Wealth and Want
... because democracy alone is not enough to produce widely shared prosperity.
Home Essential Documents Themes All Documents Authors Glossary Links Contact Us


Neighbors' Actions

H.G Brown: Significant Paragraphs from Henry George's Progress & Poverty: 10. Effect of Remedy Upon Wealth Production (in the unabridged P&P: Part IX — Effects of the Remedy: Chapter 1 — Of the effect upon the production of wealth)

To abolish these taxes would be to lift the whole enormous weight of taxation from productive industry. The needle of the seamstress and the great manufactory; the cart horse and the locomotive; the fishing boat and the steamship; the farmer's plow and the merchant's stock, would be alike untaxed. All would be free to make or to save, to buy or to sell, unfined by taxes, unannoyed by the taxgatherer. Instead of saying to the producer, as it does now, "The more you add to the general wealth the more shall you be taxed!" the state would say to the producer, "Be as industrious, as thrifty, as enterprising as you choose, you shall have your full reward! You shall not be fined for making two blades of grass grow where one grew before; you shall not be taxed for adding to the aggregate wealth."

And will not the community gain by thus refusing to kill the goose that lays the golden eggs; by thus refraining from muzzling the ox that treadeth out the corn; by thus leaving to industry, and thrift, and skill, their natural reward, full and unimpaired? For there is to the community also a natural reward. The law of society is, each for all, as well as all for each. No one can keep to himself the good he may do, any more than he can keep the bad. Every productive enterprise, besides its return to those who undertake it, yields collateral advantages to others. If a man plant a fruit tree, his gain is that he gathers the fruit in its time and season. But in addition to his gain, there is a gain to the whole community. Others than the owner are benefited by the increased supply of fruit; the birds which it shelters fly far and wide; the rain which it helps to attract falls not alone on his field; and, even to the eye which rests upon it from a distance, it brings a sense of beauty. And so with everything else. The building of a house, a factory, a ship, or a railroad, benefits others besides those who get the direct profits.

Well may the community leave to the individual producer all that prompts him to exertion; well may it let the laborer have the full reward of his labor, and the capitalist the full return of his capital. For the more that labor and capital produce, the greater grows the common wealth in which all may share. And in the value or rent of land is this general gain expressed in a definite and concrete form. Here is a fund which the state may take while leaving to labor and capital their full reward. With increased activity of production this would commensurately increase.

And to shift the burden of taxation from production and exchange to the value or rent of land would not merely be to give new stimulus to the production of wealth; it would be to open new opportunities. For under this system no one would care to hold land unless to use it, and land now withheld from use would everywhere be thrown open to improvement. ... read the whole chapter

Louis Post: Outlines of Louis F. Post's Lectures, with Illustrative Notes and Charts (1894) — Appendix: FAQ

Q6. If a land-owner builds, does not that increase the value of his land and consequently the amount of the tax he would have to pay? If so, would not he be taxed for his improvement?
A. No. Upon the value of the building he would never pay any tax. It is true that his improvement might attract others to the locality in such numbers as to make land there scarcer and consequently dearer. His own lot would in that case rise in value with the other land and be taxed more, just as the rest would be. But that would not take any of his labor in taxes; he would still have his building free of taxation. Thus: If on a lot worth $1000 a building worth $1000 were erected, making the whole worth $2000, the tax would fall only upon the $1000 which represents the value of the lot. If land then became so scarce that the lot rose in value to $1500 the tax would be raised. But the owner's improvement would be still exempt. When his property was worth $2000 he was taxed on $1000, the value of the lot, leaving $1000, the value of the building, free; and now, though he is taxed on $1500, the value of the lot, $1000, the value of the building, is still free. ... read the book

Mason Gaffney: The Taxable Capacity of Land

 To stimulate building is also to uphold and fortify the tax base, even though you do not tax the new buildings directly. Some people fault the "depressing" canyons of Manhattan, between the skyscrapers. In my observation, it is not the canyons that depress Manhattan. When the GM building went up, Fortune Magazine reported it doubled the rents of stores across the deep canyon so formed.

Its spillover effects were highly positive. What really depresses Manhattan are rather the centenarian firetraps and the activities they attract. They tend to downvalue other lands nearby, eroding the tax base.

 Consider the effect of floorspace rentals on ground rents and land values. Doubling floorspace rentals will more than double land values, through a kind of leverage effect. That is because all cash flows above a constant amount required for the building will inure as ground rents. The higgling and arbitrage of the market will see to that. Once that constant is met, everything above it goes to landownership as such, raising land prices which are the land tax base.

 When you observe cities much, the positive neighborhood effects of replacing old buildings with new are irresistible and contagious, raising land prices all around. The converse is also true: the negative neighborhood effects of letting old junkers stand without replacement are depressive. Thus, when you take the tax off new buildings, and put it on the land under old tumbledowns, you kick off a general process of revitalization that turns gloom into hope into optimism: optimism that boosts land prices and the land tax base. ...   Read the whole article

Fred Foldvary: Geo-Rent: A Plea to Public Economists

A site’s geo-rent is not based on the particular activity at that site. The geo-rent of a site containing lavish buildings and gardens equals what the geo-rent would be if, for some strange reason, those improvements suddenly disintegrated. A fully developed site has about the same geo-rent (per acre) as an adjacent vacant lot.

Suppose I own a 50-acre site that is pristine, unimproved. That site would rent for $100,000. Hence, the geo-rent is $100,000. The next year I build a large beautiful and successful shopping center on the site. My geo-rent is still only $100,000 (assuming the amount for which my site unimproved would rent has not changed). However, if my shopping center makes neighboring land more valuable, it does increase my neighbor’s geo-rent.

The interrelation between one landowner’s improvements and his neighbor’s geo-rent is an interesting matter. Another interesting matter is a landowner’s contribution to improvements on neighboring lands, such as sponsoring a new road. If the new road would increase his geo-rent tax bill, geo-rent taxation, it would seem, would reduce his incentive to sponsor such an improvement.1 But here I leave these tangents aside, with the summary judgment that I do not think that such issues do much, if anything, to weaken the case for tapping geo-rent.

1 The effect on geo-rent would be smaller if the road is a toll-road, because then more of the value added is internalized, i.e., captured by the road owners. ... read the whole article

To share this page with a friend: right click, choose "send," and add your comments.

Red links have not been visited; .
Green links are pages you've seen

Essential Documents pertinent to this theme:

Top of page
Essential Documents
to email this page to a friend: right click, choose "send"
Wealth and Want
... because democracy alone hasn't yet led to a society in which all can prosper