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Geoism/Georgism is an economic philosophy holding that, while people should own the value they produce themselves, economic value derived from land and other natural resources should belong equally to all members of society.

This seems to have aspects of both left- and right-wing thought. Where would it be placed on the Political Compass?

The way some describe it, it sounds like it doesn't fit the Political Compass at all (left-right vs authoritarian-libertarian) and its important properties are orthogonal to these axes. If so, is there another set of 2 axes that would clearly highlight the differences between Geoism and more familiar ideologies?

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    Seems like it'd be on the authoritarian side to me. The state is controlling ownership of land by saying "Put your land to productive use, or sell it to someone who will". It's not as far in that direction as communism, but it's probably on par with socialism (because the taxes are used for collective societal benefit). That's just my armchair opinion, though. – Bobson Mar 22 at 16:33
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    @Bobson That's weird, considering its popularity with Libertarians – endolith Mar 22 at 19:41
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    The problem is with the "compass", not with Georgism. The "compass" only acknowledges two political axes, and the ones it acknowledge are fitted to "libertarian" ideology. There is no reason that those are the two only, or the two main, axes of political thought - and even less reason that they have the exact same weight as each other (practice shows one of them is by far more important than the other; the diamond diagonals are of very different lenghts). – Luís Henrique Mar 23 at 13:58
  • @LuísHenrique Did you not read the entire question? – endolith Mar 23 at 16:09
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    @LuísHenrique: The two axis aren't chosen arbitrarily. They can be found by a Principal Component Analysis of people's preferences over a large set of questions. However, PCA does not tell you how many components there are. For instance, you can add a third axis, and that will be populism. Still, you won't find Geoism as it's pretty obscure and mostly independent from the major components. – MSalters Mar 25 at 8:30
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Samuels compares it to Marxism as the nearest ideology. Clearly downright prohibiting land ownership is both authoritarian and left-wing. Heavily taxing land as to have [nearly] the same effect is a proxy for that, in particular because imposing such a large land tax suddenly is effectively capturing land value (from its owners).

Samuels' paper is otherwise fairly sympathetic to Georgism. Members of the movement are described as being more individualistic than Marxists were, which the paper says was probably a reason for the lack of success of the movement. But it's not clear [to me] whether there was any deeper "libertarian" aspect to Georgism, other than not being as communitarian (or revolutionary) as the Marxists were, due to the more limited scope of the Georgist proposal(s).

Finally, there was also a bit of religiously inspired aspect to Georgism, in the sense that it related to the Protestant work ethic by emphasizing work productivity. But this idea doesn't get developed much more in the paper. (The Catholic Church fiercely opposed Georgism, but mainly because the Church was a major land owner.)

Samuels' paper ends by noting that a number of economists proposed to Gorbachev to impose Georgism-style land tax on the land that was being privatized. This makes some sense because the capture aspect (the most objectionable part of Georgism) had been done by the Bolsheviks anyway... so the proposal was basically: now there's the time to start reaping the true benefits, in terms of the supposed enhanced work productivity that a substantial land tax presumably provides.


And since you insisted on that chart, if "Rucker" on that chart is actual Benjamin R. Tucker (I haven't heard of a well-known political economist called "Rucker") then you'd place Georgism close to where "Rucker" is, but nudged further to the right (i.e. slightly less leftist). In a reply to Samuels, Sullivan, then President of the Council of Georgist Organizations, says:

Tucker took Proudhon’s mutualist anarchism, including his Bank of the People, into a characteristically American direction, synthesizing European socialism with frontier-style individual sovereignty. Similarly, George prefaced Progress and Poverty with his own mission of synthesis: “. . . to unite the truth perceived by the school of Smith and Ricardo to the truth perceived by the schools of Proudhon and Lasalle; to show that laissez faire (in its full true meaning) opens the way to a realization of the noble dreams of socialism.” (p. xxx). In this, Tucker and George, the Anarchist and the Single Taxer, were in agreement—their respective positions can be seen as variations of libertarian socialism or, to borrow a label from Peter Valentyne and Hillel Steiner, Left- Libertarianism. Tucker was a scathing critic, and George’s ideas and politics were among his regular targets. When George reversed his position on the Haymarket case in favor of the verdict, when nearly every other reformer around the world came to the opposite conclusion, Tucker branded George a “Traitor” to the working class. The furor over Haymarket marked the first Red Scare in U.S. history. It also marked a turning point for George (and set a pattern for later Georgists), who from then on lost most of support he had had in the labor movement.

I don't quite know what to make of George's take on the Haymarket in terms of libertarianism-authoritarianism axis. But clearly George didn't agree to violent-radical revolution. You can interpret it as more support for liberty as in rejection of violence, or as more authoritarian as in deference to authorities, which does go together with George's "static" view of natural law. In fact Sullivan has more say about this when he talks of George's rejection of Darwin's theory of evolution, pointing out that in contrast Marxists embraced and "extended" the notion for their own purposes, i.e. revolution.

And as final note, if you reduce George[ism] just to that single issue of land tax/property, then you get a larger region of uncertainty. To accurately place on any kind of (possibly multidimensional) political map, one needs enough discriminant information, like how to get from where we are to the Georgist ideal. I think that placing Georgism on the left (of the left-right axis) is hardly disputable though.

  • Ok, but this doesn't answer the question... – endolith Mar 25 at 14:27
  • @endolith: where would you put Marxism on your compass? – Fizz Mar 25 at 14:46
  • This crowd chart puts it in the left lower middle, but I don't know who made it: bit.ly/2UbeCRl – endolith Mar 25 at 19:01
  • @endolith: see expanded answer. – Fizz Mar 25 at 23:46
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Georgism/Geoism is based on the economic philosopy of Henry George, who was both a Republican and Democrat during his life. His major economic theories were in response to the monopolies that plauged much of American Industrialization. His book "Progress and Prosperity" which introduced the Land Value Tax specifically detailed that while he thought land should be collectively owned, he meant only in the sense that land could be taxed. He specifically refuted the idea that the government should buy back or confiscate land as he felt this was unjust and merely felt that the taxed value of the land is what should be captured.

Broadly put, George was still a capitalist, he just wasn't in favor of some of the excesses that were causing problems. He was also in favor of classical liberalism ideologies (libertarian values in the U.S.) and argued that public services should be free if and only if that benefits economic increases (He likened this to a freely provided elevator in a tall building, which is paid for by the benefit to getting people to the top floors where they could do their jobs quicker.).

Since Left-Right spectrum are generally hard to quantify as they are localized, a better method for political compass would be Authoritarian-Libertarian axis crossing a Socialism-Capitalism spectrum, and I would put Georgism/Geoism as High Libertarian and low Capitalism if not a more centered fusion.

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I found this discussion about Geoism not even fitting on a 4-dimensional spectrum, which links to this What’s Your Position? test by the Democratic Freedom Caucus, which places test-takers on this triangle, which implies a 2D spectrum with axes "Product Ownership" and "Land Ownership":

Triangle with "Socialism" in lower left, "Capitalism" in lower right, and "Free & Equal Association" at top

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