Archive for December, 2006

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Landowners paying for transit

December 24, 2006

Since public transport makes certain locations more valuable, some transit activists have long insisted that the owners of sites benefitted by transit service ought to pay the cost of it. Now we have a surprisingly obscure report that gum manufacturer Wrigley Co. is doing approximately that. The Chicago Transit Authority’s new route 132 Goose Island is apparently is paid for under a “five-year subsidized agreement with Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company.”

No word about the amount of the subsidy, or even the schedule of the service, (update January 10, here‘s the schedule), but as a downtown worker for the past 35 years I can testify that the route does appear justified. Wrigley has their big “Global Innovation Center” on Goose Island, and there are other employers in the vicinity. Direct service from the loop and Metra stations should find a market.  As far as I can tell from their corporate reports, Wrigley owns the site of their facility.

I’m surprised that CTA’s press release doesn’t mention the Wrigley funding, which appears only in a brief powerpointlike presentation (pdf) inflicted on cta’s Board, and I find nothing about it on Wrigley’s site.

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GAO on “IP” and drug innovation

December 19, 2006

Speaking here of drugs Congress likes– patented pharmaceuticals– the GAO says:

Intellectual property protections are designed to help encourage innovation by providing financial incentives to engage in research and development efforts.

but, according to some experts interviewed by GAO

intellectual property protections enable companies to earn significant profits while reducing the incentive to develop more innovative drugs.

Nothing really new here. GAO wasn’t asked to provide any recommendations.  Full report is here.

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What poor people need…

December 15, 2006

…is access to land.  Henry George noted that in the 19th century, and here’s Harold Henderson reviewing Sudhir Venkatesh’s new book:

what “James Arleander” needs is a piece of alley to do his off-the-books car repair, something he’s not going to find in a squeaky-clean mixed-income community.

Exactly.  Every kind of economic activity requires land, and if you can’t get the use of any you can’t produce anything.

From this review and others I’ve seen, the book seems to go way beyond the land issue, telling us, first, something about the “underground” economy by which many folks support themselves, and second, some of the reasons why it really isn’t a good thing that they must do so.

Yeah, I’d like to read the actual book, but it seems that the entire Chicago Public Library system has only one copy, and Amazon says it’ll be 4-6 weeks before they can deliver it.

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“Intellectual Property” abuse…

December 12, 2006

…can have fatal results. Another example occurred in Chicago Friday, when a man who apparently expected great wealth to result from his idea decided he’d been ripped off by his patent lawyer. The AP article implies that the “idea” wasn’t worth much, but wouldn’t disasters like this be avoided if nobody expected to become wealthy just by monopolizing an idea?

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Librarian help needed

December 12, 2006

So here at the Henry George School, we have piles of books in no particular order. Let’s record them in a spreadsheet, attach call numbers from the Library of Congress, and shelve them in sequence. They’ll be arranged more or less by subject, we’ll know what we have and where it is.

Ah, that assumes that every book is in the Library of Congress or, at least, has a unique Library of Congress call number. Not so! For instance,

Harry Gunnison Brown’s Fiscal Policy, Taxation, and Free Enterprise. We have the [undated] Robert Schalkenbach Foundation edition. The Library of Congress has no book by this title. But there are copies of the 1946 Lucas Brothers edition at five libraries:

Iowa State University uses the call number HJ2305 B813f

University of Kansas uses HC106 .B76, as does Northern Michigan University

At U of Missouri Columbia it’s HJ257.2 .B7 1946

and Reed College say’s it’s HB236.U5 .B8

OK, so maybe Library Science is no more of a science than, say, Economics, but can’t you guys agree on a call number for a published book. What should us amateurs do? Do we have to look at every Worldcat library and count the votes? What if it’s a tie?

   
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America’s top mayor uses the land tax

December 6, 2006

Harrisburg (PA) Mayor Steve Reed came in third in the world-wide “Outstanding Mayor” poll, but was the highest-scoring American.  Under Reed, Harrisburg adopted an increased land tax (the term in Pennsylvania is “split-rate tax”) which he credits as important in the revitalization of the City.

He enthusiastically took the opportunity of Pennsylvania local property tax reforms to apply a split rate valuation.This has been attacked by extreme conservatives and Reed has been high profile in answering them. He says “ in our central business district, for example, our two-tiered tax rate policy has specifically encouraged vertical development as opposed to low rise or horizontal development that seems to permeate suburban communities and which utilizes much more land than is necessary.” He says “ nine out of ten property owners gain from the system if compared directly with the single rate system in use in most municipalities in the state.”

Worldwide winner John So of Melbourne, Australia, also benefited from the land tax.

Chicago Mayor Richard M Daley was not one of the fifty finalists in the contest.

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Enron as a musical comedy

December 6, 2006

A musical comedy based on the Enron collapse apparently is rather successful in Houston.  The author says he sought historical accuracy, spending as much as 100 hours on one song. (The music apparently isn’t original, but the words are).   “between the singing and dancing, characters often explain how arcane off-book partnerships, deregulation and energy trading came into play at Enron.” One could probably use a similar approach to provide a Georgist perspective on economic issues, but one would need to be a talented writer able to get some press coverage.

Thanks to Chicago Tribune, who doubtless will hide the story after several days so here are some other links.