Wealth and Want
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Quotable Nobels

"Our ideal society finds it essential to put a rent on land as a way of maximizing the total consumption available to the society. ...Pure land rent is in the nature of a 'surplus' which can be taxed heavily without distorting production incentives or efficiency. A land value tax can be called 'the useful tax on measured land surplus'."

—Paul Samuelson, Nobel laureate in Economics (1970)

"In my opinion the least bad tax is the property tax on the unimproved value of land, the Henry George argument of many, many years ago."

“I share your view that taxes would be best placed on the land, and not on improvements...”

"Yes, there are taxes I like. For example, the gasoline tax, which pays for highways. You have a user tax. The property tax is one of the least bad taxes, because it's levied on something that cannot be produced — that part that is levied on the land.

Milton Friedman, Nobel laureate in Economics (1976)

"It is important that the rent of land be retained as a source of government revenue. Some persons who could make excellent use of land would be unable to raise money for the purchase price. Collecting rent annually provides access to land for persons with limited access to credit.”

— Franco Modigliani, Nobel laureate in Economics (1985)

"The user of land should not be allowed to acquire rights of indefinite duration for single payments. For efficiency, for adequate revenue and for justice, every user of land should be required to make an annual payment to the local government equal to the current rental value of the land that he or she prevents others from using."

— Robert Solow, Nobel laureate in Economics, 1987

“Assuming that a tax increase is necessary, it is clearly preferable to impose the additional cost on land by increasing the land tax, rather than to increase the wage tax — the two alternatives open to the City (of Pittsburgh). It is the use and occupancy of property that creates the need for the municipal services that appear as the largest item in the budget — fire and police protection, waste removal, and public works. The average increase in tax bills of city residents will be about twice as great with wage tax increase than with a land tax increase.”

— Herbert Simon (1978)

The landowner who withdraws land from productive use to a purely private use should be required to pay higher, not lower, taxes.

— James Buchanan,
Professor of economics and winner of the 1986 Nobel Prize;
from a lecture at St. Johns University, New York City

"While the governments of developed nations with market economies collect some of the rent of land, they do not collect nearly as much as they could, and they therefore make unnecessarily great use of taxes that impede their economies — taxes on such things as incomes, sales, and the value of capital goods."

“It (land value taxation) guarantees that no one dispossess fellow citizens by obtaining a disproportionate share of what nature provides for humanity.”

"Economists are almost unanimous in conceding that the land tax has no adverse side effects. ...Landowners ought to look at both sides of the coin. Applying a tax to land values also means removing other taxes. This would so improve the efficiency of a city that land values would go up more than the increase in taxes on land."

— William Vickrey, Nobel laureate in Economics (1996)
and past president of the American Economics Association

"I think in principle it's a good idea to tax unimproved land, and particularly capital gains (windfalls) on it. Theory says we should try to tax items with zero or low elasticity, and those include sites."

— James Tobin (1981)

"The main, underlying idea of Henry George is the taxation of land and other natural resources. At the time, people thought, "not really that too," but what was underlying his ideas is rent associated with things that are inelastically supplied, which are land and natural resources. And using natural resource extraction and using land rents as the basis of taxation is an argument that I think makes an awful lot of sense because it is a non-distortionary source of income and wealth. ...

... The question is: "Would it be better if we had more taxation of land and natural resource, and more revenue from natural resource management, and I would include atmosphere and spectrum." And less tax on income and savings. And I would say, "Yeah." And I think many economists would agree with that. So, if you want to sell it as a "Single Tax," then, no, you won't get anyone to agree that there's enough revenue there. If you look at is a more "central" tax, then, yes, you will get most economists to agree with you.

Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel laureate in Economics (2001)
in 2002 interview


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