Cover image for Small property versus big government : social origins of the property tax revolt
Small property versus big government : social origins of the property tax revolt
Lo, Clarence Y. H.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Berkeley : University of California Press, [1990]

Physical Description:
xvi, 269 pages ; 24 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
HJ4121.C22 L6 1990 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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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.

Author Notes

Clarence Y. H. Lo is Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Missouri.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Written from the perspective of local activists, this book tells of the evolution of and political support for Proposition 13, a 1976 California law granting tax relief to property owners. What began as a grass-roots movement of suburban homeowners eventually became a statewide coalition of small businesses, real estate interests, professionals, and homeowners that remade statewide tax policy. The movement was a reaction to high and rapidly rising property taxes, the unresponsiveness of government, the drain of tax dollars into large cities, and preferential treatment given to big business. The initial concern to lower taxes for homeowners became in Proposition 13 a windfall tax reduction for business. Lo traces this shift of an originally populist revolt to an upwardly redistributive program. Distinctions are made between middle-income and upper-middle-class communities; small business and large corporations; local, county, and state governments; and nonprofessionals and professionals. These distinctions enable the author to suggest how a consumerist movement ultimately benefitted the income-producing properties of apartment owners and large industrial and commercial corporations. An inherently interesting and important story, relevant to the fiscal difficulties now faced by local governments and illustrative of the potential for citizen action. All levels. -R. A. Beauregard, University of Pittsburgh