To live is to be fated to die; death has come to Stanley Sapiro. We
have lost a Great Georgist who was also a Great Man, rating a 2-column
obit in the L.A. Times, a newspaper he had often excoriated because
it "never met a sales tax it didn't like".
We have also lost a Great Lawyer, a Great Scholar, a Great Family Man,
and a Great and Generous
Friend. Los Angeles knew him well as an activist in court. He had sued
the Assessor of L.A. County to hurry up and raise the taxable valuation
of Malibu lands held speculatively by then-Governor Ronald Reagan.
Stan won, and Reagan's land taxes rose by a factor of six. When the
California Supreme Court dawdled over the case, he sued Chief Justice
Rose Bird to follow the Constitution and hurry it up, which she then
had to do. In 1971 he sued the Assessor to hurry up and deny
preferential low tax valuations to private country clubs that
discriminate against Jews and other ethnic groups. In this case,
amazingly, the Calif. Supreme Court ruled the private country clubs
may continue to exclude Jews and others, while still enjoying their low
valuations. One of the most powerful Jewish communities in the country
might have taken the lead, but private Jewish country clubs may also
exclude gentiles, by inference. It
took our man Stanley to bring a case in the general public interest,
and challenge the whole notion of underassessing the land of any
private country club.
As his last hurrah, Stanley sued the
powerful Lincoln Foundation to make it carry out John C. Lincoln's will
to propagate the ideas of Henry George as expressed in Progress and
Poverty. Stan researched the case prodigiously, as
was his wont, but by now his physical powers were waning and he had to
turn the case over to others. It was an uphill battle fought on the
defendant's home turf of Arizona; it finally stalled on a technicality.
Through it all, however, Stan maintained friendly rapport with David
Lincoln himself, just as he had earlier with Ronald Reagan. There was
mutual respect there, and it is still to be hoped that Stan's earnest
endeavors may have touched David's conscience.
The United States has more than one
million lawyers. If just 1% of them were inspired to follow Stan's
course in life, think of the revolutionary effect of 10,000 activist
lawyers prompting public officials and eleemosynary directors to do
their duties. Where now is the Divine Mold that cast Stan
Sapiro? If it would strike some more in his image, what a great world
this would be. As Stan showed, it's not just writing good laws or
bequests, it is enforcing them that can save the world. Stan once
sought public office, too, but, like Henry George, found his higher
calling in another kind of public service.
Readers of Stan and Marion's "Insights" in Groundswell know Stan
as a researcher, too. He gave us opinions, but he backed up each one
with names, dates, places, numbers, and particulars, like the
lawyer that he was, preparing for a trial. He wrote "Insights" from
May, 1990, nearly to date - an op-ed so meaty that the whole series
warrants publication as a serious scholarly book. Years of practicing
law in a warren of world celebrities supplied his long antennae with
extraordinary insights into land speculation by the rich and famous.
Among his targets besides Reagan, to pique reader interest, were Bob
Hope, the Disney Company and its overpaid executives, Marlon Brando,
Dean Martin, Edie Adams, and Jack Benny. He also took on the major
landowners of Orange County: the O'Neills and the Irvine Company. He
exposed the "Redevelopment District" swindle, and porkbarreling of
all kinds. He had the goods on their bads.
He linked the piquant and topical with vignettes from history, of which
he was a deep student. His brain was his computer, with vast storage
space for things most of us forget, if we ever knew them. More than
storing and retrieving facts, Stan's synapses, always firing actively,
made significant links that mere electronics and canned programs would
never detect. He saw the connectedness of history with current events,
and of all things and people and events with each other. He treated his
readers to short courses in, among other topics:
He saw both sides of issues. While hawkish at times, he wrote of how
the IMF et al. subsidize tyrants who hold down wage rates while
landowners pay no taxes; and he chronicled the life of a pacifist he
admired, Leo Tolstoy.
- A history of the poll tax, back to King Herod
- A history of the Russian Revolution
- The life and times of Leo Tolstoy
- History and purpose of the Calif. State Board of Equalization
- Cuban land monopolists under Batista
- Child labor laws
- Economics in The Bible
- A history of income taxation
- The Oklahoma land rush of 1889
- Robert Mugabe's suppression of Georgism in Zimbabwe
- A concise history of the anti-trust laws
- The baleful effects of Proposition 13 in California
- A history of welfare programs
Some critics tried to dismiss him as narrow, but Stan, reading widely,
quoted from such varied writers as Goethe, Thoreau, FDR, Andrew
Jackson, Jonathan Swift, W.S. Gilbert, Fred Allen, J.S. Mill, The
Bible, Carl Schurz, Mark Twain, Adam Smith, Joseph
Stockman, Michael Boskin, Eddie Cantor, Andrew Carnegie, and John D.
Rockefeller: some to extol and some to scorn, but all to edify and
Goodbye, Stan, I loved you well, as did many others. Your spirit lives
on in the lives you have touched. It is now for us, the living, to take
from your life increased devotion to that cause for which you gave the
last full measure of yours.
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