A Future for the Georgist Cause?
Fred Harrison and Ed Dodson
[Reprinted from the Land-Theory online
discussion group, 23 November 2004]
Fred Harrison: The neo-cons came to the surface for the same
reason that Islamic fundamentalists are enjoying a resurgence in the
Middle East. With the eclipse of Soviet communism, a gigantic
doctrinal void was created. Nature abhors voids; so do people with
minds to fill ...
So if communisms was obsolete, what would replace it? Not, evidently,
Georgism: we had failed to prepare it as a coherent philosophy waiting
in the wings, ready to slot into place when the historic opportunity
That opportunity did arise, in our lifetime, with Gorbachev. We were
found wanting. We still are.
Ed Dodson: We need to remember that Marx was but one of the
intellectual leaders of mid-19th century communism. Socialism and
communism were already THE growing response to agrarian and industrial
landlordism. Neither socialism nor communism offered a coherent
philosophy that the masses of people understood in any real sense.
Lenin brought the rhetoric of revolution and the discontented and
oppressed became "true believers." Fascism, Islamic
Fundamentalism and Neo-Conservativism (supported by Christian
Fundamentalism) in the U.S. all depend upon a high level of mass fear
and a willingness to trust in messianic leaders.
Our reality is that we are too few in number of act as a catalyst to
establish a global political movement. Even during George's lifetime,
the growth of the "Single Tax" movement was based as much on
his personal leadership as on a full understanding by followers of
George's philosophical principles. Libertarians have been far more
successful at building a movement based on a rational (if, as we try
to tell them, tragically flawed) philosophy. Yet, even with enough
adherents to fund think tanks and an ongoing effort to gain political
office, Libertarianism has stagnated.
I, too, share the fear that we are running out of time. The people in
the U.S. have failed to grasp the seriousness of the world situation
even after experiencing the attacks of 2001. Ours is an economy
totally addicted to cheap energy, and our leaders have consistently
demonstrated a willingness to use military force and support despotic
regimes to ensure the supply of oil keeps flowing.
As for those of us who have been actively working for change, the
only significant inroad I have seen is the effort to convince Greens
that solving the land question is at the center of their cause. The
Greens are the only politically-origanized activists still open to a
philosophical direction. With just a few "Georgists" working
within the Green movement, the achievements have been significant. The
Greens represent potentially the conscience of the thoughtful in the
world community. We cannot rely on being consultants using data and
logic to nudge entrenched political leaders in the right way.
Fred Harrison: I concur in your conclusions.
Fear, and the resort to messianic solutions, stems from the lack of a
vision of the future that is both inspirational and practical. The
philosophical void exists, post-Soviet communism; and Georgists never
did prepare the alternative....which is why Washington had no problem
selling mass privatisation of natural resources to Yeltsin's clique.
We tried the reasoned appeals to politicians/ consultancy route, both
in the West and in the terrain where we could have expected the best
results (Russia). It did not work.
Russia was waiting for the message, then; and the world is waiting
for that message, now. ...but ours was not packaged in a form capable
of mobilising a critical mass of support.
The Bishop of Liverpool will expound the virtues of LVT from the
pulpit in St Paul's Cathedral tonight; for an edited version, see
today's The Guardian (presumably available on-line). But the Christian
church is not ready to throw its weight behind resource
taxation...that particular piece of the message IS not appropriately
packaged, in the form of the analyses by Kenneth Jupp (see back
numbers of Geophilos) ... but it needs to be sold within the church by
more than one bishop, in more than one pulpit (albeit a prestigious
The odds appear overwhelmingly against us ... and yet, we CAN put
together the vision and the practical prescriptions in a form that
might achieve our aims; and we CAN do it in double-quick time ... if
we mobilise the resources that are at our disposal ... history will
The nice thing about ideas is that, once abroad, it doesn't take many
people for it to infect millions ... and that's the opportunity that
now exists. In truth, governments and NGOs around the world are
LOOKING for ideas to solve problems ... there are constraints, of
course, such as the blinkers that exist ... but it's up to the few of
us to formulate the words in such a way that the idea sneaks in under
Those defences are awesome. So I am not belittling the challenge.
As for the other socialists of the 19th century ... who remembers
anyone other than Marx? The difference is that he took the trouble to
do his homework. That is why, when conditions were propitious, Lenin
and a handful of supporters were able to mobilise the masses ... the
key thing was that Marx had written the inspirational words. His
vision of the future was extremely limited; but his critique of the
status quo was so compelling that the rest became history, in the name
Our critique of the status quo (judged by the accessible literature)
is largely pathetic; by which I mean, woefully inadequate. This has to
be remedied, if we are to fill the communications gap.
Which brings me back to my point: a lot of hard and solitary work is
necessary, a la Marx, if we are to inspire and mobilise the masses.
Otherwise: well, the world is set on the Conflict of Civilisations;
and methinks the West's is going down, for reasons that need to be
spelt out if we are to cause governments to adopt the new course.