demographic shift opportunity commodities consumers

Can Productivity Increases Benefit More Than the 1%?
sustainable american dream middle class agri subsidies conserving waste

How America Can Once Again Define its Future

There's big opportunity if the US makes smart responses to recession and climate change and harnesses its strengths to its demographic shifts. This 2012 excerpt is from CNN Nov 28. The author is the deputy director of the National Security Studies Program at the New America Foundation.

By Patrick Doherty

Decisively addressing the nation's primary global challenges -- backed by the market potential of powerful demographic shifts at home and abroad -- could yield opportunity unlike any other in America's history.

Over the last 20 years, roughly 1 billion people entered the global middle class. In the next 20 years, there will be 3 billion more. These new consumers use huge amounts of resources and emit more carbon, a roughly 300% increase. Expect price increases for basic commodities like energy, food, and minerals, and deepening conflicts among the great powers over resources in familiar places: the Persian Gulf, the South China Sea, and Central Asia.

Beyond climate change, humanity consumes about 150% of the "goods" provided by the earth's natural systems -- including fresh water, soils, and fisheries.

Just as the country transitioned from war production to civilian production 60 years ago, it must now transition to sustainable production, while building a new American dream.

If it can, the United States will be ideally positioned to rebuild our middle class, compete globally and pre-empt growing confrontation over resources.

Baby boomers, millennials, et al -- 56% percent of homebuyers -- say that they want the trappings of their American dream to be walkable and convenient, not car-dependent and isolated, and home prices already reflect this. From 2014 to 2029, these two largest American demographics, each 25% of the total population, will meet in the housing market as boomers empty their nests and as more millennials marry and have children -- creating the largest concentration of demand for housing since the period after World War II. This could reduce the environmental footprint by roughly a third.

By 2050 global food production must increase by 60%, while soil and fresh water must be regenerated, not depleted. American farmers are held back by expensive, distorting, and antiquated subsidies that essentially pay farmers to overwork the land and waste scarce water resources. We've already lost up to 50% of Iowa's topsoil, drained the Ogallala Aquifer, and created a fertilizer-based "death bloom" at the mouth of the Mississippi. While conventional agribusiness is enjoying high global prices, climate-related drought and floods have reduced the harvest to the lowest since the early 1970s.

Now we get 80% of federal revenues from taxing individuals, are suffering from long-term unemployment, and consume far more resources than Europe for an inferior standard of living. We're conserving labor and expending resources when we need to do the opposite.

To lead a revolution in resource productivity, we must stop taxing work and start taxing waste.

Tapping into the new demand pools of the 21st century, unleashing pent-up capital, and shifting American markets to lead a revolution in resource productivity will position the United States to lead the world once again.

To read more

JJS: One of the most valuable things that we all waste is not just farm land but city land, too, which can be hundreds of times more valuable per acre. The way to get speculators and lazy governments to quit wasting prime urban sites is to have government recover location values and quit taxing people’s efforts, their earnings, and purchases and buildings. Then owners will put their parcels to best use which will in-fill cities, make them more compact, shrink trip distances, save energy, cut pollution, etc, etc. So, sure, do shift taxes and subsidies but don’t forget to shift the property tax from improvements to land.

As for subsidies, you can forget about paying out them if you pay the citizenry a share of the recovered “rents”, a la Aspen’s housing assistance and Alaska’s oil dividend.

The leadership for this change might not come from America but from Denmark. There the political party dedicated to shifting taxes to the socially-generated value of land was recently reborn. The relaunch was picked up by all major Danish newspapers, with additional television and radio appearances by lead representatives of the party. To read more . Use Google Translate or a similar service, just to get an idea of the discussions.


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 .

Also see:

Good Enough for Profit, Good Enough for Populace?

Why do we lock up so many people?

US Poverty -- Record Numbers Persist

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