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This 2015 excerpt of the New York Times, Feb 11, is by Mark Bittman.
Progressives are not thinking broadly or creatively enough. By failing to pressure Democrats to take strong stands on everything from environmental protection to gun control to income inequality, progressives allow the party to use populist rhetoric while making America safer for business than it is for Americans.
I’m not fine with standard public questions like “How do we create a better climate for business so it can provide more jobs?” Consider what this implies about the purpose of people, to say nothing about the meaning of life.
Let’s try to make sense of where the world is now instead of relying on outdated doctrines like “capitalism” and “socialism” created by people who had no idea what the 21st century would look like. Let’s ambitiously and publicly philosophize — as the conservatives do — and think about what shape a sensible political economy might take.
Ed. Notes: Of course the writer is right. But if he can get himself into the bully pulpit of the NYT, he should do more than just prod others, he should lead the way — or better yet, join others who’re leading the way. That is, he should lend his voice to the movement for an extra income apart from our labor. Society has a surplus, a huge abundance — all the money we spend for the nature we use, our payments for land, resources, ecosystem services, etc … trillions every year. Some of us are working to turn that bounty into our common wealth, from which we’d all get a dividend check each month … sort of like what Alaska already does. Ready for your share?
This 2015 excerpt of the Union Bulletin, Feb 11, is by Geoff Folsom of the Tri-City Herald.
Four the Eastern Washington Republicans call for a committee to not only consider Eastern Washington leaving Washington, but joining up with Eastern Oregon to become a state. Western Washington and Western Oregon would also join together.
The bills filed this session are the latest to look at breaking Washington apart. McCaslin’s father, the late Sen. Bob McCaslin, filed similar bills in 2001 and 2005. Another 2005 bill looked at combining the eastern and western parts of Washington and Oregon into states divided by the Cascades.
Ed. Notes: Those legislators might want to invite Idaho to join them, too, so the new state would have natural boundaries: mountains on their east (Rockies) and west (Cascades) and dessert on their south (Nevada; to their north is Canada). And Spokane WA could compete with Boise ID to be the new capitol city.
Maybe it’s a Left Coast thing. Also on the West Coast, California has had ballot measures to break up that huge state into more natural units. And why not?
Jane Jacobs, the past expert on cities, wrote that each major city has its own economic region; why not make that the basis for state boundaries? Such jurisdictions would be far more bioregional, that is, of a more homogenous climate and topography and flora and fauna. Thus all the sections of the region would have similar, not competing, interests, which should make it easier for them to cooperate. And everybody in the region would be equally deserving of the “rents” generated in the region.
This 2015 excerpt of The Guardian, Feb 8, is by Hilary Osborne.
Private landlords could be gaining as much as £26.7bn a year from the taxpayer, equal to £1,011 each for the UK’s 26.4m households, with tax breaks and housing benefit bolstering their gains from house price increases.
The figure is made up of £9.3bn of housing benefit paid on behalf of low-income tenants, £1.69bn through the “wear-and-tear” tax relief landlords can claim on their properties, £6.63bn of tax that landlords do not have to pay on mortgage interest payments, and £9.06bn of tax landlords do not pay on their annual average capital gains.
Landlords, who house 4.75m households in the UK, are earning £77.7bn a year: £42.3bn in rent and £35.4bn in rising house prices. Through income tax on rent and capital gains tax on sold properties, it estimated they were handing £8.9bn to the taxman.
Generation Rent is calling for an additional landlord levy of 22% on rental income, which it said would recoup the £9.3bn housing benefit bill and should be used to fund 90,000 new council houses.
The housing benefit budget had risen in real terms by 220% since 1985, while investment in housebuilding had fallen by 41%.
Ed. Notes: These reformers are not distinguishing between rent paid for houses (and other buildings) and rent paid for land, for the location. One is a payment for something human-made, the other for something nature-made. Upon receiving such payments, owners behave diametrically differently. One motivates recipients to build, the other motivates recipients to speculate.
Similarly, taxing those two payment/income streams has different consequences. When the taxman takes a cut of the profit from leasing a building, then the owner does less maintenance or erects a low-quality structure in the first place. When society charges owners the rental value of locations, then owners use their land efficiently. They increase the housing stock. The added supply reduces the cost of housing.
Further, society could share out the recovered “rents” as a dividend to residents, similar to what Aspen CO does. As site values rise, dividends would swell. The problem of affordable housing would be solved forever. And governments everywhere — not just the UK — could save tons of money by no longer subsidizing either rich landlords or poor tenants.
These two 2015 excerpts are of the New York Times, Feb 7, by Louise Story & Stephanie Saul, and of The Beaverton, Feb 10, by Jacob Duarte Spiel.
Stream of Foreign Wealth Flows to Elite New York Real Estate
Behind the dark glass towers of the Time Warner Center looming over Central Park, a majority of owners have taken steps to keep their identities hidden, registering condos in trusts, limited liability companies or other entities that shield their names. By piercing the secrecy of more than 200 shell companies, The New York Times documented a decade of ownership in this iconic Manhattan way station for global money transforming the city’s real estate market.
Many of the owners represent a cross-section of American wealth: chief executives and celebrities, doctors and lawyers, technology entrepreneurs, and Wall Street traders.
A growing proportion of wealthy foreigners, at least 16 of whom have been the subject of government inquiries around the world, either personally or as heads of companies. The foreign owners have included government officials and close associates of officials from Russia, Colombia, Malaysia, China, Kazakhstan, and Mexico.
Ed. Notes: Millennials can’t afford the cost of living in desirable places for two reasons. It’s early in their careers, when pay is low. And housing is high because those with money bid it up.
High location values could actually be a huge boon for millennial and all residents. Just collect them — via land dues or taxes or fees — and share them as a dividend to residents. Aspen CO and Singapore do something similar.
It’s only necessary for millennials to see the worth of Earth as our common wealth.
This 2015 excerpt of Basic Income News, Feb 18, is by Karl Widerquist.
The Basic Income Guarantee (BIG) is gathering strength politically around the world. The Swiss are voting on it. European Union Citizens are campaigning for it. And Americans are talking about it more and more.
The discussion of BIG comes to New York on the last weekend of February when the Fourteenth North American Basic Income Guarantee Congress holds events in three boroughs.
The Congress will begin on Thursday, February 26th at the LIC Art Center / LIC Academy of Music in Long Island City, Queens with a public discussion entitled, “New Possibilities for the Basic Income Movement.” Speakers include Frances Fox Piven, author of Poor People’s Movements; Marshall Brain, author of How Stuff Works; . This event is free and open to the public.
The main conference events will take place all day Friday and Saturday and half the day on Sunday at the Sheraton Times Square Hotel on 7th Avenue and 53rd Street in Manhattan. Speakers include Peter Barnes, environmentalist and author of With Liberty and Dividends For All. The NABIG events at the Sheraton will take place as a part of the Eastern Economic Association’s (EEA’s) annual conference.
All of the events will be covered by live streaming and interactive posting on Reddit and other websites, so that it will be possible to take part without being physically present.
Ed. Notes: Big-hearted people make life bearable. But where are they going to get the money? Like the have the power to guarantee — presto — instant money? Usually they suggest taking from the rich, giving to the poor. Bigger picture, any redistribution would not even be proposed if society were already sharing its surplus — the worth of Earth in its region.
This 2015 excerpt of SlashDot, Feb 7, is by Jason Koebler.
For the last 21 years, Gary Millin and his colleagues at World Accelerator have been slowly accumulating a veritable treasure trove of seemingly premium generic domain names. For instance, Millin owns, has sold, or has bartered away world.com, usa.com, doctor.com, lawyer.com, comic.com, email.com, cyberservices.com, and more than 1,000 other domain names that can be yours (including yours.com, which he owns), as long as you’ve got the startup idea to back it up. Millin doesn’t sell domain names anymore, instead, he trades them to startups in exchange for a stake in the company.
Ed. Notes: So Millin gets paid to get out of the way, not to produce or add value. Like the troll under the bridge, a bridge others built, demanding payment to cross over the bridge. How does that benefit anyone other than the troll? Maybe society ought to charge the guy rent for monopolizing some common words of the English language in a public context. Then, of course, there’d be no reason to seek monopolies just to block others from making progress.
This 2015 excerpt of Iranian, Feb 8, is by Ayatoilet1 Balatarin.
When you look at those horrific images of ISIS fighters killing foreign journalists, ask: (a) who is behind ISIS and (b) could it be that these journalists saw first-hand who is behind ISIS?
You don’t take over swaths of Syria and Iraq about the size of the British Isles, using modern armaments, and write checks from Kuwaiti bank accounts, without massive external support.
Who has all this blood ISIS is spilling on their hands? Wealthy individuals in the Persian Gulf States of Kuwait, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia. Former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has publicly accused Saudi Arabia and Qatar of funding ISIS.
Ever since Iraq’s former dictator Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait (and local Palestinian expats cooperated with Saddam Hussein’s invading armies), Kuwait, Qatar, UAE, and Saudi Arabia have formed an alliance with Israel. Israel has very extensive military, intelligence, and business relations now with all these states. Why do ISIS and others wage jihad against Israel’s enemies but not against Israel itself?
Issam Hattito, head of Muslim Brotherhood responsible for leading the battles against Bashar Assad, resides not in Beirut, Riyadh, or Cairo. He’s residing in Tel Aviv. Does Ahmad Jarba live in Riyadh, Cairo, or Tehran? He constantly moves between New York, Paris, and London, and who pay his expenses?
Israel is quick to call Shiite Hezbollah terrorists but has said nothing confrontational about ISIS ‘militants’ as they call them. From providing medical aid, military training, and outright military assistance, Israel has been a much better friend to Muslim terrorists than any of the regimes it claims as its enemy. Israel has been providing wounded Syrian rebels with medical treatment inside Israel. In February, 2014, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited one of the medical facilities in which the Syrian rebels were being treated and posed for a photo op shaking hands with a death squad fighter. Israel was even documented in 2011 as hosting and directing a terrorist mercenary training camp inside the country.
Israel has provided military support to the terrorists in the form of artillery and air force bombing campaigns. These attacks have generally come after the Assad government seems to be making considerable gains on the ground against the Western-backed fighters. Coordinated with the death squad directors on the ground, these attacks provide cover fire and diversions for “swarming” and jihadist invasions.
Edward Snowden leaked an NSA cable that said: “The only solution for the protection of the Jewish state is to create an enemy near its borders”. (Gulf News, July 15, 2014)
Ironically, the individuals who make up the bulk of invasions across the Arab world – religious fanatics, savages, and the criminally insane – maintain an open hatred for Israel. Those death squad members at the bottom are either ignorant of the fact that Israel itself is a major backer of their movement or incapable of understanding anything other than what their faction leader has told them.
Ed. Notes: Arabs killing Arabs does not make Israel safer. People appreciating diversity makes Israel — and all nations — safer. Perhaps social media for peace can supersede the usual indoctrination for war.
Soldiers everywhere believe the “enemy” narrative provided to them and overlook that they are acting out the will of a shadowy “elite” who does not have their best interests at heart.
What could make ordinary society less susceptible to war mongering? Higher self-esteem. How do people learn to feel worthy? By being treated as equals. If people are not treated as mere taxpayers but instead are paid an equal share of society’s surplus, then they’d feel like their lives matter.
This extra income apart from one’s labor would come from society’s spending for land and resources, a surplus because nobody needs to be paid to create what no human created. When people receive a share of Earth’s worth, and owners pay in land dues to society, that is a way for each to compensate all — and to settle any competing claims to land, which is major motive underlying war.
The other factors — ethnic differences and mistreatment of women — fortunately tend to wither within prosperity. Getting an extra income enables people to live in prosperity, and prosperous people wage far less war.
Finally, the war-money comes from the oil-rich sheikhs who get it from their customers in the West. So the West needs to convert to alternative energy sources. Sun power and fuel cells are already competitive but it’s hard to realize that fact in our heavily politicized economies. To make the switch to clean energy, the West needs to quit subsidizing fossil fuels and to pay oil shares, similar to the Alaska oil dividend, thereby diverting oil profits away from the “oligarchy”.
BTW, isn’t it ironic that the Mideast is one of the sunniest places on the planet and so has the least use for the oil under its soil? It’s mainly been used for war and environmental ruin. Talk about a Resource Curse!
Peace is one heck of a lot cheaper than war. War is deadly costly. It can’t occur without somebody with deep pockets or accessible treasuries paying for it. So the warlike can no longer afford their evil fantasies, the rest of society must absorb the surplus, leaving nothing on the table for mayhem, all of it already being spent for a better world
This 2015 excerpt of the Los Angeles Times, Feb 5, is by David Lauter.
Two-thirds of Americans said they were dissatisfied with the way income and wealth are distributed in the U.S. So twenty-two months ahead of the 2016 election, the nascent presidential campaign already has a leading issue.
Potential Democratic, Republican presidential candidates agree: Income inequality is a problem.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, as well as Florida’s Republican senator, Marco Rubio, and other GOP hopefuls have publicly promised to do something about it.
Ed. Notes: The only ideas any of the candidates have had so far are all the same old ones of tax the rich, create (unneeded) jobs, and mandate higher minimum wages. These knee-jerk reactions do not get to the root of the problem. The solution does not lie downstream, after income has been skewed, but lies upstream, before powerful insiders suck up society’s surplus.
The candidate I’d vote for would say: (1) No more corporate welfare. (2) No more taxes on wages and actual earnings (which differ from successful “rent-seeking”, to use the jargon). (3) Let’s recover all our common wealth, all of society’s spending for assets never produced by anyone’s labor or capital, such as oil in the ground or prime downtown locations. And (4) Disburse public revenue surplus to registered voters as a Citizens’ Dividend.
Imagine that. You’d get an extra income apart from your wages. Your income would no longer be taxed. There’d be more jobs, since owners having to pay “land dues” would put their wasted land — vacant lots, abandoned buildings — to good use; greater demand for labor pushes up wages. And better distribution to the majority means more consumption by them (us) which requires more output and more hiring, again raising wages.
So that’s how you solve inequality. You use geonomics. You can skip over all the worn-out political rhetoric of the two major parties.
BTW, geonomics has worked whenever tried, to the degree. Name any other economic policy that can make that claim! So get out there and geonomize your candidates!
This 2015 excerpt of Motherboard, Feb 4, is by Whitney Mallett.
Dauphin, Manitoba is a small farming town in the middle of Canada. Between 1974 and 1979, the Canadian government paid the town’s poorest residents monthly checks that supplemented what modest earnings they had. “Mincome” was the Dauphin experiment.
There was some reduction in work effort from mothers of young children and teenagers still in high school. Doctor and hospital visits declined, mental health appeared to improve, and more teenagers completed high school.
A sense of security counteracted the worrying that weighs heavily on the minds of the poor. Families knew they could count on at least some support, no matter what happened to agricultural prices or the weather. Sudden illness, disability, or unpredictable economic events would not be financially devastating.
This year, the Swiss Parliament will vote on whether to extend a monthly stipend to all residents. The Indian government has already begun replacing aid programs with direct cash transfers.
Ed. Notes: It’s a plus that the poor got more money but a minus that the reformers did not even figure out where to get the money from. What’s the proper source of an extra income for everyone apart from their labor? Our common wealth. Society’s surplus. Earth’s worth. Our spending for the land and resources we use.
It does not matter who owns the sites and electromagnetic spectrum. Ownership of nature gives one the right to use that portion of nature exclusively, but it also gives the owner the duty to pay the annual rental value of that nature to their community — land dues in and rent shares back out.
Getting their share of the rents — the value of locations, of forests and fields, of oil and other minerals, of the airwaves, etc — nobody would any longer be poor at all.
These three 2015 articles are from: (1) the BBC, Feb 1, by Gavin Hewitt; (2) CounterPunch, Feb 9, by Mark Weisbrot; and (3) Email Update #9, Feb 7, by Phil Anderson.
Greece: The Dangerous Game
A majority of voters in Greece, a eurozone country, elected Syriza which had declared that the bailout conditions — authored in Brussels and Berlin — had broken the Greek economy and caused a humanitarian crisis.
New Prime Minister Tsipras notes that Greece’s debt levels at 175% of GDP are unsustainable. Already the new finance minister has stopped the privatisation of two ports and is moving to increase the minimum wage and rehire some public sector workers.
The German finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble says: “Elections change nothing. There are rules”.
There has already been voluntary debt forgiveness by private creditors, banks have already slashed billions from Greece’s debts.
Angela Merkel and other leaders will be fearful that if they further help Athens, other eurozone countries will come looking for help with their debt or their austerity programs.
The European Central Bank (ECB) announced that it would no longer accept Greek government bonds and government-guaranteed debt as collateral. The immediate effect of the announcement was to raise Greek borrowing costs and squeeze its banks, and to increase financial market instability within Greece.
It looks very much like a deliberate attempt to undermine the new socialist government. They are trying to force the government to abandon its promises to the Greek electorate, and to follow the IMF program that its predecessors signed on to.
Previously the ECB sought to cut spending on health care, pensions, and unemployment compensation, and change labor laws that favored workers, in Spain, Italy, Greece, Portugal, and Ireland.
Syriza Will Help the Real Estate Cycle Keep Turning
Syriza says it’s going to remove all those cartels and Greek oligarchies. Hmm …
Here is the real reason why Syriza won the election — something few others ever focus on. The prior conservative Greek government, on the advice of the IMF, pushed through a property tax — a small, minor even, tax on land. Greece didn’t have one previously.
Greek taxpayers have traditionally invested in property as a hedge against the country’s high inflation rates. According to local bankers, about 80 per cent of Greek residents own at least one property, even if they live in rented accommodation.
Syriza promised to get rid of the tax, should they be elected. The Greeks voted for them in droves.
The tax will go, the attitude to property speculation remain, a debt compromise will be reached. and Syriza will end up a one term government. Prices will of course spike once the tax is removed. And those that buy may eventually join the existing Greek property oligarchy and cartel.
In my view, if you borrow money, you have to pay it back. Full stop, end of argument.
Ed. Notes: The left claims the powers-that-be demand austerity because they’re greedy. The right claims that the weak nations over-borrow because they’re lazy and wasteful. Even if one or the other or both are right, they miss the big picture.
Why should any government have to run a constantly growing debt? Why should bureaucracies constantly grow? Why should wages rise instead of prices fall? Why should the workweek never shrink? And why do some people think money is so important but not the things that money stands for — such as products and never-produced land?
If only political people could think outside the box, like scientists do when they make phenomenal discoveries. They’d see that every society spends an immense amount of money on land (location). Presently, people pay for land to owners, sellers, and lenders. That is the basic error. People need to pay their community — land dues in, “rent” shares back out.
Once adopting this geonomic policy, society could replace inefficient government spending with the Citizens’ Dividends, and replace counterproductive taxes with land dues (including emission fees, airwaves fees, etc).
Even small applications of geonomics have worked well, well enough to tell us that problems like the Greek debt are exaggerated and solvable with enlightened leadership.
This 2015 excerpt of Metroland, Jan 29, is by Miriam Axel-Lute.
Land value taxation is a good way to change property taxation within the city to put the incentives in the right places—when taxes are on the land’s value, speculators sitting on abandoned, decrepit property are spurred to develop or sell, rather than let their property go to rot and ruin (and pay less taxes as their assessments go down). Properties that change in value because of public investment or activity nearby don’t get to reap that entire windfall (or suffer all of that burden) for themselves, but see it reflected in their taxes. On the other hand, you can improve your house all you want without being socked with an increased assessment.
Ed. Notes: Thoughtful people working to solve urban problems often discover the power in public recovery of socially-generated site values (Metroland has done so before). However, the idea appears too wonky to generate much popular support. What could make a critical mass rally around the “rent” flag? Perhaps we should try the idea of not just taking rents from owners but of sharing those rents equitably among residents. Don’t promise to take away the rents that owners now enjoy. Instead, offer everyone a share of the rents that are generated within the entire region. I bet that’d work. It did in Aspen CO.
This 2015 excerpt is of the Pew Research Center, Jan 22.
Favorability ratings for the National Security Agency (NSA) have changed little since the fall of 2013, shortly after former NSA analyst Edward Snowden’s revelations of the agency’s data-mining activities. About half (51%) view the NSA favorably, compared with 37% who have an unfavorable view.
Young people are more likely than older Americans to view the intelligence agency positively. About six-in-ten (61%) of those under 30 view the NSA favorably, compared with 40% of those 65 and older.
Adults with a post-graduate degree have mixed views of the NSA (45% favorable vs. 43% unfavorable). Among those with less education, favorable opinions of the NSA outnumber unfavorable views.
Ed. Notes: Is the NSA something to worry about? Or is young adult’s complacency? Is this how fascism gets stronger in society? Or can government spies and young lives innocuously co-habitate? How can we know?
Rather than take the chance, we could redirect the funding for the NSA — indeed, almost all government spending — into a dividend to the citizenry. Let voters spend public money directly. And let the NSA hold bake sales or whatever to raise funds. People who like spying can buy their cakes. Everybody else can get back to enjoying life.
Besides, the same government spying on us now promised us a peace dividend back when The Wall came down. Where is it? Have the youth forgotten?
This 2015 excerpt of Nikkei, Jan 18, is by Shigehisa Furuya.
Sweden’s Oskarshamn nuclear power plant on the Baltic Sea coast in September 2013 could not get water from the sea to cool its reactors. Its water intake was clogged with jellyfish.
The French Riviera, one of the world’s most popular luxury seaside resorts, has been flooded with armies of jellyfish for the past several years.
Swarms of Nomura’s jellyfish measuring more than 2 meters in diameter and weighing upward of 150kg in 2002 began arriving in Japan. Before then, massive outbreaks had occurred about every 40 years. They have become an almost annual occurrence since.
China’s seashores are rapidly being overrun by concrete embankments. These embankments are desirable for polyps — baby jellyfish — to stick to and grow.
Chinese coastal areas also pour huge amounts of sewage and agricultural wastewater into the sea. This contains nitrogen and phosphorus, which boost plankton populations. Jellyfish thrive on plankton.
Plankton are also the prey of juvenile sardines and horse mackerel. The proliferation of jellyfish is believed to be linked to the overfishing of such species.
Child jellies can stay in a form of suspended development covered by stiff shells for eight years or so.
Ed. Notes: Enormous blooms of jellyfish around the world may be the wake-up call humanity needs if it is to stop destroying marine ecosystems. What might also help would be to tie Earth’s health to a dividend to everyone, based on Earth’s worth. Then our need for material security — which now drives eco-ploitation — would drive us to conserve our natural world.
This 2015 excerpt of Forbes India, Jan 16, is by Rebecca Rolfers, her interview of Angus Deaton, author of The Great Escape: Health, Wealth, and the Origins of Inequality. This interview was initially published by The GailFosler Group and appeared in Rotman Management, the magazine of the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management.
Progress opens up gaps between people who lead the progress — and therefore benefit from it — and the rest. It’s like the green shoot in the garden: it means spring will come and everything will be green. But if that shoot is just one plant and nothing else ever grows, that is a problem.
Inequality is due partly to corruption, but also to things that are perfectly legal. When trade groups lobby Congress to pass laws to protect their products from competition, that’s an example of people who have gotten ahead collaborating with the powers to block off progress for those who are coming behind.
Imagine if a few years back BlackBerry had the power to go to Congress and make iPhones illegal. People from the previous generation have a lot of incentive to keep the other guys out.
Ed. Notes: It amuses me that a contemporary economist can write an entire book about the challenge of progress and poverty and never once mention the classic in the field that goes by the name. The reason that technological progress benefits only some innovators, not all (usually the same idea has many progenitors and most do not benefit), and only some lucky investors, and most of the old money is because progress pushes up land value — witness Silicon Valley. More pricey land benefits banks — which the old guard own –and squeezes most people, who can not afford to spend so much on land.
When they must, they spend less on the goods and services they used to afford. This mis-spending not only widens the wealth but it also culminates in the boom/bust business cycle and worse yet, creates the permanent poor.
The way to reverse those unwanted consequences is to have society recover the socially-generated value of land — via its government levying a land tax or charging a land use fee or instituting land dues or whatever — and then disburse the revenue back to members of society as a “rent” dividend. The dividend will swell as land values do, and location values will swell as technology progresses. Problem solved, without the aid of mainstream economists.
a new field of study offered in place of economics, as astronomy replaced astrology and chemistry replaced alchemy. Conventional economics, in which GNP can do well while people suffer, is a bit too superstitious for my renaissance upbringing. If I’m to propitiate unseen forces, it won’t be inflation or “the market”; let it be theEgyptian cat goddess. At least then we’d have fewer rats. Meanwhile, believing in reason leads to a new policy, also christened geonomics. That’s the proposal to share (a kind of management, the “nomics” part) the worth of Mother Earth (the “geo” part). If our economies are to work right, people need to see prices that tell the truth. Now taxes and subsidies distort prices, tricking people into squandering the planet. Using land dues and rent dividends instead lets prices be precise, guiding people to get more from less and thereby shrink their workweek. More free time ought to make us happy enough to evolve beyond economics, except when nostalgic for superstition.
not exactly Georgism, the Single Tax on land value proposed by Henry George. He did, tho’, inspire most of the real-world implementations of the land tax that some jurisdictions enjoy today, and modern thinkers to craft geonomics. While his name and our remedy both begin with “geo” since both words refer to “Earth”, the two have their differences. (a) George pegs land monopoly as the fundamental flaw while geonomics faults Rent retention. (b) To fix the flaw, George was content to use a tax, while geonomics jettisons them in favor of price-like fees. (c) George focused on the taking while geonomics headlines the sharing. George envisioned an enlightened state judiciously spending the collected Rent while geonomics would turn the lion’s share over to the citizens via a dividend. (d) And George, as was everyone in his era, was pro-growth while geonomics sees economies as alive, growing, maturing, and stabilizing. Despite these differences, George should be recognized as great an economist as Euclid was a geometrician.
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.
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.
a manual. The world did not come without a way for people to prosper, and the planet to heal and stay well; that way is geonomics. Economies are part of the ecosystem. Both generate surpluses and follow self-regulating feedback loops. A cycle like the Law of Supply and Demand is one of the economy’s on/off loops. Our spending for land and resources – things that nobody made and everybody needs – constitutes our society’s surplus. Those profits without production (remember, nobody produced Earth) can become our commonwealth. To share it, we could pay land dues in to the public treasury (wouldn’t oil companies love that?) and get rent dividends back, a la Alaska’s oil dividend. Doing so let’s us axe taxes and jettison subsidies. Taxes and subsidies distort price (the DNA of exchange), violate quid pro quo by benefiting the well-connected more than anyone else, reinforce hierarchy of state over citizen, and are costly to administer (you don’t really need so much bureaucracy, do you?). Conversely, land dues motivate people to not waste sites, resources, and the ecosystem while rent dividends motivate people to not waste themselves. Receiving this income supplement – a Citizens Dividend – people can invest in their favorite technology or outgrow being “economan” and shrink their overbearing workweek in order to enjoy more time with family, friends, community, and nature. Then in all that free time, maybe we could figure out just what we are here for.
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.
as unfamiliar as geo-economics. The latter is a course some universities offer that combines geography and economics. A UN newsletter, Go Between (57, Apr/May ’96; thanks, Pat Aller), cited an Asian conference on geopolitics and “geoeconomics”. The abbreviated term ‘geonomics” is the name of an institute on Middlebury College campus and of a show on CNBC. Both entities use the neologism to mean “global economics”, in particular world trade. We use geonomics entirely differently, to refer to the money people spend on the nature they use, how letting this flow collect in a few pockets creates class and poverty and assaults upon the environment, and how, on the other hand, sharing this rental flow creates equality, prosperity, and a people/planet harmony. This flow of natural rent, several trillions dollars in the US each year, shapes society and belongs to society.
an answer for Jonathan of the Green Party (Nov 7): “What does ‘share our surplus’ mean?”
Our surplus is the values that society generates synergistically. It’s the money we spend on the nature we use: on land sites, natural resources, EM spectrum, ecosystem services (assimilating pollutants). It’s also the money we pay to holders of government-granted privileges like corporate charters. We could share it by paying for the nature we use and privileges we hold to the public treasury then getting back a fair share of the recovered revenue. Used to be, owners did owe rent (“own” and “owe” used to be one word). And presently, some lucky residents do get back periodic dividends: Alaska’s oil dividend and Aspen Colorado’s housing assistance. Doing that, instead of subsidizing bads while taxing goods, is the essence of geonomics.
Jonathan: “Is local currency what you mean?”
Editor: It’s not. Community currency is a good reform, but every good reform pushes up site values. That makes land an even more tempting object of speculation. Now, any good will eventually do bad by widening the income gap – until you share land values.
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 scientific look at how we divvy up the work and the wealth, how some of us end up with too much or too little effort or reward. That’s partly due to Ricardo’s Law of Rent, showing how wasteful use of Earth cuts wages. And it’s partly due to how a society’s elite runs government around like water boys, dishing out subsidies and tax breaks. While geonomists look political reality right in the eye, without blinking, conventional economists flinch. When Paul Volcker, ex-chief of the Federal Reserve, moved on to a cushy professorship at Princeton cum book contract, the crush of deadlines bore down. So Volcker asked a junior associate to help with the book. The guy refused, explaining that giving serious consideration to policy would ruin his academic career. The ex-Fed chief couldn’t believe it and asked the department chair if truly that were the case. That head honcho pondered the question then replied no, not if he only does it once. And economics was AKA political economy!