Archive for December, 2008

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We are Madoff-free

December 30, 2008

A few prominent foundations have lost most or all of their assets in the Madoff mess, and many of their donors have also suffered.  So I’m pleased to note that the Henry George School of Chicago, and (as far as I know), all the Georgist organizations, are untouched by this fraudster.   We have suffered somewhat from the economic meltdown, but as Georgists we didn’t lose  nearly as badly as  Harvard University.

This doesn’t mean that we don’t need your donations, of course we do.  If you agree that what the School does is important, and can afford to help out, we hope you’ll do what you can.  And even if you can’t afford to send money, you can sign up with igive to provide the School with cost-free donations. Thanks.

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Strange pricing in the book business

December 19, 2008

This post isn’t about how the field of economics was corrupted, but rather about the strange pricing of the eponymous book by Mason Gaffney and Fred Harrison. I’ll use it in a course next term, so I wanted to get some copies because Henry George School policy is to include the book in the registration fee.

Schalkenbach, the U S distributor,  is charging $16 plus shipping. They’ll probably give us only a small discount, so since the book is 14 years old I decided to check other sources including used copies.

According to bookfinder4u, abebooks,  froogle and amazon, nobody is selling this for less than $21.88 plus shipping.  Amazon says that a used copy costs $35.64 while a new one can be had for $22.95. No sign of it on ebay at all. Of course this can all change very quickly, but it’s curious to see it at all.

I suspect that no one at Schalkenbach reads this blog, at least not right away, so I shall hasten to order a few copies from them.

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Unjust Deserts

December 10, 2008

The full book title is
Unjust Deserts: How the Rich Are Taking Our Common Inheritance and Why We Should Take It Back
by Gar Alperovitz and Lew Daly
Now, all I know about this book is what I read in this review by Mark Engler, but clearly the point being made is that, whatever one earns by one’s own efforts, some share legitimately belongs to the community in which one lives.  What share? Measured how? Collected how?

The collection of land rent by the community seems to be a pretty good way to accomplish this, as it won’t reduce the incentive to produce and it will tend in multiple ways to benefit other community members, not only in its direct revenue effects but also in its tendency top raise wages for the poorest.

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Funding Amtrak from land rent

December 8, 2008

Real estate developer Jimmy Gierczyk spent $1.5 million to build a New Buffalo station for Amtrak.  It’s  adjacent to his real estate development.  The source article doesn’t give a lot of detail about the project, but notes that he can now more easily market his condos to Chicagoans. Who are accustomed to paying much higher prices than folks in New Buffalo, I’d guess.

All of which raises the question, why can’t Amtrak collect more of the location value it generates or preserves?

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Progress and Poverty is fun to read

December 5, 2008

That’s what Michael Kinsley, a thoughtful journalist who seems to respect Henry George but dislike Georgists, says in December 12 This Week magazine.

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Chicago “leasing” “parking” “meters”

December 3, 2008

Apparently the City is getting a one-time payment of $1.16 billion (yahoo says $1.15 billion, but what’s $10 million among friends?).  Hopefully this is entirely in cash and will be paid at the start of the “lease.” But what is being given up to one of Morgan Stanley’s financial devices for 75 years?  It’s not really the parking meters, because no meter could last more than a decade or two.  Is it the street space controlled by the meters?   Can the City reduce this space in the future if needed for a driveway, bus stop, hydrant?  What about spaces that currently lack meters but where they might be appropriate in the future?

While the Tribune says rates will quadruple, or more, by 2013, but what happens later?  This deal apparently runs to 2084.  Of course we can be sure it’s fair. The Tribune says

The mayor’s nephew, William Daley Jr., works for Morgan Stanley and lobbies state and Cook County officials on the firm’s behalf.

And according to Reuters

“I think it’s a fair price” for the parking meter system, said Dana Levenson, head of North American infrastructure banking for Royal Bank of Scotland, who helped negotiate the parking lot lease in his former position with the city.

The deal covers “more than 36,000 meters,” which seems to value each space at about $32,000.  Of course that’s a citywide average, surely spaces in outlying districts aren’t worth as much as those in the loop.

One thing that I don’t doubt: Chicago street parking has been underpriced and raising the rates is a smart move for the City.  HIgh Cost of Free Parking author Donald Shoup recommends

Charge market rates for curb parking.  He defines market rate as the parking price that will yield 85 percent occupancy

Clearly the City has been losing revenue for years, essentially subsidizing motorists while taxing retail purchasers, homeowners, renters, and the rest of us.