Putting people at the heart of economics since 1864

Here is a helpful quote which gets to the heart of Henry George’s message form a new book entitled

Sacred Economics Money Gift and Society in the Age of transition by Charles Eisenstein. You can see more details and download chapters of the book here

Polarization of wealth is inevitable when people are allowed to profit from merely owning a thing, without producing anything or contributing to society. These profits, known as economic rents, accrue to the holders of land, the electromagnetic spectrum, mineral rights, oil reserves, patents, and many other forms of property. Because these forms of property either were prior to any human being or are the collective product of human culture, they should not belong to any private individual who does not use them for the benefit of the public and the planet.
In addition, today it is possible to profit by depleting aspects of the commonwealth such as biodiversity, aquifers, soil, ocean fisheries, and so on. These properly belong to all of us, and their depletion should only happen by common agreement and for the common good.
Transition and policy: Some states and nations already levy land-value taxes, and others have nationalized oil and minerals. The country of Bolivia and the state of Alaska, for example, assert public ownership over oil rights, so that oil companies earn money only for their services in extracting the oil, and not from owning the oil. Shifting the tax burden away from labor and toward property will become more and more attractive as wage earners’ situations become desperate. Finally, as intractable regulatory battles over water rights show, building resource conservation directly into the money system is an idea whose time is coming.
Measures such as Georgist land-value taxes, leasing of mineral rights, and the use of the subjects of economic rent as a currency backing as described in this book are ways to return economic rents to the people, so that private interests can only profit by using property well, not by merely owning it. Anything that comes from the commons should be subject to fees or taxes. Intellectual property can be returned to the commons by shortening the terms of copyrights and patents, thereby acknowledging the cultural matrix from which ideas arise. We must also keep new sources of wealth, such as the genome, the electromagnetic spectrum, and the new “commons” of the internet, in the public domain, allocating their use only to those who use it to benefit society and the planet.
Effect on economic life: With a shift of taxation onto property and resources, sales and income taxes will be reduced or eliminated, and a strong economic incentive for conservation created. Since economic rents enrich those who already own, eliminating them will foster a more equitable distribution of wealth. In the realm of intellectual property, the widening of the public domain will encourage cultural creations that are not geared toward profit, as the “raw materials” of artistic and intellectual creation will be less subject to royalties and the limitations of private property.

No comments