Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Bait, does it work?

The movie "Inside Job" won the Oscar for best documentary feature in 2011. The winner of the Oscar made the comment that no bank executives have been arrested for their role in the recent economic collapse. A question we need to ask is "How do we prevent such a tragedy in the future?" One response is that we have more surveillance over the banking industry. But then we have to ask "Who is going to appoint a commission to do this surveillance?" The effectiveness of such a commission would depend, among other things, on who was appointed. Presumably, at a national level, the commission would be appointed by the current or future US president. Obviously this would be influenced by the appointing president's emphases and politics. Also such a commission would be looking for anomalies in books, for illegal actions, and could only act after the crime had been committed.

It seems to me that a better approach would be to see what bait we leave for those seeking to profit at some else's expense. The biggest bait is the expectation of profit on land, either by extracting from the renters a fee for the use of the land, or in the expected increase in value of the land. Most of the shenanigans in the recent economic implosion has to do with mortgages on land. By shifting our tax basis from work to land, we shorten the time that a person has to work to gain access to a given piece of land, since the person who really needs it is already paying a previous landowner, and that previous landowner really hasn't done anything to increase the value of the land (the building, yes, but not the land. The community increases the value of the land with infrastructure improvements, and by improving the neighborhood.

Leaving bait for land profiteers makes about as much sense as leaving a bike unlocked where thieves are known to operate.

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