Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Workpad 1. Strategic Guidelines

Contributor’s Note: This is the first of our proposed interactive ‘workpad’ discussions, which in each case are intended to be set off by a brief presentation by one of our number or invited guests of a thesis, issue or approach in which the author at least things it might be useful if we put our collective intelligences to work to build a sounder and more complete common base. In all this, we need to keep in mind that our objective here is ways in which we can feed into and support Action Agendas, actual projects and deployments; and neither philosophy, history or interesting conversation. Follow up discussions and questions can first be lodged via the Comments link at the base of this item. Alternatively if you are already on board as a Contributor, you may wish to develop your own thinkpiece on this topic. (Kindly consult Blog Guidelines below before your first posting. Thanks you.)


Some possibly contentious first thoughts on strategic guidelines for success.

1. Let's not bore: Let’s see if we can avoid boring all those we are trying to bring on our side by avoiding a surfeit of historical (self-)justification, finger pointing and too much arcane theory.

2. Master communicators It is not enough that our souls are pure and that we are without any doubt right in what we believe and propose. We need to be master communicators; otherwise forget it. In all this we need to bear in mind that it’s 2006 and the attention spans are what they are. We thus need in a first instance to be smart and able enough to capture their attention, and then adroit enough to be able to hold it to the point where they are ready to take all this further. But never to forget that the off-button is right at their fingertips, and they know how to use it.

3. Powerful friends: It would be very good if we can make all this point to something that bankers, financial institutions and property developers find reasonable and even attractive. We might even do well to think of them as our principal clients. (Let’s be frank: we cannot beat them, they simply have too much leverage, including that of good old inertia which always works quite nicely to resist proposals for structural change. But if we are smart enough, we can co-opt them.)

4. And sharp eyes: At the same time, it’s a good thing to bear in mind that all these fine upstanding people tend to have hefty appetites and lots of experience with controlling agendas.

5. Above party politics: Terribly important to avoid any political ‘party’ or even philosophic orientation or banjo strumming. If you are a good old leftist of long standing, well that’s terrific, but it’s your personal business and should not be plastered on the agenda here.

6. And who knows? Indeed, there is at least an equal chance if we get our argumentation and various proofs in order that support will come from more conservative interests or the political Right. Unscrewing the blatantly underperforming, unfair tax arrangements that most of us labor under in 2006 is an task that is too important for political posturing. Nobody should be allowed to run away with the agenda.

7. Nose of the camel: I persist in believing – until someone educates me to the contrary – that one of the most likely ways to move into the broader reforms that are so obviously needed, is via the path of successful Value Capture projects. One of the great advantages of Value Capture in my mind is that is has a specific, even modest in its way focus. One project, one place, one time. But a new way of thinking, that once it has shows the way can open up a much broader field of rethinking and reform. It’s so helpful to be able to build on concrete palpable success. (And so hard to convince anyone with a bunch of words, no matter how wise.)

8. What’s the hook? Which brings us to the next question, banal maybe but nonetheless eminently strategic. What’s the hook? Since these good ideas have been around a long time and since for the most part the world continues to plod on to other tunes, we must understand that the only way we are going to advance this agenda in real world terms will be by somehow tying it to a series of concerns or opportunities that in themselves capture attention and a shared sense of real urgency. Land taxes are important, that we know. But if we cannot show or bring them up in situations of high urgency they are going to stay right there warm in those pages and comfortable talking clubs.

9. Other great transforming ideas of the past: By way of quick reminder, it’s useful to recall that a number of the greatest society transforming ideas of the 20th century had their origins not so much in magnanimous thinking but fear. The Marshall Plan? Fear that the events after the first World War would repeat themselves in Europe. The GI Bill? Fear that the war was going to be followed by another massive depression and that the returning solders were going to repeat the incidences of the politically nightmarish march on Washington of the WW1 veterans.

10. And today? Well, we know in advance that it is going to be easier for the most part to work with people and places that are desperate for pattern-break solutions, than those who feel that they can continue to get or muddle along. SO it we are looking for places and opportunities, the ‘new’ countries of East Europe and the former Soviet bloc, countries torn by war and internal conflicts, Third and Fourth World countries that are looking at the bottom of barrel. And in the wealthier countries, regions racked by deindustrialization and economic decline. bombed out central cities and ghettos, areas of massive unemployment, places suffering from various forms of catastrophes. And then there is $100 oil. (And then there is not Global Warming. Nor World Government)

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To conclude: some quick guidelines for making blog entries:

1. Please consult these Guidelines (see title bar for link) before your first posting. (If there is anything there that you don’t like or feel is wrong, please let me know and I can talk about and certainly then change)

2. Each time you make an entry, please make sure that you have identified yourself by full name as a Member/Contributor (check out how it presently looks on the blog; you’ll see what I mean).

3. May we kindly ask that you sign each article as follows:
a. Full name
b. Organizational affinity (if any)
c. Email, Tel #, Skype address if any (optional and if you chose to invite private communications)
d. City, country

4. You will find a few more guidelines for best use here.

And don’t forget to check into the Wikipedia LVT entry and the temporary place-holder Value Capture references – which I know can be further improved.

Eric Britton
The Commons
Paris, France

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

House Prices

One of the primary results of the distorted pattern of land ownership in the UK has been that house prices have been much higher than they would otherwise have been. Given that house ownership has been perceived as a source of wealth, it is hardly suprising that politicians have been reluctant to challenge the rigged market.

However, as the link above shows, in fact what has happened is an increasing volatility in the housing market, and that we are now standing at an historically high ratio of average earnings to house prices. As shows, this is probably not sustainable. The time may therefore be coming soon when action can be taken to tackle the pattern of distorted land ownership, and by bringing more land into taxation, to improve the balance and pattern of land use.

Friday, January 20, 2006

20.01.06. Some posting guidelines:

1. Before you dig in, if you are new to blogging, you may want to have a look at .

2. Since this is a team blog, you may want to check out

3. Editing help is available at

4. If you are not sure about how to stay on format, etc. at first, get in touch. We can do it together.

5. Bear in mind that our objective in the new Café is implementation, policy and practice – not history and not theory. We are dealing with a real emergency here, so sadly, perhaps, we are doomed to work with what we already know and what we have in hand.

6. Permissions/citations: While this is not a commercial venture, we still are in the public domain and so

7. Want to talk about it? Great idea. Either Skype me at ericbritton, or message me a number and good time to call.

8. Finally, I would like to propose our first ‘editorial conference’ next week. Using the Skype conference gizmo, we can be up to five. You can be brought in even if you are not on Skype. I suggest half an hour, perhaps later in the afternoon so that we can bring in both Old World Europeans and people from the New World. If interested let me know, including either your Skype number of normal phone number. I can then set up a schedule and short agenda.

I smile to think that this is going to have its uses.

Eric Britton

Thursday, January 19, 2006

19.01.06. Lessons From Geese

Facilitator’s note: This kind mailing just in from Dave Wetzel is placed here as an example of how our co-blog can be put to work. What is missing is a source? And ideally some kind of permission to use from the author. Next time.

Lessons From Geese

FACT: As each goose flaps its wings it creates an "uplift" for the birds that follows. By flying in a V formation, the whole flock adds 71% greater flying range than if each bird flew alone.

People who share a common direction and sense a community can get where they are going quicker and easier because they are travelling on the thrust of one another.

FACT: When a goose falls out of formation, it suddenly feels the drag and resistance of flying alone. It quickly moves back into formation to take advantage of the lifting power of the bird in front of it.

If we have as much sense as a goose we stay in formation with those headed where we want to go. We are willing to accept their help and give our help to others.

FACT: When the lead goose tires, it rotates back into the formation and another goose flies to the point position.
It pays to take turns doing the hard tasks and sharing leadership.

As with geese, people are interdependent on each others skills, capabilities and unique arrangements of gifts, talents or resources.

FACT: The geese flying in formation honk to encourage those up front to keep up their speed.

We need to make sure our honking is encouraging. In groups where there is encouragement, the production is much greater. The power of encouragement is the quality of honking we seek.

FACT: When a goose gets sick, wounded or shot down, two geese drop out of formation and follow it down to help and protect it. They stay with it until it dies or is able to fly again. Then they launch out with another formation or catch up with the flock.

If we have as much sense as geese, we will stand by each other in difficult times as well as when we are strong.

Source: (To be determined)

Monday, January 16, 2006

17.01.06 The new Land Blog.

Hang on. This is to be the new Land Café Blog. Give us a few days and we’ll get the working frame up and running for you.

This is going to be a Self-Organizing Collaborative Network undertaking by the Café members. Let us know if you want to get involved from the very beginning as we build this one up.

As a very quick reminder, here is what was written and shared with the first group of colleagues who came together I the summer of 2004 to start these conversations, as the first step in process whose goal is not conversation, but implementation:

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Manifesto: We (the public sector) determine the social need, select the project, chose the location, painstakingly communicate and negotiate through all the levels and loops, put in the taxpayer money . . . and the project flowers, values in the area increase -- and we want that increase for future public investments. End of story!

Focus: Consistent with our chosen mission, we are focusing on the issues of value capture and land taxes in this context. Such larger and important challenges as land reform and redistribution, while important, are not brought directly into the discussions here. That said they provide an important backdrop to the issues that concern us, and there is every reason to remain up to date on the latest developments and shifts here are as well. (See News Alerts to left for more on that).

Diversity and the art of listening: With a topic like this, which for many people comes heavily trammeled with a long political and rhetorical past, there is a distinct tendency in many parts for, let's call it, non-dialogue. That is to note the marked tendency in rather too many places to want to state the 'truth' and then retreat into the bunker of a closed mind. But with an issue of such great importance, we simply cannot afford that. Thus the objective of this patch of The Commons is come together to create a base of knowledge and experience that can help our cities and societies to break this impasse and put this important tool to work for the good of all. And to do this, we have to become Master Listeners.

Proposed Schedule and Game Plan: The intention is to gather the group over the summer (here you can help with your nominations and lists), get to know each other, extend this site so that it provides us with hot links to all the related programs and sources of information and views on our subject (Right, Left and Center), and begin to exchange views and information, including identifying and linking outstanding articles and reports to be shared with the group. Then sometime in September we should probably start to see what we can do to pound out something of an agenda and possibly even an action plan, since our goal is not to hum along with the choir but to advance the value capture agenda. How are we going to get together to do this? Well, that's what we can start to hammer out in September.
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16 January 2006: Well, as these things often go, it has taken us a bit more time to get where we are today, but it has not been time wasted, so now we are in pretty good shape to move all this up a notch.