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Small Property Versus Big Government: Social Origins Of The Property Tax Revolt
by Clarence Y. H. Lo
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Gladwin Hill, Los Angeles Times Book Review
"A fine example of practical scholarship a brass tacks inquiry into a political eruption that has been short-shrifted and oversimplified. It could be a useful handbook for citizen groups on the perils and promise of fighting City Hall."
Jerome L. Himmelstein, Contemporary Sociology
"Lo provides a compelling account of the California tax revolt and movements like it. . . . A very good book that is worth the close attention of anyone studying the polity and social movements."
Roberta Garner, American Journal of Sociology
"Must reading for understanding the contemporary political climate. . . . Lo introduces some fascinating related topics, such as the nature of pro- business conservatism, the ambiguities of populism, and the ideology of consumerism."
Gregory D. Squires, International Journal of Urban and Regional Research
"Lo's book tells a fascinating story. . . . What began as a populist social movement served to reconstruct further patterns of inequality in California and elsewhere in the USA. . . . An effectively argued and well- written book."
Tax reformers, take note. Clarence Lo's investigation of California's Proposition 13 and other tax reduction bills is both a tribute and a warning to people who get "mad as hell" and try to do something about being pushed around by government. Homeowners in California, faced with impossible property tax bills in the 1970s, got mad and pushed back, starting an avalanche that swept tax limitation measures into state after state. What we learn is that, although the property tax was slashed, two-thirds of the benefits went to business owners rather than homeowners.
How did a crusade launched by homeowning consumers seeking tax relief end up as a pro-business, supply-side political program? To trace the transformation, Lo uses the firsthand recollections of 120 activists in the movement, going back to the 1950s. He shows how their protests were ignored, until a suburban alliance of upper-middle-class property owners and business owners took charge. It was the program of that latter group, not the plight of the moderate-income homeowner, which inspired tax revolts across the nation and shaped the economic policies of the Reagan administration.
About the Author
Clarence Y. H. Lo is Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Missouri.
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