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The poor get handouts and the rich get tax loopholes, worth many billions more.
This 2013 excerpt of Pacific Standard, Aug 29, is by Jay Livingston.
About half of all tax “expenditures” [tax breaks or loopholes] go to the top quintile (top 20 percent of income earners). The bottom 80 percent of earners divide the other half. And within that richest quintile, the top one percent receive 15 percent of all tax expenditures (this distribution of tax breaks roughly parallels the distribution of income).
The Earned Income Tax Credit, which benefits mostly the poor, “costs” [exempts from the income tax] less than $40 billion. The tab for the low tax on investment income (capital gains and dividends) is more than twice that, and nearly all of that goes to the top quintile. More than two-thirds goes to the richest one percent.
The point? People complain about government payments to the poor, but tax breaks are also payments, though less obviously so, to the rich. And those tax breaks cost the government a lot more money.
Ed. Notes: Some say, to eliminate all this funny business, get rid of all loopholes for everyone and just have a flat income tax rate. That could be a step in the right direction — if all the revenue were to go to war and war debt. Then, when people complain about the tax money taken from them they’d have to, logically, at the same time complain about all the wars their government wages, not necessarily making the country safer but definitely making military contractors and other insiders incredibly rich.
If your income tax payments were to fund only wars (past, present, and future), how would government fund other programs? What programs? Most are not needed. You mean medicare and social security and food stamps? Forget them. Forget them all. Instead, fund a Citizen’s Dividend — a check in the mail paid monthly to the citizenry in general.
Where would government get the money for paying citizens a dividend? For all of our spending for nature, from our mortgages for the land under our homes and from the leases for the oil under our territory, including from the licenses for the airwaves and other mini-monopolies. Government would shift its taxes, fees, and dues to redirect our spending for nature into the public treasury, then back out again as equal dividends.
Government would charge full market value for its deeds and utility franchises and corporate charters and every other privilege it grants, without granting anyone any special rates or loopholes.
Under this policy, people would pay for what they take, not what they make, earn their keep, keep what they earn, and enjoy a share of what already belongs to us all, our common heritage, the worth of Earth in our territory.
Indians don’t get enough credit for their role in making the fall harvest holiday possible — rename it Thankindians — while the poor get too much blame for imposing on others.
This excerpt of European Politics and Policy within the London School of Economics, Nov 15, is by Christian Albrekt Larsen.
Negative portrayals of welfare recipients in the UK press are in contrast to the positive stories which dominate Swedish and Danish mass media.
Stories and pictures presented in the mass media help shape our opinions towards the poor and welfare recipients. Media content influences our perception of who the poor and welfare recipients really are, how they behave, and what should be done to either help or punish them.
The US and the UK are caught in a vicious circle: the combination of higher levels of poverty and a targeted welfare system produces a large amount of negative stories about the poor and welfare recipients. In contrast, Sweden and Denmark seem to be caught in a virtuous circle. There, the combination of lower poverty levels and a universal welfare system reduces the amount of newsworthy negative stories and creates room for positive narratives about the ‘deserving poor’.
Ed. Notes: When the poor get something for nothing, the right is enraged while the left is OK with it. When the rich get something for nothing, the left is enraged while the right is indifferent. If only both would rally together to get rid of welfare for both the needy and the greedy.
What could replace government handouts to insiders on one (heavily laden) hand and to the underclass on the other (tight-fisted) hand? A Citizen’s Dividend. Pay the citizenry in general an equal amount, no matter their station in life. That would eliminate both the stigma hurting the downtrodden and the favoritism uplifting the well-connected.
What would fund the Dividend? A dividend, by definition, is a share of a surplus. What is our social surplus, our common wealth? It’s all of our spending for all the nature we use. It’s part of mortgages, part of resource leases, indeed it’s part of the price of every good consisting of raw material and every service delivered on some location — all goods and services. We could redirect this spending into the public treasury by levying taxes, dues, fees, and the like, and then back out again to everyone as periodic dividend check in everyone’s (e)mail. We’d all probably feel thankful eventho’ a fair share of society’s organic surplus is our basic right.
This 2013 of Common Dreams, Aug 28, is by Norman Solomon.
Every president who wants to launch another war can’t abide whistleblowers. They might interfere with the careful omissions, distortions, and outright lies of war propaganda, which requires that truth be held in a kind of preventative detention.
Obama has overseen more prosecutions of whistleblowers than all other presidents combined—- while also subjecting journalists to ramped-up surveillance and threats, whether grabbing the call records of 20 telephone lines of the Associated Press or pushing to imprison New York Times reporter James Risen for not revealing a source.
The vengeful treatment of Bradley (now Chelsea) Manning, the all-out effort to grab Edward Snowden, and less-publicized prosecutions such as the vendetta against NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake are all part of a government strategy that aims to shut down unauthorized pipelines of information to journalists —- thence to the public. When secret information is blocked, all that’s left is the official story.
From the false Tonkin Gulf narrative in 1964 that boosted the Vietnam War to the fabricated baby-incubators-in-Kuwait tale in 1990 that helped launch the Gulf War to the reports of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction early in this century, countless deaths and unfathomable suffering have resulted from the failure of potential whistleblowers to step forward in a timely and forthright way —- and the failure of journalists to challenge falsehoods in high government places.
The key problems, as usual, revolve around undue deference to authority —- obedience in the interests of expediency —- resulting in a huge loss of lives and a tremendous waste of resources that should be going to sustain human life instead of destroying it.
As a practical matter, real journalism can’t function without whistleblowers. Democracy can’t function without real journalism. And we can’t stop the warfare state without democracy. In the long run, the struggles for peace and democracy are one and the same.
Ed. Notes: Yet we can’t have either peace or democracy unless we win economic justice. The elite have no reason to respect you, not as long as they can syphon off our common wealth and everyone keeps silent about it. That surplus, it’s something society in general generates and can’t help but do so. That flow of funds belongs to all of us, not just those who loom over everyone else. It’s all of society’s spending for land and natural resources, all the things that didn’t require anyone’s labor or capital to come into existence. None of us made harbors or oil, all of us need them, and population in general create their value. Once we wake up to that, and share what already belongs to us all, then we will have closed the income and wealth gaps, have toppled the elite, and their drives to various wars will be no more.
Verizon’s $725 million loan shows Farm Credit reform is needed.
This 2013 excerpt of USA Today, Nov 14, is by Jeff Plagge, president of Northwest Financial Corp, chairman of the American Bankers Association. This article first appeared in The Des Moines Register.
The federal Farm Credit System was created nearly 100 years ago at a time when affordable bank loans for farmers were hard to find. Today is a $250 billion financial institution; if it were a bank, it would be the ninth-largest in the country. Not only is its funding subsidized by government sponsorship, it also receives very generous tax breaks — all while competing directly with banks and other lenders that do not share these advantages.
It also makes loans to whomever it wants -— such as those buying land for recreational purposes: developers of golf courses and luxury residential neighborhoods.
Recently it loaned $725 million to Verizon Communications. The Farm Credit System joined with 45 banks from around the world to help Verizon purchase the 45% of Verizon Wireless it does not already own from British telecom giant Vodafone.
Why should taxpayers be subsidizing loans to a Dow 30 company with $116 billion in 2012 revenues? It will not fund construction of any rural wireless infrastructure; it merely funds a corporate buyout. Verizon is not a rural telephone cooperative; it is a stockholder-owned corporation.
Should the government continue to sponsor an enterprise as large and unfocused as today’s Farm Credit System?
Ed. Notes: The author, being a banker, has an axe to grind, since public lenders take business away from private lenders. That aside, the bigger issue is: these deals are the main business of government and always have been: to serve business. The out-of-pocket expense to the taxpayer (as a direct subsidy to the FCS) might not be so huge, but that’s not the point. The point is, the loans are to the biggies, not the littles. Government involvement in a business does not lower its prices to the public; that’s not even touched. And competition — which should lower prices and raise service — is not increased. No, it’s just another example of the role government plays in the real world as handmaiden to big business.
If you want it to stop, you have to stop letting politicians spend all your public revenue and must start spending it yourselves. That is, limit the government’s discretionary power of the purse to defending our rights; use the bulk of public revenue to fund a dividend to the citizenry in general.
Where would government get the money? From taxes, fees, dues, and leases on lands, resources, airwaves, and monopoly privileges like Verizon’s utility franchise. Charge the Verizons of the world full value for loans and guarantees; don’t give them such favors at little or no cost. Run government like a business in the most basic sense of the phrase.
This 2013 excerpt of the Huffington Post, Aug 28, is by Shahien Nasiripour.
Regulators overseeing the nation’s largest financial institutions are distrustful of their bosses, afraid to speak out, and feeling isolated, according to a confidential survey this year of Federal Reserve employees.
The shaky morale is a legacy of Alan Greenspan’s 19-year term as Fed chairman. From 1987 to 2006, the Greenspan Fed pushed for a hands-off approach by regulators, who then found themselves blamed for the financial crisis that led to the most punishing economic downturn since the Great Depression.
Most say that top leaders are failing the organization, in part by not communicating honestly, and that employees are in the wrong jobs, or are poorly managed.
Even in a bureaucracy traditionally rife with turf wars and secrecy, the Fed stands out among banking regulators for its low marks on key issues such as trust and collaboration, according to comparable survey results from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.
Nearly a dozen current and former Washington-based Fed employees corroborated the Fed survey results, some by offering personal examples of Fed regulators who had been marginalized after challenging senior leaders or pushed out over apparent personality conflicts. They all spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of losing their jobs.
Ed. Notes: Bigger picture: Should a society’s currency be run by a bureaucracy, never mind how well meaning (or not)? Could currency be handled by community trading groups operating on consensus? Could the role of government (which the Fed is not actually a part of) be simply to set standards that currencies would have to meet to become legal tender? We decentralize credit cards; why not decentralize the creation of credit?
This 2013 excerpt of The Guardian, Nov 11, is by Richard Orange.
Prison numbers in Sweden, which have been falling by around 1% a year since 2004, dropped by 6% between 2011 and 2012 and are expected to do the same again both this year and next year.
Sweden has experienced such a sharp fall in the number of prison admissions in the past two years that it has decided to close down four prisons and a remand centre.
Partial explanation for the sudden drop in admissions may be:
Sweden’s focus on rehabilitating prisoners may have played a part.
Swedish courts have given more lenient sentences for drug offences following a ruling of the country’s supreme court in 2011.
A recent shift in policy towards probationary sanctions instead of short prison sentences for minor thefts, drugs offences, and violent crimes.
In 2012, there were 4,852 people in prison in Sweden, out of a population of 9.5 million. Sweden ranked 112th for its prison population.
The US has a prison population of 2,239,751, equivalent to 716 people per 100,000. China ranks second with 1,640,000 people behind bars, or 121 people per 100,000, while Russia’s inmates are 681,600, amounting to 475 individuals per 100,000.
Air board will start monitoring pollution next to SoCal freeways. Similar steps will occur in more than 100 big cities across the country.
This 2013 excerpt of the Los Angeles Times, Aug 25, is by Tony Barboza.
Air quality regulators will begin monitoring pollution levels near major Southern California traffic corridors next year, for the first time providing data important to nearly 1 million Southern Californians who are at greater risk of respiratory illness because they live within 300 feet of a freeway.
Scientists have linked air pollution from traffic to a long list of health problems, including asthma, heart disease, bronchitis, and lung cancer. Children living near busy freeways have higher asthma rates and reduced lung function.
Scott Fruin, a professor of preventive medicine at USC, believes the EPA’s action is long overdue.
The new monitoring is likely to have broad implications. If, as expected, the new data show higher pollution levels, local officials should reduce emissions and curtail residential development near freeways.
Ed. Notes: Defending rights, such as our right to a healthy environment, that’s what government should do, even if belatedly. Government probably would’ve been doing its duty all along if not so beholden to moneyed developers and other corporations. If people want government on their side, they must have money on their side. We must stop letting society’s surplus collect in just a few pockets and share it among us all instead.
This 2013 excerpt of Inequality, Nov 8, is by Salvatore Babones.
According to the latest figures from the Bureau of Economic Analysis, real US gross domestic product (GDP) rose at an annualized rate of 2.8% in the third quarter of 2013, which covered July through September. For comparison, the long-term trend rate in US GDP growth is about 2% per year. If the overall structure of the economy remains the same, then higher GDP means more income for everyone.
Corporate revenues may be increasing slowly, but corporate profits are exploding. So are executive salaries and bonuses.
After-tax disposable income has been rising at a rate of around 4.5% this year, or about 3.5% after adjusting for inflation. Yet the income of the typical person has not increased at all for several years. In fact, real median income is still more than 7% below 2007 levels.
The economy is bigger than it was in 2007, but it’s a different economy. All of America’s economic growth for forty years has gone to an elite minority.
The economy isn’t to generate profit. The purpose of the economy is to serve the people. It’s time to consider a different kind of economy. One that works for everyone.
Ed. Notes: Reformers tend to make their goal of reform harder for themselves. Instead of slamming profit, they should demand that everyone get some.
Economies can’t help but churn out a surplus. It’s all of a society’s spending for the land and resources it uses. Such spending is a surplus because nobody has to be rewarded for producing nature since none of us did. People only need to be paid for providing their labor and capital, inputs they did provide.
The value of land, generated by society’s demand for the land, is ideal for sharing, for making into our common wealth. We could all pay Land Dues into the public treasury and get rent shares — a Citizen’s Dividend — back. Sort of like what Alaska does with some oil revenue and Singapore with some location value. Since site value rises with economic growth, then a rising GDP would , at last, lift all boats.
Want to Win a Political Debate? Try Making a Weaker Argument — the new social science behind why you’re never able to convince friends or foes to even consider things from your side.
This 2013 excerpt of Pacific Standard, Aug 23, is by Eric Horowitz.
There could be an entire book of syndicated newspaper columns that discuss “motivated reasoning” —- the tendency to interpret information in a way that confirms your existing beliefs. But research on human motivation also hints at a simpler and somewhat startling reason for the lack of flip-flopping: Nobody makes the type of arguments that are likely to change minds.
The arguments people make are those that appear the strongest to themselves and the people who already agree with them. But such arguments tend to be meaningless to people who disagree.
It starts with the universal desire to protect against threats to your self-image or self-worth. People are driven to view themselves in a positive light, and they will interpret information and take action in ways that preserve that view. The need to maintain self-worth is one reason we attribute our failures to external factors (bad luck), but our success to internal factors (skill.)
The arguments that are most threatening to opponents are viewed as the strongest and cited most often — yet rejected.
Because political beliefs are connected to deeply held values, information about politics can be very threatening to your self-image. If you’re wrong about an important policy, what else might you be wrong about? And if you’re wrong about a bunch of things, you’re obviously not as smart or as good or as worthwhile a person as you previously believed. These are painful thoughts, and so we evaluate information in ways that will help us to avoid them.
Self-affirmation —- a mental exercise that increases feelings of self-worth —- makes people more willing to accept threatening information. The idea is that by raising or “affirming” your self-worth, you can then encounter things that lower your self-worth without a net decrease. The affirmation and the threat effectively cancel each other out, and a positive image is maintained.
An argument that is objectively weaker is more likely to be below the threat threshold that leads to automatic rejection. It might actually be considered.
Why is pro sports constantly jamming military fervor down our throats? Their claims are wrong in more ways than one. Stop Thanking the Troops for Me: No, They Don’t Protect Our Freedoms!
This 2013 excerpt of Alternet, Nov 11, by Justin Doolittle of Salon.
What is problematic is that this nonexistent connection between “freedom” and the military continues to be perpetuated as an uncontroversial truism, and is met with no resistance within the confines of the mainstream.
The corollary to the claim that our freedom exists only at the pleasure of the military, of course, is that the same military can revoke said freedom if it so desires.
One implication of this myth is that people feel they owe boundless gratitude to the military as an institution and all the men and women who serve in it.
This approach blurs the lines between patriotism and support for the military.
It reduces sincere dissent on these matters of such tremendous consequence to our culture and our politics to nothingness. It makes us, free citizens of a constitutional society, meek and excessively obeisant.
The troops allowing us to “live free” is hardly a fringe belief. It reflects many decades of highly effective propaganda that has convinced generations of people that there is virtually nothing for which we should not thank the troops. The ability to “get away from our world, and whatever’s going on in our world” and talk about football — whom are we to thank for this? The troops! There is seemingly no limit to the scope of human activity that many of us sincerely believe would not be possible were it not for the military’s selflessness.
We need not thank the troops for every breath we take. When we do, we reduce our entire existence as free people to something that only exists at the whim of the U.S. military, and suffocate critical thought about the military and what it’s actually doing in the world.
Ed. Notes: Americans are not citizens so much as they are taxpayers, a mass market, and a pro-war mob. We Americans need to feel more self-esteem. We need to see how illogical it is to, one hand, praise the military going around killing poor foreigners all over the planet while, on the other hand, slamming politicians who send soldiers into these wars, who enrich military contractors and other corporate welfare cheats, and who keep cancerously expanding taxes and government.
One main reason to demand a Citizen’s Dividend is not that it will be won soon or easily but that even making the demand shows Americans what self-esteem looks like.
The biggest ongoing disaster in the United States you haven’t heard of.
This 2013 excerpt of Daily Kos, Aug 22, is by Jen Hayden.
What happened in Bayou Corne, as near as anyone can tell, is that one of the salt caverns Texas Brine hollowed out —- a mine dubbed Oxy3 —- collapsed. The sinkhole initially spanned about an acre. Today it covers more than 24 acres and is an estimated 750 feet deep.
It subsists on a diet of swamp life and cypress trees, which it occasionally swallows whole. It celebrated its first birthday recently, and like most one-year-olds, it is both growing and prone to uncontrollable burps, in which a noxious brew of crude oil and rotten debris bubbles to the surface.
But the biggest danger is invisible; the collapse unlocked tens of millions of cubic feet of explosive gases, which have seeped into the aquifer and wafted up to the community. The town blames the regulators. The regulators blame Texas Brine. Texas Brine blames someone else.
Appreciation Deprecation: Can property tax assessments be appealed?
This 2013 excerpt of Willamette Week, Oct 30, is by Marty Smith (Dr. Know).
I sympathize with the fact that the recovery of the housing market is eating into your beer-and-stripper money. But you touch on a damning problem with property taxation: Improvements to one’s property are punished with higher taxes, while neglect is rewarded with a lower bill.
Luckily, there’s a way around this. It’s called Land Value Taxation (LVT).
Like single-payer health care, LVT is a wonky good-governance idea that experts love and traditionalists fear. Thus, I’m surprised it hasn’t gotten more traction in Portlandia.
The idea is that you tax the value of the land itself, independent of improvements. Wanna spend your own money developing your property? Your tax bill won’t change. Wanna sit on a vacant lot in a desirable area while you wait for the price to rise so you can make a killing? Fine, but you’ll pay for the privilege.
LVT seems to have something for everyone, with the notable exception of real-estate speculators. Unfortunately, those speculators are often exactly the sort to be thick as thieves with mayor types. I just thank God that sort of chumminess could never happen here.
Auckland Homeowners benefit at the expense of other New Zealanders.
This 2013 excerpt of New Zealand’s Scoop, Aug 20, is by NZ’s New Economics Party.
Auckland homeowners profiting from booming house prices are really benefitting at the expense of the rest of New Zealand.
Spokesperson Deirdre Kent said “If all the private landowners and private banks had reimbursed the public for their windfall gains from rising Auckland land values over the last few years, the Auckland rail loop would have been paid for.
She said rising house prices are always due to rising land values. Land values rise because of the action of the community in providing hospitals, transport, roads, schools, sewage, water, businesses, shops and parks. So landowners should pay the public back regularly for this privilege.
“While we allow the private capture of rising land values, we can’t help but get a widening gap between those who own good real estate and the rest of us.”
A regular land fee should be paid to hold land while taxes on labour and sales should go.
Why, despite our technological capacities, are we not all working three- to four-hour days?
This 2013 excerpt of the Sydney Morning Herald, Spt 3, is by David Graeber is a professor of anthropology at the London School of Economics. This article first appeared in Strike! Magazine, a radical British quarterly that covers politics, philosophy and art.
In 1930, John Maynard Keynes predicted that, by century’s end, technology would have advanced sufficiently that countries like Britain or the United States would have achieved a 15-hour working week. In technological terms, we are quite capable of this. And yet it didn’t happen.
In order to achieve this, jobs have had to be created that are, effectively, pointless. Huge swathes of people in the Western world spend their entire working lives performing tasks they secretly believe do not really need to be performed. The moral and spiritual damage that comes from this situation is profound.
Why did utopia never materialise? The standard line is the massive increase in consumerism. Given the choice between less hours and more toys and pleasures, we’ve collectively chosen the latter. However, few jobs have anything to do with the production and distribution of sushi, iPhones, or fancy sneakers.
So what are these new jobs, precisely? Productive jobs have, just as predicted, been largely automated away (even if you count industrial workers globally, including the toiling masses in India and China, such workers are still not nearly so large a percentage of the world population as they used to be). What’s been ballooning are jobs in the administrative sector, up to and including the creation of whole new industries such as financial services or telemarketing, or the unprecedented expansion of sectors such as corporate law, academic and health administration, human resources and public relations. And these numbers do not even reflect on all those people whose job is to provide administrative, technical or security support for these industries, or for that matter the whole host of ancillary industries (dog-washers, all-night pizza-delivery drivers) that only exist because everyone else is spending so much of their time working in all the other ones.
These are what I propose to call ”bullshit jobs”.
What does it say about our society that it seems to generate an extremely limited demand for talented poet-musicians, but an apparently infinite demand for specialists in corporate law? (Answer: if 1 per cent of the population controls most of the disposable wealth, what we call ”the market” reflects what those people think is useful or important, not anyone else.)
There is a whole class of salaried professionals who, should you meet them at parties and admit that you do something that might be considered interesting (an anthropologist, for example), will want to avoid even discussing their line of work entirely. Give them a few drinks, and they will launch into tirades about how pointless and stupid their jobs really are.
How can one even begin to speak of dignity in labour when one secretly feels one’s job should not exist?
The more obviously one’s work benefits other people, the less one is likely to be paid for it. What would happen were this entire class of people to disappear? Nurses, rubbish collectors, or mechanics: were they to vanish, the results would be immediate and catastrophic. A world without teachers or stevedores would soon be in trouble, and even one without science-fiction writers or ska musicians would clearly be a lesser place. It’s not entirely clear how humanity would suffer were all private equity chief executives, lobbyists, public relations researchers, actuaries, telemarketers, bailiffs or legal consultants to similarly vanish. (Many suspect it might markedly improve.)
Ed. Notes: The solution is simple: an income apart from one’s labor or one’s capital but from the value of the land and resources in one’s region. Technology pushes up the value of locations and natural resources. Recover and share those values and we can work as much or as little as we choose, at tasks we choose, and play as much as or as little as we choose, too.
This 2013 excerpt of Total Investor, Now , is Mark Hollingsworth.
The UK population is expected to grow by 17.5% in the next twenty years. Already, the 2011 Census results show the greatest increase in the UK population since records began 200 years ago. Existing housing needs to increase by 29% by 2031 in order to meet the demand.
For investors, there is clearly an opportunity to capitalize on this housing and land shortage.
The key to its success is that land is acquired prior to actual planning permission being granted [when its price will be higher.
The share prices of the five biggest house builders rose by an average 71% last year.
Our preferred ‘land fund’ returned over 14% last year and returns are on track to be equally as strong this year on the back of further aggressive acquisitions.
Ed. Notes: Just as geonomists predicted, now’s the time to jump back into land. Even the “experts” say the time is right, but if they were really experts they would have told you to not invest in land seven years ago. The comforting thing is that we get to see actual principles in economies in operation.
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.
close to the policy of the Garden Cities in England. Founded by Ebenezer Howard over a century ago, residents own the land in common and run the town as a business. Letchworth, the oldest of the model towns, serves residents grandly from bucketfuls of collected land rent (as does the Canadian Province of Alberta from oil royalty). A geonomic town would pay the rent to residents, letting them freely choose personalized services, and also ax taxes. Both geonomics and Howard were inspired by American proto-geonomist Henry George. The movement launched by Howard today in the UK advances the shift of taxes from buildings to locations. A recent report from the Town and Country Planning Association proposes this Property Tax Shift and their journal published research in the potential of land value taxation by Tony Vickers (Vol. 69, Part 5, 2000). (Thanks to James Robertson)
a POV that Spain’s president might try. A few blocks from my room in Madrid at a book fair to promote literacy, Sr Zapatero, while giving autographs and high fives to kids, said books are very expensive and he’d see about getting the value added tax on them cut down to zero. (El Pais, June 4; see, politicians can grasp geo-logic.) But why do we raise the cost of any useful product? Why not tax useless products? Even more basic: is being better than a costly tax good enough? Our favorite replacement for any tax is no tax: instead, run government like a business and charge full market value for the permits it issues, such as everything from corporate charters to emission allowances to resource leases. These pieces of paper are immensely valuable, yet now our steward, the state, gives them away for nearly free, absolutely free in some cases. Government is sitting on its own assets and needs merely to cash in by doing what any rational entity in the economy does – negotiate the best deal. Then with this profit, rather than fund more waste, pay the stakeholders, we citizenry, a dividend. Thereby geonomics gets rid of two huge problems. It replaces taxes with full-value fees and replaces subsidies for special interests with a Citizens Dividend for people in general. Neither left nor right, this reform is what both nature lovers and liberty lovers need to promote, right now.
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.
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 and parcel 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 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!
an economic policy based on the earth’s natural patterns. Eco-systems self-regulate by using feedback loops to keep balance. Can economies do likewise? Why don’t they now produce efficiently and distribute fairly? The answers lie in the money we spend on the earth we use. To attain people/planet harmony, that financial flow from sites and resources must visit each of us. Our agent, government, must collect this natural rent via fees and disburse the collected revenue via dividends. And, it must forgo taxes on homes and earnings, and quit subsidies of either the needy or the greedy. As our steward, government must also collect Ecology Security Deposits, require Restoration Insurance, and auction off the occasional Emissions Permit. And that’s about it – were nature our model.
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.
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.