Friday, February 26, 2010

Land Justice: Yet Another Model

Lately, I've been thinking about the models I've promoted in the past: a periodic disbursement of rents to the public on a per capita basis, whether by the government via taxes on rents (land values, electromagnetic spectrum, etc.) and a partial or complete citizen's dividend, or via a regular stock dividend from a separate corporation that acquires rental opportunities on behalf of the public over time. It occurs to me that one advantage to the way things are now is that, for the most part, people have to work. It is theoretically possible that, under public distribution of rents, you might end up with more people who choose not to work than are unemployed under the current model, and while that looks neat if you'd rather not work, it may have a significantly negative impact on overall productivity. If you consider society standing by itself, this isn't necessarily a bad thing... but one society never stands alone. More productive societies sometimes overcome less productive societies, wiping out such models.

I find myself returning to the model presented in Leviticus 25: 8-17, wherein the distribution of the land is reset every fifty years. It occurs to me that, even in the absence of "ancestral lands", there is a way to implement a similar model in our own society. In this case, I'm not considering how one would get from here to there... though the slow accumulation of land by a foundation established for this purpose could perhaps implement this as well as my earlier model. Simply put, rather than collecting and disbursing land rents yearly, it would be done every fifty years.

The advantage of this is that it while still freeing people from the mistakes of earlier generations, it would do less to protect people from the consequences of their own actions... which is a desirable outcome, in my opinion. This corporation, jointly owned by every inhabitant of a country, would lease the land (and other rent collecting opportunities) to individuals on a fourty-nine year contract. In the fiftieth year, the lease would expire, and everyone would have to renew their leases, from the owner of a small city plot to the owners of large tracts of agricultural land to the owners of rights of way for privately owned infrastructure. The proceeds would then be disbursed to the shareholders (the People) on a per family or per capita basis.

I believe that fifty years is a short enough period for every generation to get access to these proceeds at least once (and in many cases twice) during their lifetimes. It's also long enough that I suspect that, if someone is in danger of losing their lease to a higher bidder, replacement of capital improvements on a different site could be built into a business plan (everything needs to be tore down and rebuilt every now and then, after all). In the case where this isn't feasible, if the activity is productive, I suspect the current occupant would value that location higher than any other... and thus not be outbid.

These funds, once received, would do much to alleviate the disadvantages of those whose opportunities are restricted by the mistakes of the previous generation. Such funds could be used to educate oneself or one's children, take advantage of investment opportunities (including starting businesses of their own), move to more advantageous locations, and, yes, it could be blown in a few years on a licentious binge. The advantage of doing this semicentenially is that those who chose to spend the money foolishly would rather quickly end up having to work for a living again... returning to the ranks of the productive. Doing it annually runs the risk of creating a class of men who are chronically unemployed by choice.

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