Putting the Ideas of Henry George
Before the Public
[Reprinted from Land & Liberty, Winter
Sir, We must explore another avenue in order to educate the public in
the ideas of Henry George, an avenue lined with younger trees more
likely to bear fruit. Education begins with youth. Adult response, as
we toilers know, results in the response, "Henry George? Who's
he?" or "No, not him!"
Despite its history in attempting to place LVT on the statue-book in
the first two decades of the 21st century, the Liberal Party will not
include it as a policy today.
At a small meeting, I once asked David Steel, "Do you believe in
land value taxation?"
"Yes, I do," he said.
"Then why don't we ever hear you proposing it?" I responded
He replied, "It's all very well for you to criticise from the
comfort of your armchair."
I was left speechless. "The comfort of my armchair", in
those days when I was a Liberal Prospect Parliamentary Candidate, was
to leave my armchair, in what would otherwise be spare time, and
spread the word from door to door and in newsletters.
Simon Hughes is a devout Christian and a member of the Progressive
Forum. He never says a word in favour of LVT.
Perhaps I obtained a clue about Lib-Dem silence at a recent meeting
at which Charles Kennedy was a speaker. In the question-and answer
session, I referred to the Liberal Party's historical record in LVT
and asked why the Lib-Dems do not incorporate it in their manifesto.
He replied "I represent a farming area in the south west country".
It confirmed what I had long suspected. Several Lib-Dems represent
areas in the south-west and fear losing parliamentary seats by what
farmers would regard as an imposition on their land.
In such question-and-answer sessions, one is not given the
opportunity to reply by pointing out that (a) any tax change might be
disadvantageous to a minority, but steps can always be taken to remedy
this; and (b) that fanners would benefit by the consequent reduction
in income tax and VAT.
But let us return to youth, my youth to start with, in the apartheid
era in South Africa. During my schooldays, one or two matters started
to make me wonder about white dominance. The big change came at the
University of the Witwatersrand in 1943-1947. Anti-apartheid
demonstrations were held amongst students, several organized by the
The academic staff was not pro-Communist, yet strongly
anti-apartheid. So were the staffs of other English-speaking
universities such as Cape Town and Natal. They were training the
future leaders in education, business, the professions, etc. to be
An important factor occurred in the e 1950s when the theological
faculty of University of Stellenbosch, an Afrikaner University, turned
against apartheid. Given the hold the Dutch Reformed Church had
Afrikaners, this was a major factor.
The point is -- students attend university in order to learn. Their
minds are not yet set are open. I suggest that this is where we find
converts to Georgism.
In the current list of Progressive Forum Founder members there are
seven actually or closely connected economics. I suggest that we ask
each to promote an essay competition in their institution, offering a
prize of £50 (or £30 and £20 for 2nd prize) at a cost
of £5 per essay (to cover the cost of the prize). The essay could
be subject such as "Henry George's shared an idea for taxation
with Adam Smith and the Physiocrats: what was it, and what did he do
to propagate it?" or perhaps better, "Henry George's
proposed tax became popular in Britain but never became law. Why not?"
Doubtless others can think of better subjects for the essay. Please
There should not be so many essays impose a strain on each academic
leader I suggest, should mark the essays and s the prize money in any
As regards other universities/colleges, I suggest that heads of the
relevant faculties be approached, one at a time, essays returned to
the HGF where someone judge and award prizes. This would avoid a mass
of work to be judged at one time, entry form should contain an
invitation to join the HGF.