The Vast Flow of Payments for Owning or Using some of Nature
Discover Startling Statistics (data up to 2000)
in a quiz of 20 questions.
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Test Your GQ (Geonomic Quotient) - Quiz 5
How much society spends for nature, for land and resources, is immense, more than people spend to reward other people for their contributions of labor or capital. Show what you know about this spending, which economists call a surplus, and so could become our common wealth to share.
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When negotiating a lease, how much of the value of the oil in the ground (as measured by a percent of world price) does Alaska get? This one of the United States gets 12.5%. According to a University of Wisconsin publication, how much does Malaysia, a foreign government, get?
To take without paying is sometimes called stealing. Oil companies take oil from public land without paying, owing the US (according to USA TODAY) how much in back royalty?
Who’s the 400 pound gorilla in the industrial world? Of FORTUNE 500 earnings between 1978 to 1980, a Congressional report cited by Greenpeace found oil companies getting what percent?
Kuwait pays its citizens a dividend from oil royalties – which is why citizenship for foreigners is so hard to win. Paying its residents a share of the royalty from just this one resource, oil – not from other resources or from surface sites – how much does Alaska pay out as a dividend each year on average? Over
How much rent is there? The Washington, DC Metro system by 1981 had spent $3.5 billion on plant, equipment, and land acquisition, yet according to Walt Rybeck, aid to former Congressman Henry Reuss, had increased land value by:
Building a nine mile stretch of New York highway cost $125 million in 1995 then according to researcher Bill Batt added how much value to adjacent land?
Hong Kong funds 4/5 of its budget with ground rent, yet does not collect all the rent available. Were Hong Kong to collect, it could fund all of its budget plus pay dividends. How much rent, figures a Lincoln Institute study, does Hong Kong collect?
It’s the location, remember? If in 1979 you had enough money to afford all of Japan, how much America could you buy:
How much rent is there? For the UK, Prof. Ronald Banks in Costing the Earth (p 40) estimated that as much as what fraction of national income is rent:
In Aspen (CO), where housing costs have gone ballistic, to qualify for their housing subsidy, your income, according to the NYTNS in 1998, must be no more than:
Affordable describes Pittsburgh’s housing. This feature, plus other advantages, won the Steel City Rand-McNally’s “Most Livable Award” twice. Pittsburgh’s property tax – which falls mostly on land, not buildings – collects how much per capita compared to other neighboring big cities?
a lot less
a little less
a little more
a lot more
It’s not all theory. While nowhere is it fully in practice, some places use geonomics partially (collect, even share, some rent; cut, even end other taxes). Which of the following does not now:
The father of geonomics was the 19th century reformer, Henry George. His followers founded common-ground colonies. Which is not a Georgist colony?
New Town (TN)
Free Acres (NJ)
Incomes leak. There’s: taxes, the collateral damage of taxes (lost invest-ment, lost time hassling with extra bookkeeping and forms, etc.), privatized rents, the collateral damage of privatized rents (higher land costs, lower wages, etc.), and inflation. If we plugged these leaks – ended taxes, shared rents (the policy of geonomics) – that’d be equivalent to how much of a pay raise for the average worker, now making somewhat under $20,000 per year?
50% to $30k
75% to $35k
100% to $40k
125% to $45k
Average family income is about $35,000 in 1998. Average household giving to charity is about:
Donations from corporations, figures GIVING USA (1993), are between what percentage of their pretax income?
The twenty-five richest foundations, worth well over one third of total foundation assets, according to GIVING USA (1993), give what percentage of total foundation giving?
During the depths of the Industrial Era, the workweek got as bad as 80 hrs. – children, too. During the Middle Ages, after a plague wiped out enough people to put labor at a premium and good land at a plethora, the workweek, according to Thorold Rogers of Oxford (1862-1868) was less than:
Must Baby Boomers work so much? Harvard’s Juliet Schor wrote that from 1949 to 1989, the average US worker doubled his output yet did not halve his workweek. If productivity increases were applied toward a shorter workweek rather than to widening the gulf between haves and have-nots, by what year, had we started in 1990, would the workweek be 6.5 hours?
Bucky Fuller calculated that to produce our basics – food, clothing, shelter, medicine, transportation – we could take the required time and divide it by the adult work force, leaving each of us with a workweek whose hours total:
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Our editor published The Geonomist which won a Californian GreenLight Award, has appeared in both the popular press (e.g., TruthOut) and academic journals (e.g., USC’s Planning and Markets), been interviewed on radio and TV, lobbied officials, testified before the Russian Duma, conducted research (e.g., for Portland’s mass transit agency), and recruited activists and academics to the Forum on Geonomics. A member of the International Society for Ecological Economics and of Mensa, he lives in America’s Pacific Northwest.
one of many words I coined over 20 years ago: geoism, geonomics, geonomy, geocracy, etc – neologisms that later others came up with, too. CNBC once had a Geonomics Show, and Middlebury College has a Geonomics Institute. If “economy” is literally “management of the household”, then geonomy is “management of the planet”. The kind of management I had in mind is not what CNBC was thinking – top-down. My geonomics is not hands-on, interfering, but hands-off, organic. It’d strive to align policy with natural processes, similar to what holistic healing does in medicine, what organic farming does in agriculture. Geonomics attends to two key components: One, the crucial stuff to track is fat – or profit, especially profits without production, such as rent, or all the money we spend on the nature we use. Society’s surplus is the sine qua non for growth, needed to counter death – not merely more, but sustainable development, more from less. Two, the basic process to respect is the feedback loop. These let nature maintain balance automatically and could do the same for markets, if we let them. Letting them would turn our economies, now our masters, into a geonomy, our servant, providing us with prosperity, eco-librium (to coin a term) and leisure, time off – a hostile environment for economan but a cradle for a loving and creative humanity.
as unfamiliar as geo-economics. The latter is a course some universities offer that combines geography and economics. A UN newsletter, Go Between (57, Apr/May ’96; thanks, Pat Aller), cited an Asian conference on geopolitics and “geoeconomics”. The abbreviated term ‘geonomics” is the name of an institute on Middlebury College campus and of a show on CNBC. Both entities use the neologism to mean “global economics”, in particular world trade. We use geonomics entirely differently, to refer to the money people spend on the nature they use, how letting this flow collect in a few pockets creates class and poverty and assaults upon the environment, and how, on the other hand, sharing this rental flow creates equality, prosperity, and a people/planet harmony. This flow of natural rent, several trillions dollars in the US each year, shapes society and belongs to society.
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.
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 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 way to connect the dots. Making the cyber rounds is “The Cavernous Divide” by Scott Klinger, from AlterNet (posted March 21): “As the number of billionaires in the world expands, so does the number of those in poverty.” Duh. The yawning income gap is not news. Nearly every issue of our quarterly digest carries a similar quote. Yet the connection was worked out long ago by one of America’s greatest thinkers, Henry George, who labeled his masterpiece, Progress and Poverty. Techno- and socio-advances always enrich few and impoverish many. Yet progress also pushes up location values – the geonomic insight (is Silicon Valley cheaper now or more expensive?). Instead of taxing income, sales, or buildings, society could collect those values of sites, resources, EM spectrum, and ecosystem services via fees and dues, which would lower the income ceiling, and instead of lavishing corporate welfare, pay out the recovered revenue via dividends, which would jack up the income floor. Dots connected.
an alternative to conventional land trusts. Just as it seems some functions should not be left to the market – private courts and cops invite corruption (while private mediation is fine) – just so some land should not be left in the market. That said, sacred sites do not make much of a model for treating the vast acreage of land that we need to use. So the usual trust model, which is anti-use and counter-market, can not apply where it’s needed most. Trust proponents worry about ownership and control – two very human ambitions – but they’re not central. Supposedly, we the people own millions acres – acres that private corporations treat as private fiefdoms – and conversely, the Nature Conservancy owns wilderness the public can some places use as parks. So, the issue is not who owns but who gets the rent – ideally, all of us.
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.
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.
what you do when you see economies as part of the ecosystem, following feedback loops and storing up energy. Surplus energy – fat or profit – enables us to produce and reproduce. To recycle society’s surplus, the commonwealth, geonomics would replace taxes with land dues (charged to users of sites and resources, in-cluding the EM spectrum, and extra to polluters), and replace subsidies with rent dividends to citizens (a la Alaska’s oil dividend). Without taxes and subsidies to distort them, prices become precise, reflect accurately our costs and values; then, motivated by no more than the bottom line, both producers and consumers make sustainable choices. While no place uses geonomics in its entirety, some places use parts of it, most notably a shift of the property tax off buildings, onto locations. Shifting the property tax drives efficient use of land, in-fills cities, improves the housing stock, makes homes affordable, engenders jobs and investment opportunities, lowers crime, raises civic participation, etc – overall it makes cities more livable. Geonomics – a way to share the bounty of nature and society – is something we can work for locally, globally, and in between.
I am not a full devotee of Henry George but there is no one in the social world that I read with more intense interest.
John Kenneth Galbraith, Letter of October 30, 1998
What is the use of a house if you haven’t got a tolerable planet to put it on?
Henry David Thoreau
It is organized violence on the top which creates individual violence at the bottom.
The Democratic and Republican parties, two apparently distinct political entities feeding at the same corporate trough.
I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no brief candle to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have gotten hold of for the moment and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before passing it to future generations.
George Bernard Shaw
When in doubt, tell the truth.
It’s like deja-vu, all over again.
Common sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by age eighteen.
The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.