Time to Save the World
A New Year Mission Statement
[Reprinted from the Newsletter of the
International Union, January, 2011]
By 2010: the world was at the crossroads. The political classes were
alerted. They failed to define a secure future for all nations.
I now predict two outcomes.
- A world war was necessary to end the Depression of the 1930s.
Similar conditions exist today: they will trigger the third world
- Civilisation built on the European model has run its full
Current policies will drive that civilisation into terminal decline.
These outcomes are not inevitable. But negotiating change to the evil
dynamic that causes wars and ends civilisations has failed.
It is time to take control of the agenda.
From the outset, the civilisation that originated in Europe half a
millennium ago was never sustainable. In essence, the privatisation of
resource rents spawned a social virus with the power to wreck both
human society and those eco-systems on which we depend. In my
estimation, our civilisation - now a global reality - cannot survive
for more than a few decades.
Some of us have tried to change the world, to prevent the current
crises. We did not fail because the world is still afflicted by a
pernicious financial process that mal-distributes people's incomes. We
failed because we did not develop a strategy which - in principle -
might have worked. If we now apply the lessons of that lifetime
experience, however, it will not have been wasted effort. We can
change the world. To do so, however, we need to understand the nature
of the evil that obstructs reform.
Change will not happen if we continue to talk in terms of taxing
people. The language of taxation reinforces the psychology of those
property rights that are the basis of all the crippling stresses that
afflict humanity, and the planet.
Implicitly, because we accepted the language of history's victors, we
accepted the legitimacy of privatised rent. That made us complicit in
the manipulation which locks people into the Predator Culture.
We need to clean up our language, if we are to clean up our own
That is the first step towards helping others to understand the
convoluted nature of the "public's" finances. Otherwise, it
will not be possible to unravel the consequences which flow from the
privatisation of earth's resource rents, and the privatisation of the
value which people create through their joint efforts in their
communities. If we are to re-socialise rents, and re-privatise
people's wages and profits, we need to go back to the beginning and
start again. Is that possible?
For 80 years, the rent reform flag has been flown by a global
Georgist movement. That movement has been like a rudderless sailing
boat trapped in the doldrums: becalmed, at the mercy of nature, the
sailors without control over their destiny.
. Dreaming is what Georgist activism has been all about. Dreaming
that, by acting ethically and applying reason, and by explaining the
principles of economic justice, people will listen, learn, and act in
their best interests.
. The reality is cruel: dreaming cannot, and will not, result in a
change in the way governments fund public services. As of today,
January 1, 2011, Georgism remains locked in dreamtime.
Humanity survived the atrocities of the 20th century because nature
enabled us to overcome the genocidal behaviour of predatory states.
The fecundity of our species provided a biological safety-net. But
biology will not save our civilisation from the emerging cataclysms.
The prognosis is one of total collapse; the human species being
decimated by the onset of multiple catastrophes as the pathological
trends converge and collide over the next two decades (that is why the
CIA calls them "mega-trends").
To understand the world as it is, we need to appreciate that the
emerging cataclysms are not indicators of failure. The European
paradigm is not malfunctioning. The destruction that stems from
disrespect for other people's rights to land, the disrespect which
leads to territorial wars and the extinction of other species
are indicators of success. The success of the Predator Culture at
is as Success
There is logic to the rent-privatising process. That cruel
intelligence steamrollers everything before it. So powerful is the
private appropriation of rent as a social process, so insatiable is
its appetite, that the world is now at the mercy of a relentless
determination to extend control over the life-forces of the whole
Yes, the temptation to privatise the economic surplus has been with
humans ever since our innate genius led to the discovery of how to
produce an economic surplus. The story of the rise and fall of
civilisations is the story of rent. Our modern civilisation was
foredoomed when our forefathers accepted the switch of rent from its
social functions to serving private interests.
Negotiating change to the rules is impossible. We cannot offer any
inducement to the social process that was so attractive, as to enable
it to permit change. Why? Because our agenda - restructure government
revenue - is a declaration of war.
Who - or what
The Predator Culture is acutely sensitive to that intent, which is -
correctly - perceived as a threat to its existence.
When we explain to "policy-makers" the wisdom of land value
taxation, we are proposing that the Predator Culture should commit
suicide. That invitation is understood, and artfully declined. The
evil web woven by rent privatisation is like the internet: there is no
one Command & Control Centre. So even if it wanted to do so, the
system cannot (i) voluntarily destroy itself, or (ii) be destroyed by
under-resourced individuals like Georgists. In short, we set ourselves
an impossible mission.
Where did we go wrong? We accepted the European model's doctrine at
its face value: grounded in reason, decisions made on the basis of
evidence produced by science; aspiring to democracy and the champion
of human rights.
This is a false self-representation which served the rent
appropriators very well.
Our acceptance of this ideology in good faith (through socialisation)
meant that we could not facilitate change.
We approached our mission as misinformed individuals, allowing decent
instincts to mislead us into thinking that reason will prevail. It
won't. But: is ours really a mission impossible?
The Collective Consciousness
We cannot negotiate change through cold reason and warm hearts. So
what is left? We have to kill the Predator Culture.
Violence is not acceptable. How, then, do we forcibly expunge a
process that monopolises the weapons of mass destruction? The most
lethal of those weapons is not the fire-power of the military.
Maturing its tools over the course of five centuries, the Predator
Culture devised techniques to control our minds, mould our language
and shape social institutions to serve its primary purpose. The
mechanism: capture our collective consciousness, so that we would be
co-opted into accepting our lot.
This explains why educated, moral people cannot comprehend the need
to restructure the tax regime. Those people were turned into
instruments for perpetuating a system that offends their intentions.
Social scientists, politicians, lawyers, even reformers in civil
organisations that campaign for change, are locked into perverse ways
of thinking and behaving, to preserve the Predator Culture.
The barriers to fiscal reform are not of the legal or political
kinds. Nor are they financial or practical. They are psychological.
Psychology is the only way to account for the impregnability of the
barriers which deny people the capacity to appreciate the wisdom of
the Georgist philosophy. To survive among decent human beings, the
rent-seeking process had to capture the collective consciousness of
the host population. This was the deed of ultimate evil. The Predators
had to control the mind-set of their victims. This was the
cost-effective way to continue with the process of appropriating the
community's economic surplus.
That project, to control the collective consciousness of Europe's
populations, was superbly successful. And so, it became possible to
seed the rest of the world with the virus of rent privatisation.
Avoiding the Mental Dragnet
By quirks of fate, some people escaped the mental dragnet that
regulates society. That had a twofold outcome.
.As we worked our way through
Progress and Poverty, we became detached from others. Our
comprehension meant that we could never enjoy the comfort of the
crowd. We were alienated individuals.
. The legacy: an onerous responsibility. We knew that something had
to be done, that no-one else was going to do it, so - if we were moral
beings - we had to act.
We cannot walk away from the crisis that threatens our civilisation.
But since Mission Impossible cannot be accomplished with Hollywood's
techniques of virtual reality, we need new tools.
How do we destroy the pathological streak in our communities? We must
bombard the cancer cells in the body politic with antidotes that are
powerful enough to rehabilitate our collective consciousness.
Bombard with what? Evidence of the virtues of land value taxation?
That has not worked. Two months ago, for a workshop in Dublin, I
reviewed the conditions under which land taxation was introduced in
modern times. Apart from Denmark, every case was induced by conditions
of duress. Appeals to justice? Pointless. What's left?
Collectively, the populations which fell under the spell of the
Predator Culture are traumatised. Think of the deer rooted to the
highway, staring at the headlights of a 10-tonne truck, waiting to be
mowed down. That's us: lambs to the slaughter.
That mind-set has to be disturbed. How? A shock of overwhelming
impact needs to be administered. To recover its humanity, the whole
population needs to shake itself out of subservience to the monster in
When previous civilisations collapsed, populations had to endure Dark
Ages before they were able to shake themselves into a state of
recovery. We can short-circuit this process, vaulting over the coming
collapse and the Dark Age, traversing our way to a new path of
cultural renewal. How? People need to grasp, and then confront, the
evil of rent privatisation. But how do we encourage them to do this,
in sufficient numbers, so that - in a democratic way - they can choose
to effect change?
. People need to be offered new perspectives on the history that
fashioned the property rights in land which they now tenaciously
defend: a historical process which has brought humanity to the
Psychologists call this strategy aversion therapy.
Someone, somewhere has to make a start. I cannot presume to criticise
others, without offering the alternative.
.Rewriting history to deepen understanding of the full consequences
of the land grabs of old is a mammoth task. And trustworthy guides are
needed, to nurture people through experiences of profound anguish.
I intend to prosecute this process. I need compatriots. That is the
gauntlet I am throwing down for the global Georgist movement. This is
- First, rewrite history. An awesome task, but unavoidable.
Without an alternative world-view, there can be no new social
- Second, by-pass the gatekeepers of our minds. Develop the means
of mass communication: professionalize our use of the internet,
and of the use of film.
- Third, fine-tune the instruments of shock therapy. Develop
narratives that can be turned into the screen scripts that enable
people en masse to achieve two things:
* Understand why our social universe is running out
* Explain why our leaders do not know what they are doing.
We can offer the alternative leadership. A leadership grounded in
reason and the principles of justice, but applied in ways that awaken
people's need to take democratic action to save our social universe.
Our proposal - to fund public services out of the nation's rents - is
subversive. The guardians of the Predator Culture understand the
nature of that threat. The ramifications of our tax shift proposals
are uncompromisingly total. No part of society would be left
untouched. The synergy of fiscal liberation would empower people to
transform themselves, their communities and their societies at large.
That is why tax reform faced total opposition. And that is why we have
to by-pass the agents of the Predator Culture, to empower people so
that, in overwhelming numbers, they can take control of their
Subversion of the System
We owe it to ourselves to get involved in ways that are meaningful.
For four generations, we have been complicit in the games that suited
the Predator Culture.
We accepted the language of taxation. Consequently, we talked in
terms of tax rates that were necessarily less than 100% of the stream
of rental income.
We accepted a gradualist strategy. But time is always on the side of
The therapeutic adjustment to reality must begin with Georgist
activists. If we can't make the mental leap, we can't expect others to
do so. I am taking my first step in a book on the environmental
crisis, which will be published this spring.
A Race Against Events
I am willing to put a date on the point at which our civilisation
will tip into Irreversible decline. To ensure that I am acting
responsibly I must reflect further before "going public"
with the date.
Meanwhile, there is an enormous amount of work to execute, and
resources to accumulate, if we hope to avoid that event.
I can be more specific on what I fear will be the outbreak of the
first global war. 2011 is to the current depression what 1931 was to
the Great Depression of the 1930s. Fascism was rising throughout
Europe, but the politicians failed to convince their peoples that they
had a coherent plan for the recovery of the continent. Two years
later, Hitler was invited to take control in Germany. The conditions
prevailing then apply today. There was a systemic imperative for an
all-out war - the cathartic relief for a continent that could not
apply orderly means to bring the economy under control.
Nonetheless, I remain optimistic, despite my diagnosis. There are two
reasons. First, we have the remedy: financial reform really is the "silver
bullet". And, secondly, on a worldwide basis, we have talented
people working unremittingly for a better future.
We owe it to ourselves - and to previous generations of activists,
who devoted their lives selflessly to improve the lot of humankind -
to adjust our strategies. For by their sacrifices we have accumulated
the evidence to show that the time-honoured approaches could not work,
because they did not work.
We cannot guarantee success. But we must deliver approaches which, in
principle, at least, might work.
I am developing strategies and I have scoped out a programme of work
that fills my remaining years. I will seek the collaboration of
whoever wishes to support that work. Our objective is nothing less
than the saving of our civilisation.