Georgia LP has managed to get elected to any position of real power
and influence) won the position of County Executive of Dade County, a
sort of "County Government CEO," in the last election, by being
well-known and active in his community and running on a platform of
several moderate proposals. The most significant of these was a
promise to introduce a bill through his state legislator that would
allow the citizens of Dade County, georgia to vote on exempting
seniors from a portion of property tax bills. The bill has been
nicknamed the "Brandon Bill" after the man who introduced the concept
to the people of his county. Timothy West has some excellent
information on this bill at the Liberty For Sale blog.
Let's face it, property taxes, because they are assessed and billed
less frequently than income tax withholding or paying a little sales
tax each time you buy groceries, are among the most visible--and thus
most hated--taxes in the country. They take less than other taxes, but
they're much more noticeable, so those who pay them tend to complain
very loudly. Therefore, proposals that reduce propertry taxes, like
Mr. Brandon's exemption for seniors, tend to be very popular among
The issue that I have with reductions in property taxes is that I, as
a geolibertarian view taxes
on land and other natural rsources to be among the least repugnant
taxes, since they tax only that which was not made with mankind's
energy and toil. Further, since no one can make any land, I think that
no one can justifiably permanently exclude others from that which they
did nothing to create without paying some form of compensation in
return. If taxes on land value are collected and the surplus over what
is used to finance basic government functions is distributed as a Citizen's Dividend, those
who do not own any land are justly compensated for being excluded from
the land owned by others and having to pay a fee (rent) to the
owner-but-not-creator just to live on it.
Many other moderate libertarians, especially the slightly left-leaning
ones, either agree outright with geolibertarian principles or would
support those principles as a better alternative to other taxes if
those ideas were explained to them. These left-libertarians, who
currently generally support either the Green or Democratic parties, could be a powerful ally to a reformed, moderate LP, especially since the Left today seems more interested in just bashing Bush than putting forth real new ideas (not that Bush doesn't deserve bashing, but how is mere complaining going to change anything?), leaving the door open for a diffrent party to capture some of their activists if that party can appeal to them enough.
So what are we to do? Here we have a workable, moderate proposal, that cuts government slightly and is popular, but flies in the face of the ideals held by a large group of libertarian moderates. I suggest the following method for a mutually agreeable solution:
Since geolibertarians favor taxing only raw land value and not the improvements on the land--houses, barns, wells--given that the improvements are created by an individual's effort and therefore, that individual owes compensation to no one for their presence or use...why not just change the Brandon Bill slightly to exempt everyone on the portion of their property taxes that covers improvements? It should not be too difficult a task, land assesors and appraisers for real estate companies do it all the time. The new bill could require a city or county government to contract with an appraisal company to do the separation of land value from improvements. For a fee, the property owner requesting exemption could have this assessment made, and after it had been determined, would then be exempt from the improvements portion of the tax.
This pleases everyone:
1) the property owners get a tax break
2) liberty-loving individuals of all stripes will be happy to see taxes reduced
3) geolibertarians get a change in the property tax system that moves it closer to the ideal suggested by Henry George, the father of modern geolibertarianism.
Well, pleases everyone but big-spending local governments, that is. :)
So, let me know what all of you think. I look forward to discussing this with you.