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Duke of Westminster

"The neoclassical economists' view of their proper role is rather like that in The Realtor's Oath, which includes a vow 'To protect the individual right of real estate ownership.' The word 'individual' is construed broadly to include corporations, estates, trusts, anonymous offshore funds, schools, government agencies, institutions, partnerships, cooperatives, the Duke of Westminster, the Sultan of Brunei, the Medellin Cartel, Saddam Hussein, congregations, Archbishops, families (including criminal families) and so on, but 'individual' sounds more all-American and subsumes them all. This is a potent chant that stirs people to extremes of self-righteousness and siege mentality when challenged." - Mason Gaffney in Economics in Support of Environmentalism

Mason Gaffney: Who Owns Southern California (1997)

Non-resident aliens own about 75% of the "major" buildings in the L.A. CBD west of Broadway [L.A. Times 21 Sept 86].

Charles Grosvenor, an Englishman, a.k.a. The Duke of Westminster, is one of these is. Grosvenor owns half the Wells Fargo Building on a valuable site in downtown L.A.   Grosvenor also holds 17 acres in Silicon Valley. He also holds Annacis Island, 1200 acres near Vancouver, B.C. He is a major owner in downtown Melbourne. He is diversified around the world. These are parts of his overseas holdings. Their value was estimated in 1985 at $1.3 billion, but they were not for sale and the basis for the valuation is not given. Like city land worldwide, they must have doubled in price, 1985-89 — and then dropped again.

The core of Grosvenor's holdings is 300 acres in central London, including half the Mayfair District, most of Belgravia, and Grosvenor Square where the U.S. Embassy is one of his many lessees. His country estate is 4500 acres. Grosvenor, along with Earl Cadogan, the Duke of Bedford, Viscount Portman, and Lord Howard de Walden, pretty well control London land. [L.A. Times, 9/85]

Dave Wetzel: Who Should Get the Land Rent?

Transport for London does not own all of the coach station. One third of the land and the old in-bound coach shed is owned by "Grosvenor Estates."

We pay them £230,000 per annum for the use of their land.

But where do we get the money from?

We charge the coach companies a fee for every coach that comes into the coach station and a part of that goes to our landlord.

Where do they get the money from?

They get the money from their ticket prices.

So every poor traveller is contributing towards the £230,000 given to Grosvenor Estates, which is owned by the Duke of Westminster. (His family name was "Grosvenor" until Queen Victoria elevated one "Hugh Grosvenor" to the peerage in 1874.) They have owned most of Mayfair, Belgravia and parts of Victoria for hundreds of years.

So, we have the absurdity, . . . . . . . . nay the obscenity!, of the poorest travellers in the country, subsidising the third richest man in the country, to the tune of £230,000 per annum!

Surely, the value of this land only arises because people live and work in our great city?

So surely it is all the people that should benefit from land wealth?

We SHOULD pay rent for the land.

All of the land.

But not to the rich Duke, but to the Government, so that they can use this natural wealth to pay for schools and hospitals etc.

And not from this one site, but from all the land in the country.

AND if there is any wealth left over — and I'm sure there would be — the Government could return it to all of us in the form of a land dividend. ... read the whole passage

Karl Williams: Landlording It Over Us

Britains' wealthiest man gets rich the easy way -- he has his underlings collect and bank his rent. And if the rents from his vast land holdings weren’t enough, soaring property prices have escalated his net worth sky high – to be exact, UK£11.5 billion. To give him his full title, he is His Grace, Gerald Grosvenor, OBE, Sixth Duke of Westminster.

Forget the vast tracts of rural land, including a 100,000-acre estate in Scotland which contains no less than three mountains. The 300 acres the duke owns in central London, comprising Mayfair and Belgravia, are today one of the most valuable patches of ground on the planet.

It was a handy marriage which brought this fortune into the Grosvenor family’s hands – in 1677, Sir Richard Grosvenor married Mary Davies, heir to the hundred acres north of Piccadilly and the “Five Fields” south of Knightsbridge. During the 18th and 19th centuries, Mayfair and Belgravia were built up as residential areas for London’s wealthy classes, a position they have occupied ever since. Unlike many other great landowners who have cashed in, the Grosvenors held on and have benefited enormously from the latest boom in London property prices.

The duke has nowadays diversified his land portfolio. His commercial property company, Grosvenor, has become a serious player, with a vast array of investments and developments around the world. These include office blocks in San Francisco, business parks in Vancouver, luxury apartments in Hong Kong and shopping centres in Spain and Portugal. In the UK, Grosvenor has developed Festival Place shopping centre in Basingstoke and is set to undertake a £700m. mixed-use redevelopment in the centre of Liverpool. Back in his tract of Mayfair, land values are in the stratosphere: in 2001, BP’s pension fund sold ten acres of Mayfair for a cool £335m.

Is it any wonder that, given how there is little or no land value taxation, the duke has all his many eggs in the land investment basket? But it’s not just for economic considerations that he could never contemplate selling his vast acreage, for he has a philosophical reason for not selling. (Have a bucket ready before reading the following!) “This is part of my heritage, my birthright. It is not to do with anything materialistic, but is deeply ingrained.”

Henry George: The Land Question

Think of these enormous wastes, and of the others which, like these, are due to the fundamental wrong which produces an unjust distribution of wealth and distorts the natural development of society, and you will begin to see what a higher, purer, richer civilization would be made possible by the simple measure that will assert natural rights. You will begin to see how, even if no one but the present landholders were to be considered, this would be the greatest boon that could be vouchsafed them by society, and that, for them to fight it, would be as if the dog with a tin kettle tied to his tail should snap at the hand that offered to free him. Even the greatest landholder! As for such landholders as our working farmers and homestead-owners, the slightest discussion would show them that they had everything to gain by the change. But even such landholders as the Duke of Westminster and the Astors would be gainers.

 

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