Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Fairhope, AL: A History

The history of Fairhope, AL is interesting as a utopian idea that failed and yet succeeded. It began as a single tax colony that is a tax only on property colony. Ernest Berry Gaston founded the city of Fairhope to create an example of cooperative individualism meaning the public owned and administrated what he termed natural monopolies. He thought that utilities, communication, and transportation were natural monopolies, and he considered manufacturing and other production and trading to be free enterprise.

Fairhope appellation as a single tax colony came from Gaston's application of  the single tax revenue that he took from reading Progress and Poverty by Henry George published in 1879. The axiom that the populace gave the land its value was the guiding idea that almost caused the  Fairhope colony to fail. According to this concept the individual didn't give land its value for example by farming the land, but the group in the area gave it its value. So, when land was rented it became the investment for the community.

In theory, this one tax would  recompense the property taxes including state, county, and local for the individual leasing the property. But the colony couldn't gather enough funds from the single tax advocates; they failed to buy sufficient adjoining land to create the idyllic city.

In the beginning, anyone that became a part of the settlement had to agree to the single tax and the founding principals and become a member. Since they didn't entice sufficient colonists to make the colony work that agreed with the concept it became open to those that didn't agree.

Thus, in 1908 Fairhope became an incorporated city, so people could buy deeded land and the colony land was retained. But the original concept lured people that agreed to parkland for the community on the bay-front; it was always public property and utilities owned by the public. The idyllic atmosphere attractive creative people like musicians, authors, painters, print makers, and sculptors. This fair city has been home to many artist of various stripes for a long time and still welcomes creative folk to come to Fairhope.

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