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Ed. Notes: Drinking coffee can not only help well-fed people of the North lose weight, it can also help the hungry people of the South put on a few pounds. Coffee comes from poor tropical places. Landowners in the tropics do especially well by the Northern demand for coffee … which is why everyone should own some land and not have to work the orchards for others.
The best way to reform land ownership is to institute land dues or land taxes. Having to pay dues makes it impossible to profit from owning more than one can use and just trying to be a middle man. Owners with excess sell off their excess in order to avoid paying land dues. That leaves more land available for former tenant farmers. It’s a reform that has worked wherever tried.
If only there were some way to tie drinking coffee in the North to sharing out land in the South!
This 2014 excerpt of Investors Daily, July 9, is by Russell S. Sobel.
Equilar reports a 6% annual increase in average compensation for the 200 highest-paid chief executives. Their companies receive tax breaks, subsidies, or other assistance from the federal government.
When federal money is up for grabs, businesses invest resources to secure it through a process known as “rent seeking.” Rather than making the entire business more profitable, however, this money remains at the executive level.
In fact, it’s not clear that shareholders or workers are getting a real return on their companies’ lobbying investments.
In the wake of the financial crisis, businesses have rushed to ensure that their interests were and continue to be heard in Washington. With more than 12,000 registered federal lobbyists seeking influence in policymaking, the reported expenditures on lobbying federal government in 2013 topped $3 billion.
Programs such as the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (or the “stimulus”) doled out more than $1 trillion in federal subsidies, grants, and contracts directly to specific private businesses.
It’s now a common belief that business success depends partly on a company’s ability to secure favors through political connections. This “cronyism” — rather than consumer-driven market forces — picks the winners and losers in the marketplace. Such logic is taught in actual business-school classes.
Political activity and connections do not lead to higher profits for the vast majority of firms or industries, with the only notable exception being banking-related firms [they use mortgages to capture land rents].
We see no statistically significant correlation between firm or industry profitability and firm (or industry) lobbying or political action committee activity.
If lobbying and political efforts do not increase returns for firm shareholders, why would firm executives channel resources in this direction? Our research suggests that — while measures of firm performance and profitability are not correlated with political activity — the compensation of top firm executives is strongly correlated.
Ed. Notes: Robbing the public treasury to pay insider schmoozers might be legal but it’s not moral.
And if it’s only banks that lately have gained, the others must keep up their lobbying to at least not lose market share.
Further, companies in brand new fields such as IT don’t need handouts to grow since those recently launched industries are growing rapidly anyway.
Finally, the only solution is to remove the power of discretionary spending from politicians to the public. That means, putting the budget on the ballot as some towns in Brazil do or better yet, paying citizens a dividend, like Singapore often does, and that city state is often rated the world’s best for business.
From whence the surplus? From society’s spending for assets never created by anyone’s labor or capital (or lobbying for privilege). Goods like land, oil, EM spectrum, ecosystem services, etc, yield huge rents that society — via its agency, government — should be seeking, recovering (site value is socially generated), and sharing. Doing so allows the repeal of most taxes and subsidies. Called geonomics, the policy has worked wherever tried.
This 2014 excerpt of the Schumacher Center for a New Economics blog, Jly 7, is by their Staff.
Thomas Piketty’s book Capital in the 21st Century shows that owners of capital assets – including stocks, bonds, and real estate – have historically realized a financial return higher than wage growth, favoring those with capital assets over those living on wages alone.
Though this bias of the economic system is recognized intuitively, the myth of a level playing field has persisted, largely based on the exception to the rule following World War II. Pent up demand for new goods meant an unusual period of wage growth that was almost equal to the income from rents, dividends, and interest.
Piketty imagines possible mechanisms for adjustment, his preferred being a global progressive tax on capital assets. It would rely on transparency regarding reporting of assets and the cooperation of all nation states – so hard to achieve.
Peter Barnes proposes a more pragmatic approach. In his new book, With Liberty and Dividends for All: How to Save Our Middle Class When Jobs Don’t Pay Enough, he suggests a tax on assets such as atmosphere. Those using up that commons, environmental polluters for instance, would pay a tax into a fund for equal distribution to all citizens of a region.
His latest book is an evolution of Barnes’s thinking, starting in the 1970′s with Who Owns the Land. An author and entrepreneur, Barnes co-founded Working Assets (now Credo) and has written extensively on capitalism and the commons.
Barnes names Thomas Paine, as one of the influences on his thinking. In the 1797 pamphlet, Agrarian Justice, Paine proposes a “ground rent” on land, paid into a fund from which cash payments would be made to citizens when they reached twenty-one.
Peter Barnes will discuss inequality of wealth distribution and ways to address it in a Schumacher Lecture titled “Economics for the Anthropocene.” Sunday, July 27th, 7:30PM at the American Institute for Economic Research. The Lecture will be available online later this summer.
Ed. Notes: These are good ideas that I wish were more popular. I think part of the problem is mixing commons and taxes. Commons belong to community whiles taxes belong to government. Paying taxes to politicians does not mean you’ll ever see the money again. But a commons means you get to take your turn using the resource, without having to go through any bureaucracy. If wannabe reformers did not bundle commons and government together but reinforced their distinct differences, then people might warm up to the idea of sharing the common wealth, which is the worth of Earth. Doing that would both protect the environment and narrow the income gap.
Israel’s bombing of Gaza has not stopped its rocket attacks, so it is counterproductive. Instead, Israel should help the people of Gaza establish a communitarian democracy.
The government of Israel would announce on radio, television, web sites, and leaflets, that it will be sending in troops, not to fight against the people of Gaza, but to empower their communities.
The Israeli government would also apologize for its misguided policies of the past, and for the suffering and humiliation it caused for the Gaza Palestinians. Of course the Israelis have suffered also, but if one demands a counter apology, one is not really repenting and regretting.
The Israeli administration would designate neighborhood boundaries for communities of about 1000 residents and also enterprise owners. Residents would volunteer to serve on the community council. The Israeli troops would defend the community from any extremist opponents of the new democracy. The communities would set up their own protective elements, and the Israeli troops would withdraw.
Israel should have democratized Gaza in 1967 rather then let the area fester. Then in 2005, Israel removed its settlements without negotiating with the Palestinian rulers. Now Israel should do what occupiers world-wide have failed to do, lay down an infrastructure of democracy.
The community councils of Gaza would elect representatives to regional associations, and the regions would elect representatives to a Gaza parliament. The Palestinians of the West Bank should also elect their own parliament. Then the two parliaments would elect a Palestinian federation of two provinces, Gaza and the West Bank (perhaps renamed East Palestine). It would be best to leave local matters to the two provinces.
Israel should then stop imposing tax policy on the Palestinians and let them set up their own public finances. But advisers should encourage the Palestinian councils to collect the land rent and use that for public revenue rather than tax their wages and goods.
Unfortunately the Palestinian governors have focused their resources on fighting Israel rather than economic development. But after the communities in Gaza have become empowered, Gaza will no longer be occupied territory. Israel would remove the barriers around Gaza gradually, since there will still be extremists who seek destruction. But Israel should facilitate the greatest possible mobility for the Palestinians under the constraint of protection, rather than treat the Palestinians with the arrogance that has been practiced in the past. “No more humiliation” should be the stated slogan.
A similar policy should be pursued in the West Bank. The Palestinian authority chiefs will resist transferring power to the people and their local councils, but a democratic Gaza (or West Palestine) will cause the East Palestinians to demand genuine democracy. A bottom-up governance in the West Bank would then result in a federation of West and East Palestine that would then negotiate a lasting peace with Israel.
There have been some peace gatherings among Israelis and Palestinians to humanize their relations and to see that individuals are people much like themselves. But such personal interactions are no substitute for confronting the essential issue of who shall own the land.
The solution that is both just and politically feasible is to recognize the pre-1967 boundaries and then convert the Israeli settlements as leaseholds that pay rent to the Palestinian government.
Ideally all landowners in Israel and Palestine should pay the market rent of their land possessions. Land rent would serve as the best public revenue for a Confederation of Israel and Palestine. Palestine would be a state within the Confederation and would itself also be a federation of West and East Palestine.
The other contentious issue has been the return of displaced Palestinians to their pre-1948 lands. A peace treaty should allow a limited return of Palestinians to Israel, with some compensation for lands that have become homes for others. So long as justice is sought, the maximalists will usually be in the minority.
If justice is not established, time will be an enemy of both the Israelis and the Palestinians, as extremists and nuclear perils are on the rise. The choice is either justice now or destruction later.
This 2014 excerpt of the UK’s New Economics Foundation blog, Jly 9, is by Faiza Shaheen.
80% of Brits want the government to stop talking about economic inequality and do something.
Lisa Nandy MP, participated in the launch of a new NEF report setting out the five pressure points:
5. Fairer taxes
Progressive tax reforms, such as a Land Value Tax, would help address inequality at root and redistribute economic power. Shifting the burden of taxes onto environmentally unfriendly activities would kill two birds with stone by relieving struggling families and speeding up the transition to a low-carbon economy.
This 2014 excerpt of The Nation, Jly 3, is by Michael Hudson, Ionuț Stănescu, and Sam Adler-Bell. The story is part of a joint investigation by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, New York magazine, and the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project.
Since 2008, roughly 30 percent of condo sales in pricey Manhattan developments have been to buyers who listed an international address -— most from China, Russia, and Latin America —- or bought in the name of a corporate entity, a maneuver often employed by foreign purchasers. Because many buyers go to great lengths to hide their interests in New York properties, it’s impossible to put a number on the proportion laundering ill-gotten gains. But according to money-laundering experts as well as court documents and secret offshore records reviewed by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, New York real estate has become a magnet for dirty money.
Oligarchs and despots like to put their money into high-end real estate for a number of reasons: they need an escape option if things take a turn for the worse in their home countries; they want to park their assets in an investment that’s known to preserve value; and they want to be able to enjoy and flaunt their wealth.
Many walk a fine line between showing off and staying on the down-low. Instead of putting property in their own names, they may arrange to put the names of their spouses, children, lawyers or other proxies on property deeds. Often, the buyer of record isn’t a flesh-and-blood person —- it’s a limited liability company set up in a US state, or an offshore company established in the British Virgin Islands or some other overseas haven.
The name for the process of creating mazes of bank accounts and offshore companies to move and hide money is layering. When the layers are laid down skillfully, it’s often impossible to detect flows of illicit cash. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime estimates that as little as one-fifth of 1 percent of money that’s laundered around the world is identified and intercepted.
US authorities don’t require escrow and real estate agents to find out the true identities of property buyers. The “Patriot” Act has a loophole that gave an opening for the US Treasury to “temporarily” exempt the real estate industry from such requirements. A dozen years later, the exemption still stands.
In September, a judge approved US prosecutors’ bid to seize 650 Fifth Avenue, a commercial tower at edge of Rockefeller Center, ruling that the property’s owners had violated international embargoes by secretly siphoning profits from tenants’ rental checks to Iran’s government. US authorities said it could be “the largest-ever terrorism-related forfeiture.”
Allies of both the winner and the loser in Ukraine’s 2010 presidential election — former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and Viktor Yanukovych, the winner — have been accused of money-laundering schemes involving New York properties. So have Russian fertilizer magnate Dmitry Rybolovlev and Romanian Gabriel Popoviciu, who helped introduce his country to KFC and other American fast-food icons. He became one of Romania’s richest men by bribing government officials to gain control of valuable state-owned land and develop a huge project that includes supermarkets, restaurants, and the US Embassy.
Money laundering and New York real estate have a long history. Mafia clans bought properties around New York’s five boroughs. The former first couple of the Philippines, Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos, used a series of offshore companies to channel almost $700,000 into the purchase and consolidation of three apartments near the top of Midtown’s famed Olympic Tower, which had recently been built by Greek-Argentine shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis.
Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg said, “Wouldn’t it be great if we could get all the Russian billionaires to move here?” The massive flow of foreign money —- licit and illicit -— not only drains home countries but also inflates location values in the target nation, pricing average New Yorkers out of buying or renting.
Ed. Notes: Real estate in New York is like oil in Texas. Wherever land costs a lot (and pays off a lot), and wherever oil is deposited, you find bullies hurting people and raking in fortunes. Easy money always attracts loose morals.
It does so inside and outside government, both the bribe givers and the bribe takers. (What’s the difference between a bribe and a campaign contribution of millions? Time’s up.) The real state is real estate and always has been, from the days lords and kings to the present day of landlords and bank lenders.
The only antidote is realize natural rents belong to us all, to share them a la Singapore, and to keep promulgating that realization.
This 2014 excerpt of Common Dreams, Jly 3, is by Deirdre Fulton, staff writer.
Canadian academics and activists are engaged in that country’s first national campaign for a basic guaranteed income, which they say would “help prevent poverty, reduce inequality, enhance individual freedom, boost human creativity, stimulate entrepreneurship, promote citizenship, increase efficiency in public services, and reduce government intrusion in private life.”
Last weekend’s 15th International Basic Income Earth Network Conference, held in Montreal, marked the public debut of a campaign to raise awareness about and support for the concept of a basic income in Canada, which is home to about 35 million people. The Basic Income Canada Network’s BIG Push campaign suggests that an annual income of between $20-25,000 would be sufficient for a working-age adult.
Canadians are no strangers to the concept of basic income —- the “Mincome” experiment that took place in the province of Manitoba during the 1970s had positive effects on health and education. Several countries, including Brazil, already implement some sort of basic income program (or pilot program). Later this year, voters in Switzerland will have their say on a proposal to give every citizen $2,800 a month.
Ed. Notes: It’s ironic to me that the proponents of BI use the word “guarantee”, presupposing that’s something governments can do, yet don’t breathe a word about from where would come the money?
I’d rather see proponents focus on our common wealth, which by its nature (being common property), is something we should share, something that all of us are already entitled to a share.
Indeed, it is immoral that the vast majority of us do not receive our share while a small handful of people capture the shares of millions of fellow citizens. However, eventho’ this situation is not ethical, nobody’s behavior is unethical. To behave badly, one must first know what’s right and wrong and most people are not even aware that common wealth exists, so how could they realize that hogging it is wrong?
What is our common wealth? It is the worth of Earth. Nobody made land and resources and all of us make them valuable, by our demand for usage of various locations. Each of us has a right to land and to compensation when we’re excluded from land. Plus, each of has the duty to compensate those whom we exclude from our land.
Economic value in practice is spending, herein our spending for all the locations and ecosystem services that we use. This flow is a surplus since it does not reward anybody’s labor or capital; Earth was created by whatever created us. This surplus is social since it is society’s recognition of property rights that makes it possible to use and exchange use of locations.
If society did institute land dues, then it could do away with counterproductive taxes. If society did institute rent dividends,then it could do away with addictive subsidies. Minus the interference of taxes and subsidies – both of which distort prices and thus behavior – economies could operate at peak efficiency and government bureaucracies could shrink.
Dues and dividends are the policy of geonomics. Wherever tried, to the degree tried, it has always worked. So rather than propose an unfunded BIG, propose a Citizen’s Dividend. Dividends by definition are shares of surplus, so the details of the proposal are built in.
This 2014 excerpt of the American Enterprise Institute’s Tech Policy Daily, July 2, by Jeffrey Eisenach.
Entrenched incumbents often fail to see outside their traditional business models. Human nature (being comfortable with the familiar), institutional dynamics (the first instinct of any bureaucracy is self-preservation), and simple economics (milking a cash cow) all create a bias for the status quo among those currently in power. It’s not that big companies never innovate (look at Apple for one obvious example), but rather that they tend to innovate as a result of competition – because “only the paranoid survive.”
Incumbents lobby for government regulation to deter entry by potential competitors – Ma Bell’s attempts to use its pet regulatory agency, the Federal Communications Commission, to cut off competition from Hush-a-Phone, CarterPhone, and later MCI is the classic example. Uber’s battle with taxi regulators is today’s cause celeb.
Entrants have also figured out the rent-seeking game. They too seek laws and rules that tilt the playing field in their favor, and history suggests they are pretty good at it: Dwayne Andreas securing literally billions of dollars in ethanol subsidies for Archer Daniels Midland, or FCC Chairman Reed Hundt falling for Competitive Local Exchange Carriers (CLECs, resulting in billions being wasted on stadium naming rights while venture capitalists walked off with still more billions in IPO proceeds), etc.
It is often difficult to tell the difference between the disruptive innovator and the creative rent seeker. Take Tesla for example. Incumbent auto dealers seek to prevent competition from Tesla by opposing direct sales. But Tesla also gets $7,500 in direct Federal tax subsidies to support every sale and tens of thousands more from states and various other indirect subsidies so wealthy buyers can pay less for their $90,000 “superluxury” sports cars.
Using government power to enrich those who deploy lobbyists and contribute to campaigns is wrong. Having a level playing field that forces firms and business models to face dynamic competition is great public policy. The idea of disruptive innovation is gaining currency in conservative/Republican policy circles.
After World War I, Germany had to pay reparations to the United Kingdom and France. Having sold off its gold, the German government had no specie with which to back its currency, the mark. Therefore Germany issued fiat money, not backed by anything. It was called the Papiermark, the paper mark.
With its economy in ruins, the German government printed more and more currency with which to pay its bills, and the German expansion of money became the world’s most famous example of hyperinflation.
The inflation induced alternative currencies in Germany. In 1922, the Roggenrentebank was established, issuing notes backed by rye grain. In 1923 several local governments issued small-denomination loan notes denominated in commodities such as rye, coal, and gold. The commodity front served as a price index relative to marks for the notes.
The inflation came to a halt with the replacement of the Papiermark with a new currency, the Rentenmark on October 15, 1923. One Rentenmark could be exchanged for a trillion Papiermarks.
The Rentenmark was fronted by bonds indexed to amounts of gold. Since the US dollar was backed by gold then, the Rentenmark was thus also pegged to the US dollar at 4.2 RM to $1. To “back” a currency means to exchange it for a commodity at a fixed rate. It was not enough to merely index the units of the Rentenmark to gold. To become stabilized, the new currency needed to be fronted by a commodity that was actually used. That commodity was real estate.
The Deutschen Rentenbank, the central bank of Germany, established reserves that included industrial bonds as well as mortagages on Germany’s real estate. A currency is fronted when the issuer has collateral that it can deliver in exchange for indexed units of the money. Real estate rentals payable in Rentenmarks were fronts for the new German currency. “Rente,” derived from French, means income in German, such as a pension.
After having stabilized the money, the Rentenmark was replaced by the legal-tender Reichsmark in 1924 one-to-one, although Rentenmark notes continued to serve as money until 1948.
Previous attempts to front a currency with land value failed, because such frontage is insufficient. In France during the early 1700s, John Law’s bank issued money on the collateral of land in Louisiana, but that hypothetical land value did not constrain the over issue of the banks’ notes. Then during the French Revolution, the government issued “assignats” on the collateral of confiscated church land, but that too did not prevent the inflation of the money.
Land rent cannot “back” a currency, since there are no uniform units of land that can be exchanged for units of money. But land rent can be a “front” for money when taxes are payable in that currency, which helps give that money its value. But that alone does not prevent an excessive expansion of the money. To stabilize the currency, it also needs to be backed by or indexed to some commodity. And gold has been a common and suitable backing for paper and bank-account currency.
The German experience also shows that the gold backing does not require large amounts of gold. It is sufficient for stabilization that there is some credible limit to the expansion of the money. The Germans were lucky in 1923 in having monetary chiefs such as Hans Luther of the Finance Ministry, and Hjalmar Schacht, Commissioner for National Currency, who maintained the gold index by limiting the expansion of the new currency.
But as the experience of France, shows, it is risky to depend on the integrity of monetary chiefs. Permanent monetary stability requires a structure of money and banking that is self-correcting. That structure is best provided by free-market banking, in which the real money (outside money) is some commodity beyond the control of the banks, and the banks issue “inside money” or money substitutes backed by the real money. Competition and convertibility prevent inflation.
Any kind of tax can serve to help endow money with value, but a land-value tax offers the greatest frontage for currency, because in effect, LVT acts as a mortgage on land value, and the government can take over land when the tax is not paid. Unlike with taxes on income, nobody goes to prison for not paying a real estate tax, because the rent serves as a reliable collateral. Land rent can serve as collateral not just for real estate loans, but also for taxation, and for currencies. All countries can have “renten money” when they covert from market-hampering taxes on production to market-enhancing taxes on the economic surplus that is land rent.
This 2014 excerpt of the New York Times, Jly 1, is by Neil Irwin.
French bank BNP Paribas is paying $9 billion in penalties to the United States for a conspiracy to allow money transfers to Sudan and other blacklisted nations. The penalty is a bit more than the bank’s total earnings for 2013.
The dollar is the global reserve currency. That role gives the United States power over what happens in the world even in spheres that would have little to do with finance. In other words, a French bank must comply with United States foreign policy, which set economic sanctions on those nations, or it will pay a very high price.
The dollar is by a wide margin the most widely used currency for international trade and for foreign governments, wealthy individuals, or corporations looking to park cash. If you are a bank in Paris or Jakarta or São Paulo, you can’t really serve your clients unless you are able to connect them to dollars. Sudan or Iran cannot easily gain access to the global financial system by going to a bank in a more sympathetic country.
President François Hollande of France reportedly gave President Obama an earful about the looming BNP Paribas penalty in a recent meeting.
This unique form of power the United States possesses won’t necessarily last forever. A century ago, the British pound had the dominant global role now held by the dollar.
China is pushing to internationalize the renminbi, and while its currency is being used more for trade within Asia, it has a long way to go to become a truly global currency. (Among other things, China would need to develop a much deeper market for bonds denominated in its currency than now exists, and start allowing the freer transfer of capital into and out of the country.)
But as a practical matter, as long as all roads to the global financial system lead through New York, and the dollar-based payments systems, the US elite will have a leg up in international affairs that other countries may not like very much, but can’t really do anything about.
Ed. Notes: The dollar rules not just because the US and its economy is the biggest but also because the US, for all its faults, is still less corrupt and more reliable than other big nations, like China, Russia, India, and Brazil. If any place wants to supplant the US, all it has to do is get along with its neighbors — practice free trade with them — and treat its own people honestly and fairly — honor contracts and uphold fair laws. Wouldn’t that be a great way to compete? Be more cooperative!
Once a number of currencies reach parity with the dollar, then perhaps they will agree to create a truly global, non-national currency, that would be moderated by a world bank or the UN or whatever agency proves itself to be the most honest and competent.
It might become harder for anyone to impose financial sanctions. Then, instead of penalties, America might improve the behavior of other countries by first improving its own and setting a better example. America could geonomize — create a perfectly fair and efficient economy — and the rest of the world would probably quickly copy what works, just as now they copy American music and fads.
This 2014 excerpt of Global Research, June 4, is by Bernd Hamm.
This paper starts with summarizing the major theoretical elements in the definition of a global ruling class. It then examines how neoconservatives in the US took power and used regime change to create chaos in other regions. A strategy of tension is used to press the population into conformity. But the real revolution is to what extent factual politics escape any attempt to democratic control. Three case studies show how far the Deep State already goes. Democracy is on the brink of survival.
“Illegitimate authority is on the rise and democracy is gradually succumbing to the disease of neoliberal ideology so that more and more functions of legitimate government are being assumed by illegitimate, unelected, opaque agents and organisations. This is the case at all levels, national, regional and international…. It is not exactly news that governments have always governed on behalf of certain class interests but this is different from allowing those interests to actually write the legislation and to make policy directly, including budgetary, financial, labour, social and environmental policy in the place of elected legislators and civil servants. It is different from allowing private corporations deliberately to disseminate deception and lies and undermine the public’s right to know. It’s not just their size, their enormous wealth and assets that make the TNCs dangerous to democracy. It’s also their concentration, their capacity to influence, and often infiltrate, governments and their ability to act as a genuine international social class in order to defend their commercial interests against the common good” (George, S. 2014).
Susan George accurately describes the paths our Western societies are following, the US most advanced, others lagging somewhat behind. It seems to be a one-way process without any escape towards democracy.
The global ruling class feeling that US world hegemony is approaching its end and uncertain about its own fate seems to be obsessed by paranoia, and running amok with only one goal left: to fill as much as possible into its own coffers. It even abstains from the impression of following the rule of law. Belligerent behavior towards other countries goes hand in hand with sharply increasing social tensions and conflict within.
US exceptionalism, by its very definition, is the deep conviction of one’s general superiority over others. Thus, it is a fundamentally intolerant and pre-enlightenment attitude. At the same time, it tends to turn a blind eye against own shortcomings and deficits. From it follows the self-attributed right to teach others, to impose on others one’s role model of morale and of social organization, to exert power on others, to maintain the role of world policeman. Contempt of international law follows from the idea that law is as we do. Little wonder that others in the course of political, economic, and cultural emancipation, decreasingly accept this master-and-serf model of power distribution. There is revolt in other parts of the world, and sometimes violently critical of “the West”. The world will de-Americanize, as one Chinese diplomat put it. But real and lasting change must come from within US society.
Ed. Notes: Except there is no political solution in the sense of stronger laws and better politicians. There is only an economic solution, and that is to share the common wealth. It is our failure to share the common wealth that allows the most grasping among us to gather up for themselves that which belongs to everyone, in the process making themselves into an upper class many times richer and more powerful. We can not continue to leave trillions of dollars on the table each year and expect results any different from what we now endure. To win your political independence you must first demand your economic independence, generated by everybody getting a fair share of society’s surplus, of the values of land, natural resources, EM spectrum, and other aspects of nature that our demands and technologies have given economic value. Once we all start paying in land dues and getting back rent dividends, the problem of power, class, and hierarchy will be solved once and for all.
This 2014 excerpt of the Washington Post, Jun 29, is by Robert J. Samuelson.
We need a shift in thinking, argues the Bank for International Settlements. Pay less attention to the business cycle and more attention to “the financial cycle.” It typically lasts 15 to 20 years and may straddle several traditional business cycles. In its early years, the debt levels of households and businesses gradually increase. This drives up asset prices — especially of real estate — and makes debtors feel richer. This is the cycle’s expansive phase. But when financial booms turn to busts, defaults multiply, asset prices collapse. The fallout lingers.
The Great Recession has inflicted enduring economic damage. Business investment has lagged. Many workers have dropped out of the labor force. Conventional business-cycle analysis didn’t anticipate these steep losses. Low interest rates by the Fed and other government central banks have only modestly helped recovery.
Given the financial cycle’s ugly climax, governments should shift their focus from smoothing business cycles to preventing excessive debt, counsels the BIS. “Good policy is less a question of seeking to pump up growth at all costs than of removing the obstacles that hold it back.”
This 2014 excerpt of the Weekly Wastebasket, Jun 27, by Taxpayers for Common Sense.
The Export-Import bank, by loaning money to foreign buyers of U.S. products and providing loan guarantees and insurance-like products for U.S. exporters, became a favor-factory for politically well-connected corporations trolling for corporate welfare; airlines and oil and gas development are where the Ex-Im is most heavily exposed. Currently the Ex-Im has nearly $114 billion in liabilities.
Both the Government Accountability Office and the Inspector General have repeatedly criticized it for shoddy management, bad accounting, and faulty risk analysis, including CBO’s determination last month that using realistic accounting methods, the bank’s claimed “profits” for taxpayers will actually turn into at least $2 billion of losses. It lost more than $5 billion in the 1980s — back when billions meant something.
Roughly three-quarters of the total assistance the Ex-Im made in 2013 went to just 10 large companies —- including John Deere, Caterpillar, and Dow Chemicals —- with fully a third going to Boeing. The “Bank of Boeing” is a Washington scheme where the politically well-connected, and the companies financing them, can get a sweet deal while taxpayers foot the bill. Privatized profits and socialized risks.
Adding insult to fiscal injury, four Ex-Im employees were suspended or removed due to allegations of gifts and kickbacks. There have been at least 74 documented cases of improper behavior since 2009. Ex-Con(vict)gressman William Jefferson (D-LA), who was caught with a $90,000 bribe stuffed in his freezer, got the cold, hard cash in part by promising to push for an Ex-Im loan.
Last year the Ex-Im decreased its loaning activity, yet overall U.S. exports actually increased. With the September expiration of the Export-Import Bank, the best path forward is to do what this Congress has shown it can do best — nothing. To protect taxpayers, Congress needs to let the Ex-Im expire.
Ed. Notes: By now, we all should be tired of politicians spending our money “for us”. Let’s abolish all subsidies already. Instead, we ought to share the common wealth. All those trillions we spend each year in America for things nobody made — like land, oil, the EM spectrum — we should redirect all that spending into the pockets of we the people in general. It’s the populace who give natural resources their value and nobody’s labor or capital brought them into existence. If we all paid land dues, we could axe taxes. If we all got rent dividends, we could abolish subsidies, especially waste such as the Ex-Im Bank.
This 2014 excerpt of Vox, Jun 27, is by Joseph Stromberg.
When we find an open spot on the street, and there’s no meter, it seems free — but it is the result of government spending. The cost of the land, pavement, street cleaning, and other services come directly out of tax dollars. Each on-street parking space is estimated to cost around $1,750 to build and $400 to maintain annually.
People who don’t drive cars pay for other peoples’ parking. Cities that depend on cars make it more difficult for people who don’t use cars to get around.
Most city governments (with the exception of New York, San Francisco, and a few other dense cities) require all new buildings to include parking spaces. This too costs money. In Washington DC, the underground spots many developers build to comply with these minimum requirements cost between $30,000 and $50,000 each. This cost ultimately gets passed along to consumers.
Mandating that developers build many spots of free parking — instead of letting demand determine how much parking is necessary — often wastes space on unnecessary empty lots and garages.
So do away with both minimum and maximum numbers of off street parking for new buildings.
The annual free parking subsidy to cars is as much as $127 billion nationally. For daily commuters that park free, this subsidy can be worth more than the cost of driving, on a per-mile basis.
When people drive around looking for parking, this adds to traffic congestion and carbon emissions. When homes have parking, residents drive more. OTOH, where parking is bought, more people use public transit.
The gas tax reflects the idea that car drivers should pay for driving on the roads. Include parking on the streets. Charge the right price — the lowest price you can charge and still have one or two open spaces per block. Several cities, including San Francisco, have recently begun experimenting with the variable, market-set pricing scheme.
Cities should not just put new parking revenues into their general funds but pay for new street lighting, public wifi and all sorts of infrastructure improvements that revitalize downtown.
Ed. Notes: It’s not just drivers who should pay to park — it’s all land users should pay to use land. Every time you displace others who want to use the same spot, then you should compensate them, just as they would compensate you.
You buy or build a house, you pay for the underlying land, but not to an individual seller who’s departing the land but rather to your surrounding community. No individual seller made the land nor made it valuable. The community creates the land’s value (by creating demand for locations) and it’s the members of the community who get excluded.
In effect, we’d rent from our neighbors as they’d rent from us. Continually paying rent would spur us to take no more than we need and to use that wisely. Society would get to enjoy the most efficient land use possible and the healthiest environment. Plus, the land dues could replace counterproductive taxes and the rent dividends (the compensation) could replace addictive subsidies. We could streamline government and save vaults of money. Just adopt the geonomic principle of pay for what you take, not what you make.
This 2014 excerpt of Reader Supported News, Jun 27, is by Carl Gibson, 26, is co-founder of US Uncut. Carl and other US Uncut activists are featured in the documentary “We’re Not Broke,” which premiered at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival.
Through four Congressional committees — foreign relations, armed services, homeland security, and “defense” appropriations — $300 billion in taxpayer dollars, which is roughly $2000 per taxpayer, went to private military contractors in 2013.
Between the two of them, Senators McCain and Durbin received more than $300,000 in campaign contributions from contractors. Members of the Senate who voted YES for military intervention in Syria received 83 percent more in campaign donations from military contractors than those who voted NO.
Contractors hire expensive lawyers with connections in government.
The Hogan Lovell law firm, where Chief Justice John Roberts previously worked before joining the Supreme Court, explicitly boasts on its website about its expertise in helping corporate clients worm their way through the regulatory system.
Justice Antonin Scalia worked in the Jones Day law firm before Ronald Reagan appointed him to the Supreme Court. Jones Day’s client list includes war profiteers like Bechtel, General Electric, and Verizon.
In 2010, both Scalia and Roberts voted to establish money as speech in the Citizens United vs. FEC decision, which allowed for corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money influencing elections. Recently, both justices voted that aggregate limits on individual campaign donations are unconstitutional in McCutcheon vs. FEC.
Contact Carl Gibson at email@example.com and follow him on twitter at @uncutCG. See source
Ed. Notes: The money that corporations spend on office holders is not to persuade anybody, since they all have the same values and worldview, but to keep flow of public money to each player flowing ever faster. There is no political solution. Reformers want electoral campaigns to be publicly funded, but the nations already doing that still wage war and waste public revenue.
But there is an economic solution. That is, let citizens spend public money by having government disburse a dividend. And don’t let government tax whatever it wants but only recover socially generated values (don’t tax earnings, purchases, or buildings but rather charge polluters, resource depleters, and land displacers).
Once politicians can’t grant favors, nobody will want to lobby them. Then we can abolish corporate welfare and deny rent-seeking. There won’t be anyone unduly rich to try to influence the power structure left. Such geonomic reform begins not by focusing on one’s opponents but on a vision of how to run things right. Share the common wealth!
a way to have everybody pulling on the same end of the rope. Last summer’s expansive forest fires shed light on growing class resentment in the West. Old loggers and ranchers rankled at the new urgency to stamp out the blazes that threatened the recent Aspenesque settlers. The newcomers expected working class firemen to make protecting their expensive homes top priority. (Chr Sci Mntr, Spt 7) The tinder for this envy? Rich people moving in bid up the price of land, making it hard to afford by people on the margin. The fault really lies with our system of privatizing land value. If this rising value were collected by land dues and shared by rent dividends – the essence of geonomic policy – who’d complain? The more people move in, the higher the land value, and the fatter the dividend paid to residents. Then people on the margin might go out of their way to invite rich outsiders in.
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.
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.
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.
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.
a way to have everybody pulling on the same end of the rope. Last summer’s expansive forest fires shed light on growing class resentment in the West. Old log-gers and ranchers rankled at the new urgency to stamp out the blazes that threatened the recent Aspenesque settlers. The newcomers expected working class firemen to make protecting their expensive homes top priority. (Chr Sci Mntr, Spt 7) The tinder for this envy? Rich people moving in bid up the price of land, making it hard to afford by people on the margin. The fault really lies with our system of privatizing land value. If this rising value were collected by land dues and shared by rent dividends – the essence of geonomic policy – who’d complain? The more people move in, the higher the land value, and the fatter the dividend paid to residents. Then people on the margin might go out of their way to invite rich outsiders in.
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 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.
a study of Earth’s economic worth, of the money we spend on the nature we use, trillions of dollars each year. We spend most to be with our own kind; land value follows population density. Besides nearness to downtowns, we also pay for proximity to good schools, lovely views, soil fertility, etc. These advantages, sellers did not create. So we pay the wrong people for land. Instead, we should pay our neighbors. They generate land’s value and deserve compensation for keeping off ours, as they’d pay us for keeping off theirs. It’s mutual compensation: we’d replace taxes with land dues – a bit like Hong Kong does – and replace subsidies with “rent” dividends to area residents – a bit like Alaska does with oil revenue. Both taxes and subsidies – however fair or not – are costly and distort the prices of the goods taxed and the services subsidized. By replacing them and letting prices become precise, we reveal the real costs of output, the real values of consumers. Then, just by following the bottom line, people can choose to conserve and prosper automatically. A community could start by shifting its property tax off buildings, onto land – a bit like a score of towns in Pennsylvania do; every place that has done it has benefited.
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.