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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 5/17/10

Response to Thomas Friedman's column: a Linked World

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Today, I wrote the following in response to Thomas Friedman's column, "A Question From Lydia." I'm not so naive as to think I will get a personal response form one of the most popular leading columnists of the New York Times, but if you agree with what I say, you can forward it, or something like it, to Friedman yourself. Who knows, maybe the power of numbers will tilt his thinking just enough...

Re: A Question From Lydia

In your column today, you asked for "another way" to respond to situational values, so I am sure you will get flooded with responses. I hope against experience that you will get to read this answer, for it is the answer, not just to the question you raise, but to how we deal with a planet of finite resources and infinite human appetites.
The answer has been around, in some form, for at least 131 years. In some ways it is so obvious that writers like yourself edge into it, but rarely taking the final step, either because they don't understand the economic underpinnings (I could send you a list of over 230 scholarly, peer-reviewed examples where it has worked), or because ideology blinds them to the possibility.

The concept is simple: The fruits of the Earth belong to all of us, but the products of our labors belong to each of us. In practice this means the things Nature provides (or, what used to be called, God) are ours to be shared equally - the land/air/water, but also raw oil/copper/iron etc. This means an oil company should pay the People for their oil in the ground, but get to keep 100% of the profits from production. Since, by far, most of the profits of Big Oil (or Big Coal, Big Gold, Big Iron etc.) come from the price of the commodity at any given time, those many billions would get plowed back into Government coffers, or to a Citizen's dividend, as in Alaska.

Do this for Land as well, and you wipe out the boom/bust so-called business cycle (Really, this is a Land cycle) before it can even start. The Market will set the price of Land (where Land is defined in the classical economic sense as being ALL the natural resources of the world), so don't worry about Government screwing it up (we can always hold an auction if assessors can't be found or trusted).
This will also eliminate 90% of corruption by removing all taxes on actual production and taxing - heavily - Natural Resources (upstream vs. downstream). First, fire the lobbyists, then the loophole-hunting accountants, and finally the lawyers. In Al Gore's vernacular, "Tax what you burn, not what you earn."
Business CAN and WILL respond to the proper incentives. Forget Cap 'N Trade - that is yet another scheme to enrich Wall Street. Just impose a Carbon Tax, based on sound scientific principals, UNTAX profits from production (to all Coal companies: if you can burn a lump of coal forever, with no pollution, we won't tax you, ever).
Situational Ethics are bad when the situation is bad. Change the situation and the ethics will respond.
This policy is now called Geoism, but it is also known by its nineteenth century name: Georgism, or the Single Tax (on Natural Resources).

We must also end monopolies of all kinds. The government needs to kill the debt monster by re-assuming its constitutional authority to print its own money (see: Article 1, Section 8). This need not be inflationary (the self-serving warning of Central Bankers everywhere), IF we plow that money into things we actually need - like infrastructure, universal health care, better education. These are forms of wealth - something forgotten in today's false economic paradigm which worships numbers of a screen instead of actual products and services people need and want. Money is NOT wealth - just ask the average billionaire Zimbabwean wandering the street, looking for something to buy to fill his grumbling belly. Debt is certainly not wealth either - it is value (to the bankers only) from obligation. This is what classical economists have taught us and it was a lesson deliberately unlearned by scores of paid-for educators in Land-grabbing universities for the last 100 years. The monopoly on education is just as destructive as the monopoly on money.

There are other steps we can take - such as establishing State Banks, like revenue-positive North Dakota has had since 1919 - but this is a start back on the road to freedom, liberty and green, clean growth. Reagan was wrong about just about everything, except when he said, "if you tax something, you get less of it." Well, what do we need less of: pollution and profligate use of resources (while the resource-poor starve) or innovation? The answer is clear.

Scott Baker - Author, Community Activist; President: Common Ground - NYC

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Scott Baker is a Managing Editor & The Economics Editor at Opednews, and a former blogger for Huffington Post, Daily Kos, and Global Economic Intersection.

His anthology of updated Opednews articles "America is Not Broke" was published by Tayen Lane Publishing (March, 2015) and may be found here:

Scott is a former and current President of Common Ground-NY (, a Geoist/Georgist activist group. He has written dozens of (more...)

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