New bills to move housing and earth are again before legislators. New books by major authors explain the awesome advantages of recovering land rent for public betterment. And organizers offer niches for all, from academic conferences to educational outreach. However you help inch the movement forward, let other advocates the world over know. Tell us your news and opportunities for Georgism, and how other Georgists could help.
The deadline for our May 2006 issue is April 25.
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CONTENTS: (to return here just click the headline)
1. The 2006 CGO Conference
2. Connecticut Update
3. Oregon's Measure 37
4. Dollars & Sense runs Gaffney on Repopulating New Orleans
5. UK's Guardian covers landbanking stifling competition
6. James Robertson's Book on Website
7. New Murray Book Calls for CD to Replace Welfare State
8. Tideman Keynotes US BIG Annual Event
9. Thomas Paine Network to Publish on Land Justice
10. News from our man in Nicaragua
11. Group's Periodic Report Available
12. Homeowner Subsidies: how big in the picture?
13. Declaration of Human Rights based on Equal Freedom Spanish
14. Call for Papers
15. UK Summer Tax Workshop
16. German Land Tax Article a century ago
17. Earth Day, Iran and Star of Hope
18. A Note from the Publisher
19. AT THE MARGIN: Quips and Quotes
20. About The Georgist News
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All you LVT supporters from Connecticut, please contact me for an e-mail discussion of the next step. All others with ideas chime in. Lurkers, just keep posted and know we are working to advance LVT and justice in a state that is fairly sedate about the collapse of its poor urban places and populations.
Oregon's Measure 37, passed into law overwhelmingly by voters, requires government to compensate landowners for any governmental ruling that reduces the value of land, such as keeping farmland agricultural. What effect does Measure 37 have on land values, real estate development, and finance? Portland Metro Councilor and former head of 1000 Friends of Oregon, Robert Liberty, is floating the idea that a fund could be created to offset the fiscal impacts of M37 payoffs. He suggests the fund could be based on revenues from the "unearned increment" when public action increases land values. The letter below, published in the Salem Statesman Journal, elaborates:
The Oregon Supreme Court has decided to uphold Measure 37, voiding land-use laws if the land was purchased before the government action that "lowered" the land's value was enacted, forcing local governments to pay landowners "projected" losses or ignore local-land use laws for this subset of property owners.
In addition, the city of Salem wants to use taxpayer money (in the form of an urban renewal district) to upgrade McGilchrist Avenue so that the industrial property in the area can be developed. Clearly this will dramatically improve the value of the land this road serves.
By using the Measure 37 concept, the city of Salem should enact a law that the property owners must pay the city of Salem the gain of property values (and income) that will arise should the benevolent citizens of Salem decide to upgrade the public right-of-way in front of their parcels.
After all, what's fair is fair! If Measure 37 is the law of the land, then all communities should embrace the inverse of Measure 37 to both offset the cost and to demonstrate the folly of Measure 37 and its implications.
Mark Nassar, Salem.
New on Mason Gaffney's website www.masongaffney.org:
Mayor Nagin of New Orleans tells the world that Katrina wiped out most of his tax base, so he is impotent. By contrast, in 1907 San Francisco Mayor Taylor's Committee on Assessment, Revenue, and Taxation reported sanguinely that revenues were still adequate. How could that be?
After the quake and fire of 1906, San Francisco bounced back so fast its population grew by 22% from 1900-10, in the very wake of its destruction. It grew another 22% from 1910-20, and another 25% from 1920-30, becoming the 10th largest American city. It did this without state or federal help; without expanding its land base, as rival Los Angeles did; while providing wide parks and public spaces. How did San Francisco do it?
San Francisco continued to collect property taxes, which post-fire amounted to pure land taxes, and used them to rebuild. If now New Orleans fails to collect property taxes, it will allow absentee speculators to gum up the land market, impeding coordination between residents who seek to rebuild.
History offers numerous examples of cities that pulled themselves up by their own bootstraps after a disaster. New Orleans can too.
Today's decision means that Tesco, J Sainsbury, Asda and Morrisons - the dominant players in a sector which accounts for 13% of consumer spending - will be exposed to the full glare of the commission, something that environmentalists, suppliers and consumer groups have long wanted.
Tesco shares dipped almost 2% after the OFT's announcement.
The OFT said that overall it believed competition between supermarkets and their expansion into the convenience sector had benefited consumers through lower prices, an apparent increase in choice and an improvement in quality.
It added, however, "In some locations consumers have a more limited choice of outlets, and concerns have also been raised over the impact of the decline of independent retailers on the overall choice and range available in the convenience retailing sector."
The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) welcomed the announcement, but said the review was too narrow.
"As well as the planning regime and property management of the big four, there are other matters to consider," said the FSB national chair, Carol Undy. "The issue of parking for independent retailers, compared to free car parks outside supermarkets, as well as the treatment of small suppliers should also be closely examined."
The OFT cited several factors that could be considered as distorting competition.
It said there were reasonable grounds to suspect that the big supermarkets were able to use land holdings to reinforce their market position.
"We have found evidence of significant land banks and the use of restrictive covenants on sites sold by big supermarkets," the watchdog said.
Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2006
The message of this book, when it was published over twenty years ago, was that world society was in the early stage of a "great transformation" of the kind that has occurred from time to time in history, affecting every aspect of human life.
One of its outcomes could be a liberation of work, taking further the earlier progressions from slavery to serfdom, and then from serfdom to employment - all three of which have involved most people working for a minority superior to themselves.
As that liberation takes place, more and more of us will work more freely under our own control than conventional employment has allowed. We will do what we see to be our own good, useful and rewarding work - for ourselves, other people and society as a whole.
How relevant are those ideas in 2006? Have they been bypassed by the economic orthodoxy of Thatcherism and Reaganism, by the collapse of state-based communism and socialism, and by the unstoppable "progress" of globalised capitalism over the past twenty years?
In my 2006 preface I answer no, they haven't been bypassed. Quite the reverse. The world situation now makes the book's ideas and arguments even more relevant than when it first came out.
Can we gain more liberty by making a deal with the welfare state?
Murray throws up his hands - our hands? - and stipulates that we will probably never achieve full freedom, given the persistent opposition to that idea, and suggests that to make big progress toward a freer society, we must make a big compromise with proponents of the welfare state.
The core of the author's proposal is a version of Milton Friedman's "negative income tax," which he says could be awarded to all citizens without exception, but in a way that will encourage rather than discourage self-responsibility. Get rid of welfare programs, but replace them with cash grants to all. Numbers are crunched, various objections considered. Bottom line, per Murray: the U.S. is rich enough now to afford his proposal. The objections can be met. And such a compromise with welfare statism is better than continuing with the status quo.
In Our Hands (Laissez Faire Books)
Over 700 attended the EEA and about 70 the BIG, which finally lists as a topic for submitted papers how to fund their proposed supplemental income. The Robert Schalkenbach Foundation had a table in the book publishers hall that disseminated literature, ably staffed by Laura Lee Smith. It was good to renew old contacts, such as, John Tepper Marlin, Chief Economist, New York City Comptroller, and make new ones. Some of them some day may become more active, as did those who joined my project of compiling and editing a textbook on geonomics for the publisher, Elgar Inc., of the UK. For a copy of any of the papers presented, please contact the presenter directly or via this editor.
You have not heard from or about the IHG in the last year because we have been on an extended sabbatical since May, but now we are again gearing up for a new year with some interesting possibilities.
Below are the headlines of some news stories recently posted on the IHG Mga website. Click the moving ENTER sign, then click on the "NEWS and Photos" link, and then click "IHG News, February, 2006" to get to the page with the following stories, including informative news, updated statistics of our popular CE course, and some interesting accompanying photos:
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Three economists (James Follain, Syracuse University; David Ling, University of Florida; and, Gary McGill, University of Florida) developed a model that examined the depth of housing subsidies and the distributional impact of these subsidies. However, they admit to a long list of limitations to the use of their model. For example, "Supply is held to be perfectly elastic in the short- and long-run; an inelastic supply would reduce the estimate of the size of the subsidy." Also, "General equilibrium effects are not explicitly modeled." The most serious limitation, however, is their failure to distinguish between imputed income attributable to the underlying land parcel and that attributable to the dwelling itself.
A year later, an article, "On the Equity Effects of Taxing Imputed Rent: Evidence from Australia," was published in the journal Housing Policy Debate (Vol.5, Issue 1). This paper was written jointly by Steven C. Bourassa of Australian National University and Patric H. Hendershott of Ohio State University. The authors argue that if a society's leaders believe too much capital is being directed to housing construction, this "can be addressed by ... imposing a tax on estimated imputed rental income." Other economists argued that such a tax would be quite regressive. After all, owners of income-producing (i.e., investment properties) are able to deduct as expenses both depreciation and costs of maintaining their properties. Bourassa and Hendershott conclude their paper as follows:
"All policy changes create winners and losers, and economists have enough difficulty inducing politicians to adopt efficiency-improving policies without overstating the losers' losses. The difficulty is compounded if lower income households are mistakenly identified as the losers." They believe a tax on net imputed rental income is "progressive or neutral at worst."
So, while this discussion more than a decade ago recognized the existence of "imputed rent," the economists engaged ignored the big picture and the capitalization of imputed rental income into higher and higher land prices.
The Declaration is available in English and in Danish, and its last part called, 'Individual and Common Rights in Land', is also available in French; translated from English by Ms. Evelyn Nichols, U.K.
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