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Monday, November 9, 2009

Re: [CALPCandidates] Re: excellent article for state candidates

Pamela J. Brown wrote:
PB) you (& others) who subscribe to this theory of value... sound like Communists:  '...It's not the land owner’s individual efforts that created the value of the existing property… its “naturally valuable” – and Society deserves a nice big cut!'  (PB
Pam, you're equivocating between unimproved site value and human-created site improvements.  Do you believe that the stock of human wealth increases when somebody walks into a forest and puts up a "no trespassing" sign?

I'm not disputing that most human property is the product of direct and capitalized labor.  I'm just claiming that the surface of the Earth is fixed, that human labor cannot add to it, and that a non-zero part of the value of a site comes from 1) what was already there and 2) its proximity to other people and their stuff.

Suppose that 150 years ago an Ohlone Indian family here in Silicon Valley marked off and defended ten acres for their hunting and gathering, and that their descendants still eked out such an existence on that unimproved land today.  In my town, that land would now be worth about $20 million.  How much of that value would have been created by the labor of those Ohlones?

I have no problem with people reaping all the speculative proceeds for the material objects they produce or acquire, assuming they have compensated those impacted by their depletion of any natural commons through material extraction from it. But when they stake out some coordinates on the Earth's surface, and say that what they own is measured not in grams but rather in degrees of latitude and longitude, then what they're doing is not producing but squatting.  All I'm saying is that squatting carries an obligation that producing does not.

In terms of fundamental libertarian ethics, it seems more defensible to collect ground rents than to charge families a head tax for each baby they produce.