by Paul Martin
Having listened, for the last eleven years, to conversations about the trajectory of the “georgist movement,” I observe that many of us hold little hope for “georgist success” occurring in our lifetime. Battle-weary folks, who have seen it all, may appreciate a newcomer’s enthusiasm, but they know that things are not likely to change and have emotionally and functionally hunkered down for a “long term approach.”
Then there are those among us who take a more ambitious view of the possibility of greater advance in the short term, but are frustrated by the limitations within the georgist funding organizations. These folks lament the apparent self-induced poverty and seeming suicidal impulse of the “movement.” They point out, with bitter irony, that the “georgist movement,” which includes three fairly well-endowed foundations supposedly dedicated to promoting the teachings of HG, suffers from the same dysfunctional distribution of wealth that we are trying to get the outside world to recognize.
Lastly, there are the people who are actively looking for what has been termed in georgist circles as the “magic bullet” solution. Some such proposals seem outlandish or fanciful, while others would require a level of funding, energy investment, or organized cooperation unheard of in the history of the “movement.” These approaches have been manifested in visions of a “great awakening,” “shock therapy,” or a “blockbuster initiative.”
In the case of the Instituto Henry George, now the HGIEC, we passed through the various phases of enthusiastic optimism; disappointed cynicism; frustrated blaming of others, God, the world; philosophical lethargy; fanciful hopefulness, etc. Like many others, we kept believing that we had to go on. Yet the painful fact remains that without the gathering of a numerous georgist horde, even if only in one place, we will likely not have the influence on society that we are all so ardently want. I think most of us agree that we need numbers. Gaining numbers is the key to our “success.”
Here’s what I think the problem may be. We make our message clearer, more succinct, better taught, more acceptable, more current, more credible, more authoritative, easier to access, etc., but the world doesn’t get it because the world isn’t supposed to get it. That’s why it’s the “world.” We think we are supposed to convince a non-georgist world to embrace georgist ideas and take georgist action. If we step back for a minute, we can see that that is an absurdly losing proposition. Who wants georgism? Only georgists do. Experience shows that you can talk yourself blue in the face “the remedy,” but if someone doesn’t have the basic understanding of political economy that George provides in P&P, then they can only go so far in understanding — and then just drop it from their minds as the invasively foreign element it is.
All successful religions and membership groups started out as flakey marginal cults like the georgist movement. They had to accept that if they didn’t grow internally first, they would never be taken seriously and hence be able to influence the world at large. Some, like Alcoholics Anonymous and the 12-Step groups it engendered, with memberships now numbering in the millions, didn’t even primarily want to influence society. They focused on building their membership internally and their influence on society came as a natural result through example and attraction. That is the strategy that is missing from the georgist “movement.” It is the missing link that can become the backbone of a true social movement of people who share the vision of the georgist social reform proposal.
The Georgist Community Fund project is an attempt to create this missing link. The GCF is a demonstration of: 1) the public collection of the economic rent of a community, 2) the equitable distribution of the benefit of the community rent among members of the community, and 3) individual freedom of membership and participation. During the year, members of the GCF can donate to the fund of the GCF (completely voluntarily) their “surplus net rent income,” and at the end of the year, each active member will receive a fair share of the fund as a “citizen dividend” as demonstration of the distribution of the communal rent. There is no requirement to donate to the fund, but each member will receive a distribution at the end of every year!
The GCF does not supplant or compete with existing georgist membership organizations; it does what no other georgist organization does. It gathers, defines, and organizes the world-wide georgist community into a coherent self-aware body, concentrating and multiplying the influence of each individual georgist.
So, we invite all georgists to apply for membership and go through the GCF qualification process. Don’t criticize from the sidelines. Your participation will encourage others to join. The GCF is not a “silver bullet,” but it just may be the missing
element that will transform the georgist “secret” into the growing georgist movement we all desire. Full information on the GCF application process is available at our website.