Georgism has a long pedigree. It was alive and well in biblical times: “The land shall not be sold forever, for the land is Mine; and you are but strangers and sojourners with Me” (Leviticus 25:23).
In terms of disposable income, Thorold Rogers’ “Six Centuries of Work and Wages” tells us British prosperity achieved a peak in the 1490s that it has been unable to match ever since, when the humble labourer with a family of five still had 65% of his salary left after providing for food, clothing and shelter.
But the lords of the land, having begun to throw off their feudal responsibilities to the King as early as Magna Carta, were now certainly winning the day.
Richard Cobden documented the process in an 1845 parliamentary debate on the Corn Laws:
“I warn ministers, and I warn landlords and the aristocracy of this country, against forcing on the attention of the middle and industrial classes, the subject of taxation ….. If you were to bring forward the history of taxation in this country for the last 150 years, you will find as black a record against the landowners as even in the Corn Law itself.
I warn them against ripping up the subject of taxation. If they want another league at the death of this one – if they want another organisation and a motive – then let them force the middle and industrial classes to understand how they have been cheated, robbed and bamboozled …..
For a period of 150 years after the conquest, the whole of the revenue of the country was derived from the land. During the next 150 years it yielded nineteen-twentieths of the revenue. For the next century down to the reign of Richard III it was nine-tenths. During the next 70 years to the time of Mary it fell to about three-fourths. From this time to the end of the Commonwealth, land appeared to have yielded one-half the revenue. Down to the reign of Anne it was one-fourth. In the reign of George III it was one-sixth. For the first thirty years of his reign the land yielded one-seventh of the revenue. From 1793 to 1816 (during the period of the land tax), land contributed one ninth. From which time to the present one twenty-fifth only of the revenue of the revenue had been derived directly from land.
Thus, the land, which anciently paid the whole of taxation, paid now only a fraction, or one twenty-fifth, notwithstanding the immense increase that had taken place in the value of the rentals. The people had fared better under despotic monarchs than when the powers of the state had fallen into the hands of a landed oligarchy who had first exempted themselves from taxation, and next claimed compensation for themselves by a corn law for their heavy and peculiar burdens.”
Meanwhile, The French Revolution singularly failed to apply l’impote unique the Physiocrats had urged upon Louis XVI.
Similarly, in 1907, Georgism/landism/the Single Tax/the Feu/the Quit Rent was urged upon Russian Prime Minister Peter Arcadievich Stolypin by Leo Tolstoy as the most equitable way to appease an increasingly angry citizenry. Stolypin failed to do so, was assassinated, and the communist revolution resulted.
Back in Britain two years later the people took to the street to celebrate “The People’s Budget” which was to incorporate a national land tax. The lords of the land thought this was a bad idea and broke tradition to block the budget, preferring to wage WWI than support a land tax.
So wars continue to be fought over territory and resources, because of the failure to apply Georgism.
But despite the rationale behind Georgism and its long history, we continue to sweep it under the carpet, as so admirably once explained by Dr FWG Foat.
Why? Aren’t we better than suckers for the plutocracy?