Georgist Responds to Royal Libertarian

With great humility, an allodial ‘libertarian’ (that is, one who believes that land may be owned absolutely, without any annual rent or charge whatsoever for the privilege of exclusive ownership) wrote:

"You should not presume to speak on behalf of libertarians, since you are obviously in the position of not understanding."

"Instead you should ask for clarifications."

To which Dan Sullivan responded:

"OK. Complete novice that I am, I will undoubtedly benefit from your erudition on what the following passages mean. Please do explain them. Feel free to interpret each sentence and go into detail, so that we might benefit from your intellectual prowess:"

From Albert J. Nock, founder and first editor of The Freeman, and author of Our Enemy the State, which you can get from Laissez Faire Books:

“The only reformer abroad in the world in my time who interested me in the least was Henry George, because his project did not contemplate prescription, but, on the contrary, would reduce it to almost zero. He was the only one of the lot who believed in freedom, or (as far as I could see) had any approximation to an intelligent idea of what freedom is, and of the economic prerequisites to attaining it….One is immensely tickled to see how things are coming out nowadays with reference to his doctrine, for George was in fact the best friend the capitalist ever had. He built up the most complete and most impregnable defense of the rights of capital that was ever constructed, and if the capitalists of his day had had sense enough to dig in behind it, their successors would not now be squirming under the merciless exactions which collectivism is laying on them, and which George would have no scruples whatever about describing as sheer highwaymanry.”

from Nock, The God’s Lookout February 1934, p. 320-324

“So long as the State stands as an impersonal mechanism which can confer an economic advantage at the mere touch of a button, men will seek by all sorts of ways to get at the button, because law-made property is acquired with less exertion than labour-made property. It is easier to push the button and get some form of State-created monopoly like a land-title, a tarriff, concession or franchise, and pocket the proceeds, than it is to accumulate the same by work. Thus a political theory that admits any positive intervention by the State upon the individual has always this natural law to reckon with…”

The American state at the outset took over the British principle of giving landlords a monopoly of economic rent. That shifted the switch; it established the State’s character as a purveyor of privilege. Then financial speculators sought a privilege, and Hamilton, with his “corrupt squadron in Congress,” as Mr. Jefferson called them, arranged it. Then bankers, then industrialists; Hamilton also arranged that. Then, as the century went on, innumerable industrial subgroups, and subclasses of special interest, were heard from, and were accommodated. Then farmers, artisans, ex-soldiers, promoters of public utilities, began to accumulate political power with a view toward privilege. Now, since the advent of universal sufferage, we are seeing the curious spectacle of the “unemployed” automatically transformed into the strongest kind of pressure-group; their numerical strength and consequent voting-power compelled Mr. Roosevelt to embrace the extroadinary doctrine that the State owes its citizens a living–an expedient little noticed at the time, I believe, but profoundly interesting to the student of historical continuity.

Moreover,…when the State confers a privilege, natural law impels the beneficiary to work it for all it is worth; and therefore the State must at once initiate a whole series of positive interventions to safeguard, control, and regulate that privilege. A steady grist of “social” legislation must be ground; bureaus, boards and commissions must be set up, each with its eleborate mechanism; and thus bureaucracy comes into being. As the distribution of privilege goes on, the spawning of these regulative and supervisory agencies also goes on; and the result is a continuous enhancement of State power and a progressive weakening of social power, until, as in Rome after the Antonines, social power is quite extinguished–the invidual lives, moves, and has his being only for the governmental machine, and society exists only in the service of the State. Meanwhile, at every step in this process, natural law is pushing interested persons, groups and factions on to get clandestine control of these supervisory agencies and use them for their own advantage; and thus a rapid general corruption sets in, for which no cure has ever yet been found, and from which no recovery has ever yet been made.

James Buchanan (1986):

The landowner who withdraws land from productive use to a purely private use should be required to pay higher, not lower, taxes.

[I don’t know much about Mr. Buchanan. Is he a Marxist?]

Adam Smith Wealth of Nations

As soon as the land of any country has all become private property, the landlords, like all other men, love to reap where they never sowed.

Nicolai Lenin:

“Henry George is the capitalist’s last ditch.”

[Since you say Georgism is Marxist, and since Lenin is surely Marxist, then this must be some kind of cryptic endorsement. Perhaps you could decrypt it?]

Thomas Jefferson:

[Feel free to skip the first four paragraphs, which are undoubtedly due to Marx’s influence on Jefferson. I particularly would like to hear your analysis of the last and longest quote.]

“I set out on this ground, which I suppose to be self-evident, that the earth belongs in usufruct to the living; that the dead have neither powers nor rights over it. The portion occupied by any individual ceases to be his when he ceases to be, and reverts to the society…”

“Whenever there are in any country uncultivated lands and unemployed poor, it is clear that the laws of property have been so far extended as to violate natural right.

“In Europe the lands [that are not] cultivated are locked up against the cultivator. …This begets dependence, subservience and venality, suffocates the germ of virtue and prepares fit tools for the design of ambition.

“I think our governments will remain long as there are vacant lands [available] in any part of America. When [Americans] get piled up on each other in large cities, as in Europe, they will become corrupt, as in Europe.”

“That the lands within the limits assumed by a nation belong to the nation as a body has probably been the law of every people on earth at some period of their history. A right of property in movable things is admitted before the establishment of government. A separate property in lands not till after that establishment. The right to moveables is acknowledged by all the hordes of Indians surrounding us. Yet by no one of them has a separate property in lands been yeilded for individuals. He who plants a field keeps possession till he has gathered the produce, after which one has as good a right as another to occupy it. Government must be established and laws provided, before lands can be separately appropriated and their owner protected in his possession. Till then the property is in the body of the nation.”

[This intro is from The World’s Great Speeches, 1942, Garden City Publishing, Inc.]

“Richard Cobden [1804-1865], statesman and economist, has won world fame as a powerful advocate of free trade.”

“I hold that the Landed proprietors are the parties who are responsible if the laborers have not employment. You have absolute power; there is no doubt about that. You can, if you please, legislate for the laborers, or yourselves.”

Frank Choderov: Second editor of The Freeman, and author of One is a Crowd and Income Tax, Root of All Evil. This quote is out of From Christmas to Christmas Analysis, vol 1., No. 4:

“On earth as it is in Heaven.” Whatever Heaven connotes to the theologian, to the layman it sublimates the highest aspiration of the human spirit– which is Freedom. Can a Heaven which embraces slavery, economic or political, have any meaning? It is fantastic, blasphemous, if you will, to speak of Heaven-on-earth as a place where one man must pay another for the privilege of living. Surely, the Milky Way has not been reduced to private ownership, nor are the Elysian Fields preempted and for sale.

“Then again, are the standards of eternal life fixed by monopoly exactions? Is there a tax on immortality? Do soulbureaucrats hound the spirits into collectivized subjectivity? Or rather, do we not think of Heaven-on-earth as an existence wherein every man may do that which he will, provided he infringe not on the equal right of every other man?…”

[Perhaps you could not only interpret Herbert Spencer’s meaning, but answer his questions? Then he and I will both become enlightened by you.]

From Social Statics

“It can never be pretended that the existing titles to landed property are legitimate. The original deeds were written with the sword, soldiers were the conveyancers, blows were the current coin given in exchange, and for seals, blood. Those who say that ‘time is a great legalizer” must find satisfactory answers to such questions as — How long does it take for what was originally wrong to become right? At what rate per annum does an invalid claim become valid?”

Stephen Pearl Andrews is quoted here from Liberty and the Great Libertarians, which, according to Laissez Faire books, “offers choice selections from many of the greatest authors on liberty”

Andrews’ works include Comparison of the Common Law with the Roman, French or Spanish Civil Law, The Constitution of Government in the Sovereignty of the Individual, from which this quote is taken:

“The very foundation principles of the ownership of lands, as vested in individuals and protected by law, cannot escape much longer from a searching and radical investigation…. Land reform, in its present aspect, is merely the prologue to a thorough and unsparing, but philosophical and equitable agrarianism, by means of which either the land itself, or an equal participation in the benefits of the land, shall be secured to the whole people. Science, not human legislation, must finally govern the distribution of the soil.

Robert G. Ingersoll, as quoted in Liberty and the Great Libertarians, p. 189

“Now, the land belongs to the children of nature. Nature invites into this world every babe who is born. And what would you think of me, for instance, tonight, if I had invited you here — nobody had charged anything, but you had been invited — and when you got here you had found one man pretending to occupy a hundred seats, another fifty, another seventy five, and thereupon you were compelled to stand up — what would you think of the invitation? It seems to me that every child of nature is entitled to his share of land, and that he should not be compelled to beg the privilege to work the soil of a babe that happened to be born before him.”

Louis F. Post as quoted in Liberty and the Great Libertarians, p. 349, Land Liberty and Justice

“Since in justice rights are equal, there must in justice be equal rights to land. Without land man cannot sustain life. It is to him as water to the fish or air to the bird — his natural environment. And if to get land whereby to support life, any man is compelled to give his labor or the products of his labor to another, to that extent his liberty is denied him and his right to pursue happiness is obstructed. Enforced toil without pay is the essence of slavery, and permission to use land can be no pay for toil; he who give it parts with nothing that any man ever earned, and he who gets it acquires nothing that nature would not freely offer him but for the interference of land monopolists.”

[That last sentence deserves detailed analysis]

Edwin C. Walker, from Liberty and the Great Libertarians

The conception and the facts of liberty and slavery result from association, not isolation; and the sparseness or density of population, the simplicity or complexity of association, will create the customs, rules and laws governing human relations. Therefore, what the solitary man may rightfully do is no measure of what he may rightfully do when he comes into contact with another man. The liberty of one is conditioned upon the liberty of the other.

William Lloyd Garrison, as quoted in Liberty and the Great Libertarians, p.355

Men mistake when they imagine the Single Tax agitation to aim only at fiscal change, a new method of taxation. Its sole purpose is to secure the larger freedom of the race. It is not the method but the result that is precious. For it is idle to talk of the equal rights of men when the one thing essential to such equality is withheld. The Physiocrats of France grasped the central truth, and saw that freedom of natural opportunity, comprosed in the term land, was the foundation-stone of freedom and justice. Had the French Revolution proceeded along their line, it would have had a different ending. The succeeding spectre of Napoleon, devastating Europe and wading through the blood of his sacrificed countrymen to the throne, would not have affrighted mankind. The fruits of liberty would have been gathered.

Luke North (Editor of Everyman) as quoted in Liberty and the Great Libertarians, p. 356

The demand of the centuries, never so virile and insistent as today, is for equal freedom. The modern Everyman asks not for himself what all may not have. The asking were vain, indeed, for there is no freedom till all are free. Master and slave are bound by the same thong. Human solidarity is not a moral fancy but a stern fact.

Karl Hess, Sr., speechwriter for Barry Goldwater and creator and first editor of the Libertarian Party News:

“All taxes should be placed on land values until the state is abolished entirely.”

[Of course, Hess also said, “I loved education, which is why I spent as little time as possible in school.” This is suspiciously similar, if not as succinct, as the quote by George Bernard Shaw in my tagline. Perhaps, then, Karl Hess was also a Marxist Collectivist. There is one under every bed, you know.]

Dan Sullivan

“The only time my education was interrupted was when I was in school.” – George Bernard Shaw

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