Beware the “Not So” Georgists

by Jonathan Hall

A major thing that confuses people about Georgism is that it transcends the confused mind sets of “evil state” or “good state.” Either side of that great false dichotomy is fascinated with its own spurious assumptions — and thus they both do great damage to the simple concept of peace, but in different ways.

The right thinks that private property in land is the bastion of freedom which can only be threatened by the monstrous state. But they cannot face the hypocrisy that both the landlord and the state seize, exclude, legislate and confiscate. The only standing answer to this is the poor one supplied by the left. The right seeks to destroy the left, as an ugly man might try and destroy his ugly shadow. The left then rests its case, not on any principle at all, but merely a recognition that something is wrong — which can be fixed with some good old fashioned seizing, or “virtuous taxation.”

The left say they are “here to help” — which means they are here to take control of allocation decisions: a finger in every pie, a piece of every action.

When people from the right come into Georgism, they are immediately confronted with the landlord/state hypocrisy and if they think things through, they fold on their faulty assumptions about the state being the only evil — which brings them pretty close to the Georgist truth.

One of the great successes of the Koch family assault on libertarianism is the cultivation of paranoid cranks, helping them pretend that they are the guardians of liberty. The most powerful supremacist conversion is the one that takes the energy of alienation and self-loathing and turns it into dogmatic hate. The mob thus formed is impervious to influence or reason — ready to obey political monsters.

People from the left have no core belief to give up, so no great conversion can happen there. They tend to incorporate or adapt Georgism into the mishmash of beliefs they already hold. But Georgism doesn’t really adapt; it’s just a set of associated tautologies on the meaning of freedom, and an optional but effective solution to the act of forced exclusion. Tautologies don’t bend, don’t adapt. And so, while the adapting lefty might give a wave and toss a kiss at the concept of individual freedom, they just aren’t into that. Its not their motivating assumption. And what’s worse, the right has been throwing “individual freedom” at them for years. Having never bothered to unearth the base hypocrisy of the right, the left has instead learned to ignore or even revile the concept of individual liberty.

This creates a cottage industry of ways to assail the individual via the false gods. Priorities that abandon sense: “Social contract,” “Democracy,” “Christian Charity,” “decent society,” “human dignity,” blah blah blah. These are just dressings put on the fallacious appeal to authority, to cover their particular version of utilitarianism.

The ultimate goal of the left is not to cure social problems, but to hold force. In that way the right and the left are identical. Full circle back to thieves of different colors. The right are the thieves of pre-production (land), and the left are the thieves of post-production (wealth).

This means that left versions of Georgism can’t quite give up on the sticky fingers. All this land rent becomes the manna from heaven for the CD or the BIG. (Basic Income Guarantee, a slogan worthy of Madison Ave.) Then LVT becomes a means for redistribution instead of the direct and limited reaction to the exclusion. That’s not Georgism: it’s just a raid on the recovered externality.

People, in our search for better ways to use the earth, have recognized that some decisions on the use of the commons of freedom are best not made in common. And so exclusive use is granted in that end. But this simple pragmatic act has been conflated with property in created goods, and used to excuse and perpetrate all kinds of attacks on freedom. Georgism denies that the left and right are opposites, exposing their separate hypocrisies to reveal how they are the same.

In its purest form Georgism is used to undo aggression. This sets it fundamentally apart from the agendas of the right or the left. It sets a different course that contradicts both by making only appeals to peace and the justice of freedom and equality. Instead of aggression and counter-aggression, Georgism is the way of peace.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.