Land Value Taxation will solve many of the 21st century's most serious social, economic and environmental problems, and promote justice, fairness and sustainability. We CAN have a world in which all can prosper.
Progress and Poverty, by Henry George Here are links to online editions of George's landmark book, Progress & Poverty, including audio and a number of abridgments -- the shortest is 30 words! I commend this book to your attention, if you are concerned about economic justice, poverty, sprawl, energy use, pollution, wages, housing affordability. Its observations will change how you approach all these problems. A mind-opening experience!
Henry George: Progress and Poverty: An inquiry into the cause of industrial depressions and of increase of want with increase of wealth ... The Remedy This is perhaps the most important book ever written on the subjects of poverty, political economy, how we might live together in a society dedicated to the ideals Americans claim to believe are self-evident. It will provide you new lenses through which to view many of our most serious problems and how we might go about solving them: poverty, sprawl, long commutes, despoilation of the environment, housing affordability, wealth concentration, income concentration, concentration of power, low wages, etc. Read it online, or in hardcopy.
Bob Drake's abridgement of Henry George's original: Progress and Poverty: Why There Are Recessions and Poverty Amid Plenty -- And What To Do About It! This is a very readable thought-by-thought updating of Henry George's longer book, written in the language of a newsweekly. A fine way to get to know Henry George's ideas. Available online at progressandpoverty.org and http://www.henrygeorge.org/pcontents.htm
Where Else Might You Look?
Wealth and Want The URL comes from the subtitle to Progress & Poverty -- and the goal is widely shared prosperity in the 21st century. How do we get there from here? A roadmap and a reference source.
Reforming the Property Tax for the Common Good I'm a tax reform activist who seeks to promote fairness and reduce poverty. Let's start with the enabling legislation and state requirements for the property tax. There are opportunities for great good!
I posted this comment elsewhere, and thought it worth sharing here:
I've not read far into the book yet -- and it is available online as a PDF file -- but by the time I was into the first chapter, it was clear that Dr. Piketty's economic education, extensive as it might be, entirely omitted the ideas of the classical economists who described a 3-factor economy: land, labor and capital. Piketty, like nearly everyone educated in economics in the past 40 to 80 years, writes as if there were only two factors -- labor and capital -- treating land as if it were a mere subset of capital, with no reason to recognize it as differentiated.
Land -- not only urban sites, but also the other things the classical economists would recognize as Land, such as water rights, oil, electromagnetic spectrum (our airwaves which we all say belong to the American people, but which are in reality owned by corporations), landing rights at busy landlocked airports, geosynchronous orbits, urban street parking, the value of dozens of other non-renewable natural resources -- is completely different in character from that which is created by labor. To fail to recognize that difference lies at the bottom of our inequality problem.
That which individuals and corporations produce is rightly individual property. That which the community and nature produce is rightly common property, belonging to all of us. Conflating Capital and Land leads us to permit the privatization of that which is rightly our common treasure.
You might be interested to know that the Landlord Game, invented by 1902, was intended to teach this concept. You have probably played Monopoly, which was based on this game, played with very different rules.
Explore the ideas of Henry George. Between 1885 and 1900 or so, everyone knew the name and many well understood his ideas. You might start with "Social Problems" or the more analytical "Progress and Poverty," or his speeches, "The Crime of Poverty," "Thou Shalt Not Steal," among others, online at http://www.wealthandwant.com. See also http://lvtfan.typepad.com.
Dr. Piketty and others whose education in economics has omitted George's ideas should not be treated as experts; they've mixed apples and oranges and not noticed that what they've created impoverishes the vast majority of us -- and enriches a few. (Parenthetically, consider who donates heavily to our universities.)
Paying taxes is rarely pleasant, but as April 15 approaches it’s worth remembering that our tax system is a progressive one and serves a little-noticed but crucial purpose: It mitigates some of the worst consequences of income inequality.
If any of us, as individuals, are unfortunate enough to have income drop significantly, the tax on that income will plummet as well — and a direct payment, or negative tax, might even be received from the government, thanks to the earned-income tax credit. In this way, the tax system can be viewed as a colossal insurance system, guarding against extreme income inequality. There are similar provisions in other countries.
But it’s also clear that while income inequality would be much worse without our current tax system, what we have isn’t nearly enough. It’s time — past time, actually — to tweak the system so that it can respond effectively if income inequality becomes more extreme.
"Respond effectively if"???
How about policies that would prevent a large portion of our currentincome inequality by either pre-collecting, for public purposes, the economic rent which rent-seekers love to capture as long as we let it hang out there, or putting a market price on privileges of various kinds -- the right to collect tolls, the right to use the airwaves, the right to string wires of various kinds along public rights-of-way, to occupy other parts of the commons and charge others to use what one puts on it. One could call it "natural public revenue."
Bob Schiller knows some of the ways people grow wealthy in their sleep, without lifting a finger. He knows about boom-bust cycles, and the economic agony they cause to ordinary human beings in our society. He chronicles, he measures, he profits from the selling of those measurements.
Probably once or twice it has passed through his mind that by some simple alterations to public policy, we could make our economy more stable, our society more just.
Perhaps he has played the game Monopoly, and maybe he knows that it was not created in the 1930s, but has its roots in The Landlord's Game, created by late 1902, to teach the ideas of Henry George, who, it is likely, was at least mentioned in his Eco 101 textbooks, though perhaps glossed over by a busy and unaware instructor.
Does he seek to reduce the income inequality by preventing it, or only collecting some piece of the privilege-payments after the fact without tweaking the system that permits them even a tiny bit?
Milton Friedman, another economic eminence, maintained that land value tax was the "least bad" tax, but never lifted his voice to promote it further than that acknowledgment (in 1968 and 2006 and perhaps in between). He likely had other kinds of interests top of mind.
Let's not just "mitigate the worst effects." Let's acquaint ourselves with the structures that create those worst effects, and destroy them! Go to the root! Be radical! Eradicate those structures!
It was Henry David Thoreau who said,
"There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root."
Dare Professor Schiller strike at the root? Dare he point to the root? Has he sought the root? Or is he content with hacking -- nibbling -- at branches, which doesn't help the victims a tenth as much as striking at the root?
Ironically, Professor Schiller is the "Sterling Professor of Economics" at Yale. That seat was endowed by Jack Sterling (1844-1915), co-founder of the law firm Shearman & Sterling with Thomas G. Shearman (1834-1900)*, upon his death in 1918. Shearman knew where the root was, and devoted himself to seeking its eradication. (Explore the NYT archives for references.) It is ironic that nearly 100 years later, the occupant of that seat (and many other things at Yale) is content with nibbling. But maybe it isn't surprising. Lots of alumni would not be happy to have those roots identified, and even a tenured professor could be uncomfortable being the one to call attention. They might be the ones who endow the next set of professorships, from the gains they've made based on the unjust and unwise structures their respected -- and aspiring -- professors have failed to publicly question.
Let's not "insure against inequality." (Who gets to collect that insurance, and how does it compare to theirlosses?) Let's find ways to create a level playing field on which all can prosper. Sustainable and just to all.
And let's see about making it okay for tenured professors to share those ideas with their readers and students. And more profitable than promoting structures that need to be "insured against."
We worked through spring and winter,
through summer and through fall.
But the mortgage worked the hardest
and steadiest of them all;
It worked on nights and Sundays, it
worked each holiday;
It settled down among us and it never
Whatever we kept from it seemed almost as bad as theft;
It watched us every minute and it
ruled us right and left.
The rust and blight were with us
sometimes, and sometimes not;
scowling mortgage was forever on the spot.
The weevil and the cutworm they went
as well as came;
The mortgage stayed forever, eating
heartily all the same.
It nailed up every window, stood
guard at every door,
And happiness and sunshine, made
their home with us no more;
Till with falling crops and sickness
we got stalled upon the grade.
And there came a dark
day on us when the interest wasn't paid.
And there came a sharp foreclosure,
and I kind o' lost my hold.
And grew weary and discouraged and
the farm was cheaply sold.
The children left and scattered, when
they hardly yet were grown;
My wife she pined and perished, and I found myself alone.
What she died of was a mystery, and
the doctors never knew;
But I knew she died of mortgage — Just
as well as I wanted to.
If to trace a hidden sorrow were
within the doctors art.
They'd ha' found a mortgage lying on
that woman's broken heart.
Worm or beetle, drought
or tempest, on a farmer's land may fall.
But for a first-class
ruination, trust a mortgage 'gainst them all.
How much of a farmer's mortgage is for the value of the land itself, and how much for the present value of the improvements which previous owners have made, such as clearing, draining, fencing, irrigating, building structures, plus, perhaps, equipment purchased with the land and buildings?
For that matter, how much of a homeowner's mortgage is for the value of the land itself --including its access to community-provided services such as city water and sewer, fire hydrants, and the like -- and how much for the purchase price of the landscaping and structures on the property, built by any of the previous owners?
To what degree is the modern buyer including in his formal calculations or his underlying assumptions the notion that the land will increase in value during his tenure? (See Case & Schiller, 2003.)
The game’s true origins, however, go unmentioned in the official literature. Three decades before Darrow’s patent, in 1903, a Maryland actress named Lizzie Magie created a proto-Monopoly as a tool for teaching the philosophy of Henry George, a nineteenth-century writer who had popularized the notion that no single person could claim to “own” land. In his book Progress and Poverty (1879), George called private land ownership an “erroneous and destructive principle” and argued that land should be held in common, with members of society acting collectively as “the general landlord.”
Magie called her invention The Landlord’s Game, and when it was released in 1906 it looked remarkably similar to what we know today as Monopoly. It featured a continuous track along each side of a square board; the track was divided into blocks, each marked with the name of a property, its purchase price, and its rental value. The game was played with dice and scrip cash, and players moved pawns around the track. It had railroads and public utilities — the Soakum Lighting System, the Slambang Trolley — and a “luxury tax” of $75. It also had Chance cards with quotes attributed to Thomas Jefferson (“The earth belongs in usufruct to the living”), John Ruskin (“It begins to be asked on many sides how the possessors of the land became possessed of it”), and Andrew Carnegie (“The greatest astonishment of my life was the discovery that the man who does the work is not the man who gets rich”). The game’s most expensive properties to buy, and those most remunerative to own, were New York City’s Broadway, Fifth Avenue, and Wall Street. In place of Monopoly’s “Go!” was a box marked “Labor Upon Mother Earth Produces Wages.” The Landlord Game’s chief entertainment was the same as in Monopoly: competitors were to be saddled with debt and ultimately reduced to financial ruin, and only one person, the supermonopolist, would stand tall in the end. The players could, however, vote to do something not officially allowed in Monopoly: cooperate. Under this alternative rule set, they would pay land rent not to a property’s title holder but into a common pot—the rent effectively socialized so that, as Magie later wrote, “Prosperity is achieved.”
Readers of this blog know that Lizzie Magie had created her game and started to promote it by the Fall of 1902.
“Monopoly players around the kitchen table”—which is to say, most people—“think the game is all about accumulation,” he said. “You know, making a lot of money. But the real object is to bankrupt your opponents as quickly as possible. To have just enough so that everybody else has nothing.” In this view, Monopoly is not about unleashing creativity and innovation among many competing parties, nor is it about opening markets and expanding trade or creating wealth through hard work and enlightened self-interest, the virtues Adam Smith thought of as the invisible hands that would produce a dynamic and prosperous society. It’s about shutting down the marketplace. All the players have to do is sit on their land and wait for the suckers to roll the dice.
Smith described such monopolist rent-seekers, who in his day were typified by the landed gentry of England, as the great parasites in the capitalist order. They avoided productive labor, innovated nothing, created nothing—the land was already there—and made a great deal of money while bleeding those who had to pay rent. The initial phase of competition in Monopoly, the free-trade phase that happens to be the most exciting part of the game to watch, is really about ending free trade and nixing competition in order to replace it with rent-seeking.
This is a good article, and I commend it in its entirety to your attention. It also provides links to Tom Forsythe's new site, http://landlordsgame.info/, whose graphics show many early versions of the Landlord's Game, which I look forward to exploring. I learned for the first time that the game layout that I had thought was an early one, with a lake in the center, was actually a 1939 version, based on Lizzie Magie's design but published by Parker Brothers. (I ought to have figured that out sooner, since the board includes her married name!)
It is interesting that one of the earlier versions -- 1909 -- was based on Altoona's streets. In the past year, Altoona has shifted to taxing land and not taxing buildings to fund its municipal spending. (This was a gradual shift, accomplished over a number of years; they must have liked the effect!)
I came across this rather good letter to the editor, from 1938. (Trinity Church Corporation, a major landlord in downtown Manhattan, was the subject of a NYT article this past week, as well as the subject of a major series in the NYT in December, 1894):
1938-09-03 Letters to The Times
Collecting Ground Rent Single-Tax System Regarded as No Detriment to Building
TO THE EDITOR OF THE NEW YORK TIMES:
Fabian Franklin, in his letter to THE TIMES discussing the demolition of John D. Rockefeller's Harlem tenements in order to save taxes, writes:
"That objection is simply that virtual abolition of land ownership, which the single-tax plan is designed to effect, would make the building of houses in a city an extra-hazardous business, because, under the single-tax regime, in the great majority of cases the investment would result in a disastrous loss to the owner of the building. I was neither blaming nor praising Mr. Rockefeller for the demolition of Harlem tenements."
What is the so-called single-tax system? It is the collection by the government, through the taxing officials, of the entire economic or ground rent of land and the repeal of all taxes on buildings and other products of labor and capital. That ground rent is estimated to be 9% of the capital value of the land. New York City is now collecting one-third of this ground rent. The market value of the lots is the remaining two-thirds, capitalized. Dr. Franklin's thesis is that if the entire ground rent is collected no one would erect buildings, because "in the great majority of cases the investment would result in a disastrous loss to the owner of the building."
Some of the finest buildings in New York City are erected on leased land and the lessee pays the ground rent 100% besides a tax on the building. There are hundreds of buildings erected by lessees of lots owned by Trinity Church, Astor estate, Rhinelander estate, Sailors Snug Harbor and others. The lessees must pay all the taxes, both on land and building, amounting to 3% of the assessed value of both, and to the landlord 6% of the market value of the land.
Thus the entire ground rent is paid by the lessee, but only one-third to the government representing the people who made that value by their presence and activities, the remaining two-thirds to the landlord. Notwithstanding that they are thus obliged to pay 100% of the economic rent, bankers and business men erect buildings costing millions. Under the Henry George plan they would have to pay less, for the taxes on these costly structures will have been repealed.
Perhaps if Mr. Rockefeller had not been obliged to pay taxes on the buildings he might not have pulled them down; or, if he had, would have erected better buildings in their place in order to get a return on his investment in buildings. The ones who will benefit most from the adoption of the Georgian philosophy are the owners of humble homes. The average small homeowner's house is assessed for at least twice the assessed value of the lot. If the house is relieved from taxation and the lot taxed the entire ground rent, his tax will be less than it is now. The difference will be made up from vacant lots and lots that are worth more than the improvements.
After all, the building of houses is like any other business. The builder takes the risk of lessened demand because of changes in fashion, obsolescence, competition. It is estimated that 95% of new businesses ultimately fail. With the adoption, however, of the philosophy of Henry George, commonly called the single tax, failures in the housing and other businesses will be much fewer. This is because neither houses nor goods nor anything else will be taxed. The collection of the entire ground rent will not lessen the area of the surface of the earth one inch. On the contrary, it will open to occupation and use land that is now held for speculation purposes.
The taxation of any product of labor and capital will add the amount of the tax to the price, lessen demand and thus curtail production. The result is unemployment and misery.
Frederic Cyrus Leubuscher Essex Fells, N. J., Aug. 31, 1938
Ed Dodson has put together an excellent history of the game which eventually became Monopoly, and I commend it to your attention.
I started playing around with some names in Ed's history, and looking to see whether I could find Charles and Esther Jones Darrow in the census or other data at Ancestry.com. I think I found our Esther in the Social Security Death Index: Name: Esther J. Darrow Birth: 21 Dec 1897 Death: Feb 1991 - Doylestown, Bucks, Pennsylvania, United States of America Civil: Pennsylvania and I find them arriving from Bermuda in 1939 as Charles B. Darrow, born about 1890 and Esther Darrow, born about 1898, with their son William B. Darrow, age 10, born about 1929. Charles was born in Cumberland, MD and Esther and William in Germantown, PA. Their address was shown as 229 W. Hortles Street, Philadelphia.
Searching with that information, I find a genealogy listing Charles Brace Darrow, born August 10, 1889, died August 29, 1967 in Ottsville, PA, son of William Allen Darrow and Isabella Elizabeth Dilley, and married to Esther Edmundson Jones. That genealogy lists William Barclay Darrow as 1929-2006. William A Darrow was born in Maryland to parents born in Massachusetts and Virginia.
Charles Darrow is an only child, according to the Census data. He shows up in the 1900 census on Morris Street in Philadelphia; his father is a civil engineer, and they rent their home. In 1910, same location; his father is a maanager of steam supplies, and he is a salesman of same. In 1920, same location; father is now a district manager, factory supplies, and the son a salesman. They continue to rent. I cannot find Charles and Esther in the 1930 census, but William and "Esabella" still live on Morris Street.
I was curious to see if I could turn up any connection to Clarence Darrow, but did not. Clarence Darrow was born in 1857 in Ohio, to parents born in New York and Connecticut, which makes a connection unlikely, but not out of the question.
I did a bit of searching on Eugene Raiford, and find that he was born in Virginia about 1899. The 1900 Census has him in Georgia, and suggestes he was born there. The 1910 and 1920 Censuses have him in Berlin and Ivor, Southampton County, VA. The 1930 Census has him in Westtown, Chester County, PA. (That's the newest data available; the 1940 Census data will start to be available in April, I understand.) The 1920 census shows the family to include William G. Raiford, age 59; Elizabeth R., age 56, Ellen T., age 26, Eugene R., age 21, Jessie T., age 19, and Edwin W., age 79. Elizabeth was born in Pennsylvania.
The 1930 census, lists Raiford among the residents of the Westtown School Building.
Time doesn't permit me to explore further, but perhaps some other researcher will find this of interest.
I'm going to take the liberty of copying in most of the page, because I find it exciting. The game was created by Richard Harvey of Saint Louis University:
To (1) illustrate the structural dynamics and consequences of intergroup inequalities, (2) teach students about the interdependencies between income and housing, and (3) help students appreciate the need for interventions that actively address the enduring effects of prior group-based disadvantages
The most popular commercial board game in the world, Monopoly, has been played by more than one billion people, yet its early history is not widely known. Monopoly was originally based on "The Landlord's Game," a board game created more than a century ago by a Quaker political activist, Elizabeth Magie, who hoped that it would teach how monopolies unfairly concentrate wealth. In Magie's (1902) words, the game was:
"a practical demonstration of the present system of land-grabbing with all its usual outcomes and consequences... It might well have been called the 'Game of Life,' as it contains all the elements of success and failure in the real world... [Let young people] see clearly the gross injustice of our present land system and when they grow up, if they are allowed to develop naturally, the evil will soon be remedied."
Although the Landlord's Game was played on some college campuses in the 1920s, its teaching potential was never fully realized, and despite Magie's claim and the best of intentions, her game left out key elements of "success and failure in the real world." Perhaps most obviously, the Landlord's Game and its descendant, Monopoly, both ignore the presence of past or present discrimination. Instead, all players begin these games with an equal amount of money and are treated identically by banks, businesses, and courts of law -- an artificial level of equality quite different from the experience of many women and minority members.
To overcome this limitation, I developed Intergroup Monopoly -- an action teaching game that modifies Monopoly to illustrate the systematic and structural nature of group-based inequalities. By playing Intergroup Monopoly, students come to see how the long-term effects of overt discrimination are not easily overcome by equal opportunity alone.
Intergroup Monopoly can be played by groups competing against each other (with individual group members taking turns playing on behalf of their group), or by individual students who differ in status and play against each other. Regardless, a hallmark of the game is that players begin with differing degrees of wealth and face differing levels of adversity when the game is played.
I have used the game for over six years in a 30-student course I teach entitled The Psychology of Oppression. In the first half of the course, I discuss three interdependent institutions of upward mobility: income, housing, and education. Then, once this background context has been covered, I introduce the game as a tool for understanding interdependencies between the first two of these institutions. Most often, I divide the class into six teams made up of four or five students playing against each other as individuals.
Playing the Game
All that's needed to play Intergroup Monopoly are a standard Monopoly game and a set of rule sheets for the players (see below for the rules I use). Intergroup Monopoly is played in much the same way as classic Monopoly, with two exceptions: (1) the rules differ from player to player, and (2) there are two phases of play rather than one.
In the first phase, students are randomly assigned to one of five positions (the Banker and Players 1 through 4). The Banker is essentially an observer, and Player 1 plays according to normal Monopoly rules. Players 2 and 3 are overtly disadvantaged, and Player 4 is privileged relative to other players. For instance, Player 4 receives $350 for passing Go (well above the standard $200) and is permitted to buy houses and hotels two for one. Player 2 has rules such as "You can only move half the amount you roll" and "You can only buy property priced less than $150." Likewise, Player 3 has rules such as "You will go directly to jail for rolling a number higher than 7" (the main difference between the Players 2 and 3 is that Player 3 spends most of the time in jail).
In order to make the game move quickly, players begin with some property already distributed. Ideally, students spend 15-20 minutes in the first stage of play, but this period can be modified to fit different class lengths. During this phase, Players 2 and 3 typically lose money rapidly and often become demoralized. If players lose all their money and property, the game does not end; instead, they go into debt, and the Banker records their level of debt.
Phase 2: Equal Opportunity
In the second phase, which lasts 5-10 minutes longer than the first phase, I tell the class that all forms of unequal treatment have now been ended. At this point, all class members play by normal Monopoly rules. The title Equal Opportunity is somewhat ironic, however, because players quickly discover that their opportunities are far from equal. Even with the additional time spent under conditions of equality, formerly disadvantaged players continue to decline and struggle with debt.
In a postgame debriefing, I typically open by asking students in each of the player positions to express what their experience felt like. I then ask students to identify the effects of inequality, and to consider various links among the institutions of upward mobility discussed earlier: income/wealth, housing, and education (even though education level is not explicitly part of the game, I ask students to speculate on its connection).
Finally, I ask students to estimate how long the game would need to be played in the second phase to compensate for the unequal outcomes that accrued during the first phase. Student estimates usually run anywhere from several more hours to weeks to never. These estimates lead to a discussion about the debate over affirmative action and the need for interventions that actively address the effects of prior group-based disadvantages.
Tips on Implementation
If students are expected to supply their own game board, pieces, and play money, I recommend dividing the class into groups at least one week in advance so that students have time to locate a copy of the game. When the game is used in other venues (e.g., workshops on inequality), it works best to provide participants with all necessary materials.
It's important to allow enough time for the initial set-up. Typically, I ask each team to choose someone to come to class early to set up the game. I generally appoint this person to serve as a "Banker" who facilitates the play and keeps track of any debts. Other students are randomly assigned to their positions. If I use the game in a workshop, I generally enlist the aid of graduate students to set up the game and serve as facilitators.
Because the second phase of the game is played using normal Monopoly rules, it's helpful to have a set of the rules available. The game boards themselves typically include the rules, and Monopoly game rules can also be downloaded from many places on the Internet.
In all the years I have used this exercise with undergraduates, graduate students, and workshop participants, I have yet to witness any serious emotional outbursts or interpersonal conflicts. There are typically moans of frustration, but nearly all of it is light-hearted. When using the game with students, I wait until they're acquainted and comfortable with each other. If workshop facilitators intend to use the game with people who do not know each other, one suggestion would be to employ an ice-breaker activity before participants play the game.
I have collected data over several semesters examining the effectiveness of the game as a teaching tool. On a scale of 1 ("not at all") to 10 ("a great deal"), students consistently report that playing the game helped them to better understand the nature of oppression (M = 8.1, SD = 2.1, N = 95) and the interdependencies between income and housing (M = 9.3, SD = 1.1, N = 95).
In addition, I've collected qualitative data to assess student reflections on the game. Here are a few illustrative responses:
"To catch up with the other members of the group, the game would have to continue for several more hours. Even after playing for several more hours, it is still possible that I may never recover to be on the same level as others. I found for the first time in my life how frustrating it could be to be oppressed, and this was only a board game."
"I think the lesson here is that attempting to level the playing field will not even the score. The past continues to affect our present day activities, and there are certain people who are still winning even though the rules are 'fair.'"
A common theme in student comments is that it takes more than simply making the rules fair to eradicate the enduring effects of inequality. Students also frequently conclude that social injustice need not necessarily be blamed on a "who" as much as a "what." Thus, Intergroup Monopoly achieves the twin objectives of action teaching by helping students (a) understand the interdependencies inherent in systems of inequality, and (b) make informed decisions about how to effectively remedy injustice. In short, students become better educated citizens by becoming more aware of institutional barriers to equality.
Digging through primary sources can provide some great thrills. I stumbled onto this article about The Landlords' Game in the Autumn, 1902, number of The Single Tax Review (then a 64-page quarterly, later more frequent) . It was the Landlord's' Game which was later revised to create the board game Monopoly. As I've written earlier here, the Landlords' Game (probably in later editions than what is referred to here) came with 2 sets of rules, one which would create widespread prosperity, and the other which would create a winner-take-all situation.
Magie's comments are quite relevant to understanding the game of Monopoly, too:
from The Single Tax Review, Autumn, 1902
THE LANDLORDS' GAME.
AN INTERESTING INVENTION OF A YOUNG LADY IN WASHINGTON BY WHICH CHILDREN AT THEIR PLAY MAY BE TAUGHT THE TRUE LAWS OF ECONOMICS. Miss Lizzie J. Magie, a single taxer of Washington, D. C has invented an ingenious game, played with checkers and dice as is parcheesi, and thus describes it for the Review:
"It is a practical demonstration of the present system of land-grabbing with all its usual outcomes and consequences," says Miss Magie. " It might well have been called the 'Game of Life,' as it contains all the elements of success and failure in the real world, and the object is the same as the human race in general seem to have, i. e., the accumulation of wealth. Representative money, deeds, mortgages, notes and charters are used in the game; lots are bought and sold; rents are collected; money is borrowed (either from the bank or from individuals), and interest and taxes are paid. The railroad is also represented, and those who make use of it are obliged to pay their fare, unless they are fortunate enough to possess a pass, which, in the game, means throwing a double. There are two franchises: the water and the lighting; and the first player whose throw brings him upon one of these receives a charter giving him the privilege of taxing all others who must use his light and water.
"There are two tracts of land on the board that are held out of use—are neither for rent nor for sale—and on each of these appear the forbidding sign: 'No Trespassing. Go to Jail.' One of these tracts of land (the largest on the board) is owned by Lord Blueblood, of London, England, and represents foreign ownership of American soil. A jail is provided for any one who trespasses upon this land, and there the unfortunate individual must linger until he serves out his time or pays the required fine. 'Serving out his time' means waiting until he throws a double.
"Before the game begins, each player is provided with a certain amount of cash, sufficient to pay all necessary expenses until he is well enough along in life to earn his living. Should any one be so unlucky, or so reckless and extravagant, as to become 'broke,' there is a nice little poor house off in one corner where he may tarry until he makes a lucky throw or until some friend takes pity on him and lends him enough to set him on his feet again. And here is where he generally gets 'soaked,' for the other players, taking advantage of the unfortunate one's necessities, demand an enormous rate of interest which the impecunious individual must pay before he can complete his round and get his wages.
"The rallying and chaffing of the others when one player finds himself an inmate of the jail, and the expressions of mock sympathy and condolence when one is obliged to betake himself to the poor house, make a large part of the fun and merriment of the game.
"Each time around the board represents so much labor performed, for which so much wages are paid. When a player has been the rounds ten times he retires from his labors, although he still remains in the game, which is not finished until the last player has made his tenth round. It takes forty moves to make a round and there is in each round one little black-bordered spot marked 'Legacy,' and whenever a player stops on this he receives a cash legacy. In each round there are three spots marked 'Luxury,' and these the player may indulge in or not, according to his inclinations or finances, but each luxury purchased counts the player so much more at the end of the game.
"General directions for playing the game accompany this description, but it is difficult to make a set of rules that will cover all contingencies since no two games are alike. The combination of circumstances are so many that almost every time the game is played new situations are brought out. Thus it is a game that is always interesting—never monotonous. It was the original intention of the author simply to work out a demonstration of how the landlord gets his money and keeps it, but while doing this there gradually developed a game which has proven one of amusement as well as of instruction and one which has attractions for both old and young.
"Children of nine or ten years and who possess average intelligence can easily understand the game and they get a good deal of hearty enjoyment out of it. They like to handle the make-believe money, deeds, etc., and the little landlords take a general delight in demanding the payment of their rent. They learn that the quickest way to accumulate wealth and gain power is to get all the land they can in the best localities and hold on to it. There are those who argue that it may be a dangerous thing to teach children how they may thus get the advantage of their fellows, but let me tell you there are no fairer-minded beings in the world than our own little American children. Watch them in their play and see how quick they are, should any one of their number attempt to cheat or take undue advantage of another, to cry, 'No fair!' And who has not heard almost every little girl say, 'I won't play if you don't play fair.' Let the children once see clearly the gross injustice of our present land system and when they grow up, if they are allowed to develop naturally, the evil will soon be remedied."
To read more about The Landlord's Game, explore the two "Monopoly and the Landlord's Game" tags in the cloud (I can't seem to meld them into a single one!) It is quite an interesting story.
knows about the most popular board game Monopoly. What many people
don’t know is that this board game was originally called The Landlord’s
Game and created by Lizzie Magie in 1904, specifically as an
educational tool to teach the principles of Henry George.
If Henry George was such an influential economist to inspire the
most popular board game, you begin to wonder why his name isn’t even
mentioned in high school books covering American history, economics, or
ethics. He isn’t even taught in college courses.
Henry George pointed out the flaws of both capitalism and socialism.
His concepts bridged the gap between capitalism and socialism in a
definitive and justified manner. However, the global banking cartel,
european monarchs, and other aristocrats couldn’t take over our nation
if the people had a solid understanding of economics. They couldn’t
push forward the flawed systems of socialism, keynesian economics, and
austrian economics if there was a theory which debunked all of them.
They couldn’t engineer problems and present solutions with Henry
George in the pool of public knowledge. They hid the concepts as a
children’s game, preventing people from relating common sense to real
economic theory. The American people could only relate to whatever the
false left, false right, and false libertarian foundations pushed
They instituted the Austrian School of Economics and the Ludwig von
Mises Institute in conservative and libertarian foundations, taught at
places like Auburn University. They instituted Keynesian Economics and
the Chicago School of Economics for more mainstream or moderate
economics. They instituted socialism and communism in your left and
All political paradigms were under their misdirection of flawed
economic policies so they could run their problem-reaction-solution
scams with the people, who were unable to articulate a real solution.
They made sure Henry George, the most important American economist,
was deleted from the American memory. He is the unknown ghost behind
the most popular board game and behind our state and local government
tax systems. His remains consist of a one room office barely manned
with a part-time volunteer in Pennsylvania.
It is the conspiracy never talked about even though so blatant. It
is difficult for the people to give up their flawed team and support
the team with no fans. It is only a matter of time until the global
banking empire can achieve their dream of once again owning all the
land and having a complete monopoly over the people, unless the people
learn about Henry George.
The Native Americans still scratch their head, “How can man own the
land and the rivers?” Thomas Paine progressives still search for common
sense and agrarian justice. Albert Jay Nock, a ghost among
Libertarians, still tries to revive the ghost of Henry George.
The Keynesians still search for ways to moderate the boom and bust
cycles. The socialists still search for a way to justify social
justice. The Libertarians still search for a way to apologize for the
short-comings of capitalism.
If they only knew the European monarchs were hard at work using
large tribal organizations called governments and voodoo economics like
ancient witch doctors to scam their people into enslavement. If they
only knew the answer was staring them in face when they played Monopoly.
Well, I know quite a few fans of Henry George's ideas, and hope that a year or two from now there will be many more, as people search for answers to the sad state our economy has fallen into. I think George's thought provides the most rational answer I've found. Explore http://www.wealthandwant.com/ for more information.
the price of land (and natural resources) goes up holding money supply
constant, the price of labor has to go down. The more money is spent on
land, the less money there is to spend on labor and eventually the only
money spent on labor is coming from land wealth rather than labor
wealth. The wealthy like to own and buy land because they realize this
truth. With the more land they own, the less they have to pay someone
to mow their lawn, clean their house, or polish their shoes. The
working class pays increasing rent or pays increasing interest on their
mortgage. The worker pays more on rent than they do on taxes. The
worker pays more on interest on their mortgage than they do to any
other creditor. This is the big secret the tyrants don’t want you to
Even if you hold population constant, the wealthy who already own a
lot of land, collecting rent on it, continue to generate wealth and
keep buying more land. They keep driving up the price. The rest of the
people have to increasingly work harder in order to afford to buy their
own land or pay rent for land. As this happens, there are more people
working harder for the land owner than there are people working for
Eventually the commodity bubble of land bursts because eventually
there isn’t enough money for the workers to keep renting or buying
available land. When this happens, the wealthy, specifically the banks,
grab all the land back from the workers and start the cycle over by
renting and selling land to the workers again at lower, more affordable
rates. Labor rates stay down since people are still desperate to start
building their wealth again which is now more concentrated in the hands
of the wealthy.
The worker never wins unless they are able to work hard enough and
sacrifice enough to keep their own land under the rules of the tyrants.
They sacrificed more than they should have to get there. Many will get
a false sense of financial security and spend what they earn. Many will
give up in frustration trying to work in a system rigged against them.
They’ll start to game the system which gamed them.
This is why the elite push forward such economists like Ludwig von
Mises, Karl Marx, Milton Friedman, and Maynard Keynes. They want you to
be left confused by witch doctor economics. The Native Americans were
intuitively better economists than any of the big names from the last
Most anarcho-capitalists, and I hate to call them “anarcho” since
most of them support land theft through statist institutions, try to
claim that the one with the most gold wins and to the victor goes the
spoils. I’m sorry, but that piece of paper saying you own a piece of
land or a lot of gold is secured by force of the state and was once
taken by force of the state. They throw out the Cicero’s natural law
philosophy, probably the Roman Empire’s greatest achievement. They come
forward with this egoist, objectivist philosophy, which is no better
than the social darwinism put forth by the socialist tyrants they
I’m not trying to promote anarcho-socialism or the moderate schools
of anarchism. I believe they all have valid concerns, but none of them
are valid is isolation. People should have the freedom to live in
communes as pack animals and leave the commune if the alpha dog is a
fraud. People should have the freedom to be rugged individualistic
capitalists as lone wolves and be protected from other lone wolves and
pack animals who will likely be stronger than they are. Neither can
accomplish their goals without awareness or acknowledgement of the
concerns raised by Henry George.
I’m just trying to promote the idea that land and labor are
different. People have the right to their own labor. Land is not a
person’s labor. People borrow land from nature. However, land is needed
by everyone to exist, and everyone needs to have their right secured to
have land and the natural resources the land provides to compete fairly
in free markets. They shouldn’t have the right to someone’s labor. They
should have the right to have the land and natural resources needed for
survival. They shouldn’t have to work for someone else just to exist on
It is also equally important to recognize Henry George just proposed
the idea of collected land rent through land value taxes in order to
pay everyone a citizen dividend to everyone. There are flaws in this
application as there are flaws in any application of any philosophy. I
hope we can work to build upon this philosophy to recognize natural
resources are also land, some land should be held in private while
other land should be public. That we do need some minimum government to
secure rights and help move people in the direction of a realizing
their ability to provide for themselves.
Therefore, I don’t want to promote a purist application of Henry
George. I favor the use of property taxes, to simplify land valuation,
and the use of sales taxes on the sale of natural resources, to fund
both basic government and to supply a significant citizen dividend
since today’s cave or hut tends to mean skilled labor in the creation
of a home. We should minimize social services and maximize the citizen
dividend so people have a claim to land and can more easily work in a
capitalistic society to provide and choose their own social needs. You
don’t want the state to become owners of the land and chose how to
spend the money either since the state is ruled by the same tyrants.
The state as land owner can be worse than slave owners since the state
will eventually want to kill the slaves they can’t control to do their
Therefore, everyone pays taxes on land and natural resources. They
are paying rent for the land and natural resources they are taking
exclusively from everyone else. They are paying rent to everyone. Those
who take more will pay more rent and they receive as a dividend. Those
who take less will receive more than they pay rent. The result is that
tyrants will no longer be able to horde land to drive up the price of
living on land while they drive down labor rates without paying the
people they’re stealing the land from under their feet, forcing people
on the streets and into sweat shops. There won’t be people slaving in
horrible conditions for a corporation just for some food and a place to
sleep. People will have the freedom to say no and work for themselves
and other people like themselves more freely. People are more driven to
store their wealth in investments that put people to work rather than
investments in land and natural resources. Fractional reserve banking
could be eliminated because there would be significant savings
available to loan to others. Usury would dramatically drop. A natural
economic balance will be achieved where the inflation and deflation of
land and labor move in the same direction rather than in opposite
Income taxes should be banned by constitutional amendment. We should
never promote the idea that one has the right to another person’s
labor, but we should promote the idea that everyone has the right to
have their own share of land and natural resources.
With that right secured, capitalists can go out and pursue their
goals without pulling the rug out from under their own feet or the land
from under the feet of another less abled person, and socialists can go
build their communes without someone taking it from them or forcing it
If there is a citizen dividend, capitalists would realize they would
have a great insurance policy if they should lose everything. If there
is a citizen dividend, the socialists would have the freedom to fund
their social goals without having to work for a capitalist.
Henry George economics is a victory for everyone, except perhaps the
tyrants who are the only victors in other economic systems. It is time
to bring Henry George out of the closet. Everyone has the inalienable
right to land. If you don’t have your own land, you’re a slave because
you have to work for someone else in order to just put your feet on the
ground. It is time to get angry, put your head out the window, and
yell, “I’m mad as hell, and I’m going to learn about Henry George.”
Arthur Laffer is the known Reagan economist for promoting the idea
that lower taxes will result in increased economic activity and higher
revenue for the state.
However, he has come back with a new idea of eliminating property
taxes. Every globalist is laughing to the bank because the tea party
patriots have embraced this idea from the We the People Foundation to
Debra Medina, running for governor of Texas on a tea party patriot
Land is limited in supply like gold, perhaps more limited than gold.
Furthermore, we all need land to survive. if all property taxes were
eliminated, globalists will rush out to sell their gold, causing tea
party patriots everywhere to lose their savings in gold, and buy land.
There would be a land rush. The tea party patriots will be
celebrating as their home values increase in value and a new housing
bubble is created. They’ll also celebrate not having to pay property
taxes. There will be good times with an economy propped up once again
on the paper value of equity.
Meanwhile, David Rockefeller is yelling, don’t throw me in the harbor, tea party patriots! Don’t eliminate property taxes!
There is a beast laughing in the boom. Home prices are being driven
up once again where working class people can no longer afford real
estate. Since America’s manufacturing and services has been exported
and out-sourced, there are no decent-paying jobs for them to afford the
Globalists around the world are suddenly slum lords, holding
property to store their wealth while they grab whatever rent they can
get for holding it with no care for maintenance. Who needs to maintain
property when the supply is drying up, and you don’t need to pay
The divide between wages and rent starts to widen to the point that
mass poverty is created. Socialists call for minimum wage increases and
income tax increases to pay for the social justice created by the
increasing divide between the land tycoons and the working class.
Keynesians call for larger government programs to provide stability in
land and labor prices.
The people are finding their labor devalued even more while the land
necessary to survive is being driven further up in price as the land
tycoons continue to buy more and more land, to gain more and more
wealth, and to collect more and more rent. Welcome to the game of
Monopoly, a game where if you get unlucky or screw up, you become a
slave, begging for a job.
Eventually, Nike owns a whole community. Unable to afford a place to
live, people are forced to work in a factory making shoes for China and
Saudi Arabi for pennies a day and for a place to sleep in Nike city.
Welcome to the third world. A world where over 99% of you are slaves
begging for food and a place to sleep.
While I agree that we need to eliminate property taxes for the
person who owns a single home, I believe eliminating all property taxes
would be a bad idea.
As seekers of truth, we might want to investigate Henry George and his treastie, Progress and Poverty.
He is perhaps the most important American economist whose economic
knowledge and works have been the most suppressed even though his
economic works inspired the most popular American board game of
Monopoly and his influence remains evident in the tax systems of state
and local communities everywhere.
Our nation was founded on property taxes collected by states and
local communities. The economic benefits of such tax systems were
intuitive for early Americans considering many Americans were either
fleeing the land slavery of Europe where the artistocrats owned all the
land or were native Americans who didn’t even understand the
statist-capitalist concept of land ownership.
Property taxes do have an interesting benefit of pushing down the
price of land. It also does the same for commodities when sales taxes
are used. The cost of the tax is hidden in the supply and demand of the
land or commodity, reducing the cost of government and the cost of
living for everyone.
If made progressive, as Henry George proposed, it can eliminate
poverty on a moral basis of agrarian justice, as suggested earlier by
Thomas Paine, since everyone has the right to put their feet on the
land, provide for themselves, own themselves, and own their labor.
If you eliminate all property and sales taxes and replace them with
income taxes, eventually, you’ll have to pay half your income to the
government and the other half of your income to the land lord.