Georgist Burns

Aging tax activists insist that a $40 million foundation fulfill its promise: to advance the ideals of 19th-century social reformer Henry George

"This could change history," says Stan Sapiro, a Los Angeles man who may be foremost among the nation's estimated 1,000 active Georgists. "The Lincoln Institute could be sending Georgists to Russia, Estonia and other places where socialism has been defeated."

Sapiro, a retired lawyer, is unrelenting in his campaign to reform the Lincoln Foundation. His numerous letters to David C. Lincoln and threats of a lawsuit won him a meeting in Phoenix in June 1992. Sapiro invited a number of Arizona Georgists to attend, and the AEJ was born.

"I'm probably not as zealous a Georgist as Stan," concedes David C. Lincoln, who says he favors a reduction in taxes on business and a greater reliance on taxation of land. He suspects that the more extreme, utopian version of George's single tax could never sustain a modern society.

"George said that [a single tax] would be sufficient to fund the government," Lincoln says. "Maybe in his time it would have. But it would be inadequate to do that now. If the government collapses, we're all in deep shit."

Levering White, assistant president of the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, says he is aware of the Georgists' demands, which he believes are impractical. "If we were to espouse only one point of view, we wouldn't be of much assistance to policy officials," White says. "... Our mission is to study and teach land policy, including land use and taxation, and Georgist topics fall in that category. The Arizonans for Economic Justice would like Henry George to be our sole mission, but that's not what we see as the charter of the institute."

Unlike the Lincoln Foundation which funds it, the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy makes no mention of Henry George in its articles of incorporation. And the articles that define the Lincoln Foundation's mission have been amended numerous times since its creation almost 50 years ago. These changes, say the Arizonans for Economic Justice, prove that David C. Lincoln has gradually spurned his father's legacy.

Dan Mazmanian, director of the Claremont Graduate School's Center for Politics and Economics, says that theGeorgists have simply forgotten howbroad Henry George's interests were.

"There's a fascinating paper which came out recently on Henry George's intellectual history. The Georgists have forgotten this history because they focus on one narrow aspect of his writings," Mazmanian says.

The Arizonans for Economic Justice have gotten no response from the attorney general. They know they're dismissed as cranks, but they don't care.

"I'm 83 and I'm still fighting. I won't give up until I go elsewhere," Flechner says, employing a euphemism about one of life's two inevitabilities.

For Max Flechner, "elsewhere" undoubtedly has no taxes.

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