In this episode, we’re joined by Lars Doucet. Lars created the video game Defenders Quest. Lars joins us to talk about Henry George, whose work he reviewed in the ACX Book Review contest (which he won!). Lars blogs at https://www.fortressofdoors.com/
Progress and Poverty by Henry George
William Jarvis 0:05
Hey folks, welcome to narratives. narratives is a podcast exploring the ways in which the world is better than in the past, the ways that is worse in the past towards a better, more definite vision of the future.
I’m your host, William Jarvis. And I want to thank you for taking the time out of your day to listen to this episode. I hope you enjoy it. You can find show notes, transcripts and videos at narratives podcast.com. Well, Lars, how are you doing today?
Will Jarvis 0:44
I’m doing good. Thanks. Thanks for hopping on, man. I’m so could you just go ahead and give a brief bio and some of the big things you’re you’re interested in?
Lars Doucet 0:57
Yeah, so brief file. My name is I used to saying I live in Texas, none at the big cities just like in the Central Texas and some medium town. Um, I am a Norwegian citizen and an American citizen. My mom’s an immigrant. I was born in Texas. So I kind of got a foot in both countries, which will become relevant later. And then I’m a game developer, that’s my actual day job. These days, I do a lot more consulting and actual game development, because indie game development is a really, really, really, really challenging and difficult business. consulting is a little safer and more steady, especially when you have three kids like I do. Big things I’m interested in that presumably got me on this podcast is you know, I’m,
I’m interested in all the nerdy stuff people are interested in. But particularly I have a particular interest in an economic philosophy known as Georgia ism, which is really, really obsessed with land. And that has taken on a lot of salience lately, because of the housing crisis. I’ve been into it for over a decade, but it’s getting less and less marginal every day. And seems like it’s starting to break into mainstream thought. I think that’s because housing prices, as George predicted, are now going through the roof. Definitely, yeah, it’s super interesting. I got I got so many questions for you. I’ve tried to think the best the best attack angle.
Will Jarvis 2:23
So how about this? Is the rent just too damn high?
Lars Doucet 2:26
Yes, the rent is too damn high. And the really important thing to realize is that it doesn’t have to be like, one of the things, we’ll get into specific questions to get a part of this, but I think most people in life know that the rent is too high. But why rent just keeps going up is this kind of mysterious force a lot of people don’t understand. And the basic problem is that you basically have two camps, you have kind of the Marxist camp, and you have the, we’ll call it even capitalist, I’ll just call it status quo. Because nobody knows what they mean by the word capitalist. Right? So the status quo camp is just like, well, that’s just the way the market works, which means it’s fine. Right? You know, and then the Marxist camp, I, I feel like is obsessed with treating symptoms, rather than getting at the root cause, you know, so that’ll that’ll be the socialist Marxist camp will be for things like public housing and rent control, which I’m not opposed to, by the way, like public housing and rent control, that’s fine. But that’s a forever treating symptom kind of thing. Like, if you’re sick, you need to treat the symptoms, and you need to cure the disease. Right. And ga ism is all about curing the disease that is fundamentally behind housing crises, and arguably recessions. Definitely. And this Henry George, and correct me if I’m wrong, but this goes beyond just that, you know, kind of like the the NIMBY critique that we just need to build more housing. Isn’t that correct? Yes. So I mean, obviously, you will find a lot of georgeous in yimby towel, you know, maybe for those in the audience who don’t know what that means. NIMBY and I MB y means not in my backyard. It’s activists who oppose housing, and oppose basically building anything more in their block because they know that more housing will increase the supply, which will decrease their home values. Right, right. And yen bees are the opposite of that guests in my backyard are people who push for more housing, whether that’s public housing, or just more market rate housing or any kind of housing, right, um, and so yeah, Georgia ism goes a little bit beyond the standard nimbyism, you know, standard MBs will be like we need some zoning reform and we need to like build houses, George’s are like, absolutely with you on all of that. But we also need to do some other policies. And they have a diagnosis for why the problem is there in the first place. Got it.
Will Jarvis 4:44
And what is that diagnosis? What’s that? What’s that kind of next step and, and that that causes, you know, rents to just keep going up?
Lars Doucet 4:52
Well, it’s basically all because of land. Right? And what do we mean by land? It seems really weird when you create an economic flow. Last defeat that’s centered on land. Because in the modern game, we’ve been taught that like, we’re freed from the land, we’re not peasants anymore. Like, we’re not an agricultural economy, like what is what is land matter? I work from home, the internet, everything’s digital, nothing is real things real, right? Like, why does what is land? And like, what are you even talking about? Who cares about large tracts of land in the 21st century? And the answer is, is that it’s kind of the secret force of sort of behind everything. And land has a couple of properties. First, you, you can’t make it anymore. Like you can’t make any more of it. Like, just the amount of land that’s in the world is what there is, especially if you understand lambdas locations. Right, right. And real estate agents give it away. Location, location, location, right? It’s everything. That’s everything, right. It’s right there. And so if you do some studies, you’ll notice that it’s like when you’re buying a house, you’re not buying, like, like a fraction of the cost of the house is the house. The rest is the land. And it’s also insane that houses appreciate in value, like think about it. What is a house, it is a built thing, like anyone who’s owned a house knows there’s a freakin money pit, right? Where’s the Where’s right? It’s like a car just breaks down it just Yeah, it’s a depreciating asset, like, you know, why would that continue to go up and double or even triple in value, depending on where you live, it’s because the land is going up in value and the land goes up in value, because you’ve got a scarce asset and a scarce asset in a place with a growing population, supply and demand, what’s going to happen, it’s going to go through the roof. And and then we as a society need to decide on a sensible policy for how we’re going to allocate our scarce assets. And right now, the way we allocate our scarce assets or scarce assets that nobody made, by the way, it’s one thing to be like, you know, one thing about George’s and he confuses people, because he doesn’t take like a hard left for the hard, right, like aspect, like, he’s very much for like, hard work is good. And you should deserve to, like, make money from hard work and profit is okay. And making money from investments is okay. But what’s not okay, is making money from other people’s hard work in the form of land rent, you know, and he says, basically, that, you know, what, like, the scarce resources that nobody made, and that there’s a fixed amount of and that there’s a lot of demand for society should have a policy for how we decide who gets that. And right now, it’s first come first serve. Right, right. What do you do? You know, when we think about property rights, like, this is my like, Why do you get to say that this is mine? If you look back in history, I mean, it’s usually because somebody killed someone for it. And your your current right to have it is almost like it boils down to the fact that it’s like, if you don’t get off, I’ll call the police. Right, right. And so it’s okay to have property rights. I like property rights. But I think we should take a hard look at scarce things that nobody created, like if you created it, okay, that’s fine. You can say it’s yours, if you didn’t create it, and there’s not enough. And there’s only a certain amount of it, and everybody wants some of these things, why should the first person to squat on it, and just get there first? Like, I mean, indigenous rights is a separate topic, and we need to be sensitive about that. But just within the world of, you know, someone like like, two people are swimming to a desert island, right? Yeah, they both fell off of a boat. They’re both swimming in the desert island. One gets there 10 seconds before Him until the other one to go drown? I mean, there’s, there’s no justice in that. Right. And that’s kind of what we’re dealing with here. And when you understand the scarce nature of land, then you need to come up with policies that account for that. The other thing about land does that land increases in value due to its location? Right, right. And that location goes up in value based off of the activity of others. Right, right. I own an empty lot right next to Time Square, and it goes up in value. I’m not doing anything to make it go up in value, the activity of New York and everybody someone else, right, and so like me, just having a little hotdog stand there. That’s a very valuable hotdog stand, right? But it’s not that valuable if it’s in garage in Nevada, right? But if someone goes and builds a mega city in girlish Nevada, then all of a sudden my hotdog stand becomes valuable even though I’ve not shared any anything with the community. Right. And this is that’s kind of George’s have in a nutshell. We’ll get into the weeds in a bit. Gotcha. And he George does make a distinction between like land improvements, right. And just Yes, absolutely. Abs gotcha. That’s a core thing. Um, did you want to ask that next and go into that? Yeah, sure. Yeah. Okay. So there’s a real estate, okay. So I have in my hand, my son brought this because he found on the floor because we’re not monopolies at the other day. So real estate, okay, so real estate is two things. There’s the land, which is a little slip of paper here. Yeah. And there’s the improvements on the land. Right, right. Together, we call that property, but they’re two completely different things. Right. You know, and we there’s there’s more kinds of improvements than just buildings, but buildings are typically what we mean 98% of the time, we talk About improvements, you can have other things like, um, like, especially talking about like mineral land, like a lake like an oil, well, you know, like the oil, land with oil on it is valuable. And then if it has a pump jack installed, it’s even more valuable, but most of the value is there because the oil, right, you know, and if you have a tool shed or garage or swimming pool, those are all improvements, right? You know, um, if you have a field and you plow it back to plowing the field can be considered an improvement, you know, if you plant crops on the field, the crops could be considered an improvement, you know, and things like that. So awesome. No, I like that. And that distinction is really important. So, prescriptions.
Will Jarvis 10:41
So we’ve got this diagnosis, you know, what is George propose, you know, like attacks like land value tax, like, what’s the answer?
Lars Doucet 10:48
Yeah. So there’s, um, land value tax is basically the big policy proposal, the basically the policy proposal that George proposes, is that we should figure out, basically, for every piece of land in America, or just whatever your jurisdiction is going to pass. You know, you want to assess land at its full value, you want to figure out, basically what it would cost to rent the land. And if you think about, like, Who would ever rent land? Well, that’s exactly what a parking lot is, right? If you have a parking lot, and you just like, what, what is the amount of income you could derive from this place is like a parking lot. That doesn’t mean it’s downtown. Right? Yeah. You know, um, and that amount of income is the amount that should be taxed from the site every year. Got it? 100%. And if it’s a residential place, you should tax the land rent, which is the amount that you’re able to charge a rent, not because of how nice the house is, but because of how nice the neighborhood is, right? Or the fact that it’s a corner lot on a cul de sac, you know, we’re on a waterfront property, right, like the amount that you can charge because of the land, not because of the property. I mean, not not because of the building. Right, right. And George says you should tax that at 100%. in actual practice, it’s a little hard, hard to get up to 100%. But modern georgeous are like if you do 85%, that’s good enough. And then honestly, in practice, every time land value tax has been done. It’s much lower than that in practice, but you get incremental benefits from incremental implementation. It’s not one of those things, you got to do it all or nothing. Gotcha. But basically, once you do that, once you tax out 100% of ground rent or land rent, yeah. Which is base two of the locational value of the land, you have some really interesting effects. Because despite what you might be from might have kind of intuited from experience with other taxes. land value taxes, the only kind of tax you can’t pass on to a tenant, it’s the only kind of tax that a landlord just has to eat, and can’t pass on to the next consumer down the line. Like if I tax anything else, if I got tax capital, or I tax income, you get what you call deadweight loss. Yeah, example is like cigarettes, or gasoline or, or candy. Let’s start with candy or hamburgers. Anything? Yeah. If you tax Well, we’ll use an example. What if you tax oil out there somewhere there is an oil? Well, that is right at the margin of productivity, which means they’re making a profit margin of one cent per barrel of oil or whatever, right? Yeah, whatever is the minimum, the $10, you know, whatever is the minimum to be worth it. And if you raise the tax by the amount equal to just what’s putting them on the bubble, they’re going to shut that well out of production, they’ll probably keep the well, but they’re going to stop pumping oil, right? And no way for the price to go up or the tax to go away. And then that decreases the supply and decrease supply. But fixed demand really means increased prices. And once you know what the price goes up by almost exactly the amount of the tax. Right? Right, you know, and so what happens if your supply curve is vertical, which means that no matter what you tax, this, there will be exactly as much. And that that only applies to land is the only thing that applies to right. Um, I mean, unless you refer to some some other mineral in which we’ve extracted literally all of it or whatever, you know, some other weird edge cases that are rare in principle, but basically, whenever you have some asset that is 100%, fixed in supply or close enough to it. Um, the reason that you have deadweight loss lost economic activity from taxing something is because when you tax it, producers make less of it, because some of it is no longer productive, right? And there’s no land factory that’s making land every year. Right? So if you tax land, it’s not like the land fairies, like well, better, better, better, make less, you know, we’re planning on making a whole nother Earth next year but we but we better wait until there’s a policy change. Right. You know, we’re gonna make a couple new Manhattan’s but
you know, we’re just gonna have to delay production while it’s like no, there’s exactly that. San Francisco’s in Manhattan’s and, and 1600, Pennsylvania avenues. 902 Windows as the word before the tax write means the landlord just has to eat it. Right. And that’s maybe not so much fun for landlords, but what happens is it causes two things. One is it causes anyone who’s holding land, just for speculative purposes, which means I’m holding it because I know it will go up in value, right? Um, I am going to jump off that property like a hot potato, because like maybe I was expecting to earn X percent a year and increased appreciation, well, this tax is eating that up. So this is no net worth asking for me throw it on the market, throwing it on the market increases the amount that is now for sale, right. And because it’s now on the market, that puts downward pressure on prices. And so now fewer people are bidding up land who don’t intend to use it. And more land is now on the market. And a third thing that happens is, it now only becomes profitable to hold land, if you’re going to do something productive with it. Got it, right. So like, and all of this has the effect not of increasing the price, but lowering it. Generally speaking, there’s some caveats because what it also does is that there tends to some, it can also cause a land boom, to meet the effects. So it can, so we’ll what we’ll do sometimes is that all things being equal, that will lower the prices, and there’s been studies that show this, where at least it’s fully capitalized in the price of the land, gotcha, will often lead to more efficient development, because no one’s going to hold an empty lot and make it a parking lot for surface park right by Time Square, because they know, yeah, yeah, they’re gonna, they’re gonna sell it to someone who’s gonna build a really valuable thing to do there. Right, right. And then it also leads to less sprawl, because instead of going out in the suburbs to buy more marginal land, because all of the land in the city center is too expensive. Yeah, people are gonna build more density in the city center, you’re gonna get more walkable, dense cities, you’re gonna get more housing, right? People are going to, it’s going to be less efficient to build single family homes and more efficient to be because another thing is that, remember improvements and land, you know, there will be marginal land where it’s only valuable to have like a small house on it, right. But it’s like, if it’s like Primo land, and you’ve got to pay like a land tax on it, you got to build something really valuable there, right to build a lot of housing, right, you’re gonna build a lot of houses for a lot of people. And here’s the other part to it, you unpacks the building. So property taxes, the real estate, taxes, the property property is land plus improvement, land tax, takes away the building tax takes away the improvement tax and leaves only the land tax. So it’s like, Bill as much as you want, you have an addition, we’re not going to raise your taxes doesn’t matter, you add a second floor, you build as much as you want, you know, I mean, zoning is still an issue, and we need to get into that. But you build as much as you want, and we’re not going to punish you for it. In fact, that’s literally the only way to be profitable is to build something. And you know, what is fair is people building something, and investing and working hard and getting rewarded for that, rather than extracting value out of other people who have worked hard and invested. Just because you hold leverage over them because you own a scarce resource. And they don’t because you’ve got their two seconds before they
Will Jarvis 18:25
right. I love that. Yeah, I really like that, as anyone, you know, tried land value taxes, like on a big scale.
Lars Doucet 18:34
Yes. A couple places. So one thing I want to back up and say real quick is that we didn’t really introduce who Henry George was. Oh, yes. Sorry. I should have done that. Yeah, yeah. You can edit this together. Yeah. So who’s Henry George? Right. So Henry George was a 19th century. Called a political economist. That’s what they called themselves back in the day. Um, and he was immensely popular. One thing that’s really kind of forgotten me today, is that what we now call like, like around the turn of the 99, at the end of the 19th century, the beginning of the 20th, there was just a huge, just really huge civil unrest, right. We had one of the worst recessions we’ve ever had back then they call it the long depression. Right? And it was worse than the Great Depression, and mental health. And it was it was the 19 century, right? Yes. Just like everything’s terrible. Yeah. And I’m basically like, like prices were out of control, like in terms of rents like you. I mean, it was it was massive poverty. And so George, was this political economist who developed this theory of land. And he noted that there was a paradox that wherever you have progress, you also have great poverty. Right? How is it that we’ve got all this great progress, progress, industrial technology, and economic development, and we also have so much poverty going along with it? Right. Marx had his theories but George had another theory and he’s like, it’s because of um, The capture of land that allows people to extract rent up to the margin productivity. And George was not the first one to have this idea. He did not invent the philosophy. He is its greatest popularizer however, got it right. Henry Ford didn’t invent the car, but right kind of the father of the, yeah. Henry George is the same way with what we now call George’s and we’re geotourism in the land value tax especially. But he did have antecedents. There was some Danish paper I read that was like claiming that land value tax actually goes back centuries into the Viking era. And that there’s all kinds of precedent for it. And that’s probably true. I haven’t checked up on that. But then also, just more importantly, Thomas Paine, on American founder was good at this, Adam Smith. And David Ricardo laid the foundations that George picked up. So Adam Smith, Captain capitalism himself. And David Ricardo had a lot of the same critiques about landlords. In fact, one of the phenomena that George describes for how extraction of value from land read works, is a theory that comes from David Ricardo called ricardos. Law of rent. Right, all nice, and we’ll get into that in a bit. And then the other thing is that the French physiocrats, they were a movement in France, they developed a philosophy basically identical to what George came up with before George, I’m not entirely sure if they knew about each other. What’s so funny is like Reed deriving the principles of Georgia ism, like from first principles just like coming up with the same idea based off of looking at the world. Yeah, something that’s happened multiple times. It’s a good sign. And George was a George stated himself and he was not the first to do it, you know, so in a way like recreating George’s and while having no knowledge of George’s is like kind of the georgius thing in the world. You know, that’s awesome. And I have a I’ll tell you about really funny example of that sometime about EVE Online where a economist they hire to fix recessions and EVE Online with no knowledge of Georgia ism. Reed arrives, Henry George’s land value tax from first principles, and it works. Well. That’s awesome. Yeah. So anyway, so going back to your question of your question, has it ever been trying? Well, it’s been trying EVE Online, and it works. I’ll describe that in a little bit. But in the real world, it’s been tried in a couple of places. I’m currently in the process of a big research project to like track them all down and look at them. Yeah, no, so one, there was a couple of little communes in I think it was Fairhope, Alaska and all then I forget what city I’m in. I forget what part of the country so Fairhope and Alden were kind of kinda like George’s communes, single tax communes? Gotcha. I think they basically experienced mission drift. And so they’re not great examples today. Um, they’re Denmark is a really good example of a place that has land value tax. I don’t think there’s any place that has done like 100%, land value tax, completely untaxed property, done a little georgist way, right. Um, but there are places that have approximated at different times, Houston, my own home stomping grounds. Yeah, in Texas did it in 1911, under the ages of Houston’s first Hispanic major, JJ, past oteiza, he implemented something called the Houston plan, which was very close to a Georgia scheme where basically you assess land at 100% of its value, and you tax it at like, I think it was 75% of the land value 25% of the building, no other property. So like, no money, no furniture, no cars, not that they had cars back then. Yeah, like none of that was taxed. And it succeeded, at least according to the evidence that we have. It’s not enough to do a robust analysis. But it was struck down by the Texas Supreme Court, because we can’t have nice things, right.
But, um, those are a couple examples. Off the top of my head, there’s a couple of other countries that I don’t want to rattle off right now. I mean, I know there’s at least six, but I’m not done doing my research. And then there’s also just a more broad kind of cousin to George’s it was just the concept of land reform. Right. And so land reform is when you basically just take the land away from the aristocrats and give it to the peasants that are working on it. Yeah, it is the biggest missed opportunity in American history where we did not give the freed slaves 40 acres in the mule, we would have our economic development would have been massive, like, even even like if the racist people who would refuse to do it, were just thinking of their own economic interests of the country, it still would have been a perfect idea to do on right now. Also, the racial justice aspect of it is completely, like even more pressing, but it’s one of the biggest lost opportunities in our country. And but land reform is basically like where you just take the land Mr. Kratz, and then you just like, Hey, guys, you’re working this field is your land. Right. And one of those shining examples of that is Taiwan. Right. And Taiwan had land reform. I believe it was under wolf latunski. I’ll have to look that up to make sure I’m not confusing that with like Japan or something. Yeah, but he was a Georgia State. economist and he implemented land reform. Now land reform is not the same as land value tax. George was not really opposed to land reform, he like had some mild criticism of it saying that it’s like land reform is good. But the problem with it is that after a couple generations, it’s possible for the land to re accumulate. Right, right. And so you need something a little more sticky. But I mean, certainly not a bad idea. And, but that has been a really common way for a lot of developing countries to kind of, there’s this book called how Asia works. And it talks about the plan of how to go from kind of a third world backwater of modern, industrial, digital economy. And it starts with land reform. Right. And so there are places that have done like George George’s adjacent ideas like land reform that have been very successful. And there have been a couple of little places here and there that have done land value tax. But it’s not something that has had the continent wide dominance, that, say, the American model of whatever we’re calling capitalism this week, whether it’s Keynesianism or Milton Friedman ism, or whatever, versus the Soviet model of, you know, whether whether whether that’s true socialism, or not like whatever they were doing whatever America was doing, like, we can’t say they’ve not been tried, like they’ve been tried, for like a whole Cold War’s worth of effort. Georgia ism, didn’t get implemented to that degree. It’s been tried in a couple of places. And there’s been some good research papers coming out of some of those places that shows that it does work. Most recently out of Denmark, where there’s this massively just beautiful study that shows that land value tax actually cannot be passed on it will not be passed up. Like, they just show that it was implemented. We’ve studied it, it happened super well controlled study. So
Will Jarvis 26:54
yeah, nice. It is. And this is kind of a broad question. So it might be difficult to answer. But, you know, what’s the best critique of Georgia’s and we found?
Lars Doucet 27:04
Yeah, so there’s a couple of them. Right? So it depends on what angle you’re coming from. Right? So if you’re a Marxist, it doesn’t go far enough. Because the point is to destroy capitalism and any, you know, and and all that, right, yeah. What I mean, like, Mao wanted to murder the landlords. And by the way, Mao’s land reforms went really poorly, because I destroyed his agricultural basis, you know, um, you know, George doesn’t want to murder the landlords, he just wants to tax them. So what do you want to murder landlords? Well, you know, I mean, I know that’s unfair to say, of all Marxist I’m sure Marx himself didn’t want to murder any landlords. Yeah, you know, um, Marx himself had some critiques of doors. So we’ll just instead of putting words in his mouth, those let him use his own words. Marx didn’t like Georgia ism, because because George had a two factor model of production. George says the factors of production are three land, labor, and capital, George says it’s labor and capital. And I mean, not George, but Mark says it’s labor and capital. Marx basically thinks that land is a kind of capital. And so that Georgia ism is a sneaky way for capitalists to like, tweak stuff on the edges and try to save capitalism. Right. And that’s Marx’s critique basically, that George doesn’t that George’s in the Marxist. Gotcha. And then the, there’s other critiques that come from, say, the right and so on the right. I mean, it really depends on how hardcore you are. Like, if all taxation if all taxation is theft, literally, then then land value taxes tax. So that’s, that’s bad, right. And I’ve seen people who take that, I mean, and it comes down to n. Now my understanding comes from like, so. My background is that I came from a very conservative family. I’m less conservative now. But I’m not like, hyper anti conservative, which is popular on the internet. Right. And I believe that a lot of the values I grew up with, like hard work, investment is good. Saving is good. Being thrifty is good. Yeah, like, but I really will really resonate with me with George was the notion of it’s like, I’m entitled to the product of mine labor. Yeah, I’m not entitled to the product of your labor. And George says that, basically, the current landscape is a system where people who own the land can extract other people’s labor and that’s unfair. And if you don’t agree with that, and you agree that it’s like, Hey, I pay for the property fair and square. And now you’re gonna screw me over it’s like I’m a homeowner and this is like my only investment like you know, so there’s there’s there’s one angle that is in my opinion, kind of natively self interested right? I understand it. I you know, I’m not going to judge someone for you know that I will strongly disagree with them. There’s other more light and less self interested more principled objections. One is that okay, land value, tax. is great, I buy the argument about deadweight loss. But it’s impractical, it can’t actually be done. Gotcha. And I’m currently doing a research project to see if it actually can be done. And I’m trying to keep an open mind. Like, maybe it can’t be done. Like, let’s just look at the evidence, and then I’ll present the evidence. And so far, the evidence is pretty convincing. And I would say that because of George’s, but when I write the article, then you know, people can, you know, tear me apart. Yeah, see, um, but, um, and the arguments against practicality is, and these are things I think, are fairly salient and worth responding to in good faith. Um, one is that it’s like, Okay, well, you say, all you have to do to do land tax is you’ve got to assess the value of the property separate from the land. But when you buy the property, you buy the property in the land. So how can you say that this isn’t just a made up number, and we’re supposed to trust government bureaucrats to do this? It sounds like a centrally planned economy. This sounds like socialism. Right? You know what I mean, and that is a valid critique, right. And places where land value tax reforms have failed, is when they’ve gotten sloppy with the assessments, because at least the tax results, I believe that the path to Georgia ism and land value tax reform in America is getting really good at land value assessment. Gotcha. And I’m actually taking a course on land value assessment right now from Ted work me who, at the Henry George school, who is a pretty famous within the assessment world, assessor who’s worked for a bunch of places, he’s implemented Georgia’s policies and a lot of places and he talks about all his methods for assessing land, my neighbor actually, is
a land appraiser. And I can talk about the difference between assessment and appraisal. Because Yeah, and I’ve been getting some tips from him and learning how they do things. And actually, in practice, assessors, and appraisers actually value land and property separately, all the time, my tax bill has two separate numbers. Now making sure they’re accurate, requires, you know, some training and some best practices. But if anything, it’s easier now than it was 100 years ago. And the reason is time and pass the reason I was able to get it done, you know, with just paper and pen and like, horses, right? You know, so like, we have modern GIS maps, and all kinds of technology, and just the ability to like, survey our population like never before and do all kinds of crazy stuff. So if anything, assessment is easier and cheaper now than it used to be. And it was perfectly possible on George’s day, it’s even more possible. Now. The other best critique event that I can think of is, Well, okay, so like, David Friedman brought up that there’s a criticism that, you know, okay, if the value of the land is going to be done by government appointed, or government elected people, then people with most government connections can basically game the system. Yeah. And that’s a valid concern, I need investigate To what degree that happens in practice. Um, but also, I feel like sometimes whenever people are like, Okay, well, people will just game the system. That’s kind of a fully general critique of any system, you can read that any rich people will game every system, like literally every system, and they are gaming, the current system really bad, right? The critique should not be rich people can game the system or will game the system? Because you’re right, they can? And they will. The question is, can they and will they game it less than the current says currently, now, my current system is income and sales and capital tax, and they hide that income, and they don’t report those sales, and they hide that capital, and they have all kinds of tax shelters. And Google and Amazon are not paying all that much in taxes and doing the double Irish with a Dutch sandwich. And they’re super good at it. And like the money in the capital can hide the land, at least can’t hide. Yeah, you know what the assessment can’t hide either. So if you do a crappy assessment, it’s hard to hide the fact that you’ve done it, if anyone motivated is paying attention, right? You have to do all of your you have to do all of your sneaky corruption out in public where everyone can see it on a big shiny map. Definitely. And that’s, it’s a lot harder to game. Yeah, it is harder to gain, right. You know, there’s less levers you have, it’s just like, here’s the land, here’s how much it’s worth. Here’s all the good reasons it’s worth this much. Here’s all the sales that are happening in the area. That’s the other thing is that the other argument is that land values detached from like market valuation. And so like some conservatives say we should get rid of property tax, and move to sales tax and like, because property taxes just like made up government evaluations, but sales tax that’s like market truth data. And it’s like, well, actually, like the real test of, you know, if if you, you know, you found me, I think from astral Codex 10. You know, he’s always talking about prediction markets and stuff. Yeah, assessment is effectively a prediction game by predicting what this land will sell for. And so if you do them often enough, it’s it’s self correcting. It’s like you just learn from the prices that are happening. So if you do annual assessments, you know, Or even biannual, and you just look at the market, you’re like, I’m predicting this will sell for this much. It’s like, oh, it did within this margin of error, and just keep feeding that back in until we get really good at it. And if you follow the best practices, you’ll be good at it from day one. And then the other part of the criticism, though, was that because
I forgot my train of thought here on the second. But like, yeah, sales taxes, you know, are more direct reflections of market value and things. Anyway, so there’s ways to keep valuation in tune with the market. Yeah. And I think that’s less capable than sales tax. I mean, you can you can pay people under the table, you can refuse to report your sales, you know? And then also, oh, yeah, the other argument that is made, I think this politician made this to me, was that you need an army of assessors, and it’s too much government blow. And the problem with that is that you need an army of enforcers for income and sales tax. Yeah. And also, you all part of that army is the people who have to report their own income and report their own sales, you are passing that cost, you’re, you’re basically conscripting the whole population to do free labor to report their own income and sales, and the kind of incentivizes the lie to you about it. Right, right. And then you also have all these penalties hanging over their heads, if they don’t report it correctly, you’re gonna have enforcement agents go after individuals, all over the place, right. And then you got to like audit and like, do all these checks and stuff. And like, no one’s measuring the deadweight loss that has on the economy, like, everybody having to hire accountants, and like report their income taxes, or the deadweight loss on businesses, of having to report all the sales tax, and all that. And, you know, not to mention the direct cost to the government of the agents of that, right. And so it’s like, you look at a map of the land. And if you get your value from the land, you’re done, once you’ve gone over all the land, and it, it does, it doesn’t scale that badly. You know, like, also, the more people we have, like, at most like the more parcels of land we might have, but the amount of land is not going to increase. So it’s not gonna be a problem that scales all that poorly, compared to income and sales tax reporting, which is going to have to scale at least linearly with the population, if not more than, right, right. Absolutely. No doubt. And it seems like
Will Jarvis 37:23
you know, that all there’s so many costs. I think I should have iterated this more in the beginning to podcast, but just the insanity of like housing crisis in, in the US now. So I saw this stat that in 1960,
Lars Doucet 37:38
the median income would pay for 40%, of the median house in 1960. And now it’s eight, you know, it would only pay for 18%. Right? And so it’s just, you know, and a lot of this, I think, explains the appeal of socialism to a lot of young people like Bernie Sanders, it’s like, you can’t get on the housing ladder, right? Like, you just can’t get housing, you can’t get on the housing, ladder and extract value out of other people, right? Like, not only can you not get a place to live, you can’t get free money, like all the boomers guy, right? That’s right. You know, and so it’s like, I mean, and this has happened before, like socialism, highest strength in America was at the end of the 19th century in started the 20th. Right. And there was a real moment where America was going to go either to the Bolsheviks or the georgeous, in terms of which way they wanted to go, right? Either land reform and land value tax, or it was socialist revolution in America. And a couple of things happen, like, Great Depression, prohibition, two world wars, right, you know, kind of mix things up a lot, and a bunch of other effects. But one of the other things was we invented the automobile, right, and the automobile was the safety valve that took seatbelt you spread out, you can spread out Suddenly, a lot of new land opened up, right, you know, a law like those basically, as if, you know, so this is, this is the thing, it’s like, you can’t make more land, right? The Earth has as much land as it’s always had. But the amount of land, the productivity of certain land increased. That’s what that’s what happened. Right? And so by productivity, I mean, like, the usefulness of the lamp, so it used to be light. So what I mean by productivity, my lamp, like I either work from home, but say I commute into an office, right? Right. If I say I’m commuting to Google, right, if I live right next to Google, the productivity of my house is huge. Because I can walk right next door and work for Google. Yeah. But, um, if I can, if I invent the automobile, and I don’t have to ride a horse to work, and I can work, you know, I can commute two, maybe even three hours a day, if I have to, then the productivity. I mean, that sucks. So, but that plot of land still has productivity that’s valuable enough to me because I can commute from that place to my job at Google. I don’t actually work for Google. I worked for myself, but it’s just an example. And so the automobile and the railroads and stuff like that and just increased community. pushed out the margin of production, and that’s part of slavery. And that put a huge damper on housing prices and basically bought us a century. Until now, when, like, and it came with a bunch of other costs externalized costs like pollution, like yes, on the highway, the fact that roads that the cars suck, and everything’s terrible, you know, we don’t have walkable cities in Houston has tons of sprawl, you know, when that sprawl is planned, by the way, that’s fall is not unintentional, it’s intentional, you know, um, and happens in every other city, too, you know, that, that was, that was our safety valve out of either a socialist revolution, or a Georgia’s revolution, guys allowed us to go through the status quo that we have today. And then all the free land that we took from the Indians, you know, we parcel that out into the American dream for certain categories of Americans, you know, which was, uh, you know, not black people, not poor people, you know, certainly not Indians. Right? You know, um, and so, yeah. And then they built their wealth off of that, you know, and then once the land starts get monopolized, though, then the price is going up. Right. And that is the model that we have. And another aspect of Georgia ism, I’m not sure if I’m as convinced of this, it seems plausible, but I’m always a little nervous about it. Yeah. Is that also Georgia’s claim to be able to call recessions? Interesting. And I’m not willing to go to that extreme, because I’m just so nervous about being wrong, right? seems plausible. But basically, they believe that land speculation basically extract so much from the economy that basically they push the extraction to the point, just past the margin of productivity, where it causes a collapse in the system, and then a reset in prices. And it’s kind of no coin, they claim to have called the last recession, the Great Recession Gods which was so famously housing based, right, exactly, you know, and so they’re predicting another one, I don’t know when it’s supposed to come like 2026, or 2028. Um, I am not personally fully on board that train until I do a lot more research. If they call the next one, then maybe that’ll do it for me. But, um, I believe that it contributes to recessions. But I also believe that recessions can also be perturbed by so many black swan effects, like I don’t know, a giant worldwide plague. Exactly. That I’m not willing to be able to sit like be able to say I can call it to the like the right thing. Right. That makes sense. That makes sense. Yeah. Although I certainly believe that it helps contribute to those conditions. Absolutely. Absolutely. So I,
Will Jarvis 42:38
I want to move on, but it’s still alive. So you mentioned EVE Online. Oh, yes. And this is like when I was a kid, you know, I play video games I always thought and I read the foundation series by Asimov. And like, man, we should be testing like macro econ ideas, like in video games, like this is like a great opportunity. Why is no one doing this? It sounds like someone did this with EVE Online. Can you talk about that a little bit?
Lars Doucet 42:58
Yeah. But first, I want to talk about what EVE Online has in common with Ultima Online and Final Fantasy 14, which is the MMO version of Final Fantasy. And also, all of these new, like, crypto backed metaverse, games based off of land ownership. What do they all have in common? Why do you think digital housing crises every single day Really? Yeah. Now Now, when certain content I’m writing an article about this right now. But basically, because in my job as a consultant, I’m getting pitches across my desk for what I call digital land grab games, where basically, it’s a game based off of like digital plots of land for sale by now because it got to be used up soon, you know, and then like, they let you do stuff in gaming, like these guys are gonna have digital housing crises. And like, they have dreams of becoming billion dollar unicorns, they’re screwed, because their their growth is capped. And they’re going to be stuck between having the rug poll their early backers by printing more land more land. Or they’re going to have to basically be content with the fact that no new players want to join because there’s no land for them to use. So anyway, so let me talk about EVE Online. Yeah, so Ultima Online, Final Fantasy 14, and EVE Online. These are all three MMOs that I’ve studied, that had that had or have full blown housing prices to this day. Wow. Welcome online, Final Fantasy 14 half of EVE Online, at least as of 2003. had solved it. I don’t know if the reforms stuck around. I haven’t played Eve. Gotcha lately. So I know. I don’t know. But at least as of 2003, they identified the problem. they solved it. You know? Who knows if they mean by these policy decisions since writing Ultima Online in 1999. This is kind of the granddaddy of MMOs wasn’t the first but it was the Henry Ford of MMO yeah popular genre. There was not a free scrap of land anywhere to place your house, I could afford a house. I could buy the blueprint and like I want to buy a house there’s nowhere to put the house. And like you had to go on eBay and like pay someone on the black market to buy a house because People were just putting them down because the land was scarce, right? And so what is the difference between digital and physical real estate? Well, in the digital world, there’s no laws of physics, right? So like, land in a digital world doesn’t have to be scarce, right? You can print land, like you print money, like as far as just print more land dude, just like print me up a whole nother continent. You know, but some games decide. And so first of all, there’s like an aspect of trust. So for digital land to be scarce in an MMO, it has to be by convention, like nothing. And the same goes for any digital asset, like any digital asset can be land, like if it fulfills certain properties. So for instance, nothing stops Magic the Gathering from printing a million black lotuses next year, right? They’re not going to do it, because we trust them. And because it’s not in their best interest. Yeah, right. And that’s the same sense in which digital land is scarce. It’s not physically scarce, it’s just we know it’s not going to make more, right. It is land light, digital land is landline, like truly landline to physical land, when it’s necessary to do stuff when it’s a factor of production gotcha when you need it to do so it’s not just nice to have, right. And there’s a sliding scale of land likeness. So if it confers benefits that makes it more land, like, if it doesn’t do anything, then it’s not land. Like if it gives you only soft benefits, that’s still valuable, you know, and then the third, I think, a really important thing is that it gains value based off its location in the virtual world. Gotcha. Right. You know, and so like I mentioned garage Nevada earlier garage. Now that is the place that I believe as of whenever I googled it, the cheapest land in America, you can get an acre of land and garage Nevada for $237. Oh, my God, in the middle of the desert, and nobody wants it, right. Just get it? Yeah. For $37. Buy it while it’s not. Don’t be hot for a long time. Because working there, yes, little desert land in San Francisco 2400 square feet of empty lot in San Francisco will cost you a cool 2 million.
Unknown Speaker 47:03
Oh my god. Right, you know,
Lars Doucet 47:05
so don’t tell me that it’s not location, location, location. Yeah, it’s all. In the digital world, when you have land that follows three principles that it is genuinely scarce or close enough to it, you need it to do stuff where it confers a bunch of benefits and increases in value and desirability, and it’s based on its proximity to either population centers or areas of economic activity or other valuable things, then I say slam like, and whenever you have a game that has digital land, that is land, like you have a digital housing crisis, inevitably, and that’s held up so far in the three big examples that I’ve really looked into. But I would predict that it would happen in other places like that. And the solution, if your digital land works like that, you have two options. One is be like, I’m in a video game, I don’t go follow the rules, right? physical world land printer go. Like you get to land and you get to land and you might get slapped. Right, you know, it’s like digital land reform, you know, just digital land in place. You know, um, you can do that. Now, that is not guaranteed to work? Because it depends, because because the locational aspect of land matters. Right? Right. So if you’re just printing more girls, Nevadas. And people still want digital San Francisco’s, you know, that might be somewhat out of your control, because what makes a San Francisco San Francisco is everyone wants to be there. Right? So it kind of depends on like how your different world is formed. But generally speaking, like printing more land is an option. The other option is to make land light nevertheless, necessary, you know, less benefits Colonel. And I call this digital land dilution. And it’s what I predict that all the land grab games are going to do to get a job in our housing crisis. They’re going to keep them mount of land the same. And then they’re just going to slowly nerf it not really telling you how to make it so that the newbies can actually play the game even though landowners right so that they don’t have to choose between pissing off the aristocrats or, you know, the peasants. Right? The landed aristocracy. Yes. Yeah, up, prop 13 established the landed aristocracy in California, right? It totally did. It’s the most unAmerican thing of the world. America was founded on not having aristocracy. Well, I mean, and then we had a bunch of plantation slave owners who were landed aristocracy. So we were founded on it, but it’s contrary to what it should have been founded on. That’s right. Anyway.
Will Jarvis 49:24
Well, and Lars I, I know we’re scheduled for an hour. What’s your timing? Like? Because I I’ll go for it. Let’s do it. Okay, awesome. Can you talk about property? What prop 13 is just for the audience?
Lars Doucet 49:35
Yeah. So prop 13. I’m gonna answer even my question. Yeah, too. But prop 13 is a referendum in the past in California, like back I think, the 70s that basically, that basically grandfathers in property assessments, so basically, your assessment doesn’t rise. If you own the house before it was passed, and like it can actually be used transferred, like that kind of privilege game transferred. So it really is landed aristocracy that you can, you can just give your noble title to, you know, your alodia layer, right like God. And so it’s created this just I mean, it’s just straight up aristocratic. You know, it’s just like these people are better than you because of because we say so yeah. And they get to extract value off your back. And they get to be the government subsidizes them for free based off of your labor, because they have blue blood and you don’t because they had housing in 1973. You didn’t. Right. And it is the worst, most regressive property law in the country. And it is why values in California are so damn high. Texas has some of the highest property taxes in America. state property taxes, and it’s one of the reasons we have actual affordable housing. Right. Wow. You know, I mean, California, Texas are like, kind of on the same scale. I mean, Texas has a lot of dumb stuff going on, I’ll be the first to say that. And I’m not proud of every single regulation or thing we’ve ever done. You know, um, and, you know, I mean, Texas drinks a lot of its own Kool Aid about how great it is. I mean, I’m proud to be a Texan, I will, I will fight anyone who wants to poop on me, but I will, I will be happy to criticize my own my own little brother, slash state. Right. But, um, but one of the things I have going for us is really high property tax, the portion of that property tax on taxes land, is what keeps our land values down. Because it’s like non speculation is not super profitable in Texas, whereas in California, it literally makes you in a row. Right. Yeah. You know, and the proper the portion of the property tax in California in Texas that taxes the building, disincentivizes building, and that’s bad. But it’s, I’d rather have it the non habit, rather having California is policies, and what I’m afraid of is some politician, thinking they’re improving things is going to do away with the property tax because nobody likes paying property taxes, right. And just turned us into California because the only thing worse than high property taxes, escalating rent, yes. No. And so to get back to EVE Online, so yeah. Ultima Online, had a housing crisis. It’s still going I googled it, because I was I remembered it from 1999. Online still around, and I googled it. It’s like, let me learn about this historical housing crisis that we find the first thing that comes up is like a forum post in 2018. And a guy is saying, here’s some tips for how to solve the current housing crisis. And it’s like, presumably, it’s still ongoing. And you know, what his proposed tip was? His proposed tip was to make buildings bigger on the inside than the outside like Doctor Who TARDIS style. Like doo doo, did you just propose a non Euclidean equivalent of up zoning for density loss, which for those who don’t know, up zoning for density is a very common NIMBY proposal. That’s like, we need to have more dense building codes. So like, instead of single family housing, we need to be able to build like, you know, like duplexes and triplexes for people that like make better use of the land. Right. Yeah. You know, and because it’s expensive, so like, that will bring down prices and increase supply and blah, blah. So anyway, it’s like, I mean, there’s been problems with that idea. But in my mind, right, yeah. Maybe we make our coffee maker a little shack, a bag of holding the size of the casket. But, um, so the housing crisis was still ongoing. I looked into Final Fantasy 14. And there I got this guy to like, just tell me he faced 14 veterans told me all about it. Like housing varies like they do print land in Final Fantasy 14, they don’t and Ultima Online, or at least not I gotcha. Final Fantasy 14 lanes all shoved off into housing districts, which are kind of like hyper dimensional suburbs. Gotcha. Like, you got to walk to them from the city to go there. So they exist. And they do that so that whatever problems are happening with housing, don’t like infect the game world, right. But the problem is, you’ve got I mean, I can almost like pick up this. Let me see if I can find the picture of the land speculators my buddy was showing me Okay, let me let me get this full screen. Yeah. So open image in New Tab.
View full screen. I don’t know how to do anything on the computer. Okay. Let me see your screen if I can kind of do that. Yeah, definitely. Okay. So can you see this? Let’s see. There it is. Yeah. Okay. So you see this right here? It’s this placard. Right? Yeah. So this here is an empty lot in a housing district. In Final Fantasy 14. This is a person who owns a house. All these people are sitting here probably they’re all macro bots. They’re clicking on that placard. Because they’re sitting there waiting for that placard to go on sale. That land lot to go on sale. When it goes on sale. It goes it’s got a randomize timer that determines when the lane goes up for sale. Oh my god, and they’re going to sit on it and they’re going to sell that land on the black market and hold it out of us for the highest bidder. Oh, well, they’re gonna they’re gonna put like a just a cheap house on it. Right? Yeah. You know. So anyway, so that’s awesome. Oh, I have another one. That’s really Go to. The other thing is that is a great image. Yeah, so So anyway, so I’m f 11 How do I do? How do I computer I do not know how to computer. But anyway, um, the other one I want to show you is, I want to show you his house. He has a waterfront property with fireworks display. That’s awesome, which is silly. Okay, so let’s see. Yeah, so that was the view from from Joe’s house. Okay, here’s a view from Joe’s house. Open image in New Tab. Hi, my email share screen. Okay, so all right. Final Fantasy 14. Right. Okay. Do you see this? Yeah. Okay, so um, some of my my, my boy, Joe, here, he owns a house on a waterfront property and a housing property, it’s got a fireworks display. If you open a real estate textbook or anytime one one textbook, a firework displays a textbook example of a public good, right? public goods have the tendency to have whatever investment the government makes in them be absorbed in the land values of the nearby properties. And a fireworks display is a textbook example. Because it’s non rival and non excludable. You consuming it doesn’t prevent someone else from excluding it and you can’t prevent anyone from consuming it. So if you put a fireworks display in that everybody likes, it makes all the land values go up above. And then it’s a waterfront property. And we all know from real estate location, location location wants to live near the water, not only because it’s pretty, but because you can fish in it. So even if you don’t want to fish in it, someone else might. So it increases the value of that property. So anyway, I’m gonna stop screen sharing there. So anyway, so Final Fantasy 14 has a housing crisis. Um, and so they do print more land occasionally in the hyperdimensional suburbs. But because there’s no cost to holding land, property taxes, no land tax people to speculate on it and sell the houses on eBay. And they go for more and more and more as the population increases, which is exactly what was predicted. And all of the stuff we know from real estate, and theory plays out, like right down to the I couldn’t, I was shocked when he showed me the picture. I was just blown away. It’s like this is so textbook, yeah, waterfront property with a fireworks display. That’s awesome. And so like the whole thing with the fireworks display public goods, there’s a theorem called the Henry George theorem, that Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, Joseph Stiglitz demonstrated that shows that public good spending gets absorbed into land value properties. Nice. You know, and this is just like that’s on. It’s a perfect image. It works out in the digital world by people who are not trying to say anything about Georgia ism, or land or anything, they just stumbled across it by just then they basically created a simulation of these things happening in the digital. So EVE Online. That’s the build up, EVE Online had land like assets, and those assets were in factories, and the factories, they existed in a fixed amount. They were created by the company that makes it huge. I don’t know what they’re, I can’t remember their name. And they, they provided them and they sold them to players, and players would buy them and you had to use them if you wanted to buy or build ships. If you wanted to ship at least in 2003 when the game launched. I don’t know what it is now. You needed to hold the factory to build ships. Gotcha. And so what happened, people bought the factories and then held them out of use and tried to sell them on eBay for 309 $100 $600 or whatever. Right? And you had no way to even know if it actually owned the factory. They write a listing on eBay, it was all shady and stuff, right? Yeah. And Robin Shockers on a like, he rises famous Gamasutra post basis in 2013, detailing what he did in 2003. So he bought the game the day it started, like the servers had already gone online in Europe. Yeah, like almost all the factories had already been bought immediately raised out to like the furthest, like rim worlds or whatever, like, out in the edge where like, people didn’t care as much and bought the factories there before it was too late. And then he made a ton of money. And he’s like, okay, yeah, my theory is confirmed. Basically, the problem is that there’s not a holding cost of this asset. And stairs, people are going to speculate and scalp. So you need to impose and so he writes a white paper. And he sends it to the CEO of Eve and says, Here’s how to solve this problem. Yeah. And you need to either use it or lose it fee to holding factories, which is going to disincentivize speculation because there’s no longer a guaranteed rate of return. And you’ll probably lose money unless you’re building just an F ton of ships. Nice, which is what we want, you know, yeah. And so he did that. And they did that. And then everything was fixed. And then exactly what he predicted happened. speculators jumped off of the factories, they put them up on the market, the price went down. People only bought them if they plan to use them, and then the economy started chugging again. So he solved a recession, a manufacturing recession caused by the factories now factories could be built by just anyone, then you wouldn’t have had that problem because the factories wouldn’t be landlocked, but they were a necessary factor in production, and they were strictly limited in supply which made the landline And what’s so funny is that Rahman then goes on to basically brag about how this helped him predict the 23rd, the 20,008 housing crisis. And he basically makes the georgist argument for predicting housing crisis based off of land speculation. And so I just, I just do it, and then I’m in the comments. I’m like, I’m just gonna shoot your article in 2013. Like, I’m ramen, if I don’t know if I’m pronouncing his name, right. But I mean, ramen. Yeah, um, Mr. Shockers on a, and I understand you, right, that you basically just emulated Henry George’s land value tax. And he’s like, what’s that? And? And that’s just to his credit, right. He read. It goes and looks it up. He’s like, Oh, yeah, I just looked it up. Yeah. Yep. Tell us about right.
Unknown Speaker 1:00:41
That’s awesome. Yeah. So he
Lars Doucet 1:00:43
independently read arrived it from first principles, because it was a naturally correct solution to the problem he observed, which is not the first time that’s been done. I mean, George himself was not the first one to do that. He just got to get some more credit, because he just started his massively popular movements, big movement. That’s so cool. And all those are such great natural experiments, you know, like, which I think is really telling at the end of the day, yeah.
Will Jarvis 1:01:07
Do you do you think Georgia ism, you come into Georgia ism? does that have anything to do with having this background, you know, from, you know, your experience the Nordic model, right? And then you’re a Texan as well, right? Like, so you’re kind of in between these two worlds. And you can see in Georgia ism, in some sense, it’s kind of like the synthesis, right. So you can think about some way to think about like that. You can say
Lars Doucet 1:01:32
that it doesn’t actually come from there. Exactly. Because like, my dad is like a hardcore American Texan publica. Right, you know? Yeah. And my mom is kind of like, I mean, she doesn’t have any strong opinions. Right? You know, yeah, she’s super sweet lady, but she’s not super interested in like, Yeah, right. You know. And so, I mean, I mostly just kind of got my dad’s views, you know, growing up, and I did have an undergraduate degree in architecture, right, which kind of prepared me for urban ism and stuff like that, um, but the person who was most influential to me was actually my priest. You see, I’m Eastern Orthodox, and I converted in college, I mean, Eastern Orthodox Christian. That’s what this deal is, um, and my priest was super into Georgia ism. And also, I’m actually a cousin movement called distributism, which goes back to like Gk Chesterton, and those kinds of folks. And it’s George’s was kind of a plank in it like Georgia ism is so narrow, like Georgia ism is like, you can just mix it up like cherry coke, you can be geo libertarian, you can be geo liberal, you can be geo conservative, gotcha. You can be geo monarchist, if you feel like you must, you know, yeah, you know. And so he introduced me to it. And then also there was this writer called john Medina, who came and gave a presentation to our school, and he wrote a book called toward a truly free market. And it has just like, like, it’s half about Georgia ism, and other things like that. And that was really kind of clued me into it. And once I read it, it was just like, I mean, it’s one of those dangerous philosophies. It’s extremely convincing. So once I start reading it, it’s just like, yo,
Unknown Speaker 1:03:14
you know, it’s the answer. Yeah.
Lars Doucet 1:03:16
Yeah. And it was really interesting, because it helped me get away all around a lot of dilemmas, because, like, growing up, like with a lot of conservative values, like, I really felt and, you know, I’m, like, I was attached strongly to them. But I also like, had this like dissonance, that it’s like a lot of it kind of felt unfair. But then everything has been divided so much between like socialism and capitalism, the only two way, right, only teams America, USSR, you know, and it’s like, that has so dominated the discourse, and it’s all about whose team you’re on. Yeah. So it’s like, well, I know, I’m not a commie. So I guess I’m a super capitalist, right? Yeah. No, and I’m being orthodox was really interesting, because it’s like, that also was, you know, and I’d also been taught that there’s only Protestants and Catholics, right it atheists, you know, and that those are your those are your three choices, right? And so like when I became orthodox, it was kind of interesting, because that itself was like, kind of like, Whoa, I didn’t even know that like, like, you read about like, okay, so there’s the Catholic Church is a Great Schism don’t pay attention, who cares? Whatever reformation on the European history, you know, yeah, and so um, I just like my will kind of brought it but like, my priest is the one Father casting Sibley is the one who really influenced me to become a Georgia’s, and really, honestly, if I can say so it’s like, it’s a way to like, understand economic what, like, bring Christianity and economics together. For me personally, you don’t have to be a Christian to be a georgist. George. I believe he did believe in God. I don’t know if you would describe him as a Trinitarian Christian or anything like that. Um, he never went to church from my understanding either. So he wasn’t like he was really just in a very pretty ticular uncommon 19th century American language Yeah, now religion is important, but I won’t go wrong.
You know, a lot like my father in that regard. Um, and what’s what’s interesting to me was that it’s like, for me like my foundational ideologies like I had to pick like, okay, so like, what is my identity? My republican? Am I Christian? Am I conservative? Like, what’s that and I realized, okay, I’m a Christian, that’s the one thing I’m not going to give up, I can throw away anything else. And like, I see things like, You shall not muzzle the ox as it treads out the grain. And we’re not talking about oxen here, you know, you will allow the stranger to clean from your fields, right? You know, like, all the verses about money being this thing that corrupts people makes them evil. And you have held back the laborers wages, and yet held back wages cry out against you, and will throw you into the pit of hell and all this stuff. And it’s like, it doesn’t seem like Jesus is being settled here. Right? time he reaches out and beats people up is when he’s beating up the money changers in the universe in the temple. Yep. It’s like, I think he had some opinions about economic abuse. That’s when it was really interesting. And the ancient Hebrews had land reform. But did you really like every couple of years, you know, and they had, and they had right of return? So anyway, talking about the Norwegian thing, it’s interesting, Norwegians have a right of return just like the ancient Hebrews did. It’s one of the Norwegian laws, it’s called all them. And that’s probably just the Norwegian word for a low deal. Yeah, it’s, and what it means is that like, okay, let’s say I’m the oldest, my mom’s oldest son, I’m not. But let’s say I was, let’s say she was the oldest heir. And she’s still holding the phone back in Norway, basically, it means that if I go off to find my fortune, and mom has to sell the land, I have the right to purchase it back at a fixed price. Right? Interesting, which makes land kind of a dangerous investment in Norway. It’s basically a way to keep land out of the hands of the Swedes and the Danes who’ve been taking turns conquering us over the centuries, right? You know, and basically, it kind of keeps land in the family and keeps it from accumulating in the hands of the local Lord. Right? It keeps small holding, you know, it’s not perfect, it has problems. There’s also we have elements of it in Norway, which is every man’s right, which is the right to roam people, you know, if you have undeveloped land, wilderness land, people are allowed to walk across it, you’re not allowed to like put up no trespassing signs and guides, people are allowed to walk straight across the street and allowed to camp for a day, as long as they take good care of the property and the good little boy scouts and they leave it as just as they found it, they don’t litter or anything like that. You can’t keep them off your undeveloped land. And so Norway has some George’s instincts. Denmark is the really kind of George’s place in Scandinavia, they actually have a land value tax. I’m not sure what the rate is or what the rate is relative to buildings, and have a beautiful study that came out in 2017, there’s been a whole series of studies going back to the 60s about does land value tax actually work? And like you’re saying, is it really capitalized into the price of the land? Like, does it really just make the land owner just have to eat it and not be able to pass it on? Right, and there’s a couple of tests that have come out. And they’ve been, you know, varying degrees of strength, and you have to do all these like controls and like, squint at the numbers and be like, it’s probably right. But, you know, someone’s like, Well, I’m not so sure, because he had to do this and that. And that’s part of the problem we call the endogeneity problem, which is, there’s something that’s endogenous to the system and exogamous seventh grade science fair, independent dependent variable. So like, ice cream sales in the summer. Right, right. It’s, it’s because it’s hot that you have more ice cream sales. Right, exactly, you know, and that’s an endogenous part of the system. Right? So so like, the question is, if you’re trying to test land value tax, how do you know that you imposing the tax caused whatever effect you see rather than what caused you to impose the land value tax? Right, right. When you’re measuring policy, people do policy for reasons embedded in the system. And an example I’m using my article is, say I’m Emperor Lars of the planet, Lars, right? Sovereign of the oceans, right. And so one day I go to get off my gilded throne, and I go to the giant gilded Ruby encrusted lever that says the prime interest rate. And I told it, and I change it from 1.2% 2.8%. And then all these effects happen in the economy. And researchers with PhDs like EU national experiment, let’s see what happened. And it’s like, well, when you when the Washington prime interest rate goes from 1.2% to 20%, this happens, but why didn’t Barolos do that? I mean, maybe it’s because the economy’s really bad. Or maybe it’s because there’s a bunch of protesters at my door, maybe I want to distract everyone from the losing the war we’re having with the Earthlings. Right? You know, and maybe those are the things that cause in whole or in part, the effects you think are attributed to the interest rate, right? Those are endogenous effects. exogenous effects is when a giant hyper This just shows up and eats every single manual gearshift car on the entire
and then disappears. This came from outside of the system, and then it caused an effect. And whatever happened afterwards is because of that thing. You know, we call those acts of God, right? love to see it, they come very rarely, and they rarely do exactly the thing you want. In Denmark in 2017, we had a hyperspace land value tax position where it’s close to it as we can get. And what happened was the municipal government for extremely boring reasons was like, um, we got all these counties in Denmark, let’s just redraw the boundaries is something more convenient, show these counties together, move this county here, like just just just change the boundaries, some of them get joined together, some of them get split up, you know, we’re just doing that for boring reasons that have nothing to do with tax policy, right. All of Denmark has a uniform property tax assessment. So property tax assessment across the board is the same. But land value tax versus building value tax is different per jurisdiction, and you just shuffle the jurisdictions away. So you have an end of like, 250 Oh, that’s awesome. And you did it for reasons completely unrelated to policy just for boring, like shuffle all the boundaries? Yeah. So it wasn’t just like, we implemented land value tax in Houston for two years before the Supreme Court struck it down. Yeah, we have nothing to control against. It’s, um, we just shifted like, like, we basically just mind controlled every jurisdiction in Denmark effectively, and just told them to raise their land and property values by random amounts. So that we could do like regression analysis and all that kind of econometrics, I don’t understand and just like, see what happened and see like, what small changes versus large changes and like, you know, and you don’t even have much to control for because it’s just perfectly on like, as it’s not, nothing’s perfect, but as close to evening Sergeant shock as I can get. And then it’s one of the strongest papers I’ve seen, there’s a bunch of weaker papers like that all show basically the same thing. But they basically, you have to take their word that they’re controlling for it. Correct. Right. You know, and so, um, so Denmark is kind of cool in that regard.
William Jarvis 1:12:06
Hey, folks, there’s a brief break here, where we lost power while recording. We recorded the second half about a week later, and Lars had a call. So his voice is a bit deeper. And we’ve moved on to another topic to start the second half. Thanks. Noise history is an oil Empire and how it kind of resisted the resource curse. Oh, yes.
Lars Doucet 1:12:26
Yes. So Norway’s interesting now, I am not an expert on Norwegian history. I’ve just read more about it than most right. You know, the fact that I’m in a region citizen is just what’s gotten me interested in it, right. There’s, there’s plenty of like non Norwegians who know more about Norway than me and plenty of Norwegians to do so without prefaced. So Norway is one of the few countries that’s avoided what we call the resource curse. And the resource curse is typically associated with Middle Eastern countries, but you see it elsewhere to Venezuela is a good example, both when it was you know, right wing and his current left wing iteration, you know, and then Saudi Arabia and Iraq, and other places like that, just historically, with her and without America’s intervention, you know, the, you can say America’s intervention has made it worse. And I would agree. But generally speaking, the resource curse is, you’re a country that is blessed with natural resources, like just tons of natural resources. And the curse becomes that, paradoxically, your country’s development, like richness like infrastructure doesn’t get developed precisely because you have this wealth of natural resources. Like I think this also happens, a lot of African countries that have a lot of mineral wealth, for instance. And the curse is caused by the fact that because you have these this great base of natural wealth, you create an economy that’s based off extraction, and you don’t like in order for the elites to be wealthy. They don’t need to develop like a robust economy, right? All they have to do is just
Will Jarvis 1:14:06
so all you have to do is stick a shovel in the ground and dollars fly up. And so you just never develop any real infrastructure education or anything like that.
Lars Doucet 1:14:13
Right. Right. Right. And so a lot of the oil producing countries like traditionally like wouldn’t have like necessarily a lot of great refining refineries, you know, like, Goddess waylynn oil is like that in particular, you know, you would have like, you would just sell crude to the west and Europe and China and whatever, right? Yeah, you wouldn’t necessarily like get really good at refining it and and and stuff like that. And so you can you can do a couple of things you can try nationalizing your economy, your oil industry, but that doesn’t always work, you know. But what happened in Norway actually is that normally avoided the resource curse, and they’ve created a really broad, like the other way to like get trapped by the resource curse is like that resource becomes their whole economy, right? So even if you kind of develop infrastructure, it’s based around that. And so your fate is tied to that one resources place in the market. So the price goes up, you’re doing good price goes down your entire economy is bust and the mean and that’s and that’s, that’s happened to Venezuela over and over again. Right. And, and and other countries like it’s not just Venezuela, like it’s easy to like over index on like chubby smo and Hugo Chavez and Maduro in Venezuela, but it’s like, they they have other problems besides that, and they had a lot of the same problems when they were right wing related to the resource curse, too, you know. But, um, the way Norway avoided it is kind of a really interesting story, because it was an Iraqi guy. Let me find it. Yeah, it was an Iraqi guy who’s now a Norwegian citizen. And he’s like, been awarded the Medal of St. Olaf, you know? Like, I’m not he’s a knight of St. Olaf. Because he basically like just he’s, in many ways responsible or country. Let me let me look up what I can see. Yeah, I can find out who this guy was again racking. His name should come right out. Okay. His name is Farouk Alec Racine, or anything. Let me look up his Wikipedia page. So Farouk Al qaseem, Knight of the Order of St. Olaf is kind of the savior of the Norwegian economy. So basically, what happened is that he was born in I think it was from Basra, Iraq. And he was educated. You know, he studied in England, um, you know, petroleum geology, according to Wikipedia. And I believe he married a Norwegian woman. And his son had some rare medical problem. I can’t remember what it was exactly. And the only place I need to get treatment for that was in Norway. So they went back to Norway while I was there, and you know, presumably started, you know, working and stuff. And this was in the 60s. And around that, let me make sure about the timeline. Yeah. Yeah, in the 60s, in 68. And while he’s there, he was, you know, the Ministry of Industry hired him as a consultant. And he was analyzing North Sea exploration. Like, as a lot of just for the audience, the North Sea has one of the hugest oil reserves, like there’s this huge oil reserve there. And he realized, holy crap, Norway is about to dive headfirst in the resource curse I saw happened in Iraq, right? Where politically connected cronies benefit off of the resources, or foreign countries come in, like American companies, and they keep all the oil well for themselves. And like the country, the country’s just becomes like this tenant to this foreign Empire, right? Like Norway needs to be the master of its own destiny. This is their oil is clearly like, they’ve got the claim to it. We need to do things right. And now is the time to strike. And he wrote a white paper along with some colleagues and sent it to the government. And he said, this is the plan, and normally follow that plan to a tee. And they avoided the resource curse. And so some people might correct me on some of the details I’m about to say, because I haven’t like it’s been a while since I read all this stuff. But the basic sketch of it is it’s he recommended that Norway nationalize the oil industry. And that’s where a lot of people stop there’s more to it than that. He so is actually kind of a private public partnership. Start oil right is the name of the Norwegian oil company is stopped oil it later it’s been changed like Ecuador now. And they’ve like reformed it a little and like, the policies like moved, but that was the original idea. But it wasn’t just that we’re just gonna nationalize the oil industry, because a bunch of people have done that in automated the resource curse. Yeah. What he did is essentially not too far off from a Georgia’s principle, which is that it’s like nobody created the oil. Right? So
we don’t want any private industry to really benefit from just being able to own the oil. Right, right. That is the people’s oil. So long, as we can credibly say that the Norwegian people have claimed to these oil fields, that’s the people’s oil. Yeah, right. But what private industry is really good at is investing in capital and investing in development methods and stuff. So we are going to subsidize the ever loving heck out of oil exploration. In discovery, we are going to tax the ever loving heck out of oil extraction. So what this is kind of a weird way to do it if you’re not used to this, but what it means is that it’s like what is the cost of going out and looking for oil and finding a new well? Well, the Norwegian government will pay for almost all of that. So why not do it right? And then they’re going to tax I don’t know what the rate is, but it’s like huge, it’s like, I don’t know 80 90% it’s like up there of what comes up. But it was basically free to set up the pipe, including all of the expensive tooling and capital. And like, like all of the exploration, and I’m not sure exactly what’s included with that I’m not sure if like seeking the well as part of that, but probably is like an all the tool design and the research all that that’s all subsidized by the government. It’s like, hey, private industry, we will fund all your efforts to like, cover your cost, like go out and like find the oil. Right, then the people get to own the profits of it. So you get to keep some so that it’s worth doing in the first place. Yeah. And it was often like a bunch of private companies or working with I forget which one it was that Farouk was specifically like working within his time. But, um, and so that kind of tax is a natural resource tax like that. I think it’s called a What is it called? A severance tax, I need to double check myself that that’s what it’s called. But when you like tax, the removal of depletable natural resources from a site that is called a severance tax, and that that’s something Georgia’s tend to support. And it’s, um, and this has been, and then what it normally do with all this oil money, we plow most of it into, I forget what it’s called, like, it’s a Norwegian sovereign wealth fund. Right. And they invest that and stuff. And that’s, um, I think it’s kinda like an endowment. Like we don’t it’s, it’s our seed corn. And so like, we’re not eating it actively. We’re like, but we use it to kind of like, like the the interest from it to help fund the Norwegian, the Norwegian welfare state. And you’ve heard, like, turn of the century and stuff like all these scientists were like, the industrial revolution is going to make it so that we get the same amount of work done, we’re going to work less time. Yeah. You know, and they’ve actually realized that in Norway, right? It’s like, Norwegians live for vacation. Right? You know, like, whenever it’s winter, all the birds and all the Norwegians go to Spain, you know? Like, that’s just how it is like, like Norwegians, just like live for their vacations. And it’s like, you can criticize that if you want, but I think it kind of beats like, like, like, I don’t remember the last time I really took a vacation here in America, you know? Because, yeah, I mean, it’s just, it’s just what you got to do. And, you know, I think there’s a lot to be said for that. And I think like a lot of people who are interested in the Nordic model, kind of focus on a lot of superficial aspects of it and don’t understand the details that make it work. Like one thing, just as a quick aside, is one of the things that makes the Norwegian model in particular that the Nordic model talks about all the countries, but the use of them is slightly different. What makes Norway and a lot of other Nordic countries work is scale. Like you’ll sometimes hear, like, right wingers talking about, well, if we had a homogenous population full of white people, right, then everything would be perfect. And I’m like, Yeah, okay, you’re missing the point. Like, what makes Norway work is that it’s like, the got a population smaller than Houston. Right. And so there’s not that much distance between the people, you know, and like, whether their native ethnic Norwegians or Iraqi Norwegians? Yeah, or whatever, you know, there’s, there’s less distance between us. So Norway functions more as, like a really high trust society. And, and when you have a really high trust society, like you can do things so much more efficiently, because you don’t need to have tons of bureaucratic checks on things and the government can’t give that complicate. Like, Norway is effectively a municipal governments, right on American scale. Like the city of New York is more like complex than Norway. I mean, normally is like, more spread out,
but you know, and there’s like, less layers between everything. It’s like, like, a good example is like there’s Norwegian school that like expats can, like send their kids to, to like me, anyway, Norwegian. And like, I run it up because I was just interested in growing for my kids and like, their processes, like, yeah, just just go ahead and talk to Shashi and hook you up, you know, like, Is there like enrollment processes? Talk to Shashi? Yeah, not, like fill out this form or fax a PDF or anything like that. I know.
Will Jarvis 1:24:12
This is super interesting to talk about size in why governance is so good in Norway, but do you think there’s anything else I mean, it’s just unimaginable to me even in like our local municipal government here, for them being as competent, as you know, like the Norwegian government, like, you know, what we’re going to avoid the resource curse is a great idea, read this white paper, we’re gonna implement this and we’re gonna invest all the money for the future in a sovereign wealth fund.
Lars Doucet 1:24:37
I mean, part of its cultural rain, it’s like part of it’s like an part of it’s also like, your local municipal government is not sovereign, right? Like they’re part of a larger like, they take orders from people above them and people above them and people above them. And then also, also, it’s like, it’s just easy to forget like how easily transferable certain policies are across cultures. I like, like, what what what counselor right wing in Norway is really interesting. Like in Norway, the right wing party is the pro EU party. Norway is not a member of the EU. We’re a member of a lot of the treaties. So we’re kind of sort of Yeah, like, practically speaking, we got to kind of do what they say. But we’re not a full member of the we’re not a member of the EU in any like, official sense. Yeah. And like, that’s very intentional. And like, the party that pushes forward is the conservatives. Because that’s the pro business stance from a Norwegian context. Ah, interesting, super interesting. Whereas in UK or America, like being against these, like international agreements, or whatever it can be seen as, like, they’re, they’re big enough economies on their own, for that to suddenly become like a conservative position. Right, gotcha. I mean, Norwegian conservatives are probably like, slightly to the left of Bernie, and, you know, the other things they stand for, but like, also, I mean, I mean, but but like, also, like, Europe is weird in certain ways. Like, I mean, Norway, until very recently had a state religion, you know, you know, like, you know, despite the fact that most people they’re very secular, right, yeah. Raised in America, like you have much more religiosity but, but you actually have, like, separation of church and state. And so it’s easy to misunderstand these things, but like, go back to localities, like I think the fact that Norway’s sovereign really matters, I mean, we still got, we still got to do a lot of what the EU says, even though we’re not EU members. So sovereignty means a little less than your tiny but but still, I mean, I think it counts for something, you know, and also the fact that you can’t spread out like you can here in America, and that has some implications, right? Like, if I were to drive 100 miles, and they all start speaking another language. Like, that’s even if I can speak English there, you know, and most Norwegians speak English. I mean, it’s still like, that’s a huge barrier, right? You don’t settle too far from home. And the effect of that is that I am related to like the whole county, most of my family is from, like, you know, and so there’s these really thick, just like, I don’t know what the word is just like, I mean, like, we’re very atomized in America, like, we don’t have strong connections to each other. That’s one of the reasons that like, compared to Norway, we’re much lower trust society. I mean, we’re much higher trust than say, like, I don’t know, like Russia, maybe Yeah, but we’re still lower trust compared to them. Because we don’t have those strong ties that bind, we can move across the country to get away from our parents. And then, you know, um, and I think that counts for a lot. So So, if you want the magic Nordic pixie dust, part of it has to do with, you know, not so much that it’s a homogenous Society of white people, which is kind of a myth, because we actually have more immigration, people realize, but it has more to do with the fact that it’s high trust that it’s a small population that’s sovereign, and everyone kind of knows each other and bumped into each other all the time. Right. And I’m facing one place and doesn’t like, just move, you know, because now you’re in Sweden, and, you know, we make fun of Swedish people back, but it’s,
Will Jarvis 1:28:14
it’s great. That’s great. That’s, it’s super interesting. I want to pivot a little bit and you have to talk about if you don’t want to, but before Eastern Orthodox, your Eastern Orthodox, correct? That’s correct. Can you talk a little bit about that? Because I know early in this show, you mentioned it’s almost like a third way you know what I mean? Like, you know, usually you hear like, to be Catholic, you’d be Protestant. And like, that’s, that’s pretty much it. How did you you know, come to the religion and, and what made it appealing, I guess.
Lars Doucet 1:28:43
Yeah. Like I didn’t intentionally set out to become a person who collects like a bunch of like, statistically unlikely adjectives for myself. I’m like Norwegian Texan, with thread cinema, narcolepsy, Eastern Orthodox Christian. I mean, I wasn’t trying to like just make myself absolutely easily demographically pinpointed in a government database. Even though I seem to have achieved that, but yeah, so I grew up Norwegian Lutheran, and by that I mean Church of Norway. Lutheran, right. My dad was, um, I call him born again, Republican, I don’t think you’d be insulted by me saying that, like, he believes in God, he’s, you know, very, but he’s very conservative. And, I mean, he was a lot like Henry George, you know, like, he, you know, thought religion was important, but like, didn’t go to church, right? Yeah. And then my mom, so my mom raised me and gave me You know, my basic religious values. And she was raised in the church of Norway, which is um, so the head of the Norwegian church is in fact, the king. That’s not a power he really exercises he doesn’t really act like a super bishop. Right? You know what I mean? But so like in Houston, there is a Norwegian don’t giggle Siemens church, you know, that means um, Like sailors church, right, gotcha. Yeah, I tend to find those and all the big board pounds and they become like kind of Norwegian cultural hubs. And so I didn’t go to an English speaking church service in America until I left for college. Really? Oh, wow. You know, so like, the services were in Norwegian. I was confirmed in the Norwegian church when I was 15. I believe, the Lutheran consani era. You know, what, boys when I was 15, you know, and I just grew up with that. And so that’s a liturgical tradition, right? Yeah. Especially Norwegian Lutherans. But they’re also like, kind of mainline Protestant. So like, you see the same things happening within that denomination that you see in like the Anglicans. And, you know, the Presbyterians is like these fights between the traditionalists and the modern rights and, and, and all of that, um, I was pretty insulated from that in because it was a foreign satellite church. Right. Gotcha. Right. Attendance is actually much higher in Norwegian churches outside of Norway than they are back home in Norway. Oh, interesting. Um, because if you want to go hang out with Norwegians, right now, either that or ExxonMobil, right, yeah. And so, um, so yeah, so I was raised in that, but I didn’t, like my mom became more than nominally religious kind of late in life. Like, she started off fairly just kind of like a Norwegian, that’s what you do. Right. And then she, like, fell in with a bunch of evangelical friends. And like, you know, um, you know, like, faith became a much more authentic and important part of our life, kind of, like, by the time I was a teenager, and myself, like, I, you know, I grew up mostly agnostic, Lutheran, like most good Norwegians. And then, um, you know, but then like, kind of had a little bit of a conversion experience towards the end of high school, you know, taking a little bit more seriously, but also just kind of bumping around and being confused by a lot of things. But and, and then in college, there are no Norwegian Lutheran churches to go to, so I went to whoever. And that was kind of like, going into an American church for the first time, even as someone who’s lived in my or my whole life, like an American Protestant circles, like, what is this? What is going on? guitars? And like, Oh, God, yeah. Right. Like, I mean, because also, like, my experience was also Norwegian. And like, if you known someone from Minnesota, you know, it’s like a pretty good approximation of what their ancestors were like, you know? And it’s like, yes, how are you doing? Right? You know, like, your whole your expressiveness, and everyone’s in my face and testify, right. You know, all that. And, anyway, so that was kind of weird. Like, I was kind of into it for a little while, you know, um, but then like, I kind of scratched the surface and started asking questions, and, you know, not getting very good answers to them. And also just the Protestant experience, not the knock on all Protestants. But the American evangelical Protestant experience is kind of pretty a historical. It’s like, they’re pretty sure about what they’re not, but they’re not always sure about what they are, and they don’t necessarily know where they’ve come from. And then
what’s so funny is like, one year, it was Easter, and I was in college, and I was going to go to services, like because they had evening services for the college students. And they canceled Easter. They had morning service for the old people, but they didn’t have it for for the for the student service, because they expect all the students are going home. And I hadn’t I hadn’t paid attention to that. Yeah, I was like, What am I going to do? And so there’s this great girl in my dorm. And she’s like, Well, you know, on the eastern calendar, Easter’s in Easter’s next week, because they’re on a different calendar, and I was like, Okay, well, I’m gonna check out what your churches Yeah. And it was a really weird experience. Because the, the church I went to it was in the back of an insurance building, because my garbage was so small. Yeah, we called it the ortho box. That’s awesome. And there was this priests there. I mean, all Americans, there’s some Russian parishioners, but it was it was an American priest. And, you know, I started asking questions I never really left, right, you know, and then whenever someone asked me, like, what made you change your mind? Why did you become orthodox? Like, I asked that of my priest once, you know, during my catechism, because they make you actually like, they won’t let you convert right away. Like, you got to like, do a whole project. Yeah. Because like, they’re really, like, they really want to make sure you know what you’re getting into. And so I asked him, like, how did you decide cuz he used to be, he was actually a missionary kid for a Baptist preacher. Oh, Africa, right. Yeah. And so he said, I was like, Well, how do you use I was correct. And he’s like, he was like, I concluded it was correct. That was why I changed. And I was like, Oh, I don’t think I’m gonna be able to top that answer. Yeah. So I mean, it’s just like, you know, I’d always been interested in historical Christianity and the Orthodox claim, and I believe them that they basically are historical Christianity. You know, I mean, it’s like You know, the form has adapted to local cultures along the way, but you know, there’s a direct line of succession from them to the back without any major changes and things. And, um, you know, I was like, Okay, this is what I kind of been looking for it makes sense. And, you know, there’s not much, much more to the story than that. It’s not like it matched my lifestyle or, you know, aligned with any of my political values. In fact, kind of the opposite, you know, but, um, it was just convincing. And so I was like, Well, I guess this is what I’m doing now. And, yeah, so this is actually my baptismal cross. Nyan. Yeah. And our parish is still pretty small. Um, we’re, we’re, we’re in a house now, instead of a tiny, like, insurance building. Um, but, you know, it’s been really interesting. And it was, it was my priest, in fact, who introduced me to George’s so cool. So he was, I mean, he’s, he takes a lot of like, now, you’ll have super right wing orthodox priests, and you’ll have super left wing ones. Like, I mean, they’re, I mean, they’re just Americans. Right? Right. You know, so, um, but he very much drew on the ancient Christian tradition.
And kind of took him through what I feel are its natural conclusions, which is in support of things like Georgia ism, right? Like, you go through and like, I mean, if you read the Old Testament, like the Hebrews are pretty, like, obsessed with fairness to the stranger and orphans and widows, and like the book of Ruth is all about it has like it, like the subtext to the whole book of Ruth is like land policy, you know. And I just found that fascinating. And it was something I hadn’t really thought about before. Like, the only act of violence Christ ever commits that’s written down is like to, like, money changers and bankers. Right, exactly. It’s hilarious. You know, and so, um, my priest is kind of like, in the environmentalism and stuff. And he’s a big fan of Wendell Berry. And, um, it was really interesting. Just just talking to him and learning from him. His name is Father kassian, Sibley. And, yeah, it just got to change my perspective on a whole lot of things. Now, I mean, if I hadn’t gone somewhere else, like I mean, you know, I mean, I found my current political and economic beliefs very congruent with my religious faith. There are other Orthodox Christians who are very right wing and will just give you the standard, like republican line, right? No, but I mean, I, I’m telling you that I feel like this is kind of a natural outgrowth of my beliefs. Like, there is a related movements to Georgia ism, which is called distributism. Now, it’s not identical, but like they’re, they’re very compatible. And this was actually something that was very popular among Catholics at the turn of the century. Like Gk Chesterton for gotcha. Right. And, um, and so, like orthodox or non Catholic, but you know, we see idi and a couple of things, at least, you know, not not the whole Pope thing and a bunch of other stuff. But, you know, that kind of, you know, hey, maybe the poor matter and I mean, I, I have some very generous Evan jellicle friends, I don’t want to cast shade on but like, they’re very much different from like, the whole, like, religion exists to serve the conservative American movements, right? You know, some something very different from that. And, like Gk Chesterton favorite quote, that I love is the problem with capitalism is not that we have too many capitalists, but that we have too few. Right. And I think it was john Calvin, another person I don’t have much in agreement with. But one thing I really liked that he said, What No, was it john Calvin, or was it it was Francis Bacon. Okay, it was Francis Bacon, who said riches? When they are, he said isn’t like old Elizabethan English, I’ll just paraphrase riches, when they lie up on a heap or like dung, they just create great stench, but when you spread them out evenly, it creates much, much much fertile fertility and fruit, you know. And so I so just like being connected, that the same thing that kind of drew me to Orthodoxy, which was looking back in history, like Yeah, what are what are the principles? I say? I asked, right. And reaching back into history, what is the natural conclusion of those principles? Like the same thing kind of worked on me with Georgia, even though like one of my Georgia’s friends are just all over the map religiously? Like they’re Quakers or atheists or agnostic or, you know, some of them are orthodox like me, some of them are Catholic, Protestant, everything, right. But in my particular case, the same like looking back to history and trying to learn the lessons of history is also what kind of brought me to Georgia, you know, is because, you know, when you really go out and look there, there’s all these things that never get talked about. Because history, it’s not like history has been like censored or edited so much as like, the only things we talk about are the things that drive our current conflicts. Right, right. And we forget about what they what people used to care about, like most people only know of William Jennings Bryan, as like, the anti evolution guy ran the Monkey Trial. Like, they don’t record they don’t recognize when you mean when you say do not cry, crucify this country on a cross of gold, which is what his actual legacy is, you know. And then it’s like, you say, by mentalism and like people, like what, but you say, Scopes Monkey Trial, and everyone knows, I got that, you know, and that’s kind of point, I believe in evolution for the record.
Will Jarvis 1:40:45
That’s great. That’s great. And that that’s a really good point, as well. But you know, what we talked about is really driven by our person conflict and the culture of war, and we just ignore anything that really doesn’t fit the narrative or the death. Yeah.
Lars Doucet 1:41:02
Yeah, so it’s, um, it’s pretty interesting. Yeah. Um, so anything else you want to talk about? Or any other points you wanted to raise
Unknown Speaker 1:41:10
up? one bar? And it’s a it’s another one of these, like, complete right turns, but video games? Oh, yeah, you spent a lot. So you’ve built one, you’ve been successful with it, as well, which is, seems like a really difficult thing to me. Like, I just see how competitive the video game market is, you know, like an Xbox like game pass. It’s like five bucks a month. And it’s like every title in the universe, it seems like it’s available to you. So I, you know, I how do you think about being successful in the in the video game industry and creating new games?
Lars Doucet 1:41:44
Oh, man, it’s tough. Um, I, you know, there’s this, there’s this probably apocryphal story about how you’re allowed to convert to Judaism, at least in this one. Right? So like, this, probably apocryphal story is that prasiolite goes up to a rabbi and says, Please, I would like to become Jewish, you know, Please receive me and, you know, whatever sect of Judaism, he’s trying to enter, and the rabbi says, yo, wicked. And he comes back again, it’s like, please, No, I’m serious. Please make me I want to become Jewish. Yeah. Go away. You’re not serious. I don’t want you. It comes back a third time. And then the rabbi says, All right, you’ve passed the test. You’re serious about this? Yes. Um, you know, we’ll, we’ll we’ll start the CATA cases, right. Um, that’s how I feel about anyone who comes up to me and asks me, how do I get into video games? Right. Right. I like you almost want to like, just like, almost want to just like actively push them away. Because the only people who should be working in the video game industry or people who like really know what they’re getting into, right. And the I just gave a presentation in Moscow about this actually, the big mistake is that there’s not one games industry. And there’s multiple games industries. So there’s, there’s and knowledge of one industry doesn’t necessarily prepare you for another. Oh, interesting. It’s because we expand get it. We defined games extensively, right? I’m an airline flight safety video is a motion picture. But is it film? No. Right? We don’t call it film, even though it’s it is a moving picture, right? And we don’t consider that what whoever makes airline flights, do videos as part of the film industry, you know, but almost anything fun. You do want to computing advice, almost everything gets labeled as a game, right? And then we draw a big circle around that and call that the games industry and just gets huger and huger and huger and it’s like 30 different things. And yeah, like a good example of this. Um, there’s this game all the kids play called Roblox, which is its whole universe. Yeah, it’s massive. Because it’s its own industry all to itself. And some people in the games industry, which is to say, my corner of the games industry, like literally discovered it, like yesterday. I’m like, not even kidding. Like, yesterday, my god. Like they came to me like Lars, what is Roblox? Right, you know, and this is, despite been working on PC and console games for like, 15 years. Right. And, um, so anyway, what is my point? So the games industry is very difficult. Um, I’ll just speak in generalities, because I could I mean, I could write, I could do a season a podcast. That’s awesome. You should be really interesting. Yeah, maybe I will. But, um, the basic premise is that the basic truth of the game industry is that every kid wants to make video games. And there’s an endless supply of 20 year olds. Yeah. And the results of that are predictable, which is that there’s a lot of burnout. There’s a lot of not really investing in the next generation, because they’re gonna come to you anyway. Right? There is, I mean, honestly, I hate to like cast shade on my colleagues or anything, but especially a lot of the big companies and even some of the indie ones. You know, there’s a lot of abuse, and there’s a lot of exploitation, and there’s a lot of workers not knowing what they’re worth. And so basically for the same skills, you will make less money and work worse hours and have more stress and more anxiety in the videogame industry. Then, if you were to go make tax software for dentists getting boring software is where the money is kids make tax software for dentists. Right. You know, I’ve been told as much by VCs, you know, that’s where the, you want to make easy money invest in tax software for dentists if you want to take a huge risk, invest in video games. And so making money as an as, like an independent creator is very hard. Yeah. Like, it basically involves, like, you have to be on your game as a designer and a programmer and all of that stuff. Whether that’s you, were you putting together a team? Yeah. And then you need to really keep your thumb on the industry. And like, identify new changes, and basically like, change your career, like make major shifts to your career every six months to a year. Gotcha. And you can already see the problem because the average game takes two to three years to make. Yeah. Right. And so like, like, how can you adapt? You’re trying to hit a moving target? Yeah, I mean, especially like, I mean, especially if you’re making Yeah, it’s just so hard to do. And so what I always see with a lot of the Indies who survive indie, but we mean, like independent developer. Yeah, a lot of them inevitably become publishers, right, God, like, they have a successful game. And then they kind of exit the rat race, because that’s the only way to survive long term. You know, and,
and, I mean, that’s what happened with me, I became a consultant. Right? You know, instead of in the gold mines, like, I’m now helping people sharpen their pickaxes. Right. And yeah, working for the more established people. Right, you know, and hopefully helping investors from throwing their money away. I mean, I’m not ashamed of it. I think our pride a lot of value. Yeah, but it’s, but it’s like, it’s really rough out there. And like we talked about, I like people complaining about platforms like steam and full disclosure, I’ve worked for them for like a year. I mean, Oh, nice disclosure, I’ve also heavily criticized them, you know, and they’ve never, like, retaliated against me or anything, but I’m, like, even then, like taking 30% of every transaction, which everyone you know, in my mind rightly complains about. That’s like, nothing compared to other places. Like, you know, just how locked down Apple and Google have the whole app store. Right? Because in addition to taking 30% they also control who gets featured. Yeah, in a much more total way. And yeah, like, I mean, I’ve written a lot of pieces about it, and then like Roblox, like the amount that their creators get paid out his opinions. And then Roblox is so interesting, because they’ve closed the loop because like, my generation, we fantasize about making Nintendo games, right. And that was a 10 year gap between us playing games and us being able to get the skills connections, money and training and hardware, rare, bizarre hardware, you know, in like 1990 to be able to create the games we loved. Yeah, this generation of Roblox kids are playing Roblox games with their friends, and then they aspire to make Roblox games and then they go on to do so like tomorrow. Yeah. And so by the time they turn 18 and ready to enter my industry, they have five to 10 years of Roblox experience, perhaps even developer experience in Roblox and maybe knowing just knowing maybe no interest in joining the regular industry. Yeah, so like I sometimes say like Roblox is the Pied Piper sent by God that punish the game industry for its Sins of not investing in juniors in the next generation. Right, right. And like Roblox is just taking them right, for better and for worse, you know. And, anyway, so game industry is super weird. It’s not like, it’s also one thing I think is interesting is like, the game industry is like, very self critical, at least on the bottom level, like, you hear a lot of criticism about the game industry. And like this can like make it seem like it’s a particularly bad industry. And we have some, like, really bad stuff going on. like looking at all the stuff coming out of Activision, it’s like, not good. Yeah, I think it’s also important to like, keep things in context. This is not to defend the industry, because yeah, I criticize it all the time. But like oil and gas, is like, not only are they kind of destroying the planet, but also like, have you been doing oil and gas conference? Like, do you think games have a booth page problem, and exploitation of people like, right, wait until you’ve got just a bunch of old guys who don’t have anyone woke doing journalism and don’t care what they say, right, you know, and this is not supposed to be like a What about isn’t like, well, at least we’re better than the oil and gas. And yeah, I’m just saying it’s like, you know, like, the game industry has a lot of problems, and we need to own up to them, and we need to be better. We absolutely do. And I and we’re not literally the worst industry in the bit. That’s a very low bar to clear yet, but I think we’ve cleared it, and we’re responsible for less murders per fan than soccer. You know, exactly. Also a very low bar to clear that much credit for, right. You know what I mean? Like, yeah, I mean, if you have any particular questions about the game industry, I’m happy to happy to expound on them but basically, it’s it’s a Tough industry, if you want to be creative and like creatively fulfilling, yeah, that’s really hard to do at the same time you’re talking to me, right? Because you also have to figure out how to make money. And then by the time you figure it out, it’s obsolete. And you got to figure it out again. Yeah, that’s just crushing. Like you have to be like, you have to be like, at the top of you have to be like in the top 1% of people skilled, right, like both making games and knowing how to monetize them today, before everyone else figures it out. And it shows again, and it’s just really difficult. And go ahead.
Will Jarvis 1:50:33
And how did you think systematically about finding the $20 bill on the sidewalk when so you create a definitive quest? you’re successful at it? Is it one of those things where, you know, you’re just you’re clearly, I’m assuming you’re a lot smarter than a lot of people trying to do it? Right. Like,
Lars Doucet 1:50:49
I don’t know. I mean, I mean, is
Will Jarvis 1:50:51
there other things, systemically, I guess,
Lars Doucet 1:50:54
I mean, I’m also a lot luckier, right. So I mean, I wouldn’t, I wouldn’t say I’m necessarily a lot smarter, because I mean, I know people way smarter than me who don’t succeed. And either that means smartness doesn’t matter as much as you think. Or it means like matters little more, there’s some people who are like, it’s all luck, and it’s not all luck. can get better. I think part of it is, I’m probably more arrogant and confident than a lot of people. I mean, I also have whatever degree of privilege is afforded by, you know, you know, net privilege from being white that is not canceled out by having Tourette Syndrome, or whatever, you know what I mean? So like. So there’s that, but also just, but but not every white guys exist. In fact, most of them don’t. So it’s got to be more than that. I had good timing. And I see an opportunity in the market, the way I succeeded was that at the time, the flash games industry was really huge. At the time, there were flash games. Okay, gotcha. And what I did is that I leveraged at the time, there were very few people who were applying the shareware model to flash games, right? Everyone was just making money off of licenses, right where you the company pays to put their logo on your game, and you get like a couple 1000 bucks. Yeah. And so I was like, What if I just asked the customers for money, and I give them a huge ask demo, not like a really restricted demo, but like a huge one. Yeah, like three hours, and it’s an RPG. And then it like also, at the end, it like saves your save file. So you can export it to your computer. And it’s like, here’s your save file in the game. And you can like see that the next half of it? Yeah, it was like story driven. And it ended on a cliffhanger, but it was like, still really satisfying. And then we connected that up to our own site. We weren’t even on Steam, and you could just like download the full version. And something like 7580 90% of our traffic came from these two flash portals congregate Newgrounds Oh, no, this strategy worked. And that was what got steams attention at the time back when you couldn’t just get on it for free. You had to convince them your game was successful enough. So So I did find a $20 bill on the ground. Yeah. But I also was lucky enough to notice it, and also confident enough to go after it. Guy and no one else had really tried that strategy at that time. I mean, shareware had done it before, 10 years ago, 15 years ago, right? It was the oldest strategy in the book. But I just applied it to the world of flash games. And now that model is obsolete, because flash games are gone, and you can’t do it anymore. But now, Flash games have been replaced baisemeaux five games, and there recently was a game that uses the exact same model and succeeded called shapes.io. They are like factorio, I’m not sure if you’re familiar with it. But it is, it’s a game where like, you make a big factory, right. And so it’s a refinement of factorial, it’s a little simpler, like has some other affordances to make it more appealing to its own crowd. And then they release it as a web game. And then they later had an upsell to steam. Right. And so we’re leveraging the fact that I can’t get enough traffic and discovery on the main portal, right? I’m gonna get it where discovery is currently cheap on the web. And especially like, but that’s also with timing, because like, right now, flash just died. So an entire generation is like, you can play games on the web, right? And then that’ll probably get saturated, and the more people will try it, and then like, the value of that will go down. But, you know, by the time you hear about a strategy to like, usually too late to capitalize on it. Yeah, that makes sense. Makes a lot of sense. And, you know, yeah,
Will Jarvis 1:54:18
yeah. It’s a crazy, crazy game, no pun intended. You know, so before I let you go, are there any video games you recommend you give to people that you recommend?
Lars Doucet 1:54:30
video games that I recommend that people play? Well, the irony of making games for a living is that no time, you’ll never play one again. You know, um, so Geez, what I’ve been playing lately. Lately, there’s a type of game that I like to play a lot. And that is a kind of game where I call them boring old dad games, and they’re the kind of game where I can load it up really quickly. It’s not going to take hours. Download, I’m gonna be able to play it for a little bit, probably not fail. Yeah, and make something like progress, something to show for my precious 45 minutes of game playing a week, right, you know, between my three kids and my job is my job, right? Yeah, you know. And one that’s pretty good for that right now is actually a game made by a friend of mine called t minus 30. It’s available on Steam it just launched. It’s a city builder, where you only have 30 minutes to build a city. Oh, nice. evacuated the entire earth in 30 minutes and 30 minutes represents like, I don’t know, like a year or something. Yeah. And so like, you got to get them from like 60s era rocket technology to like, I don’t know, like the future or whatever. And like build up the economy and get as many people off the earth as you can, in 30 minutes. Oh, that’s awesome. They do it all over again. And it’s like, procedural and stuff. And, you know, it’s like that ticks all the boxes for being a boring old dad game for me. It’s like the kind of game I can actually play in. Like, it’s like, oh, it’s kind of like low stakes. It’s like, I see how well I did. And like I learned how to do better. And like, maybe unlock the next like, set of things or whatever, you know. So it works for for me.
Will Jarvis 1:56:05
Super cool. Super cool. I love that. Well, Lars, where can people find your work in DMD parting thoughts? I really appreciate you coming on.
Lars Doucet 1:56:13
Yeah. So I mean, you can find my work at fortress of doors calm, like a fortress of doors. You know, I don’t, it’s kind of abstract. But that’s my blog. And I post updates on my long end development defenders quest to as well as like my thoughts on the game industry and economics and stuff. I write for game developer magazine, which was previously Gamasutra, you can tell why they change the names. And so like, I have an article album in game developer about digital real estate and policies there and everything. And yeah, any any kind of parting thoughts? Yeah, I would say that the whole philosophy of Georgia ism, it is not just a one weird trick, because it actually like it actually are, we would have just put it everywhere by now. Like it actually does take some work to implement. And I do think the secret to Georgia ism is assessments and localism. Right. That’s its weakness and its strengths. Because everyone else is fighting over the national like national electoral ism, we need to get the president we need to get the Congress to do anything, and the other party’s finding just as hard as spending just as much money. So you’re just raising each of your own costs together, and then the secret shadow party captures and both to make sure that they’re both in favor of never withdrawing from Afghanistan, you know, and other other things like that. And what I think is, the actual way forward it for Georgia isn’t what’s nice is that you don’t need to control the whole government to make some progress and prove that this is a good way to do things. You can implement it at the local level, depending on your state laws, right? There’s a nasty clause in the state constitution of Texas that prevents it. But you can still make progress. Like if you just a lot of it has to do with assessment, if you can get the assessments officers to see things your way or even electrohome people to be assessors. Yeah, you can make a big difference. Like, for instance, most land values in America are chronically under assessed. So even if you’re laboring under the yoke that says property taxes cannot be split rate. You’ve got to tax buildings and land together at one rate, you can’t tax them separately. If you can just fix all of the assessments where land is really undervalued. Yeah, you’re effectively raising the land value tax. And you’ll start to see incrementally partially the benefits that are predicted by land value tax, you know, just because land land is chronically undervalued almost everywhere. And Ted gortney has a lot of writing and speaking on this subject, and I believe the evidence backs him up. So I mean, if you can start in your local area and and also like worry less about who gets to be the state senator or the lieutenant governor and more about who gets to be your local tax assessor and appraiser it’s super interesting. Something that like I looked it up like on like local elections was like something like a margin of like, 2000 votes in my area. Oh, my God, like actually doable? Like you could actually flip that? Yeah. And like, like, nobody cares. Nobody cares about it at all. Like I think a lot of a bunch of them run unopposed. Right. Yeah. I mean, in Texas, it’s all like about winning the Republican primary. Right, right. Because it’s a one party state. Yeah. But like, I mean, there’s a way to pitch this that is palatable to conservatives. And there’s a way to pitch this as palatable to liberals, that is right in line with all of their principles to conservatives. It’s like, Hey, isn’t it kind of unfair that if you build something you’re penalize for it? Like, Hey, isn’t it kind of unfair that you don’t get to keep, like, the money that you worked hard for, you know, and then to liberals? It’s like, Hey, isn’t it kind of unfair, that you know, the land which nobody made, like someone squats on it and to the average renter, And worker, hey, is it unfair that the rent is too damn high, and it just keeps getting more expensive, you know, as a way to pitch this to just about anybody that is not spin, but just understanding what, what they want the need. And I think that’s the way forward. And the weakness is if you do a bad assessment, gaming or assessments get out of whack, it doesn’t matter how much control you have, and how strong your land value tax is, you’ll have a tax bill, and you’ll deserve it. So I’m, like, I think George ism lives or dies at the local level, with local organizing, and focus on getting the assessments to work which right, modern technology makes it possible, and they did in 1911, without any of it. So that’s, that’s kind of my feelings on that, for anyone who accuses us of just being utopian and like, impractical. Right now. Those are the concessions I’ll make, but I also see them as a source of strength.
Will Jarvis 2:00:48
Right? Well, and, you know, Mars, I think, you know, this is the true $20. on the sidewalk, it’s a lot more than $20 $20 trillion, feels like, yeah, the sidewalk for, you know, American growth and even growth more broadly in the world. That and I think the appealing thing about it is if you can get the model to work on the local level, it’s easy. It’s straightforward to copy. You know, to me, it’s it’s a fairly simple thing. It’s not, this is not rocket science.
Lars Doucet 2:01:14
And I think like right now, we just need awareness that it exists. One interesting anecdote I’ll leave you with. And this is something I just found out yesterday, from my fourth session of tech work needs assessment class, is Ted gortney, who’s this, I keep referencing him. He’s a he’s a property value assessor. He’s a georgist. He was one of the CO signers of a famous letter to Gorbachev, right, the fall of the Soviet Union and they wrote him a letter and they exhorted him, please, please do not give in to all of the experts who are going to flood you from the west, the Harvard educated economists, who are going to make you privatized and sell the country down the river. Please, like this is your chance like, like the country is crumbling? Like you’ve decided communism is the way forward? Yes, consider like serious land reform and land policy. Yeah, can enrich your country. And they listened to the Harvard people, unfortunately, and everything went down the tubes. But they also sent that letter to a bunch of satellite countries, satellite states. Yeah, one of them was Estonia. And Estonia listened. And I haven’t done a deep dive. I just found out about this yesterday. So I haven’t done a deep dive on Estonia policies. But I’ve always known as a Norwegian that Estonia is like I’m pretty up and coming because it’s like, wow, here’s all these like, right? You hear about it, right? Estonian immigrants in Norway and like my uncle married in Estonian woman, and it’s like Estonia, Estonia, Estonia, Estonia, Estonia. Like what something’s going on there. And apparently, like they’ve been doing really well, much better than their neighbors. And they’ve had a lot of these George’s policies, because they listened to that letter, that gortney and a bunch of these other other people wrote, and I think that’s a really interesting story. And I’m gonna go and I’m gonna, like bone up on Estonia and see, like, how much there is there? Yeah, um, but I just think, you know, the more people know about stories like that, the less objections like, well, this can never be implemented anywhere. It’s like, actually, it’s been implemented, like five places,
William Jarvis 2:03:02
right? You know, no doubt, and very successful places like Estonia. Um, so, one more question. Practically, if people want to learn more about George’s, are there any like, think tanks or policy places shops, they can go to learn about how to like affect change within their local community?
Lars Doucet 2:03:20
Right? So there’s a couple of places there are three. So it’s like besides just like, I mean, if you want to know what Georgia ism is, you know, there’s my book review you can pass on to you, which is basically like progress and poverty and many fewer pages. But like, if you actually want to get involved, there’s the it’s a mouthful of a German word, it’s off to spell it for you offline. So you can Okay, we’ll put a link in there. It’s the shulkin Bach foundation. Nice. It’s this old, like centuries old foundation that like goes back to the old single tax or days in the 1900s, I think. And it’s it continued to this day, and they promote like George’s activism and thought and like research and stuff. And then there’s also the Henry George School of Social Science, which does a bunch of the YouTube videos and also sponsors, the class I’m taking from Ted Courtney. Okay, comm so those are two good sources to look up. And then a third source is not explicitly georgist, but is very much moving in that direction. And it’s okay, I’m gonna have to google it real quick here. It’s all good. Association assessors. It’s the assessments, group, International Association of assessing officers land value. This is the organization that worked me as a part of and they do a lot of research on like, what is every Canadian province in American states like policies on assessment and how do they look on a map and how are they different? And like, what do we think are our best practices? And I asked Courtney, at the last session, are these guys like have they absorbed George’s ideas is just like, the best things to do. And he’s like, they’re not like officially georgist they’re moving in our direction, and more coming to recognize The kind of policies I’m always pushing for are in fact, the correct ones. But of course, as assessors you have to like follow, like, like you’re duty bound to follow your local jurisdictions rules. So yeah, like, they’re always going to be an organization like that. But they do a lot of training and education. And the more georgist minded people get involved, the more like that this organization can kind of, like, help be a part of that just through you know, because because a lot of it isn’t a lot of like georgist ideologies, just good sense. And assessment officers like, yeah, you want to accurately assess land and you want to accurately assess property, like why would we want to do that? Yeah, like, that’s, that’s the job. We care about doing a good job. And so yeah, the International Association of assessing officers, the shulkin balk Foundation, and the Henry George School of Social Science, both their website and YouTube, and there’s in classes that they offer, are all excellent resources.
Unknown Speaker 2:05:56
Super awesome. Well, thank you so much, Lars, I really appreciate you taking the time. I’ve learned a lot.
Lars Doucet 2:06:01
I thank you so much. Um, I will always take anyone up on an offer to bore them to death with my way with the things that I’m into on the internet. But you know, I mean, I really feel like, I really feel like, you know, there’s that. There’s, there’s like that criticism that it’s like, okay, it’s one weird trick, it’s utopian, but it’s like, you look through history, there’s been one weird tricks scribus Yeah. You know, yeah, some limiters,
Unknown Speaker 2:06:25
and you know, yourself.
Lars Doucet 2:06:26
Yeah, you know, and it’s like, I mean, the diagnosis is not simple, right? But once you figure it out, it’s like, you can a letter put in the right place can can can can shift the entire world, you know, removing the Broad Street pump handle and did the cholera epidemic, you know, like, there’s at least locally, right, you know, small things can have a big impact. And it’s all about knowing what is the ground causes of everything. And anyway, I’m still doing research to make sure it’s all right. And I’m just been taken in by a very convincing philosophy. But the more I read, the more I’m convinced and when it’s all out there. I mean, people can kick the tires all they want, tell me what I’m wrong. And I’ll I’ll listen to what they have to say.
Unknown Speaker 2:07:05
Yep. And while you’re, you know, your research just on the video game angle, I think is an ingenious way to get get to it. You know, it
Lars Doucet 2:07:12
was I wasn’t expecting to find it there. Honestly, it was, it was kind of shocking to me, because digital land doesn’t have to be like physical land. They choose to make it that way. And then it behaves like it doesn’t.
Unknown Speaker 2:07:22
Great. Super cool. Awesome. Awesome. Well, thank you, Lars. We’ll have to have you back on to talk. If you find anything else.
Lars Doucet 2:07:29
Yeah, sure, anytime.
William Jarvis 2:07:36
Thanks for listening. We’ll be back next week with a new episode of narratives.
Will Jarvis 2:07:46
A quick note on the New Guinea anecdote, philosophy, Vera was not able to confirm it, nor definitely disconfirm it after looking into the matter of it further, although he now thinks it’s probably false.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai