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?
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.
Quite belatedly, I found an interesting article on Taxi Medallions and Rent-Seeking. I particularly like the juxtaposition of the sidebar and the article's primary content; read the sidebar first.
Why did I include in the "categories" for this post "all benefits go to the landholder"? Because a taxi medallion is a privilege, which, in classical economics, is another form of "land." Read the sidebar!
There is an easy solution: auction off those privileges for limited periods of time. Lather, rinse, repeat!
The sidebar quotes Adam Smith "... the landlords, like all other men, love to reap where they never sowed, and demand a rent even for its natural produce," which leads me to think about Henry George's axiom that
"The fundamental principle of human action — the law that is to political economy what the law of gravitation is to physics — is that men seek to gratify their desires with the least exertion." [Progress & Poverty Book III, Chapter 6 — The Laws of Distribution: Wages and the Law of Wages]
One quote from the body of the article:
Studies of economic losses due to rent-seeking and the resulting monopolies have produced figures ranging from 3 to 12 percentage points of national output for the US.
All of these are possible reasons why the city of Milwaukee might want to limit the number of cab permits, but they do not imply that the existing owners must have a permanent right to them.
The city could simply auction 321 licences every year or two and capture all of the economic rents for itself. Another argument is that a permit acts as a pension for drivers that would otherwise not have a business they could sell on retirement. But that is true only for the first, lucky generation of owners.
Posted on January 25, 2013 at 01:14 PM in a wedge driven through society, all benefits go to landholder , capital gains are land gains, economic rent, FIRE sector, income concentration, landlordism, monopoly -- not the game, natural resource revenues, privatization, privilege, reaping what others sow, rent-seeking, rentier, toll-takers, wealth distribution or concentration | Permalink | Comments (0)
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"The Lord's Prayer says, Give us this day our daily bread. Our daily bread comes from the land. No man made the land. It is God's gift to mankind. It belongs to all men. Therefore individual ownership of land is wrong. Individual control of the fruits of the land is wrong."
— Hall Caine, "David Rossi," in "The Eternal City."
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."
The only point where I do not find myself in complete accord (and that is perhaps more due to your comparative silence than anything else) is that I attach relatively more importance to the initial injustice done by the permitted monopoly of raw material in a few hands. It seems to me that individualism, in order to be just, must strive hard for an equalisation of original conditions by the removal of all artificial advantages. The great reservoir of natural wealth that we sum up as land (including mines, etc.) ought, it seems to me, to be nationalised before we can say that the individual is allowed fair play. While he is thwarted in obtaining his fair share of the raw material, he is being put at a disadvantage by artificial laws.
—Grant Allen, Letter to Herbert Spencer, 1886, in "Grant Allen, A Memoir," by Edward Clodd.
Posted on January 08, 2013 at 12:06 AM in as much and as good, charity and justice, commons, Earth for All, economic justice, equal freedom, equal opportunity, equality, inherited wealth, land includes, land monopoly capitalism, landlordism, make land common property, monopoly -- not the game, natural resource revenues, natural resources, pay for what you take, private property in land, privatization, privilege, property rights | Permalink | Comments (0)
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We worked through spring and winter, through summer and through fall.
But the mortgage worked the hardest
and steadiest of them all;
It worked on nights and Sundays, it worked each holiday;
It settled down among us and it never went away.
Whatever we kept from it seemed almost as bad as theft;
It watched us every minute and it ruled us right and left.
The rust and blight were with us sometimes, and sometimes not;
The dark-browed, scowling mortgage was forever on the spot.
The weevil and the cutworm they went as well as came;
The mortgage stayed forever, eating heartily all the same.
It nailed up every window, stood guard at every door,
And happiness and sunshine, made their home with us no more;
Till with falling crops and sickness we got stalled upon the grade.
And there came a dark day on us when the interest wasn't paid.
And there came a sharp foreclosure, and I kind o' lost my hold.
And grew weary and discouraged and the farm was cheaply sold.
The children left and scattered, when they hardly yet were grown;
My wife she pined and perished, and I found myself alone.
What she died of was a mystery, and the doctors never knew;
But I knew she died of mortgage — Just as well as I wanted to.
If to trace a hidden sorrow were within the doctors art.
They'd ha' found a mortgage lying on that woman's broken heart.
Worm or beetle, drought or tempest, on a farmer's land may fall.
But for a first-class ruination, trust a mortgage 'gainst them all.
How much of a farmer's mortgage is for the value of the land itself, and how much for the present value of the improvements which previous owners have made, such as clearing, draining, fencing, irrigating, building structures, plus, perhaps, equipment purchased with the land and buildings?
For that matter, how much of a homeowner's mortgage is for the value of the land itself --including its access to community-provided services such as city water and sewer, fire hydrants, and the like -- and how much for the purchase price of the landscaping and structures on the property, built by any of the previous owners?
To what degree is the modern buyer including in his formal calculations or his underlying assumptions the notion that the land will increase in value during his tenure? (See Case & Schiller, 2003.)
Posted on December 30, 2012 at 09:42 PM in buildings depreciate, capital gains are land gains, cost of living, economic rent, ecosystem services, ending poverty, facilitating commerce, financing education, financing infrastructure, financing services, FIRE sector, fixing the economy, free land, free trade, income concentration, infrastructure, land appreciates buildings depreciate, land includes, land rent, land value created by community, location, location, location, make land common property, Monopoly and The Landlord's Game, Monopoly and The Landlord's Game , natural resource revenues, Occupy Wall Street's values, one solution for many problems, urban land value, wealth distribution or concentration | 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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Pigou, a key bridge figure in the history of his field, was one of the earliest classical economists to notice that markets do not always produce the best possible social outcomes. The pollution generated by a factory imposes costs on those who live downstream or in the path of its airborne emissions. The risks assumed by banks leading up to the recent financial crisis imposed costs on just about everybody. Market transactions often generate what economists call “externalities” — side effects, sometimes positive but often negative, that affect people who do not participate in the transaction.
Pigou, having recognized the problem, was the first to propose a solution. Society should tax the negative externalities and subsidize the positive ones. This simple notion — if you want less of something, tax it — is why his ideas periodically bubble up in the service of combating a recognizable cost to society, like pollution. We think that his approach offers an answer to another great problem of our time: inequality.
Does the extreme degree of inequality in America today really create, as Pigou would put it, negative externalities? Does the fact that hedge-fund manager Mr. Jones rakes in 100 or 1,000 times what office manager Mrs. Smith earns impose costs on everybody else? Plenty of Americans think not. Defenders of our skewed income distribution point out that a free-enterprise system requires some inequality. Unequal rewards give people an incentive to work hard and acquire new skills. They encourage inventors to invent, entrepreneurs to start companies, investors to take risks. It’s fine in this view that some people get astronomically rich. As Mitt Romney likes to say, “I’m not going to apologize for being successful.”
On the other side, many of us have a gut feeling that inequality has gone too far. Our times are reminiscent of the Gilded Age’s worst excesses. Hence the popularity of the Occupy Wall Street movement’s slogan, “We are the 99 percent.”
LVTfan here: Wouldn't it be better to prevent the inequality by such measures as treating the natural creation as our common treasure, instead of permitting its privatization and then taxing back what is taken? Treating the natural creation, and that which the community creates by its presence and its investment in public goods -- schools, roads, libraries, etc. -- as our COMMON treasure would create equal opportunity for all, a much better idea than permitting some to capture it and then taxing some of their booty back after the fact. When we let some reap what others sow, and then take back a share after the fact, we're still permitting them to reap which deprives the sowers of that right. Whether it be nature doing the sowing, or the community as a whole, no good can come of permitting the privatization of that. Henry George, in "Progress and Poverty" and "Social Problems" showed the logical, efficient, just way to do better.
Posted on November 15, 2012 at 07:10 PM in equal opportunity, FIRE sector, Henry George, income concentration, municipal ownership of utilities, natural monopolies, natural resource revenues, natural resources, Occupy Wall Street's values, one solution for many problems, pay for what you take, population, privatization, privilege, reaping what others sow, rent-seeking, toll-takers, user fees, wealth distribution or concentration | Permalink | Comments (0)
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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.
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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seen on Twitter:
"If you extract economic rent from the value of your land, you didn't build that." -- Henry George http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geoism
We -- WE! -- built that -- and we ought to be collecting it, month in and month out, and keeping our hands off what the individual or small business or corporation DID build. (Of course, this presumes that each of us is expected to compensate the community for the pollution we create, and the non-renewable resources we take.)
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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Yes, ye may fill your garners, ye that reap
The loaded soil, and ye may waste much good
In senseless riot; but ye will not find
In feast or in the chase, in song or dance,
A liberty like his, who, unimpeached
Of usurpation, and to no man's wrong,
Appropriates nature as his Father's work,
And has a richer use of yours than you.
— COWPER, The Task, Book VI.
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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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.
Edmonton Journal April 15, 2012 T
he Alberta public used to recover 40 per cent of all resource revenue when Peter Lougheed was in power.
Why do we give our resource revenue away now?
Once the oil and gas companies have recovered their costs and made their standard profit, the rest of the revenue - the "economic rent" as Norway calls it - is up for grabs in Alberta. Why do we collect anything less than 100 per cent of that revenue? If we give it to the oil and gas sector, it is a subsidy. Why do we need or want to subsidize the richest corporations in Alberta?
Some Albertans claim that the oil and gas companies will leave Alberta if we charge higher royalty rates.
What nonsense. Alberta is a safe, pleasant place to live and work and has resources readily available.
The U.S. will need our resources for many years to come.
Our oil and gas will not go bad if we leave them in the ground for a few more years or extract them more slowly. Let's stop subsidizing the oil and gas companies and start collecting fair royalties for all Albertans.
Elizabeth Reid, Edmonton
© Copyright (c) The Edmonton Journal
It is well known that these materials and agencies, as fast as they become available, are in the main appropriated by individuals, through the agency or consent of the government, and are then held as private property. Such is the case with the soil and the minerals beneath it. The owners of this property charge as much for the use of it as if it were their own creation, and not that of nature.
— PROF. SIMON NEWCOMB, The Labor Question, North American Review, July, 1870, p. 151.
a link and a longer except follow ...
Posted on April 23, 2012 at 12:23 AM in all benefits go to landholder , capital gains are land gains, commons, commonwealth, corruption in government, cui bono?, Earth for All, ecosystem services, environment, government's role, income concentration, is this socialism?, land different from capital, land includes, land speculation, landed gentry, landlordism, leased land, location, location, location, make land common property, monopoly -- not the game, natural resource revenues, natural resources, oil, popular ignorance of land economics, poverty's cause, private property in land, privatization, privilege, property rights, rent, defined, socializing risk and privatizing profit, special interests, time making wrongs into rights, toll-takers, unearned income, wealth distribution or concentration | 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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BY HENRY WARE ALLEN
from Land and Freedom, 1938
As our time honored political maxims become hackneyed they are very apt to pass into what Grover Cleveland would call innocuous desuetude. We subscribe to the sentiment that "eternal vigilance is the price of liberty" and yet little is done to counteract those aggressive forces which nullify that freedom which we profess to prize so highly. Even the prayer, "Thy Kingdom Come," is repeated as a mere wish that something good would happen rather than with a determination to bring about those righteous conditions which make for a heaven on earth. Possibly the most neglected of all of our national ideals is our professed adherence to that most democratic of all maxims, "Equal rights for all and special privileges for none." For at the present time our country is honeycombed with special privilege that has become so entirely entrenched as to be regarded on all sides as vested right. Special privilege is condoned by force of its familiarity. Like vice it is endured, then pitied, then embraced.
There lived in a Colorado city years ago a housewife who made convenient use of coal cars on the side track across the street from her dwelling with which to replenish her stock of fuel. This she did without any qualm of conscience but as a special privilege which, by the sanctifying touch of time had grown into a vested right. This woman doubtless was punctilious in the ordinary obligations of life and would have hotly resented any statement to the effect that she was stealing coal. She was guided by that all too common kind of honesty which is based upon expediency rather than principle. Not on any account would she have withheld what was due from her to a neighbor who would have suffered by her delinquency, but the advantage to her of getting this coal was so great and the loss to some impersonal owner of same, mine, railroad, or smelter, was relatively so negligible that the argument was all in favor of her acting in her own interest without question. No personal equation was involved and if at first there had been any hesitation on her part of this practice, that was long ago a thing of the past. But the railroad company put a watchman on guard and her supply of fuel was thereby stopped. She then turned to the local charity organization with request for a continuation of the supply which had thus been rudely taken from her and the very righteous indignation with which she told her story was ample proof of entire absence of comprehension on her part that she had been stealing.
This incident, which is a true story, illustrates very nicely the evolution and the nature of that special privilege which eventually becomes a vested right. And if the searchlight of analysis is turned upon our social system we may be surprised to find the presence of special privilege in unexpected places and of a volume that is, in the aggregate, enormous.
As a basis for this inquiry it may be well to state the fundamental truth that property may be secured in three ways only; first, by labor; second, by gift; and third, by theft. If this test is repeatedly kept in mind, the task will become easier. One of the commonest forms of special privilege is that which is provided under ninety-nine year leases on valuable business property sites. These leases convey to the owner of the land a stipulated income after the tenant has paid all taxes and expenses. In the parlance of political economy this revenue consists of what John Stuart Mill defined as unearned increment, a value which is produced by no individual but which is purely the result of population reflected upon desirable locations. For this revenue to be turned over to individuals as is now the unquestioned custom in all of our large cities and to an amount of billions of dollars annually is a procedure which is precisely in the same class as the stealing of coal from the railroad car by the Colorado housewife.
A much larger source of public revenue which is diverted to individuals is that of the rent of valuable property in excess of a fair interest return upon the intrinsic value of improvements on the property. This applies to practically all property located at the center of our large cities and involves enormous revenues. There is a mixture here of legitimate return on capital invested with the unearned increment which belongs absolutely to society but the case is not less clear on that account.
Another prolific source of public revenue which is diverted to individuals is that which comes from the lucky possession of oil wells. This possession frequently gives incomes of thousands of dollars daily to those who have no more claim on such revenue than is involved in the possession of the land upon which the wells were developed. The wealth that has by this means been given to certain sections of the country and certain groups of people has run into the billions of dollars. The Osage tribe of Indians in Oklahoma are said to have been made the richest people in the world due to this special privilege. Such beneficiaries are no more justly entitled to the revenue which they receive than was the Colorado woman justified in stealing coal from the railroad car. It will be said that the oil industry involves a great deal of capital and that many dry wells are paid for before a single producing well is developed. This is true and therefore makes the proposition somewhat more complicated but does not alter the conclusion.
Another source of revenue which diverts public funds into private hands is speculation in land. Purchase of inside property sure to increase in value is the one investment that has been invariably recommended by shrewd financiers. This speculation is far greater than has been generally realized. More than one-half the area of New York City consists in vacant lots which are held out of use for speculative purposes, and the same is true of all our larger cities. Incidentally, this speculation has the effect of enhancing the selling price of desirable land to artificially high figures. When land which is purchased with a hope of subsequent rise in value, the investor practically lays a trap by which he may secure values that rightfully belong to the community. And this process makes an artificial scarcity of land with consequent artificially high cost to those who must use it. This process of securing a profit, of getting something for nothing, is persistently the same in character as that by which the Colorado housewife secured her supply of coal. Here again objection may be interposed to the effect that land frequently has to be sold for less than it cost. This is an objection that was raised by no less an economist than Francis A. Walker, the foremost critic of Henry George during his lifetime. General Walker exclaimed, "Mr. George has much to say about unearned increment: He says nothing, however, about unrequited decrement." Mr. George's rejoinder to this was an expression on his part of his inability to discuss the problem with one who spoke of unrequited decrement in something which originally had no value. In other words, so far as society is concerned its interest is only in the rental value which is produced from year to year and which rises or fall accordingly as population grows or wanes. The important fact is that this increment, whether large or small, belongs to the community which produced it.
The most spectacular form of special privilege which we have to deal with today is that provided by the protective tariff. This protection enables the America manufacturer to secure an artificially high price for his product. The common argument in support of the protective system is that the American standard of living must be maintained by this artificial means, but this argument falls to the ground, if at the same time, we permit any improvement in labor-saving machinery which naturally has far greater effect upon the labor market than is produced by the competition of merchandise imported from abroad. The enormity of special privilege due to the tariff is perhaps more conspicuous in the State of Pennsylvania than elsewhere, a single family in Pittsburgh, the direct beneficiaries of the tariff on aluminum, being reputed to be worth in excess of $2 billion. There will be found that, with a few rare exceptions, the great fortunes of America are based upon special privilege of one kind or another.
Although there are many minor sources of special privilege which are embedded in our political and social institutions, those above enumerated are the principal ones.
The special privileges provided by legislative action at Washington are in a different class from those which have become a regular part of our system of taxation but are none the less to be condemned. The most flagrant of these in recent times was the appropriation by Congress and approved by President Hoover, of $500,000,000 of tax payers' money for the specific purpose of stabilizing or artificially enhancing the price of wheat, cotton, and other farm products. It was presumed by the makers of this law that it would have the effect of giving artificial advantage to the farming class, which would offset in a measure the special privileges which had been given so generously to Eastern interests by means of the protective tariff. The plea for this farm legislation was repeatedly based upon that consideration. It so happened that even the immense waste of money involved by the farm marketing act was negligible as an influence in the world wide markets and that it did not affect in any considerable degree the law of supply and demand upon the prices of the agricultural products which were supposed to be favored. But the very fact that this legislation was put through with little opposition furnished a very good illustration of the fact that special privilege legislation is regarded as perfectly legitimate. And this has been further illustrated in monstrous degree by the New Deal legislation under President Roosevelt.
There is everywhere consciousness of a mysterious force which is responsible for easily acquired fortunes on one hand together with an increase of unemployment and consequent lower incomes on the other hand. Each succeeding census report makes more appalling this undemocratic and unjust condition in our social fabric.
If prosperity is to be secure, there must be an end to special privilege of every kind, and a system of taxation inaugurated in place thereof which shall be based upon justice to all. Henry George has demonstrated how this should be done.
Posted on March 19, 2012 at 11:44 AM in absentee ownership, all benefits go to landholder , land speculation, landed gentry, leased land, location, location, location, Natural Public Revenue, natural resource revenues, natural resources, oil, popular ignorance of land economics, population, privilege, protection or free trade, subsidies, tariffs, time making wrongs into rights, triple net leases, underused land, unearned income, unearned increment, urban land value, wealth distribution or concentration | Permalink | Comments (0)
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38. Mining companies which mine on public lands pay far less to the Federal government than they pay on privately held lands.
A. That's fair, because the private landholders are better negotiators
B. That's fair, because the 1872 Mining Act set the price, and it wouldn't be fair to change the business environment after setting the rules.
C. That's fair. Corporations need subsidies to create jobs.
D. That's unfair, and the federal government should be getting just as much from the miners as the private landholders are getting
E. That's unfair, and not only should the federal government be getting more from the mining companies, but the federal government should be collecting a significant portion of the royalties now privatized by private and corporate landholders, since we're all equally entitled to nature's bounty. This would permit us to reduce other taxes on wages and production, and perhaps lead to a citizen's dividend, similar to the Alaska Permanent Fund
F. That's unfair, because the 1872 Mining Act was based on old prices and old mining technology.
G. Your reactions?
Posted on March 08, 2012 at 02:15 AM in all benefits go to landholder , as much and as good, common good, commons, commonwealth, conservatism, corporations, corruption in government, cui bono?, Earth for All, economic rent, enclosure, financing education, financing health care, financing infrastructure, financing services, financing Social Security, financing war, government's role, justice of the single tax, land includes, land rent, make land common property, Natural Public Revenue, natural resource revenues, natural resources, oil, pay for what you take, privatization, privilege, special interests, subsidies, the land questions, wealth distribution or concentration | Permalink | Comments (1)
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37. Our ancestors bought or stole the land which the ancestors of some of those now identified as "Native Americans" relied on. How should we and our children pay back them and their children?
A. By giving them the privilege of selling cigarettes without taxes, forgoing revenue that could help meet the health costs associated with smoking, both for smokers and for those who live with them.
B. By giving them the privilege of running casinos, even if a percentage of that revenue must be contributed to the state, and even if gambling is creates tremendous problems for some individuals in society, beyond those who actually gamble.
C. By collecting from everyone who owns land and natural resources the annual economic value, and giving everyone a per-capita share of those resources, every year, forever. (Similar to the Alaska Permanent Fund)
D. By collecting from everyone who owns land and natural resources the annual economic value, and giving everyone a per-capita share of those resources, every year, forever, and providing a double share to those who are starting from a disadvantaged position for some fixed number of years
E. By collecting from everyone who owns land and natural resources the annual economic value, paying the costs of government and common spending from that source, producing equal opportunity for all.
F. Your suggestions?
Posted on March 07, 2012 at 02:50 AM in Alaska Permanent Fund, common good, cui bono?, Earth for All, economic justice, economic rent, ending poverty, equal freedom, equal opportunity, equality, facilitating commerce, financing education, financing health care, financing infrastructure, financing services, financing Social Security, franchises, government's role, inter-generational equity, is this socialism?, justice of the single tax, land rent, make land common property, Natural Public Revenue, natural resource revenues, natural resources, one solution for many problems, private property in land, privilege, Social Problems, special interests, the land questions | Permalink | Comments (0)
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30. What should we do with our public lands?
Posted on March 01, 2012 at 09:54 AM in commons, corporations, corruption in government, cui bono?, economic rent, government's role, land rent, leased land, make land common property, marginal land, Natural Public Revenue, natural resource revenues, natural resources, pay for what you take, popular ignorance of land economics, privilege, special interests, subsidies, the land questions, underused land, water | Permalink | Comments (0)
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Save the rent for Society.
That's short and sweet. I came across it in The Single Tax Year Book for 1917, in a chapter about the Single Tax in Germany.
Posted on February 26, 2012 at 02:53 PM in all benefits go to landholder , ecosystem services, equality, financing education, financing infrastructure, financing services, land rent, land value created by community, landed gentry, landlordism, make land common property, natural resource revenues, pay for what you take, popular ignorance of land economics, private property in land, privatization, privilege, reaping what others sow, rich people's useful idiots, sharecropping, single tax, socialize, special interests, toll-takers, unearned income, user fees, windfalls | Permalink | Comments (0)
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16. How should we pay for the war in Afghanistan?
A. Don't worry about that. Our children should pay for it, and their children if necessary, with interest accumulating. The economy will grow sufficiently that it will not unduly burden them.
B. We should pay for it via federal taxes on wages.
C. We should pay for it via a federal tax on sales (or consumption).
D. We should pay for it via a federal tax on land value; people and corporations (domestic or foreign) who own land in midtown Manhattan or downtown Los Angeles would pay a lot; those who own rural property would pay little or nothing. Tenants' rents -- residential, commercial, agricultural -- would cover their share, and be collected from landlords.
E. We should pay for it via royalties on non-renewable natural resources. (Whose natural resources? from U.S. soil? from Afghanistan soil? other?)
F. Your suggestions?
Posted on February 16, 2012 at 05:15 AM in financing war, income tax, inter-generational equity, land value taxation, location, location, location, natural resource revenues, natural resources, oil, pay for what you take, payroll tax, public spending, sales taxes are wrong, the disenchanted, the land questions | Permalink | Comments (0)
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15. We were at war in Iraq. What was the real issue?
A. Oil revenues: who gets them?
B. A stable supply of oil -- don't worry about who gets the revenues
C. Providing water systems, electricity, schools for the people of Iraq
D. Providing a safe period in which they can replicate 250 years of American experience and develop government structure to provide security, infrastructure, etc.
E. your suggestions?
15a. We're in Afghanistan. Is it about that country's natural resources?
But when the rich began to carry it with a high hand over the poor, and to exclude them entirely if they did not pay exorbitant rents, a law was made that no man should be possessed of more than five hundred acres of land. This statute for a while restrained the avarice of the rich, and helped the poor, who by virtue of it remained on their lands at the old rents.
— PLUTARCH, Life of Tiberius Gracchus.
12. Foreign corporations own the water utilities in parts of New England. Often these companies came with significant acreage on picturesque reservoirs, some within easy commuting distance of New York City. Water is a vital resource, and the infrastructure which supplies it and cleans it is vital to everyone. In other places, including NYC, municipal utilities supply the water. Is private ownership of the water supply acceptable?
A. Sure! Why not?
B. As long as it is regulated by stong public utility commissions
C. No, this should be a public function.
D. Private ownership is fine, as long as it is American corporations. They'll take care of us, and not overcharge us.
E. This is a natural monopoly situation, and rightly should be owned by the local, county or state government, or some local public entity. Clean water is too important to leave to the private sector, even where the supply is abundant.
F. Your suggestions?
9. The corporations which pump oil from beneath federal lands are paying low royalties into the federal treasury, despite the fact that the price of oil has risen significantly since their royalties were set. The royalties should be raised. To whom should the revenue go?
A. The Roman Catholic Church, the Southern Baptist Church, the Methodist Church, the Episcopal Church, the LDS Church, the orthodox, conservative, and reform bodies of Judaism, the American Islamic governing entity, etc., in proportion to their proven membership. Further provision should be made to insure that those who belong to no religious group can name an entity which should control their share.
B. Keep giving it to the corporations, but increase their corporate income taxes. Or reduce their loopholes.
C. Use the revenue to fund education, providing all children the same amount of funding, to be used at any school their parents choose.
D. Use the revenue to fund education, providing all children some funding, but more for those in poverty or handicapped, autistic, special needs, gifted.
E. Create a national version of the Alaska Permanent Fund, to provide, over the decades, an income to every American.
F. Use the revenues to reduce other taxes which burden the economy, and most particularly those which burden the poor most heavily.
G. Give the revenues to the people of the states where the oil is pumped. They're more entitled than the rest of us.
H. Use oil royalties to fund wars overseas, particularly those which relate to oil.
I. Use oil revenues to finance health care, or fund Social Security.
J. Your suggestions?
8. The corporations which pump oil from beneath federal lands are paying low royalties into the federal treasury, despite the fact that the price of oil has risen significantly since their royalties were set. Should their royalties be raised?
A. No. A deal is a deal, and those corporations made their business plans in good faith. The spoils belong to them. They can sell those rights to whomever they choose to, at whatever price they can get, for the benefit of their shareholders and their management.
B. Yes. All persons have equal rights to the gifts of nature.
C. Yes. The resource is finite, and the oil companies don't create it.
D. Yes. We can now see that we will be running out of oil, and the price is rising, for reasons that have nothing to do with the oil companies.
E. your suggestions?
5. Water is running short in some parts of the US. How should we effectively share the water?
A. Let those who own it now continue to treat it as their private treasure. After all, they've planned on it, and we can't interfere with their plans, can we?
B. Recognize that every one of us needs water, and charge everyone for the water they use, based on the local supply and demand situation. Where water is scarce, all will pay high prices for the water they use; where the supply is generous, the price will be lower.
C. Treat water as our common treasure. Charge for it. Let the revenues flow into public coffers, not private or corporate pockets.
D. Your suggestions?
Posted on February 05, 2012 at 09:19 AM in all benefits go to landholder , capital gains are land gains, commons, ecosystem services, incentive taxation, incentives, land includes, Natural Public Revenue, natural resource revenues, pay for what you take, the land questions | Permalink | Comments (0)
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4. Oil and natural gas are pumped from the Gulf of Mexico and along our ocean coasts by corporations large and small. (Mason Gaffney points out that Harry Truman increased the size of the US by more than any other president by expanding the coastal zone, but that we collect little revenue from the natural resources drawn therefrom.) How much should the oil companies pay the federal government?
B. Just the amount negotiated in 1996. We can't change the rules just because the price of these commodities has risen rapidly.
C. A fixed and trivial percentage of the value of the oil.
D. A rising percentage of the value of the oil and gas, related to the retail prices of the products.
E. An amount that is based both on a percentage of the value of the oil and gas and on the amount of carbon produced by burning the finished product.
F. Your suggestions?
3. Oil and natural gas are pumped from federal lands by corporations large and small. How much should the oil companies pay the federal government?
B. Just the amount negotiated in 1996. We can't change the rules just because the price of these commodities has risen rapidly.
C. A fixed and trivial percentage of the value of the oil.
D. A rising percentage of the value of the oil and gas, related to the retail prices of the products.
E. An amount that is based both on a percentage of the value of the oil and gas and on the amount of carbon produced by burning the finished product.
F. An amount that relates to the medium- to long-term scarcity of these natural resources, so that we have incentives to leave more for future generations, who may develop technologies to use them more efficiently or extract them with less harm to the environment.
G. Your suggestions?
In the files I've been digging through, from the late 50s to the early 80s, I found an early draft of a fine paper by Mason Gaffney about California's Proposition 13, for presentation at an August, 1978 conference. I dug around and found a published copy of that paper, and think it worth sharing here. Original title, "Tax Limitation: Proposition 13 and Its Alternatives"
I see that there continue to be people who see the stupidity of Proposition 13 -- see http://www.dailyrepublic.com/opinion/letters-editor/time-for-a-petition-against-proposition-13/ Perhaps they will find this of use. Georgists recognize Prop 13 as the antithesis of logical and just taxation.
First, a few of my favorite paragraphs, which I hope will whet your appetite for the whole paper. I won't attempt to provide the context (you can pick that up when you continue to the paper, below).
You can read more about the Poor Widow by clicking on the "widow's skirts" link at left, in the tag cloud, and by reading Bill Batt's Property Tax Relief Measures: Answers to the "Poor Widow " Argument (or the pdf version)
Here is, perhaps, my favorite:
The land tax does that because it cuts only the fat, not the muscle. It takes from the taxpayer only "economic rent," only the income he gets for doing nothing. If people could grasp this one overriding idea, then the whole sterile, counterproductive, endless impasse between conservatives who favor incentives and liberals who favor welfare would be resolved in a trice, and we could get on to higher things.
The final paragraphs speak directly to us in 2012. 34 years have passed since this was written.
If your appetite is whetted by these excerpts, you can read the entire article below:
Posted on January 22, 2012 at 04:50 PM in absentee ownership, all benefits go to landholder , assessment, buildings depreciate, capital gains are land gains, capitalization, classical economists, common good, corruption of economics, cui bono?, democracy, equality, financing education, financing services, free lunch, government's role, home equity, incentive taxation, incentives, land appreciates buildings depreciate, land different from capital, land rent, land share of real estate value, land speculation, land value created by community, little people pay taxes, location, location, location, Natural Public Revenue, natural resources, popular ignorance of land economics, population growth, privatization, privilege, property tax, property tax is two taxes, property tax reform, Proposition 13, public spending, real estate bubble, reaping what others sow, small government, tax reform, taxation, transportation, unburdening the economy, underused land, unearned income, unemployment and underemployment, user fees, widow's skirts | Permalink | Comments (0)
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Our argument for justice and liberty -- the doctrines of Henry George -- depends upon successfully synthesizing the social sciences and philosophy. Our scientific work in this area builds us a rostrum from which we can teach the fundamental principles of ethical democracy. ...
As Georgists we are interested
In a word, we seek to make it possible for each individual to become a free person developing his faculties to the highest in an ethical democratic free society.
Posted on January 21, 2012 at 02:55 PM in cui bono?, democracy, economic justice, economic rent, efficiency , equal freedom, equality, financing education, financing infrastructure, financing services, government's role, Henry George, immigration, individualism, justice of the single tax, land speculation, land value taxation, liberty, monopoly -- not the game, natural resource revenues, privilege, small government, tax reform, unburdening the economy, unearned income, untaxing buildings, untaxing production | Permalink | Comments (0)
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Well, maybe at the University of Chicago, that is what is taught, but is it true?
It may be inevitable under our current structures, but if one gets outside that box, and looks deeper, one finds other answers.
I would suggest that Mr. Kaplan, who teaches economics at the Graduate School of Business at the U of C, look beyond the interests of the university's and b-school's founders and big donors and alumni and current students, and consider that we're all in this together, and that when we permit a few to monopolize and privatize things which rightly are our common treasure, inequality is the inevitable byproduct.
Mr. Kaplan might start by exploring the ideas of Henry George. They were in his freshman economics texts, but most likely his instructor didn't lecture on them, or include them in exams (most likely because his own instructors hadn't!)
Read what those textbooks have to say, and then think about whether it is in Mr. Kaplan's personal career interests to speak of an idea that could rock the yachts of alumni and donors and others who like our current structures just fine, thank you! The privileged like their privileges, and would prefer that we not notice that they are privileges, or, if we do notice, think that THEIR privileges are somehow in OUR best interests.
An impolite fiction!
Posted on December 18, 2011 at 11:04 AM in a wedge driven through society, common good, corruption of economics, cui bono?, economic rent, FIRE sector, fixing the economy, Henry George, highest salaries, income concentration, land value created by community, monopoly -- not the game, natural monopolies, natural resource revenues, natural resources, neoclassical economists, popular ignorance of land economics, privatization, privilege, prosperity, public ownership of utilities, reaping what others sow, rich people's useful idiots, socializing risk and privatizing profit, special interests, tax reform, unburdening the economy | Permalink | Comments (0)
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Here's another item from an 1896 California weekly. It is a little difficult for the 21st century reader to remember that "road" at that time was shorthand for "railroad" or sometimes "streetcar line."
Incidently, only a rather small portion of the material in The San Jose Letter strikes me as particularly Georgist. (You'll see most of it here!)
The First Street Road and Single Tax
The San Jose Letter, May 30, 1896
A very good illustration of the unfairness and unjustness of our land system was furnished by the failure of the First Street Electric Road Company. Jacob Rich, practically the company, has been a pioneer in local street car building, has failed, and stepped aside for others to reap the benefits of his toil and experiments.
It would be better for the community if the roads were all owned and operated by the city, but since they are not, and could not be, under existing conditions, the individual whose enterprise secures them is entitled to the gratitude of the people.
Rich spent thousands in experimenting on the San Jose and Santa Clara road. At the moment it began to pay, he found himself so situated, financially, that he was obliged to dispose of the property, thereby sinking a large fortune. Along the line of this particular road are situated many building lots. These lots doubled and trebled in value on account of the road. But Rich was not benefited. Individual owners, who stayed quietly at home, laughed at Rich as a crank, and condemned his road, found their fortunes doubled on account of it, but Rich got nothing. He was obliged to dispose of even the road itself, when it began to pay, a poorer man by many thousands of dollars. But I have not heard of one land owner whose property was benefitted by the road offering to help him out.
After getting free from the Santa Clara road tangle, Rich mortgaged his real estate, and hypothecated his securities to raise money to build the First street line, and the numerous extensions of the system. He then bonded the property to improve it, and eventually came to the end of his magnificent fortune. He failed then, disastrously.
The building of the First street line and its extensions have made many holders of suburban property wealthy. Rich does not get the benefit of this. He built the lines that have made the property more desirable for building purposes; has put the extra value upon them in fact, but he gets nothing for it, and the very people who have been benefited are now condemning him for losing his money in such an unprofitable venture.
Under a system of single tax the benefit of the increased value of the land to the community, which was occasioned by the new lines of street cars, would have been enjoyed by the whole people and not by individuals. Had the car lines been built by the municipality, by the people, the money lost in establishing and perfecting them would have been made up by the increased amount the community, the whole people, would have received from their outlying lands.
For instance, if the rent, which the people received for the lands before the roads were built, equaled 5% of their value as agricultural lands, when their value became doubled or trebled on account of the new demand for them as residence lots, caused by the building of the car lines, the rent or single tax would become double what it had been before the improvements were made. Thus the increased revenue from the land would make up the deficit that might result on account of the road before it became established. In a word, the losses growing out of the first few years' expenses of the road would be borne by the whole community who would in return be benefited by the increased value of the suburban lands. One man would not be ruined by the experimental line, while another had his fortune doubled or trebled, but the advantages and disadvantages would be shared by all.
The people recognize that something is decidedly wrong in our economic system. They all turn doctors of economics to remedy the matter, and set up economic cure-alls, warranted to make everybody sick. Apparently sane men tell us that "high protection" will result in all the economic reforms on the list. Others are for low tariff, others for single standard, others for free silver, others for prohibition, and so on and so on to the end of the chapter. Everything is tried, and has been tried over and over again, but the only thing that will ever permit men to enter the struggle of existence unhampered will be a system of single tax by which natural resources would be turned to the use of the whole community, and not to the benefit and advantage of individuals.
A progressive, energetic man like Jacob Rich would not then be beggared by his endeavors to improve conditions in the community, while the non-progressive Silurian of a land-holder has his fortune doubled and trebled through the efforts of another.
Paul Krugman's column in the NYT Sunday was entitled "Things to Tax," and I thought it was a bit broad-brush.
"Let me suggest two areas in which it would make a lot of sense to raise taxes in earnest, not just return them to pre-Bush levels: taxes on very high incomes and taxes on financial transactions."
I don't disagree with either of those as a starting point, but neither goes to the root of the problem, which I believe to be the sorts of privileges we have given out, or somebody's ancestors put in place and we've not even thought about questioning. They are so familiar to us that we don't question them any more than we think about breathing. So (switching metaphors) we find ourselves barking loudly up the wrong tree -- while the critters in the other trees are smiling broadly!
The best answers I know to which tree we ought to be barking up come from the writings of Henry George. Several speeches were what I was first inspired by:
Whether or not your own orientation is theological, I think you might appreciate these.
We ought not to be taxing indiscriminately. What we tax matters greatly. Some provide Natural Public Revenue -- and we ought to socialize that revenue -- and other possible objects of taxation ought not to be taxed at all -- privatize them!
Which rich should we tax?
- Should we tax the ones who have bought or inherited or otherwise acquired our very choicest land -- that in our biggest cities, well-served by taxpayer-provided infrastructure and services?
- Should we tax the ones who, in effect, own our most valuable natural resources, or have access to resources we send our military to protect on our behalf?
- Should we tax those who benefit from monopolies of various kinds, such as owning our water companies, our electric utilities, our cable-tv companies, or monopolies of their own creation?
- Should we tax those who benefit from privileges of various kinds, such as the possession of our airwaves, landing/takeoff rights at busy constrained airports (think LGA at rush hour)?
- Should we tax those who benefit by taking some fraction of every financial transaction, even if that transaction doesn't create additional value for the economy as a whole?
- Should we tax those who benefit from the activity or inactivity of the FIRE sector, which Joe Stigitz says is creaming 40% of the profits made by the productive sectors of the economy?
- Or should we just tax all the high-income people, without going to the root of the privileges which produce undeserved wealth for some at the expense of the rest of us.
The answers to these questions matter.
Go to the root. Understand what is privilege, and what is an actual contribution to the economy. Understand what is someone's free lunch, paid for by the labor of others. Understand who reaps what they haven't sown. Correct these things.
An old idea. Look up Henry George's writings from the late 19th century, which kicked off the Progressive movement and still inspire many of us.
Short term, maybe, changing the income tax brackets is appropriate. But it doesn't get at the root of the problem.
Be radical. Go to the root.
For more information, see http://lvtfan.typepad.com/ or http://www.wealthandwant.com/, or look up Henry George's ideas.
As an afterthought, I'll add that you might want to check out Mason Gaffney's website, at http://www.masongaffney.org/; Fred Foldvary's writings, including "The Ultimate Tax Reform," and Walt Rybeck's book, "Re-Solving the Economic Puzzle."
Posted on November 28, 2011 at 02:17 PM in cui bono?, FIRE sector, free lunch, Henry George, incentive taxation, income concentration, land includes, land speculation, monopoly -- not the game, municipal ownership of utilities, natural monopolies, Natural Public Revenue, natural resource revenues, natural resources, Occupy Wall Street's values, political economy, privatization, privilege, public ownership of utilities, reaping what others sow, socializing risk and privatizing profit, special interests, Stiglitz, tax reform, taxation, teach your children well, unburdening the economy, wealth distribution or concentration | Permalink | Comments (0)
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The mathematical law that shows why wealth flows to the 1% | Alok Jha | Comment is free | The Guardian.
This is not the first time I've commented on suggestions that the Pareto principle tells us that extreme inequality just can't be avoided. See http://lvtfan.typepad.com/lvtfans_blog/2008/03/the-8020-rule-.html
I alternately find it amusing and very sad that commentators reason from such observations to "gee, there's nothing wrong with our structures! It is just a law of nature!"
No! We've set things up so that a relative few benefit greatly from the value of natural resources, and another (likely overlapping) group* benefit greatly from the results of federal, state and local spending on infrastructure and services, and then we consider it a "mathematical law" that 1% of us get such a large share of the pie!
And rich people's useful idiots bless such analyses and give them a gloss of "scholarship."
Posted on November 18, 2011 at 12:12 PM in corruption of economics, income concentration, infrastructure, natural resource revenues, natural resources, poverty machine, private property in land, privilege, reaping what others sow, rich people's useful idiots, special interests, wealth distribution or concentration | Permalink | Comments (0)
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The newest issue of Progress, an Australian Georgist publication, is online here. The motto is "Sharing the Earth So All May Prosper."
There is a lot of good material, and I'll share some of the things that caught my eye.
A lot of good material -- and I've barely mentioned the graphics!
Posted on November 16, 2011 at 09:17 PM in boom-bust cycles, bubble, financing infrastructure, Henry George, infrastructure, inter-generational equity, land speculation, land value created by community, land value taxation, land, labor and capital, location, location, location, Natural Public Revenue, natural resource revenues, natural resources, private property in land, Ricardo, special interests, trickle-down economics, wealth distribution or concentration, windfalls | Permalink | Comments (0)
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I have a family member who, when Herman Cain says "9-9-9," plays a sound bite of another voice shouting "nein! nein! nein!"
Georgists have a better proposal for how we ought to fund our common spending.
This probably raises several questions in your mind:
Our commonwealth includes the value of land -- not the improvements made by the present or previous owner, but the value of the site itself, which is created by the gifts of nature; by the investment of the local, state and national communities in public goods and services (including most "pork"); by the presence of the community and its economic activity. While good farmland may be worth $5,000 or $10,000 per acre, depending on climate and proximity to markets, suburban residential lots might be $35,000 to $1,000,000 -- or far more! -- per acre, and an acre in midtown Manhattan can be worth $250,000,000 or more. The landholder doesn't create that locational value.
Our commonwealth includes the value of ecosystem services. It includes the value of electromagnetic spectrum (the airwaves which most people would agree rightly belong to the American people, not to corporations). It includes the value of water, particularly fresh water for drinking and water for irrigating crops and for corporate use. It includes the value of government-granted privileges. It includes the value of geosynchronous orbits -- those parking spots in space for satellites whose owners and customers would not want to see crashing into each other. It includes the value of landing rights at busy congested constrained airports, such as LaGuardia or JFK, particularly at their rush hours. It includes the value of scarce on-street parking in congested cities. It includes the value of nonrenewable natural resources extracted from below the earth and the oceans, for 200 miles beyond our land borders. It includes a whole range of other similar things.
As you look at that paragraph, compare it to the 0-0-0-0 list above, and notice that it collects upfront certain values, and leaves the rest to those who produce. It is direct taxation rather than indirect, and one could reasonably argue that it isn't even really taxation; rather it is more in the nature of a user-fee.
It is Natural Public Revenue.
Once one has sat with this idea for a while, it seems quite unnatural to permit the value to continue to accrue to private individuals, or to corporations publicly or privately owned, or to entities other than the community as a whole!
Recall how concentrated wealth is in the US: The 2007 SCF [the Federal Reserve Board's Survey of Consumer Finances] reported that aggregate net worth is "distributed" as follows:
- Top 1% of us have 33.8%
- Next 4% of us 26.6% [cumulative: 60.4%]
- Next 5% of us 11.1% [cumulative: 71.5%]
- Next 40% of us 26.0% [cumulative 97.5%]
- Bottom 50% of us 2.5%
Recall also that the Forbes 400 families are specifically and intentionally omitted from the SCF, and that Forbes estimates that they represent 2.5% of aggregate net worth. So add that 2.5% to the numerator and denominator. And note, as Michael Moore did, that it is very similar to the value of the Net Worth of the bottom 50% of us.
And it seems quite unnatural to tax wages, and sales, and corporate profits, and buildings at all before we've fully collected Natural Public Revenue.
Will Natural Public Revenue be sufficient to meet all the needs of all levels of government?
Quite possibly not, at least today when we are so reliant on a social safety net because current conditions have kept a significant share of our people from providing well for themselves. But I regard it as altogether possible that within a generation or two, it could be quite sufficient, in part because it would have the effect of redistributing some of the wealth which today is pouring into the pockets of a relative few of us.
How much of corporate profits are coming from (quite legal) privatization of the value of natural resources, the value of being able to get away with polluting air, water and soil, and the value of other privileges which corporations -- public and private -- are used to enjoying? One of the interesting findings in the SCF is that the value of privately held businesses [BUS] actually exceeds the value of publicly held ones [EQUITY] in household wealth -- and the value of both is highly concentrated:
[value, billions, 2007] $13,694.3 $14,893.7
Consider, too, how much more of this value the Forbes 400 have! These two categories represent 21.2% and 23.1% of aggregate net worth held by the rest of us -- a total of 44.3%. Most of the 2.5% is likely in these two categories. I'll leave the math to you.
Posted on October 15, 2011 at 06:37 PM in a Manhattan acre, broadcast spectrum, commons, direct taxation, economic rent, ecosystem services, FairTax, financing education, financing infrastructure, financing services, fixing the economy, income concentration, income tax, indirect taxation, infrastructure, land value created by community, land value taxation, location, location, location, make land common property, natural resource revenues, natural resources, Occupy Wall Street's values, oil, one solution for many problems, parking, population, population growth, pork spending, poverty machine, poverty's cause, privatization, privilege, public spending, sales taxes are wrong, SCF data, single tax, socializing risk and privatizing profit, sufficiency of land rent, Survey of Consumer Finances data, urban land value, wealth distribution or concentration | Permalink | Comments (0)
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In September, 1889, Thomas Shearman, co-founder of the NYC law firm Shearman & Sterling, published an article in The Forum, entitled "Henry George's Mistakes." This was ten years after the publication of Henry George's "Progress and Poverty," which was, by that time well known to most Americans and many in other parts of the world; by 1900, P&P had sold something like 6 million copies and been serialized in many periodicals. As the first paragraph shows, George's ideas were controversial, particularly with the vested interests who were more than happy with the current structure, and were in a position to spend to influence public opinion.
Shearman is responding to those who thought that George's Remedy (the subtitle to P&P is "An inquiry into the cause of industrial depressions and of increase of want with increase of wealth ... The Remedy") was unrealistic, and in particular, to an 1887 article in The Forum.
Shearman shows why indirect taxes raise prices and the cost of living, particularly for the poor. Recall Leona Helmsley's statement about taxes: "We don't pay taxes. The little people pay taxes." I don't think she was talking about tax evasion; she was talking about tax structures.
I've taken the formatting liberty of presenting some lists contined in paragraphs as bullet points.
HENRY GEORGE'S MISTAKES.
Since the mistakes of Moses were so triumphantly demolished by Col. Ingersoll, his example has been followed by numerous writers, who, possibly because they concluded that the Mosaic field has been sufficiently occupied, have devoted themselves to an equally triumphant demonstration of the mistakes of Henry George. Space could not be afforded for even an abstract of these brilliant productions. Crushed by the Duke of Argyll, refuted by Mr. Mallock, extinguished by Mayor Hewitt, undermined by Mr. Edward Atkinson, exploded by Prof. Harris, excommunicated by archbishops, consigned to eternal damnation by countless doctors of divinity, put outside the pale of the Constitution by numberless legal pundits, waved out of existence by a million Podsnaps, and finally annihilated by Mr. George Gunton, still Henry George's theories seem to have a miraculous faculty of rising from the dead. For it is certain that his general doctrines are more widely believed in today than ever before; while the one practical measure which he advocates for present and immediate enactment is accepted by a vast number of intelligent men on both sides of the Atlantic. It is, therefore, still worth while to look into this terrible delusion, and to inquire seriously what are these fatal mistakes which, being so often slain, nevertheless live.
Mr. George has devoted a large portion of his famous book, "Progress and Poverty," to the assertion and illustration of his belief that, all over the civilized world, the rich are growing richer and the poor relatively poorer. He undertakes to trace the cause of this assumed evil to the private ownership of land and the steady increase of economic rent. He insists, with admitted eloquence and earnestness, that private ownership of land must be abolished; but he proposes one remedy and only one, the concentration of all taxes upon ground rent alone. He urges that these taxes should be increased to such an amount as will absorb ground rent. This, in view of statements made by all Mr. George's opponents, would seem to be really only a matter of detail, concerning which any one might be at liberty to entertain, as Mr. Disraeli used to say, a "pious opinion." For they all, with one voice, maintain that ground rent would never be sufficient to meet the existing taxes; and so this question, if any of Mr. George's critics are correct, could never arise.
To a practical mind there are only two important questions involved in this controversy.
Let us inquire whether there is any excessive concentration of wealth going on in the United States of America. Leaving mere clamor and unsupported assertions out of consideration, on either side, let us look into facts. As lately as 1847, there was but one man in this country who was reputed to be worth more than $5,000,000; and though some estimated his wealth at $20,000,000, there is no good reason for believing it to have been so great. The wealth of his lineal descendants is estimated at $250,000,000, or over $50,000,000 each. In 1867, in the New York constitutional convention, one of the most prominent delegates stated that he could name 30 men, residing in that State, whose wealth averaged $15,000,000 each. The St. Louis "Globe" recently published a list of 72 persons who were worth, collectively, the whole amount of our national debt, averaging $18,000,000 each. The wealthiest railroad manager in America, in 1865, was worth $40,000,000, but not more. His heir died recently, leaving an estate of nearly $200,000,000; and there are several gentlemen now living who are worth over $100,000,000 each. Within a short period, a number of quiet, unobtrusive men, of no national fame, have died in Pennsylvania, leaving estates of over $20,000,000 each. Twenty living persons, in the oil business, are reputed to be as rich. Forty persons could be easily named, none of them worth less than $20,000,000, and averaging $40,000,000 each. At the lowest reasonable estimate, there must now be more than 250 persons in this country whose wealth averages over $20,000,000 for each. But let us call the number only 200. Income-tax returns in Great Britain and in the United States show that, in general, the number of incomes, when arranged in large classes, multiplies by from three to five-fold for every reduction in the amount of one-half.* For extreme caution, however, we estimate the increase in the number of incomes at a very much lower rate than this. At this reduced rate, the amount of wealth in the hands of persons worth over $500,000 each in the United States would be about as follows:
|200 persons at||$20,000,000||$4,000,000,000|
Let us test the question in another way. Eastern savings banks show an average deposit of $365. This sum represents the extreme savings of the average thrifty workingman of the East. But even estimating that 20,000,000 workers of 1889, earning an average of less than $400 each, of whom 5,000,000 are women and children, have saved, on the average, $600, still, their aggregate savings would not amount to $12,000,000,000, or $1,100 for each average family. Let us suppose that the 1,000,000 workers of superior class, earning an average of $1,000 each, have saved $3,000 — a monstrous exaggeration. This would make their total possessions $3,000,000,000. The result would be to show that 21,000,000 persons had saved up in the whole course of their lives $15,000,000,000, leaving $45,000,000,000 in the possession of not more than 400,000 persons.
Look again. Excluding churches, public buildings, etc., from the items of wealth enumerated in the census estimate for 1880, it is reduced to $41,000,000,000. Railroads, telegraphs, shipping, mines, quarries, canals, merchandise, and specie count for $13,500,000,000. These certainly do not belong to $400 workingmen. $5,000,000,000 is charged to household furniture, paintings, and jewelry. Two-thirds of this would be an extreme allowance for the 9,700,000 families of the poorer class; but let us allow them more, and estimate the furniture of the 300,000 richer families at only $5,000 each. Farms stand for $10,000,000,000, of which more than one-fourth were owned by landlords and leased to tenants, while one-fifth were so large as to imply wealthy owners; and mortgages were certainly outstanding for more than one-fifth of the rest. Business and residential real estate, water-power, etc., were estimated at about the same value. Of this, at least three-fourths was owned by the wealthy class, either absolutely or by mortgages. On this basis we arrive at the following estimate of the possessions, in 1880, of not more than 300,000 persons:
Railroads, shipping, mines, merchandise, specie, etc.
|Farms, 45 per cent||4,500,000,000|
|Mortgages on farms, 20 per cent||1,000,000,000|
|Other real estate||7,500,000,000|
A sufficient cause for the immense and growing chasm between the rich and the poor of this country is to be found in indirect taxation. The population of the United States has increased in 25 years from 35,000,000 to 60,000,000. Let us call the average 45,000,000. The average annual taxes for the same period have been about $175,000,000 on imports, $136,000,000 on domestic productions, $14,000,000 on incomes, $25,000,000 miscellaneous, and $300,000,000 State and local taxes, mostly on houses and improvements and personal property. Duties on imports have entailed an average increase of prices on domestic goods to the amount of fully thrice the duties, say $525,000,000. Excise duties, by promoting monopolies, have largely increased prices, as in the well-known case of matches, where a duty of one cent caused an increase in price of' two cents. Let us, however, call this increase only one-fifth of the excise, or $27,000,000. But upon these taxes there are three profits, made by the importers or manufacturers, the jobbers, and the retailers, amounting to not less than 20% in all, or $172,600,000. Two-thirds of the State and local taxes are paid by middlemen, who of course add a profit; but this may be put as low as 5%, or about $10,000,000. The grand total now comes to $1,384,000,000 per annum, as the average annual burden borne by the people for 25 years past. Of this all was indirect taxation, except something over $100,000,000; leaving the average annual burden imposed by indirect taxation at $1,280,000,000.
This burden was distributed as equally as possible by natural laws, in proportion to the expenditure of each income-receiver in the support of his family. As each worker supported, on the average, three persons, including himself, the people may be divided into 15,000,000 families, or rather groups of three.* On the basis of the careful estimate of Mr. Atkinson, 14,000,000 of these must have been supported upon incomes of less than $400 (in my judgment less than $350), 700,000 on less than $1,000, and the other 300,000 on larger incomes. The average annual earnings of the nation during 25 years cannot have exceeded $7,500,000,000. Allowing 15% as savings, destruction, and cost of replacement, and adding to this the tax burdens, which must be paid out of savings, there would remain, as the sum expended in the support of the people, an average of less than $5,100,000,000 per annum. On this the burden of indirect taxation has averaged 25%. We are now prepared to calculate the effect.
What would be the result, at the end of a year, on these two classes? Assume only 200 such very wealthy men; yet their savings would be, under such taxation, $175,000,000. Assume only 600 more, with incomes of $500,000 each, spending $50,000, and taxed therefore $12,500; their net savings would be $437,500 each, or $262,500,000 in all. Thus 800 rich men would save $437,500,000. The savings of the 14,000,000 laborers could not exceed $25 each, or $350,000,000. But, if taxes could be dispensed with, the savings of the millions of poor men would have reached $1,400,000,000, while those of the 800 rich would not have exceeded $450,000,000.
Here is a mathematical demonstration that the mere fact of indirect taxation is sufficient to strip the poor of three-fourths of their natural savings, and to concentrate a majority of the wealth of the community in the hands of an infinitesimally small part of its number.
What, then, is the remedy proposed by the wild fanatic whose blunders we are considering? It is threefold.
The third branch of this proposition is the only one which has brought the penalties of everlasting damnation upon Mr. George's head, from the hand of Dr. Van Dyke. But Prof. Harris and Mr. Atkinson are sure that they have saved his soul, at the expense of his arithmetic, by demonstrating that rent is a very insignificant item, which would not suffice to meet the present necessary taxes. Assuming, for the moment, that Mr. George's arithmetical critics have delivered his soul from Sheol, let us try to rescue his body from the lunatic asylum.
Every form of tax upon personal property or improvements upon land, whether in the form of a tariff, an excise, a license, or a so-called "direct tax" upon their value, is, in the inherent nature of things, an indirect tax. It is and always must be shifted from the original tax-payer to the final consumer. In many individual cases the original tax-payer is unable thus to shift the tax; but in that event he is crippled in business, and, if the difficulty is permanent, he is ruined and driven out of business, to give place to a shrewder man, who makes the customer pay the tax in the end, with a bigger profit than would have contented the weaker man.
There are no direct taxes worth discussing, except the income tax, the succession tax, and the tax on land, valued without reference to its improvements. The income tax opens the door to innumerable frauds, and puts a premium upon perjury and corruption. If adopted in this country as the sole method of taxation, it will open the way to such plunder of the honest rich as will make them sigh for Henry George and his tax on rent. Poor folk and rascals will escape from all taxation whatever. The succession tax will fall exclusively upon the rich. If made high enough to support the cost of all government, it will fail, because it will be evaded. There remains only the tax on land values, or the natural rent of land, irrespective of improvements.
This tax is absolutely direct. It cannot be evaded. It cannot be shifted by the original tax-payer. That is an axiom of economic science. If it were not so, there would not be a particle of the clamor which is raised against it. The thunders of the pulpit would have slept forever, if the land-owner could make poor folk pay his land tax, with a little profit. The adoption of this tax would therefore put an end to all the unnatural impoverishment of the poor and enrichment of the rich, which take place under the present system. It would amount to a total abolition of taxation, as to that vast majority of the poor who own no land. Whereas now they pay both rent and taxes, then they would pay rent alone. This simple fact is a complete answer to the inquiry: "How are the masses to get the benefit of taxing rent?" As to such of the poor as own land, they would be relieved from the taxes which they now pay on personal property and improvements, that is, from more tax than would be added to their land tax. For we need reckon none among the poor who own more than $3,000 worth of land clear, that being more than the average value of improved farms; and those who own less than $6,000 worth of improved real estate are now paying more taxes indirectly than they could ever be required to pay under the single-tax system.
Let us briefly consider "Henry George's Mistake about Land," as set forth by Prof. W. T. Harris, in the Forum for July, 1887. That "mistake" lies in his assumption that ground rent would be sufficient to defray all the expenses of government, national, State, and local. Prof. Harris, finding that the official assessment of real estate in this country, in 1880, was about $13,000,000,000, and estimating that this was two-thirds of the market value, and the value of the land alone about one-half of the whole, or somewhat less than $10,000,000,000, calculates the ground rent at 4% on this sum, or $400,000,000 per annum; which of course is wholly insufficient to meet the taxes of $700,000,000 levied in 1880. He then refers to Great Britain and Ireland, where, he says, land forms only one-fifth of the total wealth, with an annual rental of £65,442,000. As British taxes altogether amount to about £118,500,000, it is clear that, if this estimate is correct, the single tax would not suffice to meet British taxes.
Taking first the case of the United States, the census report of 1880 shows conclusively that assessments are worthless, as a means of estimating real values. They vary from 10% to 70% of the true value of real estate; and no average can be estimated from them. The census of 1880, upon which Prof. Harris relies to show the proportion of land to the aggregate wealth, and which he must not therefore desert for local assessment tables, contains items of real estate, including all privileges over land, aggregating over $28,000,000,000. Adopting the rule of division between land and improvements propounded by him, the lowest estimate of pure land values for 1880 would be between $15,000,000,000 and $16,000,000,000. There is no estimate whatever of wild lands belonging to private individuals, unconnected with farms, the value of which could hardly have been less than $2,000,000,000; but of this we will take no notice. The rental of 4% for 1880, upon which Prof. Harris bases his calculation, is utterly absurd. Strictly first-class mortgages could not be placed at less than 5% in the city of New York in 1880; and such mortgages averaged, the country over, nearer 7% than 6%. It is impossible that the ownership of land, which is no better than a second mortgage, should not, on the average, produce a rate of interest higher than a first mortgage. The lowest rate of interest to be allowed on the value of land would therefore be 6.5%. But to this must be added the amount of taxation which actually fell upon land values in 1880. This could not have been less than 0.5%. Such taxes, being paid by landlords and not by tenants, necessarily depreciate the market value of the land; and this amount should be either added to the rent, or deducted from the amount expected to fall upon lands in consequence of the adoption of the single tax, since this falls upon it already.
It follows that the ground rent of the United States, in 1880, was considerably over $1,000,000,000. The taxes for that year were about $700,000,000. But of this, $100,000,000 was levied only for the purpose of piling up a surplus. The necessary taxation was only $600,000,000; and the land-owners of the United States would have been able to pay all taxes and yet retain a very large surplus. The value of land in the United States is now not less than $20,000,000,000; but the rate of interest is lower, and ground rent has not increased in equal proportion to nominal values.
Turning to Great Britain, the mistakes of Prof. Harris can be readily shown to be vastly greater than any mistakes of Henry George. His fundamental errors are three.
The following are the official figures for 1884, taken from the 28th British Inland Revenue Report; to which we append a very low estimate of the proportion of mixed land values which should be charged to ground rents alone:
||British Pure Annual Land Values, 1884.|
|Lands, returned as such||£65,442,000|
|Manors, tithes, fines, etc.||853,000|
|Fishing and shooting rights||572,000|
|Markets and tolls||607,000|
|British Mixed Annual Land Values, 1884.|
|Houses and lots||
|Canals, water-works, mines, gas, iron, etc||22,381,000|
|One-half of these values as land||£91,241,000|
|Total land values||£158,715,000|
Now the whole net amount of British taxes is £118,500,000. But of this, over £27,500,000 is already assessed upon pure land values. The adoption of the single tax would therefore increase the burden upon land only by £91,000,000. The net rental value of land being over £158,000,000, it follows that the land-owners of Great Britain and Ireland could pay all national and local taxes, and still retain for their own benefit the comfortable margin of £67,000,000. Prof. Harris will do well to study his statistics carefully before he again undertakes to exhibit "the mistakes of Henry George." *
Mr. Gunton, in the Forum for March, 1887, had preceded Prof. Harris in the same field and with about equal accuracy. He calls the entire rental value of real estate in the United Kingdom, including, of course, improvements, £131,468,000. The correct official figure (including £43,000,000 taxes, paid by occupiers) was, in 1884, almost exactly £293,000,000; and the real value is far greater. Instead of being only 11% of the gross produce, as claimed by Mr. Gunton, it is fully 25%. It is not worth while to follow either Mr. Gunton's figures or arguments any further.
I regret that the space allotted for this article will not allow an examination of Mr. Edward Atkinson's calculations on the same general point. His statistics are far more accurate than those of Messrs. Harris and Gunton. Accepting all his statistics as absolutely accurate, I have shown in another place, by his own figures, that two-thirds of the ground rents of Boston would provide for all local, State, and national taxes on Boston.
The single tax, therefore, would be a real, effective, and adequate remedy for the present unjust intervention of the state in favor of the rich and against the poor.
There still remains the question: "Is the remedy just?" Many of Mr. George's critics (notably Mr. Gunton) are debarred from raising this question, since they assert the absolute right of the state to deal with all property as may be deemed expedient. But the majority of them are better represented by Dr. Van Dyke, who thinks the proposition of Mr. George "thoroughly unrighteous." So far as we can make out, this is because the state has in the past allowed private individuals to appropriate land and its rent to their own use, and is therefore estopped from taking away that rent by taxation. But land has always been taxed. In most of our large cities it is now theoretically taxed at least 2% on its value; often 3%. Why should a tax of 2% or 3% be just and righteous, but a tax of 4%, 5%, or 6% incur penalties of everlasting damnation? Is it because land is especially singled out for taxation? Then is there not at least equal wickedness on the part of Congress, which for half a century singled out the business of importation as the only subject of taxation, and still taxes it ten times as heavily as anything else? Does the wickedness consist in taxing land up to its full value? Then is it not equally wicked to tax the poor man's window glass 100% upon its value? Does the wickedness consist in imposing a tax for the purpose of accomplishing some ulterior result? How about our whole tariff legislation, which is avowedly maintained for an ulterior purpose? Is it wicked to tax private property out of existence? How about the tax on bank notes, which was levied for the express purpose of destroying State banks? How about the tax on oleomargarine? Is it wicked to tax property out of existence, without giving compensation? Why do not those who urge this plea petition Congress for compensation for those whose wealth has been destroyed and whose occupation has been taken away by taxes avowedly levied for that purpose? Not one of these critics has ever suggested such a petition; not one of them would sign such a petition; and not one of the many thousands who have suffered from such tax laws ever thought of presenting such a petition.
Judged by any standard which has ever been applied to public affairs, even by clergymen, the proposition of a single tax on land values is perfectly reasonable, moral, and honorable. As to the amount of such a tax, that is a question to be decided by a wise expediency. There is not the slightest moral obligation on the part of the state to make the tax small, or to leave any margin to land-owners, so long as no more is taken than is needed for the honest use of the state.
It is not necessary to follow any further the proposition of Mr. George to increase taxation up to a point which would practically absorb all ground rent. Every one of the critics who has discussed the point at all, has committed himself to the theory that no such artificial increase of taxation would be necessary to absorb rent. Moreover, it is not a practical question at present, and will not be for a very long time to come, if ever. Taxation rises quite fast enough, without artificial efforts to increase it. In 40 years, in Ohio, population increased 100%, assessed wealth 1,000%, and taxation 1,360%. It is sufficient for the present to show that the actual remedy proposed by Henry George for the evils of our present social condition, the only practical measure which he asks to have adopted today, is a real remedy, an adequate remedy, and a just remedy. The criticisms of his adversaries have been directed to mere side issues, to his minor arguments, to his intellectual processes, to his illustrations, to anything except the real pith of the matter in hand. Not one of them has really wrestled with the problem; not one of them (except Mr. Atkinson) has been even approximately correct in his statistics; not one of them has failed to commit mistakes in his reasoning and his calculations far more serious than any which can be fastened upon Henry George.
Thomas G. Shearman.
Posted on October 06, 2011 at 04:20 PM in a wedge driven through society, cost of living, cui bono?, direct taxation, economic rent, ending poverty, Henry George, income concentration, income tax, indirect taxation, justice of the single tax, land rent, land share of real estate value, land value taxation, little people pay taxes, natural resource revenues, private property in land, privatization, rich people's useful idiots, savings rate, single tax, sufficiency of land rent, taxation, Thomas G. Shearman, wealth distribution or concentration | Permalink | Comments (0)
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How much is it worth to you to have the potholes and cracks in the roads in your town promptly filled in? Probably roughly what it costs you to have each of your cars fixed a couple of times a year.
So is it better for the local economy to (1) keep the tire retailers and alignment shops in business; or (2) to pay city employees or contractors to maintain the roads in a condition that minimizes damage to cars and tires?
Fans of small government might opt for the first choice. Fans of individuals having more money to spend on discretionary purchases or to invest toward their own futures might opt for the second one.
Some things ought to be done by the community, and financed by the community.
So how should we pay for this sort of public works?
If you're new to this concept, all these may make equal sense to you. (Indeed, some people argue for "balance" in taxation, or for spreading taxes across many tax bases in order to "keep rates low." But I think there is one option that is far better than the others.
Who benefits when we make it less expensive to live within a particular community than it would otherwise be, as we do by improving road maintenance? Isn't it ultimately those who own land within the city limits -- the landlords (residential and commercial), the homeowners, the business community -- who benefit, both as individuals and as property owners, when people are more prone to drive in their community than in one which does not maintain its roads to the same standards? Even those who don't own cars benefit.
Some would say that this fails to collect from the tenants -- residential tenants, commercial tenants -- who also benefit, but I'd have to disagree with that argument. Their landlords can charge them more in the presence of such services than they could charge in the absence of that road maintenance. Should that benefit accrue to the landlords, or should it be passed through to the community whose spending created it?
I'll return to something a Tennessee business man wrote to his governor in 1873:
"Never tax anything
That would be of value to your State,
That could and would run away, or
That could and would come to you."
The same is true of individual towns, too. Don't tax jobs, or workers, or buildings, or equipment, or products.
This is not a reason not to raise public revenue; rather, it is a reason to think carefully about what should be taxed -- and what should not be. Charge for that which the community's presence and activity creates, and the privilege of using that which nature or community provides in limited supply, e.g., water, electromagnetic spectrum, geosynchronous orbits, minerals, oil, natural gas; privileges like franchises for monopolies; landing rights at congested airports; on-street parking; etc.
Posted on September 25, 2011 at 01:54 PM in all benefits go to landholder , better cities, broadcast spectrum, capital gains are land gains, civilization, congestion, connect the dots, cost of living, cui bono?, economic rent, ecosystem services, employment, financing infrastructure, franchises, government's role, land value created by community, little people pay taxes, monopoly -- not the game, Natural Public Revenue, natural resource revenues, natural resources, paying twice, payroll tax, population, population growth, privilege, public ownership of utilities, reaping what others sow, sales taxes are wrong, small government, teach your children well, technological advances, urban land value, user fees, wage taxes | Permalink | Comments (0)
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