Mason Gaffney, Who Argued for Taxing Only Land, Dies at 96
At Berkeley, he argued that land should be treated as a common treasure that should be heavily taxed. Such taxation, he maintained, would lift all other tax burdens on private enterprise so that businesses could be efficient and flourish. But he quickly encountered opposition to those ideas.“If anyone had ever read the Bible, they would pick these ideas up,” he told the Portland journalist Mamie Stevenson in 2018 in an article in Reed Magazine, a publication of his alma mater. This was, Ms. Stevenson observed, “not a popular opinion at Berkeley.”“He was attacked,” she wrote, “both by students who held his religious views in contempt and by McCarthyites who sought to have him expelled after he penned an article that argued for a more equitable redistribution of the land.”In 1969, Professor Gaffney became an economics researcher for an environmental organization, Resources for the Future, in Washington. Four years later he helped found the British Columbia Institute for Economic Policy Analysis in Vancouver, where he worked on sustainable logging.He was the author or co-author of a number of books, including “New Life in Old Cities: Georgist Policies and Population Growth” (2007), “Beyond Brexit: The Blueprint” (2016) and the essay collections “After the Crash: Designing a Depression-Free Economy” (2009) and “The Mason Gaffney Reader: Essays on Solving the Unsolvable” (2013).His marriage to Estelle Lau in 1952 ended in divorce in 1968. (She died last year.) In 1973 he married Ruth Letitia Atwood, known as Tish, who died in 2017. He is survived by three daughters, Ann Gaffney Shores, Laura Atwood Gaffney and Patricia Mason Gaffney; three sons, Bradford, Stuart and Matthew; and a granddaughter. He lived in Redlands, Calif.After earning his doctorate, Professor Gaffney taught at the University of Oregon; the University of California, Berkeley; North Carolina State University; the University of Missouri; and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.