A comment in The Rabble by Michael Stewart – in response to the Walrus articles by Kerry Gold and Gregor Robertson – with an intriguing item from Vancouver’s past.
Vancouver’s homeowners made more money simply sitting on their assets than the combined wages of every single working person in the city. By a healthy margin too: $25 billion for minding a patch of dirt compared to $19 billion in actual labour.
It echoed Bing Thom’s comments in this widely shared New Yorker article from February: “By all accounts, I have done pretty well in my business, but I made more money from sitting on my Vancouver property than I made by working an entire lifetime.” This from a world-famous architect with buildings on three continents.
It also reminds me of this postcard, inspired by the ideas of nineteenth-century political economist Henry George, who believed that land and other resources should be commonly held and taxed to recapture its value as a shared inheritance. Another acolyte of George’s invented the game Monopoly in order to show the tyranny of untaxed land rent.
Henry George actually spent some time in Vancouver, trying his luck panning the Fraser River during the gold rush — back before he decided that natural resources and property belonged to everyone in common. His dismal failure as a prospector might have hastened his political conclusions, but nonetheless we live with their truths this very day: everybody works but the vacant lot, but the vacant lot will outearn us all.