We are Hanno Beck, Lindy Davies, Fred Foldvary, Mike O'Mara, Jeff Smith, and assorted volunteers, all dedicated to bringing you the news and views that make a difference in our species struggle to win justice, prosperity, and eco-librium.
This 2014 excerpt of The Economist on inequality, Feb 4, is by R.A.
For a book that hasn’t even been published in English yet, Thomas Piketty’s “Capital in the Twenty-first Century” [in French] has prompted quite a lot of discussion.
The resurgence in capital is driven almost exclusively by a rise in housing values, and those values stem almost entirely from what classical economists would have termed land.
If you wish to be doing business at a certain level in France then you must live in or around Paris. Many wish to experience the legendary culture and beauty of the city and to live in proximity with others who value it. Paris maintains the latter demand in large part by severe restrictions on the height and architecture of buildings within the city.
Those restrictions preserve the history of Paris, but also make it impossible for it to house all of the millions who would come today to live and work in the legislative, financial, and commercial capital of France. The result is that only those willing and able to pay the highest rents or mortgages can live in Paris and the rest are pushed to the suburbs.
This increase in rents and housing prices is properly accounted for as a land value, not a capital value. Soaring housing costs are different from those for soaring returns to financial capital.
In Britain the recent rise in the capital-income ratio is about two-thirds attributable to housing and one-third attributable to other domestic capital. In America growth in other domestic capital is actually more important than growth in housing.
Building restrictions generate soaring asset prices only because there is an extraordinary level of demand for that land. Demand for that land is not really associated with any inherent productivity of the land; the land is only productive because of its proximity to concentrations of economic activity.
Ed. Notes: Funny that even business people need to be reminded that the three most important things in real estate — location, location, location — are also the most important thing in economic growth, in buildings fortunes, and in the business cycle. Efficient land use not only cuts costs but also enables the spontaneous networks that incite new ways of generating wealth. And land speculation is what causes the boom-bust cycle that ultimately topples into recession. Maybe business people should be reading these pages here more often!
Police in Brazil have found three bodies on a Tenharim indigenous reserve in the Amazon region.
Last week police arrested five members of the Tenharim tribe on suspicion of murder, but the tribe has denied any involvement in the contractors’ deaths.
The dead were working for the federal government-owned electricity company, Eletrobras, when they went missing in December.
Their disappearance on 16 December, from a road which crosses through the Tenharim lands, set off riots in the nearby city of Humaita. Non-indigenous residents, who blamed the tribe for the men’s disappearance, set fire to government buildings and to boats used to ferry the Tenharim from their reserve to the town.
Tensions between the two groups had been running high since indigenous leader Ivan Tenharim, 55, was run over by a car in the tribe’s reserve on 3 December.
Ed. Notes: Can you believe that humans — not just Brazilian Indians or newcomer settlers but many others, too — still behave this way, in 2014? When will we ever learn? When enough of us declare that the worth of Earth is a common wealth for all of us to share, while taxes upon our efforts are decidedly not.
This 2014 excerpt of Reason, Feb 3, is by Jesse Walker, Books Editor and author of The United States of Paranoia.
Of the nearly 240 tribes that run gambling operations, the AP reports that “half distribute a regular per-capita payout to their members.” Such payouts have been a real help for low-income Indians.
From that AP story:
The “disenrollment epidemic” is a rising number of dramatic clashes over tribal belonging that are sweeping through more than a dozen states, from California to Michigan….
[I]n Michigan, where Saginaw Chippewa membership grew once the tribe started giving out yearly per-capita casino payments that peaked at $100,000, a recent decline in gambling profits led to disenrollment battles targeting hundreds.
The Grand Ronde, which runs Oregon’s most profitable Indian gambling operation, also saw a membership boost after the casino was built in 1995, from about 3,400 members to more than 5,000 today. The tribe has since tightened membership requirements twice, and annual per-capita payments decreased from about $5,000 to just over $3,000.
Not all of these battles have taken place within tribes that issue payouts to their members. But it’s easy to see that reducing a tribe’s membership rolls means more money for the people left over, and it’s hard not to notice that this wave of battles began just as casino wealth started taking off in the 1990s.
Ed. Notes: Good to see Reason use the term I coined in 1981, “Citizens’ Dividend”, and to use it correctly. It’s meaning and background got mangled at Wikipedia. People consistently confuse this CD, which is a share of a surplus (as are all dividends) with a “basic income”, which is a stipend whose amount is set by political fiat. Sorting that out at Wiki is another thing to do … someday.
Hopefully I’ll get to it while it still matters, before most nations are paying their citizens dividends. And no longer subsidizing special interests. And not taxing our efforts. And only recovering the socially-generated values of land, resources, ecosystem services, and government-granted privileges such as corporate charters … using geonomics in general.
Recovering all those “rents” not only gives the CD heft but also makes it possible to streamline government and the economy. Finally, everyone could get a life, not just a handful of lucky tribal members.
These two 2014 excerpts of IRIN are from Jan 15, on the wrong, modern diet by Elizabeth Blunt, and Jan 23 on the right traditional diet.
Future Diets and the World’s Expanding Waistlines
Food in the United States is cheap, abundant, varied and tasty, but it might not be all that good for you – too much fat and sugar have led to 36 percent of Americans being diabetic and 46 percent obese. Japan’s food, by contrast, is much healthier, but it’s extremely expensive and not as varied.
At the bottom end are countries like Chad and Angola, where food can be unaffordably expensive and not very nutritious. It can also be quite dull. In Madagascar, 79 percent of the food eaten comes from grains and starchy roots, with very little meat, fish, fruit, or vegetables.
Some of the unhealthiest diets of all are in places like Fiji and Mexico, where more than 40 percent of adults are not merely overweight but obese.
Combined with moving to the cities, having less time to cook and leading less active lives, the dietary shift has brought expanding waistlines and an epidemic of ill-health. The number of overweight or obese people in the developing world tripled between 1980 and 2008.
For governments wanting to nudge their country’s transition in a good direction, there are policy levers available. They can ban, ration, or tax unhealthy foods, subsidize more nutritious ones, regulate manufacturers, or try to educate the public.
Information campaigns have not proven very effective. Food subsidies are expensive and rather out of fashion. Banning runs into trade treaties.
A combination of regulation and heavy taxation has been used to reduce smoking, with some success, despite resistance from the tobacco industry. Mexico, which has woken up to the severity of its health problems, introduced a tax on sweetened drinks at the beginning of 2014.
Nutritionists say many traditional and non-processed foods consumed by rural communities, such as millet and caribou, are nutrient-dense and offer healthy fatty acids, micronutrients, and cleansing properties widely lacking in diets popular in high- and middle-income countries.
Indigenous diets worldwide – from forest foods such as roots and tubers in regions of eastern India, to cold-water fish, caribou, and seals in northern Canada – are varied, suited to local environments, and can counter malnutrition and disease.
The disruption of traditional lifestyles due to environmental degradation, and the introduction of processed foods, refined fats and oils, and simple carbohydrates, contributes to worsening health in indigenous populations, and a decline in the production of nutrient-rich foodstuffs that could benefit all communities.
In recent years, grains such as quinoa, fonio, and millet – long harvested by indigenous and rural communities in developing countries but increasingly overlooked by a younger, richer generation that prefers imported foods – have instead grown in popularity in developed countries.
Another so-called superfood now declining in popularity is spirulina, scientifically known as Arthrospira platensis, a type of cyanobacteria that grows in ponds – a staple in many traditional food systems, such as among the Kanembu in northwestern Chad.
Medical studies have found that spirulina has the potential to boost immunity, reduce inflammation, decrease allergic reactions, and provide a healthy source of protein.
Deforestation worldwide, often to make way for large-scale agricultural production, curtails the nutrients that can be gathered from forests.
Ed. Notes: Everything needs a place. If people are to hunt and gather and cultivate using sticks, then they need their own habitat. But now such people don’t have the power to retain their habitat. More societies are accepting absentee ownership (by domestic insiders or foreign corporations). Most governments are subsidizing agri-business. And people everywhere tend to view the new and the First World as superior to the old and the undeveloped.
The key to solving all this is to have government not impose its own policies but do what governments are supposed to do and that is defend rights; i.e., don’t subsidize any growers but recover and disburse the value of land, including urban land. Where owners can’t keep rent but must pay it, there they don’t speculate and don’t amalgamate land holdings into sprawling fiefdoms. Instead, they take no more than they can use and use that wisely.
These Land Dues and rent dividends are the key policy components of geonomics and where applied they bolster owner occupancy and that reinforces diet rationality.
Ed. Notes: Oil companies not only get to waste our natural resources but also get to pollute the air by burning. Meanwhile, government does nothing. Actually, government does do something. It grants oil companies and polluters in general limited liability. That means, the actual individuals in the companies who make the decisions to pollute the public and the environment won’t have to face any legal consequences for their decisions. Without any downside, why not try to maximize profit at the expense of nature, worker, and consumer?
The root of the problem is normalcy bias. We treat pollution as normal. And we treat our rights to both a healthy Earth and to a share of her worth as abnormal.
Fortunately, reversing those biases does not require those who know or care to get the permission of anyone in power in business or government. Progress only requires that those who know or care speak out. So, lend your voice!
This 2014 excerpt of the Los Angeles Times, Feb 2, is by their Editors.
This page has long opposed the death penalty, yet we also found ourselves caught up in the emotions surrounding Timothy McVeigh’s 1995 bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City, and supported his death sentence — a stance we have since regretted.
That tumbling to the emotion of the moment, though, points up one of the primary roles of the judicial system: to act as a buffer between victims’ justifiable thirst for vengeance and the greater good of society. In our view, it is not the rightful responsibility of the state to act as executioner of its own citizens, no matter how heinous the crime, no matter how infamous the criminal, and no matter how loudly people may call for it.
Cases like this test our strength as a mature democracy, and as a people who believe in justice. Life without parole is the correct response in these extreme cases. It punishes the criminal while protecting society from future acts of violence.
Ed. Notes: While killers do deserve to die according to “an eye for an eye”, should innocents descend to the killer’s level? Do you really want to hire people to kill others? Do you want your hired killers to mix with the rest of society? And if you make a mistake and sentence an innocent to death, then do you hire someone else to kill your original hired killer? Must the judge and jury who erred be killed, too?
Imprisoning a killer for life need not mean that society care for the killer. Killers could be put on an otherwise deserted island where they’d have to fend for themselves. Maybe another killer would kill them. Maybe they’d commit suicide, an act some killers do attempt, an act that society should not deny a killer. Or maybe they’d rehabilitate. But whatever the outcome, it would not affect the rest of society beyond the task of patrolling the island to prevent anyone from escaping.
Bigger picture, still, society should not ignore what its killers often are saying. Usually, people reach the point where they are willing to kill when they’re unbearably frustrated and have absolutely no one listening to them. In this Boston case, if we Americans were to listen to the killer, we’d stop killing innocents in Muslim countries — something we should not have started doing in the first place.
This 2014 excerpt of Dollars & Sense magazine, the January/February issue, is from an article by Polly Cleveland of Columbia University.
Scandinavian nations already come much closer than the United States to providing a healthy, sustainable lifestyle, with far lower per capita natural resource consumption.
We already have — or can easily develop — the necessary technology.
An Iowa State University study compared the Midwestern standard alternation of corn and soy, with a corn-soy-oat cycle and a corn-soy-oat-alfalfa cycle with livestock. Without lowering profits, the longer cycles increased yields while dramatically reducing the need for fertilizer, herbicides, and pesticides. However, the experimental strategies did require more labor.
In Ohio, corn and soy farmer David Brandt, instead of plowing, plants with a seed drill. He keeps down weeds with a diverse mixture of cover crops, which he then mows to mulch the soil for the winter. The approach takes more labor, especially intelligent supervision, as it requires Brandt to carefully monitor conditions on every part of his fields. His fields, however, yield harvests as good as or better than conventional fields, require far less fertilizer and herbicide, absorb rain better, resist droughts, and—best of all—build up carbon-rich humus.
What about farms in impoverished developing countries? Farms in densely-populated Bangladesh produced three times as much per acre as farms in the United States! In general, small farms produce more per acre than large farms, even though they usually occupy inferior land. According to a new UN report, small peasant farmers could easily feed the entire populations of developing countries with existing labor-intensive, environmentally friendly agricultural technologies — were it not for corruption, extreme inequality, and misguided attempts to impose inappropriate “modern” crops and techniques.
From country to city … Some of the richest parts of New York, like my Upper West Side neighborhood, rise to densities of over 200,000 people per square mile, with a mixture of high-rises and five-story, three-to-ten-unit townhouses. (I can zip, through a hole in the ground, the two miles to work, walk four blocks to concerts or shopping, and step into Central Park next door — who needs a car!) Yes, members of the One Percent like high density!
A study in Atlanta found that average households in multifamily units used only 60% as much energy as in single family detached houses. Average residents of New York City produce less than a third as much greenhouse gases as average Americans. And while New York apartments seem cramped by United States standards, a 500 square foot New York one-bedroom would seem palatial to a Japanese family! (How do the Japanese manage? Simple. Every morning they roll up their futons and stuff them in a closet!)
Successful innovators are disappearing, due both to growing patent monopolization and the unavailability of finance. Back in the days of It’s a Wonderful Life (1946), and in fact until Congress repealed restrictions on interstate banking in 1994, small businesses could rely on small banks. Bank officers served the community (at least the white community), making loans based on personal histories and an intimate knowledge of the local economy. No more. Today’s giant banks lend — if they lend at all — according to formulas dictated by headquarters, formulas that do not favor a Turkish immigrant with a new recipe for yogurt, let alone Madge’s storefront bakery. Retail banking jobs have become mindless paper-pushing.
We already have the technology to produce and live and work in ways that vastly reduce stress on natural resources. The obstacles are political.
Ed. Notes: The author extols jobs (not that she or any economist would ever have to do any of them), not leisure. It seems that as long as people have jobs (and the bosses that come with them), then life need not have meaning. Which is such a common point of view that the political obstacles should be overcomeable.
Or, perhaps humanity will wake up to their need for meaning and joy and leisure and replace the demand for jobs with a demand for justice. Since the whole point of economies is to do more with less, it’s true that the technology for this version of a better world is already here, too. Likewise, the obstacle is purely political.
Part of the political solution is for society to recover the socially-generated value of land, resources, and ecosystem services. One way for society to do that is to have its government tax the annual rental value of locations. That can be achieved by shifting the property tax off buildings, onto parcels. In the US, it’s a policy already in place in some Pennsylvania towns, since Pennsylvania’s constitution, unlike those of other states, allows cities great leeway in tax policy. Two political websites in Pennsylvania frequently blog in favor of the Land Value Tax: one is Keystone Politics, the other is Next City, which just had another article in favor. Check it out to understand the policy side of sustainable economics better.
Ed. Notes: Eventho’ reality is offering a plot for a work of mystery fiction, probably one big banker dying after another is just coincidence. Banking is one of the professions with a high rate of depression and shorter lifespans. And stories like this come to everyone’s attention in this modern era of instant and ubiquitous news coverage. One wonders if conscience plays a role.
This 2014 excerpt of Huffington Post, Jan 30, is by Adam Grant, author of Give and Take, a New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller.
What makes a job meaningless? People struggle to find meaning when they lack autonomy, variety, challenge, performance feedback, and the chance to work on a whole product or service from start to finish. As important as these factors are, though, there’s another that matters more: making an important difference in the lives of others one on one or making society a better place for all.
There are steps we can take to make jobs more meaningful — for ourselves and others.
In many cases, our jobs do have an impact, but we’re too distant from the end users of our products and services. So when we see the beneficiaries of our jobs, we find greater meaning. The greatest untapped source of motivation is a sense of service to others.
Of course, some jobs are simply not designed to have a major impact on others. In these situations, people can take initiative to alter their own roles. This is job crafting — adding, emphasizing, revising, delegating, or minimizing tasks and interactions in pursuit of greater meaning. For example, hospital cleaners who lack patient contact stepped up to provide emotional support to patients and their families, and technology associates began volunteering for mentoring, teaching, and training roles. When people craft their jobs, they become happier and more effective.
Being human always points, and is directed, to something or someone, other than oneself — be it a meaning to fulfill or another human being to encounter. The more one forgets himself — by giving himself to a cause to serve or another person to love — the more human he is.
Ed. Notes: Is this a bandaid to a deeper problem with jobs? And whatever may be wrong with jobs, would all those issues go away if people were in a position to do what they love, with whomever they want, for as long as they like? And if people got an extra income apart from their labor — a Citizen’s Dividend from the socially-generated value of land and resources and government-granted privileges — would that give everyone the leverage they need to negotiate the ideal job for them? Probably. Don’t you think?
If you don’t have money you end up spending more to survive.
This 2014 excerpt of Alternet, Jan 29, by Dave Johnson.
It takes money to make money, they say, but if you don’t have money you lose money. Half of us Americans are poor or almost poor now. It’s actually more expensive not having enough money to get by.
Here are nine examples of why it is expensive to be poor.
1. Getting around. When you don’t have the money to get a reliable car you are stuck with time-consuming and not-inexpensive public transportation or an old beater. Old cars break down and this costs money. It costs time. It can cost you a job. Lower-priced older cars will often be the ones that use a lot of gas, sometimes getting less than 20mpg. At today’s gas prices and today’s wages you’re eating up an hour or more’s pay every day just to get back and forth.
2. A place to live. You might be in a week-to-week situation in a budget motel, requiring you to pay with a money order. Money orders cost money so you’re even paying a fee to pay for your place to sleep.
3. Eating. If you don’t have fridge or a stove you might depend on cheap fast food. You depend on what is nearby and local stores in bad neighborhoods are expensive.
4. Banking. 28.3% of Americans conduct at least some of their financial transactions “outside of the mainstream banking system,” meaning they have to rely on expensive alternatives like money orders, check-cashing services, prepaid debit cards, and payday loans. Payday loans cost an average of more than 138 percent in interest and fees.
If you have a bank account that means high fees. You don’t have enough to meet the minimum balance requirements so you pay a monthly fee that eats away at any money you have. You will pay a fee averaging $6 to cash your paycheck. You will be hit by terrible fees if the money runs out before the month does. Overdraft fees are incredible. A Pew graphic illustrates how the median overdraft for a $36 transaction racks up a median $35 in fees. “If an overdraft was treated like a short-term loan with a repayment period of seven days, then the annual percentage rate for a typical incidence would be over 5,000 percent.”
5. Getting scammed. The poor are vulnerable to, and frequent targets of financial scams: high-interest credit cards, mortgage-fraud, insurance scams, supposed-savings scams, etc.
More Illegality: Not getting paid. Wage theft is restaurants stealing tips, employers demanding free time or not even paying the minimum wage, refusing to pay overtime pay when it is due, calling an employee a contractor or a temp, making various deductions from wages, and other ways that workers end up not getting paid for their work. Poor people are vulnerable, and have to take what they can get.
More than 60 percent of low-wage workers have some pay illegally withheld by their employer each week. Low-paid workers lose $2,634 per year, on average, in unpaid wages, or 15 percent of their income.
Meanwhile, the average McDonald’s employee takes seven months to earn what McDonald’s CEO makes in an hour. Ninety percent of Americans are continuing to go further into debt.
Being poor is a trap. It becomes one thing after another that keeps you poor. Plus you pay a high price of guilt and blame.
Ed. Notes: Money is prestige. People with money feel good about themselves, no matter how the money came about. People without money feel bad about themselves, no matter if they struggle against their poverty or not. True, money from work can make one feel proud. But the work part is not essential. Most rich don’t work for the money they get (“thank you very much.”) CEO salaries tell only a small part of the story. There’s still passive income from merely owning stocks, bonds, and real estate.
The money that corporations get is not from selling their goods and services so much as it is from lobbying government: sweetheart deals, lenient enforcement, and tax loopholes. The money that landlords and flippers and lenders get is not for their building — something they might have created — so much as it is for the location, and the value of a location is due to the advantages around it. Good views, nearness to downtown, low crime rates, etc give a site its price (or rent), and such features are created by nature and society, not by owners.
The author wants to raise the minimum wage, but what if you can’t work? Worse, that call reinforces the false view that all income must come from jobs (never mind starting one’s own business) and that the poor are incapable, must stay stuck in lousy work their entire lives, so at least pay them more. A far greater justice than paying one enough to stay stuck in dumb jobs is to pay everyone an income apart from their labor (or capital), an income from the value of land and resources and privileges such as corporate charters in one’s region. Call it a Citizen’s Dividend. It’s a more honest way to enable people to feel good about themselves.
Why The Land of Opportunity is in Danger and What We Can Do About It
This 2014 excerpt of the Libertarian Party of Orange County (California), Jan 29, is by Ryan Hinds.
The only tax that does not have negative economic consequences is the land value tax, as land cannot disappear when taxed. This free lunch of sorts will also lower real estate prices, reducing the money required to start a business. In order to truly have equal opportunity, we must all have equal access to land and natural resources; land value taxes push us towards that goal.
The Small Business Administration (SBA) has estimated that small businesses face a regulatory burden 36% higher than larger firms. State and local governments make it even worse. For example, it took a businessman in Ventura County, CA seven permits just to remove a wooden deck at his campsite, as requested by a county official! Needless to say, he closed up shop. In Florida, Louisiana, Nevada, and Washington DC, interior designers must be licensed.
Economic inequality is one of the most pressing issues of our time. Though my libertarian views are pretty apparent in this article, I have spoken to self-described socialists who support many of the same reforms that I do. Opening the lines of communication is only the first step, but will go a long way towards bringing economic opportunity back to America.
Ed. Notes: A libertarian could go even further and note that taxes are not needed to recover the socially-generated value of land and resources and ecosystem. Instead, government could use fees, dues, leases, and even fines for violators of standards. The big difference between taxes and dues is that taxes come from above and not paying them is a crime while dues come from community consensus and not paying them means no longer being a member of the community with all the benefits that entails, such as voting, proving title, getting a share of surplus site value (as in Singapore), etc. Most people would choose to pay their fair dues, altho’ it may take a while for society to evolve to that point; meanwhile, taxes would have to be relied upon.
This 2014 excerpt of the AP, Jan 30, is by Mark Stevenson.
The stunning and little-understood annual migration of millions of Monarch butterflies over thousands of miles to spend the winter in Mexico is in danger of disappearing, after numbers dropped to their lowest level since record-keeping began in 1993.
The annual trek to Mexico is the world’s biggest migration of Monarch butterflies and the second-largest insect migration, after a species of dragonfly in Africa.
Experts blamed the displacement of the milkweed that the species feeds on by genetically modified crops and urban sprawl in America, extreme weather trends, and the dramatic reduction of the butterflies’ habitat in Mexico due to illegal logging of the trees they depend on for shelter.
Twenty years ago in the North American Free Trade Agreement, the United States, Mexico, and Canada signed environmental accords to protect migratory species such as the Monarch.
There has been a movement in the United States among gardeners and home owners to plant milkweed to replace some of the lost habitat. But activists say large stands of milkweed are needed along the migratory route, comparable to what once grew there. They also want local authorities in the U.S. and Canada to alter mowing schedules in parks and public spaces, to avoid cutting down milkweed during breeding seasons.
Ed. Notes: It’s sad that our species has such a hard time living on Earth with other species, like a rowdy child in kindergarten. Hopefully the sadness will prod enough of us to take the necessary steps to harmonize our use of Earth with that of other peaceful species. The responsibility is all of ours, eventho’ one guy wreaked more havoc on butterflies than have most of us; he ate them to survive being stranded in the Outback!
These two 2014 excerpts on US GDP are from Jan 30 by the BEA and by Shadow Stats.
Gross Domestic Product, 4th quarter and annual 2013 (advance estimate)
The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) says real gross domestic product — the output of goods and services produced by labor and property located in the United States — increased at an annual rate of 3.2 percent in the fourth quarter of 2013 (that is, from the third quarter to the fourth quarter). In the third quarter, real GDP increased 4.1 percent.
The SGS-Alternate GDP reflects the inflation-adjusted, or real, year-to-year GDP change, adjusted for distortions in government inflation usage and methodological changes that have resulted in a built-in upside bias to official reporting.
The official GDP headline number refers to the most-recent quarter’s annualized quarter-to-quarter rate of change (what that quarter’s percent quarter-to-quarter change would translate into if compounded for four consecutive quarters).
This can mean that the latest quarter can be reported with a positive annualized growth rate, while the actual annual rate of change is negative.
Ed. Notes: Their accompanying chart is an eye-opener. It seems official stats do not reflect reality so much as they do reflect the interests of officials. Which makes it hard to do the accounting that is a central part of economics. It’s another reason why economics is not a science. But no other discipline deals with controversies such as property and confronts the ruling elite directly, so it’s easy to see why economists wilt under the pressure. Oscar Wilde said number crunchers know the price of everything and the value of nothing. Maybe so, but they also know which side of the bread is buttered. It’s why they turn a blind eye to researchers such as Shadow Stats.
This 2014 excerpt of the AP, Jan 29, is by Mark Lewis.
Two Norwegian politicians have jointly nominated former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden for the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize, saying his disclosures of secret U.S. documents have contributed to making the world more peaceful.
Anyone can be nominated for the prestigious award, so the submission Wednesday by Socialist lawmakers Baard Vegard Solhjell, a former environment minister, and Snorre Valen just means Snowden will be one of scores of names that the Nobel committee will consider.
“We do not necessarily condone or support all of his disclosures,” the two lawmakers said in their nomination letter. “We are, however, convinced that the public debate and changes in policy that have followed in the wake of Snowden’s whistleblowing has contributed to a more stable and peaceful world order.”
“But to have the debate, you have to be aware of what is going on,” he told The Associated Press.
The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons won last year’s Nobel Peace Prize.
Ed. Notes: Ironically, the prize was also given to US President Obama (2009) who, if he could, would have Snowden’s head. Obama is commander-in-chief of the world’s biggest war machine now waging at least two wars. Another hyphenated American war-monger who received the prize is Henry Kissinger (1973). While the image of the prize is tarnished, it was once given to Nicholas Murray Butler (1931). He, at least, was an advocate of Georgism, an economic system that has brought about land reform without one drop of bloodshed. If more widely used, who knows? perhaps the modern version of geonomics could deliver world peace.
This 2014 excerpt of EUROPP (European Politics and Policy of the London School of Economics), Jan 29, is by Jonathan Hopkin, Victor Lapuente, and Lovisa Moller.
The less unequal a country is, the more likely it is to be innovative. While the US combines high levels of inequality and innovation, other countries with much lower inequality levels are also high performers in innovation.
The United States – the most unequal of the advanced economies – has outperformed the Scandinavian countries in patent filings in the last two decades. However, if we expand the period of study with a few more decades, Sweden has had more patent filings per resident than the US for most of the last half-century. Further, the other Anglo-Saxon countries are nowhere near the United States’ patent filings levels.
‘Patent trolling’ – whereby patents are used as a means of generating returns by threatening legal actions, rather than a source of productive innovation – suggests patents filed may be measuring rent-seeking strategies as well as genuine inventions.
High regulatory quality and R&D expenditure are common denominators for countries that are ranked as highly innovative – inequality is not one of these uniting factors. Innovation is not just about a narrow view of incentives based on spectacular rewards for a small number of high achievers; it also rests on high levels of investment in research, not just by the private sector but also, and often decisively, by the state.
The US combines high inequality with excellent universities financed by both public and private funds, and a regulatory environment that encourages innovation. ‘Cuddly capitalist’ countries that invest in research, have good universities and quality regulation can also innovate, without having to offer successful entrepreneurs outsized rewards. There seems little evidence for the thesis that egalitarian societies need to freeload off the innovations of the American super-rich in order to prosper.
Ed. Notes: Sure, inventors and innovators need support but that support need not come from concentrations of wealth. Indeed, the phenomenon of concentrating wealth into government or university or venture capitalist could be skipped altogether. How?
Just pay citizens a dividend from society’s spending for things not created by labor or capital, things like land, natural resources, corporate charters, and patents and copyrights. Those government-granted privileges and natural assets capture a torrential flow within the GDP. You could redirect that flow, using fees, dues, taxes, etc, into public treasuries then back out again as dividends, a la Alaska’s oil share.
Further, you could shift taxes off labor and capital, onto pollution and depletion. That way, you’d redirect investment from industries like oil and into cutting-edge technology. Thus you could enjoy progress, economic parity, and do so without any paternalism from the state.
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.
shaped by reality. In the 1980′s, the Swedish government doubled its stock transfer tax. Tax receipts, however, rose only 15%, since traders simply fled to London exchanges. Fearing a further exodus, the Swedish government quickly rescinded the tax altogether. (The New York Times, April 20) That willingness to tax anything leads us astray. Pushing us astray is that unwillingness to pay what we owe: rent for land, our common heritage. Assuming land value is up for grabs, we speculate. We cap the property tax on both land and buildings and the rate at which assessments can go up; while real market values rise quicker, assessments can never catch up. Our stewards, the Bureau of Land Management, routinely sell and lease sites below market value, often to insiders, says the Government Accounting Office. Once we grasp that rent is ours to share, we’ll collect it all, rather than let it enrich a few, and quit taxing earnings, which do belong to the individual earner. That shift is geonomic policy.
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.
the Great Green Tax Shift maxed out”
Economically, taxing pollution and depletion does reduce pollutants and extracts – and thus the tax base; plus such taxes are regressive, requiring a safety net. On the other hand, collecting site rent is progressive and generates a revenue surplus payable as a dividend to residents, which can serve as the safety net.
Environmentally, taxes on waste and extraction do not drive efficient use of land, as does getting site rent. Better settlement patterns do reduce extraction upstream and pollution downstream.
Politically, green fees have less impact if applied locally; local is where grassroots movements have more impact. Yet getting rent usually entails shifting the property tax (or charging user fees), the province of local jurisdictions; both mayors and city voters have been known to adopt a site-value tax.
Ethically, putting into practice “tax bads, not goods” skirts the issue of sharing Mother Earth which collecting rent confronts head on. Since nothing is fixed until it’s fixed right, ultimately, greens must lead humanity into geotopia where we all share the worth of Mother Earth.
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 study of Earth’s economic worth, of the money we spend on the nature we use, trillions of dollars each year. We spend most to be with our own kind; land value follows population density. Besides nearness to downtowns, we also pay for proximity to good schools, lovely views, soil fertility, etc. These advantages, sellers did not create. So we pay the wrong people for land. Instead, we should pay our neighbors. They generate land’s value and deserve compensation for keeping off ours, as they’d pay us for keeping off theirs. It’s mutual compensation: we’d replace taxes with land dues – a bit like Hong Kong does – and replace subsidies with “rent” dividends to area residents – a bit like Alaska does with oil revenue. Both taxes and subsidies – however fair or not – are costly and distort the prices of the goods taxed and the services subsidized. By replacing them and letting prices become precise, we reveal the real costs of output, the real values of consumers. Then, just by following the bottom line, people can choose to conserve and prosper automatically. A community could start by shifting its property tax off buildings, onto land – a bit like a score of towns in Pennsylvania do; every place that has done it has benefited.
a way to redirect all the money we spend on the nature we use – trillions of dollars annually. We can’t pay the Creator of sites and resources and are mistaken to pay their owners this biggest stream in our economy. Instead, as owners we should pay our neighbors for respecting our claims to land. Owners could pay in land dues to the public treasury, a la Sydney Australia’s land tax, and residents could get back a “rent” dividend, a la Alaska’s oil dividend. We’d pay for owning sites, resources, EM spectrum, or emitting pollutants into the ecosphere, then get a fair share of the recovered revenue. The economy would finally have a thermostat, the dividend. When it’s small, people would work more; when it’s big, they’d work less. Sharing Earth’s worth, we could jettison counterproductive taxes and addictive subsidies. Prices would become precise; things like sprawl, sprayed food, gasoline engines, coal-burning plants would no longer seem cheap; things like compact towns, organic foods, fuel cells, and solar powers would become affordable. Getting shares, people could spend their expanded leisure socializing, making art, enjoying nature, or just chilling. Economies let us produce wealth efficiently; geonomics lets us share it fairly.
the policy that the earth’s natural patterns suggests. Use the eco-system’s self-regulating feedback loops as a model. What then needs changing? Basically, the flow of money spent to own or use Earth (both sites and resources) must visit each of us. Our agent, government, exists to collect this natural rent via fees and to disburse the collected revenue via dividends. Doing this, we could forgo taxes on homes and earnings and subsidies of either the needy or the greedy. For more, see our web site, our pamphlet of the title above, or any of our other lit pieces; ask for our literature list.
a neologism for sharing “rent” or “social surplus” – the money we spend on the nature we use. When we buy land, such as the land beneath a home, we typically pay the wrong person – the homeowner. Instead, since land cost us nothing to make and is the common heri-tage of us all, rather than pay the owner, we should pay ourselves, our neighbors, our community. That is, we should all pay land dues to the public treasury, then our government would pay us land dividends from this collected revenue. It’s similar to the Alaska oil dividend, almost $2,000 last year. Indeed, the annual rental value of land, oil, all other natural resources, including the broadcast spectrum and other government-granted permits such as corporate charters, totals several trillion dollars each year. It’s so much that some could be spent on basic social services, the rest parceled out as a divi-dend, as Tom Paine suggested, and taxes (except any on natural rents) could be abolished, as Thomas Jeffer-son suggested. Were we sharing Earth by sharing her worth, territorial disputes would be fewer, less intense, and more resolvable.
more transformation than reform; it’s a step ahead. Harvard economics students this year did petition to change the curriculum, in the wake of the English who caught the dissension from across The Channel. French reformers, who fault conventional economics for conjuring mathematical models of little empirical relevance and being closed to critical and reflective thought, reject this “autism” – or detachment from reality – and dub their offering “post-autistic economics”. Not a bad name, but again, academics define themselves by what they’re not, not by what they are, unlike geonomists. We track rent – the money we spend on the nature we use – and watch it pull all the other economic indicators in its wake. We see economies as part of the ecosystem, similarly following natural patterns and able to self-regulate more so than allowed, once we quit distorting prices. To align people and planet, we’d replace taxes and subsidies with recovering and sharing rents.
The Democratic and Republican parties, two apparently distinct political entities feeding at the same corporate trough.
I don’t want to belong to any club that will accept people like me as a member.
When we seek to discover the best in others, we somehow bring out the best in ourselves.
William Arthur Ward
Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not one bit simpler.
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.
When a man wants to murder a tiger he calls it sport; when a tiger wants to murder him he calls it ferocity.
George Bernard Shaw
Youth is a wonderful thing. What a crime to waste it on children.
George Bernard Shaw
When the people fear the government, there is tyranny. When the government fears the people, there is liberty.
Because things are the way they are, things will not stay the way they are.
Make visible what, without you, might perhaps never been seen.