Christian Relaunch


Primordial assets like land are never wholly owned. He who sows is entitled to reap, and he who improves land is entitled to benefit (homesteader's right), but the land itself has a certain primordial value that cannot be obliterated. So for instance I uphold the right to roam and even to squat harmlessly, and an ongoing land transfer, though the more mature the land is the more moderate this should be.

Once upon a time in Europe (though not in the United States I think), most wealth was in land and was stolen, having been seized by the prevailing gangsters and given to their henchmen. Critics of private property, from the legendary Robin Hood's merry men (taking from the rich and giving to the poor) via Winstanley's Diggers to Proudhon's anarchists, took this circumstance for granted and advocated a righting of that wrong, and had I lived in their time I would have been with them.

Accursed, who from the wrongs his father did

Would shape himself a right.

Alfred North Tennyson, Gareth and Lynette, lines 340-341.

In earned wealth, arising from enterprise and free trade, there has always been some dispersion. Those who work harder, or are more skilful, or more lucky, prosper more than others. Among those above-mentioned radicals, this was seldom raised and never pursued. The matter was too minor to bother with. I see no evidence that they would have seen it as a problem.

But the opportunity for redress of historic encroachments has largely passed. The gangsters have spent most of their loot, and most wealth is now earned. Galling for those keen to do justice, but there is no point flogging a dead horse. So those early radicals' complaint is far less salient than it was. Sadly, most of their contemporary admirers fail to understand this, and assume, without any evidence that I have seen, that their rejection of property rights would have included earned property.

True, a certain proportion of extant assets still derive from theft, so in principle I am open to a historic restorative transfer. Perhaps a few ancestral estates could still confidently be assessed as stolen. Perhaps the more recent seizures of the rich's produce have restored the balance. Perhaps the imbalance is now on the other side, but the rich can probably be persuaded to waive that. Let us seek a settlement, and thereafter let no group plunder another.

Georgism (based on the thinking of Henry George) is similar to Kataskeuanism. It seems to focus on current holdings of land, and to disregard how the wealth originated, which strikes me as unjust. But Georgist readers are welcome to clarify this point.

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