Thoughts on Terrorism and Land Value Taxation

Gilbert Halverson

[GroundSwell, 2001]

The United States of America was viciously attacked without warning on Sept. 11, 2001. This horrific attack resulted in over 5,000 deaths, a great city in partial ruin, and our citizens shaken. The attack on Sept. 11 was not just an attack on New York; it was directed at the United States of America as a whole. We are a target because we offer a model of development that is based upon civility, equality, liberty, opportunity, tolerance, freedom, and democracy. New York was perhaps targeted because it is the best example in the world of a multi- racial, multi-ethnic, multi-religious society that works and prospers.

It is not some historical accident that the United States of America is a rich, democratic, multi-racial, tolerant, free, open, and diverse society. Our standard of living, our laws, customs, and institutions are a result of over 200 years of progress toward offering a more perfect union based upon gradual acceptance and implementation of the principles of equality, tolerance, limited government, and the rule of law under the constitution.

In the terrorists' eyes, we are not only infidels; we represent a model of success that they do not want their people to emulate. They do not want success that springs from freedom including freedom for women and religious freedom. They do not want a world that has no need for religious police. In such a world, there also is no need for leaders who hold narrow self serving views, based upon a similar self serving interpretation of one faith. The terrorists and the people who sympathize with them have no place in diversity.

What should we do now? What should our response be to this act of terror? How can we seek justice with a moral purpose? One of the first principles that the ancient Greeks codified was a prohibition on killing and the right to self defense. It is moral to defend yourself. Among Renaissance theorists as dissimilar as Nicholas Machiavelli, Sir Thomas Moore, Thomas Hobbes, and James Harrington, there was a consensus that only men willing and able to defend themselves could possible preserve their liberties. There is a concept of a just war, and in Henry George's time he supported the union's cause with his writings.

Perhaps we should consider giving peace a chance. Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. used pacifism successfully. These two great men struggled against regimes that while not equitable or unprejudiced, had a genuine respect for human life and a commitment to the rule of law and basic moral tenets. Under these conditions, pacifism can dispense a needed shock that reminds a civilization of its moral tenets and values.

Pacifism does not work when used to neutralize murderous groups like Nazis, Al Qaeda, Khmer Rouge, Maoists, or Stalinists. These groups have no moral bearing and their fundamental objective is to terrorize into compliance and destroy human life. At that point pacifism becomes appeasement, allowing liberty, democracy and justice to be bullied into inaction. In the case of the particular terrorists organization which we now face, the only way to prevent them from destroying us is to destroy them. The Al Qaeda have vowed to strike again, and based upon their past behavior, the threat is real. In successfully destroying them, we take the first step in giving peace a chance for the people over which they reign and the countries in which they hide. This would also be the first step toward freeing those people in the culture of hate, intolerance, brutality and the poverty associated with it. We need to demonstrate that people who export terror and who stone women to death for showing their face in public will not be allowed to rule even one remote corner of this earth.

The first charge of government is the defense of its borders. Without that it matters little how much is spent on prescription drugs for seniors, or how much effort is expended to bring sanity and moral principles to our tax system. Land value taxation can only be implemented by democratic means by people willing to fly to conferences, to discuss subjects without calling on their god, and who have a moral compass that includes not killing your fellow man because you judge him an infidel.