What Is a Georgist?
[Reprinted from the Henry George News,
"GEORGIST" is a term which has gained currency since the
establishment of the Henry George School. Earlier the term "single
taxer" was more frequently used. Are they synonymous? Often a
single taxer knew just the single tax and little else, whereas the
term Georgist implies a wider knowledge of George's teachings.
I believe the single tax is central to the Georgist philosophy. I
know there has been some prejudice against the name single taxer by
Georgists, but I have heard no better one devised. Some even maintain
that the term has held the movement back, but I never saw advances
where it was not used. The same arguments against the proposal will
arise no matter what term is used.
A new book entitled The Lunatic Fringe by Gerald Johnson
includes Henry George and points out that his idea of creating
effective consumer demand is now gospel in General Motors and U.S.
Steel. But of course, says Johnson, the single tax idea has to be
discarded. I think anyone calling himself a Georgist might be pleased
at the' compliment, but would be less than satisfied with the single
So I will place the single tax at the center, but the circumference
of the circle might be harder to draw - just what are the limits?
There is, first of all, an economic analysis pursued to a logical
conclusion. And when this analysis is completed, there comes an
awakening, a revelation. A Georgist recognizes another by this feeling
of revelation. It is akin to religion.
The typical Georgist is a layman rather than an expert. He is the
citizen George speaks of who must think about political economy rather
than an expert in economics. A Georgist is more concerned with the
ethical implications of political acts affecting economic life than
with abstract economics or technical economic data. For him economics
is a means to a moral end.
What about the Georgist of 1957? Is he any different from the
Georgist of, say, 1897? There has been one interesting switch and that
is a change of affinity, relationship, contact. Formerly,
progressives, socialists, liberals, etc. were not regarded as bad
company for Georgists. (George hobnobbed with the socialist Hyndman
and shunned the conservative Spencer.) But today the Georgist is more
apt to associate himself with conservatives, libertarians, free
enterprisers. There is a reason for this: In those days when private
monopolies were rampant and governments were doing little, it was easy
to make common cause with the voices of protest. Now governments are
doing much - overly much as we see it-probably as the very result of
those protests-and it is now more in keeping with our philosophy for
us to make common cause with those protesting against big government.
Yet basically Georgists must go their lone way. They could only go
with socialists a short distance - and so nowadays with the
There is no "official" status of being a Georgist, it is a
matter of individual determination. I hope it always stays that way.
But there are central concerns and common denominators that bind us
together more strongly than any organizational protocol. The one
unchanging means that characterizes Georgism is the single tax, but
other Georgist ideas change and evolve with changing conditions. The
central concern is Justice and Georgists test new conditions
and ideas with that touchstone.