The general issue of “Intellectual ‘Property’” was raised today on Slashdot, and the ensuing discussion makes just about all the important points. Most people accept some sort of IP, but length of protection, especially for copyrights, is too long. Some question whether IP is legitimate at all; others point out that patents do require holders to provide details of their inventions, thus preventing long-term trade secrets. And there’s a link to what seems to be a fine book Against Intellectual Property, which can be purchased in hardcopy or downloaded free.
Archive for May, 2008
Of course it’s well known that professional “sports” businesses receive big subsidies for stadiums, but I’d not thought about sales tax. In at least one case, the Super Bowl is exempt.
“The End of Poverty?,” a film funded largely by the Robert Schalkenbach Foundation, seems to have been shown at an auxiliary part of the Cannes film event, implying that it is complete. What little publicity I have found (more here) implies that it simply makes the point that poverty exists, it is large and serious worldwide, and is somehow the fault of more affluent countries. This may be news to many folks, but I wonder how many of the ignorant will see the film. One article quotes the director Philippe Diaz: “They are poor because we are rich.” Certainly seems to be an oversimplification, not literally true, but then what do I know about reaching the politically influential masses?
Originally some of us had hoped the film would teach a bit of Georgist economics. If that’s not possible in a mass market product, we hoped at least it would draw some links between control of resources and lack of access thereto. Perhaps it does, tho that doesn’t come out in what I’ve read thus far. We shall see.
The March ’08 issue (pdf) of the Center for the Study of Economics’ Incentive Taxation newsletter has a couple of positive notes.
Washington, PA, a split-rate city for decades, solved a budget deficit by raising the tax on land to 82.63 mills, while taxing buildings at a rate of only 3.5 mills. Thus the added tax burden goes mainly to people who are leaving land idle, and doesn’t discourage productive construction or investment.
And in New London, CT., the Re-New London Council recommends a land tax because of its benefits to, among other things, housing affordability. Had such a policy been in place over past decades, perhaps the Kelo case would never have happened.
A new report from the New York Federal Reserve Bank looks at land price patterns around their metropolis (specifically, New York City less Richmond, plus ten New Jersey counties). Like Barker’s work noted here last year, they used sales of vacant land to indicate the value of land in general. But while Barker’s purpose was to estimate total land value and land rent, the New Yorkers’ objective is to see how land prices relate to parcel location and other characteristics, and describe trends over the 1999-2006 period.
Defining the center of New York as the Empire State Building, of course they found that the distance thereto is inversely proportional to land value. They observed a very sharp increase in average prices, from $46.65 in 1999 to $366.08 in 2006, with the increase especially pronounced in land intended for residential use. Of course this rate of increase cannot be sustained, as a subsequent analysis might document.
The paper notes that even vacant land may be “improved,” for instance by having been graded and having utilities. Improved lots of course are more valuable than otherwise identical lots. So do Georgists want to tax the improved value or the “raw” value? I think it was William Vickerey who pointed that this really isn’t a big problem. Either could be used as a base, as long as assessment practice is consistent.
Thanks to Richard Biddle and CityEconomist
No great surprises in the new Gov’t Accountability Office report on: PHYSICAL INFRASTRUCTURE Challenges and Investment Options for the Nation’s Infrastructure. (Summary, full report). Roads, bridges, dams, railroads, airports etc are decaying and not keeping up with “demand,” and existing funding methods are proving inadequate. Is there a cheaper way to meet the needs? The report does not say. Is it worth spending what it costs to update the facilities? Not discussed. And perhaps most importantly, is there a way that the owners of land benefiting from infrastructure improvements could be made to pay for them? Well, one sentence recognizes some approximation of the possibility:
A variety of taxes have been and could be used to fund the nation’s infrastructure, including excise, sales, property, and income taxes. (p. 15)
Fifteen months ago, I noted that Chicago taxi medallions were selling for about $77,000. Now, per the May ’08 issue of Chicago Dispatcher, the median price increased in April (based on data thru April 22) to $125,000. That’s a 62% increase in 14 months– with no increase in fares (altho a gas surcharge which was allowed subsequently doubtless was anticipated).
Of course the medallion owners, as such, contribute nothing to the provision of transportation, but they do impose a cost on passengers and/or drivers. Limiting the number of cabs doesn’t increase the earnings of drivers.