Geonomics: what ever happened to the movement Henry George started?

by Scott Baker

Henry George, in his classic, and best-selling economics book of all time, Progress and Poverty, which sold 2 million copies in its first year - 1879 - laid out the remedy to end poverty AND spur growth and prosperity. By taxing natural resources and untaxing wages and capital (real capital such as trucks, ships, cranes etc.), one would return plenty of money to the community, via taxes, while still allowing honest entrepreneurs and laborers to earn a living. In short, there IS a free lunch.

See my previous articles on Geonomics for more detail:
Geonomics and the true cost of poverty
A new form of Capitalism: Geonomics
A new form of capitalism is needed: Geonomics
or any of a vast number of articles on Georgism or Geonomics available on the Web.

George nearly won the NYC mayoral election, twice; his son came in third the second time when George died prematurely at 58 in 1897. The first time, he came in third while Tammany Hall installed its hand-picked candidate, and second to a young up-and-comer, Teddy Roosevelt.

Still, George's ideas were broadly adopted, not only here, but world-wide, especially in the early part of the 20th century. They worked, and continue to work, in somewhat attenuated form, in Norway - where oil revenues are returned to the people, who have a higher per capita living standard than Americans; in Pittsburgh, whose renaissance building boom was fueled by a land value tax; in Detroit, where there was practically nothing to tax but land, until the automakers firmly established themselves, and the politicians lost their way and started taxing wages and capital (exactly the wrong approach in Motown) etc.
So, is that is then? Does Georgism, now Geonomics contain a fatal flaw, one that allows it to lift communities off the ground, but then withers away, like its founder? No, the answer is more complex than that, and has to do with the enduring power of monopolists to reframe the debate, even the very terms of the debate - something even George lived to rail against in his final, slightly unfinished book, The Science of Political Economy (an abridged version can be found online or ordered by clicking on the link).

Remember who is giving money to the universities, who sit on subsidized land. It is the wealthy donors, who inevitably got that way by having some sort of resource monopoly - land, oil (John D. Rockefeller), steel (Andrew Carnegie), railroads (William Vanderbilt) etc. - who frame, or reframe the economic debate. Do you think they want to hear George's message that the land and other natural resources they grew wealthy upon were really stolen from the people? Not likely. They're not called Robber Barrons for nothing, however.
For more about how Georgism was sidelined, read Professor Mason Gaffney's excellent article, The Corruption of Economics.

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