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A Retrospective Look at a 1985 NYS Legislative Tax Study: Who Pays New York Taxes?

Comment on Parts of the NYS Legislative Tax Study Commission's
“Who Pays New York Taxes?”

Released as a “Working Paper” of the Staff, August 16, 1985

H. William Batt, PhD., Spring, 2007

My Personal InvolvementAnalysis of “Who Pays?”A Deeper Examination of the Property Taxation QuagmireHenry George’s Solution: Taxing the Flow of Land RentEndnotes

My Personal Involvement

It is over two decades since the New York State Legislative Tax Study Commission1 released a series of “Working Papers” addressing the design and administration of the State's tax code. I served as the staff political scientist there for nearly a decade, and had a small part in the development of some of its ideas. One of the papers was titled "Who Pays New York Taxes?" My comments here are on that one report, specifically with respect to its conclusions about New York's real property tax. It is the only paper where the property tax was discussed at all, and it did so only as a matter of completeness. This is because the mandate of the Commission as stipulated by the authorizing statute precluded any examination of the property tax; another task force not too long before had examined that realm of fiscal policy.2 But this is the part that I now wish to address, even given its peripheral attention by the Commission staff.

At the time I joined the Commission staff, I had no special expertise in tax policy, or even in economics. So with a team of more experienced people specifically retained for the tasks of the Commission's charge,3 I was the most reticent about, and also the most accepting of, conclusions offered by the staff and its director. The staff director, Richard (“Rick”) Pomp, was a law school professor with a long resume of published work specifically on tax policy. He had studied with Harvard’s Learned Hand Professor of Law, Oliver Oldman, and soon afterwards himself became the Alva P. Loiselle Professor at the University of Connecticut School of Law. On leave from his position as a professor, he became full time Director of the Commission for over two years, and its work essentially reflected his views. The other five of us were really aides to Professor Pomp's agenda. The charge was to look at New York's tax structure – from top to bottom – and to make judgments about possible improvements using the broadest framework it could muster. Following the 1985 federal income tax reforms, State taxes that piggybacked on these revisions were obliged to restructure themselves. And the Commission had a hand in suggesting broad simplification by moving from several graduated rates to two broad rates. These changes were made by other staffers after Pomp had returned to his teaching position.

By the time I left the Commission staff in June of 1992, I had acquired a fair amount of expertise in tax policy, at least from the standpoint of its politics, philosophy, history, and economics, even though I still found its law and accounting well beyond my reach. Moreover, because I found corporate tax policy too abstruse, I elected to focus my attention on those areas I felt I could perhaps master and contribute to best – user fees, the sales tax, and the personal income tax. The Commission and its staff produced in total about ten papers, most of them by the time Professor Pomp had completed his contract with the Commission. After 1986, the Commission had little to show for its record, and the turnover in staff in subsequent years meant that less and less was expected of it. I elected to stay because I was able to use the considerable free time to “retool” my academic background and skills, just as if I was on a salaried fellowship. When Sheldon Silver was chosen as the new Assembly Speaker in 1992, I was shortly thereafter ushered out the door having bargained to have ten years (and one day) of New York State service. That assured me a small pension and guaranteed health insurance for the rest of my days. Not really able to return to academia, I also now had the freedom to pursue paths that were impossible as an employee anywhere else.

My choice was to explore a tradition of economics and tax policy that I had discovered toward the end of my Commission service: the philosophy of Henry George. In the summer of 1993, I flew to Los Angeles to attend the annual conference of the Council of Georgist Organizations; I had become fascinated with these, to me, totally new ideas. I have counted myself a Georgist ever since. Never in the course of ten years reading and discussion of New York's tax policy options did anything even close to this perspective cross the horizon. And it is fair to assume that the staffers on the Commission today – it still exists – have no inkling of what narrow perspective they work from. Even with ample evidence that the framework of neoclassical economics on which most of the contemporary American tax system rests is collapsing, tax professionals have carried on with little awareness of its pitfalls. Alternate schools of economics are quickly growing in many quarters – very frequently outside of conventional university economics departments. There is even ample evidence now that the still prevailing neoclassical economic paradigm can be shown to violate the laws of physics!4 Professional tax literature, however, shows little evidence of being aware of any of this.

Two further observations about the Commission are necessary here: First, the reason why the staff products retained the status of “working papers” and were never finalized was that they would otherwise have required the approval of the Commission members themselves. Nominally the Commission had members of both parties and both houses, but in fact the Commission was totally an Assembly Majority (Democratic) operation. It would never have been possible to secure any real consensus, and retaining the working paper status maintained the facade of provisional work and still allow release for whatever use might be made of them. Second, several of these papers were subsequently published together as an issue of the Albany Law Review, and solely under Professor Pomp's name — without any recognition of the fact that he was assisted in the statistics, the economics, the subcontracting, and editing by a New York State Assembly Commission.5

Analysis of “Who Pays?”

Sufficient time has passed, I think, that I can now freely make observations on some work of the Tax Study Commission, particularly both since I have more expertise on tax policy and because the Commission's work really reflected the views of Professor Pomp and no one else. Only one paper touched on the real property tax, and only in a few passages. It was originally contracted to University of Missouri Professor Donald Phares, and this draft was then rewritten by the Commission (i. e., Rick Pomp) to be released as a working paper. “Who Pays New York Taxes?” is accessible, by those with resources, in major libraries at least in New York State. The most recent statistical data available at that time was for 1980, and in only three paragraphs of the thirty-three pages of text is the real property tax treated explicitly. An additional seventy pages have occasional references to it, with some rather interesting tables and graphics. All of these, however, are somewhat misleading. Were Messrs. Phares and Pomp consciously part of the confusion common in dealing with matters of property taxation or were they simply unaware of the sleight-of-hand that underlies most of the work in this area? My personal view is that they were simply not interested in probing more deeply into an area that was really beyond the Commission's scope. Still, the authors recognized that “Property taxes are the fiscal mainstay of local government. The incidence of the property tax is of substantial consequence in evaluating the State's overall tax structure.”6

As for their treatment of the New York Local Property Tax, the authors first identified seven separate categories of real property: owner-occupied, rental, commercial, industrial, public utilities, farmland, and unimproved. This is a somewhat unusual classification, different even than those universally used in New York State.7 One can see immediately that there will necessarily be some overlap – “unimproved” parcels can sometimes be assigned in other categories according to their zoning. And rental property is commercial, whomever the tenants may be, whether households or businesses.

To their credit, however, the authors devoted considerable attention to the issue of tax shifting, which is never an easy subject, including a discussion of taxes on real property. They recognized that no shifting occurs for vacant parcels and titleholders therefore bear the full burden. So also for homeowners. For rental properties they assigned 50% of the burden to tenants, 25% to corporate stockowners, and 25% to real estate owners. For commercial, industrial, farmers, and public utility parcels, the shifting was put at 67%. In every instance where shifting is recognized, the part never shifted, of course, is the land component, and this is implicit in their assumption. These were referred to as “consensus incidence assumptions regarding the property tax.”8

A third consideration they recognized is the potential for tax exporting to other states, more often important for classes other than residential property but still significant. It occurs both on account of titleholders being out-of-state and also because of what is known as the “federal offset,” i.e., the deductibility of state and local taxes for federal tax itemizing. For all New York State and local taxes taken together, they estimated that roughly 10% percent of total revenue is exported, but for real property taxes, the total exported is only about half that.

Except in the implicit recognition involved in their analysis of shifting, the distinction between land and improvements was opaque. This is a remarkable oversight, because improvements typically depreciate at the rate of 0.5 to 1.5 percent annually; only land values appreciate.9 And in view of the fact that assessments in New York localities have historically been very infrequent, one can understand how the land values are in reality a far higher proportion of parcel value than assessments would suggest.10 This means that in a period of seven years, for example, a property parcel could easily increase in price by 50 percent, far more if recent real estate market history is to be illustrative. Moreover real estate prices varied greatly in their rates of change during this time span; upstate New York was largely stable, but downstate localities experienced huge booms and busts.

Recognition of this would tend to favor what is known as the “new view” of property tax incidence, an acceptance of the idea that ”the burden of the tax on improvements remains with the owners of capital in the form of a lower net return instead of being shifted to users of property in the form of higher rents or prices.”11 Proponents point out that “the tax on improvements is essentially a nationwide tax on capital . . . [and therefore] its incidence will depend on the characteristics of supply and demand for capital nationally rather than on a single market.”12 The effect of this is to make the tax ”highly progressive.”13 Nonetheless, in a small footnote, Messrs. Pomp and Phares elected to go with the “old view” in stating that, “it seems most appropriate to assume that the new view does not apply to the analysis of tax burdens within one specific state (underlining in original). Thus, the old or traditional view was adhered to in the analysis. . ; that is, the excise effect of the tax was considered dominant.”14 The ubiquity of New York's property tax, and that it has over 1,300 local assessment and tax districts, may well have escaped their notice.

This point is significant because the authors took great pains on several occasions to emphasize that the New York real property tax was the “most regressive element in the State's tax structure.”15 In the Executive Summary, two of the thirteen bullets stressed that ”the dominant influence in the tax system is the local real property tax,” and that ”the local property tax is highly regressive, particularly the owner-occupied component.”16

This was portrayed graphically, along with an accompanying table, using fourteen separate tax brackets showing effective tax rates ranging in a U, or a “reverse J curve,” from a high of 20.51 percent of income for the lowest group, to 3.37 percent for the second to highest group.17 Nowhere in the Report is there an indication of what income measure was employed – Federal Adjusted Gross Income or Taxable Income, most likely. But it may also have been household income. If so, this could well have excluded significant income sources, particularly from those households receiving social security income and/or retirement income for New York State or local pensioners which is not taxable for state purposes. Whatever, this was recognized implicitly in the observation that ”many persons are only temporarily in the lowest class ($0 - $4,199 for 1980) because of retirement, short-term unemployment, and so forth. If their income were measured over a longer period of time, rather than on the basis of only one year, they would not fall in the lowest class. Thus, the [drastically high effective tax rate] figure for this class . . . overstates the true burden on this group.”18

A Deeper Examination of the Property Taxation Quagmire

This last caveat suggests what is likely the most critical failing of the Report. The use of an income snapshot as the basis for measuring the effective tax burden on owners of real property reflects a misunderstanding of how tax equity should be construed. The value of property titles is a measure of wealth, and is likely to have little if any bearing on any momentary snapshot of income in a household. This confusion lies at the very core of difficulties in assessing the fairness of the property tax. Several studies of tax equity involving the real property tax fail to recognize that they are using income as a benchmark for analysis, even while the tax is upon wealth.

The problem as I see it is the mixing of two separate dimensions of economic value – what are frequently referred to as stock and flow. Stock value is a variable that has no time dimension, e.g., the stock of capital, or what in real estate is typically understood as the market price of a parcel.19 Flow, by contrast, is the quantity of an economic variable measured over a period of time. So the flow of an investment may be measured as the amount of investment expenditure or the amount of income return in a given time, such as in a yearly period.20 We can easily understand stock when looking at the value of a house or an office building just as we can for a car or a computer, as it represents the investment of labor and capital, and can be priced based on market supply and demand, depreciation, and replacement value much as with any other manufactured good.

The other component of a real property parcel is the land value, which reflects a market price based on very different criteria. Despite the apparent reality that land is visible and tangible, land prices reflect the value of location more than they do the material content they contain. This is easy to understand when one reflects that if some earth is removed from a site and brought to another place, the prices of each site is largely unaffected.21 Location value has duration, and the value of this flow of rights for exclusive use of a site requires a flow price rather than a stock price. This flow is really what classical economists refer to as ground rent or economic rent.22 Also known as “land rent,” it is defined as “a payment to a factor beyond what is needed to put that factor into use; [it is a price for use] beyond what is needed to maintain a market for land.”23 Land has a selling price because we have come to regard land sites as objects, as commodities to be traded,24 and they are understood to have a static price, as a stock rather than as a flow. That stock price really needs to be understood instead as the “present value” of the flow of ground rent minus taxes. “Present value” is an economic term that refers to “the worth of a future stream of returns or costs in terms of their value now.”25 Consideration in this way brings to the fore other concerns and factors.

The market price of a location depends not only on ground rent and taxes, effectively its present value, but also upon the “discount rate,” or interest rate, that prevails in the market used to calculate its returns and costs. When interest rates go up, the market prices of sites fall, just as for any other economic encumbrances placed on locational sites.

The market prices of sites also fall if taxes go up and nothing else changes. However, an increase in taxes is often accompanied by improvements in any obligations linked to parcel locations. These too are sometimes easily “commodified,”26 and may vary according to time period, changed neighborhood expectations, emergency conditions, government regulations, and so on.27 These contingent links often constitute services that raise the market prices of sites more than the taxes depress them. Still another way of understanding the value of locations is to see them as capitalized transportation costs.28 Savings in transportation are likely to be expressed in the market price of sites. One way or another people are willing to pay for access to exchange markets: either in the form of site proximity or in the form of travel expenses. It is the reason why urban cores have higher site rents than peripheral areas and hinterlands. Hence the differential value of locations, dependent, not on anything titleholders do, but rather on the quality of community amenities. These all have a price.

The prices for services that raise land rents, like the services themselves, should be regarded as flows rather than as stocks. But, ironically, our payments for such services are not understood as flows affecting site values at all, but are seen rather as related to stock prices. The values of our property parcels are viewed solely as stocks, and therefore our taxes are seen as stock taxes.

Henry George’s Solution: Taxing the Flow of Land Rent

If land values are really the present values of anticipated future ground rents, one can certainly treat them as flows rather than stocks, just as community services are continuous flows. The amount of rent flowing through a site and through the economy is not negligible; what estimates have been made, where indeed the economic data allow it to be made, suggest that it is roughly a third of a nation’s GDP.29 The question is whether it makes more sense to. Should we elect to continue property tax regimes as we do, it would make better sense to tax buildings as stocks and lands as rent flows. But this raises the question whether real property should be exempt from all taxes, as some have argued.30 What rationale exists for taxing lands, whether as stocks or flows; and why do we tax buildings? I will argue below that taxing buildings and the failure to adequately tax land both have deleterious consequences for the whole economy.

Little justification exists for taxing buildings, or improvements of any sort, so this question is easily disposed of. The practice is explained largely as a matter of historical inertia. Only in the recent century or two have buildings represented any significant capital value; prior to the rise of major cities, the value of real property lay essentially in land. American cities today typically record aggregate assessed land values – at least when the valuations are well-done – at about 40% to 60% of total taxable value, that is, of land and buildings taken together.31 Skyscrapers reflect enormous capital investment, and this expenditure is warranted because of the enormous value of locational sites. Each site gets its market price from the fact that the total neighborhood context creates an attractive market presence and ambience. By taxing buildings, however, we impose a penalty on their optimum development as well as on the incentives for their maintenance. Moreover, taxes on buildings take away from whatever burden would otherwise be imposed on sites, with the result that incentives for their highest and best use is weakened. Lastly, the technical and administrative challenges of properly assessing the value of improvements is daunting, particularly since they must be depreciated for tax and accounting purposes, evaluated for potential replacement, and so on. In fact most costs associated with administration of property taxation and appeal litigation involve disputes over the valuation of structures, not land values.

Land value taxation, on the other hand, overcomes all these obstacles. Locations are the beneficiaries of community services whether they are improved or not. As has been forcefully argued by this writer and others elsewhere,32 a tax on land value conforms to all the textbook principles of sound tax theory. Some further considerations are worth reviewing, however, when looking at ground rent as a flow rather than as a “present value” stock. The technical ability to trace changes in the market prices of sites – or as can also be understood, the variable flow of ground rent to those sites – by the application of GIS (geographic information systems) real-time recording of sales transactions invites wholesale changes in the maintenance of cadastral data. The transmittal of sales records as typically received in the offices of local governments for purposes of title registration over to Assessors’ offices allows for the possibility of a running real-time mapping of market values. Given also that GIS algorithms can now calculate the land value proportions reasonably accurately, this means that “landvaluescapes” are easily created in ways analogous to maps that portray other common geographic features. These landvaluescapes reflect the flow of ground rent through local or regional economies, and can also be used to identify the areas of greatest market vitality and enterprise. The flow of economic rent can easily be taxed in ways that overcomes the mistaken notion that it is a stock. Just as income is recognized as a flow of money, rent too can (and should) be understood as such.

The question still begs to be answered, “why tax land?” And what happens when we don’t tax land? Henry George answered this more than a century ago more forcefully and clearly, perhaps, than anyone has since. He recognized full well that the economic surplus not expended by human hands or minds in the production of capital wealth gravitates to land. Particular land sites come to reflect the value of their strategic location for market exchanges by assuming a price for their monopoly use. Regardless whether those who acquire title to such sites use them to the full extent of their potential, the flow of rent to such locations is commensurate with their full capacity. This is why John Stuart Mill more than a century ago observed that, “Landlords grow richer in their sleep without working, risking or economizing. The increase in the value of land, arising as it does from the efforts of an entire community, should belong to the community and not to the individual who might hold title.”33 Absent its recovery by taxation this rent becomes a “free lunch” to opportunistically situated titleholders. When offered for sale, the projected rental value is capitalized in the present value for purposes of attaching a market price and sold as a commodity. Yet simple justice calls for the recovery in taxes what is the community’s creation. Moreover, the failure to recover the land rent connected to sites makes it necessary to tax productive activities in our economy, and this leads to economic and technical inefficiency known as “deadweight loss.”34 It means that the economy performs suboptimally.

Land, and by this Henry George meant any natural factor of production not created by human hands or minds, is ours only to use, not to buy or sell as a commodity. In the equally immortal words of Jefferson a century earlier, “The earth belongs in usufruct to the living; . . . [It is] given as a common stock for men to labor and live on.”35 This passage likely needs a bit of parsing for the modern reader. The word usufruct, understood since Roman times, has almost passed from use today. It means “the right to use the property of another so long as its value is not diminished.”36 Note also that Jefferson regarded the earth as a “common stock;” not allotted to individuals with possessory titles. Only the phrase “to the living” might be subject to challenge by forward-looking environmentalists who, taking an idea from Native American cultures, argue that “we do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.” The presumption that real property titles are acquired legitimately is a claim that does not withstand scrutiny; rather all such titles owe their origin ultimately to force or fraud.37

If we own the land sites that we occupy only in usufruct, and the rent that derives from those sites is due to community enterprise, it is not a large logical leap to argue that the community’s recovery of that rent should be the proper source of taxation. This is the Georgist argument: that the recapture of land rent is the proper – indeed the natural – source of taxation.38



1. The formal name under the authorizing statute is the New York State Legislative Commission on the Modernization and Simplification of Tax Administration and Tax Law. It was first authorized in 1981, and has continued to receive funding to the present time.

2. Shortly before, the Legislature had authorized the creation of the Temporary State Commission on The Real Property Tax, jointly accountable to Governor Cuomo, Senate Majority Leader, Warren Anderson, and Assembly Speaker, Stanley Fink. Its Executive Director was Laurence Farbstein. This commission continued throughout the 1980s.

3. The staff of the Legislative Tax Study Commission had six people for its initial and most productive years. There were two lawyers, an accountant, an economist, a political scientist, and a secretary-administrator.

4. This is amply demonstrated by economist Nicolas Georgescu-Roegen, The Entropy Law and the Economic Process. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1971, and corroborated by Herman Daly, Steady-State Economics, 2nd Edition. Washington, DC: Island Press, 1991

5. Albany Law Review, Vol. 51 (Spring/Summer, 1987), Issue 3, 4; pp. 369 ff.

6. “Who Pays New York Property Taxes,” p. 15.

7. New York's Office of Real Property Services provides a common classification structure to all assessment districts throughout the State. These are Agricultural, Residential, Vacant, Commercial, Recreational, Community Services, Industrial, and Public Services.

8. “Who Pays,” p. 15.

9. John P. Harding, et al., “Depreciation of Housing Capital, Maintenance, and House Price Inflation: Estimates from a Repeat Sales Model,” Journal of Urban Economics, Vol. 61, No. 2 (March, 2007); and Morris A. Davis and Michael G. Palumbo, “The Price of Residential Land in Large U.S. Cities,” Finance and Economics Discussion Series, Washington: DC: Federal Reserve Board, 2006.

10. In recent years a greater effort has been made to bring assessments into line with actual market prices, but there is still no requirement in New York State that this be done. Connecticut now requires assessments every five years, and the State of Maryland takes responsibility for doing one-third of the localities each year.

11. James Heilbrun, “Who Bears the Burden of the Property Tax?” in C. Lowell Harriss (ed.), The Property Tax and Local Finance. New York: Proceedings of the Academy of Political Science, Vol. 35, No.1 (1983), p. 60.

12. Ibid., p. 61.

13. Ibid., p. 65.

14. “Who Pays,” p. 68, note 10.

15. “Who Pays,” p. 27.

16. See also “Who Pays,” p. 65.

17. This was based on 1980 tax data. Therefore, the groups were much lower than current levels. The lowest income class was “under $4,200,” and the highest was “over $49,000.”

18. “Who Pays,” p. 21.

19. The MIT Dictionary of Modern Economics, Fourth Edition, David W. Pearce (Ed). Cambridge: MIT Press, 1994. p. 410.

20. The MIT Dictionary . p. 159.

21. The big exception to the invariability of land qualities is the matter of brownfields, which frequently preclude the use of sites and constitute a potential liability to titleholders.

22. This term is frequently used by those who appreciate the significance of the concept. See John C. Lincoln, Ground Rent, Not Taxes: The Natural Source of Revenue for the Government. New York: Exposition Press, 1957.

23. Fred E. Foldvary, Dictionary of Free-Market Economics. Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar Publishers, 1998. p. 121 ff.

24. One recent historical chronicler notes that, "by the middle of the eighteenth century, the American idea of landed property had evolved beyond its English roots. Americans had begun to speculate on land. It had become a commodity." This would come to characterize treatment of land worldwide before very long. See. Andro Linklater, Measuring America. New York: Walker & Co., 2002; and Robert J. Miller, Native America: Discovered and Conquered. Westport, CT: Praeger Press, 2006. This writer’s reviews are online at the Amazon.com for the second and, for the first, at www.cooperativeindividualism.org/batt_review_of_linklater_on_measuring_america.html A third recent account of how the great land grab unfolded is John C. Weaver, The Great Land Rush and the Making of the Modern World, 1650 –1900. Montreal: McGill-Queens University Press, 2006.

25. The MIT Dictionary . p. 340.

26. One recent writer has coined the word “propertized” to refer to this transformation. See Peter Barnes. Capitalism 3.0. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2006. See this author’s review at http://www.progress.org/2007/barncap.htm

27. An easy illustration is the requirement that sidewalks be cleared of snow within a certain interval after a storm. Alternate street parking, ration of privilege for communal amenities, garbage pick-up, and so on are all obligation linkages that may affect the market price of locations. Still more obvious still are community services like schools, libraries, public safety services, and so on.

28. H. William Batt, “Stemming Sprawl: The Fiscal Approach,” Chapter 10, Suburban Sprawl: Culture, Theory, and Politics, edited by Matthew J. Lindstrom and Hugh Bartling; Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2003. Also online at http://www.urbantools.org/policy-papers/sprawl/

29. See, for example, Terry Dwyer, “The Taxable Capacity of Australian Land Resources,” in Australian Tax Forum, January, 2003. www.prosper.org.au/Documents/TaxableCapacity.pdf; and infra. See also Steven Cord, “How Much Revenue Would a Full Land Value Tax Yield? Analysis of Census and Federal Reserve Data,” American Journal of Economics and Sociology, Vol. 44, No. 3 (July, 1985), pp. 279-293. More work will be forthcoming on this question soon, hopefully, and with much greater documentation.

30. It is not difficult to find people who argue for this solution, and there are no shortage of opinion pieces, legislative bills, and other evidence of this sentiment. A Google search on “abolish property tax” turned up over a million hits.

31. For this writer’s views on assessment and appraisal practices for purposes of real property taxation, see my testimony before the New York State Assembly Real Property Committee, February 6, 2007, available online at http://www.wealthandwant.com/docs/Batt_Assessment.htm

32. http://www.wealthandwant.com/docs/Batt_Painless.htm , http://www.progress.org/cg/battprincip02.htm.

33. Principles of Political Economy, bk.5, ch.2, sec.5.

34. “Deadweight loss is the loss of producer’s or consumer’s surplus stemming from the price of a good being higher than marginal cost or to a tax that increases the cost. A lower quantity is purchased than would be the case without a tax or under ideal conditions, such as the elimination of artificial barriers to entry. (Fred E. Foldvary, Dictionary of Free-Market Economics. Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar Publishers, 1998. p. 103.) The attachment of economic rent to land sites means that a market of less than perfect competition exists, thereby engendering deadweight loss.

35. Jefferson letter to James Madison, September 6, 1789. Writings of Thomas Jefferson, 1892-99. Ford, Lesson IX.

36. Fred E. Foldvary, Dictionary of Free-Market Economics. p. 288. It is very revealing that the term does not appear in The MIT Dictionary at all.

37. This is a point that is made vigorously by disciples of Henry George. Central to many of the Georgist websites, I find the one at www.answersanswers.com particularly articulate on this point. George’s own speech, “Thou Shalt Not Steal,” delivered in New York City in 1887, is a classic, accessible online at www.wealthandwant.com/HG/George_TSNS.html.

38. Two prominent and early proponents of Henry George’s ideas wrote books with those very titles. Thomas Gaskell Shearman’s book, Natural Taxation, was published in 1895 and revised in 19ll; Charles Bowdoin Fillebrown’s book, Principles of Natural Taxation, was published in 1917. Both had extremely wide circulation and have considerable value in understanding the history and context of the period. See my reviews on www.cooperativeindividualism.org.



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about Henry George


neoclassical economics

not passed on

absentee ownership


land different from capital

land share of real estate value


land appreciates, buildings depreciate

tax incidence

regressive /progressive

equity in taxation

stock and flow


present value

discount rate

land prices and taxes

land rent as capitalized transportation costs

public spending

magnitude of rent


necessity of taking rent

location, location, location


perverse incentives

incentive taxation

free lunch

land share of real estate value


canons of taxation


land value mapping

effects of taxing land value

effects of not collecting site revenue

necessity of taking rent

land value taxation

land monopoly capitalism

in one's sleep

free lunch




rent as provisioning for community

taxing productive activity

deadweight loss

land includes


land as common property

natural taxation

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