(2012 December) Contents

THE GEORGIST NEWS

Volume Fifteen, Number Five
December 14, 2012

CONTENTS
1. Announcement: CGO Looking for Award Nominees
2. Movement Progress: A Call to Collaborative Action
3. Movement Progress: UK LVT Poll
4. Numbers: Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend
5. Letters: South Africa Tax Law
6. Interview: Fred Harrison on Occupy London Podcast
7. Book Review: The Traumatised Society
8. Likeable Link: LVT in the UK
9. Likeable Link: LVT in Ireland
10. You Can Do: Sustainable Economics Teleseminar
11. Requests: Geonomy Society Appeal for New Computer
12. RSF News: Annual Letter from the President and New Books
13. At the Margin: Quips and Quotes
14. Publication Affairs: About The Georgist News

1. (2012 December) Announcements: CGO Looking for Award Nominees

Sue Walton writes:

We’re looking for someone to honor! Since the 1999 CGO Conference in Maryland, the Council of Georgist Organizations has given awards for activism, education and advocacy. Below is a list of previous winners.

1999: Gaithersburg, MD—Steve Cord & Walt Rybeck
2000: Des Moines, IA—Nadine & John Stoner, Everett Gross; Claude & Dian Arnold
2001: Pittsburgh—Robert Schalkenbach Foundation
2002: London, ONT—John Fisher
2003: Bridgeport, CT—Ted Gwartney, Harry Pollard, Susan Witt & AIER
2004: Albuquerque, NM—Mason Gaffney; Bob Andelson, HGI
2005: Philadelphia, PA—HGFA; Philadelphia Forward-Brett Mandel,Jonathan Seidel, Lu Cippolloni (Special Lifetime Achievement)
2006: Chicago, IL—Jeff Smith, HGS-Chicago, Jake Himmelstein
2007: Scranton,PA—Mike Curtis (First Advocacy Only Economic Justice Award)
2008: Kansas City, MO—Alanna Hartzok
2009: Cleveland, OH—Dan Sullivan
2010: Albany, NY—Al Katzenberger
2011: Bloomington, MN—Nic Rosen; Jake Himmelstein (Special Lifetime Achievement)
2012: Harrisburg, PA—Gil Herman; Bill Batt (Special Award)

This is an amazing list of people and organizations. The CGO Planning Team would like your advice as to whom to honor in 2013. Feel free to nominate non-Georgists who have advanced the Georgist cause, as well as Georgists who have done outstanding work. Please submit your nominations to Sue & Scott Walton, CGO Administrators, no later than January 15, 2013.

2. (2012 December) Movement Progress: A Call to Collaborative Action

A Call to Collaborative Action
By Jacob Shwartz-Lucas

In the first ever televised presidential debate between Nixon and Kennedy in 1960, Kennedy appeared rested, clean-shaven, tan; he even wore makeup. Nixon looked tired, unshaven, and refused makeup. His gray suit compared poorly on screen with Kennedy’s dark suit. Radio listeners believed that Nixon had more substantial things to say, and clearly won the debate. TV viewers felt Kennedy was the clear winner.

Georgists have more substantial things to say than any of the heterodox politico-economic groups on the Internet. These groups have invested a great deal of time, effort, and money in their sites. Georgists websites however tend to parallel Nixon’s appearance during that first TV debate.

It’s time to dust ourselves off and get to the task of cleaning up our Internet presence.

The immediate question on most people’s minds surrounding election season is jobs and the general state of the economy. The Robert Schalkenbach Foundation has recently created this site to promote the Georgist perspective on the issue of creating jobs — and aims to make this site its test for effective use of online media. Please contact me if you’d like to submit articles for the website. We’ve created a Facebook page for it as well, a social media portal to the website itself. Many have clicked the “like” button, and informed me that the website looks great. They feel proud to share links to it with those they are introducing to LVT.

Some readers might be wondering about the sudden enthusiasm for social media. What’s all the fuss about?

Here’s a fact that will get your attention: as of October 2012, Facebook has a billion users! That’s “billion” with a “b.” Not all of those “users” are active, but the majority are. Still more use other social media tools, such as blogs, Twitter, YouTube, etc. Over half of social media users are under thirty and less set in their political views. Many are actively searching Facebook for an economic system that meets their moral aspirations. It’s a vast and fertile ground for outreach. Alas, our movement’s utilization of such Internet tools lags far behind many other groups who have far less substantial things to say.

By this point, you should be raring to explore this site and to register an account on Facebook, if you haven’t already done so. Go ahead, do it

Start by visiting the LVT Facebook group. This discussion group has 336 members. I haven’t yet accepted the 5 requests from people who have asked to join the group since I started writing this article. These are people making formal requests to join our Georgist conversations. If you’ve spent years trying to engage people with awkward elevator pitches, you know how good it feels when people actually seek out your opinion! That happens daily on the Facebook LVT group.

The LVT group is for discussion. For specific action plans, there is also a Facebook group called “LVT Task Force” which requires users to post immediately actionable items such as emailing public representatives, editing specific Wikipedia pages, design jobs, and obtaining help with technical issues, among other things. It is a collaborative crowdsourcing tool for our movement.

In addition to Facebook, a small group of us have been meeting weekly via Google Hangouts. We’ve developed a weekly agenda, set up plans for creating a non-profit and applying for foundation grants. We are working with designers to create branding tools and constituent parts of websites such as video organizers, carousels, 3D text imagers, and other tools that we can transplant to various Georgist websites. We’re hoping to be the technological Johnny Appleseeds of the Georgist movement.

I believe we must invest more effort in developing our web presence. It’s the best way to pull in new activists, skills, and funds.

The great power of the Internet, and particularly of social media, is illustrated by an economic concept called the “network effect.” A network can create a positive externality in which the more users a network has, the more valuable it is to every single user. I really want to make sure my Georgist colleagues understand this — so they can stop feeling isolated in their lonely work! The network effect demonstrates that if we use social media collaboratively, our individual contributions to the movement’s progress can be orders of magnitude greater than the sum of our individual efforts.

Perhaps this flood of new technology feels overwhelming to you. That is what people like Edward Miller, Daniel Syddall, Martin Adams and I are here for. We are eager to provide you with the latest communications tools, to help you! Alanna Hartzok and I recently did a teleseminar on the basics of using Facebook. Alanna has video recorded this, and will soon make it available for all. We plan to have more seminars on using Google docs, which allows you to collaboratively work together using many generic though nearly identical programs to Word, Power Point, and Excel among others.

Make sure to email me — jacobshwartzlucas@gmail.com — with any questions or concerns. Ah yes, “email” I tend to forget about its importance now that there are all these other important tools. Remember when we were wondering if email did all that much to help us collaborate? This process of revamping our internet image requires trial and error, and the patience on your part to become proficient in all these seemingly newfangled technologies. Learning is what life’s about though, right? Less tech savvy Georgists, you’ve really got to trust us on this one. We need you to fully join us in this space so that you can pass down your invaluable knowledge.

3. (2012 December) Movement Progress: UK LVT Poll

Georgists worldwide might be interested in the news that a coalition of like-minded groups based in the UK has recently commissioned a poll by IPSOS MORI on attitudes to LVT – and related subjects. It was very much limited by available funds and by the methods used (face-to-face in-home computer-aided time-limited questionnaire) but it was professionally done by people with no axe to grind. Nearly 1000 people in all parts of UK, of all ages and tenures of housing were interviewed.

I have to say that results won’t please all of us – but will form a baseline to work from, especially in terms of public education. What stood out (for MORI as well as us) was that when people know even a little about LVT they are much more likely to support it - and to support it more than other property taxes.

The sponsors of the poll have not yet decided what (if anything) will (ever) be published regarding detailed findings. However it is already public knowledge here that the polling was under way. We managed just to raise the funding for it – but further donations to PLRG via http://www.landvaluescape.org/who.html (scroll down to ‘donate’) are welcome, to pay for follow-up research.

Meanwhile a Bill calling for LVT Research has been published by the UK Parliament and is due to have its Second Reading in the House of Commons on 25th January. The same coalition of Georgist organisations here is supporting this.

Dr Tony Vickers
Hon Sec PLRG
(Professional Land Reform Group)
01635 230046 / 07950 202640
www.plrg.org
tony@landvaluescape.org

 

4. (2012 December) Numbers: Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend

Alaska: This year’s dividend is the smallest since 2005
By Karl Widerquist

Alaska distributed its yearly Permanent Fund Dividend (PFD) on October 4, 2012. The amount was disappointing, only $878—down from last year’s dividend of $1,174 and the smallest dividend since 2005. The 2012 dividend was only the second dividend in the last 20 years to be below $900, and it is well below the all-time highest dividend of $2,069 in 2008 ($3269 including a one-time supplement the state added to the 2008 dividend).

The PFD is a sort of a yearly, variable basic income, given to all U.S. citizens (men, women, and children) who fill out a form showing that they meet the state’s residency requirement for eligibility. This year nearly 650,000 Alaskans received the dividend. It is financed by the Alaska Permanent Fund (APF), which is a sovereign wealth fund owned by the state and financed in turn by the accumulated savings from the state’s oil exports. The dividend varies considerably from year-to-year because the amount is calculated from a complex formula averaging the last five years of returns to the fund. The dividend is down this year because of the poor performance of international stock and bond markets over the last five years.

Even this year’s small dividend will come to $4,390 for a family of five, and the dividend makes a big difference in the lives on many Alaskans. The dividend is one reason Alaska is the most economically equal of all 50 states. According to Russ Slaten, “the oldest applicant was 107 years-old, and the youngest was born minutes before the qualification deadline on December 31 of last year.”

According to Jeff Richardson of the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Alaskan retailers have seen a smaller-than-usual bump in sales around dividend time this year because of both the smaller changes and in the higher cost of fuel oil. The smaller effect on retail sales might also be partly attributable to the increase in people donating all or part of their PFDs to charities through the state’s Pick-Click-Give program that allows people to direct some or all of their PFD to the charity of their choice in a few steps on the internet. This year, 23,000 Alaskans gave more than $2.2 million through the program, four times as much as they gave in the first year of the program (2009).

The PFD has largely escaped the demonization given to many programs that promote equality, probably because it provides tangible benefits all Alaskans, rich and poor alike. According to Jeanne Devon, “Even those who gripe about it in theory don’t want to actually give up their own Alaskan ‘entitlement.’ It is our oil, after all.”

The yearly fluctuations in the fund do not signal a long-term threat to the PFD. The fund has had a healthy grown trend since its inception, and it continues today. The bigger worry for the future of the Alaska Dividend is gradual decline in the state’s oil revenues. The amount of oil flowing through the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System is getting dangerously close to the minimum level needed to keep the pipeline system open. Most of the state’s operating budget comes from oil exports, and the state budget is not well prepared for the loss of oil revenue. Gradual decline (or a sudden drop) in oil exports would put enormous pressure on the state budget and might inspire the legislature to divert returns currently used to financed the PFD toward regular government spending.


Editor’s note: Check The Georgist News next month for two of Karl Widerquist’s recently published books on this topic: Exporting the Alaska Model and Alaska’s Permanent Fund Dividend.

5. (2012 December) Letters: South Africa Tax Law

Dear Sirs,

Laws must be rational, according to a recent Constitutional Court ruling in South Africa. Whilst this is trite it prompted SACPRIF to object to the income tax and vat Acts as the attached submission. Our recommendations were not accepted but we have now asked the President not to sign the Act into law on the grounds that it is unconstitutional.

Readers are encouraged to send other examples of irrationality, inequity and larceny. These will be used for future submissions to Parliament and will be part of the legal argument which is being prepared for the Constitutional Court challenge.

Peter Meakin
Registered Valuer Member SA Institute of Valuers
Chairman SACPRIF Management Committee

Link: Annexures to August Parliamentary Comments

6. (2012 December) Interview: Fred Harrison on Occupy London Podcast

Occupy London Podcast: Critical Thought
Clive Menzies recently interviewed Fred Harrison, author of The Traumatised Society, on the deep-seated trauma which renders us incapable of recognising the culture of cheating embedded within the institutions of society. Harrison asserts that only by recognising the destructive nature of the culture of cheating can we make profound societal changes that will lead to a modern renaissance.

http://www.mixcloud.com/criticalthought/criticalthought-fred_harrison_interview_the_traumatised_society121207mp3/

 


To purchase Fred Harrison’s book, click here.

7. (2012 December) Book Review: The Traumatised Society

Fred Harrison’s The Traumatised Society: How to Outlaw Cheating and Save our Civilisation
Many people are all too aware that there is something badly wrong with our current economic system, but they are less clear about how it got so bad, what an alternative might look like, and how we can make the change. This profound book admirably fills that gap.
By Bernadette Meaden

http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/17330

 


To purchase Fred Harrison’s book, click here.

9. (2012 December) Likeable Link: LVT in Ireland

Why site value tax is best option
SVT is the most equitable, efficient and effective property tax option for the Government. Unlike a conventional property tax that taxes the ‘improved’ portion of the property, i.e. the buildings and thus penalises construction, SVT is non-distortionary, creates no economic drag and has minimal adverse effects.

http://www.independent.ie/opinion/letters/why-site-value-tax-is-best-option-3312100.html

 


For more on LVT in Ireland, click here.