliament. Their economic policy was to collect all the rent of land in order to abolish all taxes on labor and wealth, and they took the name of The Justice Party.

They did progress, got 12 seats (of 179) in Parliament, effected the appointment of The Government Commission for Ground Duty in Denmark who wrote its report in 1952, they claimed that taxes on income and consumption had to go and land taxation to come instead of, and they formed in 1957 together with The Social Democracy and the Radicals the ever most prosperous Danish government, later on called the Ground Duty Government.

This government agreed different bills of land value taxation:

1). To the local administration: Land Value Taxation on all land at its full market value (cash value); but the percentage (per mille) were set by the municipal local administrations and varied much from one locality to another.

2). To the state (central) administration: a Taxation on the increment in the full market Landvalues (cash values), which, it if was maintained until today, would have collected most of the actual land value. Through many years, the registrated land value of Denmark has been equal to our national debt to foreigners.

After three years in power Denmark has no foreign debt, no Inflation and the unemployment was 1%, called Full Employment.

However, due to errors in this the first modern Tax on Incremental Land Values (TIL), and because of well organised agitation against it, and because of drop-out of the best speakers for LVT, and because of the fact that a great deal of the supporters of the Justice Party and the Radicals did not want the Social Democrats to get the possibility of to dispose of the great amount of the landrent going to be collected by the Ground Duty Government, the voters for parliament at the 1960 election totally rejected the Justice Party. They blamed the Justice Party that taxes on labor and consumption was not reduced, what was true, but it was also true that unemployment and national debt were suppressed, and that no further tax was levied by the Ground Duty Government. After the rejection of the Justice Party very few politicians dared to speak highly of LVT for a very long time.

In 1965 the TIL (Jordvaerdistigningsskylden) was abolished. LVT to the local administration is still maintained, and a new income tax on supposed rental value (below market value) of the total of house and land was introduced.

In the meantime the Danish Henry George Union was in a trough. In the 1950s all active Georgists went to the political parties, and all their activities were used in politics. And in the 1960s people would not listen to repetition of the same arguments as used during the 1950s. Times had changed, the set-pieces were changed, wages and land prices went up, people were thinking of buying things and homes and cars and summer cottages and the charter tourist era began, young people though of freedom from their own parents, freedom of being parents, freedom of duties of any kind, and freedom from all authorities, and even freedom from the authority of Nature. During these years the amount of houseowners increased from being 30% of all homes to 50%. The new houseowners were looking forward to dispose of the coming increment of their landvalues. Georgists searching for new arguments found themselves disputing together about their own theses. People went away from politicians preaching georgism.

The Danish Henry George Union had to go into internal discussions, and I am glad being able to say, that the words and sentences being used today are more relevant to the actual situation of today, than were the words and sentences in the 1960s.

The Danish Henry George Union has never been involved in party politics, but as many of its members were also members of political parties, most of them of the Justice Party, the common opinion is that the Danish Henry George Union is identical with the Justice Party, which is completely wrong.

In order to emphasize that the Danish Henry George Union is not oriented to any political party, but open for all georgists, we have tried very hard to distance from all parties and especially from the Justice Party, and if we in the name of The Danish Henry George Union ever touch or refer to a political party, we always touch or refer to more than one political party.

No comments: