Friday, February 27, 2009

Public Resources Corporation?

Heh, it was only a few days ago I was looking at my old posts on this subject and was like, "PRC? Where have I seen that before? Oh, right. Doh!" Totally not intended.

My previous, most radical suggestion is that there should be some entity that collects the rent, and only the rent, and then turns around and distributes it back to the People on a roughly one-to-one basis. This was designed to satisfy my desire for economic justice, my distrust of the state in whatever form, and, let's face it, my desire to justify personally living on the government dole, in some fashion. I've called the position "market geoanarchism".

It also included (tentatively) an elaborate scheme in which each individual at the time of institution was given a share (like corporate stock, only with some extra restrictions), which was then passed down and divided through the generations. This was initially included to satisfy what remained of my faith in Thomas Malthus' ideas regarding population growth, and then retained to render my ideas palatable both to others who still believe in these ideas (who would like the aspect of the plan that penalizes having large families), and to nationalists (who would like the consequence that only existing citizens and their children could take part in the system). It would also appeal to family-centered types, since, after that first generation, the shares would largely be concentrated in society's oldest members.

As I said before, I am re-reading Progress and Poverty; I'm nearly finished. On this re-read, I realize how much of this elaborate scheme of mine, while it rests upon Henry George's ideals, it is also shaped by the assumptions he spends a considerable amount of time debunking... effectively, I might add. However, what follows are not his musings, but my own.

My desire for economic justice has always been hampered by my mistrust for the packages in which it so often comes. I am not a Communist, a Socialist, or any other kind of "ist" which calls for the enslavement of all to all (or rather, the oligarchs that represent the "all"). I grew up thinking I would be a Republican. I had in me the notion that poverty was caused, not by any kind of injustice, but by indolence, sloth, stupidity—all manner of vice. The rich were rich because they deserved it; the same with the poor. The size of the gap between the richest and the poorest bothered me... but if that was the result of the operation of a free market, who am I to argue?

Of course, our market is not free, and even some of the institutions people assume are a necessary part of a free market are neither necessary nor just... which Henry George has helped me to see.

Then there is my mistrust of the State. It begins with the dawning recognition of stupidity on the part of representatives and bureaucrats that anyone who is paying attention must see, moves on through the recognition of the fact that our "democracy" is not. Then I hear the complaints about "too much money" in politics. The rich purchase the government, and then use it to trod upon the poor... mostly the poor of other countries, but here, as well. Then there are the government schools I attended as a child... only one out of the three was actually decent. The environment in which I grew up colors my view of the state as an only somewhat mitigated evil.

However, there is a second feature of the single tax system I had missed is that, not only does it free the laborer and the capitalist from the burden of all manner of taxes in addition to the rent they must in any case pay (income, payroll, capital gains, tariffs and excises, not to mention the bookkeeping necessary to keep all these straight); it also siphons off for public use that excess, unearned wealth which is currently used for the monopolization of mass communications (among other purposes). Those who justly earn their money would, of course, still be able to use their money to influence a democratic process... but the increasingly oligarchic character of this competition for airtime would be shattered. With wages and interest up and the revenues of land ownership in the hands of a democratically shaped government, the tendency of democratic forms to produce oligarchic results would be greatly lessened. Perhaps we could trust such a government.

As to my desire to live on the dole... well, I guess not. A good part of my goal was to see the money that presently makes oligarchs and dilettantes out of a small portion of the people spread among the whole population, with the belief that it would only produce a whole population of dilettantes when the day came that producing wealth was so easy that a very few could produce the material needs of an entire population, voluntarily. (Star Trekonomics, I called it.) A democratic government could still decide to distribute their funds that way... but it doesn't necessarily have to be that way.

The agrarian equivalent, an even distribution of agricultural lands with free public access to woodlands and pasture, still requires the people to work to get what they want from that land. To simply distribute land rent among the population would likely have every bit as much of a checking effect upon progress and productivity as the current waste of resources engaged in continual efforts to overthrow the oligarchy, and the counter to those efforts... whether it be the enormous resources poured into mass media to decide elections in this country, or the extraordinary wastes of life and wealth in other countries. It wouldn't be as bad as conventional socialism, which either pays people to be poor (my system would have continued paying regardless of how much money you actually earned) or takes not only the rent, but the whole reward of labor; but there would still be plenty of people who would take the opportunity to be lazy... like me. ^.^'

Finally, there is Malthusianism. I no longer believe that there can be such a thing as "too many people". Malthusianism rests upon the idea that the cause of poverty is simply too many people to too few resources. However, George's investigation of three cases generally thought to be poverty resulting from population pressure (China, India, Ireland) were, in fact, cases of poverty caused by rapaciously unjust regimes, with lower population densities than those seen in England and Western Europe. The problem was not that the land was incapable of supporting the population, but that no accumulation of capital was allowed... since any savings would quickly be taken away by the authorities. Without savings, any bad harvest becomes a humanitarian disaster, and no production enhancement can occur.

I'm pretty sure this principle is universal: poverty, even mass starvation, is the result not of "population pressure" but the mass theft that is the complex of taxes and rents (if not outright rampant banditry) that afflicts any advanced society. As it is so often said, the problem with world hunger isn't production, but distribution. There's plenty of food, even more could be produced, and with more people comes an ever greater variety of products and services. Production is not insufficient, but is rather diverted to both the service of and the opposition to an oligarchy.

Thus, there is no need to regulate population by any means. Opportunity costs relative to the bearing and raising of children increase as wealth increases. This keeps population in check quite well (evidenced by the fact that the richer the family or society, the lower the birthrate, generally speaking)... and there is no justice in penalizing the descendants of those increasingly few that do keep the population up. In addition, treating it as stock with all kinds of special restrictions on who can buy and sell and when to prevent the accumulation of the stock in an aristocracy simply complicates the plan unnecessarily. Thus, the hereditary stock portion of the plan is both unnecessary and undesirable.

Additionally, I see no reason to disenfranchise the young in an effort to artificially buttress the authority of elders. In an earlier stage of society, the eldest may lead, but the land belongs to the whole family or clan... not to the individual. I would still include a mechanism by which a group as small as a family could (temporarily?) secede from the centralized system, to allow for other public services to other subgroups... but i no longer feel the need to have membership determined by heredity.

This leads me to the nationalist aspect. The nature of the single tax ensures that everybody living in the country is contributing to the system (since no production can occur in a mature economy without a portion of that production being distributed out via rent), which means that the specter of the "illegal immigrant" who mooches off public services while paying no tax is eliminated. To work requires access to land, and to access land is to be taxed... period (whether or not the government is collecting this tax). The only question that remains is who is allowed to vote... and that, I think, can be safely delegated to the legislature, provided the initial enfranchisement is broadly constructed on the ideal of universal suffrage. With both oligarch and pauper reduced if not eliminated, legislative power becomes considerably safer.

In other words, I'm pretty much scrapping most of the ideas for the Public Resources Corporation.

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