For geonomics: Endorsements, a dismissal, and real world progress
Lots of good press, a little bad press, and actual implementation
To show an idea’s progress, we trim and blend six 2008 articles in: (1) Northern California’s Morgan Hill Times, “Proposition 13 is 'third rail' of politics” (Jan 22) by Wes Rolley, artist, Green Party member, and local writer on the Board of Contributors; (2) Connecticut’s The Day (Jan 13) “Property Tax Shift Could Invigorate New London” by Katie Warchut; (3) The Ottawa Citizen, a major Canadian daily newspaper (Feb 12), “Tax land, not homes” by Frank de Jong, leader of the Green Party of Ontario; (4) Front Row Center (Jan 31), the e-column of the Archbishop of New York, Edward Cardinal Egan; (5) Pennsylvania’s Observer, “Tax burden lands on larger properties” (Jan 18) by Terri T. Johnson, staff writer; and (6) the blog (Feb 6) of Jack King, author of thrillers such as The Fifth Internationale, with links to the Jesuits.
by Jeffery J. SmithRolley: We need to re-think what we want government to do. What services should it provide? What protections should it give?
Then, we need to decide how we are going to pay for those services.
Some economists follow the lead of Henry George and make the case for a land tax; in effect, switch the property tax basis from building to land.
Warchut: Imagine the New London's vacant storefronts transformed and decaying homes fixed up, all with the help of a land-value tax.
Under the current system, owners are penalized for developing land because new buildings mean more taxes.
Reducing the tax on improvements, raising it on locations, creates a greater incentive to build, or sell it to someone else who will.
Harrisburg PA, which has implemented LVT, reduced its empty and dilapidated structures from nearly 5,000 to just under 400. And they have at least as many tax exempt properties as New London.
James Howard Kunstler's Home From Nowhere has a chapter on this and praises it highly.
De Jong: Like all North American cities, Ottawa suffers badly from sprawl.
Vacant lots and abandoned buildings deprive cities of needed tax revenue, reduce property values, and detract from the livability of the city.
We should shift property taxes off buildings and onto land value (not lot size). Building infill and pedestrian neighborhoods would become less expensive while car-dependent sprawl would become more expensive.
More compact communities reduce the distance between houses and businesses, thus reducing costs to the city for service delivery.
Municipalities could gradually make the shift to a location-value tax system. Over time, the rate for buildings would be reduced and the rate for land increased.
JJS: Flashback to over a century ago when Henry George was the third best-known American and running for mayor of New York -- a race he won but a victory he was denied -- and the Roman Catholic Church owned much of America, then as now.
Egan: Archbishop Corrigan’s principal conflict with Father McGlynn seemed to have to do with a movement to abolish the private ownership of land led by an amateur sociologist by the name of Henry George. Father McGlynn embraced George's theories with unlimited devotion, even though it was never quite clear what exactly they entailed. Archbishop Corrigan, seeing communism, socialism and such in all of this, was horrified; and the result was a series of actions that, at least from our perspective a century later, appear to be way more than the murky musings of Henry George merited. The actions included a dismissal of Father McGlynn from his parish and even an excommunication. The upshot was immense damage to the unity of the Archdiocese, the standing of the Archbishop, and the image of the Church.
In January of 1900, Father McGlynn, who had been named pastor of St. Mary's parish in Newburgh in 1895, died of Bright's disease. Catholic schools continued to grow in enrollment and prestige: the Scriptures continued to be free of error; the Pope continued to be infallible when teaching faith and morals "ex cathedra"; and whatever it was that Henry George had been proposing slipped into richly deserved oblivion.
JJS: “Oblivion?” Not only was the good bishop misleading but also wrong.
Johnson: Washington PA is facing a $1.2 million deficit. Twenty-four percent of the city's budget is for debt service, with 44% of the debt service going toward pension debt. Attempts to increase fees and to reduce expenditures failed to produce a balanced budget. Hence the city council increased the land tax rate by 30 mills from the current 52.63 mills to 82.63 mills. The building tax will not increase and will remain at 3.5 mills.
JJS: Not only is the notion of recovering rent gaining headway, so is a sound way to disburse it.
King: A new concept is emerging, that the modern world’s inherited wealth can eliminate poverty. It is the Citizens’ Dividend. It would do more than anything else to give us a humane and civilized society.
Jeffery J. Smith runs the Forum on Geonomics.
Local Tax Reform in Scotland
Tax the land and let the green shoots show
Stop Government Abuses of Eminent Domain
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