“You can become wealthy by creating wealth or by appropriating the wealth created by other people. When the appropriation of the wealth is illegal it is called theft or fraud. When it is legal economists call it rent-seeking”
John Kay, Financial Times 27th Dec 2009
“If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, they cannot save the few who are rich.”
John F Kennedy, Inaugural Speech, Jan 1961
Governments still rely on economists steeped in orthodox thinking for advice. If things are to change, a clearer understanding of how the economy works is needed, not just by economists and policy-makers, but also by the wider general public – a voter who votes in ignorance forges the chains that bind him. Economists have erected round their subject an intimidating barrier of jargon and maths, but this site and the books in our catalogue are intended to give the layman, the voter, a grasp of the basic principles.
Anthony Werner, Publisher
“Societies need a system that I call ‘ethical economics’, which implies that investing in common goods expands civilization.”
Fred Harrison, Author
Rent Unmasked explores the new economic paradigm that policy-makers need to solve global problems in the post-2008 era. With conventional economic theories discredited, the new model must equip governments with tools to re-stabilise societies in a dangerous world. Rent Unmasked explains why one paradigm only qualifies to serve this purpose: the dynamic model that reinstates time and space in economic theorising.
ISBN 9780856835117 | Price: £19.95
New Zealand holds a rather special status in that it was notably the first country to introduce a system of land-value taxation for raising revenue.
This essay traces the fortunes of Land-Value Taxation (LVT) in New Zealand from its beginnings in 1849, some 30 years before Henry George published Progress and Poverty, to its final abandonment in the 1980s. LVT was introduced under the governorship of Sir George Grey, who had an understanding of Ricardo’s Law of Rent. LVT was adopted initially at local level, with the consent of settlers, who were able to exercise their choice through a popular poll. They recognised that under this system they were not penalised for making improvements to their property. The poll sustained the tax for more than 130 years until it was removed in 1988 by government decree.
In the 1870s the government, no longer able to rely on customs and excise duties and the sale of land, turned to property taxes, for which the land-value tax was proposed by the Liberals but opposed by the National party. The ensuing struggle for a national land-value tax lasted from 1878 to 1896, but it was not until 1912 that a full LVT was achieved – at the height of the worldwide Georgist movement. But perhaps this was also the high point of the LVT story in New Zealand for, although initially successful, by 1922 the national land tax yielded only ten percent of the budget. Thereafter it was constantly degraded through deliberate government policies, which reduced the yield over the years to negligible levels before being rescinded in 1991.
On the other hand the local rating system based on land values flourished, being sustained through the democratic choice of the taxpayers. It was an undoubted success. Support for this system increased so that by 1982 land value rating had been adopted by the majority of municipalities.
How was all this lost within a few short years afterwards? The essay goes on to explain the political machinations.
As with the national tax it was also the government that brought the local tax to an end, basically for ideological reasons. The leading figure in the train of events was the new Minister of Finance, Roger Douglas, an erstwhile socialist who became an advocate of the neo-liberal policies of the Reagan-Thatcher era, currently in vogue. Douglas came to power in 1984 when New Zealand was undergoing a severe economic crisis and his extreme solutions created many casualties, including LVT which was dealt a body blow in 1988 when the right of taxpayers to determine their rating system by poll was withdrawn. Thus, in New Zealand, within a few years in the 1980s, 95 years of national LVT and 133 years of local LVT was lost or severely diminished.
Rent Unmasked has been chosen for the Winter 2016/17 heat of The People’s Book Prize for Non-Fiction. This competition is based purely on public votes – so we need your help. Successful books from the heats are entered into the final, which occurs annually.
Rent Unmasked was published in 2016. It is a collection of essays in honour of Mason Gaffney edited by Fred Harrison. The authors are drawn from the legal and property professions and from universities around the world.
“The clear exposition of the merits of collecting land and natural resource rents whilst reducing or eliminating taxes on income earned by labour and capital is strongly recommended to all who wish to see economics recover its rightful place as the master social science.”
Brian Hodgkinson, American Journal of Economics and Sociology
A number of readers have already voted for the book. Many thanks! As part of the voting process, readers can add an optional comment about their chosen book. Below are just a few of the wonderful comments which Rent Unmasked has received since voting opened.
“If only the wisdom contained in these essays and in Mason Gaffney’s own writings [would] find their way into the public dialogue over economic policy, the future would be much brighter than it is likely to be.”
“As world economies descend into a hopeless quagmire, the most obvious measure of the failure of modern economics is the extent to which we now allow publicly-generated land rent to be privately capitalised into ever higher land prices (and bubbles) at a clear cost to wages, earned profits and social health.”
“If you want to know how to cure the economic ills that produce vast inequalities, this is the book to buy. A thorough assessment of today’s economic system, written for the layman.”
If you have enjoyed Rent Unmasked and are a fan of Ethical Economics, Mason Gaffney, Fred Harrison or Land Value Taxation then please vote for the book in The People’s Book Prize before the end of February 2017. Thank you from all at Shepheard-Walwyn.
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