THE RENTIER CURSE

It is a major concern that all the finger-pointing at crooked banksters who failed the test of proper risk management, along with their complicit lawyers and accountants, still does not get to the root cause of the financial collapse.

This fact also lies at the heart of the “Occupy” movement’s conundrum.  Yes, change is certainly necessary at the top: but what change exactly?  Fix the monetary system? Apply a Tobin Tax?  Maybe we should all flee to intentional communities in order to live with like-minded people?

May I suggest, even with all the crooks put away, there remain far too many issues to be addressed, too many more complex regulations to be brought to bear, too many laws to change.

Long-term, it is impossible to make an honorable profit from the current system because it carries a fatal flaw. It has become corrupted because it is now based upon boom and bust.

Companies and individuals have come to recognise under such a system that you can only get ahead either by monopoly, by rent-seeking, or scams – or combinations of all three.

Despite claims to the contrary, this is no longer a capitalist system. Especially over the last forty years, societies have been quietly directed by a tiny but all-powerful rentier class. Big claim? Not if one reads these pages.

This class remorselessly scares and lobbies both sides of politics. The media is beholden to it–or at least sees itself to be–because of a perception that has become pervasive: we must slavishly serve finance, insurance and the real estate industry, sometimes rolled into an entity that has become known as the FIRE sector.  The FIRE sector is no longer the service sector, it is deified and has become an end in itself. It is now the sector WE must serve.

Understand that change. This sector, once the handmaiden of productivity and new ideas, has been put on a pedestal and permitted to become all-powerful. (Yes, the Rothchilds do belong to it!)

The media must carry its ads and support the pathologies that have come to hang off it: a corrupt tax system; a welfare industry that necessarily springs into being to obviate revolution between the haves and have-nots; taxation accountants poring over reams of concocted nonsense; lawyers who fall into line with all this sham, all this perversity.

The real estate industry has been shown again and again to be at the heart of cycles of boom, bubble and burst. It can’t (or won’t) appreciate that a public charge on all land values and the concomitant removal of taxes would assist it to experience a permanently vibrant and genuine market, just as the rest of us might begin to experience a constantly healthy economy.

The lie that the boom-crash cycle is an essential part of the economy is the narrative of the rentier class. It is now generally accepted: “This just part of the normal business cycle. We’ll be through it and into the next cycle soon.”

Those of us who have our house, office, factory, or an investment property (maybe two) consider we have common interest with rent-seekers, so why should we resist them?

The devastating unwinding of each economic depression upon our families and communities should make it clear that boom boom-bust is man-made – certainly not an essential part of society’s fabric.

Rentiers are indeed the cause of boom-bust, but we constantly overlook them. [“Aren’t they us?”  Not at all.] Though they wheel and deal in our billions, they remain cloaked in invisibility, whilst increasingly the poor, middle and even upper classes have the more modest aim of keeping body and soul together.

It has become clear that privatised land rent has first claim on both labour and capital. Rentiers understand the critical point, and work it to their advantage parasitically at the expense of all others. Privilege has thus come to rule. As their greed initiates stock and real estate market collapses, jailing corporate crims nevertheless leaves this cockeyed system, and its invisible free-riding cockroaches, entirely unaffected.

What has changed?  What has always brought down empires? Gibbons faithfully reports Pliny the Elder on the collapse of Ancient Rome: “Latifundia perdidere Italiam.” (The great landed estates destroyed Italy.) “Oh, but real estate scammers will always be with us”. OK, then let them pay the land rent, along with us all, and let’s see how their incursions into our natural resources will be greatly lessened.

Such has become the all-encompassing hegemony of this tiny but controlling rentier class, it is very easy to dismiss public capture of land rent as “impractical day dreaming” [because] “It just won’t happen: they won’t allow it”, and to settle for myriad diversions.

“Impractical” is merely a word. Such labels can be no replacement for logical argument nor effective political action.

Meanwhile, public abuse, even jailing, of a passing parade of fraudulent banksters, insurance salesmen and real estate supremos–together, of course, with an even greater blossoming of regulatory bodies–will continue to pass for systemic reform.

But, sans public capture of publicly-generated land rent, the curse of the rentier remains with us.