|Wealth and Want
|... because democracy alone is not enough to produce widely shared prosperity.
Mason Gaffney: Full Employment, Growth And Progress On A Small Planet: Relieving Poverty While Healing The Earth
Here we find many activist Georgists suffering from another blind spot. A major modern Georgist thrust is to push for a local municipal shift from the ordinary property tax to a “Two-rate” system, with a higher rate on land than on buildings. In doing so, they make a campaign issue and a litmus test of how the tax burden on “homeowners” will fall. Carried to an oversimplified extreme, this ignores all differences among “homeowners,” melding the landed gentry on huge lots or vast acreages with the poor in modest hovels on tiny crowded lots, or parts of lots. It ignores the tax rate on rental apartment units, which almost everywhere is, de facto, higher than on owned units. We must be prepared for cases where taxing those vast acreages will make the taxes of homeowners rise – and explain why that is a good thing.
The “homeowner” orientation of many modern Georgist campaigners plays into the hands of those who favor income taxation and sales taxation over property taxation. If the goal is indeed to favor “homeowners” per se, then we should abandon the property tax altogether in favor of income and sales taxes, in their present biased forms. The imputed income of owner-occupied lands, including lands held for sport and recreation, is entirely exempt from income taxes, whose base exempts non-cash income. The imputed consumption of these lands is also exempt from sales taxes.
Alternatively, if we accept the income and sales taxes as “givens,” we must allow that they are both outrageously favorable to owner-occupants, so there is no overall merit in jiggering the local property tax the same way. On the contrary, owner-occupied housing is an unpreempted tax base that localities should seize, to redress the balance.
By focusing on gains to “homeowners,” Georgist campaigners are misstating the revolutionary implications of their own reform, and confusing their audiences. George spoke for the landless, the tenants, the young, the upwardly mobile, orphans with nothing to inherit (as opposed to the mythical orphans who own all the property in the country), the students and trainees, the exploited workers, the innovators and entrepreneurs and adventurers who turn their capital and turn the wheels of capitalism – not so much for stolid settled burghers and retirees who own land. Their buildings, yes, he would exempt. But if those buildings rest on land of high social utility, they are playing the role of land speculators. Call them Type #3 speculators: the “passive-aggressive” type. (For Types #1 and #2, see item 9, below.) Read the whole article
Americans owe a tremendous debt to architects and others who led the movement to save and restore our nation's historic buildings and neighborhoods.
My thesis today is that it is equally imperative to restore our historic land policy that provided a foundation for the flowering of wholesome cities and towns. Otherwise, precious treasures saved by preservationists are in danger of becoming isolated islands in an unsavory sea of urban ugliness, misery and blight.
Land policy is rarely addressed in books by or about architects. For most of the past century, political, scientists, sociologists, planners and economists also typically failed to focus on land policy. ...
The good news is that we can
reclaim our historic foundation.
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Wealth and Want
... because democracy alone hasn't yet led to a society in which all can prosper