spain judicial graft henry george

Anti-Rentier Agenda -- Bringing Left & Right Together
overlap unearned

Treat Europe's Economic Crisis as a Legal Problem?

Could courts succeed where economists and politicians have failed? Could geonomics win over both left and right? We excerpt two 2013 articles from (1) Pacific Standard, Mar 26, on Spanish courts by M. Herman and (2) The Washington Post, Mar 30, on coalescing by M. Konczal.

By Marc Herman and by Mike Konczal

Spain’s sudden burst of judicial aggression suggests a way of talking about the economic crisis that’s closer to legal studies than politics or high finance. After five years of disaster, the show of spirit among a segment of the maligned public service—the white-collar prosecutions corps—has been eye-catching here. Corrupt politician Carlo Fabra, in his seventies, faces as much as thirty years in jail if convicted in the new graft investigation.

To read more

JJS: Siccing the lawyers on current miscreants is great. Nobody should be above the law, that is, moral law. But what about fixing the system so that it does not funnel so much money to so few people in the first place? Do that and swings in the business cycle and recessions would no longer considered normal. To meet those objectives, society must redirect its spending for land. That it can do by shifting taxes.

Throughout the late 19th century, the political economist Henry George argued that a main reason there was so much poverty amidst prosperity was the large presence of people collecting unearned income, or what he called “rents”. His particular focus was on land, and his solution was taxes. It’s difficult to overstate his influence on turn-of-century reform movements, providing both the theoretical basis for those looking at other problems in the new industrial era and a concrete set of solutions for organizers building new mass political movements.

Where might we see overlap on the left and the right?

These excessive payments form an “unearned increment,” in Henry George’s popular phrasing from more than a century ago. This increment comes from more productive parts of the economy, including both businesses and workers.

Many conservatives, like liberals, have been looking at how excessive copyright law grants too much power to private individuals. And several conservatives came to the defense of Derek Khanna, an RSC staffer who was fired after publishing a conservative critique of excessive copyright.

Zoning and housing regulations designed to protect incumbent landowners’ property values, or to promote the use of cars even in dense urban environments, have also come under attack from both liberals and conservatives. The idea that the financial sector is above the law, meaning either criminal law or the legal regimes used to fail firms, is also bringing people together, if only superficially.

Rather than letting the economy stagnate to protect passive investors, “market monetarists” have pushed for the Federal Reserve to take more aggressive action.

Taxation is one of the key ways of combating rents. Henry George wrote that rents are “a value created by the whole community.” As such, it is appropriate that this value is taxed from the individuals who get it, unearned, and distributed to the community by lowering other taxes or providing public goods.

According to IRS data, the top 0.01 percent of income "earners" get more than 80 percent of their income from capital income, these issues have major importance to the distribution of income in this country.

Inherited wealth will most likely play as big a role in twenty-first-century capitalism as it did in nineteenth-century capitalism.

Like inequality, the rent issue will become more of a problem going forward.

To read more

JJS: Would be good to know how much of "capital" gains is really land gains and how much of inheritance is residual corporate welfare. Quit the insider subsidies and institute land dues and then we could pass on intrusive taxes that require an IRS and thick tax codes. It might be more radical but society could implement pure geonomics which is cleaner, simpler, and much more transformative.

There’s a lot about geonomics for both left and right to like. Axing taxes and big-government subsidies should please conservatives while recovering and sharing all the rents should attract the American liberals. While of course, environmentalists should like the fact that both halves of geonomics makes economies more efficient and their impact on ecosystems minimal.


Editor Jeffery J. Smith runs the Forum on Geonomics and helped prepare a course for the UN on geonomics. To take the “Land Rights” course, click here .

Also see:

In Indonesia, It's Blatant, In the US It's Subtle

Valley’s Elite Schools Pay Peanuts as Land Rent

What a 19th-Century Economist Can Teach Us

Email this articleSign up for free Progress Report updates via email

What are your views? Share your opinions with The Progress Report:

Your name

Your email address

Your nation (or your state, if you're in the USA)

Check this box if you'd like to receive occasional Economic Justice announcements via email. No more than one every three weeks on average.

Page One Page Two Archive
Discussion Room Letters What's Geoism?

Henry Search Engine