We wish all our readers a very happy New Year!
Let 2002 be a surprising year of advances for worldwide economic justice. If you do your part, others will be more likely to follow your leadership and do likewise.
Last year we asked our readers to share their Georgist New Year resolutions - once again we invite you to share your resolutions with your fellow readers.
Please remember that your own reports, remarks, and rejoinders are always very welcome. Deadline for the February issue: January 20.
You can always reach the Georgist News at firstname.lastname@example.org
CONTENTS: (to return here just click the headline)
The next several months are going to be very exciting for UK Georgists. We are featuring in conferences in London and Liverpool, and we have engaged a firm to give "Land & Liberty" a makeover to help market our Progressive Forum and its activities. 'PF' goes international at the World Congress of Surveyors in Washington D.C. in April and that month also sees the head of the British HG Foundation feature on a panel at the third Global Conference on Environmental Taxation in Woodstock, Vermont.
The Lincoln Institute has awarded me a third and final Fellowship in LVT (land value taxation), to help Liverpool develop its plans for a pilot of 'Smart Tax'. This is despite my Study Tour of Pennsylvania in March finding very little to convince us that the PA model is the right one for the UK. Personally I came away believing that there has to be clear vision and intent (preferably by Government as well as Georgists) that LVT is a national levy: pilots are merely desirable for raising the level of informed debate about how exactly to do it nationwide. In any case, despite devolution there is not the same bottom-up structure of finance in the UK public sector, so the chances of autonomy being given to more than a few pilot local authorities to introduce LVT is extremely slim.
The Liverpool Conference "Regeneration from the Ground Up" on Feb 22 is sponsored by MACE - an international management consultancy - as well as by Lincoln (through my Fellowship). We will have Ted Gwartney telling us how land can be assessed; Frank Finnigan telling us why and how it works for Pittsburgh's Downtown Partnership and Philadelphia Controller Jonathan Saidel speaking about that city's plans to introduce it. Several Study Tour members will give their take on what they saw. The Conference is being co-chaired by a local Labour MP (Louise Ellman) and the President of the Institute of Civil Engineers, Sir Jo Dwyer, who also chairs Liverpool Vision, the city's regeneration arm.
In October 2002 at the Greater London Authority, Georgists will host a half-day seminar for London's political classes on Regeneration. Bob Kiley, American Transport Commissioner for London (who is interviewed by Paul Brandon in the next issue of L&L) will say why he favours LVT. He will also do this on March 12 for the movers and shakers in London's regeneration and transport investment industries, who are expected to pay up to £500 ($700) for a day on "Financing Transport Infrastructure from Land Values", organised by a specialist company that publishes and organises conferences for this industry. There will be a workshop on the subject "Can Land be Valued in the UK?" and three Georgist speakers, including Fred Harrison.
Progressive Forum has acquired its first private sector corporate member, the international property development consultancy Atis REAL Weatheralls, based in London. Its consultancy director Jeremy Edge is collaborating with Tony Vickers' research into global practice in the use of Land Value Maps. Edge will also speak at the Waterfront conference in London on 12 March.
We expect these events to be noticed!
GN Comments: Vickers and his colleagues must be busy indeed. If you want to help, contact The Henry George Foundation of Great Britain at email@example.com
On Wednesday, January 30, 2002, a forum will take place on the topic "Would a Land Tax Spur Economic Growth?" The forum will meet at the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia and will run from 8 AM to 12 noon.
We should all thank Ed Dodson, director of the School of Cooperative Individualism, for assembling this event. Reaching many nonGeorgist audiences, the forum's sponsoring organizations include: the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission, Fannie Mae, the Greater Philadelphia Urban Affairs Coalition, the Henry George Foundation of America, the Institute for the Study of Civic Values, the Local Initiatives Support Corporation, the Pennsylvania Economy League, the Pennsylvania Low Income Housing Coalition, the Philadelphia Association of Realtors, and 10,000 Friends of Pennsylvania.
A second, similar forum will be held on February 20.
To find out how you can attend, or how you can help, contact Ed Dodson by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Land Reform Scotland acts as expert witness to the
Parliamentary Local Government Finance Inquiry
The Scottish Parliament's Local Government Finance Inquiry today (11th December 2001) took evidence on the subject of Land Value Taxation. There have long been calls from many corners of Scottish society for reform of the existing property tax system.
The Inquiry is the Parliament's response to that pressure. The present composite arrangement of 'Council Tax' charged on domestic properties, and 'Business Rates' on commercial properties - levied on land and buildings in both cases - is seen in many quarters as being unfair.
The Parliamentary Inquiry is wide-ranging, and explicitly includes land value taxation. Land Reform Scotland had already submitted a substantial document of written evidence to the Inquiry, back in May. That earlier work had been prepared with the aid of David Mills and the English-based Land Value Taxation Campaign. The submission had set out the detailed arguments for the introduction of land value taxation, and also the case against both the existing system and the other proposed alternatives.
Today's session was opened by Arthur Midwinter, Emeritus Professor of Politics at Strathclyde University. Widwinter had only small complaints about the existing system, and offered only minor proposals for reform. Widwinter argued for keeping any reforms quite modest.
He advocated an incremental approach to change, citing the example of the 'Poll Tax' (claimed by some as Margaret Thatcher's downfall). Midwinter opined that the Poll Tax had been a radical idea, and argued that the political problems that followed its introduction were the inevitable consequence of adopting radical ideas.
The stage thus set, Land Reform Scotland was invited to present its evidence. Three witnesses were provided: Peter Gibb, the organisation's Executive Director, acted as lead witness, and was supported by Fred Harrison of the Centre for Land Policy Studies, and Dr Duncan Pickard.
In his introductory presentation, Gibb rejected Professor Midwinter's "extremely cautious, exclusively focused and rather gloomy arguments and proposals." These were, said Gibb, "insufficient in the new Scotland." He went on to point out that "the experience of the Poll Tax is not an argument against a radical approach." The Poll Tax failed, Gibb said, "not because it was radical, but because it was unjust."
Picking up that point later, Harrison added that while "Professor Midwinter says that a radical tax is likely to fail and that modest incremental changes are more likely to succeed.... the problem with such statements is that modest changes within the existing pool of policies will continue to go nowhere, with the result that we will always be short of resources to pay for people's health. That way we will never have enough money to pay for the teachers or policemen that we want. History tells us that that is so. Because of the constraints on people's earning capacities that are imposed by taxation, we will never get ahead of the game."
Gibb then asked the Inquiry, rhetorically, whether there was "not a way of settling our social and economic affairs that would result in social justice being available for everyone." Going on to answer his own question, he confirmed that "such an arrangement of our social affairs does in fact exist." He added that it was "based on a radical social analysis that actually has its roots in the seventeenth century Scottish enlightenment. That thinking, born [there] two hundred and fifty years ago, is now taking root all around the world, as part of a new global 'green' economics."
Harrison stressed the reasonableness of the proposal that was being set out - "Land tax is a conservative and traditional source of revenue - in many ways, it is the natural and ancient source..."
Dr Pickard, a farmer by trade, faced insistent questioning on the impact of LVT on agricultural land - mainly from his own constituency member of parliament, the Liberal Democrat Iain Smith MSP. Smith was worried about farmers passing on the extra cost of LVT, in the form of higher food commodity prices, asking "can you explain where my basic economics is going wrong?" Dr Pickard pointed out that "when rates on agricultural land were abolished [in 1931], the rental value of the properties increased to compensate. In other words, rent plus rates tend towards equality. If you wanted to impose a land value tax on agricultural land, the rents that are currently paid would fall to compensate. That is why there would be no increase in food prices."
Gibb said that land value taxation "offers us the framework of a new social paradigm." He asked the Inquiry to recognise the need for a new way of understanding the world. On the phenomenon Georgists call 'seeing the cat', he pointed out: "the world in which our ancestors lived their lives was obviously flat, right until the moment that Galileo's penny dropped. So it is with the Land Value Taxation penny."
The urgent need for reform was brought home by the witnesses. It was pointed out that the structure and the character of our conventional taxation systems today were developed in a pre-democratic age. Gibb argued that "Modern democratic society has never yet had the opportunity of really examining the roots of what it has inherited." He added that he hoped that this task "now falls on this Committee of the Scottish Parliament."
Land Reform Scotland said it could offer the Inquiry the expertise and assistance of a "growing international network of some seventy organisations around the world which advocate the introduction of Land Value Taxation." Interest was also expressed in an informal colloquium event, where the Inquiry Committee could discuss the topic off the record with experts in the field.
It is hoped that Land Reform Scotland will be invited back to the Inquiry at a later stage.
The Official Report of the meeting, including a verbatim record of what
was said, as well as PDF files of the written evidence and papers
submitted by Land Reform Scotland and the other witnesses, is available on
the Scottish Parliament website at:
GN Comments: Big thanks to Peter Gibb for this very thorough report.
Barriers to the Rehabilitation of Affordable Housing, Volume I (Findings and Analysis) and Volume II (Case Studies), are the result of a cooperative research agreement between HUD (the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development) and the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and examine the major barriers to housing rehabilitation.
The research team, led by David Listokin of Rutgers University, reviewed relevant literature, conducted case studies, and convened study groups of real estate developers, nonprofit leaders, architects, and other professionals who face barriers to affordable housing rehabilitation.
To download the PDF files or to order Barriers to the Rehabilitation of Affordable Housing, visit the HUD USER Web site at: www.huduser.org/publications/destech/brah.html
GN Comments: We are glad to see such reports, and thankful that they are being offered to the public free of charge. However, the reports do leave a lot to be desired. Property taxes, which are a major impediment to housing rehab, are only given a small amount of consideration. One section of the report even declares that property taxes are not really a barrier to rehab, because property taxes also apply to new construction. What strange reasoning! If a thief explains to you that he steals not only from you, but from your neighbors as well, does this mean that he is not really a thief at all?
At any rate, have a look at these reports. You will find some good material.
Because there is no tax on wages or capital, and there is free trade, the two computers cost $100 each, which you can well afford with your $100,000 wage as a dishwasher.
Indeed, there are two computers in your bathroom, two in your car, two in your bedroom, two in your work room, and you wear two when walking, one in your pocket or purse and one in your shoe. Your computerized shoe will scan the area for banana peels and loose dogs.
The Third Annual Global Conference on Environmental Taxation takes place Friday, April 12 - Saturday, April 13, 2002, at the Woodstock Inn, Woodstock, Vermont USA.
For more information about the agenda, the speakers, the sponsors, and information on how to register, visit: www.vermontlaw.edu/elc/envirotaxconinfo.cfm
For more information, visit the conference web site at www.organizedresistance.org/
This message is coming to you from Steve Schwartzman, the elder son of Jack Schwartzman. If you haven't already heard, I'm sorry to tell you that my father passed away on the afternoon of November 30, 2001. As recently as the preceding week he'd spent the days around Thanksgiving with his daughter and his 3 grandchildren in New Jersey, but his breathing had grown increasingly difficult in recent times due to an underlying heart condition.
After Thanksgiving he entered a hospital on Long Island and things went downhill pretty quickly. Luckily all 3 of his children, his only brother, and both of his nieces were able to be there on the last day, and my father retained his humor and his intelligence right to the end - something that should come as no surprise to anyone who knew him.
My father published Fragments, sometimes sporadically, from 1963 to 2001. It occurred to the family that a final, commemorative issue of his long-lived magazine would be in order. Anyone who would like to submit reminiscences or tributes for inclusion can send them to me in Austin, Texas, where I live, and where my father was planning to spend a few weeks beginning December 20. Submission by e-mail would be the best way, since articles wouldn't have to be retyped, but if you pass the word along to someone who would like to write a piece and doesn't have e-mail, conventional mail will be okay.
With your help, this last issue of Fragments will be one to remember.
Box 4351, Austin, TX 78765
Work joyfully and peacefully, knowing that right thoughts and right
efforts will inevitably bring about right results.
- James Allen