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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/4926/henry-george-and-the-tariff-question/

Henry George and the Tariff Question

April 19, 2006 by

The problem identified by Henry George, in Protection or Free Trade, is that of poverty, and more specifically, wages and unemployment. What follows from that is George’s systematic and all-embracing dissertation of the effects that protectionist and free-trade policies have on the wealth of a nation and its individuals. Naturally, he arrives at a conclusion that is decidedly in favor or free trade — as opposed to protective prescriptions — as a surefire solution to the ills of poverty. FULL ARTICLE

{ 80 comments }

lorenzo sleakes April 21, 2006 at 8:53 am

Paul Edwards said “So much in Georgist theory, seems to hinge on the fact that we did not create land, that makes it important to understand precisely what it is about not having created land that makes land ownership not fully possible, but yet self-ownership possible, given that we did not create ourselves either. Why does the fact that we did not create ourselves, not render self-ownership laden with provisos and exceptions regarding who has what claim on the income we earn which will naturally be influenced by natural talents we have been given at birth and had nothing to do with creating them.

What is it between a human and self, given that he did not create his self that is different between a human and land, which he also did not create, that allows him to claim self ownership, yet unable to claim complete homesteading based land ownership?

Since we did not create ourselves, would you not argue that we owe others and they owe us some say in what we each do with our nature given personal talents, and do we not all own a share in the incomes of others resulting from them, given the certainty that some of us earn more not just because of the improvements we make on ourselves, but also due to the talent and gifts we are born with and did not ourselves create.”

Paul
Everything is nature and everything is natural.
But, I believe we are each born with a “natural right” to the private property of our own body. All other legitimate property rights can be derived from this single bedrock principle. That is why one person cannot morally make a labor demand on another’s talents – because that would equate to forced labor. Even a baby has rights that must be respected by parents.
But private property (meaning exclusive control) in natural resources cannot be logically derived from private property in your own body.

BillG (not Gates) April 21, 2006 at 10:36 am

Lorenzo,

you are a budding geoist!

not only can it not be logically derived but infact exclusive use of land beyond a certain point actually violates the private property rights we all have in our body.

Paul Edwards April 21, 2006 at 11:31 am

Hi Lorenzo,

“But, I believe we are each born with a “natural right” to the private property of our own body.”

And i agree. My question is this though: on what basis do we come to this conclusion? Certainly the one reason we can NOT come to this conclusion is that we created ourselves. Ergo, in the question of what may be owned exclusively and what may not, the question of who, if indeed anybody, created the property through labor is rendered IRRELEVANT.

Now BillG asserts that someone labored and created you and therefore they have a right to give you a “gift” of yourself to you, the self-owner. Firstly, i think this contains the following weakness: what if the parents choose not to hand you this gift, but rather prefer to keep their “creation” for themselves their own property as a slave for instance.

But secondly, ignoring this weakness, on what authority did parents derive their self-ownership, but on their parents labor and back on through the lineage, until finally we must ask from where did the original man obtain his self-ownership from?

There comes a point where there was no conscious human labor involved by a parent, and still nobody created themselves. Therefore, at the root of our self-ownership there is no labor and no self-creation. We are just like the land: we didn’t create ourselves, nor, in the end analysis, did someone bestow on us, besides God if we are willing to entertain such a thought, our self-ownership.

So in this respect, we are much like the land, uncreated by human labor, and our right to ownership in both comes entirely from other considerations.

BillG (not Gates) April 21, 2006 at 11:49 am

Paul Edwards wrote:

“Now BillG asserts that someone labored and created you and therefore they have a right to give you a “gift” of yourself to you, the self-owner. Firstly, i think this contains the following weakness: what if the parents choose not to hand you this gift, but rather prefer to keep their “creation” for themselves their own property as a slave for instance.”

BillG responds:

I believe I was pretty careful to include that to be human involves a process of asserting your independence and individualization starting from conception and that the child PHYSICALLY forces this as an innate characteristic.

so in essence this is a little dance/drama with no script, no director between parent and child where the parent who physically labored to produce the child, “gifts” the child’s life to them at the same time that the child “asserts” their independence in utero.

lorenzo sleakes April 21, 2006 at 12:31 pm

Paul

I do not derive logically that I own my own body and cannot prove it. It is an empirical fact(although not objective) that I can directly control my body but can only control a slave’s body indirectly – through violence or threat of violence.

Paul Edwards April 21, 2006 at 12:42 pm

“to be human [and presumably to justifiably claim self-ownership] involves a process of asserting your independence”

OK, cool.

Previously I said: “But to exist implies many things in addition to the need for standing room, not the least of which is to eat and wear clothing…”

and BillG responded:
“food and clothing are the products of someone’s labor whereas land and the rental value of land is not…”

Now i thought you began your answer this way because you thought it relevant that land is not the product of someone’s labor. This is probably the source of my confusion. But i missed and you have now clarified that it is not that at all, but rather the “asserting your independence” that renders one a self-owner.

Well, first i would respond that it must be more than an assertion that justifies your self-ownership because others are capable of asserting ownership over you, and this would not necessarily justify their position. In fact i think we would both argue it does not at all and instead would lead to necessary conflict.

It is in fact my very point that mere assertion and decree by late-comers to the possession of anything from another’s person to any other property that he has homesteaded is unjustifiable. And this is where my position remains. Late-comers have no claim to your person, or your possessions regardless of Locke’s proviso. And as you seem to agree, (sorry not to have seen this earlier) the fact that labor does not create land is irrelevant to the question.

Paul Edwards April 21, 2006 at 12:55 pm

Lorenzo,

“I do not derive logically that I own my own body and cannot prove it.”

Correct. And yet, and this is a big yet, you can still justify self-ownership completely.

“It is an empirical fact (although not objective) that I can directly control my body but can only control a slave’s body indirectly – through violence or threat of violence.”

Yes. But beyond this, as it turns out, we can in fact indisputably justify self-ownership, and we can therefore show a master-slave ethic to be indisputably unjustified. Furthermore, from this process, known as argumentation ethics, we can also show that a general libertarian ethic of recognition of the homesteading principle and the institution of private property is the only justifiable ethic. And in this ethic, there is no room for a coercive state, or taxation of any form.

BillG (not Gates) April 21, 2006 at 1:06 pm

Paul Edwards wrote:

“I missed and you have now clarified that it is not that [labor] at all, but rather the “asserting your independence” that renders one a self-owner.

BillG responds:

parents physically labor to produce a child.

the developing embryo at conception starts out as owned by the parents as it is a parasite within the body of one.

prior to birth as the developing child matures they physically assert their independence (empirically derived) at the same time as the parents gift them their life in utero.

we are born with the right of self-ownership with the parents retaining custodial rights that requires a positive legal obligation until the age of emancipation.

Yancey Ward April 21, 2006 at 1:12 pm

I have followed this debate closely and am still confused.

When parents have children, they can gift the self-ownership to their children or the children can assert it, and the children’s arrival and/or independence will raise the economic rent of anyone with whom this new person contests land usage, correct? In other words, the arrival of a new human being places a positive obligation on this previously existing human that did not exist before the arrival. Why is it more correct that all economic rent be shared than that parents gift such space to the children they bring into the world?

BillG (not Gates) April 21, 2006 at 1:20 pm

Paul Edwards wrote:

“we can also show that a general libertarian ethic of recognition of the homesteading principle and the institution of private property is the only justifiable ethic. And in this ethic, there is no room for a coercive state, or taxation of any form.”

BillG responds:

and I am making the logical claim based on the right of self-ownership (and thus to the fruits of one’s labor as the natural extension of self) that even in the absence of the state, as two or more people naturally compete for access to scarce resources, economic rent (a tax in kind but not in substance) naturally attaches to the location in question.

if in the absence of any delegated authority the party who claims exclusive ownership rights over that location collects the economic rent, it can only be satisfied by sacrificing the property rights of the excluded to the fruits of their labor and hence their self-ownership rights themselves.

now enter a delegated authority…

if the excluded retains the economic rent (backed by the force of the delegated authority) instead of the excluder inorder to uphold their labor-based property rights, the same can not be said for the excluder – even though they pay the economic rent their property rights to their labor remain intact.

BillG (not Gates) April 21, 2006 at 1:46 pm

Yancey Ward writes:

“When parents have children, they can gift the self-ownership to their children or the children can assert it”

BillG responds:

I am suggesting that it happens simultaneously as a process over time up until birth neither really have a choice in the matter.

parents have a right to destroy the growing embryo up until a certain point and the baby is confered rights at some point in utero but generally it is referred to as having been born with a right of self-ownership that does not need to be purchased or gifted.

now the parents have a custodial right over the child and thus a positive legal obligation, to impart their wisdom and love as to how to “make it” in the world until emancipation.

Yancey Ward wrote:

“and the children’s arrival and/or independence will raise the economic rent of anyone with whom this new person contests land usage, correct?”

BillG responds:

at emancipation yes as supply is fixed and demand increases with population.

Yancey Ward wrote:

“In other words, the arrival of a new human being places a positive obligation on this previously existing human that did not exist before the arrival.”

BillG responds:

a positive obligation means to give someone something that you labored to create (food, clothing, shelter, etc)

no one labors to produce the land and the landowner does not labor to produce the unimproved land value (economic rent)

in fact I look at this from a negative liberty perspective…we all have an inalienable, INDIVIDUAL equal access opportunity right to enclose the natural commons so long as our use/access does not infringe upon the equal access opportunity right of any other individual to the same.

beyond Locke’s proviso, inorder to uphold the principle of the right of self-ownership and thus equal liberty, that requires that the economic rent that naturally attaches to all locations be shared equaly and directly between neighbors in a community.

Yancey Ward wrote:

“Why is it more correct that all economic rent be shared than that parents gift such space to the children they bring into the world?”

because a right of self-ownership by definition does not need to be purchased or gifted.

I have no problem with you advocating for this requirement but you have to change the fundamental tenet of classical liberalism/libertarianism/austrian economics

or

call yourself something other than these.

Paul Edwards April 21, 2006 at 1:48 pm

“…the party who claims exclusive ownership rights over that location collects the economic rent, it can only be satisfied by sacrificing the property rights of the excluded to the fruits of their labor and hence their self-ownership rights themselves.”

But Bill, it could very similarly be argued that the party who claims exclusive ownership of the production of the food that he produces and sells will collect increased profits if the demand for his food increases due to an increased population, or due to an overall decline in supply of food due to people shifting resources out of food manufacturing. Therefore it could be argued, that this increased profit can only be satisfied by sacrificing the property rights of the excluded and hence their self-ownership rights because they may go hungry or at least go without a new Volvo for another year.

There is no difference between this food scenario and the land scenario, unless one wishes to re-introduce the fact that labor creates food and does not create land. But I don’t think anyone wants to do this because it turns out to be irrelevant.

Yancey Ward April 21, 2006 at 1:55 pm

Bill G,

If a right of self-ownership by definition does not need to be purchased or gifted, then how is that one pays one economic rent the instant before a new arrival, then pays a higher one after the arrival? It appears to me that geoism is simply trying to socialize the costs of bringing new people into the world. In other words, rather than having the parents give to the children the land they need, you are trying to have everyone give a little bit.

BillG (not Gates) April 21, 2006 at 2:06 pm

Paul Edwards wrote:

“There is no difference between this food scenario and the land scenario, unless one wishes to re-introduce the fact that labor creates food and does not create land. But I don’t think anyone wants to do this because it turns out to be irrelevant.”

BillG responds:

you mean that you don’t want to re-introduce the fact that it is relevant because it negates your argument…

BillG (not Gates) April 21, 2006 at 2:48 pm

Yancey Ward wrote:

“If a right of self-ownership by definition does not need to be purchased or gifted, then how is that one pays one economic rent the instant before a new arrival, then pays a higher one after the arrival? ”

BillG responds:

whom are you referring to paying?

the excluder (landowner) or the excluded (landless)?

all rent is based on time…

Yancey Ward wrote:

“It appears to me that geoism is simply trying to socialize the costs of bringing new people into the world. In other words, rather than having the parents give to the children the land they need, you are trying to have everyone give a little bit.”

BillG responds:

no, simply trying to establish social justice via the concept of equal liberty in accordance with the right of self-ownership and it’s logical extension – labor-based property rights.

Yancey Ward April 21, 2006 at 3:06 pm

BillG,

If the economic rent rises upon a new arrival, and if the economic rent is being shared equally, then the present tenant/s is/are being required to pay more because of the new arrival. To maintain the equal liberty you must take a little from everyone to make up for the new arrival.

Now, I have problem with you advocating this, but it is not libertarianism either.

Yancey Ward April 21, 2006 at 3:07 pm

That should have read “I have no problem”.

BillG (not Gates) April 21, 2006 at 3:24 pm

Yancey Ward wrote:

“If the economic rent rises upon a new arrival, and if the economic rent is being shared equally, then the present tenant/s is/are being required to pay more because of the new arrival. To maintain the equal liberty you must take a little from everyone to make up for the new arrival.”

BillG responds:

hence the reason why I asked you to clarify your statement by asking if you are referring to the excluders (landowners) or the excluded (landless) having to pay more economic rent as populations increases.

from the above stement it is now clear to me that you are under the mistaken impression that the tenants (excluded/landless) are to pay the economic rent.

this is what is happening today which violates their absolute rights to their labor and hence self-ownership.

I am saying the landowners (excluders) must pay both the landless tenants and the other nearby landowners who are their neighbors directly and equally in order to uphold their right of self-ownership.

I am also saying that either libertarianism has to adopt this view or stop representing that their fundamental tenet is the right to self-ownership because it is a lie!

Paul Edwards April 21, 2006 at 3:52 pm

BillG:

“you mean that you don’t want to re-introduce the fact that it is relevant because it negates your argument…”

LOL. I was wondering if you were going to answer me this way. Ok so bring me in from out in left field here:

Here are my claims:

1. Humans don’t create themselves.
2. If we go back far enough in human history we can also say that we originally did not come about through a parent’s creation either.
3. And yet, humans are justifiably self-owners.
4. Therefore human self-ownership derives essentially from something other than human labor and human creation since we did not create ourselves and were not created by other humans.

I think we agree on the above four, but please correct me if I am mistaken. And where you believe me to be wrong, please say WRONG, and then why wrong.

If we agree on the above four points, then I say we should also agree to this: that human labor in creating property is not essential to any form of ownership in property because it is not essential to the most fundamental form of it: self-ownership.

If this point is where I fail to make my case, please tell me so and explain why the previous four points don’t imply this final one.

Paul Edwards April 21, 2006 at 3:54 pm

If we do agree here as well, then just as a late comer has no claim on my person, he can have no claim on any other of my property, including land, which although I did not create, since I also did not create myself either, is irrelevant to the question.

BillG (not Gates) April 21, 2006 at 7:35 pm

Paul,

hmmm…an you be so sure when humans start and animals end? (#2)

kinda like when a human life actually starts (vs. potential human life) and when parents as owners can no longer destroy what is not “theirs”…

P.M.Lawrence April 21, 2006 at 11:15 pm

Peter (message at at April 20, 2006 07:45 AM), you appear to have missed the significance of the role Penn played in putting the soon-to-be residents of Pennsylvania there in the first place, an extension of the idea of discovery being an act as significant as occupancy in terms of mixing one’s labour with land. To Locke, this would have counted as Penn homesteading it through his agents, the settlers, and would not have been invalidated by their subsequent unilateral and uncompensated repudiation of their obligations. Whether or not you accept that it became theirs, they certainly abused him, and if you do accept it, you must similarly accept any variation of a right of conquest if you are to be consistent – after all, the conqueror is overriding another’s material commitment to the territory on the grounds of the effort he put into taking it.

And, of course, you do not need to accept “homesteading” as the one and only method of creating that connection with the land we know as owning it.

Fred Foldvary April 24, 2006 at 5:50 pm

Regarding Karen De Coster on Henry George, geolibertarians do not oppose the private possession of land. Henry George in
George, in “Our Land in Land Policy” stated:

“the recognition of private ownership of land is necessary to its proper use — is, in fact, a condition of civilization.”

Henry George and geolibertarians believe that public revenue from land rent is equitable and efficient, and that taxes on human action should be abolished. If taxes there must be, they are better on land value than on wages and profit, but as a libertarian, I say, taxes there need not be.

Fred Foldvary April 24, 2006 at 5:56 pm

“Perhaps I missed it but I do not think that Murry Rothbard’s careful refutation of Henry George’s opinions on land is mentioned in the article.” Paul Marks.

Rothbard did not really refute Henry George. He refuted the propaganda of some of George’s statist followers. Rothbard agreed with George that land is a fixed resource. Thus its use for public revenue carries no deadweight loss, unlike taxing labor and capital goods. Nobody has really refuted the arguments of Henry George. Condominiums today practice the exact method advocated by Henry George. Would one argue that condominiums do not exist?

Paul Edwards April 24, 2006 at 6:14 pm

BillG,

“hmmm…an you be so sure when humans start and animals end? (#2)”

Let’s say for sake of argument we have no idea when humans start and animals end. Unless your contention is that the human race has existed infinitely back in time, and is therefore of the stature of a god, it is irrelevant to my point. There must be a point where human man comes into existence where before that point he did not exist as human. At that moment of transition, this fact is insurmountable: “we originally did not come about through a [human] parent’s creation”.

kinda like when a human life actually starts (vs. potential human life) and when parents as owners can no longer destroy what is not “theirs”…

Not really. We know a fetus came about at the point of conception via an act of two completely human parents. In contrast, the first human (being the first) did not. And that is the fatal weakness in your emphasis on the principle of human creation being a necessary prerequisite for legitimate property ownership. Self-ownership is not derived from this principle, so neither is it a prerequisite for land to be owned.

BillG (not Gates) April 24, 2006 at 7:44 pm

Paul Edwards wrote:

“Unless your contention is that the human race has existed infinitely back in time”

“And that is the fatal weakness in your emphasis on the principle of human creation being a necessary prerequisite for legitimate property ownership.”

BillG responds:

I believe I said labor was a necessary prerequisite for legitimate property ownership but not necessarily human labor via creation…

and since we can never know exactly when the human race began (nor human life from potential human life) but we do know that AT SOME POINT the human animal came from non-human animals via the labor of the non-human animal my point is still valid.

Paul Edwards April 25, 2006 at 12:33 am

BillG,

So it’s labor of some form or another that is prerequisite for legitimate property ownership, just not necessarily _human_ labor. Well, you’ve certainly answered my question completely now, although at the cost, i would say, of providing what sounds to me like a now completely arbitrary and artificial criterion for property ownership. But what the heck, this is the beauty of the argument: we can agree to disagree and nobody gets hurt. :)

BillG (not Gates) April 25, 2006 at 5:58 am

Paul,

what I am suggesting is that it is conceivable that at some point the first human animal was created from the labor of a non-human animal.

since the “gifting” of that life by the parents occurs at the same time as the “asserting” of independence from the developing baby in utero are not really choices by either – it is not necessary that the parents of the “original human” animal be sentient as the transfer of ownership is instinctual rather than volitional.

Rich March 28, 2009 at 5:52 pm

After reading this entire argument, I’d like to ilustrate the whole geolibertarian argument in the simplest of terms, and apply common sense:

Assume a ship goes down on the ocean, there are two survivors, John and Bob. They both float around on their own seperate chunk of debri for several days, both eventually washing ashore on the same desert island. John, however washes up on that island one day before Bob therefore claiming the island as his property. Once Bob(the newcomer) drifts ashore he finds he has washed up on privately owned land. John requires rent from Bob in the form of building a hut, gathering coconuts, etc… in exchange for the right to live on his(John’s) land(justly aquired ’cause he was there first?). While Bob is laboring all day to privide John with a hut and coconuts, etc… John sits in the shade drinking coconut juice. Now, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see who is taking the fruits of who’s labor. Bob(the newcomer) is obviously being deprived of the fruits of his labor by John.

This may seem an over-simplified example, but the point is the same.

Can anbody out there contend that this scenario, is just and consistent with property rights

Rich March 28, 2009 at 5:54 pm

After reading this entire argument, I’d like to ilustrate the whole geolibertarian argument in the simplest of terms, and apply common sense:

Assume a ship goes down on the ocean, there are two survivors, John and Bob. They both float around on their own seperate chunk of debri for several days, both eventually washing ashore on the same desert island. John, however washes up on that island one day before Bob therefore claiming the island as his property. Once Bob(the newcomer) drifts ashore he finds he has washed up on privately owned land. John requires rent from Bob in the form of building a hut, gathering coconuts, etc… in exchange for the right to live on his(John’s) land(justly aquired ’cause he was there first?). While Bob is laboring all day to privide John with a hut and coconuts, etc… John sits in the shade drinking coconut juice. Now, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see who is taking the fruits of who’s labor. Bob(the newcomer) is obviously being deprived of the fruits of his labor by John.

This may seem an over-simplified example, but the point is the same.

Can anbody out there contend that this scenario, is just and consistent with property rights

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