Instead of taxing our labour – what we produce – why don’t we tax what we use? Instead of taxing the wealth that is earned, why don’t we tax the wealth that is unearned? I’m talking about land. Nobody made the land. Nature gave it to us. By building on it, or farming it, or mining it, you have improved it, but the land itself was always there. So let us look solely at the unimproved value of the land. This is easy to assess.
If you want the right to occupy a piece of land, and you want the government to protect your title to that land, then a rent should be paid to the community that reflects the value of that land, because it is the needs of the community which have given that land value. What I’m describing might sound extremely left wing, but the granddaddy of rightwing economists, Milton Friedman, described it as the, “least bad tax”: that is LVT – land value tax.
Who would pay the most if we hand land value tax in the UK? The Queen (she owns most of it), the Duke of Buccleuch, the Duke of Atholl, Captain Alwyne Farquharson, pension funds, the Forestry Commission, the Ministry of Defence and, of course, the new Duke of Westminster – or rather the Grosvenor Trust, which owns the land.
There’s big money to be made in land banking but there is nothing creative about it. You are not bringing anything new to the world or improving it. It is simply exploiting the restrictive planning laws in this country that prevent progress. It is crony capitalism at its worst.
If you don’t want to pay land value tax, you don’t have to. This is a tax that is voluntary. You simply sell the land to someone who is prepared to.
The amounts of tax payable are clear. It’s an easy tax to administer. It doesn’t require 10 million words of tax code. And there need be no loopholes. The land is here – it is not in the Cayman Islands – and you are the owner.
If you look up into the sky you can’t help but be awed by the thin layer of atmosphere keeping this planet alive. Rather than the ludicrous notion of corporate personhood, we should formally recognise the planet and take more care of the environment.
Hypocrisy is often used as a lazy way to resist change. For example, the complaint “champagne socialist” – apart from the person’s views often not being specifically socialist (usually just not hard right), why is the wealth of the person relevant? You don’t have to dress in a sackcloth to want to change things.
See also Russell Brand’s comment:
When I was poor and I complained about inequality they said I was bitter, now I’m rich and I complain about inequality they say I’m a hypocrite. I’m starting to think they just don’t want to talk about inequality.
On a couple of occasions in the last week I have had to make clear that in my opinion the political left in the UK should not have problems with the idea of markets. I do not have any such problem.
I do have problems with market abuse. That happens when a natural monopoly is privately owned, or is in the ownership of a few private operators. That’s always a recipe for abuse and many former state owned businesses are now run in this way.
I also have problems with entirely artificial markets, such as the NHS internal market.
And I have problems with rigged markets. That can just be the result of corruption, opacity or the consequence of unaddressed tax abuse. Such markets always concentrate wealth unjustifiably.
And markets without progressive income and wealth taxes have the same unjustified outcome.
So my belief in markets is conditional, as should anyone’s be, in my opinion. But, if these issues can be addressed (and that is entirely possible to do with the appropriate political willingness) then there is no doubt markets gave an essential role in society.
To imagine why just imagine all businesses in a community were cooperatively controlled. It is far from impossible to think of such a situation. This would then mean that the return to labour and not the return to capital was maximised. It would be a radically different situation from that we now have. But these businesses would still need a market to distribute their products and consumers would still need a market in which they could indicate their preferences. The alternative would be a command economy, which is something very different indeed, and which we know gets things horribly wrong.
We need markets. We don’t need market abuse.
Councils of all stripes have been outsourcing for decades, which is why your local traffic warden is usually tramping the streets on behalf of a private firm. But that isn’t enough for Tory-run Barnet – it is on a mission to make itself disappear. It has begun a programme to farm out so many of its services that the local trade union calculates staff will shrink from 3,200 in September 2012 to just 332.
Everything from registering births to mowing the local cemeteries has either already been outsourced or is about to about be. And most of the key tasks have been given to the FTSE giant Capita. Not just for a few months or a couple of years, mind you: Capita will run these services for at least 10 years.
So an arm of Britain’s local government has in effect agreed to a friendly takeover by a £7bn multinational. Whoever Barnet residents vote for in local elections, they will always get Capita. Whenever they phone or email or visit, they will speak to a Capita employee. The FTSE giant will face no competition for the next decade; nor will it endure the same scrutiny as democratic government, as previously public information is veiled under “commercial sensitivity”.
This scale of outsourcing is new to Barnet, but has already given rise to some monstrous cock-ups. I’ve mentioned one here before: the loss of legal expertise meant that Barnet councillors were given the wrong reports to vote on last summer, prompting an independent inquiry that concluded: “There is no one who understands local government law in depth at Barnet.” And while the council claims the point of outsourcing is to save money, evidence of that is thin. One local blogger, who writes under the pen name Mr Reasonable, makes it his habit to go through the accounts and can’t identify any of the much-touted savings. He has offered to donate £250 to charity if the council can prove its claims, but so far there’s been no reply. I asked the local authority the same question this afternoon, but staff couldn’t come back to me in time. Meanwhile, the cost of interim and agency staff is ballooning from £12.5m two years ago to £15.5m.
We believe that outsourcing is rarely a solution, if only because the management contract is so difficult to write. If you can’t operate the service you won’t be able to manage the outsourcing of it.
In 2009, when Robert H Richard IV, an unemployed heir to the DuPont family fortune, pled guilty to fourth-degree rape of his three-year-old daughter, a judge spared him a justifiable sentence – indeed, only put Richard on probation – because she figured this 1-percenter would “not fare well” in a prison setting.
Details of the case were kept quiet until just the other day, as Richard’s ex-wife filed a new lawsuit accusing him of also sexually abusing their son. Since then, the original verdict has been fueling some angry speculation – shock, horror – that the defendant’s wealth and status may have played a role in his lenient sentencing.
I hate to shatter anyone’s illusions, but inequality defines our criminal justice system just as it defines our society. It always has and it always will until we do something about it, beyond just getting upset at local news stories.
America incarcerates more people than any other country on the planet,with over 2m currently in prison and more than 7m under some form of correctional supervision. The people who make up this outsize correctional population do not typically come from the Delaware trust-fund-creep demographic: more than 60% are racial and ethnic minorities, and the vast majority are poor.
Here at Barking At Cars we strive to focus on what we believe. We believe in equality in the application of law.
Richard Murphy notes the disparity between penalties for benefit fraud and tax fraud.
We believe both crimes should have similar penalties.
The IfG found mistakes in the setting up and management of outsourcing in areas such as care for older people, schools, probation and employment services.
Flaws meant some contractors were “gaming” the system, responding in “undesirable ways to the reward structures” including by parking people with complex needs and creaming off payments for the easiest cases.
The government also struggles to force out poorly run companies, “partly as a result of a lack of confidence” that it can manage the switch to a new provider. The report comes after a number of companies have faced intense criticism over the way they have handled highly lucrative government contracts.
As a general rule I think Governments are better focused on making markets (i.e. setting rules) rather than participating in them. It astounds me there isn’t more research and discussion about tendering and so on. This report requires real action.
We must set the parameters for barking at cars: what are we against and what are we for?
A capitalist anarchist libertarian social democratic (I know they are mutually exclusive but there are threads in them all that are useful) economic system based on regulation of markets for the greater good, where cronyism in all forms is not tolerated, where society is not a dirty word, and where social mobility is actively encouraged. Where the triumph of empiricism over opinion is the way forward.
Where corporations are not people (if so whatever happened to corporate manslaughter?)
Somewhere we have to have the sans culottes (crazy names crazy guys), the levellers and the enlightenment.
Do you think we would get any votes?
In some ways I have a feeling we are heading towards 19th century liberals.