It is said that property rights are the cornerstone of liberty and freedom. While I share this view to a great extent, I see a grave problem. If the majority of the Earth’s land is homesteaded, when does property become a right? Furthermore, the use of “open space” laws makes land all the more scarce. It’s almost as if the right to property requires an equal right to land. By no means am I saying that the private ownership of land is invalid (if anything, I support private ownership over public ownership), but rather I believe that everyone should have an equal opportunity at claiming ownership over a piece of the Earth. Geo-Libertarianism addresses this.
What is Geo-libertarianism?
The term “geo-libertarianism” was coined by economist Fred E. Foldvary. The “geo” in “geo-libertarian” stands for Georgist. Georgism is the economic belief that people should keep what they work for, but the benefits of land ownership should belong to the community as a whole. Thus, they support a land value tax (or LVT for short). Straight away, you probably see that this view is at odds with the common libertarian idea of property being an extension of the individual. Georgism stresses the idea of community, and libertarianism stresses individualism. However, these views don’t necessarily to contradict each other if the community exists to protect the rights of the individual.
Not convinced? Consider national defense to be a form of a community effort (it’s more of a national effort) to protect individual rights. It’s important here to make a distinction between military and defense, as one protects the nation while the other destroys nations. How about – dare I say – the roads? Roads are also an important part of the individual’s life because they allow them to move from place to place with ease, using the vehicle that they bought in the free market (sorry, anti-road libertarians, but until we can build flying cars, I don’t see any alternative to state-provided roads besides toll roads).
SEE ALSO: But How Will the Roads be Funded? by Martin van Staden
What libertarian would want to be a Georgist or support a land tax?
You would be surprised.
One of the first Americans to identify as a libertarian was also a Georgist. His name was Albert Jay Nock. Milton Friedman also referred to the land value tax as the “least bad tax.” David Nolan (the founder of the Libertarian Party and the creator of the Nolan chart) claimed that a single tax on land was the “least harmful” kind of taxation. The Nobel prize-winning economist (known for his work on public choice theory) had this to say: “The landowner who withdraws land from productive use to a purely private use should be required to pay higher, not lower, taxes.”
Here’s what the godfather of classical economics, Adam Smith, had to say about the LVT:
“Both ground-rents and the ordinary rent of land are a species of revenue which the owner, in many cases, enjoys without any care or attention of his own. Though a part of this revenue should be taken from him in order to defray the expenses of the state, no discouragement will thereby be given to any sort of industry. The annual produce of the land and labor of the society, the real wealth and revenue of the great body of the people, might be the same after such a tax as before. Ground-rents and the ordinary rent of land are, therefore, perhaps, the species of revenue which can best bear to have a peculiar tax imposed upon them. Ground-rents seem, in this respect, a more proper subject of peculiar taxation than even the ordinary rent of land. The ordinary rent of land is, in many cases, owing partly at least to the attention and good management of the landlord. A very heavy tax might discourage too much this attention and good management. […] Nothing can be more reasonable than that a fund which owes its existence to the good government of the state should be taxed peculiarly, or should contribute something more than the greater part of other funds, towards the support of that government.”
For all those anarcho-capitalist types, geo-libertarianism isn’t your enemy.
In a anarcho-capitalist society, private property rights have to come with private property protection. You wouldn’t want a bunch of Marxists to smash your windows and wreck your shop, you would want to be protected from coercion. Most anarcho-capitalists and voluntaryists believe that people would make deals with insurance companies to protect their property, but Fred Foldvary (who also coined the term geo-anarchism) has a better idea.
Foldvary believes that homeowners’ associations would do a better job at protected property and providing public services by collecting ground rent from its customers in a similar fashion as tax collectors collecting land value taxes. The only difference is that it is voluntary.
* Bhavin Patel is a student in high school as well as a geolibertarian (Georgist libertarian). He plans to major in computer science and minor in economics when he gets into college.