By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS AUG. 20, 2014
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS AUG. 20, 2014
Posted on August 23, 2014 at 02:27 PM in common good, commons, cui bono?, Earth for All, economic rent, financing services, government's role, land includes, land monopoly capitalism, Natural Public Revenue, natural resource revenues, natural resources, privatization, windfalls | Permalink | Comments (0)
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I was listening to Bob Edwards interview Ralph Nader, on the occasion of the latter's publication of a new book, and Nader was talking about things the left and the right might be able to agree on. I was in traffic, and only half listening, but when Nader spoke of corporate subsidies, it hit me that one of the biggest corporate subsidies, and one which the average person isn't at all conscious of, is the unearned increment, the possession of unearned wealth.
It isn't that some individuals don't get to collect some, too -- particularly those who own land (with or without a building on it) in or near the major coastal cities, but the lion's share goes to corporations, and their shareholders, who tend to be the 1%.
For more about the unearned increment, start here.
"Our plan involves the imposition of no new tax, since we already tax land values in taxing real estate. To carry it out we have only to abolish all taxes save the tax on real estate, and abolish all of that which now falls on buildings or improvements, leaving only that part of it which now falls on the value of the bare land, increasing that so as to take as nearly as may be the whole of economic rent, or what is sometimes styled the "unearned increment of land values."
Can we get the leaders of the left and right to look at this, or are they owned by the corporations?
Better Insurance Against Inequality
APRIL 12, 2014
Economic View By ROBERT J. SHILLER
Paying taxes is rarely pleasant, but as April 15 approaches it’s worth remembering that our tax system is a progressive one and serves a little-noticed but crucial purpose: It mitigates some of the worst consequences of income inequality.
If any of us, as individuals, are unfortunate enough to have income drop significantly, the tax on that income will plummet as well — and a direct payment, or negative tax, might even be received from the government, thanks to the earned-income tax credit. In this way, the tax system can be viewed as a colossal insurance system, guarding against extreme income inequality. There are similar provisions in other countries.
But it’s also clear that while income inequality would be much worse without our current tax system, what we have isn’t nearly enough. It’s time — past time, actually — to tweak the system so that it can respond effectively if income inequality becomes more extreme."Respond effectively if"???
"There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root."
DCJ doesn't say it explicitly, but in general, it is mostly people in and near the major coastal cities (mostly the blue congressional districts) which reap the benefits. But he -- rightly -- comes close to pointing out that the benefits flow not to buyers of such homes, but to the sellers.
Imagine you make $50,000 to $75,000. Statistically you would save $75 a month in federal income taxes if you bought a house, the congressional study shows. Now which option would you prefer?
• Pay $300,000 for your house, the median for Sacramento in late 2013, and save $900 annually on your federal income tax by deducting the mortgage interest?
• Pay $200,000 for your house, but without being able to deduct your mortgage interest?
Assuming you borrowed the entire purchase price at 4 percent interest the initial mortgage interest savings would be $4,000 per year. Not only would you have more than $250 more cash in your pocket each month, you would have a much smaller debt to pay off. Of course, if you own that home, this is not such a good deal, which is why Camp proposes to phase in his modest change over several years, a change that would only affect new mortgages of more than $500,000.
Which brings me to a larger point. Suppose that, instead of paying $300,000 for your home, of which $150,000 is for the site, and $150,000 is for the home itself, under the tax design this blog proposes, you would pay the seller the $150,000 for the depreciated home and then pay your community approximately 5% of the $150,000 selling price of the site each year -- and that would be INSTEAD of paying income or sales taxes, and there would be no tax on the value of the building.
The downside? None of us would be treating our home as an "investment" or a "savings account" or an ATM machine. Offset that with the many benefits, including the reduction or elimination of the land-based ~17 year boom-bust cycle we are currently stuck with.
(In Bermuda, as I understand it, when young couples buy a home, both work two jobs for a few years to pay off the mortgage, and then live mortgage-free thereafter.)
Posted on March 16, 2014 at 03:39 PM in boom-bust cycles, bubble, buildings depreciate, capital gains are land gains, cost of living, economic rent, financing services, FIRE sector, free land, home equity, income tax, land appreciates buildings depreciate, land share of real estate value, land value created by community, land value taxation, make land common property, Natural Public Revenue, one solution for many problems, paycheck to paycheck, savings rate, untaxing buildings, untaxing production | Permalink | Comments (0)
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By Charles Kanjama firstname.lastname@example.org
Sometime in the 19th Century, somewhere in Europe, a busy town was separated from a poorer residential quarter by a river crossed by a footbridge built by the town authorities. Any person crossing the footbridge had to pay some money, say ten shillings, to cross one way or the other. Then a benevolent town council decided to ease the situation of the poor labourers by abolishing the bridge levy.
After several months, it was noticed that the rents in the poorer quarter had generally increased by about five hundred shillings, thus absorbing the labourers’ monthly savings gained from the abolition of the bridge levy. In 1879, American writer Henry George wrote his groundbreaking work, “Progress and Poverty” to explain this phenomenon. His main economic idea was that growing population as well as infrastructure investment raises the value of adjacent land regardless of the economic activity carried out on the land itself. Henry George was a brilliant writer and an incisive thinker, and he inspired fervent disciples, though mainstream economics treated him largely with contempt. He was derisively called ‘a single-taxer’ due to his proposal to abolish all forms of taxation save for land value taxation.
What George really supported was an intelligent approach to capturing the resulting value from public investments for the whole society. For example, in the European town above, the footbridge had been a form of economic value creation. Once the levy was abolished, the value was captured, not by the labourers as planned, but by their thriving landlords. This was a perverse form of value capture. A century later, the impressive economist and Nobel Prize laureate Joseph Stiglitz supported George’s insight, now called the Henry George Theorem. Stiglitz demonstrated that spending by government on infrastructure often increases aggregate land values by a proportionate amount. So for example, land values along Thika Road increased substantially due to the construction of the modern super-highway. These increases in value were captured mainly by the adjacent land owners and by transporters.
Likewise, a substantial injection of value from the Mombasa-Nairobi-Malaba standard gauge railway project, as well as from the proposed Lamu-Garissa-Isiolo-Moyale/Lodwar LAPSSET Corridor Project, will be captured by landowners within a certain radius of the service points or railway stations to be established along the line. Of course, the improved efficiency in transportation will create value in other areas, including job creation, and relative reduction in the cost of both industrial and consumer goods.
If government was clever, it would include a value-capture approach in project financing. The economic speculation in the land adjacent to the proposed Lamu port, to the planned Isiolo Resort city and to the Mlolongo railway exchange is a pointer of the anticipated value creation from these public investments. Value capture uses multiple approaches to allow government to recoup a portion, say half, of the returns from its investments.
One acceptable approach is land value taxation, or alternatively government land-purchase-and-resale schemes. The former is more legally apt, but under Kenya’s Constitution can only be levied by county government (art.209(2,3)). Another acceptable approach, which is now overdue considering the state of our economic development, is the reintroduction of capital gains tax. This tax was suspended in 1985, the idea at the time being that Kenyans should be encouraged to save and invest, including in the securities market.
However, from the perspective of tax equity today, it is scandalous that capital gains tax, which mainly affects the wealthy, still remains suspended. Of course Kenya must avoid going down the path of European socialist nations like France, which has recently introduced a top-bracket 75 percent income tax for the ultra wealthy. We cannot afford ‘to sock the rich’, as it will discourage investment and trigger capital flight, as well as entrench greater tax evasion. This does not mean that a well-designed capital gains tax cannot work for both property and equity investments.
Still, there is a need to avoid an obsession with traditional but costly approaches for funding Kenya’s mega infrastructure projects. Importantly, the electromagnetic spectrum that is now the focus of government-media disputes over digital migration is a potentially large source of public funds. Also the issuance of oil and other mineral exploration and extraction licences, which should be backed by a credible mining royalties and taxation regime that allows government to recover a substantial portion of mineral value. My New Year wish is that both national and county governments can progress useful infrastructure projects through creative financing that does not unduly stretch our debt leverage ratio but which directly contributes to our economic and social welfare.
I came across an interesting article from 1908, with what strikes me as a well-described concept:
MUTUAL TOWN-BUILDING IN ENGLAND
"GARDEN CITIES" OF INDIVIDUAL, DETACHED HOMES BUILT WITHOUT THE AID OF PHILANTHROPY — A BETTER PLAN THAN REBUILDING THE SLUMS
BY WILHELM MILLER
(who visited these cities to make a first hand study of them)
LETCHWORTH, "the perfect city," less than five years old but with 6,000 inhabitants, is thirty-four miles north of London and is reached by the best trains in fifty minutes. It has 3,818 acres and its population is limited to 35,000 inhabitants, so that there will never be any crowding. The factory quarter can never be enlarged; it is situated as far as possible from the residence quarter and the prevailing wind carries the smoke away from the homes. Nearly one-sixth of the town site, or two hundred acres, is perpetually reserved for open spaces, including parks, jjlaygrounds, and a golf course.
And even if the surrounding country should build up as solidly as London, the people of Letchworth are always sure of enjoying a beautiful rural scene because a large belt is perpetually reserved for agriculture. This belt comprises 2,500 acres, or 65 percent of the whole estate. It will undoubtedly be occupied by market gardeners and dairymen, for gardens yield about eleven times as much profit per acre as farms.
A man can buy a house at Letchworth or he can rent one, but he cannot buy the land. He cannot even lease it for 999 years, because that would enable him to sell or lease his property in such a way as to make a profit from the unearned increment. He can lease the land for ninety-nine years without revaluation and the improvements will not revert to the landowner. In any case, he has every advantage enjoyed by the man who owns the land outright — save one. He cannot get rich from what Henry George called the "unearned increment" but which in Letchworth is called the "collectively earned increment." Even if he rents his house and land from week to week he cannot be dispossessed by some one who offers more money. In the agricultural belt, the tenant is allowed to continue in occupation as long as he is willing to pay as much as anyone else, less 10 percent, in favor of the present tenant.
Letchworth has been built upon a plan whereby people in any part of the world can make a city that is practically perfect without asking any rich man to give money, and without facilities for borrowing any large amount. The essence of the scheme is to preserve to the people the "collectively earned increment." The Letchworth people take some pride in the use of this phrase, and justly. For, merely by moving to Letchworth and living there they created in four and a half years a net increase of half a million dollars. They do not get that half million now, but some day they will get 95 percent of it in the form of abolition of taxes. And that day, in my opinion will come in about twenty years, for by that time the city should be able to pay back all that its public works have cost.
THE TWO OTHER "GARDEN CITIES "
There are two other successful "garden cities," Bourneville, a suburb of Liverpool built by the Cadbury Cocoa Works, and Port Sunlight near Birmingham created by the Lever Brothers, soap manufacturers, solely for their employees.
Port Sunlight is the most beautiful because the Messrs. Lever have gone to the unnecessary extreme of making no two houses alike. Also, they have spent more upon ornamentation of
houses than is necessary and they plant and care for all the front yard gardens.
The tenants at Port Sunlight get more for their money than elsewhere for two reasons. First, the rents are too low, because they are calculated only to pay expenses. Second, the social institutions, though more elaborate than elsewhere, cost the people nothing originally and they can and do manage them so as to keep expenses down to the mininum.
THE "taint" of philanthropy
The one great drawback to the Port Sunlight idea is that it involves too great an expenditure on the part of one man or one firm, and it is hard to prove to a factory owner that the investment is worth while. In this case, the factory owners disclaim all idea of philanthropy and are positive that it pays, because their employees are healthier, happier, more prosperous and therefore more efficient.
The Lever Brothers rejected all direct profit-sharing schemes because they thought this the only plan that would benefit the wives and children of the men. There is the keenest competition for a chance to work in that factory and live in one of those houses. But all the profits to the firm are indirect. Rarely, if ever, can they be expressed in dollars and cents and indirect profits can never be expected to weigh in the mind of the average employer against the appalling fact that Lever Brothers have put about $1,700,000 into their paradise at Port Sunlight and have never directly gotten back one cent.
In other words, if this is not philanthropy, it is too much like it to be generally copied. Humanity cannot look to great employers for the solution of the housing problem. And employees do not want philanthropy.
And at Bourneville there is less of the philanthropic spirit. The employees of the Cadbury Cocoa Works get a normal social life, which the people of Port Sunlight do not have. The cocoa workers are not obliged to live in Bourneville and only 42 percent of the tenants at Bourneville are employed at the Cadbury factory. Thus Bourneville is a mixed community and the ideal community must be mixed — not merely industrial, or suburban, or composed exclusively of any one class. It is sad to see the magnificent clubs, lecture halls, baths, and other social features at Port Sunlight languish for attendance, but it is only human nature. On getting home after a day's work, a man wants to forget thoughts of his work. And if he lives in a city where every house and every person he sees on the street suggests the workroom, he is bound to escape to the next town where he can get a drink or otherwise forget his daily routine. The only serious complaint which the tenants at Port Sunlight have any right to make is that they live in the atmosphere of a single class.
Mr. Cadbury gave Bourneville to the people. How then does it escape the "taint" of philanthropy?"
A GREAT FUND FOR PROPAGANDA
It is true that Mr. Cadbury gave the property to a trust which administers it for the benefit of the people, but eventually this trust will be able to finance hundreds of other garden cities that will be purely cooperative. For instance, people wishing to live in a "garden city," where all the "collectively earned increment" benefits all alike instead of going to the building up of individual fortunes, can form a stock company with shares as low as $25. If the Bourneville trust approves of their plan, it will lend them enough money to start a town. But the company must pay it back, so that the Bourneville trust can use it again and again.
How does the Bourneville trust hope to get this fund? Its income, which is almost wholly rent, doubles every five years. At this rate, in fifty years it will have an annual income of five million dollars. Long before that, Bourneville will have reached its limit of population. And since the trust never has to pay back the cost of the houses, roads, or other public works, it will be able to roll up a vast sum for the propagation of the "garden city" idea.
The all-important point is that the Bourneville trust will never give anyone something for nothing. It will merely lend money to people who are building "garden cities."
THE HEALTH AND BEAUTY OF THESE CITIES
These are far healthier and more beautiful than cities that have grown up normally; healthier because crowding is prevented by a limit to the population and because more and better provision is made for outdoor sports — to say nothing of architecture in which health is the first thought. The average town death-rate in England is 15 per 1,000. Letchworth has cut this down to 2.75. The birthrate at Port Sunlight is twice the average for the rest of England.
The greater beauty of these garden cities lies chiefly in the architecture and gardening. The houses and stores all conform to one general style of architecture, but are never monotonous. Every building must be approved by the city's architect. The houses are all of brick and built to last. There are no long rows of houses just alike. The first idea was to have no two houses alike but that is a needless waste of money. For poor people it is impossible to get good houses cheap enough without building three or four in a row and this row can be duplicated in another part of town without harming the total effect. Moreover, Bourneville has shown how much can be saved on ornamentation. The plainest houses are transformed in three years by the use of climbers. Bourneville's head gardener sees that every house has a different set of vines. Not merely is the plainness soon hidden thereby, but also the individuality of each home is notably increased.
Gardening is compulsory at Bourneville and Letchworth. If a tenant neglects his garden at Bourneville and will not hire some one to weed it, the estate notifies him that he will forfeit his lease unless he makes his place look decent. But there have been only two cases of neglect.
The estate plants a hawthorn hedge all round each man's place, digs and manures his vegetable garden, lays down the lawn, sets out dwarf fruit trees, plants the climbers on his house, and digs his flower-beds. These expenses are considered part of the cost of building and the rent is based thereon. The tenant must keep it in good condition but he can buy plants from the estate cheaper than from a nurseryman and he gets instruction for nothing. There is no chance for a beginner to get discouraged.
A FIVE-ROOM HOUSE FOR $7.80 A MONTH
I am almost afraid to tell how much a tenant gets for his money at one of these garden cities. The cheapest houses at Bourneville rent for only $7.80 a month, which includes taxes and water rates. Such a house contains five rooms and a wonderful "folding bath" which stands up like a cabinet when not in use. Clerks and artisans, however, generally pay about $12.30 a month for seven rooms and an eighth of an acre.
The ideal amount of land at Bourneville is one-eighth of an acre, and the average value of the fruits and vegetables produced on such a plot is about $32.24 a year, or sixty-two cents a week the year round. The smallest lots at Letchworth are a twelfth of an acre, which is the same as 25 x 145 feet, and is 45 percent larger than the typical New York lot, on which many families are allowed to live. In addition to these direct benefits the tenant gets a chance to play cricket, tennis, bowls, quoits, and hockey near by at no expense or at less cost than in an ordinary club.
All rents at Bourneville are figured at 8 percent of the cost. Taxes, insurance and repairs cost 3 percent, leaving a profit to the Bourneville estate of 5 percent. With this 5 percent, it employs a permanent staff of about one hundred builders and has about fifty houses under construction all the time.
OBSTACLES OVERCOME AT LETCHWORTH
The Letchworth company had its hands full with public works, for it had to construct eight miles of road, eleven miles of sewers, and seventeen miles of water main. Also it had to build a reservoir for water, a gas making plant, and an electric power station to supply the factories, of which it now has twenty-four. Another difficulty overcome was transportation. The company has cooperated with the railroad so well that its "commuters" can make their thirty-four miles to and from London daily in less than an hour, though most trains require an hour and a quarter.
The income of the land company is partly from the sale of water, gas, and electricity, but chiefly from ground rent. It never sells any land or houses. Ground rent may seem a very small source of revenue, but every man, woman and child in England contributes for ground rent an average of $10.50 a year. The Letchworth company can, and doubtless will, raise the ground rent as its limit of population approaches, but even if it should raise it as high as the average for England, the tenant will pay less than elsewhere, for taxes will eventually be abolished.
Postscript -- a few hours after I posted this, a google alert on ground rent brought me a story about Letchworth, at http://www.thecomet.net/news/letchworth_businesses_finally_land_meeting_over_rent_rise_1_2311500
Posted on August 01, 2013 at 05:40 PM in common good, commonwealth, economic rent, free land, infrastructure, is this socialism?, land appreciates buildings depreciate, land monopoly capitalism, land rent, land speculation, leased land, make land common property, municipal ownership of utilities, Natural Public Revenue, one solution for many problems, private property in land, unearned increment | Permalink | Comments (0)
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Last week, Joe Stiglitz posted a blog piece at http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/04/14/a-tax-system-stacked-against-the-99-percent/, in which, among other things, he wrote:
One of the reasons for our poor economic performance is the large distortion in our economy caused by the tax system. The one thing economists agree on is that incentives matter — if you lower taxes on speculation, say, you will get more speculation. We’ve drawn our most talented young people into financial shenanigans, rather than into creating real businesses, making real discoveries, providing real services to others. More efforts go into “rent-seeking” — getting a larger slice of the country’s economic pie — than into enlarging the size of the pie.
It doesn’t have to be this way. We could have a much simpler tax system without all the distortions — a society where those who clip coupons for a living pay the same taxes as someone with the same income who works in a factory; where someone who earns his income from saving companies pays the same tax as a doctor who makes the income by saving lives; where someone who earns his income from financial innovations pays the same taxes as a someone who does research to create real innovations that transform our economy and society. We could have a tax system that encourages good things like hard work and thrift and discourages bad things, like rent-seeking, gambling, financial speculation and pollution. Such a tax system could raise far more money than the current one — we wouldn’t have to go through all the wrangling we’ve been going through with sequestration, fiscal cliffs and threats to end Medicare and Social Security as we know it. We would be in sound fiscal position, for at least the next quarter-century.
to which I posted a response. The last time I looked, it was the only one, out of about 430, which discussed the issue of rent seeking. Here's what I wrote:
How do we unstack it? Collect the rent. Treat it as our COMMON treasure, not something subject to privatization by individuals, corporations, foundations, universities, etc.
Will it fund everything? We don't know. We can't know. We don't even collect the data that would permit us to calculate its magnitude. (Funny thing about that. Wonder who benefits from that. Could it be the rent-seekers?) Start collecting it, and using it to fund public goods.
At the same time, start reducing, even eliminating the dumb taxes which burden the economy: taxes on sales, buildings, wages, starting with the lowest wages earned. Watch the 99% recover. Watch the economy recover. The 1% will do all right under such a set up, but the rest of us will begin to thrive. Most likely, we'd be able to reduce the amount we need to spend on the social safety net, so that collected rent might cover a large share of our internal revenue needs.
What else might we collect revenue from? How about the privileges we've given out -- the privilege of using the airwaves (think how much a strong radio signal sells for in a large city) and the entire electromagnetic spectrum; franchises of various kinds, landing rights at LaGuardia, particularly at rush hour;
Then there are our nonrenewable and scarce natural resources: water, oil, natural gas, various metals. Royalties on many of these things are trivial, or they are going into private pockets, instead of being treated as our common treasure.
This appeared in the Freeport News, and I thought it worth sharing:
Why is it so hard to understand the justice and benefits of capturing
the community created value of land for the community?
Classical economists such as Adam Smith and Henry George, defined
land as all free gifts of nature (urban land, harbors, etc.).
These get value because people, both local and foreign, want them
for personal or commercial use.
So, no matter who 'owns' the gift of nature (land) there is a location
value called economic rent which is exclusive of any production on or
from that location.
When economic rent goes into private hands (i.e., beaches are given away
to corporations, land values are uncollected) legitimate government
revenue is lost and taxes like the proposed VAT are applied to the
Not only is land speculation rewarded but building houses, trading goods
and services, etc. are punished by taxes.
Naturally people try to avoid these taxes by smuggling and other forms
When economic rent goes to honest government it encourages better
use of locations as there is no tax penalty to build or work.
It reduces pollution and pays for infrastructure that helped create the
economic rent in the first place.
Why is this so difficult to understand? Why is there so much ignorance
of it and opposition to it?
– John Fisher
They said also that this king divided the country amongst all the Egyptians and from thence he drew his revenues, having required them to pay a fixed tax every year.
—Herodotus, Euterpe, II, 109.
Deep thoughts this week:
1. There are a lot of living costs that we don't pay for.
2. A higher gas tax could make the economy more efficient.
3. And so could taxes for all kinds of things.
4. But where do you draw the line?Adam Davidson is asking some good questions here. Henry George provided some good answers to those questions. I recommend starting with "Social Problems" and then progressing to "Progress and Poverty."
PUBLISHED: JANUARY 7, 2013
A lease is a lease is a lease – or so you may think. Yes, real property leases grant an estate in land to a tenant for a period of time. And yes, the tenant pays for that right of possession. But the action in a lease isn’t in the conveyance provisions; it’s in the contract provisions. Multiply out the rent and other annual monetary obligations by the length of the lease term (in years), and you’ll see that it might be (and often is) a big dollar contract. Even more important, unlike the vast majority of contracts whose obligations are satisfied in days or weeks, a lease contract goes unfulfilled for 50, 75, “99,” and even 500 years. That takes it beyond the life of the parties involved in its creation, and the future brings surprises. Neither Nostradamus nor Jules Verne got everything right.
Why a Ground Lease?
If a tenant has to build its own building (as is often the case), and has all of the burdens of ownership, why would it lease a property knowing that at the end of the lease term it has nothing left to show for its money and efforts? There are a number of common reasons, principal among them is that the owner won’t sell the land and the tenant has no alternative.
Real property often carries a long term unrealized gain, waiting to be taxed upon its sale.
Not every landowner is interested in making further active real property investments. This makes a like kind exchange unappealing.
Ground leasing the same land keeps ownership in the family. At the owner’s death, because of the current estate tax “stepped up basis” arrangement, the built in gain may never be taxed.
Posted on January 13, 2013 at 11:30 AM in a Manhattan acre, a wedge driven through society, absentee ownership, all benefits go to landholder , capital gains are land gains, common good, cui bono?, economic rent, estate taxes, facilitating commerce, financing education, financing infrastructure, financing services, FIRE sector, fixing the economy, fruits of one's labors, income concentration, inherited wealth, land appreciates buildings depreciate, land monopoly capitalism, land rent, land speculation, land value created by community, land value taxation, Landlord's Prayer, landlordism, leased land, location, location, location, monopoly -- not the game, Natural Public Revenue, Occupy Wall Street's values, popular ignorance of land economics, private property in land, reaping what others sow, rent-seeking, sharecropping, slavery, special interests, toll-takers, triple net leases, unburdening the economy, unearned income, unearned increment, untaxing buildings, untaxing production, urban land value, wealth distribution or concentration | Permalink | Comments (0)
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A paragraph from "To Destroy the Rum Power," by Henry George, in the February, 1890, issue of The Arena. (The full article follows this single eloquent paragraph.) --
"Almost universal sobriety," wrote Adam Smith in Kirkaldy, somewhere in the early seventies of the eighteenth century. Writing as the wonderful nineteenth century nears its final decade and in the great metropolis of a mighty nation then unborn, I can say no more, if as much. The temperance question does not stand alone. It is related — nay, it is but a phase, of the great social question. By abolishing liquor taxes and licenses we may drive the "rum power" out of politics, and somewhat, I think, lessen intemperance. Thus we may get rid of an obstacle to the improvement of social conditions and increase the effective force that demands improvement. But without the improvement of social conditions we cannot hope to abolish intemperance. Intemperance today springs mainly from that unjust distribution of wealth which gives to some less and to others more than they have fairly earned. Among the masses it is fed by hard and monotonous toil, or the still more straining and demoralizing search for leave to toil; by overtasked muscles and overstrained nerves, and under-nurtured bodies; by the poverty which makes men afraid to marry and sets little children at work, and crowds families into the rooms of tenement houses; which stints the nobler and brings out the baser qualities; and in full tide of the highest civilization the world has yet seen, robs life of poetry and glory of beauty and joy. Among the classes it finds its victims in those from whom the obligation to exertion has been artificially lifted; who are born to enjoy the results of labor without doing any labor, and in whom the lack of stimulus to healthy exertion causes moral obesity, and consumption without the need of productive work breeds satiety. Intemperance is abnormal. It is the vice of those who are starved and those who are gorged. Free trade in liquor would tend to reduce it, but could not abolish it. But free trade in everything would. I do not mean a sneaking, half-hearted, and half-witted "tariff reform," but that absolute, thorough free trade, which would not only abolish the custom house and the excise, but would do away with every tax on the products of labor and every restriction on the exertion of labor, and would leave everyone free to do whatever did not infringe the ten commandments.
It is worth noting that Frances Willard, a major figure in the temperance movement, published, in 1896, An Up-to-Date Catechism. She saw the connection between poverty and intemperance, and recognized that the Single Tax could make all the difference in making life better.
Here's George's full article follows (check out the corset analogy!):
Posted on January 07, 2013 at 02:14 PM in corruption in government, cost of living, cui bono?, free trade, monopoly -- not the game, Natural Public Revenue, poverty, poverty's cause, privilege, sales taxes are wrong, special interests, sufficiency of land rent, untaxing production | Permalink | Comments (0)
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If, then, successive generations of men cannot have their fractional share of the actual soil (including mines, etc.) how can the division of the advantages of the natural earth be effected? By the division of its annual value or rent; that is, by making the rent of the soil the common property of the nation. That is (as the taxation is the common property of the State), by taking the whole of the taxes out of the rents of the soil, and thereby abolishing all other kinds of taxation whatever. And thus all industry would be absolutely emancipated from every burden.
— PATRICK EDWARD DOVE, Theory of Human Progression (1850), Chap. III., Sec. 3.
Posted on December 30, 2012 at 12:33 AM in Christian ethics, commons, commonwealth, Earth for All, equal opportunity, financing education, financing infrastructure, financing services, fixing the economy, free land, government's role, justice of the single tax, land rent, land value taxation, make land common property, Natural Public Revenue, natural resource revenues, rent, defined, untaxing production | Permalink | Comments (0)
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It is not proposed to confiscate any value that has been created by human industry. This would be robbery. But when the community creates wealth it is entitled to it as much as the individual is to the wealth he creates.
-- from the first issue of The Standard, 1/8/1887.
I stumbled across an excerpt from this in The American Cooperator, and when I couldn't find the material in any of George's other books, I went looking for the source, an 1887 book with chapters by 16 authors.
Enjoy! (It prints out as about 9 pages, if you're so inclined)
MAGNITUDE OF THE QUESTION — FIRST PRINCIPLES — THE LAND-OWNER THE ABSOLUTE MASTER OF MEN WHO MUST LIVE ON HIS LAND — THE ORDER OF NATURE INVERTED — EQUAL RIGHTS TO THE USE OF THE EARTH — SELFISHNESS, THE EVIL GENIUS OF MAN — THE IRISH PEOPLE FORCED TO BEG PERMISSION TO TILL THE SOIL — APPROPRIATION OF THE CHURCH-LANDS — LAND IN ITSELF HAS NO VALUE — THE GREAT CAUSE OF THE UNEQUAL DISTRIBUTION OF WEALTH — NO HOPE FOR THE LABORER, SO LONG AS PRIVATE PROPERTY IN LAND EXISTS — NOTHING MYSTERIOUS ABOUT THE LABOR QUESTION — THE DIFFICULTY IN FINDING EMPLOYMENT — NATURE OFFERS FREELY TO LABOR — NATURAL MEANS OF EMPLOYMENT MONOPOLIZED — SPECULATION IN THE BOUNTIES OF NATURE.
Posted on December 19, 2012 at 06:29 PM in a wedge driven through society, absentee ownership, all benefits go to landholder , Earth for All, equality, fruits of one's labors, Henry George, land speculation, landlordism, make land common property, Natural Public Revenue, overproduction, population, population growth, private property in land, privilege, reaping what others sow, rent, defined, rent-seeking, sharecropping, slavery, special interests, supply and demand, technological advances, the land question, toll-takers, underused land, unearned increment, unemployment and underemployment, wages driven down, wealth distribution or concentration | Permalink | Comments (2)
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It seems a hard thing for many to understand how the single tax, as applied at Fairhope or elsewhere, can benefit both those who have little and those who have much. They think that if the tax burden upon the wealthy man's fine improvement is decreased, it must be at the expense of his poorer neighbor; or on the other hand, if the poor man's burden is lightened, it must be because it is shifted to the well-to-do. The fact is that the wealthy man whose wealth is genuine wealth, houses, stores, stocks (of goods) and other things which are the product of labor — not the possessor of monopoly privileges — will be benefited by the freeing from taxation of these forms of wealth, and the poor man will be benefited by the exemption of his smaller improvement if he be a home-owner, and if he be not, by the destruction of land speculation, making it easy for him to secure land for a home or for cultivation, and by an increased demand for his labor from others and the increased ability of others to buy his products if he be a producer.
"But somebody must be hurt by your policy. You can't benefit everybody, the beneficiaries of the present system as well as its victims," will say the skeptic. To which we say: There is plenty of room for the argument as to whether the enthronement of Justice ever did or can hurt anybody; but so far as the colony is concerned, there are no beneficiaries of injustice. No one has ever been given the privilege of collecting tribute in the form of unearned land values, and the wealthy and the poor are alike benefited by the taking for public use of that which belongs and has been held from the beginning to belong to the public, but elsewhere is made the privilege of a favored few.
Outside the colony the application of the single tax to present conditions would take somebody's privileges and profits, and it will be those who are "reaping where they have not sown" in the collection of land values rightly belonging to the public for the two highest reasons: first, because their collection for the common benefit is necessary to insure to each his inherent right to live upon the earth; and second, because such values are the result of their joint presence and activity, and not traceable to individual exertions.
Among no class of reformers do we find more clear thinking or a sounder political economy than among the "single-taxers." Following the writings of the late Henry George there is a considerable and important literature upon this subject. Land monopoly and speculation should be stopped. Labor should not be taxed. The resources of nature should be made to minister equitably to the whole people. Now the weakest pay the most tax. It should be the strongest and they whom the government most benefits.
A Baltimore Instance
A single tax man of Baltimore, Mr John Salmon, expresses no little surprise that Senator Hanna's candidate for governor of Ohio supposes that the single tax has been a disastrous failure wherever tried. Of Mr Herrick and his notion Mr Salmon writes: This stamps him as being a twisted thinker and a loose observer. The single tax is in operation all over the United States, flowing into the pockets of private individuals, which is what single taxers object to. Here in Baltimore more than in any other section of the country, it is strongly apparent. We have the ground rent system in operation, 90 percent of the real estate being held on leaseholds. The custom is an old English one grafted on the Maryland colonies by Lord Baltimore and his English compeers, and it has grown and flourished like a green bay tree. When one buys a home here it is in nine cases out of ten subject to a ground rent. These ground rents are dealt in as a form of investment the same as a mortgage or any other form of investment; but the point to observe is that they are a single tax, pure and simple, the price paid for the use of the ground per se and for ground only.
Our last assessment separated the value of the land from the value of improvements, and it is done every day in our community. Baltimore has more houses per capita than any city in the country, due to the ground rent system; and a house costing $1,200 to build is very often sold for $800 or $900 in order to create a ground rent ranging from three dollars a front foot to $20 and $40 a front foot. To explain more fully: Bonus buildings are run up on plats of ground split up into lots of 15x90, and a ground rent say of $6 per front foot is put on the lot, making $90 a year ground rent, which the buyer agrees to pay, and in his ground rent is a clause that he will also pay all taxes. This $90 is essentially a single tax. The agreement to pay it is exactly the same kind of a contract that is in vogue in Fairhope, Ala. With this extremely important exception, that whereas we in Baltimore bind ourselves to pay all the taxes, in Fairhope the company or lessor, agrees to pay all taxes. Talk of its being a disastrous failure! Not on your life. Ground rents are as scarce as hen's teeth, and can only be bought on a three percent basis. They command as good a price as government bonds, and it is estimated that $14,000,000 at least is raised in Baltimore alone from this source — nearly twice as much as the city and state taxes amount to. And what is this tax of $14,000,000 paid for? Why, merely for the privilege of living in the city of Baltimore. That's all the payers get for it. And the only kick we've got coming is that the private individuals get that money instead of the city and state.
Note: this has some statistics you might want to know, but it is primarily a post on public policy.
... many Americans are facing the likelihood of not having sufficient income in retirement unless they increase their savings, work longer, or significantly decrease their expenditures in retirement if they hope to make ends meet.
The Employee Benefits Research Institute recently published an analysis of 2010 Survey of Consumer Finances data. It demonstrates how few people have the traditional defined-benefit retirement plans, and the account balances people of various demographics have in their individually-directed retirement accounts.
Here are some statistics worth considering as we think about the effects of a system which permits a few of us to capture a large share of the nation's net worth and a large share of its income, and to unduly influence our elections with advertising which works to conceal and reinforce the structures of that system:
Enough said. Time to circle back to the study's conclusion:
... many Americans are facing the likelihood of not having sufficient income in retirement unless they increase their savings, work longer, or significantly decrease their expenditures in retirement if they hope to make ends meet.
What public policy reforms might one suggest based on these data points?
If you have other suggestions, I'd like to hear them.
But the reason for this blog is that I believe I have found the public policy reform which would accomplish these goals, in collecting the lion's share of the annual rental value of our land, and in collecting for the commons certain other kinds of natural public revenue which our current system permits to accrue to individuals and corporations. I didn't invent it. Henry George is the clearest exponent of it, but not the first or last. Is it perfect? No, but it is vastly superior to what we've got now, and I believe it is consistent with the ideals to which Americans pay the most honor.
Posted on October 27, 2012 at 03:05 PM in a wedge driven through society, common good, cost of living, cui bono?, economic justice, economic rent, ecosystem services, fixing the economy, Henry George, housing affordability, income concentration, income tax, Jefferson, land monopoly capitalism, land value created by community, land value taxation, make land common property, Natural Public Revenue, natural resource revenues, natural resources, Occupy Wall Street's values, one solution for many problems, poverty, poverty machine, poverty's cause, prosperity, public spending, trickle-down economics, unburdening the economy, wage taxes, wages, wealth distribution or concentration, wobegon | Permalink | Comments (0)
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A snippet of a thought: When some of us contribute by paying taxes -- be it into the Social Security system or the federal income tax, or state income tax, or state sales tax -- and others by contributing to our favorite charities, are these equally beneficial to the common good? (We don't give federal income tax deductions for one's contributions to Social Security, which constitute the majority of taxes for most of us. Well, maybe we do, sort of: the standard deduction could be construed as a sort of deduction for SS taxes. I've not played with the numbers.)
When some of us contribute by spending 2 years evangelizing overseas for our chosen religion, and others contribute by spending some years of our lives in military service, at risk to their lives and future well-being, are these equally beneficial to the common good?
And a semi-related thought: it seems likely that the richer candidate's contributions to his chosen charities were in the form of (awesomely) appreciated securities for which his basis was quite low. I've not heard much mention of that. He might have paid income taxes on $1 of "value" when he received it, and gotten a tax deduction on $10 or $100 -- or more -- when he donated it a few years later.
I don't mean this as a partisan thing; I'm not enthralled with either of our current major parties or their candidates, and regard one only as the lesser of two evils. (I think I would find one candidate's Supreme Court appointees more palatable than those of the other, and regard that as the key issue in the federal election.) I'll be voting for various 3rd party candidates for many of the positions on my ballot.
We'd be better off if we tapped into natural public revenue sources -- the rental value of land, the rental value of "location, location, location!", taxes on finite natural resources, such things as the supposedly "public" airwaves, geosynchronous orbits, airport landing rights, water rights -- the value of which today flows into the private pockets of various privileged folks, enriching them without requiring a return of service to the rest of society for that value.
An article in the NYT a few weeks ago described some proposed changes in the zoning for midtown Manhattan.
The accompanying map says, "Around Grand Central Terminal, towers could be up to twice the size now permitted. Development could also take place along the Park Avenue corridor, where towers could be more than 40% larger. Elsewhere in the district, towers could be 20% larger."
But New York’s premier district, the 70-block area around Grand Central Terminal, has lagged, Bloomberg officials say, hampered by zoning rules, decades old, that have limited the height of buildings.
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg wants to overhaul these rules so that buildings in Midtown Manhattan can soar as high as those elsewhere. New towers could eventually cast shadows over landmarks across the area, including St. Patrick’s Cathedral and the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. They could rise above the 59-story MetLife Building and even the 77-story Chrysler Building.
Mr. Bloomberg’s proposal reflects his effort to put his stamp on the city well after his tenure ends in December 2013. Moving swiftly, he wants the City Council to adopt the new zoning, for what is being called Midtown East, by October 2013, with the first permits for new buildings granted four years later.
His administration says that without the changes, the neighborhood around Grand Central will not retain its reputation as “the best business address in the world” because 300 of its roughly 400 buildings are more than 50 years old. These structures also lack the large column-free spaces, tall ceilings and environmental features now sought by corporate tenants.
The rezoning — from 39th Street to 57th Street on the East Side — would make it easier to demolish aging buildings in order to make way for state of-the-art towers.
Without it, “the top Class A tenants who have been attracted to the area in the past would begin to look elsewhere for space,” the administration says in its proposal.
The plan has stirred criticism from some urban planners, community boards and City Council members, who have contended that the mayor has acted hastily. They said they were concerned about the impact of taller towers in an already dense district where buildings, public spaces, streets, sidewalks and subways have long remained unchanged.
Mr. Bloomberg has encouraged high-rise development in industrial neighborhoods, including the Far West Side of Manhattan, the waterfront in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and in Long Island City, Queens. But with the proposal for Midtown, which is working its way through environmental and public reviews, he is tackling the city’s commercial heart.
“Unlocking the development potential in this area will generate historic opportunities for investment in New York City,” Deputy Mayor Robert K. Steel said.
The initiative would, in some cases, allow developers to build towers twice the size now permitted in the Grand Central area. The owner of the 19-story Roosevelt Hotel at Madison and 45th Street could replace it with a 58-story tower under the proposed rules. Current regulations permit no more than 30 floors.
See also http://lvtfan.typepad.com/lvtfans_blog/2008/03/hotel-roosevelt.html , which discusses this in terms of value of land per buildable square foot.
When zoning changes increase the value of land, who should reap the benefit? The current landholder, or the community? What did the landholder do to earn that windfall? Do you think it comes out of thin air? Do you think it is paid him by other rich people?
Or do you recognize that it is part of the structure which enriches a few and impoverishes the many?
It is easy to fix this one. One just has to recognize the structure, and value the land correctly, and start collecting the lion's share of the land rent for the community. If it is more than NYC can put to use -- and it will be -- then apply the excess to reducing our federal taxes on productive effort. Use it to fund Social Security, or Medicare, or universal health insurance, or something else that will benefit the vast majority of us instead of an undeserving tiny privileged minority. Don't throw it in the ocean, and don't leave it in private pockets, be they American or not.
Collect the land rent. Repeat next year, and the next, and the next. Natural Public Revenue.
Posted on October 21, 2012 at 05:36 PM in a Manhattan acre, all benefits go to landholder , better cities, classical economists, commons, corporations, cui bono?, economic rent, financing education, financing health care, financing infrastructure, financing services, financing Social Security, fixing the economy, free lunch, government's role, income concentration, justice of the single tax, land appreciates buildings depreciate, land rent, land value created by community, land value taxation, location, location, location, make land common property, monopoly -- not the game, Natural Public Revenue, Occupy Wall Street's values, one solution for many problems, pay for what you take, payroll tax, popular ignorance of land economics, privilege, special interests, time making wrongs into rights, toll-takers, unburdening the economy, underused land, unearned increment, untaxing production, urban land value, wealth distribution or concentration, windfalls | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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Well, not quite. The film's a little older than I am.
Watched that film last night ... great quote:
Billie: Because when ya steal from the government, you're stealing from yourself, ya dumb ass.
And when we allow others to steal from the commons what rightly belongs to the community, what are we? Some of that theft we all recognize as theft, and other kinds are perfectly legal, even honored, under our current laws. I find the latter even more troubling than the former.
And when neither our economists nor our leaders even SEE it, it is fair to call that a corruption of what their businesses are supposed to be.
Posted on October 13, 2012 at 11:42 AM in absentee ownership, capital gains are land gains, common good, commons, commonwealth, corruption in government, corruption of economics, cui bono?, ecosystem services, government's role, justice of the single tax, land value created by community, landlordism, make land common property, Natural Public Revenue, natural resource revenues, natural resources, neoclassical economists, pay for what you take, poverty's cause, rent-seeking, rich people's useful idiots, socializing risk and privatizing profit, special interests, time making wrongs into rights, toll-takers | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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That any human being should dare to apply to another the epithet "pauper" is, to me, the greatest, the vilest, the most unpardonable crime that could be committed. Each human being by mere birth has a birthright in this earth and all its productions; and if they do not receive it, then it is they who are injured, and it is not the "pauper," oh, inexpressibly wicked word! — it is the well-to-do who are the criminal classes.
— RICHARD JEFFERIES, The Story of My Heart, Chap. X., p. 122.
Posted on October 02, 2012 at 12:56 AM in charity and justice, commons, commonwealth, corruption of economics, Earth for All, economic justice, economic rent, ecosystem services, enclosure, equality, is this socialism?, land appreciates buildings depreciate, land different from capital, land includes, landlordism, make land common property, Natural Public Revenue, natural resource revenues, natural resources, no victims, pay for what you take, poverty machine, poverty's cause, private property in land, privatization, privilege, rich people's useful idiots, socialize, socializing risk and privatizing profit, the right to life, usufruct | Permalink | Comments (0)
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The post below this one, "Mitt Romney's 'Fair Share' " refers to his fair share of the costs of providing public goods.
But perhaps an equally important question is the nature of one's fair share of the output of our economy and the output of the earth. Some of the former output is the result of individual efforts, and one ought to be able to keep that portion. But at the same time we must recognize how much comes from the division of labor, from drawing down on the non-infinite supply of non-renewable natural resources on which all of us today must depend and on which future generations of human beings must rely. Those who draw down more than their legitimate share owe something to the rest of the community. Our wealthiest tend, we suspect, to use many, many times their legitimate share, and the median American likely draws far more than their share, when one considers the planet as a whole.
Perhaps "legitimate" is not the right word here. It refers to what is permissible under current law. (The word gets misused a lot -- see the discussion on "legitimate rape," which seemed to be about the circumstances under which a woman has a right to make a specific very personal, decision, and when it is considered by some to not be left to her and is the province of government, legislators or others.)
What is one's "fair share" of natural resources? America is using a hugely disproportionate share of the world's resources. Are we entitled to it because we're somehow "exceptional"? Because "our" God is somehow better than other nation's Gods? Or do we genuinely believe that all people are created equal, and intend to live our lives accordingly?
Our output of greenhouse gases exceeds our share of the world's population. This is not without consequences for the world, and for peace on earth.
We ought to be re-examining our incentives so that they move us in the direction we ought to be going, which is, to my mind, using less. We can build transportation infrastructure which will permit many more of us to move around with less impact on the environment. We can fund that through collecting the increases in land value that infrastructure creates. We can correct the incentives which cause us to use today's inferior technologies to extract natural resources from the earth in ways which damage the environment, as if ours was the final generation, or the only one worth serious consideration.
Better incentives could reduce, eliminate, even reverse urban sprawl. I refer specifically to land value taxation as a replacement for the existing property tax, particularly in places where assessments are for one reason or another not consistent with current property values -- e.g., California and Florida, parts of Delaware and Pennsylvania which currently use assessments from the 1970s, and many other places where assessments are simply out of whack with current reality!) We should be replacing sales taxes, wage taxes, building taxes with taxes on land value and on natural resources. Most of that value is flowing generously into private or corporate pockets, to our detriment. It concentrates wealth, income, and, of course, political power.
Collecting the rent, instead of leaving the lion's share of it to be pocketed by the rent-seekers, would go a long way to making our society and our economy healthier. Eliminating the privilege of privatizing that which in a wisely designed society would be our common treasure would make our society a better place in which to live, a place in which all could thrive and prosper without victimizing their fellow human beings.
Posted on September 04, 2012 at 11:30 AM in all benefits go to landholder , America in the world, as much and as good, common good, commons, commonwealth, corporations, cui bono?, Earth for All, economic justice, economic rent, ecosystem services, environment, equal freedom, equal opportunity, equality, fruits of one's labors, greenhouse gases, incentive taxation, incentives, income concentration, infrastructure, inter-generational equity, land includes, land rent, land value created by community, land value taxation, Natural Public Revenue, natural resource revenues, natural resources, oil, pay for what you take, payroll tax, popular ignorance of land economics, privatization, privilege, property tax, property tax reform, Proposition 13, prosperity, special interests, sprawl, tax reform, toll-takers, unburdening the economy, unearned income, untaxing buildings, untaxing production, user fees, wealth distribution or concentration | Permalink | Comments (0)
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A major theme of the underlying political debate in the United States is the role of the state and the need for collective action. The private sector, while central in a modern economy, cannot ensure its success alone. For example, the financial crisis that began in 2008 demonstrated the need for adequate regulation.
Moreover, beyond effective regulation (including ensuring a level playing field for competition), modern economies are founded on technological innovation, which in turn presupposes basic research funded by government. This is an example of a public good – things from which we all benefit, but that would be undersupplied (or not supplied at all) were we to rely on the private sector.
Conservative politicians in the US underestimate the importance of publicly provided education, technology, and infrastructure. Economies in which government provides these public goods perform far better than those in which it does not.
But public goods must be paid for, and it is imperative that everyone pays their fair share. While there may be disagreement about what that entails, those at the top of the income distribution who pay 15% of their reported income (money accruing in tax shelters in the Cayman Islands and other tax havens may not be reported to US authorities) clearly are not paying their fair share. ...
I have to disagree with the second sentence of this next paragraph. And I think Stiglitz knows better, if he stops to think about it:
Democracies rely on a spirit of trust and cooperation in paying taxes. If every individual devoted as much energy and resources as the rich do to avoiding their fair share of taxes, the tax system either would collapse, or would have to be replaced by a far more intrusive and coercive scheme. Both alternatives are unacceptable.
The billionaire investor Warren Buffett argues that he should pay only the taxes that he must, but that there is something fundamentally wrong with a system that taxes his income at a lower rate than his secretary is required to pay. He is right. Romney might be forgiven were he to take a similar position. Indeed, it might be a Nixon-in-China moment: a wealthy politician at the pinnacle of power advocating higher taxes for the rich could change the course of history.
But Romney has not chosen to do so. He evidently does not recognize that a system that taxes speculation at a lower rate than hard work distorts the economy. Indeed, much of the money that accrues to those at the top is what economists call rents, which arise not from increasing the size of the economic pie, but from grabbing a larger slice of the existing pie.
Those at the top include a disproportionate number of monopolists who increase their income by restricting production and engaging in anti-competitive practices; CEOs who exploit deficiencies in corporate-governance laws to grab a larger share of corporate revenues for themselves (leaving less for workers); and bankers who have engaged in predatory lending and abusive credit-card practices (often targeting poor and middle-class households). It is perhaps no accident that rent-seeking and inequality have increased as top tax rates have fallen, regulations have been eviscerated, and enforcement of existing rules has been weakened: the opportunity and returns from rent-seeking have increased.
Today, a deficiency of aggregate demand afflicts almost all advanced countries, leading to high unemployment, lower wages, greater inequality, and – coming full, vicious circle – constrained consumption. There is now a growing recognition of the link between inequality and economic instability and weakness.
There is another vicious circle: Economic inequality translates into political inequality, which in turn reinforces the former, including through a tax system that allows people like Romney – who insists that he has been subject to an income-tax rate of “at least 13%” for the last ten years – not to pay their fair share. The resulting economic inequality – a result of politics as much as market forces – contributes to today’s overall economic weakness.
Posted on September 04, 2012 at 09:58 AM in common good, commons, cui bono?, economic rent, ecosystem services, financing education, financing health care, financing infrastructure, financing services, financing Social Security, FIRE sector, fixing the economy, government's role, highest salaries, income concentration, infrastructure, land includes, land rent, land value created by community, money in elections, Natural Public Revenue, natural resource revenues, natural resources, political economy, popular ignorance of land economics, privatization, privilege, public spending, reaping what others sow, rent, defined, rent-seeking, socializing risk and privatizing profit, special interests, Stiglitz, tax reform, time making wrongs into rights, toll-takers, unearned income, urban land value, wealth distribution or concentration | Permalink | Comments (0)
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As I listen to the 2012 party platforms, I am reminded of what they ought to be focused on, embodied pretty well in this platform from 1886-87.
PLATFORM OF THE UNITED PARTY.
Adopted at Syracuse August 19, 1887.
We, the delegates of the united labor party of New York, in state convention assembled, hereby reassert, as the fundamental platform of the party, and the basis on which we ask the co-operation of citizens of other states, the following declaration or principles adopted on September 23, 1886, by the convention of trade and labor associations of the city of New York, that resulted in the formation of the united labor party.
"Holding that the corruptions of government and the impoverishment of labor result from neglect of the self-evident truths proclaimed by the founders of this republic that all men are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with unalienable rights, we aim at the abolition of a system which compels men to pay their fellow creatures for the use of God’s gifts to all, and permits monopolizers to deprive labor of natural opportunities for employment, thus filling the land with tramps and paupers and bringing about an unnatural competition which tends to reduce wages to starvation rates and to make the wealth producer the industrial slave of those who grow rich by his toil.
'“Holding, moreover, that the advantages arising from social growth and improvement belong to society at large, we aim at the abolition of the system which makes such beneficent inventions as the railroad and telegraph a means for the oppression of the people and the aggrandizement of an aristocracy of wealth and power. We declare the true purpose of government to be the maintenance of that sacred right of property which gives to every one opportunity to employ his labor, and security that he shall enjoy its fruits; to prevent the strong from oppressing the weak, and the unscrupulous from robbing the honest; and to do for the equal benefit of all such things as can be better done by organized society than by individuals; and we aim at the abolition of all laws which give to any class of citizens advantages, either judicial, financial, industrial or political, that are not equally shared by all others."
We call upon all who seek the emancipation of labor, and who would make the American union and its component states democratic commonwealths of really free and independent citizens, to ignore all minor differences and join with us in organizing a great national party on this broad platform of natural rights and equal justice. We do not aim at securing any forced equality in the distribution of wealth. We do not propose that the state shall attempt to control production, conduct distribution, or in any wise interfere with the freedom of the individual to use his labor or capital in any way that may seem proper to him and that will not interfere with the equal rights of others. Nor do we propose that the state shall take possession of land and either work it or rent it out. What we propose is not the disturbing of any man in his holding or title, but by abolishing all taxes on industry or its products, to leave to the producer the full fruits of his exertion and by the taxation of land values, exclusive or improvements, to devote to the common use and benefit those values, which, arising not from the exertion of the individual, but from the growth of society, belong justly to the community as a whole. This increased taxation of land, not according to its area, but according to its value, must, while relieving the working farmer and small homestead owner of the undue burdens now imposed upon them, make it unprofitable to hold land for speculation, and thus throw open abundant opportunities for the employment of labor and the building up of homes.
While thus simplifying government by doing away with the horde of officials required by the present system of taxation and with its incentives to fraud and corruption, we would further promote the common weal and further secure the equal rights of all, by placing under public control such agencies as are in their nature monopolies: We would have our municipalities supply their inhabitants with water, light and heat; we would have the general government issue all money, without the intervention of banks; we would add a postal telegraph system and postal savings banks to the postal service, and would assume public control and ownership of those iron roads which have become the highways of modern commerce.
While declaring the foregoing to be the fundamental principles and aims of the united labor party, and while conscious that no reform can give effectual and permanent relief to labor that does not involve the legal recognition of equal rights, to natural opportunities, we nevertheless, as measures of relief from some of the evil effects of ignoring those rights, favor such legislation as may tend to reduce the hours of labor, to prevent the employment of children of tender years, to avoid the competition of convict labor with honest industry, to secure the sanitary inspection of tenements, factories and mines, and to put an end to the abuse of conspiracy laws.
We desire also to so simplify the procedure of our courts and diminish the expense of legal proceedings, that the poor may be placed on an equality with the rich and the long delays winch now result in scandalous miscarriages of justice may be prevented.
And since the ballot is the only means by which in our Republic the redress of political and social grievances is to besought, we especially and emphatically declare for the adoption of what is known as the “Australian system of voting,” an order that the effectual secrecy of the ballot and the relief of candidates for public office from the heavy expenses now imposed upon them, may prevent bribery and intimidation, do away with practical discriminations in favor of the rich and unscrupulous, and lessen the pernicious influence of money in politics.
In support or these aims we solicit the co-operation of all patriotic citizens who, sick of the degradation of politics, desire by constitutional methods to establish justice, to preserve liberty, to extend the spirit of fraternity, and to elevate humanity.
Posted on August 22, 2012 at 12:36 PM in corruption in government, economic justice, employment, ending poverty, equal freedom, equal opportunity, equality, facilitating commerce, fixing the economy, fruits of one's labors, government's role, land speculation, land value created by community, monopoly -- not the game, municipal ownership of utilities, natural monopolies, Natural Public Revenue, Occupy Wall Street's values, one solution for many problems, poverty, poverty's cause, private property in land, privatization, privilege, prosperity, reaping what others sow, sufficiency of land rent, tax reform, technological advances, The Standard, toll-takers, unearned increment, unemployment and underemployment, untaxing buildings, untaxing production, wages, wages driven down | Permalink | Comments (0)
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Let it be observed that when land is taxed, no man is taxed; for the land produces, according to the law of the Creator, more than the value of the labor expended on it, and on this account men are willing to pay a rent for land.
— PATRICK EDWARD DOVE, Theory of Human Progression (1850), Chap. I., Sec. 2, p. 44
(American Edition of 1895).
Posted on August 05, 2012 at 06:56 PM in direct taxation, Earth for All, economic rent, fixing the economy, free land, justice of the single tax, land rent, land value taxation, location, location, location, Natural Public Revenue, natural resource revenues, no victims, pay for what you take, rent, defined, rent-seeking, unburdening the economy, unearned increment | Permalink | Comments (0)
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The ordinary progress of a society which increases in wealth is at all times to augment the incomes of landlords — to give them both a greater amount and a greater proportion of the wealth of the community, independently of any trouble or outlay incurred by themselves. They grow richer as it were in their sleep, without working, risking or economizing. What claims have they, on the general principles of social justice, to this accession of riches?
— JOHN STUART MILL, Principles of Political Economy, Book V., Chap. 2, Sec. 5
Posted on July 31, 2012 at 12:07 AM in absentee ownership, all benefits go to landholder , cui bono?, Earth for All, economic rent, FIRE sector, income concentration, justice of the single tax, land appreciates buildings depreciate, land rent, land share of real estate value, land value created by community, landed gentry, landlordism, location, location, location, Natural Public Revenue, Occupy Wall Street's values, poverty machine, private property in land, privatization, privilege, reaping what others sow, rent-seeking, socializing risk and privatizing profit, technological advances, trickle-down economics, urban land value, wages driven down, wealth distribution or concentration | Permalink | Comments (0)
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When I came across this article, 111 years old, I thought of the Ipswich, Massachusetts, trust established in 1650 by the gift of a fine 32-acre piece of land by a forward-thinking resident. His stated intention was that the land be kept by the town, forever, for the benefit of the public schools. Alas, it was poorly managed for a number of years, perhaps decades, and this appears to have been transformed, remarkably, into an excuse for the eager TENANTS to buy the land (and at less than half what I calculate it to be worth -- click on the "Little Neck Feoffees of Ipswich" link at left to see all my posts on the topic).
The tradition of school lands has served many communities very well. Part of Chicago was rented out to tenants and the revenues used to fund the city's schools.
But some fast-talkers appear to have convinced the powers-that-be in Ipswich, Mass., (including, remarkably, some judges and perhaps the state A.G.!) that "forever" is just temporary, and other investments are superior to the revenue from land and natural resources for funding public spending. (Not!) And the land will be there forever; a few decades of poor management is, in the long run, a triviality; the same would not be true of any of the substitute investments the Feoffees and their highly-compensated investment advisors will come up with.
(The first-quoted writer was the president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.)
Star, Putanga 7209, 21 July 1901, Page 7
The Land and the People
The Lands Sub-Committee submitted the following report at the last annual meeting of the Progressive Liberal Association: --
General Francis Walker, in "First Lessons in Political Economy," says: -- "It certainly is true that any increase in the rental value or selling value of land is due, not to the exertions and sacrifices of the owners of the land, but to the exertions and sacrifices of the community. It certainly is true that economic rent tends to increase with the growth of wealth and population, and that thus a larger and larger share of the products of industry tends to pass into the hands of the owners of land, not because they have done more for society, but because society has greater need of that which they control."
On the same subject Thorold Rogers has expressed himself thus: -- Every permanent improvement, every railway and road, every bettering of the general condition of society, every facility given for production, every stimulus applied to consumption, raises rent. The land owner sleeps, but thrives."
The observant thinking man must admit that the above opinions are borne out by facts, but the importance to the community of the nationalisation of the land is unfortunately realised by comparatively few. If people would endeavour to understand its importance, there is little doubt that the majority would be forced to the conclusion that the private ownership of land is beyond question decidedly against the best interests of the State.
Cardinal Manning has said: -- "The land question means hunger, thirst, nakedness, notice to quit, labour spent in vain, the toil of years seized upon, the breaking up of homes, the misery, sicknesses, deaths of parents, children, wives, the despair and wildness which spring up in the hearts of the poor, when legal force, like a sharp harrow goes over the most sensitive and vital right of mankind. All this is contained in the land question." The opinion of the late Cardinal, expressed in such a forcible language, should at the very least induce people to study this question thoroughly. As a proof of its importance many object lessons are to be found -- as bearing upon it from a municipal point of view two may be mentioned. Doncaster in Yorkshire has no borough rate. Why? Because it is the owner of certain remunerative land; and Durban, in South Africa, for a rate of 1½d in the £ obtains the usual municipal services such as we possess in Christchurch, and in addition enjoys several others which we much desire to have. The difference is because in Durban its founders made reserve round the town which have not been alienated and have so increased in value that the rentals therefrom very nearly provide for all municipal requirements. The founders of Canterbury made a similar wise provision for Christchurch, but in an evil day the Provincial Council, when it took over the affairs of the Canterbury Association, sold the city's inheritance for a mess of pottage. It will doubtless be interesting to many to lean something of the history of the
CHRISTCHURCH TOWN RESERVES.
When constitutional government was established in Canterbury the Provincial Government took over the property of the Canterbury Association, including the town reserves of Christchurch and Hagley Park, the total area of these two being 897 acres, which, five years previoiusly, had been considered of the value of £2700. The Association had got into debt to the extent of nearly £29,000, which the Provincial Government paid with money raised on debentures, and proceeded to sell the reserves situated inside the belts. To prevent any misunderstanding as to the then estimated value of these town reserves, it is desirable to state that for the £29,000 mentioned the Association transferred to the Provincial Government all the property it possessed in Canterbury, which included other reserves than those in Christchurch, also plant, tools, survey maps and field books, which must have been value for a considerable portion of the sum named. By the deed poll of the Association these lands were to be held in trust for the purposes for which they were reserved, but a special Act of the Assembly was obtained to permit of their alienation. It has been truly said that the price of liberty is eternal vigilance. It is equally true with regard to reserves of land made for the benefit of the public; the people (every individual) should be ever on guard and watchful that no tampering with public reserves be allowed.
At the present day it is particularly interesting to consider what would now be the position of Christchurch if the reserves inside the belts had not been sold. What income would now be derivable therefrom?
Excluding twelve acres which were set apart by the Provincial Council as endowments for various religious bodies, the frontages of the reserves on the main streets of the city, as originally laid out in the extensions of these streets to the belts, amount to about 92,400 ft, after deducting 1¼ chains at each corner to avoid reckoning double frontages at corners. At 4s per foot frontage it would be £23,100. Bearing in mind that more than half the frontages have a depth of 5½ chains, it is estimated that if these lands were now let on building leases they would average a return of not less than 4s per foot, possibly more, and it is probably safe to say that the income therefrom would be £20,000 a year.
The statement of accounts of the City Treasurer shows that for the year ending March 31, 1901, the rates assessed amounted to £28,526 --
|General rate (omitting shillings and pence)||13,680
|Special drainage rate
obtained by a total assessment of 2s 7½d in the pound, whereas, had the town reserves not been alienated, all the municipal services rendered would probably have been obtained for a modest rate of less than 9d. in the pound.
This is surely an object lesson which should be laid to heart by every inhabitant of the colony, as well as by the citizens of Christchurch, and should demonstrate how very desirable it is in the interests of the people as a community, that all land should be owned by the community, seeing that increased values of land are derived from the exertions and sacrifices of society. It will serve to show what enormous sums society thus pays to individuals to state that it is estimated that the value of land in London is increasing at the rate of 7½ millions annually; under the system of private ownership of land this large sum is accruing yearly in London alone to private individuals, and the public who must use the land, necessarily pay interest on that sum.
The Progressive Liberal Association earnestly commends these facts to the consideration of the people of New Zealand in the hope that they will insist upon a stoppage being put to the sale of Crown lands; and as regards the granting of leases in perpetuity, which, in parting with the possession for 999 years at a rental based on the present value, hands over to individuals the unearned increment for that unconscionably long period, it is hoped that a mandate will go forth from the electors of the colony insisting upon a periodical revaluation of the unimproved value. When these have been accomplished, there will be the question of the nationalisation of all the lands in the colony to be dealt with.
"That which was created for the use of all, the use of which is absolutely necessary for the existence of every individual, should be owned and controlled for the benefit of all. The private control of land is dead against the common welfare. Justice demands this, and what justice demands must sooner or later be conceded.
Christchurch, July 29, 1901
Posted on July 29, 2012 at 09:35 AM in all benefits go to landholder , cui bono?, economic rent, financing education, land rent, land value created by community, Little Neck Feoffees of Ipswich, location, location, location, Natural Public Revenue, popular ignorance of land economics, privatization, rent-seeking, socializing risk and privatizing profit, special interests, time making wrongs into rights | Permalink | Comments (0)
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The profit of the earth is for all.
— Ecclesiastes, V., 9.
Posted on July 29, 2012 at 12:56 AM in Earth for All, economic rent, land value created by community, make land common property, Natural Public Revenue, private property in land, privatization, privilege, rent-seeking, sufficiency of land rent, time making wrongs into rights, unearned increment | Permalink | Comments (0)
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THE SINGLE TAX.
Mr. Henry George first formulated this idea, which has grown steadily in favor, in 1879. Single-tax men assert as a fundamental principle that all men are equally entitled to the use of the earth; therefore, no one should be allowed to hold valuable land without paying to the community the value of the privilege. They hold that this is the only rightful source of public revenue, and they would therefore abolish all taxation - local, state and national - except a tax upon the rental value of land exclusive of its improvements, the revenue thus raised to be divided among local, state and general governments, as the revenue from certain direct taxes is now divided between local and state governments.
The single tax would not fall on all land, but only on valuable land, and on that in proportion to its value. It would thus be a tax, not on use or improvements, but on ownership of land, taking what would otherwise go to the landlord as owner.
In accordance with the principle that all men are equally entitled to the use of the earth, they would solve the transportation problem by public ownership and control of all highways, including the roadbeds of railroads, leaving their use equally free to all.
The single-tax system would, they claim, dispense with a horde of tax-gatherers, simplify government, and greatly reduce its cost; give us with all the world that absolute free trade which now exists between the States of the Union: abolish all taxes on private issues of money; take the weight of taxation from agricultural districts, where land has little or no value apart from improvements, and put it upon valuable land, such as city lots and mineral deposits. It would call upon men to contribute for public expenses in proportion to the natural opportunities they monopolize, and make it unprofitable for speculators to hold land unused or only partly used, thus opening to labor unlimited fields of employment, solving the labor problem and abolishing involuntary poverty.
The Handy Cyclopedia of Things Worth Knowing: A Manual of Ready Reference
Joseph Triemens, 1911
Posted on July 27, 2012 at 09:25 AM in Earth for All, free trade, jobs, land speculation, monopoly -- not the game, municipal ownership of utilities, Natural Public Revenue, pay for what you take, privilege, public ownership of utilities, single tax, small government, The End of Poverty?, underused land, unemployment and underemployment, untaxing buildings, untaxing production | Permalink | Comments (0)
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It is not proposed to confiscate any value that has been created by human industry. This would be robbery. But when the community creates wealth it is entitled to it as much as the individual is to the wealth he creates.
Has no one in California figured out that when the calf is deprived of mother's milk, starvation is inevitable?
It has taken 34 years, but it is coming about.
Feeding calves grain, or seaweed, or sunflower seeds isn't as smart as letting it consume its natural food.
Taxing wages, sales and buildings isn't as smart as collecting the lion's share -- calf's share, if you will -- of the land rent for public purposes.
Proposition 13 was designed to make sure that the cows' milk was kept for the Irvines, the big landowners, the commercial property owners, and the longtime homeowners, while providing a diminishing fifth of it to the calf and supplementing with grain, seaweed and sunflower seeds.
The calf's digestive system has blown up because it was deprived of its proper food, and "nourished" with stolen fake food.
Posted on July 14, 2012 at 01:56 PM in absentee ownership, all benefits go to landholder , better cities, boom-bust cycles, bubble, connect the dots, cost of living, cui bono?, direct taxation, fixing the economy, government's role, indirect taxation, land rent, land speculation, land value created by community, land value taxation, little people pay taxes, Natural Public Revenue, one solution for many problems, paying twice, popular ignorance of land economics, privatization, privilege, Proposition 13, reaping what others sow, rent-seeking, sufficiency of land rent, tax reform, teach your children well | Permalink | Comments (0)
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Over dinner tonight, Milton Friedman's name came up, and I commented that in about 1978 and again in 2006, a few weeks before his death, Milton Friedman called land value taxation the "least bad" tax, but never lifted a finger in the intervening years to help promote it.
The carbon tax is another good, and wise, and just, tax.
How many economists will put their shoulder to getting it enacted?
How many will simply hang out in their ivory towers?
Why on earth should the privilege to pollute OUR air be be given away for free, or for less than the social costs it imposes on us? Who benefits from such a system?
Posted on July 05, 2012 at 09:46 PM in commons, cui bono?, ecosystem services, environment, externalities, free lunch, greenhouse gases, incentive taxation, incentives, Natural Public Revenue, pay for what you take, pollution, privilege, special interests, tax reform, taxation, teach your children well, time making wrongs into rights, user fees | Permalink | Comments (0)
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"High rent is the best manure ever land got."
This quote is attributed to the Irish landlords, in an 1835 piece by Thomas Ainge Devyr entitled "Natural Rights: A Pamphlet for the People."
The statement bears thinking about: when private landlords collect high rents, they force their tenants to work quite hard -- keep in mind that they still have to pay taxes on various things in order to support local spending -- while the landlord has provided them NOTHING that he has made (and nothing he has bought from the fellow who made it, either).
But at the same time, it is worth considering what happens when the community collects reasonably high rents on the land, particularly urban land. When the community collects high rent, there are no vacant lots. There are relatively few underused lots. There is housing for all who want it. All this economic activity creates jobs -- for those who would design, those who would build, those who would maintain, those who would improve, those who would expand, those who would protect. All those workers' needs and spending create more jobs. Wages rise, as jobs chase workers.
So the phrase is not simply an 18th century rural one, but highly relevant in 21st century U.S. cities, towns and rural areas. When the community collects the land rent and recycles it to serve local needs -- schools, parks, well-maintained roads, public transportation systems, police, ambulance, fire protection, courts -- communities become good places to live. When we permit private landlords (be they individual or corporate, universities or trusts) to pocket those funds -- and perhaps "invest" the excess in acquiring more land on which to pocket the rent, those good things, if they happen at all, must be financed by high taxes on productive activity.
One is a virtuous circle; the other a vicious one. Which one is consistent with our ideals? If Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness are for ALL of us, then I think we have to opt for the virtuous circle.
Posted on July 04, 2012 at 12:34 PM in a Manhattan acre, all benefits go to landholder , better cities, cui bono?, direct taxation, economic rent, equal freedom, equal opportunity, equality, facilitating commerce, financing education, financing infrastructure, financing services, fixing the economy, free land, infrastructure, is this socialism?, land value created by community, land value taxation, location, location, location, make land common property, Natural Public Revenue, paying twice, popular ignorance of land economics, population growth, private property in land, public spending, rent, defined, rent-seeking, sharecropping, slavery, sprawl, underused land, unemployment and underemployment, untaxing buildings, untaxing production, urban land value | Permalink | Comments (0)
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"The rent of land and government expenses are both caused by population. Let one pay the other."
--Henry Chase, M. D.
Posted on June 28, 2012 at 06:45 PM in better cities, direct taxation, economic rent, financing education, financing infrastructure, financing services, fixing the economy, government's role, immigration, justice of the single tax, land rent, land value created by community, land value taxation, location, location, location, Natural Public Revenue, one solution for many problems, population, population growth, public spending, rent, defined, socializing risk and privatizing profit, tax reform, taxation, teach your children well, urban land value | Permalink | Comments (0)
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Petitions asking for a referendum vote upon the question of reducing gradually the tax rate upon buildings in New York to one-half the tax rate upon land, through five consecutive reductions in as many years, were signed yesterday by several thousand persons at a mass-meeting held in Union Square under the auspices of the New York Congestion Committee. The meeting was announced as a public protest for lower rents.
Benjamin Clark Marsh, Executive Secretary of the Committee on Congestion of Population in New York, was Chairman. Dr. John Haynes Holmes of the Church of the Messiah said that the Legislature "in the wisdom of the Big Sachem at Fourteenth Street has decreed that the people are not fit to register their judgment as to this bill. I, for one, desire to protest against the boss or set of bosses who presume to forbid the people to express their will on any question."
Frederick Leubuscher, representing the New York State League of Savings and Loan Association, said:
The purpose of the law was explained in a letter from Assemblyman Michael Schaap, who introduced the Salant-Schaap bill in the lower House of the State Legislature.
The Rev. Alexander Irvine said that one family out of every 150 in New York City was evicted for non-payment of rent, because of the unjust taxation of improved property as contrasted with vacant land. Only 3% of the residents of the city own land, the speaker asserted.
John J. Hopper, Chairman of the New York State Independence League, said:
Frederick C. Howe, Director of the People's Institute, said:
C. N. Sheehan of the Twenty-eighth Assembly District Board of Trade, Brooklyn, and J. P. Coughlin of the Central Labor Union of Brooklyn also spoke.
Posted on June 27, 2012 at 01:10 PM in a Manhattan acre, all benefits go to landholder , capital gains are land gains, capitalization, commonwealth, cost of living, cui bono?, economic rent, financing education, financing infrastructure, financing services, fixing the economy, housing affordability, incentive taxation, land appreciates buildings depreciate, land monopoly capitalism, land rent, land speculation, land value created by community, land value taxation, landlordism, Natural Public Revenue, NYS Property Tax Reform, population growth, property tax, property tax reform, reaping what others sow, special interests, supply and demand, tax reform, taxation, toll-takers, underused land | Permalink | Comments (0)
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Posted on Sat, Jun 16, 2012, 9:31 am by Michael Kinsley
The current debate about rich and poor — the 1 percent versus the 99 percent — is a bit misleading because the evidence usually is data about income, not wealth. Looking at wealth would make the comparison even starker.
There are some nice deals to be had in the income tax code these days, but most wealth accumulates and passes from generation to generation with no tax at all. Warren Buffett (who has selflessly taken on the role of all-purpose tape measure in these matters) is worth $45 billion or so. Do you think that all of that $45 billion, or even most of it, has appeared on any Form 1040 on its way to the cookie jar? Even at the special, low 15 percent rate the U.S. insanely confers on capital gains?
Unlikely. Much of that $45 billion is unrealized capital gains — increases in the value of Buffett’s stock that have never been cashed in, and therefore have never been taxed. I’m not saying that unrealized capital gains should be taxed (although it’s a thought). I’m just noting that you only pay income tax when an investment is liquidated, and very wealthy people don’t have to liquidate until they actually need to spend the money.
For most of the very rich, this time is never. When you die, any unrealized capital gains disappear for tax purposes. Your heirs, if and when they sell, pay taxes only on any increase in value since they got the money. And there is no estate tax at the moment on estates of $5.12 million or less.
The Federal Reserve released new numbers on Monday. Unsurprisingly, wealth distribution is even more skewed than income distribution. In 2010, the median family had assets (including their house but subtracting their mortgage) of $77,300. The top 10 percent had almost $1.2 million, or more than 15 times as much.
But the headlines — and rightly so — went to the dismal fact that household wealth has been sinking for all categories of Americans. As I said, the net worth of the median family in 2010 was $77,300. In 2007, the net worth of the median family was $126,400. That’s a drop of almost 40 percent in just three years. (All these numbers are corrected for inflation.)
Characteristically taking the longer view, the New York Times led with the fact that household savings were back to where they had been in the early 1990s, “erasing almost two decades of accumulated prosperity.”
Most of the lost household net worth of recent years is due to the drop in housing prices. This is comforting, in a way, because the price of land and things built on land — and what, ultimately, is not? — are different from the price of other goods and services.
Let me tell you about my favorite economist, an indulgence I allow myself every couple of decades. (The last time was 1989, pre-hyperlink, unfortunately.) He was an American named Henry George, who died in 1897 at the age of 58. If you took economics in college, there might have been one sentence about him in your textbook. He once ran for mayor of New York. (Fancy that. He lost.)
George would look at our present situation and ask: In what sense were we richer three or four years ago, when the exact same housing stock sold for up to twice as much? In what sense are we poorer now? Land is special because, as Realtors like to remind us, they aren’t making any more of it. This means that you can get rich owning land without doing anything productive with it.
(Henry George: “You may sit down and smoke your pipe; you may lie around like the lazzaroni of Naples or the leperos of Mexico; you may go up in a balloon, or down a hole in the ground. …”) The natural increase in population will do the trick.
This is also true, to varying degrees, of other investments. It is true to some extent of any product that can’t be easily and quickly reproduced. It is somewhat true of houses, once they are built. (As Tolstoy didn’t write, “Cans of tuna fish are all alike, but every house is a house in its own way.”) But it is especially true of land.
My Bloomberg View colleague Clive Crook claimed recently to be a “supply-side liberal.” So was Henry George. He was as concerned about income equality as the most bleeding-heart liberal and as concerned about economic growth as the noisiest supply-side conservative.
George’s solution to everything was to eliminate all taxes on working, saving and investing, and to put the entire tax burden on unproductive land, which can’t escape the tax by moving. There are problems with this idea. But it’s provocative.
I don’t have room to do George justice, but take a look at his masterwork, “Progress and Poverty.” For an economics tract, it’s actually a fun read. And, yes, you’re responsible for it on the final exam.
(Michael Kinsley is a Bloomberg View columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.)
Posted on June 17, 2012 at 06:06 PM in a wedge driven through society, capital gains are land gains, fixing the economy, Henry George, income concentration, Natural Public Revenue, Occupy Wall Street's values, one solution for many problems, SCF data, Survey of Consumer Finances data, Tolstoy, untaxing production, wealth distribution or concentration | Permalink | Comments (0)
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I came across an excellent site at http://www.resourcerentalsrevenue.org, and thought their FAQ page particularly worth sharing. The links will take you to answers.
We don't HAVE to burden ourselves and our economy with taxes which throw a wet blanket on jobs, on production, on homes. There is a better way to finance our common spending!
The following list comprises the most commonly asked questions about the concept of making land and resource rentals the source of revenue for government. As you continue this study, you will see the value from giving resources the respect they deserve and the benefits resulting from the freeing of labour, production and exchange from taxation. If you have any questions which are not covered here, or observations you would like to put to our panel, please feel free to do so by sending your question as an e-mail query and we will attempt to respond.
The inclusion of land and resources in the economic equation is central to any solution for revenue raising. A taxation solution which does not consider the nature of taxation itself and allows the continuing private monopolisation of community land and resources fails to recognise the essential role land plays in the economic equation and will not work. Land is the only element in the economic equation which is both fixed and finite. It can be monopolised. It is a unique class of asset which must be treated accordingly. If we were to wrest not the land itself, but its unimproved value from private monopolies and return the value to the community — whose very presence creates it — then we would have reduced many problems in one stroke with great benefit to production, to the environment and to the cause of individual freedom and justice.
On the subject of land and resource rents, Henry George said this:
Posted on June 13, 2012 at 02:44 PM in a Manhattan acre, better cities, capital gains are land gains, common good, commonwealth, connect the dots, Earth for All, equal freedom, equal opportunity, equality, facilitating commerce, financing education, financing health care, financing infrastructure, financing services, fixing the economy, government's role, Henry George, housing affordability, justice of the single tax, land speculation, land value created by community, land value taxation, make land common property, monopoly -- not the game, natural monopolies, Natural Public Revenue, natural resource revenues, natural resources, one solution for many problems, opportunity, pay for what you take, popular ignorance of land economics, private property in land, privatization, privilege, property rights, public spending, sales taxes are wrong, special interests, sufficiency of land rent, tax reform, taxation, toll-takers, unearned income, unearned increment, unemployment and underemployment, untaxing buildings, untaxing production, user fees | Permalink | Comments (0)
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This excerpt makes some important points about a number of topics this blog focuses on:
I look forward to reading the book. I'll be curious to see whether Professor Stiglitz gets into what we can do via reforming our tax system to reduce the amount of rent that is available for private and corporate rent-seekers. Treat rent as our COMMON asset... Natural Public Revenue!! Don't leave it there for corporations to privatize.
It is no accident that the periods in which the broadest cross sections of Americans have reported higher net incomes — when inequality has been reduced, partly as a result of progressive taxation — have been the periods in which the U.S. economy has grown the fastest. It is likewise no accident that the current recession, like the Great Depression, was preceded by large increases in inequality. When too much money is concentrated at the top of society, spending by the average American is necessarily reduced — or at least it will be in the absence of some artificial prop. Moving money from the bottom to the top lowers consumption because higher-income individuals consume, as a fraction of their income, less than lower-income individuals do.
In our imaginations, it doesn’t always seem as if this is the case, because spending by the wealthy is so conspicuous. Just look at the color photographs in the back pages of the weekend Wall Street Journal of houses for sale. But the phenomenon makes sense when you do the math. Consider someone like Mitt Romney, whose income in 2010 was $21.7 million. Even if Romney chose to live a much more indulgent lifestyle, he would spend only a fraction of that sum in a typical year to support himself and his wife in their several homes. But take the same amount of money and divide it among 500 people — say, in the form of jobs paying $43,400 apiece — and you’ll find that almost all of the money gets spent.
The relationship is straightforward and ironclad: as more money becomes concentrated at the top, aggregate demand goes into a decline. Unless something else happens by way of intervention, total demand in the economy will be less than what the economy is capable of supplying — and that means that there will be growing unemployment, which will dampen demand even further. In the 1990s that “something else” was the tech bubble. In the first decade of the 21st century, it was the housing bubble. Today, the only recourse, amid deep recession, is government spending — which is exactly what those at the top are now hoping to curb.
The “Rent Seeking” Problem
Here I need to resort to a bit of economic jargon. The word “rent” was originally used, and still is, to describe what someone received for the use of a piece of his land — it’s the return obtained by virtue of ownership, and not because of anything one actually does or produces. This stands in contrast to “wages,” for example, which connotes compensation for the labor that workers provide. The term “rent” was eventually extended to include monopoly profits — the income that one receives simply from the control of a monopoly. In time, the meaning was expanded still further to include the returns on other kinds of ownership claims. If the government gave a company the exclusive right to import a certain amount of a certain good, such as sugar, then the extra return was called a “quota rent.” The acquisition of rights to mine or drill produces a form of rent. So does preferential tax treatment for special interests. In a broad sense, “rent seeking” defines many of the ways by which our current political process helps the rich at the expense of everyone else, including
- transfers and subsidies from the government,
- laws that make the marketplace less competitive,
- laws that allow C.E.O.’s to take a disproportionate share of corporate revenue (though Dodd-Frank has made matters better by requiring a non-binding shareholder vote on compensation at least once every three years), and
- laws that permit corporations to make profits as they degrade the environment.
The magnitude of “rent seeking” in our economy, while hard to quantify, is clearly enormous. Individuals and corporations that excel at rent seeking are handsomely rewarded. The financial industry, which now largely functions as a market in speculation rather than a tool for promoting true economic productivity, is the rent-seeking sector par excellence. Rent seeking goes beyond speculation. The financial sector also gets rents out of its domination of the means of payment — the exorbitant credit- and debit-card fees and also the less well-known fees charged to merchants and passed on, eventually, to consumers. The money it siphons from poor and middle-class Americans through predatory lending practices can be thought of as rents. In recent years, the financial sector has accounted for some 40 percent of all corporate profits. This does not mean that its social contribution sneaks into the plus column, or comes even close. The crisis showed how it could wreak havoc on the economy. In a rent-seeking economy such as ours has become, private returns and social returns are badly out of whack.
In their simplest form, rents are nothing more than re-distributions from one part of society to the rent seekers. Much of the inequality in our economy has been the result of rent seeking, because, to a significant degree, rent seeking re-distributes money from those at the bottom to those at the top.
But there is a broader economic consequence: the fight to acquire rents is at best a zero-sum activity. Rent seeking makes nothing grow. Efforts are directed toward getting a larger share of the pie rather than increasing the size of the pie. But it’s worse than that: rent seeking distorts resource allocations and makes the economy weaker. It is a centripetal force: the rewards of rent seeking become so outsize that more and more energy is directed toward it, at the expense of everything else. Countries rich in natural resources are infamous for rent-seeking activities. It’s far easier to get rich in these places by getting access to resources at favorable terms than by producing goods or services that benefit people and increase productivity. That’s why these economies have done so badly, in spite of their seeming wealth. It’s easy to scoff and say: We’re not Nigeria, we’re not Congo. But the rent-seeking dynamic is the same.
LVTfan here: Think what would happen if we SOCIALIZED rents, and substituted them as our revenue source for all the taxes we pay ... sales taxes, wage taxes, building taxes, excise taxes ...
Recall what Leona Helmsley told us: "WE don't pay taxes. The little people pay taxes." Think what a weight would be lifted off our economy if those taxes were taken off the produces of labor, and put onto Rent, in all its forms!
As introduced on June 6, 2011
S. 1144 would require the Department of the Interior (DOI) to charge a 2 percent royalty on the value of soda ash produced on federal lands through 2016. Under current law, CBO expects that the royalty rate would remain at 6 percent over that period. CBO estimates that implementing S. 1144 would reduce net federal offsetting receipts from soda ash royalties by $75 million over the 2013-2016 period; therefore, pay-as-you-go procedures apply. Enacting S. 1144 would not affect revenues.
CUI BONO? Seems to me that the states involved lose revenue and the Federal Government loses revenue! What a deal!!! A lose, lose, lose situation! Whose resources are we talking about anyway? (Hint: corporations are not we-the-people! Aren't WE nice to give THEM low royalties on OUR natural resources?)
Here's more from the CBO paper; I've omitted the tables because they don't reproduce well:
S. 1144 contains no intergovernmental or private-sector mandates as defined in the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act (UMRA).
ESTIMATED COST TO THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT
The estimated budgetary impact of S. 1144 is shown in the following table. The costs of this legislation fall within budget function 300 (natural resources and environment).
By Fiscal Year, in Millions of Dollars
2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022 2013-2017 2013-2022
CHANGES IN DIRECT SPENDING
Estimated Budget Authority 30 15 15 15 0 0 0 0 0 0 75 75
Estimated Outlays 30 15 15 15 0 0 0 0 0 0 75 75
BASIS OF ESTIMATE
For this estimate, CBO assumes that the legislation will be enacted near the end of 2012.
S. 1144 would reduce the royalty rate on the value of soda ash produced on federal lands from 6 percent to 2 percent over the 2013-2016 period. Based on information from the Bureau of Land Management, CBO expects that, under the bill, firms that paid 6 percent in royalties during 2012 would receive refunds in 2013 of any amounts in excess of the 2 percent rate established by the bill. In addition, because CBO expects that royalty rates charged for soda ash production on state and private lands would be higher than 2 percent, we also expect that, under the bill, the amount of soda ash produced on federal lands would be higher over the next four years than it would be under current law. However, CBO estimates that any increase in production would only partially offset the loss of receipts from lowering the royalty rate through 2016.
In 2011, the last time the royalty rate was set at 2 percent, firms produced 8.8 million tons of soda ash on federal lands and paid royalties totaling $22 million. Based on information from DOI regarding soda ash production and royalty collections through the first half of 2012 (when the royalty rate increased to 6 percent), CBO estimates that firms will produce 7.2 million tons of soda ash on federal lands in 2012 (a decline of roughly 20 percent from 2011) and will pay gross royalties totaling $44 million (double the amount collected in 2011). Thus, under current law, we estimate that, after payments to states of half the gross proceeds, net receipts to the federal government in 2012 will total $22 million. If S. 1144 is enacted, we expect that DOI would refund about $15 million of that amount to firms in 2013. CBO also estimates that implementing the bill would reduce receipts in each year over the 2013-2016 period by a similar amount. In total, CBO estimates that enacting S. 1144 would reduce net offsetting receipts from soda ash royalties by $75 million over the 2013-2016 period.
The Statutory Pay-As-You-Go Act of 2010 establishes budget-reporting and enforcement
procedures for legislation affecting direct spending or revenues. The net changes in outlays
that are subject to those pay-as-you-go procedures are shown in the following table.
CBO Estimate of Pay-As-You-Go Effects for S. 1144 as introduced on June 6, 2011
By Fiscal Year, in Millions of Dollars
2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022 2012-2017 2012-2022
NET INCREASE OR DECREASE (-) IN THE DEFICIT
Statutory Pay-As-You-Go Impact 0 30 15 15 15 0 0 0 0 0 0 75 75
INTERGOVERNMENTAL AND PRIVATE-SECTOR IMPACT
S. 1144 contains no intergovernmental or private-sector mandates as defined in UMRA.
The royalty reduction required by the bill would temporarily reduce federal payments to California, Colorado, New Mexico, and Wyoming by a total of $75 million over the 2013-2016 period.
PREVIOUS CBO COST ESTIMATE
On June 5, 2012, CBO transmitted a cost estimate for H.R. 1192, the Soda Ash Royalty Extension, Job Creation, and Export Enhancement Act of 2012, as ordered reported by the House Committee on National Resources on May 16, 2012. S. 1144 is similar to H.R. 1192, and the CBO cost estimates are the same for those bills.
ESTIMATE PREPARED BY:
Federal Costs: Jeff LaFave
Impact on State, Local, and Tribal Governments: Melissa Merrell
Impact on the Private Sector: Amy Petz
ESTIMATE APPROVED BY:
Theresa Gullo, Deputy Assistant Director for Budget Analysis
I should myself deny that the mineral treasures under the soil of a country belong to a handful of surface proprietors in the sense in which these gentlemen appeared to think they did.
— LORD CHIEF JUSTICE COLERIDGE, The Laws of Property, Address before the Glasgow Juridical Society, Macmillan's Magazine, April, 1888, p. 407.
Henry George's teaching in a nutshell: To deprive men of the power to take what belongs to others.
-- From The Beacon, an Australian Single Tax journal, quoted in "The New Earth," (1899)
In the ocean-front Delaware town of Rehoboth Beach, seasonal parking fees provide a major revenue source:
In Rehoboth Beach, parking meters -- at $1.50 per hour -- are big business. They bring in $2.58 million for the city's $14.75 million operating budget.
Fines on expired meters add another $667,000, bringing the total to more than $3.2 million. More comes from parking permit fees, fines for parking without a permit and collections from a lot the city operates at the north end of the community. All told, parking is the largest single segment of the city budget.
Meters, some say, are one way the city can capture a revenue stream from the thousands of summer visitors who don't rent a cottage or stay in a hotel room, or who rent accommodations outside the city limits.
City Manager Gregory J. Ferrese said he believes meter and parking permits eliminate the need for beach fees, which are routinely charged in New Jersey resorts.
This is not to say that one can't use the beaches without paying for parking; Resort Transit brings people in by bus from the Coastal Highway, and the Jolly Trolley has been transporting tourists and others from nearby Dewey Beach for many decades.
But parking revenue is a great example of a user fee. One pays for what one takes, and if one doesn't need, one doesn't pay.
A few years ago, the price of parking varied according to location; more recently, they seem to have returned to a one-price-at-all-meters system, which puzzles me a bit. But after late September, the parking meters disappear until late spring, because there usually is plenty of parking to meet the demand.
I seem to recall reading that on-street parking is properly priced if about 15% of spots are available at any particular time. I suspect that that rule of thumb may not hold in RB in season, though I suspect that RB could charge more for ocean-block parking. (I suspect that nearly 100% of RB's parking spots will be occupied during most hours of peak season, at any reasonable price.)
Rehoboth is from the Hebrew for "space for all." One source says "City of Room" "Big City" "Broad Places, Streets" "Streets, Wide Spaces." Interestingly, when Rehoboth Beach was first laid out, by the Methodist diocese of Wilmington, as a camp meeting ground, the streets were designed to be wide and become wider as they approached the ocean, so all could have some view and access.
As a society, how do we create "space for all?" By structures and policies which encourage all of us to take only what we'll use. No land speculation, for example. (Rehoboth Beach fails on this count; its low property tax and use of 30+ year old assessments encourage people to hold onto empty land and unaltered cottages as a low-cost nest-egg; a new home far from the beach may pay far more in taxes than an older one close to it which sells for twice the price). And a 3% tax on transfers -- half to the city, half to the county -- discourages transactions.)
Some of RB's revenue comes from a 3% tax on rental income. I'm intrigued to know that parking brings in more than the tax on rentals.
Delaware, wisely, does not use a sales tax. Rehoboth Beach has 3 large outlet malls just beyond its borders, which attract shoppers from nearby Ocean City, Maryland, and even from southern New Jersey; the latter arrive by ferry for a day of tax-free shopping.
And of course the Federal government is generous with paying for beach replenishment, which helps keep the renters and beachgoers coming, at little or no cost to the property owners in RB.
In any case, parking fees are Natural Public Revenue
Posted on April 16, 2012 at 11:40 AM in all benefits go to landholder , better cities, capital gains are land gains, congestion, cui bono?, direct taxation, financing infrastructure, financing services, free land, land appreciates buildings depreciate, land speculation, land value created by community, location, location, location, Natural Public Revenue, parking, population, property tax, property tax is two taxes, sales taxes are wrong, small government, taxation, underused land, urban land value | Permalink | Comments (0)
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For ages sorcerers and magicians kept their secrets, their charms and enchantments to deceive the simple and unwary. At length most of such marvels are relegated to jugglers and sleight-of-hand performers, and we are amused to be deceived. We expect to see things come out of nothing; to see the unbroken eggs come out of the beaten scarf; the guinea pigs come out of the empty silk hat, the ducks come quacking out of the empty box; silver dollars come out of the boy’s ear or empty pocket. But there is yet one piece of magic in which many still believe. That is the magic of land values materializing from a vacant rubbish-covered lot or tract of land on which not a lick of work has been done.
Our modern sorcerers do the trick and roll up the hundreds of thousands of dollars out of nothing, and we look with gaping mouths, wondering where the big roll of bills came from. No question is asked. Something came out of nothing; that is all. Ah! if we could all learn the trick! No more work for anybody! Why should we work when we can produce money from nothing? Nobody investigates; we have the money on us, but sleep with untroubled mind, for no man can say “That is mine.” True, no man can say “That rake-off is mine”; but all the community could rise and say, “That rake-off is ours. We, all together, created the demand for the lands of the community by our presence and industry. Before we came, the values were not. If we should all go, they would disappear. Your money does not come from nothing, as some suppose. The whole community contributes to your roll. It should be ours to pay our taxes with. For lack of it we are ﬁned for our houses, furniture, machinery, crops, merchandise, etc.”
Oh, come off with your magic of getting something for nothing! Take your chances with the rest of us, who earn our money by work. We have been shown, and are on to your magic. We are going to vote for Amendment Number 20.” Thus will sorcery fade before reason. —Lona I. Robinson, in The Great Adventure, October 23, 1920
Posted on April 13, 2012 at 10:52 AM in a wedge driven through society, absentee ownership, all benefits go to landholder , land rent, land speculation, land value created by community, land value taxation, landlordism, little people pay taxes, Natural Public Revenue, popular ignorance of land economics, population, population growth, reaping what others sow, special interests, tax reform, untaxing buildings, untaxing production, wealth distribution or concentration | Permalink | Comments (0)
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"The land is common to all. All have the same right to it; but there is good land and bad land, and everyone would like to take the good land. How is one to get it justly divided? In this way: he who will use the good land must pay those who have got no land of the value of the land he uses," Nekhludoff went on, answering his own question. . . . "Well, he had a head, this George," said the oven builder, moving his brows. "He who has good land must pay more."
— COUNT TOLSTOY, Resurrection, Book II., Chap. 9.
Tolstoy has rightly discerned the evils which follow the uprooting of the people from fostering Mother Earth, and the incubation of a day-wage-earning, urban, industrial proletariat.
— MAX NORDAU, Degeneration, p. 163.
Posted on April 03, 2012 at 10:01 PM in commons, Earth for All, justice of the single tax, land rent, land value created by community, land value taxation, landlordism, make land common property, Natural Public Revenue, pay for what you take, political economy, private property in land, privilege, Tolstoy | Permalink | Comments (0)
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Land, which nature has destined to man's sustenance, is the only source from which everything comes, and to which everything flows back, and the existence of which constantly remains in spite of all changes. From this unmistakable truth it results that land alone can furnish the wants of the state, and that in natural fairness no distinctions can be made in this.
— EMPEROR JOSEPH II., in Oestreichische Geschichte fur das Volk, Vol. XIV. (Vienna, 1867).
Posted on March 30, 2012 at 12:43 AM in common good, commons, commonwealth, Earth for All, economic justice, ecosystem services, enclosure, equality, government's role, justice of the single tax, land rent, landed gentry, make land common property, Natural Public Revenue, natural resource revenues, natural resources, private property in land, privilege, socialize, sufficiency of land rent, unburdening the economy | Permalink | Comments (0)
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The evil is expressed in a few words, and sooner or later the nation will appreciate it and rectify it. It is the alienation of the soil from the state, and the consequent taxation of the industry of the country.
— PATRICK EDWARD DOVE, Theory of Human Progression (1850),
Chap. III., Sec. 3, p. 259 (Edition of 1895).
Posted on March 29, 2012 at 12:39 AM in Earth for All, make land common property, Natural Public Revenue, pay for what you take, popular ignorance of land economics, private property in land, privatization, single tax, special interests, untaxing buildings, untaxing production, wage taxes | Permalink | Comments (0)
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Every proprietor, therefore, of cultivated land owes to the community a ground rent (for I know of no better term to express the idea) for the land which he holds.
— THOMAS PAINE, Agrarian Justice, Paine's Writings, Vol. III., p. 329 (1795-6).
If all men were so far tenants to the public that the superfluities of gain and expense were applied to the exigencies thereof, it would put an end to taxes, leave never a beggar and make the greatest bank for national trade in Europe.
— WILLIAM PENN, Reflections and Maxims, Sec. 222, Works V., pp. 190-1.
Posted on March 27, 2012 at 12:26 AM in common good, commons, commonwealth, cost of living, Earth for All, economic justice, economic rent, employment, enclosure, ending poverty, equal opportunity, equality, facilitating commerce, financing education, financing infrastructure, financing services, FIRE sector, fixing the economy, free trade, government's role, land rent, land value created by community, leased land, make land common property, Natural Public Revenue, no victims, pay for what you take, Philadelphia, poverty's cause, private property in land, privatization, public spending, socialize, sufficiency of land rent, The End of Poverty?, unburdening the economy, user fees | Permalink | Comments (0)
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Let the fields and all the soil, and, if possible, even the houses, belong to the state, that is, to him which is the depositary of the right of the state, so that he may let them out for an annual rent to the inhabitants of the cities and the cultivators. This will exempt all citizens from extraordinary taxes in time of peace.
— SPINOZA, Tractatus Politicus, Chap. VI., On Monarchy, Sec. 12.
Posted on March 26, 2012 at 12:19 AM in commons, commonwealth, Earth for All, economic rent, financing services, fixing the economy, land rent, land value taxation, make land common property, Natural Public Revenue, public spending, sales taxes are wrong, socialize, sufficiency of land rent, unburdening the economy, untaxing buildings, untaxing production | Permalink | Comments (0)
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another excerpt from Dawson (1910 -- see an earlier post, below) -
IT is necessary now to consider more fully than hitherto the question, cannot society with right claim the increased value given to land by distinctly social causes? We have seen the various factors which tend to create what is generally known as "unearned increment." In one sense this term is very inaccurate. The increment is by no means unearned; what is meant, when the phrase is used, is that the landowner has not earned it. Society, however, has; and earned it honestly by heavy toil, by exertion of body and brain, by plodding industry, by bold enterprise, by culture and enlightenment, by progress in numbers, in wealth, and in morality. There is not a yard of land in the country — be it used for the growing of corn, the pasturing of cattle, or the habitations of men — whose value has not been enhanced by these social causes. It was the settlement of men with their various activities upon the land which originally gave it value, and the increase of population has been a constant and potent factor in value-growth since the primitive communities first established the institution of private property in the common soil. And yet, while society has for centuries been growing and labouring to increase the value of the land it required for its food, its industries, and its habitations, it has ever done so to its own detriment. While enriching the landlords it has impoverished itself.
This, indeed, is the greatest anomaly presented by the social increment problem. As a community develops and prospers, owing to its energy, enterprise, and enlightenment, it is all the time preparing a rod, armed with which the landlords will sooner or later turn upon it. A town's residents are punished for their industry and merited success by having to pay the landlords more and more money for the land they use. Did not tradesmen, by dint of perseverance and pluck, succeed and thrive, the demands made upon them would not increase; but simply because they reap in prosperity the reward of exertion, the landlords require growing tribute in the form of higher rents. And so it is in all departments of social life. In the eyes of the owners of the soil, human communities become, in fact, simply value-creators, rent-producers. The landlords reap where they have not sown, they gather where they have not strawed. Little of the value of that land which they lend and sell, at prices which are often so fabulous, has been created by them, yet they appropriate it all.
Posted on March 25, 2012 at 10:07 PM in commons, commonwealth, cui bono?, economic rent, fixing the economy, income concentration, land appreciates buildings depreciate, land speculation, land value created by community, landlordism, little people pay taxes, make land common property, monopoly -- not the game, Natural Public Revenue, no victims, pay for what you take, popular ignorance of land economics, population, population growth, private property in land, privatization, privilege, reaping what others sow, socializing risk and privatizing profit, special interests, technological advances, toll-takers, trickle-down economics, unearned increment, wealth distribution or concentration | Permalink | Comments (0)
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