(2013 February) Contents

Volume Fifteen, Number Seven
February 14, 2013

1. Announcement: Update from CGO
2. News: Whose Land? Our Land (Occupy London)
3. News: Michael Scott Moore Still Held Hostage
4. News: LVT in Ireland
5. Good Press: The Justification for a Land Value Tax
6. Opinion: Idle Rich Are Spared the Fairest and Simplest of Taxes
7. Opinion: Land Value Tax, Rent Infation and Gentrification
8. Numbers: Six Economic Steps to a Better Life and Real Prosperity for All
9. Book Review: Plutocrats by Chrystia Freeland
10. Likable Link: The Problem of Plutocrats
11. Likable Link: Why LVT Cannot Be a Local Tax
12. What You Can Do: Screening of DIRT! The Movie
13. What You Can Do: A Theology of Land and Its Implications for Contemporary Economics
14. At the Margins: Quips and Quotes

About The Georgist News

1. (2013 February) Announcement: Update from CGO

This year’s conference of the Council of Georgist Organizations “celebrates” the 100th anniversary of two important landmarks: Pittsburgh and Scranton becoming the first two cities in the United States to adopt a land value tax (which we do indeed celebrate) and the Wilson Administration’s implementation of the Federal Income Tax (mumble grumble).

Alex Wagner Lough is doing her doctoral dissertation on the Georgist movement in the progressive era, and will speak on the participation of Georgists in adopting the income tax and on the divisions within the Georgist movement over that issue. She suggests that passage of the income tax marks the decline of the Georgist movement, and might have caused it.

George himself vehemently opposed income tax, agreeing with David Ricardo that a revenue tax, even on rental income, would be passed on to the tenants. In Progress and Poverty, George wrote,

As to the truths that are involved in socialistic ideas I shall have something to say hereafter; but it is evident that whatever savors of regulation and restriction is in itself bad, and should not be resorted to if any other mode of accomplishing the same end presents itself. For instance, to take one of the simplest and mildest of the class of measures I refer to — a graduated tax on incomes. The object at which it aims, the reduction or prevention of immense concentrations of wealth, is good; but this means involves the employment of a large number of officials clothed with inquisitorial powers; temptations to bribery, and perjury, and all other means of evasion, which beget a demoralization of opinion, and put a premium upon unscrupulousness and a tax upon conscience; and, finally, just in proportion as the tax accomplishes its effect, a lessening in the incentive to the accumulation of wealth, which is one of the strong forces of industrial progress. (Progress and Poverty, Book VI, Chapter 1, Sec. V.)

However, Wilson’s administration, awash with Georgist leaders, proposed the 1913 income tax, and Congressman Henry George, Jr. cosponsored the legislation. Which Georgists supported the income tax, which opposed it, and the arguments and predictions they made, will be the topic of a special presentation at this year’s conference, August 6 – 10, at the Airport Holiday Inn, Coraopolis, Pennsylvania (a Pittsburgh suburb). We are excited to explore this very important but long-ignored aspect of the history of the Georgist movement.

We will also celebrate and detail the great successes of the Georgist movement in Pittsburgh and other Pennsylvania cities, and will tell you more about that in an upcoming edition of The Georgist News.

Dan Sullivan, President
Council of Georgist Organizations

2. (2013 February) News: Whose Land? Our Land (Occupy London)

(03 February 2013) Friday’s meeting of Occupy London’s Economics Working Group (EWG) discussed land value and the proposition “Share the surplus value of the land for the common good” achieved consensus. “Surplus value” was generally accepted to refer to value arising from land itself by virtue of resources, flora, fauna or location which had, in the past, been used for the common good but has been captured for private gain over centuries.

This agreement follows on from series of meetings on land and land value tax (LVT) commencing with Fred Harrison on 4th January 2013:

Occupy and land value

Specific proposals for the introduction of LVT were presented to one of the EWG meetings by the Coalition for Economic Justice but weren’t universally supported. A number of arguments are raised against LVT which have been addressed by advocates:

Killer Arguments Against Land Value Tax …Not!

Land valuation is often cited as an obstacle to the introduction of LVT:

Valuations and potential LVT receipts

Other ideas to share the bounty from the land will be explored but this agreement in principle is a big step forward on the road to addressing fundamental flaws in our economic system.

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3. (2013 February) News: Michael Scott Moore Still Held Hostage

Cliff Cobb writes:

I recently discovered that Michael Scott Moore was captured by Somali pirates in January 2012 and was still alive in January 2013, after one year of captivity. For those who do not know him, Moore wrote several articles about Henry George for San Francisco newspapers when he was living there. In 2009, he wrote an article entitled “This Land is Your Land” for Pacific Standard. (You can read it here: http://www.psmag.com/politics/this-land-is-your-land-3392/)

There are many stories about his kidnapping on the Internet. One from September 2012 that gives information about a rescue effort is http://www.theinertia.com/politics/american-surf-journalist-kidnapped-by-somali-pirates/. (Thanks to Matt Stillman for that story).

I hesitate to encourage any action that might endanger Michael’s life. I had hoped to find a way to contact his family to determine what they recommend, but I was unable to do that. Several people made private suggestions about what might help, but in the absence of approval from his family, I think it is better to err on the side of caution. The fact that his captors have kept him alive for a year is a good sign.

I encourage anyone who has further information about this situation to post on the Georgist News blog.

4. (2013 February) News: LVT in Ireland

Noonan calls on FG ‘dissidents’ to join Greens and support ‘site-value’ tax system
By Councillor Malcolm Noonan

Green Party Environment Spokesperson Councillor  Malcolm Noonan said today: “The Fine Gael TDs in urban areas are right to point out the fundamental unfairness of the property tax that is being introduced. They can back up that talk by supporting the Green Party proposal for a site value tax which provides a credible and fairer alternative to what is being introduced.”


5. (2013 February) Good Press: What’s the Justification for a Land Value Tax?

We can’t ignore the fact that land is the property of the commons.
By Alex Hern (22 January 2013)

George Monbiot has written a passionate call for a land value tax in the Guardian today. Pointing out that the coalition has singularly failed to take any real attempt to increase tax revenue — with the Lib Dems reneging on their promise to raise capital gains tax to 50p, and both parties turning their nose up at the economically-beneficial revenue gains of a financial transaction tax — he suggests one final attempt to come up with a novel way of raising revenue which the government might support: a land-value tax.


6. (2013 February) Opinion: Idle Rich Are Spared the Fairest and Simplest of Taxes

I agree with Churchill: let’s get stuck into the real shirkers
They parasitise us from above. But landowners and the Tory party’s idle rich are spared the fairest and simplest of taxes
By George Monbiot (21 January 2013)

You can learn as much about a country from its silences as you can from its obsessions. The issues politicians do not discuss are as telling and decisive as those they do. While the government’s cuts beggar the vulnerable and gut public services, it’s time to talk about the turns not taken, the opportunities foregone: the taxes which could have spared us every turn of the screw.


7. (2013 February) Opinion: Land Value Tax, Rent Inflation and Gentrification

Land Value Tax, Rent Inflation and Gentrification
By Jon Geeting

The reason for the rent inflation is that the speculative value of the land is going up. Landlords see the number of amenities in the neighborhood increasing, and they start thinking they can get away with charging higher rents. Vacant lot owners see rents increasing, and they hold off on developing them into housing until rents go even higher.


8. (2013 February) Numbers: Six Economic Steps to a Better Life and Real Prosperity for All

We’ve got to break out of the old ways of thinking about the economy.
By Gar Alperovitz and Steve Dubb

Leverage City Assets
By maintaining direct ownership of areas surrounding transit station exits, public agencies in Washington, DC, Atlanta and elsewhere earn millions, capturing the increased land values their transit investments create… CalPERS, California’s public pension authority, helps finance local community development needs; in Alaska, state oil revenues provide each citizen with dividends as a matter of right; in Alabama, public pension investing has long focused on state economic development.


9. (2013 February) Book Review: Plutocrats by Chrystia Freeland

The Rise of the New Global Super Rich
Outrageous fortunes abound in this absorbing study of the world’s wealthiest men
By Ian Birrell, The Guardian

There has always been a gap between rich and poor but this is just one sign of how the gulf has widened into a chasm over the past few decades. Creaming off more and more wealth is a new elite, a transglobal class of mainly self-made men carving out unimaginable fortunes. They are the subject of this timely and absorbing analysis by former Financial Times deputy editor Chrystia Freeland.


For more on the specifically Georgist elements in Chrystia Feeland’s book, see the next item in this month’s The Georgist News.

To buy the book: http://www.amazon.com/Plutocrats-Rise-Global-Super-Rich-Everyone/dp/1594204098