Henry George was a political economist born in Philadelphia in 1839. He was popular among other economics and politicians due to his pursuit of finding a solution to the social problems facing his country. He wrote several books, including Progress and Poverty, Social Problems, Protection or Free Trade, The Condition of Labor, Rerun Novarum, and The Science of Political Economy. Henry George principles were neither socialist nor communist, but they sought to solve issues that the two had not solved.
The Theory of Georgism
The theory of Georgism was advanced by Henry George who believed that the economic value of land, natural resources, and opportunities should be shared equally by all members of society. Henry George proposed practice of a single tax on land instead of taxing labor. He believed that by taxing land, productivity would be increased to a level that will reduce poverty and give all the members of the society a fair chance in wealth creation.
Premises of Georgism
Georgism is presented as a philosophy that focuses on solving social problems at their root sources instead of dealing with the results of the problems. Georgism is thus based on three broad principles including the non-taxation of labor and high taxes on certain properties, private possession of assets which focuses upon eliminating unearned wealth and free trading in markets with limited regulation on the exchange. Georgism concentrates on the unification of justice and efficient economic relations.
Prospective Benefits and Downsides
The proponents of Georgism believe that it is the most effective means of dealing with such issues as poverty by addressing the ways through which wealth is distributed among members of society in the first place. Georgists have cited various benefits of Georgism including the practical applicability in solving social problems arising from land through the fair distribution of wealth. Some people have criticized Georgism as a politically unachievable theory in most capitalist states which rely on taxes for revenue.
While Georgism was developed as a response to the social problems in Philadelphia at the time of Henry George, they can still be applied to the problems facing current economies by addressing the root causes of their problems to achieve positive outcomes. These problems include poverty and unemployment, urban issues, tax reforms and energy conservation in the use and exploitation of natural resources. Georgism is an economically feasible theory which would lead to prosperity for the country starting from the citizens.
Examples of Georgism in Use
In the early years of the introduction of the Georgism school of thought, the principles were applied in several of the land reforms near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States, such as those seen in the township of Arden. Georgist principles were also used in the land reforms of Taiwan and Japan. In 1991, some prominent economists urged the Russian government to leave land ownership with the public.
The Spread of Georgism
Georgist movements around the world have formed organizations aimed at promoting Georgism through education, research, the publication of books and ideas, and engagement in activities that promote public involvement and support for Georgist principles. While the theory remains economically achievable, most countries have not embraced the theory due to heavy reliance on taxation on labor and, therefore, the problem of wealth distribution remains in these economies.