Idle Pipe Dreams
The land tax as the only means of supporting the government is an infinitely just, reasonable, and equitably distributed tax, and on it we will found our new system.
Dr Sun Yat-Sen, 1912
We didn’t start off meaning to rant on anywhere near as much of this, we started out just doing a few sleeve notes, but it got out of control. We’ve tried to organise it a bit, but we own that it’s very rambling. We thought we should explain where we’re coming from as a band. On whatever date we wrote this sentence, we were desperately trying to work out how we could wrap it up. We were going to ditch a lot of it but we don’t feel like taking it out now, for this is our bewilderment, this is how we find the world to be.
And often it feels like: please let this be wrong. Please let the way we’ve seen the world here be an ignorant misunderstanding on our part, for we’re not experts. Let it be just how it seems but it’s not really like that if you understand how it really works. Anyway, that’s our ramble through some key events of 20th century and before and up to the present day.
But are we trying to say that, had the world listened to Henry George, the 20th century would have been absolutely and completely different; peaceful, noble and golden, enlightened and soulful? Convivial.
Might the world, all of the world, have become truly wealthy, in every way? The freeing and almost immediate re-imprisoning of the colonies of the Western empires, trapped in the ideological machinations of the developed world, might have been a very different story?
For a brief period in history, a brief flare in the long darkness of man’s domination of his fellows, it looked like being a different story. Might it have been that millions of innocent lives not been senselessly lost in nightmarish wars? That the growth of this immense overbearing power borne of the self-feeding rationale of military security and secrecy could have been avoided? The insane ideological struggle of false isms, and the pernicious manifestations which have forged themselves from nobler ideas and cloaked even the idea of justice from the world, might have been rejected. Might the 20th century have worked out very differently?
You could say we’re dreamers, and we couldn’t counter the charge. But just join us for a moment in naïve and abandoned daydreamery about things somehow turning out differently in, say, 1909, when Lloyd George and Winston Churchill pushed through the People’s Budget in Britain. The House of Lords vetoed it. But maybe some people’s mobilisation in support of the primacy of the House of Commons, fired by the rousing rhetoric of Winston Churchill, emergency legislation, surely could have carried the day.
And around the same time in Russia, Tolstoy, a formidable communicator, had managed to persuade Czar Nicholas II of the imperative of freeing the people and reaping the true bounty of that vast country with the adoption of Henry George’s ideas. (Had it been Nicholas II’s predecessor, Alexander II, the Liberator, he might have prevailed.) Britain and Russia, this would have greatly strengthened the very real movement in the USA, perhaps, a country still very familiar with the idea, and tipped the balance there. Churchill would have represented it well in America.
And in 1912, Sun Yat-Sen, a devotee of Henry George, came to power in China, and would, had he prevailed, have instituted Georgist arrangements in China. (In fact, Sun Yat-Sen's ideas were implemented by Chian Kai-Shek in Taiwan, to Taiwan’s huge benefit, miraculous it was said.)
Britain, USA, Russia, and later China, Australia, the then British Empire, pursuing policies of economic justice and peace, that would have indeed been a critical mass. And such a historical development in the world would surely have headed off all the horrible history to come. How could indelible justice not then have inevitably spread globally?
And in 1913, simultaneous to these huge developments, Frank Shuman built the world’s first solar power station in Egypt. In our pipedream WWI has been avoided, Shuman then builds a solar power station on 60,000 acres in Sudan; this plant and subsequent projects become the spark and the fuel for scientific and technological development, and the multifarious toxins of oil are never released into the world.
Everything else necessary soon follows, and the world then keeps on getting better and better and never looks back. Before too long, the 60,000 acres in Sudan are paying economic rent to the Sudanese people.
Could all this have happened before the Federal Reserve Act of 1913, which allegedly entrenched the money power’s domination of America? Maybe 1909 was the key moment. The Bank of England would perhaps have caused a money panic – and perhaps it wouldn’t have mattered, once people had taken over the economy and had split the people’s tally sticks. Wisdom could have been unleashed, and the will of central bankers could not have prevailed in such an age. Of all monopolies, the monopoly of being able to magic something vital into existence and sell it to everybody, would surely have shrivelled in the blinding light of justice and the laughter of the people.
And there would be Democracy, in a real sense. A democracy of equals and not the philosopher kings of Plato’s Republic, much more the wisdom of the crowd. The great flaw of democracy has been that politicians, academics, publishers, one way or another, become corrupted and controlled by monopolists. Democracy can’t work because the true analysis of affairs has been subverted and it democracy has to try to work through the mesh of a false and unjust idea and try to make justice out of it, but it can’t be done. Democracy can only really work in the conditions proposed by Henry George.
(Of course, if the world had embraced Henry George’s teachings and history had taken a another course, probably none of us would be here to ever worry about it, it’d be a few billion alternative people that didn’t exist and we did instead. But that’s a bit much for us and it’s for someone else’s website.)
Permit us to dream a little more, if the cat had truly been seen, if somehow the cat of wisdom had been let out of the bag in this age, it is certain that a world of peace and prosperity would then have unfolded, a world of global economic justice, with a lot less government, no monopolies anywhere, a lot more prosperity, with complete and perpetual robustness to that prosperity, and vanished reason for war. There would never have been any reason for war. The giant forces of the world would have dissolved away.
Biosphere distress, climate dislocation, was always coming along one day, (though Frank Shuman’s efforts were enough to have saved us from this) but we think it not at all fanciful that sensible reactions would have been agreed much earlier, because a superior kind of society would surely have evolved. Because people would be free and independent, and this in itself would have brought them more sense and/or intelligence, wisdom, whatever, and maybe … just imagine if all the money and research and engineering brilliance that had gone into the armaments race had gone into, say, technologies to gather all the energy which we’re naturally surrounded with, and technologies to draw carbon out of the atmosphere, and that this had happened decades ago as it could have done. There really shouldn’t have been anything to fight about in the first place.
A sensible and positive response could have been expected, because the threat would have been approached rationally, aided by governments who truly were the servants of the people and nobody else. This is very dreamy wonderland, whatever, but it would have been a question posed to a society which would have been in every way more advanced than the world we have trapped ourselves into.
And the tragedy is of these isms, and neoisms, all of them false creeds, misrepresentations, is that Henry George had described and explained clearly the problem and the remedy. Henry George had solved that jigsaw, and it stands solved and complete; now and again people stumble across it, now and again people discover elements of it themselves, and always find the same result.
there is a Middle Way. There is a body of socio-economic truth which incorporates the best insights of both Capitalism and Socialism. Yet they are not insights that are artificially woven together to form a deliberate compromise. Instead, they arise naturally, with a kind of inner logic, from the profound ethical distinction which is the system’s core. They arise remorselessly from an understanding of the meaning of the commandment: “Thou shalt not steal.” This Middle Way is the philosophy associated with the name of Henry George.
We like Andelson’s words, but we disagree with him about this being a Middle Way. Socialism and Capitalism are false actors, born of a mistake, an obscured and distorted description of economic factors as understood in classical economics. Henry George’s way is not in the middle of these philosophies, it is that his description of economics is the whole and the true picture, of which Socialism and Capitalism have been suckered into a struggle over only part of. It’s not a middle way, it’s the way. Those other ways are the deliberate and contrived misunderstanding, and Henry George’s insight is the understanding.
This is idle pipe dreaming, of course. But why is it as naïve as it obviously is? This is what should have happened, and the reason it didn’t happen is what? Is it that realpolitik thing, that everything that happens is by the acceptance of the law of power, that there is just a lot of power somewhere, which needs to be accommodated; that it is just the way it is.