Sec. 1 FROM THE EDITOR Weekly Format / Circulation Drive Sec. 2 RECENT EVENTS *****Ventura: Land Tax Shift a No-Brainer! Georgists MIA in US Sprawl Brawl God's Economic System Under Review Georgist Journalists Impress Heartland Again Sec. 3 ADVANCE WARNING US Dems' Geo-Caucus on Radio Friday Scary New Georgist Journal On the Way Will the Real Libertarians Please Stand Up? What About Earth Day? The Year of Seeing the "Earth" Cat Sec. 4 SUPPLICATION & OPPORTUNITY Help Create a Geo-Farmer Manifesto The Tax History Project Vote on Best Choice for US Tax Reform Sec. 5 REMINDERS What's Up with That? Sec. 6 PERSONAL NOTES & MENTIONABLES Ann Reeves—In Memorium Sec. 7 COMMENTS ON THE GEORGIST NEWS
Salutations, Georgists of the World!
Boy, are you in for it! This edition of The Georgist News may not be as long as usual, but does it lack "oomph"? Check our lead story! This issue focuses on the American front again, but that one may well need some help.
If you appreciate our new weekly release formula, you can thank Alanna Hartzok, Drew Harris and Ted Gwartney for their advice. For my part, I am very grateful. Putting information out weekly allows our staff to cover items more thoroughly without making the newsletter overly long. Thus, they should be easier for you to read while the reports themselves can be even more timely.
Now that that's settled, it's time for The Georgist News' first big subscription drive! Yes! Let's make the recipient list for The Georgist News as long as possible! If you'd like to help out, the first thing to do is make sure all the people you know who would appreciate recieving this weekly report are actually in my address book! Another good idea is to mention the newsletter on bulletin boards and in forums and discussion lists where participants are interested in a better world.
Once folks realize that other news sources have financial reasons to avoid addressing the true source of poverty, crime, war and ecological destruction, they will appreciate your reference to sources of Georgist news such as this, which can counterract the disempowering effects of Un- or Anti-Georgist perspectives.
As you might guess, I'll be waiting excitedly to hear from you about this!
Your Ever-Exuberant Editor,
Oops! (See Sec. 6, GN-2/20/99.) The URL for the US Articles of Confederation is: gopher://ucsbuxa.ucsb.edu:3001/00/.stacks/.historical/Articles of Confederation, 1777
A couple of months ago, my brother called me on the telephone late at night and said that unless there's something wrong with his ears, Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura just told Jay Leno on his popular late night program, The Tonight Show, that he might seek help, in reforming Minnesota, from "the Georgists."
It may just be, however, that my brother's ears were working perfectly! Red hot copy just in from Walt Rybeck:
In an article about Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura in the Washington Post, February 20, writer Terry M. Neal illustrated Ventura's style by noting how he reacted to an administrator's briefing on an obscure Medicare provision. The governor asked him to put it in layman's terms. Following is the way the long half-page article concludes:
The bottom line, the administrator replied, is that the policy rewards inefficiency and punishes efficiency. "Oh, well there you go," he [Ventura] said in his upper Midwest accent, reminiscent of the movie "Fargo." "That goes right against my philosophy. That's kind of like property taxes. If you improve your property, then you're going to owe more money to the government. But you sit there and let your property deteriorate and you owe less taxes. What kind of message does that send?"
John Burger may be leaving Minnesota, but obviously, after decades of plowing the land tax field, he's leaving a lot of his philosophy behind. Let's hope that, perhaps sooner than expected, Burger's great work will bear fruit. - Walt Rybeck
Indeed! Well, Georgist "Body," if you were waiting for some signal from "The Mind," I think that was your cue!
By the way, anyone who doesn't know who Walt Rybeck is can learn a few things
"This morning John Nielsen, an NPR commentator, observed that in the last election there were, nationwide, several hundred initiatives related to controlling urban sprawl, and that this was clearly the local issue of the year... He was referring mostly to greenbelt and public transportation proposals. But if he is right about the spirit of the times, perhaps Georgists can make some hay with their claim of a systemic solution to sprawl."
Similar suggestions abound. In the extreme, for example, "Suburban sprawl is the fastest-growing threat to the environment and quality of life," according to the Sierra Club late last year. Less SC hopefuls fear it's "inevitable."
Sprawl is an issue on which the US landed aristocracy and that of other mal-'developed' nations do seem rather vulnerable. Common sense dictates to the general citizenry that a "green" agenda will not only be the most ecologically efficient but the most atmospherically pleasing and, ultimately, the most financially sound design goal for urban planners. Compounding the gentry's distress could be the obvious impact of property taxes on urban areas and how they grow.
An example of how the urban sprawl focus can accidentally, yet unmistakably draw attention to the land tax shift is a 1997 article by Edward T. McMahon called "Stopping Sprawl by Growing Smarter." It's available online at the PCJ (Planning Commissioners Journal) web site. Rarely does an article promote the land tax shift so well without ever mentioning it. Georgists will even find therein a number of extremely useful statistics such as the results of a Rutgers University study which showed that sprawl costs taxpayers over 20 times what it provides in financial gain to speculators. One can see how both Georgists and Anti-Georgists must experience a piece like this far differently than the average reader: http://www.webcom.com/pcj/articles/look26.html
As described in last week's GN though, the press and both left and right political operatives are fighting hard (perhaps, though, often unwittingly), to delay and obfuscate real land reform. Yet, the focus by such a large percentage of Americans on curbing urban sprawl while examples of comparative effects are readily available (from Pennsylvania, etc.) seems to offer a great opportunity for American Georgists to connect genuine seekers with the real solution. In fact, this may be the very reason for a lot of the discussion circulating on what to do about urban sprawl—sprawl draws unavoidable attention to the land tax shift proposal—something the press must shout down.
Georgists know the ultimate solution to urban sprawl. Maybe the popular new catch phrase,"smart growth," like it's international counterpart, "sustainable development," isn't a sufficiently method-specific description for what society and our ecosystem require. Maybe what's so smart about "smart growth" is that it's a clever way for land speculators to portray themselves as environmental preservationists while further monopolizing land ownership.
In a related piece under "RECENT EVENTS" in GN's last issue, I lambasted the Philadelphia Inquirer for their series on land use. To be fair, I'd like to say that the articles, at least, do contain some fairly Geo-newsworthy statistics.
The editorials, however, I maintain, are either disingenuous or written with inadequate understanding to address the issue of urban sprawl and, therefore, a burden rather than a help to the public in dealing with that problem.
Along the same lines as the PCJ article, Portland's The Oregonian ran a series on rethinking the wisdom of UGBs (Urban Growth Boundaries or "Green Belts,") which also exposes quite a bit of useful information for Geo-activists and advocates: http://www.oregonlive.com/special/issues/growth.html
For example, they report: "In Multnomah County, between 1990 and 1996, home values doubled, but incomes grew by only a quarter. During that same time the number of low-income renters spending more than half their income on housing rose twice as fast as the national average..."
Among many major groups promoting "smart growth" are the Sierra Club and organizations affiliated with the Smart Growth Network (SGN), such as the SCN (Sustainable Communities Network), which asserts that "Local ordinances and tax structures provide the carrot and stick to guide development and other activities that may impact the community." Organizations listed below that, however, include but the Lincoln Foundation in the way of Georgist (?) organizations. Happily, SCN welcomes suggestions for others that visitors would like added there: http://www.sustainable.org/governing/policy.html
Coincidentally, like SCN, though new suggestions are apparently welcome, the closest thing to a Georgist organization on the Sierra Club's list of sprawl links is the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy:
Whether organizations which sponsor discussion boards and so forth might be guided somewhat by landed benefactors, many contacts can be made with people who genuinely seek answers there: http://www.webcom.com/pcj/sprawl/sprawl9.html
The Urban Land Institute, another SGN affiliate, recognizes that "State and Local Tax Policy State and local governments impose a host of taxes and offer an array of development incentives that influence land use decisions," but seems more interested in promoting land speculation than conservation. A preponderence of their web site is devoted to promoting land speculation and development. An example of the clarity of this focus is "Answers to Your Important Questions," the first three of which are assumed to be "How Will I Determine Site Selection and Choosing Hot Markets? Does Place Matter?" and "What Kind of Development?" Urban Land Institute: http://www.uli.org
The Smart Growth Network allows visitors to access many archives of Greenwire, a prominent environmental bulletin. Few of those seem to have much reference to you-know-what, but, a token explication can be found on SGN's Green Development Literature page, under the title, "Summary and Benefits Associated with Alternative Development Approaches":
As one can see from scanning such reports as those of Greenwire, the land tax shift is being completely buried beneath all the talk of land trusts, urban growth boundaries and other sprawl-'busting' techniques that further enrich land speculators and impoverish workers and the poor, forcing the latter to make use of more and more marginal reource. In South America, that resource is often rainforests; in the Phillipines, mountains of festering refuse and in the US, it's often crime.
Last month though, the US President and Vice-President declared that billions in tax money will go toward (under the guise of curbing sprawl) driving up the price of land. Some Georgists are, understandably, frustrated by the ignorance of this program and the delirious praise with which celebratory environmentalists are cheering it, somehow programmed to believe that land-hoarding is nature's salvation. Such events are watermarks of Georgists' failure to prove the falsehood of the "humanity IS pollution" paradigm.
Comments on the White House proposal from Carl Pope, Sierra Club Director, were about the only voice of reason mentioned by press reports: "If we didn't subsidize sprawl, we wouldn't have sprawl. Low-density, habitat-gobbling, traffic-creating growth doesn't pay for itself. It only happens because both the federal government and the states subsidize it." Though Sierra tends to consider sprawl a "transportation" issue, Pope's remarks again demonstrate the tapering shield of land speculation from public scrutiny.
So, as Marks, Pope and others are telling us, perhaps this trend is an opportunity for Georgsists to "reach" a lot more environmentalists. Why haven't government programs been sufficient to alleviate social problems? Such programs drive up the cost of land, where that added wealth, though intended for the poor (or other purposes), is "tapped off" by banks and real estate investors (who also own the press, our universities, pay for most political campaigns and fund most "humanitarian" organizations; nobody else has the extra dough!) Maybe Anti-Georgists have become cocky and will inadvertantly, let "the cat" out of the bag in the middle of America's "sprawl brawl."
Some Georgists strongly suspice the billions proposed for federal land acquisition are, like those now going for highways and 1997's "Landlord Relief Act," simply a means of propping up over-inflated land prices in an attempt to put off the US economy's impending real estate bust. String-pullers may believe that if they can do so for long enough, other global locations will begin to provide "boom" regions of the globe on which to feed. The albeit temporary defeat of the MAI (Multinational Agreement on Investment) last May is now being attributed to NGOs, Non-Governmental Organizations represented at the United Nations, but the powers that be may have simply chosen an international land speculation shell game, realizing that globalization means globalizing "the bust."
A good way to publicize Georgist reform might be to expose anti-sprawl activists to it. Those who truly seek the way for civilization to interact harmoniously with nature are likely to understand exactly why cities expand horizontally at such an unnecessarily fast rate and how that is remedied. Bulletin boards and forums one may find through links mentioned in this item are one avenue for this and email discussions on sprawl are another. The Sierra Club sponsors such a discussion and many others on which Georgists are bound to find converts: http://www.lsoft.com/scripts/wl.exe?xh=lists.sierraclub.org
The malignant "solutions" for urban sprawl being established across America are a call to arms for Georgists. You're the ones who know what to do, so please, speak up.
As most of us realize, there are nearly limitless ways, avenues of communication, whereby many might learn the means of making a better world and, possibly even, saving humanity. When you come across such opportunities, don't forget to share with the rest of the Georgist Movement your ideas for events in which our participation might make a difference. Email your tips to: email@example.com
The February issue of Bible Review, a scholarly, non-denominational periodical for researchers and enthusiasts, features an important article by Michael Hudson, entitled "Proclaim Liberty Throughout the Land."
An insightful and well written document regarding Jubilee and biblical economic systems, Georgists are guaranteed to find Hudson's piece both exhilarating and vastly informational. He explains that the New Jewish Publication Society translation of the original text of Leviticus demonstrates how, according to Moses, in "God's economic system," land is never really bought nor sold: "What he is selling you is a number of harvests ... The land must not be sold beyond reclaim ... Throughout the land that you hold, you must provide for the redemption of the land."
Hudson deals with research showing how, in fact, many of the great ancient cultures mentioned in the Bible, such as in Greece, Sumeria, Egypt and Babylonia, utilized aspects of the same system under different names. The Rosetta Stone, he explains, is a Jubilee or "clean slate" proclamation.
His analysis includes the manner in which such land tenure-based systems were overthrown. Therein, he makes the indicting point that "the old economic laws formed the core of the Torah ..." yet, "... of all the major biblical laws, this most radical one—based on the idea that the Lord, not private appropriators, owned the land—became the first to be cast aside."
Bible Review: http://scholar.cc.emory.edu/scripts/BAS/br.html
Michael Hudson: firstname.lastname@example.org
From Sue Walton -
The latest Heartland Institute Policy Fax catalogue lists 2 georgist articles-one by Steve Cord & one from Common Ground-USA's June, 1998 issue of Groundswell. Here we go again!
Common Ground-USA: http://www.progress.org/cg
Heartland Institute: http://www.heartland.org
Members of the DFC (Democratic Freedom Caucus), Georgist representatives in the US Democratic Party, will be interviewed on Cleveland's Direct Source Radio Friday, March 5 at 5:05 PM EST. For more on the DFC or their upcoming radio appearance, contact Mike O'Mara at: email@example.com
DFC web site: http://www.progress.org/dfc
Marches, protests and demonstrations on behalf of Mumia Abu-Jamal (a sometimes Henry George School correspondence course teacher) are rampant and increasing. The Georgist News predicts another "Mumia Summer" in the US and other places.
As reported in GN-2/6/99, Lindy Davies, Director of the Henry George Institute, is the leading Georgist authority on Mumia's plight. The Georgist News has also learned that Davies' upcoming edition of the extremely popular HGI periodical, "The Georgist Journal" will contain information about prisons Lindy describes as "chilling" and "scary." As we've come to expect, GJ will, apparently, knock our socks off once again.
The best overall Mumia sites I've found: http://www.xs4all.nl/~tank/english.htm
Henry George Institute: http://www.henrygeorge.org
Lindy Davies: firstname.lastname@example.org
Ever since it appeared many months ago, perhaps the most often referenced article in letters to the editor of The Progress Report is Prof. Fred Foldvary's piece on the death penalty. If you haven't yet, read this classic and provocative essay: http://www.progress.org/~banneker/fold56.htm
In the coming issue of The Georgist News, you'll learn more about the extremely newsworthy developments being virtually ignored by both the mainstream and alternative press, about a rapidly growing coalition of environmentalists and libertarians discovering Georgist reform. The roots of libertarianism are often touted as the convictions of such as Jefferson and Paine, but missing nowadays is any reference to that which has bred all liberty and is all that can do so—access to land.
With examples of dissent among the ranks of libertarians on the order of Jefferson and Paine, it should come as no surprise that of the people who founded America's third largest political party in 1971, at least one, David Nolan, is no sell-out. In March, 1995, he published in California Liberty an essay entitled "The Essence of Liberty," which begins,
No Taxes on Productivity
What kind of taxation is least harmful? This is a topic still open for debate. My own preference is for a single tax on land, with landholders doing their own valuation; you'd state the price at which you'd be willing to sell your land, and pay taxes on that amount. Anyone (including the tax collector) who wanted to buy it at that price could do so. This is simple, fair, and minimizes government snooping into our lives and business. Is this "the" libertarian position on taxes? No. But all libertarians oppose any form of income tax.
The above reference was sent in by Todd Altman. Todd's Home Page, by the way, is tremendous. Bookmark and memorize it for helping Libertarians overcome inadvertant neo-classical programming: http://members.aol.com/tma68/todd.html
Unlike Nolan, David Boaz, executive vice president of the Cato Institute, describing the "Key Concepts of Libertarianism" on the first of this year, sees all taxes as being equal and it even seems he would insist that every commodity be taxed at the same rate: http://www.cato.org/dailys/01-01-99.html
Plans to stage major events for the real Earth Day are not panning out as well as hoped so far, but those of us who see the possibilities contained in public awareness of the real Earth Day are, nevertheless, doing all we can to promote the significance of this event. Good things are also taking place and there may even be a truce called in the "Battle of the Earth Days." The next issue of The Georgist News is scheduled to carry an explorative Earth Day update.
I'm sorry I didn't get this into last week's issue of GN, but, here it is now: Gung Hay Fat Chow! Wait, wait, wait! This is good! As you probably know, for the Chinese, each new year does not begin on January 1 but in February. And according to Chinese astrology, we have just entered "The Year of the Earth Cat" (rabbit). So, what does this "mean"? Here's part of the mystical, but promising description of what people can expect this year, from Shelley Wu's Chinese Astrology site:
"Cat years herald changes in the law, Equity, and balance in executive offices. Charlatans, con men and tricksters beware as the justice and balance of Cat years also can bring excessive severity to wrongdoers. A Karmic year in that "what has gone around will finally come around" 1999 will focus on the desire to reach goals, settlements, legal matters, cause & effect, and investments of time. All will feel the pull towards quality, rather than quantity. Mended fences and reconciliation will take precedent, as will righting wrongs and making restitution."
Could this be the year the public becomes aware of "The Scam of the Century"? Will people finally catch a glimpse of the real "Earth Cat"? (Hey, a little luck isn't going to hurt us, is it?)
In this month's edition of Lindy Davies' long running "Land Rant," a scrutinous, yet well posed query has been put to the Henry George Institute, with concern that Georgist reform might drive small farmers off their land. Land Rant always invite commentary and this time, Davies might compile the results into a seminal explanation of Georgist reform's effects on farmers.
Add your thoughts on the subject: http://www.henrygeorge.org
Among other interesting things such as a cartoon gallery and a collection of war bond posters on their web site, the Tax History Project has several statistical pages. One is a breakdown of the percentage of US federal revenues paid by personal income tax, corporate income tax, social security and excise taxes for every year between 1935 and 1998, where one will easily notice that in 1935, corporate income taxes were 14.7 % of total federal revenue and less today. And meanwhile, personal income taxes went from 14.6 % to over 40 %. Also excise taxes (the only which even slightly resemble incentive taxation) have dropped from 34 % to 2.7 %. The Tax History Project: http://www.taxhistory.org
The THP is a project of Tax Analysts, a nonprofit organization "dedicated to providing a forum for discussions of tax policy and practice. By fostering debate, we seek to encourage the development of tax systems that are fair, simple, and economically efficient."
To this end, it seems, they host several email discussions on various aspects of taxation (including its history), archives of which are available to browse: http://www.tax.org/taxa/tadiscus.nsf
In their "National Income Tax Reform Poll," the closest thing to Georgist reform TaxBusters offers is a national property tax. It has recieved the same number of votes as "leave the system the way it is" and half the votes of "abolish federal taxation entirely." Probably since poor people don't have computers, the national sales tax and the flat income tax have recieved the greatest number of votes. As soon as I saw these results, I knew Georgists had not yet visited the site.
Another monachre of TaxBusters is "Concerned Citizens Against Taxes" (CCAT! "See" cat, get it? Never mind...) Affiliated with CCAT are, of course, CATS (Citizens for an Alternative Tax System) which also seems to favor a national sales tax to replace the income tax. However, on their site, at the link, "CATS Chapters," is a list of contact information for a good number of people acros the US who, apparently, are interested in an alternative system of taxation: http://www.taxbusters.org/indexa.html
As reported in GN-1/6/99, Henry George Institute Director, Lindy Davies, has added a terrific new feature to HGI's already great web site. In "What's Up with That?" visitors are invited to inquire as to the "mysteries" of economics. Much to the surprise of many, Georgists are actually able to answer their questions! Don't let Lindy have all the fun though; practice your enlightenment skills: http://www.henrygeorge.org
Visitors to the most popular Georgist internet site, The Progress Report, have voted Field of Schemes the best book of 1998: http://www.progress.org/bestb.htm
The Field of Schemes web site: http://www.fieldofschemes.com
From Clifford Cobb -
Ann Reeves - in memoriam
After more than 30 years of service to the Georgist movement, Ann Reeves died of kidney failure in January of this year in Sacramento, California.
For many years, Ann lived in Marin County, across the Bay to the north of San Francisco, where she was actively involved in promoting the Georgist message. She was serving on two boards at the time of her death: the Northern California Henry George School and the Sacramento branch. She was the president of each of those boards at various times over the years.
People who met Ann only casually at CGO annual conferences may have imagined that she was shy and retiring. However, those of us who worked with her saw a different side of her character. Whenever contentious issues arose, Ann could always be counted on as a voice of reason. She had an amazing capacity to keep her colleagues grounded and to turn fruitless debate into deliberation.
Ann was also dependable. She was a constant source of strength to those around her because her spirit never seemed to falter. Even during the last few years, as her health deteriorated to the point that she was in constant pain, she never missed a local meeting or event, nor did she complain.
Ann also worked to move the Georgist dream out of the classroom into the world. Along with other Georgists, she campaigned successfully to elect Dr. William Filante to the California State Assembly in 1978. Dr. Filante was the last self-identified Georgist in the Legislature when he died in 1992.
Like many Georgists around the country who are never in the limelight, Ann Reeves was a true hero. Her quiet strength and determination will be missed by all who knew her.
"I think you're doing one helluva good job! Thanks." - Bill Batt
"I have been enjoying the Georgist News. Keep up the good work." - Mark Hassed
"... thank you for your good work with The Georgist News." - Walter Rybeck
"Your georgist column was very good,... *Switzerland was settled by Swedes—and William Tell was Swedish, not Swiss. You can look it up!" - Michael Hudson
Thanks, friends! Most of the credit actually goes to all of you and our movement's many Ann Reeves for without all this hopeful Georgist activism going on, I'd have nothing to write about.
Wait...so, Bruno's Swedish after all? (*See Sec. 7, GN-2/20/99) Georgists! We're right even when we're wrong!
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