AT LEAST SOMEBODY LIKES IT!

“I like your depression site. It is quirky. It’s economics without the usual dryness.

The profligate spending by government to prop up real estate with our money really is poor.

Now as I inch toward retirement I’m getting more and more a feeling of the destructive effects of income tax.

I work hard in several part-time jobs keeping my family off the welfare lines. Do I get thanked?

No! Every quarter I get punished by having to send a huge pile of $$$ to the government.

Then they take my money and pump it into the real estate bubble.”

______________________________________________

As I tweeted yesterday @bryankav123, who knows now that the USA only introduced income tax ‘temporarily’ for WWI, and Australia (which had a federal land tax from 1910 to 1952) introduced it federally as a WWII measure?

A POLITICAL ANALYSIS

Can we accept for the moment that the 99.9% are not doing quite as well as the 0.1% – and it seems to be getting worse, rather than better?

OK?

For ease of identification, let’s just call the 0.1% ‘our masters’ and the 99.9% ‘the plebs’.

Without being accused of exaggeration may I suggest the plebs are starting to feel a little aggrieved and hard done by, whilst our masters seem to be doing exceptionally well?

Well, the plebs have been given a vote, you see, and for whom are they going to vote at a time like this: 1) the major parties that have taken it in turns over the last 45 years to gradually deliver the plebs and our masters to this point in history, or 2) some saviour out of left field?

That’s right – the saviour.

Enter Donald Trump, Marine Le Pen, Pauline Hanson, Cory Bernadi, etc.  And they have all the answers – right?

Certainly not, but at least the plebs have called out the political parties on their naked support of our masters as they stole from the plebs?

‘Stole’? Yes, they’ve been stealing the rents of our natural resources: our natural resources – 25% of the economy at the very least!

But the plebs and their political parties don’t get it, and our masters still retain strong support from many of the plebs who know their place in life and who don’t want to be forced into the arms of ‘saviours’.

Are you still with me?

So, we have a conundrum here. The plebs and our masters are witnessing the rise and rise of saviours, and the absolute intransigence of major political parties. Meanwhile, our masters continue to live off the theft of the plebs’ natural resource rents.

In this scenario, as much as I’d like to be optimistic about the direction world economies and politics have taken, may I suggest things are going to get far worse for the plebs before they’re likely get any better?

CONSERVATIVES AND PROGRESSIVES *BOTH* DISAVOW THE CRUX

The commitment to traditional values held by conservatives is reasonable when considered against the anarchist ideal of the absence of government altogether, or when measured against nihilist beliefs that tradition holds little for us because life itself is meaningless.

However, modern conservatives have inserted errant precepts into their catalogue, taking on board anarchist ideas of minimal or no government, and a perverse definition of ‘private property’.

As they’ve not been called out on this failure by their liberal, or so-called ‘progressive’ opponents–in itself pointing also to failure of the progressive side of politics–let me do so.

Government

John Locke, widely regarded as the apostle of freedom, is admired by conservatives and liberals alike. His “Second Treatise on Government” argued that people have basic inalienable rights, including the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of property. But it was necessary for people to cede lesser freedoms to an overarching government which would protect them in order to secure these basic human rights. If we acknowledge that people will require protection from criminality and war, some level of government intervention is necessary in a functioning civil society.

Whilst today’s governments are misdirected, there are ‘conservatives’ to be found who will damn government per se.

We should be able to agree that government is essential to any properly functioning society, but for the good of that society its ills need to be exposed and eradicated.

Private property

OK, but at least Locke defended the sacredness of our home – our ‘private property’? Well, he certainly defended the human body and its earnings as private property and, yes, our homes, but he did not defend private capture of the income/imputed social surplus from land.

Locke held that as all taxes ultimately come from the rent of land, that’s from where revenue would most fairly and efficiently be derived in the first instance. So, whilst the home is indeed private property and its land may be exclusively occupied, the rent of land should be captured for the pubic good: “It is vain in a country whose great fund is land to hope to lay the publick charge on anything else; there at last it will terminate.”  (‘Some Considerations of the Lowering of Interest’)

Whilst conservatives do seem to be nearer the mark on the ills of arbitrary taxation, they are today as far removed as progressives are on the need for society–not private interests–to capture its rent.

There is one ‘radical centrist’ idea that does hit the sweet spot, but it awaits forlornly in the wings as conservatives and progressives slug it out, both missing the most fundamental premise which would reconcile individual and social freedom.

JAMES ROBERTSON’S NEWSLETTER #55

  James Robertson Newsletter No. 55 – January 2017

This text can also be viewed at www.jamesrobertson.com/newsletter.htm. 

CONTENTS

1. Introduction

2. One Thing: The Money System Must and Can Be Reformed

3. Some Books on Ethics and Economics

4. The Present State of the Environment

5. A Last Thought

1. INTRODUCTION

“The current system is failing all around us. The economy is stagnating. The political system is stalemated. Communities are in decay. The lives of millions are compromised by economic and social pain. Violence is endemic among individuals, communities, and nations. Civil liberties are eroding. Near-record numbers of citizens remain incarcerated. Underemployment, inequality, and ecological despoliation deepen day by day. The planet itself is threatened by climate change. A generation of young people expects to be worse off than their parents. The very idea of building a cooperative community of caring responsibility has faded from public discourse and common understanding.

The time has come to think boldly about what is required to deal with the systemic difficulties we are facing. It is time to begin a real conversation about genuine alternatives. It is time to develop thoughtful, system-building answers to system-threatening challenges. It is time to debate what it will really take to move in a new direction capable of producing sustainable, lasting and more democratic social, economic, and ecological outcomes.”

That quotation is from the Next System Project’s National Essay Competition – see www.thenextsystem.org/essayprize.

I owe it to Deirdre Kent in New Zealand. For her interesting 42-page essay on The New Political Economy, go to www.jamesrobertson.com/next_system_deirdre kent.pdf.

2. ONE THING: THE MONEY SYSTEM MUST and CAN BE REFORMED

How money works encourages people to behave in some ways and discourages others. Our governments must make it responsible for encouraging people to behave in ways that help one another and preserve the ecological features of the planet on which we all depend.

(a) Page 140 of my book Future Money says that a good society will work as follows:

1. provide the national money supply as a public service, and no longer as a source of excessive profit for banks;

2. replace present sources of public revenue, shifting taxes off socially and environmentally good activities on to bad activities; and

3. create a people-centred shift in public spending.

All these aspects of money are important. Their principles apply to money at local and international levels as well as national ones.

Details about Future Money can be found here – www.jamesrobertson.com/futuremoney.htm. A pdf copy of the book can be downloaded free by subscribers to my newsletter. Subscribe here – www.jamesrobertson.com/subscribe.htm.

(b) This year’s message from Joseph Huber says “I am happy to inform you about the publication of my new book, Sovereign Money: Beyond Reserve Banking. It provides a systemic and historical analysis of money and banking and an up-to-date discussion of the approaches to sovereign money reform.”

The publisher is Palgrave MacMillan – www.palgrave.com/gb/book/9783319421735. This is from the book’s website page:

“In coming to terms with the still smoldering financial crisis, little attention has been paid to the flaws within our monetary system and how these flaws lie at the root of the crisis.

This book provides an introduction and critical assessment of the current monetary system. It begins with an up to date account of the workings of today’s system of state-backed ‘bankmoney’, illustrating the various forms and issuers of money, and discussing money theory and fallacy past and present.

It also looks at related economic challenges such as inflation and deflation, asset inflation and bubble building that lead to market instability and examines the ineffectual monetary policies and primary credit markets that are failing to reach some sort of self-limiting equilibrium.

In order to fix our financial system, we first need to understand its limitations and the flaws in current monetary and regulatory policy and then correct them. The concluding part of this book is dedicated to the latter, advocating a move towards the sovereign monetary prerogatives of issuing the entire stock of official money and benefitting from the gain thereof (seigniorage).”

See www.thomasattwood.wordpress.com/2017/01/13/sovereign-money-beyond-reserve-banking.

(PS. Joseph Huber and I wrote Creating New Money: A monetary reform for the information age seventeen years ago. See www.jamesrobertson.com/books.htm#creating. Joseph is also a regular speaker at the annual conferences of the American Monetary Institute – see the following.)

(c) The 13th Annual American Monetary Institute Monetary Reform Conference will be on September 14 – 17, 2017. See www.monetary.org/2017-ami-monetary-reform-conference. As Stephen Zarlenga, the AMI Director writes: “Regular working people understand that a moral approach is needed to lead to a future worthy of humanity”.

(d) Why Does Canada Need Bank Reform? “Canadian Bank Reformers believes that money and banking should work FOR THE PEOPLE, for the benefit OF THE PEOPLE, and not for the rich elite of this world. Canadian Bank Reformers will succeed in ending this current ‘debt slave’ system and return prosperity and monetary morality back to Canada and set a precedence around the world in doing so”. See www.canadianbankreformers.ca.

(e) A Letter to the UK Chancellor of the Exchequer. It is encouraging that 35 leading economists sent an open letter to Philip Hammond in August 2016 asking that he support a new form of monetary policy.

Responding to concerns expressed by the Prime Minister that low rates and quantitative easing have disproportionately benefited the wealthy, the letter argues that new monetary policy tools could stimulate the economy without contributing to inequality.

See www.positivemoney.org/2016/08/leading-economists-to-chancellor-time-to-support-alternatives-to-quantitative-easing.

(f) A Potential Example of Local Public Money. Thomas Attwood, banker, economist, democrat – and Birmingham’s first MP – was the first to argue that government should counter economic depressions by increasing the money supply and directing this money towards ensuring full employment.

70 or so MPs from five parties, including city MPs Lynne Jones and Roger Godsiff, signed a series of Early Day Motions (2002-7) initiated by Austin Mitchell. They recommended increasing the supply of public money – which is issued interest free every year by the government – to meet public needs such as the building of schools, hospitals, renewable energy technology and public transport, without going into debt.

See www.ourbirmingham.wordpress.com/2016/12/10/city-mps-and-council-leader-would-use-qe-to-benefit-the-real-economy.

(g) Existing taxes are positively perverse. Useful employment and rewards for work and enterprise are heavily taxed by income tax, national insurance, profits tax and value added tax (VAT). That is combined with lightly taxing the use of common resources such as the value of land and other planetary resources.

The overall tax burden thus perversely favours richer people against poorer people. See page 126 of Future Money www.jamesrobertson.com/futuremoney.htm.

(h) A basic income (or citizen’s income) is a good example of people-centred public spending. See www.basicincome.org/news.

3. SOME BOOKS ON ETHICS AND ECONOMICS

(a) Ed Mayo, Values: How to Bring Values to Life in your business. See www.greenleaf-publishing.com/values.

See also www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/john-tizard/values-matter-but-to-be-r_b_12515214.html.

(b) Professor Laszlo Zsolnai, Virtues and Economics. A series with the goal is of developing a virtue-based economic theory which connects virtues with the contents of economic activities. The primary context is Catholic Social Teaching but other faith traditions (especially Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Confucianism) are also included. See www.laszlo-zsolnai.net/content/virtues-and-economics.

(c) Sara Parkin, Sustainability Literate Leadership. The purpose is to help people to become sustainability literate. The book The Positive Deviant: Sustainability Leadership in a Perverse World is now a course book in many countries. See www.saraparkin.org.

(d) Dave Patterson, The Democratic Revolution Handbook: Why we’re losing, and how to start winning. See www.rudemacedon.ca/drh/000-home.html.

(e) Ray Rauscher, Cities in Global Transition: Creating Sustainable Communities in Australia. See www.springer.com/gp/book/9783319398648.

4. THE PRESENT STATE OF THE ENVIRONMENT

(a) Lord Deben, chairman of the UK Committee on Climate Change, said, “We environmentalists must stop behaving as if we are perpetually in a minority. When the revolution has actually occurred we can’t go on as if the ancien regime hasn’t fallen. We have grown used to our role of opposing, cajoling, and shaming, but we seem much more uncomfortable in becoming part of mainstream thought…. We must use non-expert language that makes sense to people.” See www.greenallianceblog.org.uk/2016/12/13/its-time-for-environmentalists-to-stop-behaving-like-theyre-in-the-minority.

(b) Leah Davis said, “On 7 December, MPs voted to support the government’s plan to start formal Brexit talks by the end of March next year. As the UK edges closer to leaving the European Union, the government now faces a critical choice on the future of our environment protections…. If we get it wrong, we could see by far the biggest setback yet for the future well-being of our environment…. But if we get it right, we can avoid that, improve on the current protections and begin to restore and even enhance our natural world”. See www.greenallianceblog.org.uk/2016/12/08/brexit-will-be-a-pivotal-moment-for-the-uks-environ.

(c) Dame Fiona Reynolds said on 24 January: “For the many people who care about the beauty of our countryside and the natural environment, this is the big question of our time…. A vision for the UK as a clean, green country that it’s good to do business with across the world is a compelling, even exciting one. We could be cutting edge, trading in green technology and products, innovation and skills at the highest level. Our new industrial strategy could promote a low carbon, energy efficient future and the sustainable, cyclical, efficient management of natural resources.”

Dame Fiona then goes on to list the principles of a clean, green Britain in a future natural environment. Very interesting. See www.greenallianceblog.org.uk/2017/01/24/whats-the-post-brexit-future-for-farming-in-the-uk.

(d) Vrinda Manglik discussed on 20 January ‘The bad and the good news: climate change under Donald Trump‘.

The conclusion is that, “while the new administration will most likely try to boost oil and natural gas production in the US, the environmental community is prepared to fight back every step of the way. And, when it comes to renewables, the success of clean energy will shine its own light on the path to low carbon in the US.”

See www.greenallianceblog.org.uk/2017/01/20/the-bad-and-the-good-news-climate-change-under-donald-trump.

(e) Hazel Henderson wrote on 27 December that “the global tug-of-war between fossil fuels and cleaner greener renewable energy and advanced efficiency has come to a head. Reactionary politics in the USA have produced a short-term victory for its fossilized sectors the global oil industry, OPEC and Russia.

The tipping point for the global green transition was in 2015 when 195 member countries of the United Nations (UN) pledged at the COP21 Climate Summit in Paris to shift away from fossil fuels toward greener cleaner economies. ….The good news is that these fossil reserves are more valuable left in the ground, rather than wastefully burned…. Carbon is a ubiquitous element on Earth which we humans can use in many ways; from materials and construction to jewelry. Let’s conserve it, not burn it!”

See www.justmeans.com/blogs/assessing-risks-of-fossil-reserves-are-they-fuel-or-feedstocks.

(f) Political recognition and support needed for ecological land co-operatives. The Ecological Land Co-operative (ELC) is working to make land accessible for new entrants to small-scale ecological farming in England. It has identified two key barriers for those who wish to live with the land – high land prices and planning consent – and now works to solve these issues by owning the freehold of each smallholding to protect it for agricultural use and keep it affordable.

See www.concernedcooperators.wordpress.com/2017/01/07/political-recognition-and-support-needed-for-ecological-land-co-operatives.

(g) Helena Norberg-Hodge wrote on 9 January that “localized economies are good for the environment: they increase the number of jobs not by increasing consumption, but by relying more on human labor and creativity and less on energy-intensive technological systems – thereby reducing resource use and pollution. And shifting from global to local promotes ‘re-wilding’ and the restoration of biodiversity“.

See www.notthembutus.wordpress.com/2017/01/09/a-message-from-helena-norberg-hodge.

(h) These photos tell a story of corporate power and its impact on ordinary people. They were taken in the Indian and Bangladeshi countryside where farmers have been fighting the expansion of industrial agriculture for decades.

See www.globaljustice.org.uk/infographics/monsantogallery.

5. A LAST THOUGHT

Neal Lawson, 10 January 2017, “Bauman’s Legacy“.

“Zygmunt understood the crisis of a social democracy built on solid jobs, fixed identities and bounded within nation states, and paved the way for thinking about the need for progressive alliances”.

Please see www.opendemocracy.net/neal-lawson/baumans-legacy.

James Robertson

31 January 2017

james@jamesrobertson.com

www.jamesrobertson.com

The Old Bakehouse, Cholsey, Oxfordshire OX10 9NU, United Kingdom
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