Winner of the 2013 Washington Post Wonky Award is …
|January 3, 2014||Posted by Staff under Good Press|
This 2013 excerpt of the Washington Post, Dec 31, is by their Wonkblog Team.
Welcome to the third annual Wonky awards, where we recognize outstanding achievements — and spectacular disasters — in policy wonkery. Let’s get to them.
Most worthwhile yet hopeless policy crusade of the year: Land value tax
Most taxes — income taxes, property taxes, sales taxes, payroll taxes, investment taxes, wealth taxes, even consumption taxes — tax things we want to encourage. That’s perverse. So why not change this?
Taxing land would raise enough revenue to replace most all taxes. That’s especially true if you expand the definition of “land” to include other inherently scarce natural resources like oil, coal, natural gas, gems, and water, as UC Riverside’s Mason Gaffney has argued. And the great thing about land, as opposed to income or consumption, is that it doesn’t shrink in response to taxes. We’ve got the land we’ve got. So taxing it doesn’t destroy it. It’s a way to raise a ton of money from rich landowners without any economic distortions.
For more on the case for land taxes, see Jesse Myerson at Salon and Stuart Brittain at the Financial Times. It’s the rare non-trivial policy idea that really does have something in it for both sides, and it deserves more attention.
Ed. Notes: If you’re going to tax people, you really should tax the values that society as a whole generates, such as the value of locations, rather than tax the values that individuals generate, such as the value of their goods and services and efforts and enterprise. The reasons, and there are many, are both ethical and efficient.
But bear in mind you don’t have to tax at all in order to recover the rental value of locations and other components of our common wealth. You could use fees, dues, and leases. And you don’t have to hand over all the “rents” in the world to politicians to spend as they see fit (which is what taxes do) but instead could disburse the raised revenue back to residents as a monthly dividend, their share of the worth of Earth in their region.
And bigger picture still, once you start paying citizens a dividend, then you no longer have any sane reason to subsidize most of the programs that government now make you pay for. You could pare government down to human-scale at the same time you gear up dividends and cultivate the value of land in your region. Indeed, you could eradicate this mad notion of people serving the economy instead of having the economy serve us. Do this geonomic reform of the flow of public revenue and you will have made life on earth as utterly pleasant as possible.