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!
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
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!
INFLUENCE OF TAXATION ON THE PROSPERITY OF CITIES
A Paper Read by Lawson Purdy of New
Before the League of American Municipalities,
in Session at
Chicago, September 26, 1906.
In 1873, Enoch Ensley, a wealthy planter of Tennessee, wrote to
Governor Brown asking him to call a special session of the legislature
to amend the constitution so that changes could be made in the tax laws
of Tennessee. The tax rate of Nashville was three and one-half per cent
and of Memphis four per cent, and Mr. Ensley said that the burden on
business was insupportable. Great land owner as he was, however, Ensley
did not urge a search for new sources of revenue, but rather the
application of the "rule or motto" which, he said, "It would be well
for the State to adopt and have cut into the stone at the capitol (in
large letters and have them gilded), in the Senate chamber, the hall of
the House of Representatives and in the governor's office, . . . to-wit:
"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."
This rule laid down by Ensley has become an axiom, but before it can be
applied the constitutions of about thirty-five States must be amended
by repealing those despotic limitations on legislative power which are
not found in the earlier constitutions, and which should find no place
in the constitution of any free people. Because of constitutional and
statutory restraints upon the power of cities we need discuss only what
can be accomplished in most cities by executive officials under
Conditions of Prosperity.
City officials often regard the city as apart and distinct from the
individual citizens, and sometimes therefore uphold policies which
appear to be in the interest of the city corporation, although opposed
to the interests of the citizens. This is, of course, a short-sighted
view. In reality nothing can be good for the city which is bad for the
citizen, nor bad for the city which is good for the citizens. Again,
many consider the interest of classes and speak of what will be
advantageous to manufacturers or shopkeepers or land owners. This, too,
is a mistaken attitude. Citizens should be regarded alike as men, and
not as the owners or users of some kind of property. All depend upon
the workers who render service for service, and it is fair therefore to
consider the interest of all citizens as bound up in the interest of
those who earn their living; and that city may be regarded as the most
prosperous in which it is easiest and most agreeable to earn a living.
The interests of the city and of its citizens are identical.
Nevertheless, they may be viewed from both standpoints.
<a href="http://www.thehour.com/story/463735/">City to purchase 50 foreclosed homes</a>
STAMFORD -- Stamford will receive nearly $3 million in state grant
money to buy bank-owned foreclosed properties in its most affected
The state Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD) will
disperse $25 million in Neighborhood Stabilization Program funds to
seven Connecticut cities for the purpose of stabilizing neighborhoods
that have been impacted by bank-owned foreclosures.
The funds will be used to finance the home acquisitions and to
rehabilitate or demolish and develop the properties. Stamford will
target the funds to the West Side, East Side and Cove neighborhoods for
their high concentration of foreclosures, bank-owned property,
properties in foreclosure court process and properties that have
So what should they do with the homes? I propose that they buy them, rehabilitate them, and sell off the homes -- not the land, just the homes -- as affordable housing. Keep the land, charge the owners of the homes ground rent, in proportion to the assessed value of the land. Since most of the value is in the land, not the buildings, their mortgages will be relatively small. And the city will have a revenue source -- ground rent, at, say, 5% of the true market value of the land. Currently, the town is collecting 1.187% in property tax on land and buildings ($16.96 millage rate, on a value which represents 70% of the 10/1/07 real market value). Under the scenario I propose, the town would collect 5% on the land value, and 1.187% on the building, and the home buyer would only need to borrow enough to pay for the building itself, at its rather depreciated value, after rehabilitation.
A win-win-win situation ... except maybe for the banks. But the federal government is looking out for their interests, and I don't think they ought to be our highest priority.