Creating a Geonomic Political Party in New York State

Scott Baker

[Reprinted from GroundSwell, November-December 2009]

The political two party system is like Tweedledum and Tweedledee, two similar parties going up and down in popularity - neither solving the urgent problems of wealth inequity, natural resource depletion and resource abuse, corruption at every level of private and public institutions, and vast sums of money being devoted towards unproductive activities (CDOs, Derivatives etc.) The People - from Tea (Taxed Enough Already)-baggers to Greenies - urgently want resolutions, but they don't have a party to explain and promote the solutions for them. In desperation, people vote for "Change" from one party or another - Change from the Democrats being more government intervention with progressive ideals, unfortunately usually meaning more taxes; Change from the Republicans being less government intrusion into business in order to spur innovation and job-creation, yet more intrusion into our bedrooms and lifestyles - as if that was where the problems listed above originated.

Neither approach works because they don't get to the core cause of the related problems of wealth inequality, lack of innovation, and social injustice, due to monopolies on natural resources and the consequent corruption.

We need to leave the squabbling Tweedle brothers and look for a new paradigm, one that goes beyond traditional, and often, self-serving, right-left schisms. As Arianna Huffington has pointed out: 'It is not right vs. left, it is the top elite vs. the rest of us.' Unfortunately, she stopped after prescribing more oversight and regulation, as well as diagnosing the already well-known moral failings of players from Goldman Sachs to Bernie Madoff. But we've been here before - with Enron to Jack Abramoff - and without fundamental reform of the political economy, we'll be here again.

Like so many others, Huffington didn't get to the core of the issue.

Why The Two Current Dominant Parties can't meet The Need

Both parties are beholden to special interests - a little more Defense Contractors and Private Healthcare for Republicans, a little more unions, Teachers, and Lawyers for Democrats, but these are just different ingredients, some possibly healthy on their own, in the same foul stew. Often the parties will switch positions - just to preserve the illusion of being opposed to the other side. Lately, the Republicans have been defending Medicare - a program they have tried to gut since its inception! At the same time, the Democrats have become Fiscal Hawks!

The partisan system has gotten so cynical that the party out of favor - the Republicans, in this case - only have to be the party of 'No,' sitting back and doing nothing, while the country suffers and the Democrats can't get their programs off the ground. It's gotten so cynical that each party counts on the other to obstruct and agitate the opposition, while changing nothing significant and claiming "Obstruction! Filibuster!" from the other side. However, the status quo benefits both parties. Incumbents benefit from large, reliable donors who are satisfied with incremental change, or no change at all, and who don't want "Creative Destruction" (in energy, healthcare, entitlement programs, or even de-escalation of the wars (where, exactly, would all those returning former soldiers find work in today's double-digit unemployment economy? Tip: The Defense industry has gone from 2% of GDP in 2000 to 8% of GDP in 2008.)

Why can a Geonomic Party (GP) succeed where other third parties have failed, or at least been marginalized?

As Carl Milsted points out on his site, the last successful political party was the Republican Party! The problem with most new political parties is they don't aim for the middle of the American Electorate. The Green Party picks off voters from the far left with its near Socialist platform, while the Conservative Party or the Libertarian Party picks off voters from the far right with its value-centric (Conservative) or laissez-faire (Libertarian), prescriptions. These parties become narrowly focused, or even, as in the case of the Marijuana Reform Party, single-issue parties. None of them reaches where the broad swath of Americans live - the Center. This is where the votes are. This is how you win. Just as importantly, by picking off traditional left or right voters, these fringe parties produce winners from the opposite side of the political spectrum. Read the following analysis from

Voters tend to vote for the candidates with whom they agree. A candidate near the center will have more voters in agreement than a candidate off in the radical fringe.

Consider a congressional race in a liberal district. Suppose the radical liberal elements decide to run a radical socialistic Green candidate. Meanwhile, the conservative minority gets behind a barely conservative Republican. And let us suppose there is no Democrat in the race (because the liberal activists got behind the radical Green). If the voters vote for the candidate closest to their views, the Republican wins!

Even though the Republican is to the right of the center of this district, the Green is so far to the left that moderate leftists end up voting for the Republican.

We have the converse scenario with a hard-right Constitution Party candidate vs. a moderately liberal Democrat in a conservative district.

See Holistic Politics: Extremism Loses for two examples of how this works in practice. They conclude:

In either case, going with the radical party produces election results in the opposite direction of the radical party's goals! For this reason (and others) most radical liberals hold their noses to support moderate Democrats and most radical conservatives hold their noses to support moderate Republicans.

Holistic Politics makes a cogent analysis and goes on to show other ways why a new party must pull voters from the Center to win.

A Geonomic Party could do just that!

Beyond that, on both sides of the political spectrum, there is a feeling that Congress has been bought and paid for by the Healthcare industry. We can substitute the normal'>financial industry, the coal lobby, or any number of Establishment industries for "Healthcare" and the message will be the same.

Henry George understood the endless opportunities for corruption as well as anyone; after all, he lost to "Tammany Hall" in his first run for mayor of New York City.

The Georgist/Geonomic Single Tax would eliminate most of the avenues leading to corruption then, as now, by taxing away the Rent for natural resources, such as land, upstream before legislators get to counteract natural law with their subsidies, taxes, and myriad deadweight disincentives. Without so much fiscal flesh to fight over, the economic vultures will have to fly away.

The Party that can change the political system so that the opportunity for corruption is eliminated will gain an advantage. A Geonomic Party could be such a party.

The first two items below form the core of Geonomic (or Georgist) economic thought and a modern, socially just, progressive, and liberty-promoting, party:

* Untax the rewards of production: Wages, Capital, and Sales (this attracts the entrepreneurial Right) * Tax the use and abuse of products of nature, i.e. Natural Resources - heavily - thus "Taxing what you burn, not what you earn." (This attracts the Progressives and Greens) Together, these policies are fair - something everyone from Tea Baggers to Greens agrees is alarmingly lacking today. Furthermore, they are the basis of the Single Tax - something as easy for short-attention-span Americans to comprehend, as it is Socially Just. Today, nothing is more important than the economy and jobs. Only Geonomics offers a way to encourage growth in the economy without the usual destruction of natural resources and with a chance for all to participate - thus creating jobs. These are the "Hard Promises." Now, here are some "Soft Promises" in a GP platform: * There will be much less opportunity for corruption if there are fewer of taxes, subsidies and other fiscal items to manipulate to lobbyists' wills. First, fire the loophole-hunting lobbyists, accountants ... and then the lawyers. This alone will save billions in unproductive work.

* By ending the monopolies on Natural Resources (i.e. making them too expensive to simply retain without using them productively), new entrepreneurs would emerge with inventions, businesses and JOBS! (This attracts the beleaguered Libertarian wing of the Republican Party - long an uncomfortable fit with the dominant, highly intrusive, Social Regulator wing of the party).

* Speculation would be greatly diminished on Land and Commodities, because they would be taxed directly, eliminating the profit potential from driving up prices. Even the towering derivatives market has a foundation in natural resources.  Collect the Rent from those - which, rightfully, belong to all of us, as they are products of nature - and the overlying markets will be reduced, or even disappear, saving trillions in destabilizing and unproductive activities.

* Other benefits of a Geonomic economy: Sparing the environment, Preventing urban squall, Lowering housing costs to affordability again, Stopping the spread of the human population into remote wilderness by taking away the subsidies for it, Enhancing cities to make them more desirable places to live, Ending most profit from obligation, etc.

Foreign Policy

George understood very well the destructive effects of war on both people and economies. He would have been aghast to discover that America has been involved in a military action somewhere, at least once every decade since WWII - until today, when we actually take on wars two at a time!

In Foreign Policy, as at home, Geonomics would encourage paying the people - and not their corrupt rulers - the true value of their natural resources, whether they want to sell them to us or use them in their own countries. Anything else is theft; it doesn't matter if it is theft domestically or from abroad.

The GP would end support for corrupt regimes that steal resources from their own people. This would end conditions that foster jihadist/terrorist movements, populated by destitute young men whose natural resources have been stolen along with their opportunities. Taliban fighters make roughly double what young Afghan men make on average in Afghanistan, in a land where employment opportunities barely exist.

We are currently spending a million dollars per U.S. soldier per year in Afghanistan. Even our military planners admit we cannot win (whatever that means) by military means alone. For example, perhaps it would be better to simply buy the Afghanistan poppy crop, and sell it back to our pharmaceutical companies for making legitimate drugs, rather than trying to eradicate it* -- along with the innocent farmers and villagers who get in the way.

(* We did exactly this in Turkey - the land of the "Midnight Express" - in the 1970s. Today, Turkey is an ally and the only Muslim member of NATO.)

A Geonomic party therefore, would be supportive of the Human Right to Natural Resources and consequent opportunities, in ALL countries. This puts pressure on countries suffering from the Resource curse, as well as ratcheting down the hostility with some of our Socialist neighbors like Venezuela and Cuba. It also sets up a powerful counterexample to supposedly Communist China, now more ruthlessly capitalist than even the United States.

Personal freedoms

Freedom of Religion and Speech are, or should be, a given, under a Geonomic Platform - by definition a new party is pushing the boundaries of freedom of speech and assembly itself.

George recognized that man seeks to satisfy his desires and therefore, prohibitions against illegal drugs are bound to fail (he talked about Cigars in “Protection or Free Trade”). Realistically, it might be only palatable to the American public to think of legalizing Marijuana, not harder drugs. This would end 60% of the income of illegal gangs in Mexico, for starters. The money we squander on fighting this losing War on Drugs - which is really a War on Desire - would be better spent treating excessive drug use as a health problem. Similarly, locking people away for victimless crimes like personal drug use and even some prostitution could be seen as a basic denial of freedom to pursue some desires, or even as a denial of the basic right to 'Land' since it's hard to think of a lesser plot of land for someone to live on than a jail cell.

There are many other issues to consider, and specific party planks to create, but the ones above would give a Geonomic Party a broader scope than many, if not most, small parties have.

Overview of ballot access Each state has its own ballot access laws to determine who may appear on ballots and who may not. According to Article I, Section 4, of the United States Constitution, the authority to regulate the time, place, and manner of federal elections is up to each State, unless Congress legislates otherwise.

New York: A new party or independent candidate may gain ballot access for one election by collecting a set number of petition signatures for each office (or 5 percent of the votes cast for governor in the most recent election in the jurisdiction, if that is lower). A new party that wins 50,000 votes for governor is recognized statewide as a political party and qualifies to participate in primary elections for four years. This total can be and often is obtained through electoral fusion. Candidates may gain access to primary election ballots by being "designated" by a relevant committee of the party or collecting signatures equal to 5 percent of the party's enrollment in the jurisdiction, up to a set number for each office. A candidate seeking the nomination of a party to which she or he does not belong - e.g. for purposes of fusion - must be authorized by a relevant committee of the party.

Think a Geonomic Party would be too small? Take a look at a list of political parties in the state of New York:

America First Party Communist Party

Conservative Party Constitution Party

Democratic Party Freedom Party 1994-1998

Green Party Independence Party

Integrity PartyLiberal Party

Libertarian Party Marijuana Reform Party

Natural Law Party New Party

New York State Right to Life Party New York State Taxpayers Party

Republican Party Socialist Workers Party

Save Jobs Party (2004-2006) Socialist Party

The Rent is Too Damn High Party* Working Families Party

*Jimmy McMillan, Founder of The Rent is too Damn High Party, and 2009 candidate for Mayor, only needed 7,500 signatures to get on the ballot! He used a video to get signatures.

Creating a Caucus instead of a New Party

One prominent Georgist, Jeffrey Smith, founder of The Progress Report, has suggested joining an existing caucus, such as the Democratic Freedom Caucus, instead of creating a whole new party from scratch. While this idea has some merit, the DFC has existed at least since 2006 within the big tent of the Democratic Party and many people have never heard of it. Would a party have more prominence than a caucus? Well, how many people have heard of the parties above vs. the Democratic Freedom Caucus? You decide.

Still, the DFC does espouse Georgist/Geonomic principles, among others that do not contradict Geonomic principles, so it is worth displaying those here and thinking about whether:

* We want to incorporate those into a new party, and if so,

* Whether we want to try to recruit members of the DFC into a new Geonomics Party.

The people are restless for Change, and even voted for it last time. Many are now disappointed and this is why Independent is now a bigger block of registered voters than either Democrat or Republican. A Geonomic Party could give those disaffected voters somewhere to turn.

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