Kelo v. Complexity

John Norquist, a former mayor of Milwaukee and president of the Congress for New Urbanism, offers PBS a liberal case against Kelo.

Norquist found the Court's decision "shocking, really. The founders of the country put the word 'public use' in the 5th Amendment for a reason, because they wanted property rights to be part of our democracy. And there are really legitimate reasons for condemnation . . . But [Kelo] opens it up to virtually anything; any municipality could say 'Well, the land will be more valuable.'"

The "real problem," thinks Norquist, "is that municipalities haven't been that good at predicting what actions will increase the value of property. I mean, there's empty lots all over urban sites in America where cities have condemned land and then it just sits there idle."

That's Norquist the ex-mayor, of course. For Norquist the New Urbanist, Kelo is a threat to the "complexity of cities" championed by preservationist, pro-pedestrian planners. "The key to revitalization of American cities," he said, "is the complexity of cities, the form of cities, the streets and blocks that were being ripped apart [by urban renewal projects] in the '60s and '70s and '80s. Cities have finally started to figure out that the urban form is actually valuable and they don't need to tear cities down and try to turn them into the suburbs. And that's really what this decision -- the majority opinion sort of implies, that somehow cities automatically know what adds value."

Back in 1999, Randall O'Toole wrote about New Urbanism for reason here. [Note: I've shortened and simplified this last reference since putting up the post.]

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    Johnny Zero cut his political teeth on a successful effort to thwart the completion of freeways meant to ring Milwaukee's downtown. Many private homes and businesses were taken to make way for these roads, which either were never built or tremendously scaled down. For decades, the plots of land that were cleared were in legal limbo, until the highways eventually were de-mapped by the state Dept. of Transportation. Some were temporarily used as an urban garden commons, but others in the poorer parts of town made "the Core" look like Bomber Harris had been in charge of Urban Renewal.

    Eventually that land was wrested from the red tape, and some very nice row-houses were built on one stretch of land, with a steel products factory going in on another. The historically African-American business district (Bronzeville) was effectively destroyed by the freeway advocates, to the long-term detriment of the city's economy.

    So, Norquist didn't come to his view just from reading Jane Jacobs, or from some doctrinaire libertarian impulse.

    Kevin

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    What a pissy post.

    Is the superiority of messy dynamism to enforced monotony a controversial issue 'round here, now that some kinda sorty leftish people have embraced it?

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    joe, don't get your panties in a bunch. i think the point of the post was just to demonstrate that all sorts of people with otherwise differing opinions are unhappy about this decision.

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    Wait, you mean to tell me that urban master planning is not that great at creating cities!? That the natural evolution of people interacting with each other creates a more natural and thriving place? Ya don't say!

    On the other hand, even if the urban planners WERE good at planning cityscapes, it is still beyond the scope of "public use" to transfer land from one private entity to another.

    Then again, I don't see how this is a "leftist" argument against the Kelo decision. Leftists sbolutely LOVE central planning! Since when has it mattered how well it worked?

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    Wow, that Peterson twit has a number of choice quotes:

    "Nobody really wants to use the power of eminent domain..."

    Wrong. Developers are chomping at the bit right now.

    "I think the rebirth of American cities over the last several decades is due to these kinds of urban revitalization efforts that really would be brought to a halt if eminent domain couldn't go forward."

    Wrong. The rebirth of American cities is due to the sharp decline in crime.

    "I think we understand how to do urban redevelopment. We understand preserving the urban character of our communities is the key to success and a key to improving the quality of life."

    Wrong. Well, the second sentence is correct but has nothing to do with current practice. Developers will build absolutely anything given the right space and the desperation of the city in question; for example, suburban ranch houses in downtown Buffalo or a massive stadium/convention center complex on prime Hudson River waterfront that deadens the neighborhood and ruins access to the river.

    And the "well this doesn't change the status quo" defense is bogus. If the status quo is WRONG, then so is this ruling.

  • Alla||

    Wait, is Norquist implying that the government isn't omniscient, and that some things, like economic development, are better decided by the free market, rather than the government? The horror!

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    "Nobody really wants to use the power of eminent domain..."

    No, what that means is similar to the old "just do what I say and nobody gets hurt...I don't wanna have to shoot somebody" mentality. They don't WANT to use eminent domain---they'd rather the property owners just sell to them at tax-assessment value (or, even better, just GIVE them the property). They don't WANT to use eminent domain, but if you don't do what they want, they WILL use it. Fucking shifty vocabulary.

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    What's pissy about reviewing the record of results achieved by planners? After all, isn't outcome the justification for planning (and Kelo)?

    If plans could adjust in a timely manner to the shifting preferences and conditions of a complex world, planners would be dynamists. Or gods. Unforunately for their egos, the "real world" will forever be inside the planners' feedback loop.

    Now I'm getting pissy...

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    Joe, why are you so pissy about it? People here (and pretty much anyone else who's heard of the decision) are unhappy about Kelo, but you guys won. Sure, you don't think the ruling was ideal, but it's what you wanted. So, what on earth bugs you about a libertarian blog posting something about yet more people who don't like the decision?

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    Rhwyun, the "we" in that sentence doesn't refer to developers. Nor does the sentence about "nobody" wanting to do eminent domain takings.

    Also, it's a little silly to attribute such a broad historical development to one factor like that.

    Evan, you seem to think that "master planning" refers, always and everywhere, to lot-by-lot layout and use determination. It does not.

    Dynamist, what's pissy is following up Norquist's New Urbanist observations about what makes a city work with a link to an article about how "New Urbanists didn't necessarily know what city dwellers valued." There's nothing pissy about reviewing what plans have achieved. Planners do it all the time.

    "If plans could adjust in a timely manner to the shifting preferences and conditions of a complex world, planners would be dynamists." They do, and many are. While they cannot always adjust at the speed of a single lot turning over, at the level of a city or neighborhood undergoing a significant change, there actually is a pretty good correlation between the speed of development and the speed of planning. Of course, the light touch and the safety valve (variances, extensions of nonconformity) can keep the government from getting too in the way of the smaller, fleeter, finer-grained changes as well.

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    Eric, I'm a nuance kind of guy. This isn't about "Yea, Team!"

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    I'm pissy, too - if only because I had to read that ridiculous Randall O'Toole article again. It's hard to make it beyond the absurd claim that "the Los Angeles metro area is nearly one-third denser than the New York metro area", a result I have been unable to replicate no matter how hard I massaged the data. Or, "The best prescription for the central cities is to let them depopulate as people move out to the suburbs." If this city-hater is the best offense against planning you guys can produce, please try harder next time.

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    Joe, on this subject, you seem to get as agitated over what looks to be ultimately meaningless nuance (like people throwing cheap shots at political movements they don't like) as other people are getting over basic principle. That isn't entirely healthy, considering this is pointless Internet debate.. (And yeah, I completely dislike you, Joe, but I'm just saying.)

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    What is really vomit inducing in the discussions following Raich and Kelo is that we get lots of pols and pundits saying we need to make new laws to protect us from the consequences of these decisions.

    But doesn't that mean WE HAVE TO PASS LAWS TO PROTECT OURSELVES FROM THE US CONSTITUTION?

    WHAT THE FUCK?!?!?

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    Wait, is Norquist implying that the government isn't omniscient, and that some things, like economic development, are better decided by the free market, rather than the government? The horror!

    I had a conversation this morning with a court reformer who's movement is gaining speed nationwide. We concluded, as if to state the obvious, that government dysfunction comes in two forms: Willful corruption and staggering ignorance of the "public good" (as if it should have a stake in it in the first place.)

    It's best left to history to sift Kelo's aftermath for the ultimate ratio of one to the other for property owners, but it's no less entertaining to watch the various important ones shuffle to and fro like rhetorical Frankensteins -- as wooden as joe's posts.

    When the rubber finally meets the road this interview turns first to useless rhetorical reassurances from our masters and then to a final concession that the private homeowner is indeed helpless. Naturally, through it all, we'll never brook a discussion of personal constitutional rights, that being the only meaningful discussion to have.

    The word "Constitution" never appears in this interview.

    Mayors admit you're screwed. The case is closed. All that's left are the body counts; the crime is underway.

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    no Ira, the idea is that we may need to pass laws to protect the constitution. which admittedly is fucked up.

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    I don't know, zach; I read it as needing to pass laws to protect citizens from the Court's interpretation of the Constitution.

    When we need to parse these decisions down to "well, we still have local protections and history and the reliable good graces of our esteemed officials...and when those fail we'll pass some local laws", all joe-like, then we are indeed screwed.

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    6Gun, that's what i was saying, only less catchy. ;)

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    As long as this or any argument is based on something not etched in, er, parchment, all we'll do is keep sliding. I despise the proof-by-intention clowns...

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    Norquist is largely right about the wrongheadedness of New London's plan and urban renewal in general, but the Takings clause of the Fifth Amendment was not written to promote good development. It was written to ensure that people who had their land taken by the government were fully compensated - in some countries at the time, the government could use Eminent Domain with compensation.

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    Er, "withOUT compensation." As in, the King could just take it without paying.

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    what's pissy is following up Norquist's New Urbanist observations about what makes a city work with a link to an article about how "New Urbanists didn't necessarily know what city dwellers valued."

    Incidentally, I've noticed that whenever a Hit and Run post has anything to do with an article in the Reason archives, the editors link to it.

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    isn't just about everything that shows up on a blog anywhere by definition "pissy"? and does it matter?

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    joe, I can't help myself...

    It seems the current urban condition that the speed of planning, with its bureaucratic process and community review, is the speed of development. In the reviled exurbs, development speed seems to exceed planning (at least the comprehensive public planning and incentives that have become an essential component of urban projects).

    A planner, almost by definition, is not a dynamist. The dynamist lacks the strong hold on outcome. Both may have a vision of a future; the dynamist is closer to creating/allowing conditions that make a desired outcome more likely, while a planner adds more conditions/incentives in order to make an outcome a certainty. The planner designs the incentives, the dynamist perverts them.

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    any municipality could say 'Well, the land will be more valuable

    Development of a parcel does little to make the land itself more valuable. What is built upon the land is valuable, and the source of taxes. Under a Georgist scheme of Land Value Taxation, there's not the same incentive to take little houses and build hotels on the same ground.

    If owners were to pay a portion of the unimproved value of their land as tax, little homeowners couldn't afford the levy on their waterfront property. The little guy would have to sell to someone who could pay what the land is worth.

    This encourages land be used for its highest reasonable purpose. It separates the peripheral effects of built value, jobs, and commerce from the process by which people decide who get to occupy a particular patch of ground. The unimproved value goes up when the public-at-large installs roads and sewers, etc. The public cost of redevelopment is often "off the books", or assumed to be overbalanced by the promise of peripheral benefits to a local economy.

    If a developer wanted to take Kelo's house, he would have to, perhaps, enter a public offer to buy the ground and pay for Kelo' built value. In order to make the offer binding, and cause a revaluation of the unimproved portion, the developer may be required to post a bond for the future tax revenue of the now-higher-valued ground. The public at large is guaranteed its compensation, Kelo is open to sell to another developer, or find a way to pay the levy on the new value if she wants to stay in her house.

    The distortion of land values under our current scheme is wide and deep. Pick up a copy of Progress and Poverty; it's worth the slog.

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    If owners were to pay a portion of the unimproved value of their land as tax, little homeowners couldn't afford the levy on their waterfront property. The little guy would have to sell to someone who could pay what the land is worth.

    And a crushing property tax to drive out the poor is supposed to be any better?

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    I mean, really, Dynamist. This sounds like instituting exactly the "take away people's land and give it to someone who can pay more property tax" schtick everyone here hates, except with the added touch of not compensating the landowner (and in fact, socking the landowner with one, last unpayable tax bill!).

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    Eric: Read Progress. The poor have no greater right to enjoy the benefits created by the public-at-large. Suppose a poor farmer happens to own the land where an interstate crossing is built. Because the freeway came, his ground is worth more, yet he paid essentially nothing for the works that raised the value of his ground. How is it fair that he gets to keep all that increased value? It is not the product of his labor or ingenuity. He is stealing pennies from each of the millions who paid for the road.

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    Which is why roads, if they're to be public at all, should be paid by the closest equivalent to usage fees possible (such as gasoline taxes), not why we should drive the poor off their property.

    Looked at another way, people are going to get taxed to fund various "improvments", even ones they may not want - and then get taxed again because of those improvements.

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    It is essential to grasp the distinction between "property tax" on the total improved value and the Single Tax on what the ground is worth separate from whatever is built upon it.

    The tax need not be crushing, but the poor will always have the hardest time paying it.

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    With usage fees, our poor farmer is still enriched by the public-at-large. The funding mechanism for construction is not relevant. Farmer Bob is an unwitting beneficiary of state wealth redistribution

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    It is essential to grasp the distinction between "property tax" on the total improved value and the Single Tax on what the ground is worth separate from whatever is built upon it.

    So yet another tax! The more you explain, the worse it sounds.

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    With usage fees, our poor farmer is still enriched by the public-at-large.

    He only gains the benefit of the services if he pays the usage fees as well.

    And I'll note you demand a very weird leap - that we accept the idea that the state and local governments will go around deciding upon the "unimproved value of the land", which is apparently based on the services the governments provides. So we have the government valuating its own services in order to tax you. You really don't see the perverse incentive, there?

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    rather, " the government valuating its own services in order to determine how much to tax you"

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    You're playing the perfect straight man--

    It is a Single Tax because it is to replace all other taxes. The value of ground is the only thing not the product of personal efforts, and is the only legitimate source of public revenue.

    Single Tax advocates figure that an annual levy of 6% on unimproved value, applied to evey parcel would fund the state at modern welfare levels (although that figure was calculated pre-GWB).

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    Fine, I'll play straight man.

    It is a Single Tax because it is to replace all other taxes

    And, apparently, land ownership for a lot of people.

    The value of ground is the only thing not the product of personal efforts, and is the only legitimate source of public revenue.

    I'm sorry, but in the first place, that's a non sequitor without any explanation of why public revenue must be alienated from personal efforts. In the second, ground has no value except for what people can do with it. Personal efforts and potential personal efforts are very much in play.

    Single Tax advocates figure that an annual levy of 6% on unimproved value, applied to evey parcel would fund the state at modern welfare levels

    That sounds pretty damned crushing, and that it will require rather high valuations of "unimproved value" that will really boil down to "how much money we want in taxes".

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    Farmer Bob benefits even if he never uses the highway. Its presence makes his ground worth more (to someone who has the capital to build on it for a higher use). Farmer Bob can sell to a developer and reitre from toil, or buy away from the highway and get back to his state of existence with a fat bankroll for drought years.

    Valuing of land is no different from all the other corruptions of government. People under-report wages, use incentives to hide income from tax (loopholes), etc. It is always up to the citizens to be vigilant, and with a Single Tax, they know exactly where to look.

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    It would be easier if you read the book.

    The non-sequitor comes from reducing the argument about whether taxation is inherently theft. I think it is, unless it is payment for value received, which the Single Tax is.

    A Single Tax scheme may actually increase land ownership, as vast tracts are less likely to be held out of use. Poor people, though will not be able to keep their downtown or waterfront houses if we actually make them pay for the value of living in the city or upon a scenic vista.

    6% of my lot is way less than I pay under the current byzantine scheme of property, income, and investment taxes.

    Actually, as a landowner in a city, the Single Tax screws me. But, it is the fair and logical. Until we adopt a Single Tax, I'm gonna keep buying land and screwing non-landowners, just as our Founding Fathers intended us to do.

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    Farmer Bob benefits even if he never uses the highway. Its presence makes his ground worth more (to someone who has the capital to build on it for a higher use)

    But the fact that someone else would want to pay more to buy his land does not benefit Farmer Bob year after year. It only benefits Bob when he sells his land, uses it as collateral on a loan, or some similar transaction. This might be an argument for taxing those transactions using this methodology, but it's no justification for simply taxing his ownership of the property.

    Valuing of land is no different from all the other corruptions of government.

    Except you completely rely on the government to make this theoretical valuation of what your land would be worth if it were in a virgin state, but everything around it wasn't. You might as well use an income tax where the IRS tells you how much your Enhances Income is because of government services in your area. There's no possibility of vigilance there, because you're arguing a million technicalities to derive your personal tax load.

    No thanks. If I'm going to throw my weight being a pie-in-the-sky Single Tax, it'd be one that actually relies on at least some numbers not pulled out of the government's ass.

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    It would be easier if you read the book.

    Probably, but you brought it up in the first place.

    The non-sequitor comes from reducing the argument about whether taxation is inherently theft. I think it is, unless it is payment for value received, which the Single Tax is.

    A Single Tax scheme may actually increase land ownership, as vast tracts are less likely to be held out of use.

    Or they'll be far enough away from government services not to have much of a valuation.

    Taxation isn't theft because we don't call it theft. :) To try to put a better gloss on it by letting the government tell us how much "value" its given us and thus will tax us is just mind-boggling.

    6% of my lot is way less than I pay under the current byzantine scheme of property, income, and investment taxes.

    6% of exactly what, Dynamist? You have absolutely no way of knowing what the valuation of your property would be. You can only hope it would bear a slight relationship to the market value of your lot, and it would certainly be more than that.

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    Sorry, missed a bit:

    The non-sequitor comes from reducing the argument about whether taxation is inherently theft. I think it is, unless it is payment for value received, which the Single Tax is.

    Taxation isn't theft...because we don't call it theft. Giving government total freedom to determine the "value" of its services (you know, the ones you don't get to choose?) and bill them to you seems like a long ways to go for a gloss on that reality.

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    Oops, something got mangled on preview and I repeated myself...

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    Dynamist, the inverse has a homeowner enjoying his property while those around him speculate and drive up local values. He gladly pays increasing taxes, minds his own business, but does not improve his property.

    As a result, when the barons finally take his property, they realize a substantial increase in land value by razing the house. Happens all the time in affluent locations.

    By this means the property owner pays vastly increased taxes through no fault of his own, but loses his home to a substantially lower offer than had he himself first burned it to the ground.

    Not to get wrapped up in Joe Homeowner's loss of that final step in appreciation, but are you saying that private sector concerns in this example are justified (under the Constitution) because it was the private sector (and not a highway project) that added value to the property?

    Regardless how the nuances work out, the variable justifications make me more uncomfortable, not less.

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    What's the justification for giving Farmer Bob title to his ground, defending his created right to quiet enjoyment, and whatever other public services he votes for, without charging him? Land titles themselves are an invention of the public-at-large. I prefer a stateless society, but if you're gonna have a state, somebody's gotta pay for it. If the annual levy is troublesome to your sense of fairness, we might just tax upon sale. Farmer Bob could then enjoy his land, but not pass the socially-created value to his heirs. It would be returned to the public. His heirs would still have right to all the imporvements he made.

    The value of land is not so theoretical. Such assessments are commonly made both by the state and by private appraisers. Every real-estate agent's "market valuation" includes the non-improved portion, and is almost always higher than what the state thinks the ground is worth. The state undervalues ground compared to the market. Also, the combined value your agent gives can be compared against the insured value of the improvements to get a non-government measure of what the ground is worth. Again, if it would help, we might collect the single tax only upon sale, where non-state forces determine the value.

    A Single Tax gets the government out of very many things. To argue that the state cannot be trusted has no bearing on evaluating the Single Tax against other revenue schemes. The state will always screw us. How can we limit its ability to do so?

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    6Gun: If it read you correctly, you say the ground across the street from a mansion is worth more vacant than with a small building on it. The ground is worth the same, because it is across the street from a mansion, improved or not. The redevelopment may be easier if the building is gone (the cost of razing eliminated).

    Joe Homeowner didn't create any value, so he's not entitled to any payoff.

    There may be an attraction to the idea that titles should be inviolable, Joe and Bob being able to pass their land down through the generations as Manhattan rises around their heirs. I see that as a political question, as the hiers are getting ownership of value not created by their families. The Single Tax does encourage more movement, but also destroy the waste of speculation. It is pretty solid under common-law tradition, but being new to the Single Tax, I haven't compared it to my idea of the US Consitution. My guess is that the Founders would have hated it.

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    What's the justification for giving Farmer Bob title to his ground, defending his created right to quiet enjoyment, and whatever other public services he votes for, without charging him?

    None (aside from the natural question "where do you live where you only pay taxes on things you actually voted for?"). Two problems, though.

    The first problem is that you're trying to treat these three separate things as one whole, and they aren't. The second is the implication that Farmer Bob isn't paying for all of this, when he does through various taxes (or in the case of the first, paying registration fees and the like).

    If the annual levy is troublesome to your sense of fairness, we might just tax upon sale.

    It doesn't do anything about the fabrication of the "unimproved value" in such a system, but it avoids the absurd repeated taxation.

    Every real-estate agent's "market valuation" includes the non-improved portion, and is almost always higher than what the state thinks the ground is worth. The state undervalues ground compared to the market

    And this pattern would last how many minutes if the governments involved had to derive all their revenues from unimproved value?

    Look, if you want to shrug and say "yeah, it's going to be crooked", that's fair. There's no point in doing that and trying to tell me that it will be OK.

    Again, if it would help, we might collect the single tax only upon sale, where non-state forces determine the value.

    Then you pretty much have to drop the whole stance of "unimproved value" versus "improved value", land vs. personal effort, don't you?

    The state will always screw us. How can we limit its ability to do so?

    For one thing, base taxation strictly on agreed-upon percentages of numbers the government can't manipulate. These, at least, are benefits of sales tax and flat income tax single-tax systems.

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    OK, heading out (was tossing off replies after I finished at work). If you post further, I'll check on this thread, Dynamist.

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    If we're going to reason all the way down to the essentials, Dynamist, seems we should also include more than a healthy dose of individual sovereignty in the discussion.

    IOW, if the corporation was the original tax-paying entity, and if the private law-abiding citizen enjoyed just such sovereignty, 1776-style, any analysis of personal property ownership would be all that much more clear if it included both.

    I'm saying that under this belief, this:

    I prefer a stateless society, but if you're gonna have a state, somebody's gotta pay for it.

    doesn't flow from this:

    Land titles themselves are an invention of the public-at-large.

    (At least if by land titles you mean personal property, not for-profit corporate property.)

    One of the great deceptions that made personal income tax possible was that time traded for income constituted profit. Untrue. Profit is accrued by corporations and they should pay tax, which is not so much how we do things these days.

    The extension of this principle could be and should be, but is obviously not guaranteed to be Single Tax.

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    It's hard to make it beyond the absurd claim that "the Los Angeles metro area is nearly one-third denser than the New York metro area", a result I have been unable to replicate no matter how hard I massaged the data.

    Rhywun, apparently you didn't try very hard. :-) First of all, the author didn't make up that claim; it came from the city planners in Portland who, you can be sure, would be loathe to make up something like that, since it is clearly against interest. This was pretty clearly stated in the article.

    However, just a little looking and I came up with these numbers:

    The densest 10% of the urbanized land area of the New York metro area: 10,212/sq. mi.
    The densest 10% of the urbanized land area of the Los Angeles metro area: 12,664/sq. mi.

    As you include progressively less dense areas LA's lead grows:

    The densest 20% of NY area: 5,467/sq. mi.
    The densest 20% of LA area: 9,411/sq. mi.

    The point is, and this was pretty clearly explained in the article, while NY is far denser in its densest core, the overall density of the urbanized land area is greater in the LA metro area than in NY metro area.

    The data above is from Demographia

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    Brian, see the last line on the Demographia page? "Demographia is 'pro-choice' with respect to urban development. People should have the freedom to live and work where and how they like."

    Seems faintly ironic...

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    6Gun,

    Not sure I get the irony in this case - seems a fairly libertarian view clearly stated. Anyway, I'm inclined to agree. Perhaps I'm missing something?

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    I thought it was ironic when contrasted with this issue...

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    6Gun, a
    Ah, I got it - been a long day :-) I misunderstood, but yes, agreed.

  • Paul||

    Ira wrote:
    But doesn't that mean WE HAVE TO PASS LAWS TO PROTECT OURSELVES FROM THE US CONSTITUTION?

    WHAT THE FUCK?!?!?

    No, we need to pass laws to protect us against the incorrect interpretation of the US Constitution by a completely insane supreme court. The alternative is to go down shooting when the local JBTs come to confiscate your property, and it's not an attractive alternative.

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    Eric: Yes, whenever there's a state involved things will be "crooked". A Single Tax is subject to the same corrupting influences, but gives the state fewer levers to manipulate free choice.

    The concept of unimproved value is common in real property transactions. The market can determine a total value, I think we agree. Private insurance and equity courts both have an ancient history of determining the value of built property, both in current condition and in replacement cost. If you have a mortgage to secure your note, these values are determined by whoever lends you the money. The difference between total value and current condition of improvements yields a sufficient approximation of what the ground under the structures is worth. (As always, there is an inescapable problem of corruption. The ST doesn't make people morally perfect.)

    6Gun: I'm looking at land titles as a social guarantee of the right to occupy a patch of ground. The concept of "owning" the earth in our law was derived from the divine right of kings. That divine right is a social fiction. Whether the patch in question was claimed originally by an English king, bought from a French one, or taken by force from a Spanish one, it is all just an assertion of ownership.

    Individual sovereignty implies a right to keep the product of one's effort, as a moral principle, but not a guarantee to occupy any particular patch of ground. The product of one's labor is personal property, while the product of nature claimed for oneself is real property. If one believes that all humans are created equal, they have an equal right to all the earth's bounty. The efforts expended to make that bounty useful are properly owned by whoever did the work.

    There is an inconsistency in my thinking of which I am aware. My heart is individualist anarchist, with wealth going to whoever is wise or strong enough to defend it. Henry George, in Progress made what I believe is an airtight argument that we all owe each other a share of what nature endowed. I hate the communist nature of the results, but I must accept the reasoning. There's still plenty of room for individuals to shine, and as a dynamist, I would love to see a world where "resource justice" prevailed.

    Corporate profit is a convenient aggregation of individual effort. I believe an income tax is bogus, no matter if it is upon personal income directly, or indirectly through shared ownership. Again, the ST does nothing to remove the political impulse of the poor to punish the rich for their ability to better coordinate labor.

    Finally (and this has been fun), it ties back to Kelo because the taking for public revenue depends upon taxing improvements. Under the ST, Kelo may still be faced with incentives to sell. What is different is how the justification for taking, to increase revenue, disappears when revenue comes only from public value (the unimproved portion resulting from proximity and infrastructure) in the first place.

  • ||

    OK, this conversation has drifted from the practical matters of public land use and fair compensation into some wierd world of advocating alternate tax systems.

    Regarding this "single tax".

    1. The ultimate improved value of a piece of property might be quite high, but that is not the market value of the property. My house might be worth $5 million if somebody was really bound and determined to tear down my living room to make way for the lobby of a skyscraper. However, there are many other places that skyscraper might go, and there are only so many skyscrapers, strip malls, movie theaters, car dealerships, etc. that the community can support. So the ultimate "improved value" is based on an often fictitious set of circumstances.

    2. Taxes are not theft. I am a small-government conservative type and a property rights supporter, but taxes do support valuable public institutions. A society needs emergency services, public works, public benefits, education, national defense and lots of other uses that even a hard-core conservative would acknowledge. Taxes are the membership fee we all pay to live in a civilized society, as opposed to anarchy. Now, exactly what is a civilized society, and what benefits that society should provide, how those benefits are purchased and how the money to make the purchase should be raised are all valid points to debate. But to equate taxation, which is decided by the public at large or by their chosen representatives (often at considerable career risk to those representatives) with theft, which is the taking of something outside the rules of society, is ridiculous.

    3. A stateless society has not existed since prehistory, and for good reason. States, for all their bureaucratic tendencies, are the only way to organize large scale efforts to preserve a culture. A cursory look at the last 500 years of colonial exploration and development will show what happens when isolated stateless communities are confronted by the power of a state-based society--ALWAYS the stateless are swept aside because they can't organize themselves, even when they hold many advantages in the defense of their traditions and homelands.

    Statelessness was a fiction when it was proposed as the final stage of communism by Marx, and it is just as much a fiction today. The only question is whether we keep individual countries as we understand them today, or move to a "world government". However, those same state powers would still be accrued if the world was suddenly taken over by the UN or some other global body.


    Getting to the actual case in hand, the Supreme Court ruling was badly flawed. By equating private ownership with "public use", the Supreme Court has opened dangerous new potentials for corporate/political abuse. Got a district of people opposed to your particular administration of a city? Condemn their property for some project and force them out of town. Need a way to get valuable land for below market price to jack up your corporate earnings? Propose a project to a city, offer lowball bids to the current owners, and then use eminent domain to clear out anyone who opposes you.

    Sure, the commercial real estate industry would "rather not use eminent domain". Nobody likes having their company name mentioned in some newstory about driving grandma out of the house she has lived in for 70 years. But that won't keep them from using eminent domain or the threat of it to make a quick buck now that the floodgates are open.

  • ||

    Dynamist, "In the reviled exurbs, development speed seems to exceed planning (at least the comprehensive public planning and incentives that have become an essential component of urban projects)." I tried to draw a distinction above, but I guess I didn't do it very well. A house, or a few houses, in an exurban area can certainly get built faster than planning occurs. However, a house, or a few houses, plopped into the middle of fields and woods doesn't significantly change the character and function of that area - they're just too insignificant, at that scale.

    Now, if we're talking about a few hundred houses and a few dozen businesses to serve them being built - that is, an area changing from a few scattered farmhouses in the countryside to a suburban area - then we're talking about a greater length of time. And that process takes about as much time as it would take to produce a decent master plan for the district.

  • ||

    Eric .5b,

    "I mean, really, Dynamist. This sounds like instituting exactly the "take away people's land and give it to someone who can pay more property tax" schtick everyone here hates, except with the added touch of not compensating the landowner."

    The landowner WOULD be compensated. The rich developer would buy his land at market value.

    But really, Eric, are you suggesting that someone who finds an opportunity out of reach because it's too expensive is being coerced in a manner similar to someone who is forbidden that opportunity by the government's use of force? How liberal.

  • ||

    that process takes about as much time as it would take to produce a decent master plan for the district.

    Another proof-by-intention from joe the subjectivist. By what constitutional guarantee would you make such an bald-faced assertion, joe? How about human nature? Would that guarantee us a reasonable right to own and perhaps occupy our own property?

  • ||

    It's not a constitutional guarantee. It's an oberservation about how planning and development operate "one the ground."

    But there is no constitutional guarantee that the character of a district will take on one form and not another, so I don't see the purpose of bringing that into this point.

  • ||

    You miss the point, Steve, as does Dynamist, although going in another direction. A discussion of individual American property rights must include a discussion of personal obligation -- and it's inverse, or privilege -- within American society. In this way, not all taxes are created alike, nor will your parameter-less argument that they're flatly necessary be adequate.

    I do not advocate statelessness either, but if Dynamist is going to take a reductionist stance that has at its core a fundamental "fiction" concerning personal property ownership, I will disagree. What the King of England did or didn't do (the American system superceded various crowns) is functionally irrelevant post the late 18th century, as is the empty theory of a landmass equally divisible among a certain number of citizens.

    Reductionists would do well to recall the original American system, that being the one in question and therefore the only one theoretically reformable. Under this system the private citizen originally had both the autonomy to own personal property and to enjoy the fruits of his labor unencumbered by the threat of his government's financial or social arms.

    Thusly, it seems to me, an ED seizure of private property should, via this same reductionism, carry fundamentally different rules depending on the entities losing and receiving the property, which is obviously not the case. We've said little of the likely constitutional illegality of taking anything from the private citizen in the first place, except in the most extreme cases. We have a long ways to go to get back to a logical square one here.

    Naturally, by 2005 we'd wandered far from the original ideals and principles: We've indentured ourselves to everything from personal tax to property tax to statist education (and all its compromises to personal freedom) to a million federal programs to ED. To argue that private property ownership and personal sovereignty in America are suddenly alien to our way of life is reductio ad absurdum. To argue that taxes are necessary but have no parameters that protect the private citizen is dangerous.

    To argue that Kelo means there's nothing to worry about is just absurd.

  • ||

    It's not a constitutional guarantee. It's an oberservation about how planning and development operate "one the ground."

    Finally we have it: There is neither a constitutional guarantee of rights, nor should there be, because conventional operating procedure makes one unecessary.

  • ||

    Uh, no, I didn't dismiss the idea that constitutional protections for property rights are necessary, just pointing out that my post has nothing to do with that issue.

    I didn't mention to the Iraqi insurgency, either. Isnt' that telling? How very, very telling.

  • ||

    Dynamist,

    I'd just like to add a wrinkle, from the trenches, about your idea about an unimproved land tax.

    A lot of planning decisions made by non-planners (mayors, city councils, etc.) look at planning in terms of the property taxes to be derived from the individual parcel - a store would produce more revenue than a house, for example. However, this is the opposite of good planning - if the store is going to trash the quality of life in a neighborhood, it's bad planning for it to be built there. It will harm community function, and also lower the property values of the nearby homes.

    I don't have much hope that politicians are going to stop putting tax revenue first in their development-related actions. However, the system you endorse would make the preservation of character and quality of life the best way to keep the overall valuation of the city up, and would provide incentives for good planning.

  • ||

    Because the freeway came, his ground is worth more, yet he paid essentially nothing for the works that raised the value of his ground.

    Dynamist-

    Stop right there, you did away with the whole capitalist system in one sentence.

    It doesn't matter where the increase in value came from - the farmer invested his capital in a parcel that is now worth substantially more. His labor and ingenuity are immaterial - he invested his capital in the parcel and he holds title. (Although the original purchase capital is likely a product of his labor and ingenuity.) Of course this is assuming a valid (not fraudulent/coerced) purchase of legal property. (Not slaves or indentured servants.)

  • ||

    You're right, joe; I was out of context. Let me explain.

    In America, government is now bought by the highest lobbyist bidder. In America, the Constitution is dead and has been replaced by subjectivity. In America, the Supreme Court and countless others have lost their minds, as has the entire justice system.

    In America, an allegation against a spouse or neighbor puts them in jail via mandatory arrest laws, or in Idaho's recent case, for mere allegations of "strangling". In Nevada, it's going to be illegal to file suit against a public servant. Two down, 48 left that I don't have personal knowledge of. Could things somehow be better there?

    In America, it's legal to lose your property by a variety of means, your income by a variety of means. You can lose your career, self-sufficiency, and life. By a variety of means, all abetted by government.

    In America, free speech is dying. Statist schools breed failure and indoctrinate the State's religion du jour. Hillarycare is right around the corner, and your 12 year-old kids are already answering the state's questionaires about when they started oral sex and pot.

    You can't drive, fly, pedal, hunt, fish, inhabit, travel, improve, erect, demolish, transact, medicate, treat, build, dispose, create, move, acquire information, diseminate information, speak, pray, vote, express opinion, or in some cases, take a shit under our half a million laws and regulations without either first checking in or flat breaking them.

    When the neighbor kid says to me, against this background, that we'd be wise to trust history entirely outside of the protection of a dependable legal architecture and by way of his or her variable, opinionated subjectivity combined with that of the rest of the craven American amphitheatre, I tend to cringe.

    When some son of a bitch from government says to me that we'd then be wise to trust contemporary local history entirely outside of the protection of a dependable legal architecture and by way of variable subjectivity, I tend to want to fight back.

    I hope you never go there.

  • ||

    Either I'm unusually lousy in my explanations, or y'all aren't trying to understand my presentation.

    CAT: Capitalism involves using capital to produce wealth. Farmer Bob did not use his capital to produce the increase in value of his land, he captured the value from those who did. That's land speculation, not capitalism.

    joe: The value of the ground is not changed if one replaces a house with a store. That's why the ST takes away the incentive of government to take the ground on behalf of the shopkeep.

    6Gun: You seem to miss the distinction between Personal Property as the product of one's ingenuity and Real Property as the gift from nature. The ultimate duty to society might be to share nature's gift rather than putting a fence around it in order to keep it all to one's self. (Although, you would get credit for the fence you built)

    Steve: You missed the idea of "unimproved value", which applies as well the ground under the Sears Tower as to empty acres in Nevada. Justification for taxes would take as long, and is not necessary as I could change the terms to George's original ones: The public-at-large is the only valid landowner, and individuals owe the public rent for the right to occupy a patch of ground. Your argument against anarchism is emotionally sensitve but fallacious. There's no logical reason for the future to mirror the past, or even for the sun to rise tomorrow. Again, another long discussion.

    joe: You seem to get the Single Tax idea. Is Georgism or the LVT covered in planner school?

  • ||

    But really, Eric, are you suggesting that someone who finds an opportunity out of reach because it's too expensive is being coerced in a manner similar to someone who is forbidden that opportunity by the government's use of force? How liberal.

    Joe, if you want to redefine being permitted to continue to own one's home as an "opportunity" that can be bureaucratically moved "out of reach" whenever planners want to, I'd say it was a very liberal idea, in the modern sense.

  • ||

    6Gun: You seem to miss the distinction between Personal Property as the product of one's ingenuity and Real Property as the gift from nature. The ultimate duty to society might be to share nature's gift rather than putting a fence around it in order to keep it all to one's self. (Although, you would get credit for the fence you built)

    No originalism there, and no, I don't miss the absurdity of that collectivist reductionism one little bit.

    The point, again, is that such should not be our way of doing things, as it never was within this constitutional republic. THAT reduction is valid.

  • ||

    The landowner WOULD be compensated. The rich developer would buy his land at market value.

    After the landowner has to pay off that last "get your poor ass out of here" tax payment.

  • ||

    A Single Tax is subject to the same corrupting influences, but gives the state fewer levers to manipulate free choice.

    It seems to give a very large lever, though, which diminishes the shine.

    The concept of unimproved value is common in real property transactions.

    That may be all well and good, But what precise relationship does this have to the valuation of the services provided by one's state, local, and federal government, though? And how exactly does, say, 911 service benefit someone with two acres of land twice as much as one acre?

    If one believes that all humans are created equal, they have an equal right to all the earth's bounty. The efforts expended to make that bounty useful are properly owned by whoever did the work.

    In my mind, they have an equal right to all the bounty they can plausibly and justly claim and control. Besides, you're not advocating an equal right to the bounty, since you're having the government give people control over more property if they pay more money.

    Looked at another way, what's the value of owning some fraction of the world's land if you can be booted off at will? The right to own land you know, somewhere... doesn't seem like a right worth speaking of.

  • ||

    Either I'm unusually lousy in my explanations, or y'all aren't trying to understand my presentation.

    You seem pretty clear. It just, with all due respect, strikes me as a horrible idea.

  • ||

    Looking at this again:

    You seem to miss the distinction between Personal Property as the product of one's ingenuity and Real Property as the gift from nature. The ultimate duty to society might be to share nature's gift rather than putting a fence around it in order to keep it all to one's self.

    Are you proposing that somebody, anybody, government tally all legitimate versus illegitimate forms of profit-taking?

    My fence, the work of my gnarled hands, is my right to sell at level (but not profitable) compensation? My appreciation (NOT the work of my gnarled hands) is somehow not, just because it falls under "speculation" (which, of course, it never was)?

    You just upset the entire globe's economic flow.

  • ||

    Dynamist: Something bothers me further about the "can only own the product of one's labor" idea.

    Why does it apply only to land as something one can't truly own?

    Why not something else just sitting out there due to no human's effort, like, say, a tree? Could I own a tree? What if I cut it down - can I own that treetrunk? What if I cut and plane it into boards or build something out of it? If I can own the products I've made from it, at what point did it become ownable property?

    And if the tree is or can become ownable property, why doesn't land once it's been landscaped, drained, or otherwise altered to be more usable?

  • ||

    CAT: Capitalism involves using capital to produce wealth. Farmer Bob did not use his capital to produce the increase in value of his land, he captured the value from those who did. That's land speculation, not capitalism.

    No, it's capitalism. Corner store buys sodas and sells them at a profit. Man buys land and sells it at a profit. Land is a commodity - people make whole businesses (on a large scale) out of dealing in commodities all the time. It doesn't matter how the value is realized - whether by building WallyWorld on a parcel or just holding it as appreciation occurs. Land has been a good investment in many instances because of its location - in some cases its inherent location (beach) and in some cases because circumstances changed to increase its value (city grew out and it became hoity toity suburbs). Are you saying Mr. Big Time developer is a capitalist because he buys land, subdivides it, and sells it while Mr. Farmer is not a capitalist because he buys land and then sells it? (assume Mr. Big Time makes no changes)

    I mean it would be different if someone knew a highway was going in and front-run them, but that's probably a crime and/or tort anyway. Increased prices are a result of increased demand, whether that demand is from the ever-expanding state or not. That's what makes a free market. If the state has caused prices to rise because it has increased demand in a particular commodity, that is simply how the market operates.

  • ||

    Dynamist, did you mean someone else by, "joe: The value of the ground is not changed if one replaces a house with a store. That's why the ST takes away the incentive of government to take the ground on behalf of the shopkeep?" Because you later pat me on the head for getting it.

    As for your second question, I never learned about either one before this thread.

    It would seem to shift the tax burden downward, though. Wouldn't that be a problem for lower income people, and also discourage renters from becoming homeowners?

  • ||

    "Joe, if you want to redefine being permitted to continue to own one's home as an "opportunity" that can be bureaucratically moved "out of reach" whenever planners want to, I'd say it was a very liberal idea, in the modern sense."

    No one would be putting guns to anybody's head. As you like to remind me in every circumstance except this one, having an opportunity denied to you because you can't afford it isn't in any way a denial of freedom, or coercive.

  • ||

    No one would be putting guns to anybody's head...having an opportunity denied to you because you can't afford it isn't in any way a denial of freedom, or coercive.

    So, if I were a homeowner who just refused to pay the hiked taxes, it would be all fine and good and no one would bother me, forcibly drag me out of my house, etc?

    ...No? Oh.

    And, Joe, you're the one saying you're not trying to oppose property rights and their legal protection. Why are you running the idiotic line that taking away people's homes is merely them not being able to advantage of an opportunity?

  • ||

    And you get so exasperated when libertarians assume liberals are out to take everyone's property (and guys like you in particular, everyone's homes)...

  • ||

    joe, you engage in a kind of constant selfish reductionism/subjectivity; it's all self-serving. This is at cross purposes with the public good and violates both logic and original principle.

    For example:

    ...and also discourage renters from becoming homeowners?

    The implication of which is that variable policy is and should be designed with only an eye toward fixing the short-term "problem", in this case that some item may negatively influence the private economic sector and probably requires central policy to correct it. Fine, IF you endorse government by popular acclaim or current belief.

    ...having an opportunity denied to you because you can't afford it isn't in any way a denial of freedom, or coercive.

    That's an absolute, spoken as if it should be principle.

    See the rational contradiction? Given that all short-term policies that deviate from a clear, fixed standard tend to victimize some and enrich others -- a point not lost on those getting the enriching -- then the latter view can never be principle. You have endorsed and aided a system with such a vast amount of cumbersome red tape and ability for legalized theft that "affordability" is entirely dependent on it, and therefore it can never rise to the level of pure principle.

    Affordability is relative to the conditions brought about by excess government, not to the free market, therefore the principles of affordability are not absolute. Meanwhile you variable subjectivists refuse to examine the underlying affordability problem of excess regulation. Talk about backwards.

    On the other hand, the principles of free markets and small, unobtrusive government ARE tried and proven, and under THEIR structure, ironically, affordability far more resembles a guarantee than it does today. Not "discouraging renters" is simply NONE of government's concern. At any level.

    And this is just one of a million similar make-work, expense-creating examples.

    Ends-variable reasoning is no substitute for solid foundational principle. Yet nanny-staters invariably invert the two so that ends-variable justifications take the place of principle and defenders of principle must somehow be expected to again prove history.

  • ||

    Eric,

    There is one point that Dynamist has not made which can be made here. There is no need for government assessment of land value in a georgist system which also has eminent domain. All land can be self-assessed.

    Let everyone self-assess the parts of land over which they assert posession. Let them be taxed according to that. And let it be known that in case any public construction needs to happen, the self-assessment will be used as the basis for compensation. Is there any better estimator of "fair compensation" for eminent domain victims than what they themselves have assessed as the land value?

    House compensation and re-location compensation are very easy to find out since that involves products and services whose value is known in the open market.

    One problem in georgist systems comes because the high tax reduces the capital value of the land. instead of the rent of the land being capitalized into the land price, the component of (rent-tax) gets capitalized into price, yielding a far lower price. However some mathematical adjustments can compensate for that in a system that is intended for the long term.

    And another point, from the perspective of hard-working immigrants, working in a single-tax funded minimal state is far better than working in a minimal state funded by something other than the single tax, because in one he pays only rent, in the other he pays both rent and tax.

  • ||

    Lucian, I don't have the energy to respond right now (I've been moving furniture), but maybe you can answer a couple of question:

    Why should only landowners pay for government services that everyone will enjoy the benefits of? Why should a guy making $40k and paying a mortgage on his little plot subsidize the guy in the penthouse suite, so to speak?

    What's the possible worth of this equal share of "the Earth's bounty" that I supposedly have a right to when the particular little bit I'm using can be taken away at any time?

  • ||

    Odd you use the example of planing trees into boards. That's exactly what George used in Progress. Georgism says you own the portion of value creating by your chopping and planing, but you owe the public-at-large for the tree you took/claimed from them.

    I'm sorry, but this is simply absurd. If the tree's on someone's property, then I'd want to talk to that person about harvesting it. If the tree's on public land that the state maintains/regulates in some way and thus the state requires a permit to harvest it, then it's reasonable to pay a fee to the state. But if the tree's on my land, or on unclaimed land, there's no sensible way in which I owe anyone or took from anyone, much less "society", for that tree. The tree wasn't benefiting anyone until I made boards out of it.

  • ||

    Eric,

    You're a fucking squirrel hater.

  • ||

    CAT: You seem to be using a different definition of capital and capitalism than economists do. Your word is broader than mine. Land is considered separate from other commodities, as it is the only one in absolutely finite supply. In the theoretical sense, land inludes not just earth, but everything in or upon it that is not the product of past effort by men.

    So profiting from appreciation in land that you've invested capital in is not capitalism but appreciation in all other commodities/services is? I guess the difference lies in the definition you're using for speculation versus investment. It's very possible I'm missing something here - can you link to something that defines your terms in the context you're using them? I don't do a lot of reading in conventional economics.

  • ||

    Eric: Since I'm weary, too, I'll just give you a fwiw: I believed what you seem to believe until I read George's complete argument. It might help to think of the various answers to Who owns the oceans?, or Who owns the moon? Even though USA planted the flag first, we agreed that there's no individual titles to lunar resources.

    CAT: I don't know the html tags--
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capital_%28economics%29

    The fwiw on capital: George illustrated the flaws in Marx's theory of capital while he developed an exquisitely precise definition from the classical theory I pointed to. A tree is "land", a plane or saw is capital, and the boards produced are wealth that can be used either for subsistence (in which the wealth is expended) or as capital to produce more wealth (nailed together to make a sawmill).

    If anyone is curious, you might start here:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georgism

  • ||

    Dynamist, there something I don't get about one of your points. You seem to be saying that if someone profits by incidental good fortune as a result of someone else's action, that's wrong. As if the first party were stealing.

    I don't get it. Suppose I own land with lots of dandelions growing on it. Then someone invents a cheap way of turning dandelions into gold. Suddenly, through no action of my own, this greatly increases the value of my land. Did I "take" something from the inventor? Do I owe him anything?

    Suppose I grow lots of delicious fruits and vegetables on my land, remote from any city or town. The nature of my land is such that it is very fertile and produced delicious food. I grow more than I can consume. I could make a fortune if I could sell them to city dwellers. Unfortunately, I have no way of transporting my produce to any town or city before it rots. Then someone invents a cheaply affordable refrigerated truck. I can afford to buy one. Now I can haul my excess produce to the city, sell it, and get rich. This also greatly increases the value of my land to me. Do I owe something to the inventor, other than what I pay him for one of his trucks?

  • ||

    And to comment on Stevo's point, what if he bought the land because his analyses indicated that the land would be profitable? What if his astrologer or psychic hamster told him to buy the land? Some people buy gold due to cultural custom - is appreciation due to their ingenuity, or do you think they are "taking advantage of others"?

  • ||

    Dynamist-

    Read your links and have a couple comments:

    - The notion that land belongs to all mankind is interesting but ultimately unenforceable. After all, if you pay LVT in your town what percentage do those around the world get? What about those in a poorer state in this country? The concept starts out as unquestionably magnanimous, but then it gets awfully selective as to where the rents go. Yes - I realize the locality does (or should do) the bulk of protecting the community interest in the land, but that doesn't remedy the problem that large swaths of mankind aren't getting their "cut" or "share".

    - Because it is largely unenforceable and if enforcement were tried it would likely result in a lot of the same tyrannies inherent in communism - fraud, waste, abuse, cronyism, etc., I am not convinced that this would be a wise thing to do. Yes, land is finite but after that there is not much to distinguish it from other commodities - demand goes up, price goes up, and vice versa. I think it is useful to put George in historical context. From what I gather George spent a lot of time in California during the Gold Rush and expansion and settlement of the west. During that period one certainly did witness a lot of people that grew wealthy by being in the right place to claim (or steal) free or cheap land at the right time. But that was a pretty unique (and in many cases unjust) set of circumstances, and not really something you want to hastily upend the economic system for.

    - I am also unconvinced by the argument that someone profiting from appreciation in the value of land that they legally bought did not "earn" it. They paid for the land, they hold title. Notice also that they also assume the risk of depreciation of the land as well. If a migratory herd of warthogs decides to make a neighboring parcel home what is to be done about the "unearned losses" - should the town do an assessment and refund his purchase price? Or does the "community" or "collective" only have a share in the upside while the property owner has to absorb the downside? What if the "community" or "collective" drove the warthogs towards his land - they got rich at his expense?

  • ||

    Steve and CAT point out the folly of reductionism. That a discussion about ED ever got down into the relative morality of property ownership and windfalls and work product only takes the heat off ED reform. Dynamist, intentionally or otherwise, like joe, shows how constantly taking the issue out of either realistic or historical context harms freedom.

    The bottom line is that there is now no way to insure that property rights under the traditional American system of common law will be protected.

    If we're going to play the reductionism game, reducing THAT major league problem down, for example, says that joe-philosophers would immediately lobby government to reform ED because ED takes the wind out of the very capitalistic sails that built the damn urban centers in America.

    If I, fish restaurateur, suddenly find my fish shack on the waterfront bulldozed in favor of a new stadium, I may have my $500,000 to go buy another fish shack. But my new operation may flop completely because it's all about location, location, location.

    Therefore, I take my $500,000, stick it offshore or under my mattress and try like hell to make it pay me a modest retirement. Repeat for every ED victim.

    So much for capitalism.

    And that's just ONE possible outcome. We can easily come up with a dozen practical reasons why ED sucks, NONE of which, like most of the reductionist's posts, address the simple fact that ED should just be a constitutional violation, be reformed, and leave it at that.

    Constantly juggling subjective variables to try and solve (or deflect) this riddle is bullshit. In fact, it's how we got into this mess. Just keep government out of the private sector.

  • ||

    Kill the squirrel hater! Get him!

  • ||

    6Gun-

    I disagree that my posts were reductionist. And I wasn't commenting on ED, which is an abomination, especially in the new incarnation of private party to private party transfers. I was commenting on the notions of Georgism or collectivism or whatever Dynamist was proposing. I used some absurd examples, but that doesn't change the reasoning.

    I simply noted my disagreement with the notion that appreciation in a commodity (including land) that someone owned was "unearned", because a decline in the value of that commodity would not be viewed as "community earned" - the community would not share in or compensate the loss. I also noted that viewing George and his ideas in a historical context might be instructive. I said some other things, but I don't think I said anything as reductionist "ALL land is owned by mankind collectively" and then proceeding from there.

  • ||

    Agreed, CAT, I meant to point out that you exposed the endless ramblings of counter-constitutional reductionism.

  • ||

    I'm still lost as to the axe 6Gun is grinding on me. The best I've got is that abstracting something for discussion is some sort of mistake; that an idea must be presented in full detail all the time. If I'm close, read the book, not my posts. I'm suggesting that ED, which sucks even if it's in the Constitution, would be far less subject to abuse if the state didn't get a piece of what was put on the taken land.

    Stevo: Your productive land is only worth more than the fruit you can eat if you have a way to connect it to the city fruit market. That connectivity, the road upon which you drive your reefer, is a big part of what makes your land valuable. If you built the road, and owned all the aspects of the fruit market, you could keep all the money*. Until somebody builds the road, you lands is worth no rent. Who builds the road, if you don't (like in most cases)? The public-at-large, acting through the state. How would the road be funded? Either taking labor, as now, or taking rent from your now-valuable orchard, as George proposed.

    The dandelions are similar to a spring in a desert, or an oil well. Just like the orchard, you depend on public works to release the value that nature creates. Gold and oil are both ingrained examples of speculation, and it is hard for me to argue past the emotion, even though I'm convinced by George's reasoning.

    *which depends on the assumption that land titles are valid in the first place. Look into the history of land ownership, and you'll likely realize that titles are fictional. Although practical, and they've served us well, they're built upon nothing.

    CAT's objections about enforcement depend upon where one draws line (borders). A nation/society can only protect the rights of its members, whatever system guides it. The ST works better if more land of different qualities is included, but its benefits have been seen on a very localized level. Even the current notion of residential land trusts strikes toward Georgists ideals (using the tax on labor to buy out speculative gains and return the ground to public ownership).

  • ||

    My language, "stealing", has gotten in the way the underlying idea. As George wrote it, it isn't about stealing, but about who has a right to what. Every man has right to himself and his efforts, while all men have equal right to the earth. Denying any man his share of earth is not stealing, directly, as theft implies taking something that the possessor knew he possessed.

    Also, as I wrote earlier, it would be better if I talked about rent rather than tax. Rent paid to government is sufficiently equal to property tax. Because Kelo is discussed in terms of tax, I used a less-accurate (and emotionally-charged) word to make the link to Georgism.

    Looking again at 6Gun's posts--
    Focusing on ED reform takes away from a more significant injustice that not only makes ED abuse attractive, but denies men their proper rights and consigns an able potion of them forever into subsistence poverty.

    The Colonies were settled by, and the Constitution developed by, a group of men who were largely land speculators. That the unfair landowners' monopoly was enshrined therein further highlight O'Connor's dissent about the politically connected gaming the system for their own benefit. 6Guns wants to improve a rigged game. I seek to point out how the game is rigged, and to suggest an alternative.

  • ||

    Stevo: Your productive land is only worth more than the fruit you can eat if you have a way to connect it to the city fruit market. That connectivity, the road upon which you drive your reefer, is a big part of what makes your land valuable.

    I think the "road" thing is a distraction to my point. Strike "invents a cheap, affordable refrigerated truck" from my example and replace it with "invents a way to teleport produce from my farm directly to paying customers in the city." No roads needed. Again, my land gains in value through the efforts of another, and no action of my own. Have I taken something from another?

  • ||

    Dynamist, I'm just waiting for all this rubber to finally hit the road. While abstractions are entertaining, I wonder what we DO when the news is already peppered with ED.

    I'm sure you're well up on the subject...and well beyond the subject, which is my point.

    How exactly do we (and why should we) rein in ED? I already know from one poster that it's not issue because, well, it just shouldn't be and because he's on that side of the fence. That behind us, I now wonder how George's philosophies will actually fix the ED mess in 2005.

  • ||

    You're a fucking squirrel hater.

    Am not. I do not hate squirrels or even fucking squirrels, unless they're right outside my window.

  • ||

    Stevo: I'll turn it another way: Have you created anything for which you might claim just compensation? Why doesn't the Teleportation Company get to keep all the value of the fruit it transports? Also, keep in mind that if you plant and cultivate the trees, they're almost entirely the {ahem} fruit of your labour. George is concerned about sharing the unimproved state-of-nature. A virgin forest is the public's, a planted forest belongs to the timber baron.

    Teleportation as an abstraction may also imply lossless transfer or unlimited energy, making all ground essentially equal. George is concerned with allocating unequal lands. I like the spirit of it: Henry George meets Jules Verne.

    6Gun: Since the world isn't ready to abandon the idea of private land, I'll go back to land trusts as a way to limit ED. Imagine the ground under Kelo's house owned by New London. For Kelo to buy the building, she would want a long-term lease. For the development, the land would have to be sold from the public to a developer (Kelo being paid for the building). New London would have to break its lease with Kelo. By taking the value of ground out of the price, land trusts make housing more "affordable".

    The planners would have to approve New London breaking a lease contract, selling public assests to a private developer, and destroying decent affordable housing. It all might be just as possible, but would trigger outcries from even more political factions.

    Or we could amend the Con to make use mean use. Better than that, we could amend to clarify that the public to benefit must be the public-at-large, not selected individuals. If the gov't was not the owner, the benefit of the project must be distributed equally between all citizens.

  • ||

    It might help to think of the various answers to Who owns the oceans?, or Who owns the moon? Even though USA planted the flag first, we agreed that there's no individual titles to lunar resources.

    I'll get around to Georgism in my Copious Free Time™, but I have no problems with those questions, myself. Whoever can live on or under the oceans or on the moon can claim whatever area they can reasonably control. The UN Space Treaty our government signed was just silliness.

  • ||

    Couple observations:

    -Well it all seems to come down to whether you believe in privately owned land. Since pretty much most of the world does, I think Georgism would be a non-starter.

    -The concept that "all mankind owns all land collectively" pretty much loses all of its force and legitimacy when you then immediately reduce it to the municipality level. And even there you have enforcement problems - government can probably arbitrarily modify leases at the behest of the "community", etc. And with this comes the spectres raised by other collectivist schemes like communism.

    -What's to keep the market for "leases" on land from immediately (or as quickly as the market can operate) being bid up to basically the current market levels for ownership? Or isn't there a market for leases? If there isn't a market for leases doesn't this automatically upend everything on earth once Gerogism is declared?

    -Still have a problem with your definition of "speculator." I realize this lies with your rejection of privately owned land, but do you consider profit from any form of property appreciation "speculation"? This seems to be another lurch toward communism.

    Side points:

    -The teleportation company is in the transportation business, just moving things from one place to another. They would only have a right to what they and the fruit grower agreed to as a transportation fee.

    -I guess it was an oversight, but in one of the remarks you made you seemed to suggest that taking someone's property that they were not aware of was not really stealing. It is stealing, of course, both ethically and under civil/criminal law.

  • ||

    Some answers.

    Eric, the tax on land value is perhaps the tax that is most effective because everyone uses land either directly or indirectly. Basically Ramsey's law.

    But when one looks at the rights aspect to it, it basically boils down to the fact that life or liberty is not possible without access to natural resources. (or an equivalent compensation) If true private property was allowed where everyone is allowed to discriminate, there is a very good chance that those without means to support themselves could end up almost like slaves. Infact, progress and poverty was written to answer the question, why despite development, are people still poor (and mind you, this was in a highly unregulated economy)

    About speculation and investment, look at how a speculator gives information in the market. when someone buys a share, he raises the share value. this in turn benefits those in the firm whose shares are bought. this is an incentive for production and innovation. similarly, selling a share is a disincentive against waste.

    When someone buys a real property(and hold it fallow with the intention of selling it off later), whom do they incentivize with their action? what message does this send? Does it benefit the municipality who created the roads and the infrastructure that gave rise to that land value - Not in today's situation. but a big YES in the case of a single tax. They will simply be paying a large percentage of the ground rent to those who created that value.

    Thus, a single tax is just the completion of a normal market feedback loop that does not exist in today's situation of property monopoly. though it is george who is associated with this concept, it was an accepted principle amongst many of the classic liberals like adam smith, thomas paine, max hirsch.

  • ||

    Lucian-

    If true private property was allowed where everyone is allowed to discriminate, there is a very good chance that those without means to support themselves could end up almost like slaves.

    Well, this can happen in nearly any property scheme. And this isn't only dependent on property schemes - the legal system (or lack thereof), culture, etc. play a role here.

    When someone buys a real property(and hold it fallow with the intention of selling it off later), whom do they incentivize with their action? what message does this send? Does it benefit the municipality who created the roads and the infrastructure that gave rise to that land value - Not in today's situation. but a big YES in the case of a single tax. They will simply be paying a large percentage of the ground rent to those who created that value.

    I disagree here. It does benefit the municipality because the property taxes are paid. If the land was not purchased or if it were abandoned there would be no taxes paid on it. And it does send signals because the owners of neighboring parcels now have an idea of the worth of their parcel, and in a market of sufficient size it would raise the value of theirs. And land "speculation" (or investment, depending on your opinion) does serve to clear the market for land and make it more efficient. (And possibly have other benefits, like lowering transaction costs, carrying costs, etc.)

  • Nike Dunk High||

    thanks

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