All posts by Bryan Kavanagh

I'm a real estate valuer who worked in the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) and Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) before co-founding Westlink Consulting, a real estate valuation practice. I discovered, by leaving publicly-generated land rents to be privately capitalised by banks and individuals into escalating land price bubbles, this generates repetitive recessions and financial depressions. We need a tax-switch: from wages, profits and commodities onto economic rents/unearned incomes, if we are to create prosperity and minimise excessive private debt.

THE “GEORGIST” CASE IS THE COMMON SENSE CASE

Neoclassical and neoliberal economists have to prevaricate in order to justify the economic status quo.

A. LAND PRICES

Economists say that land prices are a function of supply and demand. They’re not. Population, infrastructure, zoning, size, shape, topography, location, supply and demand all affect a site’s rent, but its price is determined by:-

(a) how little the government taxes its rent

(b) to what extent banks are prepared to advance credit against the site’s price, and

(c) to what level interest rates are manipulated by central banks.

So, the price of a piece of land actually represents the private capitalisation of its rent, net of public charges, as with the valuation of any developed piece of real estate. So pervasive has become the counterfactual, even real estate valuers are loath to engage with economists on this mainstream myth that land prices are simply a matter of supply, demand and zoning,.

So, if sufficient land rent is captured publicly, the ‘price’ of land will fall. Were the full land rent to be taxed away, land prices would actually decline to zero, because there remains nothing to be capitalised into a price. This case has gone absent from neoclassical economics.

If land and has no cost of production and its price would be zero if we were to pay its rent, what of those who might ask “No cost of production? What about, the cost of provision of roads, footpaths, water, sewerage, gas, electricity, electromagnetic spectrum?” These are a number of the externalities which give the parcel of land its value, not its price, however.

So, perhaps it’s not curious this principle never gets a mention when communities become solicitous about the high cost of ‘housing’ (read ‘land prices’). Banking, monopolies and other rent-seeking entities are quite comfortable to keep reaping unearned reward from this pathological arrangement.

B. THE ‘FIGHT’ BETWEEN LABOUR AND CAPITAL

Nup, this is contrived, too. Once you’ve seen that GDP is distributed between land, labour and capital as rent, wages and interest, and that rent has the first claim upon GDP, you’ll be able to conclude along with Henry George that wages and earned incomes rise and fall together, inversely to land prices (privatised land rent).

But banking, monopolies and other rent-seeking entities are delighted to keep promoting the contrived industrial relations canard that rather than being complementary, labour and capital’s interests are antithetical to each other. This is the case behind which rent-seekers hide, much to the financial distress of individuals and society.

CONCLUSION

If these misguided economic concoctions could be resolved and productivity untaxed, an economy of abundance arises from which a living wage universal income would be distributable, instead of letting land rent continue to leak upward, particularly to the 0.1%.

This would be a win/win for people and businesses, insofar as businesses would only have to pay some amount additional to the UBI in order to attract employees.

The lack of education on a workable economics reinforces this currently madly awry status quo.

GO, MAN!

Hank George

Power (rent-seeking) corrupts, and absolute power (the 0.1%) corrupts absolutely.

Henry George had much in common with Rutger Bregman (about a UBI and from whence it can come) who was on last night’s episode of Q and A “Sex, Lies and Better Politics“.

Marx was wrong. The fight is not between labour and capital, because wages and earned profits rise and fall togetherinversely to private rent-seeking by banking, land prices and other monopolies.

THE US ELECTION

You’re fired!

The untold story

Now that Joe Biden’s won the election, it’s impossible that Donald Trump will hand the presidency over gracefully. That’s just the way he is. Two year-olds don’t know how to lose. That’s problematical, and we wish the US well during the political transition.

Tens of thousands of superficial and lightweight words are being written and spoken about what’s about to change. Yes, we do need to confront existential crises: the transition; the pandemic; nation-healing; climate change; China policy ……. but no one’s even close to explaining the increasing poverty and disappearance of the middle class.

What’s happened to the once great USA that political polarisation has become so extreme? Sure, Donald Trump’s weird, but does that mean that the half of the nation supporting him also consists of fruitcakes? Unlikely! They’re troubled – as are the winners.

The vast majority of Americans are rightly feeling badly done by – but for completely opposite and inadequate reasons: –

Republicans believe too much government is why enterprise is no longer ‘free’, and why they’re missing out financially: “It’s the drift into welfare, not the least medical welfare, and increasing socialism.” “What’s happening to our liberty?” “We’re headed into communism!”

Democrats want the government to increase social welfare because Americans are missing out on health and in the distribution of wealth. “Just look how our salaries have declined in real terms over the last forty years!” “Wealth is trickling up to the 0.1%, so the government must intervene to stop this fascist drift!”

The labels ‘communist’ and ‘fascist’ are drivel, neither addressing or solving what’s fundamentally a distributional problem. No commentator is to be found addressing this overarching problem of increasing poverty that’s also seeing the middle class disappear.

This process was meticulously explained 141 years ago, but no government since that time has had the intestinal fortitude to attack rentier capitalism head-on. They continue to fiddle, skirting around the key economic issue which could be remedied by a simple fiscal adjustment.

Good luck, Joe Biden!

Meanwhile …..