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14. November 2011

How Jewish land reform can end American socialism

Filed under: economy — admin @ 19:09

A short while ago, I wrote an article about how the dual income destroys household stability.  Most of the negative responses I received were the typical outbursts I expect from social liberals, entirely emotionally based, and leaving little room for reason and discussion.  But there was one argument from several people, in my personal life and as a public author, which made me take a second glance at my position.

In short, I was told that the shrinking income, though correlated with advances in feminism, was not necessarily caused by it.  Citing an increasing trend toward globalization of production, these people suggested, though not entirely correctly, that lower wages resulted from a massive exportation of working class jobs, which forced working classes to accept lower wages.  And while I cannot for one moment even pretend that feminization of the household does not harm living wages, I am forced to wonder whether both work in conjunction, making the American lower classes even poorer than they would have been had they experienced either of these alone.

I must admit that this problem of globalization has always been a puzzle for me.  Especially as a Christian conservative, one who believes in the supreme authority of Scripture, that God Himself created a system of government which utilized the free market in its most effective and moral form, I always wondered what would happen to a country which experienced such a surge in wealth and production, that it soon becomes cheaper to purchase goods and labor from elsewhere.  One cannot argue against the logic.  Our dollar cannot purchase a decent hamburger in New York, but it can pay an hour’s wages — who knows, perhaps an entire day’s — in a third world country.

It would seem this problem would grow even more insurmountable as technology becomes more and more affordable, and as the world’s wealth becomes more easily connected.  Free markets are predicated upon the individual’s ability to choose the least expensive and most effective methods of production, and if they cannot, and someone else can, then the business will belong to the other person.  So it seems that without some protectionist measures, the wealthy country is doomed to a loss in production, their lower classes eventually squeezed out of business, incapable of finding productive work, instead seeking consumptive employment which simply eliminates the wealth of the country further.  In this light, there would be no way to maintain a country’s wealth once it had accrued to a certain point.

This always puzzled me, particularly in Israel’s case.  For I questioned (perhaps blasphemously) if God had understood the mechanics of free market trade, and wondered what He would have done as the country enriched itself under His blessing, all without minimum wage requirements, tariffs, drawbacks, trust-busting legislation, unions formed in opposition to actual abuse, green cards, or any of the other modern contrivances which seem (read: seem, not necessarily are) necessary to combat such a collapse of the lower and middle classes.  But when I was questioned this last time regarding the flow of industry to poorer countries, I realized something of which all should take note.

It is absolutely true that God instituted none of the above modern protections, particularly those pertaining to the international flow of industry.  But there were two safeguards He instituted which surpassed their effectiveness in every way, in what is the most fair and thoughtful system ever devised.  That is, He did not allow monopolies upon either food or land, granting utmost liberty to even the poorest of citizens by giving them access to food through a workfare program, and ownership of property which reverted to them every 50 years, even if sold.  Even supposing Israel became so rich and developed enough technology that it began to export its production, there could be no landless dependent class during Israel’s obedient eras.  Each person was the master of his own household, independent of business tycoons, landlords, and politicians for their subsistence, and every citizen would know it. Class warfare would lose its teeth.  Responsibility would rest squarely in the court of the individual, never the state.

Almost immediately, American conservatives spit at the thought of land reform, a further encroach upon property beyond even the injustices of the present era.  We live in a time in which people are taxed not once, but in ways almost innumerable, in a system practically inconceivable; in which the rich pay a drastically higher tax percentage than the poor, increasingly expected to provide subsistence to layabouts; and in which the most popular politicians gain their votes by instigating racial and class discord, fueling envy and promising to plunder greater amounts with each and every election.  But supposing the entirity of American property were to fall into the hands of one man, or even a group of men, even the most hardened of conservatives would cry for liberation from those who would ultimately be their masters.  The question, then, is not whether such a form of justice should take place, but rather when and according to whose plan.

Undoubtedly, some will wisely note that to institute the above proposition atop the present injustices would only be a further injustice, and they would be correct.  But this proposal (which is certainly open to refinement, a proposal and not a finished product) exists not to add further redistribution to an incredibly backward system, but rather to replace it entirely.  Instead of a cornucopia of complex and incalculable injustices, Americans would have a flat income tax and permanent property.

There are two great benefits to doing so.  The first is that our businesses, no longer overburdened by ridiculously unfair requirements (national corporate/capital gains taxes, etc), would find a safe haven in which to conduct their — which eventually become our — endeavors.  There is a such thing as capital flight, and it occurs because capital is practically unrestrainable, going wherever entrepreneurial minds find it most safe and effective.  There is no such thing as land flight.

The second benefit results from the method of redistribution.  Soberly understanding that the United States of America is too large and sensible a country to divide itself forcefully and without compensation, Americans would have to redistribute it naturally.  Supposing a limitation was passed, becoming effective within a specified amount of time, banning ownership beyond a certain acreage, the land would divide itself properly.  Those who sought a perpetual inheritance for their families could compete with their neighbors for what they could afford, transferring the maximum amount of wealth in the most just manner to the sellers, and allowing sellers to relocate their capital into businesses or savings.  Not only would America become landed, the prices of many properties becoming affordable due to competition between sellers, and others justly becoming more expensive because of desirability, but a flow of capital would immediately become available, spurring the economy into growth (it must be mentioned that this plan must be applied in conjunction with a ban upon usury -ed, 12/14/2011).

In this Divinely inspired plan, men would be free to build wealth upon wealth without ever gaining a true monopoly on subsistence.  Men would be able to grow their own food and raise their own animals (supposing citizens were wise enough to permit such activity) to provide for their own families, regardless of what their next door neighbor did with his wealth. Not every family would choose to do so, of course, as many superior methods of procuring wealth would remain available in a truly free economy, but the option would always be available supposing need should arise.  And supposing a household were to endure hardship and lose its property, the next generation would still receive an inheritance when the land reverted into their possession at the end of a 50 year cycle. 

I ask the reader to consider, with an open mind and a noble heart, how such a program would impact the following social and economic aspects of American life.

Restoring American production

Perhaps one of the most profound effects of such a system would be the almost immediate reduction in working-class wages;  for a great many of the people, no longer paying rent or entirely dependent upon others for their subsistence, would be able to compete with their neighbors for less pay.  And though it might at first appear (perhaps mostly to leftists) that this would destroy the American working class, it would do anything but.   For the outsourcing of production, the production which grants every nation its true wealth, would greatly slow due to the affordability of American labor, and many of the occupations which had formerly been shipped abroad would be brought home.

It would be highly unlikely that outsourcing would continue at a harmful rate for several reasons.  The first, already mentioned in the article concerning the dual income, considers that a country without anything other than flat personal income taxes could not be a poor choice for the headquarters of any business.  Second, that the costs of transporting goods into the world’s greatest consumer would be severely reduced, making domestic production a highly affordable option compared with any of its competitors.  Those who could offer their products at a lower price, simply because the goods were produced nearby, and without paying any extra costs for tariffs and such, would naturally become more competitive.  Third, it must be noted that running a business in a foreign country is not only more expensive when shipping is concerned (particularly when consumption is domestic), but also a less safe investment, particularly when that country is becoming increasingly hostile, or when it is experiencing a particularly troublesome period.  There are few investors, if any, who would prefer to conduct business in a foreign country, if the costs of maintaining production in a politically stable, undemanding, and familiar homeland are competitive.

Restoring freedom of speech

But the restoration of production, the engine of wealth, is not the only benefit Americans would receive.  For conservatives and Christians, two groups placed under increasing censorship in the corporate world, would be emboldened in their ownership of property, no longer capable of being silenced by a state-backed corporate policing of political and religious speech.  For at present, the loss of employment equates to the loss of subsistence and property.  But supposing neither of those could entirely be threatened, especially not on a permanent basis, as wages could not entirely account for either subsistence or housing, the employer would no longer be able to rely on desperation to silence rational discussion.  This new form of independence would undoubtedly result in an outburst of political and religious speech, and perhaps even a renaissance of American rationality (a goal poorly attempted and ironically sabotaged by social liberals such as John Stuart Mill, who sought to police employers, but whose goals are in reality only attainable when men are landed and self-sufficient).  It is worth noting, as Thomas Paine remarked in Common Sense, that

“With the increase of commerce England hath lost its spirit. The city of London, notwithstanding its numbers, submits to continued insults with the patience of a coward. The more men have to lose, the less willing are they to venture.”

Historical arguments against land reform

Historically, it may be argued that Americans have done quite well without any attempts at land reform, and that because they have built upon that system an unprecedented wealth, that Americans can do well with the same system in the future.  I do not believe this is the case, because America’s history has been one of expansion and affordability, two aspects which cannot continue as the entire world is now politically occupied, unusually large portions of land are increasingly owned by the extremely wealthy, and the population is rapidly increasing.

Adam Smith wrote about the availability of land in The Wealth of Nations, remarking that American colonists became wealthy because they were able to secure land, and employ that land to its greatest use at most affordable prices. Even the poor in America, he remarked, lived in more affluence than the poor in wealthier nations such as England, because land was so available, and development so common, that rapid increases in labor were needed to manage the lands to their full capacity.  Naturally, when a people can expand geographically with little resistance, and when they are free to exert their intellects under the protection of law, toward the highest use of affordable land, the result is going to be a landed, self-sufficient, industrious people.  Alexis De Tocqueville records the same, that Americans were profoundly independent, productive, and benefited from an unusual equality of property ownership and rights.  He wrote,

“…it was soon found that the soil of America was opposed to a territorial aristocracy. It was realized that in order to clear this land, nothing less than the constant and self-interested efforts of the owner himself was essential; the ground prepared, it became evident that its produce was not sufficient to enrich at the same time both an owner and a farmer. The land was then naturally broken up into small portions, which the proprietor cultivated for himself. Land is the basis of an aristocracy, which clings to the soil that supports it; for it is not by privileges alone, nor by birth, but by landed property handed down from generation to generation that an aristocracy is constituted. A nation may present immense fortunes and extreme wretchedness; but unless those fortunes are territorial, there is no true aristocracy, but simply the class of the rich and that of the poor.”

Adam Smith expressed a similar sentiment toward the concentration of land ownership when he stated, “As soon as the land of any country has all become private property, the landlords, like all other men, love to reap where they never sowed, and demand a rent even for its natural produce.”

But it must be noted that unlike land in America’s colonial period, the current era’s property is neither so affordable nor so available, and that America is rapidly approaching an era in which land ownership (free and clear ownership, not indirect bank ownership) is rare, incredibly expensive, and easily lost.  This proposal of land reform would ensure landed lower and middle classes, to propagate a liberty once had by past generations, but which is slowly slipping between the fingers of the current ones.

Preserving American heritage

Very closely related to the last point, Americans must consider the value of a permanently landed citizenry as the United States becomes more globalized. For trade, though greatly enriching the nation, has weakened its resolve in justice, and its firmness in identity.

It is being complained, by increasingly angered portions of the right, that the country is being overrun by an easily deportable illegal immigrant, by hordes of culturally hostile refugees, and all those who, though perhaps not intentionally, destroy the very fabric of this great nation, being entirely incapable of perpetuating an American Dream which they oftentimes ideologically oppose.  It may of course be said that it is the fault of Americans themselves for not having the courage — perhaps due to globalization, perhaps due to their adoption of a castrating postmodern humanism — to adequately assimilate immigrants into this greatest of melting pots.  But either reason still yields the same result: a rapidly growing population of people who do not love America for what it once stood, but seek their own benefit even if that pursuit requires breaking American law and opposing the eternal principles upon which she was built.

I cannot at this moment calculate a precise limitation to land ownership; such would have to be assessed by men more skilled than yours truly, but I can propose the following necessary implementations.  First, that neither those who entered this country illegally nor any of their offspring may own land permanently.  It is only through lawful immigration that newcomers may purchase land, and only the third generation forward may buy land permanently (men such as myself would be excluded from purchasing permanent land in this program, though we could inherit it from one of our native parents.  The cost would be well worth the preservation of America’s heritage).

Doing so is perhaps the only way to ensure that America’s heritage remains in the hands of Americans, and is not permanently redistributed by the present system into the hands of those who take great advantage from laws intended to destabilize American natives. By this plan, foreigners will be able to take great part in the blessings of justice and liberty without being a serious threat to American posterity.  It was in this way that Israel could accommodate the stranger and the alien without risking the very collapse of their heritage, the essential disposal of their birthright.

Secondly, I must recommend that while property must be left for American families to purchase in the future, something which the limitations on land must accommodate, the limit must not be so small as to leave America available for permanent purchase by predominantly recent legal and illegal immigrants, who currently outbreed natives by no irrelevant numbers.  And, of course, property may be permanently subdivided by families to members of their families.

In conclusion, it is true that some inconveniencies would arise as a result of the above reforms, but thinkers must first ask themselves whether those inconveniencies are immoral according to the laws of nature, which plainly state that every man, given the breath of life and the faculty to labor for survival, has a right from God to labor honestly for his subsistence (See Locke, Smith, and Bastiat).  Secondly, they must ask themselves whether this plan can be considered unjust compared to our incredibly muddled, constantly fluctuating, capital exporting, dysgenically redistributive abomination.  Thirdly, and most importantly, it must be asked whether or not it contradicts the written word of God, the principles which He personally declared as righteous, by which He judges nations.

If the answer to these three questions admits the proposed solution to be immoral, then I say let it be thrown into the garbage bin of history.  But if the answer admits something entirely otherwise, perhaps it is time to restore to humanity a long-discarded brand of eternal justice.  And in an age when the working class is being frightened by globalization into the arms of an increasingly treasonous party, it may perhaps be the one chance conservatives have to end socialism entirely.

*Exemptions

-In the ownership of permanent property, Scriptures declare a necessary distinction between city and suburban/country properties, with properties inside city limits permanently saleable to whomever, and retainable as long as the new owner wishes to and is capable of keeping it.

-Corporations, of course, would be incapable of buying property, to ensure that no loopholes existed for business classes.  They may either use the land of their owners, or rent the properties of others.

-Finally, to ensure that land is fairly and naturally redistributed, any persons forced to sell their excess properties may not take their property off the market after a certain date.  But if the property will not sell at a price they find acceptable, it may be kept on the market for a maximum of ten years.

1 Comment

  1. This needs a lot of tweaking. An acre of land in central Illinois is far more productive than an acre of land in central Wyoming.

    Steps should be taken to prevent starvation and homelessness in economic disruptions due to wage devaluation. A distributist stock-ownership-by-the-workers of industrial plants and other such concerns might help.

    Many farms and ranches have incorporated for tax reasons, even though they are still family farms. They should not be disinherited.

    Comment by Steve — 20. November 2011 @ 19:24

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