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The purview that the land is capital is as reprehensible as the idea during chattel slavery that people are property
“[Property] is the very ligament that binds society together.” —Gholson, 1832.
On January 12, 1832, during the Virginia Slavery Debate of 1831–1832, James H. Gholson, a 19th century congressman, planter, enslaver, lawyer and judge from Brunswick County, gave an appeal to the rights of property owners as delineated in the U.S. Constitution. Gholson cites the Fifth Amendment, which prohibits the government from taking private property for public use without just compensation.
A very narrow, but very important definition of Property is that which makes capital. In the mind of the white hegemony, the land is property and people are property and while their slaves were taken from them, they will fight to the death for their land. This is a very real and still held in modern-day purview. This is the sadistic mindset we are up against and we must always remember it continues to drive many of the inequities we have today. In the fight to wrestle land from investors and banks, we cannot forget US history is based in part on slavery (kidnapping and forced labor) and colonization (murder and robbery). The speculation on cotton encouraged slavery, in fact owing to cotton speculation the price of enslaved Africans grew from $450 to $1200. Modern capitalism roots are directly connected to chattel slavery in North America, the United States and the Caribbean.
But there are answers to the seemingly intractable interconnected problems of housing, racial inequity, and environmentally harmful sprawl. The purview that the land is capital is as reprehensible as the idea during chattel slavery that people are capital. In my hometown of Los Angeles, with the high homeless rate of African Americans, we see the same dehumanizing results of the weltanschauung that land is capital, and like with slavery, Americans of all races who are not wealthy suffer from this paradigm.
Our tax system is regressive. A person making $45,000 a year in many cases will pay not only a higher percentage of their wage in taxes, but an actual higher dollar amount after credits and deductions are added up than an individual receiving $500,000 in capital gains. The wealthy do not become such working 9-to-5 jobs. While taxes are the rent that we pay to live in this country. Your rent is supposed to keep a roof over your head and everyone is supposed to pay. For those who work salaried and hourly jobs, we are scarcely making enough to keep a roof over our head and many of us are living in our car —and the wealthy? The progressive income tax is a misnomer because the affluent aren’t working jobs where they have to put on for vacation. Income is not how they make money, the income they do receive is for show, gravy, and manipulation of the masses into thinking they are just like them. The wealthiest in our country are not paying their fair share and there are few places in the United States where this is more grossly and explicitly demonstrated than in Los Angeles and New York.
From the founding of this country the idea that you can own land and people has been the root of many horrors. It is time that we build a country that’s foundation is in the flourishing of people rather than profit and with the idea that we are caretakers sharing the earth, not plunderers sucking every resource out of her.
We must have a true implementation of the Social Contract. It can not be done outside the government. Our most successful alternatives outside the government in regards to social justice initiatives have only been capable of being helpful, with donations from the affluent and their children with trust funds.
This paradigm sets up a narrative that we, the people, the working class have nothing, nothing to contribute, and that our place in society is simply a burden that hopefully, some altruistic rich person will donate to.
That is a fallacy. The revolution will not be funded by Patreon or GoFundme
The people built the United States and its government. The rich continue to oppress us owing to OUR government, we have the power to stop our oppression. We must stop walking away from the table. Our government is a valuable resource. It is repugnant that we have to fundraise for justice. The government that represents our interests should create economic systems that allows housing to be accessible. This is an action we should demand. This anti-government, pull yourself up by your own bootstraps that certain elements of the left are clinging to in some kind of perverse interpretation of anarchism, is playing to the ideas of the right.
I state once again, our government is us, and we need to view it as the very useful tool it is. We need to look at it for solutions instead of playing a vegan, organic version of the cowboy. The government would be a much more useful partner in building co-operatives, getting food to our community, and funding our art programs than a rich man with a heart of gold. During antebellum, the enslaved had to hope on having a “good” master. This paternalistic idea is disgusting. We are not slaves; we are citizens that deserve a government that works for us.
And there are various ways that the government can work for us. I will continue to use the example of my hometown of Los Angeles, which is one of the largest cities in the world and in some ways a country in itself. In Los Angeles, 67% of residential housing is owned by financial institutions. Twenty-two square miles of its vacant lots are owned by corporate entities. The Los Angeles homeless population is disproportionately people of color, with the largest percentage being African American with percentages hovering around 40%, despite being 9% of the entire Los Angeles County community. But take away the homeless challenge, Los Angeles still has a deep affordability issue. According to C.A.R. in the third quarter of 2021, only 24% of California households could afford to purchase the $814,580 median-priced home. That home would require a minimum income of $148,000 a year. According to ADP the average salary for a college graduate in Los Angeles is $44,000 a year.
This pain flows from in part on real estate speculation. The same speculation that created cotton and is the basis of the United States being the powerhouse that it is today. Speculation has allowed our residential housing to skyrocket to astronomical proportions.
We need financial tools to deal with problems stemming from the financial sector.
There is no magic bullet to fix this as there are many factors in play regarding why our housing is unaffordable, but on the economics tools level, speculation drives up costs. This has been happening since the founding of the United States, but we can institute a policy that will make holding land for the sole purpose of investments more painful and less financially fruitful for the wealthy and possibly lead to the freeing of the land completely.
A land value tax (LVT) is a method of assessing property taxes that only considers the value of the land itself and related improvements to the surrounding area, such as public transportation, and parks. The structures built on the land are not included.
Los Angeles should take measures that stop inequity before it starts. The moment speculation starts in residential habitats the cycle of economic violence begins. This can be accomplished by intervening in the market to reduce income inequality and prioritizing predistribution policies over policies that redistribute incomes after taxes are levied. “Trickle-down economics” is clearly not working.
LVT would be a groundbreaking tool for a major city such as Los Angeles to undertake.
In geographic areas that use land value taxation, the owner of a vacant lot would owe the same amount of property taxes as the owner of a neighboring identically sized lot that includes a mixed-use residential building. It is both a carrot and a stick. It discourages the holding of empty lots and speculations and encourages owners of vacant or underutilized properties to make improvements that increase their returns without the burden of tax consequences. You are rewarded for building on the sites you own and you are punished for letting your sites rot, which is a huge problem in racially segregated portions of Los Angeles and hypersegregated communities across the US. And also ultimately it would make land an unattractive investment by making the land public. And while I am a fervent believer in property taxes on primary non-income generating habitats being eliminated I’m going to go against the grain of some Georgists who believe the market is rational. We are in 2022, the market is clearly sadistic, out of control, and the wealthy have gone too far. Borrowing from George Manibot, capital gains tax on second homes and investment properties should match or exceed the rates of income tax, no tax-free giveaway on investments that don’t benefit the public, no get-out jail cards because it’s classified as real estate property.
Land Value Tax is essentially the socialization of economic rent through taxation of the rental value of the land.
It makes the land public. It turns the United States' lands into essentially a land trust. It is both pre-distributive and progressive & pragmatic and equitable. And it continues a conversation that started with the enslavement of Africans, it addresses the land stolen from Native Americans and puts us on a road to a more sustainable future.
Adams, M. (2015). Land: A new paradigm for a thriving world. North Atlantic Books.
Beckert, S., & Rockman, S. (Eds.). (2016). Slavery’s capitalism: A new history of American economic development. University of Pennsylvania Press.
Hartzok, A. (2008). The earth belongs to everyone: Articles & essays. Institute for Economic Democracy.