Six More on Tax Sanity, and Monbiot on Leftist Whimpiness
|June 12, 2014||Posted by Staff under Good Press|
Before the list gets any longer, here are a half dozen more references to an ideal reform in the rest of the media. These 2014 excerpts are of: (1) Albany’s Metroland, May 22, on MONOPOLY by Miriam Axel-Lute; (2) Ireland’s Independent, May 25, on planners by Ronan Lyons; (3) Mondaq, Jun 2, on owning Scotland by Gillian Campbell and Ainsley MacLaren; (4) The Economist, Jun 9, on fast trains by E.H.; (5) The Guardian, Jun 10, by George Monbiot; and (6) Sightline Daily, Jun 10, on urban renewal by Jerrell Whitehead and Clark Williams-Derry.
Who Owns the Land?
Monopoly was first invented under the name The Landlord Game to illustrate the problematic effects of private land ownership and the system of rents. Elizabeth Magie, who created the game in 1902, was a follower of Henry George, the economist who proposed a single tax on land value, and was in his own time a wildly popular author and public figure.
Thomas Paine, author of The Rights of Man: “Man did not make the earth, and though he had a natural right to occupy it, he had no right to locate his property in perpetuity in any part of it . . . It is the value of the improvement only, and not the earth itself, that is individual property” (Agrarian Justice, 1797)
And Abraham Lincoln: “The land, the earth God gave man for his home, sustenance, and support, should never be the possession of any man, corporation, society, or unfriendly government, any more than the air or water.”
Sometimes I think those of us who want to question some very fundamental things about how our culture does things fall into the trap of thinking we’re the first ones to be considering questioning them, or at least the first in anything like our context and culture. It can make any radical change feel rather more impossible than it necessarily is.
Our Planners Want to Land Us In Trouble Again by Not Listening
We could scrap all the various developer contributions, levies and charges, we could also scrap industrial and commercial rates, stamp duty on properties and, of course, the local property tax and replace them all with a single unified land value tax that raised the same revenue and stimulated building where it is viable.
Who Owns Scotland?
The Land Reform Review Group is an independent review group set up in 2012. Their full report sets out 62 recommendations focused on the public interest and making the most of land in Scotland
give local authorities the right to force the sale of vacant or derelict land; and
tax land value taxation as an alternative to council tax, but this appears to have been quickly ruled out by the Scottish Government.
Reaction to the report has generally been positive. However, large landowners and their supporters have seen it is a fundamental attack on their property rights.
Why Japan’s High-Speed Trains are So Good
JR East, the largest by passenger numbers, does not require any direct public subsidy from the Japanese government, unlike the heavily-subsidised TGV in France. JR East owns all the infrastructure on the route: the stations, the rolling stock and the tracks.
JR East owns the land around the railways and lets it out; nearly a third of its revenue comes from shopping malls, blocks of offices, flats and the like.
Even so, 71% of the revenue from passenger tickets at JR East comes from the conventional, slower railway. Countries looking to lay down speedy new tracks might want to consider investing in their existing railway lines as well.
Ed. Notes: It’s not necessary for the railway to own the land. A public transit authority could tax it and dedicate the raised revenue to building and maintaining the mass transit system. Fares could still cover the cost of operation.
Unchallenged by Craven Labour, Britain Slides towards ever more Selfishness
Research across 70 countries suggests that intrinsic values are strongly associated with an understanding of others, tolerance, appreciation, cooperation and empathy. Those with strong extrinsic values tend to have lower empathy, a stronger attraction towards power, hierarchy and inequality, greater prejudice towards outsiders, and less concern for global justice and the natural world. These clusters exist in opposition to each other: as one set of values strengthens, the other weakens.
They tend to report higher levels of stress, anxiety, anger, envy, dissatisfaction and depression than those at the intrinsic end. Societies in which extrinsic goals are widely adopted are more unequal and uncooperative than those with deep intrinsic values. In one experiment, people with strong extrinsic values who were given a resource to share soon exhausted it (unlike a group with strong intrinsic values), as they all sought to take more than their due.
As extrinsic values are strongly associated with conservative politics, it’s in the interests of conservative parties and conservative media to cultivate these values. When people feel threatened or insecure, they gravitate towards extrinsic goals. Perceived dangers – such as the threat of crime, terrorism, deficits, inflation or immigration – trigger a short-term survival response, in which you protect your own interests and forget other people’s.
Values and baselines keep shifting, and what seemed intolerable before becomes unremarkable today.
Labour treats the deficit as a threat that must be countered at any cost. Its report says not a word about plugging the gap with innovative measures such as a Robin Hood tax on financial transactions, a land value tax, a progressively banded council tax or a windfall tax on extreme wealth. Nor does it mention tax avoidance and evasion.
The party says it will be “radical in reforming our economy” in support of “a determinedly pro-business agenda”. They appear to believe that success depends on becoming indistinguishable from their opponents.
It evinces a near-perfect psychological illiteracy. When a party reinforces conservative values and conservative ideas, when it fails clearly to expound any countervailing values, when it refuses to reverse the direction of the values ratchet, what outcome does it expect, other than a shift towards conservatism?
To Revitalize Downtowns, Tax Land Speculation
Downtown Seattle holds some of the most valuable real estate west of Minneapolis and north of San Francisco. Yet a stroll through Seattle’s urban core reveals unwelcome surprises: rundown, decrepit buildings; empty land parcels; and surface parking lots on prime real estate, just blocks away from high-rises worth tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars.
Is an underused (at midday), 63-spot parking lot the new normal for downtown Seattle? It shouldn’t be. Proximity to jobs, people, retail, and transportation should have made parcels like these ideal targets for new homes or office buildings. Yet a two-decade boom in downtown real estate has passed such sites by.
For example, the Eitel Building is a a stone’s throw from Pike Place Market, Seattle’s number one tourist attraction, and has been unoccupied above the ground floor since the 1970s. This marks four full decades of neglect and decay. Its immediate neighbor is a 38-floor glass and steel structure touted as “the West Coast’s most successful condominium high-rise.” Sorry, no vacancies, and resale prices begin at the low $1,000,000s!
These present just a few examples. There are plenty of other badly underutilized properties dotting the landscape of downtown Seattle, other major cities throughout the Northwest, and beyond.
Under today’s tax rules, leaving a lot empty, or letting a building slowly rot, gives the property owner a light tax bill. These land speculators become free-riders: their properties rise in value, sometimes dramatically, because of the hard-fought efforts by neighbors and city government to create vibrant and attractive downtowns. Yet many land speculators detract from the value of their neighborhood by leaving productive land derelict or by allowing buildings to disintegrate.
So what’s the solution to all this underutilized land? A land-value tax, or LVT. Shifting taxes from buildings to land would make downtown land speculators’ tax bills soar, creating powerful incentives to put high-value land to more productive uses — and diverting growth from lower-value properties in the suburbs.
The greatest advocate for the tax was 19th century economist Henry George, whose seminal work Poverty and Progress (1879) argued for a “single tax” on land.
Arden, Delaware (1900), and Fairhope, Alabama (1894) are extant, small Georgist single tax “colonies.” On a larger scale, Altoona, Pennsylvania in 2013 became the only US city that has a pure land-value tax.
Just because something is hard doesn’t mean it isn’t worthwhile. What’s required to get the LVT moving are equal doses of legal and political daring from determined champions that are willing to make the case for a fairer, more effective tax system.