The German Housing Mystery

Feb 2011- Germany_197

Renegade Economists podcast 322 & 324

There has been much interest in the German housing miracle. How have they survived the global land ponzi game? Or have they?

Listen first to Jess Wright jumpstart the year’s interviews with her insights on recent travels through Scotland and Germany.

Listen here

Then last week Professor Dirk Loehr took us through the evolution of German economic thinking (Marx, Engels, List, Fleurscheim & Gesell). We finish with the impressive alliance of pro LVT groups supporting the campaign before delving into current gentrification issues. Check Dirk’s German blog Rent Grabbing.

Listen here

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photo by: Jw Wu

Earthsharing Global Thunderclap

Our friends in the US are about to launch a new Earthsharing website. And guess what – a new social networking phenomena is upon us to help their launch. Thunderclap helps punch through the noise of 400 million tweets per day by sending out a time coordinated message. Watch this vid then sign up your social media outlets to support the cause of sharing the earth’s worth.

That will make four Earthsharing websites, with Canada, the UK and soon the US. We are currently working on a new website update here, so stay posted for more regular content soon.

Extra Environmentalists: how Real Estate 4 Ransom drives the growth paradigm


One of the world’s leading podcasts, the Extra Environmentalists, has shown an increasing interest in Georgist economics over recent episodes. I sat on the other side of the fence for once, as the interviewee in Supply Shock – an exciting way to finish 2013.

We covered many of the topics I race through on the weekly Renegade Economists podcast, including the role of increased capital mobility on real estate prices, Blackstone Capital, rental backed securities and the big one, how the value of the earth was removed from analysis through the corruption of economics.

Justin and Seth write:

When the profession of economics began to think that land and capital were equivalent and interchangeable, the roots of real estate speculation and environmental crisis were established. Because the origins of neoclassical economics became deeply influenced by the interests of early 20th century land barons, a new economic paradigm will have to challenge the assumptions of powerful landowners. Will a world in search of economic growth embrace a steady state that properly analyzes the role of land in economic life? Can the rampant real estate speculation across the planet be tamed with an overhaul of our tax system?

Listen to the entire show:

Part one of the two hour show was Brian Czech from the Centre for Steady State Economics on his new book Supply Shock, which includes analysis of how Henry George and Classical economics were removed from the curriculum.

In part two, I point out that small business aims for a 6-8% return on capital invested. Share investors are happy with 8 – 10% but real estate investment in Australia is pushing 15% returns.

I would liked to have built upon that to say it is this 15% return that drives the growth paradigm. On the revenue side, all other facets of the economy are clamouring for similar growth levels and try to cut corners to keep up with these easy returns, known as unearned incomes.

On the cost side, many small businesses and tenants face higher rents because of this speculative largesse. Each time a property is sold at a higher price, rents must be increased when a new lease is signed to justify the higher land price.

The end result? The few independently owned small businesses remaining in our neighbourhoods are often those that own their premises. Have you ever seen any such small business, perhaps one that does not look very busy and wondered how it stays alive? Pop in and ask them if they own the building. Perhaps they are enjoying their ‘privilege’, using the rising rents they are able to charge their tenants to finance what they love (retailing a product perhaps of dubious popularity).

Thus the treadmill speeds up due to the opportunity cost of business people sweating away trying to earn their 6% (and wage earners hoping just to keep up with inflation, let alone land prices) whilst property flippers earn 15% and are barely taxed. On some level we try to keep up with those earning more money for less effort, pushing the need for economic growth at the ballot box. Few realise that those enjoying unearned income will always outstrip society whilst the tax system is structured to penalise those working (with income and company taxes).

Within reason, we should all be sharing in this rising value of the earth, such that pressures to keep up with the 15% returns are minimised by land taxing away the easy profits (unearned incomes) in real estate. Then we can slow down a little to establish long lasting relationships in our community before being pushed on by speculative gentrification practices.

Bollier on Monopoly Profits to Finance Government


As the Federal Government leads the deficit scaremongering on the road to lining up the firesale of our public assets to insiders (whilst slugging the consumer with a higher and thus regressive GST), we are reminded of the approach they could be taking if genuinely interested in a productive market.

Leading Commons advocate David Bollier writes in Why Not Tax Monopoly Rents?

Some interesting material coming out of Prosper Australia, a Melbourne-based organization and its partners, Earthsharing Australia and the Land Values Research Group. A new report entitled “Total Resource Rents: Harnessing the Power of Monopoly” finds that nearly one-quarter of Australia’s GDP comes from unearned income, not the 2% that neoclassical economists claim.

This means that ten times greater revenue could be raised through taxing unearned income from monopolies than previously thought. It also means that nearly half of Australia’s government revenues could be raised through channeling revenues from the real estate boom to more productive purposes. In the process, income, company and sales taxes – along with 122 other current taxes – could be eliminated.

Report author Karl Fitzgerald, “the Renegade Economist,” describes the implications of the findings of the report:

“Unearned incomes equate to 23.6% of GDP and could be taxed without pushing up pricing structures. Most economists dismiss economic rents at just 2% of GDP. This report finds the free lunch driving the wealth gap is ten times greater than mainstream economists acknowledge.

“Prices could fall by some 20% by reducing the number of taxes from 126 to 24” stated Fitzgerald. “The compliance and deadweight losses are a huge cost that fall disproportionately on small business.” This reform offers a more efficient and equitable economic system, valuing productive over speculative activities.

Australia taxes productive work while averting its eyes from the incredible windfall gains handed to those who own monopoly rights. Victorian abalone licenses were sold outright for just $6 in the late 1960′s. Each license can now be leased out yearly for a reported $100,000. This unearned income can be taxed without affecting productive outcomes.

The largest component of monopoly rents is land. Land rents rose by some $154 billion, amounting to 14.2% of GDP in 2011-12. If desired, the inevitable property bubble could be channelled into funding over half of all Australian government revenue. Less debt and more flexibility are worthy objectives for government and citizens alike.

The Federal government is enticing state governments to sell off public assets with a share of company tax. The majority of recent Public Private Partnerships have been unabashed economic failures, delivering few if any profits. ‘Value capture’ is a more effective model for financing infrastructure. Land values rise in areas where the public finances a new train station. By capturing one third of this uplift, all the infrastructure needed could be financed.”

Here’s a brief overview of the different types of monopoly rents that could be taxed, along with calculations of the amount of revenues that could be raised. The categories include land, oil and gas, water rights, airports, forests, satellite orbit rights, patents, among many other sources of unearned income.

How many empty homes this year?


Thurs Oct 31st, 6.30pm
Presenter: Philip Soos

2/22 Punch Lane, CBD

Download the report from our Prosper website.

Its time for the 6th annual Speculative Vacancies report. Yes that time where we ask – what could thousands of empty homes do for affordable housing?

The tragedy is – few understand how supply and demand work any more. Do a vox pops of your friends to see what say 20,000 new homes would do for rents, prices. People are so conditioned to the mantra that ‘property always goes up in value’ that a correct answer often eludes.

Invite your friends as Philip Soos is set to release our most comprehensive report, with over 94% of Melbourne’s residential property surveyed for a full 12 months.

The findings are of immense interest to anyone concerned about the housing. At current growth rates, investors will soon dominate first home owners in the housing market at a ratio of 3 to 1. How does that affect the number of vacancies? What have flat market conditions for the last year meant for the number of vacant homes?

Come and hear the findings to the world leading report – a report whose methodology is of increasing interest to public institutions around the world.

The policy recommendations are crucial for those wanting to buy a house.

See previous Speculative Vacancy reports.

RSVP to assist with our event planning

Co-authored by Paul Egan.

Opportunity and Equity