Responding to PIRG, despite WordPress

Phineas Baxandall, one of the authors of the Illinois PIRG report blogged yesterday, commented on the item. Well, I responded to his comment, but for some reason WordPress swallowed the comment. Twice. I tried to comment as a normal person instead of myself. Swallowed again. Tried again. Rejected as “duplicate.” I don’t know what’s going on at WordPress, possibly there is some difficulty regarding html in the comment. But following is my response to Phineas Baxandall.

I’m always happy to see activists claiming that Henry George would approve of their work, but in this case there’s a serious gap between George’s proposal and yours.

George wanted to remove all taxes from productive activity, and instead charge for control of land (and other natural resources). Retail sales and service are productive activities, and when they’re taxed then the cost of living increases and living standards are reduced. Real estate transfers, too, usually involve productive activity, either construction or at least the transfer of property to someone who can use it more effectively than the seller.

Development impact fees likewise make it more expensive and difficult to provide housing (or other kinds of development). If such fees were truly user fees, then they’d be paid by all users, rather than just by those who seek to build.

You’re certainly not the first person to misunderstand George’s ideas, which is why we have Henry George Schools in Chicago and elsewhere, run courses by Internet, and have Progress & Poverty posted in original and modernized versions. Some relevant (and more succinct) modern documents are here.

It’s not so important whether your proposal would please Henry George. What’s important is that, had you proposed supporting transit thru a tax on location values, you would have recommended a policy to reliably fund transit in the long run, encourage transit-supportive development patterns, and improve the standard of living of ordinary working people.

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