Wealth and Want
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Inelastic Supply


Joseph Stiglitz: October, 2002, interview

Q: I want to follow-up on what you had said some months ago about land reform:

JES: "The main, underlying idea of Henry George is the taxation of land and other natural resources. At the time, people thought, "not really that too," but what was underlying his ideas is rent associated with things that are inelastically supplied, which are land and natural resources. And using natural resource extraction and using land rents as the basis of taxation is an argument that I think makes an awful lot of sense because it is a non-distortionary source of income and wealth. ... read the entire interview

Fred E. Foldvary — The Ultimate Tax Reform: Public Revenue from Land Rent

... Even a relatively flat income tax imposes what economists call a “deadweight loss” or “excess burden” on society. Taxes on productive activity increase the price of labor or goods beyond economic costs, and so reduce the quantity provided. This reduction in production, income, and investment is a misallocation of resources. Resources are wasted because they do not go to where they are most wanted. We can reduce this excess burden by reducing taxes, but changing the type of tax can also reduce this deadweight loss. Economists recognize that if we tap for public revenue a resource whose quantity is fixed, the excess burden disappears. The tax does not reduce the supply and does not increase prices.

This might seem too good to be true, but in fact, such a resource exists everywhere and is indispensable for human action. That resource is land. The supply is fixed, immobile, and inherently visible. If land value is taxed, the land will not flee, shrink, or hide. A tax on land value has no deadweight loss. If the purpose of tax reform is to reduce the extra costs imposed on the economy, a tax on land value does this far better than any tax on income or goods. ... read the whole document




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Wealth and Want
... because democracy alone hasn't yet led to a society in which all can prosper