International Union of LVT Conference – London July 2006

The theme of the International Union Conference was The Economics of Abundance – the point being critical that the wealth is there in economies, it’s just that it is terribly distributed by taxation regimes devised and maintained by a small but powerful band of rentiers.

The conference was divided into 3 days, each displaying its own facet:-

  1. The Economy of Abundance (There is plenty there!)
  2. The Transitional Arrangements (Who will be affected and how)
  3. Getting the Measure of Abundance (Facts and figures proving our case)

After an introduction by IU General Secretary, Peter Gibb, Fred Harrison opened the conference with the Terms for the New Society: Our economics is not working. New directions are now unavoidable in terms both of social processes and institutions. We need to re-write the specifications of a new science and quantify the benefits of a better sharing of our treasure trove of natural and common resources.

Fred was followed by the conference’s first keynote speaker, Dr Rana Roy, a former senior policy advisor in Paul Keating’s Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, but now an advisor to the European Conference of Ministers of Transport and the British Government. He spoke to The Economy of Abundance, outlining the technical case in favour of funding infrastructure from the capture of land value betterment.

US Economist Professor Michael Hudson launched keynote paper 2, Technology, Rent and Real Estate, a hard-hitting expose of the status quo – along the lines of his recent Harper’s Magazine article in the US: things have got out of hand: the piper must now be paid for the economic abuses wrought by rampant rentiers.

In the afternoon of day one, we were regaled with barrister Leslie Blake’s dissertation Beyond Utopia. This was followed by Alan Spence’s foray into Marx and the Dialectics of Urban Rent which told us that Marx had the right idea on rent, but it was not followed through by adherents. Alan also discussed some indebtedness to Henry George of Ebenezer Howard’s concept of garden cities surrounded by broadacres, as exemplified by Letchworth, north of London.

Day Two dawned as meteorologically hot and unusually sticky as had been London’s previous week. London Transport’s Dave Wetzel provided a review of Day One and introduced Australian director of Economic Indicator Services, Phil Anderson, to provide his view of how The Capital Markets will perform during the transition to Georgism. Phil showed authoritatively, by providing compelling examples, how the markets would factor the changes in earlier than many of us would expect, some public companies being affected more than others by the transitional arrangements – depending upon the extent to which they had been rent-dependent.

Dr Francis Smith, recently awarded an MBE, gave his exposition on how we may accommodate asset rich but income poor pensioners during the transition in his Pensioners’ Equity Plan, followed by a captivating summation provided by emeritus professor of Epidemiology, Dr George Miller, in his Costing a Nuclear Future.

James Robertson who had been on the staff of Prime Minister Harold Macmillan gave a lively view of the transition in Political Economy, Common Resources and a New Global System, followed by US Professor of Economics, Nic Tideman, who rounded off day 2 with his exposition on Land Value Taxation and Eminent Domain.

Day 3 found Canadian professor of law and philosopher Dr Frank Peddle chairing proceedings. He introduced the director of the LVRG, Bryan Kavanagh, who suggested in The Riches of Oz that had Australian captured half its economic rent since 1972, its GDP would have been $2200 billion in 2004 instead of a mere $830 billion. Despite this greater economic growth, it would have been quite sustainable and less destructive of the environment than we have experienced over the last 30 years, because of the increased charges placed on the holding of natural resources which would tend to protect and preserve them.

PhD student Jon Mendel spoke of how The Riches of Iraq had been hijacked away from the Iraqis, despite being otherwise promised by the US in the early stages of the invasion again Saddam Hussein.

In The Riches of Russia Russia, Dr Tatiana Roskoshnaya described how the ownership of Russian resources was far from the Georgist millennium following communism’s collapse due to the carpet-bagging privatisation that has ensued. Male life expectancy had declined to 58 years only. This spoke volumes about something being radically amiss.

Michael Hudson and Spanish lawyer and advisor to the Argentinean government, Fernando Scornik Gerstein, used their detailed knowledge of the current economic and political position in China to speak jointly on China: Capitalism without Private Property in Land. Fernando thoughts that a capital gains tax on real estate transactions may best suit China’s particular situation created controversy.

Ronald Banks proposed The People’s Budget 2009 as a tribute to the People’s Georgist Budget of 1909, and Peter Gibb, editor of ‘Land and Liberty’ Secretary of the UK Henry George Foundation offered a prayerful summary of how we should plan our attack in The Agenda for the 21st Century.

Conversations with panel speakers from each morning and afternoon session provided opportunity for cross-fertilisation of ideas, agreement, and a little disagreement. Attendees for the first two days numbered about 100. There may have been 70 on day three.

The conference was captured by two cameras by a team of professionals who propose to distribute the film commercially. The success or otherwise of this venture to get details out to the wider public will perhaps determine the conference’s ultimate success.

A Friday night banquet to celebrate the conference consisted of a sociable boat tour on the Thames from near the Hungerford footbridge past the Canary Wharf development on London’s Jubilee line extension – the subject of Fred Harrison’s ‘Wheels of Fortune’ – and to Greenwich and back. As the late evening sun disappeared, the Thames took on an engaging new life.

– Bryan Kavanagh