Wealth and Want
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Taxi Medallions

Taxi medallions — the right to drive a taxi in a certain geographical area — get sold from one owner to another at very great sums (as well as being rented out to multiple drivers over the course of a week). They appreciate in value because of their scarcity, not because of anything their current holder contributes to society, and yet we only collect back a small share of that increase in value via a capital gains tax. The rest is a windfall for the owner/seller. Why do we grant such privileges?

Nic Tideman: Basic Tenets of the Incentive Taxation Philosophy

Ending Privilege

When the principle that the value of government-assigned opportunities should be received by the public treasury is violated, the result is "privilege," which from its Latin roots means "private law," that is, law that permits one person to do what others are not permitted to do. Thus what we stand for is an end to privilege.

Numerous examples of privilege are incorporated in our institutions.

  • Farm legislation restricts the growing of tobacco to those who have been assigned acreage allotments.
  • For numerous commodities, trade legislation limits shipments from individual countries to specified quotas.
  • In many cities, only persons who have been given permits are allowed to operate taxis, and new permits are not issued.
  • To operate a radio or television station requires a license, and there are no opportunities for new licenses to be issued.
  • In most cities, construction of commercial or multi-family residential structures requires zoning permission that is granted to some and not to others.
  • But the single most important category of privilege is land titles.

This list of examples of privilege, which is by no means exhaustive, contains some privileges, such as acreage allotments and import quotas, that would be best reformed by eliminating restrictions and permitting all to do what now only some may do. For other privileges, such as broadcast licenses and land titles, great productivity results from the social understanding that a specified individual will have the use of a given resource. For these privileges, the best reform is the introduction of the requirement that any person who is assigned such an opportunity must pay to the public treasury an annual fee equal to what the opportunity would be worth to someone else.  ...  Read the whole article

Mason Gaffney:  Property Tax: Biases and Reforms
Priority #1. Safeguarding the property tax
Priority #2: Enforce Good Laws
  • Reassess Land Frequently
  • Use the Building-Residual Method of Allocating Value
  • Federal Income Taxes
Priority #3. De-Balkanize Tax Enclaves
  • A. Rich and Poor
  • B. Timber and Timberland
  • The Role of Timber and Timberland
  • Two More Areas Deserving Attention
    • Offshore Oil
    • Tax All Natural Resources Uniformly and Comprehensively
Priority #4. What Tax to Fight First?
Priority #5: Make Landowners Pay Their Taxes

Another soft target is the Manhattan taxi license, or "medallion." For some reason this has long been a favorite object lesson among economists, even as they shut their eyes to grosser sources of rent. It may be because cabbies are rude and visible and lower class, but whatever the reasons these writers have shown their consciousness of the rent aspect of medallions, and raised the consciousness of others.

The reason for pursuing soft targets is not for the money they may yield, but for principle. Once the principle is understood and established, wider applications should follow. In economic principle, fishing quotas and taxi medallions are just like conventional land titles: privileged control over limited natural resources. If it makes sense to socialize the rent from quotas and medallions, why not land titles too? Read the whole article


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Wealth and Want
... because democracy alone hasn't yet led to a society in which all can prosper