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Re-Solving the Economic Puzzle

How to save the enterprise system and trigger sustainable economic recovery

Walter Rybeck

ISBN: 9780856832819 - Paperback

Dimensions: 256pp - 234 x 156mm

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‘could go far to restore our nation’s economic health.’ William J. Coyne, former Pittsburgh Congressman

‘a workable formula that will make our natural riches a blessing for the population as a whole.’ Ken Hechler, formerly White House Assistant, Congressman and West Virginia State Secretary

‘We know it works.’ Stephen R. Reed, Harrisburg Mayor, 1982-2010

From Reviews:

‘Walter Rybeck stumbled on advocates of Henry George’s theories and found it difficult to reconcile those theories with Keynes and the neoclassical school of economics in which he had been trained. Yet the seemingly intractable economic problems he encountered ‘ deep poverty in Appalachia and again in Latin America, and the slums and decay in American cities ‘ induced him to look deeper into George’s ideas about taxation and land policy proposals for the missing elements in current searches for economic solutions. It was the author’s contact with politicians in Washington that led him to see how George’s analysis might solve the problems governments were trying to handle. This timely and important book was born out of distress at seeing so many fellow countrymen needlessly suffering for want of an understanding of how the tax system could work wonders. Although the literature is rampant with critiques that downplay or ridicule Henry George, Walter Rybeck discovers convincing evidence that George’s land tax ideas, and especially his formula for repressing land speculation, would ease many of today’s pressing problems. The author shows how the system he advocates would lead to more jobs, affordable housing for all, better schools and infrastructure, an end to urban sprawl, improved transportation and greater efficiency, as well as stopping tax evasion. He describes how power inevitably flows to Washington due to local governments’ failure to provide essential public works and services. Reversing this requires cities, counties and states to reform their tax systems to enable them to regain the more potent roles they once enjoyed. People, especially politicians, need to read books like this and to be courageous in transforming the current flawed model of economic activity into one which will promote useful productivity, fairness and sustainability instead of rewarding dangerous speculation.’�New Classics

‘Here [Rybeck] gives us a multifaceted and enlightening book combining public policy analysis and autobiography ‘ Rybeck is probably best known for developing the concept that land value taxation is actually a ‘super user charge’ (1983). First it constitutes payment for the ‘license’ to exclusive use of a particular site and, second, it overcomes the difficulty of setting individual user charges for each public service because location values provide an excellent means of judging the value of the totality of public facilities and services available to users of any particular site.

Its major benefits would include abundant jobs at living wages, affordable housing for all, self-financing infrastructure, an end to sprawl and urban decay, and a rational tax system, to give only the first five of his list of 10. He concludes that land value taxation should appeal to reasonable people on both the left and the right, providing greater social justice while remaining within the framework of a free-market system.

A broader application of Henry George’s insight into the role of the community in creating value has the potential to make the Georgist tradition central to contemporary debates over how to turn the United States away from its increasing trend towards plutocracy and develop an ethical economy that is compatible with democracy.’ Stephan Barton, American Journal of Economics and Sociology, Jan 2013

‘While the media, politicians, and even economists claim that we must choose among painful trade-off alternatives, Rybeck shows there is a way to solve the puzzle. The solution is a tax shift that replaces taxes that hamper the economy with public revenues that do not hurt and may even benefit the economy ‘ This book is truly one of the best introductions to real-world economics that I have come across.

His book is an ethical as well as an economic inquiry. Rybeck provides an analogy with slavery: the main argument against slavery was moral, beyond any economic analysis. For land issues, [his] message is one of harmony, as the policy that provides the greatest justice is also the policy that promotes maximum prosperity.

Land is central to the economy and to history, yet modern economists ignore it. While growing inequality is much discussed, there is little mention of the concentration of land ownership ‘ The concentration of land value in a few hands is a global phenomenon.

This is indeed a book that should be read by every economist, every student, and every person who has been puzzled and troubled by our economic woes. It would be wonderful if a policymaker happens to read this book and actually implements its solution, but otherwise, the people should know that there are economic solutions, and that it is politics, not economics, that blocks universal prosperity.’ Fred Foldvary, American Journal of Economics and Sociology, Jan 2013

In the richest nation on earth, people are mired in poverty. Food is produced on a vast scale, yet families go hungry. Homeless men and women huddle in doorways of boarded-up housing. A deep-rooted cause of this inequality, the author reveals, lies in an injustice that permeates the economic system of America and the world, an injustice that is as unquestioned today as slavery once was.

Rybeck shares with the reader his discovery that how property taxes are levied is crucial to this issue. Contrary to a common belief that all taxes are necessary evils, the author distinguishes taxes that suppress the economy from those that spur well-being for individuals, business, and society at large. He presents a strategy for gradually increasing beneficial taxes and reducing harmful ones.

His prescriptions are based both on economic theory and on examination of success stories from the United States and elsewhere where these prescriptions have been adopted. Reaching back into history, the author finds that easy access to land and natural resources played a major role in fostering America’s early dynamic economy. He urges wider use of land value taxation to reverse land monopoly and sky-high land prices and restore a vigorous and competitive enterprise system with opportunity for all. Though America is the case study, the remedy is applicable worldwide.

Not a technical book, the author illustrates concepts, issues, and policies through episodes from his rich life experiences in journalism and public service, giving new insights and slants on the work ethic, land speculation, the housing bubble, property rights, and legally accepted injustices.

Author Details:

Walter Rybeck, Director of the Center for Public Dialogue, was born in West Virginia and studied journalism, political science and economics, graduating from Antioch College. After a career in journalism as Latin American correspondent, reporter and editorial writer in Ohio, and Washington Bureau Chief for Cox newspapers, he became Assistant Director of the National Commission on Urban Problems, then Editorial Director of the Urban Institute. He was assistant to Congressmen Henry S Reuss of Milwaukee and William J Coyne of Pittsburgh.