Jo Walton (papersky) wrote,
Jo Walton

Georgist Economics

A long time ago, I offered to write a poem on the subject of your choice, for a good cause. It's so long ago I've forgotten which good cause -- it might have been helping somebody save their specially wheelchair converted house from being repossessed, or it might have been Con or Bust or it might have been somebody having a health crisis. It was, as I said, a long time ago, years ago, and I have done this several times. The reason I usually offer this rather than a signed book is because writing a poem is easier than going to the post office. Really. I've never had problems writing poetry about things people want poetry about. Why, I once wrote a poem on demand about a back-hoe loader, and one about Pontypridd. (The demands of two year olds can be pretty demanding!)

At least, every other time it was easy.

This time, ndrosen asked me to write a poem about Georgist Economics. And he kindly sent me some urls about it, and I read about it, and I went "Glurk!" The reason I went glurk is because it's a weird economic theory, and I don't subscribe to it, but worse it didn't spark anything in me at all. So I thought about it and I thought about it and no poetic impulse came. And I eventually gave up and said to ndrosen that this was too hard, was there anything else he would like a poem about? And he said no, and sent me some more urls about Georgists and said he could wait until I could write one.

So the obligation to write this poem -- ndrosen had paid his money to the good cause long ago, and he was being very patient -- has been hanging over me for years. I kept thinking about it from time to time, with more and more guilt because I couldn't do it, but I could never find a way in. I finally woke up with it yesterday morning.

Beneath the waning fitful moon and on the shrinking strand
It should be clear to everyone: the only wealth is land.
For gold is dross and shares may fall and income's earned in hand
But solidly on every side spreads out the wealth of land.

You plough it or improve it, the value then increases
Run sheep on all the pasture and the land brings forth their fleeces
With railroads, roads and factories, a nephew's house, a niece's,
The wealth that comes from land is always wealth that never ceases.

So tax the land judiciously and set the world to rights
For it's as true today as it was true for lords and knights
The answer to prosperity, so spell it out in lights
The source of growth for everyone, the land and all its sights.

Beyond the tides that come and go, beyond the new-washed sand
There stands the world's foundation, its only wealth, the land,
We cherish it and build on it and try to understand
Our dreams, our hopes, our futures growing from the wealth of land.
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