The JJ Wallis chart (with my comments inserted), doesn’t figure in the late Mason’s Gaffney’s magnificent account of John Bates Clark’s successful efforts to divert the study of economics away from the Henry George conclusion that if society is to progress, the rent of ‘land’ (i.e. all natural resources) must not be treated as private property. Real freedom required cheap access to land for all upon the payment of its rent.

The chart is enlightening, however. We tend to consider that we always progress socially and economically with the progression of time. That’s not so. In fact, even the humble labourer had cheaper access to land and to greater disposable income in 15th century England than most people have today!

We may establish JB Clark’s re-direction of the study of economics as being extremely successful by asking anyone ‘Have you ever heard of Henry George?’ The answer will almost certainly be ‘No’, even though from the 1880s to 1920 George’s ideas were on everybody’s lips. Today, Karl Marx is by far the better known personality.

The world is realising only now that having the latest television, motor vehicle or home, doesn’t necessarily signify progress when these are set against the measure of levels of private debt to which the vast majority of people in the developed world are committed. Poverty increases apace.

What’s happening?

Like our parents and grandparents, we’re living through the great retrogression. The economic rents owed equally to everyone, continue to be expropriated by the 0.1%. To this, high tech and social media are oblivious. Education has nothing to say on the subject, because economics remains in the hands of neoclassical and neoliberal economists. The number of challenging heterodox economists is pitifully small.

The question arises, for how long will this Great Retrogression continue? Will we come out the other side of the impending financial depression, as we did after the 1930s depression and WWII, failing to grasp the point that land rent, being common property, must not be privatised if people are to be freed from paying high prices and impossible levels of debt for access to land? First nations people have it right: Land is not a commodity.