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by Henry Law

The web site of of the Land Value Taxation Campaign has now been transferred to the Henry George Foundation for preservation as an archive and resource for future campaigners. A great deal of thought and discussion went into the work it produced over a period of nearly 25 years. Most of those responsible belong to the generation who came to adulthood at the end of the Second World War and were active in politics in the period from about 1950 to 1985. They worked mostly within the former Liberal Party, the lineal descendants of the 18th century Whig Party, which at the time still represented a third position away from the left-right spectrum on which Labour and Conservative were placed. Free trade and land value taxation were the cornerstones of its economic policies, as they had been since the end of the nineteenth century.

After about 1970, the Liberal Party itself forgot these principles and began to place itself inside the left/right spectrum. This paved the way for the merger, in 1988, with the Social Democratic Party; the latter had begun as a breakaway from Labour at a time when Labour was strongly influenced by Marxist thinking brought in by Trotskyite factions such as Militant.

Thus the Campaign was in the first instance an attempt by a small group of traditional Liberals to keep alive the ideas of free trade and land value taxation. The merger with the SDP, which was essentially committed to Keynesian economics, made it impossible to maintain its party affiliation and it cut free of party political ties.

As the last survivor of the active campaigners, I wonder whether the effort was worthwhile? We achieved no wins. The land value tax movement has, if anything lost ground, to the point that few supporters of land value taxation understand the theory that lies behind it. On the other hand we created and have left behind a body of material which future generations may be able to draw upon.

As a final thought: present day campaigners could usefully ask why a movement which was active and vigorous at the end of the nineteenth century made next to no progress in the twentieth, and by the second decade of the twenty-first has been consigned almost to oblivion? Far from going away, the underlying problems are giving rise to acute social and economic problems which have no apparent solution.

There seem to be deeper reasons for the resistance to land value taxation and the ideas that underpin it. It is telling that the similar policies advocated by the French Physiocrats met the same fate in the decade before the Revolution, despite having the support of the king himself, and of his finance minister Turgot.

If I were to be campaigning today, I would be searching for the deeper reasons for the ingrained resistance to our ideas.

Henry Law