Archive for June, 2007

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Garrison Keillor a Georgist?

June 26, 2007

In 1995 he proposed that Minnesota sell water from Lake Superior to buyers in the arid southwest. The proceeds, after expenses would be split 50-50 between the citizens of Minnesota and their state government. By Keillor’s calculation, each Minnesotan would receive $3.8 million (That’s 1995 dollars, too), which could yield a very nice perpetual income, kind of like the Alaska Permanent Fund.

Expenses would include not only construction of a canal system to transport the water, but some very skilled lawyers and lobbyists to deal with environmentalists, Wisconsin, Canada, etc.

Much later, Keillor wrote from Alaska, not of their citizens’ dividend (which amounts to about $1,000/person/year), but about the $50 head tax to be imposed on cruise ship passengers. Part of this will fund State inspectors aboard, who will monitor observance of pollution control regulations. It will probably be effective, he notes, because “government is good at providing negative incentives.”

Sounds Georgist to me. But how is Garrison going to find out that he’s a Georgist? Perhaps he will never know.

Thanks to Jim Frederiksen for the tip.

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Robert Reich a Georgist?

June 19, 2007

It does appear that the former Sec’y of Labor recommends a “carbon auction,” under which polluters bid for the right to emit, and everybody shares equally in the proceeds.  If there is a need to reduce carbon emissions, this does seem to be the way Henry George would recommend it be done.

Reich rejects a carbon tax because “I can’t imagine any politician calling for higher taxes affecting the middle class, or for that matter the middle class – already squeezed by high energy prices and stagnant wages – putting up with it. ”  Kind of sounds like Jeff Smith, but  with clout.  Of course, Reich wants to share only a tiny piece of the commons, whereas Jeff wants to share all of it.

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Two more nonviable projects?

June 13, 2007

Today’s Tribune tells of two more TIF subsidies, one to keep an employer in Chicago and another to build hotel and office space.

Navteq will get $5 million that would otherwise go to schools and other public services, to retain 550 jobs (a total of 900 including expected growth) in downtown Chicago.   Navteq CEO Judson Green implied that California would be a more efficient location for the company, but that $5 million persuaded him to remain in Chicago.  btw, he is obligated to donate $50,000 of that to “non-profit organizations.”  So I wonder about two things:

(1) Wouldn’t the  230,000 square feet that Navteq is taking at 100 N. Riverside have been rented to some other employer, if not Navteq?  And if it would’ve remained vacant, wouldn’t that have eased, at least a little, the peak-hour load on the CTA and Metra?

(2) If in fact California is a better location, will Navteq execs and customers end up flying back and forth, adding to O’Hare congestion and greenhouse gas?

Maybe RM Daley answered the question at his press conference to announce the deal.  If he hadn’t used our tax money to persuade Navteq to stay in the City,  “there’d be a big headline, ‘Why does Mayor Daley let those companies move?’ “  And I guess he’s right, at least in some cases.  Apparently there’s no headline, “Why does Mayor Daley waste all this money?”

The other TIF subsidy is $58.8 million, covering about 1/8th  the cost of renovating/expanding the space atop Union Station.

The new Union Station will have an additional 14 stories on top of the existing eight stories. It will house a 300-room hotel, likely to be operated by Hilton Hotels Corp.; 85,000 square feet of retail space; 200 condominiums; and 600,000 square feet of office space.

The office anchor tenant, the American Medical Association, has agreed to lease 275,000 square feet, said a Jones Lang LaSalle spokeswoman.

This project was first proposed over a decade ago.  Maybe it’s not viable on its own, without the subsidy, in which case one wonders why it is needed if no one who will use it is willing to pay for it.  Or perhaps market conditions have improved and it’s viable now, in which case one wonders why the developer should  be given what amounts to about a dozen years worth of taxes on a thousand Chicago bungalows.

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Frank Lloyd Wright on land, money, patents

June 12, 2007

Three major artificialities have been drafted and grafted by law upon all modern production; hangovers from petty customs originating in feudal circumstances. Many of these traditions have been blown up into supposed economic patterns: but all forms of rent and all illegitimate. Rent for money; rent for land; really only extrinsic forms of unearned increment; and the third artificiality is traffic in invention. A graft by way of patents is another but less obvious form of rent.

From F L Wright, The Living City. Original copyright 1958. March, 1970 New American Library edition.

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More about free land

June 10, 2007

The phrase “free land” today means free residential lots available to anyone pledging to build a new home in selected communities. As an incentive to entice new residents to repopulate areas of the Great Plains, this is a new and intriguing strategy. Free land programs are available in most Great Plains states, from North Dakota to Texas.

The above is from a University of Nebraska report, which also documents the experience of three of the Kansas towns who offer free land to anyone who’d
come and build a house.

As of October 2005, when the interviews were conducted, 27 of 33 available home lots in Minneapolis[KS] had been given away, as were all 80 lots in Marquette. In Marquette, six reserved lots became available again due to construction challenges in November of 2006. More than 100 people had relocated in Marquette, including more than 30 children. Although some people came to these communities to get a free lot to build on, most found it easier to buy an existing home. In Ellsworth County 122 new residents had been brought in by the program including 55 people from out of state.

The influx of new residents also brought some added benefits, according to the interviews:

! several new businesses as well as new ideas to the community,

! an improved positive (growing) community atmosphere that inspired long-time residents, and

! an increase in the ethnic diversity of the local population.

In a sense,then, there is still free land that puts a floor under wages. However, as a practical matter, many of the very poorest would be unable to qualify for and take up residence on the free land.

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Netvouz– keeping bookmarks on line

June 10, 2007

I’ve had, for years, a problem with various browsers, computers, etc, each having a bunch of bookmarks, not identical nor even  organized in similar ways.  And at various times I’ve had difficulty figuring out how Firefox and
Opera, the main browsers I use, expect me to manage their bookmark files.

I finally decided that I needed to use one of the on-line bookmark managers, and ended up with Netvouz.

(Why Netvouz? I tried two or three others, and couldn’t get Opera to let me install the
links to a bar, necessary to easily access the bookmarks.  Finally, when I got to Netvouz,
I figured I must be doing something wrong and sent a note seeking support.  A couple days later  I had a helpful response, explaining how I could overcome an Opera weirdness. )

It took me a little while to figure out how to use Netvouz, but it’s logically organized and, most importantly, seems to be bulletproof reliable.  So I’m gradually getting accustomed to it, and it’s a great convenience.

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Nicely put

June 8, 2007

The laws of economics are more like the laws of physics than the laws of legislators, and should always be respected as such.

[from KipEsquire]