by Don Boudreaux on April 26, 2011

in Agriculture, Creative destruction

I’m on a listserv called “FLOWidealism,” which I believe is the brainchild of my friend Michael Strong.  On the Flow listserv there happen to be a number of Georgists (although I do not count myself in those ranks; I confess that I’ve read very little of Henry George‘s work).

One of the Georgists on the Flow listserv took issue with my claim that people can produce more land.  He asked me, I believe sarcastically, if there is a “land factory” located somewhere.

Well, no, there is no physical land factory, but land can most certainly be produced.  Some of the following phenomena increase the volume of land physically, and all of the following phenomena increase the volume of land economically:

- Draining or filling-in swamps and other areas currently submerged beneath water for some or all of the year;

- Multi-storied buildings and advances in architectural design that reduce the amount of land necessary for any given number of people to work and reside; on this front, air-conditioning (by reducing the minimum necessary height of ceilings) and elevators are innovations that effectively increase the economic stock of land;

- Agricultural advances that reduce the amount of land required to produce any given amount of food;

- Economies of scale in production that reduce the amount of land required to produce any given amount of manufactured outputs;

- even teleworking and advances in shared-office-space practices, by reducing the amount of land required for office space, effectively increase the supply of land economically (if not physically).

- [other possibilities?  Please suggest some in the Comments section]


I don’t wish to get into a tussle over semantics.  Only the first for sure in the above list, and possibly the second, increase the actual quantity of land (or real estate).  But economically the concern that I gather Georgists have about land being some ‘thing’ that is largely fixed in amount is mistaken.  The owner of, say, the world’s greatest pineapple-growing land might today be reaping huge Ricardian rents (some would say ‘monopoly profits’) from owning that land and using it to grow pineapples.  But let a cost-efficient hothouse be developed in which wonderful pineapples can be grown at a cost equal to, or lower than, the cost of growing pineapples on that piece of land, and the landowner no longer has the stream of rents (or ‘monopoly profits’) that he once did.  The effective supply of land for growing pineapples has been increased.

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Bill K. April 26, 2011 at 2:56 pm

How about seasteads?

Martin Brock April 26, 2011 at 4:05 pm

You took the words out of my mouth. Seasteading could take off in my lifetime, but I also hope to see secessionist movements succeed in the west as they succeeded in the former Soviet bloc.

Jake S. April 26, 2011 at 4:15 pm

That was my first thought, as well.

Gil April 27, 2011 at 1:12 am

You can already get a taste of this and hope in a boat, head to international waters and try to live off the sea.

Martin Brock April 27, 2011 at 8:11 am

Seasteaders don’t need to live off the sea. They only need to escape the stultifying effects of established states. They’ll still trade with others.

Ryan Vann April 26, 2011 at 3:02 pm

I’m a bit befuddled to the context here. Why is it that these people are preoccupied with land, and why aren’t they moving to North Dakota?

Mark Muller April 27, 2011 at 8:41 am

I think you raised an important point Ryan. This conversation has the presumption that land is the limiting variable, but overall we have plenty of land. The problem is more often inadequate water or soil quality or something else.

Dan April 29, 2011 at 1:40 am

Misallocation and inefficient uses. Height restrictions prevent more efficient use of land.
Govt subsidies for not using land in agriculture. The land remains idle. It is more beneficial to hold land and not put it use or sell it to someone who would put it to use since govt pays for an owner to have it sit idle.

SB7 April 26, 2011 at 3:05 pm

Terracing and irrigation increase the amount of usable land, if not the actual dry surface area of the Earth.

I would say transportation infrastructure can increase the efficient use of land. Cheap motorized boats as well as sea planes give access to islands that were previously remote enough to be useless.

As another example, a combination of highways, refrigeration and pasteurization means we don’t need small clusters of dairy farms outside every major city and can instead have large, consolidated and efficient dairy farms, freeing up places like Tyson’s Corner in your neck of the woods for denser uses.

Finally I would day that an increased scope for trade converts useless into usable land. If you can only sell your wool to the local village you will not bother to use most of the sheep pasture available; it might as well not exist. If you can sell wool around the world then you will graze on previously unused hillsides.

Warren April 26, 2011 at 3:05 pm

Doesn’t the Netherlands make more land by filling in the shallow ocean around it? I thought I heard that Singapore did something similar, adding land to the sea around it.

If I’m not mistaken Miami Beach became larger by bringing in dirt to make the islands bigger.

Mikenshmirtz April 26, 2011 at 3:18 pm

The same could be said of the US. Lower Manhattan—including, I believe, the site of the Twin Towers—was quite smaller before the land was expanded and developed.

Also, Washington, DC, had much more marsh land along the Potomac River before land was ‘added’.

CRC April 26, 2011 at 7:45 pm

Chicago also I believe.

vikingvista April 27, 2011 at 1:20 am

Hong Kong as well.

HaywoodU April 26, 2011 at 3:32 pm

Dubai has a couple of man made islands.

Daniel Kuehn April 26, 2011 at 3:33 pm

Apparently they’re starting to sink – but the point is still taken :)

HaywoodU April 26, 2011 at 4:45 pm

Oh thank you, Danny. God bless you.

Marcus April 26, 2011 at 6:39 pm

A problem for engineers.

Frank33328 April 26, 2011 at 4:21 pm

The part of Lantau Island (HK) where the HK Airport is located is almost completely man-made.

JohnK April 26, 2011 at 7:36 pm

Boston used to be a hill.

JR April 29, 2011 at 3:28 pm

The new airport in Nagoya, Japan (“Toyota” International) is 100% man-made island and said to be built on bedrock to prevent sinking.

Joe April 26, 2011 at 3:06 pm

New modes of transportation that make it possible for people to go where they haven’t gone before (or at least to do so cheaply). This is not just the delivery of people from one place to another but also the delivery of goods and services that sustain life. Colonies in Antarctica are one example, but Las Vegas is a bigger, if less obvious, example.

lamp3 April 26, 2011 at 3:10 pm

UAE built some hotel on an artificial island.

Jack April 26, 2011 at 3:22 pm

Real basic examples: I distinctly recall that a number of years ago, the remains of a ship that sank in NY harbor in the 18th century was found in an excavation a number of blocks in from the bank of the Hudson. All of the World Financial Center and much more in lower Manhattan is built on ground that didn’t exist fifty years ago.

Daniel Kuehn April 26, 2011 at 3:27 pm

I think you’re right that the assumptions of Georgism aren’t especially good (maybe they were better in the 19th century as an approximation?).

But the most important expansion of land for human settlement we’ll see in the next several centuries will be the colonization of Mars. Elon Musk thinks he can put a man there by 2020 as a conservative estimate. Barring a terrible setback, I imagine most people commenting here are going to see colony there in their lifetime, and extensive colonization is only going to be limited by the pracitcal experience we have in terraforming.

Martin Brock April 26, 2011 at 4:32 pm

I doubt it. IMO, human habitation of Mars will not be remotely competitive with Earthly alternatives in the next two centuries. Getting there is incredibly costly. Terraforming is pie-in-the-sky. The cost of getting there is reasonably calculable, but terraforming is incredibly speculative.

Most importantly, the Earth’s human population will begin shrinking in this century, so we’ll never reach a population density sufficient to drive people off the planet. Even at twice the current human population, livable space is plentiful here. A comparable space on Mars will be orders of magnitude more costly for centuries to come, possibly forever.

Daniel Kuehn April 26, 2011 at 4:40 pm

Oh no – not competitive with it in that time. But I do think it’s not entirely outlandish to anticipate a fairly sizable colony by the end of the century.

Your point on terraforming is the important one. We’ll certainly manage to sustain a base there with protective walls or underground or what have you. But until terraforming is feasible, it’s a non-starter.

I don’t think people will go to Mars because they are driven off by population density, though. You could get a fairly sizable colony just from people who want to have a part in making humans an interplanetary species. Again, I agree with you – the only way you’re going to get mass migration, though, is if the relative prospects improve and that relies on terraforming being a success.

Martin Brock April 26, 2011 at 4:52 pm

A base on the Moon is much easier to construct and sustain than a base on Mars, and not even a state spending other people’s money has bothered yet. Real estate in Antartica is far less costly and more pleasant, so when I see the population of Antartica nearing its limits, I’ll consider the Moon seriously. Meanwhile, I’d much rather live in Alaska, Siberia, the Northwest Territories, the Australian outback or the Sahara.

Daniel Kuehn April 26, 2011 at 4:41 pm

“it’s a non-starter” – “it” being a full-scale human civilization on Mars, rather than just a small colony.

Miles Stevenson April 26, 2011 at 5:44 pm

As long as private entrepreneurs are the ones taking the risks, that’s just fine. Let’s just hope Uncle Sam doesn’t decide “the future of mankind depends on developing Mars”. Then we’ll all be bankrupt.

Methinks1776 April 27, 2011 at 1:14 am

Exactly my thoughts as I read through those comments!

Gil April 27, 2011 at 1:14 am

Sending anyone to live on Mars would be a death sentence. It can never be colonised.

brotio April 29, 2011 at 12:12 am

Never is a very long time.

I think that if we see colonization of other worlds (including the moon) it won’t be due to population pressures, it will be to escape the ever-encroaching State. I think that has been a primary motivator for pioneering throughout human history.

Sam Grove April 26, 2011 at 6:09 pm

I doubt that we’ll bother colonizing Mars until we are able to move it into a more temperate orbit.

Cthorm April 26, 2011 at 3:38 pm


Most of the examples you gave are land or building improvements. Draining swamp land is the exception, but the returns from that diminish very rapidly as its viability is limited to a narrow group of locales (swamps, low-lying coastal and river areas). You can add artificial island creation to this category, which has been practiced in the UAE off the coast of Dubai (as lamp3 referenced). Land and building improvements do not affect the quantity supplied of land, but they do allow for more efficient use of this scarce resource. I think of Georgism in the context of a Land-Value Tax: it makes holding relatively unproductive land unattractive, encouraging more efficient use of land holdings. Pointing out that the relative value of land can decrease when new land improvements are used does not really discount Georgism, but focuses on a single market mechanism.

Guest April 26, 2011 at 5:59 pm

Agreed. This was my first thought as well. Almost every bit of data on the internet about George or Georgism specifically addresses this issue of unimproved land vs improvements on land.

Don’s argument against the fixed supply of land is quite marginal. How much under-water surface area is technological available to us (as a fraction of total current land area)? Less that 1% I would guess, and typically it is available only at extreme cost.

Guest April 26, 2011 at 6:12 pm

You might say his argument doesn’t hold water… :)

N. Joseph Potts April 27, 2011 at 11:14 am

To imagine that the issue turns on ACRES (hectares) of dry horizontal surface is to commit the same error as forgetting that people want HOLES, not DRILLS.

Dr. Boudreaux, if no one else, has grasped the real issue – the THINGS (OK, conditions, too) that require(d) land for the making/doing are the issue. On THIS score, his factors are in no way “marginal.” They are substantial, and even encompass issues (density, proximity) completely “invisible” to the area-centric approach.

This is yet another case where the capacity for measurement utterly occludes the issue actually under consideration.

Guest April 27, 2011 at 11:42 am

The issue under consideration in Don’s post (addressing a post by a Georgist on a “Flow listserve”) is the assumption by Georgists that the raw quantity of land acreage is basically constant. The Georgists are correct.

The issue you (and Don) seem to be considering is a separate issue about the usage of this land, and if you could be bothered to do even a cursory wikipedia/google search on Georgism, you would find that you (and Don) are basically in agreement with Georgists on this separate, but important, issue.

Dan April 29, 2011 at 1:48 am

Land and building improvements decrease demand of land.

Ken in Kent April 26, 2011 at 3:43 pm

A concept called vertical farming can use the south side of high-rise buildings for agriculture increasing agriculture, residential, and work space at the same time.

simon... April 26, 2011 at 3:45 pm

Without air-conditioning places like Phoenix or Las Vegas would not exist.
Bio-engineering and development of drought-resistant crops allowed profitable agriculture in places where it would be absolutely unthinkable just a few decades ago.

Brian April 26, 2011 at 3:55 pm

Sort of a combination of 2 and 3, but greenhouses and other agricultural technologies that allow us to grow items in areas where the external climate is not generally hospitable to those plants. You touch on this a bit with your example of the pineapple farm. If someone develops a cost-effective hothouse for growing pineapples, who’s to say it has to be in a region known for producing pineapples? It could be located in Siberia and still produce the same quality fruits as an outdoor grove in Hawaii.

W.E. Heasley April 26, 2011 at 3:55 pm

Mushroom farms that now reside inside of worked out underground coal mines.

Martin Brock April 26, 2011 at 4:00 pm

Taxing land rents is a special case of taxing monopoly rents more generally, and George might have generalized his “single tax” if he had lived to see much of the 20th century, or if he had understood the marginalist alternative to the labor theory of value.

I don’t favor taxing rents generally, but I do understand the Georgists. I rather favor taxing consumption progressively. The progressivity taxes consumption financed by rents more than consumption financed by the productivity of labor, but transferring this income to more central authorities is not the point. More central authorities are even more likely to consume it. A progressive consumption tax rather directs less central authorities to reinvest this income.

JayLib May 1, 2011 at 6:31 pm

Howdy Martin,

As Georgist, I’m scratching my head after reading this comment, so help me out here. You would not like to tax monopoly rents, but you would like to tax consumption? Would this indicate that you find monopoly a positive thing, but consumption negative?

“The progressivity taxes consumption financed by rents more than consumption financed by the productivity of labor…”

That’s the same logic as progressive income tax. Why not just tax the rents? Beginning with the most readily measured form, land rent?

” but transferring this income to more central authorities is not the point.”

Good, I wouldn’t want to do that either. The good thing about land value tax is, most land (on the market) is under local/State jurisdiction. LVT would be a powerful part of a complete overhaul of public finance, to put local and State government on top, as originally intended.

Fred Foldvary calls it geoanarchism, but it could be described as government from the bottom up.


Brad Hutchings April 26, 2011 at 4:01 pm

OK, how about using technology to safely decrease the spacing of moving vehicles, thus increasing the capacity of land dedicated to moving people? Think trains, cars, and if you want to increase the amount of air, airplanes.

W.E. Heasley April 26, 2011 at 4:05 pm

Many cities surrounding the Great Lakes are sitting upon reclaimed swamp land. Once the last person leaves Detroit (in about two weeks the exodus should be complete), would re-flooding the land be the counterintuitive proposition of “creating land“?

Seth April 26, 2011 at 4:10 pm

In my locale, we have several developments of businesses and one college that have located in the hollows left behind from limestone mines. They even hold 5K races in “the caves” in cold of winter and heat of summer so they are sizable developments. I know of 6 such developments within a 15 minute drive of my home.

Jake S. April 26, 2011 at 4:20 pm

Any links?

Seth April 26, 2011 at 4:38 pm
W.E. Heasley April 26, 2011 at 5:15 pm



Jake S. April 26, 2011 at 4:21 pm

Don, you already mentioned building up. I don’t believe anyone has yet mentioned building down:

John Dewey April 26, 2011 at 6:04 pm

Good point, Jake. The subways of New York and other cities reduced the amount of land which would otherwise have been required for transit right-of-way.

kyle8 April 26, 2011 at 6:01 pm

Another way to economicaly create land is to get the government to sell some of the huge amounts of land it owns to private citizens.

vikingvista April 27, 2011 at 1:26 am

Raze the Department of Agriculture buildings. That’ll free up a lot of land. Not just because of the enormity of the buildings, but because of all the money they spend to keep land idle.

W.E. Heasley April 26, 2011 at 6:08 pm

How about the simple home basement.

Marcus April 26, 2011 at 6:41 pm

Double thumbs up.

Seth April 26, 2011 at 10:42 pm

Good point W.E. And attic conversions.

I also need less real estate since I’ve been able to carry my music collection in my pocket, I don’t need boxes and boxes to hold photos, don’t need near as much space for my entertainment center with flat screen TVs and starting to have much less need to have shelves of bound books.

Miko April 26, 2011 at 6:48 pm

Your objection misses the point. Geoists (or Georgists) assert that the quantity of land is fixed, not its value for any given purpose. That is why geoists propose to reform property tax to fall only on the the unimproved value of land: one should be able to benefit from transformational labor such as draining a swamp, erecting a building, or digging a basement, but not from taking something existent and putting a fence around it. So, a geoist would agree that the condition or value of land could be improved (and if the land is currently developed to a less than optimal level would probably agree that doing so would be a good thing) while correctly maintaining that new land cannot be created.

CalgaryGuy April 27, 2011 at 1:47 am

In a Geoist world, am I allowed to cut down a tree that is originally on the land I properly lease? Yes, I put labour into cutting down and turning it into lumber but I didn’t do anything to grow the tree so am I receiving “rent” for that portion? If that lumber gets put together as a house, does the owner of the house have to remit a portion to society for the underlying natural tree?

Where and how do Geoists draw borders? Anything less than a worldwide scale seems a little messy to me. How can someone say I have a share in land 1 mile from me but not 1,000 miles?

Martin Brock April 27, 2011 at 9:00 am

In George’s theory, if you lease the land to harvest lumber, you don’t receive the value of the tree that you didn’t produce, because you pay rent to the landowner. Competition between landowners enables you to capture the value of your labor and only this value, leaving the tree’s natural value to the landowner, according to the labor theory of value. I’m not defending this theory, only explaining it. I accept the marginalist alternative.

According to George (and classical liberals more generally), the homeowner doesn’t receive the tree’s natural value either, unless he’s also the landowner.

George didn’t draw borders. He only observed them. Statesmen draw borders. You don’t have a share in anything. That’s not the point. George possibly used this language, but the language is political rhetoric, not central to his theory.

The point is that the landowner doesn’t produce the tree. Nature (or God) produces the tree. The landowner doesn’t produce his proprietary claim to the land either. Statesmen produce it. Who produces what is centrally important in classically liberal, economic theory. It’s less central in marginalism, because consumer preference, rather than production cost, dominates market value in marginalism.

If you were the landowner yourself, you would receive the natural value of the tree, that you didn’t produce, along with the value of your labor. According to George, you are not properly entitled to this value, so it should be taxed away from you. I would rather say that you should reinvest this value. George’s prescription presumes that the state is beneficent and acts for “the people” generally. Needless to say, I reject this presumption.

JayLib May 1, 2011 at 6:47 pm

Martin —
you say”George’s prescription presumes that the state is beneficent and acts for “the people” generally. Needless to say, I reject this presumption.”

When George spoke of “the state” or “the community,” most often he referred to local government. He preached subsidarity, that every task should be done by the closest applicable level of government. To him, big government meant State governments sticking their nose into cities’ and towns’ business. In fact, the Home Rule movement largely came from Georgism.

Like classical liberals in general, he advocated government as a necessary evil, a defensive mechanism to secure liberty to the individual. This is why he advocated government administration of natural monopolies (roads paved or rail; conduits for energy, waste, commodities, etc.) , which can go bad if citizens don’t do their job. But letting monopolies fall into private hands is potentially far more dangerous.

Amanda April 26, 2011 at 6:52 pm

Along the same lines as seasteading would be space stations (not fully there yet but are ways in which people can increase “land” in the way you describe)

John S. April 26, 2011 at 7:02 pm

Time shares allow many people to have vacation residences in the same location.

rhhardin April 26, 2011 at 8:04 pm

You get 20 square miles more for every foot you raise the surface of the earth.

Michael E. Marotta April 26, 2011 at 8:49 pm

Brilliant! Thank you, Don.

re: Frank33328 about Hong Kong –
Japan’s freight hub Kansai International Airport was extended on a landfill. Also: Despite the Transport Ministry’s initial reservations about expanding Haneda Airport onto new landfill in Tokyo Bay, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government began using the adjacent bay area as a waste dumping site, thus creating a large amount of landfill upon which the airport could expand. In July 1988, a new runway opened on the landfill area. In September 1993, the old airport terminal was replaced by a new West Passenger Terminal, nicknamed “Big Bird,” which was built farther out on the landfill.

robert_o April 26, 2011 at 9:31 pm

The same (Georgist) claim could be made about any resource. There’s a finite amount of Nickel on Earth (sure, you’ll need to extract the core of the planet to get it all, but that’s just a temporary technical difficulty).

I don’t get it.

vikingvista April 27, 2011 at 1:28 am

Same thinking behind “peak oil.”

Martin Brock April 27, 2011 at 8:31 am

Georgists are not “limited resource” environmentalists. Their argument involves the value of taxing land rents, specifically the rental value of undeveloped land. All land rents incorporate this value to some extent, including rents on developed land. Henry George argued that the rental value of undeveloped land is not anyone’s “property” in the classically liberal, Lockean sense, i.e. this value is not the fruit of any human being’s labor.

Land rents exist for two reasons. First, undeveloped land in its natural state is valuable to human beings. Millions of years of hunting and gathering clearly demonstrate this fact. Second, land is more valuable to particular human beings, because states enforce proprietary claims over particular parcels.

The proprietor’s rental income is a product of both natural and artificial scarcity, not any value added to the land by proprietor’s labor. The scarcity is natural, because the surface of the Earth is naturally limited. The scarcity is also artificial, because forcible propriety is an artifact; however, proprietors do not defend their claims by their own force. States defend these claims; therefore, the value is not the proprietor’s product in any Lockean sense.

George concluded that land rents (and only land rents) should finance the state for this reason. He advocates a “single tax” on the rental value of undeveloped land. Owners of developed land would pay this rent, but they wouldn’t pay all of the rental value of their land to the state, only a portion attributable to the land’s undeveloped value. George was the furthest thing imaginable from a big state, left wing environmentalist in the modern sense.

Captain Profit April 27, 2011 at 9:43 am

Fabulous, but what fair and equitable manner will the state employ to determine my “single tax” rate?

Martin Brock April 27, 2011 at 12:29 pm

The state is always in the details.

Martin Brock April 27, 2011 at 12:33 pm

Here’s a related question. What fair and equitable manner does the state employ to determine the boundary of your property and any penalty it imposes on thieves and trespassers?

vikingvista April 27, 2011 at 11:29 pm

“What fair and equitable manner does the state employ”

It doesn’t. The state is best left out of matters of property.

Martin Brock April 28, 2011 at 11:19 am

I’m specifically discussing my experience in the municipality of Athens-Clarke County in the state of Georgia in the United States and elsewhere in the real world. If no state governs the bounds of propriety in your neck of the woods, you can tell us how it’s working out. Where are you?

vikingvista April 29, 2011 at 1:07 am

On the down side, I can’t escape the state and its occasional unilateral imposition of who it thinks should have what and under what conditions. On the bright side, a great deal, most even, of property rights anywhere in the US is respected and managed independent of what any government thug wants, does, or is even capable of.

There are those evil types who want to impose a top down unilateral scheme of stipulated property rights upon everyone else. But fortunately for the innocent, such control is very costly and difficult to achieve.

And so rights exist among peaceful individuals as they always do, and statist fools comfort themselves by imagining it is the product of the state.

JayLib May 1, 2011 at 7:00 pm

Hey Cap’n —

I suppose the state (or private entities that could stand in for the state; see below) would use the same mechanism used today by both government and private sector today: professional real estate appraisal methods. Think about it, how do you determine your land’s value today?

A necessary part of the Single Tax would be rigorous standards for timely and accurate assessments, including the single most important factor — using real market values. All proposed Single Tax legislation addresses this point.

BTW, as mentioned above, a Single Tax or land-rent system need not be administered by a government. It’s the principle of collecting and diffusing the rent that’s important, not the entity doing it. Fred Foldvary explains.

Eric M April 27, 2011 at 9:32 am

Fascinating discussion.

This calls to mind Frederick Jackson Turner and the Frontier Thesis as well. We see that the problem was not, as Malthus suggested, that the resources were limited and could not keep up with the growing population; it was rather that the resources were all controlled and that those in charge of them would reasonably check their use. Here we find the basis for concerns about overpopulation and the scarcity of necessary resources. Certainly, natural resources such as land, food crops, petroleum, and clean water are all quite abundant in the world and can be procured satisfactorily despite a nearly exponential growth in population. The fact is that they can all be contained and thus controlled, and so it seems as though they are limited and at risk of exhaustion.

Limited land is an economic problem because the open system becomes a closed one. As Turner put it in his treatise The Frontier in American History, “So long as free land exists, the opportunity for a competency exists, and economic power secures political power.” And, contrarily, one could say, so long as free land is not available, the opportunity for a competency does not exist, and economic restrictions secure political restrictions.

Neil West April 27, 2011 at 10:01 am

Las Vegas is a good example of taking relatively unusable land, due to resource constraint (water), and making it useful. In effect, making more land. Bulkheads and other such features make otherwise “useless” land and make it useful.

A good example of creating new land is Palm Island in Dubai. If you don’t like that example, there is always Venice.

N. Joseph Potts April 27, 2011 at 11:19 am

The (now fairly mature) technology for drilling oil wells in shallow (and NOT shallow) water puts out into new areas a technology (oil drilling) that once was confined to land. So also do the related technologies for drilling sideways (try THAT in your home shop!).

Mining, starting out from land, has gone under-underwater for centuries, of course. Sea-bottom mining, on the other hand (Glomar Explorer) turned out to be a hoax. For now.

Russ S. April 27, 2011 at 12:35 pm

Singapore makes land everyday

Fred Foldvary April 27, 2011 at 5:58 pm

The classical factors of production are land, labor, and capital goods. Land is natural resources, apart from human action. The value added by draining water, building taller, better fertilizer, and better technology is a return to capital goods and labor not land. A Georgist tax on land value would not tax the value added by human action, so this is not merely semantics.

Karen Boswell April 27, 2011 at 6:53 pm

I take exception to the statement that “Draining or filling-in swamps and other areas currently submerged beneath water for some or all of the year” will add land. Swamps, marshes, and other submerged areas ARE land being used. These are nature’s kidneys, nature’s water-treatment facilities. Just as the rain forests serve a very valid and necessary function of keeping the CO2/O2 balance in check, the marshes are home to plants that remove pollutants from our water supply. Draining them does not add to the land supply, it merely changes the land use to one deemed by haughty man as ‘more worthy’ or ‘more valuable’ than the one currently in effect.

Daniel Klein April 28, 2011 at 8:59 pm

The tax that Smith was most enthusiastic about is some kind of land-value or ground-rent/”geo-rent” tax. His arguments for it are at WN, 832-34, 840-44, 848-50, 934.

Here is Foldvary’s manifesto:

Dan April 29, 2011 at 1:59 am

Parking garages located directly under the building. At one location in Scottsdale, AZ, the the whole complex of three buildings and visitor parking has a parking garage underneath. Planted trees and other foliage for aesthetics are on top of the below surface level parking garage.

JR April 29, 2011 at 3:07 pm

I’m reminded of the ancient London Bridge, which was more than just an elevated road across a river. It was also a platform for shops and dwellings. Such bridges still exist in Europe (e.g. Florence) and probably Asia. Why isn’t there a Starbucks on the Golden Gate, yet?

vikingvista April 30, 2011 at 1:48 am

Virtual worlds. All you need is enough real world space for a computer and support of your person Virtual real estate is proving to be valuable, and is virtually endless.

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