(2013 March) Contents

Volume Fifteen, Number Eight
March 21, 2013

1. Announcement: CGO Update
2. Opinion: Why All Progressives Should Support a Land Value Tax
3. Opinion: Lower Property Taxes to the Ground to Save Cities & Nature
4. Opinion: We Need a Land Value Tax, Not a Property Tax Cap
5. Research: The Road Not Taken — An Old Proposal and Its Implications
6. Numbers: Think New York Is Costly? In New Delhi, Seedy Goes for 8 Figures
7. Likeable Link: America Does Tax Wealth, Just Not Very Intelligently
8. Likeable Link: It’s Lose-Lose vs. Win-Win-Win-Win-Win
9. Video: Wealth Inequality in America
10. What You Can Do: AMI Conference May 2013
11. What You Can Do: CASLE International Conference July 2013
12. What You Can Do: WSJ Controversy
13. What You Can Do: Commenting Around the Web
14. RSF News: Special Book Offer
15. At the Margins: Quips and Quotes

About The Georgist News

1. (2013 March) Announcement: CGO Update

Georgist Education Sessions to be Featured at 2013 CGO Conference

This year’s education sessions are going to be a real part of the conference, to which all are invited. The sessions, sponsored by the Henry George Institute, will run from 2 to 6pm on Tuesday, August 6. The official opening reception is that evening at 7pm — so if conference participants wish to make these important sessions, all they have to do is arrive earlier on the first day of the conference.

Five presentations are scheduled:
—Mike Curtis on a practical method for determining true rental-value assessments in Arden, Delaware.
—Bob Jene on the practice of preserving farmland through “farm heritage trusts,” and opportunities for alliance with Georgists on this key issue.
—Ed Dodson will demonstrate his PowerPoint presentations expanding on the vital, yet oft-ignored, influence of land policy in the US history.
—Mike Curtis and Lindy Davies will engage in dialogue between Henry George’s theory of the boom/bust cycle and recent enhancements that help to explain current phenomena.
—Lindy Davies will explain some key changes in economic definitions that the Henry George Institute has adopted to make Georgist curricula more compatible with mainstream economics — without compromising its main ideas.

These sessions are part of the conference; registrants are free to attend them at no extra charge.

2. (2013 March) Opinion: Why All Progressives Should Support a Land Value Tax

Why all progressives should support a land value tax
Through no effort of their own, landowners reap a £100bn annual windfall. Caroline Lucas’s bill shows the way towards a moral capitalism.
By David Cooper (New Statesman)

Churchill knew that landowners cannot change the value of a plot of land. Its value depends only on location and size. Is it near a station? A park? Good schooling? All of these factors are determined by the community, not the landowner.


3. (2013 March) Opinion: Lower Property Taxes to the Ground to Save Cities & Nature

Lower property taxes to the ground to save cities & nature
By Erich Jacoby-Hawkins (Robert Schalkenbach Foundation)

Taxing land value is fair, because a site’s value stems from the community around it; land rent is higher in the middle of a bustling city than in a quiet village, and higher in a town than in a remote wilderness. When realtors say the three most important things are location, location, and location they are right; the value of a site comes from what you can do there, determined by what is around it. Roads, services, and customers are all vital links for a business, so even though remote land is cheaper than land near a city, smart businesspeople pay more to be where they can easily access inputs and markets.


5. (2013 March) Research: The Road Not Taken — An Old Proposal and Its Implications

The Road Not Taken — An Old Proposal and Its Implications
Introduction by Cliff Cobb (edited for The Georgist News)

In 1996, John Bodley, professor of anthropology and author of the widely used text, Victims of Progress, asked the Robert Schalkenbach Foundation (RSF) for support to write articles on “elite power and land ownership.” At the time, he had recently discovered Progress and Poverty and saw its significance for political theory. Although the proposal was not approved, I requested and obtained permission from John Bodley and from RSF to submit it to The Georgist News.

Bodley proposed to apply the Georgist paradigm to the concentration of political power, as mediated by concentrated ownership of land. Already in 1995 Bodley had been conducting empirical research on this topic in Spokane, Washington. The project promised to make a major contribution to studies of local power structure, which were once a standard feature of sociological analysis, but which largely disappeared with the rise of the constructivist view in the social sciences that everything is a function of language and meaning. To my knowledge, none of the earlier studies of local power structure focused on land ownership, so Bodley might have started a new trend in research.

Bodley continued to conduct research on the topic and write papers, but without an empirical foundation, his work did not address the issues central to a nascent Georgist political theory. You can download two articles that grew out of his research on questions of power here: http://libarts.wsu.edu/anthro/faculty/bodley.html

  • 2001 Growth, Scale, and Power in Washington State. Human Organization. 60(4):367-379
  • 1999 Socioeconomic Growth, Culture Scale, and Household Well-Being: A Test of the Power-Elite Hypothesis. Current Anthropology. 40(5):595-620

Bodley’s work, if it were to be pursued, offers a Georgist counterweight to research on the power elite by the Marxist William Domhoff and by theorists of corporate power such as David Korten, Thomas Dye, and George Gonzalez. At a minimum, Bodley’s empirical Research, if continued, could inject the importance of land into contemporary politics. The role of land in urban politics has been discussed by Marxists such as Harvey Molotch, Michael Logan, and David Harvey, but their ideological emphasis on “capital” prevents them from appreciating the centrality of land in the drama of urban politics.

In the absence of any formal theory of politics, Georgists have implicitly adopted a “pluralist” model of political power, which assumes 1) that power is widely distributed in society, 2) that social mobility is a characteristic of industrial societies, and 3) that democratic structures are open and porous. In fact, since Georgists have not addressed theories of political power, these issues do not arise. Henry George alludes to the failures of democracy in Book X of Progress and Poverty, but it seems there has been little elaboration of this theme by subsequent Georgists.

Perhaps there is someone who might still pick up where Bodley left off by conducting the research necessary to develop a Georgist theory of urban politics.

Click below to see the original proposal:

6. (2013 March) Numbers: Think New York Is Costly? In New Delhi, Seedy Goes for 8 Figures

Think New York Is Costly? In New Delhi, Seedy Goes for 8 Figures
By Jim Yardley (New York Times)

Editor’s Note: You might think of India as a “poor country” but take a look at real estate prices there: higher than in developed countries.


7. (2013 March) Likeable Link: America Does Tax Wealth, Just Not Very Intelligently

America Does Tax Wealth, Just Not Very Intelligently
The old argument going back to David Ricardo and Henry George that you should tax land wealth very heavily seems quite sound to me.
By Matthew Yglesias (Slate)

It’s worth saying that we do kind of have wealth taxes in the United States; they’re just not very intelligently designed. The property taxes that fund local governments, for example, are a tax on housing wealth. It’s just that housing wealth happens to be the most widely held form of wealth in the country, so it doesn’t pack the egalitarian punch of a wealth tax.


8. (2013 March) Likeable Link: It’s Lose-Lose vs. Win-Win-Win-Win-Win

It’s Lose-Lose vs. Win-Win-Win-Win-Win
By Thomas L. Friedman (New York Times)

Experts believe that the mere signal of a carbon tax would get companies to become more energy efficient. And that’s the point. As part of any grand bargain — which will have to include spending cuts and tax increases — introducing a carbon tax into the mix makes all kinds of options easier and smarter.