Voluntary Cities

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In February, the Independent Institute sponsored a fascinating forum called "The Voluntary City: Restoring Urban Life in Crisis Times." The event's transcript is now online.

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  1. I’m glad to see Fred Foldvary’s Geoist proposals, which are generally out of the mainstream. I noticed he called for funding services entirely with user fees and rentals.

    I’ve never been clear on what Fred sees as the proper balance between services funded with direct user fees and those funded by “community collection of rent.” Although he objects to the term “market failure,” it seems to me that his recommendation of funding some services by means other than user fees implies that there’s a free rider problem that can only be addressed by a tax on land values.

    I tend to be quite skeptical of Georgist proposals for funding services. Most, if not all, services could be funded with user fees. And charging a person for the increase in the value of his property since he homesteaded it, it seems to me, is charging him for the actions of his neighbors over which he has no control. In fact, if he settled the area when it was underpopulated, and moved there for the sake of privacy and self-sufficiency, he might prefer that the “services” his neighbors introduced not be there at all.

    As a mutualist, I believe that most of the evils Georgists object to would be solved almost as well by basing ownership on occupancy and use, and then recognizing the absolute right of ownership so long as it was maintained by occupancy. A great deal of the inflated value of urban property comes from artificial scarcity, produced by enforcing absentee landlord rights over vacant lots.

    And Franz Oppenheimer believed that, in a society with property tenure based on possession, most of the problems of economic rent would be self-correcting: parcels of land that produced higher incomes from site advantages or better fertility would be partitioned through transfer and inheritance until they were small enough just to support a single individual or family.

  2. I’m with you joe, everyone knows you can’t build a city anymore without a lot of innumerate hand waving. Voluntary Cities, indeed! The idea is preposterous.

  3. “But the writers in this book, including some of our colleagues here, get their data not from the theory but from the data”

    Quite a claim.

    Nice of him to make it so clear, from the outset, that he’s full of crap.

  4. “basing ownership on occupancy and use”

    So, if I buy a 600 acre spread to go hunting on, and I don’t go hunting — the government comes and takes my property away because I’m not using the property.

    Or, perhaps they don’t see hunting as a valid use, as your own model requires “occupancy.”

    And, of course, here at home I’m not really “occupying” my *entire* back yard. Why couldn’t it be confiscated by the government to be better used to build a shanty for a homeless person.

    This isn’t a slippery slope, it’s an avalanche.

  5. I suppose that’s no more pointless than anything else you’ve posted, JDM.

    Why don’t you read a book or two on the subject before spouting off?

  6. Kevin wrote: ” . . .rent would be self-correcting: parcels of land that produced higher incomes from site advantages or better fertility would be partitioned through transfer and inheritance until they were small enough just to support a single individual or family.”

    yeah, evolutionary sense made, compare termites. Disaster looms even under conditions free of govt oppression which, as we all know, makes the result look like rise and fall of highrises and prizes from babylon to WTC and back again, iow, the perfect opposite of self sufficiency no matter how much that was targeted as evidenced by that same man Franz Oppenheimer about whom i am about to blog thusly:

    http://www.ifs.uni-frankfurt.de/english/history.htm History of the Institute of Social Research
    oh most ironic of deep tragedy, the great intellectual mobilizer and recruiting catalyst for the innocent and brandspanksparkly new shopwindowdressing stages of zionism, the sociologist Franz Oppenheimer was a ‘radical liberal’

    http://www.opp.uni-wuppertal.de/oppenheimer/hillel.htm Oppenheimer’s theories aroused the interest of Dr. Theodor Herzl who introduced him to the Zionist movement at the sixth congress in 1903. In 1910, Merhaviah, the first Jewish settlement in the Esdrelon valley, was established as a co-operative farm, managed according to Oppenheimer’s ideas. However, the workers of the second alliyah (immigration period) found it difficult to accustom themselves to the system of an authoritative administration by an appointed agronomist, considered as indispensable by Oppenheimer for the initial stage. Neither did they agree to the principle of payment according to productive achievement. Thus, the development of agricultural colonization in the Kibbutzim and Kvutzot of Israel proceeded according to collectivistic theories. However, the “smallholder settlements” (Moshavei Ovdim) with their numerous marketing and other local cooperative institutions – as well as the fully cooperative farm with separate households (Moshav Shitufi) – agree much better with Oppenheimer’s intentions both from the standpoint of economy and social psychology.

    …….

    The Nazi secret police has destroyed his books, and his pupils were dispersed everywhere by the disaster of European Jewry. ——- yeah right! Not many books allow a glimpse through the half open/closed shutters (although these blinds are better known as lines of text) as the ones by FO on the way oppressive taxes caused the income gap, displacement, land loss, exploitation, erosion, migration and of course lots of war, the middle men holding themselves up as scapegoats but catalyzing the process by choice . .. . etcetera. It’s jews rather than nazis that refuse to read between lines such as the ones by FO. Perhaps his words did not fall on deaf ears in the case of Jewish ones, they might have made them feel guilty, prompted, pumped and primed them into action, made them promise themselves (and perhaps others like their new neighbours) to behave better in the future. Reality turned this idealism into farce and tragic step up in cruelty and its hell spawned capacities.
    — see more on his ideas here: http://www.opp.uni-wuppertal.de/oppenheimer/eh44a.htm Franz Oppenheimer’s Economic Ideas
    Social Research, New York, vol. 11, no. 1, Feb. 1944, pp. 27 – 39.

    by Eduard Heimann —- Fred Foldvary wrote a review of the state but it seems not to be on the web anymore (didn’t look very closely though, specially after finding his symplistic responses to funny objections to his pet peeve, Georgism. The thread is however HUGE http://www.progress.org/cgi-bin/webbbs/config.pl?read=36155 ((although the viewing numbers don’t get beyond the early teens at best)) so I won’t hold it against him and am gonna try again soon). How’s this for soon, this is from a different article:

    “As always, the war with Spain was a struggle for land. Governments have fought to dominate land, because as Franz Oppenheimer has written in his great work The State, oppressive state power originates in the conquest of territory. This continues because the popular global culture considers “countries” to have sovereign rights over their subjugated lands. Landowners and governments reap the fruits of the land, the rent, by the force of arms and armed rule, taxing the enterprise and labor of the subjects.” America’s Imperialist War of 1898 http://www.progress.org/archive/fold37.htm

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