An open space for global conversation
A lot has been happening recently on the climate front. Hurricane Sandy put the issue front and center after it was virtually ignored during the elections. Echoing the anti-apartheid efforts of the 1980's, 350.org has started the new Go Fossil Free campaign, which calls on students to demand that university endowment funds divest from the coal, oil and gas industries. And the COP18 talks just finished up with another round of failed negotiations, highlighted by a tearful delegate from the storm-ravaged Philippines pleading for action on behalf of the seven billion people on this planet.
Join us this week in the Cafe for a conversation on the varied dimensions of this crisis. What is moving in the world? How might this online community participate? What are the personal challenges this subject brings up for you? Explore these questions together here on our forum, and on each of the three Cafe Calls we will be hosting. Monday's Vital Conversation will start us off with an overview, Connect2012 on Tuesday will focus on what this community might do and Thursday's Occupy Heart will address the inner struggles a crisis like this evokes. See the schedule on the right side of this page for times and registration links.
We will be testing out MaestroConference's new "social webinar" feature this week, which allows you to see who else is in your breakouts with you. Click here to access this feature once you are on a Cafe Call (note: you will need your call-in and PIN handy to sign up).
“Property is robbery” – P.J. Proudhon
Wendell, can we look at some specific situations so that I can understand what you are advocating.
Take the case of lands owned by governments, specifically our US federal lands. Are you suggesting that royalties to the government be increased? Should all profit be removed from extraction (exploitation)?
How should land itself be taxed before production begins? Most private landowners in the US don’t own mineral rights. Should mineral rights owners be taxed. Should they be taxed for land that hasn’t been explored – for land that isn’t producing? How about offshore production rights?
How would tax rates be set before the value of a piece of property is known?
Richard Waddell: Thanks for asking the questions.
The general principle behind what I am saying (all based on the original ideas of Henry George and his modern adherents) is that the value of land is created 100% by the community of all people and therefore that value should be required to be paid by all landowners into the public coffer to be used as the most appropriate and just for of taxation to pay for public services. The community created value of land and natural resources should be used first as a source of revenue to pay for public services before ever turning to taxation of earned income from individual labor (wages) and real capital investment in the real economy. The reasons for this are 1) all public services of all kinds bar none have the effect of increasing and value and land value only, not the value of improvements and 2) private collection of community created land value via land rent and sale price is an unearned income in the hands of private owners and their corporations. Private owners who use their own land do not receive a land rent of curse bu they do receive the value of the services provided by the community. Land owners do pay some of cost of such services in their property taxes but no where do they pay the full cost. Existing property taxes penalize people who build and improve because most of property taxes come from improvements and not from the tax on land value.
Regarding your question, this means in practice that government owned land when made available to private interests should be paid for by charging at a bare minmum the going market land rent. This way private individuals can have exclusive right of USE of our land but cannot pocket values they do not create. If we do not charge the full market rent for land we in effect subsidize such private interests and give up the revenue that could be used to pay for government with less taxes on labor and real capital. It is a matter of simple economic justice in all cases. The government already does charge ranchers and other users of public lands a rent for the use of the land so the principle and mechanism is already in place, well recognized and agreed to. Of course in many cases the market land rent is not charged and renters of government land are getting sweet heart deals. Also there is collusion between private individuals and administrators of public lands that result in lower payments than otherwise be paid. There is nothing new about this. The case of the bridge to nowhere of Sarah Palin fame is another case in point. The bridge was going to make the land of the island where it was headed much more valuable. This was a scam on the American people the like of which happens all the time from local to state to federal governments.
Regarding profit from extraction of resources the answer as to whether all profit from such activity be removed is no. The huge capital investment that it takes to extract, transport, refine and bring resources to market as finished products should earn an ordinary and adequate profit. This is based on the fact that capital investment (tools of production) earn their reward by creating new value that did not exist before and if profit is not allowed the products will not be furnished or will only be furnished at a much higher price to the final purchaser. It turns out that in many cases regarding raw resources such as oil, gas and coal the profit returned to capital investment is only a part of what extractors receive by way of income. The value of the raw resource in the ground before any extraction takes place is a value created entirely by the community of all people just like the value of surface land. That value is included in the price of the final product when it is brought to market and sold to the final purchaser. It is this part of the income in the hands of extractors that is unjust and unearned for the same reason as applies to surface land. Many states and countries already do tax this value through royalty fees. Alaska is an example of a state that does this quite well and in fact such taxation is the source of a yearly citizen dividend paid to every man, woman and child since 1985. Texas imposes a very large royalty fee on oil extracted there but inexplicably California does not. When one understands this one can also begin to understand why Texas does not have budget problems and California does.
Taxing land before or after production begins is the same. If someone "owns" a piece of land and does not use it (this specifically applies to surface land and is a bit more complicated when it comes to resources on or under the land) the tax (called a land value tax) would be the same as when the land is used. For example the property tax could be changed to a land value tax only by untaxing improvements and raising the tax rate on land value. A vacant lot next door to a similarly priced piece of land with a house or other improvement on it would pay the same. We are not in the business of telling people what to do with their land nor are we in the business of penalizing people when they do do something with their land. We as community just want to receive back from land owners the value we the community have given to their land by way of the existence of population and the provision of public services. Taxing improvements is in effect a theft from producers of improvement and not taxing land value allows a theft from the community that creates that value. it is not all that difficult to see the dynamic and its implications for the fairness or lack thereof of our society.
People often object to the idea of taxing vacant land but the effect of this is to create the incentive for people especially in cities to make better use of their land and in so doing they are encouraged to invest real capital, provide jobs, increase the housing supply, rebuild cities (as experienced in Pittsburg between 1979 and 2000 when it taxed land more heavily than buildings) and a whole host of other socially and economically beneficial results.
This is a market solution in that it creates an economic incentive for efficient use of land because of the effect of the tax and encourages real capital investment and a whole range of other productive Main Street economic activity by removing taxes on productive activity, i.e. building of improvements. One rather wonderful result of this kind of taxation is that it discourages and in many cases can stop urban sprawl. This happens because the land in cities is more efficiently used removing the need and the (land speculation) incentive to sprawl. I do not see any other way to stop urban sprawl and I find it completely crazy that this idea is not picked up and spoken about by the millions of people who say they hate urban sprawl. In my opinion most people even those of good heart and intentions are very much enmeshed in the system of land speculation which is at the heart of real estate investment for quick profit. The issue is thus fraught with contradictions and paradox not because the ideas are so difficult to understand but because we the people are so used to paying the landlord and profiting from the game when and where we can.
In addition it is clear the the recent housing bubble was not a bubble of increasing value of houses but a bubble involving the speculative value of land. All economists and people in the know acknowledge this, they just don't take about it. The next bubble which is scheduled in the 18 year cycle to happen in 2026 could be prevented by shifting taxation in some significant degree to land values but, sadly in my opinion, there is no discussion of it. Such a discussion could be had here but that remains to be seen.
thanks again for the questions.
Wow, what a great Occupy Heart call. So, affirming for me to come back to my base... now with so much more clarity.
I am working hard, soooo hard, in Occupy, and in my personal life dimensions, WITHOUT ANY OUTCOME in mind! It's what I'm supposed to be doing!
I'm not smart enough and neither is anyone else, to get us out of Climate Change or the massive change that's in store for us. And that massive change will likely, thru its destruction and suffering, be the great equalizer... showing us that nothing we know or have is important... showing the only thing real- is love.
So, what a worthy occupation, to start now building a love-boat that can hold all.
I think one of the reasons for thegreater financial irresponsibility of the 90s and 2000s is the belief, not consciously acknowledged by the general public and savvy investors, many of whom are better educated (and are more likely to have had higher math and science courses) that climate change is real, and that we are all disinvesting in the future, in contrast to the fifties, where we were collectively investing in our selves by building highways (for all) and an education system (for all).
I haven't heard anyone else say this, but it is hard to imagine otherwise. Just because people don't acknowledge they are afraid of something doesn't mean they aren't-- it just might mean that their fear is overwhelming.
I'm sorry I missed this call.
Sorry you missed it too, my friend! I like your point above. What you and Dyck are saying touches on the heart Meg Wheatley's message in her new book So Far from Home. An excerpt:
Many people I talk with are despairing and confused,
unable to comprehend how so much could have gone
wrong in the world. Whenever we don’t understand the
causes of our suffering, our despair intensifies. It is easy
to feel victims of randomness. But this is not a random
universe—everything comes from somewhere. There are
good science-based explanations of how we got to where
we don’t want to be. Life has continued to create change
through its well-known processes.
We need to get reacquainted with our home planet if we
are to understand how we landed up here; we need to see
as clearly as possible how life’s reliable dynamics interacted
with human will to emerge as this life-destroying mess.
With such clarity, we can develop insight and discernment.
We can wisely choose right action, those actions
that make sense in the present circumstance. Without discernment,
we act from blind hope, not from clear seeing.
We push on, believing that with just greater effort, more
passion and better networking, we will force the world to
change for the better.
I feel strongly that we are misperceiving both our own and
the planet’s capacities. We need to understand how we
got here, otherwise we’ll continue to exhaust ourselves to
the point of collapse. It’s happening all around us—people
getting ill, resigning, withdrawing into cynicism and bitterness.
We have to stop this waste of wonderful humans.
We have to realize that we’re exhausted because we
are struggling to accomplish what can never be accomplished.
And then blaming ourselves and each other for
In “Home,” I describe three of life’s most transforming
dynamics, hoping to illuminate how we got to this current
dark reality. Many of the science themes will be familiar to
you if you’ve read any of my books or articles. What is different
now is how I’m using the science. When I first presented
discoveries from new science, I was excited that
they revealed new maps for working and organizing that
would unleash human capacity. If we understood how this
planet functions, we would be able to create healthy organizations
and communities. But that hasn’t happened.
Now I feel compelled to use science to explain why these
destructive cycles arose, why they cannot be stopped.
My purpose, as I will keep repeating, is not to add to our
despair. My intention is to increase our clarity so that we
might discern wise action. We cannot change the way the
world is, but by opening to the world as it is, we can discover
how to be warriors for the human spirit. (pp. 24-5)
Ben, interesting post... sounds like she's also saying 'forget the outcome of change'.
Thanks again for sharing all your great research. I'm seeing you really 'going places'... moving, growing. It did my connected heart good to hear you screaming out your guts on the call. It brought me closer to you and to everyone to hear that-- it was like all of us screaming. It made me want to be a caretaker but all I can be is a care giver.
What happened on the call yesterday sensitized me to hear the desperation and fear in others who might not be aware of it yet. Heather had already cracked me open earlier in the week about the sadness and grief and tenderness involved.
A Sufi Story (~told~ in the OccupyHeart call) excerpt from The Gift, w permission of author, Michael Kovitz
You must trust me now.
Nothing real can ever be lost. When you awaken from sleep, only the dreams are gone. Listen to my story.
You are like a stream that flows through all of time seeking union with the sea. Nearing journey's end, it flows into a vast desert and becomes trapped in the sands. Feeling itself weakening more and more it tries to struggle on, but finds its way to the sea blocked by a great mountain.
Hopeless and helpless, the stream feels its life ebbing away into the sands.
"Help me Lord!" it cries out, and is answered by the voice of the wind.
"You must give yourself to me. I will carry you over the mountain as a cloud and as rain you will merge with the sea."
"But I will cease to be a stream. I will die!"
"You will not die. Whispered the wind. Only the dream of yourself as stream will end. And besides, where is your choice? A stream you can no longer be. Give yourself to me, or be lost forever in the sands."
And so, feeling totally helpless and without hope, exhausted beyond belief the stream gave itself up into the arms of the wind and was carried as a cloud beyond the mountain's peaks. The cloud drifted over the sea and seeing itself reflected in the water below, began to weep.
"I await you. Come."
And the cloud released itself as tears of joy and fell as rain into the sea. We are not we, but one, spoke the golden seaand the stream being no more, heard the voice and recognized it as its own.
The convolutions herein are interesting and fairly typical of those who ignore the typical base line for the entirely misnamed 'elitist representative democracies' of which the United States stands firmly at the head of the queue. Movements for this or movements for whatever gain little real ground, and such gains as are made are too easily nullified by replacement and the steady drip drip of counter erosion by governmental systems which will by every possible means, including the use of lethal force, put down any attempt by the plebeian mob to take control.
and the base line is very easily demonstrated - thus
• Basic Senators (no leadership position) – $174,000
• Majority and Minority Leaders – $193,400
• President Pro Tempore – $223,500
• Vice President (President of the Senate) – $230,700
and - to quote from my own writings -
"In America a similar two party domination holds in a political landscape wherein money is King. In the 2008 elections, candidates for office, political parties, and independent groups spent a total of $5.3 billion on federal elections. The amount spent on the presidential race alone was $2.4 billion, and over $1 billion of that was spent by the campaigns of the two major candidates: Barack Obama spent $730 million in his election campaign, and John McCain spent $333 million. (http://www.opensecrets.org/pres08/index.php)
In the 2010 midterm election cycle, candidates for office, political parties, and independent groups spent a total of $3.6 billion on federal elections. The average winner of a seat in the House of Representatives spent $1.4 million on his or her campaign. The average winner of a Senate seat spent $9.8 million. (http://www.opensecrets.org/bigpicture/elec_stats.php?cycle=2010) There is only one class of people who can afford to pick up those election tabs. Almost without exception these election candidates are essentially and in their majority, scions of the elites and their electioneering funding is derived and supplied in great part through connections with big business.
One is given to wonder what the attraction and pecuniary advantages are which might cause anyone to spend an average of $9.8 million, and by this to become indebted as above, in order to win a seat in the Senate? That kind of money isn't raised in its majority from public donations and its rarely funded in its entirety from the personal fortunes of those who seek election, nor yet from their families, so to whom are they indebted when they raise a glass to their lips in victory? A debt which is renewed every time they fight for re-election.
Before those who would become our political masters can attain such power they must first bend the knee to the high echelons of big business, not least of which are the global purveyors of ubiquitous debt, the Bankers. Our political leaders are bought and paid for with financial and media support offered and accepted both by implicit and open understandings, for there is nothing of altruism in the motives of these global megaliths. Behind closed doors in meetings arranged and dinners most private and well away from the public gaze, deals and understandings are almost certainly tacitly and overtly offered, discussed and accepted."
Its also an entirely misunderstood belief that Americans live within a democracy, (and that misunderstanding is equally the case with every nation which so describes their governance) Tinker you may, for that's all that's left you - but change will take a great deal more than that.You are arguing and discussing within a wilderness of misunderstandings and, by history attested, from positions which have no real grounding. And I quote again from my own writings -
“How then can it be possible for anyone to have a meaningful view of the human condition if they do not know how and from whence they came, and to where they might be going, let alone where exactly they, and we, are today?”
.And that 'democracy' thing?
Try looking up Plutocracy instead?
I help others teach anarchism, an aboveground system to benefit everyone.
If people can move away from ancient fascist texts, and prayers to nonexistent war gods, Armageddon won't be necessary.
Strange how so-called positivists and proponents of spirituality always seem to accept genocide as necessary and inevitable. Their positivism and spirituality always ends up killing milliions of people because they believe it is necessary and inevitable.
It was Dwight D. Eisenhower who said, "Indeed, I think that people want peace so much that one of these days governments had better get out of the way and let them have it." The same goes for religions. What gives me hope is that despite the billions of dollars they spend on elections and proselytizing, governments have fewer voters and religions have fewer adherents. When people stop believing the lies of governments and religions, and start listening to their own hearts and consciences, there will be peace.
Climate change is the result of people believing that the world is property and that governments have a right to own and destroy it. The indigenous peoples who nurtured and respected the earth for tens of thousands of years are once again rising up toi stop the avaricious self-destructive stupidity of so-called "civilization." There is nothing civilized about killing people and destroying the planet. It is barbaric, and those who believe iit is necessary and inevitable are the real barbarians and savages.