The Top Ten Obvious Facts for Georgists

10. Wage Rates Don’t Depend on Productivity.

We hear a lot about lifting oneself by one’s own bootstraps — but that can’t be done unless there’s a pool of poor saps to lift oneself above. Education and training can help an individual to compete — but competition, of abundant workers for scarce jobs, drives wages down even while overall productivity increases.

9. Technological Progress Reduces the Value of Products.

Look at today’s low prices for a microwave oven, a gigabyte of digital memory, a dress shirt or a car that gets 35 mpg and goes from 0 to 60 in seven seconds. We just can’t blame our eroding standard of living on the prices of the goods we buy.

8. Land Is Not Produced by Labor.

It just isn’t, and that makes land fundamentally different from things that are produced by labor. Economists have tried and failed to get around this fact, in many complex and convoluted ways, for a century.

7. Money Is Not Wealth.

It doesn’t matter to me: the money in my checking account is fully exchangeable for valuable stuff, even for currency in other countries, or for land. But in the aggregate — which is what we must consider in political economy — goods & services exchange for goods & services; money just makes that process easier.

6. There are 3, and Only 3, Factors of Production.

The processes of production and distribution can be best analyzed in terms of three mutually exclusive factors: labor, capital and land. Two- or four-factor schemes are needlessly ambiguous, and lack explanatory power.

5. The Most Valuable Natural Resource is Urban Land.

This is true, both in the simple sense of dollar value per acre, and in the more expansive sense of “ecological footprint.” Misuse and waste of urban land ramifies into waves of misuse and waste throughout the economy.

4. You Can’t Put Two Things in the Same Place at the Same Time.

Not ever. Not even terabyte servers on the Internet can remove the need to monopolize a certain place, at a certain point in time, in order to accomplish any physical action. We cannot rationalize or assume away our material needs, their value, and — therefore — the paramount issue of who controls that value.

3. Most Americans are Land Speculators.

Not so obvious? Perhaps not on the surface. But even in today’s “foreclosure crisis,” over 67% of US families “own” their homes. Most pay far more than they’d have to pay to rent similar real estate. They could be saving that extra money, or spending it in other ways, but they choose to hope for the appreciation of that land under their houses. One suspects this could be a major reason why the Georgist remedy fails to catch on.

2. Human Desires are Unlimited.

A truism, but it explains a lot. As Henry George explains, “The incentives to progress are the desires inherent in human nature — the desire to gratify the wants of the animal nature, the wants of the intellectual nature, and the wants of the sympathetic nature; the desire to be, to know, and to do — desires that short of infinity can never be satisfied, as they grow by what they feed on.”

1. “The Land Shall Not Be Sold Forever, for You are Strangers and Sojourners with Me.”

Even if one doesn’t believe the “Word of God,” this perception is supported both by common sense and legal tradition. Legally, “land ownership” is defined as a “bundle of rights” that attach to the land. These rights — not the land per se — are what gets bought and sold. It really is not possible to own the land. If we truly believe that we do, we find ourselves on perilous spiritual footing — equating ourselves with the land’s Creator.

— Mike Curtis & Lindy Davies

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