Wealth and Want
... because democracy alone is not enough to produce widely shared prosperity.
Home Essential Documents Themes All Documents Authors Glossary Links Contact Us



We complain mightily about "takings" but seem to ignore that the "givings" which are the flip side of that are not rightly our personal windfall, but belong rightly to the community.

Land value taxation collects that common treasure for community purposes.

Karl Williams:  Land Value Taxation: The Overlooked But Vital Eco-Tax

I. Historical overview
II. The problem of sprawl
III. Affordable and efficient public transport
IV. Agricultural benefits
V. Financial concerns
VI. Conclusion: A greater perspective
Appendix: "Natural Capitalism" -- A Case Study in Blindness to Land Value Taxation

But LVT has much more to contribute to the question of low-impact urban function, in the form of affordable and efficient public transport and other desirable infrastructure. The principle reason why public transport options are presently so limited is because the taxpayer-funded investment in this and other forms of infrastructure effectively disappears, in an almost unseen manner, into the "Black Hole" of landowners' pockets.

That is, not only is the resulting compact cityscape more amenable to the provision of public transport (not to mention walking and riding), but LVT makes the investment in such infrastructure affordable because the resulting enhanced land values are "recycled" back into public coffers. The extension of London's Jubilee line underground network, which opened in 1999, provides a good case in point of how desirable infrastructure can be self-funding if land values are recaptured. An independent study was performed which assessed the increase in land values extending to 800 yards from each of the 10 stations. The accumulated gain (to private landowners) was estimated to be around £13 billion, courtesy of the £3.5 billion of taxpayers funds it took to build the line! ...

A simple model will serve to illustrate. Presently, rail/metro infrastructure is almost prohibitively expensive because the windfall benefits are effectively handed over to landowners. To partially recoup the outlay, authorities are forced to set fares so high as to act as a disincentive to potential low-impact commuters.  read the entire article

Jeff Smith: How Profit Shapes Urban Space
Although society may have a feeble claim to many of the things it taxes, land value is precisely what society should not forgo. It’s not lone owners but the community who generates this value by its infrastructure and its mere presence. Leaving ground rent uncollected constitutes a "giving" that communities and eco-systems can ill afford. Let's wean owners from socially-generated site values and make urgent their hunger, and they'll hunt up their own built value where it's needed. ...   Read the whole article

Jeff Smith: What the Left Must Do: Share the Surplus
The much and justifiably criticized corporation is in essence its corporate charter, given value by limiting the liability of managers, directors, and investors. It’s worth at least the cost of the insurance payments not made by the corporation, which would equal the costs imposed upon worker, customer, and nature. As the “need” arises, legislatures extend limited liability even further: Congress legally lowered the greater risk of nuclear power to benefit Westinghouse, of the Valdez oil transport spill for Exxon, and the Y2K software design bug for Microsoft. Politicians define legally “safe” amounts of polluted air and water for GM and Monsanto, keeping safe the wealth of those responsible.

Not to be outdone by any legislature, the Supreme Court has ruled in favour of compensating landowners for environmental “takings”, but has remained silent about landowners compensating the public for any “givings”, as when site values skyrocket near a new light rail stop. Molly Ivins wrote,
"Henry George must be in his grave spinning' like a cyclotron. We, the people at large, make the land more desirable; and then the landowners want us to pay them because we won't allow them to poison the air or to pollute the rivers." (1995 March)
That’s how great fortunes are made: by sloughing off private costs (which become “negative externalities”) while soaking up public benefits (some “positive externalities”). Land titles, corporate charters, and other privileges – mere pieces of paper – are worth trillions each year. The corporations – from the Federal Reserve to Exxon (both founded by the “oiligarchy”) – that receive these privileges make their owners rich or richer. Their wealth is not compensation for the exertions of either labor or capital, not profit in the market from output, but rent from present lobbying of legislatures or past conquest of others’ lands. Thus laws (“privilege” means “private law”) funnel multi-trillions of dollars each year from the many to the few.  ... Read the whole article



To share this page with a friend: right click, choose "send," and add your comments.

Red links have not been visited; .
Green links are pages you've seen

Essential Documents pertinent to this theme:

Top of page
Essential Documents
to email this page to a friend: right click, choose "send"
Wealth and Want
... because democracy alone hasn't yet led to a society in which all can prosper