Saving the Commons in an Age of Plunder
H. William Batt
[A Presentation delivered before the Albany Torch
Club, 5 May 2008]
Garrett Hardin's Lament
Forty years ago exactly, Science Magazine published ecologist Garrett
Hardin's article, "The Tragedy of the Commons," now perhaps
the most widely cited and reprinted scientific piece ever. As both
history and parable, it purported to show how unattended and
unprotected natural resources were exploited and ultimately destroyed
by villagers. The context was 16th century Tudor England and the
enclosure movement that drove peasants off the land into the cities
and provided cheap labor for the ensuing industrial revolution. The
commons was well understood as the shared land, usually pasture,
that provided the space for grazing animals. Hardin recounted in
metaphoric terms an explanation of an ecological history of resource
overshoot that has since been replicated countless times over.
The article resonated with a public newly awakening to environmental
dangers - Rachel Carson's
Silent Spring was published just six years earlier, and to
the growing public fascination with economics - the Nobel prize
in Economics was added the following year. Hardin's article also
offered, unintentionally, the perfect corroboration to neoclassical
economics, which held that the most stable, productive, and efficient
market system was one in which resources were best protected by their
privatization, and where the public sector, vulnerable to exploitation
and abuse, should be reduced to a minimum.
Neoclassical economic theory holds that wealth is best produced by
competing interests vying with one another in open markets, with
prices adjusting to supply and demand in ways that assure all
participants and interests are served according to their enterprise
and merit. It is a self-regulating equilibrium system assuming that
human beings are wholly self -interested. One can trace its roots
perhaps to the work of Bernard Mandeville, a Dutchman who wrote The
Fable of the Bees in 1705, a notable piece of doggerel to test
his English language prowess. It describes the division of labor of a
hive, the efficiency and indeed the beauty by which its stability and
continuance was assured. Adam Smith, intrigued and challenged by
Mandeville's insight, incorporated this model of society in his 1776
work, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of
Nations, a work people know little more of today than by the
phrase, invisible hand.
Mandeville, Smith, and Hardin have since been invoked to ratify the
unfolding patterns of economic life, now more fervently than ever, as
the apologists for privatization have continued their ascendancy and
preeminence. The unfolding and increasing pace of the private
capture of common wealth has left doubters and opponents today hard
put to respond. The Chicago School economists' use of Hardin may have
disturbed him, as he was alarmed by the growing neglect and
privatization of the commons.
The Modern Era of the Land Grab
The year 1776, you recall, also marks the severing relationship
between America and Great Britain, and it was in the New World where
the new economic ideas saw their strongest application. As John Locke
understood it, property meant one's personal possessions along with
any elements of the commons with which one mixed his labour.6
It meant essentially tools, clothes, and armaments. But the idea took
hold in America that land also might be owned as a commodity, just
like a horse or a house. The founding fathers, to a man, all quickly
took to buying and selling land for speculative gain, and if they
weren't involved in land dealing, they were likely making money
litigating it like lawyers Patrick Henry and Abraham Lincoln. Robert
Morris, one of the least scrupulous figures of the new Republic, wrote
that "everyone with spare cash invested in land. The new
Secretary of State, Timothy Pickering, told his sister in 1796. All
I am now worth was gained by speculation in land. In 1785 I purchased
about twelve thousand acres in Pennsylvania which cost me about one
shilling [about fifteen cents] in lawful money an acre. ... The lowest
value of the worst tract is now not below two dollars an acre."
Tocqueville observed that, the European emigrant always lands,
therefore, in a country that is but half full, and where hands are in
demand; he becomes a workman in easy circumstances, his son goes to
seek his fortune in unpeopled regions and becomes a rich landowner.
The former amasses the capital which the latter invests. So,
what Native Americans viewed as part of nature was quickly snatched up
as property by western settlers, in what has been the greatest theft
ever. New studies are now emerging about this era, and I predict that
the impact of this research will be profound. So began a view and
practice which continues to this day, that speculating on the
resources of nature is a wholly legitimate enterprise. A person today
would think it strange not to be able to sell his home at a gain years
after buying it, even though the building be largely depreciated.
People see gains in land value as an assured way to build
equity. The greatest fortunes of the 19th century were built on
the capture and sale of natural resources, not only land but furs,
lumber, coal, oil; even, for a time, slaves, that were viewed as much
a part of nature as animals. It was easy to get rich harvesting
the bounty of nature; costs of doing so involved mostly labor
investment and a bit of capital. The sale price, driven by demand,
might be many times as large. Consider how rich someone could become
by striking oil; the only investment was the time involved in
prospecting, and perhaps the expense of an oil derrick. Once found, it
just gushed out of the earth and could be sold for whatever the market
fetched. The profits, if they could be called such, were
stupendous. Sometimes there were added license and title costs, but
trivial in comparison.
Today there are many more elements of nature that command a market
price, exploited under private auspices and title. Some minerals have
incalculable value, uranium being just the best known. Consider also
all the elements of the biota -seeds, algae, topsoil, wild animals,
domesticated breeds, various plants for food, medicine and beauty.
When Jonas Salk identified the polio vaccine in 1955, he was
interviewed shortly thereafter by Edward R. Morrow. Who owns the
patent on this vaccine? , he asked. Well, Salk
answered, no doubt taken aback by the question. The people, I
would say. There is no patent. Could you patent the sun? But
less than two decades later things had changed. Close by here at the
GE Global Research Center in Schenectady, Dr. Ananda Mohan Chakrabarty
managed to genetically engineer a organism that could break down the
crude oil at sites of spills. A patent was filed, and led to a court
case that went all the way to the US Supreme Court. He won.
Strains of rice and other grains that have been in the public domain
for millennia are now being captured and successfully patented by
corporations. A massive outcry has come, especially in developing
nations like India, along with scientist Vandana Shiva's several books
protesting such practices, with titles like Biopiracy, Stolen Harvest,
and Protect or Plunder?
More recently still we've read news of water resources being
privatized. We've typically thought of municipal water systems being
part of the public domain, as well as that which our agricultural
industry relies upon, as a free good from nature. But as
it becomes more scarce, as aquifers drain, and as climate patterns
become less predictable, water has become a commodity with a growing
market price. Corporate interests have moved in to capture that
resource for potential profit. It is not just the bottled water for
sale; it is wholesale river systems, lakes, estuaries, and beaches.
Dozens of cities in the US have seen their municipal water supplies
taken over by private industry. In the late '90s in the city of
Cochabamba, Bolivia, the water system was privatized upon the
insistence of the World Bank as a way for it to settle international
debts. Urban riots ensued after the Bechtel Corporation tripled the
price of water. Not only did the people refuse, the action ultimately
brought down the government itself.
We also hear that The Public Owns the Airwaves. But in
fact the electromagnetic spectrum has been privately owned ever since
1928 when the radio corporations were freely given frequencies in
exchange for a promise that the public interest would be served. Those
frequencies have since been bought and sold among media conglomerates
for millions! It is not the electronics in the station that explains
their price; it is the monopoly ownership of those frequencies. As
spectrum use changes from analogue to digital signal, frequencies
reclaimed or retained by the government are being auctioned off for a
price, now to be owned as property much as earlier segments.
Meanwhile, public expectations about media responsibility have largely
fallen by the wayside, and spectrum owners are able to deploy those
frequencies for radio, television, cell phone, and other uses with
little oversight except as concerns technical efficiency. The Federal
Communications Commission is viewed as industry owned.
When natural resources come to have public utility and market value,
private economic interests seek to confiscate them. When technology
finds an application for them with commercial potential, pressures
also grow for their privatization. This was even the case with oil,
which was not at first viewed as having much market potential at all.
An interesting and revealing illustration of the confiscatory impulses
of corporate powers is taking place with efforts to install free
over-the-air Internet service (Wi-Fi) in several cities. Two or three
years ago, the news media was abuzz with the number of places that
were embarked on installing Wi-Fi that would be free to all the users
within range. Albany was one of those cities. But, alas, the program
to complete the service citywide has now been scuttled,16 What
Companies that originally agreed to provide such service under
municipal contract, like Verizon, Earthlink, and others, decided that
the operations of the municipal Wi-Fi assets were no longer
consistent with the companys strategic direction. So it
looks like I will have to connect to the Internet through my Time
-Warner Cable for about $50 a month. It could have been much cheaper,
both for me and for the community.
We are now seeing the very air we breathe being auctioned off as
private! New York State has made an alliance with other northeastern
states in what is called the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative
RGGI. Shortly, the pollution rights will be auctioned off
to own or trade as property and for use as a dump for the effluents of
utilities! The so -called cap and trade system will let
industries own, buy and sell the air as a commodity, limited only
insofar as the public is able to police and control its use.
Suppose the air has an impact on climate change, or on the acidity of
rainfall, or on fauna and flora in other ways? Will the public have
the political means and wherewithal to reign in those corporate powers
that now have a financial interest to protect? Property rights, once
granted, are hard to rescind or to limit.
There are many other elements of what arguably are the birthrights of
all humanity, resources that by tradition and logic are best defined
as the commons but have now been privatized that one
wonders what is left. Journalist James Ridgeway's book, It's All for
Sale, lists elements of nature with market value that are now
offered up for private bid. Among them are fresh water, fuels, metals,
forests, fibers, fertilizers, foods, flowers, drugs, the sky, the
oceans, biodiversity, and human beings themselves. One national
organization concerned about the demise of nature's public realm has
made an even more extensive list of what elements exist in the natural
realm and repeated then again in the social realm.
Among shared natural creations that have value, economic and
otherwise, are the following:
water, rain, snow, ice
solar energy, wind energy, tides, water power
light, fire, electricity, radio waves
lakes, rivers, estuaries, beaches
DNA, seeds, algae, topsoil
biosphere, atmosphere, forests, grasslands
rocks, minerals, oil, uranium
UV protection, climate regulation, erosion control, pollination
oceans, watersheds, aquifers, wetlands
wild animals, domesticated animals, edible plants, healing plants
photosynthesis, waste absorption, nutrient recycling, freshwater
Among shared social creations, a realm that I have for lack of time
chosen not to talk about, are:
musical instruments, sculpture, dance, crafts
jazz, blues, country music, hip hop
words, names, grammar, punctuation
nursery rhymes, children's games, sports, recipes
law, democracy, money, trust
museums, libraries, universities, the Internet
facts, data, know -how, wisdom
religion, holidays, the calendar, the sabbath
roads, streets, sidewalks, plazas
numbers, symbols, algebra, statistics
communities, neighborhoods, playgrounds, historical sites
sea lanes, air lanes, bike paths, hiking trails
There is no shortage of commentary about the privatization of the
commons, most of which is a lament. It typically sees the
transformation as one of private greed and power, the theft of what
rightfully belongs to all of us. David Bollier, for example, titled
his book, Silent Theft,19 reflecting his view that the shift in
ownership is not only unnoticed but pernicious. But his is a minority
view; the dominant economic ideology now condones privatization as
productive and efficient, therein serving a public interest, whereas
the commons is marginal and even parasitic.20 Further examination of
the economics upon which such views rest will demonstrate how totally
misguided and wrong this is.21 It isn't just that the private sector
is by its nature compelled to internalize gains and externalize
losses, that it drives the economy in directions that serve power.
It's also the case that neoclassical economics actually violates the
laws of physics! Destructive as it is, a century's reliance on this
paradigm will be hard to overcome.
Restoring the Balance
Wherein arose the idea that pieces of nature should become owned? It
can be traced, at least in theory, to Roman law, even though it was
more often honored in the breech. The notion of freehold title in land
is uniquely Western, even though it is now spreading worldwide. It was
tempered initially by what is now known as Public Trust Doctrine,
arising first with the Byzantine Emperor Justinian in the sixth
century. The law of trusts evolved from the Institutes of Justinian
(535 A.D.), a part of which reads, By the law of nature these
things are common to mankind: the air, running water, the sea and
consequently the shores of the sea. These allodial (i.e.,
granted by God) elements were by extension the equivalent of the
later-day commons, which distinguished those things made by man and
those made or granted by God. Legal tradition off and on has made use
of this concept ever since, most recently this year in Vermont where
water is now proposed as a public trust. We have among our local
colleagues one of the foremost US experts on public trust doctrine in
attorney and news columnist Paul Bray.23 But the law has limited
capacity to contain attacks on the public interest, important as it
is. I believe pricing designs can be an equally powerful and
complementary influence. The key, however, is in getting the prices
right, which means getting the economics right.
A far more reasonable and effective check on the avarice underlying
privatization of the commons exists in the framework growing out of
classical economics, the founder of which was the same Adam Smith
noted earlier. As classical tradition evolved, from Smith and other
Scottish moralists, through Thomas Malthus, David Ricardo, John Stuart
Mill, and finally with Henry George, the economy was based on three
factors of production: land, labor and capital. Land meant not
merely the surface of the earth as distinguished from the water and
the air, but the whole material universe outside of man himself.24
Capital was defined as all the products of labor and land, essentially
tools. Land was its own factor category. The most significant point to
make about land, however, is that its market value consists of a
continuing flow of ground rent, which reflects the vitality of
economic enterprise of proximate locations.
Rent, moreover, is a phenomenon not of any one site's activity but
due rather to a total community's or region's market vitality. The
market value of your plot is due mostly to the value and activity of
your neighbors'. It was this insight that led Smith to conclude that Ground-rents
and the ordinary rent of land are . . . the species of revenue which
can best bear to have a peculiar tax imposed on them."
Because the flow of rent is a continuing reflection of the economic
activity of an area larger than a single site, it can't be eliminated
or stemmed. Nor can it be shifted. But it can be recaptured in the
form of a tax or capitalized in the exchange value of a parcel as a
market price. It can also be captured in part through rent-seeking, a
practice that reduces economic performance but is a high art of those
looking to get something for nothing. But in any given area, and
however it is cut up, the flow of rent is constant. Absent its being
taxed or skimmed, the promise of a gain from capitalized parcel sites,
or from any other element of land in the economy,
speculative investment in titles is all but assured by those hoping
for the eventual increases in market prices. The gain in market prices
is a good bet on account of both the speculative competition for
titles and by the demands of a growing population and economy.
Failure to recapture the socially created ground rent by properly
designed taxes leads by default to its capitalized market value in
sites, and the growth in that value inevitably prompts land
grabs that have been so evident in modern history. The word land
grab has come to mean not just purchase of any element of nature
that is arguably part of the commons; it means the wholesale
privatization of resources by the most rapacious element of society.
Contemporary neoclassical economic theory sanctions the notion that greed
is good, that avarice leads to increased wealth and
productivity, no matter its source. Classical economics at least
rewarded a person for what he earned by his labor; neoclassical
economics rewards unearned gains from the rent captured from
privatized titles of what had been part of the commons. Smith
appreciated the significance of taxing land for how it tempered greed
and protected and preserved the commons. Mill too saw that taxing land
rent not only fostered a more productive economy; he also believed
that it was far more just. Landlords, he observed, grow
richer in their sleep without working, risking or economizing. The
increase in the value of land, arising as it does from the efforts of
an entire community, should belong to the community and not to the
individual who might hold title.
The transposition from classical to neoclassical economics was
momentous. This paradigm shift from three factor economics
land, labor, and capital to two -factor economics where land
was conflated into capital, has allowed economic rent to be hidden so
the owners of natural resources escape their full duty. I discussed
this about a decade ago in an earlier presentation to Torch, and
how this is arguably the greatest instance of corruption in American
history. It was due, after all, to the blandishments of the
wealthiest corporate powers in the country that the founders of the
American Economics Association were persuaded to change their
definitions and formulas so that they would henceforth be advantaged.
The concept of rent in the century since has been all but eliminated
from discussion in American neoclassical economics texts. Even
calculating the amount of rent as an amount or as a percent of the GDP
is impossible except as a plausible guess. Texts typically put it as
about 1 percent of the GDP.
But that is far from the case. Although calculating rent in the
American economy is impossible (due to the failure of our government
to keep numbers properly), it is possible in Australia, and Professor
Terry Dwyer, a Harvard-educated economist, has taken on this challenge
for his native country. His analysis shows that economic rent is well
over 30 percent of the Australian GDP, for real estate rent alone,
ignoring other resource rents that exist. The 'bottom line'
reinforces the overall conclusion . . . that land-based tax revenues
are indeed sufficient to allow total abolition of company and personal
income tax. Further, to the extent that some taxes, such as rates,
land tax, resource rent taxes and even part of income tax on land
rents are already capitalized in lower market values for privately
held land, the figures would tend to understate the capacity of land
income to replace existing taxes. I earlier explained how taxing
rent would comport with all the textbook principles of sound tax
theory, and explained how it would also stem and reverse sprawl
development, and improve our society in so many other ways.
Most of all, however, it is the moral argument that makes the
recapture of socially created economic rent so compelling. First of
all it removes the tax burden on that which we want and puts it on
that which we eschew. In a word, it taxes bads, not goods, as an
oft-seen environmental protest button states, or taxes waste not work.
Rent -seekers, like all those that speculate in resource gains, are
freeloaders. John Houseman, an actor perhaps most widely known as
Professor Kingsfield in the film and long -running television series,
The Paper Chase, later became the pitchman for Smith Barney. In one
advertisement, his tag line was "They make money the old
fashioned way they earn it." That is economic justice! In
the tradition of classical economics, Thomas Paine (Agrarian Justice,
1797) put it this way: Men did not make the earth... it is the
value of the improvements only, and not the earth itself, that is
individual property... Every proprietor owes to the community a ground
rent for the land which he holds. Our nation might just possibly
have gone in this direction, and taxed rents instead of facilitating
land grabs and speculation. Thomas Jefferson wavered in his view: "The
earth, he said, belongs in usufruct to the living; the
dead have neither powers nor rights over it. The portion occupied by
any individual ceases to be his when he himself ceases to be, and
reverts to society." Given the land grab fever of the era,
the forces opposed to taxing rent were just too strong. Besides,
economic theory, which always lags behind social reality, had not yet
evolved as a coherent paradigm that would make such arguments clear.
As Jefferson understood them, usufructory titles are consistent with
the idea of land rent. It helps that property law abjures use of the
word "ownership" in preference to the term "bundle of
rights" that lawyers talk about in enumerating the privileges
attaching to locations. The idea of fee simple title
to real property is a misnomer; ownership is never absolute. Typically
enumerated among the several contingent but partial rights that are
linked to titles are the rights to sell, to mortgage, to bequeath, to
lease, to use and occupy, to alter and install, and to subdivide and
develop. The right to the retention of the ground rent is overlooked
because its understanding is an artifact left behind in classical
economic theory. But the power to recapture rent is the one element of
ownership that society should restore.
The second argument for recapturing rents is that it offers to us a
way to maintain and recover the commons. The commons wouldn't
necessarily be a collection of the world's or the nation's natural
resources as earlier held, but it would be comparable inasmuch as the
economic yield from those resources would be recaptured by the
taxation of rent. There would be a public realm, a commonwealth! It
would be the proper corrective to a contemporary economy that is
distorted and debilitated. Rent, after all, is a central element of
the commons; as I earlier noted it is socially created and by rights
it should be communally owned. Recapturing the socially created land
rent would provide sufficient revenue to government that the support
of public services would not be so precarious. The taxes on our labor
and our goods that we often evade and abhor could be scuttled. And the
income that we garner would be based on our earnings, not on our
pursuit of windfall gains that are the unearned increment
that Henry George talked about. As I have written elsewhere, such tax
regimes would essentially be painless.
A New Commons of Recaptured Rent
I mentioned earlier that the economic rent generated by a nation's
economy is as much as a third of its GDP, but a bit more elaboration
of its elements could be helpful. We recognize first of all that
natural resources generate rent that right now remains in the pockets
of titleholders without regard to any merit on their part except by
their having captured ownership titles. The manifold sources of
rent-yielding resources is carefully enumerated in a new paper by
Professor Mason Gaffney. To those sensitized to the concept these
places become readily apparent. Discounting inflation, and with a 5
percent return on principle, one wouldn't even need to capture it all.
Good numbers are unavailable from US government sources, estimates are
spotty and scattered, but the following are indicative:
Author and entrepreneur Peter Barnes estimated a decade
ago that a sky trust for the rental of pollution sinks
in the US (rather than the proposed auction sale as RGGI intends)
could generate from $140 to $280 billion annually beginning in the
year 2010.37 New York alone shortly expects to auction off the CO2
cap-and-trade rights for about 64 million tons per year at a current
projected one -shot price of about $2.32 per ton, for a total
estimated annual yield of about $150 million.38 A comparable US
value would be over $14 trillion, with a projected (5%) annual
rental value of over $700 million.39 The 2001 price for auctioned
spectrum rights was $4.18 per MHz per capita, which figured to be
$1.2 billion annually. The total spectrum by extension may be worth
$3 trillion, which could provide a rental yield of $150 billion
annually.40 The estimated value of the world market for water is in
the neighborhood of $300 billion to $800 billion annually.41 Who
knows what the American share of that is worth and what the rental
value might be? Nor is the total market value of land in the US
available; the US Census of Housing recorded numbers based on
assessment data from the States until 1987, but it proved to be so
inaccurate that the records were discontinued.
How simple is it in fact to institute a reform in tax regimes and in
the economic design by which we live? Not hard, as it happens.
Consider the way in which our present tax regimes are conceived.
All tax revenue is drawn from one of three factors of production:
land, labor, or capital. The price of labor is paid in wages; the
price of capital is paid in interest, and the yield from land is paid
in rent. Most likely what is involved is simply a tax shift; phasing
out taxes on labor and capital and raising the taxes on tax bases that
yield rents. For real property this is already being done in many
places worldwide, twenty cities in Pennsylvania alone. It means
simply phasing out the tax rate on improvement values and increasing
the tax rate on the land values on a revenue neutral schedule. The
schedule could continue addressing sales taxes and others too as
planning and modeling could dictate.
The amount of rent to be recaptured from various sources could be
open to debate, but consider its contrast with current tax regimes. As
Left Wing advocates now would have it, taxes should be
drawn from all three factors to pay for public services and foster
social equity by its redistribution. This entails considerable
planning and administration, as well as what critics call social
control. Right wing proposals, by contrast, hold
that efficiency requires more wealth to remain in private hands, and
that government should only get the minimum necessary for the
provision of public services. It views government as a traffic
cop with minimal intrusion on the economy that is largely
privatized. Still, revenue necessary for government functions is drawn
in each case from all three factors of production, land, labor, and
capital. Moderates, or middle -of -the-roaders, seek a
balanced system in the distribution of wealth and power between
individuals and society, and try to trade off considerations of
efficiency and equity which always appear at odds. In none off these
choices is there a distinction between earned and unearned incomes
when it comes to taxation.
The revived classical economics approach, which is supported largely
of proponents of Henry George, makes a distinction between the
unearned income of land (rent) and the earned incomes of labor and
capital (wages and interest). Rent is returned to society, and wages
and interest are retained by the individuals who earned them. The
proper spheres between individual and society are clarified. It
achieves the goals of left wingers for security and social action, but
without restrictions on liberty. It achieves the goals of right
-wingers to attain freedom, but without privilege and monopoly.
And it achieves a balanced system sought by middle-of-the-roaders
but in a just rather than an arbitrary way.
There has been a lot written recently about which elements of society
are free riders, and who is getting the free lunch.45
Right now, by our failing to collect economic rent, the title holder
to land gets the Free Lunch. Thats at the expense of
the rest of society. It was Adam Smith, again, who reminded us that
rent was the natural and just source of revenue. Among more recent
supporters have been Bill Buckley, Molly Ivins, Steve Moore, Ralph
Nader, Michael Kinsley, Jack Kemp, and George Gilder. They don't
always espouse their views very publicly, as they may not understand
the philosophy in great depth. But they have said many good things
about it. What promise it holds is due largely to the fact that
computer power and available data now make it possible to demonstrate
the merit and the feasibility of an idea that has been on the back
burner for a century. It may depend in part, especially in light
of the current economic crisis the nation is facing, upon the
collection of more and better financial and statistical data.
The culmination of classical economic theory, defeated by its
opponents just when it achieved full fruition and articulation,
embodies an appreciation of a public realm, comparable to what existed
in the pre -industrial era as the commons. At a time when
neoclassical economics sees the greatest virtues in total
privatization, classical economics now offers an opportunity to look
once more at wisdom of the past. It is well expressed in a folk poem
that is traceable at least to 1764:
They hang the man and flog the woman
That steal the goose from off the common.
But let the greater villain loose
That steals the common from the goose.
The law locks up the man or woman
Who steals the goose from off the common'
And geese will still a common lack
Till they go and steal it back.
1. "The Tragedy of the Commons," Garrett Hardin,
Science, 162(1968):1243 -1248, and http:/
2. After over half a century, the greatest single account of this
period remains Karl Polanyi's book, The Great Transformation: The
Political and Economic Origins of our Time. New York: Reinhart,
3. Rachel Carson, Silent Spring. New York: Houghton Mifflin,
4. The Economics Nobel was not one of the original 1895 prizes; it
was initiated only in 1968, and many now believe this was a mistake.
5. See especially the writing of Terry L Anderson and the Property
and Environment Research Center, www.perc.org.
6. John Locke, Two Treatises of Government, 1690. Section 27.
7. Quoted in Andro Linklater, Measuring America: How and Untamed
Wilderness Shaped the United States and Fulfilled the Promise of
Democracy. New York: Walker & Co., 2002. p. 44.
8. Democracy in America, Book 1, Ch. XVII.
9. Three books particularly should be mentioned for their advancement
of the historical and legal perspective: John C. Weaver, The Great
Land Rush and the Making of the Modern World, 1650 1900.
Montreal: McGill -Queens University Press, 2003; Lindsay G. Robertson,
Conquest by Law: How the Discovery of America Dispossessed
Indigenous People of their Lands. London: Oxford University Press,
2005; and Robert J. Miller, Native America, Discovered and
Conquered: Thomas Jefferson, Lewis & Clark, and Manifest Destiny.
Westport, CT: Praeger, 2006.
10. Gustavus Myers, History of Great American Fortunes. New
York: Random House, 1907 and later.
11. Recounted on Wikipedia, Jonas Salk.
12. Diamond v Chakrabarty, 447 U.S. 303 (1980), and Who Owns
Life? David Magnus, Arthur Kaplan, and Glenn McGee (eds), Amherst,
NY: Prometheus Press, 2002.
13. Vandana Shiva, Biopiracy: The Plunder of Nature and Knowledge.
Boston: South End Press, 1997; Stolen Harvest: The Hijacking of
the Global Food Supply. South End Press, 200; and Protect or
Plunder: Understanding Intellectual Property Rights. London: Zed
14. Alan Snitow, Deborah Kaufman, and Michael Fox, Thirst:
Fighting the Corporate Theft of Our Water. Boston: John Wiley &
15. Maude Barlow and Tony Clarke, Blue Gold: The Fight to Stop
the Corporate Theft of the World's Water. New York: The New Press.
16. Ian Urbina, Hopes for Wireless Cities Fade as Internet
Providers Pull Out, New York Times, March, 22, 2008.
17. James Ridgeway, It's All for Sale: The Control of Global
Resources. Durham: Duke University Press, 2004.
19. Silent Theft: The Private Plunder of our Common Wealth.
New York: Routledge, 2003.
20. See especially the writing of the Competitive Enterprise
21. Among the several books that explore the failings of neoclassical
economics are especially the following: Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen, The
Entropy Law and the Economic Process. Cambridge: Harvard University
Press, 1991. Herman Daly, Beyond Growth: The Economics of Sustainable
Development. Boston: Beacon Press, 1996. Thomas Prugh, et al., Natural
Capital and Human Economic Survival. Solomons, MD: International
Society for Ecological Economics, 1995. Joshua Farley and Herman Daly,
Ecological Economics:Principles and Applications. Island Press, 2003.
See also further discussion below in this essay and On line,
www.dieoff.org, the economic theory section.
22. Regulating Vermont's Groundwater, Vermont Public
Radio, April 1, 2008; http:/ /www.vpr.net/episode/43281/
23. See, for example, The Public Trust Doctrine, by Paul
Bray, at www.geocities /Senate / 3616 /PublicTrustDoctrine.html.
24. Henry George, Progress and Poverty: An Inquiry into the Cause
of Industrial Depressions and of Increase of Want with Increase of
Wealth: The Remedy. 1879, and afterwards, p. 38.
25. The Wealth of Nations, Section 18, page 833.
26. Principles of Political Economy, bk.5, ch.2, sec.5.
27. How the Railroads Got us on the Wrong Economic Track,
The Torch Magazine, Vol. 71. No. 3 (Winter 1997 -98), on line
28. Mason Gaffney, The Corruption of Economics, Shepheard
Walwyn, 1995. and http:/ /homepage.ntlworld.com/janusg/coe/!index.htm
29. Rental income is $7.9 billion of a total GNP of $5,234 billion,
or 1.5 percent. Table 7 -5, p. 137. Baumol and Blinder's Economics:
Principles and Policy, Fifth Edition. Harcourt Brace, 1991. Rental
Income was 4.7 billion, or 0.079% of GDP in 1992. Table 22.3, p. 559.
Karl Case and Ray Fair, Economics, Third Edition. Prentice Hall, 1994.
Rent is 1% of U.S. economy in 2004. p. 283. Paul Krugman and Robin
Wells, Econo mics. New York: Worth Publishers.
30. Terry Dwyer, "The Taxable Capacity of Australian Land and
Resources," April 1, 2003, p 40, on line at
31. Stemming Sprawl: The Fiscal Approach, Chapter 10 from
the book, Suburban Sprawl: Culture, Theory, and Politics,
edited by Matthew J. Lindstrom and Hugh Bartling; Rowman &
Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2003, online at
www.cooperativeindividualism.org/batt-h-william_stem ming_sprawl.ht ml
32. See my articles as well as those of many others in the collection
at www.wealthandwant.com .
33. Jefferson letter to James Madison, September 6, 1789. Writings
of Thomas Jefferson, 1892 -99. Ford, Lesson IX.
34. See, for example, Barrons Educational Series:
Dictionary of Real Estate Terms, Sixth Edition, Jack P. Friedman,
et al. (editors). 2004; also at http://www.answers.com.
35. I submitted a paper with these ideas in April, 2005 to the
President's Advisory Panel on Federal Tax Reform. It is reprinted in
Groundswell, May -June, 2005, on line at www.progress.org /cg /
36. The Hidden Taxable Capacity of Land: Enough and to Spare,
forthcoming in the International Journal of Social Economics, Vol. 35,
Issue 6 (Summer, 2008), on line as a working paper draft at
www.economics.ucr.edu / papers / pa pers07 /index.html
37. Peter Barnes, Who Owns the Sky? Our Common Assets and the
Future of Capitalism. Island Press, 2001, p. 41.
38. New York State Department of Environmental Conservation,
Regulatory Impact Statement 6 NYCRR Part 242, CO2 Budget Trading
Program, Documents. On line at www.dec.ny.gov / regulations
39. Based on US Annual CO2 emissions (000s) of 6,049,435 tons.
wikipedia list of countries by carbon dioxide emissions.
40. J.H. Snider, Who Owns the Airwaves? Four Theories of
Spectrum Property Rights New America Foundation, 2002.
41. Ridgeway, p. 5, citing Barlow.
42. I am indebted to the Henry George Institute, and its director
Lindy Davies, for this explication; www.henrygeorge.org.
43. See Alan Durning and Yoram Bauman, Tax Shift: How to Help the
Economy, Improve the Environment, and Get the Tax Man Off our Backs.
Seattle: Northwest Environment Watch, April, 1998, online at
44. For more on this, see the work of the Center for the Study of
Economics, on line at www.urbantools.org.
45. The most recent use is by New York Times Tax reporter David Cay
Johnston, Free Lunch: How the Wealthiest Americans Enrich
Themselves at Government Expense (And Stick you with the Bill).
Portfolio Books, 2007. Professor Milton Friedman wrote a book in 1975,
There is No Such Thing as a Free Lunch. Open Court Publishing.
46. See the draft of a proposed Monetary Transparency Act,
at the American Monetary Institute. www.monetary.org.
47. David Bollier, Silent Theft: The Private Plunder of our
Common Wealth. New York: Routledge, 2003. frontispiece.