Wealth and Want
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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. ...

First-time home buyers make out like bandits. They'd pay a higher land dues to their community but lower total taxes to government, a lower price to the seller, and a lower mortgage to the lender. Is it fair that one group should benefit so prodigiously? Yes. In many US cities, renters now outnumber owners. High rates of tenancy, as shown in Goldschmidt's 1940s study of the Central California towns Arvin and Dinuba, engender apathy and indifference, which are bad for democracy, community involvement, street safety, and environmental protection. The sooner young families can become homeowners, the better off all members of society will be. ...

... As a green reform, the PTS can stand on both ethical and practical grounds, winning support from both sides of the aisle. Skyrocketing housing costs, too, worry many, yet the problem yields to the PTS (history shows).

Population slosh — the sprawl of suburbs and the desertion of downtowns and small towns — is a problem topping recent opinion polls. The material motive to relocate (and to a degree to reproduce), to have more income, things, and security, loses steam under a geonomic regime. Collecting and disbursing natural rent across an entire jurisdiction lets residents live where they love, love where they live.

Youth crime and alienation, detritus in the wake of dead communities, are more attention-grabbing problems. Both are ameliorated by widespread and secure home ownership and more free time for working parents, two essentials for functional families and functional communities. A Housing Voucher offers hope along both these lines. Even without the voucher, the land taxing city of Pittsburgh enjoys by far the lowest crime rate of any major US city.

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

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