In 2011 Investors' Bids on US Land Up 128%
2013 Budget Could Cut Fossil Fuel Subsidies by $4B
Even just talk of cutting subsidies is good news, being a necessary first step. A serendipitous step is a new board game. We trim, blend, and append three 2012 articles from: (1) Greentech Media, Feb 14, on the budget by E. Wesoff; (2) United Country, Jan 16, on land sales; and (3) [Mass.] Valley Advocate, Feb 9, on a game by Mark Roessler.
by Eric Wesoff, by United Country, and by Mark Roessler
2013 Budget Proposes to Eliminate $4B in Fossil Fuel Subsidies
President Obama sent his budget request to Congress on Monday. Here are some of the highlights of the energy portion of the budget. It would:
* repeal over $4 billion per year in "inefficient" tax subsidies to oil, gas, and other fossil fuel producers;
* grant the Dept of Energy $27.2 billion, a 3% increase from 2012 levels;
* give the Office of Science $5 billion;
* give the DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy $2.33 billion, an increase from 2012 figures;
* give the Office of Nuclear Energy $770 million.
* give the SunShot Initiative (to make solar power at grid parity without subsidies by 2020) $310 million;
* give wind power$95 million; and
* and give geothermal power $65 million. As this is an opening salvo, final figures probably will differ.
To see the whole article, click here .
JJS: Subsidies may not actually help an economy evolve out of entrenched ways and embrace advanced ways, ways that benefit people and planet, for at least a half dozen reasons:
* First, bureaucrats have to pick winners; since they get to spend OPM (Other People’s Money, pronounced “opium”), they tend to make more mistakes than do people investing their own money; e.g., in the past they’ve picked solar thermal when photovoltaic was the better option -- and Mother Earth should not have to tolerate many more human mistakes.
* Second, bureaucratic mistakes get entrenched whereas business mistakes get wiped off the playing field (unless firms are deemed “too big to fail” and government bails them out with yet more subsidies).
* Third, bureaucracies are not cheap; when you read a budget figure, you’re seeing money that goes to bureaucracy -- maybe a quarter of that will reach an actual engineer somewhere.
* Fourth, subsidies create dependency whereas scientists need independence to be able to think outside the box and invent new technologies.
* Fifth, subsidies are the result of political compromise -- one side gets money for green ways, another side for grey ways -- “log-rolling”. By accepting the deal, green advocates validate the very grey ways they say they oppose. And …
* Sixth, subsidies for green ways are no substitute for taxes, fees, or fines for grey ways. If grey ways had to pay for the costs they impose on others -- health costs, natural losses, and the like -- they’d pretty quickly clean up their act.
Better than a busybody government with good intentions is a clear-minded government that defends your rights, including your right to a healthy, unpolluted government.
The scope of the article above did not include subsidies for agri-biz, but those are hugely destructive to the environment, rewarding factory farming and intensive use of fossil fuels and fertilizers. Such subsidies also drive up the price of farmland. Pricey farmland means big owners gobble up little ones, and big ones tend to be insensitive to the needs of the land whereas little ones have the leeway to grow organically. So, that’s yet another reason to oppose subsidies, in order to undo land concentration.
National Land Auction Sales Accelerate in 2011
The big story in real estate and investment circles for 2011 was raw land. Land sales experienced a dramatic rise in 2011, resulting in a 20-percent increase and auction land sales that more than doubled over 2010.
Land as a very profitable, diversified investment isn’t a new idea. In fact, it’s advice that has been handed down for generations. As Will Rogers said, “Buy land, they aren’t making any more of the stuff,” and as Warren Buffet last year said, “I’d rather own all the farmland in America, than all the gold in the world.”
Farms and ranch land in particular showed the most substantial growth in the land category with roughly 38 percent increases year-over-year.
But the biggest increase was in land auction sales, which was 128 percent over 2010. Auctioning high demand farmland has proven the best way to realize optimal land prices for sellers.
Unlike stocks and bonds, land offers an intrinsic value that can be seen, used, and enjoyed for recreational purposes such as hunting, fishing, hiking, camping, vacationing, or as a source of additional income by purchasing cropland, hunting leases, and other programs that allow owners to receive cash rents.
To see the whole article, click here .
JJS: As society moves toward monopoly ownership of farmland in the business world, in the game world some idealists try to teach another way by inviting people to have fun.
Monopoly's Not for Losers
The designers of Co-opoly, a new, board game, hope to prove the point the original, long-forgotten creator of America's favorite game never did.
Ever since Parker Brothers began publishing the game in 1935, Monopoly has been the world's best-selling board game. It's been translated into most major languages, and the design, which features street names from Atlantic City in New Jersey, has been adapted (under license) to localized and themed versions of the game (including a special Northampton edition). Instead of being confined to playing on the streets of the Garden State's seaside city, players around the globe can find versions using their own cities as a frame of reference. Europe alone has over 30 different versions.
It's the classic game you remember from your youth. Simulated capitalism. Every player for himself. As the rules state, the winner is the player who "become[s] the wealthiest ... through buying, renting and selling property."
Alternatively, in Co-opoly, instead of trying to drive other players to ruin, all play against the bank and fate together, earning and losing points as they face the challenges of surviving together as a co-op. The game is considered "won" when players have enough points to start a second co-op.
Parker Brothers, the multinational game company, has tried to eliminate competition before, even going so far as to have copies of Anti-Monopoly sent to a landfill in 1974. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals eventually sided with Ralph Anspach, the author of the offending game.
In defending his suit, Anspach researched the game's origins and eventually found players who remembered trying the game long before 1935. The game itself was originally designed by Lizzie J. Magie, who patented a version in 1904 as The Landlord's Game. A Quaker from Virginia, Magie hoped the game would act as a teaching tool to critique monopoly ownership.
She was an adherent of Henry George, politician and writer, who showed how land ownership was a key factor in economic inequality. He advocated a "single tax" system to level the playing field, and Magie tried to infuse this wisdom into the game.
To see the whole article, click here .
JJS: It’d be nice if such a game catches on. There’s another game of similar intent, called “WONKS”, that’s played from the point of view of policymakers who must levy taxes and spend subsidies -- or not -- in ways that improve the economy, heal the ecosystem, and win the player’s leader the most popularity in the world. Get in touch to play.
Editor Jeffery J. Smith runs the Forum on Geonomics and helped prepare a course for the UN on geonomics. To take the “Land Rights” course, click here .
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