I listened and enjoyed this Lunar Society podcast on Georgism — here is my summary and thoughts.
Whatever you tax, you disincentivize. If you tax income, people have less reason to work. Tax cigarettes and people will smoke less. Tax legal drug sales and you get more illegal drug sales.
But land is special. If you tax land, you don't get less land. Land has a fixed supply so taxing landowners for the value of land doesn't reduce the productivity of the land.
This scarcity of land has led to many wars and revolutions. The Ukrainian-Russian war today is being fought over land. The revolutions in France and China were fueled by resentment towards landowners.
So Georgism proposes that land is the best thing to tax and by taxing land we will have more tax revenue and a more equitable society.
Specifically, Georgism advocates for separating property tax into two parts — the land value tax and the building value tax. The land should be taxed at a high rate because the land is valuable based on things the landlord didn't do. Land in Manhattan is valuable because of the local businesses, the transit system, the city parks, etc. But building on top of the land is value added by the landlord and shouldn't be taxed at a high rate.
A land tax tax incentivizes using land productively because if you take a valuable plot of land — say in the middle of West Village — and then don't use it, you'll be paying a lot in taxes to not use it.
A good is land-like if it has the following properties:
- it's scarce in supply — you can't just create new land easily
- it's required for production — you need land to live or to run your business
- it's valuable based on it's position in a graph — your land is valuable because it's near other valuable land
You can use these three properties to evaluate the "landyness" of other goods like music copyright, intellectual property, domain names, etc.
- Land Assessments — Right now it's hard to assess the value of land, but we can get a lot better at this. And land assessments (and corresponding tax amounts) can be public record + transparent.
- Who would be taxed the most in a Georgist system? — The highest value land is commercial real estate in urban centers. These landowners would have to pay a lot more.
- Severance Tax — Taxes on the extraction of natural resources. Norway has set up a system to incentivize oil companies to find oil while the state collects most of the value.
- The Frontier objection — Dwarkesh brings up the objection that Georgism is a fixed supply mindset and we should focus on increasing land + supply. But we do have a ton of land already, the valuable land is the land that's next to other valuable land.