[EDIT: I've been told that I should have included a link to the book review mentioned in the title, and yeah, I should have: https://astralcodexten.substack.com/p/your-book-review-progress-and-poverty]

The antiwork movement online and the trucker convoy protests in Canada show that people on both the left and the right are waking up to how screwed the average worker is. It’s strange that, even though our productivity as a society has been increasing rapidly as a result of technology, workers aren’t seeing an ounce of that growth in wealth, even though we are paying vastly increased rent and tuition. All the extra wealth provided by technology has gone to the rich. People think the ratio of CEO to worker pay is 30:1, but it’s actually 354:1. What’s more, we have the capacity to provide food and shelter to everyone on Earth, but that doesn’t happen. For every homeless person in the US, five homes sit empty. This is a failure of the system, and one we should all be ashamed of. It’s not that the wealth isn’t there. The homes are sitting empty, waiting to be used. It’s that the system has become dysfunctional. Well, dysfunctional for us. Perfectly functional for the real-estate speculators who sit on empty homes for a profit. Perfectly functional for the CEOs who receive million-dollar raises while laying off their employees; for the corporations that simultaneously slash wages and make record profits. Our economy has become a racket.

Every person should have the right to a job, a decent home, a livable wage, medical care, and protection against financial disaster. Why don’t we have these rights? I just read a story online about someone who did everything right. They went to college, they lived frugally, and they saved money for decades. Then their wife got cancer, and the US healthcare system stole from them their entire savings and more. Why can this happen? There are many examples of people simply asking for a raise, or discussing their wages with other workers, or refusing do do work outside their job description, and being fired for it. There are endless accounts of managers stealing tips from their workers, making them work overtime for no extra pay, making them come in to work on their days off, and making them work unreasonable shifts. Discussing wages is a fireable offense, but cheating employees out of fair wages goes unpunished. Discussing unions can get you fired, but the disgusting behavior that drives workers to unite in the first place is the norm.

In its current state, work is exploitative and coercive. Managers speak to their employees not like children, not like dogs, but like chattel. In addition to your normal job responsibilities, you are expected to “watch your tone” and “adjust your attitude.” To bend the knee, and to kiss the ring on the whip hand. We are told what to do, how to do it, what attitude to have while doing it, and threatened with unemployment, homelessness, and a loss of health insurance if we disobey our masters. Sometimes the threat is explicit. “You sure you want to do this? You really want to put your health insurance on the line?”, one manager said to a worker who could not come in to work last-minute. Employers treat workers like defiant children – because they can.

I have had overtime pay stolen from me – being cheated is the status quo for minimum wage workers. Skilled workers in high-demand jobs have leverage, and are therefore generally treated well. But those in retail, fast food, office work, transportation – really the majority of jobs – have little leverage. It’s either be treated like shit here, or quit and probably be treated like shit somewhere else. Or starve in the streets. What can we do about this? New laws can grant new rights to workers, such as a higher minimum wage, or maternity leave. But these new laws do not address the underlying issue behind the mistreatment of workers, which is the lack of leverage. Additionally, when wages do finally go up, the extra earnings are eaten up by increased costs of living, like increased rents.

Instead, what we need is a citizen’s dividend – paid monthly to every adult citizen, no matter what – funded by an 85% land value tax (that is, a tax on the value of the land, but not on the value of the building sitting on it). All workers have a right to profit from the fruits of their labor. If I make a chair, I can sell you that chair, for a profit. Likewise, if I clean your home, I have a right to demand payment for this service. But the land is not the fruit of anyone’s labor. It was here before humanity ever set foot on it. To use the land to extract money from others is unfair. Instead, we should all share in the value generated by the land itself – which is a much bigger chunk of the economy than you might think – as the land is our birthright, to be shared equally. This might sound like communist babble, but remember that I am not suggesting we take anything from anyone that they worked hard to produce. I am only suggesting that we take the value of the land itself, which was produced by nobody’s hard work. This increase in revenue for each of us – the citizen’s dividend, also called a universal basic income – constitutes an increase in leverage for workers. No longer would we have to fear destitution and homelessness if we lose our job. Instead, we would be guaranteed a livable wage, paid by the value the land generates. We would still work. Perhaps six hours per day instead of eight, but we would still work, because few would be satisfied with a merely “livable” wage, and would prefer a comfortable wage, or even a luxurious wage. But our bosses could no longer treat us like trash. All workers would enjoy the healthy, respectful working relationships with our employers that some high-skill, high-demand workers already enjoy.

It’s a historical accident that we haven’t already implemented a land value tax. The founding fathers were mostly in favor of it. Prominent economists since Adam Smith have touted the benefits of a land value tax. Benefits – aside from the extra money in our pockets – include an end to harmful real-estate speculation, lower rents, higher effective wages, and an end to homelessness. Here’s how it works: We separately assess the value of a plot of land from the buildings on that land. No trouble – many jurisdictions do this already. Then, we tax the land. The landlord still owns the property – land included – but we extract most of the value generated by that land in the form of a new tax, that the landlord has to pay. Land value tax is special in that it cannot be passed on to tenants in the form of higher rent because the supply of land is fixed, and tenants are already paying the maximum amount the market can support. In fact, rent would decrease, because the land value tax would impose a penalty on speculators who buy land in the hopes that the value of the land will go up, without using that land or renting it out. Speculators are the reason homes sit empty, even though homeless people are rotting in the streets. With speculators out of the land market, more land would be available for use, decreasing rents and freeing up homes for the homeless. Landlords can still make a profit, of course, from the value of the buildings they create and the services they provide. Just not from the land itself. When it comes to the average person who owns one home and lives in it, they would not only be charged a new tax, but also paid a new dividend, which would be more than the tax unless they live in a very-high-land-value area, like the middle of a big city. Exceptions to this tax can be made for people who own one home and live in it, because we don’t want to unfairly penalize normal homeowners.

Whenever people talk about work reform and the current issues with capitalism, all kinds of extremists come out of the woodwork, telling you that we should eliminate all taxes, or storm the factories and claim them for ourselves, or renounce all private property, and let the government own everything. Maybe some of these ideas have merit – clearly many do not – but it does not matter: neither revolution nor major changes to the structure of our society are necessary to give workers the leverage they need. Only one change – a citizen’s dividend funded by an 85% land value tax – is required. We don’t even have to seize the land itself. We just have to capture the value generated by the land, with a new tax.

Is it possible to even create this tax, given that it would be a threat to many of those currently in power? Well, political leaders often line their pockets with bribe money. They often lie to us. But they do so in secret, and under the threat of failing to be re-elected if caught. My point is that our democracy has its issues, but one fundamental thing remains true: if enough people want a law to be passed, it will be passed. Politicians, corrupt and sociopathic as they often are, do not have the freedom to simply ignore what everyone wants, and pass whatever laws they want. They have to give the people what they want, if the people demand it. They don’t care about gay marriage, or cannabis, or any other issue. They only care about themselves. But if all voters decide hard enough that we want such things, that decision alone is enough for the laws to follow, because politicians want to be re-elected, and a great way to keep their seat is to give us what we want. Therefore, the main barrier to change is simply convincing people what kind of change needs to occur. The war for worker reform is a war of ideas, and we should try to win that war.

This means that the goal should be to spread the message: We need a citizen’s dividend, funded by an 85% land value tax. Distraction is the main tactic of those who oppress us, so do not allow yourself to be distracted.

Do not be distracted by quibbles about how we arrived at the 85% figure specifically, or about whether single-home owner-occupiers should have to pay the land value tax or not, or other details that we can work out over time. We will never get something exactly right on the first try, the only important thing is that we do better than we are doing now, and the citizen’s dividend funded by a land value tax is clearly better for workers than what we have now. So don’t get distracted by minor things!

Do not talk to me about transgenderism, race, gun control, Donald Trump, Joe Biden, Joe Rogan, vaccine mandates, free college, immigrants, age discrimination, or abortion. I have my opinions on these issues, as do you. These popular issues are popular because they serve to divide us and distract us. Some of them are important issues, true, but they are magnitudes less important than the main issue we face, which is the fact that the common people have no leverage. Once people have leverage, it will be much easier to solve whatever issues we face. Even a woman in an abusive relationship will have an easier time leaving if she has money in her pocket. Money is power. Money is the power to solve whatever issues we think are important. So first, let’s solve the money issue. The other issues will follow.

“This world has room for everyone, and the good Earth is rich, and can provide for everyone. The way of life can be free and beautiful, but we have lost the way.” - Charlie Chaplin

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7 comments, sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 1:39 AM

I'm not sure if putting 'Manifesto' in the title would have led to this being less downvoted. (Also I haven't seen a spam list.)


(inspired by the Lars Doucet Georgism book review)

A link would be nice, in case people reading this (the original post) haven't read that.

You're probably right about the word 'Manifesto'. I've changed this now.

(What is a spam list?)

A link would be nice, in case people reading this (the original post) haven't read that.

Good idea!

What is a spam list?

(A word I made up.)

I understand the guidelines for this site, to some degree. I'd say it used to be 'no politics', but things have since gotten more complicated. I was just throwing an idea out, but if there's a procedure in place for spam, which is open, I'm curious about what it is.

Something like a list might not be sophisticated enough, but if someone decided to advertise (a scam), posting the same message in a lot of places might work. So, in principle, a list might work. (But if things are deleted if they're on that list, then I don't see them, or know how complicated they are.)

These popular issues are popular because they serve to divide us and distract us. Some of them are important issues, true, but they are magnitudes less important than the main issue we face, which is the fact that the common people have no leverage.

If you. think what is important is people having power over their own lives...that suggests much about other issues and what is important there.


This means that the goal should be to spread the message: We need a citizen’s dividend, funded by an 85% land value tax. Distraction is the main tactic of those who oppress us, so do not allow yourself to be distracted.
Do not be distracted by quibbles about how we arrived at the 85% figure specifically, or about whether single-home owner-occupiers should have to pay the land value tax or not, or other details that we can work out over time. We will never get something exactly right on the first try, the only important thing is that we do better than we are doing now, and the citizen’s dividend funded by a land value tax is clearly better for workers than what we have now. So don’t get distracted by minor things!

Ah, calls for unity. It seems easier (and have less harder to predict effects) by passing a tax which is more narrow. You care about workers, and it seems like taxes on companies could be higher. (And perhaps the bigger companies are in better positions to pay more.) This has the benefit of affecting workers less. (If you think landlords won't respond by raising rent - and also, raising rent more when people are getting paid more...)

Also, start raising the minimum wage. Maybe attach it to some measure of inflation.


Every person should have the right to a job, a decent home, a livable wage, medical care, and protection against financial disaster.

The dividend part made more sense - when people have more money, they can spend it on what's most urgent. And they know that, better than anyone else. For some it will be medical bills. For others it may be the cost of transport, or saving up for a house. That's not to say that ideas like single payer healthcare have nothing to them - but there are a lot of issues. Taking aim at everything by improving everyone's lives looks like a good idea (and there's no reason for conflict here).

The dividend part made more sense - when people have more money, they can spend it on what's most urgent. And they know that, better than anyone else.

Yes! I apologize that my writing was a bit unclear, I didn't mean to advocate for specific legal rights such as a right to a decent home, but rather to advocate for a system under which everyone can afford a decent home, if they choose to buy one. That said, I'm not against some of these rights being enforced legally (Canadian here, and a huge fan of our healthcare system, excepting the fact that we don't include dental or eye care. Are my eyes and teeth not a part of my body?)

It is possible that other solutions would work for solving the problems I outline. Taxing companies more could be a benefit, though taxing companies does lead to a drag on the economy. Also, companies can move overseas, but land cannot. Attaching minimum wage to some measure of inflation I don't think would work, because landlords can eat the extra wages. I think rents are determined by what people can afford, AKA what landlords can get away with charging.

Sure, but it's a question of magnitudes. My claim is that what Joe Rogan is saying on his podcast has less impact on your life than the fact that the value of the land is being sucked up by landlords, rather than being shared by all. Of course, this isn't the only important issue facing our society, I just think it's one of the most important (aside from existential risks, probably), and that much less important issues only serve as a distraction from the more important ones.