July 15, 2011
Mute Testimony from Central and Eastern Europe
But what, if anything, is the message?
Some seem pretty clear, like the rightful place of the working class among the usual saints and princes on these buildings in Budapest . . .
Others seem to carry so many messages that there is a bit of visual clamor:
And others, well, are simply striking, such as this building in Brno . . .
(comments are held for approval, so there will be some delay in posting)
Friday's Architecture Moment
An interactive map of architecture monuments that have reshaped Beijing over the last 10 years.
Depoorter on Trespass
Ben Depoorter (Hastings) has posted Fair Trespass (Columbia Law Review) on SSRN. Here's the abstract:
Trespass law is commonly presented as a relatively straightforward doctrine that protects landowners against intrusions by opportunistic trespassers. Though widely supported in academic commentary and scholarship, this conventional viewpoint of trespass law lacks empirical and analytical grounding. In fact, the interests involved in trespass disputes often extend beyond the interests of a private landowner, affecting broad societal interests such as the free flow of information, public safety and health, and similar considerations.
This Essay attempts to align these observations with a doctrine more attuned to reality. To that end, it develops a new doctrinal framework for determining the limits of a property owner’s right to exclude. Adopting the doctrine of fair use from copyright law, the Essay introduces the concept of “fair trespass” to property law doctrine. When deciding trespass disputes, courts should evaluate the following factors: (1) the nature and character of the trespass; (2) the nature of the protected property; (3) the amount and substantiality of the trespass; and (4) the impact of the trespass on the owner’s property interest.
The main advantages of this proposal are twofold. First, this novel doctrine more carefully weighs the interests of society in access against the interests of property owners in exclusion. Second, by replacing the existing patchwork of ad hoc situations where courts excuse trespassory acts, this proposal provides a more coherent and consistent context in which to adjudicate trespass conflicts. By developing a balancing test to assess trespass claims, the proposed doctrine seeks to protect the rights of property owners on the basis of a more explicit and predictable framework, while at the same time safe-guarding the societal interests in access.
July 14, 2011
Which Failed Utopia Was Best?
The Awl Magazine ranks seven failed utopias.
Breaking California in Two
Riverside County Supervisor Jeff Stone recently proposed that 13 of California's 58 counties secede and form the 51st state in the Union:
Mr. Stone’s list of complaints is long — too much money spent on state prisons, too much power for public unions, too many regulations and not enough of a crackdown on illegal immigration. . . .
Under Mr. Stone’s proposal the [new] state would have only a part-time Legislature, with lawmakers earning $600 a month. And there would be no term limits. One crucial element of California’s budget structure (and an article of faith among Republicans) would remain: a strict limit on property taxes.
I like this proposal. A lot. It would allow the richer counties of the coast to get rid of the deadweight of the inland empire--the secessionist area receives more in income from state government spending than they send to Sacramento in taxes. And those poorer, culturally conservative counties wouldn't have the idiots in Sacramento to kick around any more. Everyone wins!
Plus, creating more interjurisdictional competition would be a powerful incentive for future state legislatures to govern effectively. Right now, the "vote with your feet" threat doesn't seem to motivate individual legislators to act reasonably, especially those from states with difficult-to-replicate beaches and Mediterranean climate. Last but not least, any deal to admit a new red state to the Union would probably require that the folks in D.C. get some long-deserved representation in the Senate and House of Representatives.
Unfortunately, there's no way this will fly. The plan would need to be ratified by the California Legislature and the US Congress. Would democrats in either body agree to concede the huge electoral college advantage that comes with one massive Democratic state? Would super-rich San Diego and Orange counties want to subsidize the poor agricultural regions without the help of LA and San Francisco? And who would control UC Irvine or California's share of water from the Colorodo River Compact? Breaking up is really hard to do.
A side note; If we add more states, we also get to change the American Flag. Here's a widget designed by Skip Garibaldi that figures out all possible combinations for flags of any number of stars.
July 13, 2011
Taxing Church Land, Ctd.
One the topic of taxing non-profits, here's an idea from LTVfan, one of our commentators:
I'm heartily in favor of taxing the land under nonprofit buildings; I'd favor exempting the buildings themselves from taxation. Valuing land well and accurately is relatively easy; valuing buildings, particularly special-purpose buildings like churches, is much more difficult and expensive.
Many downtown churches sit on large pieces of land, bought decades or centuries ago, perhaps with the foresight of land speculators in the lay leadership. Frequently, the land is underused, and currently no mechanism exists to nudge it into more use.
But I encourage you to consider the effects (and costs) of taxing ANY buildings, and submit that we'd be wiser to simply tax land value, and treat buildings and their contents as private property, not subject to taxation. Land value, unlike the value of buildings and personal property, is created by the community, and is thus a logical and just base for taxation.
You might explore Henry George's Single Tax, best laid out in his landmark book, "Progress and Poverty," available online at its dot org.
Marion Barry's Housing Shenanigans
For those that haven't kept up with the career of Marion Barry, you'll be happy to hear that the erstwhile crack smoking mayor of D.C. is back on the city council. And not only is he back, he's proposing aggressively stupid legislation. Specifically, Barry plans to introduce a bill that would ban the construction of all new apartment buildings in his Ward (Here's a copy of the Bill's text). Why??? Barry thinks this plan will encourage home-ownership and the renovation of the area's dilapidated housing. "The American dream is to own a home. And black people have not gotten the American dream as much as they need to," he says. "Somebody can rent for 20 years, and has no equity in their unit at all."
It's hard to see how this bill helps the people of Ward 8 in any way. If anything D.C. in general, and Ward 8 in particular, needs denser & more affordable housing. Right now, DC's population is exploding. So any proposal to artificially limit the supply of available rentals seems likely to push (poor) long-term residents out of the neighborhood. It's also tough to comprehend how this land use measure would help the folks of Ward 8 acquire the downpayments and credit history that are the normal barriers to home ownership.
Perhaps the really interesting question here isn't about the policy but rather, why do people in D.C. keep voting for Barry?
July 12, 2011
A Proposal to Tax Church Land
Matt Yglesias makes the case that we should end the property-tax exemption for churches:
Urban land is a scarce commodity, and structures are valuable fixed assets. If you tax land and structures that are operated as homes and business, but don’t tax land and structures that are operated as churches, you end up with more land being used for churches and less being used for homes and businesses than would otherwise be the case. Now if the level of God’s affection for a town is determined in part by the square footage per worshipper of devotional space, this is a very reasonable policy. But the more common view . . . is that the key factors are the depth of worshippers’ personal relationships with Jesus Christ. By contrast, it’s pretty clear that at the margin the quantity of business activity in a town is in part a function of the square footage available for business purposes.
I think this is a reasonable-ish argument when it's applied to big mainline churches. Such a policy, however, would be punishing for inner-city communities. It's fairly well-settled that in many urban areas churches are the single most important community institutions. Many of these places of worship are small and operate on a shoe-string budget. For store-front churches, the tax exemption could be the difference between helping underserved populations and shuttering the doors.
Blumm on the Development of American Natural Resources Law
Michael C. Blumm (Lewis & Clark) has posted The Columbia River Gorge and the Development of American Natural Resources Law: A Century of Significance on SSRN. Here's the abstract:
The Columbia River Gorge, site of the nation’s first national scenic area and the only near sea level passage through the Cascade Mountains, possesses the longest continuously occupied site of human habitation in North America. The Gorge has served as a major transportation corridor between the Pacific and the Great Basin for hundreds of years, is home to spectacular scenery, dozens of waterfalls, many sacred sites, and abundant recreational activities, including world-class kite boarding and wind surfing. The Gorge has also been the location of over a century of legal battles that have made major contributions to American natural resources law. From judicial interpretations of 19th Indian treaties, to the development of the largest interconnected hydroelectric system in the world, to ensuing declines in what were once the world’s largest salmon runs – ultimately resulting in endangered species listings – to innovative federal statutes concerning electric power planning and conservation and land use federalism, to compensation schemes for landowners burdened with regulation, to dam removal and conflicts between sea lions and salmon, the Gorge has spawned a legal history as rich as its geography. This article surveys these developments and suggests that no area of the country has produced more varied and significant contributions to natural resources law.
July 11, 2011
The Worst Places in the World
Via Foreign Policy, here's a slide show of the world's most failed states.
Pavlov and Wachter on REITS
Andrey Pavlov (Simon Fraser) and Susan Wachter (Penn - Wharton) have posted REITS and Underlying Real Estate Markets: Is There a Link? on SSRN. Here's the abstract:
This paper utilizes the Carlson, Titman, and Tiu (2010) model of REIT returns to estimate the strength of the relationship between REIT and underlying real estate returns. Our work further offers an innovative method for computing the returns of the real estate properties underlying each REIT using the Moody’s/REAL commercial property price indices by region and property type. We find a statistically significant relationship between REIT and real estate returns only in the office sector. Other property types offer only very weak and insignificant relationships. This finding suggests that direct real estate investment or investment through the property price index derivatives cannot be replicated using REITs.