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Once you're familiar with the ideas of Henry George, an obvious question is "how do we get from here to there, and who is affected in the process?" This reform is both a local one (reforming the property tax and getting rid of local and state taxes on buildings, sales and wages) and a national one (starting to collect an increasing share of the economic value of natural resources, reasonable user fees, broadcast spectrum, etc. — see "land includes" and "sources of rent" for more about this aspect).

And then the question becomes how many years it is reasonable to ask people to wait for such a reform to be complete, once it is begun. (See also: slavery.)

It is an axiom of statesmanship, which the successful founders of tyranny have understood and acted upon that great changes can best be brought about under old forms. We, who would free men, should heed the same truth. It is the natural method. When nature would make a higher type, she takes a lower one and develops it. This, also, is the law of social growth. Let us work by it. With the current we may glide fast and far. Against it, it is hard pulling and slow progress.

By making use of this existing machinery, we may, without jar or shock, assert the common right to land by appropriating rent by taxation. We already take some rent in taxation. We have only to make some changes in our modes of taxation to take it all.*

*Rent in the economic sense is not, as those unfamiliar with economic terminology may assume, the whole amount paid for the use of real estate. It is only that part of such amount which is paid for the use of the bare land or site employed, exclusive of the payment for the use of any buildings or other improvements on it. H. G. B.

In form, the ownership of land would remain just as now. No owner of land need be dispossessed, and no restriction need be placed upon the amount of land any one could hold. For, rent being taken by the State in taxes, land, no matter in whose name it stood, or in what parcels it was held, would be really common property, and every member of the community would participate in the advantages of its ownership.

Now, insomuch as the taxation of rent, or land values, must necessarily be increased just as we abolish other taxes, we may put the proposition into practical form by proposing --

to abolish all taxation save that upon land values.

As we have seen, the value of land is at the beginning of society nothing, but as society develops by the increase of population and the advance of the arts, it becomes greater and greater. In every civilized country, even the newest, the value of the land taken as a whole is sufficient to bear the entire expenses of government. In the better developed countries it is much more than sufficient. Hence it will not be enough merely to place all taxes upon the value of land. It will be necessary, where rent exceeds the present governmental revenues, commensurately to increase the amount demanded in taxation, and to continue this increase as society progresses and rent advances. But this is so natural and easy a matter, that it may be considered as involved, or at least understood, in the proposition to put all taxes on the value of land. That is the first step upon which the practical struggle must be made. When the hare is once caught and killed, cooking him will follow as a matter of course. When the common right to land is so far appreciated that all taxes are abolished save those which fall upon rent, there is no danger of much more than is necessary to induce them to collect the public revenues being left to individual landholders.

Wherever the idea of concentrating all taxation upon land values finds lodgment sufficient to induce consideration, it invariably makes way, but there are few of the classes most to be benefited by it, who at first, or even for a long time afterward, see its full significance and power.

  • It is difficult for workingmen to get over the idea that there is a real antagonism between capital and labor.
  • It is difficult for small farmers and homestead owners to get over the idea that to put all taxes on the value of land would be unduly to tax them.
  • It is difficult for both classes to get over the idea that to exempt capital from taxation would be to make the rich richer, and the poor poorer.

These ideas spring from confused thought. But behind ignorance and prejudice there is a powerful interest, which has hitherto dominated literature, education, and opinion. A great wrong always dies hard, and the great wrong which in every civilized country condemns the masses of men to poverty and want, will not die without a bitter struggle. ... read the whole chapter

Bill Batt: Painless Taxation

Real tax reform could do away with those taxes that are resented by the large proportion of our population. We could replace all taxes on wages and on interest by instead taxing economic rent. Rent is windfall income; it is income that arises not from the efforts of any person or corporation; it comes about as a surplus gain from common social enterprise. There is ample moral warrant for society to lay claim to that which it has created, as well as to that which no individual or party has earned. Analysis increasingly makes clear that economic rent in all its forms is far larger than official government figures indicate; in fact it is likely sufficient to supplant all current taxes on labor and capital (wages and interest) which are acknowledged to have so many negative effects. Recovering economic rent in all its manifestations by taxing its various bases actually can foster economic performance and yield other benefits that make it the natural source of revenue for governments. Such a tax is essentially painless. ... read the whole article

Louis Post: Outlines of Louis F. Post's Lectures, with Illustrative Notes and Charts (1894) — Appendix: FAQ

Q27. Would working people, whose savings are in savings banks or insurance companies which own land or have mortgages upon land, lose by the shrinkage in land values?
A. Not if the companies were managed intelligently. Well managed companies would shift their investments as they observed the persistent decline of land values. They would do it even as soon as conditions appeared which would naturally cause land values to shrink. But working people could well afford to give all their savings for the permanent employment and high wages that the single tax would bring about. It is not working people but idle people who would lose anything by the single tax.

wealthandwant editorial comment: Post may be confusing land prices and land value. Land value will continue to rise; land price will fall, as the land tax is capitalized into the price. ... read the book

Charles B. Fillebrown: A Catechism of Natural Taxation, from Principles of Natural Taxation (1917)

Q62.  Would it be wise to take gradually in taxation, say, 1/4, one half, or 3/4 of the future increase in economic rent?
A. One hundred and one professors of political economy have answered "Yes." Twenty-nine have answered "No."

Q63.  How could the single tax be put into operation?
A. By gradually transferring to land all taxes not already on it.

Q64.  How might such a plan be worked out?
A. If fifty cents per thousand should be deducted yearly for 30 years from the rate on all property other than land, the reduction would finally amount to $15 per thousand, and it would then be practically exempt from all taxation.

Q65.  But how could it be worked out in case of the land?

A. Recognizing that a right thing may be done in a wrong way, it is insisted that a right way ought to be found to do a thing that ought to be done. The following is presented as a natural and convenient unit of calculation: To be exact, an average of about 20 percent of the gross ground rent of land is now taken in taxation, for instance, in Boston, as well as for the whole state of Massachusetts. If an additional one percent should be taken each year for 30 years, it would amount at the end of that period to 30 percent, which, added to 20 percent, would make 50 percent, or one half, which is about the average proportion that present taxes levied on all property bear to gross ground rent. Meantime few landowners would feel the change, much less be prejudiced by it.

The following variable illustrations, A, B, and C, make clear.

A "Modus Operandi"

A Increase of Present Tax

For instance, applied to the assessment of a specific lot of land for which the user pays a gross ground rent of say ......  $68.00
Of which amount there is taken in taxation, 1915 ..... $18.00

Leaving a net income to the owner of  .... $50.00
The selling value (presumably also the assessed valuation) would be at 5 per cent ... $1,000.00
Proceeding to take yearly from now on 1 per cent additional of the gross ground rent of $68 for a period of thirty years would amount in all to 30 per cent of $68, equal to   .... $20.40
Which, added to the tax already taken .... $18.00
Would give at the end of thirty years, from the $1,000 worth of land alone, everything else being exempted, a total tax of .... $38.40.
Which is not much more than one half of the gross ground rent of ... $68.00

The opening exhibit in detail would stand as follows:
In 1915 the tax on this $1,000 worth of land was $18.00
In 1916 the tax would be $18 plus 68 cents (1 per cent of the gross ground rent, $68); equal to .... $18.68
Reducing the owner's net rent from $50 to $49.32
In 1917 the tax would be $18 plus $1.36 (2 per cent of the $68), totaling .... $19.36
Reducing the owner's net rent from $50 to $48.64,
In 1918 the tax would be $18 plus $2.04 (3 per cent of the $68) or $20.45
Reducing the owner's net rent from $50 to $47.96
In 1945 the tax on the land would be $18 plus $20.40 (30 per cent of the $68) or  ... $38.40
With all improvements exempted.
Reducing the owner's net rent from $50 to $29.60.

For a Future Increment Tax
The taking in taxation of any desired proportion of the future increment could be accomplished simply by continuing the present valuation and present rate as constant factors, and making a separate individual assessment of the increment tax after the following or similar formula, according to the proportion to be taken.  For instance, to take in taxation 50 per cent of the future increase:

Rate Per M.
Tax for Each Year
1915 $1,000      
1916 $1,040 $40 $25 Tax for year 1916, $1
1915 $1,000      
1917 $1,080 $80 25 Tax for year 1917, $2
1915 $1,000      
1918 $1,120 $120 25 Tax for year 1918, $3
1915 $1,000      
1919 $1,160 $160 25 Tax for year 1919, $4
1915 $1,000      
1920 $1,200 $200 25 Tax for year 1920, $5

In applying this formula it would be necessary after the first few years at least to increase the rate to correspond to the decrease in assessed valuation due to this new tax.  For computations upon this and related points, see the Report of the New York City Commission on New Sources of City Revenue (1913), p. 7 and Appendices X to XV.

The Assessment of Rent
It should be reiterated that inasmuchas gross ground rent, actual or potential, is the initial factor in getting at the value of land, it cannot be unprofitable to become familiar with a more correct formula as expressed in terms of rent.

Starting with the present unit of annual value for use to take in taxation in 25 years 50 per cent of the future increase in ground rent:

Net Ground Rent
Percentage of Rent
Tax for Each Year
1915 $50      
$52 2 50 Tax for year 1916, $1
1915 $50      
1917 54 4 50 Tax for year 1917, $2
1915 $50      
1918 56 6 50 Tax for year 1918, $3
1915 $50      
1919 58 8 50 Tax for year 1919, $4
1915 $50      
Tax for year 1920, $5
1915 $50
1940 100 50 50 Tax for year 1940, $25

... read the whole article

Fred E. Foldvary — The Ultimate Tax Reform: Public Revenue from Land Rent

How to make the transition

The switch to land value taxation will affect most significantly those who own land at the time of the transition. These are the persons who have been subsidized, receiving site rental and land value from civic works paid for mostly by taxes on wages when earned or spent. But even many landowners would not see their total tax burden rise. Their wages, profits, interest, and consumption would all become untaxed, and taxes on their buildings and other improvements would be eliminated.

As shown by the equations earlier in this report, the land value tax is not even any burden on future owners of the land, since the tax on the land reduces its purchase price. What the owner pays in a tax on his geo-rent, he saves in not having to pay that amount as mortgage interest. There are two ways of addressing any net burden that might fall on current landowners during a shift to land value taxes.
First, landowners could be compensated.

Second, the shift could be implemented gradually, allowing land values to fall to accommodate the expected and gradually implemented tax shift.

As a concrete example, the transition to land value taxation can be accomplished in these steps:

1. Each county expands its register of all real estate and the title holders to include all lands owned by governments and previously non-registered entities.

2. Local real estate taxes are split into two taxes, one on land value and one on improvements.

3. The county real estate assessment function is transferred to land value assessment boards, comprised of representatives from the federal, state, county, and municipal governments as well as real estate professionals and scholars. These boards appoint assessors and establish an appeals process, similar to current real estate tax appeals.

4. All land is assessed at its current market value.

5. Over a period of years, depending on how much land values already have fallen in anticipation of the tax shift, the tax on improvements is reduced, while the tax on land values is increased. (An immediate tax shift to geo-rent, with other taxes reduced or abolished, could be compensated, for those with net losses, with special bonds whose face-value interest payments would decrease over time; this would have an effect similar to the gradual increase in the geo-rent tax rate.)

6. Sales taxes, tariffs, and excise taxes are reduced and eventually eliminated.

7. The personal exemption in federal income taxes is raised each year, until it eventually includes all income, at which time all state and federal personal income taxes are abolished. The taxation of corporate profits is also phased out.

8. The value of material land (minerals, oil, water, etc.), the electromagnetic spectrum, naturally growing forests, and other natural resources is taxed at gradually increasing rates up to a substantial amount, if not all, of the unimproved rental value.

9. An amendment to the Constitution is enacted prohibiting any taxation of wages, sales, profits, value-added, or produced wealth and establishing the taxation of the value of land and other natural resources, along with voluntary user fees and charges for pollution and congestion, as the only sources of public revenues. The amendment also establishes a land value tax commission with representatives from the federal, state, local, territorial, and Indian-nation governments to divide the taxes raised. Generally, taxes raised from off-shore oil and water, atmospheric pollution, airline routes, and other continental uses would be allocated to the federal government, and the rest would be allocated to the state (or provincial, in Canada), local, territorial, and Indian-nation governments. If the national government needs additional revenue, it is obtained from the state or territorial governments in proportion to their land value, as was specified in the Articles of Confederation that preceded the U.S. Constitution.

10. Top-down revenue sharing from federal to state and from state to local government stops. Many services, functions, and agencies are transferred from the central government to the state/provincial and local governments. ... read the whole document

Fred Foldvary: Geo-Rent: A Plea to Public Economists

GRADUAL REFORM: 20 YEARS TO 75 PERCENT A shift to public finance from geo-rent would be politically difficult, which may help explain why it has not been done. The political difficulty, however, exists despite the fact that most homeowners, being also wage earners, would have a net gain if other taxes, including the property tax on improvements, were simultaneously abolished. But some current landowners, especially of urban commercial real estate, would have a net loss, unless we build in some kind of “compensation.” Economists are accustomed to saying that a tough transition — plant-closings, declining industries, retooling and retraining—should not deter the long-term good. The same should apply here.

I suggest the following transition to geo-rent taxation, if only to serve as a conceptual model:
Time 0: The new regime is enacted into law.
Years 1 through 10: The landowner continues to pay the roughly 25 percent of the geo-rent now implicit in his current property taxes. (If the property tax is 2 percent of land value and the capitalization rate (real interest rate) is 6 percent, that works out to about 25 percent of geo-rent, which is an annualized dimension.)
Year 11: He pays 30 percent.
Year 12: He pays 35 percent.
Year 13: He pays 40 percent.
Year 14: He pays 45 percent.
Year 15: He pays 50 percent.
Year 16: He pays 55 percent.
Year 17: He pays 60 percent.
Year 18: He pays 65 percent.
Year 19: He pays 70 percent.
Year 20: He pays 75 percent.
Thereafter: He pays 75 percent.
Here are a number of points the help to flesh out the scheme:
  • The scheme applies also to government-owned land. The associated government agency, such as the Bureau of Land Management or the United States Postal Service, would pay geo-rent for the land it owns. This will improve government cost accounting and policy decisions.
  • To which level of government are geo-rent taxes paid? This is an important question, but I wish to sidestep it here. For present purposes, one may imagine a system in which, like property taxes today, geo-rent taxes would be collected at the level of county government. When such taxes are sufficiently large, they would flow both down to the city governments and up to the state and national governments.
  • The other side of the scheme, not detailed here, is the untaxing of buildings, sales, income, etc. Thus, the scheme involves an enormous confiscation of land-wealth and an enormous de-confiscation of other kinds of wealth.
A reform like that suggested here would, of course, require a movement and public debate taking years, if not decades. Once enacted, during the first 10 years, the landowners pay no more in geo-rent than they are accustomed to paying. All this lead-up time will give people time to figure out what geo-rent taxation means, and to work out in markets the present values of land, in anticipation of the coming increases in levies.  ...

The financial burden is only on the owners who are current at the time the geo-rent tax is increased. What is not so well recognized in public finance is that, after the transition to geo-rent taxation, there is no burden on any new site owner. The price of land is capitalized down in proportion to the tax rate, so the payment of the tax is offset by the lower price of land. However, if we may neglect the consequences on the dependents and heirs of the current landowners, after the transitional generation, no one suffers a burden.

The impact on the current landowners raises issues of “compensation.” While advocates of tapping geo-rent for public revenue argue that it is equitable, because it pays back geo-rent generated by government’s civic works, critics argue that the transition would not be equitable, because the financial burden would be concentrated on landowners. Robert Solow (1998, 278) states that while taxing geo-rent would be good for a new country, “Expropriating land values today would have no semblance of fairness.” He adds, however, that if the transition is gradual or if there is compensation, then “the complaint of iniquity may lose validity.”

An immediate tax shift to geo-rent, with other taxes reduced or abolished, could be compensated with special bonds whose face-value interest payments would decrease over time, with an effect similar to the gradual increase in the geo-rent tax rate suggested above. But compensation is a side issue. I say we try to sell the reform to the current landowners on its merits, just as we would argue for a reduction in trade barriers, as a worthy sacrifice, and offer our gratitude for their political cooperation. (I say this as the owner of a prime plot in Berkeley, California!)  Read the entire article

Nic Tideman: The Case for Site Value Rating
The Social Justice of Site Value Rating
The Efficiency of Site Value Rating
How Valuations would be Made

Both for reasons of social justice and for reasons of economic efficiency, site value rating deserves a continued place in the programme of the Liberal Party.

The case for site value rating in terms of social justice is founded on two understandings: first, that the value of land in the absence of economic development is the common heritage of humanity, and second, that increases in the rental value of land arising from economic development and government expenditures should be collected by governments to finance those activities. What is meant by "land" is the unimproved value of sites and the value of extractable natural resources such as North Sea oil.

While there may someday be institutions capable of implementing a recognition of land as the heritage of all humanity on a worldwide basis, in the absence of such institutions each nation should implement a recognition that land within its boundaries is the common heritage of its citizens. This is accomplished not by making the nation a gigantic Common or by instituting government management of all land, but rather by requiring all persons and corporations that are granted the use of land to pay a fee or tax equal to what the rental value of the land they control would be if it were in an unimproved condition.

The case for site value rating in terms of economic efficiency is founded on the fact that a tax on resources that are not produced by human effort is one of the few sources of government revenue that does not reduce incentives for people to be productive. Two other revenue sources that have this virtue are taxes on other government-granted privileges such as exclusive use of radio frequencies and taxes on activities with harmful consequences, such as polluting the air. An economy will be more efficient if revenue sources that do not diminish productivity are employed to the greatest possible extent before any use is made of taxes that impede productivity.

What makes a tax efficient is that the amount of tax that is due cannot be reduced by reducing productive activities. When incomes are taxed, people can reduce the amount of taxes owed by working less. They do so, and the productivity of the economy falls. When houses are taxed, people can reduce the amount of taxes owed by building fewer house and smaller houses. They do so, and the housing shortage worsens. But when the unimproved value of land is taxed, there is no resulting diminution in the quantity of land. Thus taxes can be levied on land without diminishing the productivity of an economy. And shifting taxes from other, destructive bases to land will improve the productivity of an economy.

Subsequent sections explain in more detail these social justice and efficiency arguments for site value rating, describe procedures for implementing such a tax system, and explain why a variety of potential objections are without merit. ...

... if the full rental value of land is collected through site value rating, then the sale value of unimproved land will fall to approximately zero. The sale value of houses will fall to the value of the houses themselves. Do the owners of land deserve compensation for these reductions in the market value of their wealth?

First, it should be pointed out that the average taxpayer will pay the same tax as before, but in a different form. Site value rating will be substituted for some combination of income taxes, excise taxes, community charges, property value rates, and other taxes. A person should not complain about a change in the form of the taxes he pays if the total is the same. The above argument would be sufficient if every individual paid the same total tax after the change, but of course this will not occur. To some extent, increases in the sale value of capital will offset decreases in the sale value of land. This occurs because, by a removal of taxes from capital, site value rating will greatly increase the private returns to capital. This will generate a massive flow of capital toward any nation or region that reduces its taxes on capital. But such flows cannot occur instantaneously, and before they are completed the reductions in taxes on capital will raise the value of capital. In general, young persons will benefit more than older persons from a move to site value rating, because they tend to own less expensive plots of land if they own land at all, and they have many years ahead of them to benefit from reduction in other taxes. Those who are yet unborn will benefit most of all, because their birthrights to equal shares of the provenance of nature, as well as to the product of their labour, will be recognized. Net financial losses will tend to be greatest for older persons. Their houses will fall in sale value. They will be required to pay annually the rental value of the land on which their houses sit, without as much in reductions of their income taxes, and with fewer years ahead of them to reap tax savings. On the other hand, they will have less concern about providing for their children, because houses will be much easier for their children to acquire. Further offsetting any claim to compensation would be any past unearned profits that potential claimants had made on ownership of land.

In some circumstances, a claim for compensation would have merit. If a person had purchased a title to land from the government just before the introduction of site value rating, that person could reasonably claim compensation from government action that eliminated the value of his purchase. Even if a substantial amount of time has passed, it can be argued that a government should not be permitted to eliminate by legislation the value of an asset that it has sold. On this basis, anyone who owned land that was at one time purchased from the government would have a reasonable claim on a return of the (inflation adjusted) price for which the land was purchased from the government. A claim for interest on the purchase price could not be sustained, however. The use of the land since the time of purchase offsets the interest that could otherwise be claimed.

What of land that was at one time granted by the crown without payment for the title, and land that has risen substantially in value since it was purchased from the government? The government is not obliged to provide compensation for these losses from general tax revenues, because the source of these losses is the mistaken belief that private appropriation of the rent of land can be just. It cannot. The present generation of taxpayers should not be required to pay for this mistaken belief on the part of their forbearers. On the other hand, every person who has sold land in the past has fostered, to his profit, the mistaken belief that the rent of land can justly be privately appropriated. On this basis, all past profits from the sale of land, and all inheritances based on such profits, with accumulated interest, can be appropriated to provide compensation for those whose land falls in value to less than they paid for it, upon introduction of site value rating.

It is possible that the administrative cost of such an undertaking would be so great as to make it infeasible, while at the same time its moral justice was recognized. On this basis one can justify a "capital levy," a one-time charge on all capital in the nation, to provide compensation for those who lose from the introduction of site value rating. The justification of the capital levy would be that the amount of capital that a person owned was the best readily available indicator of past gains that a person had made from the sale of land.... Read the whole article

Jeff Smith and Kris Nelson: Giving Life to the Property Tax Shift (PTS)

John Muir is right. "Tug on any one thing and find it connected to everything else in the universe." Tug on the property tax and find it connected to urban slums, farmland loss, political favoritism, and unearned equity with disrupted neighborhood tenure. Echoing Thoreau, the more familiar reforms have failed to address this many-headed hydra at its root. To think that the root could be chopped by a mere shift in the property tax base -- from buildings to land -- must seem like the epitome of unfounded faith. Yet the evidence shows that state and local tax activists do have a powerful, if subtle, tool at their disposal. The "stick" spurring efficient use of land is a higher tax rate upon land, up to even the site's full annual value. The "carrot" rewarding efficient use of land is a lower or zero tax rate upon improvements. ...

Starting in 1914, Pittsburgh and Scranton introduced "the graded tax." Over a decade they phased in a higher rate on land until it was twice the rate on buildings. Doing so gradually allowed residents and businesses time to adapt, giving the PTS political acceptability. Tho' this delayed benefits, land speculators offered little opposition since they did not face the sudden effects of the full shift. Such an approach is still prudent today.

On the other hand, the shifting the property tax can be rapid and orderly. Economies and societies do endure price shocks, such as the doubling of gas pump prices in the early 70s. Yet to avoid that resultant acrimony, the PTS could be phased in gradually. Over five years, tax rates could change 20% per year.
  • Year One, the levy upon sites, resources, and government granted privileges (e.g., utility franchises, medical licenses, taxi medallions) would increase by 20% of uncollected annual value. All other taxes would fall by 20%, or policymakers could exempt the bottom quintile form taxes.
  • Year Two, if all goes well, 40% of natural value would be collected while other taxes would fall 40%. Years Three and Four, the process continues.
  • By Year Five, if all goes well, all natural value is collected while all other taxes are eliminated. If government projects a shortfall in revenue, the process could be drawn out.
Governments can rely on land rents, not on property, as a stable source of revenue thruout the business cycle. Such reliable revenue flows should give governments the confidence to alleviate hardship with various reductions, eventho' doing so would reduce revenue. Ways to ease the transition include monthly or quarterly payments, discounts for early payments, rebates of income or sales taxes, and a cap on how fast land dues may rise. Ways to lift the burden from those unable to pay include
  • exemptions for the elderly over a declining term,
  • deferral until sale or bequest of property,
  • deferral for the certified unemployed,
  • partial exemptions for farmers at a set amount,
  • purchase-and-demolition reimbursement, and
  • moving cost-sharing.
A big problem needs a big solution which in turn needs a matching shift of our prevailing paradigm. Geonomics -- advocating that we share the social value of sites and natural resources and untax earnings -- does just that. Read the whole article

Herbert J. G. Bab:  Property Tax -- Cause of Unemployment
There can be little doubt that the shifting of the tax burden from improvements to the land is the appropriate remedy. I shall try to outline a few ground rules for the procedure which should be followed:
  • The shifting of the tax burden should be achieved gradually over a period of years.
  • A predetermined yearly reduction in property tax rates on improvements should be enacted by each State and should be imposed on all local governments without exception. At the same time the tax rate on urban land should be increased to make up for the loss in revenues.
  • A State agency or State Tax commission should, be set up to supervise and administer the shifting of the tax burden with the following functions:
  • To break up the property tax into its constituent parts: taxes on urban improvements, urban land, farm land and property other than real estate.
  • To enforce the yearly reduction in tax rates on urban improvements and to see to it that taxes on urban land are raised to make up for the loss in revenues.
  • To supervise assessment procedures and practices and enforce the equal assessment of all classes of property.
  • To enforce the pooling of revenue derived from school taxes and to equalize school standards on a state-wide basis.
  • To examine the merits and effects of the taxes assessed on tangible and intangible property other than real estate and to recommend the retention or discontinuation of these taxes.
  • To consider the merits of granting immediate tax relief on the first $3,000 of all newly constructed housing in order to stimulate the improvements and modernization of homes. Read the whole article

Robert V. Andelson  Henry George and the Reconstruction of Capitalism
Nobody, to my knowledge, advocates that it be instituted whole-hog overnight. But it could be phased in in easy stages so as to obviate the risk of shock and dislocation. And it is my considered opinion that, by the time the system were in full effect, the revenues produced by collecting land values alone would suffice to meet all legitimate public needs. This may not have been true during the Cold War, with its staggering burden of nuclear defense. But with that burden lifted, and with the need for welfare of all kinds evaporated because of the full employment and other social benefits that the system would naturally engender, and for other reasons, which time precludes my specifying here, I really think that we could dispense with taxes on incomes, improvements, sales, imports, and all the rest. If I am unduly optimistic in this belief, and the public appropriation of land-values were insufficient, this would be no argument against using it as far as it could go. Read the whole article

Winston Churchill: The People's Land  
The system to be attacked, not individuals. I hope you will understand that when I speak of the land monopolist I am dealing more with the process than with the individual landowner. I have no wish to hold any class up to public disapprobation. I do not think that the man who makes money by unearned increment in land is morally a worse man than anyone else who gathers his profit where he finds it in this hard world under the law and according to common usage. It is not the individual I attack, it is the system. It is not the man who is bad, it is the law which is bad. It is not the man who is blameworthy for doing what the law allows and what other men do; it is the State which would be blameworthy were it not to endeavour to reform the law and correct the practice. We do not want to punish the landlord. We want to alter the law.

We do not go back on the past.  Look at our actual proposal. We do not go back on the past. We accept as our basis the value as it stands today. The tax on the increment of land begins by recognizing and franking the past increment. We look only to the future, and for the future we say only this, that the community shall be the partner in any further increment above the present value after all the owner's improvements have been deducted. We say that the State and the municipality should jointly levy a toll upon the future unearned increment of the land. The toll of what? Of the whole? No. Of a half? No. Of a quarter! No. Of a fifth -- that is the proposal of the Budget, and that is robbery, that is Plunder, that is communism and spoliation, that is the social revolution at last, that is the overturn of civilized society, that is the end of the world foretold in the Apocalypse! Such is the increment tax about which so much chatter and outcry are raised at the present time, and upon which I will say that no more fair, considerate, or salutary proposal for taxation has ever been made in the House of Commons. ... Read the whole piece


Nic Tideman: Being Just While Conceptions of Justice are Changing: 7 Cases

A conception of justice is a framework for resolving questions of what liberties people ought to have. The smooth functioning of society requires substantial consensus about conceptions of justice, because without such consensus, people will take actions and make claims on resources that others regard as intrusions upon what is properly theirs. This can be expected to lead, at a minimum, to disharmony and possibly to violent conflict. On the other hand, when people agree on a conception of justice and who is competent to interpret it, conflicts will be less likely to arise, and those that do arise can be settled more easily. Thus there is strong impetus toward stability in any society's conception of justice: Any doubts about a shared conception of justice may be suppressed or hidden to preserve the advantages of consensus.

Moral evolution, however, can require conceptions of justice to change, as when the world came to recognize that slavery could not be just, or that women must be accorded the same civil rights as men. When, as with the abolition of slavery, a new conception of justice entails the elimination of the sale value of what had previously been assets, there will be calls for compensation, on the ground that, as provided in the fifth and fourteenth amendments to the U.S. Constitution, governments should not take property without compensation.

Advocates of the new understanding, on the other hand, will argue against compensation on the ground that citizens who knew better should not be obliged to bail out those who had sought to enrich themselves through the perpetuation of old injustices. When slavery was ended in the U.S., not only was there no compensation for the previous "owners" of slaves, but the thirteenth amendment to the U.S. Constitution explicitly forbade any state from paying compensation. Why should the fifth and fourteenth amendments to the U.S. Constitution require compensation in general while the thirteenth amendment forbids it for losses sustained from the end of slavery? Ackerman (1984) points out the importance of the distinction between ordinary legislation, where it must be accepted that self-interest will be rife, and constitutional law-making, where something much closer to consensus is achieved. It was not inconsistent for the thirteenth amendment to depart from the general principle that compensation must be provided, because the constitutional process attenuated the self-interested forces that the requirement of compensation was designed to check. ... 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