Archive for the ‘Georgist teaching resources’ Category

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The Secret Life of Real Estate

May 17, 2009

is subtitled “How it Moves and Why,” but this isn’t about the Kinetic Condos. It’s a response to a questions Georgists often hear: “If you’re so smart, why aren’t you rich?”  Different Georgists give different answers, including “I am rich.”

We know that the major cause of the business cycle is the capitalization and trading of government-protected privilege.  This privilege can be any kind of income obtained without producing, and may flow from spectrum licenses, drilling rights, patents, copyrights, or a hundred other sources.  But the main one is land ownership, since land is not a product of human labour.

When demand increases for a product or service, production can increase, but that isn’t true of privilege. The only limit on the price of privilege is what the market will bear without breaking.   So can’t we measure that price, use the information to forecast economic meltdowns, and thus become wealthy?

Our massive government statistics operations, which know how much more Asian-American households spend on rice than the rest of us do (4 times as much, as of 2003), and that people spend an average of 2.43 hours each weekday watching television, know just about nothing about the price of land.  Only a few countries maintain any such information (Korea, Japan, Denmark, and Australia come to mind).  Many local authorities compile land assessments, but the relationship to actual market prices is, at best, elastic, and the information is not systematically reported.  So indirect and ephemeral indicators must be relied upon.

Moreover, they land price cycle tends to run about 18 years, and may be disrupted by war (not by much else, it appears). This means that taking advantage of it requires a great deal of patience and, one can only say, a certain amount of faith.  And starting at a young enough age, by the way. Of course the cycle might be entirely abolished, but that would require the elites, and some of the non-elites, to surrender significant privilege.

The book is well-written, well-edited, and well-documented. (A subject index would be nice.) Economist Mason Gaffney’s  review is far more informed than anything I could have produced.  He points out a number of imperfections, but on the whole this is a very useful book for anybody who wants to know why many of us aren’t rich, or who would like to be.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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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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Henry George books are on line

November 21, 2008

All of Henry George’s major works are now available for free download, but not all from the same place.  Here are the links.  Many of the speeches and articles have also been posted but I don’t know if anyone has inventoried the links.