Focusing on the seemingly overlooked national period (1890-1895), it’s George’s most important work because it links to the 16th Amendment making his single-tax enforceable.
July 22, 2018
Rick DiMare

Most people think the 16th Amendment authorized the current U.S. income tax, but two income taxes were in effect when it was ratified. The 16th was only needed to remove the impediment caused by the Georgists in Pollock v. Farmers’ Loan (1895).

A “Geo-capitalist” would support Henry George’s 1890 Platform, adjusted for modern interpretation, and also would agree with the 1893 tax plan of George’s lawyer, Thomas G. Shearman, who proposed a special income tax that targeted only unearned income and privilege, while exempting wages.

Geo-capitalism would be characterized by:

(1) Rejection of debt-based monetary capital in the form of Federal Reserve Notes, and embracing only debt-free, interest-free TDLMUS (see below) as monetary capital;

(2) Taxing unearned income and estates instead of wages to pay the interest charges laid on Congress by the Fed (or alternatively, have Congress use its bankruptcy powers to erase the debt before embracing a new Geo-capitalism);

(3) Repeal of any tax loophole or exemption which prevents or defers the realization of unearned income.

(4) Full disambiguation of the three income taxes, such that Geo-capitalists who use TDLMUS-only bank accounts do not pay the currency-regulating Springer income tax, and only pay the Pollock income tax if unearned income is generated. (But if incorporated, the Geo-capitalist would be required to pay an additional Stone Tracy income tax on corporate privilege.)

Because Henry George (and John Locke) believed in substantial individual rights over one’s mind, body and labor or energy, Geo-capitalism puts the natural human person first, while considering artificial “legal fiction” corporate persons to have some rights that are similar to natural persons, but such rights are generally inferior to those of natural persons (humans).

In short, the wages of natural persons (unlike the unearned income, dividends, interest, etc. generated by corporations) are legally capable of being one’s personal property, and such a property right should not be compromised by a tax on so-called “wage income” or “earned income.”

Geo-capitalism rejects communist full state ownership over the means of production (land, labor and capital), but also rejects full private or “allodial” ownership, and instead calls for conditional ownership such that:

(1) LAND is capable of being owned “fee simple” by individuals, the individual has the right to exclusively possess the land, is able to sell, develop, and even bequeath land after death, but the state at all times retains right to tax any unearned gains or profits derived from land, and of course the state retains eminent domain powers.

(2) LABOR is capable of being fully owned by the individual natural person (but not by corporate or artificial legal persons) wage-earner, and should not be taxed as wage income, but the state can tax any gains derived from hiring the labor of others as an unearned income gain;

(3) CAPITAL is capable of being owned by the businessperson, but gains derived from capital (i.e., capital gains) are always subject to taxation as income. Geo-capitalism recognizes two kinds of capital: (1) capital goods used in the production of goods and services, like buildings, facilities, land improvements, machinery, equipment, tools, inventory, computers, robots, etc., and (2) financial capital like money, and investments held in money, but a Geo-capitalist does not regard privately-issued currency as being capital. Only money in the form of paper or electronic U.S. Notes and/or current U.S. coin can be considered financial capital. We call this kind of money “Treasury Direct Lawful Money of the United States” (TDLMUS).

After Individual rights are recognized and preserved, no limits on social programs

Social programs which could be offered to the public under Geo-capitalism are only limited by how much government can reasonably tax unearned income and privilege. Those who study Henry George know that he referred to himself as an “unlimited single taxer,” and reluctantly accepted his lawyer Thomas Shearman’s identification as a “limited single taxer.” In other words, Shearman wanted to tax only enough to meet the needs of government, but George disagreed and wanted to tax “as near as possible” all unearned income so as to provide as many social services as possible, thus eventually leading to more leisure time and a higher standard of living for everyone.

This designation between the “limited” vs. “unlimited single tax” is becoming increasingly important in the technological age where the downward pressure on wages is accelerating, along with the ease with which unearned income gains are accruing to a select few. The “single tax” on unearned gains (according to George’s view) needs to accelerate along with the acceleration in unearned gains, and should not be allowed to stagnate or regress.

Utilities and natural monopolies to be socialized

As described in Paragraph 11 of the 1890 Platform, George advocated that utilities and other natural monopolies, “where free competition becomes impossible,” and which could not reasonably be trusted to private parties, should be both controlled AND actively managed by government. Today, this likely means socialization of not only legal, postal and armed services, but internet, air and space routes, sea lanes, satellite communications, airwaves, interstate highways, railroads, electric grids, telephone lines, water supply, sewerage, etc.

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Rick DiMare

Rick is a self employed attorney from Boston, Massachusetts. He graduated from Boston College and studied law at the Massachusetts School of Law at Andover. He also administers the Facebook group called Common Wealth Tax, which seeks to explore the (currently obscure) link between modern income tax laws and the Land Value Tax (LVT) advocated by political economist and “Greenbacker” Henry George (1839-1897).