My Nonprofit Reviews
Review for Center for the Study of Economics, Philadelphia, PA, USA
While trendy issues come and go, the Center for the Study of Economics (CSE) tackles an issue in Anglo-American law that is as old (and as difficult) as the Enclosure Acts: how the monopolization and under-taxation of land creates housing bubbles, drags down economies, creates unemployment and lowers wages.
Educating both the public and government officials has been the task of 32 organizations in the United States (including our own) and of dozens more in other countries, but, in the past three decades, only the work of the CSE has led to actual policy changes, followed by positive economic results. Over 20 Pennsylvania taxing jurisdictions (most of them cities) have shifted their property taxes to fall more on land values and less on improvements, and all that had done so at least three years ago enjoyed construction surges that greatly exceeded trends in nearby, comparable cities. Home owners in every city saved (compared to the cost of conventional property taxes), and mortgaged home-owners saved even more.
Altoona, PA has just become the first city with no municipal or school property taxes on buildings whatsover, and took this step based on the analysis provided by CSE.
CSE takes a rather dry, pragmatic and analytical approach to this reform compared to the other 31 organizations, which tend to be more ideological and passionate. However, the dry approach is working, and the rest of us would not have evidence of how effective this approach to land reform is if not for the accomplishments of CSE.
I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...
Seeing their presentations and seeing city after city improve its economic vitality after following their advice.
If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...
Have them hire someone who does nothing but organize constituencies, publicize results and raise money. Their staff is overly focused on getting results rather than promoting those results. I don't think they have a talent for self-promotion, and I don't know that one can keep an adequate focus on the task before them while constantly shifting gears between production and promotion.
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What is unique about this organization?
It tackles one of the oldest, most badly ignored and most fundamentally important justice issues, and it gets results. It is quietly succeeding where Adam Smith, William Penn, Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Tom Paine, Abraham Lincoln, Mark Twain, Henry George, Tom Johnson (mayor of Cleveland), Fiorella La Guardia (mayor of New York) and Winston Churchill all failed, and where other organizations (including my own), dedicated to the same reforms, do not accomplish change.
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