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Libertarian Social Democracy & Geo-Distributism

What if neoliberalism and socialism are both flawed ideologies? The neoliberal critique of marxism is pretty solid. Hayek and Mises did a good job of demonstrating that central planning is problematic, yet Marx's critique of capitalism is irrefutable. In the debates between capitalism and socialism—between neoliberalism and marxism—both sides have succeeded in demonstrating that the position of their opponents is problematic and that the system their opponents advocate is highly undesirable. What this dialectic demonstrates is that these two systems—capitalism and socialism—are both undesirable.

Third Ways: Beyond Capitalism & Socialism

This suggests that perhaps there is some "third way" alternative between capitalism and socialism. Perhaps neoliberalism and socialism aren't the only options available. In fact, there are other alternatives outside of this false capitalism/socialism (or neoliberalism/marxism) dichotomy. There are, of course, several "third way" approaches, like distributism, georgism, social democracy, and the "small is beautiful" movement. These “third way" approaches are all distinct from one another, but they aren't necessarily mutually exclusive. It is possible to be both a distributist and a georgist. It is also possible to be a distributist and/or georgist and a social democrat.


Capitalism is a system with private ownership of industry, where a relatively small group of individuals own the means of production and the vast majority of people rely on wages for survival. Socialism is a system of communal or public ownership of industry. Distributism rejects both capitalism and socialism in favor of widespread distribution of private ownership, such that most people will own some productive property. Ownership becomes the norm and wage slavery ceases to exist. Wage labor may continue, but it is now by choice rather than out of necessity.


Georgism holds that people are entitled to the product of their own labor, so income tax ought to be abolished—all taxes ought to be levied against "unearned income" or income that comes from nonproductive sources, like land speculation or exploitation of natural resources. Thus, georgists propose a land value tax. This land value tax would function as an analog for communal ownership of land. This approach, therefore, is not quite socialism because it does not have government-owned industry as the norm, but it also isn't quite capitalism because it doesn't have privately-owned land.


Thomas Paine, one of America's Founding Fathers, had a geo-distributist approach, mixing georgism and distributism. Of course, these terms "georgism" and "distributism" were not coined until after his time, so “geo-distributism” is an anachronistic way of describing his views. In Agrarian Justice, Paine suggests that land and natural resources do not naturally belong to any individual and that the government ought to collect a ground-rent (or land value tax) on all land and distribute the revenue as a citizens' dividend to the whole populace. Under Thomas Paine's geo-distributist system, every individual citizen has a share of ownership of all land and natural resources within the nation's territory. The society, rather than the government, would own the land and each individual would get a share of the revenue from the rent.

Social Democracy

Social democracy, though rooted in marxism, became conservative, rejecting violent revolution in favor of gradual reform through democratic means—social democrats embraced republicanism. They sought to raise the working class by imposing reasonable regulations through democratic processes. They imposed workplace safety rules and provided everyone with healthcare benefits and reasonable pay. They didn't seek to abolish markets and private ownership, but sought to ensure that competition and private property neither destabilize society nor impoverish the masses.

Geo-Distributist Social Democracy

If we combine social democracy with geo-distributism, we lay the foundation for something much more libertarian. Since everyone receives a universal basic income as a dividend from land value tax, we do not need minimum wage, means-tested welfare, corporate tax, and income tax. Geo-distributism allows us to have a much more libertarian form of social democracy. On the one hand, the market is more free. On the other, individuals are freed from wage-slavery and exploitation. The best of both worlds!

Universal basic income, in itself, is a move beyond socialism/capitalism. It is no longer capitalism because wage-slavery is abolished. It is not socialism because markets and private ownership have not been abolished. It would liberate all people from wage-slavery and preserve the market system. The hierarchy and domination of workers by bosses, tenants by landlords, etc. within our society is fundamentally non-libertarian. This anti-libertarian aspect of capitalism can easily be eliminated by a universal basic income in conjunction with land value tax. It's impossible to be libertarian without advocating universal basic income. If you're not a basic income supporter, you're not libertarian.

Land value tax and universal basic income (which is to say, a citizen's dividend as a share of ground-rent) is the bedrock, the foundation, of true libertarianism. But liberty also requires access to affordable and reliable healthcare to the greatest extent feasible. If you can easily be enslaved by debt because of medical bills, then you are not actually free. Certain welfare measures, like single-payer healthcare and universal basic income, lay the foundation for a truly libertarian society. This is what I call libertarian social democracy—social democracy reoriented towards human liberation. And to be truly liberating, social democracy must also be geo-distributist.

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