SA85. Born to become a Georgist by Ole Lefmann

Marking his 90th year!

As a child in Copenhagen in the 1930s I realised that all grown up males in the family were
shop owners who made it a point of honour to be self-employed, able to pay for satisfaction
of their own wants and the wants of their closest relatives, not being a burden to anybody
else, definitely not burdening the society.
They urged for what then was called Free Trade: Trade free from governmental restrictions
and customs tariffs, and they disliked taxes.
The elder members of the family had all grown up in straitened circumstances and they
believed that like themselves everyone in the society could make a fair living by using their
natural talents. “Everyone is the architect of his own fortune” was a motto frequently heard
those days. They were sceptical to Socialism and its taxes, and definitely against those days’
Communism and its planned economy that was spreading elsewhere in Europe.
_ _ _
When in 1940 in the age of 11 years I asked my dad, how the public authorities should be
able to pay school teachers, fire fighters, policemen, and other civil servants if they could not
collect taxes, he told me that all pople pay rent of the land they use for housing and
business, and that the size of the rent of land relates to advantages the user of the site can
enjoy from the site in question and its surroundings.
And my father continued that the advantages available from the sites are not, and have not
been provided by individual human beings, but were or had been provided by nature or by
the society’s citizens in common, who therefore should enjoy of the values of the
advantages of land. If the Government would collect the rent of all land from landowners it
would not have to tax working people’s income.
That explanation was too complicated to me at that time. I found that teachers, policemen,
fire fighters and presumably other public servants were needed, and I accepted that when I
would earn some income I should contribute to the expenses of the society by paying taxes.
However, when in the late 1950s, as a newly married husband in his late 20s, I worked long
extra hours for my employer and earned extra money away from home where my wife
disliked being alone in the evenings, I one day became aware that the tax authorities took
70% of my extra income.
70% Income Tax
The 70% tax on extra income became clear to me when in 1959 I did my tax-declaration for
1958, and became aware that in my tax-declaration for the previous year, 1957, I had made a
mistake by summing up a column of figures to a sum that wrongly was Danish Crowns 1,000
higher than it should be. I told the tax authorities about my mistake and they agreed to pay
me back DCr. 700.
That made me understand that extra income was taxed 70%.
I found that 70% tax of extra income was out of proportion and complained to my father who
repeated his above-quoted answer. Then I became determined to find out how to get rid of or
avoid the Income Tax System.
Danish supporters of the Income Tax system were not happy with it either; they found that it
could not collect enough revenue to pay for the modern society’s expenses. Every six months
the politicians had to pass new tax laws through Parliament, until in the mid of the 1960s the
Danish Government introduced a new tax called MOMS, being the same as the English VAT
(value added tax). It was collected when people used the remaining part of their already taxed
income. In the beginning the MOMS was collected by 5% of all purchases, but over a few
years it was increased to 25% on all purchases of goods and services. To the politicians the
most important advantage of the MOMS system was, that it was self-regulating: when market
prices increased also the revenue of MOMS/VAT increased, so politicians would no longer
have to pass new tax laws every half year.
77½% Tax on Income and Consumption
When a Danish taxpayer earned an extra income those years he/she had to pay 70% tax of it
PLUS when he/she used the remaining 30% of it, he/she was taxed 25% VAT of the
purchase.
Thus, the total tax claimed from producers’ extra income was 70% PLUS (25% of 30% =)
7½%, leaving the producer with a purchasing power of only 22½% of his/her extra income.
_ _ _
Earlier, in the years 1942-1944, in my age of 13-15 years I joined a scout troop that had a log
cabin at a site next to a forest called Hareskoven, 12 kilometres north of Copenhagen. In the
weekends the scouts rode their bicycles to the log cabin or they went there by an oldfashioned railway from the then outskirts of Copenhagen. Walking from the railway station in
Hareskoven to the log cabin we went through a residential area of detached one-family
houses with gardens. I liked this area and hoped one day to be the owner of a house with
garden like these.
In 1958 I became aware that an empty building site was for sale in the area I liked, and soon
thereafter my wife and I had bought the empty plot on conditions we could afford. We
expected that after 10 years’ time we would have paid up the mortgage and then we hoped to
be able to pay a builder for building a house on it; and after the ten years we reckoned that the
old-fashioned railway line might have been replaced by an extension of the Copenhagen
metro.
However, two years later I was called by phone by the owner of the detached one-family
house next to our building site. He wanted to buy our site and offered a good price that we
accepted. The amount that remained in our hands when we had repaid our mortgage and paid
estate agent and lawyer and taxes, had the size of the salary I could earn (before tax) for one
years’ work. That was the outcome of a less than two years’ investment of a down payment
and a few instalments + interests.
Then we found a house for sale (10 km west of Copenhagen) that was near to the house of
my parents-in-law, which suited my wife’s and my demands. My wife was pregnant, and her
mother would look after our soon new born child when my wife and I went to our respective
working places on weekdays, so we used the profit from selling the building site in
Hareskoven to the down payment for the house near my wife’s parents, and took mortgages
for the rest. It was a detached single storied one-family house, but small (104 m²), with a nice
garden. We lived there for 10 years. Then our daughter needed a bigger room, and my wife
and I would prefer to live nearer to the centre of Copenhagen where we both went daily to
our working places and our daughter went to school.
So, in 1969 we found a building site for sale in the outskirt of the Borough of Copenhagen
and bought it and asked a building company to build a big standard house 160m² + 90m²
basement that had all the qualities we had dreamt of plus a very big garden. We paid a down
payment and took mortgages for the rest. We lived there for 15 years. Then our daughter now
24 years old had moved from home, and we in our late fifties felt that the big garden was
more a burden than the pleasure it used to be.
We then bought a big flat – without a garden – in a block of flats near the row of lakes round
the inner Copenhagen, but in a short distance to green public parks including Copenhagen’s
Tivoli. When our ‘dream house’ was sold we had more money at our disposal than we had
ever dreamt of.
In 1995 we moved to a four-bedroom house in the northern part of London that our daughter
who had settled down there with her husband had bought for us for £72,000. The market
price of that house was in 2015 estimated by Estate Agents to £630,000.
This report about our acquirement of labour-free income is not unique. All owners of landed
properties experience it and enjoy it currently year after year, while people who don’t own
landed properties or other lucrative monopolies suffer as they have to pay frequently
increasing rent of land (included in the rent tenants pay for use of a flat) to their landowner
PLUS taxes of their income and consumption. They do not suffer from paying the rent of
land, because that pay is for advantages they can enjoy from the location they have chosen to
live on and its surroundings; but they suffer from the taxes they at the same time have to pay
of their income and consumption. As my dad told me: Taxes on income and consumption
would be unnecessary if the Government would collect the rents of land from landowners
instead of taxing working people’s income and pensioner’s interests of savings they had
saved out of their earlier income.
_ _ _
I used much time and efforts to study history and how political economy functioned and how
it had functioned earlier in Denmark and in other societies. I wanted to spread my knowledge
to as many people as possible and in 1979 I published a booklet (60 pages, A5) in Danish, in
which I ultra-shortly described the important social-economic cohesions that most landless
Danish citizens were and still are unaware of. I described them as seen from three different
points of view that were topics in Denmark in 1979 ‘s public media and on the political
scenery:
• one view, that people of Conservative conviction used to urge for (a free market),
• another view, that Social Democrats – led by the then Danish Prime Minister – wanted
to implement (ØD = economic democracy), and
• a third view proposed by me who then stood for election to a seat in the Danish
Parliament (equal rights).
I believed, like Henry George and many followers of his ideas had believed before me, that
when people in general would understand that they are robbed every day, month, year of their
natural equal rights to shares of the free values of nature and society that are available to
mankind as Rent of Land, then they would use their democratic votes to claim back their
shares.
Translated into English the title of my booklet would have been: “Three Synonyms: A Free
Market – Economic Democracy – The Society based on Equal Rights” 1
. The booklets were
spread to friends but did not find the many readers I had hoped for.
When many years later I had moved to London (1996), I intended to write the booklet in
English, but realised that I would need a deeper knowledge of the British society, than I had.
Instead I decided to describe in English my understanding of the societies I have lived in, in
Denmark and in England, both of which are based on the same (dis)order of taxes on citizens’
income and consumption, while landless citizens without lucrative monopolies are excluded
from access to the advantages that nature provides freely, and from advantages provided by
all citizens in common.
I am still working on that description.
Ole – October 2018
Ole Lefmann was born 1928 in Copenhagen, Denmark, in a family of shop owners, urging
for Free Trade and low or no tax on income. In his early days he worked in retail, in
wholesale, in export and in import businesses; and he graduated (BCom) 1963 from The
Copenhagen Business School.
As he wanted to propagate the ideas of Henry George he preferred a job that gave him
the spare time he needed. It worked out to be thirty-four years in insurance business where he
began as salesman and later assessed claim notifications and paid compensations for
damages. He taught colleagues at the Danish Insurance Academy about private persons’ legal
liabilities and about insurance of private liability, and wrote in Danish the textbook Insurance
of Private Liability (1st edition 1987 and the updated 2nd edition1991).
About public matters he wrote (in Danish) two booklets: Three Synonyms (1979) and
Out with the old Tax (1993) and many articles, letters to the editor, and essays. Together with

1 The three descriptions were called Synonyms because ‘A free market’ was described as a genuine Free Market in which, like in a genuine Economic Democracy and in The Society of Equal Rights, no individual citizen or company can profit economically from a monopoly. Certain monopolies are allowed to exist because they are vital to the society, but in the genuine free market all citizens benefit economically equally from the values of nature and the values of the society’s synergy and from the values of allowed monopolies. These themes will be
dealt with in more detail in this essay Thoughts on Society.
Dr. Robert V. Andelson, Alabama, USA, he sent (in English) Open letter to Pope John Paul
II (1997) and together with Karsten K. Larsen he wrote the Chapter DENMARK in Dr.
Andelson’s book Land-Value Taxation Around the World (2000).
He served for 8 years as Deputy President of ‘The International Union for Land Value
Taxation and Free Trade’ (theIU) followed by 12 years as that movement’s Assistant General
Secretary and created theIU’s first website (1999) and maintained it for 10 years; gave
presentations at international conferences (Ütrecht, Holland 1982, United Nations’ NGO
Forum in Copenhagen, Denmark, 1995, and London 2010); wrote a series of three articles
about PRIVILEGES to the English magazine Land and Liberty (2007-08) and gave to the
audience of the English Henry George Foundation’s Library Group (2012) a presentation and
slide show about PRIVILEGES, and (2017) a presentation about A review of The Danish
Henry George Foundation, 1902-2017, now closed down.
In 1957 he married Ulla (passed away 2015). In their retirements they moved to
London (1996) to be close to their daughter (their only child) who had married a British
citizen and settled down in London where they brought up two daughters. Here Ole translated
Fred Harrison’s book The Silver Bullet (2008) into Danish (2010) and Henry George’s The
Science of Political Economy (1897) into Danish (2012).
[Photo 2001]
Ole Lefmann, 41 Coleraine Road, London N8 0QJ, United Kingdom.
Email: ole.lefmann1@virgin.net
Phone from UK: 020 8881 7965 – Phone from abroad: +44 20 8881 7965

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