THE GEORGIST NEWS
Volume Nine, Number Four October 1, 2006
Welcome to the October issue of The Georgist News.
For the first time in months, space allows us to incorporate new features.
Read below the current status of the housing bubble, plus a letter printed in
GB's Financial Times. When you get one of yours onto the op-ed pages,
please c.c. us. Last summer, somehow an email slipped through the cracks; when
I went to repair the cracks, I found accolades for our own Ted Gwartney,
belatedly reported below.
Please note, we've replaced @ in addresses with
"at" to fend off the harvesting of addresses by spammers when we put the
newsletter on the Web. Enjoy!
CONTENTS: (to return here just click the headline)
1. GB's Liberal Democrats move geo-ward
2. Assessor Gwartney answers his calling
3. What would be more fair than the present property-tax
Here are five proposals
4. Postage stamp for ol' Henry
5. In Montreal, die and keep paying rent
6. Sightline Institute (formerly Northwest Environment Watch) on
7. GB's Financial Times in a eureka moment
8. Portland paper gives geoism space
9. House-plus-sites' prices finally cool
10. School of Cooperative Individualism update
11. Web data on inequality
12. New online journal invites contributions
13. The Climate Project Training Program
14. Istanbul 2007 - A Non-violent Path to Conflict Resolution and
15. Something Different for 2007
16. Next Month's Georgist News
17. AT THE MARGIN: Quips and Quotes
18. About The Georgist News
By Tony Vickers tonyvickers at phonecoop.coop
Over 4,000 delegates, the most ever, attended a Liberal Democrat Conference.
We can now confidently go to the British people with the most Georgist
economic policy in over 70 years.
Mover: Vince Cable, MP (Lib. Dem. Shadow Chancellor of the
Exchequer) Summation: Chris Huhne, MP (Lib. Dem. Shadow
Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)
Conference endorses policy paper 75, Fairer, Simpler, Greener, as a statement
of the party's policies for revenue-neutral reform of taxation based on these
principles. Conference in particular welcomes:
1. The specific proposals for the national budget in a new Parliament to make
the direct taxation system fairer and simpler by:
- Abolishing the existing 10 pence starting rate of income tax, taking more
than two million people out of tax altogether and removing one rate of tax.
- Raising the employee National Insurance Contributions threshold so that
NICs begin to be paid at the same level of income as income tax, simplifying
the system, and seeking to make employee NICs payable on annual rather than
- Raising the starting threshold for the 40% higher rate of taxation to
£50,000 per annum, taking 1.3 million people out of paying a higher rate tax.
- Cutting the basic rate of national income tax by 2p, as part of a shift
from central to local taxation.
2. Proposals to tax environmental pollution and resource usage and help fund
our other reforms through a "green tax switch" by:
- Phasing in reform of the basis on which business rates are
charged to site value rating.
Tony Vickers: There is more to be done. We failed to get an amendment calling
for a timetable (one year) in which to "develop further policies for land
taxation." Please write Vince Cable, MP (cablev at parliament.uk): offer
help in developing such policies as quickly as possible.
By Neil Vigdor, Staff Writer
Ted Gwartney's eye for real estate has taken him from appraising trailer parks
in Las Vegas to consulting on appraisal in post-Communist Russia, to tangling
with the owners of a $45 million Greenwich estate as the town's assessor.
Gwartney, 64, came to Greenwich from Bridgeport 21/2 years ago
after serving as city assessor there for three years. Gwartney oversees an
office of 13 people.
The son of a Southern California real estate broker, Gwartney said he found
his calling as a student at San Diego State University after reading about
families affected by high property taxes. "It's the concept of equity. I've
always had a very strong ethical streak in me to the point where I considered
becoming a minister at one point." During Gwartney's final year in college, he
really came to know the value of real estate by selling foreclosed homes for a
bank at $20,000 each. "Those houses today are selling for $800,000 apiece," he
said. "I'm just kicking myself that I didn't buy one."
A father of three grown children who lives in Bridgeport, [he] is known to
bring his wife, Toni, to meetings. Gwartney has overseen hundreds of
revaluations during his four-decade career. "He's the most experienced
assessor the town has ever had," said finance board Chairman Peter Tesei.
Gwartney started his career as an appraiser trainee for Sacramento County in
his home state of California and landed his first supervisory role as city
assessor in Southfield, Michigan. He returned to Sacramento County three years
later to serve as deputy assessor, but eventually left the public sector to
take a job appraising trailer parks, hotels and shopping centers in the
western U.S. as a fee appraiser. In the 1970s, the public sector beckoned once
again, and Gwartney accepted a job as city assessor in Hartford and then as
provincial assessment commissioner in the Canadian province of British
Columbia. In Canada, he helped the province weave together a mishmash of local
and regional assessment offices and computer databases into a single public
In Russia, Gwartney provided bureaucrats who had no system for raising taxes to
speak of, a similar blueprint. Prior to coming to Greenwich in February 2003,
Gwartney oversaw Bridgeport's first citywide property revaluation in 17 years.
In addition to his public-sector duties, Gwartney has taught real estate
appraisal at Baruch College in New York City. He is president of the quarterly
publication, The American Journal of Economics and Sociology, and has
consulted the United Nations on building and sustaining communities. In his
spare time he enjoys traveling and is the president of his homeowners'
association in Bridgeport.
"I'll tell you the house that's really nice, that nobody ever gets to see, is
Mel Gibson's house," said Gwartney, who, since his arrival in February 2002,
has grabbed headlines for his rulings on celebrity properties, including one
owned by the "Lethal Weapon" star. Gwartney turned Gibson's Old Mill Road
property down for farmland status last fall after the actor's representatives
applied for the tax break on 17 of the property's 75.7 acres. The assessor
ruled that the property was not being used as a bona fide farm, disqualifying
Gibson for an annual $10,000 tax break on the $17.7 million property. "You
never think about the ownership," Gwartney said. "You think about the real
estate. The owner does not add value to real estate."
Other celebrities and prominent residents to tangle with Gwartney include
Diana Ross, the late Citibank chairman, James Stillman Rockefeller, and the
owners of a $45 million Conyers Farm estate. "He speaks with a heavy stick,"
said Stamford Assessor Francis Kirwin, who has known Gwartney for about 30
years. "I think he's doing what assessors are supposed to do." The overall
value of taxable property in Greenwich, which is currently estimated at $20.5
billion and is the highest for any municipality in the state, nearly doubled
after the town's last revaluation in 2001.
Gwartney hopes to avoid the contentiousness usually associated with the
process this fall. "You attempt to explain to people what you've done, how
you've done it and why you've done it," Gwartney said. He has budgeted
$500,000 for the undertaking, about 15 percent of the cost of the last
revaluation. "Hopefully I am able to convince them that it was done equitably
and fairly. You want to have fair assessments so that no one is paying more
than they should be or less than they should be." Several property owners have
successfully challenged Gwartney's findings to the Board of Assessment Appeals
and to state Superior Court, including Ross and Rockefeller. But those who
have worked with Gwartney say he is open-minded. "I think he's a very
inclusive guy and very willing to talk to anyone about the values of the
property," said Jeff Reardon, chairman of the Board of Assessment Appeals.
Copyright © 2005, Southern Connecticut Newspapers, Inc.
By Sue Walton (swalton at surfbest.net): "The CGO's favorite Assessor,
Ted Gwartney, broke his right shoulder in a fall he suffered on his return
home from Philadelphia. He had surgery to have it pinned back together. Ted
Gwartney is now Vice President of the Council of Georgist Organizations."
Ted (Tgwartney at aol.com) replied: "Thank you for your concern over my
broken shoulder last Sunday night. The operation on Tuesday went well and I
will be back to work on Monday, film a TV show Tuesday night, and meet with
homeowners answering questions about the revaluation on Thursday night. Thank
you for the fruit basket."
By Linda Gyulai lgyulai at thegazette.canwest.com
The Gazette (Montreal)
Published: Monday, September 11, 2006 (via Mark Monson)
- 1. Land-value taxation:
- In Quebec and most of North America, property tax is charged on the value
of land and building together. But many counties in Melbourne, Australia, and
a few other places in the world, tax the land alone, not the building on it. A
variant form is called "split-rate" property tax, in which land is taxed at a
higher rate than the building. It's used in parts of Pennsylvania, for
example. Unsal Ozdilek, a real estate professor at Université du
Québec at Montreal's École des sciences de la gestion, has
studied assessment systems around the world and advocates for land-value
taxation. It existed in western Canada in the early 1900s. Land-value and
split-rate taxation make it costly for speculators to sit on vacant land
because they pay the same tax as the owner of an office building on comparable
land, he says. Studies show land-value taxation discourages speculation,
encourages development in the short term and helps curb urban sprawl, Ozdilek
says. Building improvements don't add to property assessment or taxes under
land-value taxation, so it removes a disincentive for renovations and
stimulates demand for construction materials and employment, he says. The idea
developed with Henry George, a 19th-century editor and political economist in
the United States who argued speculators shouldn't profit from rising land
value because they've contributed nothing to it. Ozdilek says the system would
be best applied uniformly across Quebec and Canada, otherwise speculators
would have only to move to another jurisdiction to avoid land-value
By Fred Foldvary fred at foldvary.net
Using their special-order program, at my request, Canada Post has issued the
first postage stamps ever which show Henry George. They are available from the
Robert Schalkenbach store:
stamps are valid for postage for one letter in Canada, and for letters from
Canada with additional postage. There are 40 stamps per sheet. The stamps were
printed by the Canadian Bank Note Company. The day of issue was July 14,
Catherine Solyom CanWest News Service
csolyom at thegazette.canwest.com
Sunday, September 24, 2006 (via Sue Walton)
If you thought your days of paying rent would be over when you died, think
again. Cash-strapped Roman Catholic parishes across Quebec are demanding a
form of rent on burial plots or else the bones of Great Uncle Aloyisuis will
be, well, evicted. "My aunt's papers said 'in perpetuity.' All it means to
them is 'till the end of the lease." Often the article relating to plots as
sacred goods is invoked to prove that in fact no one owns the plot. As
collection-plate revenues continue to dwindle and parishes struggle to pay
maintenance costs for churches and cemeteries alike, they are forced to become
stricter landlords of the dead. Then there's the issue of dwindling space in
Montreal and other regions. "If parishes were always obliged to make new lots
for those who die, the whole city of Montreal would be a cemetery."
The Daily Score – their weblog on the Northwest news that
What Leaders Know
Posted by Alan Durning (their founder) on 09/18/2006
(via Mark Monson)
Leaders know about land-value taxes and their benefits, but they almost never
hear about them from their constituents. A 2003 survey of legislators — I
know, I'm behind on my reading — and local elected officials found that among
both groups, two-thirds of respondents were either somewhat or very familiar
with the concept of land-value taxation. Some 63 percent of state lawmakers
and 77 percent of local officials believed that land-value (or split-rate)
taxation would be a positive stimulus for urban development. (They're right.
It accomplishes this trick by inducing land speculators to change their
investment strategy into economically productive channels rather than the
economic parasitism of speculation. We've written about it in Tax Shift and
This Place on Earth 2001.)
Published: September 26 2006
By Carol Wilcox, Labour Land Campaign
(via Dave Wetzel)
Recessions, poverty amid plenty and a solution in a eureka moment
Sir, I had a near economic eureka moment (Letters, September 21) when reading
John Kay (and Mervyn King's) textbook on taxation in the early 1980s. They
were describing the unique advantages of the land tax proposed by Henry George
in 1879. True enlightenment came when I read the real thing, Progress and
Poverty. It was George who had the eureka moment while investigating why
there are recessions and poverty amid plenty and came up with the
frighteningly simple solution: the collection of community-created land values
for public revenue.
Jeffery J. Smith President, Forum on Geonomics
Even if growth happens on its own, why limit our choices to doing nothing or
bowing to planners? Why not harness the market to use land efficiently — and
do so now, before any hordes show up? Without expanding the urban growth
boundary by nearly 25,000 acres, we could meet Metro's population projections
— or just improve our quality of life. All we need do is convert vacant lots
to rational use; that is, erect buildings of four to six stories where now
there's only one story, or just a parking lot. Owners will use their land more
wisely with the right incentives, if we just shift the property tax from
buildings to land. To pay it, owners put their land to more intense use,
closer to land already used intensely. Put this tax shift on the ballot. Let
the majority of area residents — not career politicians — shape the future of
this region. Let's not gloss over the severe, deleterious impacts from sprawl
— already here or coming our way — with gilded propaganda about "planning,"
when we could curb speculation and spur owners to do the right thing right
CBS MarketWatch Sep. 25, 2006
The receding U.S. housing market crossed another milestone in August, as the
median sales price of existing homes fell for the first time in 11 years and
for just the sixth time in the past 38 years, the National Association of
Realtors said. The median sales price fell 1.7%, from $229,000 in August '05
to $225,000 in August '06. It was the first time since April 1995 that median
prices had fallen on a year-over-year basis. It was the second-largest decline
in the 38-year history of the Realtors survey, exceeded only by a 2.1% drop in
November 1990. Prices had been rising at an annual rate of 7.5% over the past
five years. As late as October, prices were up 16.8% on a year-over-year
basis. The deceleration has been the fastest in the history of the survey.
Even after this decline, prices are still up 27% over the last three years.
Sales of existing homes fell 0.5% in August to a seasonally adjusted annual
rate of 6.3 million, the industry group said. It was the lowest sales pace
since January 2004. Sales, down 12.6% in the past year, have fallen five
months in a row.
The realtors say a six-month supply represents a balanced market. Meanwhile,
inventories of unsold homes rose to a 13-year high, up 1.5% to 3.92 million, a
71/2-month supply at the August sales pace. That's the most in
relation to sales since April 1993, during the last significant housing price
By Ed Dodson ejdodson at comcast.net
Those who attended the Council of Georgist Organizations conference during
July heard me talk about the third volume of my book, The Discovery of
First Principles. I decided some time ago not to have this volume
published by iUniverse. Rather, I announced I would be making the volume
available online, without charge. As of now, volume three is there for you to
read. This volume covers the development of economic theory and history during
the 20th century, with a parallel discussion of the expansion and sad decline
of the Georgist cause. Also, a considerable amount of new material has been
added to the SCI library (with much more to come over the next month or so,
primarily from the 1940s publications The Freeman and Land and
Freedom). While I was in Chicago for the conference, I spent the better
part of two days going through the archives of the Henry George School, taking
notes on the activities of many Georgists associated with the School, and
photocopying some of their writings from the primary organ of the Chicago
Georgists, The Henry George Fellowship News. Most of this material is
now in the SCI library, and many new listings have been added to the
Biographical History of the Georgist Movement.
If you have not visited the SCI website
(www.cooperativeindividualism.org) recently, or ever, there
are even more reasons to visit and return. One is a new "Henry George Page"
that pulls together the links to George's writings and writings about him.
Additionally, you will find a new PowerPoint presentation on George's life and
work. A presenter's version with discussion notes is available for anyone who
would like to utilize the PowerPoint for a program on George in your
community. As always, comments, suggestions and yet undiscovered historical
material are welcomed and appreciated.
By Wyn Achenbaum wyn at attglobal.net
My website (www.wealthandwant.com) has some of the metrics on inequality
in the US. (I've also got the url for wantandwealth.com reserved, and may put
that kind of information there.) If we can make ourselves the best place to
turn for data on inequality, more people will see our solutions. I've got the
data – and much of it already in html format – and am happy to
share it if someone else has time to put it up before I do.
Ed Dodson here: If anyone wants to use the format I put together for my talk
at the 2003 CGO conference in Bridgeport, CT, and update it with current data,
I am happy to send you the html files to work with. You can take a look at the
following paper at the SCI website library.
By Pavlos Hatzopoulos phatzopoulos at re-public.gr
Managing editor, Re-public (via Jon Mendel)
The new online journal Re-public http://www.re-public.gr/en/ invites contributions for its
upcoming special issue entitled "Beyond private and public: The promise of the
commons". The dichotomy between the private and the public forms the basis of
theories of democracy. In recent years, this distinction has been challenged.
Examples include the erosion of the public sphere by private interests, and
the increasing control of the private domain by state authorities. New
concepts and practices that move beyond this primary dichotomy are needed in
order to face the contemporary crisis of democratic societies. We are
proposing the rebirth of the commons as a new social and economic space,
beyond government regulation and market control, as a feasible institutional
alternative to both private and public arrangements. This issue aims to
explore the openings that the concept of the 'commons' presents for democratic
theory and practice. Possible topics include:
- Developing a theory of the commons
- Problematising the private/public dichotomy
- The open source movement
- Internet government
- The information society
- The commons and governance
- Management of (intellectual) property
- Tracing the commons in contemporary social practices
Essays should be approximately 1,000 words long. We will also publish
journalistic pieces or reports of shorter length. Please submit contributions
in any electronic format to: phatzopoulos at re-public.gr
Deadline for articles: 20 October 2006
By Bill Batt hwbatt at yahoo.com
It's your turn to demonstrate your fantastic PowerPoint skills! Beginning in
the fall of 2006, Al Gore and a team of renowned climate change scientists and
educators will train more than 1,000 individuals to give a version of his
presentation on the effects of – and solutions for – global
warming to community groups throughout the U.S.. The presentation and training
program are based on the message Mr. Gore has been giving for more than two
decades, which inspired the documentary film and book, An Inconvenient
Truth. The Climate Project will host seven training sessions between late
September and January 2007 in Nashville, Tennessee. The two-day program is
designed to familiarize trainees with climate change science, equip them with
new presentation skills, and develop a new dynamic online learning community
for ongoing activities. The training is open to individuals of all ages,
educational and technical backgrounds. Visit the Climate Training Project
website for details and to apply for the program!
By Kamran Mofid k.mofid at btopenworld.com
Share your vision and wisdom with us at our forthcoming conference at Fatih
University, Istanbul.. It is our belief that, working together to serve the
common good, we can create a world that is just, free, and prosperous for all.
Conference Announcement & Call for Papers: the 6th Annual International
Conference on an Interfaith Perspective on Globalisation for the Common Good:
A Non-violent Path to Conflict Resolution and Peacebuilding (Building a World
that is Just, Free and Prosperous for All) in Istanbul, the City of
Understanding and Reconciliation between East and West, 5-9 July 2007, with
post-conference optional visits on 9-11 July to Konya (the resting place of
Rumi), and on 11-14 July to Symrna, Aegean District and Bursa (the first
Capital of the Ottoman State) For details please see:
By the 2007 Conference Committee sns at swwalton.com
The 2007 CGO Conference Committee is considering something different. When
participants register they will also be asked if they have any special needs
per the Americans with Disability Act and what kind of sleeping accommodations
they wish - hotel or communal dorm. As part of the registration form,
attendees will be asked for a credit card to which to charge their room fees.
Please note that dorm space will be limited, and must be one hundred percent
pre-paid. Watch this space for important developments in the coming months!
Please keep sending your news and views and other interesting material to
share with others to jjs at geonomics.org. And of course you may
continue to reach the Georgist News at gn at progress.org.
The deadline for the next issue is October 25.
"Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored."
– Alduous Huxley
"You're all entitled to your own opinions, but you're not entitled to your own
– Ostrum (?)
"He who sees the truth, let him proclaim it, without asking who is for it or
who is against it. This is not radicalism in the bad sense, which so many
attach to the word. This is conservatism in the true sense."
– Henry George, "The Irish Land Question"
"If stupidity got us into this mess, then why can't it get us out?"
– Will Rogers
The Georgist News, a project of the Robert Schalkenbach Foundation, is an
email newsletter. It is brought to you free of charge. Its purpose is to keep
you updated on the latest news, world events, projects, and initiatives of
relevance to people who, like Henry George, seek a world free from special
privilege and free from the causes of poverty.
Do you know someone who'd enjoy reading this e-monthly? Please forward them an
issue and ask them to subscribe, or send us their 'edress.' As always, it's
The Georgist News is also on the www at
Contributing to this issue:
Wyn Achenbaum, Bill Batt, Hanno Beck, Ed Dodson, Fred Foldvary, Jon Mendel,
Kamran Mofid, Mark Monson, Nadine Stoner, Tony Vickers, Sue Walton,
Dave Wetzel, and Carol Wilcox.
Editor: Jeffery J. Smith
Copy Editor: Enzo Piccone
Proofreader: Caspar Davis
Archivist: Stewart Goldwater
Owner: The Robert Schalkenbach Foundation
Founder: Adam Monroe
Publisher: Hanno T. Beck
The Georgist News, Volume Nine, Number Four, October 1, 2006