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H.G.Brown: Significant Paragraphs from Henry George's Progress & Poverty, Chapter 8: Why a Land-Value Tax is Better than an Equal Tax on All Property (in the unabridged P&P: Book VIII: Application of the Remedy — Chapter 3: The proposition tried by the canons of taxation)
H.G. Brown: Significant Paragraphs from Henry George's Progress & Poverty: 13 Effect of Remedy Upon Social Ideals (in the unabridged P&P: Part IX: Effects of the Remedy — 4. Of the changes that would be wrought in social organization and social life)
Nic Tideman: Peace, Justice and Economic Reform
John Rawls has proposed that the talents that individuals possess be regarded as a common pool, so that anyone who has more than his share has an obligation to compensate those who have less then their shares. Ronald Dworkin has made the contractarian suggestion that people can justly be required to pay an income tax that represents the insurance against being untalented that they would have desired to purchase before they knew what talents they would have.
Dworkin's acknowledges that his suggestion would not produce equality. If we believe Harsanyi's claim that people who did not know their personal circumstances would want to maximize their expected utility, then, even in the absence of adjustments for incentive effects, Dworkin's suggestion leads not to equal utilities, but rather to equal marginal utilities of money, which generally implies unequal utilities when people have different capacities to get utility from money.
Ackerman suggests that each person who is genetically dominated is owed compensation by those who dominate him.
All of these suggestions should be rejected. Talents are not a common pool from which some persons have taken more then their shares. If we are all fishing in the same pond, the quantity of fish that you take will diminish the quantity that is available to me. But the quantity of talent that you have in no way diminishes the quantity that is available to me. Your talent is not acquired at my expense.
From the perspective of peace, no man is an island; each of us is a part of mankind. And any of us who has been graced with an extra measure of talent should recognize that, often, the best use of our talent is to provide for others. Nevertheless, from the perspective of justice, each of us must be allowed to act like an island if he wishes. Read the entire article
Nic Tideman: The Case for Taxing Land
I. Taxing Land as Ethics and Efficiency
II. What is Land?
III. The simple efficiency argument for taxing land
IV. Taxing Land is Better Than Neutral
V. Measuring the Economic Gains from Shifting Taxes to Land
VI. The Ethical Case for Taxing Land
VII. Answer to Arguments against Taxing Land
There is a case for taxing land based on ethical principles and a case for taxing land based on efficiency principles. As a matter of logic, these two cases are separate. Ethical conclusions follow from ethical premises and efficiency conclusions from efficiency principles. However, it is natural for human minds to conflate the two cases. It is easier to believe that something is good if one knows that it is efficient, and it is easier to see that something is efficient if one believes that it is good. Therefore it is important for a discussion of land taxation to address both question of efficiency and questions of ethics.
This monograph will first address the efficiency case for taxing land, because that is the less controversial case. The efficiency case for taxing land has two main parts. ...
To estimate the magnitudes of the impacts that additional taxes on land would have on an economy, one must have a model of the economy. I report on estimates of the magnitudes of impacts on the U.S. economy of shifting taxes to land, based on a mathematical model that is outlined in the Appendix.
The ethical case for taxing land is based on two ethical premises: ...
The ethical case for taxing land ends with a discussion of the reasons why recognition of the equal rights of all to land may be essential for world peace.
After developing the efficiency argument and the ethical argument for taxing land, I consider a variety of counter-arguments that have been offered against taxing land. For a given level of other taxes, a rise in the rate at which land is taxed causes a fall in the selling price of land. It is sometimes argued that only modest taxes on land are therefore feasible, because as the rate of taxation on land increases and the selling price of land falls, market transactions become increasingly less reliable as indicators of the value of land. ...
Another basis on which it is argued that greatly increased taxes on land are infeasible is that if land values were to fall precipitously, the financial system would collapse. ...
Apart from questions of feasibility, it is sometimes argued that erosion of land values from taxing land would harm economic efficiency, because it would reduce opportunities for entrepreneurs to use land as collateral for loans to finance their ideas. ...
Another ethical argument that is made against taxing land is that the return to unusual ability is “rent” just as the return to land is rent. This argument represents a refusal to make a distinction that begs to be made. The first principle of economic justice is that people have rights to themselves. While some scholars have asserted that people have rights to themselves but not to their talents, this is nonsensical. Without talents, there is no self. Talents are fundamentally different from land. The equal rights of all to land can consistently be asserted while still asserting that every person has right to the use of his or her talents.
But before developing any of these arguments, I must discuss what land is. Read the whole article
Winston Churchill: The People's Land
differs from all
other forms of property. It is quite true that the land
monopoly is not the only monopoly which
exists, but it is by far the greatest of monopolies -- is a perpetual
monopoly, and it is the mother of all other forms of monopoly. It is
quite true that unearned increments in land are not the only form of
unearned or undeserved profit which individuals are able to secure; but
it is the principal form of unearned increment which is derived from
processes which are not merely not beneficial, but which are positively
detrimental to the general public. Land, which is a necessity of human
existence, which is the original source of all wealth, which is
strictly limited in extent, which is fixed in geographical position --
land, I say, differs from all other forms of property in these primary
and fundamental conditions. Nothing is more amusing than to watch the
efforts of our monopolist opponents to prove that other forms of
property and increment are exactly the same and are similar in all
respects to the unearned increment in land. They talk to us of the
increased profits of a doctor or a lawyer from the growth of population
in the towns in which they live. They talk to us of the profits of a
railway through a greater degree of wealth and activity in the
districts through which it runs. They tell us of the profits which are
derived from a rise in stocks and shares, and even of those which are
sometimes derived from the sale of pictures and works of art, and they
ask us, as if it were the only complaint, 'Ought not all these other
forms to be taxed too?'
Unearned increment Fancy comparing these healthy processes with the enrichment which comes to the landlord who happens to own a plot of land on the outskirts or at the centre of one of our great cities, who watches the busy population around him making the city larger, richer, more convenient, more famous every day, and all the while sits still and does nothing. Roads are made, streets are made, railway services are improved, electric light turns night into day, electric trams glide swiftly to and fro, water is brought from reservoirs a hundred miles off in the mountains -- and all the while the landlord sits still. Every one of those improvements is effected by the labour and at the cost of other people. Many of the most important are effected at the cost of the municipality and of the ratepayers. To not one of those improvements does the land monopolist as a land monopolist contribute, and yet by every one of them the value of his land is sensibly enhanced. He renders no service to the community, he contributes nothing to the general welfare; he contributes nothing even to the process from which his own enrichment is derived. If the land were occupied by shops or by dwellings, the municipality at least would secure the rates upon them in aid of the general fund, but the land may be unoccupied, undeveloped, it may be what is called 'ripening' -- ripening at the expense of the whole city, of the whole country, for the unearned increment of its owner. Roads perhaps may have to be diverted to avoid this forbidden area. The merchant going to his office, the artisan going to his work, have to make a detour or pay a tram fare to avoid it. The citizens are losing their chance of developing the land, the city is losing its rates, the State is losing its taxes which would have accrued if the natural development had taken place; and that share has to be replaced at the expense of the other ratepayers and taxpayers, and the nation as a whole is losing in the competition of the world -- the hard and growing competition of the world -- both in time and money. And all the while the land monopolist has only to sit still and watch complacently his property multiplying in value, sometimes manifold, without either effort or contribution on his part; and that is justice! ... Read the whole piece
Despite assiduous efforts to make clear the extent and the limits of the economic rent as a concept — known as well as land rent, Ricardian rent, and ground rent, even the best of contemporary neoclassical economists disagree. Some texts argue that certain athletes or other star performers with great natural ability reap returns for their efforts far above what is in fact necessary to “bring them into productive use.” The difference between what it would minimally take to entice them to perform and the price they are actually paid is all economic rent. Babe Ruth, Michael Jordan, Britney Spears, and the Beatles have all been compensated with impressive amounts of economic rent.29 Georgists and classical economists are of mixed minds, arguing sometimes that such payments are either wages or else are simply transfers that in no way reflect productivity.30... read the whole article
Nic Tideman: A Bill of Economic Rights and Obligations
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Wealth and Want
... because democracy alone hasn't yet led to a society in which all can prosper