We are Hanno Beck, Lindy Davies, Fred Foldvary, Mike O'Mara, Jeff Smith, and assorted volunteers, all dedicated to bringing you the news and views that make a difference in our species struggle to win justice, prosperity, and eco-librium.
This 2014 excerpt of the Washington Post, Jun 27, is by Jaime Fuller.
According to a new Pew survey, 62 percent of Americans think that the economic system unfairly favors the powerful, and 78 percent think that too much power is concentrated in too few companies. The discontent isn’t limited to liberals; 69 percent of young conservative-leaning voters and 48 percent of the most conservative voters agree that the system favors the powerful.
Business conservatives hold vastly different views of the American economic system than most Americans. Two-thirds of business conservatives think the economic system is fair to most people, and 57 percent think that large companies do not have too much power.
Business conservatives’ confidence in the economic system might differ from everyone else, but business conservatives are politically active enough to make a big impression on politicians.
Ed. Notes: Now Americans must consense on the solution: Shift from letting politicians spend our public dollars to paying citizens a dividend and shift from taxing our efforts to recovering the common wealth — the worth of Earth. Even small steps in this geonomic direction have made a big difference, whenever and wherever tried. If only geonomics had its own Senator Warren!
In a study from California, children with an autism spectrum disorder were 60% more likely to have mothers who lived close to fields treated with certain pesticides during pregnancy.
Proximity to agricultural pesticides in pregnancy was also linked to other types of developmental delay among children.
“Ours is the third study to specifically link autism spectrum disorders to pesticide exposure,” said lead author Janie F. Shelton, from the University of California, Davis.
Pesticides affect signaling between cells in the nervous system, she added, so a direct link is plausible.
California is one of only a few states in the U.S. where agricultural pesticide use is rigorously reported and mapped.
Developmental delay, in which children take extra time to reach communication, social or motor skills milestones, affects about four percent of U.S. kids. One in 68 children has an ASD, also marked by deficits in social interaction and language.
Prenatal exposure to pesticides is associated with lower IQ.
This study almost certainly underestimates the true strength of the association between pesticides and neurological problems since it did not precisely measure each individual woman’s exposure.
For city-dwelling families, instead of spraying for cockroaches every month, integrated pest management is a better choice. That approach makes chemical pesticides the last resort – first steps are to seal up cracks and crevices in the home, clean up food residue, and try relatively non-toxic options, like roach motels.
Ed. Notes: People should quit accepting as normal or OK that some pay pollute others for profit. One main culprit is the liability limits that any polluter can get from the government for just a tiny filing fee. That fee should be raised and some pollutants should not be tolerated at all.
Maybe it would help if we all got our fair share of the worth of Earth. Then we’d get more as the earth got healthier. So we would more stoutly oppose pollution.
Thousands of children are entering the US to escape threats by drug gangs and drug lords. The US has for many years exported its war on drug users to Mexico. The increasing force applied in Mexico has driven the drug dealers to Central America, and now the governments of those countries are being increasingly corrupted and destabilized.
Anti-immigrant voices in the USA are obsessed with the effects of their policies, the child migrants, and seek to strengthen immigration barriers rather than confront the causes. The children are not coming to the USA to take advantage of welfare aid. They are fleeing from physical danger.
The drug gangs in Central America are forcing teenagers to join them, or else get killed. That is how they recruit new members. That is why children are fleeing.
US immigration policy contributes to the problem. With legal immigration restricted, and paths to legal residency blocked, immigrants are forced to work in the underground economy, where they are vulnerable to being arrested by the immigration authorities. The undocumented persons then become victims of extortion rackets. Traffickers tell parents that their children left behind in the home country are in danger, and demand money to bring them into the USA. But often the children are abandoned in the desert or used to carry drugs.
The US government is telling the Mexican government to do more to stop children from entering Mexico. But when a child’s parents have been killed in the drug war, and the children are threatened with death, they will swim across rivers, trek through jungles, and cross deserts to save their lives. The US government is committing policy child abuse by refusing to remedy the causes.
Now US government officials are offering the Central American governments aid to programs to keep children in their home country. But until the violence stops, children will not stay in a school where the drug gangs will kill them or make them miserable.
The only way to stop this tragedy is to end the war on drug users and to legalize immigration. Children are not being victimized in the production and sale of alcohol, because it is legal. When a substance is legal, there is a competitive market, and profits are competed down to normal. There is advertizing, and goods can be transported and traded at normal costs.
When a substance is illegal, we get turf wars and coerced children. The criminal systems treat minors with special care, especially when they have been forced to help criminals. Therefore, the drug lords use helpless children, who are also more dependent on adults.
Besides decriminalizing drugs, as Portugal has done successfully, the US should legalize the immigration of all persons who are not threats. US policy has created violence in Latin America, and then the US refuses entry to the victims of that violence.
Critics of immigration claim that the new residents take jobs from American citizens. This claim has been disproved by economic studies. But immigrants would be even less dependent on governmental welfare if labor were fully legalized. It is illegal even for American citizens to freely engage in labor in the USA; the penalty for labor is a levy on the wages earned. When labor is fully legal, it is free of any tax or minimum wage law. A tax on wages has an excess burden or deadweight loss, making it a penalty for working.
In this way, three deeply unjust policies have created the crisis of immigrant children. First, the prohibition of drugs drives the industry towards drug lords and gangs that enslave children, who seek escape by emigrating. Secondly, anti-immigration policies make children have to suffer long and dangerous trips without protection, to evade immigration controls, and risk getting deported. Third, the children are not allowed to work, work opportunities for undocumented adults are limited, and legal labor is suppressed with heavy taxes.
One hundred years ago, prior to World War I, the US did not suffer this inflow of children. The causes were absent. There was no war on drugs, there were no immigration barriers, and there was no tax on wages. Millions of immigrants entered legally, became employed, and contributed to American prosperity. Now we have a declining labor participation rate, drug violence, and a big immigration problem. Our technology is better, but smarter phones will not save us from fundamentally bad government policy.
This 2014 excerpt of Aeon, Jun 23, is by Andrew Crumey.
In nearly every era there arises, in some form, nearly every idea of which humans are capable. Certainly, there is the emergence of new ideas. However, the vast majority of ideas are recycled.
It is not hard to find fossilised ideas all around us. We still say that the sun rises and sets, or that we cast a glance over a page, though we know that the Earth rotates and rays come into our eyes, not out of them.
There are an awful lot of present-day theoretical physicists whose untestable ideas about superstrings or multiverses possibly put them in the same category as the jocular British pop-astrologer Russell Grant.
Intuition, however, could be considered revelation by a more secular name. We willingly attribute it to discoverers and innovators of all kinds – as long as their guesses are right.
The standard model of elementary particles grew out of studies of ‘symmetry groups’, an area of mathematics related to Kepler’s geometrical exercises. In each case, the idea was the same: start with a concept of mathematical symmetry and try to make it match reality.
The harmony of the spheres also has its counterpart in modern-day superstring theory, which supposes particles to correspond to those same vibrations that captivated the Pythagoreans, though, after more than 30 years of intensive study, the theory has yet to make a single prediction borne out by experiment.
An ‘occult force’, in Newton’s terms, was any hidden principle not directly observable in phenomena, and his opponents claimed that his version of gravitation was itself an occult force since it assumed some mysterious ‘action at a distance’. An analogous situation was thought by some to arise in quantum theory, leading to what Albert Einstein allegedly disparaged as ‘spooky action at a distance’.
Newton sought the original unit of length. In a different way, so do today’s physicists, though rather than cubits they speak of the ‘Planck length’, a unit determined by some juggling with fundamental values such as the speed of light and the gravitational constant.
The recurrence of ideas over the course of history is something that Jung or Pauli would have attributed to archetypes in the collective unconscious. An alternative would be the finiteness of human imagination, and susceptibility to cultural influence. While scientific theories can become increasingly technical and abstract, the brains that struggle to interpret their meaning haven’t evolved much in the past 50,000 years. If our own brain is a kind of living fossil, it’s hardly surprising that so much of what we do with it is metaphorically fossilised too.
Ed. Notes: So what’s new under the sun? Not much. Some ideas re-occur — as if they were behind their times — just as other ideas first appear, often without being accepted — as if they are ahead of their time. At least the re-occurence of good old ideas gives them another chance of being accepted, just as at last geonomics is gaining ground, over a century after Georgism, which which was over a century after phyiocracy, which was a century after Locke, Spinoza, William Penn, etc, and all of them were millennia after Confucius and Mencius.
This 2014 excerpt of BBC, May 15, by Jonathan Webb.
Researchers have developed a collection of new plastics that are recyclable and adaptable – and the discovery began with a laboratory mistake.
They include strong, stiff plastics and flexible gels that can mend themselves if torn.
Dr Jeanette Garcia, from IBM’s Almaden Research Center in San Jose, stumbled upon the first new class of thermosets in many years when she accidentally left one of three components out of a reaction.
That chunk of plastic, produced from unexpectedly simple ingredients, proved to be tremendously hard and stable. Crucially, it could be digested in acid, reverting to its original components. This digestion reaction allows the chemical building blocks, or monomers, to be reused.
All previous “thermosets”, like the Bakelite found in old telephones and radios, were not recyclable.
Because they are strong and light-weight, thermosets are used throughout modern cars and aircraft, often mixed with carbon fibres to form composites. The new plastics could reduce waste from aircraft materials. When a large or expensive component is damaged or reaches the end of its useful life, it could be repaired or recycled instead of thrown away.
As well as very hard and durable plastics, the researchers adapted their procedure to a different monomer and produced flexible, self-healing gels. These could be useful in anything from cosmetics, to paint, to the design of drug capsules, because of their particular solubility properties.
Ed. Notes: Industry catches up to kindergartners who know to clean up after themselves. As the environment becomes more livable again, it will cost more to live in it. Hence we better have progress in social policy to match the progress in materials technology. That is, we should make the higher land values into a boon for everyone by recovering and sharing them, in lieu of taxation and wasteful spending. It’s called geonomics and aligns the needs of Earth with those of humanity.
This 2014 excerpt of Daily Kos, Jun 20, is by Hunter, a blogger there.
According to a new poll 47 percent of us aren’t monsters.
In 1995, in the midst of a raging political debate about welfare and poverty, less than a third of poll respondents said people were in poverty because of issues beyond their control. At that time, a majority said that poverty was caused by character flaws, by “people not doing enough.” Now, nearly half of respondents, 47 percent, attribute poverty to factors other than individual initiative.
In hard economic times, people become more sympathetic to the poor. About half us recognize that there are things that can make you poor —- from simple lack of opportunity to medical crises to local economic conditions to a not-very-long string of bad luck —- that do not stem from a simple case of insufficient bootstrap-pulling.
Ed. Notes: Perhaps next, a majority of Americans will accept the cure for poverty, which is distributing the common wealth fairly, rather than let a 1% hog most of it. To accomplish that, we’d all pay in land dues and get back rent dividends, swollen by the values of locations downtown, oil fields, the EM spectrum, etc. The land dues could replaces counterproductive taxes, the dividends could replace wasteful subsidies. Most people would come out way ahead. We’d be free to work as much as we want, at what we love, and to deveop our talents in anyway we want.
These two 2014 excerpts on LVT, Jun 26, are of NICVA by Elizabeth Hendron and of The Guardian by Simon Goodley and Leila Haddou.
Tax Land, Not Houses
NICVA’s Centre for Economic Empowerment has launched a new report into the feasibility of introducing a land value tax in Northern Ireland.
Under the current system of taxation, charges are levied on land and the improvements – typically buildings – together, with no distinction made between the two.
Under a system of Land Value Tax, the charges would be levied on the land only, with improvements subject to zero or minimal taxation. If introduced it could mean that land bought by developers but not developed, and agricultural land could be taxed for the first time.
This would shift the burden of real estate taxation towards less productive activities, particularly speculation on land, which is a major source of property bubbles. LVT would be a progressive tax, with the most deprived paying least.
Seamus McAleavey, chief executive of NICVA said, “House prices in Northern Ireland are on the rise again. As before, this has been widely welcomed as an indication of economic progress. It is important to ensure that any price rises are a sustainable result of real economic growth, rather than speculation. In this context, this report is crucial reading.”
Inflated property values merely increase indebtedness and reduce economic output.
People who have low incomes and modest homes should continue to receive rates relief, as currently applied. People with low incomes but with expensive properties could defer payment until the property is sold.
Tesco, the UK’s largest supermarket chain, is hoarding land and buildings covering an area big enough to build 15,000 homes, a Guardian analysis has revealed.
While the aggregate size of Tesco’s land bank could theoretically be used to build many homes, it is distributed across Britain, with some plots likely to be unsuitable for housing.
Some of the portfolio is residential property or rented to other retailers, but the majority is undeveloped. Tesco last year said its UK property empire was worth £20bn.
The hoarding of development land for long periods has also drawn criticism in the house building sector – which owns far larger plots of land than the supermarkets.
Fred Harrison, an economist who has called for land to be taxed as if the sites were in use, added: “Given there is a market demand for it and we know the value, you can charge the owners for the public services that make the land valuable. Then they lose money if they just sit on it with no revenue”.
This 2014 excerpt of Lebanon’s Alakhbar, Jun 17, by Alain Tabourian, industrialist, Minister of Energy and Water from 2008 to 2009, and graduate of the Harvard Business School.
I do not see any future for industry in Lebanon, and definitely not a world-class industry.
Private investors who enter into partnership with the public sector in an unstable region of the world assume a Weighted Average Cost Of Capital (WACC) of 15 to 20 percent.
Still, a major international company reached out to us for collaboration on establishing a world-class production unit in the food industry, which would have employed 1,000 people. It was found not to be feasible due to the high price of agricultural land, which was about 10 to 20 times the global average.
High land prices here have no corresponding economic justifications. Who could believe that our locations produce 10 to 20 times more than elsewhere?
High hotel room rates keeps Lebanon off the global tourism market.
Everything has high prices because of excess liquidity that has no room to be invested productively except in inflating bank deposits or buying up real estate. Acquisition of real estate does not result in any cost. A person may keep a piece of land for 30 or 40 years without paying any fees, then sell it at a huge profit without paying any tax.
Investors in the real economy bear many risks even as they employ people. If these investors profit, they pay taxes, first on profits, and second on distribution. Is that fair? Does this encourage productive investments?
The solution is not to increase tariffs. Doing so would reduce the consumers’ purchasing power, reducing their demand for the rest of goods and services, and subsequently, cause the entire economy to contract.
The rentier economy is also directly responsible for the migration of our young people. The Lebanese economy does not create enough value-added jobs that can accommodate the capacities of educated young people.
These young people send remittances to support their families. Meanwhile, we import low-wage workers for simple jobs, and these workers in turn send a large part of their incomes to their home countries.
We had a war that caused widespread destruction, and we had to rebuild. We benefited from external cash inflows, which drove consumption up. At the same time, oil prices rose, and the incomes of Lebanese expatriates improved, increasing the size of their remittances to Lebanon. Of course, the energy bill skyrocketed, but money was available to pay it thanks to remittances. We also benefited from the global debt crisis of 2008, which reduced interests to zero in the major economies, reducing the cost of our debt and increasing the flow of capital. However, all these factors are precarious.
Ed. Notes: It is painfully ironic that economic troubles are easy to solve logically and hard to solve politically. Imagine if Lebanon taxed land or instituted land dues; there goes speculation and the inflated price for locations. Imagine if Lebanon repealed taxes on wages and on profits from actual output; there goes the scarcity of capital as domestic savings and investments from outside pile up. Imagine if Lebanon did not subsidize any industry or product, not even fuel for heating homes; there goes waste to be replaced by upgrading the means of production. Make these geonomic reforms and maybe Lebanon could lead the Middle East to peace and prosperity.
This 2014 excerpt of the New York Times, Jun 17, is by Michael Forsythe.
President Xi Jinping of China has been pushing his own family to sell hundreds of millions of dollars in investments. If he doesn’t do this, it is very hard for him to convince other elite families to be more self-disciplined.
Xi’s sister Qi Qiaoqiao and brother-in-law Deng Jiagui sold investments in at least 10 companies worth hundreds of millions of dollars, including their 50 percent stake in a Beijing investment company they had set up in partnership with a state-owned bank.
Even while Mr. Xi’s relatives were selling off assets, those calling publicly for more disclosure have been jailed. The websites of The Times and Bloomberg, which have both reported on elite shareholdings, have been blocked in China for many months.
Relatives of the Politburo elite are deeply enmeshed in the state-driven business culture of the country. They have accumulated billions of dollars in assets, including company shares and real estate, in the past decade as China’s economy has boomed. Many of the investments are in areas such as mining, infrastructure, and property that involve the privatization of formerly state-owned assets.
At least four families among the nine-man Politburo Standing Committee that ruled the country from 2007 to 2012 each owned or controlled documented assets in excess of $150 million, including relatives of Xi, former Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, Zhou, and Jia Qinglin (the former fourth-ranked party member).
Deng through a Shanghai holding company owned more than one-sixth of a rare-earth mining company that reported assets of about $2.1 billion. Rare earths go into critical components in electric cars and wind turbines.
Qinchuan was set up in the weeks after Xi ascended to the Politburo Standing Committee in 2007 with $2.7 million in investments, ballooning to $156 million four years later. Deng and Qi did not sell three of its most valuable assets held by Qinchuan, including two infrastructure companies in the city of Xiangyang in Hubei Province. The three assets are together worth at least $234 million.
On Oct. 8, ownership of Qinchuan itself was transferred out of the family and into the hands of a longtime business associate, Xu Zaisheng. Qi, her husband Deng, and her daughter Zhang Yannan still hold tens of millions of dollars in company shares and real estate, including a villa overlooking Hong Kong’s exclusive Repulse Bay.
Surging income inequality in China is among the highest in the world and far greater than in Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan: neighbors that, unlike China, do not have Communist roots.
Ed. Notes: These details from China show how government creates fortunes, a universal process, that happens in all times and places, even in so-called market economies. In the US, investors and politicians both got rich off railroads. Oil companies, thru their lobbyists and the banks they spun off, enriched helpful politicians along with the businessmen. Governments paid for paving roads which made it possible to sell millions of cars. Governments bought millions of desktop computers and developed the internet, paving the way for fortunes to be made in Silicon Valley. If government is to have a role in industry, then the resultant profit should go to the public. Or better yet, politicians should not give or receive favor from any players in the business world.
This 2014 excerpt of Wired, Jun 12, is by Jordan Golson.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced that his company will not “initiate patent lawsuits against anyone who, in good faith, wants to use our technology.” In plain English, that means that if other car companies want to produce electric cars, they can use Tesla’s technology to do it.
Of course, Tesla wants to make and sell electric cars (it exists to make a profit, theoretically), but in order to do that on a large scale, the company needs to move past the niche markets that the Model S currently plays in. They need the public to stop thinking of them as electric cars and to start thinking of them simply as cars.
“They need to see Americans … at least be open to switching to an electric vehicle lifestyle,” Kelly Blue Book analyst Karl Brauer said. By themselves, “they’re never going to convert the average American into an electric car fan, even with great press and great publicity.” A $90,000 electric car for celebrities and the Silicon Valley elite isn’t going to save the world.
At the moment, the Model S is the only electric car that acts as a true replacement for a more traditional gasoline-powered automobile, with its 200+ mile range and network of rapid charging stations that stretches from coast-to-coast across 96 stations in the US, with dozens more coming in North America, Europe and Asia. Not enough people are interested in electric cars with 70-100 miles of range, as Nissan and others are discovering.
If other automakers begin using Tesla’s technology, it increases the value of the company and its inventions. Tesla has hundreds of patents, but if the company goes bust because not enough people buying electric cars, they’re all meaningless. Tesla needs widespread adoption of electric cars and the easiest way to do that is to get other automakers to sell them too.
Ed. Notes: This is not the only time that it’s not a good idea for an inventor to hoard his discovered knowledge. Actually, it’s rarely a good idea. Patents and copyrights don’t protect inventors so much as they benefit corporations who use the legalisms to post “no trespassing” signs on the field of knowledge, hampering the spread of good ideas.
Competition and cooperation work best together, not apart. More beneficial to inventors is getting a head-start in business, establishing a brand identity, and capturing huge market share (see Apple).
Of course, inventors deserve to be rewarded for their useful creations. But is owning and hoarding knowledge the best way to do that? Preventing everyone else from using a good idea when they’re not the first to realize it?
Should ownership go on forever? Should the descendants of Newton be paid every time somebody uses calculus? Should no one ever repeat a joke without paying the person who first told it?
Does the first person who stepped on the moon own the moon? Nope. Not unless they compensate everyone else who also wants to and can visit the moon. That’s what makes owning land — or ideas — proper … or “property”, and that is compensating those excluded. Pay the rental value of land, or of knowledge, to society and it is yours … for as long as you keep paying your neighbors (as they’ll be paying you in your harmonious geonomy).
This 2014 excerpt of Fortune, Jun 10, is by Chris Matthews.
When we think of government corruption, our biased minds often gravitate to thoughts of military juntas and third world governments. But corruption is everywhere, in one form or another. And it’s costing U.S. citizens big time.
Corruption on the state level is costing Americans in the 10 most corrupt states an average of $1,308 per year, or 5.2% of those states’ average expenditures per year.
Between 1976 and 2008, there have been more than 25,000 convictions of public officials for violation of federal corruption laws. Further, state spending reveals patterns of corruption.
Based on these data, the the most corrupt states are:
8. South Dakota
Mississippi and Louisiana are some of the least economically developed states in the country. Illinois and Pennsylvania are part of the Rust Belt. Alaska is resource rich.
For 9 out of the 10 of the most corrupt states, overall state spending was higher than in less corrupt states (South Dakota was the only exception). Attacking corruption could bring down state spending without hurting programs that benefit people.
Spending in these states was different than their less corrupt counterparts; it favors construction, salaries, borrowing, correction, and police protection at the expense of schools and hospitals.
Construction spending, especially on big infrastructure projects, is particularly susceptible to corruption because the industry is dominated by a few monopolistic, well-connected firms. Corrupt states also have more and better paid public employees, including police and correctional officers, who may have more to do where residents are kept poor.
The least corrupt states are: Oregon, Washington, Minnesota, Nebraska, Iowa, Vermont, Utah, New Hampshire, Colorado, and Kansas. All are in the North, are either mountainous or prairie, and several are play states.
Ed. Notes: Government officials can’t be corrupt if they can’t spend public money. There is no good reason to continue to allow them to enjoy this ppwer. The budget could be put on the ballot and bonds could be offered for sale for infrastructure projects; if they don’t sell, the project dies. If we could clean up public spending, then next we could correct taxation. And once we straighten out the state and local governments, then we could shape up the federal government … and finally live in a citizen-friendly nation — a geocracy!
This 2014 excerpt of Weekly Wastebasket, Jun 06, is by Taxpayers for Common Sense.
With the near-trillion dollar farm bill now law, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) shovels out cash for at least 55 new programs, reports, and studies for everything from catfish inspection and cotton trust funds to studying the marketability of U.S. Atlantic Spiny Dogfish and conservation of the Lesser Prairie Chicken.
Instead of eliminating wasteful, outdated, and ineffective programs, the farm bill created a whole new alphabet soup of agribusiness income entitlement programs – Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC), Supplemental Coverage Option (SCO), Price Loss Coverage (PLC), and Stacked Income Protection (STAX) to name a few.
These programs only add more waste to highly subsidized crop insurance for more than 120 crops; this number will soon balloon as Congressional mandates for “priorities” such as sugarcane, swine, and sorghum (used as a bioenergy crop).
USDA just dispensed $6 million to universities, extension offices, and even a crop insurance consultant to create “decision tools and educational materials” designed to tell producers [who mainly now are not families but corporations] to squeeze the most money out of the programs.
USDA is delaying enrollment until spring 2015 so producers will be picking their “safety net” for their 2014 crops after they’ve already harvested and sold them. It’s like being able to make your poker bet after you’ve seen everyone else’s cards.
Ed. Notes: You really must rein in your politicians if ever you’re to save money and save land. Real farmers don’t need subsidies. All they need is zero taxes and fines upon fake farmers who ruin land and raise crops of low nutritional value.
Farmers, by living in the country, enjoy one huge advantage over others — the land rent they pay is much less per acre than that paid by people leasing city land. If everyone paid land rent into the public treasury and got a rent share back, country folk would come out way ahead, compared to urban dwellers.
Then maybe farmland could catch a long needed rest.
This 2014 excerpt of the New Economics Party, Jun 6, is by Deirdre Kent.
Like the formation of a river from the small streams to the river to the sea, create a new national currency at Local Board level and pass it up the line. Then the monetary authority, in conjunction with the monetary authorities of the supercities and the government, would make sure the local board did not issue more money than it was allowed, as inflation must be kept strictly under control.
We aim to move to a tax system that taxes the monopoly use of the commons rather than labour and sales. Some revenue will be distributed as a Citizens Dividend to all citizens who have lived there for a year or more, the rest will be shared by all levels of government.
Government pays you for your land, and the title of your property then bears a covenant, an obligation to pay a ground rent from then on, whoever owns the land. The tenure is for a lifetime, with rights that your descendants can get the next lease.
Land rents are stable over time. When there is a major event like an earthquake they decline or when a railway is put in or a labour intensive business arrives they rise more than just a tiny bit.
Councils and Government should never sell land. They should keep it and auction the leases to the highest bidder, then share that revenue with the public (via a Citizens Dividend) and the central government. This should be entrenched in law.
This 2014 excerpt of Dirt Diggers Digest, May 29, is by Phil Mattera.
More than half of corporate miscreants (146 of 269, or 54 percent) have received state and local subsidies. These include cases in which the awards went to the firm’s parent or a “sibling” firm. The total value of the awards comes to more than $25 billion.
A large portion of that total ($13 billion) comes from a single company — Boeing, which is not only the largest recipient of subsidies among corporate miscreants but is also the largest recipient among all firms. Boeing made the Justice Department list by virtue of a 2006 non-prosecution agreement under which it paid $615 million to settle criminal and civil charges that it improperly used competitors’ information to procure contracts for launch services worth billions of dollars from the U.S. Air Force and NASA.
Not all the subsidies came after that case was announced. In the period since 2006, Boeing has received “only” about $9.8 billion.
The other biggest subsidy recipients on the list are as follows:
Fiat (parent of Chrysler): $2.1 billion
Royal Dutch Shell (parent of Shell Nigeria): $2.0 billion
Toyota: $1.1 billion
Google: $751 million
JPMorgan Chase: $653 million
Altogether, there are 26 parents on the DOJ list that have received $100 million or more in subsidies. As with Boeing’s $13 billion figure, the amounts for many of the companies include subsidies received before as well as after their settlement.
Ed. Notes: Soon’s you get tired of such corruption, let’s put a stop to it. Quit letting politicians subsidize anybody. And quit fining the corporation but instead punish the CEOs and managers making the decisions.
If not subsidizing, government could save so much public revenue it could climb out of the red. The biggest “subsidy” is letting corporations keep “rents” (society’s payments for land, resources, etc). Once government recovers those socially-generated values, it could not just end counterproductive taxes but even pay citizens a dividend!
If corporations can’t profit when not getting taxed on creating value and when people are endowed handsomely in order to become customers, then the corporation deserves to go broke.
This 2014 excerpt of CalTech, Jun 5, is by Cynthia Eller.
If you’re trying to outwit the competition, it might be better to have been born a chimpanzee. The study involved a simple game called the Inspection Game. To win repeatedly, players have to accurately predict what their opponent will do next.
The game is common in everyday lives. An employee may want to work only when her employer is watching and prefers to play video games when unobserved.
However cleverly you play the Inspection Game, if your opponent is also playing strategically, there is a limit to how often you can win. Unlike humans, chimps learned the game rapidly and nearly attained the predictions for optimal play. They continued to do so even as researchers introduced changes into the game.
Chimpanzees excel at short-term memory; humans find it much more challenging. Further, wherever humans sit on the cooperative/competitive scale, common chimpanzees are more competitive. They continuously update status and dominance hierarchy.
The “cognitive tradeoff” is probably a key. Acquiring capacities such as language and categorization caused human brains to lose other capacities, such as intuiting another’s strategy. In the experiments, humans were not allowed to speak with one another.
Ed. Notes: When humans got TV, they quit reading. When they got literacy, they quit story-telling. So when they got language, what did they quit? ESP? That’s my theory, which did not make me very highly regarded in grad schools decades ago. But guess what? Now the cutting-edge linguists at last agree! So if linguists can open up to “intersubjectivity”, can economists finally open up to the role of rent about which so many of us are in denial?
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 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. Better settlement patterns do reduce extraction upstream and pollution downstream.
Politically, green fees have less impact if applied locally; local is where grassroots movements have more impact. Yet getting rent usually entails shifting the property tax (or charging user fees), the province of local jurisdictions; both mayors and city voters have been known to adopt a site-value tax.
Ethically, putting into practice “tax bads, not goods” skirts the issue of sharing Mother Earth which collecting rent confronts head on. Since nothing is fixed until it’s fixed right, ultimately, greens must lead humanity into geotopia where we all share the worth of Mother Earth.
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 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.
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 new field of study offered in place of economics, as astronomy replaced astrology and chemistry replaced alchemy. Conventional economics, in which GNP can do well while people suffer, is a bit too superstitious for my renaissance upbringing. If I’m to propitiate unseen forces, it won’t be inflation or “the market”; let it be theEgyptian cat goddess. At least then we’d have fewer rats. Meanwhile, believing in reason leads to a new policy, also christened geonomics. That’s the proposal to share (a kind of management, the “nomics” part) the worth of Mother Earth (the “geo” part). If our economies are to work right, people need to see prices that tell the truth. Now taxes and subsidies distort prices, tricking people into squandering the planet. Using land dues and rent dividends instead lets prices be precise, guiding people to get more from less and thereby shrink their workweek. More free time ought to make us happy enough to evolve beyond economics, except when nostalgic for superstition.
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 discipline that, compared to economics, is as obscure as Warren Buffett’s investment strategy, compared to conventional investment theory, about which Buffett said, “You couldn’t advance in a finance department in this country unless you taught that the world was flat.” (The New York Times, Oct 29). The writer wondered, “But why? If it works, why don’t more investors use it?”
Good question. Geonomics works, too. Every place that has used it has prospered while conserving resources. Yet it remains off the radar of many wanna-be reformers. Gradually, tho’, that’s changing. More are becoming aware of what geonomics studies – all the money we spend on the nature we use. Geonomics (1) as an alternative worldview to the anthropocentric, sees human economies as part of the embracing ecosystem with natural feedback loops seeking balance in both systems. (2) As an alternative to worker vs. investor, it sees our need for sites and resources making those who own land into landlords. (3)As an alternative to economics, it tracks the trillions of “rent” as it drives the “housing” bubble and all other indicators. And (4) as an alternative to left or right, it suggests we not tax ourselves then subsidize our favorites but recover and share society’s surplus, paying in land dues and getting back “rent” dividends, a la Alaska’s oil dividend. Letting rent go to the wrong pockets wreaks havoc, while redirecting it to everyone would solve our economic ills and the ills downstream from them.
People must learn to stop whining so much and feel enough self-esteem to demand a fair share of rent, society’s surplus, the commonwealth.
a scientific look at how we divvy up the work and the wealth, how some of us end up with too much or too little effort or reward. That’s partly due to Ricardo’s Law of Rent, showing how wasteful use of Earth cuts wages. And it’s partly due to how a society’s elite runs government around like water boys, dishing out subsidies and tax breaks. While geonomists look political reality right in the eye, without blinking, conventional economists flinch. When Paul Volcker, ex-chief of the Federal Reserve, moved on to a cushy professorship at Princeton cum book contract, the crush of deadlines bore down. So Volcker asked a junior associate to help with the book. The guy refused, explaining that giving serious consideration to policy would ruin his academic career. The ex-Fed chief couldn’t believe it and asked the department chair if truly that were the case. That head honcho pondered the question then replied no, not if he only does it once. And economics was AKA political economy!
an economic policy based on the earth’s natural patterns. Eco-systems self-regulate by using feedback loops to keep balance. Can economies do likewise? Why don’t they now produce efficiently and distribute fairly? The answers lie in the money we spend on the earth we use. To attain people/planet harmony, that financial flow from sites and resources must visit each of us. Our agent, government, must collect this natural rent via fees and disburse the collected revenue via dividends. And, it must forgo taxes on homes and earnings, and quit subsidies of either the needy or the greedy. As our steward, government must also collect Ecology Security Deposits, require Restoration Insurance, and auction off the occasional Emissions Permit. And that’s about it – were nature our model.