Geo-Tinyism — fusing two ideologies to advance progressive values
by Hank Pellissier
“Geo” refers to “Georgism” — the economic theories of Henry George (1839–1897) who advocated a single tax on land value to promote social equity and increased productivity. George was a prominent leader of the USA’s “Progressive Era” — his humanitarian ideas were praised by Sun Yat Sen, Leo Tolstoy, Mark Twain, Helen Keller, Winston Churchill, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Albert Einstein, George Bernard Shaw, and Upton Sinclair; his treatise Progress and Poverty outsold every book in the 1890’s except the Bible; George was regarded as one of the geniuses of his era, a peer of Thomas Edison and Charles Darwin.
“Tinyism” is a political point-of-view that believes humanity should be organized into small population micro-states to guarantee maximum democratic alliance to the needs of the citizenry. Historical examples include the 1,000+ city-states of classical Greece, and the 10–20 of the Italian Renaissance (both regions were financial and cultural centers of their era) Today the tiny nations of Andorra, Monaco, Luxembourg, San Marino, Singapore, Malta, Liechtenstein, Bahrain, and Iceland generally have “happier” inhabitants and high per capita income than their larger neighbors. Tinyism can be attained by fracturing today’s empires and large nations into a vibrant, pointillist map of miniature, citizen-empowered communities.
If Georgism and Tinyism were simultaneously adopted internationally, the result would be a world of 2,000–10,000 egalitarian micro-nations, optimally-democratic, and ideally connected in harmonious confederations.
Georgism is a moral ideology that seeks fairness, justice, and an end to poverty; it believes the benefits of land and natural resources should be equally and globally shared, but people should own what they create with their labor, free of charge. Government, argued George, should be entirely funded by “ground rent” — land value tax (LVT) — rather than taxing labor, and this levy on land should replace all other taxes. Georgists also suggest redistributing surplus revenue to the public via basic income dividends — like the oil royalties that benefit Alaskan and Norwegian citizenry.
Georgist reforms would reduce wealth inequality and property speculation, while increasing economic production and efficiency. Rents would be hugely lowered, and property would be redistributed, providing more opportunities for wealth creation. Urban sprawl would be curtailed, empty lots and buildings would be transformed into successful enterprises, unused land would be re-wilded, conserving nature. High LVT would encourage densification of cities and compactness of towns, decreasing the cost of public services and transport and dependence on the automobile, thus lowering per capita carbon use. Tax collection would be simplified and easy to collect, because land cannot be hidden.
Nations, regions, and cities that have used a very moderate application of Georgism’s land value tax are consistently successful. In East Asia, the reform has been used in Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, and Singapore. Paralleling this, the “Happy Nation” index lists Taiwan as the happiest country in the region, followed by Japan and South Korea, and Singapore is the world’s second-richest per capita nation (Luxembourg #1). New Zealand and Australia also rank high in Happiness (#8 and #12, respectively); both have used LVT in varying measures. Estonia, Denmark (#2 Happiest), the province of Victoria in Australia, parts of western Canada, the state of Hawaii, and nineteen cities and towns in Pennsylvania also used LVT with consistent success.
These experiments were all extremely cautious. Pittsburgh quadrupled its LVT rate, and Denmark’s rate can be up 3.4% — but both are far short of the 100% annual cost that George recommended.
To understand how Georgism would change society, I examined my own house’s land value — it’s a gigantic $287,000! Presently, I’m only required to pay 1.162% annually. If Georgism was installed… Well, it’s a bit complicated. Here’s an explanation given to me by a friend from Denmark:
“Georgism wants to tax 100% of the ‘rental’ value of land. Your house’s “land value” of $287,000 is the market price, not the rental value. Annual tax at a rate of 100% LVT would be about 10% of the $287,000 (depending on the capitalization rate).
Your present annual payment of 1.162% (~$3,335) is about 11% of the rental value.
The formula is:
Land Purchase Price = (Land Rental Value — Land Holding Cost) / Capitalization Rate
“Land Holding Cost” is primarily taxes on land and property as a whole (part of which fall on the land).
“Capitalization Rate” relates to the rate of return compared to other assets, interest rate, etc. It is estimated between 6% to 10% by real estate investors and brokers.
So we can roughly calculate your land’s rental value as:
Land Rental Value = Land Purchase Price x Capitalization Rate + Land Holding Cost
And add the numbers (let’s assume a 10% cap rate for convenience, and no other property tax):
Land Rental Value = $287,000 x 10% + $3,335 = $32,035
You can also see what happens to the purchase price if we tax the rental value at 100%:
Land Purchase Price = ($32,035 — $32,035) / 10% = $0"
Additional info here: Estimating Land Values
Georgism has been around since 1879, when Progress and Poverty was published, so — why hasn’t it taken off? Landowners, obviously, don’t want Georgism because the “ground rent” expense would derail their accumulation of large holdings. Mason Gaffney, economist, claims Georgism was stifled precisely because it was viewed as an enormous threat by tycoons like Stanford, Cornel, Hopkins, Rockefeller, and J. P. Morgan — a threat even greater than Marxism. To halt LVT reform, the oligarchs invested funds in colleges and economic departments hostile to Georgism, and promoted the quickly-designed theories of neoclassical economics to distract the public from George’s populist philosophy.
Henry George’s name is largely unknown by the public today, but many economists support it. Milton Friedman described LVT as the “least bad tax.” Nobel Prize winner Joseph Stiglitz developed a “Henry George Theorem” to calculate the efficiency of LVT at financing public expenditures. Ottman Edenhofer (Germany) published a paper on “Hypergeorgism” in 2013 examining the socially optimal use of land rent. Perhaps most astonishingly, in 1990 thirty economists (four of them Nobel prize-winners) sent an open letter to Mikhail Gorbachev urging him to retain land in public ownership, and raise revenue via LVT.
The historical success of city-states in ancient Greece and Renaissance Italy was noted in this essay’s introduction. Earlier examples are found in the twelve Mesopotamia Sumerian city-states (4500–1750 BCE), and the 1,022 cities and settlements of the Indus Valley (3300–1300 BCE). Civilization, apparently, owes its birth to the dense micro-nation aggregates that Geo-Tinyism seeks to revive.
The emergence of Europe in the 16th century as the globe’s eminent power can also be viewed as a triumph of the tiny-state model. Although the small nations of Europe combine to form only 6.8% of the world’s total land mass, their imperialism from 1492–1914 led to the conquest of 84% of the planet. Many theories for Europe’s ascendency have been presented (disease, industrialization, gunpowder, etc) but added to this is the adrenal situation of multiple, closely-matched small states competing to survive, and be dominant, driven forward by entrepreneurs and inventors.
Fast forward to this startling statistic: all of the Top Ten Happy Nations in 2021 were lightly-populated. In order, they are: Finland — population 5,548,360; Denmark 5,813,298; Switzerland 8,715,494; Iceland 343,353; Norway 5,465,630; Netherlands 17,173,099; Sweden 10,160,169; New Zealand 4,860,643; Austria 9,043,070; Luxembourg 634,814.
“Happiness” is based on six characteristics: gross domestic product per capita, social support, healthy life expectancy, freedom to make your own life choices, generosity of the general population, perceptions of internal and external corruption levels.
Why are small nations frequently happier and more successful? Here’s a few reasons: 1) Small nations are politically faster at making decisions and altering course if needed, 2) the vulnerability of being small motivates many small nations in healthy ways, inspiring them to work harder and smarter, 3) the access to natural resources that large nations acquire is just distracting in the modern world, where “knowledge” and a skilled workforce is more valuable. 4) small nations are closely connected to their leadership. If Finland was ten times larger, the politicians would be detached from the populace, and corruption would infiltrate the system. 5) The superior social cohesion and unity enjoyed by small nations decreases crime. Nations with low violence and homicide rates include Luxembourg, Iceland, and Switzerland even though the latter has 30% gun ownership.
Even smaller-populated nations of Africa are often better off economically than their massive neighbors, afflicted with dozens of competing ethnic groups. Contrast the politics and economics of Cape Verde, Botswana, Namibia, and Seychelles with Dr Congo, Nigeria, Tanzania, and Ethiopia, for example.
Modern history is already trending towards smaller and smaller entities. Since 1945, the number of independent nations has tripled, thanks partly to the retreat of European colonialism, including the breakup of the Soviet Union (releasing 15 nations). Schisms include Namibia exiting South Africa, Czechoslovakia dividing, East Timor escaping Portugal and (finally) Indonesia, Montenegro and Kosovo leaving Serbia, and South Sudan breaking away. Secessions movements today are prolific: Catalonia, Scotland, Wales, West Papua, Flanders, and irritated US states, to name a few. Promoting Tinyism is merely acknowledging what is already naturally occurring.
Four Associated Goals
For Geo-Tinyism to guarantee human happiness, four aspirations must be realized:
Democracy needs to be maximized in a future Geo-Tiny world. Micro-nations can guarantee this better than large states, because 1) representatives are more accessible due to the minuscule populations, and 2) it is easier to install Direct Democracy in small nations, either via Town Halls or an e-democracy technological process. (The Georgist community in Arden, Delaware, has a “Town Assembly” on the fourth Monday of every third month; the bottom-up, communalist democracy of semi-autonomous Rojava could also be emulated; ditto for the digital democracy ideas of Taiwan). A crucial understanding in a geo-tiny world is that every region in any micro-nation is guaranteed the option to secede and start their own, even more microscopic state. Civic authority in Gero-Tinyism would be mild; its primary power would be to fairly divide the land value tax revenue.
Global Egalitarianism is an ambition to be shared by all Geo-Tinyists. This desire is for equitable division of all the world’s wealth, between everyone in the thousands of separate governing bodies. Greed — the desire to be richer and more powerful than others — needs to be viewed as a sociopathic instinct that deserves no avenue for expression. Info HERE
Open Borders would allow individuals and entire demographics to migrate away from their “homeland” to other micro-nations that better suit their political and cultural preferences, or skillset of work abilities. Some people enjoy urban density, others prefer rural settings, still others want to be pioneers in wilderness areas. Eliminating barriers to travel and residency helps everyone locate a niche where their qualities can best be appreciated.
Peace is essential. The thousands of future nations will have conflicts, but they need to be resolved without violence or militarism. If armed attacks are even “on the table” as an option, the tiny states will descend into the same self-destructive belligerence and hair-trigger alliances that instigated two world wars. Hopefully, the moral humanitarianism of Georgism will establish a global ethos that will make murderous battles unthinkable.
Progressive values can best be attained by 1) working towards the dissolution of large states into micro-nations, 2) adopting Georgist policies in both large and tiny states to demonstrate their efficacy.
Happiest Nations in the World — https://worldpopulationreview.com/country-rankings/happiest-countries-in-the-world
International GDP — https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_GDP_%28PPP%29_per_capita
Estonia Land Value Tax — http://www.landgovernance.org/assets/Fabian-Wenner.pdf
Denmark Land Value Tax — https://www.economist.com/briefing/2018/08/09/the-time-may-be-right-for-land-value-taxes
Mason Gaffney — https://dissidentvoice.org/2013/08/karl-marx-vs-henry-george/
The Henry George Theorem — https://schalkenbach.org/the-henry-george-theorem/
Hypergeorgism — https://www.cesifo.org/DocDL/cesifo1_wp4144.pdf
Letter to Gorbachev — https://www.prosper.org.au/2007/11/letter-to-gorbachev/
Mesopotamia Sumerian city-states — http://www.historyshistories.com/mesopotamia-sumerian-city-states.html
Sumer Timeline — https://www.ancient.eu/timeline/sumer/
Indus Valley Civilization — Singh, Upindar (2008) A History of Ancient and Medieval India: From the Stone Age to the 12th Century
How Did Europe Conquer the World? — http://www.jordantimes.com/opinion/jonathan-power/why-europe-conquered-world
Why do so many small economies perform better? — https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2012/09/thinking-small-for-growth/
Little Countries: small but perfectly formed — https://www.economist.com/special/1998/01/01/small-but-perfectly-formed
Arden Town Assembly — http://arden.delaware.gov/next-town-assembly/
Global Egalitarianism — https://www.hamptonthink.org/read/a-modest-proposal-for-global-egalitarianism
My Three Favorite Arguments for Open Borders — https://openborders.info/blog/favorite-arguments-open-borders/