Archive for February, 2009

h1

Artic ice increasing…

February 19, 2009

… or so it would appear from this slashdot article.  ( The original source is here, but that link doesn’t appear permanent.)

The problem arose from a malfunction of the satellite sensor we use for our daily sea ice products. Upon further investigation, we discovered that starting around early January, an error known as sensor drift caused a slowly growing underestimation of Arctic sea ice extent. The underestimation reached approximately 500,000 square kilometers (193,000 square miles) by mid-February.

I would let our friends at Heartland Institute know about this, but apparently they’re still trying to figure out that California isn’t New Mexico. On January 29 I let them know of their error; as of February 19 it remains on their site.

h1

Land Value vs. Land Rent

February 17, 2009

Altho Henry George’s proposal is “to abolish all taxation save that upon land values,” his objective really is to collect land rent for the community.  Of course land value is, ultimately, determined by anticipated land rent, but rent is more stable.

This is illustrated by a recent article in the Wall Street Journal (“Tax Break Divides Large, Small Builders,” Feb 11 ’09).   In an example cited as typical, Pulte Homes is reported to have sold, for $2 million, land they had “originally paid $28 million for.”  So if land value declined by over 92%, how much did land rent decline?

Probably quite a bit less than 92%, because the $28 million was based on Pulte’s guess as to what the future land rent would be.  The actual rent, the amount that someone would have paid to use the land at the time Pulte bought it,  was doubtless much less than their expectation of its future amount.

Some opponents of land value taxation cite cases of great declines in land prices to claim that LVT wouldn’t be a stable source of revenue.  But LVT moderates speculation, and land prices would be more stable if more of the land rent was collected for public use.

One illustration of this is that states where real estate tax is relatively high have experienced more stable prices for homes and lots.

h1

You needn’t mention Henry George…

February 15, 2009

…to be a Georgist. Michael Hudson’s analysis and forecast of bailout developments is helpful in understanding who benefits, and how it will be packaged to appear as homeowner aid.  One of his recommendations is clearly Georgist:

It is easy enough for fiscal policy to prevent a new real estate bubble. Simply shift the tax system back to where it originally was, on the land’s site-rental value. The “free lunch” (what John Stuart Mill called the “unearned increment” of rising land prices, a gain that landlords made “in their sleep”) would serve as the tax base instead of burdening labor and industry with income taxes and sales taxes. This would achieve the kind of free market that Adam Smith, John Stuart Mill and Alfred Marshall described, and which the Progressive Era aimed to achieve with America’s first income tax in 1913.

Hudson, like Kinsley and a few others, disdains the modern Georgist movement tho he seems to accept the validity and applicability of George’s (and modern Georgists’) analysis.

Thanks to Alanna Hartzok for the tip.

h1

Another Chicago classic now available

February 15, 2009

Homer Hoyt’s 1933 book “100 Years of Land value in Chicago” is now posted at the Internet Archive. Only a few land value nerds will read it all the way thru, but all should be impressed by the quantity of work Hoyt put into it, describing and analyzing Chicago’s land market for its first century.

Summary graph of land values

Summary graph of land values

This was all done before cheap photocopiers, faxes, and of course computers. I wish someone would update it.

h1

The Parasite Protection Act

February 11, 2009

That’s one of the names Josh Vincent suggests for New Mexico’s SB333, which would reduce real estate taxes on vacant land and make up the shortfall by raising taxes on homeowners and everyone else who actually owns (or rents) land with a structure on it. I imagine some land speculators find themselves in financial difficulty, but they still have enough to influence a few legislators, and I guess this is intended to bail them out. Perhaps they just want to get legally what owners of Cook County vacant land get in practice.

Maybe I don’t know how to search, but I can’t find anything about this bill anywhere on the Internet.

I guess we could name it the “Housing Prevention Act.”

h1

Olcott’s Land Values Blue Book

February 10, 2009

One of the challenges for many beginning Henry George School students is to understand that land has value, and that the value of land is really not very difficult to determine.  One example that we used to use was Olcott’s Land Values Blue Book, an annual publication that, until the early ’90s, reported the estimated land value for every block in Chicago and much of suburban Cook County.  I don’t know exactly why the series was discontinued, but I assume it was because professionals now find the Internet a more convenient source of information.

The 1939 edition of Olcott’s has been scanned and posted to the Internet Archive.  Below is an example page.

Sample page from Olcott's

Sample page from Olcott's

The numbers in most areas are value per front foot for a standard-sized lot.  The book includes adjustment factors for use where lots are other than standard.  For unsubdivided parcels, a value per acre is shown.

h1

“There was no credit crisis”

February 10, 2009

This isn’t from some radical leftwing, libertarian, or Georgist journal.

One reason things didn’t fall apart when Congress didn’t immediately act as Paulson and Bernanke demanded [in September ’08], may be that there wasn’t any danger of a meltdown in the first place. So say three senior economists working at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, who in October examined the Fed’s own data, and concluded in an article titled Facts and Myths About the Financial Crisis of 2008 that the claims that interbank lending and commercial lending had seized up were simply not true. “Bank lending to consumers and to non-financial companies had not ceased, and banks were lending to each other at record levels,” says V.V. Charri, an economist at the Minneapolis Fed.

— Dave Lindorff

Thanks to Econospeak.