Our editor published The Geonomist which won a Californian GreenLight Award, has appeared in both the popular press (e.g., TruthOut) and academic journals (e.g., USC’s Planning and Markets), been interviewed on radio and TV, lobbied officials, testified before the Russian Duma, conducted research (e.g., for Portland’s mass transit agency), and recruited activists and academics to the Forum on Geonomics. A member of the International Society for Ecological Economics and of Mensa, he lives in America’s Pacific Northwest.
Ed. Notes: When companies are forced by politicians to pay a higher minimum wage, many of them do. That probably means they could have afforded to pay a higher minimum all along, so no harm done. As those better paid workers spend their higher wages, they create more demand for goods and services and so more jobs in supplying those goods and services. So far, so good. However …
Some companies can not afford to pay more, such as those hiring fewer than five people to do marginal work. Those tiny firms have no choice but to downsize. Sorry, ex-employee.
Other companies will raise their prices to pass on the fatter paychecks and get away with it. However, their customers in their own businesses could decide to raise their prices, too. Cities and states with the highest wages do also have the highest prices and likely the fastest inflation (the government website is down as I write this).
The places with high or rising employment rates tend to be popular places, destination states, where economies are growing any way. In those places, government collects more taxes and can hire more bureaucrats. Public employment can account for a hunk of the job growth, too.
Finally, while many of us are happy to use the club of government to impose our will on business, business is just as happy to use that same club to get its way, too. It’s a win/lose battle, with business winning most of the time — look at corporate welfare — and the public losing most of the time — the minimum wage is not even livable!
Even if the minimum wage were livable, it would still only apply to entry level workers (who should be working their way up rather than trying to live off doing menial tasks). A minimum would not, obviously, pay the unemployed or the sick or the aged. To get money to them, it can’t be in the form of a wage at any level.
Actually, it’s not only the jobless who need an income apart from their labor; the hired need one, too. Everyone needs one. When people get such a cushion, then they can negotiate higher wages, and laws for minimum wages become absolutely obsolete.
More important for human health and happiness, an income apart from labor is the only way to shrink the workweek, expand leisure, and free people to find the purpose in existence.
And it’s not like the money for sharing does not exist. Indeed, the common wealth is huge. Huge and invisible. It’s the worth of Earth, Earth being something all of us need and none of us made, and land value being something an owner does not create but community at large does. Our spending for locations and resources is a huge spending stream just awaiting our sharing, a task ideally suited to a combination of land dues (or taxes) and rent dividends, a combination that would obviate minimum wages and the arguing over them.
Rising stock markets and home prices helped lift U.S. household wealth to a record in the first three months of the year.
The Federal Reserve says household net worth increased $1.5 trillion in the first quarter to $81.8 trillion. The gain was driven by higher home prices, which boosted Americans’ home values $758 billion. A rising, if choppy, stock market pushed up stock and mutual fund holdings $361 billion.
Checking account balances, pensions plan assets and retirement savings, such as 401(k)s, also rose.
The Fed’s figures aren’t adjusted for population growth or inflation. And the wealth is flowing mainly to affluent Americans: Roughly 10% of households own about 80% of stocks.
Since the first quarter ended, stock and home prices have risen further, boosting household wealth even higher.
Ed. Notes: They admit that just because total wealth is up doesn’t mean distribution is any better. Otherwise, fundamental errors are grave — paper wealth is real wealth; a higher price for your home doesn’t mean you have more home or appliances or cars or computers. You would have to sell your home, and somebody would have to pay you that higher number, to buy more wealth … but then you would not have a home. If you want one, and with homes being more pricey, how can you come out ahead? You could borrow against your higher-assessed home, but then you’d be in debt … which might not make you happy but sure would please the banks.
You could sell the higher-valued stocks for more than you paid for them and buy stuff. Then you’d have real wealth. Real wealth is not numbers on paper, black figures on a white background, as the Federal Reserve and economists and business press want you to believe. Real wealth is real goodies and services that you can consume.
They also leave out workweek vs. leisure. How much time does it take you to grow your paper wealth? And which makes you healthier? Wealth or free time?
The main thing they leave out is: none of this “increase in wealth” is earned by any individual. If you can sell your house-plus-land for more, it’s because other people can pay more or newcomers are moving in and driving up the price. Those are things the buyer has done, not the seller. If you can sell your stocks for more, that’s because of the Fed pumping trillions into the economy, inflating the price of assets. It might also be due to corporate welfare, depending on the stock.
You know what economic news would be truly uplifting? Headlines blaring that the workweek is shrinking while the standard of living is rising. That the impact on the environment is shrinking, along with the cost and size of government, too. Once the economy works right for everybody, automatically, then we can lock the hood on the economy and forget about it. But to get there, first we have to adopt geonomics.
These four excerpts of 2014 articles about smog are from: (1) Bloomberg News, Mar 19; (2) Common Dreams, Mar 25, by Andrea Germanos; (3) Pacific Standard, Apr 11, by John Upton; and (4) The Guardian, Apr 15, by Jonathan Kaiman.
Air Pollution May Cause Genetic Harm in Kids
Air pollution led to genetic changes that may have sapped learning skills in children whose mothers were exposed to a Chinese coal-fired power plant before it was shuttered a decade ago.
Babies born in the southwestern Tongliang county just before the plant was shut in 2004 had significantly lower levels of a protein crucial to brain development in their cord blood than those conceived later. They also had poorer learning and memory skills when tested at age two.
Four years ago, Asian researchers reported links between air pollution and suicide rates in South Korea; and between air pollution, asthma, and suicides in Taiwan. Now, University of Utah scientists say they have uncovered similar links in pollution-prone Salt Lake County.
Suicide can be difficult to talk about, but it’s America’s 10th leading cause of death. It’s the eighth-leading cause in Utah, home to some of the nation’s smoggiest cities. Earlier this year, the pollution problem prompted a 5,000-person protest outside the state’s capitol building.
Bakian and her colleagues found that the odds of committing suicide in the county spiked 20 percent following three days of high nitrogen dioxide pollution—which is produced when fossil fuels are burned and after fertilizer is applied to fields.
China’s Air Pollution Leading to More Erratic Climate for US
China’s air pollution could be intensifying storms over the Pacific Ocean and altering weather patterns in North America leading to more warm air in the mid-Pacific moving towards the north pole. Mid-latitude storms develop off Asia and they track across the Pacific, coming in to the west coast of the US. Their particles are affecting how strong those storms are, how dense the clouds are, and how much rainfall comes out of those storms.
Fossil fuel burning and petrochemical processing in Asia’s rapidly developing economies lead to a build-up of aerosols, fine particles suspended in the air. Typically, aerosol formation is thought of as the antithesis to global warming: it cools our Earth’s climate. But aerosols provide seeds for cloud formation. If you provide too many seeds, then you fundamentally change cloud patterns and storm patterns.
China’s leaders will soon revise China’s environmental protection law for the first time since 1989 and require key polluters to disclose real-time pollution data.
Ed. Notes: The reason you breathe deadly air is not because clean technology has not yet been invented. The reason is fair policies have not yet been implemented. Polluters usually are important people with money and so enjoy leniency from governments, much more so than anyone who might get caught littering in public.
What governments should do instead is, of course, stop subsidizing polluters and, conversely, charge them for their pollution. Plus, not offer them free or low-cost limited liability but make them pay private insurance companies the full market rate for shielding their CEOs and management from deciding to pollute others.
Government could also facilitate the development and conversion to clean alternative engines and power plants by not taxing wages and investments. Without having to pay such taxes, companies could more easily hire workers to do the conversion work and savers could more profitably invest in new technologies.
Government could also recover the socially-generated value of land and resources. Doing that would make fossil fuels like oil less remunerative. And it cities, owners would use sites more efficiently resulting in compact cities with buildings side-by-side and taller and shorter trip distances, resulting in less energy consumption and pollution.
Finally, government should pay the “rents” from owners of locations and resources out as dividends to citizens. The extra income would liberate basement inventors and the pace of change would take off. Hopefully, the dire straights of our atmosphere will impel people to adopt these geonomic policies.
US Presidents, like presidents and prime ministers everywhere, are thought of as leaders. However, in one crucial arena, not one US President has yet been able to lead the nation, despite having the right idea.
It used to be that many people, including presidents and reformers, could see the role that land plays in creating prosperity and in fostering social justice. Back when, you had leaders like Abe Lincoln (1809-1865), 16th US President, say, “The land, the earth God gave to man for his home, sustenance and support, should never be the possession of any man, corporation, society or unfriendly government, any more than the air or water if as much… an individual or company or enterprise requiring land should hold no more than is required for their home and sustenance, and never more than they have in actual use in the prudent management of their legitimate business, and this much should not be permitted when it creates an exclusive monopoly.”
An efficient way to inhibit wannabe monopolizers is to make the value of land benefit society in general, and not just landlords, lenders, and speculators. Government could tax the value of locations. (It need not tax; it could charge a deed fee or lease public land at full market rental value or institute land dues, etc.) Then use the raised revenue in ways that’d benefit society at large.
The most famous proponents of this tax shift – tax land, not labor or capital – was the brilliant thinker Henry George, author of Progress and Poverty, which outsold every book of its era except the Bible (and the Holy Scriptures also mandated land reform). George showed how, when owners must pay a land levy, they leave more land available for others and they put their own land to good use. Both of these moves raise wages and eradicate poverty.
George’s thinking found favor with several US Presidents.
Rutherford B. Hayes, 19th president: “Henry George is strong when he portrays the rottenness of the present system. We may remove the difficulty by changes in the laws regulating corporations, descents of property, wills, trusts, taxation, and a host of other important interests, not omitting lands and other property.”
Grover Cleveland (1837-1908), 22nd and 24th president, whom George worked with on free trade: “I have always regarded Henry George as a man of honest and sincere convictions and ever held a high opinion of him.”
Teddy Roosevelt (1858-1919), 26th president and a loser against Henry George in the 1886 mayoral race for New York City: “The burden of taxation should be so shifted as to put the weight upon the unearned rise in the value of land itself, rather than improvements, the effect being to prevent the undue rise of rents.”
Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924), 28th president: “This country needs a new and sincere thought in politics, coherently, distinctly and boldly uttered by men who are sure of their ground. The power of men like Henry George seems to me to mean that.” Georgist Louis F. Post was the Assistant Secretary of Labor under Wilson.
Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882-1945), 32nd president: “I believe that Henry George was one of the really great thinkers produced by our country.” He also had Georgists high up in his administration: Chair of the Federal Reserve Lanklin Currie and economic advisor Raymond Moley.
Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890-1969), 34th president, in 1950 voted for Henry George to enter into the Hall of Fame and wondered “why the world’s resources could not be internationalized, since raw materials represented the world’s basic needs, they should belong to and serve everybody.”
A century before George, America’s Founding Fathers were totally attuned to this better way. Back then, every educated person knew of France’s physiocrats and their l’impot unique (single tax on land). A Danish ruler implemented a land tax and Argentina’s first president, Bernardino Rivadavia, tried to (the army had other ideas). In early America …
The first ambassador to France, Benjamin Franklin, was a land speculator in practice who lost big (bailed out by the US Government) and idealistically a physiocrat; the plaque at his tomb bears quotes from two famed physiocrats and one by George Washington.
First President Washington’s right-hand man, Alexander Hamilton: “A small land tax will answer the purposes of the states, and will be their most simple and fit resource.”
The US President with probably the highest IQ ever, Thomas Jefferson: “Exempt all from taxation below a certain point, and tax the higher portions or property in geometrical progression as they rise.”
His friend, Tom Paine (1737-1809), who rescued the American Revolution, expressed this geonomic idea in its fullest: “Every proprietor owes to the community a ground rent for the land which he holds… from this ground-rent … I … propose … to create a National Fund, out of which there shall be paid to every person … (a) sum.”
So what kept this proven solution from being implemented? Actually, the first US constitution, the Articles of Confederation, did have a single tax on property which was mainly land in those days. But once the rebels became rulers, their second constitution – the one we know today – deleted land and Congress turned to tariffs.
America was born of land speculation and the fever has warped the national psyche of every generation ever since. Sure, colonial America had its Commonwealth of Massachusetts and of North Carolina and the first law passed by William Penn in Philadelphia was a tax on land. But America also had speculation as the major industry. Indeed, at the time of the Revolution, the colonies’ richest citizen was its biggest landholder, speculator, and former surveyor: Commander-in-Chief Gen. George Washington.
Political opposition is nigh universal. Mexican President Francisco I. Madero (1873-1913) and Russian President Alexandr F. Kerenski (1881-1970) both proposed taxing land. Madero was assassinated (by the US ally) and Kerenski fled for his life. Jose Marti (1853-1895), the hero of Cuban independence from Spain, described Henry George as “one of the most cogent and audacious. Only Darwin, in the natural sciences, left an impression comparable to that of George in the social sciences,” but that father of that nation could not get the reform adopted. Guatemala’s President Cerezo advocated a land tax but was deposed by the (US-backed) army.
How much has changed? Nothing. Remember Barak Obama’s shady real estate deals? Remember Ronald Reagan’s real estate tax-dodging embarrassment? The link between politics and profiteering off land is not a matter of isolated examples but the very nature of the system. It’s hard to see because it’s so poorly reported and it’s so poorly reported because even journalists are blinded to the powerful role that land plays in the economy and the body politic.
So, what can you do this 2014 Presidents Day? Don’t bother looking to any president for leadership. By the time that any major political figure speaks up, geonomic reform will already have become popular. Meanwhile, leadership is going to have to come from the grassroots, from knowledgeable and committed individuals forming active groups in their neighborhoods. Those advocates will win or influence local elections, and get geonomics adopted locally. Being a president of a local group or a chairman of a county council might not be the same as being president of the US of America but it could do humanity a lot more good.
The New Yorker ran an article by Atul Gawande last summer, “Slow Ideas — Some innovations spread fast. How do you speed the ones that don’t?” (2013 July 29) Gawande, BTW, has won two National Magazine Awards, has been a finalist for the National Book Award, had a book selected as one of the ten best books of 2007 by Amazon, won a MacArthur Fellowship, and was named one of the hundred most influential thinkers. So here’s a thought: Since all of us would be much happier and better off if the great idea of geonomics were to go viral, can we apply Gawande’s insights to our geoist movement?
Here are some of his key points:
“To create new norms, you have to understand people’s existing norms and barriers to change. You have to understand what’s getting in their way.”
“Mass media can introduce a new idea to people. But people follow the lead of other people they know and trust when they decide whether to take it up. The decision to make the effort to change is a social process.”
“We yearn for frictionless, technological solutions. But people talking to people is still the way that norms and standards change.”
Does Gawande make sense to you? Do his suggestions already inform your outreach? Your activism? Do you concentrate on growing your network, even at the expense of other tactics? His points do resonate with me. Let’s considering his conclusions in order …
Upon first hearing about geonomics, what gets in people’s way? Why don’t they respond: “Yeah! Great! Let’s start sharing the worth of Earth right away! What can I do to help?” What gets in their way? In general, there are the attitudes that get in the way of any new idea: things like indifference, apathy, normalcy bias, our species’s innate conservatism, etc. Those things we can’t do much about, but we don’t need to. Once a new idea reaches a critical mass of backers, it can’t be stopped.
What we need to focus on is what gets in the way of people embracing geonomics specifically. These are other primal reactions, thing like: it’s hard for humans to share with strangers; and, people develop an emotional attachment to a parcel of land; and, people don’t trust politicians, bureaucrats, and government in general. How do we deal with these things? While there are good rational arguments to be made, those won’t carry the day. These obstacles are emotional, and logic is not what overcomes emotion.
What does overcome emotion? Safety in numbers. When you see somebody else do something, you reckon it’s safe. You watch someone else walk on the ice, you figure the ice will support you, too. You watch someone else swim in the sea, you assume there are no hungry sharks around. You hear that there are many, many people demanding gay marriage, you’ll support it, too. (Of course, “monkey see, monkey do” can backfire, too, such as the apocryphal lemmings following one after the other over the cliff, or more realistically, most everyone eating sprayed food, breathing polluted air, sticking children in stultifying schools, ignoring the eroding purchasing power of the dollar, etc.)
People do have different acceptance rates. There are a few people who only need to hear of a good idea before proselytizing it. Most people, however, need to see a parade passing by before they hop on the bandwagon. And a few never change their minds. But what proponents of a good new idea must do is target a group who’re likely to become early adopters, figure out how to reach them, and use the feedback they get to hone the message sharper. As more and more early adopters embrace the idea, more and more mid adopters will embrace the idea, until the idea finally wins over enough people to be accepted broadly and become a new law of the land.
So, what can you do to hasten this process along? Express your geonomic belief in a way that pleases you. Seek out reform-minded people and try out your message on them. Use their feedback to refine your message so that a greater number find it compelling.
The reason that Georgism — the proto-geonomic proposal which had its heyday in the 1880s — is at best a fringe idea, why its best examples have all been repealed (Honolulu, Pittsburgh, Johannesburg, Melbourne suburbs, New Zealand, Denmark, etc) is because its advocates never changed their message — “tax land!” — while society over the last century plus has changed enormously. People don’t like taxes. People do like their land. That’s two strikes against Georgism right there. The third strike is that Georgism is pro-development. Of course, developers are all for development but they want the profit from land for themselves, while environmentalists — who’ve grown to be a powerful force in society — oppose development as a gut reaction. Three strikes and Georgism is out.
What can geoists do differently? Listen. Listen to the people whose minds we want to change. Push their buttons. Appeal to their values. Frame the proposal in terms that fit nicely into their existing worldview. To know how to do all that, go back to square one: listen. Following my own advice, I’ve come up with new terms like “geonomics” and new key ideas like “Citizen’s Dividend”. The latter phrase has already shown itself to be catchy, being used by carbon taxists among others. Whether or not these strategies make enough of a difference, only time will tell. And it will tell sooner the more that people try out these ideas on their own.
Which gets us to Gawande’s third point.
While this website and others like it are great, they are not enough. You still have to talk to people you know about what you’ve learned. So: Inform your friends, family, co-workers, neighbors. When a human being experiences another of its species actually expressing what they believe or know, then more parts of the brain of the observer or listener become engaged, and the person exposed to the new information has more to chew on.
Assume all the above is true. What did you do for your cause, face-to-face with newbies, today? However you do it, get out there and become better known in your community ASAP!
The present custom of paying an owner for land is an improvement over the old way of killing occupants of coveted land, of getting your fellow tribesmen together and driving out a different tribe. But paying owners is still unfair. As the judge said, all land titles descend from force or fraud. And this system of having to pay owners does leave a lot of people landless and homeless.
It’d be better to keep the paying part but not pay owners, rather, pay one’s neighbors. How’d that work? Each occupant would pay in Land Dues and each would get back Rent Dividends, an equal share of all the collected rents.
Land Dues would not change how much one pays – the market sets that. Land Dues would only change to whom one pays – not owners but neighbors. Justice dictates that owners are not entitled to keep rent; they’re obligated to pay rent.
Why Owners Owe
In such a geonomic system, you’d pay for the value of your land alone, excluding the value of whatever is on top of it. Some places already do this. Companies in US port districts, contractors in Hong Kong, and homeowners in Australia’s capital Canberra, all lease the land beneath their buildings because in all those place the land is owned by the public.
How much you’re willing to spend for a parcel of land (not for anything on it) is due to two things. One is nature, the other is society. You pay more for fertile soil, good views, deep harbors, rich mineral deposits, etc. And you pay more for proximity, for nearness to downtown, to metro stops, to good schools, to parks, and to be in a low-crime, high-income neighborhood. Often, it’s not objective land that we want but a relative location.
Locational benefits are not created by anyone owning but by society surrounding. Just the mere presence of a populace pushes up land value. What’s the value of land in a ghost town? Zero. What’s the value of land in an occupied town with the same buildings? Anything above zero.
The best indicator of land value is population density. The more that people choose a place, the more they have to pay to be there. No lone owner can claim to have created population density all by himself. It’s community who create value of land – something none of made and all of us need. That’s why site value makes the perfect common wealth.
Ideology: Not Left Nor Right But Organic
Is sharing the worth of Earth socialist? It could be, just as Christianity could be, since it calls for charity toward the poor and claims camels have an easier time passing thru the eye of a needle than the rich have of passing thru the Pearly Gates. Heck, critiquing the Federal Reserve could be called socialist since the Central Bank is the quintessence of capitalism.
Two places that capitalists rave about are Hong Kong and Singapore. Each year, conservative outfits like the Heritage Foundation rate these two city-states as the very best place for business and the freest, or very near the top. Ironically, however, both places are not such good examples of capitalism, but of geoism. Hong Kong owns its land, Singapore taxes its. Hong Kong funds affordable housing; Singapore does, too, and pays citizens a dividend.
Markets have no better friend than geoism, better than even capitalism, with its built-in cronyism. Land Dues and similar fees make it possible to repeal counterproductive taxes. Rent Dividends make it possible to abolish wasteful subsidies. Markets like that because both taxes and subsidies distort prices. Taxes make goods more costly, subsidies make bads more affordable. Distorted prices distort the choices of both producer and consumer and on this tilted playing field you get less competition and more exploitation of nature, worker, and consumer.
Another taking that markets don’t like is “private taxation” or “rentention”. When owners, lenders, and speculators retain the rents for land, they bid up the price for land; they inflate demand. While speculating, awaiting higher prices for their parcels, they under-use them; they curb supply. Scarce supply with excess demand not only makes land less affordable but also blows a bubble that ends in recession. None of this is good for markets, especially if you want markets to be free of statist interference.
When people do get a Land Dividend, that benefits the market, too. The extra security helps people choose exactly what they want to do to make more money or to contribute to society or to develop themselves. It helps the basement inventor come up with a better mousetrap (altho’ you couldn’t tell, judging by what the rich do with their no-strings-attached largesse). It creates more consumers and investors willing to try novel goods and services. All that creates many unexpected ways to make money.
Progress of All Stripes: the Yield of Justice
All that activity also ratchets up the pace of technological progress. To date, new technology has not improved the quality of life for everyone. The only way that it ever could would be if everyone gets a share of the rise in land value, a value that’s pushed up by techno-progress. Check out the astronomical site values in Silicon Valley, Silicon Forest, Silicon Harbor, and silicon everywhere. As technology advances, the cost of living falls (we can’t tell now because of inflation). Rather than be a burden upon government, the Rent Dividend would cut the cost of living, thereby reducing the demands placed on government.
Note that a dividend is not a guarantee but a share. If there is no surplus in any particular year, there is no dividend. However, since society spends so much money for the nature it uses – indeed, FIRE (Finance, Insurance, & Real Estate) is the biggest sector in the GDP – it’d be a very freakish year, if ever, when there’d be no surplus of natural value to share.
In a fair economy, some people would be richer than others, because we each do provide different inputs into production: different talents, different dedication. But fortunes would be human-scale and every penny would be earned. And nobody would be poor. So far, the poor have always been with us. But have we ever tried economic justice – or geonomics – to eradicate it, so everyone could prosper?
Justice, the Basis
Owners do have a right to the value of their land but no more right than do their neighbors. And since owners are neighbors, too, they also have a right to the value of the land of their neighbors. Since rights are equal, each person has a right to a share of land value that’s no more and no less than the share of everyone else – each resident has a right to an equal share of the value of all the land in one’s region.
Equality does not mean everyone would get equal income in total but that everyone would have equal rights. And not just political rights like voting but economic rights, too. The most basic economic right is to “reap as you sow”.
You should get all your wages for your labor, untaxed. You should get all your profits for your capital (savings and investments into useful enterprises), untaxed. And, most crucially, you should also get an equal share of the surplus output that your society generates.
What is social surplus? Mostly, as David Ricardo showed almost two centuries ago, it’s the extra output due to the advantages of a location. Somebody could employ the exact same quantity and quality of labor and capital on one location and do a certain amount of business but on another location do a very different amount of business. Check out a gas station near a freeway off ramp vs. one in the middle of nowhere. The extra commerce at the off ramp is due to only one thing: location, location, location.
The Psychology of Normalcy, a Bias
The problem with sharing rent does not lie in the realm of ethics or pragmatics but in psychology. People demand jobs, not justice. People lack the self-esteem to demand a fair share, but are willing to demean themselves to do nearly anything for money. Indeed, some of the “best” jobs (in the sense of salary) are some of the worst jobs; they don’t grow the pie but destroy value: a lawyer for a polluter, a sales person for junk destined for a landfill, an engineer in nuclear power, a paper-pushing bureaucrat in a big corporation or government agency erecting hurdles for everyone else; there’s good money in bad work. People need money and can see no other way to get it than to occupy a job, never mind start their own business.
Americans in particular are allergic to sharing. But most people – since they’ve never been rich – think that all income must come from their labor or capital, from their work or savings. But they’re wrong. The very rich are not very rich because they work harder or smarter but because they operate in a mass market that’s filled with favors for insiders. The rich get a free lunch, the corporate welfare such as bailouts, agri-business subsidies, bloated military contracts, token fines for violating standards, etc. The rich do not feel the least bit of embarrassment from getting something for nothing. It’s an attitude the rest of us could stand to emulate.
To win such a just geonomy, we must accept as normal and natural getting a fair share of Earth’s worth, just as we accept the notion of getting air to breathe without having to pay for it (so far), of getting room to walk on the sidewalk without having to pay for it, of getting beefsteak instead of horsemeat when the former is on the menu without having to pay for the customary honesty.
The New Normal
We have equal rights, we’re all Earthlings, we all have an equal right to a fair share of Earth’s worth. That’s not socialism, that’s not capitalism. That’s geoism and it needs to become the new normal.
We’ve been back online about two months and total views now are over 92,000. We’ve noticed much more activity on Twitter than Facebook. So far in December, typically a slow month for us since student are not studying and people take holiday vacations, we’ve added:
eight new followers, inc: Forbes columnist Jesse Colombo; inc. Dr. Stuart Fischer, physician & author with 15,000 followers; inc. Candidate for California Secretary of State & ex-Common Cause VP Derek Cressman with over 10,000 followers; inc. Dr. Al-Daini, Huff Post blogger; inc. William Thomson Co, NYC, and inc. a radio station in New Mexico, WPNM;
were favorited eight times, inc. by Unlearning Economics with 7,000 followers;
were mentioned seven times, inc. by Parsons Brinckerhoff with 5,400 followers and by the CCPA Career Chpt with 1,500 followers;
were retweeted 18 times to at least 8,000 followers (not all list their number of followers)
That was Twitter. Now for Facebook. We were liked a couple times, putting us up to 123, and befriended four times and those new friends have 100s of their own friends but I did not look up the numbers.
At the site proper, we added 10 subscribers to 3,425. Comments are up to 114, inc. one by Tasmania city councilman Leo Foley.
I’m pleased to announce we have a new editor, Peter Meakin, of South Africa where he’s a land valuer.
If you haven’t already, here are 10 ways to advance the cause:_1) spread any articles you find fascinating,_2) befriend us on Facebook,_3) follow us on Twitter,_4) subscribe to updates,_5) leave a comment either in the Forum, to the editor, or after an article,_6) send us an article link or photo,_7) propose blogging there,_8) register for a course,_9) if so moved don’t hesitate to punch the PayPal button, even_10) take out an ad.
Now, hopefully all your friends and family, neighbors and coworkers will visit us, too, and enjoy raising public awareness of a better way for all. One by one, we’ll make a movement for economic justice that wins a fair share of Earth’s worth for everyone, via a sane public revenue policy.
Ed. Notes: What a great attitude! Forward looking! Open-minded! Do you know of a good idea working well somewhere? Send it to them! I’d love to see them embrace and publicize geonomics, such as the sharing of community-created land values in Aspen CO and Singapore and the oil dividend in Alaska. Such sharing has benefitting people in meaningful ways, and it’s part of a total transformation of how we run our societies.
If you’re used to it, you might not notice it, but US cities are infested with cars. To really feel how much cities here are less habitat for humanity, more habitat for vehicles, spend at least a few weeks in almost any European city with its car-free center. Your senses will gradually adapt without you noticing it but when you get back to Portland or wherever, your senses will be assaulted by the noise from wave after wave of seemingly pointless traffic.
Because Old World cities grew up when people had to use their muscles and those of their animals, citizens erected buildings side by side, didn’t bother to widen streets, and left central plazas open, organically. Since New World cities grew up when all people had to do was fire up a machine, cities here sprawl. Yet the expansiveness of cities here was quickly filled by vehicles and any advantage of room to move was lost. Indeed, many disadvantages raised their ugly heads, including residents’ alienation (see Bowling Alone).
As with most human-caused problems, there are human-devised solutions. What a few cities have done, including Sydney Australia, with success is this: they recovered the value of locations for public use.
One thing cities do strikingly well is sprout not just skyscrapers but also push up land values. Downtown lots tend to be thousands of times more valuable per acre than parcels out in the boonies. It’s a value that’s generated by the population’s presence and could be the region’s common wealth or be included in its tax base.
Recall the realtors’ mantra: location, location, location. The ones who generate the value of sites are not owners so much as virtually all of us. How much one is willing to pay for the location itself is due not to what an owner has done on it but what society has done around it — infrastructure, low crime, high salaries, etc. — and what nature has done — good views, deep harbors, natural resources, etc. Those cities that do recover the value they create set in motion a cascade of welcome benefits.
What do owners do in order to afford land taxes or land dues? What they don’t do is speculate, as they now keep some lots vacant or under-used; rather they put their parcels to good use. If the locality also lowers or eliminates its tax on buildings, then owners go all out to improve their property. If the locality also quits taxing sales or business, while recovering more of its land value, then businesses, able to utilize prime sites that had been a parking lot or abandoned building, profit more and pay better wages and ROI. If the locality also quits taxing income, while recovering yet more socially-generated site value, then watch out — entrepreneurs and cultural creatives would flock to the city.
If not just a locality but an entire state or region were to recover its spending for land and resources — while not taxing labor or capital — then the jurisdiction would suffer an embarrassment of riches. What to do with so much surplus revenue? Share it. Pay members of society a dividend, similar to Alaska’s oil share, or Aspen Colorado’s housing assistance, or Singapore’s cash dividend. Most of the money for the dividend would come from urban areas, where site values are vastly higher, so countryfolk would finally be compensated for being the target (as many of them feel) of unwanted regulations.
Citizens would get to enjoy not just economic benefits but environmental ones as well. Infilling cities frees residents and workers from having to drive everywhere; instead, they can conveniently walk, pedal, or ride transit in much less time with infestation being over. Less traffic not only means less pollution and energy consumption but also the conversion to car-free downtowns, a la Old World cities, becomes much easier, making urban living far more vibrant and satisfying.
People who hope to make cities into healthy habitats for humans, not cars, have little choice. One can not leave the billions of location value up for grabs and expect results other than those we now endure. Curing cities is feasible. Once New World cities do recover their own values and quit taxing individual earnings, then it’ll be back to the future for them.
This undated abstract, tho’ likely of 2013 March, is by Ottmar Edenhofer and Linus Mattauch.
We prove that taxing the rent is welfare-enhancing since it increases capital investment. This holds for any tax level and any recycling of the tax revenues except for combinations of high taxes and strongly redistributive recycling. Specific forms of redistribution of the land rent tax — a capital subsidy or a transfer directed at fundless newborns — allow to reproduce the social optimum under parameter restrictions valid for most economies.
Ed. Notes: While academics won’t win any Pulitzers for their prose (tho’ you got to love their neologism “hyper georgism”), it is good to see people who get paid to contemplate geonomic proposals do think they are good ideas.
Today, as I write, our views are up to 17,000 — quite a jump in one week! (over 12k.) The biggest boost came from Reddit. The most popular article, with over 15,000 views, was the one on a whistleblower in the World Bank.
Our article on farm subsidies going to Verizon was picked up by the American Bankers Association (of all people!) and passed on to their 6000 banking followers, some of whom cited our article to their followers. That and others getting retweeted were the ones on the Medieval workweek (eight times), the one on farm subsidies (thrice), the one on persuasive arguing, and the one on an economists’ spring. In total, those retweeting sent our articles to over 75,000 of their followers. Our own Tweet followers about doubled to now over 50; one being The Hill (capitol hill) with over 8000 followers.
Our Facebook Likers added 30, now up to 100. Our article on a Portland columnist endorsing geonomic taxation got shared on Facebook a couple times.
The article in second place all-time is the one on bitcoin; in third is our home page and archives, and within archives is the life of Gandhi.
We got a dozen comments. The topic to get multi replies was the article on the Portland columnist.
Our Alexa rank at statscrop jumped from 606k to 373k! If we can keep that up …
Communication is what’s going to save this species of ours. If you haven’t already, here are the 10 easy ways to advance the cause:
1) spread any articles you find fascinating,
2) befriend us on Facebook,
3) follow us on Twitter,
4) subscribe to updates,
5) leave a comment either in the Forum, to the editor, or after an article,
6) send us an article link or photo,
7) propose blogging there,
8) register for a course,
9) if so moved don’t hesitate to punch the PayPal button, even
10) take out an ad.
Now, hopefully all your friends and family, neighbors and coworkers will visit us, too, and enjoy raising public awareness of a better way for all. One by one, we’ll make a movement for economic justice that wins a fair share of Earth’s worth for everyone, via a sane public revenue policy.
Our most popular article, by far, was the one on Bitcoin with nearly 5k views; it was Tweeted by several others. Still in second place is our home page and archives, and within archives is the life of Gandhi. The number of subscribers has passed 3400. Our newish Facebook page has reached 70 Likes. Our Alexa rankis at 606k, not so hot, but it jumped nearly 200k in a week! At that rate … Scott Baker, retired investor in New York City, joined us as a blogger. If you’d like to blog here, let us know. And send us any suggestions you may have.
The Vast Flow of Payments for Owning or Using some of Nature
Discover Startling Statistics (data up to 2000)
in a quiz of 20 questions.
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Test Your GQ (Geonomic Quotient) - Quiz 5
How much society spends for nature, for land and resources, is immense, more than people spend to reward other people for their contributions of labor or capital. Show what you know about this spending, which economists call a surplus, and so could become our common wealth to share.
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When negotiating a lease, how much of the value of the oil in the ground (as measured by a percent of world price) does Alaska get? This one of the United States gets 12.5%. According to a University of Wisconsin publication, how much does Malaysia, a foreign government, get?
To take without paying is sometimes called stealing. Oil companies take oil from public land without paying, owing the US (according to USA TODAY) how much in back royalty?
Who’s the 400 pound gorilla in the industrial world? Of FORTUNE 500 earnings between 1978 to 1980, a Congressional report cited by Greenpeace found oil companies getting what percent?
Kuwait pays its citizens a dividend from oil royalties – which is why citizenship for foreigners is so hard to win. Paying its residents a share of the royalty from just this one resource, oil – not from other resources or from surface sites – how much does Alaska pay out as a dividend each year on average? Over
How much rent is there? The Washington, DC Metro system by 1981 had spent $3.5 billion on plant, equipment, and land acquisition, yet according to Walt Rybeck, aid to former Congressman Henry Reuss, had increased land value by:
Building a nine mile stretch of New York highway cost $125 million in 1995 then according to researcher Bill Batt added how much value to adjacent land?
Hong Kong funds 4/5 of its budget with ground rent, yet does not collect all the rent available. Were Hong Kong to collect, it could fund all of its budget plus pay dividends. How much rent, figures a Lincoln Institute study, does Hong Kong collect?
It’s the location, remember? If in 1979 you had enough money to afford all of Japan, how much America could you buy:
How much rent is there? For the UK, Prof. Ronald Banks in Costing the Earth (p 40) estimated that as much as what fraction of national income is rent:
In Aspen (CO), where housing costs have gone ballistic, to qualify for their housing subsidy, your income, according to the NYTNS in 1998, must be no more than:
Affordable describes Pittsburgh’s housing. This feature, plus other advantages, won the Steel City Rand-McNally’s “Most Livable Award” twice. Pittsburgh’s property tax – which falls mostly on land, not buildings – collects how much per capita compared to other neighboring big cities?
a lot less
a little less
a little more
a lot more
It’s not all theory. While nowhere is it fully in practice, some places use geonomics partially (collect, even share, some rent; cut, even end other taxes). Which of the following does not now:
The father of geonomics was the 19th century reformer, Henry George. His followers founded common-ground colonies. Which is not a Georgist colony?
New Town (TN)
Free Acres (NJ)
Incomes leak. There’s: taxes, the collateral damage of taxes (lost invest-ment, lost time hassling with extra bookkeeping and forms, etc.), privatized rents, the collateral damage of privatized rents (higher land costs, lower wages, etc.), and inflation. If we plugged these leaks – ended taxes, shared rents (the policy of geonomics) – that’d be equivalent to how much of a pay raise for the average worker, now making somewhat under $20,000 per year?
50% to $30k
75% to $35k
100% to $40k
125% to $45k
Average family income is about $35,000 in 1998. Average household giving to charity is about:
Donations from corporations, figures GIVING USA (1993), are between what percentage of their pretax income?
The twenty-five richest foundations, worth well over one third of total foundation assets, according to GIVING USA (1993), give what percentage of total foundation giving?
During the depths of the Industrial Era, the workweek got as bad as 80 hrs. – children, too. During the Middle Ages, after a plague wiped out enough people to put labor at a premium and good land at a plethora, the workweek, according to Thorold Rogers of Oxford (1862-1868) was less than:
Must Baby Boomers work so much? Harvard’s Juliet Schor wrote that from 1949 to 1989, the average US worker doubled his output yet did not halve his workweek. If productivity increases were applied toward a shorter workweek rather than to widening the gulf between haves and have-nots, by what year, had we started in 1990, would the workweek be 6.5 hours?
Bucky Fuller calculated that to produce our basics – food, clothing, shelter, medicine, transportation – we could take the required time and divide it by the adult work force, leaving each of us with a workweek whose hours total:
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close to the policy of the Garden Cities in England. Founded by Ebenezer Howard over a century ago, residents own the land in common and run the town as a business. Letchworth, the oldest of the model towns, serves residents grandly from bucketfuls of collected land rent (as does the Canadian Province of Alberta from oil royalty). A geonomic town would pay the rent to residents, letting them freely choose personalized services, and also ax taxes. Both geonomics and Howard were inspired by American proto-geonomist Henry George. The movement launched by Howard today in the UK advances the shift of taxes from buildings to locations. A recent report from the Town and Country Planning Association proposes this Property Tax Shift and their journal published research in the potential of land value taxation by Tony Vickers (Vol. 69, Part 5, 2000). (Thanks to James Robertson)
about the money we spend on the nature we use. It flows torrentially yet invisibly, often submerged in the price of housing, food, fuel, and everything else. Flowing from the many to the few, natural rent distorts prices and rewards unjust and unsustainable choices. Redirected via dues and dividends to flow from each to all, “rent” payments would level the playing field and empower neighbors to shrink their workweek and expand their horizons. Modeled on nature’s feedback loops, earlier proposals to redirect rent found favor with Paine, Tolstoy, and Einstein. Wherever tried, to the degree tried, redirecting rent worked. One of today’s versions, the green tax shift, spreads out of Europe. Another, the Property Tax Shift, activists can win at the local level, building a world that works right for everyone.
a POV that Spain’s president might try. A few blocks from my room in Madrid at a book fair to promote literacy, Sr Zapatero, while giving autographs and high fives to kids, said books are very expensive and he’d see about getting the value added tax on them cut down to zero. (El Pais, June 4; see, politicians can grasp geo-logic.) But why do we raise the cost of any useful product? Why not tax useless products? Even more basic: is being better than a costly tax good enough? Our favorite replacement for any tax is no tax: instead, run government like a business and charge full market value for the permits it issues, such as everything from corporate charters to emission allowances to resource leases. These pieces of paper are immensely valuable, yet now our steward, the state, gives them away for nearly free, absolutely free in some cases. Government is sitting on its own assets and needs merely to cash in by doing what any rational entity in the economy does – negotiate the best deal. Then with this profit, rather than fund more waste, pay the stakeholders, we citizenry, a dividend. Thereby geonomics gets rid of two huge problems. It replaces taxes with full-value fees and replaces subsidies for special interests with a Citizens Dividend for people in general. Neither left nor right, this reform is what both nature lovers and liberty lovers need to promote, right now.
one of many words I coined over 20 years ago: geoism, geonomics, geonomy, geocracy, etc – neologisms that later others came up with, too. CNBC once had a Geonomics Show, and Middlebury College has a Geonomics Institute. If “economy” is literally “management of the household”, then geonomy is “management of the planet”. The kind of management I had in mind is not what CNBC was thinking – top-down. My geonomics is not hands-on, interfering, but hands-off, organic. It’d strive to align policy with natural processes, similar to what holistic healing does in medicine, what organic farming does in agriculture. Geonomics attends to two key components: One, the crucial stuff to track is fat — or profit, especially profits without production, such as rent, or all the money we spend on the nature we use. Society’s surplus is the sine qua non for growth, needed to counter death – not merely more, but sustainable development, more from less. Two, the basic process to respect is the feedback loop. These let nature maintain balance automatically and could do the same for markets, if we let them. Letting them would turn our economies, now our masters, into a geonomy, our servant, providing us with prosperity, eco-librium (to coin a term) and leisure, time off — a hostile environment for economan but a cradle for a loving and creative humanity.
a way to have everybody pulling on the same end of the rope. Last summer’s expansive forest fires shed light on growing class resentment in the West. Old log-gers and ranchers rankled at the new urgency to stamp out the blazes that threatened the recent Aspenesque settlers. The newcomers expected working class firemen to make protecting their expensive homes top priority. (Chr Sci Mntr, Spt 7) The tinder for this envy? Rich people moving in bid up the price of land, making it hard to afford by people on the margin. The fault really lies with our system of privatizing land value. If this rising value were collected by land dues and shared by rent dividends – the essence of geonomic policy – who’d complain? The more people move in, the higher the land value, and the fatter the dividend paid to residents. Then people on the margin might go out of their way to invite rich outsiders in.
an alternative to conventional land trusts. Just as it seems some functions should not be left to the market – private courts and cops invite corruption (while private mediation is fine) – just so some land should not be left in the market. That said, sacred sites do not make much of a model for treating the vast acreage of land that we need to use. So the usual trust model, which is anti-use and counter-market, can not apply where it’s needed most. Trust proponents worry about ownership and control – two very human ambitions – but they’re not central. Supposedly, we the people own millions acres – acres that private corporations treat as private fiefdoms – and conversely, the Nature Conservancy owns wilderness the public can some places use as parks. So, the issue is not who owns but who gets the rent – ideally, all of us.
a scientific look at how we divvy up the work and the wealth, how some of us end up with too much or too little effort or reward. That’s partly due to Ricardo’s Law of Rent, showing how wasteful use of Earth cuts wages. And it’s partly due to how a society’s elite runs government around like water boys, dishing out subsidies and tax breaks. While geonomists look political reality right in the eye, without blinking, conventional economists flinch. When Paul Volcker, ex-chief of the Federal Reserve, moved on to a cushy professorship at Princeton cum book contract, the crush of deadlines bore down. So Volcker asked a junior associate to help with the book. The guy refused, explaining that giving serious consideration to policy would ruin his academic career. The ex-Fed chief couldn’t believe it and asked the department chair if truly that were the case. That head honcho pondered the question then replied no, not if he only does it once. And economics was AKA political economy!
a new policy from a new perspective. Once your worldview shifts — so that vacant city lots are no longer invisible — then epiphany. “Of course! Why didn’t I see it before?” Once you do see the emptiness and what damage it does, how can you ever go back to the old paradigm?
a study of a phenomenon David Ricardo noted going on two centuries ago. When wine grapes rise to $10,000 a ton from the very best land (last year, cabernet sauvignon commanded an average of $4,021 a ton in the Napa Valley), then vineyard prices soar from $18,000 an acre in the 1980′s to $100,000 an acre five years ago and now for a top pedigree up to $300,000 an acre (The New York Times, April 9, via Wyn Achenbaum). Pricey land does not make wine pricey; spendy wine makes land spendy. While vintners make their wine tasty, nature and society in general – not any lone owner – make land desireable. Steve Kerch of CBS’s MarketWatch (April 5) notes that much of what a home sells for on the open market is a reflection of intangible factors such as what school district the house sits in. The price the builder has to pay for the land also tends to be driven by the same intangibles. Because the value of land comes from society, and because one’s use excludes the rest of society, each user owes all others compensation, and is owed compensation by everyone else. Sharing land’s value, instead of taxing one’s efforts, is the policy of geonomics.
the study of the money we spend on the nature we use. When we pay that money to private owners, we reward both speculation and over-extraction. Robert Kiyosaki’s bestseller, Rich Dad’s Prophecy, says, “One of the reasons McDonald’s is such a rich company is not because it sells a lot of burgers but because it owns the land at some of the best intersections in the world. The main reason Kim and I invest in such properties is to own the land at the corner of the intersection. (p 200) My real estate advisor states that the rich either made their money in real estate or hold their money in real estate.” (p 141, via Greg Young) When government recovers the rents for natural advantages for everyone, it can save citizens millions. Ben Sevack, Montreal steel manufacturer, tells us (August 12) that Alberta, by leasing oil & gas fields, recovers enough revenue to be the only province in Canada to get by without a sales tax and to levy a flat provincial income tax. While running for re-election, provincial Premier Ralph Klein proposes to abolish their income tax and promises to eliminate medical insurance premiums and use resource revenue to pay for all medical expense for seniors. After all this planned tax-cutting and greater expense, they still expect a large budget surplus. Even places without oil and gas have high site values in their downtowns, and high values in their utility franchises. Recover the values of locations and privileges, displace the harmful taxes on sales, salaries, and structures, then use the revenue to fund basic government and pay residents a dividend, and you have geonomics in action.
To prevent government from becoming corrupt and tyrannous, its organization and methods should be as simple as possible, its functions be restricted to those necessary to the common welfare, and in all its parts it should be kept as close to the people and as directly within their control as may be.
Never put off until tomorrow what you can do the day after tomorrow.
It’s like deja-vu, all over again.
The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.
I don’t want to belong to any club that will accept people like me as a member.
To punish me for my contempt for authority, fate made me an authority myself.
In the first place, God made idiots. That was for practice. Then he made school boards.
Beware of all enterprises that require new clothes.