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Weekend reflections

May 12th, 2006

Weekend Reflections is on again. Please comment on any topic of interest (civilised discussion and no coarse language, please). Feel free to put in contributions more lengthy than for the Monday Message Board or standard comments.

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  1. May 12th, 2006 at 15:45 | #1

    John, due largely to my social circumstances at the moment I seem to have come across Georgists a lot.

    Now I’m far from sold on the idea but what I need is someone who knows about Georgism but isn’t a Georgists.

    I was wondering if you could share your thoughts on Georgists.

  2. Steve Edwards
    May 12th, 2006 at 16:29 | #2

    John, I’ve been meaning to ask. How is the bench press going? Have you beat your body weight yet?

  3. Bring Back EP at LP
    May 12th, 2006 at 16:56 | #3

    Hammy the georgists are having a land out of you

  4. jquiggin
    May 12th, 2006 at 18:51 | #4

    Hammy, I didn’t think there were any Georgists still left.

    As far as I can tell, they’ve gone from the reasonable part of George’s idea (the value of improvements in land should be taxed) to the silly part (that this should be the only tax). This leads most of them in the direction of supporting a minimal state, unlike George who was basically a socialist.

    Steve, I never quite got back from injuring my wrist. I’m pressing in the low 50s, and my body weight exceeds this by a fair margin, I’m afraid.

  5. James Farrell
    May 12th, 2006 at 19:24 | #5

    Frank Stillwell was getting very interested in Georgism a few years ago. He had not, at that stage, become a proponent of a minimalist state, although stranger things have happened. Hammy might therefore find something useful in recent issues of the Australian Journal of Political Economy.

  6. gordon
    May 12th, 2006 at 21:47 | #6

    Peter Harcher, of the SMH, is waxing lyrical about the Australian Model of economic success – in the Financial Times, apparently. I picked up this piece of one-sided fantasy on the Economist’s View website here
    I have made a few obvious corrections to the Pollyanna version put about by Hartcher, but others may also like to make their contributions so that our American cousins get a realistic idea of how it is in Oz.

  7. Steve Edwards
    May 12th, 2006 at 22:42 | #7

    “Steve, I never quite got back from injuring my wrist. I’m pressing in the low 50s, and my body weight exceeds this by a fair margin, I’m afraid.”

    Sorry to hear that, JQ. Hope it improves in good time. The other thing you have to watch out for is the rear deltoid – on the back of the shoulder. If you make the mistake of injuring this, it can take months to heal. And the older you get, the longer you suffer.

    I’ve managed to bench over 1 1/4 times my body weight (and I weigh about 97kg these days), but I guess compared to AFL players like Fraser Gehrig, it isn’t all that impressive.

  8. May 13th, 2006 at 08:17 | #8

    The RMIT health disaster is interesting. If, like people were saying ten years ago, the transmitters on top of the building contribute to the incidence of tumours (brain tumours in particular) the odds are they are contributing in lots of other ways to ill health. Tumours, afterall, are a thermal effect of electromagnetic radiation – there are many athermal effects also.

    Hypothetically speaking, if it turns out the fears were justified, what are we going to do with all our digital transmitters parked on top of schools, hospitals, day care centres and through the guts of our suburbs?

  9. Mark White
    May 14th, 2006 at 00:13 | #9

    Marko said:

    “What are we going to do with all our…”

    Time to dump Telstra shares?

  10. May 14th, 2006 at 06:19 | #10
  11. May 14th, 2006 at 13:44 | #11

    The Georgists have changed their name but are still going strong from a base here in Melbnourne (and I think in other states). Not renewing themselves well, though. Just google on “tax reform australia”.

    I’ve mentioned the mutualists before; one of their sites (Kevin Carson’s) has gone into Georgism from a similar sceptical going on intrigued perspective as yours, so the material there and on its linked pages may help.

    For what it’s worth, I came to the conclusion that much of Georgism addressed a once meaningful (and maybe again) special case, that it was an “almost” that drew attention to areas that needed to be brought out without quite getting there, partly because of transitional problems and because it claimed to be ethical while still ripping certain people off.

  12. Mike
    May 14th, 2006 at 13:48 | #12

    You can read Frank Stilwell and Kirrily Jordan on Henry George in the Journal of Australian Political Economy online:


    I don’t know that you’d call them Georgists though. It’s basically a reassessment of Henry George’s place in economic history. Their conclusion:

    “While the Georgist analysis redresses the general neglect of land in modern economic orthodoxy, it is important not to go too far to the other extreme. In other words, the important emphasis on land should not come at the expense of attention to problems associated with labour and capital and to the complex forms of government policy necessary for the balancing of contemporary economic, social and ecological concerns. The Georgist analysis needs to be integrated into a comprehensive political economic analysis of contemporary capitalism.”

  13. May 14th, 2006 at 13:50 | #13

    Drat. I erredf slightly on Kevin Carson’s blog, which should have had an “-ist” not an “-ism”.

    By the way, this economics newsgroup has almost been taken over by a claque of Georgists of the sort who resort to abuse when argument fails.

  14. Ernestine Gross
    May 14th, 2006 at 15:56 | #14

    Predecessors of the idea of land taxes, as advocated by Georgists in the 19th century, are French writers of the 18th century, known as ‘Physiocrats’.

    The Physiocrats are also sometimes accredited as the originators of mathematical economics. (I would be surprised if the origin could be traced to the Greeks and the Egyptians.)

    I beg to differ with Stillwell and Jordan regarding ‘neo-classical economics’ and environmental economics. IMHO, Lindahl’s general equilibrium model is ‘neo-classical’ in methodology and assumptions about individuals. Lindah’s model forms the basis for at least some of the more applied approaches in environmental economics.

  15. Ernestine Gross
    May 14th, 2006 at 15:58 | #15

    Correction. Please replace term in brackets with (I would not be surprised if the origin could be traced to the ancient Greeks and the Egyptians.)

  16. Stephen L
    May 15th, 2006 at 12:00 | #16

    There are quite a few georgists in the Greens, and they’re certainly not minimal statists. Many call themselves “Geoists” and advocate taxes on all sorts of non-renewable resources. There is a fairly natural fit of course with Green positions on taxing pollution etc, and the fact that these Geoists are also keen on taxing things like the radio spectrum (rather than one off sell offs) doesn’t create much conflict either.

    However, I gather that Prosper Australia (the renamed Henry George League) is opposed to positive rates of immigration which, despite slurs from Martin Fergusson et al, has never been Greens policy.

    BTW, Prosper Australia seem to be prospering very well. I gather they own a large chunk of Hardware Lane (there office is small and upstairs, but rumour has it that they own the whole building they are in). Apparently someone left them a bequest and they invested it back when unfashionable parts of the CBD were cheap. These days there are no unfashionable parts of the Melbourne CBD, but if there were Hardware Lane would not be one of them.

  17. May 15th, 2006 at 21:22 | #17

    I noted some time ago that in New Zealand the Greens advocate higher taxes on fossil fuels and argue that the revenue thus raised should be used to cut taxes on business. Whilst in Australia the Greens just seem to want higher taxes on every thing (ie the Aussie Greens are watermelons).

  18. Martin
    May 15th, 2006 at 23:26 | #18

    COULD WATER BE THE SAVIOUR OF STATE TAX TAKE WOES? For some time now I have been growing suspicious about the Sydney “Water Crisis”. I hear things, but am in no position to verify how bad or bogus the problem truly is; but flying back from Canberra a few months ago I noticed that Warragamba Dam does indeed look pretty low. But what’s this, the myriad of small ponds and farm dams down on the plains toward Sydney were full?!? Could Warragamba the visible show piece; dried out, starved, sick and ‘disturbingly’ empty, designed to raise our concerns and give the media something to report? Could it be part of a long term water consumer softening up/propaganda campaign? While I would accept that we have had a drought, and that NSW may have botched infrastructure planning, could much of the water be stashed away in some other less notable dams? Why is it that often when we have rain, the radio tells us that none fell in the ‘catchment area’? What was that recent news story about unblocking a valve to increase flow capacity at Warragamba in a bid to solve the problem? I would have thought they’d want to restrict the flow?!? Also, is the rain water tank promotion largely a red herring?

    My suspicions are driven more by learned cynicism and consideration of motive than by evidence: Costello is on the States knecks to cut stamp duties etc now that we have the GST. NSW has finally complied, well sort of, in a few years. The property market has fizzled. The premiere was forced to back-flip the vendor stamp duty revenue grab. With many of us wanting to be ‘greener’, I see that the inevitable argument is likely to come; “You people just can’t stop guzzling water! The only way to slow you down is to put up the price of water to a level where you will think about wasting it. Sure we’ll get a little bit more water revenue but we need it for …… anyway.” Then mix in the occasional threat of a desalination plant, which would be very energy hungry and a seemingly outrageous solution. We decent consumer be pretty unreasonable to think that the government was doing the wrong thing by us when they raise water prices.

    Is the ‘softening up’ process coming into the home stretch? Are we now ready to accept higher water prices ‘for our own good’ yet? Will the annual price-hiking now kick in? Will water eventually be priced at what we can bear rather than what it costs? I heard the other day on ABC radio that Brisbane has ‘unfortunately’ been forced to raise water prices. The spokesman just seemed to have too many good answers to questions.

    That’s my tax muckraking for the day.

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