I paused, this Memorial Day, to give thought to those who gave the last full measure of devotion. I was moved to look up the Gettysburg Address, from which that famous phrase is taken, and went on to read other Lincoln quotations. In his September 11, 1858 speech at Edwardsville, the great statesman and orator said:

"What constitutes the bulwark of our own liberty and independence? It is not our frowning battlements, our bristling sea coasts, the guns of our war steamers, or the strength of our gallant and disciplined army. These are not our reliance against a resumption of tyranny in our fair land. All of them may be turned against our liberties, without making us stronger or weaker for the struggle. Our reliance is in the love of liberty which God has planted in our bosoms. Our defense is in the preservation of the spirit which prizes liberty as the heritage of all men, in all lands, every where. Destroy this spirit, and you have planted the seeds of despotism around your own doors."

I leave it to my Dreamwidth friends to consider for themselves certain political events and cultural trends in light of these words.
On Wednesday, August 19, Dr. Fred Foldvary spoke about Walt Disney World as a Proprietary Rent-Funded Community. You can click on the link and read what he himself wrote about the matter.

There are other examples of proprietary rent-funded communities, like shopping malls, hotels, the private neighborhoods of St. Louis, Missouri, a condominium in Alexandria, Virginia, etc. You don't pay a fee to use the elevator in a hotel; you pay rent on your room, which finances services Ike the elevator.

WDW is like that on a bigger scale; it occupies forty square miles in Orange and Osceola counties (mostly Orange), and has 70,000 "cast members." The land assembly was done through dummy corporations, with $5 million paid for 28,000 acres, and the price around $180 per acre by 1964. When it was learned that it was Disney buying the land, the price climbed to $1000 per acre. There is something called the Reedy Creek Improvement District, 98% of which is owned by Disney, which enabled to use innovative methods. This is not like Disney Land in California, where the hotels and such outside the theme park are privately owned. Disney World mostly does not enrich privat land speculators. Disney Land does, and the frenzy of land speculation raised land prices, and made it hard to actually build the hotels required to make the theme park viable.
This week, I got one After Final amendment in my Expedited docket, and dealt with it expeditiously. I also got three three other amendments in my regular Amended docket, so I'm up from zero last week to three amendments now.

I finished a first action rejection on my oldest non-RCE Regular New case, and picked up my oldest (only) Request for Continued Examination case, which I hope to finish by 3:00PM Tuesday, the deadline for this biweek.
To continue with the book launch on Tuesday, August 16, Frank Peddle and then Bill Batt spoke about Mason Gaffney. There was a Q&A session, and reminiscences about Mason Gaffney.

Someone suggested that instead of "land," we might do better to say "natural resources."

Lindy Davies, himself a Friend, spoke about John Woolman, the 18th century Friend (Quaker) who opposed slavery. Supposedly, Woolman said something about the ethics of landowning, and said that people should pay the community for the land they held. Lindy doesn't recall the exact quote.

I spoke up to say that I had been a Georgist for many years before I learned just how land speculation leads to recessions. I learned from a talk by Polly Cleveland, with Mason Gaffney sitting beside me, while she presented his model, and improvement over Henry George's own account.

Ed Dodson described a Georgist forecasting service to Mason Gaffney, who should have been the leader of it. Phil Anderson has done something along those lines.

There were other questions and comments, and then basically the end for the day, with the evening devoted to informal socializing. We heard more take the next day.
To continue with the book launch on Tuesday, August 16, 2016, we saw a video of Mason Gaffney himself, in which he described his first Georgist publication, "Taking the Professor for a Ride," printed before World War Two. The article described Des Plaines, Illinois, in 1941; as I recall the article, things were a mess, with speculation having pushed the borders of the town far beyond where people actually lived. Land was for sale, with a sign, "Yesterday's Speculators Are Today's Millionaires." When young Gaffney told his professor at Harvard about this, the professor said, "Land speculation? You must have been reading Henry George," making it sound like a crime.

"Who's Henry George?" Gaffney asked perversely.

"A primitive writer, back in the 19th century. They lived on farms, surrounded by land, and thought land speculation was important. Today it's trivial."

Gaffney wished that he could take the Professor for a ride, and show him the situation in Des Plaines.

This was published in The Freeman, edited by Frank Chodorov.
To continue with the book launch for RENT UNMASKED: Essays in Honor of Mason Gaffney, Professor Nicolaus Tideman spoke, first about Chapter Twelve, "The Cries of the Wild," by Peter Smith. Smith says that we should collect rent for all uses of natural opportunities, and that agricultural subsidies lead to the farming of marginal land, and hence the destruction of wilderness. We should have appropriate regulation; mad cow disease was the result of feeding cattle parts of sheep carcasses, especially neural tissues infected with prions.

Then Professor Tideman spoke about his own contribution to the book, Chapter Fourteen, "The Needed Moral Revolution." The first moral revolution in the past couple of centuries was against slavery. The second, when he was growing up in the 1950's, was to extend rights to minorities and women. Now, rights are being extended to people with same-sex romantic attraction, very different from twenty years ago. The next needed moral revolution, like that against slavery, involves property, recognizing that the Earth belongs equally to all. International and intergenerational equity are required, as the only path to a peaceful world.

He spoke of how slavery ended in the U.S. in the 1740's, all colonies had slaves (more in some than in others). A Quaker named John Woolman went around convincing a few people, and then a few more, in Pennsylvania and then in other colonies. Dolley Madison's family freed its slaves in 1786, and became rather poor as a result.

The Quakers ended up saying, "You can't be a good Quaker if you own slaves." And so the idea spread.
I'm on the train, coming home from New York City. We, the trustees and employees of the Robert Schalkenbach Foundation, went out to dinner last night at Da Noi, an Italian restaurant a few blocks from the Courtyard Marriott, together with our respective spouses, or at least those who had come to New York. We also had as our guests David Triggs, the president of the Henry George Foundation of Great Britain, and his charming wife Gay. We drank quite a number of toasts (I mostly just touched the wine to my lips), to the memories of Henry George, Robert Schalkenbach, the twenty-one original trustees of the Robert Schalkenbach Foundation, past presidents, and others. Our new president-elect, Gib Halverson, praised, thanked, and toasted, the man whom he was replacing, Ted Gwartney, and Mr. Gwartney returned the compliment.

Mr. Triggs gave a fine after-dinner speech, touching on populism, Trump, and Brexit (he voted for Brexit, although not for the reasons that some people did). He recounted his visit to Trump Tower, and his talk with some Italian-Americans from Boston. One reason why some of them had voted for Trump was that they saw him as a businessman, and not a lawyer; the legal system seemed to them to be corrupt and beyond their control. Many people have legitimate grievances, and think that something ought to be done, but don't understand what. In Britain, local property taxes (rates, they're called) are pretty minor, and most taxation is centralized. It's not like the U.S., where buying a newspaper reminded David Triggs of New York state's property tax, and Georgists can lobby state legislatures, local mayors, and city councilmen. In Great Britain, there's a Value Added Tax -- the European Union requires all members to have at least a 15% VAT -- but it's part of the price people pay for whatever they buy, not made visible as an add-on.

Mrs. May wants free trade, and expresses concern for those who are just barely making it, but he would advise her that real free trade doesn't just mean breaking loose from the E.U., but getting rid of the VAT, income tax, etc., and going to LVT. In Britain, pretty much across income levels, hiring someone costs about twice what the employee actually receives after taxes.

This morning, and this early afternoon, we finished our Board meeting, approved the committee assignments made by our new president (I'm now the chairman of the Audit Committee, and on the ad hoc Assessment Committee).

My Weekend

May. 20th, 2017 06:30 pm
Here I am in New York City, at a Board meeting of the Robert Schalkenbach Foundation. We didn't get as far through the agenda as planned this afternoon, partly because we had a disputed presidential election, resulting in a tie vote, and a dispute about what to do next (flip a coin, vote again in the morning after the two candidates had given prepared answers to a particular question, etc.). We ended up balloting again, this time with the result that the challenger was elected our new president. We're about to go out to dinner at a restaurant a few blocks away, and then meet at 8:00 AM tomorrow (earlier than what our schedule called for) to elect our other officers, finish other business planned for this afternoon, and then do what had already been planned for tomorrow.
I came across a statement that Donald Trump announced his presidential candidacy on June 16, 2015, which is the day my widowed mother died.

At least my parents were spared the spectacle of President Trump; I can just imagine my father speaking memorably about his utter unfitness for the job.
The newspaper had an obituary of the British historian Hugh Thomas, dead at eighty-five. I read his history of the Spanish Civil War when I was about ten or eleven. I must have been one of the book's youngest readers.
This is an early report, since I will be going to New York City Friday (I slept after dinner, and am now awake and online). I got one amendment this week, but it spontaneously returned to my Rejected docket, so I'm back to zero. I'm not certain, but I think this is because the patent applicant filed a request to correct something, and this calls for action by a paralegal or someone, rather than by the examiner.

I finished one Regular New case this week, and am now doing the searching for my oldest non-RCE Regular New case.
I have spent more of my life in Centre County, Pennsylvania, than anywhere else, so this item in Slate caught my eye. My home county's politics and jurisprudence don't usually make national news.

I moved away when I got my Ph.D. in 1996, so I don't know the people involved, and have no special inside dope to provide.
It's been a lovely day in May, unlike the cold and wet weather we've been having lately, and more like a return to the warmth of February.

I went to the farmers' market today, where I got to let the beagle Sarge, and chat with his humans. I also bought olive oil (Spartan Oil, from Greece), and regular stuff like apples and cider.

Later, in the supermarket, a man asked if he could take a picture of me in my shirt, so I put down the magazine I was looking at, straightened, and smiled. I was wearing my "Don't Blame Me, I Voted for Gary Johnson" shirt.
I didn't get any amendments this week, and I finished an Office Action on my single remaining amendment, so I'm now down to zero amendments of any kind.

I also dealt with one of my Regular New cases, and I'm working on another Regular New case. Someone has filed a Request for Continued Examination case, so I expect to deal with that next biweek.
One notable trait of our Inglorious Leader is not simply that he lies, but he does not even lie like a properly socialized American adult, who at least realizes that he should be ashamed of himself. Instead, he lies like a four year old, or like someone from a culture where one loses face by candor, and it is simply expected that painful truths will not be admitted, and that people will make boasts that do not remotely correspond to reality.

Call this a mental illness, a moral failure, or a cynical strategy, it seems deeply rooted in Trump's personality; this is why the description "sociopathic seventy year old toddler" fits him so welll.
To continue with the book launch for RENT UNMASKED: Essays in Honor of Mason Gaffney, Ted Gwartney spoke of how he became a Georgist. Gwartney's "Assessing Public Values" is Chapter Seven in the book, and according to Chapter Six, by Fred Harrison, it would be a $14 trillion boost if governments practiced land value taxation.

In 1960, House and Home had Mason Gaffney as a guest editor. This led to Ted Gwartney's career as a real estate appraiser and then assessor; he could make a career out of doing good. Gaffney believes, if I understand correctly, in ATCOR -- All Taxes Come Out of Rent.

Then Gwartney spoke about what he learned as an assessor: Land is usually underassessed. Reassessment can be done annually. Assess at the selling price. Show land and building values separately.

In 2011, there was an initiative in California to replace Proposition Thirteen, and abolish sales and income taxes. Ted Gaffney analyzed it, using Board of Equalization figures, and making estimates. He figured that real estate values in California are about 50% land, 50% buildings. A 75% tax on land values would raise $159 billion; current state and local revenues in California were lower than that, $139 billion.

Unfortunately, they needed $7 million to gather signatures, etc., so the initiative was not placed in the ballot.

British Columbia was a success story. Ted Gwartney led a reassessment, made assessments uniform, and created a province-wide Assessment Authority. In forty-one years, total property values rose by a factor of 29, and land values went up by a factor of 37.
To continue with the book launch of RENT UNMASKED: Essays in Honor of Mason Gaffney, and specifically, to continue with what Dr. Free Foldvary was saying, the Georgist school integrates economics and ethics. Mason Gaffney has worked on (1) theory, (2) economic history, and (3) the history of economic thought.

The neoclassicals believe in false trade offs: Equality vs. efficiency; the environment vs. goods; economic freedom vs. governemnt aid and control; taxes vs. debt.

Mason Gaffney's greatest heterodox contribution was his book, The Corruption of Economics, written with Fred Harrison. Around 1900, "economic rent" was defined to include more than land rent, and "rent seeking" was used to mean seeking privileges from government. The robber barons gave money to universities, and got particular professors hired. These professors gave us the "marginal revolution" or "neoclassical revolution" in economics -- which involves some true ideas, but leaves out land.

That was from Fred Foldvary; then Frank Peddle spoke. Professor Peddle is a professor of philosophy, not economics. His own knowledge of Professor Mason Gaffney goes back to a meeting of the Eastern Economic Association; Gaffney can speak the language. Professor Gaffney is the best and most creative Georgist economist of the past several generations. He reconciles freedom with equality.

Prof. Peddle spoke of the Platonic dialogues, especially "Parmenides." Be philosophical. Gaffney is good at peeling back the surface appearances, and showing what is going on. He has a law-based, not opinion-based explanation of economic problems: they can be traced to the capture of economic rent.
A few days ago, I finally finished reading Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur, and I have a few thoughts: Most of the book is just tale after tale of knights having adventures that typically involve doing battle with other knights, and sometimes getting damosels into bed with them; one can have a taste for adventure stories and still get tired of this, since one description of two knights each smiting the other over his horse's croup, and then avoiding their horses to fight with their swords on foot is much like the last one. Also, the knights tend to be thuggish, even when we are told that they are the good knights, as opposed to truly bad ones like Sir Turquin and Sir Breuse Sance Pitie. When two traveling knights meet, they don't need any cause for a quarrel to do battle with each other. A "good knight" seems typically to mean a strong knight skilled in battle, not a knight who is particularly ethical, even by Medieval standards.

And yet there are ideals and aspirations shining through; after hundreds of pages of ordinary adventure stories, Malory gives us the quest for the Sangreal. Even Sir Galahad is a fierce fighting man, but otherwise very pure and devout, and so he and Sir Percivale achieve the Holy Grail, and are taken up into Heaven.

And then we get some more earthly adventures. By the way, I find it hard to like Queen Guinever much, for she is not only unfaithful to her lawful wedded lord, but often unkind to Sir Launcelot, who is unfailingly loyal to her. An incident leads to a deadly division among the knights of the Round Table, who make war on each other, and things fall apart. In a sense, they have to: since the present isn't great and wonderful, but the last supposedly was under the reign of King Arthur, there needs to be some account of why the golden age didn't last. Finally, those knights (and the Queen) who didn't get killed in the civil wars get serious about religion, and take up great fasting and prayer; Sir Launcelot, for example, is ordained as a priest before his death.

The book ends with a plea to pray for Sir Thomas Malory, who seems to have been a violent and lawless knight. I wonder how many people over the centuries have done so, and whether it makes any difference. I wonder whether one should also pray for the anonymous peasants and the unliterary knights of fifteenth century England.
A grandmother and cancer patient has been jailed in Kansas for driving under the influence of Marinol, which was prescribed for her, and which is not the same as smoked marijuana.

I admit that there's a certain logic to it: when I was studying for my driver's license in Pennsylvania more than thirty years ago, I read that it was illegal to drive under the influence of narcotics, and that it was not a defense that the narcotics had been legally prescribed by a physician. I can understand that no one, not even a cancer-stricken grandmother, should be free to drive if she is drugged so as to be a public menace behind the wheel.

As I understand it, though, there is no reason to believe that she was a menace behind the wheel. Marinol is not the same as morphine or phenobarbital in its effects, or even the same as a large dose of actual marijuana. However, she was assumed to be impaired by reason of taking it, and therefore convicted.

Thank Heavens she was only sentenced to two days.

Beyond the individual injustice, this seems to me to be the kind of thing that results from the War on (Some) Drugs mentality.
I got one After Final amendment in my Expedited docket this week, so I dealt with it expeditiously. I finished an Office Action on one of my two regular Amended cases, and worked on e other amendment, but didn't finish it before heading home Friday evening, so I'm down to one amendment.

I also finished a first action on my oldest Regular New case this week, and next week, I hope to deal at least one other Regular New.
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