Topic: Libertarianism

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Georgism – Single Tax System

Economics Politics Basic Income Taxation Libertarianism

Georgism, also called geoism and single tax (archaic), is an economic ideology holding that while people should own the value they produce themselves, economic value derived from land (often including natural resources and natural opportunities) should belong equally to all members of society. Developed from the writings of American economist and social reformer Henry George, the Georgist paradigm seeks solutions to social and ecological problems, based on principles of land rights and public finance which attempt to integrate economic efficiency with social justice.

Georgism is concerned with the distribution of economic rent caused by natural monopolies, pollution and the control of commons, including title of ownership for natural resources and other contrived privileges (e.g. intellectual property). Any natural resource which is inherently limited in supply can generate economic rent, but the classical and most significant example of land monopoly involves the extraction of common ground rent from valuable urban locations. Georgists argue that taxing economic rent is efficient, fair and equitable. The main Georgist policy recommendation is a tax assessed on land value. Georgists argue that revenues from a land value tax (LVT) can be used to reduce or eliminate existing taxes (for example, on income, trade, or purchases) that are unfair and inefficient. Some Georgists also advocate for the return of surplus public revenue to the people by means of a basic income or citizen's dividend.

Economists since Adam Smith and David Ricardo have observed that a public levy on land value does not cause economic inefficiency, unlike other taxes. A land value tax also has progressive tax effects. Advocates of land value taxes argue that they would reduce economic inequality, increase economic efficiency, remove incentives to underutilize urban land and reduce property speculation. The philosophical basis of Georgism dates back to several early thinkers such as John Locke, Baruch Spinoza and Thomas Paine, but the concept of gaining public revenues mainly from land and natural resource privileges was widely popularized by Henry George and his first book Progress and Poverty (1879).

Georgist ideas were popular and influential during the late 19th and early 20th century. Political parties, institutions and communities were founded based on Georgist principles during that time. Early devotees of Henry George's economic philosophy were often termed Single Taxers for their political goal of raising public revenue mainly from a land value tax, although Georgists endorsed multiple forms of rent capture (e.g. seigniorage) as legitimate. The term Georgism was invented later and some prefer the term geoism to distinguish their beliefs from those of Henry George.

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