ALBERTA, A LA ALASKA, SHARES OIL RENT
Geonomics is …
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.
Mexican Model ……… Prague, to & fro ……… page 2
Tax the deft dodgers? ………….………..…………. page 2
Income up, hours, too ……..……….……………… page 2
Rent shock ……………………….……….……..…..….. page 3
Why fund fuels? ………….…………..…………..….. page 4
Farms, cows, & logs cost …………………..…..…. page 4
Smog’s uncollected cost .……..………………..… page 4
FROM OP-ED PAGES
Activists and Academics ………………….…..….. page 5
Province rebates revenue
Awash in cash from oil revenues, the Canadian Province of Alberta has decided to pay the average family $860 a year as an energy refund. Also, having raised so much money by privatizing then auctioning off its electric utilities, they’re also knocking $20 off each monthly bill. Also, they’re cutting taxes on busi-ness and on property.
Cutting the tax on buildings is smart; it’ll make buildings better and abundant. But cutting the tax on locations, unless replaced by some sort of land use fee or land dues, backfires. Then land speculators ratchet up land prices and absorb the energy dividends and tax breaks that government so generously proffered to residents.
Africa & Appalachia to act?
West Virginia’s Environmental Director, on August 21, advised the state’s Legislative Council to collect more rent from coal. The tax, now $0.02 per ton, would rise to $0.035. Upping the coal tax and fee would generate about $2.1 million and $1.66 million, respectively, to fund the state’s regulatory program. Earlier this year, the US Office of Surface Mining warned that unless West Virginia increased staffing, it would take over the inspection program. (State Tax Notes, Spt 4, via Tax News Update, Spt 11 www.sustainableeconomy.org)
On the other side of the Atlantic, Namibia may re-duce private taxation – the private retention of publicly-generated land values. To avoid the troubles of neighboring Zimbabwe, where war veterans invaded white-owned farms, Minister Pendukeni Ithana proposed legislation to tax land. Once taxed, owners of excess land would put theirs on the market at prices that buyers, the actual land users, could afford. Tax delinquents, after three years, would lose their un-paid-for land to society. Without this reform, government would use eminent domain – expropriate land and compensate ex-owners, an expensive process. (The Progress Report, www.progress.org)
FROM THE ARCHIVES
Presidential tie-breaker …………………………… page 5
Afro Yank bliss ………………………………………….. page 5
Creating New Money ………….………………….. page 6
Henry George Reconsidered ………………….. page 6
Two on a social salary …………………………….. page 6
Leading from the cloister …….………..……… page 6
George vs. Geonomics ………………………… page 7
Assess, divvy, & punish ……………………… page 7
Save Social Security? ………..…..….…..…… page 7
In Mexico, the town of San Francisco Magu (pop 10k, 26 mi. north of the capital) for the last quarter mil-lennium has built its own infrastructure without taxes, using instead neighborly cooperation. Nothing gets done unless the residents do it. In Mexico, politicians divert many public funds into private pockets, not pub-lic infrastructure. Taxes pay for only 16% of GDP. In the US, it’s 28%. In the average country, it’s 38%. (Washington Post, Spt 25)
Imports that escape tariffs total $32 billion in annual sales. That’s more than three times Mexico’s 1999 oil ex-port revenue. About 50% of textiles and clothing, 40% of shoes and stationary, 32% of toys, and 14% of automobile tires are contraband. Dealers use forged documents and bribes to smuggle the goods past cus-toms agents. Vendors who sell goods that did pay tariffs suffer. (Reforma via Reuters, Oct 24, thanks to Dr Polly Cleveland)
Government could forgo tariffs. Instead, they’d open its books, collect only the publicly-generated value of sites and resources, and rebate it as a dividend to citizens, empowering them to provide their own services, even more so than in San Francisco Magu.
Prague, to and fro
In one of the world’s treasure cities, streets were filled at the end of September by tens of thousands of people demanding that the World Bank and IMF quit worsening the plight of people and environment in poor nations. The bankers quit Prague a day early due to street riots. To his credit, the Managing Director of the IMF blamed only a few of the protesters.
While destroying property is wrong and counter-productive, so is destroying the planet. The difference is one is illegal while the other is not. Until banned, lenders agree with large landowners to fund projects that enrich them and some First World exporters, doing harm to the altered environment, and to tax local workers and devalue currency in order to repay the loans. When borrowers default, the US taxpayer makes up the difference.
If the US did not subsidize these banks, could they survive? Would developing nations lack credit? Private lenders and investors, now crowded out, might fill any void and back projects that working people could repay – especially if the US, the world leader in arms exports, would lead others out of that bloody business. Free of oppression, many Third Worlders would then de-tax labor while collecting and sharing the rent of land. That’s a proven way to draw investors and rap-idly develop.
Tax the deft dodgers?
Big businesses, even after the occasional reform, not only pay no taxes but some years get checks cut from the US Treasury. In 1998, 24 huge firms, even-tho’ profiting, caught such a break, reaping huge re-funds. (Chr Sci Mntr Oct 20) Rather than trying to tax companies downstream, upstream government could charge full market-value for its licenses (charters, fran-chises, leases, etc) that generate much of the corpora-tion’s fortune in the first place. See our website (www.progress.org/geonomy) for the Seven Secrets of Subsidy Abuse.
Other rich corporations pay less than their fair share. Exxon, Chevron, Amoco, Unocal, and Shell owe Louisiana $174.4 million in underpaid oil and natural gas royalties, claims the Louisiana Department of Revenue. The natural resources department is pursuing 41 separate claims against extractors who dispute how much oil and gas was actually taken, the correct oil and gas price to use in calculating royalty payments, and how much companies can deduct for expenses. (www.rev.state.la.us/Publ.htm in State Tax Notes, Spt 18 via Tax News Update, Spt 26, www.sustainableeconomy.org)
The consequence of evading a tax is more serious for those who’re not rich corporations. The FBI ar-rested six neighbors who ran a quasi-bank to hide in-come from the IRS. The Christian Patriot Association sheltered $186 million for 900 depositors around the nation by using numbers, not names, and re-depositing the funds in chartered banks. (Oregonian, Nov 17)
Worse for the economy than dodging the income tax is dodging the property tax. The PT, at least, falls partially on land and collects some rent, curbing a bit of speculation and spurring owners to invest a bit into real production. Yet big business, feigning interest in an-other location, suckers localities into granting tax ex-emptions. Since New York gave NBC almost a $1 billion in 1987, the Big Apple has granted over $3 billion to some of the richest corporations in the US: the Stock Exchange, NASDAQ/ Amex, Chase Manhattan Bank, Prudential, etc, companies worth hundreds of billions. Other taxpayers make up the difference. (The Progress Report, www.progress.org) Note they never cut the wage tax to woo workers or the sales tax to console consumers. Were NY to collect its billions in site rent, it could ax all other taxes, then all companies would clamor to get and stay in the Big Apple.
Income up, work time, too
American families made more money in 1999. The median income crossed $40k (after inflation) for the first time, and the number below the poverty level fell. (Chr Sci Mntr Spt 27) The chance to make decent money influenced teens to have fewer babies than they’ve had in 60 years, about five out of 100 became moms. Thru-out the 90s, the rate dropped, most dramatically among black teens whose rate fell 38%. Fear of AIDS played a role in using contraceptive condoms. And the pendulum has swung back to girls being a bit more patient and selective vis-à-vis sex partners. (Oregonian, Aug 9)
Good thing teens don’t have long memories. De-spite a 2.6 percent increase in real wages since 1996, median wages were still below their level in 1989. The middleclass’ income grew only because households worked an additional six weeks annually since 1989 to maintain their standard of living. The American 45 hr workweek passed the Japanese as the First World’s longest in 1998 (Chr Sci Mntr, Aug 10). In the 1990s, entry-level wages, even for recent college graduates and many information-technology workers, declined. The white-collar is catching down to the blue. At the other end of the corporate ladder, in 1965 the typical CEO made 20 times more than the average production worker; by 1989 that ratio had risen to 56, climbing to 116 by 1997.
Turning from income to assets, the richest 10% of households reaped 85% of the growth in stock market values since 1989. From 1989 to 1997, the share of wealth of the top 1% of the population rose from 37.4% to 39.1%, of the middle fifth it dropped from 4.8% to 4.4%. After adjusting for inflation, Middle America saw its wealth fall 3%, due to heavier debts. Families that owed more than they owned increased from 15.5% to 18.5%. (The State of Working America 1998-99, the Economic Policy Institute, via www.geocities.com/PaulSkeptic)
Go back even further than 1989 to 1977 to look at after-tax income. The top one percent made an average gain of 115%. The top one-fifth gained 43%, the mid-dle fifth made 8% more, and the bottom fifth lost 9%. What’s that about richer and poorer? (Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 1999 Spt Report based on data from the Congressional Budget Office; via Todd Altman)
In Oregon, the recent income boost meant the average working family finally got back to where they were on Labor Day 10 or 20 years ago. Now there are more low-paying jobs than ever, and more working families in poverty, despite a higher minimum wage. Plus, the average working household spends 278 more hours on the job than a decade ago. (NW Labor Press, Spt 15)
To close the income gap and shrink the workweek, forget minimum wage. And forget social programs. Not only are their overheads costly, so are their wastes. Twelve federal agencies paid about $21 billion last year to dead people, contractors already paid in full once, and others unqualified for the largesse – almost two billion more than their over payments in 1998. Had the audit included the IRS and the military, the total could have been much higher. (Congress’ General Ac-counting Office). Still, wrong payments of $21 billion were 1.2% of the 1999 US budget of $1.7 trillion. (www.taxpayer.net via The Progress Report, Oct 3)
If we were to keep $200 billion for a strictly non-offensive military, we could return the rest of the reve-nue as a social salary of $500 a month to each adult citizen, $1000 per couple. Or, for greater fairness and efficiency, repeal the income tax, let people’s untaxed incomes drive up site values, then collect the higher site rents and share that. Given the synergies of no taxes on effort and no subsidies under waste, then one’s Citizens Dividend would be $1000 per month, $2000 per couple. At last we could enjoy the benefits of our labor-saving technology.
On the urban front, wages grew at a faster rate in cities than in suburbs. Compared to suburbs, city populations are aging faster, growing slower, while lagging behind in hi-tech job creation. Enjoying higher pay, people spent more on housing (on land, actually; the housing is older, more worn out, less valuable). During the last decade and half, housing costs rose at twice the rate of income. (RRR HUD Newsletter, Spt)
In San Francisco, technology executives pay pre-mium prices for houses and their companies bid up the price of office space. The median price of existing homes in the Bay Area is $465,500 – a nearly 30% in-crease over last year. Athletes making over a quarter million dollars per year double up in the same apartment, just as they did in college before turning pro. (Orego-nian, Aug 12) To the list of the evicted or soon-to-be evicted add the 2,000 or so rock musicians in the city’s largest building devoted to studios, Haight-Ashbury’s church of John Coltrane, and a bowling alley in Ja-pantown. Even doctors seek cheaper offices. In one month, one MD’s lease went from $1,455 to $3,545.57. Physicians, more accustomed to charging a lot, com-plained to local medical societies and elected officials about paying the going rate. The changes in tenants, from doctors to dotcoms, alter the character of The City on the bay. Yet are downtowns supposed to be museums for one profession? (Oregonian, Spt 17)
Also in the stratosphere is New York. Billionaire Ted Turner, founder of CNN and TBS says: “Almost all I own has been given to me. I never buy anything except land.” He’s the largest single private landowner in America, as far as acreage is concerned, not value. There are people who own one block of New York City that’s worth more than all his 1,700,000 acres. (Modern Maturity, thanks to Edward Dodson, firstname.lastname@example.org, Aug 15)
Metro Portland is more typical. Intel and other tech-nology firms created a jobs boom. Average rents for a two-bedroom apartment increased from $561 in 1995 to $645 last year, a 15% rise. Owners of mobile homes, whose rents soared, too, are anchored in a sea of prosperity. If homeowners pull up stakes and seek cheaper pastures, one park owner said, “We will leave them empty until qualified buyers move homes in.” He regularly receives offers from investors willing to pay $40,000 to $50,000 per space. “I’ve got one sitting right here with a picnic basket and two bottles of wine,” he said. “I can get out from under this any time and make a lot of money.” (Oregonian, Oct 9) As long as his society lets him keep instead of pay the socially-generated rent rather than pay it (in lieu of other taxes), he’s right.
In Boston, some landlords sign a pledge to not charge full market value. Elsewhere, some owners donate land to trusts. Yet exorbitant land value could be bitter lemons for sweet lemonade. It’s not sellers or lessors of land who make its value but all of us. Via local government, we could collect site rent and share it.
Why fund fuels?
In 1997, Greenpeace found that European Union states spent a total of US $10 billion annually on subsi-dies to coal, oil, and gas industries. These subsidies counteract efforts toward efficient use of energy. This fall, EU Environment Ministers asked again for the European Commission to force member states to remove fossil fuel industry subsidies, including tax subsidies. (ENDS Daily, Oct 11, http://ue.eu.int, via Tax News Update, Oct 17, www.sustainableeconomy.org) In the US, Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), to defend the subsidies for the corn-based ethanol industry, requested a comparison with subsidies for coal. The General Accounting Office reported that the oil industry received $150 billion in tax breaks over the past three decades while ethanol received “only” $11.5 billion. (Greenwire, Oct 13) Why subsidize any industry? Just detax effort, share rent, and charge polluters. Then conservation and safe power sources like the sun will displace burning anything.
Farms, cows, and logs cost
Fourteen years ago, Willie Nelson sang about the plight of farmers. Four years ago, Republicans “re-formed” farm aid. Now, says Dan Glickman, Agricul-ture Secretary, subsidies to farmers and ranchers have hit a new high of $28 billion. To farmers alone, what was $7.8 billion in 1996 ballooned to $16.6 billion last fiscal year. Over 40% of a farmer’s profit is the tax dol-lar. Global abundance depressed prices and floods, droughts, and fires ruined many growers. (Chicago Tribune, Oct 3) To give Earth a rest, we could give farmers not a subsidy but a Citizens Dividend, same as everyone else.
On the range, private owners charged ranch ten-ants about $11.10/cow in 1999; the US charged $1.35. Taxpayers lost $108 million to grazers, mostly to cor-porations, not to families. Corporations are not the best of stewards, doing damage to half the land, especially the streams, that they lease from us. Bankers lobby for these cheap leases, figuring small ranchers would go broke without them. (San Jose Mercury News, Nov 7) If cowboys are to be true to the ideology of inde-pendence, then quit the handout and accept a Citizens Dividend – a fair share of the worth of Mother Earth.
Our US Forest Service loses about $1.2 billion each year subsidizing loggers. The bill gets bigger when you count the cost of removing eroded silt from rivers, missed recreation business, and loss of habitat and spe-cies. The value to farmers of pollinators living in forests is $4 – 7 billion annually. The bill could get even bigger if we lose more forest, which now cleans $3.7 billion worth of drinking water and sequesters $3.4 billion worth of carbon. (Joint Report, Forest Conservation Ccl and Forest Guardian) The US is not alone in subsi-dizing timber sales. Check out Perverse Habits: The G8 and Subsidies That Harm The Environment by Nigel Sizer of the World Resources Institute. He’s got lots of other good titles. www.igc.org/wri/forests/g8.html
The Oregon version of paying for ruin defies cre-dulity. Streams in the Pacific NW should not go dry, yet some do. Even here, just outside Portland, where nature goes nuts with rain, where we measure rainfall in feet, not inches, nature cannot keep up with farmers’ thirst. One idea is to pay them to quit, i.e., buy back the free permits we gave farmers eons ago. (WaterWatch of Oregon) Conversely, if they had to pay full market value for that water, would they still drain streams dry? If they had to pay for drying up the sport fishing business, would they take so much? Not likely. Could farmers get by with less water and smaller crops? Sure. Getting a share of the collected rents from water, air, land, and resources would more than make up the difference.
By now in our development, it’s no longer econ-omy vs. ecology; extraction of virgin materials is barely necessary. While extraction lost jobs, communi-ties near protected areas grew during the past 30 years, thanks to outdoor recreation, tourism, and re-tirement. In 410 counties in the West, extraction fell from about one fifth of the economy in 1969 to less than a tenth in 1997, while serving the people enjoy-ing nature rose to over one third. (joint study by Oregon Natural Resources Council and the World Wildlife Fund’s Klamath-Siskiyou Regional Program, Oregonian, Spt 10) If the markets – and the environ-ment – are telling extractors to quit running cows and start running tourists, listen up. Getting a CD will make the transition one heck of a lot easier.
Smog’s uncollected cost
Pollution costs you money: damage to buildings, statues, clothes, lungs, missed work, doctor’s bills, un-dertaker’s bills, etc. The cost from cars and trucks alone, guessed the 1997 Federal Highway Cost Alloca-tion Study, was from $30 billion to $349 per year, a pretty safe range (for some pretty jittery bureaucrats?). The crashes of polluting autos would double the top end estimate. (Oregon PeaceWorker, Oct)
That’s just vehicles and smog. Industry also pollutes the air. Pacific NW paper mills release chlorine that becomes dioxin. All of us – people, fetuses, even mother’s milk – carry chemical toxins. Not even Eskimos can escape. Windblown dioxin, let aloft by plants in the US, builds up in the food chain. The Nunavut, who eat lots of animal fat in their arctic climate, have twice the dioxin in their bodies as do Canadians along the US border. (Chr Sci Mntr, thanks to Meta Heller)
The alternative? At least make polluters pay. Auc-tioning emission permits might raise $300 billion each year, projects some client economists of the oil in-dustry. (www.api.org/globalclimate/wefa/exec.pdf) Industry will charge more for products of dirty proc-esses or switch to clean processes. If they raise their prices, they’ll invite competition from nonpolluters. We’ll save both our money and our health. (Redefining Progress Backgrounder #1)
FROM THE OP-ED PAGES
Activists & academics
“In terms of ripping off the taxpayers with not a peep from the media, nothing compares with the broadcasters’ lobby,” said Washington-based columnist William Safire in The New York Times Oct 9. The most valuable natural resource of the information age owned by the American people is the digital television spectrum, given away for free yet worth far more than $70 billion. Safire suggested that TV licenses be opened to competitive bidding. Likening broadcasters to spec-trum squatters, he urged a fee that “would light a fire under the networks” to improve their signal from ana-log to digital (via Polly Cleveland)
Ralph Nader: “We subsidize the use of automobiles with highway budgets and tax subsidies for parking facilities. We also pay for automobiles with military expenditures that ensure the flow of oil from foreign lands and underwrite the cleanup costs of gasoline and oil spills that harm the ecosystem… Unlike traditional taxation – which rewards developers who put up cheap, tacky housing and strip malls – site-value taxation gives developers the incentive to build gracious, durable buildings. Allowances for affordable housing, however, need to be part of site-value schemes.” (San Francisco Bay Guardian, 1998 May 12, thanks to Adam Monroe) So how about a Housing Voucher funded from site value paid to all residents?
At the Prague demonstration (p 2), one group, Radio Sherwood, noting that thousands of persons in Europe live excluded, without a dignified life, promoted “the right to a universal citizens’ salary.” (La Jornada, Oct 15)
A union boss, Arthur Cheliotes of a New York lo-cal of the Communications workers of America, pro-posed in 1990, among other tax changes, to shift the property tax to land, ignoring the building. That’d make the “warehousing of land prohibitively expensive” and lower the inflated price of land.
Windfalls for Wipeouts: Land Value Capture and Compensation by Donald Hagman & Dean Misczyn-ski (way back in 1978) lists every device under the sun, and its pros and cons for collecting rent for soci-ety. For all its sense and objectivity, it should’ve been better heeded.
FROM THE ARCHIVES
The virtural tie in the race to be the next US president repeats the election of 1876. In exchange for letting Harrison become president, the white winners ended Reconstruction in the South. The man who brokered the deal, Abraham Hewitt, was powerful and crooked. Ten years later, he was the man the establishment tapped to defeat reformer Henry George in the mayoral election of New York. George’s reform – share natural rents in lieu of taxing useful efforts – terrified those living off privilege. (Dr Mason Gaffney, UC-Riverside e-mail to Herman Daly, U of MD) Employing the infamous Tamany Hall, they pulled out all the stops to deprive George of victory. Reporters found half his ballots floating in the East River, uncounted. In a scene more dramatic than Hollywood, Hewitt on his death bed confessed to cheating George out of the mayor’s office of the nation’s wealthiest city.
Afro-Yank brief bliss
At the end of Sherman’s March thru the South, cutting Dixie in half, the Union Army had thousands of freed blacks in tow by the time they got to the Atlantic coast. Rather than be embarrassed by the starvation of their landless rescuees, the Northern chiefs gave the former slaves some coastal land that had belonged to whites. Beginning late in the planting season with almost nothing in the way of seed, tools, or capital, those newly landed farmers in a year’s time had put away a quarter of million dollars of cotton profit in their own bank.
Then the war ended and the losing Confederate landowners petitioned the Union for their land back. It was one thing to wage war to abolish slavery. It was entirely something else to allow those who worked the land to own her. It was an era when, to grab land, the most heinous acts were committed and later lauded. Speculators even got away with murder. The Federal Government returned title to the former slavehold-ers. Thousands of hardworking, idealistic blacks left for Liberia.
Nevertheless, during Reconstruction, the North took over a million acres for back taxes and gave some to blacks, some of whom were able to work, save, in-vest, and, on former plantations, become large farm owners themselves. The most ambitious even specu-lated in depressed Dixie real estate and ended up own-ing numerous city blocks in Richmond and other Southern cities. After the Union Army pulled out and white racists sought revenge, holding on to property was not easy. Yet a class of black farmers still struggles in old Dixie today. (From Lords of the Land by Dana Thomas 1977 after W.E.B. DuBois’ Black Reconstruction in America, 1935)
Creating New Money
When buying land (and the home on it), most people end up paying the lender twice as much as the seller. Home loans (in part, land loans) are the biggest source of bank profit. Another source – huge, subtle, and risk-free – is issuing new currency (not lending saved money) to match the needs of a growing econ-omy. The latest book by James Robertson, Europe’s foremost geonomist, figures US banks make about $30 billion annually charging interest on money that never existed until it was lent. As a former top economist for a British Cabinet commission, his call for reform may yet go heeded.
Henry George Reconsidered
Ever see the Book of Anomalies about reptiles raining from the sky and other bizarre events well documented but not scientifically explained? Another such encyclopedia could be compiled of all the great ideas that worked yet were rejected, such as Tesla’s DC current and Tucker’s futuristic car. Another such idea, tho’ not a piece of hardware but of software (to use Hazel Henderson’s analogy) is Henry George’s Single Tax on land values. In her 1987 book, the late Rhoda Hellman examined why the Georgist movement failed. In a very readable work, she chronicled the reform’s rise and fall and concluded that terminology had a lot to do with hiding the essence of the message from the lay public.
Two on a social salary
A pair of books extolled an extra income apart from one’s wages or profits: And Economic Justice For All by Michael L. Murray (1997) and Healing Politics: Citi-zen Policies and the Pursuit of Happiness by Steven Shafarman (2000). Both are engagingly personal and readable (and Mike Murray is a professor yet!). Both summarize the background and earlier contributions thoroughly. Murray, perhaps not aware of Paine and George, proposed an income tax hike as the funding source, tho’ he did seem to warm up to the possibility of tapping rent at this year’s annual Georgist Confer-ence in his home state of Iowa.
Shafarman presented his proposals thru the lens of Feldenkrais healing, a fetching perspective. He did have rent as the main source but offered to streamline taxes rather than abolish them. He cited Donald Trump’s math that showed a small, one-time tax on the super rich could wipe out the national debt. So the feds don’t just sink back into debt, abolish taxes, subsidies, and charge full market value for granting privileges that found fortunes in the first place. Also; Steven perpetuated the myth of the “tragedy of the commons”, a phrase its author, Garrett Hardin, regrets having coined. It’s easy to find commons that were well kept and private lands abused. The actual tragedy is of the community, which no longer exists in any vital way as it had before industrialization. Lacking community, and identity, there is less morality; hence air, water, and land suffer. Far outweighing these complaints, Steven brought in general semanticist Korzybski who noted how language can also distort understanding. And it’s always good to see one’s name in print.
Europe’s Andre Gorz has another book out on disappearing work and the need for a non-work in-come. I haven’t seen it. If you read it, let us know how it is.
Leading from the cloister
This fall, GeoSoc VP Gary Flo interviewed Herman Daly, former World Bank Environment Dept. economist and critic, pioneer thinker who edited the book To-ward a Steady State Economy (1973) which summa-rized the implications of the Club of Rome’s Limits to Growth (1972), co-founder of the Institute for Ecologi-cal-Economics and its International Society, now at the U of Maryland, and a leader in anti-globalization.
Herman Daly: Leadership consists in seeing what’s good and doing it. I believe in the irresistible power of unarmed truth. You don’t change people’s values; you just help them to perceive them better. I had finished my PhD before I began to question the assumptions of economics. I didn’t have to sacrifice my career, al-though I left LSU when it became impossible to get my students’ PhD theses approved. At the World Bank, outside critics got much more respect than inside critics. Most economists felt personally threatened. Powerful vested interests support growth, because growth is the central organizing principle of society. A Christian, my denomination is less important than my belief that life is a mystery. There is a story and a purpose to creation. Wendell Berry: “Life is a miracle”. Life is not just the gene’s way to mindlessly perpetuate itself. I’m critical of biology and science that rules out purpose. Camarade-rie is one of the things that I most enjoy about leader-ship, and that gives me hope.
George vs. Geonomics
An author on information overload listed in Who’s Who, Jim Mann, Aug 16: “How much (if at all) does Geonomics differ from the basic theory of Henry George? And, if there is no basic disagreement, have you done any work with the Henry George School in New York City?”
HG was the godfather of geonomics. The main dif-ferences are HG relied on a tax while fees, dues, and leases might suffice, he’d let the state spend the revenue while we’d let people do it with their rent dividend, HG focused on owning land while sharing rent and ending corporate welfare are our foci, and he lived during de-velopment while we’re in the environmental era and propose some safeguards. There’s plenty of overlap, so we’ve worked with all the Georgist outfits, including the NY School.
Assess, divvy, & punish
Founder and operator of The Simple Society, John Watkins, fSpt 2, “I keep reading The Geonomist with considerable interest and yet there are parts of it which I simply can’t understand. My head says it’s something I should support and I fervently believe in a common-wealth of the earth and everything in it. But I still can’t get the real life function of geonomics clear in my head. I’ll keep trying, as time permits. I’m not clear about (1) the process by which land rent is established, (2) the role of the borders of the varying levels of govern-ment, and (3) what do you charge to an oil driller who drills on the oblique, starting the hole on one section of property but tapping into oil that underlies another section of property?”
(1) The value of a location is decided by the mar-ket, just as now, by how much people are willing to pay to use a site. They figure out what it’s worth to them. Government could auction off a few fallow sites and from those results extrapolate the values of all other sites.
(2) The different levels (actually, breadths) would collect rent from different land uses. Local governments would collect rent from residential and commercial land, state governments from agricultural and sylvan land, federal from buried resources and the communications spectrum, and the global from the seas and geo-synchronous orbits. This partition follows the principle of intimacy – the most intimate government (local) col-lects rent from the most intimate use of land (home), and the least intimate level (global) collects from the least intimate use (orbits).
(3) Do you charge thieves or fine, possibly jail them, for stealing someone else’s oil? It’s illegal now and would remain so in a geonomic future.
Save Social Security?
Social Security might run out of money? So? Don’t raise the SS tax. End it. End all taxes on wages. With dues, get rents, and with dividends, share the collected revenue. Fold Social Security into the Citizens Divi-dend. As taxes wither, site rents rise, ever fattening the rent dividend. Will a rent dividend check suffice for the elderly? Maybe not in style, but it should take care of housing, food, and utilities. If this dividend is not enough, defer the aged’s land dues. Note no one, eld-erly included, would be paying taxes, prices would be constantly deflating, and their working children’s wages would be higher. If that is still not enough, should any needed charity come from taxes, a la Social Security, or from voluntary donations? May the majority decide democratically.
The article that appeared in State Tax Notes by Geo Soc Advisor Dr. Mason Gaffney drew a reply from another professor who argued that since bookstores must charge a sales tax, so should Amazon.com, instead of vice versa. He also tried to show his erudition was longer than Gaffney’s. Mason’s rebuttal, which cited the racist history of the regressive sales tax, how it was lev-ied to relieve powerful landowners at the expense of the poor, and the lack of development of the states that employ it, was entertainingly devastating. Our Advisor also had a letter in The Nation on the same topic. The guy can write. Yeah, Mase! Keep it up!
Via word of pen
Planning & Markets Volume 3 at last came out. Dr. Edward H. Clarke said: “Read the finished product in the new PAM volume. Good job!” Tony O’Brien wrote: “Excellent piece. Succinctly and cogently ar-gued. Take a bow.” Thanks, both you guys. Read it at www-pam.usc.edu. The Henry George News, which runs fascinating articles on ancient economies, also re-printed it Nov/Dec.
Simple Solutions, a newsletter of new ideas, ran (Spt 28) our piece on schools, which appeared in the previous Geonomist.
Groundswell, the newsletter of Common Ground – USA, used two pages from our spring issue as a special Earth Day insert in their March/April issue.
The newsletter of U.S. Basic Income Guarantee Network (USBIG) lists us among links. So does New York U’s Taub Urban Research Center www.urban.nyu.edu, thanks to Dir. John Bender (Spt 7). Both are good company to keep.
Via word of mouth
In July in the Washington state capital of Olympia, gubernatorial candidate Meta Heller took us on her rounds of officials and reporters, all of whom regard her as an oracle of tax wisdom. We got to meet some kind, smart, and sympathetic people in positions to ac-tually implement geonomics, voters insisting.
If taxes were ended and rents collected and shared, would you win, lose, or break even? That was the topic we addressed at the annual conference of Geor-gists in Iowa in September. The Director of Instituto Henry George in Nicaragua, Paul Martin, reported the popularity of his classes and the eagerness of graduates to spread the word to others in all walks of life. Heather Remoff gave a stirring speech on “Into Africa”. St Rep Ed Fallon outlined his efforts to introduce the sprawl tax and invited a team of geonomists to return and testify. In Des Moines, across from the capitol were four empty stores. Down-town had not a pedestrian in sight. Business is not lucra-tive so population in shrinking. Housing is very cheap.
The Progress Report hired us for a piece on what Greens might now try post-election.
Rhizome, the newsletter of the Environmental Studies Association of Canada, in the person of their editor Keri Semenko (Aug 12), asked us to pare down an article for their pages, due out when her university’s strike ends.
Notes < donors & others
The author of the modern classic novel, Ecotopia, Ernest Callenbach (Aug 20): “I read the last Geono-mist with great interest, as usual, and noticed your note about needing an editor for your book draft… As it happens, I was an editor for most of my professional life (Univ. of Calif. Press). So maybe I could be useful here. Besides, working on your manuscript would be a convenient way for me to learn a lot very fast, and have fun too since I really enjoy your writing, so I am writing to volunteer! Onward” Huge thanks. Got you down on the team. Any others out there?
Dr. Edward H. Clarke, OMB (Aug 13): “Enjoyed greatly the latest summer newsletter. Thanks for the Ed Clarke cites. Sign me up for you Geonomics book. My annual Y2K contribution is now (belatedly) in the mail. All taxes are paid. Happiness is the day when I could make charitable contributions to Geonomy large enough to eliminate the estimated tax charges.” Then, hopefully, our job will be done and the world won’t even need a Geonomy Society. Meanwhile, big thanks for all the help.
LeRoy C. Hansen, Eugene (OR) resistor and re-minder: “Enclosed dues. It has been 14 months. Hope-fully you will develop a reminder system. Some of us are not automated heavily. Indeed I resist becoming part of the subculture robotized by large corporations and their captive communication media.” You are right. It is more efficient if I remind people instead of them trying to remember themselves. OK. I’ll do it. While I’m at it, when’s the last time everyone got a tune-up and changed the oil?
Meta Heller, tireless for the cause, plies me with juicy tidbits and significant clippings from one of Amer-ica’s best national dailies, The Christian Science Monitor. She asks: “When is your book coming out?” Soon, I promise. After doing this newsletter, no more side-tracking.
Dr. Jim Mann (Aug 16): “You sure cram in a heavy load of material and interesting facts. In fact, the newsletter is so overloaded that I fear it will defeat your purpose. When you give readers too much informa-tion, they retain nothing. If each issue was built around a single theme, ie, another reason why geonomics makes sense or a specific proposal on what should be done to achieve the geonomist goals, then…” True. To do that, probably should issue The Geonomist more often. Some day (or some life).
Heather Remoff, PhD: “It’s so nice to find some-one who shares my affection for crows. No wonder they walk like landlords; they have full access to na-ture’s bounty. For next year’s conference, repeal the income tax should be our rallying cry. Well, actually we need to think of a better sound byte. We have almost a year in which to come up with one.” Well, readers, get cracking!
We’ve been invited to present to a few major conferences: In January, to the International Environ-mental Law Conference in Costa Rica and the World Social Forum in Brazil. Both will draw hundreds, possibly thousands. After that, we’re invited to co-teach in Nicaragua, then speak at the summer conference of the North American Society of Environmental Economists.
Now that my book is being fed to wolfy editors and regurgitated back in more digestible form, next it’ll go to a publisher from whence to Amazon.com and your local bookstore. Sometime this winter. After that, it’s the fiction version, Geotopia. Anyone want to edit that screenplay? My first script, finished this fall, spurred six agents to request a copy. One of them should want to peddle it in Hollywood, where dreams are made and broken. Now that optimistic fantasy is popular with film fans, producers actively seek engaging visions of a rave new world.
Orders & Re-Newals
For ordering literature, thanks to Alan Ridley of San Diego and to SD’s Fdn for Economic Justice for paying for it (how just and kind!). For a list of 50 booklets for sale, just ask. For joining and rejoining, thanks to Ed Clarke (economist for the OM&B), Mel Forde (Washington state level-headed helper), David Giesen (HG School of SF: “we enjoy your writing; power to the pedals!), Everett Gross (Nebraskan double stalwart!), LeRoy C. Hansen (above), Pat & Gene Levin (who succors us with “I keep both you and Marina and Delaney in my thoughts and prayers”, as we keep you two), Virginia Neidig (Oregonian who correctly interpreted the meaning of the phrase, “re-up”), Ben Russell (91 year old sustainer and geonomics teacher with a regular column at www.americannoncon formist.com, born on the same day as yours truly), and Gerry Shaw (Canadian oil driller and sustainer). Also, huge thanks to the kind wise ones at the Schalkenbach Fdn for keeping me in this world while writing the book on geonomics and for back issues of The American Journal of Economics and Sociology.
What you can do
Visit our website. Order an article or three. Join! Sign up others! Persuade foundations to support us. Come to a meeting. Organize meetings, lobbying, letter-writing campaigns to editors and elected officials. Invite us out to present our show. Then in your spare time, smile for the camera and run for president. Weigh our worth. It is on the wings of donations that awareness spreads. And the sooner the word gets out, the sooner the world gets well. Thanks.