TED Conversations

Terry Torok

Founder at Angel Producers, Founder at Live from Earth


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The City 2.0 according to YOU... 2 Things a City that YOU design, Must Have...

1. 2. The City that Becomes You... [ Brevity and Bravado Appreciated ]


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    Mar 6 2012: I suggest that one of the most important elements of sustainable cities of the future will not be the technology of building or planning but taxation. All cities are built on land and the most valuable land on the planet is under cities because the proximity of people and everything people do and build has the result of making city land more and more valuable. It is a well known fact of economics that land value is created not by the owners of particular pieces of land but by the community of all people in the city and for many miles around. The value of land is therefore literally created by the community and land value is the one thing that community as a whole creates that can be measured in dollars and cents. Historically ownership of land has included the right to collect the value land comes to have but it is clear and acknowledged by all economists although they rarely speak of it that such income is wholly unearned. It is the private collection of community created land value that gives rise to land speculation, under use/inefficient us of city land for purposes of cashing in on future increases in land value and urban sprawl.

    The proposal here has been on the table for over a century is to shift the property tax and eventually other local taxes such as sales and business taxes that fall on the earned incomes of labor and real capital invested in the real local economy onto community created land values. This would have the result of giving positive economic incentive to build, rebuild and improve land within cities, it would result in the building of more affordable housing, crate more local jobs, encourage massive capital investment within the existing borders of cities and curtail if not completely end urban sprawl.

    I suggest that without this shift of taxation to the community created value of land that cities will always be at the mercy of conflicting values which to date have usually been trumped by the motive to cash in on unearned land value
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      Mar 7 2012: Wendell, do you think it is feasible to create a loose sense of CitiZenship now... and create a fee or CitZen tax as to add to a development / benefits fund? potentially as a two year renewable? Self guided, if it cannot add value, citizens would drop out, but if we drive real value we should be able to grow citizens globally... [?] thoughts?
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      Mar 7 2012: Though I am an economist I can not easily agree with the great priority you gave to taxation. While I agree that taxation needs to change from making landlords bigger and bigger to making new development bigger and bigger, I would argue on the other hand that taxation is not the key success factor.

      I experienced in my work in urban development that immaterial qualities of cities make cities successfull - of course not housing or well-repaired streets. Just imagine cities of high unemployment of 20 or 40 percent - how do they get up again? Historically because people living there wanted to stay and live there, mostly for not economic reasons. People with this kind of spirit you need for City2.0 also - because the City2.0 will not be a straight linear success, it will have curves and frustations, but then you need persons to continue - tax doesn´t matter at this point or does it after all?

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