Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Good news about people

MSM aren’t giving us all that garbage because we want it.

Eighty-seven percent (87%) of Americans feel the media pays too much attention to celebrities, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey…Just one percent (1%) do not think media outlets cover celebs enough…

Probably that’s good news.  Or perhaps folks just don’t want the interviewers to know how shallow we really are.

How many things are wrong with ethanol?

More than I had thought, according to  Business Week.

Too much to post

That’s why I’ve not posted much lately, there is simply too much to post about. So I need to accept that some things will be missed, but here are two:
(1) UK Georgist journal Land & Liberty “commissioned ten top American economic reformers to address Barack Obama’s election call for ‘change for America’ and to offer ideas for a programme for President Obama’s White House.”  Results are in the Winter ’08-’09 issue, which unfortunately hasn’t been posted yet on their web site, but one can request a subscription.

(2) Saving Communities has posted the entire contents of the first issue (January 8, 1887) of Henry George’s weekly newspaper, The Standard.

Korea mortgages conservatively

From “South Korea’s High Household Debt Adds Financial Woes” WSJ Nov 29-30 ’08

South Koreans are forbidden by law to engage in high levels of borrowing for real estate…loan-to-value ratio of South Korean real estate is 47%, well below the 90% and higher ratios seen in parts of Europe and the U.S.

Apparently this doesn’t prevent heavy borrowing, which is “rooted in high housing and education costs.”

One would think that, if in fact Korean real estate is less leveraged than elsewhere, they’d be less affected by economic instability.  It would be nice to know more.

Real estate tax inequities aren't inherent

Last month I used Illinois Department of Revenue data to blog about the Cook County Assessor’s failure to properly value vacant land.  Our good buddies at the Civic Federation took that data a couple of steps further to estimate the effective tax rates (pdf) paid by homeowners in a dozen suburban Cook County communities.  The effective tax rate is the percentage of actual property value that is paid in taxes.  And, no surprise, the rates in Chicago Heights and Harvey are more than double the rates in Glenview and Barrington.

This discrepancy isn’t due to any inherent problem with the real estate tax, but may have something to do with the fragmentation of taxing units, particularly school districts.  Areas with relatively little taxable real estate need to collect a greater percentage of its value than do areas with a larger tax base, other things being equal.  But there’s no reason we couldn’t have an equalization system under which the strong-tax-base communities share revenue with the others, as has been done since 1971 in Minnesota.

It is said that lower-income neighborhoods have a greater share of their real estate value in improvements rather than land, in which case exemption of improvements from the tax would also tend to equalize the burden.

Two things about development

that I learned this morning, from Jon DeVries and
Jennifer McNeil Dhadwal who spoke at an APA session:

(1) The commercial real estate market in recent times is dominated by the demands of national companies, who have their own very specific requirements for space. DeVries mentioned this in the context of market research, which thus can be simpler because one need only ask the prospective tenants what their requirements are. But I think it also implies that the big tenants can put some of their risk onto the developers; if their requirements change, the developers are stuck with projects that might be difficult to market.

(2) “Modern [office] buildings require less space per worker due to structural efficiencies and workflow changes.” For years I have been saying that office buildings require more space per worker than fifty or a hundred years ago. The old office involved row upon row of desks occupied by typists or clerks, with no space for computers, xerox machines, etc. And today more work is done by telephone, requring some space for sound insulation. One implication is that, if the amount of office space in an area does not increase, then the number of office workers will decrease.

Dhadwal’s source seems to be ULI, so I shall have to look into what studies they’ve done (which unfortunately are likely to cost real money). Maybe the trend cited is a reversal just within the past five or ten years. I suppose that just the replacement of CRT with LCD computer monitors could save some space, but there must be other factors too.

These speakers also mentioned that typical densities for manufacturing employment are 300-400 square feet per worker, and for distribution/warehouse at least 1600 square feet/worker.

The other highlight of the session was David Stamm’s description of the redevelopment of the former Kennedy/King College site.   He noted that the site, in Englewood, didn’t have much potential for a lot of uses.  For instance, you couldn’t build a drug store, because of too much competition nearby.

Economics course as video game

The University of North Carolina/Greensboro’s   Economics 201 “is now a fast-paced video game.”  You were supposed to register by March 14; I guess it’s over now.  More about the course here.

Is this effective and/or appealing to gamers?  I have no idea, but if I were one I would want to try it.  It’s micro, not macro, so probably not too much overlap with Georgist concepts.

Casual dress encourages exercise

I’d always thought that wearing suits and ties was a bad idea, and now I’m glad to find some scientific support.

After analyzing the data, researchers found that workday physical activity levels increased when casual clothing was worn. In particular, study participants took an average of 491 (or 8 percent) more steps on Jeans Day than on days they wore normal business attire.

New report from the Sightline Institute on how Measure 37 has made life difficult for Oregon property owners. Thanks to Eric Bruun for passing it along.

I guess the main point here is that the main purpose of thoughtful land use regulation is to increase land values or land rents.  In the absence of such regulation, individuals may be able to claim windfalls, but it will be at the expense of their fellow owners.

Of course thoughtless land use regulation may have a different result.

A Commonwealth of Thieves

Fine book by Thomas Keneally, whom I hadn’t heard of but is a prolific Australian author (dozens of books including Schindler’s List and The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith).

I had wanted a history of Australia, which this really isn’t. It just covers the initial European settlement, 1788-1792, with quite a bit of before & after context. I knew that Australia was initially settled by convicts sentenced to “transportation,” generally an alternative to the death penalty but also a way of solving prison overcrowding in Britain. The overcrowding was largely due to the enclosures, which created a mass of poor landless many of whom turned to crime. Initially, prisoners were “transported” to the American Colonies, where they became indentured servants (and, if they had affluent friends, could buy the freedom immediately).

After the American Revolution, there were attempts to send prisoners to Canada, and eventually most were just put on hulks in British harbors, where conditions were terrible. Australia having been discovered just a few years earlier, it was decided to transport prisoners there. Of course ship crews and military had to go along. Once landed, they had to deal with the existing population of aboriginal people.

Apparently most of the convicts had been found guilty of either of minor crimes (such as might lead to probation today), or crimes due to their poverty.

Separation of prisoners from the nonprisoners was of course much less than in England (or probably anywhere else). In fact, when it was eventually found necessary ot have a “night patrol”, (the closest thing to a police force at that time), it was staffed by prisoners. And when a locksmith was required, it was a prisoner who had the needed skill.

Arthur Phillip, a Navy Captain, was Governor General and seems to have done a superb job under the circumstances, working in virtually complete isolation from his government in Britain. (When the initial fleet of ships departed back to Britain, they took the sentencing records, so among Phillip’s difficulties was that he had to rely on the convicts to tell him when their sentences expired.)

I am not going to write a proper review of this book, but I recommend it for those interested in the subject. As for learning about the history of Australia, I am turning to a very different work, John C. Weaver’s The Great Land Rush & the Making of the Modern World. Australia is just one of the case studies Weaver uses. I’ve just started and shall plow thru it (unfortunately it’s in an academic style that would benefit from Drake-i-zation) but it’s a serious analysis of an important topic. Thanks to Bill Batt for recommending it.