Pages I refer to often

  • Income Distribution in the US
    How is our income distributed? Well, it is pretty concentrated. How concentrated? Take a look.
  • 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!
  • Wealth Concentration Tables from 2004 SCF: Bottom 90%, Next 9% and Top 1%
    Aggregated data by net worth quantile, for various kinds of wealth. With calculations you won't find anywhere else!
  • Wealth Concentration Tables from 2004 SCF: 50-40-5-4-1
    These tables show how concentrated the ownership of various kinds of assets are. With calculations you won't find anywhere else! This version is less aggregated: Bottom 50%, Next 40%, Next 5%, Next 4% and Top 1%.


Books I Value

  • 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 and

Where Else Might You Look?

Sites I enjoy

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« "An Open Field and a Fair Chance": Abraham Lincoln and Henry George | Main | Who Benefits From This Mortgage Mess -- and From the Proposed Solutions? Is there an alternative? »

February 24, 2008


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Mason Gaffney

The Los Angeles Country Club contains 39 holes, so its area is pushing 500 acres. Under California law, members-only golf clubs are assessed on capitalized income only - and a members-only club has little income to capitalize. Abutting the club's east side a 6-acre parcel sold last year for $1400 per square foot, a new record for L.A. To the south is Century City, with about the highest values p.s.f. in L.A. The land straddles Wilshire Blvd and extends north towards, if not to, Sunset Blvd and Beverly Hills - all prime locations.
Now, grab your calculator. $1,000 p.s.f. x 43,560 s.f. per acre x 500 acres comes to -- a lot of tax-exempt land value!


I'll do that math ... $43.56 million per acre (assuming a discount of about 30% off the comparable next door). An ordinary otherwise unprivileged mortal who buys a property like that will pay 1%* to 1.25%** of that amount each year in property taxes in California, the first year -- $435,600 to $544,500 -- per acre.

*1% is mandated by Proposition 13
** the additional 0.25% accounts for parcel taxes voted by local residents.

The next year, for the ordinary California-grandfathered-privileged landholder, no matter how much the market value of the property rose, his taxes would only rise 2%,*** to 444,312 to $555,390.

*** the 2% maximum increase is also mandated by Prop 13

But the membership of this and other private golf courses are not, of course, ordinary unprivileged or merely California-grandfather-privileged human beings, and therefore get to keep this huge private park as their own economic treasure, not subject to the taxes which would support the community.

And I'm willing to bet that most of the members are also major beneficiaries of Proposition 13 -- as homeowners and as business-people, because they are older, have owned their properties for extended periods of time, and tend to own property in the most valuable and fastest-appreciating locations.

There is more about special assessment for California's "non-profit" golf courses at

Another example of how our system makes things so much easier for the wealthy and well-connected. (See also: the post on "Clawback") And yet they balk at measures that could benefit the people who are so generous to them!

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