The land right, a first remedy to injustice.

Hunger and homelessness continued to rise in major North American cities. Unemployment, employment-related problems, and low-paying jobs are likely contributing to hunger. High housing costs cause lack of affordable housing and are a source of mental illness. Social problems arise from substance abuse while emergency shelters turned away many from family life.

The millions who are hungry and homeless in the United States are unlikely to have ever sufficiently well payed jobs or any jobs at all. Two million manufacturing jobs have evaporated since 2000, either off shoring to China or automating, as fast as they can. In 15-20 years, there will be zero people working in manufacturing jobs. Information jobs are moving to India. Those who still have jobs are less secure than ever been before to keep them.

More than 40 million North American people have no health insure and 140 million are facing soaring health costs. Meanwhile 10% of capital owners own 71% of all North America capital. If current trends continue, they will own it all. Moreover, they are now financing the robotic revolution. Robots are going to create completely automated factories, automatic retail systems, kiosks and self-service checkout lines: by 2022, computers will run at one trillion operations per second, and, with the capacity of the human brain, their cost would be as little as $500.

What will become of our democracy? What will become of “we the people”? What kind of life awaits the future generations if they have no jobs and no income to buy food or shelter? To remedy this injustice we cannot avoid taking account of the land problem: “Humans in their totality are born from the earth. We are earthlings. The earth is our origin, our nourishment, our support, our guide” (Thomas Berry). Henry George had this insight more than a century ago: “Our primary social adjustment is a denial of justice. In allowing one man to own the land on which and from which other men must live, we have made him a bondsman in a degree, which increases as material progress goes on. It is this that turns the blessing of material progress into a curse.”

Either we will be in bondage, or we will build an economic democracy to be free and to celebrate life on this amazing planet. We must find the way quickly. The forces of concentration of wealth and power have nearly overpowered us: “One ring to rule them all, one ring to find them, one ring to bring them all, and in the darkness bind them” (The Lord of the Rings). We need to build an economic democracy based firmly on this most basic principle – the earth belongs equally to everyone as a birthright: “The earth is given as a common stock for men to labor and live on” (Thomas Jefferson).

Abraham Lincoln has said: “The land, the earth God gave to man for his home, sustenance, and support, should never be the possession of any man, corporation, society, or unfriendly government, any more than the air or water. An individual, company, or enterprise should hold no more than is required for their home and sustenance. All that is not used should be held for the free use of every family to make home-steads and to hold them as long as they are so occupied.”

The policy approach to the problem of escalating land values should be addressed in one clear perspective, i.e., “Man did not make the earth. It is a value of improvement only, and not the earth itself, that is individual property. Every proprietor owes to the community a ground rent for the land which he holds.”

Economists and politicians start to grasp the problem and the solution in the terms John Stuart Mill has formulated: “Landlords grow richer in their sleep without working, risking, or economizing. The increase in the value of land, arising as it does from the efforts of an entire community, should belong to the community and not to the individual who might hold the title.” This perspective rejoins what many faith based organizations think nowadays. Henry George put it in this way: “We can accomplish nothing real and lasting until we secure to all the first of those equal and inalienable rights with which man is endowed by his creator – the equal an inalienable right to the use and benefit of natural opportunities.” Moreover, the right to land is the first of all.

John Paul Pezzi, mccj
VIVAT International NGO
with consultative special status at UN


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