In the US, the 2012 election season has made us here in the states even a bit more isolated from the ideas and events that shape our neighbors across borders. With our quadrennial angst ending soon, it's time to check out what our brothers and sisters are doing.
UrbanTools has been reporting on the evolution of land value taxation in Namibia since independence in 1990.
the conscience of Namibia's land value tax
As we wrote last July:
In Namibia today, land value taxation is specifically used to accomplish two things:
2. Loosen the hold of Dutch, South African, Belgian and German commercial landowners who use their land and efficiently into little benefit to a population still suffering from the ravages of apartheid.
As we reported in 2006:
Compared to South Africa’s(RSA) stumbling efforts at land reform (they dumped LVT because some veryimportant foreigners told them to), and Zimbabwe’sland grabbing Berserker-as-Government philosophy
[the link is a 6-minute video] Namibia’s experience has been the bane of the wild-eyed: no trauma, notrain-wreck outcomes, little noise.
This sane process is what theorists expect of LVT: a use ofmarket forces to achieve justice and equity, without the guns, corpses and mayhem that mar so much of our planet’s history. The national land value tax, imposed on agricultural landraised N$28 million ($4.6 million US) in 2005. The cash is going to willing, mostly foreign sellers (who have becomemore willing since LVT started) and the land transferred to Namibians.
There are concerns that farms at the margin of viability owned by small holders might be sold, but this is not seen as a reason toabandon the program.
The Dutch government funded a study of the program, asit exists. The study is fair and well done, and compares the Namibianexperience to neighbors to the North and south. Happily, the Euro-tendency to doubtsuccess that does not entail confiscatory policies is muted: http://www.lac.org.na/projects/lead/Pdf/odendaal.pdf By taking the Taiwanese and Japanese alternative to land reform, instead of the Mugabe abyss or RSA errors, Namibia enjoys the civicpeace its people deserve.
Not so astoundingly, the program has worked. Now,because people clamoring for land got it, some believe that the land tax should be put on the shelf
; seemingly a case of "I got mine." In a heartwarming yet bittersweet way, objections to land value tax in Namibia are no different – and objectively wrong – then, say, Allentown in 1996.
Enter public intellectual and writer Alexactus T Kaure
. In a concise but hard-hitting op-ed in the national newspaper "the Namibian" Mr. Kaure starts with a blast from Tom Paine:
"Men did not make the earth ... It is the value of the improvement 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."
and then keeps going. Using the powerful logic of classical economics, Mr. Kaure's piece
would be as vital in Philadelphia, Scranton,Australia, Ireland, or any other place that overtaxes the things we want and undertaxes the things we will always have. The smallholders in Namibia would be well served to hoist Mr. Kaure on their shoulders.
As the economy of the planet still lies like a patient etherised upon the table, Mr. Kaure's powerful voice strengthens a growing chorus.