GeoLibertarians and the Land Value Tax

I am curious about Geolibertarians and the Land Value Tax. I do not (currently) support their proposals, since I am unsure as to the nuts and bolts issues thereof, but I am interested in finding out more. It appears that this is a free market system which would allow for a (minarchist) state to be financed in a way that (purportedly) would minimally distort the markets upon which we depend for those things that we need.

Here is the basic idea as I understand it. This is a request for clarification, so please do not take my comments as a canonical description of their beliefs, but rather as a reflection of my imperfect understanding thereof. That said, here is my understanding of the conceptual underpinnings of their system:

  1. All which is created by a human should be considered property of that human, and he should be free to distribute that property as he sees fit.
  2. Workers who create property using the existing property of capitalists do owe the capitalists compensation for the use of their capital, at whatever rate the workers and capitalists agree upon. This is not Marxism. I am phrasing this proposition in the reverse of the most popular formulation (that capitalists should be able to pay workers at whatever rate they agree upon), but the two formulations are equivalent.
  3. Land cannot be created, and therefore should not be considered property. Buildings and improvements to land, however, are created, and therefore should be considered property.
  4. The free market should be allowed to function. All controls on wages, prices, imports, exports, trusts and other contracts should be repealed. All subsidies to businesses and organizations should be repealed.
  5. No specific welfare systems should exist, except that any land value taxes which are collected in excess of that amount required to finance a (tiny) government should be refunded to the citizens in equal shares. This would be done without respect to income, poverty, property, or other considerations.

This all sounds pretty good to me. I must question the mechanisms by which it could be achieved, however. My concerns are as follows:

  1. One cannot easily move buildings. How, then, could the market be used in order to determine the value of land, as opposed to that of buildings?
  2. What would the incentive structure vis-a-vis voting with regard to tax rates? Would it be possible for small property users to profit by progressively taxing larger property owners beyond reason, and reaping the benefits as larger refunds? It seems that if this occurred, there would be adjustments in the relative land holdings of individuals as their higher incomes would allow them to procure more land, and that there would be a kind of equilibrium established in the long run, but I am not even sure how to model such a thing.
  3. How would the real estate market work in establishing rights of tenancy on previously unoccupied land? What would be the limits to these rights be?
  4. What would happen to incentives to preserve the value of land one was using? Would there be greater incentive to quickly exploit, and thereby destroy the value of, land under this system?
  5. What would be the potential abuses of this system?
There would also seem to be some advantages to the system:
  1. An (almost) completely free market, modulo any distortions introduced by the tax system itself.
  2. A minimal income to those who were disabled or unable to work, and chose not to overconsume land, without creating incentives to cultivate poverty or helplessness.
  3. A strong disincentive against buying and holding land for long periods of time, without putting it to use, in hopes of later gains.
  4. An increase in "green space", as people minimized their usage of land, without creating (as government owned "green space" does) homelessness when land values exceed the means of potential tenants.
All in all, my view of this proposal is similar to my view of the "fair tax". I'm not sure how to crunch the numbers, I do believe that it could by much clearer and probably more fair than our current tax system (the obfuscated assembly language source code to a random number generator would be clearer and more fair than our current tax system). Are there any geolibertarians out there would would like to share their vision of how their system would work?

1 comment:

Joshua Vincent said...

Well, here's how it works, at least in the USA:

Land Value Taxation is a type of real property taxation, that liberates human endeavor from being tied to the natural existence of land and land value.

Whereas the typical real property tax taxes both land and the improvements on the land at the same rate, land value taxation taxes land at a higher rate while simultaneously reducing, or even eliminating, the tax on improvements.

For example, Clairton in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania has a tax rate of 10.3% on land and .432% on buildings rather than 2.95% on both (City and School District combined).

A shift to land value taxation, even when structured in a revenue-neutral manner, usually results in net tax reductions for the vast majority of residents.

By reducing or eliminating the tax on improvements, there is a greater incentive to build, to build with higher quality materials, to maintain, to avoid blight, and to redevelop economically depressed areas.

Several Nobel Prize winners in economics have stated their approval of government revenue being raised from taxes on land.

Support for Land Value Taxation cuts across political lines. Free-market economists like how it reduces distortions in economic decision-making. Environmentalists like how it reduces sprawl and helps fund public transportation. Developers appreciate how it makes new homes more affordable for their customers. Citizens like the reduction in taxes.

In the United States, it is best associated with Pennsylvania. In Pennsylvania, numerous cities and cities have implemented Land Value Taxation. In Harrisburg, the tax on improvements is only one sixth the tax on land. Many economists credit the "Renaissance" of Pittsburgh over the last two decades to Pittsburgh's shift to Land Value Taxation in 1978.

Cheers, Joshua Vincen