Creating a Geonomic Political Party in New York State
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
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
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 www.holisticpolitics.org,
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
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
* 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
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
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.
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
Answers.com.) 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
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.