Henry George phrased his main proposal in various ways, from “make land common property” to the more pragmatic “abolish all taxation save that upon land values.” Certainly a land value tax is a practical way of capturing land rent, and to the extent land value figures in existing assessments and taxation we are already capturing some of it.
But it’s important to recognize that land value, or more properly the selling price of land, is only a close relative, not an identical twin, to land rent. One difference is that selling price is affected by estimates of what the future rent will be. And land selling price is much more directly affected by the cost and availability of credit than is land rent. Use of credit, in turn means an opportunity for banksters to get involved, decreasing the likelihood of real public benefit from public investment.
Which brings us to the World Bank’s 2008 report on Unlocking land values to finance urban infrastructure. This report really could be entitled “Worldwide Catalog of Methods More Complicated and Prone to Corruption than Collection of Land Rent, Which Could Be Used to Finance Some Infrastructure But More Importantly Involve Borrowing and Lending of Large Sums Which Is, After All, What The World Bank Does.” In addition to involving large loans, the outstanding feature of all of these methods is that none provide any resources for operation or maintenance, thus they can help bring about the need for new infrastructure in the not-too-distant future.