What is Georgism?

Georgist Concepts

Explain like I'm five
The distinguishing characteristic between georgism and the prevailing popular economic theories (neoclassicalism and marxism) is that georgism conceptually separates land and capital. Neoclassicalism says that land and capital are fundamentally the same thing and therefore it's okay to buy them, own them, and charge others for them. Marxism says that land and capital are fundamentally the same thing and therefore both should be distributed equally to everyone. Georgism says that land, being natural, should be shared out with everyone while capital, being artificial, is a reasonable thing to buy, own, and charge others for.

Trying to involve everyone directly in the decisions about how to use all the land would be very inefficient. Therefore, georgism proposes that the value of land be collected from private tenants through a land value tax (LVT) equal to 100% of the rent that the land generates. This way we get the best of both sides: Private individuals and businesses can make their own decisions about how to use the land efficiently, but everyone gets paid back for the value of the land that other people are blocking them from using. Moreover, georgism proposes that the LVT be used as a replacement for most existing taxes (income tax, sales tax, capital gains tax, inheritance tax, etc), since those often fall on productive activities (you effectively get charged for doing useful work) and therefore place a burden on the economy. The LVT places no burden on the economy because land is naturally occurring and therefore taxing it doesn't result in there being any less of it available to use.

Georgism doesn't really 'stop landlords' so much as it makes everyone into a landlord. Right now, in a typical neoclassicalist economy, you're born owning no land at all and are expected to 'buy into' the whole landowning game by paying an existing landowner out of wealth you accumulated through your labor. (Which of course is becoming increasingly infeasible for most people as the value of labor stagnates or diminishes while the value of land skyrockets.) In a georgist economy, everyone would effectively own a share of the world's land by default, insofar as they have the legally recognized right to whatever valuable government services and/or dividends are paid out of the LVT revenue. Everyone would be a tenant on the land they use, but a landlord for all the land they don't use, without having to 'buy in' like they do right now. Of course, those who currently own a lot of land would experience a drop in both asset value and net income. That doesn't mean they'd have to stop being landlords in the sense of renting out buildings to other people, it's just that they'd no longer uniquely collect the value of the land by denying it to others; they'd collect only their share of it, just like everyone else.
Georgism is an economic ideal which holds that common holdings, such as land and natural resources, should belong to all people. Unlike many forms of communalism, however, Georgism still allows for widespread private property and capitalism, the difference being that ownership is only allowed on things created by an individual. Thus, since land is within the natural sphere, it could not be used for private gain, although structures built on the land could be rented or otherwise used for private gain.

How about videos?

Georgist 5 Minute Pitch: Stop Paying Twice

Georgism Videos

For the Land is Mine - Charles Ashira

Can I get something a bit more in depth?

Henry George's book 'Progress and Poverty' is a great read in itself.

Progress and Poverty Ebook

Modern Edition of Progress and Poverty

Book Review of Progress and Poverty and
Explains it very well.

Modern Exposition of Georgism and the data behind it.

Annotated Progress and Poverty

39 page synopsis:

Correcting George's error in P&P

I'm an auditory learner and I like long form podcasts

Audiobook of modern edition of Progress and Poverty

Audio course from the Renegade Economist
Explains the core argument why it's the solution - doesn't flesh out why Rent would be sufficient but very good otherwise.

That was all too many words. How about a nice, simple, colorful picture?

Here ya go.

+Visual Chart

Explore Georgist Concepts


Why Georgism?

“He who sees the truth, let him proclaim it, without asking who is for it or who is against it. This is not radicalism in the bad sense which so many attach to the word. This is conservatism in the true sense.” - Henry George

"There is danger in reckless change, but greater danger in blind conservatism."

The Georgist Movement
The Georgist movement is unlike other "advocacy groups" in many interesting ways. Adherents come from across the political spectrum. The Georgist philosophy can be viewed as a fundamental synthesis of the best of "left" and "right": a reconciliation of justice and efficiency in economic relations. Due to the far-reaching implications of this philosophy, activity is pursued on many fronts, including activism in support of local property tax reform, popular education, research, publishing, and community and global networking.

Various organizations, groups and periodicals exist to promote Georgist philosophy and/or public re-venue based on land values. These organizations are engaged in various types of programs, most notably:

Education in the fundamentals of Georgist philosophy and analysis.
Activities to promote public support for land value taxation and the legislation necessary to implement this reform.
Research into the role of land in the economy, the techniques of assessment and the suitability of rent as a tax base.
Publication and exchange of ideas, to develop alliances, ideas and programs.

The Council of Georgist Organizations hosts an annual conference at a selected location in North America. Smaller conferences and events are also held, and the CGO serves as a clearinghouse for information about such events.

Solving Today's Social Problems
Poverty and Unemployment -- By discouraging land speculation, public collection of land rent opens up opportunities to labor and capital, creating a renewed demand for labor and raising wages. Fully applied, it can eliminate involuntary unemployment.

Urban Problems -- Decent housing is scarce and costly. Many have simply become resigned to the perpetuation of an "urban underclass". And, as bad as urban problems are in the West, they have become far worse in the developing world, where cities lack even the most basic services for poor people. A land value tax shift encourages the improvement of property, making good housing more affordable.

Tax Reform -- Citizens today groan under the weight of taxes on wages, property and commerce. People's taxes increase with every effort they make to improve the quality of their lives. The land value tax, on the other hand, is unique in that it does not penalize those who work and produce. Since better public services increase site values, the land value tax shift is a self-financing alternative to oppressive taxation.

Urban Sprawl -- By encouraging efficient and appropriate use of land, public collection of land rent eliminates urban blight and rural overdevelopment. The "leap-frog development" that characterizes urban sprawl is replaced by a more efficient development that preserves the clean and green countryside.

Energy and Conservation -- The monopoly of natural resources is the root cause of high energy prices, widespread waste and inefficiency of energy use, and possibly irreversible changes in the earth's climate. Acknowledging that all individuals have the right to these resources is the first step toward sustainable energy production and better conservation policies.

Inflation -- Many factors contribute to inflation: government waste, deficit spending, monopolistic and speculative rises in the price of land, and over-expansion of the money supply. Most of these problems stem from the unhealthy incentives of today's tax systems. To the degree implemented, the Single Tax would eliminate these causes of inflation.

Development and Land Reform -- The world's resources, if used wisely and efficiently, will comfortably and sustainably support all people. Instead, these resources are squandered by a small minority. Georgist reforms would give landless people an opportunity to produce for themselves instead of for a privileged few, ending the hunger and poverty incorrectly ascribed to overpopulation.

War and Peace -- The world is in transition. The "Cold War" no longer dominates international politics, but still the social problems remain. World security is disturbed by struggles over territory and natural resources. These problems cannot be solved until we recognize that the Earth belongs to all. The Georgist philosophy offers a practical way to achieve equal access to nature, true free trade, cooperation and peace.

Who Will drive Mankind to freedom?

Neither the Right nor the Left can talk about our problems correctly.

The ethics of land and liberty
What justifies the ownership of anything? Ethics, governance, and economics are interrelated and can be unified in one system

The Case for Universal Property
If implemented on a significant scale, universal property would inoculate the society against extreme inequality. It would provide an asset-based source for a universal basic income, not dependent on redistributive taxation. Charging for use of the sky’s carbon-absorption capacity would help stabilize the Earth’s climate by curbing emissions; similarly, financial transaction taxes would help stabilize the economy by curbing hair-trigger speculation
Universal property is a bold idea that does not fit neatly into old labels. It is neither Democratic nor Republican, neither liberal nor conservative, neither socialist nor libertarian. Or rather, it is both. It would advance equality and liberty together. And by bringing everyone into the same boat as co-owners, it could help bridge the divides that keep us apart.

States Could Reduce Taxes for Most Taxpayers while Stimulating their Economies

Most citizens would be taxed less because their tax reduction will exceed what they’re paying in taxes now. This would be especially true of all non-landowning renters because in the long run the land tax cannot be passed on to them.
New construction & renovation would be more profitable because they’d be taxed less. Perhaps tax-exempt these activities (not their land) for the first 7 years.
There’d be complete revenue neutrality since a pro-economic tax would only be reducing economically harmful taxes.

23 summaries of empirical studies show that economic development has always followed the exact equivalent of this proposal.

What Georgism Isn't

Is this just hating on landlords?

Per Dan Sullivan
There is a fundamental difference between criticizing and vilifying - a difference that is captured in Winston Churchill's statement,

"I hope you will understand that when I speak of the land monopolist, I am dealing more with the process than with the individual landowner. I have no wish to hold any class up to public disapprobation. I do not think that the man who makes money by unearned increment in land, is morally a worse man than any one else, who gathers his profit where he finds it, in this hard world under the law and according to common usage. It is not the individual I attack; it is the system. It is not the man who is bad; it is the law which is bad. It is not the man who is blameworthy for doing what the law allows and what other men do; it is the State which would be blameworthy, were it not to endeavour to reform the law and correct the practice. We do not want to punish the landlord. We want to alter the law."

This is not merely the difference between criticizing and vilifying; it is the difference between treating public policy as a series of problems to be solved vs. battles to be won, between the politics of reason vs. the politics of power, between the spirit of classical liberalism and enlightenment vs. the spirit of Marxism and post-moderism, between the spirit of love vs. the spirit of hate.

Is all this Socialism?

Georgist Theory of Value versus Marx (Labor Theory of Value) and Austrian (Subjective)
Marx and Austrians ignore land.
Among the first questions people tend to ask when they start to hear about these ideas are whether we are talking about socialism, or even communism. The short answer is "neither — rather, we want capitalism on a level playing field!"

This website will lead you to think about what rightly belongs to the individual and what rightly belongs to the community. It provides a simple way to collect for the community what is rightly common property, and to leave to the individual what he created. So, yes, we seek to socialize that which the individual or corporation didn't create, couldn't possibly create, can't create more of — and privatize that which he does make: the fruits of his labor and the results of his saving which aren't in the nature of common property.

One of the phrases to describe America's existing economic system is "Land Monopoly Capitalism." [The board game Monopoly was an outgrowth of a turn-of-the-century game called The Landlord's Game, designed to teach these ideas.] What Georgists are proposing is capitalism on a level playing field — something along the line of "Capitalism is a very fine system, and America really ought to try it some time!"

Having said all that, it is also fair to say that Progress & Poverty, while explicitly and exuberantly in favor of a purer form of capitalism than is practiced anywhere in the world now, probably played a role in bringing many people in the 19th century, particularly in England, to the socialist movement, including George Bernard Shaw.

This page also contains many of Henry George's comments on socialism, few of which are positive.

See The Science of Political Economy, toward the end — the organization of a great ship.

Henry George debated Social Democrat H. M. Hyndman in London in 1889, and the text of that debate highlights the points of commonality and the very significant differences. In The Wages of Labor, George is extremely critical of the Socialist "solution," making clear why he thinks it both wrong and ineffective.

Henry George: The Great Debate: Single Tax vs Social Democracy (1
No, in fact George and Marx exchanged, via letter, terse words. Henry George wanted neither an intermediary state control nor commune control of land;

"I do not propose either to purchase or to confiscate private property in land. The first would be unjust; the second, needless. Let the individuals who now hold it still retain, if they want to, possession of what they are pleased to call their land. Let them continue to call it their land. Let them buy and sell, and bequeath and devise it. We may safely leave them the shell, if we take the kernel. It is not necessary to confiscate land; it is only necessary to confiscate rent."

– Henry George, Progress and Poverty p. 405

Georgists also have no qualms with private ownership of capital which was created by human toil – it’s merely in nature we draw issue with claims of exclusive ownership. If we were to split the economy up as classical economists such as Smith, Ricardo and Malthus did, we would see:

Labor (wages), Capitalists (profits), Landlords (rent).

Communism originally wished to do away with all private ownership of the preceding factors, and see a completely stateless (and moneyless) form of living.
Socialism meanwhile wished to only maintain personal property via wages, and allow free personal consumption.
Georgism has no qualms with private capital or labor rights, but rather question the place of landlords.
Capitalism in our current conception wishing for the private ownership of all of the above factors (although many iterations are willing for taxation of the various factors).
Notably, some older capitalists and socialists did have more lenient crossover with geoists, and when discussing ideologies as widely interpreted as socialism and capitalism and the ilk, you should rid yourself of all semantic problems and simply ask everyone involved to define their terms before stepping further into the conversation. These are the terms as I have come to understand them over many years of study, and you can take issue with the definitions as you please.
One of the great tragedies of socialism has been the confounding of common rights (natural rights common to each individual) with collective rights (those that have been delegated to the community or its government). Common rights are inalienable, individual rights -- the very opposite of collective rights. Classical liberalism was based on the idea of common rights.
Single Taxer from 1916 says George and Marx actually agree and were talking past one another with different definitions. (I don't think this viewpoint is entirely valid for many of the above reasons)
Said a better translation for marxist 'Capital' is 'Private Monopoly'

Backlinks: Workshop:Strong Towns:Georgism:Concepts