John McAfee Found Dead

Anti-virus entrepreneur John McAfee, a candidate for the Libertarian Party’s presidential nomination in 2016 and 2020 was found dead today in a Barcelona prison cell, Reuters reports.

The death comes after a Spanish court decided McAfee could be extradited to the US for tax evasion charges. Catalan officials claim the death was likely suicide.

He was 75 years old.

62 thoughts on “John McAfee Found Dead

  1. SocraticGadfly

    And, it surely was a suicide, contra an Epstein-referring tweet by McAfee nine months ago. He was a plutocratic tax-dodger, who spouted the line used by many other L/libertarians that “taxation is theft,” and his “deep state” was the IRS.

  2. SocraticGadfly

    I know WordPress commenting can act up, but my comment here still isn’t showing up on the comments list, and one I made on the LNC resignation doesn’t appear to have shown up and that was days ago.

    So, posting again:

    And, it surely was a suicide, contra an Epstein-referring tweet by McAfee nine months ago. He was a plutocratic tax-dodger, who spouted the line used by many other L/libertarians that “taxation is theft,” and his “deep state” was the IRS.

  3. SocraticGadfly

    And, now it does show up.

    And, Thomas Knapp calling an agent of the government doing their duty a “thug,” speaking of Libertarians, illustrates the problem to a T.

    The reality, of course, is that the rich are audited far less than poor shlubs.

    In a REALLY just world, every L/libertarian spouting “taxation is theft” bullshit would be found dead after being robbed by a poor person. #fify

  4. Tony From Long Island

    While, I am no happy at the passing of anyone – taxation is NOT theft.

  5. Thomas L Knapp

    “Thomas Knapp calling an agent of the government doing their duty a ‘thug’

    The gas chamber operators at Auschwitz were just agents of the government doing their jobs.

    The state is what it is.

  6. Root's Teeth Are Awesome

    SocraticGadfly: The reality, of course, is that the rich are audited far less than poor shlubs.

    You sure about that?

    A tax attorney told me the IRS audits people from every income bracket. This is because the IRS wants it to be widely known that ANYONE can be hit with an audit.

    So the IRS targets rich and poor, early and late filers, businesses and wager earners. EVERYONE is a potential target. There is no magic formula to escape an audit.

    The IRS also loathes going to tax court unless they’re sure they can win. The IRS strives for a reputation of seeing all, knowing all, and taking down anyone who lies on their tax returns. The IRS relies on instilling fear.

  7. wolfefan

    I’m sorry to learn of Mr. McAfee’s passing and my condolences are with all who loved him. I don’t doubt he committed suicide. His suggestion that he might be killed in order to keep him quiet is more of his self-aggrandizing. It’s hard to conceive of a guy who was less likely to keep secrets about his enemies than Mr. McAfee.

  8. dL

    He was a plutocratic tax-dodger, who spouted the line used by many other L/libertarians that “taxation is theft,” and his “deep state” was the IRS.

    Yeah, well proggies who whine and complain about the fundamental and systemic injustice of the US government and its war crimes who then cheerlead said government chasing down alleged crypto tax dodging halfway across the planet. Cindy Sheehan had it right. You don’t.

  9. dL

    While, I am no happy at the passing of anyone – taxation is NOT theft.

    No, Taxation is I’d rather commit suicide than face US extradition for tax crimes. Some government you have there, brutha

  10. dL

    n a REALLY just world, every L/libertarian spouting “taxation is theft” bullshit would be found dead after being robbed by a poor person. #fify

    in a just world, those who gladly pay their taxes would go on trial at The Hague for their willing complicity with the war crimes of this government

  11. SocraticGadfly

    Knapp did it again, and trivialized the Holocaust at the same time.

    Go fuck yourself.

  12. SocraticGadfly

    DL, your replies to me? Your failed analogies are like apples and bocce balls. No further time will be wasted.

  13. dL

    On individual incomes? Contra many media sites, while the IRS claims it audits the rich more, Pro Publica begs to differ, specifically on one single tax issue:

    And yet we note that staunch defender of the IRS(ie, terror of the working man), Socratic Gadfly[sic].

  14. dL

    DL, your replies to me? Your failed analogies are like apples and bocce balls. No further time will be wasted.

    I’m not making any analogies. I’m flat out calling you a cheerleader for the terror of the working man.

  15. Thomas L Knapp

    My impression is that in recent years it’s finally become possible to overplay the “anyone who disagrees with me and in doing so references the Holocaust is ‘trivializing’ it and/or anti-semitic” card.

    Either it’s OK to extort wealth from people and abduct and possibly murder those who demur, or it isn’t. While I have firm conclusions on the question, it’s at least a question. But it’s a fact, not a question, that taxation IS extorting wealth from people and abducting or threatening to abduct and possibly murder them if they demur. You don’t have to find the fact that it’s a fact convenience. It’s a fact whether you find it convenient or not.

  16. SocraticGadfly

    DL flat-out admitting he’s a nutbar, knows nothing about my politics (you don’t and haven’t tried to learn), and is a cheerleader for being a nutbar.

    Join Knapp and go fuck yourself.

  17. SocraticGadfly

    Knapp, once again trying to present bizarro opinions with no legal or empirical basis as fact.

    Feel free to accept my “invitation” a second time.

  18. Jared

    I agree the tax system is inequitable. The rich increase their wealth through capital gains, the uber-rich through rent-seeking. If you claim to champion the working class, then support the abolishment of taxes on labor—income and payroll taxes. Eliminating capital gains taxes also will encourage productive investment, which creates jobs. Taxing land values instead will strongly discourage land speculation and lead to more affordable housing while stimulating job growth. In theory, Libertarians and Greens should both be able to get behind this kind of tax shift. It’s progressive, nearly impossible to evade, non-confiscatory and non-distortionary as well as non-partisan, cannot be passed on to home renters or buyers, and respects individuals’ rights to the full fruit of their labor.

  19. Thomas L Knapp

    “reported by Pro Publica, that let Musk pay ZERO taxes”

    If you think Musk paid ZERO taxes, that thing you’re doing that you think is thinking isn’t.

    Musk may have paid zero INCOME taxes, because he had zero income as defined by the tax code, but he paid sales taxes on everything he bought, property taxes on everything in that category he owned, capital gains taxes, where applicable, on securities he sold, and, indirectly, corporate income taxes on the businesses those securities represented in interest in. I would be surprised if, by total dollar value, he was not in the top 1% of US taxpayers last year. Unless you’re fabulously wealthy, he probably paid the government far more than you did — and got more for his money than you did, too.

  20. Austin Cassidy

    Elon Musk and other extremely wealthy multibillionaires certainly do pay taxes, but they are also extraordinarily skilled at avoiding taxes. They can often do things that regular people simply don’t have access to in any reasonable way.

    For example, Elon Musk rarely pays capital gains or income taxes. He doesn’t pay himself a salary, his net worth is derived almost entirely from his ownership stake in Tesla. He uses the shares as collateral to take out large loans and lines of credit at very low interest rates, then uses those funds (hundreds of millions) to fund his personal expenses and lifestyle. And he can deduct the interest expenses to cut down on any taxes he might’ve actually had to pay.

    Sadly, if you’re rich enough, there’s almost no excuse to pay taxes at this point.

    So I do think there’s a real case for a needed overhaul of the tax code to eliminate loopholes and sort of level the playing field. Unfortunately, that’ll never happen in a wholesale way because for the extraordinarily rich it’s a trivial expense to “buy” the services of the very best politicians and accountants.

  21. dL

    flat-out admitting he’s a nutbar, knows nothing about my politics

    eh, I know your politics is apparently not strong enough to compel you to move out from that zero income tax state you’re living in

  22. dL

    Elon Musk and other extremely wealthy multibillionaires

    Just to point out, McAfee was no longer wealthy. He was at one time, but his net worth had considerably dwindled by the 2010s after the real estate collapse. The fact that he was hanging around the LP in 2016 was a good indication he no longer had real bank. People with actual bank do not hang out with the LP. And it’s not entirely clear he wasn’t fleeing the SEC more so than the IRS.

  23. Be Rational

    Rest in Peace, John McAfee.

    It’s sad it had to end this way, and unlikely that you are actually “at peace” – just dead. It’s too bad that the IRS thugs hounded you to prison and death. It’s too bad that a man of your intellect let it happen – you had enough prestige and money to avoid such an outcome.

    Yes, absolutely, Taxation is Theft. Some may deem that some form of taxation is necessary to fund the government that they desire, but it is still theft. The most damaging taxes are those that cannot be easily and legally avoided by those who desire to live without supporting the state. The worst of all is the tax on land – this tax is evil beyond any other since it violates the rights of every human being and cannot be avoided even by the homeless who pay it indirectly.

    We must always stand for the elimination of all taxes in all forms of income and property. (Especially land – those who support land taxes in any way are more evil than the IRS or any of its thugs.

    But, dying in a prison in Spain is not the best way to fight the evils of taxation. It is better to protest, fight, complain, pay as little as possible … and still live a good life.

  24. Austin Cassidy

    dL – Yep, I was referring to Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffett, etc.

    McAfee was a whole different deal. I was never really a fan, but he was certainly a colorful character. He seemed to engage in a lot of the same crypto market manipulation and tax avoidance that Elon Musk does, but McAfee lacked the resources, self-control and tact to pull it off “legally” and suffered the consequences.

  25. Jared

    “The worst of all is the tax on land – this tax is evil beyond any other since it violates the rights of every human being and cannot be avoided even by the homeless who pay it indirectly.”

    Can’t tell if trolling or just radically ignorant.

  26. Thomas L Knapp

    I’m not sure taxes on land are the worst taxes, but they certainly have their problems.

    In this discussion at least, though, I’m prepared to defer to your expertise in radical ignorance.

  27. Be Rational

    When land is tax free, then any human being who chooses to do so can live tax free, on their own land.

    When land is taxed, no human being can live tax free – even the beggar’s hand-outs will have been taxed, which, in the end, will reduce the quantity and quality of the hand-outs.

    Other than the possibility of a literal gun to the head, pay-or-die tax, every other tax can be legally avoided.

    This makes the tax on land the worst of all possible taxes.

    (Not to forget that the tax on land is a major cause of pollution, climate change, unemployment, poverty, homelessness, misallocation of resources, and the completely wrong development of infrastructure. These problems are driven by property taxes and especially, land taxes.)

  28. Jared

    BR: “When land is tax free, then any human being who chooses to do so can live tax free, on their own land.”

    A land value tax is not a tax on merely having land. “Free Land, Free Trade, Free People” was a popular single-taxer campaign slogan. It kicks in when the land accrues economic rent, unearned income collected by the landowner at sale. Landowners already pay this tax to previous landowners. LVT lowers the price of real estate for people who want to build a home or a business while pulling the rug out from under people who want to make money, not by labor or by investing capital in production, but by speculating on natural resources. The moral behind LVT is that each person is owed an equal share of the earth’s value, satisfying the Lockean proviso. Equal rights to access land demand that we either abolish legal land titles, as in mutualism, or pay subscription fees for them based on the value the market assigns them, as in geolibertarianism.

    “When land is taxed, no human being can live tax free — even the beggar’s hand-outs will have been taxed, which, in the end, will reduce the quantity and quality of the handouts.”

    I don’t know what this means. LVT is in effect a progressive tax. Entirely unlike our current tax situation, the landless poor would pay nothing directly or indirectly. Land value taxation isn’t for the occupation and use of land. It’s a subscription fee for the legal privilege to exclude others from an equally valuable share of the commons. Geolibertarians don’t believe in government “handouts” beyond what people are entitled to by natural right.

    “Other than the possibility of a literal gun to the head, pay-or-die tax, every other tax can be legally avoided. This makes the tax on land the worst of all possible taxes.”

    Avoidability and evadability are negative characteristics of a tax. Setting the matter of justness aside, tax evasion and avoidance means less reliable, less predictable public revenue for budgetary purposes, and the people best situated to avoid tax liability are the ones who are wealthy enough to have their own private tax accountants able to sift through our monstrosity of a tax code and spot loopholes. Most of us are not in such a position. Returning to questions of justice, if the tax constitutes just restitution, then evasion is unjust and avoidance is unethical. An ad valorem tax to capture the economic rent from land is impossible or nearly impossible to dodge, and that’s a good thing. You make think it makes LVT “the worst of all possible taxes,” but economists such as Adam Smith and Milton Friedman stated precisely the opposite.

    “(Not to forget that the tax on land is a major cause of pollution, climate change, unemployment, poverty, homelessness, misallocation of resources, and completely wrong development of infrastructure. These problems are driven by property taxes and especially, land taxes.)”

    It’s like you really read Georgist literature and just decided to claim the exact opposite of whatever it said. I’m sure I’m wasting my time, but (1) LVT discourages over-consumption of natural resources. You take only as much as you need because hoarding land no longer pays off. Less waste. And most geolibertarians you’ll find believe in Pigouvian pollution fines for devaluing the commons along with torts for private property damage. Less pollution. (2) By encouraging vertical and discouraging horizontal development, LVT reduces urban sprawl and consequently gasoline consumption. Less carbon emission. Less global warming. (I would also pair it with zoning deregulation.) (3) First, I’m not a Keynesian, so I don’t have a full employment fetish, but I believe people should be able to work for themselves if they want to. More affordable land (not to mention the accompanying dividend) certainly facilitates that, which would raise wages and boost employment. More employment, not less. (4) Real estate speculation causes poverty and causes real estate market collapses (especially when fueled by cheap credit), which cause poverty. Taxation of productive and healthy economic behavior—labor, trade, investment, and savings—causes poverty. Government strangling small businesses with red tape and burying them in compliance costs for onerous regulations written by mega-corporate lobbyists causes poverty. Taxing unearned income derived from the monopolization of a resource nobody produced through labor and everyone needs to survive and create wealth does not create poverty. (5) LVT makes real estate more affordable by taking the site value out of the price so that what’s being sold are the structures on and improvements to the land and not the location, location, location. A much lower barrier of entry into the housing market means a lot less homelessness, and people also wouldn’t be forced to take out massive mortgages from big banks with hundreds of thousands of dollars in interest over the course of 30 years. (6) It frees up land because speculators have to make the choice either to get serious about development so the payments are worth it or else give up the land to someone else prepared to put it to good use. Better allocation of resources. (7) You’ll have to clarify what you mean by “wrong development of infrastructure” because I have no idea where you’re coming from or going with that. (9) In Geolibertopia, a modern skyscraper and an adjacent vacant lot of equal size receive the same tax bill. Here in America, the skyscraper gets slammed with property taxes, while the vacant lot is spared. Under a private property tax system, the lot owner is incentivized not to do anything productive with the land. Under LVT, the opposite is true. Property taxes and the land value tax might be similar in the way they’re administered, but that’s about it.

    Take care.

  29. Be Rational

    A tax on land is a tax on land. Period. Don’t be so stupid.
    A tax on land means the landowner isn’t free.
    The landowner cannot live on his land tax free.
    The landowner must have some money to pay the tax.
    To pay the tax, the landowner must either have existing wealth, income or sell part of the land.
    Taxing the land is a violation of the liberty of the landowner and is impossible to escape, every other tax can be legally avoided.

    The rest of your commentary is nonsense, based on faulty premises.
    All the claims of benefits made by the Georgist land-fascist cultists has been proven false.

    The Earth isn’t a flat surface.

  30. Be Rational

    Every quality and benefit the neo-fascist, earth-nazi, georgist scum claim as a result of their evil scheme is a fallacy and a lie.

    Start with fairness.
    Libertarians are individualists. We therefore see fairness one person at a time.

    So, let’s take a peaceful couple that owns a decent sized piece of land. They live there and have one child. They grow all of their own food, make their own clothes, home-school their child, their home was built by ancestors by hand and passed down, they derive no benefits from the government – they are pacifists and oppose the interventionist government war machine. Their child will marry someday and inherit the land – tax free if we lived in a free society.

    The geo-earth-nazi cult claims their land is worth $10,000,000 and should be taxed on that value. It’s close to a large city. It should be put to a higher valued use. But is it the highest valued use? Offer the couple $10,000,000 for the land and they refuse to sell. Offer them $20,000,000 and they refuse to sell. Since the geo-fascists think the land has higher valued use of $10,000,000 but not $20,000,000 and since the current owners won’t sell even at a higher price and since no one will offer more, we know that the land IS being used for it’s highest valued use.

    So, the fascist-georgist cult decides to tax them on this imputed value, even though the family has no other assets, no income and no way to pay the tax except by selling some or all of the land. Even if they wait to steal the family’s land until the death of the parents, the evil fascist georgists will steal the land at that time and claim years of back taxes.

    How is that fair to these peaceful individuals?
    It’s not.

    But that is what these evil, fascist, earth-nazi followers of Henry George will do to every individual, because they do not believe in any of the basic tenets of liberty or individualism. They are NOT libertarians.

    As libertarians we believe that this peaceful family should be able to own their land and live there and pass the land down generation to generation. It’s their land. It’s their right. It’s totally unfair to steal their land for the benefit of the state.

    The evil, fascist, geo-earth nazis are fascists because they believe in collectivism and have a collective view of fairness – the individual be damned.

    They don’t care what they do to any individual. They put the state first. Their lies about fairness and other benefits are used as cover for the fact that they are evil fascists and their tax is the worst, most damaging and most unfair of all possible forms of taxation.

    Every claim made by these scum can be – and has been – totally debunked.
    Georgists are evil.
    They are a brainwashed cult.
    They are not libertarians.
    They do not belong in the LP.

  31. Thomas L Knapp

    “So, let’s take a peaceful couple that owns a decent sized piece of land.”

    That they do, or even CAN, “own the land” is a premise that bears questioning.

    I’m not especially sold on the Georgist answer to that question (nor, especially on the system the Georgists try to build on top of that answer), but everything that follows is contingent on some answer being correct. And I have yet to see any particularly convincing challenges to the Georgist answer.

  32. dL

    So, let’s take a peaceful couple that owns a decent sized piece of land. They live there and have one child. They grow all of their own food, make their own clothes, home-school their child, their home was built by ancestors by hand and passed down, they derive no benefits from the government – they are pacifists and oppose the interventionist government war machine. Their child will marry someday and inherit the land – tax free if we lived in a free society.

    The geo-earth-nazi cult claims their land is worth $10,000,000

    I’m not sure how this discussion veered into Georgism, but farm land has an average value of 3000 per acre. A decent size plot of land in the middle of nowhere is going to have a very modest assessed value. If it’s truly out in the middle of nowhere(i.e, no roads), then its assessed value will approach zero. The 10,000,000 figure would apply to a heavily populated urban plot of land. In an urban setting, all the arguments about “self-sufficiency” go out the window. Of course, Georgism originates from the land question in an urban setting, not a rural one. It also bears pointing out that most, if not all, the classical economists(Smith, Ricardo, Say et al) advocated ground rents. And libertarianism proper itself originates from the French physiocrat free traders who held the single tax as a core principle. If you want to pin the historical roots of libertarianism to a nazi cult, well it would appear SocraticGodfly has found a fellow traveler.

  33. theButterfly

    @Be Rational

    You make some decent arguments as to what makes property taxes so evil. To me it’s pretty simple: no one can own their property if they’re forced to pay rent to someone else. Property taxes are definitely the worst form of taxation that tyrants have devised so far, with the graduated income tax and the Federal Reserve tax filling out the bottom three.

    A land value tax that is based on the land’s intrinsic value and ignores any development might, in many ways, be even worse. Everyone would be forced to either develop their land as much as possible or not have any property. There would be no room in such a world for someone who just wanted to live a relatively simple life on a tract of land in the country.

    @Jared

    It’s rather strange how you keep using the word “libertarian.” If no one has the right to property, then what rights could they possibly have?

    And your claim that “the landless poor would pay nothing directly or indirectly” is absurd on its face. If someone owns an apartment building, then they’re forced to pass on all expenses, including taxes, to their tenants in the form of how much rent they charge; otherwise, they couldn’t make ends meet. If someone owns a store, then they’re forced to pass on that expense to their customers in the form of higher prices. Everyone pays when we allow parasites to drain wealth from productive people, and the poorest among us will always be the ones harmed the most.

  34. Thomas L Knapp

    “A land value tax that is based on the land’s intrinsic value and ignores any development might, in many ways, be even worse. Everyone would be forced to either develop their land as much as possible or not have any property. There would be no room in such a world for someone who just wanted to live a relatively simple life on a tract of land in the country.”

    I don’t support taxes of any kind, but if there’s going to be a land tax, it should be a land tax, not a land “value” tax — an acre is an acre is an acre is an acre.

    Set a low rate that almost anyone can afford. If you buy an acre and park a mobile home on it (to live in or to rent out), the tax is the same as if you buy an acre and plant corn on it, or buy an acre and mine gold on it, or buy an acre and build a replica of the Empire State Building on it.

    In other words, tax the taking of land out of other people’s use, rather than taxing the particular use that land is or (in a subjective assessor’s opinion) could be put to.

  35. Jared

    tB: “It’s rather strange how you keep using the word ‘libertarian.’ If no one has the right to property, then what rights could they possibly have?”

    Everyone does have a right to property and an equal right to natural resources, not to the fruit of anyone else’s labor. That’s the point. If all land is privately owned without compensation to those who have less than their equal share of its value, as ancaps would like to see, then the landless live and work only by permission of the landed. I don’t see how anyone can call that arrangement “libertarian.” See the Lockean proviso.

    “Everyone pays when we allow parasites to drain wealth from productive people, and the poorest among us will always be the ones harmed the most.”

    Geolibertarians are opposed to taxing production and development. That’s what property taxes currently do. Here is an FAQ that answers your question:

    ‘Why can’t LVT be passed on by the landowner to the tenant like every other tax?

    LVT is the only tax that cannot be passed on. There are five main reasons:

    The landowner is already charging as much as he can get.
    A zero land tax rate on marginal sites prevents landlords attempting to pass it on. Cheaper sites are always available.
    Competing unused and underused land will reduce the price of all land making it easier for tenants to re-locate to cheaper, less valuable sites.

    A tax on land value does not reduce the supply of land or make land more difficult to hire. On the contrary, because it puts a heavy penalty on holding land out of use it increases the supply of land and reduce demands for increased rents.
    Price is determined by competition, not the value of the site on which a product is made or sold. Merchants on prime sites paying top rents do not charge higher prices for goods than their competitors do because they pay higher ground rents. A kilo of sugar sells for the same price in Harrods as it does in a corner shop in Nether Wapping. If Harrods tries to increase the price, customers will simply buy elsewhere.
    In addition, landlords are very sensitive to the market. They know exactly what a tenant can afford to pay. The last thing a landlord wants is for a tenant to go out of business or vacate to another site. The zero rated marginal site will ensure that the tax is not passed on.’

    http://www.c4ej.com/resources/a-simple-guide-to-land-value-tax

  36. Thomas L Knapp

    “If no one has the right to property, then what rights could they possibly have?”

    Who said no one has the right to property?

    The question is whether land can BE property.

    How does one come to own property in land?

    Locke says that one can come to own it by homesteading — “mixing his labor” with — it. Presumably one who homesteaded a previously unowned piece of land could then sell it, and any buyer at the end of a chain that began with proper homesteading would rightfully own it.

    Except Locke also says “at least where there is enough, and as good, left in common for others.”

    That would seem to not be the case in the United States. There’s lots of land, but most of the “as good” land already has someone holding title to it. The federal government claims to “own” 27.4% of all land in the United States, although it doesn’t seem to have either mixed its labor with that land or bought that land from someone who did.The several state governments also claim to “own” various percentages of land under the same circumstances. They just declared they owned it (often after driving previous inhabitants who had mixed their labor with it off of it). For example, state governments claim to “own” 28.98% of Alaska, 13.71% of Florida, 36.71% of New York, etc.

    I rent the land I live on. The guy who “owns” it presumably bought it at the end of a long chain that began … well, who knows where it began? The Alachua people used to live on it. Then the Spaniards drove them off or killed them. The parcel I live on is part of the Arredondo Grant, under which the king of Spain “gave” some land to a nobleman who was supposed to bring 300 families over and “settle” it. But then Spain ended up handing Florida over to the US government, which presumably also handed out supposed “homestead” grants to property that had clearly been stolen by the Spaniards before being handed off to the Americans.

    If there’s going to be a state (I oppose having one), and if that state is going to be financed through taxation (I oppose that too), the Georgist “single tax” — treating “the commons,” represented by the state, as the “owner” of a scarce resource that no known individual created and had a valid claim to ownership of, and financing state operations by collecting rent on it seems to make a certain amount of sense. Not my preferred way of doing things, but probably fairer than the current system. My main problem with it (apart from there being a state and it collecting taxes) is the idea of the state getting to decide what the value of the land is and charge different rates for different parcels of the same size.

  37. Jared

    TK: “I don’t support taxes of any kind, but if there’s going to be a land tax, it should be a land tax, not a land ‘value’ tax — an acre is an acre is an acre is an acre.”

    I do appreciate concerns about corruption when it comes to land value assessments, although I think they can be adequately addressed, such as through publicly available GIS mapping, independent audits, and appeals process. But an acre in Manhattan is not an acre in the Sonoran desert is not an acre of Pennsylvania farmland. Economic rent is the result of demand for sites inelastic in supply, and I don’t think the land market is necessarily more subjective than a market for capital goods or, perhaps as a more relevant comparison, collector’s items. Self-assessment proposals have also been suggested, the application of LVT determined on that basis.

    What seems to be lost in this discussion is that the tax is already being paid, albeit to private landowners. The Georgist model would see real estate prices fall because homebuyers pay the previous homeowner only for the products of labor, structures and other improvements, not for the land itself. That’s what the tax is for.

    Most people (lower and middle classes) would come out on top through a public benefits and a sizable dividend that would only increase in value as government expenditures shrink. So, it has a built-in incentive for the community to keep government growth and spending to a minimum. Even with efficient government, the tax is self-financing because spending on public goods effectively raises ground rents in the jurisdiction. Wealthy speculators no longer freely benefit from spent tax dollars on projects that increase the values of their real estate holdings, which tackles a major source of corruption in municipal governments.

  38. Thomas L Knapp

    You’re contradicting yourself.

    If an acre in the Sonoran desert is not an acre in Manhattan, and the latter is worth more, what makes you think that a buyer in Manhattan wouldn’t pay a premium to a seller for the land/location itself, not just the improvements.

    For the record, I’d personally be willing to pay more for an acre in the Sonoran desert than for an acre in Manhattan.

    If the tax is low and uniform by acre — low enough that it doesn’t significantly negatively impact someone who, say, farms potatoes on that acre, or amount to a high mortgage payment on someone who just builds a cabin on that acre and lives there — it just might be one of those halfway solutions that I wouldn’t be terribly unhappy with. Wouldn’t like it. But probably wouldn’t hate it as much as the government deciding how much the land I use is “worth” and taxing me differently on my acre in the Sonora than it taxes someone on their acre in Manhattan. Or as much as income or sales taxes.

    If the tax puts the government in charge of deciding who gets taxed how much by assessing different values to different acres, well, fuck that noise.

  39. Jared

    “If an acre in the Sonoran desert is not an acre in Manhattan, and the latter is worth more, what makes you think that a buyer in Manhattan wouldn’t pay a premium to a seller for the land/location itself, not just the improvements.”

    The value of a site is determined not just by market demand for nutrient-rich soil or proximity to water. It’s determined by amenities such as access to public utilities and proximity to main roads, etc.—general desirability for living and working. An acre in Manhattan, even accounting for the value of improvements to the land itself, costs a literal fortune because of what the community offers. For that reason, a parcel of urban land is far more valuable than a parcel of rural land that’s the same size. Local governments already assess the value of land when they appraise real estate for property tax purposes, but they include the value of the structures, so nothing “new” per se is being introduced. The taxing of improvements, which is where the bulk of the revenue comes from now, would be reduced to 0%, while the taxing of the land, ignoring improvements, would be increased to near full rental value.

    “For the record, I’d personally be willing to pay more for an acre in the Sonoran desert than for an acre in Manhattan.”

    That’s great because market demand swings the other way, and the supply of desert land is much greater than the supply of metropolitan land in the center of New York City. Most business people aren’t interested in setting up shop in an area with few potential employees and few roads to take them to work. Some are. Most people aren’t interested in living out in a hot wilderness. Some are. One buyer doesn’t dictate market values except in the case of a monopsony. If you really were to own a nice size estate out in the middle of nowhere, your economic rent would be next to nothing, and you’d still receive a dividend share to compenaate you for being excluded from far more valuable land that you have a natural right to access. Combine this with the fact that geolibertarians want to eliminate all taxes on labor, capital investment, development, savings, and trade, and you’d be living entirely tax-free somewhere in Arizona.

  40. Thomas L Knapp

    Given the choice between living “tax-free” in Arizona and not having a central planning organ deciding how much any given parcel is “worth” for the purposes of extracting rent-as-tax on it, I’ll take the latter.

    Such a central planning organ isn’t assessing “market value.” Only the market can assess “market value.”

  41. dL

    If an acre in the Sonoran desert is not an acre in Manhattan, and the latter is worth more, what makes you think that a buyer in Manhattan wouldn’t pay a premium to a seller for the land/location itself, not just the improvements.

    For the record, I’d personally be willing to pay more for an acre in the Sonoran desert than for an acre in Manhattan.

    A bottle of water would be worth more in the Sonoran desert than in Manhattan. But a bottle of water is a bottle of water is a bottle of water. How can it be worth more where there is none versus where there is plenty?

    In other words, tax the taking of land out of other people’s use, rather than taxing the particular use that land is or (in a subjective assessor’s opinion) could be put to.

    Taking land out of other people’s use is the opportunity cost of its next best use. The opportunity cost of an acre in the Senora desert is different than the opportunity cost of an acre in Manhattan. Just like the opportunity cost of Tom Cruise mowing an acre of lawn is different than my acre of lawn mowing opportunity cost.

    Such a central planning organ isn’t assessing “market value.” Only the market can assess “market value.”

    Precisely. Assessed value is based on the appraised value, a market calculation derived by comparing recent sales of comparable properties in the vicinity. It’s done every day by professionals employed in that field on a massive scale. It is not an arbitrary barking of prices by an walrasian auctioneer.

  42. Thomas L Knapp

    “A bottle of water would be worth more in the Sonoran desert than in Manhattan. But a bottle of water is a bottle of water is a bottle of water. How can it be worth more where there is none versus where there is plenty?”

    Not relevant to the discussion at hand. Jared was simultaneously saying that the acre in Manhattan is worth more and therefore should be taxed more, and that a buyer in Manhattan wouldn’t end up pay more (for the land, not counting improvements).

    The value of an item is established when it is bought/sold, not when it is “assessed” or “appraised.”

  43. theButterfly

    @Jared

    It would appear that your ideas are not only both evil and self-contradictory, but they also violate the laws of basic mathematics. Any landlord who tries not to pass on their taxes and expenses to customers will just end up going bankrupt. It’s not possible to add an extra expense to someone’s business and not expect it to be passed on, in some form, to the people patronizing that business.

    “Fuck that noise.” -Thomas Knapp

    LOL. Yes, all that nonsense of assessors, and filing appeals, and your property still ends up assessed at an amount four times more than it could reasonably sell for is something we can do without.

    Knapp’s model is marginally less offensive. I can see how someone could get there from a sort of left-libertarian perspective, if you believe that land can’t actually be owned per se. But I’m sorry, I’m just not going to be okay with being a serf on my own land, forced to pay tribute to the powers that be. To me, liberty means that if I’m standing on my own land, I’m free.

  44. dL

    Jared was simultaneously saying that the acre in Manhattan is worth more and therefore should be taxed more, and that a buyer in Manhattan wouldn’t end up pay more (for the land, not counting improvements).

    Well an acre in Manhattan is worth more and would therefore be “taxed” more. However, given the inelasticity of land, the single value tax has no deadweight loss, meaning it does not distort the supply/demand curve. Hence, the buyer does not end up paying more.

    I think this is a case that you simply don’t like the word “tax.” Fair enough. But keep in mind, land is not the same as capital and labor. While a tax on capital and labor distorts supply/demand, the single value tax does not. While a tax on capital and labor can rightly be called theft, a single value tax can rightly be called the price one pays for the exclusive and private use of property. It also bears pointing out, the single value tax is meant to replace all other taxes as the source of government revenue. It’s not an add-on. As an add-on, it’s just another tax scheme. It also bears mentioning that Georgism is more a liberal concept than a libertarian one. The georgist conception of a government managing the public finances for the provision of public goods through the collection of opportunity cost payments from landowners taking property for their private use out of the commonwealth is liberal utopianism. That’s not what governments do. Government is organized plunder. That’s the libertarian view. A georgist regime is simply against the nature of how government operates. But the principle still stands.

  45. Thomas L Knapp

    I agree that Georgism is liberal utopianism, but it strikes me as a much better utopia than most. And the Georgist argument against property in land is one that I’ve yet to find a good counter-argument for.

    If they could just get over the idiotic notion of allowing the state to tax based on its assertions of land value, rather than on an objective criterion, I’d suspect they were onto something.

  46. dL

    I agree that Georgism is liberal utopianism, but it strikes me as a much better utopia than most.

    Utopianism simply refers to a regime for the benefit of everyone. Liberalism’s social contract theory is entirely a utopian construct. “Liberal utopianism” is in a sense a redundant expression. However, in practice, it’s not that way, and socialism follows land injustice like stink on shit.

    If they could just get over the idiotic notion of allowing the state to tax based on its assertions of land value, rather than on an objective criterion, I’d suspect they were onto something.

    it’s not based on a walrasian auctioneer asserting land values. Real estate transactions by and large depend on a third party appraised value before there is any buying and selling. Very few people pay straight up cash for real estate. Most of it is acquired through mortgage financing of some sort. The buyer’s bank is going to
    verify/validate the seller ask price with a third party real estate appraisal before the loan is closed. The automatic objection to Georgism because of 3rd party assessments belies the fact that such assessments are integral part of it now.

  47. Thomas L Knapp

    “The automatic objection to Georgism because of 3rd party assessments belies the fact that such assessments are integral part of it now.”

    Um, no. That’s also one of my main technical objections to the current system.

    While I would prefer no state and no taxation, so long as there is a state and that state finances itself through taxation, I want to minimize that state’s discretionary power with respect to that taxation. Sound familiar at all?

  48. dL

    I want to minimize that state’s discretionary power with respect to that taxation. Sound familiar at all?

    Yeah, de jasay. However, de jasay’s discretionary power as a maximand follows from 3rd party incentive incompatibility problems. However, in this instance I don’t see such a problem with respect to 3rd party estate appraisals. At least not an inevitable one. Georgist rent is essentially the opportunity cost of the property’s next best use. What you seem to be fixated on is the possibility of arbitrary rent collection divorced from the market. I suppose that’s possible. However, there is a bit of a “killing the goose that lays the golden egg” problem with respect to that, particularly as it would relate to over-assessment. If an evil mayor or city council were to start running an extortion scheme for the purpose of confiscation, they would be cutting their own throats. That would collapse the market value of the property. Who wants to buy property that is going to be extorted for confiscation? Actually, the more likely problem would be the other way, under-assessment. Real estate developers capture the city council and begin an under-assessment regime; they then levy other taxes(say a sales tax) to make up the difference. In any event, my contention is that georgism is a necessary condition for a classically liberal government, not a sufficient one. There are no sufficient conditions when it comes to liberty.

  49. Thomas L Knapp

    A flat tax on objective quantity of land preemptively solves problems of “over-” AND “under-“assessment. And even assuming well-done assessments as an alternative, it also solves the problems of tax expense/revenue predictability for both tenant and state.

    Arbitrary/capricious assessment and unpredictability aren’t the only problems with land taxation, or with taxation in general, of course, but they’re two important ones.

    So far as I can tell, insisting on a land “value” tax versus a land tax is insisting on a more powerful state for the purpose of insisting on a more powerful state. Personally, I always look for ways to have the least powerful state possible.

  50. Be Rational

    Total government spending in the US is now greater than $7 trillion per year.
    The total value of all privately owned land in the US is now estimated at $14 trillion.

    The tax on land would exceed 50% of the total value of the land.
    All land would be taxed by the fascist Georgist cult.
    Some land would be taxed annually at a rate that exceeds its total current value.
    The price of land would collapse.
    Land owners and property owners would abandon their holdings.
    Economic decision making would be impossible.
    The economy would collapse.
    The Georgist cabal that was able to somehow fool enough mentally incompetent voters into supporting them, allowing them to impose their evil system on the people, would be rounded up and executed by angry mobs.
    Have at it.

    Trying to fund the government through a land tax – even at low levels – would cause economic distortions greater than those seen under any government, including the most dysfunctional socialist regimes, at any time in modern history.

    Taxing land makes economic decision making about construction, transportation and infrastructure impossible. This results in a total distortion of the marketplace.

    Land MUST be privately owned – tax free – to eliminate this economic distortion.
    All natural resources must be privately owned – tax free – to eliminate the economic distortions that are ultimately the greatest threat to mankind’s survival.
    We need to privatize all land and all resources on Earth.
    Our biggest social problems – especially climate change, pollution and homelessness – are a result of land taxes, property taxes, and government funding, subsidization, and ownership of natural resources and infrastructure.

  51. Be Rational

    The greatest problem with the fascist-georgist cult is that they have no clue about economics. They blather on and on and nothing they say about economics is remotely correct.

    Land taxes cause the most distortion in economic decision making- absolutely. Fortunately, today’s land tax is a relatively low portion of total taxation, and yet the distortion to our infrastructure and development of cities, towns, transportation and all resource use has contributed massively to climate change, pollution, homelessness, malinvestment of every kind. It’s one of a myriad of government programs, taxes and policies that cause these distortions, but land taxes cause the most distortion per dollar collected.

    The greatest impact comes from local governments. Local governments are the most useless and unneeded and cause the most distortion.

    Since no well-known economist to date has understood this, the politicians have used their error, and the fascist-georgist land cult has amplified it.

    The fact is that no politician and no economist knows what infrastructure we should build. Every road, every city, every town, every highway – all of it has been built wrongly – all of our infrastructure spending has been and still is malinvested.

    Only the free market knows what infrastructure to build.
    Only a free market knows the value of natural resources,.
    Only a free market knows the value of land.

    It all must be privatized if humanity is to survive.

    As an example that logical people can understand, but a georgist cult nazi cannot:
    Taxing vacant land causes massive distortion in development. The owner needs time, sometimes decades, to wait for other wrongly developed, malinvested property to reach the end of the useful life of the long-term asset thereon. Then, the owner can combine the properties, rip out the malinvested roads and utilities (if he or she can wrest ownership away from the evil socialists) and finally build the correct structures and infrastructure – but if the owner is assessed land taxes while waiting, especially the outrageous geo-fascist land taxes, the owner cannot wait. The owner will continue the cycle of malinvestment that is destroying us all.

    Vacant land must remain tax free so it can be developed at its highest valued use.

  52. dL

    A flat tax on objective quantity of land preemptively solves problems of “over-” AND “under-“assessment.

    I don’t subscribe to any notion of objective value. If by “flat tax on an objective quantity of land” you mean an acre of land is “taxed” the same dollar amount everywhere, then that would almost certainly result in an over-assessment of rural land and an under-assessment of urban land. It also assumes a central authority with wide jurisdiction that would be setting this uniform “tax” amount on disparate terrains and populations.

    So far as I can tell, insisting on a land “value” tax versus a land tax is insisting on a more powerful state for the purpose of insisting on a more powerful state.

    I would digress a bit on the usage of the word “tax.” Generally, one thinks of a tax as a levy, a tribute, a toll on one’s productive labor or enterprise. But that is not what a Georgist “tax” is. One wishes economics had the nuance of the language to allow a distinction of terms here. “Tax” is not the right word. A flat tax? A flat tax on what? The least harmful tax? Well, if you define tax as a distortionary levy on productivity, there is no such thing as “a least harmful tax.” Georgism is simply economic rent derived from land is the sole source of public financing. In mainstream(i.e, textbook) economics, this principle is encapsulated by the Henry George Theorem. We can call this a ” single land value tax,” but the thing being “taxed” is actually the ground rent(i.e, the rental value of the land). In contrast, a “land tax,” or a property tax, taxes the full assessed value of the land, improvements and all. The latter is a distortionary levy on production. Governments that finance themselves via tributes on production are not the least powerful state possible.

  53. dL

    The greatest problem with the fascist-georgist cult is that they have no clue about economics. They blather on and on and nothing they say about economics is remotely correct.

    The only economically ignorant blather i’m seeing is your commentary composed of little more than hysterical ranting, underlain by the strawman that Georgism would be confiscatory if it were to account for current levels of federal spending. Well, no shit. Of course, Georgism is not “how can we tax land in order to generate taxes to match current levels of federal spending.” A best guestimate is that the Single Land Value Tax,” which is the taxation of ground rents, would source around 1-2 trillion dollars of aggregate public financing per annum. At all levels of government. That’s far less than what is being spent today by the current system. It is also a logical fallacy to use the catastrophic consequences of the current system to somehow indict an alternative system that is not in place..and which has never been in place.

    As an example that logical people can understand, but a georgist cult nazi cannot:

    Oh, I understand it perfectly. Squatting on land for purposes of real estate speculation. That is expressly what Georgism would prevent. Enough of that happens and you end up with cities like San Francisco. People who work in the city but can’t afford to rent housing in the city. Widespread homelessness. The kind of stuff that makes socialist crackpots like Bernie Sanders suddenly popular. Bastiat’s refrain:

    “It follows that, if the secret wishes of each producer were realized, the world would speedily retrogress toward barbarism”

    applies most appropriately to real estate developers.

  54. Be Rational

    As I indicated. The georgist cult nazi has no clue about economics or development.

    ALL of the current construction and infrastructure has been built in the wrong places with the wrong things. We have to wait and replace it little by little.

    We can NEVER replace it all with the correct infrastructure, transportation and buildings if we don’t leave vacant land available to combine.

    Without recombination we are doomed to repaat the same mal-investment.

    But the geo-fascist blathered on and on about squatting and speculation …
    Which is why land taxes of every kind are a major cause of pollution, climate change, bad transportation, homelessness … and yes … the high price of housing in San Francisco.

    These geo cultists are just as wrong as the Trumpistas who insist they won the election.

  55. Be Rational

    When the land is tax free, the owner can wait – for years or decades, serving mankind by waiting to build the correct infrastructure and buildings in the right places. The infrastructure and buildings that don’t contribute to pollution, don’t use automobiles or roads, don’t cause climate change. For their entrepreneurship, the owner will earn and deserve a profit.
    The land tax prevents the owners from building the right things that benefit humanity.
    They will then choose to profit by building the wrong things, the things that are already causing our problems, the things the the georgist earthnazis want them to build.
    The land owner still profits, just less.
    Humanity loses.

    The georgist cult has no clue about economics or liberty.

  56. SocraticGadfly

    Be Rational? Try to live up to your handle, as difficult as that may be. (And I know it will be.)

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