Land Value Taxation Campaign

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The LVTC blog, by Henry Law

The comments in the LVTC Blog are a personal view of our Hon. Secretary Henry Law and do not necessarily reflect the official policy of the Campaign.

This is a place for personal observations and comments on politics, economics, current affairs, on-going discussions on the potential for LVT to remedy some of the current ills, and the impact on Society of any of the above. 

Please read and enjoy, and feel free to respond to Henry if you have any thing you would like to add.

What happened to the LVT Bill

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"My Bill wasn't discussed on Friday 26th April as it wasn't a sitting day in the end. It was down on the Parliamentary papers for that date as a way of keeping the Bill 'live' for as long as possible. However, I knew that it wouldn't have any chance of actually being debated. The Bill has now fallen as the Parliamentary Session has formally ended.

"It is confusing and this place does work in a ridiculous way! I have been trying to make the best use that I can of the limited mechanisms available to backbench MPs to help get the debate on LVT going and I think we've had some success in that. I'll keep taking up the opportunities that come up to press the Treasury on this - they really shouldn't be ignoring this issue or the likes of the IFS Mirrlees Review and the OECD."

Welfare cuts and local economies

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Blackpool Wet Saturday in 1970 - fish and chip bar

One of the effects of the welfare cuts that start today has so far received little attention - their effect on local economies in depressed areas. By removing purchasing power from local economies, the cuts will make matters worse. Workers - especially in retailing - are going to lose their jobs as welfare recipients cut back. The cuts are meant to encourage work instead of living on benefit, but in reality they will do just the opposite. Either the jobs are not there - or the reward for the work provides only enough for an Eastern European standard of living - and higher profits for the employer - and eventually for the landowner who will suck them up in the rent.

We are not in favour of the welfare lifestyle, but a crude programme of benefit cuts is not going to help. It would take something like substantial tax cuts in depressed areas to turn things round, combined with measures to discourage property owners from leaving commercial premises vacant whilst holding out for unrealistically high rents. We would note only that land value tax does both at one at the same time, creating tax havens precisely where they are most needed and discouraging property owners from asking rents that are above market-clearing levels.

This FT report examines the issue in more detail.

Margaret Thatcher's sour legacy

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Margaret Thatcher will be best remembered for having said that "There's no such thing as society". This was taken out of context. Her exact words, I am told were "There's no such thing as society. There are individual men and women and there are families. And no government can do anything except through people and people must look after themselves first. It's our duty to look after ourselves, and then, also, to look after our neighbours."

"No such thing as society" seems to have its origins in US libertarianism, perhaps in the writings of that writer much admired by libertarians, Ayn Rand. The statement, together with the changes that came with 1960s "freedom", gave assent to the change in social attitudes that have brought Britain to its present condition. It is precisely the kind of view that one would expect to be expressed by a grocer's daughter from Grantham, a small market-town in the East Midlands. In the context of the permissive society of the later 1960s, the result was that Britain ended up with the permissiveness without the society. This is apparent  the instant you step into Britain today. There is a such a thing as society and consequently a public realm. In Britain, this public realm is not valued as it is in other countries, and it is noticeable, down to the minutest triviae.

The statement is also a denial of fact that governments have duties.

Extreme poverty could be wiped out by 2030

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Extreme global poverty could be eradicated by the end of the next decade under optimistic new targets unveiled by the World Bank. The bank's president, Jim Yong Kim, claimed  that there was now an "opportunity to create a world free from the stain of poverty" by 2030.

How land values are sustained.

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This is what happens when infrastructure services prove not to be not up to the task - the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy and its effect on land value.

A church for the poor?

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New popes always bring a new direction to the Catholic church. It is over 120 years since the first of the Social Teaching encyclicals, Rerum Novarum, was issued by Pope Leo XIII in 1891. This was interpreted as, amongst other things, an assertion of the rights of both workers and property owners, and, importantly from our perspective, a condemnation of land value taxation. The latter led to the writing of a defence of land value taxation by Henry George, under the title of The Condition of Labour, and the presentation a copy of the book to the Pope. The main defect of Rerum Novarum is that it conflated land and capital under the heading of "property", just as did the classic Marxist analysis. Taking it as a starting point, however, it follows logically that if property is a good thing, then everyone should have some, which is not going to happen if a few people have too much. That was the origin of the political movement called Distributism, as developed by Hilaire Belloc and G K Chesterton in the 1920s and 1930s. Its ideal could be summed up in the phrase "three acres and a cow". That would certainly be better than the kind of economies which prevail almost everywhere today, although I would rather have my three acres at the north end of London Bridge than in the fells of Cumbria.

Further Encyclicals issued in 1931 by Pope Pius XI, and subsequently in the 1960s and 1991, emphasised that property owning brought with it duties to the community, including the idea of "stewardship", though the particulars of these duties were never spelled out. The special nature of land was, however, referred to on several occasions but again, this was never been followed up as it should have been. The most recent Social Teaching encyclical, from Pope Benedict, Caritas in veritate, came out in 2009. This has received relatively little attention, but it takes the whole subject back to square one with an emphasis on justice. It is potentially a good foundation to develop a fresh body of teaching, but the trouble is that the Church's experts generally come from a conventional academic background which obscures rather than clarifies. It would be unwise to expect too much but there is no harm in hoping that a pope who has declared for the poor will see that the Catholic church grasps the issue, and not before time.

The Cameron budget

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deck chairs on promenade deck
Life belt

No reflection on Tallink who owns the rather blingy ship which sails on the Tallinn-Stockholm route. Comfortable cabins, nice food and all the crew and staff speak English.

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