This note is a reference to sources and to some of the organisations and individuals we’ve found that are actively working to promote Henry George’s ideas today.
In recent times, we have been advised not to use the term Georgist or Georgism when trying to talk to people about these ideas, because, people will use it against you in some way. But for us the point is Henry George’s work and we see absolutely nothing to be abashed about. Anyway, we’re just a band.
But we do agree that Georgism is unsatisfactory as a term, and our biggest objection to the term is that we even think that making an ism of it grossly undervalues and misunderstands what Henry George is saying. It isn’t an ism like all the other isms; what George is describing is justice. It’s as simple as that, justice. Natural order, the way things naturally should be, and any diversion from which will lead to unnatural and distorted results, which then bring along isms, theories on how to sort out the resultant mess. It isn’t an idea about justice, it flows from justice, it’s the full expression of all of humanity’s ideas about justice and liberty.
It is just justice, it’s the way it should be and needs to be. If things were as they should be, we wouldn’t need any isms. It isn’t an idea, a school of thought about something, it’s the self-evident, once seen, description of justice in human society.
The term Georgism is unsatisfactory in that it’s not a man that’s important, not at all, it’s the ideas, as he himself pointed out. Also that Henry George didn’t actually come up with any of the concepts he wrote about – all of it was present in classical economics - he just explained what they really meant and saw how they should naturally work, and could clearly see how their distortions worked.
Yet use of the term Georgism seems unavoidable sometimes. It is a particular man’s work which pulled it all together, formulated and expressed the key to enlightened civilisation, and it’s to Progress and Poverty we point.
We have been plagued with isms in the modern age, they are all distortions and fade away in knowledge of the truth.
Here are some very fine words from Robert Clancy about Henry George and human nature, and a great lesson for the theorists of isms to contemplate.
We’re in favour of the term Single Taxer, since we see absolutely no argument to change anything the Single Taxer movement were talking about, the Remedy, economic justice. It was the term approved by Henry George, and the Single Taxers had a long and highly influential and unacknowledged, unmentioned role in American civic history.
It is an effective term, because implicit in it is a question, a curiosity. Single Tax is good because it says the whole thing, there is but one single tax, no other taxes. It’s an invitation to imagine what that means that Land Value Taxation perhaps isn’t, tending to make people think you’re after the hard-earned value of their houses.
Single Tax recalls a movement that actually were actively pursuing economic justice and insisting its case; and recalls a time when the knowledge was widely understood and implemented.
But, in the time of the Single Taxers, Henry George’s ideas seemed still to form part of public knowledge. So, we have some sympathy with the argument was found expressed in this blog here:
Land Value Tax is not even a tax, it is reclaiming “economic rent” that fell into private hands. Mention the bad word TAX and people stop thinking. Geogists can’t even sell the system properly. They use inappropriate language.
Indeed, of the longest-running magazine in the world promoting the Remedy, Land & Liberty, which started life as The Single Tax, the Wikipedia article says:
Perhaps foreseeing George Bernard Shaw’s later remark, in 1928, that "the Single Taxers are not wrong in principle; but they are behind the times",the periodical changed its title in 1902 to Land Values and subsequently in 1919 to Land & Liberty.
There’s definitely something in the suggestion that mention of the word tax is a tactical mistake, and we have seen how the mention of tax does indeed turn people cold. And, after all, it’s not a tax. And the modern representation of the idea is LVT, Land/Location Value Tax, so the tax word is still there.
Single Tax is a very simple statement, trying to express the truthful and natural simplicity of the Remedy. It gets rid of all the other taxes, in their complex myriads, there is just this simple single payment to make.
Anyway, we’ll be returning to these issues, and we’ll be making notes on the whole question of communication. But after a lot of doubt and questioning, we’re not for changing the name of the band. We’ll be shortened to Staneb, anyway, an unspoken single tax, that’s really rent. Economic Rent and Natural Energy Band, ERANEB? Nah.
We had some furious arguments about the band name. There was a worry that single tax was a problematical term, and that it wasn’t helpful to the cause to use the term now; when we have read more of modern thinkers and what they’re saying, we’d get an expanded perspective. We worried that we shouldn’t be harking back to the past and to people nobody has heard of.
In the end, we stuck with Staneb. For sure, Single Tax is a problematic term, but it’s real history, it’s what happened, and the very fact that nobody will have heard of Henry George or the Single Taxers and why that is, is the point we’re making. We shouldn’t be shy of referencing the Single Taxers, and, in the end, it is a band name. We’re certainly not up for the necessary re-writing of these notes. It’s Staneb.
So, we looked for the Single Taxers, and it must be understood that we are going to, here and there, claim that so-and-so is a Single Taxer, but it certainly wouldn’t be a label any of these people would use now, it’s just us using the term to make the historical connection.
In our searching, it turned out there are lots of organisations that use George’s name with the ism. As well as Georgism, the terms Geoism and Geonomics are frequently used, using the Geo from George to chime with Geo meaning the Earth. And there’s lots of isms around for what seem very similar ideas. The common denominator is economic justice.
There definitely is a problem here with Georgist teaching. There is a paradox, whereby what is being expressed is so obviously the truth, once understood, and future, being true, is such a simple idea; but it can be so hard to communicate the idea properly in a society where people have been co-opted into a cheating system, to use the language of Fred Harrison, where people have been carefully dissuaded from considering such things.
Here is Fred Harrison talking about the problem to the ALTER group within the Liberal Party, about the futility of talking to politicians (as Jon Porritt has given up on talking to oil companies) that they are just ciphers.