Henry George in Favor of a Basic Income
The Basic Income is (finally) a hot topic these days. But what you didn’t know is that it has ancient roots. Land reformer Henry George was in favor of a basic income.
November 28, 2015
Martin Adams
Author, Educator

Below, a list of sources in which Henry George advocated for a Basic Income to be drawn from economic rent. Hat tip to Mike O’Mara, Jeffery J. Smith, and Dan Sullivan for many of these sources.

“Land belongs equally to all [and since] land values arise from the presence of all, [they] should be shared among all.”—“Land and Taxation,” in Our Land and Land Policy, p. 230 (1871)
“The [New Zealand] government was obliged to step in and settle the matter by buying land for a tribal annuity, in which every child that is born acquires a share.”—footnote to Progress and Poverty, Book 7, Chapter 1, “The Injustice of Private Property in Land” (1879)
“…increase in the fund available for the common uses of society is increase in the gain that goes equally to each member of society…”—Chapter XIV. “The Civilization That Is Possible” in The Condition of Labor, 1881
“For, appropriate rent in this way, and there would be at once a large surplus over and above what are now considered the legitimate expenses of government. We could divide this, if we wanted to, among the whole community, share and share alike.”—The Land Question, p.84, 1881
Fields: “To what purpose do you contemplate that the money raised by your scheme of taxation should be applied?”George: “To the ordinary expenses of government … and, I am inclined to think, to the payment of a fixed sum to every citizen when he came to a certain age… if it were to appear that further extension of the functions of government would involve demoralisation, then the surplus revenue might be divided per capita.”—North American Review, July, 1885
The taking for the use of the community of that value of privilege which attaches to the possession of land, would, wherever social development has advanced beyond a certain stage, yield revenues even larger than those now raised by taxation, while there would be an enormous reduction in public expenses consequent, directly and indirectly, upon the abolition of present modes of taxation. Thus would be provided a fund, increasing steadily with social growth, that could be applied to social purposes now neglected… Citizenship in a civilized community ought of itself to be insurance against such a fate. And having in mind that the income which the community ought to obtain from the land to which the growth of the community gives value is in reality not a tax but the proceeds of a just rent, an English Democrat (William Saunders, M.P.) puts in this phrase the aim of true free trade: "No taxes at all, and a pension to everybody.”—Protection or Free Trade, Chapter 28, “Free Trade and Socialism” (1886)
What would thus be left to the landowners would be their personal or movable property, the value of all existing improvements in or on their land, and theirequal share with all other citizens in the land value resumed.—A Perplexed Philosopher, Part III, Chapter VIII, “Justice—On the Right to Land” (1892)
To take land values for public purposes is not really to impose a tax, but to take for public purposes a value created by the community. And out of the fund which would thus accrue from the common property, we might, without degradation to anybody, provide enough to actually secure from want all who were deprived of their natural protectors or met with accident, or any man who should grow so old that he could not work. All prating that is heard from some quarters about its hurting the common people to give them what they do not work for is humbug. The truth is, that anything that injures self-respect, degrades, does harm; but if you give it as a right, as something to which every citizen is entitled to, it does not degrade.—“The Crime of Poverty” (public address)
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Martin Adams
Author, Educator

MARTIN ADAMS is a systems thinker and author. As a child, it pained him to see most people struggling while a few were living in opulence. This inspired in him a lifelong quest to co-create a fair and sustainable world in collaboration with others. As a graduate of a business school with ties to Wall Street, he opted not to pursue a career on Wall Street and chose instead to dedicate his life to community enrichment. Through his social enterprise work, he saw firsthand the extent to which the current economic system causes human and ecological strife. Consequently, Martin devoted himself to the development of a new economic paradigm that might allow humanity to thrive in harmony with nature. His book Land: A New Paradigm for a Thriving World is the fruit of his years of research into a part of this economic model; its message stands to educate policymakers and changemakers worldwide.