in collaboration with Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity

Tax privilege, not productive work

File under: tax policy, opportunity, privilege, taxes

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From: Chuck M., Chicago, IL

A pair of complementary fiscal reforms would vastly reduce unemployment and poverty.

(1) Stop taxing productive work. That means no payroll tax and no income tax on wages or capital goods.

(2) Tax privilege at a very high rate. A big part of privilege is the private ownership of land. So this means a tax based on land value. (This preserves private ownership, while eliminating speculation.) Other kinds of privilege include valuable mineral leases, underpriced grazing rights on federal lands, electromagnetic spectrum, and a number of others. It may be desirable to place part of the land value tax not on the owner of the land, but on the holder of the mortgage.

The net result of these two changes is that effective wages go up, but the cost of hiring labor becomes cheaper, so unemployment is vastly reduced. Resources withheld for speculative purposes become available to those who want to use them productively.

This is a simple concept but has many ramifications -- more than one would likely want to read here. Many useful papers have been written to describe and explain. One good one is Fred Foldvary's "The Ultimate Tax Reform: Public Revenue from Land Rent."


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