Putting the Ideas of Henry George
Before the Public

John Hatherley

[Reprinted from Land & Liberty, Winter 2000]

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 angrily.

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 Communist Party.

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 anti-apartheid.

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 propose them.

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 institution.

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.