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This 2013 excerpt of Seattle PI, July 17, is by Neil Vigdoor.
Copper Beech Farm, a 50-acre compound on the waterfront of Greenwich CN, has been listed for $190 million, believed the be the highest listing in the United States. The property boasts a carriage house with a clock tower, co-joined heptagonal pools, a greenhouse, wine cellar and grass tennis court.
When John Rudey, the owner of the expensive residential property, procured a designation for most of his Greenwich CN compound as forestland, he — a timber tycoon and known as Copper Beech Farm — was able to reduce his real estate tax liability by more 80 percent, or $720,000 annually.
“I knew that it was a way of dodging taxes, realizing that some day he would sell it for a subdivision and make a fortune on it,” said Ted Gwartney, Greenwich’s assessor from 2003 to 2012.
In a May interview with the newspaper, Ogilvy said that the ability to subdivide the estate for future development factored into the property’s jaw-dropping listing price.
With the discount, the town’s valuation of Copper Beech Farm has plummeted from $84.6 million to $21.3 million.
The forestland designation on 40.6 acres of the property’s 50 acres goes back to 1984, when Rudey bought the compound from Carnegie Steel scion Harriet Lauder Greenway.
Gwartney is no fan of the law, but said he couldn’t unilaterally strip the property of the tax exemption. “I would have loved to have assessed it for its future value as a subdivision.”
This 2013 excerpt of OpEd News, Oct 26, is by Scott Baker.
With few exceptions, videos on the economy have landed with a thud. Though heavily applauded by the already converted, even the most well argued and cogent videos fail to reach people. Are the concepts so arcane and difficult that the masses just recoil? Or is the form the problem, not the content?
Four videos by malekanoms, totaling 700,000 views together support the latter view. They are short, simple, animated, funny, and full of insight. What can serious reformers learn from cartoon bears?
The Rich Get Richer Explained
Gas Prices Explained
Quantitative Easing Revisited
Bank Bailouts Explained
This 2013 excerpt of CityLand, July 16, is by Alexander Garvin, Adjunct Professor of Urban Planning and Management at Yale University and President & CEO of AGA public Realm Strategists.
Owners tried to protect their property by erecting planters, bollards, and other obstructions to easy access to their buildings. Thereby property owners have taken possession of substantial amounts of public sidewalk (which they do not own). It has become difficult for the increased numbers of pedestrians to pass through supposedly public space quickly and conveniently.
Property owners have appropriated public property for private use. In exchange for taking this property, they should pay rent to the City of New York. The payment to the city should be equal to the average price per square foot that they are charging in rent to building occupants.
Once private owners have to pay for using public property, they will begin to eliminate planters and bollards that are not needed to provide security to building occupants. More important, the public will either regain the benefit of the open space it paid for by allowing added noise, traffic, and density to city streets and sidewalks or enjoy the cash payments they have earned by allowing private use of public space by building owners.
This 2013 excerpt of The New Statesman, Oct 24, is by Russell Brand, an actor, comedian, and social commentator.
Like most people I regard politicians as frauds and liars and the current political system as nothing more than a bureaucratic means for furthering the augmentation and advantages of economic elites. Billy Connolly said: “Don’t vote, it encourages them,” and, “The desire to be a politician should bar you for life from ever being one.”
Total revolution of consciousness and our entire social, political and economic system is what interests me, but that’s not on the ballot. Is utopian revolution possible? The freethinking social architect Buckminster Fuller said humanity now faces a choice: oblivion or utopia. We’re inertly ambling towards oblivion, is utopia really an option?
There’s little point bemoaning this apathy. Apathy is a rational reaction to a system that no longer represents, hears or addresses the vast majority of people. A system that is apathetic, in fact, to the needs of the people it was designed to serve.
Righteous rage surfaces rarely only in the most galling of circumstances, the riots or the Milly Dowler intrusion, where a basic taboo was transgressed.
Along with the absolute, all-encompassing total corruption of our political agencies by big business, this apathy is the biggest obstacle to change. We can’t alter the former without removing the latter.
How dare I, from my velvet chaise longue, in my Hollywood home like Kubla Khan, drag my limbs from my harem to moan about the system? A system that has posited me on a lilo made of thighs in an ocean filled with honey and foie gras’d my Essex arse with undue praise and money.
It’s been said that: “The right seeks converts and the left seeks traitors.” This moral superiority that is peculiar to the left is a great impediment to momentum.
For an ideology that is defined by inclusiveness, socialism has become in practice quite exclusive. Plus a bit too serious, too much up its own fundament and not enough fun. The same could be said of the growing New Age spiritual movement, which could be a natural accompaniment to social progression. First and foremost I want to have a laugh.
Serious causes can and must be approached with good humour, otherwise they’re boring and can’t compete with the Premier League and Grand Theft Auto. Social movements needn’t lack razzmatazz.
The right has all the advantages, just as the devil has all the best tunes. Conservatism appeals to our selfishness and fear, our desire and self-interest; they neatly nurture and then harvest the inherent and incubating individualism.
I imagine that neurologically the pathway travelled by a fearful or selfish impulse is more expedient and well travelled than the route of the altruistic pang. In simple terms of circuitry I suspect it is easier to connect these selfish inclinations.
This natural, neurological tendency has been overstimulated and acculturated. Materialism and individualism do in moderation make sense. If you are naked and starving and someone gives you soup and a blanket your happiness will increase.
These problems that threaten to bring on global destruction are the result of legitimate human instincts gone awry, exploited by a dead ideology derived from dead desert myths. Fear and desire are the twin engines of human survival but with most of our basic needs met these instincts are being engaged to imprison us in an obsolete fragment of our consciousness. Our materialistic consumer culture relentlessly stimulates our desire. Our media ceaselessly engages our fear, our government triangulates and administrates, ensuring there are no obstacles to the agendas of these slow-thighed beasts, slouching towards Bethlehem.
Buckminster Fuller outlines what ought be our collective objectives succinctly: “to make the world work for 100 per cent of humanity in the shortest possible time through spontaneous co-operation without ecological offence or the disadvantage of anyone”. This maxim is the very essence of “easier said than done” as it implies the dismantling of our entire socio-economic machinery. By teatime.
The price of privilege is poverty.
At the top of the pyramid larceny is rewarded with big bonuses.
How beautiful it would be to see rioters’ passion utilised and directed at the source of their grievances.
The system is adept at turning our aggression on to one another. We condemn the rioters. The EDL condemns immigrants. My new rule for when I fancy doing a bit of the ol’ condemnation is: “Do the people I’m condemning have any actual power?” The wrath is directed to the symptom, not the problem.
We require a change that is beyond the narrow, prescriptive parameters of the current debate, outside the fortress of our current system.
We are still led by blithering chimps, in razor-sharp suits, with razor-sharp lines, pimped and crimped by spin doctors and speech-writers. Well-groomed ape-men, superficially altered by post-Clintonian trends.
We now must live in reality, inner and outer. Consciousness itself must change. Like a tanker way off course due to an imperceptible navigational error at the offset we need only alter our inner longitude.
To genuinely make a difference, we must become different; make the tiny, longitudinal shift. Meditate, direct our love indiscriminately and our condemnation exclusively at those with power. We should include everyone, judging no one, without harming anyone.
Sharing is a spiritual principle, respecting our land is a spiritual principle. May the first, May Day, is a pagan holiday where we acknowledge our essential relationship with our land.
Our young people need to know there is a culture, a strong, broad union, that they can belong to, that is potent, virile and alive.
I take great courage from the groaning effort required to keep us down. Propaganda, police, media, lies. Now is the time to continue the great legacy of the left, in harmony with its implicit spiritual principles.
This 2013 excerpt of Huffington Post, Oct 22, is by Adam Grant.
In the U.S., economics professors gave less money to charity than professors in other fields — including history, philosophy, education, psychology, sociology, anthropology, literature, physics, chemistry, and biology. More than twice as many economics professors gave zero dollars to charity than professors from the other fields.
Economics students in Germany were more likely than students from other majors to recommend an overpriced plumber when they were paid to do it.
Economics majors and students who had taken at least three economics courses were more likely than their peers to rate greed as “generally good,” “correct,” and “moral.”
Students were given $10 and had to make a proposal about how to divide the money with a peer. If the peer accepted, they had a deal, but if the peer declined, both sides got nothing. On average, economics students proposed to keep 13 percent more money for themselves than students from other majors.
In another experiment, students received money, and could either keep it or donate it to the common pool, where it would be multiplied and divided equally between all participants. On average, students contributed 49 percent of their money, but economics students contributed only 20 percent. When asked what a “fair” contribution was, the non-economists were clear: 100 percent of them said “half or more” (a full 25 percent said “all”). The economists struggled with this question. Over a third of them refused to answer it or gave unintelligible responses. The researchers wrote that the “meaning of ‘fairness’… was somewhat alien for this group.”
But maybe studying economics doesn’t change people. It could be self-selection: students who already believe in self-interest are drawn to economics.
Along with directly learning about self-interest in the classroom, because selfish people are attracted to economics, students end up surrounded by people who believe in and act on the principle of self-interest. Extensive research shows that when people gather in groups, they develop even more extreme beliefs than where they started. Social psychologists call this group polarization. By spending time with like-minded people, economics students may become convinced that selfishness is widespread and rational — or that giving is rare and foolish.
When faced with choices between cooperating and defecting, overall, 60 percent of economics majors defected, compared with only 39 percent of non-economics majors. Further, non-economists became less selfish as they matured; economists didn’t.
Business is now the most popular undergraduate major in the U.S., and it’s growing in market share. Business degrees are right behind education as the most common graduate degrees conferred in the U.S.
This 2013 excerpt of StartUp News of July 16 is by Lachlan Hornell.
Describing Rent Seekers as “the landlords of the status-quo”, Steve Blank, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur and academic, says they are the businesses that have already exceeded and are now charging others for existing, rather than creating new wealth, using government and lobbyists to stifle competition and innovation.
Startup companies like Bitcoin, Square, and Airbnb challenge the status quo of big businesses by innovating and creating new market spaces.
Blank says their opposition comes not from “direct competitors, but from groups commonly referred to as ‘rent seekers.’”
These individuals or organisations attempt to wring more money out of existing markets instead of constructing new products and experiences, as their lobbyists use every trick in the book to shut down innovative startups.
Essentially, laws are passed, government officials are bribed, and companies are extorted.
An example of this is when Tesla Motors attempted to sell their electric cars in North Carolina, New York and Texas. The National Auto Dealers Association used its lobbyists to make sure Tesla could not offer up any competition to the oil guzzling giants.
Rent seeking is the opposite of profit seeking. It’s the seeking of favours, not from the ‘simple’ people, but from government. Rent seeking doesn’t create wealth, it just shuffles it around.
Worse, resources get chewed up rent seeking. People spend time and money lobbying both to seek rent – and to defend it. Rent seeking doesn’t just redistribute wealth; it destroys it.
One instance of rent seeking in New Zealand was when student lobbyists called for the compulsory student membership (CSM) to remain in opposition of voluntary student membership (VSM).
VSM was largely seen to be a better choice for students as it allowed more freedom. However, there were those who gained greatly from students being forced to join a singular association, and lobbied against the move to VSM.
This 2013 excerpt from the Los Angeles Times of Oct 22 is by Jenn Harris.
Credit Suisse, the Zurich-based financial holdings firm, has released a report and video that raises the common concern about diabetes rates and obesity and its impact on the global economy.
Sugar is added to almost everything.
America is leading the world in excess sugar consumption. On average, Americans consume 40 teaspoons of sugar per day. The world average is 17 teaspoons per day. Following close behind America are Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, and Australia with 30 teaspoons on average per person per day. To put this in perspective, the American Heart Assn. recommends no more than 6 teaspoons of sugar for women and 9 teaspoons of sugar for men per day.
Taxation, similar to the tax placed on tobacco, may be one solution that could help combat the healthcare costs and reduce daily sugar intake.
As fracking expands at a frenzied pace in several states and federal officials consider allowing fracking near national parks and forests and key drinking water sources, Who Pays the Costs of Fracking?
Current bonding requirements are inadequate to cover the costs of damage from gas drilling.
Just reclaiming a fracking site can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, and the damage done by fracking —- from contaminated groundwater to ruined roads —- can cost millions of dollars.
But the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) generally requires drillers to post bonds of only $10,000 per lease or a blanket bond of only $25,000 for all wells in any one state; all but eight states require bonds of less than $50,000; and these bonds only cover the cost of site reclamation and well plugging, providing little or no up-front financial assurance for the broader damage done by fracking.
By 2006 there were already 59,000 abandoned oil and gas wells and at least another 90,000 whose status is unknown. The potential cost for just plugging these wells exceeds $780 billion.
From coal to oil to mining, every boom of extraction left pollution that future generations must grapple with.
Pay gaps within companies widen as top two garners, led by Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, claim billion-dollar paychecks.
This 2013 excerpt of the Guardian, Oct 22, is by Dominic Rushe.
Zuckerberg’s total compensation topped $2.27bn – more than $6m a day.
For the first time ever, the 10 highest-paid chief executives in the US received more than $100m in compensation last year, and two took home billion-dollar paychecks.
Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s co-founder, was America’s highest-paid boss in 2012. His base salary was $503,205 but the vast majority of his enormous pay package came from exercising 60m Facebook share options when the company went public last year.
Richard Kinder, the CEO and chairman of energy firm Kinder Morgan, had a base salary of just $1 in 2012 and received no other bonuses. But he made $1.1bn selling restricted stock. The payout follows a nearly $60m profit from stock in 2011.
Half of the top 10 are company founders. The rest are appointed executives. The no 3 slot really belongs to Gregory Maffei, who appears twice in the list as CEO of Liberty Media and Liberty Interactive. He reaped a combined $391m from the two posts.
All told, the top 10 CEOs in this year’s poll took home over $4.7bn between them, and for the first time ever, none earned less than $100m.
These huge pay deals are seldom linked to shareholder returns.
The top 10 made $3.3bn in 2012 on stock option profits and the vesting of restricted stock. Cash bonuses totalled $16.2m.
This year’s top earners far outstripped those below them by making huge fortunes cashing in share options as the stock markets bounced back.
Median household income, adjusted for inflation, was $51,017 in 2012, broadly unchanged from 2011.
The top 1% captured 95% of the income gains in the first three years of the recovery.
The disparity is noticeable even among the 1%, where riches accrue to the very wealthiest at an even faster rate than those below.
The average pay package of an S&P 500 chief executive last year was $13.7m. For those in charge of S&P small cap companies, it was $3.5m.
Of the top 10 earners in 2012, all received the majority of their compensation for the year from share schemes.
This 2013 excerpt of Tru TV was copyrighted by Turner.
Someone at Turner considers these “the 18 most suppressed inventions ever”.
The electric car: The EV1 was the world’s first mass-produced electric car, with 800 of them up for lease from GM in the late ’90s. GM ended the EV1 line in 1999, stating that consumers weren’t happy with the limited driving range of the car’s batteries, making it unprofitable to continue production. Many skeptics, however, believe GM killed the EV1 under pressure from oil companies, who stand to lose the most if high-efficiency vehicles conquer the market. It didn’t help that GM hunted down and destroyed every last EV1, ensuring the technology would die out.
The American Streetcar: In 1921, if the streetcar industry netted $1 billion, causing General Motors to hemorrhage $65 million in the face of a thriving industry. GM retaliated by buying and closing hundreds of independent railway companies, boosting the market for gas-guzzling GM buses and cars.
The 99-MPG Car: Although the technology has been available for years, automakers have deliberately withheld it from the U.S. market. A diesel-powered dynamo called the Volkswagen Lupo had driven around the world averaging higher than 99 mpg. The Lupo was sold in Europe from 1998 to 2005 but, once again, automakers prevented it from coming to market.
Free Energy: In 1899, Nikola Tesla figured out a way to bypass fossil-fuel-burning power plants and power lines, proving that “free energy” could be harnessed using ionization in the upper atmosphere to produce electrical vibrations. J.P. Morgan, who had been funding Tesla’s research, had a bit of buyer’s remorse, chasing away other investors.
Cancer Cure: In 2001, Nova Scotian Rick Simpson discovered that a cancerous spot on his skin disappeared within a few days of applying an essential oil made from marijuana. Since then, Simpson and others have treated thousands of cancer patients with incredible success. Researchers in Spain have confirmed that THC, an active compound in marijuana, kills brain-tumor cells in human subjects and shows promise with breast, pancreatic and liver tumors. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, however, claims marijuana has no accepted medical use.
Water-Powered Vehicles: Stan Meyer’s dune buggy achieved 100 miles per gallon and might have become more commonplace had Meyer not succumbed to a suspicious brain aneurysm at 57. Insiders have loudly claimed that Meyer was poisoned after he refused to sell his patents or end his research. His partners have gone underground and taken his famed water-powered dune buggy with them.
Rife Device: American inventor Royal Rife (his real name), in 1934, cured 14 “terminal” cancer patients and hundreds of animal cancers by aiming his “beam ray” at what he called the “cancer virus.” Morris Fishbein, director of the AMA, offered to buy the technology but was rebuffed, then discredited it. A 1953 U.S. Senate special investigation concluded that Fishbein and the AMA had conspired with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to suppress various alternative cancer treatments that conflicted with the AMA’s pre-determined view that “radium, x-ray therapy and surgery are the only recognized treatments for cancer.”
Cloudbuster: In 1953, when severe drought threatened Maine, Dr. Wilhelm Reich, set up his rainmaking device. Within hours, nearly inch of rain had fallen across the area, despite no precipitation in the forecast. In 1954, the government put a stop to his work entirely. After Reich’s conviction for selling a phone-booth-sized box that he claimed cured the common cold and impotence, in violation of FDA rules, Reich was sentenced to prison, where he soon died. The court also ordered that Reich’s inventions, their parts and any writing about them be destroyed.
TENS: The Transcutaneous Electronic Nerve Stimulation (TENS) device was created to alleviate pain impulses from the body without the use of drugs. In 1974, Johnson & Johnson bought StimTech, one of the first companies to sell the machine, and proceeded to starve the TENS division of money. StimTech sued, alleging that Johnson & Johnson purposely stifled the TENS technology to protect sales of its flagship drug, Tylenol. StimTech’s founders won $170 Million, although the ruling was appealed and overturned on a technicality.
Air pollution is considered to be one of the major environmental risks facing the world’s population.
This 2013 excerpt of the BBC of July 15 is by Mark Kinver.
Outdoor air pollution is estimated to contribute to more than two-and-a-half million deaths each year, a study has suggested.
It calculated that, each year, 470,000 people died as a result of ozone and 2.1 million deaths were linked to fine particulate matter.
Air pollution increased respiratory and heart disease risks, with the young, elderly and infirm most vulnerable.
The findings appear in the Environmental Research Letters journal.
The team added: “Our methods likely underestimate the true burden of outdoor pollution because we have limited the evaluation to adults aged 30 and older.
The World Health Organization (WHO) says it is difficult to identify the world’s most polluted areas because many cities with high levels of air pollution do not have monitoring systems in place.
“Nevertheless, the available data indicates that air pollution is very high in a number of Asian cities (Karachi, New Delhi, Kathmandu, Beijing), in Latin American cities (Lima, Arequipa) and in Africa (Cairo),” it observes.
But the WHO adds that although most air pollution hotspots are located in developing nations, it says that developed countries are also at risk and the issue is a major environmental risk globally.
Ozone pollution is linked to breathing problems, such as asthma, reduced lung function and lung disease.
This 2013 excerpt of the BBC of Oct 24 is by John Walton, Sophia Domfeh, Martyn Rees and Claire Shannon.
For five years in a row, Iceland has been rated the country with the world’s smallest gender gap by the World Economic Forum (WEF).
Iceland is joined at the top of the The Global Gender Gap Report, 2013 by its Nordic neighbours Finland, Norway and Sweden.
Overall, the gender gap narrowed slightly across the globe in 2013, as 86 of 133 countries showed improvements. However, “change is definitely slow”, says one of the report’s authors, Saadia Zahidi.
Europe has seven countries in the top 10. The UK is 18th and the US is 23rd. The Philippines, at fifth, is the highest ranking Asian nation and Nicaragua is the highest-placed country from the Americas, at 10th.
The G20 group of leading industrial nations has no representative in the top 10, nor do the Middle East or Africa.
The three strongest-performing countries in Latin America are Nicaragua, Cuba, and Ecuador, who all make the top 25 nations. Brazil’s position is unchanged from last year at 62nd.
The Persian Gulf states have tended to invest heavily in female education, with a reverse gender gap taking place in the United Arab Emirates. Many more women than men are now finishing university here. This contrasts with countries like Yemen, where levels of female education are very low.
African nations Chad and Ivory Coast come close to the bottom of the overall rankings. But southern Africa has some nations where a high level of labour force participation and political empowerment have helped bring them into the top 30 countries. Lesotho reaches 16th, South Africa is one place behind and Mozambique comes in at 26th.
China comes 69th overall, ahead of India at 101st. India’s low rank is due to poor scores from the WEF on education, health and economics.
Turns traditional property taxes upside down by valuing community contributions to land values
This 2013 excerpt of Commons Magazine (probably July) is by Joshua Vincent.
Connecticut’s new law would allow struggling cities like Bridgeport to use property taxes to revive their inner city neighborhoods.
Land Value Taxation (LVT) recognizes the role of community commons such sewers and other public services in adding value to urban sites.
On June 20, 2013, Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy signed into law an act permitting – as a pilot program – a tax reform that turns traditional taxation on its head, as it also embraces the idea of the commons as a resource for the community to provide for the everyday public life of urbanized areas. Initially, three communities will have the opportunity to apply for permission to use the program, with more to follow if LVT is proved successful.
LVT is an alternative version of the real property tax used by a number of cities, school districts and counties in Pennsylvania, as well in Australia and New Zealand.
Typically, property tax rates (called mills) fall equally upon land values and building values. LVT shifts the bulk of property tax revenue from buildings ( products of private capital and private labor) to the assessed value of land (a public good created by public and community investment).
Presently land value is often pocketed by private hands in form of speculation and absentee ownership.
The past 50 years have not been kind to the older cities of Connecticut. Industry has moved, stores have been replaced by big boxes on the fringe of town, which follow middle class residents who could not afford urban burdens of taxation, and opted for sprawling development. This created a downward spiral in tax base and an upward climb in tax rates, making the modern commons of public services and public land that much harder to pay for. In Bridgeport’s – one of the poorest cities in the US – the tax burden is nearly 5 times higher than wealthy Greenwich.
It is no wonder that the Connecticut Homebuilders Association, Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education and the Stamford Urban Development Corporation supported LVT legislation for urban areas. So did the Connecticut Sierra Club, Farmington River Watershed Association and the Connecticut Farmland Trust. Strange bedfellows? Not so much. All are stakeholders in each of their communities.
Augusto Odone of Italy, who defied skeptics and helped develop ‘Lorenzo’s oil’ to treat his gravely ill son, dies at 80.
This 2013 excerpt of the Los Angeles Times, Oct 24, is by Elaine Woo.
Augusto Odone was a charismatic Italian economist whose job with the World Bank afforded a cosmopolitan lifestyle. But the important work he performed for impoverished countries paled by comparison to the job that began to consume him in 1984: saving the life of his gravely ill son.
That year, Odone’s 6-year-old son Lorenzo was diagnosed with a fatal genetic disorder that doctors said caused the loss of voluntary movement and death within a few years.
Rejecting the grim prognosis, Odone and his linguist wife, Michaela, immersed themselves in medical journals to learn everything they could about the disease, adrenoleukodystrophy, or ALD.
Odone ultimately helped develop a treatment that defied medical orthodoxy — a concoction based on two common cooking oils — and slowed Lorenzo’s decline.
“Lorenzo’s oil,” as the treatment was named, provoked cries of quackery from many doctors and researchers, but a study published in 2005 showed it was effective in preventing the onset of symptoms in boys who had been diagnosed early.
Odone, who also promoted research that has led to a screening test and other therapies for ALD, died Thursday in the city of Acqui Terme in the Piedmont region of Italy. He was 80 and had heart problems and other ailments, his daughter Cristina Odone said.
Portrayed by Nick Nolte in the 1992 movie “Lorenzo’s Oil,” Odone outlived his wife, who died of cancer in 2000, as well as his son, whose death in 2008 at age 30 was a remarkable testament to the Odones’ devotion and ingenuity.
The first signs of trouble emerged when Lorenzo was in kindergarten in Washington, D.C. He was falling, having problems hearing, slurring his speech and throwing tantrums. A precocious child who loved Greek myths and opera — he once chided his father for not being able to tell Placido Domingo from Luciano Pavarotti — he clearly was not himself.
Doctors scoffed at the Odones’ determination to find a treatment for the disorder, which destroys the myelin, the protective sheath surrounding nerve cells in the central nervous system that control bodily functions. They were told that scientists were working on treatments but that a solution would not come in time to save Lorenzo.
Slogging through hundreds of academic articles, Odone learned about the link between ALD and abnormal levels of “very long chain” fatty acids. Gradually, he gleaned from numerous accounts that animals fed olive oil had lower levels of very long chain fatty acids and that the key component producing the effect was oleic acid. He also learned that erucic acid, a component of rapeseed oil, might also help counteract the harmful fatty acids. He began to form the idea that a mixture of rapeseed and olive oils might save Lorenzo.
It was a battle to convince experts that the oils might help. One of the first he consulted was Hugo Moser, a neurologist at the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore, who told Odone that erucic acid was harmful in mice and could not be tested on humans.
Odone pursued other experts, finally finding a Toronto biochemist who told him that erucic acid was safe for people.
By the end of 1986, a British biochemist produced an edible extract of the two oils for Odone. After testing it on a family member, he tried it on Lorenzo, with dramatic results: Within three weeks, the boy’s levels of the harmful long-chain fatty acids began to drop to normal levels. He credited Lorenzo’s oil with extending his son’s life many years beyond what doctors expected.
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.
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 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!
a study of a phenomenon David Ricardo noted going on two centuries ago. When wine grapes rise to $10,000 a ton from the very best land (last year, cabernet sauvignon commanded an average of $4,021 a ton in the Napa Valley), then vineyard prices soar from $18,000 an acre in the 1980′s to $100,000 an acre five years ago and now for a top pedigree up to $300,000 an acre (The New York Times, April 9, via Wyn Achenbaum). Pricey land does not make wine pricey; spendy wine makes land spendy. While vintners make their wine tasty, nature and society in general – not any lone owner – make land desireable. Steve Kerch of CBS’s MarketWatch (April 5) notes that much of what a home sells for on the open market is a reflection of intangible factors such as what school district the house sits in. The price the builder has to pay for the land also tends to be driven by the same intangibles. Because the value of land comes from society, and because one’s use excludes the rest of society, each user owes all others compensation, and is owed compensation by everyone else. Sharing land’s value, instead of taxing one’s efforts, is the policy of geonomics.
a manual. The world did not come without a way for people to prosper, and the planet to heal and stay well; that way is geonomics. Economies are part of the ecosystem. Both generate surpluses and follow self-regulating feedback loops. A cycle like the Law of Supply and Demand is one of the economy’s on/off loops. Our spending for land and resources – things that nobody made and everybody needs – constitutes our society’s surplus. Those profits without production (remember, nobody produced Earth) can become our commonwealth. To share it, we could pay land dues in to the public treasury (wouldn’t oil companies love that?) and get rent dividends back, a la Alaska’s oil dividend. Doing so let’s us axe taxes and jettison subsidies. Taxes and subsidies distort price (the DNA of exchange), violate quid pro quo by benefiting the well-connected more than anyone else, reinforce hierarchy of state over citizen, and are costly to administer (you don’t really need so much bureaucracy, do you?). Conversely, land dues motivate people to not waste sites, resources, and the ecosystem while rent dividends motivate people to not waste themselves. Receiving this income supplement – a Citizens Dividend – people can invest in their favorite technology or outgrow being “economan” and shrink their overbearing workweek in order to enjoy more time with family, friends, community, and nature. Then in all that free time, maybe we could figure out just what we are here for.
in part the Great Green Tax Shift maxed out. Economically, taxing pollution and depletion does reduce pollutants and extracts – and thus the tax base; plus such taxes are regressive, requiring a safety net. On the other hand, collecting site rent is progressive and generates a revenue surplus payable as a dividend to residents, which can serve as the safety net. Environmentally, taxes on waste and extraction do not drive efficient use of land, as does getting site rent.
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.
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.
an answer for Jonathan of the Green Party (Nov 7): “What does ‘share our surplus’ mean?”
Our surplus is the values that society generates synergistically. It’s the money we spend on the nature we use: on land sites, natural resources, EM spectrum, ecosystem services (assimilating pollutants). It’s also the money we pay to holders of government-granted privileges like corporate charters. We could share it by paying for the nature we use and privileges we hold to the public treasury then getting back a fair share of the recovered revenue. Used to be, owners did owe rent (“own” and “owe” used to be one word). And presently, some lucky residents do get back periodic dividends: Alaska’s oil dividend and Aspen Colorado’s housing assistance. Doing that, instead of subsidizing bads while taxing goods, is the essence of geonomics.
Jonathan: “Is local currency what you mean?”
Editor: It’s not. Community currency is a good reform, but every good reform pushes up site values. That makes land an even more tempting object of speculation. Now, any good will eventually do bad by widening the income gap – until you share land values.
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.