Friday, January 14, 2011

Geo-Rent: A Plea to Public Economists, Fred Foldvary

This article can be found in PDF form via a Google search.

I read the article at the encouragement of Ingo Bischoff. I "met" Ingo through our posting at The Daily Bell.

I will offer a brief summary of the article, and a few thoughts. Of course, errors in my summary, if any, are my own.

"The idea is to tax the market value of land, exclusive of the value of improvements."

This is the basic idea of taxation, as presented by Foldvary. The idea is that, through "public" services / expenditures, it is the land value increase that best reflects the ultimate value and efficiency of the "public" improvements. Therefore, it is the land value that should bear the burden of paying for the services. (Here you have my stumbling explanation of Foldvary's eloquently stated idea.)

It is an intriguing idea. Set aside my distaste for any form of taxation (it is theft, after all), the idea of a land value tax has a nice ring. To the extent roads, sidewalks, security (including national defense presumably), public spaces, provide utility, they do so to a given geographic location and inherently make that land underlying the location more valuable.

The tax follows the location, not the person. To the extent an individual feels unfairly taxed (and to the extent that this land value tax replaces all other forms of tax), it is quite easy to avoid paying the tax - sell the property and leave the jurisdiction.

Another possibility comes to mind, however I will admit I have not thought it through....

It would seem that this idea is quite conducive to eliminating (at least greatly reducing) government from the equation. Certainly a private enterprise would be motivated to improve the land value via providing market-demanded benefits in the most cost-efficient means possible.

Localities (cities? counties?) could regularly bid out the contract, with a predetermined tax rate and / or the tax rate to be submitted as part of the bid. Assessments would also be preformed by a third party. Basic services could be outlined in an RFP/RFQ process. The possibility of the service provider being kicked out at the end of the contract term (due to poor service or other reasons) would help motivate toward better performance, and bankruptcy does not automatically have to be paid for by the "customers" (as opposed to the tax-payers always being on the hook.

As I said, I haven't thought it all through. But it is an interesting concept.

I thank Ingo Bischoff for writing and advocating a read of this concept.


  1. Have you had any further thoughts on the variants of geoism (georgism/geo-statism, geo-libertarianism/geo-minarchism, geoanarchism)?


    1. Adam, I have not. To the extent I have considered this, I am favorable to the idea for the reasons I have outlined in the two posts I have made on this subject - favorable only in exchange for elimination of all other taxes, especially the income tax.

      It still seems to me that the entire system could be established privately and competitively, and for profit.