Religion, Philosophy, and Land Rights
Religion, philosophy, and economics can each arrive at the view that there are two basic kinds of property that need to be treated differently.
February 24, 2019
Mike O'Mara
Policy Maker

It's significant that religion, philosophy, and economics, with each tradition starting from different premises, each can arrive at the view that the two basic kinds of property need to be treated differently: property that is produced by human effort vs. property in land and its natural resources, which no person produced.

For example: (a) in religion: Jesus and Moses; (b) in philosophy, John Locke; and (c) in economics, JS Mill, Adam Smith, Henry George, AJ Nock, etc.

From a religious tradition, here are some of the biblical passages about equal rights to land for each family (in the Old Testament and the New Testament):

Leviticus 25 (especially 10,23); Deuteronomy 28 (15,30, 33);  
1 Kings, 21; Ecclesiastes 5:9; Psalm 115:16; Isaiah 5:8; Isaiah 61:1-7; Mark 12:1-12; Luke 4:16-21.

Leviticus 25 describes how each family is to have equal rights to land. The priest class, the Levites, while they did not directly own land, received equivalent compensation, which is also compatible with philosopher John Locke's requirement of equal rights to land or by implication, equivalent compensation.

In addition to the several Old Testament passages noted above about upholding equal rights to land, the list of citations also includes New Testament passages referring to statements in the Old Testament about equal rights to land.

In Luke 4:16-21, when Jesus first read in the temple,  the reading was from Isaiah, and refers to the Jubilee year, of freeing the servants and upholding equal rights to land. The specific passage Jesus quoted from is Isaiah 61, where it says:

(Isaiah 61:1-7) (1) "The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. ... (2) ... to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn ... (7) Instead of your shame you will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace you will rejoice in your inheritance. And so you will inherit a double portion in your land, and everlasting joy will be yours."

There are at least two other places in the New Testament where Jesus refers to land rights. In Mark 12:1-12 is a parable that author Fred Harrison says is scolding the priests for not upholding land rights. Also, in the sermon on the mount, the King James version says "the meek shall inherit the earth", but some say a more accurate translation would be: "the patient shall get back their land".

Fred Harrison makes a case that the parable about land in Mark 12:1-12 is what got Jesus crucified. In any case, the passage in Luke 4:16-21 is a direct reference Jesus made to upholding land rights; and the statement in the sermon on the mount might have been another factor.

Because the U.S. and many other countries have a strong tradition of Christianity and Judaism, it's worth mentioning to anyone from either tradition that their own religion's teachings point to equal rights to land for every family. Some might try to dismiss those teachings by incorrectly claiming that they're only in the Old Testament, which contains many laws that are now considered contrary to morality. But as shown in the original post on this topic, the teaching about equal rights to land for every family also appears in the New Testament.

Father McGlynn preached equal rights to land, in agreement with his contemporary, economist Henry George. For promoting those teachings to his large congregation in New York City about scriptural commandments for equal rights to land, McGlynn was temporarily dismissed from his position, but was later reinstated. In any case, it's significant that neither ministers, priests, nor rabbis tend to teach their congregations that the scriptures of Christianity and Judaism call for equal rights to land.

When it comes to sharing of products made by people, there is a crucial distinction between:

(a) voluntary sharing of products, encouraged by persuasion and moral teachings, vs
(b) compulsory sharing of products, under force of law. Unlike land, which no person produced, products made by people involve incentives, which is why compulsory equal sharing of products, as in pure communism, leads to problems, including a lower standard of living for everyone.

If laws required equal sharing of products made by people, so that those who choose not to work as hard receive all the same things as people who work harder or study harder, that leads to a lower standard of living for all of them under pure communism, including preventing people from being allowed to use some of the surplus they produced in order to invest in creativity, diversity, and innovations that benefit everyone.

So, it's important to make the distinction between equal sharing of land vs equal sharing of products made by people. Anyone who says he wants to see more sharing of human-made products is obligated to state:

(1) whether he is calling for more use of voluntary sharing of products, or more compulsory sharing of them under force of law, such as by an income tax or other use of legal force;
(2) if he is advocating more use of voluntary sharing of products, is he calling for everyone to have equal sharing of products, so that he believes we should all live in voluntary pure communism such as within a commune, communist community, monastery, etc.; or
(3) if he is calling for more use of compulsory sharing of human products under force of law, such as by income taxes, is he for equal sharing of wealth produced by people, as in state communism, such as by a 100% income tax, or some lesser amount (90%,70%,50%,30%, or ...)

Whether you come from a background of religion, philosophy, or economics, it's worth noting that all three traditions can point to the conclusion that the two basic kinds of property should be treated differently.

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Mike O'Mara
Policy Maker

Mike O'Mara is a co-founder of the Democratic Freedom Caucus. The DFC is a pro-LVT caucus within the Democratic Party that advocates freedom-oriented policies, which go beyond left and right. Aside from individual liberty, constitutional democracy, and social repsonibility, the DFC promotes the public interest rather than favoritism to special interests, addressing the root causes of economic problems, building-in incentives for improving the quality and efficiency of public services, upholding civil liberties, and equal freedom for everyone, which are essential for human progress. They also endorse political candidates, lobby officials, and help educate voters on geo-issues while promoting land value taxation policy. With state contacts in most states, his goal is to form similar caucuses in the Green Party and also the Republican Party. Contact him at their website, Facebook page, or Facebook group for more information and to get involved. The DFC is also reachable through Twitter.