Fixed to a Star
The only function of economic forecasting is to make astrology look respectable
JK Galbraith is a highly respected economist of the 20th century who had some good things to say, but he believes that land is a commodity like any other commodity. His quote seems to evoke a void at the heart of modern economics, blind to the dark matter which would make the equations work. In the swirls of confusion created by this lack of understanding, economic justice becomes indefinable and chimeric.
Of course, we try and talk to people about economic justice. And we’re going to write some more notes, in time, about the problem of communicating the remedy to people, because it certainly is problematic. As someone close said:
Sorry, you lost me as soon as you said tax.
And after all, it isn’t a tax. Must do better.
This is a very good article to read which communicates very well, entitled Henry George’s Remedy: Is It Right? Will It Work?
It’s true, it can difficult to communicate in these days. But, on the other hand, we have already seen confirmation of the truth of Tolstoy’s words:
People do not argue with the teachings of Henry George; they simply do not know it. He who becomes acquainted with it cannot but agree.
So, there can be certainty there that the object of communication is definitely the truth. And in talking about the truth, actually, it isn’t the truth because some fellow named Henry George explained it all so well in 1879, it’s the truth because it’s the truth, that arises from nature, and Henry George would claim no ownership of it.
When George first published his insight as a pamphlet, Our Land and Land Policy, he was handing out copies on a street corner in San Francisco, and he wrote of his delight and relief when a passer-by told him that what he was proposing was the same as the French economists had been proposing earlier in the century. This was a movement called the Physiocrats, who had partially seen what Henry George saw and revealed, just as the classical economists like Smith, Ricardo and Mill, Locke, earlier, had all partially seen and expressed it.
Henry George said:
When I published 'Our Land and Land Policy,' I had not even heard of the Physiocrats and the impot unique. But I knew that if it was really a star I had seen, others must have seen it too.
A star that he had seen that others too must have seen was an image that stuck with us, and it brought to mind another quote we’d seen from Leonardo da Vinci, of uncertain meaning, but which we feel we see a meaning in:
He who is fixed to a star does not change his mind.
We’re taking the star as meaning a truth, as a great and noble vision and an unalterable, natural truth. As Henry George wrote:
(Political Economy) may be argued in a great many different ways, but I prefer the ground that its opponents have taken, the ground of justice. I believe that justice is the supreme law of the universe.
Henry George didn’t change his mind. From 1871, he spent the last 26 years of his life picking fights, looking for arguments, telling people around the world what their rights are. Henry George didn’t say anything different, the ideas expressed in Progress and Poverty didn’t evolve an iota, for it was complete. Others, principally Mason Gaffney, have developed it, proven it, found further analyses and arguments George missed; the basic analysis remains irrefutable. Henry George never heard anyone make an sound argument against him, there is none to be made.
Albert Einstein said:
Politics is for the present, but an equation is for eternity.
Henry George, in Progress and Poverty, having examined the laws of rent, wages and interest, says:
In the statement we have given, all the laws spring from a single point. They support and supplement each other. Together they form correlating divisions of a complete whole.
George later wrote The Science of Political Economy, initially intending a primer in economics and the natural laws it must move by, but he found himself writing at a time when, having clarified and completed classical economics, he could see the weaving mists of a new mystification of economics. He wrote SPE to insist that political economics is a science.
In the afterword to the book, Lindy Davies says:
As a "primer of political economy", George's work still stands. If one uses it as the author intended, as a "template on which emerging details can be coherently arranged", it can offer the modern student a great deal of insight into contemporary questions.
Lindy drew the phrase template on which emerging details can be coherently arranged from an article by Mark Solms, in Scientific American, May, 2004, where Lindy says Solms was:
referring to the role of Darwin’s theory in modern molecular genetics – and though it had long been thought otherwise, the role of Freud’s ideas in modern neuroscience. It is widely contended that Henry George’s theoretic contributions, despite having long been held in disrepute, must eventually assume their proper place as just such a template for economic science.
George's equations are as irrefutable as geometry. This is the star he had seen and he was fixed to. This is an equation for eternity.
So, we are fixed to a star now, we see that there are unalterable natural laws; working with them produces wonderful results, and working against them will produce negative results, and that's the way it is. Negative results are becoming increasingly evident. Once seen, it’s a very simple truth, as the big important ones are.
If Henry George had seen a star, of course others had also seen it. Thomas Paine, a century earlier, saw it clearly in his pamphlet Agrarian Justice, in 1795:
There could be no such thing as landed property originally. Man did not make the earth, and, though he had a natural right to occupy it, he had no right to locate as his property in perpetuity any part of it; neither did the Creator of the earth open a land-office, from whence the first title-deeds should issue.
And it’s so right what Thomas Paine is saying that, also from the same book, a clear expression of what Henry George would come to see and then take to its full conclusions. Paine said:
There are two kinds of property. Firstly, natural property, or that which comes to us from the Creator of the universe – such as the earth, air, water. Secondly, artificial or acquired property – the invention of men. In the natural property all individuals have legitimate birthrights. Men did not make the earth. It is the value of the improvement only, and not the earth itself, that is individual property…
I care not how affluent some may be, provided that none be miserable in consequence of it.
It could be seen by anyone, anytime, and once seen, the essential ideas are obvious and cannot reasonably be contended. The basic understanding is ancient. It could be what Confucius was getting at 2,500 years ago when he said, (paraphrased):
Once, natural resources were fully used for the benefit of all, and not appropriated for selfish ends. This was the age of the Great Commonwealth of peace and prosperity.
Fred Harrison describes in The Traumatised Society how civilisations arose guided by this star, and how civilisations have crumbled when they have lost sight of this star.
It is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, and anywhere it’s been tried, it’s been found to be so. So, why hasn’t it been persevered with? Why? It has been held away from the people.
Yes, there’s a whole world to find that's both magical and earth-bound, all you’ve got to do is get people to open the book and persevere a little. It does feel magical, like seeing for the first time. And it becomes seen as obvious, that had been there all the time and could easily be seen, with a little help. If it helps, we challenge you to read Progress and Poverty and not agree.