Democracy, Earth Rights and the Next Economy
presented by Alanna Hartzok
Twenty-First Annual E. F. Schumacher Lectures
Amherst College, Amherst, Massachusetts
October 27, 2001
Human Rights to the Earth
Early Christian Teachings
John Locke and the Crack in the Liberty Bell
Thaddeus Stevens and the Civil War
Martin Luther King on Viet Nam and Land Rights
The Carter Doctrine and US Imperialism
Joseph Stiglitz on Land and the Global Elite
What are We Going to Do About It?
Direct Action by Exploited and Mobilized Citizens
Enlightened Earth Rights State Institutions
Politicians Who are True Representatives of the People
Enlightened Vote of the Citizenry
Environmental Tax Reform
Work in Progress
Earth Rights and Information Technology
Alanna Hartzok bio
E. F. Schumacher quote
About E. F. Schumacher Society
Introduction by Susan Witt,
Executive Director of the E. F. Schumacher Society
How can the young be expected to defend their homeland when they come home to find they have no stake in the land? The inequitable distribution of land ownership affects our society, our politics, our environment, our communities - and ultimately our sense of well-being as a people. Alanna Hartzok has worked tirelessly for more than twenty-five years to right this injustice. It is not surprising that it was Robert Swann, founder of the Community Land Trust movement in this country, who recommended Alanna as a Schumacher Society speaker.
Alanna Hartzok is United Nations nongovernmental organization representative for the International Union for Land Value Taxation. She is vice-president of the Council of Georgist Organizations, which has thirty-five member organizations nationwide, and she is state coordinator of the Pennsylvania Fair Tax Coalition. In 1993 she initiated tax reform legislation and helped work it through the state legislature to nearly unanimous passage of Senate Bill 211, signed by Governor Thomas Ridge in November 1998.
Alanna's published articles on tax reform have been useful to legislators in the states of Pennsylvania, Maryland, New Jersey and New York. She is one of several people featured in Planet Champions: Adventures in Saving the World: New Paths to Peace, Prosperity, and Human Rights.
Please join me in a big Schumacher Society welcome for Alanna Hartzok.
I am truly honored to have been invited by the E. F. Schumacher Society to be a lecturer today. I admit that "Democracy, Earth Rights and the Next Economy" is a big topic for a lecture series traditionally based on the idea that small is beautiful. Yet to be fully aware of the particulars of the small - whether in terms of a small community or town or in terms of working to build a more locally based appropriate economy - as the E. F. Schumacher Society and the Institute for Community Economics, both of which were founded by Robert Swann, have done so steadfastly over the years, it may be necessary, or at least useful, to grasp the biggest and most expanded perspective in which that smallness is contained. From that vantage point, combined with the unique particulars of our special place on earth, we can then more clearly know what seeds had best be planted in that smallness of our local towns and communities.
In this lecture I will be addressing the land problem and how to solve it in such a way that we could release billions of dollars of funds to invest in the natural capitalism Amory Lovins described to you earlier today. Amory talked about low-cost bamboo strong enough to build houses. A little bit of land can provide enough bamboo to grow your house out of that land. But what if you have no land? I will also elaborate on the concept of earth rights, pinpoint the fatal flaw in democracy as currently constituted, explore the history of the problem, and, lastly, describe work in progress which would seem to be essential building blocks of the Next Economy.
It is clear to so many of us now that our current form of economy - some call it monopoly or corporate capitalism - does not serve the highest and best interests of either the people or the planet. Permit me to dream for a moment, for sometimes out of our visions flow new realities. Here is my wish list for the Next Economy:
The Next Economy will be deeply unifying. Moving beyond either/or to both/and, it will embrace the diversity of human cultural expressions. The Next Economy will be built upon the highest values of both the Left and the Right. It will be a fair economy and a free economy, using but not abusing the earth and her many resources. It will steadily, and in some places rapidly, grow out of the old economy as more and more humans grasp its principles and implement its policies. The Next Economy will have first and foremost the well-being of all the people on this planet. It will be based on the triple bottom line of social justice, restoration and protection of the environment, and the strength and stability to provide security in basic needs.
The needs of the people and the needs of the planet are one and the same: protection, care, validation, respect, appreciation, creative expression. Thus, the ethics of the Next Economy will flow out of a profound perception that the rights of human beings and the rights of the planet are one and the same. The Next Economy will be founded on ethics so simple and basic that thoughtful human beings will say, Yes, this is true. The force of truth is a liberating force, always has been and always will be. Mahatma Gandhi knew and taught this. Gandhi lived according to this sattyagraha, the truth force.
Let us explore these truths, starting with a most obvious one: Would you agree that everyone sitting and standing in this room, no matter where on earth they originally came from, is a human being? Does this seem so obvious that it is not worth mentioning? Years ago a friend named Gene Haggerty took upon himself a one-man mission. He traveled around the world asking political and other leaders to sign a statement affirming their belief that, beyond the colors and shades, the faiths and creeds, we are all human beings. Although I could not grasp the Zen of it at the time, I now understand that this was Genes ingenious way of reminding them of this most basic truth - the primal holism of the human experience on earth.1
Other basic questions: do human beings have a right to exist? Is this an equal right? Does the planet have a right to exist? Are these important questions, or are these absurd questions? Is existence itself a right or is it a miracle and a mystery? The great ideals of human rights and equality are based on a recognition that you and I have an equal right to exist. The fact that we are all human beings with equal rights to exist is the truth upon which were built important agreements such as the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights and the International Declaration of Human Rights. Alas, these fine declarations, like so many others that have been agreed upon by governments and their citizenry, have not yet brought us a world of peace and plenty for all.
In August, I spent some time one afternoon in Baltimore talking with Councilwoman Bea Gaddy, who passed away a few weeks ago from breast cancer at the age of 78. Dr. Gaddy, an African American, had for many years worked to take care of basic needs for food and shelter in the inner-city neighborhoods. We sat together for a while that sweltering afternoon, talking and sipping ice water at a card table in front of the row house that was her social services home base. Dr. Gaddy said, I grew up poor in Baltimore, but I never thought I would see things get worse and worse here as they have the past few decades. People call me sometimes in the middle of the night, saying Ms. Gaddy, I cant sleep, Im just hungry.
We in the United States freed the slaves, but we have not freed all the people - not even in Washington, New York, Baltimore, and Boston, the cradles of our democracy - from the pain of hunger. As we fully confront the reality of hunger, homelessness and basic needs insufficiencies in this country and in the many other countries that now call themselves democracies, it becomes starkly clear that there is a major flaw at the core of how democracy is constituted. Surely persistent hunger and homelessness in America is not what the founding fathers envisioned for the year 2001!
Human Rights to the Earth
We are all human beings with equal and inalienable rights to life. Yet there is a crack in the Liberty Bell, there is something not sufficiently well crafted, some dimension not understood or perhaps not able to be fully affirmed by European men at the time of the founding, no matter how well intentioned and thoughtful some of them might have been. This imperfection was destined to divide the rich and the poor, to protect the powerful and neglect the needy in our country and throughout the earth. We did not have the industrial technology to form a large durable metal bell at the time, nor did we have the political technology to form a fully and fairly functioning democracy.
Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin, and Tom Paine understood that their work was just a beginning step, that the venture of democratic governance would need to proceed with periodic revisions and perhaps even revolutions, hopefully non-violent. Over the years - step by step, struggle by struggle - the full right to participate in the experiment of democracy yielded the right for all to vote and own land - if they could find a way to buy it. While many are comfortable, the fact remains that there are far too many Americans working too hard for too little. The widening mouth of the wealth gap now threatens to consume many who had made it into the middle class. In the USA today the top 1 percent of the people has more wealth than the bottom 90 percent.2
More questions in search of first principles: Who are we human beings? Where did we come from? Where are we going? What we do know for certain is that the human body is composed of earth elements. We are walking, talking bags of rock and salt water, recyclers of plant and animal material, inspiring and expiring the gaseous fires. There is no ultimate separation but rather a unity, as our earthly bodies are bound to the enlivening energy of the sun and, in subtle ways yet to be fully realized, we are galactic beings as well and are mysteriously related to the entire universe.
Our existence as creatures of flesh and bone is totally dependent on the land and natural resources of the earth. This earth, which no one of us made, is simply a given.
Eli Siegel, an American poet and philosopher, in his 1946 essay Ownership: Some Moments, stated,3 How the earth should be owned is the major economic question of this time; as it is the oldest. In another essay, Self and World he declared: The world should be owned by the people living in it. Every person should be seen as living in a world truly his.
Other voices on earth rights:
Thomas Berry: Humans in their totality are born of the earth. We are earthlings. The earth is our origin, our nourishment, our support, our guide... Thus the whole burden of modern earth studies is to narrate the story of the birth of humans from our Mother Earth.
Chief Seattle: This we know. The earth does not belong to man; man belongs to the earth. This we know. All things are connected like the blood which unites one family. All things are connected.
Patricia Mische: The more we grow in awareness of our own sacred source, the more we discover that our own sacred source is the sacred source of each person and all that is in the universe.4
Henry George: Do what we may, we can accomplish nothing real and lasting until we secure to all the first of those equal and inalienable rights with which.... man is endowed by his creator - the equal and inalienable right to the use and benefit of natural opportunities.5
The important and vital truth not enunciated or affirmed in our founding democratic covenants is the truth that we, each and every one of us, has an equal right to the earth as our birthright. How did we lose this simple truth, the primal perception that the earth is the birthright of all people?
In his essay The Problem of the Modern World John Mohawk6 states, When land became a commodity and lost its status as provider and sustainer of life, Western civilization began its history of subjugation and exploitation of the earth and earth based cultures. For nearly five centuries people have been coerced from their landholdings. The problem, in the English-speaking world, has its roots in the sixteenth century.
To understand how it came to be that this most basic and obvious human right - the right to the earth - was somehow left out of the founding documents of democracy, it will serve our purpose here to go back to the centuries of European history that Mohawk is talking about, to the Enclosure Period. This is the time of violent direct suppression of the indigenous people of Europe. Between the thirteenth and seventeenth centuries, masses of peasants were evicted from their holdings or saw their common lands fenced off for sheep.7
The Enclosures began after the signing of the Magna Carta in 1215. This was the great charter that King John was forced by the English barons to grant. Traditionally interpreted as guaranteeing certain civil and political liberties, the right to land for the common people was not among them. The first legal act to enforce enclosures was the Statute of Merton of 1235 which spoke of the need to approve (meaning improve) the land in order to extract greater rent. From whom do you think they were extracting those rents?
The enclosures redefined land as private property and thereby gave it the status of a commodity, tradable within an expanding market system. Since the majority of people were denied access to the land and were forced to become wage laborers, labor also became a tradable commodity. The enclosures were justified by its perpetrators as necessary in order to make improvements.
The words of Robert Ket, who led the Peasants Revolt of 15498 against the enclosures, heavy taxes, and other abuses, are quoted in the 1992 Special Issue of The Ecologist, Whose Common Future?:
The common pastures left by our predecessors for our relief and our children are taken away. The lands which in the memory of our fathers were common, those are ditched and hedged in and made several; the pastures are enclosed, and we shut out. Whatsoever, the fowls of the air or fishes of the water, and increase of the earth - all these do they devour, consume and swallow up.... We can no longer bear so much, so great, and so cruel injury; neither can we with quiet minds behold so great covetousness, excess and pride of the nobility.... While we have the same form and the same condition of birth together with them, why should they have a life so unlike unto ours, and differ so far from us in calling?
The rebellion of 1549 was one of many peasant revolts in old Europe. Sixteen thousand insurgents formed a camp near Norwich and scoured the country around, destroyed enclosures, filled in ditches, leveled fences.
A poem from the Enclosures period has the line:
The law hangs the man and flogs the woman
Who steals a goose from off the commons
But turns the greater scoundrel loose,
Who steals the commons from the goose.
Until the 16th century the Church was the Catholic Church. Its corruptions provoked the rise of Protestant Reformism. In 1524 the peasants of Swabia, a region in what is now Germany, brought Martin Luther a document Twelve Articles, appealing to him for his understanding. The peasants said it was their intention to excuse in a Christian way the disobedience and even the rebellion of the peasants and to describe the basic and chief articles ... concerning the matters in which they feel they are being denied their rights. The peasants based each one of their Articles9 on specific chapters and verses of the Old and New Testament. They requested release from serfdom, relief from heavy taxation, fair and just laws, and access to what was once their commons - the forests, fields and water resources - to meet their basic needs. In response Luther wrote his Admonition to Peace urging the princes to be kind and the peasants to be peaceful and the appointment of an arbitration commission. Before the Admonition to Peace could be published, the land was flooded with insurrection, arson, pillage, and murder.
The disturbances among the peasants were establishing an association between the Reformation and revolution that was alienating many of Luthers supporters while his refusal to identify the Reformation with the program of The Twelve Articles antagonized many of the common people. For Luther the real problem was to defeat the Devil. It was more important to him that law and order be maintained and the gospel be preached than that the pleas of the peasants be addressed. The peasants had gone to Luther for moral and spiritual support and to respectfully communicate their conditions and requests to him. Instead of standing in solidarity with the poor and oppressed as Jesus had done, Luther wrote pamphlets calling for the punishment of the thieving, murderous gangs of peasants.10 Regarding the peasants as unruly pagans, Luther believed their rebellions were instigated by Satan.
Beginning with the first act of enclosure and throughout the following period of several hundred years, as the land was enclosed the women and men and the earth based religion of the peoples of northern Europe were brutally repressed. Women who practiced healing and agriculture, who had their own lands and were leaders of their communities were tortured, hanged, or burned at the stake. The Holy Inquisitions was a womens holocaust; about 85 percent of those killed were women. Some say their murders numbered in the millions.11 I consider this to be the most significant story of the past two thousand years for women of European descent. Much of what we have learned about history is just that - his story. The womens holocaust is a terrible her story and my sisters are still recovering on deep levels of their collective psyche from that horrific repression, torture and murder. The European indigenous women were strong and clear wild women with equal status to their men. They could stand their ground because they had access to the common lands. The imperial forces called them witches. Martin Luther said, I would have no compassion on the witches! I would burn them all.12
How did the forces of Christianity, based upon the stories of a loving, healing Jesus, come to be aligned with the forces of an imperialist state and a corrupted church? To answer this question let us now fast forward to the twentieth century and the questions of a man in another part of this world.
Early Christian Teachings
Charles Avila was a Catholic seminarian in the Philippines in the 1960s. One of his professors in the Divine Word Seminary constantly criticized the Churchs utter lack of identification with the poor. He persuaded Avila and other students to accompany him on his regular visits to prisoners in various Philippine jails. During his visits Avila heard story after story of how these people had been evicted from lands they had tilled for generations. He came to realize that what was referred to as the Peasant Question was literally that: the question the peasants asked. It was a question on the level of first principles which are very rarely subjected to review, but which form the threshold of all our thinking. The Peasant Question was this: What is just with regard to the land?
Avila learned from the leading lawyer in the peasant movement that the philosophy of ownership which was the basis of property laws and practices in the Philippines, as well as of most modern legal systems, actually went a long way back in history - all the way back to Roman law. Roman law developed the ownership concept which legitimized the accumulation of wealth by a few at the expense of the impoverishment of the many. As Avila was thinking about a topic for his seminary dissertation, he wondered whether there might be early Christian philosophers of the period of the Roman Empire who had anything significant to say about the ownership concept. Most of the faculty warned him that he would be wasting his time pursuing this topic; his social justice professor, however, urged him to dig into the Latin and Greek writings concerning that period.
Avila scoured through 383 volumes and discovered that the early Christian leaders indeed had all dealt with the question of ownership and Roman law. The writings he discovered were of great assistance to the Filipino peasant movement. In 1983 Avila published his research and these patristic writings as a book entitled Ownership: Early Christian Teachings.13 Over and over again, Avila found, early Christians had railed against the Roman law concept of ownership as an exclusive and unlimited right to dispose of a thing, to the exclusion of all others. The Roman land law of dominium meant the legalization of property in land originally obtained by conque