Value Capture: I’m Lovin’ It

No — we’re good.

Economic news sometimes manages to tickle the heel of our crazily careening Trumped-up news cycle. Recently, the issue of “value capture” has been able to tickle the heel of the economic news. That’s right, people; it’s that big a deal. This is a bit frustrating to those of us who think this is a vital issue. After all, it has to do with some of society’s most important themes: how the community manages to fund infrastructure and public goods – and generally the relationship between individuals and society itself. But, I can’t expect you to agree with me about how important this is until we unpack it a bit. So let’s try and do that.

The basic idea of “value capture” is pretty well understood. People who are willing to actually consider it find it hard to disagree with. (If you’d like a quick introduction, here’s an informative three-minute video.) The notion is that public investment, such as in, say, a new commuter rail station, disproportionately benefits the owners of nearby real estate. We all know this: “Close to transportation” is a standard selling point in ads for New York City rentals. Nearby public transportation is a convenient amenity for which people are willing to pay. The value that’s there to be “captured” attaches to the land – the locations whose proximity to the amenity makes them worth more in the market.

976 6th Avenue — one block from 34th St., Herald Square
809 6th Avenue — one block from either 28th St, 7th Ave, or 28th St, Broadway
18 East 42nd St. — one block from either Grand Central or 5th Ave. Bryant Park
26 East 23rd St. — one block from either 23rd St., Broadway or 23rd St., Park Ave.
38 Union Square West
490 8th Ave. — one block from Madison Square Garden & Penn Station

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, having noticed that the New York City subway is struggling for funding and falling into disrepair, and that the newly completed Second Avenue subway extension has created big piles of real estate value on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, has proposed a value capture scheme to help fund the subway. A study by NYU economists Giancarlo Falcocchio and Constantine Kontokosta found that in Manhattan’s main business corridors, south of 60th St., being close to the subway adds $3.85 per square foot to the value of commercial real estate.

A few keen-eyed students of economics have even managed to excavate the theme of value capture from the 55-page infrastructure plan issued by the Trump administration. President Trump is known to be no fan of public transit, and some commentators are even going as far as to say that this is the only good idea in the infrastructure plan. Under the proposal, “any city that wants federal money must show that it will collect some of the property value gains that accrue to plots along the new [public transit] line, and use

those proceeds to finance the project.”

We would not want you to think, however, that value capture is a new idea. Indeed, though it may just be dawning on municipal governments, corporations and other big-time real estate operators have been familiar with this idea for a long time. Examples abound; to give you an idea of just how pervasively entrenched this practice is in our modern economy, here is the most easily-findable example I could think of.

It’s been widely reported that real estate is the McDonald’s Corporation’s main source of profit; flipping burgers is just how its employees busy themselves while the company waits for prime locations to “ripen.” No doubt you can think of examples of this practice in your local community. But, time is money, so I did it easy way: asked the McDonald’s website to list locations in midtown Manhattan, and checked them out on Google Maps.

429 7th Ave. — around the corner from Madison Square Garden & Penn Station

Keep in mind that there are many other companies, and individuals, who engage in this sort of economic opportunism. Moreover, these are just the first few examples from the find-a-restaurant page on their website – and they don’t even include my very favorite example of this sort of thing!

It’s also worth keeping in mind that it’s not just train stations that create capture-able value. The fact is that any public amenity or improvement (assuming it was worth building in the first place) adds to the real estate value that is “captured” by private owners of real estate. And in the final analysis, it may be that “capture” isn’t quite the right verb for for us to use in this case. It makes the value sound like some wary little animal that’s going to scamper off if we don’t act quickly. But that’s not really the case. After all, the value of public improvements attaches to land, and we know where the land is – especially in this day and age, when one can find so many excellent examples of private, corporate “value capture” in 15 minutes, using free online tools.


Sandtown: Too Far Down?

When do we just walk away? How far down does a neighborhood, or a city (or a nation, or a planet) have to go before we accept that the cause is lost, that no reform or movement can save it?

Ursula LeGuin’s “Hainish” series of novels deals with a federation of planets, far in the future. These stories represent our planet in a chillingly matter-of-fact way. Hundreds of years before, Earth had been rendered all but inhabitable by war and pollution. Little mention is made of this in any of the Hainish novels; it is just a sad fact of their history. As such — for LeGuin is a master at creating fully-formed, believable alternate worlds — this brief treatment of Earth’s possible future is deeply disturbing.

There are a number of islands and low-lying regions, around the world, that will likely have to be abandoned as sea levels inexorably rise over the next few decades. The Indian Ocean nation of Maldives, for example, averages 1.3 meters above sea level, and is disappearing rapidly. In Bangladesh, a third of the country’s land area floods every year, and farmers have been forced to develop rafted crops that can float above what used to be their land.

Mural of Malcolm X, Nina Simone and James Baldwin by Baltimore artist and teacher Ernest Shaw

And then there’s Baltimore, Maryland, the once-proud port and industrial city, home of the Orioles, distinctive marble front stoops that rowhouse residents would lovingly polish, and more registered historical monuments per square acre than any other US city. These days, though, it’s the setting of the dystopian TV hit “The Wire,” and the scene of epic conflict between the police and the populace.

Baltimore’s problems are particularly focused in the storied neighborhood of Sandtown (officially it’s called “Sandtown-Winchester”). In years past, Sandtown was the city’s preeminent African-American neighborhood. Prominent natives include Billie Holiday, Cab Calloway and Thurgood Marshall. Its nightlife was legendary; in the 50s and 60s all the top black performers made sure to perform in the nightclubs on Pennsylvania Avenue. The long-enduring Arch Social Club on Pennsylvania has been bringing men together for games, music and drinks since 1905. Now it is an outpost in a desert.

The Arch Social Club

Sandtown today is better-known as Freddie Gray’s neighborhood. If you’re just joining us, Freddie Gray was a 25 year old Baltimore man who was arrested for no reason other than fleeing the police (which Baltimoreans routinely do, just usually a bit less suddenly). After Gray was fatally injured in the back of a police van, six officers were initially placed on paid leave — and were then acquitted of homicide in his death. This led to widespread protests, some of which became violent.

Of course, there is more to it. After the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King in 1968, Baltimore endured riots that were much larger and more destructive than the “Freddie Gray uprising.” Furthermore, though Baltimore started losing manufacturing jobs in the 1960s, it was after the 1968 rioting that its population really started to fall. There are large swaths of abandoned houses in Baltimore that have stood empty since then. The sad truth of the matter is that many of Baltimore’s neighborhoods were abandoned after 1968, and have never recovered.

In 1960, Baltimore City was home to 939,000 people. Its population today is just under 615,000. Along with this decline, the city’s racial and economic composition changed drastically. The processes of “white flight and urban decay” were going on in many US cities during this period, but they seemed to hit Baltimore especially hard. The basic outline is well-known: the tax base dwindled, schools (and all manner of public infrastructure and services) suffered; crime burgeoned.

Nobody would deny that police officers in Baltimore have a hard job. Recently there have been reforms, body cams have been adopted and sensitivity training has been undergone. Yet these problems are deeply established. Addressing them will demand lots of time and patience. Today, 44% of Baltimore’s police force is African-American, and less than 50% is white. Nevertheless, about 65% of Baltimore’s people, and over 95% of Sandtown’s residents, are black. The police seldom live in the areas they patrol. It’s pretty much inevitable that they would come to be seen (and, perhaps, to see themselves) as an occupying force in hostile territory. In black neighborhoods there is no incentive to cooperate with the police, and strong reasons not to. “Snitches” are hated. In 2002 a family of seven died when their house was firebombed after they alerted the police to drug dealing and other crime in their neighborhood.

Jobs are scarce. For young black men, or for those with felony convictions, they are nonexistent. Drugs filled an economic void. There was a strong incentive to recruit kids, young enough to be prosecuted as juveniles, for handling and retailing illegal drugs. All of these factors led to a truly terrifying social spiral. In Sandtown, every socioeconomic indicator bottomed out. For example, unemployment in Sandtown stands at 21%; more than 55% of households have an annual income of less than $25,000. There are twice as many stores that sell alcohol and tobacco as in the average Baltimore neighborhood. One in every four buildings in Sandown is vacant. Not surprisingly, this neighborhood has the highest number of felony convictions per capita in Baltimore.

I have been reading about Sandtown with sincere interest, but I’ve never been there. Were I to go, I doubt that I would feel either welcome or comfortable. I’ve had to tour the neighborhood using Google Street view — which shows people walking around, or sitting on stoops, their faces blurred out. In my virtual strolls, I noticed three pervasive aspects of the neighborhood. First, of course, is all the abandoned buildings; they’re everywhere. Second is the striking number of churches. One can hardly travel more than two blocks without finding another one, and they range from proud century-old edifices to basement congregations with a cross painted on the street-side wall. Third, one sees how few businesses there are in this neighborhood. Baltimore counts a fairly high number of small markets and take-out places in Sandtown. But one soon sees that these “businesses” are very rudimentary. Any fool can see that there is little legal entrepreneurship in Sandtown.

As if to finally prove the hopelessness of the situation, in the 1990s the Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood was given a big dose of special financial help. The Enterprise Foundation, an organization specializing in funding and constructing affordable housing, raised $130 million to spend in Sandtown in an attempt to show that a comprehensive effort could succeed in revitalizing a single neighborhood. Unfortunately, there seems to have been little to show for all this investment. A 2015 study examined Sandtown’s rates of various indicators of well-being, including educational levels, employment, lead-contamination, murder rates, etc. — and found that homeownership was the only indicator that improved during this time; it went up by some 30%. Unfortunately, this came at a time when homeownership in such a place is a precarious investment, for all the obvious economic reasons — and then, the great crash of 2008 delivered a body blow, causing home prices all over Baltimore to plummet, and creating a jump in foreclosures throughout the city.

Notwithstanding all of Sandtown’s scary challenges, there are still people who raise children there, send them to school, go to church and to work. There are still people there who have neither fled, succumbed to addiction nor joined street gangs. There are still people in Sandtown, in short, who are doing their best to make a living.

Such folks are aware that Baltimore, which has been struggling for decades to fund adequate schools and basic services, has a conventional tax system. There is a property tax on land and buildings; there is also a small state property tax. There is a personal property tax, falling on various forms of movable and capital property; this imposes a particularly tough penalty on small business. And there is a flat city income tax of 3.12%. Given the many economic challenges that face anyone trying to make a living in a place like Sandtown, it seems likely that these tax burdens put the last nail in the coffin of entrepreneurial opportunity.

By now, Earthsharing readers should be somewhat familiar with the Henry George Theorem. Briefly, this theorem, which is an accepted part of today’s economic canon, states that in any reasonably well-run city, the annual rental value of its land is a sufficient fund for all of its public infrastructure needs. As a city invests in public infrastructure and services, these things enhance its land values. Public services that are paid for by land rent, in fact, finance themselves.

This suggests a modest proposal that could be made for a place like Sandtown. There is precedent for a program that targets a single needy neighborhood. But what’s the use? Society threw $130 million at Sandtown and it didn’t work. Yet it is possible the local entrepreneurial choices, small at first, can be better-targeted and more effective than a clumsily-targeted outside initiative.

Here is a suggestion for a pilot program. Suppose, within the boundaries of Sandtown-Winchester, we eliminate the city taxes on buildings, personal property and income. This would mean that a renovated residential building, or any new small-business investment, would be tax-free. Say someone wants to open a grocery, a bar, an auto-body shop or even (dare one dream!) a bookstore. Suddenly it would be more attractive to establish these businesses in Sandtown than in surrounding neighborhoods that still labor under conventional tax burdens.

If Sandtown eliminated all those taxes, where would it get its revenue? It’s probably worth saying that today’s Sandtown is not a huge revenue source for the city of Baltimore. Its underground economy is likely considerably larger than its taxable economy, in any case. But in our pilot project, anyway, what revenue Sandtown did bring in — which will probably not be far short of, and might even exceed, what it currently brings in — would come from a tax on its land value.

We can’t expect miracles. Sandtown, along with other neighborhoods like it, has been deeply troubled for a long time. Yet one can imagine that the people who live there, who have had so little reason for optimism, might rally around new businesses and renovations — might help to support and protect them. If, indeed, it’s ever time to give up on a neighborhood, that day isn’t here yet. A basket case can still hold the building materials of a healthy community.


IU Forum, Online, October 2nd, 2017

Please join us for the IU Forum this Monday, October 2nd, 3pm New York time and 8 PM London.

IU President David Triggs will present an in depth analysis concerning  the BREXIT issue from a Georgist perspective.  Participants will be invited to share their views as well.

How to connect with us on Monday: Just click on  You may have to first download the free GoToMeeting software. If this link does not work simply enter the nine digits after going to the GoToMeeting website.  Headphones are recommended but not necessary.


Note in your calendar also that the  IU Forum after this one will be Monday, October 9th, with Alanna Hartzok, IU Administrative Director, presenting a Georgist framework on economics of war and peace and its relevance to current US foreign policy.

Recommendations for IU Forum topics are welcome.


The Henry George Program Ep. 10 – Jeff Andrade-Fong and Josh Vincent on Influencing Housing Policy

In this June 13, 2017, episode, we speak with two distinguished policy advisers on land and housing. Jeff Andrade-Fong works with Tech for Housing to bring the implications of housing policy to the attention of tech workers, and what they can do. Josh Vincent advises land policy on a city-by-city basis using open data and more. Changing policy is hard, but we talk about what people can do about it.

Andrade-Fong spoke about the need to get more people involved at a grassroots level, by taking action online and generating accessible content to demonstrate how issues of housing affordability and land use are intertwined.

“There isn’t a single person in tech or out in the Bay Area that’s not thinking about housing prices. Really, the challenge is starting with this general concern that everybody has around the state of housing crisis… and sort of walking them backwards to what are the two to three to four degrees of separation that gets us to the basic root policy issues that need to be addressed. So, everybody’s thinking about housing prices, some people are thinking about how land use is affecting them, and just making that connection for the rest of the folks is our challenge.”

Vincent has been executive director of the Center for the Study of Economics since 1997. He has consulted for more than 75 municipalities, counties, NGOs and national governments. In his works with tax departments and elected officials to promote Land Value Taxation, he has seen the impact of an LVT policy and knows how to get there.

“One thing that creates or takes away land value — or desirability if you want to get out of the economics — is zoning. Zoning trumps all; it’s like a god. Prop. 13, yeah it’s going to be almost impossible to change in the near term, unless you come at it from the flanks.

“For example, going after commercial property, which is subject to Prop. 13 and almost nobody considers that the non-residential property is is going along for the ride too on prop 13 and maintaining that quality of life. But when you change zoning or land use regulations you change value, and by clawing back hyper-restrictive zoning of the Bay Area, you’re therefore going to have more affordable land and more units per parcel.”

Prop. 13 could be partially rescinded in terms of commercial property, or the pursuit of reduced zoning restrictions could continue to happen on a local level, followed by regional and state. Ultimately, less restrictive zoning is only one part of the puzzle. Vincent and Andrade-Fong both suggested that as San Francisco sees the prevalence of owner-occupier homes continue to fall, people will become more receptive to the idea of a Land Value Tax. I think the key is to loosen up restrictions allow the sort of like natural course of events as a player where everything becomes

“I think the key is to loosen up restrictions, allow the natural course of events to play out where everything becomes more urban, and I think in that environment people are more open to what more so feels like taxing their landlords,” Vincent said.

Listen to the full conversation below:

Starting in 2017, has been collaborating with KZSU Stanford 90.1 FM to create a weekly hour-long radio show. The Henry George Program is a platform for interviews, roundtable discussions, and debates on economic justice and policy.

Tune in for challenging content on the housing crisis in the Bay Area and beyond, economic stagnation, widening wealth inequality, and environmental degradation ― can Henry George’s ideas offer a path forward that unfettered capitalism and incremental socialism lack?

An archive of the Henry George Program can be found here.

Featured photo: vision63 Noe Valley – San Francisco – Some other Ladies via photopin (license)


The Henry George Program Ep. 8 – Stephen Barton And The Berkeley Landlord Tax

In this May 30, 2017, episode, we speak with Stephen Barton, co-chairman of the Committee for Safe & Affordable Homes, established to support passage of a windfall profits tax on residential landlords. Last November, Berkeley passed Measure U1, nicknamed the “Landlord Tax.” It increased the tax rate for landlords of five or more rental units. Behind the bill was Barton, who’s been working for affordable housing for decades. On the side, he’s been writing about the Georgist history of Berkeley’s leadership.

Barton explained that Measure U1 in Berkeley was targeted at residential landlords in the San Francisco Bay Area, who “are reaping tremendous windfall profits from rising rents and the result is a massive transfer of wealth from tenants to real estate investors.”

“So the idea was to recapture some of this windfall and put the money to use to create permanently affordable housing for the low-income tenants who are hardest hit by all this, and to help prevent homelessness.”

Value captured by landlords, even those owners of rent-controlled properties, was primarily the creation of the community due to its attractiveness and was thus owed to everyone, Barton said.

“We have businesses that thrive off of that diverse and creative culture and happen to be creating quite an economic boom in the area, so the entire community is making this a really great attractive place to live. And the result is you get increasing demand for moving into the area that’s increasing far faster than the housing supply can possibly increase, and the result then is that landlords — a small sector of the community, those people who own real estate  — are particularly able to take the value that the whole community has created and charge higher rents.”

Listen to the full conversation below:

Barton previously served as Berkeley’s Housing Director, and Deputy Director of the Berkeley Rent Stabilization Program. His work on affordable housing received a National Planning Award from the American Planning Association and an Affordable Housing Leadership award from the Non-Profit Housing Association of Northern California.

Barton also serves on the Board of the Bay Area Community Land Trust, which specializes in the development of limited-equity housing cooperatives and is active in East Bay Housing Organizations and Democratic Socialists of America. He is the author of numerous articles on housing policy and economics, as well as on the history of the Georgist and Socialist movements and has a Ph.D. in City & Regional Planning from the University of California, Berkeley.

Starting in 2017, has been collaborating with KZSU Stanford 90.1 FM to create a weekly hour-long radio show. The Henry George Program is a platform for interviews, roundtable discussions, and debates on economic justice and policy.

Tune in for challenging content on the housing crisis in the Bay Area and beyond, economic stagnation, widening wealth inequality, and environmental degradation ― can Henry George’s ideas offer a path forward that unfettered capitalism and incremental socialism lack?

An archive of the Henry George Program can be found here.

Featured photo: Committee for Safe and Affordable Housing


The Henry George Program – Matt Krisiloff on Y Combinator, Basic Income, and LVT on The United Slate

In this episode, we have Matt Krisiloff of Y Combinator Research to talk about its Basic Income project, Y Combinator, and The United Slate, which features Land Value Taxation as a plank. Should these be viewed as separate, or two ideas that are fundamentally linked?

Krisiloff manages the basic income research being conducted by Y Combinator, a Silicon Valley-based start-up factory that was critical in the success of companies like Airbnb and Dropbox. Fast Company has called it “the world’s most powerful start-up incubator”.

As part of its nonprofit YC Research, Y Combinator is designing a long-term study to distribute basic incomes and understand the positive or negative impacts basic income might have in a US-based population.

Krisiloff said the pilot in Oakland had been operating for a few months now, and the preliminary results of the study could be available in just two years. The study will explore how best to distribute a guaranteed basic income, how to monitor spending, and whether recipients spend their money “responsibly”. The project also opened up a wide discussion of cost of living and the housing crisis in the Bay Area.

“To really be able to afford something like basic income, we’re going to have to dramatically lower the cost of living,” Krisiloff said.

“Particularly in California, policy could go a long way to alleviate the housing crisis. I think there is a lot of speculation, our zoning laws could be refined to allow for more building in certain areas. I think it’s far too easy right now to block development in communities for long periods of times, using laws on the books — such as CICA environmental regulations — inappropriately.”

Krisiloff has another project that ties directly into economic justice: in partnership with Y Combinator chief executive Sam Altman, Krisiloff is working on The United Slate, a policy project that has laid out ten policy goals for California. Housing supply and some form of land tax are planks of The United Slate.

Krisiloff said Land Value Taxation made a lot of sense.

“Longer term it seems like that is the most fair, equitable taxation system. I think as we go to a world where we should have more and more abundance created by smaller groups of people we shouldn’t be trying to tax incomes — output for work — we should be taxing the resources that are controlled by groups of people.”

“Land is something that is essentially micro-monopolies for whoever is holding it, and we should be taking the resource contributions from those people, rather than just letting the resources just accrue back to them for resource extraction.”

Listen to the full discussion below, and keep up with Sam Altman and Matt Krisiloff on Twitter.

Matt Krisiloff was a co-founder of Entom Foods, which aimed to derive sustainable and palatable food from insect meat, and of a mental health directory for therapists. He led teams that won the University of Chicago’s College New Venture Challenge in his first and second years for Entom Foods and another called CrowdCoin.

Starting in 2017, has been collaborating with KZSU Stanford 90.1 FM to create a weekly hour-long radio show. The Henry George Program is a platform for interviews, roundtable discussions, and debates on economic justice and policy.

Tune in for challenging content on the housing crisis in the Bay Area and beyond, economic stagnation, widening wealth inequality, and environmental degradation ― can Henry George’s ideas offer a path forward that unfettered capitalism and incremental socialism lack?

An archive of the Henry George Program can be found here.

Featured photo: Generation Grundeinkommen via Flickr


A New Resource For Advocacy And Education

Over the years, many reputable researchers and organizations have dedicated resources to examining the theory and the implementation of Land Value Taxation. This system of tax is not just a good idea, it is a demonstrably effective tool for reducing speculation, driving down land prices, and incentivizing the optimal use of centrally-located land.

EarthSharing has compiled a database of high-quality research on LVT, which you can access here. This is not a gathering of platitudes presented by people who are influenced by their pre-existing support for such a policy; this is serious academic work that scrutinizes LVT alongside other tax structures and has reached the same conclusions. Consider the following from a 2015 OECD publication:

Property taxes can underpin sustainable land use. A pure land tax can help contain urban sprawl and foster the conversion of developed land instead of greenfield development. The land-use effects of property taxes – which also tax investment – are more ambiguous. Specifically designed “green” property taxes (soil-sealing taxes, development charges, etc.) can further help internalise land-use externalities

This list is far from exhaustive, and we strive to create a resource for advocacy and education that is as comprehensive as possible. If you can contribute to furthering the goal of this resource with additional research, please contact us and we will add to it.

Land Value Taxation Endorsements

Prosper Australia Research Institute (2016)
Australian Dept. of Infrastructure & Regional Development (2016)
OECD (2015)
National Tax Journal (2015)
International Monetary Fund (2013)
Institute for Fiscal Studies (2013)
Land Values Research Group (2013)
Prosper Australia Research Institute (2013)
Romney Institute, Brigham Young University (2012)
United Nations Human Settlements Programme (2011)
SERC, London School of Economics (2011)
Lincoln Institute of Land Policy (2010)
Kingston University School of Planning & Surveying (2009)
Motu Economic and Public Policy Research (2009)
Land Values Research Group (2007)
Oxfordshire CC & Vale of White Horse DC (2006)
Lincoln Institute of Land Policy (2004)
Australian Tax Forum (2003)
Lincoln Institute of Land Policy (2001)

Featured photo: Unsplash via Pixabay


Land Value Tax Searches Peaked in June

Following the U.K. election in early June, we discussed how the Labour Party manifesto had proven to be a springboard for public interest in Land Value Tax. Anti-LVT misinformation and encouraging support for such a policy filled column inches and websites in the weeks preceding what was an astonishing result for the party.

Beyond media coverage, though, interest in LVT skyrocketed in online searches. Google Trends recorded the highest interest in its recorded history for the period May 28 to June 3, most concentrated in the U.K. but visibly spilling across the Atlantic to the U.S.

Google’s ‘interest over time’ value for a particular term is relative to itself, with 100 denoting the highest volumes in the term’s history. The spike in interest around the time of the U.K. election was more than four times greater than at any other time in at least the past decade.

It’s reasonable to conclude that the election was solely responsible for the jump, and this is corroborated by comparing the trend with searches for ‘garden tax’. This was the pejorative name given to LVT by many tabloid publications, based on the misconception that homeowners with gardens would be charged exorbitant tax bills. Take a look at the correlation below:

Irrespective of the bias in media coverage, any increase of this magnitude in independent searches is a victory for proponents of a Land Value Tax. It’s up to us to capitalize on public interest at times like this and make sure that information and discussion online are productive and accessible. We are always on the lookout for interesting trends, and anyone can analyze and compare Google trends using this tool. Let us know if you find anything noteworthy!

Featured photo: theanthonyryan arsp_064 via photopin (license)


UK Election A Light On Land Value Tax

The U.K. snap election ended with the confusion and dissatisfaction of a hung parliament today, as the Conservative Party lost its majority and the Labour Party made significant gains. Results aside, this 51-day election campaign has been a huge test for public perceptions of Land Value Taxation.

Labour’s manifesto proved hugely popular and was a major talking point of the campaign. The replacement of council tax with a Land Value Tax was one of its planks, and this presented the media and the public with an opportunity to give LVT its due diligence. Evidently, tens of thousands of U.K. voters were not dissuaded from voting Labour by the idea.

By the end of the campaign, LVT was making regular appearances in newspaper columns and generating productive public debate. Last week, a letter to the editor from Rev. Paul Nicholson in The Guardian read:

Rents must stop taking the money needed for food, fuel, water and other necessities. Several parties’ manifestos gave land value tax a nod. The advantages are that land cannot be placed tax-free in an overseas bank, taxing land forces into use the 600,000 plots of unused land owned by the big builders, it is progressive, it relieves the incomes of hardworking people and companies by enabling the abolition of inefficient taxes such as council tax, business rates and stamp duty.

Predictably, there were also waves of misinformation delivered by the Conservative Party and infamous U.K. tabloid publications, quick to label LVT a “garden tax” that would potentially triple the tax bills of regular working families and force farmers to raise their prices.

Photo: The Labour Party.

These kinds of arguments have only given more coverage to the policy, and given experts the opportunity to clarify exactly what LVT does and does not achieve. Land Value Tax is now on its way to being a mainstream policy idea across the U.K., where for years disillusionment has been spreading regarding the ownership, under-use, and monopolization of land. Responding to a prominent criticism of LVT as a “Marxist tax grab”, senior lecturer at the Institute of Local Government Studies Chris Game had this to say:

There’s a minor irony here. The principle of land value taxation – the recognition that land’s true ‘location’ value derives less from the actions of the individual owner than from the wider efforts of the community in creating transport links, schools, hospitals and other infrastructure, and the community should benefit from this ‘unearned betterment’ part of the value accordingly – does indeed have history. Far from an invention of Corbyn’s Labour Party, it dates back well beyond Marx to at least the 18th Century classical economists, Adam Smith and David Ricardo: hardly proto-Marxists. Indeed, the bearded one himself dismissed it as a distraction from the historically inevitable transition from capitalism to communism.

While the millions who voted for progressive policy and economic justice in the U.K. this week will be left disappointed by the familiar government taking shape before them, this unexpected election cycle has propelled an otherwise unknown idea into the public consciousness. Land Value Tax will be a familiar proposal the next time it is put before voters, and debates on its efficacy will hopefully continue in the public and private domains.

Featured photo: Andy Miah via Flickr.


The Henry George Program Ep. 3 – Introduction to Georgism with Kedar

In this April 25, 2017 episode, Kedar and Mark have a conversation about Georgism, Prop 13, and why this all matters.


Starting in 2017, has been collaborating with KZSU Stanford 90.1 FM to create a weekly hour-long radio show. The Henry George Program is a platform for interviews, roundtable discussions, and debates on economic justice and policy.

Tune in for challenging content on the housing crisis in the Bay Area and beyond, economic stagnation, widening wealth inequality, and environmental degradation ― can Henry George’s ideas offer a path forward that unfettered capitalism and incremental socialism lack?

An archive of the Henry George Program can be found here.

Featured photo: curtis.kennington Studio Microphone via photopin (license)