Listening

Usually our cover offers some sort of topical reflection of major themes dealt with in that issue. Not so, this time — the cover merely reminds us that war grinds on, shattering lives and accomplishing nothing. War is certainly a Georgist issue — indeed, in some ways, war is the Georgist issue. In a just, prosperous society, affording ample opportunity for everyone, wouldn’t the underlying cause of war be removed? Wouldn’t our weapons either be beaten into plowshares, or displayed in museums as historical curiosities?

I happened to hear a recent radio interview with Thich Nhat Hanh, who said that war is caused by “wrong perception.” At first glance that seemed naïve — but the more I thought about it, the truer it seemed. In fact, I think we can demonstrate the truth of that, even without venturing into controversial areas of foreign policy. If we can assume that human beings are capable, at the very least, of acting rationally on the information they have, then we must admit that making war is a desperate act. It is undertaken in the belief that the consequences of making war — which are always disastrous — will be better than the consequences of not doing so. But — has war ever made anything better, even for the victor? It may have seemed to, sometimes, for imperial powers, in the short term. But, Latifundia perdidere Italiam. War has never been the right choice; it has never yielded a better outcome than peace. The notion that it might do so is indeed a wrong perception.

I know no more of Thich Nhat Hanh than what I heard in this interview, but what I heard made a lot of sense. He suggested more and better listening. People who have a grievance, who belive that they have been victims of injustice, he said, should be invited to speak aloud in public, and be listened to (not “dialogued with,” critiqued or criticized, mind you, but listened to). I think that’s a very good idea.

Perhaps there’s a lesson there for us, too — we who have so much to say. We’re always frustrated that nobody is willing to listen to us. But are we listening enough? It’s possible to be so busy saying what you have to say that you might even be heard — and not realize it. That can happen sometimes. You might miss it. How often have you heard someone report on a conversation — from only one side?

“I told her, blah, de blah, de blah…”

“That’s interesting. How did she respond to what you told her?”

“Huh?”

This issue of the Georgist Journal explores a wide variety of perpectives on that crazy little thing we call the land question. I hope you’ll find many of them worth a listen.

HGI News

In a very close election for Board of Directors this year, Mike Curtis and Mark Sullivan were re-elected, and newcomers Dayton Toney Loyd and Gordon Abiama were elected to the Board. Special congratulations to those two stalwart volunteers, both of whom have worked tirelessly to further the Georgist cause — welcome aboard!

The Henry George Institute’s ’06 membership drive didn’t set the world on fire, but yielded decent results. A total of 47 contributors sent in $2,360 more that their regular dues — and none of them was over $200, so participation this year was quite broad. Thanks to everyone — and if we owe you a membership card or a premium, don’t hesitate to let us know!

We enrolled 122 students in 2006, and had 36 completions. Our volunteer faculty still has time and energy to handle more students! And there are various opportunities for volunteer service, such as recruiting new students, contacting lapsed students, and doing online outreach. There’s a huge market out there, and the HGI is poised to grow! And if you haven’t visited us on the web recently, please do stop by www.henrygeorge.org, www.truefreetrade.org, www.politicaleconomy.org, or www.landreform.org!

— Lindy Davies

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