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This 2014 excerpt of IPS, Jan 20, is by Dennis Engbarth.
The Taiwan farmers victory in a landmark court case in a years-long battle has delivered a shock to government officials and given a morale boost to citizen campaigns.
The win followed a bitter resistance campaign against expropriation of farmland that has already cost two lives.
The dispute in Dapu in Miaoli county has been the most high-profile case in Taiwan of resistance to ‘zone expropriations’ in which large zones are subject to compulsory sale to government for projects which use part of the land for infrastructure and sell other portions to raise funds for construction or local government finance.
“Many large-scale zone expropriations of excellent farmland have taken place all over Taiwan usually under the pretext of creating new towns or industrial zones without consideration of actual need, and the land is often sold for speculation,” said Taiwan Rural Front (TRF) chairman Hsu Shih-jung.
The case in Dapu made international news in June 2010 after a Taiwan citizen reporter filmed Miaoli county government excavators, protected by hundreds of police, destroying hectares of green rice paddies ready for harvesting.
A protest sit-in was joined by more than 10,000 citizens.
Professor of land economics Tai Hsiu-hsiung of Taipei’s National Chengchi University told IPS that Taiwan’s excessively low tax rates had pushed local governments to use this method to first finance public infrastructure and then use zone expropriations get land for sale to improve their overall fiscal balance sheets.
Ed. Notes: So if government were collecting the annual rental value of land in Taiwan all along it would not need to sell off land that did not belong to them or the public. Government could also charge fees to the users of infrastructure, the utility bills everyone is familiar with. And government could cut its expenses by eliminating waste and graft. Like other governments in Southeast Asia, Taiwan could recover more site rent, as does Hong Kong, and pay citizens a dividend, as does Singapore — and get completely out of the insider land-trading racket.
This 2014 excerpt of Pacific Standard, Jan 17, is by Jim Russell.
When you look at the zoning regulations in Palo Alto, you learn that the tech companies have basically run out of room to build parking lots on their campuses — they can’t grow any further using the model of one parking spot per worker. So it’s logical that the tech companies would need to use shuttles to bring their workers to campus.
And where’s the densest place in the Bay Area, the place where the largest numbers of people can use the smallest numbers of buses? By this logic it’s not the youngsters that have chosen San Francisco to gentrify, but the Facebooks and the Googles who are incidentally causing this kind of development through the simple calculus of where they can house the most workers.
Cater to the wants and needs of talent and win the war for talent. Great, save that isn’t what the private bus map reveals. Cramming employees into San Francisco neighborhoods is a cost effective way to house talent while sparing dearer real estate for production.
Nonetheless, tech firms are moving to downtown San Francisco. The shift to urban headquarters favors cities such as Chicago, San Francisco, and Boston, destinations of choice for recent college graduates, while aging cities like Cleveland and Detroit struggle with corporate flight and economic decline.
IBM is interested only in recent college grads who are willing to work cheap in exchange for some tech experience. Dump the older and more expensive suburban-based employee. Plug in the millennial intern dazzled by the streetcar. Chicago is so cool I would work there for nothing.
Ed. Notes: Eventho’ downtown sites are the spendiest, for the trendiest workers and employers, it’s worth it, given the lower wages. Maybe the workers will see that they can make up for lower wages by getting a resident’s dividend, sort of like what they do in Aspen CO and in Singapore. There, they use a land tax to recover the socially-generated value of locations and an annual disbursement of the raised revenue to the local citizenry. It’s a reform even more transformative than the hi-tech they work on.
This 2014 excerpt of coastal South Carolina’s Chronicle, Jan 20, is by Joel Schlosberg.
An antipoverty program that empowers ordinary people to run their own lives would be both more respectful and more effective than the top-down approach. Martin Luther King approvingly quotes laissez-faire populist Henry George’s view that creative activity “is not the work of slaves, driven to their task either by the lash of a master or by animal necessities” and thus would be “enormously increased” in a post-poverty society.
A society-wide economic floor could, and should, be sustained by means consistent with free markets. Henry George’s single tax was the culmination of a line of classical liberal proposals to provide all members of society with a share of common natural resources.
This 2014 excerpt of The Atlantic, Jan 13, is by Barbara Ehrenreich.
Low-wage jobs are a trap: They pay so little that you cannot accumulate even a couple of hundred dollars to help you make the transition to a better-paying job. They often give you no control over your work schedule, making it impossible to arrange for child care or take a second job. And in many of these jobs, even young women soon begin to experience the physical deterioration —- especially knee and back problems —- that can bring a painful end to their work life.
It is actually more expensive to be poor than not poor. If you can’t afford the first month’s rent and security deposit you need in order to rent an apartment, you may get stuck in an overpriced residential motel. If you don’t have a kitchen or even a refrigerator and microwave, you will find yourself falling back on convenience store food, which —- in addition to its nutritional deficits —- is also overpriced. If you need a loan, as most poor people eventually do, you will end up paying an interest rate many times more than what a more affluent borrower would be charged.
A nonfunctioning car can mean lost pay and sudden expenses. A broken headlight invites a ticket, plus a fine greater than the cost of a new headlight, and possible court costs. If a creditor gets nasty, a court summons may be issued, often leading to an arrest warrant. No amount of training in financial literacy can prepare someone for such exigencies.
The criminalization of poverty has accelerated since the recession, with growing numbers of states drug testing applicants for temporary assistance, imposing steep fines for school truancy, and imprisoning people for debt.
We need to wake up to the fact that the underpaid women who clean our homes and offices, prepare and serve our meals, and care for our elderly—earning wages that do not provide enough to live on—are the true philanthropists of our society.
Ed. Notes: You may agree with the author that raising the minimum wage solves poverty, but does it? Actually, the whole notion that income must be tied to employment is damaging and must be jettisoned. The very rich are not employed and are the very richest. If they are worthy of welfare — the subsidies to big agri-business, the over-priced contracts with weaponeers, the tax breaks for oil companies, the lenient enforcement of polluters — then the all classes are worthy of fair welfare, a simple monthly check to the citizenry.
Indeed, the US Constitution was written and passed to “promote the general welfare”. The best way to do that is share common wealth. Our common wealth is all the money we spend for the nature we use, all our payments for land and resources that now go to the 1%. Instead, it should go to us all. Each of us should be getting a dividend from the worth of Earth. At the same time, we should not be paying taxes on wages, sales, or buildings. Government should just use fees, dues, licenses, auctions, etc, to redirect our spending for nature — our social surplus — into the public treasury then back out again as dividends to all.
Doing that will make life amazingly better for us all, especially the people who’d no longer be poor.
This 2014 excerpt of the New York Times, Jan 11, is by Thomas L. Friedman, reviewing a “fascinating new book, The Second Machine Age,” by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee.
Put all advances together, and you can see that our generation will have more power to improve (or destroy) the world than any before, relying on fewer people and more technology. But it also means that we need to rethink deeply our social contracts, because labor is so important to a person’s identity and dignity and to societal stability. Consider:
lowering taxes on human labor to make it cheaper relative to digital labor,
reinventing education so more people can “race with machines” not against them,
fostering the entrepreneurship that invents new industries and jobs, and
even guaranteeing every American a basic income.
We’ve got a lot of rethinking to do, they argue, because we’re not only in a recession-induced employment slump. We’re in a technological hurricane reshaping the workplace — and it just keeps doubling.
Ed. Notes: Better than lowering taxes on labor is to eliminate them. Get rid of them on capital, too. Heck, you could lose taxes altogether; just use fees, dues, leases, etc, to redirect all our spending for nature into the public treasury. That is, as your Land Dues were to go up, then the land prices you pay would go down. So people would not pay banks (in mortgages) or pay absentee owners (ground rent) for land but people would pay their community. Those funds, that revenue stream, is what could fund the extra income to everyone, called “basic income” or here “Citizen’s Dividend”.
This 2014 excerpt of the New York Times, Jan 9, is by Eric Lipton.
For the first time in history, at least 268 of the 534 current members of Congress had an average net worth of $1 million or more in 2012. The median net worth for lawmakers in the House and Senate was $1,008,767 — up 4.4 percent.
The wealthiest member of Congress, as has previously been the case, was Representative Darrell Issa, Republican of California, who had a net worth of between $330 million and $598 million, a significant chunk of which from the Viper car antitheft system sold by a company he owned.
The poorest was Representative David Valadao, Republican of California, who listed debts of about $12.1 million, mostly from loans on a family dairy farm.
Democrats and Republicans in Congress were about equally wealthy, with Democrats boasting a median net worth of $1.04 million, compared to $1 million for congressional Republicans. The averages in both cases were up compared with the previous year, when the numbers were $990,000 and $907,000.
Ed. Notes: So most in Congress are millionaires now. Stepping back for a big picture look, you see that government and the elite are returning to being the same institution in society, just as they were one a couple centuries ago: the aristocracy. So if you prefer democracy, then you better get serious about recognizing, popularizing, and sharing society’s surplus. What’s that? It’s the worth of Earth. It’s the money that society spends for the nature it uses, our mortgages for land, our payments for natural resources. Nobody made the planet, everybody needs this natural heritage, and all of us make it valuable. Hence, we should make this flow of revenue our common wealth (and not taxes on individual wealth) — and the sooner the better.
We have proceeded from a premise that poverty is a consequence of multiple evils: lack of education restricting job opportunities; poor housing which stultified home life and suppressed initiative; fragile family relationships which distorted personality development. The logic of this approach suggested that each of these causes be attacked one by one. Hence a housing program to transform living conditions, improved educational facilities to furnish tools for better job opportunities, and family counseling to create better personal adjustments were designed. In combination these measures were intended to remove the causes of poverty.
In addition to the absence of coordination and sufficiency, these programs have another common failing — they are indirect. Each seeks to solve poverty by first solving something else.
I am now convinced that the simplest approach will prove to be the most effective — the solution to poverty is to abolish it directly by the guaranteed income.
We have so energetically mastered production that we now must give attention to distribution. Those at the lowest economic level, the poor white and Negro, the aged and chronically ill, are traditionally unorganized and therefore have little ability to force the necessary growth in their income. They stagnate or become even poorer in relation to the larger society.
In 1879 Henry George anticipated this state of affairs when he wrote, in Progress and Poverty:
“The fact is that the work which improves the condition of mankind, the work which extends knowledge and increases power and enriches literature, and elevates thought, is not done to secure a living. It is not the work of slaves, driven to their task either by the lash of a master or by animal necessities. It is the work of men who perform it for their own sake, and not that they may get more to eat or drink, or wear, or display. In a state of society where want is abolished, work of this sort could be enormously increased.”
The poor transformed into purchasers will do a great deal on their own to alter housing decay. Negroes, who have a double disability, will have a greater effect on discrimination when they have the additional weapon of cash to use in their struggle.
Beyond these advantages, a host of positive psychological changes inevitably will result from widespread economic security. The dignity of the individual will flourish when the decisions concerning his life and in his own hands, when he has the assurance that his income is stable and certain, and when he know that he has the means to seek self-improvement. Personal conflicts between husband, wife and children will diminish when the unjust measurement of human worth on a scale of dollars is eliminated.
Two conditions are indispensable if we are to ensure that the guaranteed income operates as a consistently progressive measure. First, it must be pegged to the median income of society, not the lowest levels of income. To guarantee an income at the floor would simply perpetuate welfare standards and freeze into the society poverty conditions. Second, the guaranteed income must be dynamic; it must automatically increase as the total social income grows. Were it permitted to remain static under growth conditions, the recipients would suffer a relative decline. If periodic reviews disclose that the whole national income has risen, then the guaranteed income would hgave to be adjusted upward by the same percentage. Without these safeguards a creeping retrogression would occur, nullifying the gains of security and stability.
The program would benefit all the poor. I hope that both Negro and white will act in coalition to effect this change, because their combined strength will be necessary to overcome the fierce opposition we must realistically anticipate.
The contemporary tendency in our society is to base our distribution on scarcity, which has vanished, and to compress our abundance into the overfed mouths of the middle and upper classes until they gag with superfluity. If democracy is to have breadth of meaning, it is necessary to adjust this inequity. We are wasting and degrading human life by clinging to archaic thinking.
The curse of poverty has no justification in our age.
Ed. Notes: James Melvin Washington collected his favorite works of MLK into the book, Testament of Hope: the Essential Writings of Martin Luther King, Jr. and included the passage above, citing Henry George and noting the need to make the extra income dynamic, so it would “automatically increase as the total social income grows.” This is precisely what a Citizens Dividend does; as progress pushes up site values, one’s share of the resultant Rent rises, too.
This 2014 excerpt of EUROPP (European Politics and Policy) of the London School of Economics is by Jason Sorens of Dartmouth College and is based on an earlier blog post at Pileus.
Suppose I outsource some of my domestic production to a Bangladeshi subcontractor whose factory is a fire hazard. Is this any different from my importing Bangladeshi workers and putting them to work directly at home under hazardous conditions? From an economic standpoint, the answer is no. From an ethical standpoint, we may split some hairs, but the answer is also no to a first order of approximation. Why should trade allow me to do something that domestic regulations explicitly forbid?
However, Tufts researcher Dan Drezner has found no tendency for globalisation to undermine labour and environmental standards in developing countries.
Does democracy enact a society’s “values”? Arrow’s Impossibility Theorem tells us that it is impossible to aggregate individual preferences into social preferences in a fair and consistent way. Societies don’t have values. Regulations are determined either by the machinations of well-connected interest groups or by the preferences of powerful bureaucrats. Social control of regulations is impossible, even in democracies. The most we can hope for is something will “shuffle the deck” so that today’s insiders don’t remain insiders forever.
Developed countries spend hundreds of billions of dollars a year on agricultural subsidies, tariffs, and price supports, dwarfing what they spend on aid to poor countries. U.S. cotton subsidies alone cost Burkina Faso 1 per cent of its GDP, Mali 1.7 per cent of its GDP, and Benin 1.4 per cent of its GDP. These countries are among the poorest in the world.
Does footloose capital raise the relative bargaining power of capitalists against workers? Removing barriers to the free flow of workers can help solve this problem: let employers compete more intensely for workers. Beyond “free” trade is “free” migration; academics should do more to promote the benefits of open migration to all.
The European Union’s economic problems have come not so much from harmonizing too much (despite the occasional ridiculous overreach in this department) but from a poorly designed currency union. Overall, the single market has greatly benefitted Europe’s people.
Academics should not quail from the responsibility of communicating the advantages of open markets, even when openness is unpopular. Failure to develop can be solved with more globalization, not less.
Ed. Notes: Since so much of the developed gets copied, the richer socieites could also provide a better example of economic justice: geonomize. Replace taxes with dues and replace subsidies with dividends to all citizens. Then all the world could harmonize.
This 2014 excerpt of Macro Business, Jan 17, is by Leith van Onselen.
Rather than the Government funding urban renewal projects directly, surely a simpler and more cost effective solution would be to implement a broad-based land tax (in exchange for cuts to stamp duties), in turn penalizing land banking and vagrancy and encouraging the more productive use of sites.
A broad-based land tax would also help to make infrastructure investments self-funding for governments, since any land value uplift brought about through increased infrastructure investment (e.g. new roads, trains, etc) would be partly captured by the government via increased tax receipts. In turn, governments would be more likely to facilitate development, rather than act to restrict it in a bid to save on infrastructure costs.
Ed. Notes: Beyond solving urban blight, note that as owners get busy developing their sites that they had kept vacant or otherwise under-utilized, awaiting a higher offered price, they’d then attract investment and create employment. The new development in-fills cities, making walking, riding, and pedaling more efficient and cars less so. Good for the body and for the environment. Also, people’s demand for land in cities is so high, government could also easily fund a dividend. Policymakers could also delete other taxes, since they hobble production and drive down location values. More than just the policy of a city, geonomics could be the policy of an entire nation.
This 2014 excerpt of the Daily Mail, Jan 16, is by James Nye.
At huge digital commercial television screens across Beijing, the Chinese observe virtual sunrises, since actual ones can not be seen thru the smog.
The futuristic screens installed in the Chinese capital usually advertize tourist destinations, but as the season’s first wave of extremely dangerous smog hit and the air took on an acrid odor, residents donned air masks and left their homes to watch the LED screen show the rising sun in Tiananmen Square.
Smog reached as high as 671 at 4 a.m. at a monitoring post at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing. That is about 26 times as high as the 25 micrograms considered safe by the World Health Organization.
Coal burning and car emissions are major sources of pollution.
China has drawn up dozens of laws and guidelines to improve the environment but has struggled to enforce them in the face of powerful enterprises.
Ed. Notes: China could choose other ways to generate electricity and to transport people that don’t pollute. Probably not one fuel would replace coal and not one mode of transport would replace the car but mixes would. Electricity could come from sunlight, windmills, fuel cells, etc.
And cars could be decreased by sharing, similar to checking out books from a library, and by continuous mass transit. In such a system, major vehicles on major arteries never stop; instead, people board minor vehicles at transit stops and those little vehicles catch up to the bigger one, people get on and off, and then the small vehicle stops at the next transit stop.
Another reform is to pay citizens a dividend from the value of land and locations so that people don’t need to crowd into citizens to find jobs … and breathe poisoned air, nor watch sun rises on TV.
This 2014 excerpt of The Guardian, Jan 13, is by George Monbiot.
Vast amounts of public money, running into billions, are spent every year on policies that make devastating floods inevitable.
Water sinks into the soil under trees at 67 times the rate at which it sinks into the soil under grass. The roots of the trees provide channels down which the water flows, deep into the ground. The soil there becomes a sponge, a reservoir which sucks up water and then releases it slowly. In the pastures, by contrast, the small sharp hooves of the sheep puddle the ground, making it almost impermeable, a hard pan off which the rain gushes.
Full reforestation would reduce flooding peaks by about 50%. That means – more or less – problem solved.
But the common agricultural policy says, if you want to receive your single farm payment – by far the biggest component of farm subsidies – land has to be free from what it calls “unwanted vegetation”. Land covered by trees is not eligible. The subsidy rules have enforced the mass clearance of vegetation from the hills.
The problem is not confined to livestock in the mountains. In the foothills and lowlands, the misuse of heavy machinery, overstocking with animals, and other forms of bad management can – by compacting the soil – increase the rates of instant run-off from 2% of all the rain that falls on the land to 60%.
Sometimes ploughing a hillside in the wrong way at the wrong time of the year can cause a flood – of both mud and water – even without exceptional rainfall.
River managers believed that the best way to prevent floods was to straighten, canalise and dredge rivers along much of their length, to enhance their capacity for carrying water. They discovered that this was not just wrong but also counterproductive. A river can, at any moment, carry very little of the water that falls on its catchment: the great majority must be stored in the soils and on the floodplains.
By building ever higher banks around the rivers, reducing their length through taking out the bends and scooping out the snags and obstructions along the way, engineers unintentionally did two things. They increased the rate of flow, meaning that flood waters poured down the rivers and into the nearest towns much faster. And, by separating the rivers from the rural land through which they passed, they greatly decreased the area of functional floodplains.
The result was catastrophic. In many countries, chastened engineers are now putting snags back into the rivers, reconnecting them to uninhabited land that they can safely flood and allowing them to braid and twist and form oxbow lakes. These features catch the sediment and the tree trunks and rocks which otherwise pile up on urban bridges, and take much of the energy and speed out of the river.
The Pitt Review, commissioned by the previous government after the horrible 2007 floods, concluded that “dredging can make the river banks prone to erosion, and hence stimulate a further build-up of silt, exacerbating rather than improving problems with water capacity”.
The drained and burnt moors of the grouse estates in England, though they serve only the super-rich, receive some £37m of public money every year in the form of subsidies. Much of this money is used to cut and burn them, which is likely to be a major cause of flooding. Though there had been plenty of rain throughout the winter, the river was already low and sluggish.
That’s the flipside of a philosophy that believes land exists only to support landowners and waterways exist only “to get rid of water”. Instead of a steady flow sustained around the year by trees in the hills, by sensitive farming methods, by rivers allowed to find their own course and their own level, to filter and hold back their waters through bends and braiding and obstructions, we get a cycle of flood and drought. We get filthy water and empty aquifers and huge insurance premiums and ruined carpets. And all of it at public expense. Much obliged to you guv’nor, I’m sure.
Ed. Notes: Critics see what’s wrong with certain subsidies but now with subsidies in general. Yet as long as you let politicians and bureaucrats spend Other People’s Money without any serious backlash for making mistakes, what’s to keep them from making mistakes? Makes much more sense to end subsidies in general and just pay everyone a Citizen’s Dividend.
Raise the funds via taxes, fees, dues, leases, etc on land and resources. Such charges will keep land affordable for actual farmers and everyone. And since society spends so much for land and resources and EM spectrum et al, redirecting that spending into the public treasury then out into everyone’s pockets (via Land Dues and Rent Dividends), the populace will enjoy a comfortable cushion indeed and won’t miss and de-funded public “services”.
Further, an enlightened jurisdiction could also lose the counter-productive taxes on earning, purchases, and buildings, which would let the value of locations bloom, feeding more funds into an even fatter dividend for the citizenry. It’s geonomics and wherever tried, to the degree tried, has worked every time. Time to implement it again.
This 2014 excerpt of Occupy Solidarity Network’s Theory Thursday by Micah White, Jan 16, is by Andy-Merrifield.
How can ordinary people develop civic immunity?
Long ago in Poverty and Progress (1879), Henry George proposed a novel idea that we might want to explore today. In order to “satisfy the law of justice,” George said, a rent tax seems the only alternative preventing parasitic anti-social wealth appropriation. “I do not propose either to purchase or to confiscate private property in land,” George wrote. “Let individuals who now hold it still retain, if they want to, possession of what they are pleased to call their land. Let them continue to call it their land. Let them buy and sell it, and bequeath and devise it. We may safely leave them the shell, if we take the kernel. It is not necessary to confiscate land; it is only necessary to confiscate rent.”
Thus that preeminent parasitic organism, expelling people from the earth as a dwelling-place, can be expunged, or at least democratized by a Community Land Trust that collects this rent tax, instigating another notion of the public realm, one not owned and managed by any centralized state but owned and run by a collectivization of people, federated, communal, and truly responsive to citizens’ needs.
Ed. Notes: It’s good to see Marxists like the social sharing of socially-generated values of locations and resources, just as it’s good to see followers of Adam Smith get on board, too. Both see merit in the reform — eventho’ it’s neither left nor right — because it’s fair, which the left likes, and it’s efficient, which the right likes. What sharing nature is is a third way, making markets cooperative and responsible, since it also incorporates getting rid of the taxes and subsidies that distort prices and choices. It’s geonomics and, having worked wherever tried, has a future on planet Earth.
This 2014 excerpt of Web of Debt, Jan 16, is by Ellen Brown.
More than eight million Californians struggle to meet their daily needs. One in four children lives in poverty. Income inequality is higher in the nation’s most populous state than in almost any other.
Governor Jerry Brown acknowledges that California faces a “wall of debt” amounting to $28 billion. Some analysts put it much higher than that.
Welfare payments, health care for the poor, and benefits for the elderly and disabled have been slashed. State workers have been downsized. School districts in need of cash have been reduced to borrowing through “capital appreciation bonds” bearing 300% interest. In one notorious case, the Santa Ana school district actually borrowed at 1,000% interest.
When tallied up at every stage of production, interest has been calculated to claim one-third of everything we buy.
California’s revenues are currently parked in those very largest of corporations, Wall Street banks. These out-of-state banks use our giant asset pool for their own speculative purposes, and the funds are at risk of confiscation in the event of a “bail-in.”
On the other hand, the state Bank of North Dakots is a major money-maker for the state, returning a sizable dividend annually to the treasury. Every year since the 2008 banking crisis, it has reported a return on investment of between 17 percent and 26 percent. The BND also provides what is essentially interest-free credit for state projects, since the state owns the bank and gets the interest back. The BND partners with local banks rather than competing with them, strengthening their capital and deposit bases and allowing them to keep loans on their books rather than having to sell them off to investors.
In the fall of 2011, a bill for a feasibility study for a state-owned bank passed both houses of the California legislature. But it died when Jerry Brown vetoed it.
I am therefore running for California State Treasurer on a state bank platform, along with Laura Wells, who is running for Controller.
We are running on the endorsement of the Green Party – along with Luis Rodriguez for governor and David Curtis for secretary of state.
Ed. Notes: Out of the two — a state bank vs. Wall Street — the former surely seems preferable. However, there are other options. Why not empower the state Treasury to perform some banking functions? You could open up an account there, if you like. Also, why not stop letting the central bank be the only one to create new money? Stop them, or make them compete with credit unions, or let local currency clubs be the ones to create new money, since they’re the ones in position to know how much is needed.
And while reforming banking and credit, society should also do something about land speculation. That’s what tanks economies, letting speculators inflate the price of locations, which is what happened in California after Prop 13. The way to fix that is to drop taxation and instead recover the annual rental value of locations by utilizing fees, dues, leases, etc. The raised revenue could fund any truly desired government or fund a dividend to residents — obviating welfare for the needy and greedy both — or fund a mix of both services and monthly share checks.
This 2014 excerpt of The Ecologist, Jan 2, is by Konstantin Rubakhin, coordinator of ‘Save Khoper National Park’. This article was first published by Open Democracy Russia under the title “Where there’s muck there’s brass.”
The local population in the heart of Russia’s Black Earth belt has called for a total ban on the mining of nickel and other non-ferrous metals in the zone known for centuries in this area as Russia’s ‘bread basket’.
The metal deposits, believed to be the last major nickel reserves in Europe, are only 20 kilometers away from one of the few untouched areas in Central Russia: the river Khoper (or Khopyor), a tributary of the Don, and the Khoper Nature Reserve, an important bird sanctuary. The reserve is also home to the almost extinct Russian desman, a small mammal belonging to the mole family.
The project is almost totally export-oriented. Indeed, 90% of the nickel mined in Russia ends up abroad, and the Ural Metal and Mining Company (UGMK), which won the tender, is – like most such companies operating in Russia – registered in Cyprus.
The protest against mining has been going on since March 2012, when the tender documents were released, and it is actively supported by up to 85% of local residents. Two rallies in Novokhopersk – a small town of 6,000 inhabitants – have attracted crowds of 5,000.
We handed President Putin our documentation, explaining that leading experts considered the Yelanskoye project unviable from an environmental, social and economic point of view; and that the region’s development should concentrate on tourism and agriculture.
Putin, however, UGMK’s owner is one Iskander Makhmudov, who has business connections with both Russia’s railway boss Vladimir Yakunin and billionaire businessman Gennady Timchenko – both known to be close to the president.
Since our meeting with Putin, there have been several dozen articles published, and TV reports broadcast, alleging that the Yelanskoye campaign is being manipulated variously by foreign agents, the American State Department, and perhaps even the Devil himself.
Ed. Notes: People who stand up for what’s right do sometimes win against those who wield power and seeks fortunes. Another argument demonstrators could add to the environmental and economic ones above is that the profit from Earth — which is what Putin and cronies are after — is not something for anyone to grasp for themselves but a flow of value that belongs to all the residents. Let’s not let the “rents” of Earth any longer be the low hanging fruit for the scrupulous but the common wealth for everyone.
This 2014 excerpt of Common Dreams, Jan 15, is by Jon Queally.
If not properly challenged, Tuesday’s ruling by a US appellate court allowing the nation’s largest telecommunication companies (ie, telecom giants like AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast) to create elite digital pathways for chosen content could spell the death of the internet as the world has come to know it.
If your cable company wants to make streaming video from its services lightning fast and free from data caps, while slowing down YouTube and counting that data against your monthly allotment, now it can do so.
Companies like Verizon can create tiered pricing structures with fast lanes for those who can afford the tolls — and slow lanes for everyone else.
The FCC could respond boldly to the decision by the three judge panel [judges are merely lawyers with immunity] by moving to reclassify broadband Internet access as in the public interest.
Little by little over the years, the pro-competitive rules, the pro-consumer rules were whittled away by the power of the telecom lobby which controls a sizable amount of votes, Democratic and Republican in the Senate and House.
AT&T and Verizon bought up the ‘old’ AT&T and MCI in 2006.
Critics say only decisive action and a groundswell of popular pressure aimed at the FCC, the White House, members of Congress, and the telecommunication giants now hoping to exert total control over the digital platform’s information highways can turn the tables.
Ed. Notes: People get rich either by growing the pie and getting a nice slice or by not growing the pie and just getting a bigger slice of existing wealth, like a troll under a bridge. We should make the latter way illegal, and de-tax the first way. Then fortunes will be earned and will measure contributions to society, not extractions from society, as the court ruling on the internet makes possible. I was hoping the internet would play a major role in transforming economies into systems that work right for everybody, not just a trough for the greedy insiders. Maybe the petition will keep the internet in our future as it has been in our past.
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.
what you do when you see economies as part of the ecosystem, following feedback loops and storing up energy. Surplus energy – fat or profit – enables us to produce and reproduce. To recycle society’s surplus, the commonwealth, geonomics would replace taxes with land dues (charged to users of sites and resources, including the EM spectrum, and extra to polluters), and replace subsidies with rent dividends to citizens (a la Alaska’s oil dividend). Without taxes and subsidies to distort them, prices become precise, reflect accurately our costs and values; then, motivated by no more than the bottom line, both producers and consumers make sustainable choices. While no place uses geonomics in its entirety, some places use parts of it, most notably a shift of the property tax off buildings, onto locations. Shifting the property tax drives efficient use of land, in-fills cities, improves the housing stock, makes homes affordable, engenders jobs and investment opportunities, lowers crime, raises civic participation, etc – overall it makes cities more livable. Geonomics – a way to share the bounty of nature and society – is something we can work for locally, globally, and in between.
not a panacea, but like John Muir said, “pull on any one thing, and find it connected to everything else.” Recall last month’s earthquake in El Salvador. We felt it and its formidable after-shocks in Nicaragua. Immediately afterwards, my host nation, one of the poorest in the Western Hemisphere, sent aid to its Central American neighbor. The Nica newspapers carried photos of the devastation. They showed that the cliff sides that crumbled had had homes built on them while the cliffs left pristine withstood the shock. Could monopoly of good, safe, flat land be pushing people to build on risky, unstable cliffs? If so, that’s just one more good reason to break up land monopoly. What works to break up land monopoly, history shows, is for society to collect the annual rental value of the underlying sites and resources. That’d spur owners to use level land efficiently, so no one would be excluded, forced to resort to cliffs. To prevent another man-induced landslide is yet another reason to spread geonomics.
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 discipline that, compared to economics, is as obscure as Warren Buffett’s investment strategy, compared to conventional investment theory, about which Buffett said, “You couldn’t advance in a finance department in this country unless you taught that the world was flat.” (The New York Times, Oct 29). The writer wondered, “But why? If it works, why don’t more investors use it?”
Good question. Geonomics works, too. Every place that has used it has prospered while conserving resources. Yet it remains off the radar of many wanna-be reformers. Gradually, tho’, that’s changing. More are becoming aware of what geonomics studies – all the money we spend on the nature we use. Geonomics (1) as an alternative worldview to the anthropocentric, sees human economies as part of the embracing ecosystem with natural feedback loops seeking balance in both systems. (2) As an alternative to worker vs. investor, it sees our need for sites and resources making those who own land into landlords. (3)As an alternative to economics, it tracks the trillions of “rent” as it drives the “housing” bubble and all other indicators. And (4) as an alternative to left or right, it suggests we not tax ourselves then subsidize our favorites but recover and share society’s surplus, paying in land dues and getting back “rent” dividends, a la Alaska’s oil dividend. Letting rent go to the wrong pockets wreaks havoc, while redirecting it to everyone would solve our economic ills and the ills downstream from them.
People must learn to stop whining so much and feel enough self-esteem to demand a fair share of rent, society’s surplus, the commonwealth.
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.
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.
suitable for framing by Green Parties. When Greens began in Germany two decades ago, they defined themselves as neither left nor right but in front. Geonomics fits that description. The Green Parties have their Four Pillars; geonomists have four ways to apply them:
Ecological Wisdom. Want people to use the eco-system wisely? Charge them Rent and, to end corporate license, add surcharges. To minimize these costs, people will use less Earth.
Nonviolence. Want people to settle disputes nonviolently? Set a good example; don’t levy taxes, which rely on the threat of incarceration, to take people’s money. Try quid pro quo fees and dues.
Social Responsibility. Want people to be responsible for their actions? Don’t make basic choices for them by subsidizing services, addicting them to a caretaker state. Let people spend shares of social surplus.
Grassroots Democracy. Better have grassroots prosperity. Remember, political power follows economic. Pay people a Citizens Dividend; to keep it, they’ll show up at the polls, public hearings, and conventions.
of interest to Dave Lakhani, President Bold Approach (Mar 8) and Matt Ozga (Jan 29): “I write for the Washington Square News, the student run newspaper out of New York University. Geonomics seems like it has great significance, especially in this area. When was geonomics developed, and by whom?”
About 1982 I began. Two years later, Chilean Dr Manfred Max-Neef offered the term geonomics for Earth-friendly economics. In the mid-80s, a millionaire founded a Geonomics Institute on Middlebury College campus in Vermont re global trade. In the 1990s, CNBC cablecast a show, Geonomics, on world trade as it benefits world traders. My version of geonomics draws heavily from the American Henry George who wrote Progress & Poverty (1879) and won the mayoralty of New York but was denied his victory by Tammany Hall (1886). He in turn got lots from Brits David Ricardo, Adam Smith, and the French physiocrats of the 1700s. My version differs by focusing not on taxation but on the flow of rents for sites, resources, sinks, and government-granted privileges. Forgoing these trillions, we instead tax and subsidize, making waste cheap and sustainability expensive. To quit distorting price, replace taxes with “land dues” and replace subsidies with a Citizens Dividend.
Matt: “This idea of sharing rents sounds, if not explicitly socialist, at least at odds with some capitalist values (only the strong survive & prosper, etc). Is it fair to say that geonomics has some basis in socialist theory?”
A closer descriptor would be Christian. Beyond ethics into praxis, Alaska shares oil rent with residents, and they’re more libertarian than socialist. While individuals provide labor and capital, no one provides land while society generates its value. Rent is not private property but public property. Sharing Rent is predistribution, sharing it before an elite or state has a chance to get and misspend it, like a public REIT (Real Estate Investment Trust) paying dividends to its stakeholders – a perfectly capitalist model. What we should leave untaxed are our sales, salaries, and structures, things we do produce.