Why is Georgism, or geoism, not the correct alternative to modern capitalism?

Hello Professor, I listened to your interview on Chapo Trap House and related to your experiences with university-taught economics. I am an economics major myself, about to graduate, and also dissatisfied with the limited scope of questions modern economics courses try to answer. My personal search for answers did not bring me to Marx, however. They brought me to Henry George and what I consider a better alternative to the status quo, geoism. To me, geoism lacks what I consider the inherent authoritarianism in Marxism. Those things not created by people, location and natural resources/forces, obviously belong to society as a whole. But the things that take individual motivation and effort to exist, "Capital", should belong to those that create it. Without the profit/wage motive, why should anyone put in the extra effort it takes to do the necessary but more skilled work of organizing production? The only other realistic mechanism I can think of to achieve this is a threat of violence by those who have monopolized power through other means than capitalism. This is why I feel that the only "successful" revolutionary socialist experiments have devolved into dictatorships that suppress political and individual rights. There are no other motivations for an individual to put in the extra effort of skilled labor/effort other than a sense of love and duty to society, which seems like a flimsy thing to hang a whole economic system on. The socialization of natural resources, natural forces, land, and location avoid this issue of motivation. They exist outside the effort of individuals and therefore should not be owned privately. Their value comes from society, and should therefore be returned to it. The private theft of socially created wealth that Henry George describes is a much more compelling theory of inequality and poverty than anything I have read from a Marxist perspective. I will admit I have not dived as deep into Marxism as I have Georgism, but I found it hard to explore Marx thoroughly without that question of authoritarianism constantly in the background of my mind. Do you have an explanation that could prove me wrong? Thank you


Showing 21 reactions

How would you tag this suggestion?
Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.
  • William Navarre
    commented 2020-04-12 13:33:32 -0400
    I’m very interested in this question myself, since I too consider Georgism and the Single Tax to be the proper solution.

    I think the question does have an error, though. The author asks about the

    > more skilled work of organizing production?

    I think he is confusing what George calls interest with what George calls “wages of superintendence.”

    Interest is the reward for allowing others to use their capital.

    The wage of superintendence is the reward for allocating that capital well.
  • William Navarre
    tagged this with upvote 2020-04-12 13:33:31 -0400
  • Randall Burns
    commented 2019-10-23 15:31:31 -0400
    There is a lot positive to be said in support of George’s writings. I personally consider Henry George to be the greatest economic journalist and popular writer of all time. A lot of Henry George’s inspiration came from John Stuart Mill, who many modern economists pay lip service to without having read seriously. George gets written off as a minor intellectual figure, but that is much harder to do with Mill and Mill’s daughter saw George as Mill’s intellectual heir. One important counter to the practicality of the Mill/George program is Hong Kong. Hong Kong relied on land taxes heavily during much of its economic development. However, large urban real estate interests successfully worked to get their tax rates lowed/frozen which brings up the question of why and how, given that this program(administered largely by students of Mill) seemed to be working fairly well? Hong Kong still relies on creative use of emininent domain to fund their public transit system-if you google unique genius Hong Kong you will find a good atlantic article on that. What find in terms of reading economists, George and Mill are often either ignored or poorly understood.
  • Randall Burns
    commented 2019-10-23 15:31:30 -0400
    There is a lot positive to be said in support of George’s writings. I personally consider Henry George to be the greatest economic journalist and popular writer of all time. A lot of Henry George’s inspiration came from John Stuart Mill, who many modern economists pay lip service to without having read seriously. George gets written off as a minor intellectual figure, but that is much harder to do with Mill and Mill’s daughter saw George as Mill’s intellectual heir. One important counter to the practicality of the Mill/George program is Hong Kong. Hong Kong relied on land taxes heavily during much of its economic development. However, large urban real estate interests successfully worked to get their tax rates lowed/frozen which brings up the question of why and how, given that this program(administered largely by students of Mill) seemed to be working fairly well? Hong Kong still relies on creative use of emininent domain to fund their public transit system-if you google unique genius Hong Kong you will find a good atlantic article on that. What find in terms of reading economists, George and Mill are often either ignored or poorly understood.
  • Randall Burns
    commented 2019-10-23 15:31:29 -0400
    There is a lot positive to be said in support of George’s writings. I personally consider Henry George to be the greatest economic journalist and popular writer of all time. A lot of Henry George’s inspiration came from John Stuart Mill, who many modern economists pay lip service to without having read seriously. George gets written off as a minor intellectual figure, but that is much harder to do with Mill and Mill’s daughter saw George as Mill’s intellectual heir. One important counter to the practicality of the Mill/George program is Hong Kong. Hong Kong relied on land taxes heavily during much of its economic development. However, large urban real estate interests successfully worked to get their tax rates lowed/frozen which brings up the question of why and how, given that this program(administered largely by students of Mill) seemed to be working fairly well? Hong Kong still relies on creative use of emininent domain to fund their public transit system-if you google unique genius Hong Kong you will find a good atlantic article on that. What find in terms of reading economists, George and Mill are often either ignored or poorly understood.
  • Randall Burns
    commented 2019-10-23 15:31:29 -0400
    There is a lot positive to be said in support of George’s writings. I personally consider Henry George to be the greatest economic journalist and popular writer of all time. A lot of Henry George’s inspiration came from John Stuart Mill, who many modern economists pay lip service to without having read seriously. George gets written off as a minor intellectual figure, but that is much harder to do with Mill and Mill’s daughter saw George as Mill’s intellectual heir. One important counter to the practicality of the Mill/George program is Hong Kong. Hong Kong relied on land taxes heavily during much of its economic development. However, large urban real estate interests successfully worked to get their tax rates lowed/frozen which brings up the question of why and how, given that this program(administered largely by students of Mill) seemed to be working fairly well? Hong Kong still relies on creative use of emininent domain to fund their public transit system-if you google unique genius Hong Kong you will find a good atlantic article on that. What find in terms of reading economists, George and Mill are often either ignored or poorly understood.
  • Randall Burns
    tagged this with upvote 2019-10-23 15:31:28 -0400
  • Rob Lowry
    commented 2019-10-07 15:44:56 -0400
    So you think the markets can’t exist without capitalism? Fear of violence is the only way to get things done? Your problem with Georgian is that it’s not violent and oppressive enough?
  • Rob Lowry
    tagged this with downvote 2019-10-07 15:44:53 -0400
  • Kurosh Ruch-Kamgar
    tagged this with upvote 2019-04-16 10:23:03 -0400
  • Erïch Jacoby-Hawkins
    tagged this with upvote 2018-12-28 16:29:51 -0500
  • Søren Hansen
    tagged this with upvote 2018-12-28 07:51:45 -0500
  • Edward Miller
    tagged this with upvote 2018-12-27 23:51:09 -0500
  • Harold Kyriazi
    tagged this with upvote 2018-12-27 18:27:13 -0500
  • Lvt Yimby 🔰🌄🏗️
    tagged this with upvote 2018-12-27 02:50:16 -0500
  • Logan Boettcher
    tagged this with upvote 2018-12-27 02:49:15 -0500
  • Theodore Furness
    tagged this with upvote 2018-12-26 14:11:13 -0500
  • Nate Blair
    tagged this with upvote 2018-12-26 09:49:04 -0500
  • Noah Daughhetee
    tagged this with upvote 2018-11-11 19:16:34 -0500
  • Solly Martheze
    followed this page 2018-02-26 01:44:29 -0500
  • Henry George
    published this page in Ask Prof. Wolff 2018-02-19 19:38:40 -0500

connect