Archive for July, 2007

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Monetary seminar Sept 26 in Chicago

July 27, 2007

American Monetary Institute’s Steve Zarlenga offers a seminar (free!) immediately prior to their annual conference.    I think Zarlenga’s fundamental ideas are sound and this should be a good way to understand key monetary issues in three hours.   More detail about the conference (not free) is here. More about monetary history and principles in his book

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Off at the Georgist Conference

July 25, 2007

No blogging to speak of this week; I’m attending the annual conference of the Council of Georgist Organizations at Scranton.  

I’m not going to try blogging the conference, titled “Two Views of Social Justice: A Catholic/Georgist Dialogue.”   Probably the most striking thing I’ve learned today: Theologian Brian Benestad said that Catholic doctrine neither requires nor prohibits the single tax.  If the laity thinks the single tax is a good thing, let them put it into effect.  However, he said the single tax cannot solve all the problems of poverty and human misery, because those are caused by Original Sin, and the single tax cannot overcome Original Sin.

Can’t reply to that one.

Nic Rosen is doing some updates.

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32 Years of Housing Data

July 19, 2007

Your tax dollars bought a new compilation of data from the American (formerly “Annual”) Housing Survey from 1973-2005. Data on housing costs, incomes, structure and neighborhood conditions, commuting, etc. I didn’t find a whole lot of surprises at first look, but it can be a useful and well-designed reference.  It’s a 1.6 mb pdf, downloadable here.  I suppose hardcopy is also available, though it’s not immediately obvious how to order.

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Assessment limits make many homeowners worse-off

July 18, 2007

In the July issue of Land Lines, two UIC economists show how limitations on the increase in real estate tax assessments not only fail to protect all homeowners, but actually cause many of them to pay more tax than they would in the absence of the limitations.  It’s simple mathematics, say Richard F. Dye and Daniel P. McMillen.  If the total tax take does not decrease, then those with relatively small increases in home value– not protected by assessment caps– end up paying a larger share to make up for the absence of assessments on the full value of homes in areas where values are rising rapidly.

This is despite the fact that business’ share of the tax burden grows.  And it has nothing to do with TIF’s.  Well, I guess TIF’s worsen the situation further, but that isn’t discussed in this article.

Land Lines comes from the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy.  They provide free subscriptions in hard-copy.  Or you can download it without charge, but they want you to register.  You can probably avoid registration by using bugmenot.

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Responding to PIRG, despite WordPress

July 16, 2007

Phineas Baxandall, one of the authors of the Illinois PIRG report blogged yesterday, commented on the item. Well, I responded to his comment, but for some reason WordPress swallowed the comment. Twice. I tried to comment as a normal person instead of myself. Swallowed again. Tried again. Rejected as “duplicate.” I don’t know what’s going on at WordPress, possibly there is some difficulty regarding html in the comment. But following is my response to Phineas Baxandall.

I’m always happy to see activists claiming that Henry George would approve of their work, but in this case there’s a serious gap between George’s proposal and yours.

George wanted to remove all taxes from productive activity, and instead charge for control of land (and other natural resources). Retail sales and service are productive activities, and when they’re taxed then the cost of living increases and living standards are reduced. Real estate transfers, too, usually involve productive activity, either construction or at least the transfer of property to someone who can use it more effectively than the seller.

Development impact fees likewise make it more expensive and difficult to provide housing (or other kinds of development). If such fees were truly user fees, then they’d be paid by all users, rather than just by those who seek to build.

You’re certainly not the first person to misunderstand George’s ideas, which is why we have Henry George Schools in Chicago and elsewhere, run courses by Internet, and have Progress & Poverty posted in original and modernized versions. Some relevant (and more succinct) modern documents are here.

It’s not so important whether your proposal would please Henry George. What’s important is that, had you proposed supporting transit thru a tax on location values, you would have recommended a policy to reliably fund transit in the long run, encourage transit-supportive development patterns, and improve the standard of living of ordinary working people.

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“Protect land speculators” — Illinois PIRG

July 15, 2007

A solicitor stopped by my house a week or so ago pushing Illinois PIRG’s campaign to “save our transit.” They do have a report, funded by the “Illinois PIRG Education Fund” and prepared by Brian Imus, Nick Christensen, and Phineas Baxandall, that explains how they want us to pay more money for transit service.

The report notes that “Locations served by transit… show increased property values compared
to similar locations not served by transit.” Although they do cite sources for this assertion, they don’t refer to either of the Chicago studies which are (see footnotes 3 and 4 on page three of this). So then do they propose a tax on location value?

No surprises here. They proclaim “Seven Principles for Funding Transit:”

1-Enhance market efficiency

2-Low collection costs

3-Reliability

4-Diverse funding

5-Fare increases are self defeating

6-Budget accountability

7-Community participation

They do provide some discussion of each. Then they evaluate several potential sources of funding:

-Sales taxes

-Gasoline tax

-Rental car tax

-(auto) License, registration or title fees

-Several other driving-related taxes

-Real estate development impact fees

-Stormwater fees

-Real estate transfer tax

-Parking tax

Their recommendation:

-Higher sales tax

-Extend sales tax to services

-Establish a real estate transfer tax, or maybe one of a few other taxes.

But although they acknowledge that transit service increases land value, there is no consideration of this option. Instead, they want to reduce economic efficiency by raisng taxes on economic activity.

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Cliche note…

July 12, 2007

Heartland Institute publishes a lot of material, some of it perceptive and helpful, some just striking. Among the latter is perhaps a world record for use of the term “alarmist” (singular and plural noun, and adjective), 22 times in 20 pages of their most recent Environment and Climate News.Come on guys,take some of that corporate money and hire a copyeditor.

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Economics course as video game

July 10, 2007

The University of North Carolina/Greensboro’s   Economics 201 “is now a fast-paced video game.”  You were supposed to register by March 14; I guess it’s over now.  More about the course here.

Is this effective and/or appealing to gamers?  I have no idea, but if I were one I would want to try it.  It’s micro, not macro, so probably not too much overlap with Georgist concepts.

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Promoting the Henry George School

July 5, 2007

We have been experimenting with “google adwords” pages. The advantage over print ads is that they’re quite a bit cheaper. But they don’t seem any more effective at attracting interest. Some topics we’re using are learning economics, ending poverty, tax reform, property tax reform, albert einstein, and human rights. Other suggestions?

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Value of land grows fast or slow…

July 3, 2007

…as illustrated by this image from the NY Public Library. It’s probably a bit over 100 years old, and shows “a wagon with signs promoting the single tax.” Among other things, the sign claims that an acre of land in downtown Chicago is worth $10 million, whereas an acre of farmland is worth $50.

If that was the relationship around 1900, it’s very different today. Good Illinois farmland today can be worth $5,000/acre, even far far beyond the reach of suburban sprawl. But downtown Chicago land has increased in value much less, perhaps to $50 million/acre.

Of course, most of the farmland in Illinois is farmed by tenants, so the impact on the farmer of the single tax would still be minimal or beneficial.

Thanks to the Georgist Journal for publishing this photo in their Spring 2007 issue (#107).

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