This is based on notes from the morning of Friday, July 28, 2017. After the presentations by first Dan Killoren and then Professor Andrew Theising, there was a Q&A session. Polly Cleveland said that whether land value taxation would work depends, as a practical matter on assessments.

Professor Theising had spoken of Jay Gould's role. Dr. Bill Batt said that Jay Gould's attorney, Thomas Gaskell, was a big Georgist in the 1880's. He quoted from an Illinois court case that involved the public trust doctrine. The court ruled that the State of Illinois could not alienate the land under Lake Michigan, because it was a public trust.

Alan Ridley asked who the opposition is in East Saint Louis. We need to know. Professor Theising said that there's a lot of poverty in East St. Louis, and most people don't own their own homes, but there are elderly homeowners who don't want to pay much in property tax. He contrasted Madison, Wisconsin, where taxes are high, but there are good government services.

Alanna Hartzok said that the thing to do is to let elderly homeowners postpone paying property taxes until they die or sell. Professor Theising said that what they're currently doing is cutting home assessments to zero, which is the wrong way to give relief.

There were other questions. Counties in Illinois cannot impose land value taxation; they would need a change in state law. Professor Theising said that it would be possible to take some steps toward LVT by improving assessments.

Joshua Vincent said that the infrastructure is smashed in East St. Louis. Professor Theising said that there infrastructure programs of the state and federal governments, which could be used to rebuild. There is environmental law, for example. East St. Louis currently has combined sewers, with household sewage and storm runoff going into the same sewers; the EPA doesn't like that.
Back to the morning of Friday, July 28, 2017. You may remember that Professor Theising was talking about ferries and bridges across the Mississippi, and how, at last report, Jay Gould had bought a bridge.

Professor Theising went on to say that another bridge was built in 1890, and in 1893, Jay Gould bought that.

The Terminal Railroad Association (TRRA) was institutionalized to own bridges, tunnels, and railroads. Now what? It was proposed to build another bridge, with public funds, so that the government would own it, and there would be no tolls. However, it sat unfinished for five years, because the voters wouldn't approve the bonds.

The TRRA now owns it, but for good reason. It had light rail over the Ead Bridge, so it exchanged bridges.

Who owns the land in 2017? He showed a picture, I believe, likely an aerial view. There' s a casino, and there's the Continental Grain Company, which loads grain on barges. The government owns a park, the TRRA owns some wooded land, and the Wiggins Ferry Company still owns a strip of land. The East Saint Louis waterfront is stuck wi legacy landowners and low utility land use.

Professor Theising said that significant change only happens in East St. Louis when imposed by the state or e federal government.

There are various possible projects. How do we get people to consider them?

The TRRA still sits on land, because it can. To give it credit, it has been good about releasing excess land.

By contrast, he said, there's a wall in Quebec City, around the Old City. They have built a boardwalk on it, and there's a marketplace anchored by a gorgeous hotel, with views of the St. Lawrence River. Could they do that in East St. Louis, with the flood wall? Could land value taxation be the impetus for rerouting the railroad, and putting the waterfront to higher use?

That ended the lecture; I will follow with the Q&A session.
On the morning of Friday, July 28, 2017, we heard from Andrew Theising, a Professor at the University of Southern Illinois, after first hearing from Dan Killoren, a local Georgist. Professor Theising displayed an image of Saint Louis, Missouri, and East Saint Louis, Illinois. East Saint Louis was greener, with fewer buildings. Why?

He called attention to the area between the Poplar Street and Eads Street bridges, with a view of the Arch. Covington, Kentucky, and St. Louis, Missouri do better than East Saint Louis.

In 1780, Captain James Piggott bought some of the Illinois floodplain, and built a bridge over Cahokia Creek. In 1795, when Missouri was still part of a Spanish colony, he obtained a perpetual license to operate a ferry service between Illinois and Spanish territory. Later, the Widow Piggott decided to sell off the land and ferry; McKnight and Brady bought five sevenths of it.

In 1819, Samuel Wiggins bought the remaining two sevenths, which happened to be riverfront property. He then went to the Illinois Legislature, and obtained a monopoly. The Wiggins Ferry Company made lots of money, and controlled everything going across the river. Later, the Wiggins Ferry Company hired James Eads, a great engineer, and built a bridge over the Mississippi, the Eads Bridge, at a cost of $10 million, equivalent to about $215 million today. The bridge was finished in 1874, and in 1875, the WFC defaulted on its loans.

J.P. Morgan bought the bridge for $2 million, and made a deal with Wiggins for a 75/25 split of the profits, with the proviso that the ferry was not to carry rail traffic over the river.

In 1880, Jay Gould bought the bridge from Morgan. He already owned railroads, and he bought the riverfront tracks, so the ferry starved, and Gould bought that. He rerouted the Union Pacific Railroad.

To be continued.
There's an article in Reason on taxes and the sharing economy. One point is that the U.S. tax code wasn't written with Uber and Airbnb in mind, and doesn't fit many people's activities very well. Reading it, one thought of mine was that if we taxed only land values, we wouldn't have to worry about Congress figuring out how to rewrite the tax code to adapt to modern conditions.

Then there's a link to various articles from The Freeman in the late 1930's and early 1940's, some of which are of interest because of their lasting truths, and also because they show you how the Great Depression, the rise of Nazi Germany, and the outbreak of war appeared to some people at the time.

Lastly, Michael Kinsley, who isn't as loudly Georgist as I am, but has spoken well of George's ideas, has an article in Vanity Fair, wishing, among other things, that some Silicon Valley billionaire would become an enthusiastic admirer of Henry George instead of Ayn Rand.
On Friday, July 28, 2017 after Open Mike we heard a more formal presentation from local Georgist Dan Killoren and Associate Professor Andrew Theising, the Chair of the Political Science Department at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville; the topic was "Puppy Training and the East Saint Louis Riverfront." Mr. Killoren spoke first; in 1969, he was a budding socialist, and then he was introduced to real capitalism. He said that in Saint Louis, 72% of homeowners would save 30% or more (if the city switched to a land-only property tax, I presume; I didn't manage to note down his every word).

But they don't go land-only, so there are many abandoned properties, now owned by the city.

The Illinois, Missouri, and Mississippi rivers converge, and highways converge, so the area should be flourishing. Why, then, the economic crisis?

He answered his rhetorical question, that, first, we are violating fundamental economic rules. Charity is well and good, it not good enough; we are violating the rules of justice, and not just social justice, but street justice. You train a puppy by rewarding it for doing what you want, and punishing it for doing what you don't want. We aren't applying those principles in imposing taxes; instead, we punish people for building homes and factories, and reward them for creating blight.

Second, "Thou shalt not steal." Land speculators are stealing from us; the community does good things that make land valuable, and we don't charge much for this. Land speculators don't pay much for what they receive.

Third, the Old Testament says not to sell the land in perpetuity, for it is the Lord's.

Want to pay less for improving your neighborhood? Want various benefits? Then charge the land speculators to pay for infrastructure, police protection, etc.

John Kelly's book The Other Law of Moses has scriptural references on this.

And that was Mr. Killoren's part of the presentation; after that, we heard from Professor Theising.
On July 28, 2017, we had Open Mike in the morning. I've already reported some of it; to continue, Davepreet Jassal talked about factories in Saint Louis shutting down, and said that instead of coal, there should be bonds to not use coal. There were questions about just how this would work; I must confess that it wasn't clear to me.

Next, Dr. Polly Cleveland spoke nad said that the minimum wage is is practice only enforceable on larger businesses, and that McDonalds, Walmart, Amazon, etc. are more or less monopsonists, monopoly buyers. They pay low wages, which lead to high turnover, and thus to no unions. Higher wages would come out of land rents. She said that we don't live in an Econ 101 world, disputing the standard economic arguments that raising the minimum wage increases unemployment.

Jeff Graubart talked about Android app which displays what's in stores, where in the aisles, restaurant menus, conference agendas, etc., 900 channels. Companies will bid. I wish him luck.

Sue Wwalton made announcements, including about Cahokia Mounds, if people wanted to go. Unlike at some other conferences, we weren't going off on a group bus tour of the local sights, but if some people wanted to skip part of the conference to go, they could.

Dan Sullivan mentioned Chester, Pennsylvania, which has the worst crime statistics in the state, except for "ordinary theft," since there aren't many store there to shoplift from. Pennsylvania has a sales tax and Delaware does not, so there's a lack of businesses along the Pennsylvania side of e border; people prefer to shop in Delaware.
On July 28, 2017, I entered the meeting room while Open Mike was already is session, and Dan Sullivan was in the middle of his talk. He said that even great progressive taxes on income don't provide good incentives. Land value taxation does. Presumably, he had been talking about why this is so.

Then I gave the next talk. I said that I had been active on, which is a site where people can post questions about various topics of interest, and other people who know the answers (or think they do) can answer those questions. I had been providing Georgist answers to questions about economics, and while I hadn't made the world Georgist, some people had pivoted my answers, and followed me. Sowing seeds like this might be useful; before I read Progess and Poverty, I had vaguely seen a reference to single-taxers and come across a newspaper column somewhere advocating a land-only property tax.

Then Mike Curtis spoke. A hundred years or so ago, the income tax had been a (partial) replacement for tariffs, a good idea, which Georgists supported, but -- he referred to Alexandra Wagner Lough, a historian who had spoken at earlier conferences, and talked about how Georgism had sunk into obscurity in the early twentieth century. He also talked about the minimum wage. Higher minimum wages could result in higher rents, since poor people would have more money to spend on places to live. Raising the minimum wage too high could produce unemployment, so it might be best to index the minimum wage to inflation, so as not to raise unemployment.

Alanna Hartzok, a Democrat and progressive, said that typical Bernie Sanders people don't understand land rents. Talk to them about removing the tax burden instead. Especially the tax burdens on those who aren't making much money.

To be continued.
I will continue with last year's conference, but for now, here's what happened on July 27, 2017. Our conference in O'Fallon, Illinois, began with an opening reception in the evening, and at least one speech, which I missed, because I took my shoes off, and lay down across one of the double beds in my room. I did get downstairs eventually, and join my friends for some informal chat.

One Georgist cut open a dragon fruit from his California orchard, and gave me a piece. This was the first time that I had eaten dragon fruit, and I liked it, but not enough to try to find and buy it regularly.

The theme of the conference was "Bridging the Left-Right Divide."
I'm posting from the Saint Louis Airport, having spent the last few days at the 2017 North American Georgist Conference, about which I will post in detail later. Among other things, we held a book launch for the annotated critical edition of Progress and Poverty, the second volume in what is to be the annotated complete works, and I bough a copy, even though I already own another copy edition of the book. By next year, there should be an annotated edition of Social Problems.

Meanwhile, I should be able to board the plane within half an hour, and head home.
In the evening of August 18, we held a Center for the Study of Economics Board meeting, which was not strictly speaking part of the Georgist Conference, but with a number of CSE Board members present, it was a convenient time and place for a meeting. Alodia Arnold proposed a BIL talk (an informal alternative to a TED talk) in Fairhope, Alabama, on October 22, 2016. I'm not sure what came of that.

Then there was a Henry George Institute membership meeting; again, this wasn't formally a part of the conference as such. Our program director reported that we have many enrollments, but few people following through and completing the course. Some people (mostly prisoners) still complete the basic course by mail (rather than over the Internet), and two are to receive transcripts from Excelsior College.

Can we get more people by advertising?

The Robert Schalkenbach Foundation is now helping to support publication of the Georgist Journal, at $5000 per year.

We need money, and some day, we will need a successor to Lindy Davies, our Program Director. I'm president, but I have a full time job elsewhere.
To continue with the panel discussion on August 18, Joshua Vincent talked about splitting the opposition. The Connecticut Business and Industry Association used to oppose land value taxation. Here's the twentieth story if their building, looking down on a parking lot, formerly a Hilton. They will no longer oppose LVT, although they don't support it. Presumably, Josh pointed out to them that LVT would cut their property taxes, and raise those of the parking lot owner.

Bill Batt mentioned Costa Rica as having the best land maps. Thailand has introduced a property tax; would it be land-only or land and buildings? They went with land and buildings, but there are problems, and this may change. In Korea, the Georgists are closely linked with the Christians, now one third of the population. We should support them.

And that is the end of my notes on that discussion.
To continue with the afternoon of Thursday, August 18, there various comments at the Tactical Response Panel. Ted Gwartney said that we should go after the low-hanging fruit first. Simply obeying the law, and accurately assessing land would be substantial progress. Years ago, he was in Russia, trying to push Georgism. Russian politicians liked the idea, but the opposition got to them.

Dr. Herbert Barry said that the Sixteenth Amendment (authorizing the income tax) is bad, and he repeated his proposed alternative.

Lindy Davies said that some taxes are less bad than others, and we should have our answers ready, for example, say, "The property tax is not regressive," and be able to explain and defend that view.

Dan Sullivan said that Steven Cord was not a very good salesman, but he persisted, which is how he got real-world victories. Joshua Vincent commented that Dr. Cord kept coming back. 90% is just showing up.

Alan Riddley said that to make housing in California affordable, it is necessary to repeal Proposition Thirteen, but not this election cycle. Joshua Vincent said that the left has inadvertently supported Proposition 13, and mentioned libertarians and others, who, he said, have done more harm than Howard Jarvis.

Brendan Hennigan said something about a follow-up on Catholics.

To be continued.
To continue with the afternoon of Thursday, August 18, we next had a panel discussion, the Tactical Focus Panel, with Lindy Davies. Joshua Vincent, and Professor Frank Peddle. There was a handout from Josh, on the Unconference, with some advice: Find allies! Maybe a newspaper, Google Alerts, find Georgist solutions to local problems. Hartford and Philadelphia. Get Altoona to keep its land tax. Affect good assessments, as Ted Gwartney did in Greenwich, Connecticut, and elsewhere. Philadelphia has a new mayor and staff, and they're interested in fixing assessments.

As a postscript on that, Altoona went back to taxing both land and buildings, after taxing only land for a few years.

At the national level, grazing fees and other charges for the use of land. Testimony in tax committees. Regulatory agencies can be nudged to support land value taxation, HUD, for example.

Then Frank Peddle talked about the Panama Papers, showing international tax dodging. Governments try to tax mobile factors, not land. It's hard to untangle things and get money from tax havens, although politicians want to try. LVT makes it all so much easier.

Lindy Davies said that he didn't have much to add. He mentioned a carbon dioxide tax accompanied by a citizens' dividend. We're a radical movement seeking fundamental reform. Our efforts should inform each other.

To be continued.
To continue with Thursday, August 18, there was a Council of Georgist Organizations business meeting in the afternoon, and as president of two Georgist organizations, I was there. There was a problem with one hotel in Saint Louis, Missouri, so we authorized our conference organizer to cancel with them, and find another hotel. We will meet in the St. Louis area in 2017 (not too long from now), and our 2018 meeting is expected to be in Baltimore.

Discussion went on and on, partly about matters like CGO finances, partly about things we might do aside from the annual formal conference (hold an unconference?), and partly about what to call ourselves. Ideas include Georgists, Geoists, and Earthsharers. I'm willing to use any of those terms, or the phrase "single taxers", if the rebranding would just have the practical effect of making our ideas well known and widely accepted. It seems, though, that things are more difficult than that.
On the morning of Thursday, August 18, we went on a bus tour, and saw the Osceola County Historical Society's Pioneer Village. There was a small -- very small -- house which had been the home (or was a reconstruction of the home; I forget which) of a whole large family of crackers. There are different derivations of the term "cracker" for Southern whites, but the story were told then was because they were cattlemen who cracked their whips. Yes, there were cowboys in Florida.

Later, orange groves become more important, and we saw the larger house of the Cadmans, an English family who came to Florida in the late nineteenth century, and grew oranges for export to Britain; we learned a bit about how oranges were waxed and packed for shipment. Oh, and the family brought along a couple of their servants as well multiple children.

Then there was a museum tour, where I saw the only alligators I actually saw during my visit to Florida; they were small ones in a terrarium, and the museum guide explained that if you keep alligators on short rations, they don't grow big. We went to lunch, at a restaurant that will never make the Guide Michelin, but did provide some edible food; after that, we toured Disney's model intentional community of Celebration.
On Friday, the Washington Post published a letter from my friend Walter Rybeck, who served in the Army in World War Two, and must be well into his tenth decade, but still has all his marbles. Here is the letter:

It's the land, not the houses

The July 2 Metro article "Poll: District gentrifiers blame themselves for driving up costs" implied that gentrification is the cause of the shortage of affordable housing. People thinking that doesn't make it so.

The first error was calling it a "housing" crisis. Similar to cars that lose value from the moment buyers drive away from the dealer, houses also decline in value over time, even when they're well taken care of. Of course, escalating prices and rents are genuine and serious. This is not because of the cost of the house but rather the cost of what the house sits on: the land. Land prices keep rising because of pressure from population growth. People also pay extra for locations that are made more desirable by improved public facilities and services.

However, a major cause of escalating prices is land speculation that creates artificial shortages of building sites. The crisis will persist until we stop fixating on housing and address ways to attain affordable housing sites.

Two hints to policymakers: Land speculation is fostered when land values are assessed and taxed too lightly. Land prices are deflated when robust land taxes are imposed.

Walter Rybeck, Silver Spring
To continue with the late afternoon of Wednesday, August 17, we heard from Jacob Shwartz-Lucas and maybe Mark Sullivan (I remember Jacob speaking; Mark is also listed in the program, but I don't remember whether he actually spoke at this session or not).

Mr. Shwartz-Lucas said that he's a microbiologist by training, and was interested in bacteria to help clean polluted rivers like the Ganges. He saw that it was necessary to change the rules, not just apply technology. He emailed a thousand people asking what to do, how to solve poverty, and the Henry George solution seemed best.

Now the Georgist movement has a bunch of young people. Recession Generation was a young Georgist event, a skill-sharing conference. 70% of those attending were under forty-five years old.

He described his marketing campaign, with 14,000 subscribers and growing. It gets free advertising from Google. There's lots of date from people who take our surveys. He mentioned Kaiser Fung, the survey consultant for Earthsharing.

There are socialist Georgists, anarchist Georgists, and libertarian Georgists, with the percentages varying by age. The people in this room, he said, were mostly older people, since younger people are mostly poor, and can't afford to fly to conferences and pay for hotels. He presented more survey results.

Christine Peterson, who coined the term "open source," was at the latest conference (I presume that that means at the Georgist youth gathering in California).

Michael Burton, Ph.D., a political strategist at the office of VP Al Gore (1993-1998), said, "You're doing all of the right things, Jake: building a large newsletter, surveys, and statistical analysis."

Then Alodia Arnold, another young Georgist, spoke up to recommend going into real estate appraising. Most appraisers are fiftyish or older. It's a well-paying career, a long career, and can advance Georgism.

After that, we had the evening off for informal socializing and dinner on our own. My next installment will be about Thursday the 18th.
At around 3:00 PM on Wednesday, August 17, the panel discussion resumed.

Brendan Hennigan talked about George's The Irish Land Question, later published as The Land Question, with other works included. Hennigan has an Irish background, and said that the Potato Famine was not a real famine: enough food was produced, but it was exported. He discussed the Irish Land League, some of whose members were Georgists.

Fred Foldvary talked about the Duke of Argyll, author of The Reign of Law, and of "The Prophet of San Francisco," an attack on Henry George, who replied with "The Reduction to Iniquity." Dr. Foldvary said that the Duke misunderstood George. Dr. Foldvary said that we should say, "The land rent belongs to all equally." We support individual possession of land, with payment to the community.

Then Bill Peirce, a retired professor of economics, talked about Progress and Poverty. A short biography gave the impression that Henry George didn't know much about economics, but in fact he had read Adam Smith, David Ricardo, and John Stuart Mill. Would that economists today knew Smith, Ricardo, and Mill.

Around 1870, Walras in France, Menger in Austria, and Jevons in England began the Marginal Revolution. (George's Progress and Poverty dates to 1879.) The marginal revolution meant that economics provided much more precise and rigorous answers to much less important questions than the classical political economists. George was not really behind the times, because in 1879, most other economists were not up on the marginal revolution.

George saw the power of human ingenuity and cooperation. He was an anti-Malthusian, which was needed at the time. There was biological Darwinism, and there was Social Darwinism, the latter of which, at least, George rejected. Reviewers of his work criticized him for this, e.g., William Graham Sumner. George was called a preacher, a poet, and worse things, but he was in fact a real economist.

Progress and Poverty reads better today than it did in 1900 or 1920. Henry George wasn't just a mathematician; he understood the real world, how real firms, real bureaucrats, and real lobbyists influencing government operate. He was a public choice economist avant la lettre.

Early marginalists (not so much Alfred Marshall, who had it in the footnotes) sometimes just used math, and didn't properly grasp the real world.
To continue with the book launch on Wednesday, August 17, Frank Peddle spoke after Fred Foldvary. Professor Peddle said Volume II of the Collected Works, Progress and Poverty, would be out in the fall. The annotated critical edition was aimed at libraries and institutions, and would be available for scholarly work. Why bother, since George's works were in the public domain?

There had been no annotated critical edition before. Now-obscure economists are quoted, and there are words unfamiliar to most people today. The critical edition will have explanations, annotations, corrections, and a new index.

He mentioned the electronic future, and publishing constraints.

Then there was a break until 3:00 PM.
To continue with the book launch on Wednesday, August 17, and specifically with what Fred Foldvary was saying: There was a crash in 1873. There was land fraud in California. The federal government ran huge deficits during the 1800's, not in money, but in land. The public lands were being given away or sold cheaply.

He also spoke of the "discovery" doctrine. In 1455, Pope Nicholas V decreed in Romanus Pontifex that the first Christians to discover non-Christian land owned it. American land law incorporated this doctrine, which did not come from English common law. The mostly Protestant U.S. took this from the Vatican.

The American revolutionaries were land speculators, and therefore the revolution. It's more complicated than that, but the economic motives of the revolutionary leaders did matter.

Land policy today involves subsidies for the rich. The government taxes people for civic improvements, and it's the mostly rich owners of land who benefit.

Then there was another Alexandra Wagner Lough film clip.



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