In the Bible, it is written that “the profit of the earth is for all” and your toil is your own. John Locke, famous for defining the mixing of land and labor as the foundation for property rights, even left a proviso that land only becomes your land after mixing it with your labor when there is enough land left in common for others. Adam Smith, famous for supporting the “invisible hand of the free market”, even supported the taxation of land rents since the value of land belongs to the community.
Our culture of classical liberalism is filled with notions of independence and freedom. It is also filled with a respect for geoism, the sharing of the land, as fundamental to that independence and freedom. Thomas Jefferson wrote in to James Madison in 1785, “Wherever, in any country, there are idle lands and unemployed poor, it is clear that the laws of property have been so far extended as to violate natural right.” Thomas Jefferson, like Adam Smith, also believed in the progressive taxation of land. He believed that when Lockean property rights were so far extended to cause poverty, natural rights to land were being violated.
In 1879, Henry George wrote a book on the subject called Progress and Poverty. Henry George was considered America’s best-selling economist. While rarely known today, the Monopoly board game was inspired by his writing when Lizzie Magie patented the Landlord’s Game in 1904. George was also honored with new words in our Lexicon. The concept of land sharing was coined in the words Georgism, Geoism, Geolibertarianism, and other variants. Geoism also encapsulates the concept of public usury-free legal tender, the Greenback, since Henry George supported such monetary origination which benefits the public rather than the usurer, like Lincoln, George Washington, Thomas Edison, and others, for the payment of taxes, which Woody Guthrie also appears to support in his songs like “The Jolly Banker” and “Greenback Dollar.”
It seems someone at Google understands that true independence and freedom is about the sharing of the land, the common wealth. If land rents and the origination of the public’s legal tender is privatized and your toil is taxed, there is no freedom and no independence. Private property rights are so far extended to violate natural rights. The public collection of land rents helps stop land monopoly, prevents profiteering from land speculation, drives the cost of land down, and encourages efficient use and development of land, especially in cities where land is often found more valuable than the development on the land. The collection of land rents to fund the public needs helps ensure your toil is your own, not to be taxed away, collected by usurers upon the supply of the legal tender, or collected as land rent by private land owners.
On Independence Day, Google honored Woody Guthrie’s song, “This Land Is Your Land,” written in 1940 and published in 1945, and specifically the lyrics, “This land was made for you and me,” as part of their logo. Land is fundamental to independence and freedom. Woody Guthrie wrote the song in response to Irving Berlin’s song “God Bless America,” which Guthrie felt was filled with empty notions. Woody Guthrie was concerned, like Henry George, that poverty was being caused from the lack of sharing the land, that our notions of classical liberalism and fundamental ideas about freedom and independence was being lost. We were starting to tax the earned income of labor rather the unearned income of land rents. Woody Guthrie wrote the following lyrics in his song.
As I was walkin’ – I saw a sign there
And that sign said – no tress passin’
But on the other side …. it didn’t say nothin!
Now that side was made for you and me!
In the shadow of the steeple I saw my people,
By the relief office I seen my people;
As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking
Is this land made for you and me?
Perhaps one day we can fulfill Thomas Paine’s 1787 desire for agrarian justice, to not only collect such land rents for the public use but also distribute such land rents directly back to the public as a citizen dividend, to guarantee every America has the right to some of the land. Henry George asked in his 1833 book, Social Problems, “How can a man be said to have a country where he has no right to a square inch of soil….” Unless the right to land is secured, one is not independent and is servant to the land owner. True independence and freedom starts with a guarantee of land for all. Perhaps one day we can respect the antique notion found in the Bible and common sense around the world, that the common wealth of land is for all and your toil is your own, that this land was made for both you and me, not the capitalist looking to steal a free lunch in their sleep with the force of legal title to land.