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This 2014 excerpt of Off the Grid, Jan 6, is by Daniel Jennings.
Modern Farmer magazine discovered that there is a movement among farmers abandoning genetically modified organisms (GMO) because of simple economics.
A growing number of farmers are abandoning genetically modified seeds, but it’s not because they are ideologically opposed to the industry.
Simply put, they say non-GMO crops are more productive and profitable.
The re-converts to non-GMO seeds are not hippies but conservative Midwestern farmers who are making a business decision.
Farmers can get paid more for conventional corn than GMO corn. Plus, convention corn can produce more per acre.
Herbicide use increased by 26 percent between 2001 and 2010 because of the spread of herbicide-resistant weeds. Farmers used herbicides on GMO corn, even though theoretically he shouldn’t have to use it on his genetically modified crop.
The group Farm & Water Watch reported that 61.2 million acres of cropland in the US are plagued by weeds that are resistant to the popular glyphosate herbicides.
GMO seeds can cost up to $150 a bag more than regular seeds.
The market for non-GMO foods has grown from $1.3 billion in 2011 to $3.1 billion in 2013, partially because some Asian and European countries don’t want GMO seeds.
Ed. Notes: Let’s hope government does not intervene to prop up GMOs, which probably could not even exist, if government had not already intervened by limiting the liability of corporations like Monsanto who alter nature, imposing risk on others. And it’s not too late now to repeal or drastically refine limited liability in order to speed the demise of many other bad ideas, such as nuclear power. But to wield the requisite political power, we’d have dramatically increase ours, which calls for a fairer distribution of society’s surplus and a Citizen’s Dividend paid to us all.
This 2014 excerpt of the Washington Post, Jan 6, is by Charles Lane, a Post editorial writer.
A large number of Washington DC’s top earners specialize in trading on their connections to DC’s biggest “industry,” the federal government. As of 2012, lobbying for tax breaks, contracts, exclusive licenses, subsidies, and the like was a $3.3 billion-a-year industry. The average salary of the CEOs — chief lobbyists — of the 30 biggest industry trade associations, including incentives and deferred compensation, was $2.34 million in 2010.
More than a few of these people used to be governors, senators, or members of the House, where they acquired the access that they now sell to the highest bidder. They are accompanied by a small army of former executive and legislative branch staffers who have gone through the revolving door from government to what Washingtonians euphemistically call “the private sector.”
Economists have a name for this sort of behavior: rent-seeking. In economic parlance, “rent” means the profit from gaining control over existing sources of wealth as opposed to creating new ones.
Many of our public institutions — from Congress to big-city school systems — have been captured by rent-seeking interest groups. Wall Street hedge funds have their carried-interest exemption in the tax code. Farmers are making record incomes yet still benefit from government incentives to grow corn for ethanol. Real estate agents defend the mortgage-interest deduction, even though the benefits go disproportionately to upper-income homeowners.
The good news is that, entrenched as special interests and their various special subsidies may be, it is probably more realistic to undo rent-seeking than it is to undo the global forces of trade and technology. Instead of worrying about how much money rich people make, we should focus more on how they make it.
Ed. Notes: Insider rent-seekers are actually rent winners, who continue a long tradition of the well-connected using government as a servant. The original rent-seekers — those insiders who sought and won the rent of land and locations — similarly won major favors from government, such as evicting squatters, building roads to or near their property, etc.
Such corruption is a good reason to repeal the discretionary spending by politicians and hand that power over to citizens. Let elected officials spend for war and emergencies but disburse the bulk of public revenue back to the citizenry as a dividend.
And to raise that revenue in a way to avoid favoritism, distinguish between private wealth and common wealth; don’t tax earned income but instead used taxes, fees, dues, etc, to redirect society’s spending for land, resources, ecosystem services, and other natural features into the public treasury. Minus tax breaks or subsidies, nobody will have a reason to seek rent and officials won’t have a way to deliver it. Former rent-winners will have to become one of those artists or inventors or entrepreneurs.
This 2014 of The Atlantic Cities, Jan 6, is by Feargus O’Sullivan.
Busy and often beautiful, the Irish capital’s center is nonetheless pockmarked with vacant and derelict lots.
Dublin property still costs around half what it did in 2007.
Ireland’s main fightback will come in the form of a new vacant lot levy charged to owners of both empty and derelict sites. Currently, owners of vacant sites pay no land taxes at all. Owners of so-called derelict sites, or nuisance properties, pay 3 percent. This has led to situations where Irish property owners have demolished buildings to avoid paying property taxes.
Some sites on Dublin Council’s list are owned by the national government’s Office of Public Works, which will itself be pressured into either exploiting its portfolio or selling it on.
Irish speculators were land banking for over a decade. Back when property values were rising inexorably (due to a housing bubble which overstated demand) it was possible to clean up by just buying a site, leaving it in a state least likely to incur taxes, and then selling it on much later. While this made profits for some, few activities could be more symbolic of the false steps taken during Ireland’s Celtic Tiger years than the plowing of boom era cash into land that developers never even intended to use for economic activities.
Ed. Notes: The city is moving in the right direction but it would not be necessary to single out vacant lots if the City taxed land in general or required Land Dues. Then owners would keep all sites at best use always. And if a prime site got to spendy for an owner, the City could turn it into a park or plaza, compensating the owner for any building on it. Keep all locations at best use with a mix of non-use would keep site values at their peak. To make sure the tax or dues are always affordable, the City could return some of the recovered rents as a divided to residents. Permanent prosperity and permanent peak use — both guaranteed.
Ed. Notes: Those owners near light rail did not jump up the value of their land — the light rail did — so why let owners keep it? And look what they must do to keep it. Either they sell and move on or by move out and lease their home. Both break up the old community. And the rise in land value would not be a boon but a burden if the city levied a land tax or required Land Dues.
People want that pile of money they did not earn — and they should have it. Or rather, they should have a share of all the land value in their region, but not capitalize on the value of their own individual parcel of land. The value of their land is not created by them but by the presence of their society, so to their community it belongs.
What people should be able to keep, untaxed, is their earnings from their work and investments and their purchases of others’ goods and services. That’s what’s legitimately their property, not the socially-generated rentable value of their land. The media’s cheering on of speculation in land only reinforces selfishness and the eventual ruin that comes with it. It’s up to geonomists to set a course to justice and prosperity.
When drought stalks the land, graziers become rent-seekers and bone collectors.
This 2014 excerpt of Crickey, Jan 5, is by Bob Gosford.
Graziers in far western Queensland Australia haven’t had enough good seasons to prepare for the number of droughts and the length of droughts they are continually facing. The majority of graziers have a huge financial burden and even in the better years, most struggle to make ends meet. They face rising costs of production, wages, fuel, rates & land rent, and have no control over the price of the product that they produce.
Every grazier says that without some assistance there is no future for them in the grazing industry or anyone else who wants to follow in their footsteps. There is much hand-wringing sympathy for the lot of the poor graziers. Few questioned the apparent god-given entitlement of graziers to keep flogging this country. The response to anyone wanting to protest against these commonly held views is scathing and abusive.
If the arid-zone country of western Queensland cannot sustain grazing activity from year to year, through drought and good seasons both, then it seems environmentally foolhardy and financially irresponsible to keep flogging a dead horse. Or in this case hundreds if not thousands of dead cattle. Graziers may have to stop grazing cattle and find some use for their land within its carrying capacity and sustainable yield.
Ed. Notes: During the Australian drought, unfair emotion prevails while equitable reason is left on the sidelines. Government subsidy has just prolonged a bad situation that should’ve ended long ago, as it would’ve in a free and fair market, a market that in this case would’ve been beneficial to the environment.
What government could do is replace aid to a special interest — the graziers — with a dividend to everyone. And make sure the payment of land rent goes to the community, not to landlords, so that it can feed into the dividend to everyone. If graziers get a share of the location values from the entire region, cities included, then those dividends would dwarf any ground rent or land dues they’d have to pay, since urban land per acre is thousands of times more valuable than rural land.
But if sharing Earth’s worth does not help graziers, it might be tough emotionally for them but land uses do and must change. People have to adapt or lose out. It might be time to move on.
This 2014 excerpt of EUROPP (European Politics and Policy) at the London School of Economics, Jan 4, is by Anthony Oruna-Goriaïnoff.
Book Review: War, Peace, and Human Nature: The Convergence of Evolutionary and Cultural Views. Douglas P. Fry. Oxford University Press. April 2013.
Have humans always waged war? Is warring an ancient evolutionary adaptation or a relatively recent behaviour? In this book, editor Douglas P. Fry brings together leading experts in evolutionary biology, archaeology, anthropology, and primatology to find answers to fundamental questions about peace, conflict, and human nature in an evolutionary context. Anthony Oruna-Goriaïnoff finds it a comforting thought that our ancestors, at their most primitive, and for a long time after, were happier living in peace and avoided war even though the preconditions for war have been part of humanity from the start.
This book is as fascinating as it is long. The subject matter, as distasteful as it is, is certainly presented in a well thought-out and straightforward manner. If war and peace studies are your target then this book will serve you well. And if they are not, you may be surprised at what you can learn.
Ed. Notes: Does the book include raiding parties as acts of war, such as American Plains Indians committed? And what about ritual war, as in Papa New Guinea? And what about the difference between original wars when even the commonest soldier stood gain something: some land or furniture or jewels or slaves or women? Now the grunts don’t get that from whom they kill but instead kill just for ideology. How bizarre is that?
Bizarre, but familiar. States operate above the law. States pump out propaganda and treat citizens like serfs, taxing them willy-nilly and spending the revenue to favor insiders: the military contractors, the Wall Street bankers, the agri-businesses, etc. By this analysis, war is seen as a consequence of illegitimate hierarchy. Topple the hierarchy and you’d put an end to ideological warfare.
How to topple the hierarchy? You’d have to invalidate taxation and subsidization and replace both with dues and dividends. Then people would not see themselves as taxpayers so much as citizens, and not as losers lucky to get the crumbs of one or another government program but winners worthy of a fair share of society’s surplus. Of course, this is all conjecture, but if it means an end to war as we know it, then it’s another good reason to geonomize society.
Renting – Britain’s social scandal that is being ignored
This 2014 excerpt of The Guardian, Jan 3, is by Patrick Collinson.
Young adults and families are being painfully stretched by private landlords, who are now often pocketing half or more of their tenants’ wages with threats of eviction if they don’t cough up another inflation-busting rent rise in the year ahead.
How many MPs have rented their family home all their lives from a private landlord? I’d wager almost none. How many heads of our banks and building societies would prefer to live under a six-month assured shorthold tenancy rather than own (and control) their home? None. There is a vast gulf between the experience of policymakers, many of them baby boomers who have benefited from property price rises, and what is happening to the generation following behind.
Tories, who tend to receive rather than pay rent, go apoplectic at the merest suggestion of rent control, but should heed Ed Miliband’s focus on the cost of living crisis. A cap on rent (let’s call it “stabilisation”) may be no less electorally successful than the proposed cap on energy bills, such is the level of despair so many UK tenants — young people and families are feeling.
Ed. Notes: Rent control appeals to political people, which most of us are, but economic people know something better: It’s not actually the building that becomes too spendy but the location, whose value is generated by the presence of the populace; so share the rental value of land. As locations rise in value, so would one’s share. No matter how high sites go, residents could always afford to live where they love.
And love where they live if the government shifts the property tax off the building (onto the parcel). Then owners could give structures loving, tender care without swelling their tax bill, as now would happen (their property assessment would rise).
Plus, the land charge would spur speculators to build on their under-used lots or sell to builders, which would increase the housing stock, and lower the housing cost. This is what’s happened wherever geonomic solutions have been utilized. See how much better big-picture solutions work?
Five Economic Reforms Millennials Should Be Fighting For
This 2014 excerpt of Rolling Stone, Jan 3, is by Jesse A. Myerson.
Here are a few things we might want to start fighting for, pronto, if we want to grow old in a just, fair society, rather than the economic hellhole our parents have handed us.
Social Security for All
As much as unemployment blows, so do jobs. What if the government would just add a sum sufficient for subsistence to everyone’s bank account every month. A proposal along these lines has been gaining traction in Switzerland.
We live in the age of 3D printers and self-replicating robots. Actual human workers are increasingly surplus. A universal basic income would provide everyone time to cultivate new pleasures, activities, senses, passions, affects, and socialities that exceed the options of working and saving, producing and accumulating.
Take Back The Land
Ever noticed how much landlords blow? They don’t really do anything to earn their money. They just claim ownership of buildings and charge people who actually work for a living the majority of our incomes for the privilege of staying in boxes that these owners often didn’t build and rarely if ever improve. In a few years, my landlord will probably sell my building to another landlord and make off with the appreciated value of the land s/he also claims to own – which won’t even get taxed, as long as s/he ploughs it right back into more real estate.
Think about how stupid that is. The value of the land has nothing to do with my idle, remote landlord; it reflects the nearby parks and subways and shops, which I have access to thanks to the community and the public. So why don’t the community and the public derive the value and put it toward uses that benefit everyone?
The most mainstream way of flipping the script is a simple land-value tax. We can make disastrous asset price bubbles impossible and curb Wall Street’s hideous bloat. TWe have to stop letting rich people pretend they privately own what nature provided everyone.
A Public Bank in Every State
The whole point of a finance sector is supposed to be collecting the surplus that the whole economy has worked to produce, and channeling that surplus wealth toward its most socially valuable uses. It is difficult to overstate how completely awful our finance sector has been at accomplishing that basic goal. Let’s try to change that by allowing state governments into the banking game.
There is only one state that currently has a public option for banking: North Dakota. When North Dakotans pay state taxes, the money gets deposited in the state’s bank, which in turn offers cheap loans to farmers, students, and businesses.
If any of these ideas sound good to you, there’s a bitter political struggle to be waged. Let’s get to work.
Ed. Notes: The author listed two other ideas but these three selected are more crucial and actually related. How do you fund an extra income for everyone? You use taxes, fees, dues, or leases to redirect all of society’s spending for land and resources and government-granted privileges like corporate charters (her LVT above) into the public treasury. Then you’d have a surplus for paying citizens a dividend.
How do you make banking unattractive to business so it’d evolve into a public utility organically? Again, you use taxes, dues, etc, to recover the annual rental value of sites, resources, and of little pieces of paper like patents and copyrights. Then, as the dues for land rises, the price for land falls, shrinking mortgages, spoiling their role as the gravy train for bankers. Also, with so much income from these charges, government no longer would need to borrow so much, again deflating the lust of lenders. Doing so would also deflate the cost of living, so people would have much less need for loans and credit cards. Bankers will become very unhappy so government may want to step up to the plate and provide whatever few financial services people may still want.
The economy would no longer be a major threat in anyone’s life.
This 2014 excerpt of Newsle, Jan 2, is by Sheldon Richman. The column originally appeared in the Future of Freedom Foundation.
Licensing is one way that freedom is limited on behalf of special interests. The licensing regime is overseen by the current practitioners, giving them the power to limit the number of their competitors. This is a double whammy: it locks people out of occupations, and it raises prices to consumers.
We’re told that licensing exists to protect consumers from shoddy work, but licensing does not protect consumers. Ask yourself: When you move to a new area and are looking for a physician, dentist, lawyer, hairdresser, plumber, mechanic, or electrician, do you randomly choose one from a list of licensed practitioners, or do you ask a neighbor or check a web-based rating service?
Licensing does not really filter out the cons and incompetents? If it did, who’d need Angie’s List? Thus, we can’t even claim that the loss of freedom from occupational licensing is compensated for by the elimination of poor products and services. Without licensing, independent rating and certification services would flourish.
By raising barriers to self-employment, occupational licensing reduces low-wage workers’ bargaining power and helps lock them into jobs they would rather escape. We see a good deal of lobbying on behalf of raising the minimum wage and facilitating union organizing, but what people need are real alternatives to working for someone else. A worker can cut a better deal with an employer if he or she can say, “Take this job and shove it,” and pursue self-employment instead.
But even the kind of independent work that would be accessible to most anyone — driving a taxi, say, or being a street vendor — is mired in special-interest government decrees if not outright prohibitions. Zoning and other kinds of land-use restrictions often rule out home-based income-producing activities. The dramatically falling cost of computers and software — and new technologies such as 3D printing — are opening up the prospect of highly decentralized small-scale manufacturing that could be done from a home or garage.
Taxes and regulations may formally apply across the board, but they take a greater toll on microbusinesses than on big businesses, which have accounting and legal departments expert at dealing with government-imposed burdens. As a result, small businesses remain small. Government ends up protecting the market share of established firms.
The working poor don’t need favors but freedom from confining rules.
Ed. Notes: We could not only help poor entrepreneurs get started, we could also trim the regulating bureaucracies, saving some tax dollars. We could help all businesses even more by shifting the property tax off buildings, onto locations, spurring current speculators to put their prime vacant lots to good use. Constructing new buildings attracts investment and generates jobs. And finally, we could pay people a share of the recovered land rents; getting a share of land rent is similar to getting a share of land in that people can use it to develop themselves, their ideas, as they would develop the land.
This 2014 excerpt of Natural News, Jan 2, is by Ethan A. Huff.
A new study published in the journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, by scientists from the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) in California recently discovered that the number of dead sea creatures blanketing part of the floor of the Pacific is higher than it has ever been in the 24 years that monitoring has taken place.
This sudden explosion in so-called “sea snot,” which is the name given to the masses of dead sea creatures that sink to the ocean floor as food, has skyrocketed since the Fukushima incident occurred.
At an ocean research station known as Station M, located 145 miles out to sea between the Californian cities of Santa Barbara and Monterey, masses of dead sea plankton, jellyfish, feces, and other oceanic matter drift to the ocean floor. “In March 2012, less than one percent of the seafloor beneath Station M was covered in dead sea salps,” writes Carrie Arnold for National Geographic. “By July 1, more than 98 percent of it was covered in the decomposing organisms. … The major increase in activity of deep-sea life in 2011 and 2012 weren’t limited to Station M, though: Other ocean-research stations reported similar data.”
Though the most significant increases were observed roughly a year after the Fukushima incident, the study makes mention of the fact that the problems first began in 2011.
Life depends upon healthy oceans, the life of which provides some of the oxygen that we all breathe.
This 2014 excerpt of Grist, Jan 3, is by John Upton.
Highlights in 2013 carbon-trading news included the launch of trading programs in China and Mexico. As for existing programs …
In a bleak year for carbon markets, North America was a rising star. Despite ongoing failure by the U.S. and Canadian governments to impose limits or taxes on greenhouse gas pollution, state and regional initiatives on the east and west coasts of North America moved forward. California and Quebec are now the most expensive places in the world in which to pump carbon dioxide into the air.
Still, the healthy growth in the North American markets was not enough to compensate for a stagnating European market and the collapse of UN-issued credits. For the first time since 2010, the global carbon markets receded year-on-year. The total value of the transactions was 38.5 billion euros [$52.3 billion], a 38 percent decrease from the 2012.
But in California and in the north-eastern states’ Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) market, overall transactions rose to 390 million metric tonnes with a value of $2.8 billion (€2 billion) — a volume growth of 200 percent and a value growth of 262 percent.
North America still has a long way to go before it could rival the sheer size of the E.U. Emission Trading Scheme (which trades EUAs) or, to a lesser extent, the U.N.-run international market for certified emission reductions (CERs) and emission reduction units (ERUs).
Ed. Notes: Good to see humanity move forward, however slowly, along the lines of “polluter pays”. That principle fits into a bigger one: “Pay for what you take, not what you make.” Meaning, pay your community for the land and resources and ecosystem that you take or use, but don’t get forced to pay taxes on the goods you make and services you perform. That principle, in turn, fits into a bigger one still: “Share the worth of Earth, not the take of states.” That means, rather than get taxed and get subsidized programs you may not want or need, instead pay Land Dues into the public treasury and get rent shares back. Such a Citizen’s Dividend is the key component of geonomics.
Geoism begins with the three “factors,” categories of inputs: land as natural resources, labor meaning human exertion that creates value, and produced wealth or capital goods. Land yields rent, labor earns wages, and capital goods have a capital yield. Taxes on labor, interest, the profits of enterprise, and produced goods all have an excess burden on society beyond that of the taxpayers, as they increase prices, reduce output and income, and reduce growth. But a tax on land rent or land value does not have an excess burden or “deadweight” loss, because land does not hide, shrink, or flee when tapped for public revenue. A tax on the rent does not change the rent, but it does reduce the purchase price of land, because the title holders keep less rent.
Land rent arises from two sources. First, imagine an agricultural territory with one crop, corn, and lands of various productivity. Let us at first leave out capital goods, and image that all the workers have the same skill and labor hours. When the best land is available for free, all the output goes to wages. When the best land is fully claimed and worked on, new workers go to the next best free land, which is called the “margin of production.” The wage at the margin is the total output, but now, there is rent in the better land. Because workers can move, the wage at the margin becomes the wage at the better land, and the rest of the output becomes rent. The rent of a plot of land equals its output minus the normal costs of labor and capital goods, relative to the output at the margin of production.
The other source of rent is the greater productivity that arises from population density, along with its commerce, which increases the demand to use land there. With economic activity most intense in a city center, rents are highest there, because those at the fringes have to pay transit costs to obtain the same income. We can now put in the capital goods: better technology as well as more public works (streets, highways, transit, parks) and civic services (security, fire protection, street sweeping and lighting) make those locations more productive and attractive, which generates higher rentals and real estate prices.
When government provides such public goods, this generates higher rentals. Much of the gains from economic growth are captured by higher land rent. If the financing for public goods comes from taxes on labor, enterprise, and goods, the effect is that landowners receive a subsidy as higher rent and property value, while workers are double billed, paying both a higher rental and taxes. A tax on the site values pays back the value received by the land owners, preventing the subsidy.
Governments today subsidize land value in two ways: first with fiscal subsidies, taxes that are much lower than the extra rent generated by public goods, and secondly with monetary subsidies, when central banks expand the money supply to push down borrowing rates. These subsidies not only redistribute wealth from the poor to the rich, but also induce real estate speculation that becomes a bubble and then crashes into a steep recession, as happened in 2008.
The moral aspect of geoism is based on human equality. Because we are equal as human beings, each person fully owns his own life, body, and time. That implies the full ownership of one’s labor, wages, and the products one produces. Just as theft is morally evil, it is morally wrong for government to forcibly take away one’s wage by taxation. So taxes on labor, enterprise, and goods are not only economically damaging, they are morally wrong.
Since self-ownership does not extend to natural resources, human equality implies there should be an equal benefit from natural resources. That benefit is measured by land rent. Thus we can leave land possession and titles as is, because it is sufficient for justice for the rent to be collected and distributed to the people in equal shares, either in cash or in desired public services.
That rent that comes from population and commerce should be distributed to that local population in equal shares. The rentals that are generated by public goods should be paid to the providers, whether governmental or else to a private-sector producer by contract.
Professional appraisers and assessors have techniques to estimate land rent and land value, apart from the value of buildings and other improvements. Economists have estimated that the total land rent is about a third of national income, which should be sufficient to pay for the public goods. There is even a theory in public finance called the “Henry George theorem” that concludes that with the optimal provision of public goods, the cost of the goods equals the land rent. Payments for the use of land include pollution charges for dumping toxic waste into land such as rivers, the oceans, and the atmosphere.
A “prosperity tax shift” replaces the taxes that have an excess burden with public revenue from voluntary user fees, land rent, and pollution charges. This tax shift would reduce poverty and equalize income while also increasing productivity and economic growth, and preventing real estate bubbles. There are, of course, complexities in implementing geoism, but the actual practice of this policy in Taiwan, Denmark, and many localities has been successful. Geoism offers the best way to overcome poverty, unemployment, and other economic deprivations. With higher wages and no taxes, and an equal share of the land rent, families are better able to afford to pay for their medical services and retirement, reducing dependence on government.
Geoist tax policy also eliminates tax evasion and tax audits. Even a landowner benefits after the transition in paying much less for land, as the tax payment just replaces the mortgage payment. The payment of rent can also help solve territorial conflicts, as the party holding land compensates the other party by paying rent. Geoism offers hope for a better world, for it shows that today’s social problems have realistic solutions.
This 2014 excerpt of USA Today, Jan 1, is by Nina Rees, president and CEO of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.
In just one school year, the typical New York City charter school student gained about five additional months of learning in math and one additional month of learning in reading compared with students in traditional public schools.
These gains, repeated year after year, are helping to erase achievement gaps between urban and suburban students. Students who attend New York City¹s charter schools from Kindergarten through 8th grade will make up 86% of the suburban-urban achievement gap in math and 66% of the gap in English.
What makes these results so impressive is that charter schools are not elite private schools. They are tuition-free public schools, funded by taxpayers and open to any student.
New York has roughly 70,000 students enrolled in public charter schools, and the numbers are on the rise. This school year alone, 14,000 new students in the city enrolled in charter schools with the vast majority in low-income neighborhoods.
While just 30% of students citywide passed New York¹s new Common Core math exam, 97% of students passed the exam at Bronx Success Academy 2. The passage rate was 80% at Leadership Prep Ocean Hill in Brownsville, a community that has suffered academic failure for generations.
Like traditional public schools, some charters do under-perform, and the charter school movement is working hard to improve quality at every school. But study after study shows that high-quality charter schools are putting high school graduation and college within reach for many New York City students who once had bleak educational prospects.
Former New York Mayor Bloomberg introduced “co-location” as a way to turn unused classrooms into productive learning environments. Sharing space also tests the hypothesis that environmental factors make it difficult for children in certain neighborhoods to succeed in school. Charters quickly proved that theory wrong. For example, 88% of third and fourth graders at Success Academy Harlem 5 passed the state math exam. The traditional public school located in the same building only managed to attain a pass rate of 6%.
Charter schools are public schools. Traditional public schools in New York City don¹t pay rent for their classrooms, and they already receive more funding per student than charter schools do. New Mayor de Blasio wants them to pay rent in the city with the highest real-estate costs in the nation.
In his election night victory remarks, de Blasio called inequality “the defining challenge of our time,” and said, “we are all at our best when every child, every parent, every New Yorker has a shot.” There are 50,000 families who are on charter school wait lists in New York City. What better way to give every child a shot at success than to let schools that are doing a great job educating kids serve even more?
Ed. Notes: City charter schools give parents greater input, and parents are ultimately responsible for their kids. If choice is a principle that is good (as in the abortion debate), it seems worth adhering to in the schooling debate. The greater the participation, the healthier the society, no? Interestingly, many of our greatest thinkers who also saw the wisdom of making land value into common wealth — such as Einstein, Mark Twain, and George Bernard Shaw — also favored non-rigid, student-driven education. Maybe de Blasio will add his name to the list!
This 2013 excerpt of Ecowatch, Dec 31, is by Brandon Baker.
Some of China’s farmland is far too polluted with heavy metals and chemicals that it can’t be used to grow food, Wang Shiyuan, deputy minister of China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection said.
The country needs at least 120 million hectares of arable land to meet the large population’s needs. The nation began the year with 135 million hectares of arable land, but contamination and efforts to convert farmland to forests, grasslands, and wetlands dropped that amount to 120 million hectares.
Farmers are already prohibited from raising crops for humans in areas deemed too badly polluted, though tainted rice and other crops still wound up in the food supply.
Ed. Notes: When we must wait a long time for the negative consequences of our actions, it seems many of us go and commit the acts that will bring short-term gain and long-term loss. What might stop people from abusing their very own land? Perhaps if people did not feel so desperate for an income but felt materially secure, then they might be able to afford to look over the horizon. Such security could come in the form of an extra income apart from one’s labor. And if the source of that extra income were the value of land, then people would care about the health of land — the healthier the land, the heftier their share of the rental value of the land. While geonomics is not a panacea, it would solve the problems that the absence of sharing Earth’s worth — in lieu of ordinary taxes and subsidies — causes. Perhaps geonomics needs to be translated into Mandarin.
Why Is the IRS Fighting Efforts to Unmask Karl Rove and U.S. Chamber Political Money Laundering?
This 2013 excerpt of AlterNet, Dec 31, is by Steven Rosenfeld.
Robert Jacobson, a Tuscon, Arizona physician who brought the lawsuit, believes that a nonprofit created by the State Department in conjunction with the U.S. Chamber to build a much-ridiculed exhibition at the 2010 Shanghai Expo in China had another purpose —- diverting large slices of the $70-plus million in donations to Karl Rove for campaigns to retake the House. The idea was that money from GOP-friendly corporations and even the Chinese government would evade oversight by flowing through barely regulated nonprofits.
Rove’s link to the project was via one of his best friends, former Bush Undersecretary of Commerce, Frank Lavin, Jacobson said. Lavin chaired the Expo’s steering committee, he said, which put him atop the fundraising pyramid. “Frank Lavin was the expert at raising money and Karl Rove was the expert at spending it,” Jacobson said [leaving few funds for the actual expo itself].
Jacobson filed his case against Shanghai Expo three years ago. Between 2008 and 2012, the IRS received 33,064 whistleblower complaints and made 630 awards, recouping $1.46 billion and paying $180.1 million in awards. Last year, the IRS concluded that since the Shanghai Expo nonprofit had disbanded there was no point in pursuing a further investigation.
Jacobson is due back in Tax Court on January 6 to respond to an IRS motion for a summary judgment to dismiss his suit. He is hoping that an administrative law judge -— who is not yet named —- will step outside established precedents and allow discovery to continue, including using federal subpeonas to trace the Expo’s multi-millions in donations.
Ed. Notes: While this particular incident may be illegal, it is not anomalous. What the IRS is doing in particular is what governments have always done everywhere in general: serve the rich. Indeed, for most of history, the rich and the government have been the same entity — the aristocracy. In their deep structure, they still are one — laws come from the lobbyists of the rich. It’s only on the surface that the rich and government seem like different institutions.
This relationship is a normal feature an unequal society. Such favoritism can’t be stopped by bringing the isolated case to trial while leaving steep hierarchy in place. Conversely, if we were to topple hierarchy, then such crimes would only rarely be committed — the advantage of addressing system rather than symptom.
The way to topple hierarchy is to redirect all of society’s surplus that now lifts up the elite, into the pockets of everyone, raising them up into comfort instead. How to redirect such surplus, which is the money we spend for the nature we use? Simple. Geonomize. Replace counterproductive taxes with Land Dues and replace addictive subsidies with a Citizens Dividend. Doing that would put an end to the current concentration of wealth and the shenanigans they commit.
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.
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.
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, in-cluding 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.
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)
the annoying habit of seeing the hand of land in almost all transactions. In geonomics we maintain the distinction between the items bearing exchange value that come into being via human effort — wealth — and those that don’t — land. Keeping this distinction in the forefront makes it obvious that speculating in land drives sprawl, that hoarding land retards Third World development, that borrowing to buy land plus buildings engorges banks, that much so-called “interest” is quasi-rent, that the cost of land inflates faster than the price of produced goods and services, that over half of corporate profit is from real estate (Urban Land Institute, 1999). Summing up these analyses, geonomists offer a Grand Unifying Theory, that the flow of rent pulls all other indicators in its wake. Geonomics differs from economics as chemistry from alchemy, as astronomy from astrology.
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.
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.
a neologism for sharing “rent” or “social surplus” – the money we spend on the nature we use. When we buy land, such as the land beneath a home, we typically pay the wrong person – the homeowner. Instead, since land cost us nothing to make and is the common heritage of us all, rather than pay the owner, we should pay ourselves, our neighbors, our community. That is, we should all pay land dues to the public treasury, then our government would pay us land dividends from this collected revenue. It’s similar to the Alaska oil dividend, almost $2,000 last year. Indeed, the annual rental value of land, oil, all other natural resources, including the broadcast spectrum and other government-granted permits such as corporate charters, totals several trillion dollars each year. It’s so much that some could be spent on basic social services, the rest parceled out as a dividend, as Tom Paine suggested, and taxes (except any on natural rents) could be abolished, as Thomas Jefferson suggested. Were we sharing Earth by sharing her worth, territorial disputes would be fewer, less intense, and more resolvable.
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 neologism for sharing “rent” or “social surplus” – the money we spend on the nature we use. When we buy land, such as the land beneath a home, we typically pay the wrong person – the homeowner. Instead, since land cost us nothing to make and is the common heri-tage of us all, rather than pay the owner, we should pay ourselves, our neighbors, our community. That is, we should all pay land dues to the public treasury, then our government would pay us land dividends from this collected revenue. It’s similar to the Alaska oil dividend, almost $2,000 last year. Indeed, the annual rental value of land, oil, all other natural resources, including the broadcast spectrum and other government-granted permits such as corporate charters, totals several trillion dollars each year. It’s so much that some could be spent on basic social services, the rest parceled out as a divi-dend, as Tom Paine suggested, and taxes (except any on natural rents) could be abolished, as Thomas Jeffer-son suggested. Were we sharing Earth by sharing her worth, territorial disputes would be fewer, less intense, and more resolvable.