Jul. 6th, 2017

There is a transcription of a debate on the Reason blog with Mark Skousen propounding and Gene Epstein opposing the resolution that Adam Smith should be honored as the father of modern economics and free market capitalism. The case against comes down to two points: that other people had had similar ideas before Smith; and that Smith was not actually that pure an advocate of free enterprise.

As an example of the second point: "I also remind Mark again that Marx quoted Smith and was impressed by Smith's beginning of an exploitation theory, because Smith thought landowners were predators and deducted against labor."

It's not clear from the Wealth of Nations how far Smith actually thought that, or how far prudence prevented him from fully expressing whatever subversive ideas he held, but the germ of the idea is there. I remember someone (it may have been Mason Gaffney) saying or writing that whatever differences there were between Karl Marx and Henry George, both saw the revolutionary potential of classical political economy; this led the neoclassical economists to change their terminology and avoid talking about land rent.

This did not, by the way, make all the neoclassicals heroes of free enterprise; some of them favored government interference of the right sort. However, they generally opposed radical reform of taxation along Georgist lines, and tried to either confute Georgists or ignore them.

Neither participant in the debate mentioned Henry George.
To continue with the late afternoon of Wednesday, August 17, we heard from Jacob Shwartz-Lucas and maybe Mark Sullivan (I remember Jacob speaking; Mark is also listed in the program, but I don't remember whether he actually spoke at this session or not).

Mr. Shwartz-Lucas said that he's a microbiologist by training, and was interested in bacteria to help clean polluted rivers like the Ganges. He saw that it was necessary to change the rules, not just apply technology. He emailed a thousand people asking what to do, how to solve poverty, and the Henry George solution seemed best.

Now the Georgist movement has a bunch of young people. Recession Generation was a young Georgist event, a skill-sharing conference. 70% of those attending were under forty-five years old.

He described his marketing campaign, with 14,000 subscribers and growing. It gets free advertising from Google. There's lots of date from people who take our surveys. He mentioned Kaiser Fung, the survey consultant for Earthsharing.

There are socialist Georgists, anarchist Georgists, and libertarian Georgists, with the percentages varying by age. The people in this room, he said, were mostly older people, since younger people are mostly poor, and can't afford to fly to conferences and pay for hotels. He presented more survey results.

Christine Peterson, who coined the term "open source," was at the latest conference (I presume that that means at the Georgist youth gathering in California).

Michael Burton, Ph.D., a political strategist at the office of VP Al Gore (1993-1998), said, "You're doing all of the right things, Jake: building a large newsletter, surveys, and statistical analysis."

Then Alodia Arnold, another young Georgist, spoke up to recommend going into real estate appraising. Most appraisers are fiftyish or older. It's a well-paying career, a long career, and can advance Georgism.

After that, we had the evening off for informal socializing and dinner on our own. My next installment will be about Thursday the 18th.
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