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Georgism Should be Implemented in the United States

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 2/18/2013 Category: Politics
Updated: 4 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,702 times Debate No: 30361
Debate Rounds (4)
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I haven't been on this website for a very long time, but I've returned with a completely new worldview.
I look forward to this debate.

First, some preliminary definitions:

Land is any property which is not created (water, earth, the electromagnetic spectrum, forests, etc.)

To monopolize is to exclude others from the justified use of property

Citizens' dividend:
The citizens' dividend is the surplus money distributed to individuals in a locality.

Georgism is a socioeconomic philosophy proposed by Henry George, an American economist, in his book "Progress and Prosperity". It basically boils down to these bullets:
  • Every economy, no matter how developed, is still a land-based economy
    • Land-based economy means that, ultimately, the market functions according to the monopolization of land.
  • Land does not go up in value because of capital investment, it goes up in value because of the community that builds up around it.
  • A person is entitled to the fruits of their labor
    • Land, being not created by any human cannot be said to be the fruits of the labor of a human.
      • Therefore land cannot be rightfully owned by an individual.
  • However, markets work pretty well at distributing goods efficiently in an economy and markets require the firm to have the power to exclude other firms from the use of their land so, while land is necessarily a common property that no one can rightfully own, the market functions better when it is owned.

With those bullets in mind, Georgism is a system in which the land in an economy functionally can be monopolized, but philosophically cannot be. This logical discrepancy is solved by having the capitalist "rent" the land from the community in the form of a land-value tax (LVT). Ideally, this LVT would be levied on a local basis and would pay for the functions of government first, and the surplus would be equally distributed to all the members of the locality, rich and poor.

Another central tenet of Georgism is the reduction or elimination of other taxes. The income tax is unacceptable because it taxes a freedom. When you work a lot, you get taxed a lot. That isn't an incentive system that I support.

The same goes for sales tax which taxes people on the free exchange of goods.

In a Georgist economy, there would be almost no other taxes with a very high LVT.

Benefits of LVT:

Benefits of taxing the value of land instead of property

a. Taxing the value of property disincentivizes improvement of that property. If you add improvements to your house, your taxes will go up. This incentivizes rundown neighborhoods.

b. When you tax property, the big vacant lots are being essentially subsidized by improved lots nearby. To incentivize the unproductive use of land is silly.

c. Along the same tact, real estate firms hold huge power over the economy without being conspicuous. While everyone likes to blame the banks for the recent global recession, they were just following the money. The corrupt ones were the big real estate firms that buy lots of property and engineer scarcity to artificially inflate prices by refusing to sell certain lots until they've held them for 12 years.

Tax evasion:

The vast majority of capitalist firms require land to produce/sell. The reason the land value tax should replace other taxes is that it will not ever cause a firm to move to evade taxes. A McDonald's gets it's money from existing on land. Firms in New York City must remain in New York City.


Georgism allows the free market to work and still totally eliminates poverty and acknowledges the existence of the Commons.

Name dropping:

Milton Friedman: Nobel conservative economist with his "negative income tax"

F.A. Hayek: Nobel conservative economist with his basic income guarantee

Martin Luther King Jr.: doesn't need an introduction, I imagine.

Thomas Paine: The founding father of the United States in his pamphlet agrarian justice (Many of the founding fathers also believed economies were ultimately agrarian in nature [land-based])

Another couple benefits of Georgism

  • a government could significantly reduce its social welfare programs which are one of the most costly functions of government.
  • Georgism means the end of wage slavery. No longer would you have people working dead end jobs just because they have to make ends meet. It would allow people to pull themselves out of the ruts they have found themselves in.

Pre-emptive responses:

One might say no one will ever agree to it. I have one rebuttal to that:

It is already happening in Alaska. The oil in Alaska belongs to all residents of Alaska so they get money for the use of it as a resource. It's not a lot as it's only one common good, but it alleviates their tax burden.

One might say that having a citizens' dividend would cause people not to work. I have two rebuttals to that

1. nuh-huh. (Just kidding) A basic income guarantee has been tried in many pilot programs in the United States, Canada, and once in Namibia. Analysis afterwards has found that employment was only significantly affected in two groups: new mothers and teenagers who support their family by working. Those teenagers opted to go to school instead.

2. Even if it did cause people not to work, it would only be in jobs they didn't like. That's not a bad thing. The current system amounts to slavery. Employment is not voluntary if you have to do it in order to survive. That is the opposite of voluntary.

3. We already have programs that allow people not to work. The vast majority of people still choose to work because we want MORE money and we don't want to seem to be a leech on society.

4. A system that allows people not to work creates a truly free market. The employers would have to entice workers to join their crew instead of sitting comfortably knowing the workers have no real choice but to throw stuff in a fryer for minimum wage.

Our workers are enslaved. It's time to change that.

I look forward to reading the rebuttal.


Progress and Prosperity by Henry George (General proof) (Alaska oil dividend) (Canada experiment) (Namibia experiment)



I'd like to thank Pro for initiating this topic. I've only read cursory articles dealing with Georgism so this will surely be a learning experience for me. Try to go easy on me.

I will try to make my case as concise as possible. My case will be mostly moral, in defense of completely private land ownership. My case defends land as an object of rightful ownership by individuals. This will be both a criticism of Pro's arguments against private land ownership as well as a positive case in defense of it. An inquiry into Pro's justification of his utilitarian framework will also be included.

Before I begin though I should distinguish from what I intent to criticize and what I do not. The elimination of all other taxes (income, sales) is something I'm wholly in agreement with. So the elimination of those taxes will not be in dispute here. Rather, it is the creation of a high single tax on land (as well as the arguments in support of such) which will form a large part of this debate.

Moral problems in implementation.

First, it should be noted that Pro has failed to adequately justify why land itself cannot be privately owned. The resolution implies a need for "moral" justification through use of the word "Should". Why should I do something? It can either be because doing so is a legitimate means towards an end I desire (a hypothetical imperative) or it could be because I have a moral obligation to do so (a categorical imperative).

Pro seems to have taken both approaches. He uses the categorical approach in asserting the common nature of land (being a turn on private ownership) and the hypothetical approach in his basic utilitarian/economic reasoning. The assumption being that we all want or should want what Georgism would bring. But this second approach generally boils down to the first. Especially if someone fails to share your goals. Non-Georgists could theoretically share the believe with Georgists that the single tax program would bring more prosperity but nevertheless oppose it for moral reasons. Pro is then burdened with showing a coherent and inter-subjectively valid (i.e., not opinion-based) moral reason in support of Georgism.

(1) So far , Pro has implicitly presumed a utilitarian stance (at least partially). However, he has failed to adequately defend it. Hence I ask that he bring some argument for why we should be utilitarians (therefore making economic arguments morally binding) in the next round. Until then though there's no reason to accept his main line of reasoning. I need not refute Pro's economic reasoning since there are more relevant moral reasons against the implementation of Georgism.

(2) Pro's quasi-moral reasoning is also open to many flaws. He argues that entitlement arises out of labor and since land (separate from improvements on it) cannot be the fruit of our labor, private entitlement to land is not existent. But why should we accept Pro's first premise? He fails to supplant a reason for why this is the only method to property acquisition. Other theories, such as first-use (homesteading) certainly have an air of plausibility to them. Why does Pro simply jump over them to assert (without foundation) that his is the correct procedure?

(3) Secondly, Pro's point is highly inconsistent. No one ever acts truly alone in applying their labor to create something. Just like we had no hand in creating land, most of us had no hand in developing the things we base our labor off of every day. For instance, we can safely presume that under Georgism, it would be permissible to apply one's labor to, say, some unowned debris someone found to create a work of art. But we had no part in the creation of the debris itself so it seems to logically follow from Georgist doctrine that we have no right to use this debris. And the same applies to most everything we do. No one is the sole creator of the things they use. Economies are so interconnected and complex that this would be an impossibility. Therefore, the Georgist is caught up in a seeming inconsistency in only applying this rule to land, while allowing other forms of personal property to go un-taxed. I can foresee Pro possibly going back to the Georgist proposition that all economies are essentially land-based, but I fail to see any instance where he attempted to justify this proposition. Pro needs to do so before we can take his claim very seriously.
Debate Round No. 1


darris321 forfeited this round.


Extend refutations.
Debate Round No. 2


I am sorry to Con and the readers that I wasn't able to post my argument in time. School has been hectic. I thank Con graciously for accepting the debate.

Moral problems in implementation. (rebuttal)

As Con indicated, I have indeed taken both approaches. There is a categorical imperative and a hypothetical imperative.

Hypothetical Imperative:

  • As it stands, when a community is improved, the resultant increase in the value of land disappears into the pockets of the people who own that land. The reason you should favor the renting of a land from a community instead of private ownership is that infrastructure should be self-financing. When the local government builds a school, a community center, or even a bridge, the increase in economic rent would always more than cover the cost of the community improvement.

    • This system gives the government an incentive to improve the community.

  • The citizen's dividend would improve the economy

    • Every time tax returns come back (at least in America) the economy experiences a short boom while the citizen's spend their money. Basic economics has taught us that spending is what drives the economy. The citizen's dividend would have the same effect constantly.

    • Because of the nature of the citizen's dividend, every citizen would get their share without regard to means testing. This means that a government could all but completely disestablish the bureaucracy surrounding welfare and social security which would free up resources for more efficient uses.

    • The citizen's dividend would also allow would-be entrepreneurs to start their businesses. Right now there are untold entrepreneurs who are trapped in a job that pays only enough to cover base costs of living so they can't start up or focus on the business they would start if they had more time.

Categorical Imperative:

  • The most powerful moral obligation may be that the citizen's dividend all but totally eliminates poverty.

  • The citizen's dividend improves moral parts of the economy too

    • Often, the argument in favor of the free market is that it's voluntary. However, there are certain parts of our economy that are only pseudo-voluntary. Employment, for example, is not truly voluntary. A person cannot choose NOT to be employed by someone else because he/she would become homeless. If a person was more free to choose not to work, employers would have to actually compete for labor. That is to say, it would end wage slavery, but not wages.

      • So while it would be good for would-be entrepreneurs, it would also be good for would-be authors to write/would-be sculptors to sculpt/etc.

  • When the value of land goes up, it is because of the community around that land and not because of an individual land owner's input. One could buy a plot of land in New York 100 years ago and sell it today without putting any work into it at all and they will have made a HUGE profit. They have not done anything to deserve the increased value, but they reap the benefits of the work of the community.

  • Entitlement must arise from labor because when we allow homesteading the homesteader isn't just taking the land from other contemporary potential land owners, he/she is also taking that land out of the hands of future generations. Imagine person X and person Y. X claims the last plot of land. X hasn't just removed the use of that land from Y, he/she has also taken it from all of Y's progeny. And what about person Z who didn't have enough money in the first place to become a homesteader? Homesteading ultimately amounts to stealing- nice stealing that has a potentially beneficial outcome- but stealing all the same.

“ Just like we had no hand in creating land, most of us had no hand in developing the things we base our labor off of every seems to logically follow from Georgist doctrine that we have no right to use this...”

Con may have missed something here. The argument isn't that one can't USE something that isn't made by one's own hands, it's that one cannot OWN something that isn't made by one's own hands. We can base our labor off of the land, we just can't monopolize land without paying rent to the community.

“Therefore, the Georgist is caught up in a seeming inconsistency in only applying this rule to land, while allowing other forms of personal property to go un-taxed.”

We don't tax land because it is being used, we tax land because it cannot be rightfully monopolized.

“ I can foresee Pro possibly going back to the Georgist proposition that all economies are essentially land-based, but I fail to see any instance where he attempted to justify this”

All economies are essentially land based because no matter what is produced, it must come ultimately from land. Nothing is produced without raw materials. No good is produced without real estate.



Noumena forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 3


darris321 forfeited this round.


Unfortunately, due to my opponent's and my own forfeits, what should have been a three round debate was shortened to only one. Since both of us forfeited at least one round, I suggest not docking one of us over the other for the Conduct vote. Vote Con.
Debate Round No. 4
5 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 5 records.
Posted by darris321 4 years ago
I just wrote ~4000 characters and the website stopped typing so I refreshed because it said "autosaved"
... it was all gone.
I hate this website sometimes.

I am truly sorry I haven't gotten to posting yet. School has been hectic. I was planning on writing my response before class this morning but then ^that^ happened.
Posted by darris321 4 years ago
I have no idea what you guys are talking about. I apologize if I didn't "source my argument" but since my argument came from my own head, I don't see how that's even possible.

I added sources that were relevant to the bottom of the post, if that's what you mean.
"copy paste edit at its best..."
Let's try to be courteous and civil, please. I wrote this myself. I did not plagiarize.
Posted by Legitdebater 4 years ago
LOL, I thought Georgism was implementing George Bush ways in the U.S. But it seems like legitimate, and yeah you forgot to source your information
Posted by Jarhyn 4 years ago
Well, it would be nice, Darris, if you cited the source of your argument. Even so, it's an interesting read, and a convincing argument.
Posted by TolerantSpirit 4 years ago
copy paste edit at its best...
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