One Page Overview
Video of Presentations
BIL/Earthsharing Conference (July 9, 2016, 10 minutes)
Affordable Housing Teach-In (Nov. 22, 2015, 30 minutes)
The idea of taxing windfall profits from real estate, the “unearned increment” from rising land or locational values, goes far back in American history. Tom Paine’s pamphlet Agrarian Justice (1797) proposed an inheritance tax on land that would be used to provide capital grants to young people to help them get a start in life and an equivalent of social security for the elderly.
Henry George pointed out in Progress and Poverty (1879) that the more intense social interaction in cities leads to higher creativity and economic productivity, but that much of the resulting economic growth was siphoned off in rents paid to those who owned the land. He argued for land value taxation and hoped to replace all other taxes with a tax on unearned increases in land values. J. Stitt Wilson, Mayor of Berkeley from 1911 – 1913, helped lead an unsuccessful movement to allow local governments in California the option of land value taxation (see article below).
Modern economics broadened the analysis from “land rent” to “economic rent”, meaning all types of business revenue over and above the amount actually necessary to profitably produce desired goods or services. For an accessible study of these issues see Gar Alperovitz and Lew Daly, Unjust Deserts: How the Rich Are Taking Our Common Inheritance and Why We Should Take It Back (2008).