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Elle Griffin's Shortform

"Land value taxes are generally favored by economists as they do not cause economic inefficiency, and reduce inequality.[2] A land value tax is a progressive tax, in that the tax burden falls on land owners, because land ownership is correlated with wealth and income.[3][4] The land value tax has been referred to as "the perfect tax" and the economic efficiency of a land value tax has been accepted since the eighteenth century.[1][5][6] Economists since Adam Smith and David Ricardo have advocated this tax because it does not hurt economic activity, and encourages development without subsidies."

Despite this rather glowing summary, and support by economists from Milton Friedman to Paul Krugman, land taxes are rare. The Economist explains: 

"The bigger barrier is political. LVTs would impose concentrated costs on landowners [a politically powerful constituency], who face a new tax bill and reduced sale price. The benefit, by contrast, is spread equally over today's population and future generations. The problem is unlikely to be overcome. Economists will continue to advocate LVTs, and politicians will continue to ignore them."

Some jurisdictions have managed to implement land value taxes. Denmark and Estonia have a form of the tax, and a handful of municipalities in Pennsylvania (Allentown, Harrisburg, Altoona from 2009-2018ish and Pittsburgh from 1911-2000) have experimented with it or its cousin split-rate taxation. Split-rate taxation taxes both land and structures like a traditional property tax, though it taxes land at a higher rate (often 5:1) than structures. 

Progress toward what? Understanding normative values in Progres Studies

"My theoretical challenge is: Progress Studies ought to be able to explain why two communities can view progress differently, and do so in its own terms; that is, in a theory that adequately defines what progress is..."

These are interesting questions, but, in my opinion, on the periphery of what "Progress Studies" is. Progress Studies generally pre-supposes that industrial, scientific, and economic development are good things. Most discussion seems to focus on better understanding how and why these things come about. At least, that's what attracted me to this forum - somewhere where people nerd out over why the steam engine was developed where and when it was, how we can accelerate the pace of technological development, and how we can achieve more of these "good" things in the future by studying the past.

To determine whether or not this should be considered progress is, in my view, more likely to be satisfyingly answered by the field of Philosophy. There are centuries of writing that will delve far deeper into this, and have far more satisfying answers, than what's generally discussed here - and the general supposition that, say, the Apollo mission or mRNA vaccines were capital-P Progress.

"I have reason to believe there is contestation here. From my highly informal sample of well-educated people in the Bay Area, for some, space colonies seem to represent progress; for others, an inhabitable and less technological earth seem to represent progress. These two, highly local cultural communities have different views of what progress is. My theoretical challenge is: Progress Studies ought to be able to explain why two communities can view progress differently, and do so in its own terms; that is, in a theory that adequately defines what progress is."

I think this is actually a good example of the point I'm trying to make. The Philosopher would study both arguments and try to understand what each would say about the Good, and make a determination about what this says about the human condition or what progress should be. Your median Progress Studies enthusiast likely starts off pretty firmly on team Space Colony - and, if they're being honest, is mostly interested in this question as a means for understanding how we could encourage more of team degrowth to switch sides.

To be clear, I don't mean this in a negative sense toward either Progress Studies or Philosophy. Both questions are interesting and worthy of discussion. Seeking knowledge and understanding is an inherent good! But it's also nice to have a space to talk about steam engines or designing effective industrial policy, without getting into the Philosophical weeds each time. 

Quote quiz: “drifting into dependence”

My first instinct is Frank Herbert. But that seems too obvious, and your note that you brought it up to date makes me think it might be earlier. 

How can economic growth reduce carbon emissions?

Yes. I recommend this article which has some helpful data pulled from the World Bank and Our World in Data, and explains the trends.

But to summarize, as economic development advances, more people can spend more time inventing cleaner and better ways to do things, and industrial and economic development makes clean energy cheaper to deploy. 

When will AutoGPT like software be able to write Enviromental Impact Assessments?

Also, if GPT-4 raises the "productivity" of environmental impact statement, my guess is that they could only increase productivity so long as there is not broad awareness and acceptance of the technology in writing the statements. If GPT-4 becomes the standard in writing statements, then expectations for the length and breadth of the statements have the potential to rise as well. 

A 21st Century Progress Myth

I think I'm probably just not the target audience for your project, so I didn't "get it". I apologize for calling your stuff a cult and interpreting it through that lens.

A lot of what I was saying was an attempt to boil down your points to get to the meat of what the project is trying to say, but perhaps that kinda defeats the purpose of the artistic aspect of it. While I could argue about the numbered responses, or give suggestions on how to streamline the ideas you're proposing, if the point is in large part artistic I see how that's barking up the wrong tree. 

While I don't think this is for me, I apologize again for my critical tone and for calling it a cult. Best of luck.

A 21st Century Progress Myth

This may be a faux pass of the community rules about disagreement, but I don't think you've created anything interesting here. Your "new movement" comes across a lot more like a cult than a concrete way to find meaning.

You describe a crisis of modernity in very vague terms in this piece. You point to things that are bad, gesture that our emotions might not be positive, and suggest that we need to develop a new way of living and finding meaning. To find meaning, you recommend watching a video you made.

This is generally how your video comes across too. You describe the "void" which is a shorthand term for anxieties, concerns, and nervousness about the future, and then say it's solved by "the light in the void" which is further explained over the next 20 minutes to be, more or less, the meaning of life. You provide a few exercises about how to find this meaning for yourself, but the exercises tend to focus more on making the viewer feel a certain way rather than clear exercises that the viewer can build upon or share with others. It is a vibes-based way of thinking, not a structured one. Furthermore, it is not clear why a new movement is needed for people to find this meaning, rather than, say, to read a self-help book. (For a book that actually helps you to find meaning in your work/life, I recommend "What Color is Your Parachute" personally. It has been in print for 50 years)

To learn more about your movement/idea, you provide a link to your website. This website has links to two youtube videos (including the one discussed earlier) and another which is an hour and thirty minutes. I couldn't/didn't get through that one. The website touts the variety of people in the movement (Successful hedge fund managers! Interesting and cool anarchists!), but is light on how the system actually works. The only other thing on the website are two donation buttons, one for a $200 donation and and one for a $2,000 donation to the organization that you've started. 

I am not going to blatantly assume bad faith here, but if you do not intend for this to be a cult, then you need to make your pitch significantly more clear and cut to the chase of what you're trying to say.

Tell Good Stories

The inventor of the cell phone was inspired by the TOS communicator. There's a lot of examples of this in engineering, I think.

I think you hit the mark with a lot of us having an underlying belief in progress independent of progress studies, and that a lot of that excitement/belief was inspired by media or culture. When I worked in sales, one of the team mottos we had was that people make decisions with emotions first, and then rationalize them later. Regardless of whether that's how people "should" make decisions, I think it's reasonably accurate. Creating art and media that celebrates progress, and having audiences have an emotional reaction to that media, is a great first step in getting more people invested in creating real-world progress. Disney and the other World's Fair promoters certainly understood this, and on some level, I think everybody who pines for a Mid-Century World's Fair does too.

Adam Ozimek had a twitter thread about a year ago where people pitched ideas for "progress studies" television shows - I wonder if anything happened to that. I stand by my pitch for a campy, positive, and fun 1632 mini-series.

What do people make of growth diagnostics?

Thank you! I'll have to check these out

Philly Progress Studies - Happy Hour

Just arrived! We have a table in the way back but since it's restaurant week (which I did not realize) we may move to the bar, since they're not doing happy hour at tables.

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