Saturday, 12 November 2016


'Where there is anything like an equal distribution of wealth the more democratic the government the better it will be: but where there is gross inequality in the distribution of wealth, the more democratic the government the worse it will be.' Henry George, 1897

George goes on to explain that to give voting rights to ‘tramps, paupers, to men who must beg, or steal, or starve, is to invoke destruction’.  That is, if you have a huge chunk of voters who are impoverished/exploited/disillusioned then a nasty outcome is assured. It is not ‘rocket science’ that an angry majority will give power to despots espousing their interests.

He argues that a rotten democracy can be worse over time than a rotten autocracy because of its corruption of the national character; with a majority of ‘angry’ voters, changes most likely will tend towards despotism because such voters will give power to ‘the worst’ leaders, leaders supporting their angry sectional interests, not the whole community interest.

Is this what is being evidenced in USA and Brexit?

This would seem to be a most presentient analysis of socio-economic inequality which has become – since the start of the Occupy movement in September five years ago - a recognized feature of Western democracies. The quotes are from George’s most famous work, 'Progress and Poverty’, the chapter, ‘How modern civilisation may decline’.

Is this the true cost of inequality, the degradation of democracy, the degradation of our political system? Is it on the cards for Australia if our inequality trends to the levels prevailing in USA? Do we need an Equity Commission to steer us from such fundamental dangers? We should be paying attention!

Henry George (1839-1897) was an American economist and philosopher, a great orator, and is best known for his promotion of Land Value Taxation. This Single Tax came at the end of a long study as the means to remedy the many social ills he had previously identified. One of these ills was that there was never abject poverty unless there was great affluence nearby. For more information, see

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