THE LEFT IS LOST

It’s probably too simplistic to suggest that the conservative right doesn’t want political change, whilst the left does; but the dichotomy serves a purpose.

I have conservative views, but see myself as being on the left of the spectrum. We do need political change. What sort of change? Fundamental change.

However, apart from climate change, which a goodly proportion of the right also wants addressed, the left is no longer able to put its finger on what exactly it wants by way of socio-economic reform.

In Capital in the Twenty-First Century Thomas Piketty had it pretty right that wealth and income inequality has grown over the last 200 years, and this has proven to be an inbuilt feature of capitalism. Rentiers are somehow involved and we need a ‘wealth tax’.

The left knows it doesn’t like what conservative governments have been dishing out. It’s got to do with the neoliberal economics introduced by Reagan and Thatcher and they’re against it. But what are they ‘for’?

They’re lost.

But they have myriad ideas ……?

Yes, that’s the problem. It’s all petty stuff, basically opposing what’s been occurring. Where’s the big picture? What’s the overarching plan? They’re lost in confusion and reductionist detail.

Does the left understand ‘modern’ monetary theory (MMT)? Nup, most of them are against it, even though it’s not modern and is the way we used to do things, before neoliberal austerity economics insisted we had to balance national budgets. In 1945 Sir Ronald East quite properly denied that future generations must pay for current government spending:

Do they see that if poverty has been increasing under capitalism for 200 years, and has worsened recently, there’s a particularly good case for a living wage universal basic income (UBI)? Nup, you can’t do that: people might ‘bludge’.

Hang on! At a time like this, with the coronavirus on the rampage and people being thrown out of work, they’re worried they might bludge? Aren’t Piketty’s ‘rentiers’ bludging on us, by capturing the greater part of the economic rents owed, equally, to all of us? Wouldn’t money in people’s hands provide some comfort at a time like this, and also assist businesses? Businesses would only have to offer something additional to the UBI to attract employees.

Yup, yup, and yup!

That’s why we also need to tax land values (LVT), to capture what Adam Smith called the annual ground rentnot to tax wages and earned profits as though that’s some sort of crime to work:

A citizen can hardly distinguish between a tax and a fine, except that a fine is generally lighter. – GK Chesterton

If we taxed annual land values, it reduces land prices, curbs property speculation (and asset price inflation), and rewards workers.

Workers have lost out badly as wage growth declined over the last 40 years and household debt skyrocketed, because tax regimes have rewarded the rent-seeking 0.1% whilst penalising workers and productivity. Extractive rentier drones have been winning, hands-down!

It’s really basic stuff. Tax regimes serve the gig economy well; they’ve literally been “got up for gigs” (gig: Oz slang for idiot). The Henry Tax Review tried valiantly to get the ball rolling on real tax reform, but the right didn’t want it, and the left, not understanding ‘Australia’s Future Tax System’, didn’t quite know what to do with it. As mismanagement crashed the economy, ever before the virus, the report lies stuffed away in a shelf in Canberra.

The left is lost. It doesn’t understand taxation. Curiously, it wants more taxation, still believing it’s a fund from which national governments may spend, instead of money being withdrawn from the economy to protect the currency. (I’m able to hear the spluttering and conniptions from here!)

The right has the whip hand as it moves further rightward. The left buries itself in protest and trivia, completely lost as reform beckons urgently. It’s gone missing in action.

The 3 things needing attention now, MMT + UBI + LVT, aren’t on the agenda of any political party – and for that we’ll pay dearly.