We are Hanno Beck, Lindy Davies, Fred Foldvary, Mike O'Mara, Jeff Smith, and assorted volunteers, all dedicated to bringing you the news and views that make a difference in our species struggle to win justice, prosperity, and eco-librium.
Nobody home: Almost 12,700 residential properties in Melbourne appear unoccupied. Those residents either don’t take showers or many apartments are empty most of the year.
This 2013 excerpt of Australia’s The Age, Oct 30, is by Jason Dowling, City Editor.
A study has found more than 64,000 residential properties in Melbourne are rarely used and almost 12,700 appear unoccupied.
The findings are based on an analysis of water use commissioned by Prosper Australia [AKA EarthSharing, one of our affiliates], a group seeking tax changes to improve the efficiency of land use.
Average household water consumption in Melbourne is estimated at 419 litres a day.
The analysis of 1.4 million residential properties found 4.4 per cent were potentially unused or seldom used.
“The annual increase in the capital value of the land under a property can outrun the net rental income,” it said. “An investor may calculate it is profitable to purchase a property exclusively for the potential capital gains.
“A substantial land value tax would blunt capital appreciation and serve as a withholding cost, shifting the incentive to profit from rental income rather than capital gain.”
Karl Fitzgerald, of Prosper Australia, said the results showed there were many properties not being used efficiently for housing.
He said there was a housing “distribution issue”, not a supply issue.
“We are strong believers that stamp duty must be replaced with a land tax,” he said.
There are more bicycles than residents in The Netherlands and in cities like Amsterdam and The Hague up to 70% of all journeys are made by bike.
This 2013 excerpt of the BBC, Aug 7, is by Anna Holligan.
In response a social movement demanding safer cycling conditions for children was formed. Called Stop de Kindermoord (Stop the Child Murder), it took its name from the headline of an article written by journalist Vic Langenhoff whose own child had been killed in a road accident.
The Dutch faith in the reliability and sustainability of the motor vehicle was also shaken by the Middle East oil crisis of 1973, when oil-producing countries stopped exports to the US and Western Europe.
These twin pressures helped to persuade the Dutch government to invest in improved cycling infrastructure and Dutch urban planners started to diverge from the car-centric road-building policies being pursued throughout the urbanising West.
In many cities the paths are completely segregated from motorised traffic. Sometimes, where space is scant and both must share, you can see signs showing an image of a cyclist with a car behind accompanied by the words ‘Bike Street: Cars are guests’.
You can cycle around a roundabout while cars (almost always) wait patiently for you to pass. The idea that “the bike is right” is such an alien concept for tourists on bikes that many often find it difficult to navigate roads and junctions at first.
Even before they can walk, Dutch children are immersed in a world of cycling. As babies and toddlers they travel in special seats on “bakfiets”, or cargo bikes. These seats are often equipped with canopies to protect the children from the elements, and some parents have been known to spend a small fortune doing up their machines.
As the children grow up they take to their own bikes, something made easier and safer by the discrete cycle lanes being wide enough for children to ride alongside an accompanying adult. And, as young people aren’t allowed to drive unsupervised until they are 18, cycling offers Dutch teenagers an alternative form of freedom.
The state also plays a part in teaching too, with cycling proficiency lessons a compulsory part of the Dutch school curriculum. All schools have places to park bikes and at some schools 90% of pupils cycle to class.
In the 16th Century, houses in Amsterdam were taxed according to their width, a measure residents countered by building tall, narrow houses. So hallways get filled with bikes – but so many people cycle, no-one really minds, and just clambers past.
The bike is an integral part of everyday life rather than a specialist’s accessory or a symbol of a minority lifestyle, so Dutch people don’t concern themselves with having the very latest model of bike or hi-tech gadgets.
They regard their bikes as trusty companions in life’s adventures. In that kind of relationship it is longevity that counts – so the older, the better. It’s not uncommon to hear a bike coming up behind you with the mudguard rattling against the wheel. If anything, having a tatty, battered old bike affords more status as it attests to a long and lasting love.
The famously flat Dutch terrain, combined with densely-populated areas, mean that most journeys are of short duration and not too difficult to complete.
Dutch people also tend to go helmet-free because they are protected by the cycle-centric rules of the roads and the way infrastructure is designed. If you see someone wearing a cycling helmet in The Netherlands, the chances are they’re a tourist or a professional.
The U.S. Navy has announced that it has turned over its decommissioned carrier, the USS Forrestal, for scrap. The Navy’s first super-carrier, launched in 1954, was in service for an eventful 4 decades; John McCain served aboard the ship in the sixties before becoming a P.O.W. in Vietnam. Rather than sell it for scrap metal, the Navy had to pay to have it scrapped — all of one cent.
A scion of one of America’s top fortunes has just exposed our “charitable-industrial complex.”
This 2013 excerpt of Other Words, Aug 7, is by Sam Pizzigati, author of The Rich Don’t Always Win: The Forgotten Triumph over Plutocracy that Created the American Middle Class.
Some 97 percent of the world’s “high-net-worth individuals” do give annually to charity. Yet only one-third of these extremely wealthy folks give away over 1 percent of their net worth. The rich, in other words, could afford to give away far more than they actually do.
Peter Buffett runs a foundation his father Warren Buffett created. He says American philanthropy has become our “charitable-industrial complex.”
In elite philanthropic gatherings, notes the 55-year-old Buffett, you’ll see “heads of state meeting with investment managers and corporate leaders,” all of them “searching for answers with their right hand to problems that others in the room have created with their left.”
And the answers that do eventually emerge seldom discomfort the problem-creators. These answers almost always keep, Buffett charges, “the existing structure of inequality in place.”
Peter Buffett dubs this comforting charade “conscience laundering.” Philanthropy helps the wealthy feel less torn “about accumulating more than any one person could possibly need to live on.” They “sleep better at night while others get just enough to keep the pot from boiling over.”
This 2013 excerpt of the Guardian, Oct 20, is by Ian Sample.
A US scientist has discovered an internal body clock based on DNA that measures the biological age of our tissues and organs.
The clock shows that while many healthy tissues age at the same rate as the body as a whole, some of them age much faster or slower.
Researchers say that unravelling the mechanisms behind the clock will help them understand the ageing process and hopefully lead to drugs and other interventions that slow it down.
Tests on healthy heart tissue showed that its biological age – how worn out it appears to be – was around nine years younger than expected. Female breast tissue aged faster than the rest of the body, on average appearing two years older.
Diseased tissues also aged at different rates, with cancers speeding up the clock by an average of 36 years. Some brain cancer tissues taken from children had a biological age of more than 80 years.
The biological clock was reset to zero when cells plucked from an adult were reprogrammed back to a stem-cell-like state. The process for converting adult cells into stem cells, which can grow into any tissue in the body, won the Nobel prize in 2012 for Sir John Gurdon at Cambridge University and Shinya Yamanaka at Kyoto University.
New research finds that anxiety caused by the 2008 economic crash led many mothers to switch to a less-nurturing parenting style.
This 2013 excerpt of Pacific Standard, Aug 5, is by Tom Jacobs.
Stress and worry caused by the 2008 crash led many mothers to have less patience with their kids.
Harsh parenting was not positively associated with high levels of unemployment, but rather with increases in the unemployment rate and declines in consumer sentiment; the anticipation of adversity was a more important determinant of harsh parenting than actual exposure.
Mothers engaged in significantly more harsh parenting behaviors following a 10 percent increase in their city’s unemployment rate.
Unfortunately, this dynamic was not easily reversed: Improvements in the local economy “were associated with much smaller, statistically insignificant changes in harsh parenting.
These results were limited to the approximately 50 percent of the women studied —- those who fit a specific genetic profile that makes them more sensitive to changes in their environment. Their genetic variation has been linked to poorer efficiency of the brain’s dopamine system, which regulates aggression and impulsivity.
Some people are “orchids” who wilt in poor conditions, while others are “dandelions” who can survive no matter what.
Low on cash and tapped out on its credit limit, the federal government limped into an uncertain economic future after Congress failed to reach a deal to raise the federal debt limit.
This 2013 excerpt of the San Jose Mercury News, Oct 15, is by Dan Nakaso.
Q What happens if the debt limit is not extended?
A Without the ability to borrow more money and add to the nation’s $16.7 trillion debt, the Treasury will be left with about $30 billion to cover government spending that’s estimated at $60 billion per day.
Q What can I do to protect my finances?
A “There’s really not too much an individual can do in the short run,” said Fred Foldvary, a retired economics professor from Santa Clara University who now lectures in public finance and law and economics at San Jose State [and blogs at this site].
But there are a couple of tricks, including parking any cash in a savings account to avoid the possibility of stock market chaos. Those worried about a drop in the market can turn to bear market funds tied to the S&P 500 that rise in value when the stock market falls, he said. Of course, “there is always risk,” Foldvary added. “You would lose money if the stock market shot up.”
Otherwise, Foldvary recommends that people keep their money in their retirement accounts, which are designed to grow over the long haul.
“Don’t panic,” he said.
Q How will the federal government function if it defaults on its financial obligations?
A The U.S. already owes $1.3 trillion to China and $1.1 trillion to Japan. Without the ability to borrow even more, the Treasury will have to rely on taxes and fees to keep the lights on and continue to pay an estimated 68 percent of its bills. Goldman Sachs estimates that government spending almost immediately will drop by $175 billion — or about 1 percent of the overall U.S. economy.
The country’s vast estates are under threat of being broken up and sold to small farmers. The laird’s response? Get off our land.
This 2013 excerpt of the UK Independent, Aug 1, is by Jonathan Brown.
Scotland currently has the most concentrated pattern of private ownership in the developed world with just 432 individuals accounting for half of all non-public land.
Submissions by the aristocracy and their representatives to the Land Reform Review Group, which was set up by the Scottish Government to consider the stalled question of redistribution, reveal deep-seated opposition to change.
Among those to challenge the proposals was an estate belonging to the 10th Duke of Buccleuch – a title created in 1663 for the illegitimate son of Charles II – who is now Europe’s largest landowner with holdings valued at more than £1bn.
Mark Coombs, the manager of the Duke’s 33,000 ha Queensberry Estate said there was no call for the ownership structure to change.
It’s the first time they have addressed head on the fact that so much land is held in so few hands. They are denying it’s a problem but they are conceding it is one of the central issues which is very interesting because they cannot win in the long term.
This 2013 excerpt of Slate, Oct 17, is by Ashok Rao.
For a long time the economics profession has quietly noted that a land value tax — LVT — is economically efficient but left the subject for more intellectually rewarding pursuits. The result is a frustrating dearth of scholarship on the subject. The few detailed papers that do exist suggest land taxes can replace most levies on labor and capital.
The most comprehensive work on this subject I could find is Steven Cord’s 1985 paper in the American Journal of Economics and Sociology, “How Much Revenue Would a Full Land Value Tax Yield.”
What’s fascinating is that as I’ve argued before, the 1980s probably represented the trough of land rents relative to income of the rich. As inequality increased, the ultimate venue of conspicuous consumption is beachfront property or a panoramic view of Central Park. As Thomas Piketty and Gabriel Zucman document in an important paper, total wealth-to-income ratios have doubled over the past several decades to a level last seen since the Industrial Revolution.
This 2013 excerpt from Naked Capitalism, Jly 7, is by Yves Smith.
Michael Hudson has advocated taxing land much more heavily, since unlike taxing capital or labor, it does not burden the economy with higher costs . As he explains in a 2009 interview:
You want to phase out the “tollbooth” economy that adds unnecessary charges to the cost of living and doing business – charges that have no counterpart in actual necessary cost of production. You want to avoid monopoly rent of the sort that Mexicans have to pay Telmex. And you want to avoid having the tax collector lower property taxes, leaving more revenue available to be pledged to banks as interest on higher mortgage loans. To get a lower-cost world, you have to counter political pressure from real estate owners and their bankers to shift taxes off rent-yielding properties onto labor and capital. Income and sales taxes add to the price of doing business, and hence reduce their supply and competitiveness. Most economists – even Milton Friedman – recommend that the more efficient tax burden is one that collects economic rent – property rent, fees charged for using the airwaves, monopoly rent, and other income that is basically an access charge. If you tax land rent, for instance, this doesn’t raise the price of housing or office space. The rent-of-location is set by the market place. Taxes – or interest charges to buy such property – are paid out of the market price for using this space or natural resource.
Taxing economic rent doesn’t add to prices. It simply collects what nature or public infrastructure spending have provided freely – site value, the broadcasting spectrum, the rights to access the internet or other technology in cases where prices exceed the reasonable cost of production.
In 1930 about 75% of state and local finances came from the property tax. Last year it was down to 16%, so that’s from 3/4ths down to 1/6. Cities have shifted the property tax onto wages and salaries – income and sales taxes that increase the price of business. Taxes used to fall on property and hence were progressive, but now have turned regressive.
The Economist over the weekend published a great primer on the benefits of broad-based land taxes.
While I would not like to see a broad-based land values tax (LVT) implemented on top of Australia’s other taxes, there are strong arguments for improving the efficiency and equity of the tax system by replacing highly distorting taxes, like stamp duties, with an LVT in a revenue neutral manner.
LVT would help make infrastructure investments self-funding for governments, since any land value uplift brought about through increased infrastructure investment (e.g. new roads, trains, etc) would be partly captured by the government via increased LVT receipts. Accordingly, governments would be more likely to facilitate development, rather than act to restrict it in a bid to save on infrastructure costs. Second, an LVT would penalise land banking and vagrancy [sic], effectively increasing the supply of land in the process and bringing new homes to market more quickly.
Requiring any LVT liability to be paid in smaller regular installments (e.g. once a month), rather than in a large annual or biannual lump-sum, could also assist in gaining community acceptance, since it seem like less of a burden.
The arguments for LVTs are well known. It’s just a shame that Australian policy makers will not even consider reform.
This 2013 excerpt of Bloomberg, Oct 29, is by Hui-yong Yu.
The debut of Brixmor Property Group Inc. (BRX) is adding fuel to what is already the biggest year for U.S. real estate initial public offerings in almost a decade.
The No. 2 U.S. shopping-center landlord, owned by Blackstone Group LP, raised $825 million in its IPO today, excluding extra shares for underwriters, the largest IPO of a retail real estate investment trust since Simon Property Group Inc. (SPG) in 1993. Brixmor sold 41.25 million shares at $20 apiece after offering 37.5 million for $19 to $21 each.
Hilton is poised to be the largest hotel IPO ever. The company has increased room count in franchised and managed hotels by 39 percent since Blackstone bought it for $26 billion in 2007, expanding in Asia and other overseas markets, with plans to develop and build another 268,000 rooms, according to its IPO filing.
The U.S. economic recovery, falling commercial real estate vacancies, and low interest rates have primed the pump for public offerings, with REIT stocks at close to six-year highs.
Property-related IPOs, including REITs, real estate operating companies and mortgage trusts, have had their biggest year since 2004 by money raised. So far in 2013, real estate IPOs have raised $4.7 billion, compared with $3 billion in all of 2012. The total was $7 billion in 2004.
The Bloomberg REIT index — a 136-member gauge — has more than tripled from its 2009 low and in May reached the highest level since 2007. It has trimmed about 10 percent of those gains since then amid concern interest rates would rise and increase borrowing costs.
Blackstone (BX), based in New York, may take Hilton public as soon as December in what could be the year’s biggest real estate IPO. The McLean, Virginia-based hotel chain — which will have a traditional corporate structure rather than a tax-saving REIT — has filed to raise as much as $1.25 billion, a placeholder amount.
Companies do need compelling management, a growth strategy and value, whereas back in the ’03-’04 timeframe, a company could go public as a blind pool with just a strategy and no assets.
Since the last recession ended, the recovery in commercial real estate has spread from apartments to hotels, offices, and industrial properties.
Multifamily buildings have seen the biggest increase in average rents since the financial crisis, with effective rents, or the amount paid after any concessions, up 11.3 percent.
The real estate recovery has mostly been confined to primary markets such as New York and Chicago, with demand for assets in smaller cities lagging behind.
Private-equity real estate funds have been increasing distributions to investors as they sell holdings.
This 2013 excerpt of Alternet, Aug 1, is by Laura Gottesdiener.
Since 2007, the foreclosure crisis has displaced at least 10 million people from more than four million homes across the country. The displaced are young and old, rich and poor, and of every race, ethnicity, and religion. They add up to approximately the entire population of Michigan.
In many cities and towns, lots are filled with “Cheap Bank-Owned!” trailers. Cities hire contractors dubbed “Blackwater Bailiffs” to keep pace with the dizzying eviction rate. This type of militarized reaction is often the outcome when communities — especially those of color — organize to resist eviction.
Between 2009 and 2012 African Americans lost just under $200 billion in wealth, bringing the gap between white and black wealth to a staggering 20:1 ratio.
The crimes started at the top. Banks peddled toxic mortgages like crack, paying employees cash incentives to push them in African American neighborhoods. The loans exploded, so they forged millions of foreclosure affidavits to speed state-enforced evictions.
Once homes are vacant, bank contractors insufficiently seal and maintain them, allowing intruders to strip the houses of their copper wiring, plumbing, and sometimes even the furnace. The copper alone sells for anywhere from 50 cents to a dollar per pound. Finally, people dealing drugs begin to use the houses at night as distribution centers. The street-level crime drags down neighboring property values, spurring more foreclosures and evictions. And so the cycle continues.
These uninviting neglected houses, disproportionately located in communities of color, are most often being snapped up by investors rather than families. Overwhelmingly, the investor of choice is the Blackstone Group, one of the world’s largest private equity firms and now the nation’s largest owner of single-family homes. Since April 2012, Blackstone has spent more than $4.5 billion buying at least 30,000 houses concentrated in cities hard-hit by foreclosure; the company often makes its purchases in cash.
There’s big money to be made in rental properties these days, given that there are millions of displaced, former homeowners with wrecked credit scores looking for places to stay.
Declines in property tax revenues caused by vacancies have led cities to cut funding for public works, libraries, parks, recreation programs, and school districts. One city even cut a program intended to address vacant foreclosed properties, thanks to a tax revenue shortfall.
This 2013 excerpt of Open Secrets, Oct 4, is by Doug Weber and Russ Choma.
Twenty dissident Republican House members have little financial reason to heed the demands of their party’s leadership; they don’t receive much campaign money from the party’s fundraisers.
A top source of campaign cash for Republicans overall in recent years has been the securities and investment industry — Wall Street. In 2012, this industry gave more to candidates than any other except one, and 69 percent of its money went to Republicans.
And Wall Street is, by far and away, the top source of campaign cash for the Republican House leadership. In 2012, Boehner’s campaign and leadership PAC received $1.6 million from the industry; the industry that came in second (oil and gas) only gave about half that.
The trend appears to be that, by and large, these 20 dissidents are simply raising less money than their colleagues.
According to CRP data, Republican House members have raised an average of $331,000 in campaign funds so far this year. A review of these 20 dissidents shows that, on average, they have raised $301,000.
This 2013 excerpt of Reuters, Jly 8, is by Alister Doyle.
Air pollution is shortening the lives of people in northern China by about 5.5 years compared to the south, a disastrous legacy of a policy that provided free coal for heating in the north.
Environmental problems are a source of rising social discontent in China; last month Beijing promised new measures to crack down on air pollution, partly by hastening a shift to renewable energy from fossil fuels.
Burning coal meant more heart and lung disease among 500 million people living in the area.
About 2 million people die every year from air pollution, mostly in developing countries. Cities such as Karachi, New Delhi, Kathmandu, Beijing, Lima, and Cairo are among the most polluted.
Even in Europe air pollution shortens average life expectancy by 8 months.
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!
as unfamiliar as geo-economics. The latter is a course some universities offer that combines geography and economics. A UN newsletter, Go Between (57, Apr/May ’96; thanks, Pat Aller), cited an Asian conference on geopolitics and “geoeconomics”. The abbreviated term ‘geonomics” is the name of an institute on Middlebury College campus and of a show on CNBC. Both entities use the neologism to mean “global economics”, in particular world trade. We use geonomics entirely differently, to refer to the money people spend on the nature they use, how letting this flow collect in a few pockets creates class and poverty and assaults upon the environment, and how, on the other hand, sharing this rental flow creates equality, prosperity, and a people/planet harmony. This flow of natural rent, several trillions dollars in the US each year, shapes society and belongs to society.
a way to redirect all the money we spend on the nature we use – trillions of dollars annually. We can’t pay the Creator of sites and resources and are mistaken to pay their owners this biggest stream in our economy. Instead, as owners we should pay our neighbors for respecting our claims to land. Owners could pay in land dues to the public treasury, a la Sydney Australia’s land tax, and residents could get back a “rent” dividend, a la Alaska’s oil dividend. We’d pay for owning sites, resources, EM spectrum, or emitting pollutants into the ecosphere, then get a fair share of the recovered revenue. The economy would finally have a thermostat, the dividend. When it’s small, people would work more; when it’s big, they’d work less. Sharing Earth’s worth, we could jettison counterproductive taxes and addictive subsidies. Prices would become precise; things like sprawl, sprayed food, gasoline engines, coal-burning plants would no longer seem cheap; things like compact towns, organic foods, fuel cells, and solar powers would become affordable. Getting shares, people could spend their expanded leisure socializing, making art, enjoying nature, or just chilling. Economies let us produce wealth efficiently; geonomics lets us share it fairly.
not exactly Georgism, the Single Tax on land value proposed by Henry George. He did, tho’, inspire most of the real-world implementations of the land tax that some jurisdictions enjoy today, and modern thinkers to craft geonomics. While his name and our remedy both begin with “geo” since both words refer to “Earth”, the two have their differences. (a) George pegs land monopoly as the fundamental flaw while geonomics faults Rent retention. (b) To fix the flaw, George was content to use a tax, while geonomics jettisons them in favor of price-like fees. (c) George focused on the taking while geonomics headlines the sharing. George envisioned an enlightened state judiciously spending the collected Rent while geonomics would turn the lion’s share over to the citizens via a dividend. (d) And George, as was everyone in his era, was pro-growth while geonomics sees economies as alive, growing, maturing, and stabilizing. Despite these differences, George should be recognized as great an economist as Euclid was a geometrician.
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 new field of study offered in place of economics, as astronomy replaced astrology and chemistry replaced alchemy. Conventional economics, in which GNP can do well while people suffer, is a bit too superstitious for my renaissance upbringing. If I’m to propitiate unseen forces, it won’t be inflation or “the market”; let it be theEgyptian cat goddess. At least then we’d have fewer rats. Meanwhile, believing in reason leads to a new policy, also christened geonomics. That’s the proposal to share (a kind of management, the “nomics” part) the worth of Mother Earth (the “geo” part). If our economies are to work right, people need to see prices that tell the truth. Now taxes and subsidies distort prices, tricking people into squandering the planet. Using land dues and rent dividends instead lets prices be precise, guiding people to get more from less and thereby shrink their workweek. More free time ought to make us happy enough to evolve beyond economics, except when nostalgic for superstition.
one of many words I coined over 20 years ago: geoism, geonomics, geonomy, geocracy, etc – neologisms that later others came up with, too. CNBC once had a Geonomics Show, and Middlebury College has a Geonomics Institute. If “economy” is literally “management of the household”, then geonomy is “management of the planet”. The kind of management I had in mind is not what CNBC was thinking – top-down. My geonomics is not hands-on, interfering, but hands-off, organic. It’d strive to align policy with natural processes, similar to what holistic healing does in medicine, what organic farming does in agriculture. Geonomics attends to two key components: One, the crucial stuff to track is fat — or profit, especially profits without production, such as rent, or all the money we spend on the nature we use. Society’s surplus is the sine qua non for growth, needed to counter death – not merely more, but sustainable development, more from less. Two, the basic process to respect is the feedback loop. These let nature maintain balance automatically and could do the same for markets, if we let them. Letting them would turn our economies, now our masters, into a geonomy, our servant, providing us with prosperity, eco-librium (to coin a term) and leisure, time off — a hostile environment for economan but a cradle for a loving and creative humanity.
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 way to connect the dots. Making the cyber rounds is “The Cavernous Divide” by Scott Klinger, from AlterNet (posted March 21): “As the number of billionaires in the world expands, so does the number of those in poverty.” Duh. The yawning income gap is not news. Nearly every issue of our quarterly digest carries a similar quote. Yet the connection was worked out long ago by one of America’s greatest thinkers, Henry George, who labeled his masterpiece, Progress and Poverty. Techno- and socio-advances always enrich few and impoverish many. Yet progress also pushes up location values – the geonomic insight (is Silicon Valley cheaper now or more expensive?). Instead of taxing income, sales, or buildings, society could collect those values of sites, resources, EM spectrum, and ecosystem services via fees and dues, which would lower the income ceiling, and instead of lavishing corporate welfare, pay out the recovered revenue via dividends, which would jack up the income floor. Dots connected.
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.