Land Value Taxation will solve many of the 21st century's most serious social, economic and environmental problems, and promote justice, fairness and sustainability. We CAN have a world in which all can prosper.
Progress and Poverty, by Henry George Here are links to online editions of George's landmark book, Progress & Poverty, including audio and a number of abridgments -- the shortest is 30 words! I commend this book to your attention, if you are concerned about economic justice, poverty, sprawl, energy use, pollution, wages, housing affordability. Its observations will change how you approach all these problems. A mind-opening experience!
Henry George: Progress and Poverty: An inquiry into the cause of industrial depressions and of increase of want with increase of wealth ... The Remedy This is perhaps the most important book ever written on the subjects of poverty, political economy, how we might live together in a society dedicated to the ideals Americans claim to believe are self-evident. It will provide you new lenses through which to view many of our most serious problems and how we might go about solving them: poverty, sprawl, long commutes, despoilation of the environment, housing affordability, wealth concentration, income concentration, concentration of power, low wages, etc. Read it online, or in hardcopy.
Bob Drake's abridgement of Henry George's original: Progress and Poverty: Why There Are Recessions and Poverty Amid Plenty -- And What To Do About It! This is a very readable thought-by-thought updating of Henry George's longer book, written in the language of a newsweekly. A fine way to get to know Henry George's ideas. Available online at progressandpoverty.org and http://www.henrygeorge.org/pcontents.htm
Where Else Might You Look?
Wealth and Want The URL comes from the subtitle to Progress & Poverty -- and the goal is widely shared prosperity in the 21st century. How do we get there from here? A roadmap and a reference source.
Reforming the Property Tax for the Common Good I'm a tax reform activist who seeks to promote fairness and reduce poverty. Let's start with the enabling legislation and state requirements for the property tax. There are opportunities for great good!
Every proprietor, therefore, of cultivated land owes to the community a ground rent (for I know of no better term to express the idea) for the land which he holds.
— THOMAS PAINE, Agrarian Justice, Paine's Writings, Vol. III., p. 329 (1795-6).
If all men were so far tenants to the public that the superfluities of gain and expense were applied to the exigencies thereof, it would put an end to taxes, leave never a beggar and make the greatest bank for national trade in Europe.
— WILLIAM PENN, Reflections and Maxims, Sec. 222, Works V., pp. 190-1.
Pennsylvania is a diverse state. Its major cities and their suburbs tend to have higher costs of living, and its smaller cities and rural counties are much less expensive. But even the least expensive counties have bare-bones cost of living far about the Federal Poverty Guideline.
Here are the Federal Poverty Guidelines for 2009, which were extended into at least mid-2010:
The barebones cost of living in the least expensive counties is over 150% of the FPG for a single adult; and nearly twice the FPG for adults with children.
A similar lifestyle would cost far more in Pittsburgh (about 250%, with children) and Philadelphia (about 300%, with children. In suburban Pittsburgh, the figure is slightly higher than in the city itself. In Lancaster County, the costs are similar to suburban Pittsburgh's.
And in the suburban counties of Philadelphia, that still-bare-bones lifestyle costs more yet: 325% to 350% of the Federal Poverty Guideline.
Few people live in the rural counties, where costs are low. (So are wages and opportunities!)
Most people live in the urban and suburban counties, where costs are higher. (And if they tried to live in the rural counties and work in the urban ones, their high transportation costs would eat up much of the difference.)
High population density goes with high median income; low population density goes with low median income.
All these places need janitors, and nurses' aides, and fast-food workers, and retail clerks, and many other jobs which pay wages which are insufficient for an adult to live independently on, much less support a family on. (And most places have zoning regulations which prohibit more than a few unrelated adults from living in a single housing unit, which would be a way to reduce the cost of living.) Encouraging individuals to seek more education to move beyond these jobs is fine, but it doesn't mean that those jobs won't be needed in a hypothetical more-educated future. Do we really expect that they will be filled by people who will be content with dormitory living, and not having children, or supporting an elderly relative, or that young people will fill these jobs briefly and then move into higher-paying jobs when they marry and have children? Really?
Trickle-down economics doesn't speak to how all these people can afford to live. The SSS is not a middle-class lifestyle, at least not the way most of us think of "middle class." It is the just-getting-by-without-depending-on-help (though it does take into account EITC, CCTC and CTC; the EITC is only relevant in a few rural counties -- see the tables starting at page 42). We need to understand why wages are so low, and why our wealth and income are so concentrated. And we need to understand the structures that create this situation, in order to correct them.
Median Family Income
Persons per Square Mile
Federal Poverty Guideline
source: Census Quick Facts site, except for Allegheny County: Pittsburgh city data
Eron Lloyd has an excellent post over at Daily Kos. He's writing about Philadelphia, but could just as well be writing about most American cities and towns. He writes,
At the Mayor's third town hall meeting last week on the budget cuts, I
was handing out our Philadelphia LVT brochure to people before the
meeting as usual when I had a brief but interesting exchange. A man
walking into the building took a quick look at my brochure and handed
it back, shaking his head. He said that he works for the city, and that
"there's no money in land" to solve the city's problems. ...
After the meeting, I decided to test this person's belief while walking
along Girard Ave. back to my car. Across the street were some vacant
lots that looked like they'd been empty for years. It appeared to be
about 3-5 lots in size, with huge weeds and junk all over the place.
Rather than describing it in detail, have a look for yourself.
Eron goes on to describe the property, the public records on it, and the location, and then tells us that the property is for sale. I'll leave it to you to read the rest of his post, and to consider how we currently finance public spending, and how the incentives affect our economy -- local and national.
Joshua Vincent, of the Henry George Foundation in Philadelphia, is a keen observer of the scene, particularly of Philadelphia's scene. This week he had an article in The Bulletin in that city, and he comes up with what I think is an interesting observation:
... on the revenue side we still depend too much on the taxation of action.
The fact is Philadelphia relies on tax revenue from two things - labor
and capital - that can be hidden, can vanish or can flee. Both are
being whipsawed by forces beyond Philadelphia's control. There are few
places to hide, especially from high tax rates on those two things.
Benjamin Franklin managed to outwit the Grim Reaper, he would have
turned three hundred years old in 2006, and would probably have been
making plans for another three hundred. Journalist, scientist,
diplomat, and vendor of the virtues, Franklin stands in our imagination
as the iconic “First American,” the self-made man and proud inventor of
the future. His scientific achievements were indeed interesting and
impressive — especially his research on electricity and his invention of
the lightning rod.But equally interesting, and far
more complicated, was Franklin’s idea of science. He was, you might
say, our first home-grown Baconian — seeing scientific ingenuity as the
greatest delight and truest redeemer of human life.
Franklin complained to his friend and fellow natural philosopher Joseph
Priestley of the disparity between scientific and moral progress: so
badly constructed were most human beings, said Franklin, that Priestley
should have killed boys and girls instead of innocent mice in his
experiments with mephitic air. How much better than the bratty kids
were the results of these experiments. Scientific progress, Franklin
occasions my regretting sometimes that I
was born so soon. It is impossible to imagine the height to which may
be carried in a thousand years, the power of man over matter. We may
perhaps learn to deprive large masses of their gravity, and give them
absolute levity, for the sake of easy transport. Agriculture may
diminish its labor and double its produce; all diseases may by sure
means be prevented or cured, not excepting even that of old age, and
our lives lengthened at pleasure even beyond the antediluvian standard.
on, in letters to other friends, Franklin trimmed his timetable by a
full nine hundred years, saying that a mere one hundred would see
modern science produce discoveries of which he could have “no
conception.” And he said again that the “art of physic” would advance
so far and so fast that mankind would be able to avoid diseases and
live as long as “the Patriarchs in Genesis; to which I suppose we
should make little objection.”
The Self-Sufficiency Standard Studies, which have been conducted in more than 35 states so far (most recently Colorado, Pennsylvania and Ohio), show the bare-bones cost of living, county by county, for several configurations of family.
What does it cost for a single adult to get by? How much does her cost of living rise when she has an infant? A preschooler? Both?
I've posted before about the Self-Sufficiency Standard studies, which show, for a young family, the bare-bones cost of living by locality, for various configurations of family. They answer the question "What does it cost to live here, without subsidies or help from relatives, with all one's most basic needs met, but no frills?" These studies have been conducted in about 35 states, some as many as 3 times.
Now a similar methodology has been developed to measure the cost of living for seniors. I'm looking at the study for Pennsylvania, where I grew up and where I still have an elderly relative. He lives modestly in one of the more expensive counties, and based on what I know about wealth distribution among seniors, I've told him he's in pretty good financial condition for someone of his age. He doesn't see it that way.
An article in today's Philadelphia Daily News caught my eye. Philadelphia is home to several fine universities, some excellent medical schools and teaching hospitals, fine museums, Constitution Center and the birthplace of two of my favorite people, one in the mid 20th century, the other in the mid 19th century. I visit its suburbs every week, and have a sense of knowing the territory from having grown up in those suburbs.
Only 14 percent of city residents hold a bachelor's degree, according
to the 2005 study "Graduate! Philadelphia: The Challenge to Complete,"
by the Philadelphia Workforce Investment Board and the Economy League
of Greater Philadelphia.
In Boston, that rate is 25 percent; in Seattle, it's 36 percent.
Philadelphia's college attainment rate puts it at 92nd among the 100 largest cities in the country -- scraping the bottom.
fact, in Philadelphia -- unlike Boston, Chicago or Washington, D.C. --
there are more people who have started college and dropped out than
there are residents who actually hold a four-year bachelor's degree.