Challenging the “Conservative” mindset

By D. J. Webb

I haven’t had much time to write on politics recently, for which I apologise to readers of the LA blog.

I want to address a problem today that I see frequently. You can call it the Daily Mail mentality, or big-C conservatism, or the smug middle class. This mentality is even exhibited in some of the pro-free market think-tanks that rail against the fecklessness of the benefits scroungers and the young in general, hoping that, by cracking down on benefits, a tax cut for the well heeled can thereby be afforded. This sort of thing can often pass for libertarianism.

Let me use the example of my mother to illustrate the problem. She condemns her grandchildren for not getting jobs and running up payday loans. Apparently, the young people today don’t want to get on the hard way, by working for your living. They want it all now, handed to them on a plate, without having to work for it. I think many readers of this blog will recognise the theme, which appears to be a regurgitation of some of the worst articles on the Daily Mail website. Warming to her topic, she has been known to wax lyrical on the social obligation to pay the council tax. Is she a budding libertarian?

Yet—and despite having five children—my parents did have it relatively easy, in that good jobs were easier to come by in the past, and house prices were much lower relative to incomes. You could make it back then. It has become a cliché to remark on the fact that the next generation will not have it as easy as their parents and could well be poorer.

This is despite the fact that we have had something of an aspirational revolution. At one point, large swathes of the working class lived in council housing, which was simple to obtain. Now we are pushed into the freehold market—freeholds we don’t need as none of us lives forever—and called upon by the prime minister and others to buy overpriced housing to bail out the banks. In educational terms, aspiration has been encouraged, to the detriment of the quality of education, as the state lowers standards to enable all to gain qualifications. Self-reliance has been encouraged—ostensibly a thing libertarians favour—by the fact that huge loans are now required to gain a university education. Parts of the health service are now routinely topped up by private provision.

But all this means is that house prices have gone up, to the extent that even middle-class people are being forced out of London and into commuter towns, and people are being pressurised into spending years clocking up debts for qualifications that are relatively meaningless, simply because everyone else has them. The Thatcherite aspirational revolution seems to have run its course, as none of this has transformed Britain into a land of opportunity; quite the reverse, in fact.

A free economy is not one where the state encourages aspiration, but one where the state restricts itself to the most basic functions (e.g. defence, the courts, etc). What was needed was for the state to be rolled back as a percentage of GDP under Margaret Thatcher—not maintained at around 40% of GDP. No policies encouraging home ownership or university education were required. Indeed such policies prevent a reduction in the state, by simply making it more expensive to live (mainly due to property prices), thus encouraging many to just give up and rely on handouts instead. All that was needed was for the state to stop the absurdity of personal taxation and let people manage their own lives as they see fit, all the while controlling the money supply with an explicit aim of preventing a property price bubble. In the event, all this aspiration-mongering (which had the semi-explicit aim of stoking a property price bubble) has imposed huge costs on us all, in the form of accommodation costs and university debts, which, when added to high taxation, absorb a shockingly high percentage of incomes today. Many people have little in the way of discretionary spending once income tax, national insurance, council tax, mortgages, student loans, utility bills, house and contents insurance, the TV licence, road tax, M.O.T and petrol, and basic food and clothing are accounted for. Yet this situation has been contrived by free-market think-tanks calling for pro-aspirational policies that have left us where we are.

Is it difficult to see why young people and people on benefits are trapped? The pro-aspirational property policies have produced a surge in social-security spending as higher rents need to be covered. In turn, those in receipt of housing benefits cannot fail to have noticed that the “baseline” is getting higher and higher, in terms of the minimum they need to earn in order to cover their rent, council tax and other outgoings. Libertarians who think this is best addressed by slashing benefits are two a penny, but they haven’t answered the question of how the bottom decile of society can survive in an economy with rocketing property prices.

Incomes are another problem. Incomes are stagnant at the moment, while basic living costs are soaring, even if the government’s inflation indices don’t seem to wish to capture it. The problem here is immigration, which prevents the labour market from functioning properly. Theoretically, as jobs are created, the labour market tightens, improving the bargaining power of labour. This should mean that over the long term, workers can demand wages they need to pay for their accommodation and food and raise families. Unfortunately, one of the key reasons for immigration is to prevent the tightening of the labour market. We hear nonsense about “skills”, as if people from Afghanistan and Somalia are nuclear physicists, whereas, in fact, what is being done is the trafficking in of lower-end labour to keep the labour market flexible. Yet libertarians who think free immigration is an important freedom are also two a penny, for some reason. Maybe they haven’t thought it through properly.

Ask yourself why in-work benefits should be needed in a properly functioning labour market. It is no solution to say that in-work benefits should just be scrapped with no further changes to our society and economy. Not unless we allow shanty-towns to develop on the fringes of our urban areas. Most of the rest of the things libertarians argue for would be similarly negative to society without more comprehensive change. Just delete education funding, Mr Libertarian says. OK! Great! Shall we close down the NHS while we’re at it? I suppose you could balance these by reducing taxes, but most people on the minimum wage do not pay much tax anyway. They would lose vital services—things that they have to have and can’t afford to pay for—while gaining relatively little in the reduction in taxes. Bear in mind that low-end people earn as little as £1,000 a month, a salary that requires them to pay £85.19 a month in tax and national insurance. The reduction in the burden of the state is almost an irrelevance to them compared with reducing house prices and allowing the labour market to function properly. We could possibly take everyone under 25 out of personal taxation altogether in order to incentivise them to move up from minimum-wage jobs—we should do this—but the problem still remains that high property prices are now a significant hurdle to anyone who wants to get on.

So we come back to the spiteful views of people who made their money relatively easily by buying property cheaply in the 1970s, and sneer at people, especially young people, who don’t wish to slave away for £1,000 a month (£914.81 after tax and national insurance) in order to cover rocketing rents, energy bills and the like. It makes no sense not to realise that this has become a country almost devoid of opportunity. Some people do do well, it is true, but there is a distinct pull-up-the-drawbridge mentality to the middle class.

I’ve made the case here before for a more holistic approach to a free economy than just slashing benefits and reducing taxes. These simply divert more money to the well-heeled and make a country that has even less opportunity for the new generations of young people. Without a fundamental readjustment of land prices, almost nothing libertarians advocate can promote a free economy. Do we want a free economy, or do we just want the existing middle class to become richer? Libertarians have to address cost-of-living issues and stop issuing policies that would push up the cost of living in a way that make jobseeking almost pointless for teenagers.

We should be calling for:

  1. Measures to lead to a large fall in land values, including the introduction of a land value tax and five-year leases to replace six-month assured shortholds.
  2. An end to all immigration unless of a highly skilled and specific type.
  3. Immediate withdrawal from the EU, to facilitate the end of immigration and a deletion of many pointless regulations.
  4. An immediate halving of the size of the bloated university sector.
  5. An end to all pointless “green” taxes.
  6. Immediate abolition of the council tax, the one tax that low-end workers’ pay regardless of income.
  7. A restriction of all social-security benefits to people of mediaeval British Isles ancestry.
  8.  A large increase in family allowance payable to families of British descent where the parents are married and living together with the children.

While an elimination of all personal taxation is an ultimate goal, we need to recognise that young people and “the poor” don’t pay much in the way of income tax anyway. Unless we can address basic living costs, the free economy will be pointless. So this is why I don’t deprecate my nephews’ failure to find a job, and to a large extent I agree with them that the opportunities are just not there today.

47 responses to “Challenging the “Conservative” mindset

  1. A general rousing round of applause from me, except for the racial qualifications in points 7 and 8 which even if desirable would not be workable without some awful inspection by the State. Whatever we may think of recent immigration policy, the milk is already in the tea and is impossible to get back out again, though we may reasonably stop the pouring in of any more milk. At which point, I think that’s enough of that metaphor.

    This kind of dovetails with my view that we need to recast Libertarianism in the light of modern realities. Much of its dogma is from a different time when, for instance, immigration was not a major issue, and before the economy had become predicated on an insane property market and ubiquitous consumer credit. It is basically in many ways still trapped in the world before the “Neoliberal Era”. Von Mises for instance was very prescient about monetary expansion but lived long before the insane banksterism of the past few decades and I think even he or Hayek would have been truly stunned by the shape the global economy has ended up in.

    There is too much libertarian rhetoric attacking those at the bottom of the economy and blaming them for the mess it is in. David’s post is excellent in addressing this. A libertarianism that is both pragmatic and “saleable” as a political “product” needs to turn its fire properly on those at the top who are robbing the rest of us blind.

    Anyway, excellent post.

  2. Having been an American (registered) Libertarian from almost it’s beginning, I find this post incredulous; a totally skewed philosophy of Force by edict and manipulation. That’s not “libertarian” in any sense.

    While I don’t bother with following the demise of the UK Pound, we might say that the entire problem begins with Fiat Money. Of course with e.g. the USA Dollar of 1913 became fiat to such extent that it’s now worth less than 4 cents. I reckon that your Pound and now the Euro suffer rather the same plight.

    Thus “prices” have not gone “up”; instead “money” has gone down. That’s called “inflation”, you know. In the USA that has increased the “price” of everything over 25 times during the last century.

    Whenever one tinkers with “effects” while ignoring Cause, it’s not possible to get anything else right.

  3. marklibertarian

    “Immediate abolition of the council tax, the one tax that low-end workers’ pay regardless of income.”

    You are forgetting the other taxes which disproportionately affect the poor: tobacco, alcohol and petrol duty, green fuel taxes and surcharges, VAT. These should all be abolished. Everyone will benefit and the poor will benefit the most.

    But I do not like the idea that a particular class of person should be exempted from paying tax altogether. It would be unjust to require me to pay for public services but not my neighbour who also consumes them. It is also unjust to require me to pay more than my neighbour for the same thing. The street cleaner does not give priority to sweeping the pavement outside of my house even though I pay five times as much for that service as the man next door. When I go to McDonalds I am not charged double the price for a hamburger because I have more money than the man in the queue in front of me.

    The most equitable tax would be a universal poll tax, in which the total cost of government and public services is divided by the number of tax payers. This would have the benefit of showing people how much government really costs, and would lead inevitably to a very small state, because people will not want to pay.

    Of course most of these services should all be privatised and should not be provided by the state at all, so any remaining taxation will be low.

    How we get there is another issue though – I agree that this stuff could not be suddenly imposed without causing real problems.

    • “You are forgetting the other taxes which disproportionately affect the poor”

      Some even claim that half the wages of the poor go on taxes when you include VAT, council tax and a myriad of stealth taxes and duties etc. Perhaps they even consider inflation. Even on the pre-election debate, Nick Glegg asserted that the poorest pay the highest proportion of tax. So did a Channel 4 Dispatches documentary: Britain’s Trillion Pound Horror Story.

  4. Most every resident on Planet Earth is Ruled by at least 5 levels of government, each with it’s own herd of Rulers, and all seeking more powers of Force. National / Federal governments are created first to supposedly “defend” themselves against other “Nations”, and thus see themselves as empowered to make wars.

    The only possible and rather logical “reason” for having Federal Governments may be to defend against the Nations of other Federal Governments. Those should have Zero control over any “sub-government” nor any individual within any of such.

    Any/all taxation should be strictly Voluntary, for otherwise it is merely theft without consent of the individual “citizen”. That applies to all levels of government.

    Think what mankind would be able to do for itself if (typically half) of earnings were not stolen for purposes determined by… who… other men!

  5. That’s just America, and maybe one or two other upstart colonies. Here in the Olde World, we didn’t create governments to do anything. In the case of Britain, the government is Mrs Queen, and she owns the country, which is why we are classed as subjects. Basically we’re all tenants, here by tradition on her land. We’re allowed to vote a bit for her council of advisors, who live in a palace in Westminister, and we’re so grateful for that we also agree to buy them second and third homes, and pay for their duck houses and other necessary fripperies.

    The interesting thing is, at one point we had a revolution and threw Mrs Queen out- it was actually Mr King then, and we cut his head off. But the replacement- a deranged religious maniac with a wart called Mr Cromwell- was so ghastly, we gave the country back to the Kings and Queens after he died. We sent most of the Cromwellians to America, which is why it is full of deranged religious maniacs to this day. In America they now call themselves “Liberals” and are so religious that they have abolished God.

    But anyway, we never created our government to do anything. It’s the Queen, you see.

  6. Marklibertarian, I should have steeled myself for poor-quality replies.

    The idea that it is “unjust” that some people are exempt from tax when others pay for public services is a classic of the mindset I outlined in my article. Your comment is invalid to the extent that you couldn’t be bothered to investigate why other people can’t afford to pay and whether the “free” market is skewed against them in the form of policies to encourage high house prices and immigration to prevent the labour market from working properly. Those people who can easily afford to pay the council tax include many people who have benefited from government employment, from the government-sponsored housing ponzi, and indeed from the way the labour of others is kept cheap by immigration. Consequently, your comment is worthless.

    You claim the most equitable tax is a poll tax – but some people – GET YOUR HEAD OUT OF YOUR B.U.T.T. AND WRAP YOUR HEAD AROUND THIS – can’t afford to pay, and most of the reason why that is the case is the way policy is skewed to deliver further asset-price and income gains to the well-heeled. Nothing you have said addresses that problem. Marklibertarian, the middle classes are the real scroungers in society – unless you appreciate that fact, there will no value to your comments.

    Privatising all services without addressing the skewed property and labour markets just makes life even more expensive for the poor. I presume if you have an IQ above 80 you will realise that your prescription of privatising all services will just lead to a massive explosion in welfarism.

    Nick diPerna: spiked online – the former Revolutionary Communist Party – supports the immigration scam that keeps wages low. Apparently they do so mainly for political, not economic reasons, but it has that economic effect, which they then can blame on welfare scroungers…

    • DJ, I find it amazing that former Revolutionary Communists are suddenly telling youth to adopt free market entrepreneurship and self-reliance (especially when there aren’t many opportunities). Sounds like they have mixed values…

      By the way, I know you’re not a great fan of porn, but are you wearing any clothes in your profile pic? :-)

  7. I never thought I would be defending the Daily Mail – but I will.

    The Daily Mail is not some uncritical defender of the Conservative party – on the contrary it has been highly critical of Mr Cameron.

    As for it being wrong to attack benefits culture – errr NO it is right to attack dependency culture – government policy (of many governments) has encouraged the growth of an underclass, and that is a terrible thing (especially for the children of said underclass).

    As for the idea that those who attack the unlimited Welfare State policies that have created this underclass (as people such as Octavia Hill and C.S. Locke feared they would – if things ever went this far) just want “tax cuts for the well off” that is Class War nonsense (the sort of thing that “Black Flag” Fascists as well as Red Flag Marxists engage in).

    As for the specific policy proposals – there is a lot that is good (such as getting out of the E.U. and getting rid of subsidies to universities – although why describe that as “halving the size” of universities, no one knows how many universities there would be if the government no longer subsidised them) and a lot that is barmy.

    If you want lower land values – then get rid of the “cheap money”, “low interest rate” policy – and the land price bubble will bust. And get rid of the government subsidies at the same time – for “first time buyers” and so on.

    Ditto if you want to get rid of high rents – get rid of “Housing Benefit” (a LANDLORD SUBSIDY) that allows rents to be pushed higher and higher.

    No reason for a new tax – whether it is called a “land value tax” or anything else.

    As for restricting welfare benefits to those who can prove ancestors in these islands in the Middle Ages.

    Well I would be fine – as my grandfather’s people were called “Power” (Irish) and his wife was Ethel Draper (sounds English to me).

    But I do not see the relevance.

    Surely people who are Irish or English are not immune to becoming welfare dependent – especially over generations.

    Is this some sort of Nazi racial theory?

    That (for example) the Welfare State will not harm “Anglo Saxons” and Celts – yet will (for example) harm Slavs?

    National Socialism (Nazi ideology) is not compatible with a pro freedom position – let alone with libertarianism.

  8. Paul Marks,

    You are a constant troll on this blog. In particular, you don’t engage with the argument I put forward about the skewing of the economy. You don’t refute it. You just behave as if the argument were not there, hoping other people, including me, will not notice. Imagine you are in a PhD viva voce and ignoring a significant argument that is difficult to deal with. You would be asked to go away and rewrite your thesis.

    1. Octavia Hill did not say that the government should encourage high house prices and high immigration.

    2. Saying “libertarians” wanting tax cuts for the better off is a class war is not an argument. There are classes in society. There are sectional interests. And we do need to show that libertarianism is good for society as a whole, and not just people who currently have a lot of money.

    3. I have argued that the burden of taxation should be removed from capital and labour to land and occupation of society’s natural resources. This argument does not envisages preventing people from becoming rich, as long as they do so by investment and labour. So it is not a class war at all.

    4. We can do all the things you mention to lower land values, including addressing cheap money and housing benefits. Once again this is the faux-libertarianism of calling for slashing of benefits while preserving in aspic the existing skewing of the economy. Get rid of housing benefit, and people will be living in tents in Hyde Park. Policy acts in a self-reinforcing way whereby politicians have to keep digging the same hole: the housing benefits were brought in, not in order to push up property prices, but to address the unaffordability of housing, and had the “dialectical” effect of thereby keeping property prices high….

    5. Your opposition to a land value tax – supported by J S Mill – is simply your faux-libertarianism again. what you mean is that it is better to tax labour and capital. If that’s not what you mean, then you haven’t thought about it. Unimproved land is not an investment – it is just a social resource commandeered by someone.

    6. I believe asset price bubbles were possible under the gold standard too. Probably a return to the gold standard and an end to easy credit would be desirable and would not have allowed us to get to the same extent into the mess we are in, but there was such a thing as speculation and an asset-price bubble in the 19th century (and before). I see Steve Davies at the IEA briefly discusses at the similarity between the 1873-96 depression – the Long Depression – and our current economic travails.

    7. A land tax would play a key part in preventing a land value bubble, but also reflects the undesirability of piling up taxes on income and capital, something previous generations of libertarians thought was a Bad Thing.

    8. Nothing in libertarianism is or should be about preserving a skewed economy. Free market – the clue is in the name, Paul.

    9. No people of British descent are not immune to become welfare-dependent – but this is our country. Geddit? We were told immigrants were coming in to pay our pensions.

    Nick diPerna – I may not have been wearing a T-shirt; I can’t remember. I expect I was at least in undercrackers. I don’t regard my profile picture as pornographic.

  9. [Nick, it’s off-topic in this thread. I didn’t say I was averse to porn. I have never commented publicly. I have just said our public culture should be one of decorum. What people do privately is another matter. I think a situation where the broadcast TV is wholesome and porn widely available on the Internet is a good compromise. And the current panic about 14yo boys accessing porn on the Internet is ridiculous. So what if they do? That is not an argument for broadcast hardcore porn at 5pm on the BBC. Do you see the difference?]

    • I apologise for the confusion. You may have come across a bit anti-sleaze once, but I understand your position now. However, the jury is still out whether taking pictures of yourself whilst sitting in your undercrackers could be regarded as a mild form of exhibitionism :-)

  10. PVM, I don’t know how much you know about Ireland. Power is a Hiberno-Norman surname – which implies descent from a Norman baron, and the surname is associated with the Waterford area. De Paor is the Gaelic version of the name.

  11. marklibertarian

    My freedom is violated when I am required to pay a tax for a public service that I may or may not use. My freedom is doubly violated when I am required to pay that tax also for my next door neighbour who for one reason or another cannot afford to pay it. Maybe he has become ill or had some bad luck. Then in a free society he can call on charity, a church or a cooperative to help him. Or I may choose to help him a bit since he is my neighbour ater all. That is assuming I have a relationship with him, that he speaks my language, etc etc. Or maybe my neighbour is just lazy and immoral and that is the reason why he is poor. Maybe he was one of those kids who never paid attention at school and who ridiculed the kids who were studying as “squares”. Well f*ck him. I am sorry, but I cannot see how it is compatible with libertarianism for me to be compelled to pay his share. It is immoral to require me to do so, especially if that money is needed for me and my family.

    I think we should be aiming for the lowest possible tax rates by shrinking the state. A “just” distribution of resources is a socialist aim, not a libertarian one. Any forced distribution is surely unjust in libertarianism? Greater wealth throughout society *should* be an outcome of a libertarian free market system. But there will still be poor people, because we will always have lazy and stupid people. Regardless of how much opportunity is available there will be some who do not avail themselves of it. There will still be slums and Gin Lanes. It is human nature.

  12. Look, Mark. I am not saying that public services should be paid for through taxation – only that failing to address wider distortions in the economy means that privatising public services will make life incredibly expensive for the lower decile, whose life chances are held back by state intervention to prop up the property market and to hold down wages. It’s silly to say “the state should not provide taxpayer-funded services, but should continue to prop up property prices at more than 5 times average wages and import immigrants to hold wages down at a level such that the lowest-paid can’t afford to raise families”. Your mantra appears to be “I ought not to subsidise anyone else, but I’ll make damn sure to hold onto my own subsidies” – all in the name of freedom, of course!

    You either don’t understand the argument I’m making, or want to hold onto your own subsidies. How about ending personal taxation and social security spending AS WELL AS stopping propping up property and holding down wages? Why do you absolutely insist on state intervention in your own interests?

    You say “forced distribution is unjust” – well that state propping up of property is precisely that.

  13. Yes David W. – it is not really Celtic (any more than Burke and Nagle are). I have no connection,, as far as I know, to the “Os” (son of …,,)

    By the way – you are right about Waterford (that is where the Irish side of family come from). I would like to visit Waterford one day.

    I would like to visit Holland and Russia (where my father’s family come from) also.

    My father’s ancestry is odd – his grandfather was a Russian Jewish wrestler, whose first action in England was to throw a dock worker in the river Thames for pulling his beard (that might be considered attempted murder – considering the state of the river at that time) But his mother was from Holland (and to judge from photographs – and by the hair of my aunt J. in her youth) had bright blond hair – rare among Jews

    As all the people who knew the stories behind all this are dead I doubt I will ever know the full truth – but one story (that I know to be fact) is amusing.

    My father was once asked “is your wife Jewish – she looks Jewish”.

    My mother was half Irish and half English (Ethel Draper being her mother), it was my father who was the Jew – although no one ever said that he “looked Jewish” (whatever that means). My father’s distinguishing features were mostly wounds (badly broken nose – at least two bullet scars on the body, and so on) and that is not really a “racial” thing.

    All the above of the reasons I do not believe in all this racial stuff – in practice it is misleading (in reality people are mixed – and even what they are mixed of is unclear).

    By the way – are you just pulling my leg about the “Anglo Saxon” stuff?

    It has just occurred to me that you might be pulling my leg (with all this Anglo Saxon stuff), I do not have a good sense of humour (irony and so on just pass me by), and I could easily got the wrong end of the stick.

    If it is a joke – then I apologise to you.

    I should not need to be told when someone is not really serious – but sadly I do often have to be told (and that is my flaw – not their flaw).

  14. Why is this post on a blog about libertarianism – most of what you are calling for is socialism.
    1. Measures to lead to a large fall in land values, including the introduction of a land value tax and five-year leases to replace six-month assured shortholds.
    2. An end to all immigration unless of a highly skilled and specific type.
    State controlled restrictions of freedom of movement is SOCIALISM – although I agree with this point.
    3. Immediate withdrawal from the EU, to facilitate the end of immigration and a deletion of many pointless regulations.
    4. An immediate halving of the size of the bloated university sector.
    Halve the state’s contribution and leave them to expand if they wish.
    5. An end to all pointless “green” taxes.
    End ALL green taxes.
    6. Immediate abolition of the council tax, the one tax that low-end workers’ pay regardless of income.
    7. A restriction of all social-security benefits to people of mediaeval British Isles ancestry.
    That rules me out – my family came from Sweden about 200 years ago – but then us immigrants are less likely to need social security than you medievals.
    8. A large increase in family allowance payable to families of British descent where the parents are married and living together with the children.

  15. I forgot about point eight.

    Even more welfare. So much for the “libertarian” alliance.

  16. Aaron, land values are socially created, and not the result of investment. The government constantly intervenes to skew the land market. And the burden of taxation is moved onto labour and capital – that’s SOCIALISM – so that the landowners can escape sharing socially created rents. Read J. S. Mill on this – it has always been a standard part of libertarianism to oppose land fraud.

    Free immigration is SOCIALISM, in fact, designed to prop up the state and its spending schemes and spread wealth to other countries.

    Aaron if you’re family have been here for 200 years, it is likely that you do have some British ancestry now.

    Once again: abolishing registry offices is SOCIALISM. Tired retailing of state propaganda against the family once again. If you don’t have strong families, you individualise the population and allow the state to step in as the ‘family’-equivalent. The reason why people on benefits are parked there is because the nearest equivalent to a family member they have to rely on is the state!

    The faux-libertarians all want benefits scrapped and taxes lowered and ALL OTHER STATE DISTORTIONS IN THE ECONOMY THAT WORK TO THEIR BENEFIT RETAINED. As I made clearly in my article. You call that libertarianism, but it is just social scrounging. Basically the government should intervene to push up property prices and hold wages down – that part of the state you don’t mind – as long as benefits are scrapped and taxes are lowered. It seems you are determined to oppose a free economy.

    In a genuinely free economy, no welfare state would be required. You haven’t understood the point of the article.

  17. Woops: you’re–>your

  18. “Land values are socially created not the result of investment” so what?

    Yes (as Henry George noted) as more people arrived in California land values went up (because demand went up and supply stayed the same) – so that the people who got to California early made a profit (they bought land at one price and either rented it out or sold it at a higher price – even if they had done no more than bang in a few markers).

    So what? Only someone motivated by ENVY would think this justified a new tax.

    Free migration is “socialism” – there were no immigration controls in Victorian Britain (or pre Victorian Britain) although YES there was no government support for parasites and those who proved to have hostile intent could be expelled. Was Victorian Britain “socialist”?

    The Welfare State would not be “necessary” if…..

    “Necessary”? The Welfare State was not created because it was “necessary” – that is Kevin Carson anti capitalist propaganda.

    Poverty had never been LOWER in Britain than in the early 1900s when the first steps towards the Welfare State were made – as the “Majority Report” pointed out against the lying propaganda of the Fabian “Minority Report”.

    And in the 1960s (when the American Great Society schemes were created) American poverty had again never been LOWER – see “Losing Ground”.

    The idea that “capitalism” led to the Welfare State is nonsense – what led to the Welfare State was collectivist IDEOLOGY.

  19. Perhaps we the people should break away from this right-left party nonsense. All parties say one thing and do another anyway.

    The Gov’t should be there to tax/pay for infrastructure to aid national wealth creation and well being. Nothing more!
    Many other “services” we should be able to untick from our tax bill; and call it democracy.

    What seems to be hurting this country deep down is the simple fact few are taught how to create wealth by starting a business. Never mind doing their own taxes!

    I’m totally for clamping down the borders. The fact we pay a fortune for our forces but retain completely open borders is an anathema. They are not protecting what WE have.

    Imagine a manufacturer who specifically employs 100 “slave wage labourers” from the East. Shouldn’t he be taxed accordingly to build their homes? Also feed and maintain the working life denied to the 100 UK workers and dependants who already live here? Let’s face it, the onus is forced onto everyone else’s taxes each time this happens, then it becomes generational.

    Or simply force that boss to set up the business in the East? This way an informed public can choose what they buy. Few buy Cadburys here now it is 100% Polish.

  20. Andyj, I agree with most of what you said. We should be able to refuse to take part in tax and spend we don’t approve of APART FROM the land value tax, which isn’t really a tax at all. A tax takes away part of someone’s income or someone’s investment profits. Rent is neither – rent is actually a private-sector tax, where someone who claims ownership of land – something that cannot truly belong to anyone other than God – claims the right to tax us. Get rid of taxation of labour and capital – there’s no envy involved in allowing people to make as much money as they like from labour and capital – and force landowners to share the rents. That is libertarianism in a nutshell.

  21. Andyj one of the very few things I agree with the “libertarian” left about is that government “infrastructure” schemes are CORPORATE WELFARE.

    I have no objection what-so-ever to canals, railways, and roads – as long as the land is voluntarily bought (no use of the threats of state violence to benefit big railway companies or whatever) and privately financed – an honest infrastructure project does not need to loot the taxpayer. Honest housing developments (and so on) do not need government subsidies for the housing companies (for example sweetheart “loans” for roads and drainage).

    If local land owners really do not want (for example) a major railway smashing their community to bits – then it can go on alterative route (when people in Stamford did not want what is now called the East Coast Mainline it went via Peterborough instead).

    As for Mr Webb’s claim that land comes from God (or from nature) – and therefore should be taxed.

    As Antony Flew pointed out more than 30 years ago – exactly the same “argument” applies to good looks.

    Being born good looking is also “arbitrary from a moral point of view” (as John Rawls would put it) this does NOT mean that the good looking should be taxed in order to provide mates for the ugly (although ancient history does provide some interesting examples of things that were close to this).

    There is no “good” tax, and people not “deserving” their good fortune (for example being born with lots of land) is not relevant.

    At least not to a libertarian.

    • Well said.

      I did once have an altercation with Mark Wadsworth (he of the LVT obsession) regarding the matter of looks as “unearned income”, using his Georgist logic to point out that by Georgist definitions, every woman has some value as a whore, and therefore there should be a WVT (Whore Value Tax) on every woman regardless of whether or not she has, er, “improved her land”. The bugger put it up as a post on his blog implying I was serious rather than that it was of course a reductio ad absurdum, the bugger :)

      Of course, the general problem with the Georgists is that, if they really believe “rents” are undeserved income, they should simply ask for a rental tax; but we already have that as a profit/income tax on persons or companies who earn income from rent. What they actually want to do is tax people who have no income from rents, to force them off their owned land.

      The solution to the housing mess is to (a) alleviate restrictive planning regulations (a great Stalinist invention of the “Nationalisation Era”) and (b) stop pumping fiat money up the backside of the banking system. Plus, there is also an argument about pressure from state-driven mass immigration, but that’s a whole other issue.

    • No taxation for the gorgeous. Phew! Thank God for that!

  22. By the way – for the refutation of the economics of Henry George ism see the works of Frank Fetter (it was not just Cole Porter who came from Peru Indiana).

    Most people are satisfied with the account given by Murray Rothbard – but some want a fuller account and should go back to Frank Fetter.

    Not as popular name with the Chicago School – as he was the great critic of Irving Fisher (the hero of Milton Friedman) on monetary theory.

  23. The quality of political debate is quite disappointing in this country. All go to university. All must have prizes. Degrees for everyone, etc. If the truth be told, there are few people around who merit a higher education. There is a concerted attempt to troll every time the land value tax is raised. No attempt whatsoever to engage with the arguments. Recent posts in this thread have, however, avoided the usual language of the toilet preferred by some posters. Why on earth do I need to point out that land is a common social resource whereas a person’s good looks are not? In my less libertarian moments, I wonder if the Internet should be shut off and reserved for people who pass an IQ test first.

    • Somebody with a high IQ and no potty mouth would probably ask you to justify the astonishing declaration that land is a “common social resource”. Common to whom? Everyone in the world? Why does a Frenchman get to block an Englishman from access to this “common social resource”? What right have you to ask for immigration restrictions if the land is a “common social resource”? You see the problem you run into with such thinking, DJ?

  24. Subsidies for me, but NOT for thee – the mantra of the faux-libertarians. Let’s hold onto OUR subsidies but cut taxes and benefits claiming we disapprove of subsidy. Great, eh? And full of intellectual consistency.

  25. Ian that was unkind of Karl Marx (although he did not tend to be a kindly chap).

    What Henry George regretted was the death of the frontier.

    The end of cheap (or even free) land.

    As more people move in to an area (or just more people are born) so the price of land (both to buy and to rent) goes up .

    When Henry George was young you really could say to a young man (who had no money)……

    “Go West and if you survive the wild Indian and animal attacks [in those non P.C. days “wild Indians” were thought of it much the same way as bears or big cats] and the lack of water, and the….. you can have a FARM OF YOUR OWN”.

    Henry George watched that chance (for the penniless youngster) gradually slip away as he got older.

    Sure (in spite of rising population) real wages continued to go UP – so people got better off (on average), but the chance for someone with NO MONEY to get their own farm got harder and harder……

    That was very hard for Henry George to accept – so he grabbed at the Land Tax idea “like a drowning man clutches at a snake”.

    And there was nothing in the economics of David Ricardo (which is the economics Henry George knew) to say he was wrong.

    You want (you desperately want) X to be true – there is nothing in your knowledge to tell you that X is not true.

    So is it being a “crank” to say that X is true?

    • I think the answer there is that the only economics George knew was Ricardo’s was because that was the only economics he wanted to know. He could have applied his reason to the problem in order to understand the market in land.

      If a man with my low IQ could work out the basis of market theory- subjective value- while working on a milk production line having never read a single economics text (one of those steps that led me to Libertarianism and Austrian Economics, when the internet arrived later) then we must conclude that anyone who cannot figure that out for himself when applying himself actively to economic theory must be quite a fool.

  26. Ian B: “Why does a Frenchman get to block an Englishman from access to this “common social resource”? What right have you to ask for immigration restrictions if the land is a “common social resource”? You see the problem you run into with such thinking,”

    Do you see the problem you run into with this pro-subsidy propaganda (which is what this rentierism is)? You have inadvertently stumbled across MY point – made a long time ago, but conveniently overlooked by you – that land ownership is ultimately contingent on occupation of the national territory by the nation and its ability to defend it. There is no such thing as “de jure” national sovereignty – all national borders are “de facto” and dependent on ability to defend the territory and repel invaders, as Palestinians, Finns forced out of Vyborg, Germans who left parts of what is now Poland etc, will realise. In the same way, land “ownership” is purely de facto.

    The Common Law is of course built around the concept of de facto possession being 9/10 of the law – precisely because no one “owns” land. The idea of Passport to Pimlico that some musty document could ‘prove’ parts of London to be ‘Burgundy’ are precisely the sort of nonsense we are dealing with. Land ownership is just occupation of a common social resource – actually part of the global land resource occupied by a nation that attempts to defend its occupation militarily and by agreements with other de facto powers too.

    That nation draws its only legitimate source of revenue from a share of the rents, which are in fact a common resource – common to the population group that has de facto possession. Curious, Ian, how you make my argument for me. Can you see the determination of so-called libertarians to hold onto subsidy?

    By looking at rents as private-sector ‘tax’, you can see how rents and public taxation merge in the banking sector. The state owns mosts of the banks and won’t let the banks fail. The state taxes us partly to serve historic built up national debt and to prop up the banks, and intervenes to support the property market, not for minor landowners as such, but for the banks, who are knee-deep in property. The state is a rentier, as much as the banks are through their property interests – and the current slump has revealed they are once and the same entity nowadays.

  27. Ah David Webb – with your claim about “subsidies”. You claim that real libertarians (Ii.e. your opponents) support subsidies for landowners or others – and you know perfectly well we do not. You “speak with forked tongue”.

    As for “Faux Libertarians” – go look in the mirror. lad. Just look in the mirror.

    And do not go shooting any more wounded prisoners while you are at it.

    If an armed enemy is not in uniform he can indeed be shot as a spy (not that you thought to make your argument – not exactly the brightest genius are you) – but not by a soldier or marine who has taken him prisoner (it has to be rather more formal than that).

    And it has got bugger all to do with what ethnic group someone is in – “he is not a member of an ethnic group so we can kill him” is a NAZI argument – not a libertarian one. It is as Nazi as the IRA building bonfires in the hills above Belfast to guide in the German bombers during World War II.

    Even Andrew Jackson (and you would be hard pressed to find a harder killer than him) adopted an Indian lad and sent him to Harvard.

    When the fight is on and the enemy has a weapon in his hands – that is one thing. But when he is wounded and helpless – that is quite another.

  28. You now seem to be going off into ISLAMIC law Mr Webb.

    It was (of course) the great difference between the “Feudal” West and “Eastern Despotism” that land was NOT considered a “common resource”.

    Even as early as 877 it was accepted (as an “old right”) that even a King of France (unlike an Islamic ruler) could NOT take land from one from one family and give it to another.

    Your “Common Law” seems to be nothing to do with the Common Law of England – with the principles of Henry the first’s Charter of 1100 or the Great Charter of 1215.

    The “King should live off his own” the great demand of the Middle Ages (wars aside) was NOT based on the King getting “rent” from all land. Only some of it – the Royal Estates.

    You have no knowledge of the principles of Western Civilisation Sir – none at all.

    You seem to think to that the outlandish claims made for “the Crown” against the Duke of Portland (and others) in England, or the American colonists were justified in Common Law – they were not.

    George III was badly served – badly served indeed.

  29. AndyJ – why should not you pay tax to “compensate” an ugly man like myself?

    After all my “self esteem” (as John Rawls would have said) is undermined by your greater success with the fair sex – I am quite crushed.

    And this is not envy on my part (oh dear me no) – because (like John Rawls) I am going to redefine what the word “envy” means.

  30. David, with all due respect. What you describe may fairly be described as a description of how things are done, or have been done. But it isn’t libertarian.

    Libertarianism is a philosophy with many competing strands, but if there is one “core” to it, it is a belief that the individual is the basic unit of humanity, not the collective, and that rights (in property, in this case) arise from the individual rather than being assigned (or not) by a collective. As such, if property there is, it must begin with the individual owner who may then- as he chooses- assign some collective powers to some form of governance. Property rights are not derived from the top down, but from the bottom up.

    As such, your philosophy may have its merits. But it really is not libertarian, by definition. It is collectivist, or socialist, or nationalist, or perhaps many other such terms. But not libertarian. If the individual has no property rights, it is by definition impossible within a libertarian philosophy for the State, or any other collective, to have any.

    It is worth adding that while we may imagine a land defined by a “people” against some other “people”, the reality of history is that every state is a result of conquest. And conquests have not, historically, been carried out by “peoples”, but by monarchs with hired armies. Ancient Britain, for instance, was not conquered by the Roman people, but by the Roman army. (And the Iceni came within a hair’s breadth of kicking that army out; Nero was on the verge of withdrawal before his general convinced him otherwise and went on to win the Battle Of Watling Street). All of this proves that might has traditionally been what defined what “people” you got to be part of, and effectively if you accept that justifies the right- or at least the power- of kings to levy arbitrary taxes, which were invariably levied on the productive classes in order to fund more conquest for the king, emperor, or First Among Equals. But it does not help us in a search for a libertarian attitude to property rights. Bodging on a form of social contract theory, as you seem to be doing, doesn’t help in that regard. You still have a man with a sword demanding money from a man simply because he has a plot of land to scratch a living from. And that is not liberty.

  31. Nothing you have said, Ian, is of any value here.

    If property rights are individually determined, why can’t palestinians go back and reclaim their homes in israel?

    If I determined I want the Countess of Sutherland’s estates in Scotland – should I just go and take them?

    In the end nobles only “own” the estates due to some ancient land fief grant and long possession – and importantly, a system of law and government that recognises it. The land it not the result of their own efforts or investment (it was there in the Ice Age before human occupation of GB – why do I even have to belabour this point?)

    There is a difference in property in something that can be absolutely owned and is the result of your hard work and investment (a woman’s gold jewellery, the fridge in you kitchen, a house you have built, as in the building on top of the land, etc) and ownership of something like land, oil reserves, fish reserves etc which CAN ONLY be the result of a collective decision to institute a system of law that parcels these things out.

    Any theory of libertarianism that rejects that fact – is just flying in the face of reality. I can theorise we arrived from Jupiter in the Ice Age – but my theorising it doesn’t make it true. You can theorise that aristocratic land rights arise from their individual assertion of those rights – but that’s not true either.

    The only sense in which landed property derives from the bottom up is in the Common Law principle of de facto possession being 9/10 of the law. Leave your property vacant for 12 years and squatters will show you the way this bottom-up principle works.

    The fact that what I’m saying is right is acknowledged by you – although you lack the intelligence to realise it – when you say “what you describe is a description of how things have always been done”.

    There is no land ownership in the UK – or anywhere in the world – that does not result from de facto possession ratified by a top down collective system of law. Your problem is THAT IS THE ONLY WAY IT CAN BE BY THE VERY NATURE OF THE THING.

    The rest of your post is meaningless, although you lack the intelligence to realise that. So what if territories were conquered by kings. It still is the case that national sovereignty is merely de facto, and that kings or other rulers have instituted judicial organisations that provide a top-down solution to disputes over land possession. If the state is overthrown, all those decisions are cancelled too – as the Palestinians found out.

    This is not a principle that derives from Ricardo or any other economist or purported economist. I am talking about the very nature of the thing – the parcelling up of a common social resource – as happened in recent history in the Americans and Australia where the conquest of the territory was followed by the creation of freeholds in front of the eyes of recorded historians – allowing private-sector “owners” to perform a rent-cum-tax role in the economy. Ian, your argument inevitably means that labour and capital should be taxed as what is effectively a subsidy to rentiers who occupy the common social resource.

    There is such as thing as (de facto) land ownership, but it comes with the duty to pay land levy – a levy that existed in the form of feudal duties to lords in the pyramid of land ownership in mediaeval times, but was convenient junked in late Stuart times. How much better to tax capital, right?, says Mr Libertarian.

    • David, with all due respect. I do not mind having my intelligence insulted by a greater one. But it really is ridiculous coming from a thickie like you.

      What is most distressing is not so much that you do not even understand what libertarianism is, but that despite being on the internet, with all of its philosophy available at a mouse click, you refuse to bother to even learn what it is.

      You might at least bother to learn enough about the history of economics to know that your ranting about the rentiers is directly descended from Ricardo.

      To quote the great Molesworth,

      “I diskard you”.

  32. Methodological individualism – Ian yes indeed.

    NOT “atomistic individualism” (which it is falsely identified with), but the voluntarist principle of voluntary cooperation to the benefit of real human beings (regardless of colour or whatever).

    One of the three principles of the Austrian School – the other two being the universal nature of reason (no truth being relative to “historical period” or “race”, or “class”) and the subjective nature of economic value (NOT all value – a common misinterpretation).

    But now (being the perverse old man that I am) I am going to write a bit IN FAVOUR of part of David Webb’s position.

    Yes a Frenchman (or a whatever) might turn up, buy land, and stay to live.

    But there is a tacit LOYALITY being given in doing that.

    Unless someone wants to be a “resident alien” (sent to prison, or kicked out in time of war with his old country) what such a person is saying is……

    “I no longer want to be a Frenchman – I choose to give my loyalty to the Queen of this land instead”.

    And that is fair enough – if it is sincerely meant.

    If a man gives me his word it would be insulting not take his word.

    But if he breaks his oath – then I will pull the lever that operates the trap door.

    For example when a man called “Ali” came from Pakistan he choose to stop being a Pakistani and he became a Bishop in the Church of England.

    I would trust that man with my life – and I could not care less that he has brown skin and was born thousands of miles away.

    And someone who was born next to me and has skin as pale as feathers – could (and sometimes do) prove to be traitor – an alien in SPIRIT.

    An old school (very old school) Roman Catholic American Supreme Court Justice had the truth of it. P, Butler.

    Not a kindly man Mr Butler – a just one (not the same thing).

    Like a very old fashioned priest – the sort who would not bury a atheist terrorist in consecrated ground (and if the local boys made threats – would tell them to go burn In Hell, and mean it literally) and when faced with someone asking for absolution would reply “confess your crime. volunteer to your sentence – and THEN tell me how repentant you are”).

    Anyway Justice Butler (like Judge Dredd) was not exactly shy of standing alone.

    Everyone else agree to forced sterilisation? A pox on the other Judges – I vote no.

    Everyone else agree to trying a man twice for the same offence? You evil twisting bas…… I vote no again.

    But there was a time when Justice Butler did side with “the community” – not only voting with them, but actually writing the judgement himself.

    This was when an immigrant turned up from Europe and them made it clear he was NOT loyal to the United States.

    His argument being “I am here now – you can not touch me”.

    I will translate Justice Butler’s judgement into slang English – so that the meaning be plain.

    “Is that what you think you fecking bas….. – it is on the first boat back for you”.

    So Mr Webb has a point.

  33. Mr Webb.

    Muslims can own property in Israel. And vote and so on. And there are many such people.

    How many Jewish property owners will you find in Islamic countries? The problem is the exact reverse of what the “international community” claim.

    I remember visiting a town that the Spectator (of all magazines) had just accepted (in a book review) had been “cleared” of Muslims in the war of the 1940s (no mention of the Jews who were slaughtered in attacks at the same time – or in attacks going back to the First World War and beyond), but LO AND BEHOLD! I found many Muslims (who were property owners) in the town.

    But you did not say “Muslims” or “Christians” did you Mr Webb?

    You said “Palestinians” – i.e. followers of the Grand Mufti (Hitler’s personal friend – who visited the Extermination Camps when Hitler himself would not go). Who followed his call to leave the Holy Land till the armies of Islam had wiped out the “two legged pigs”.

    And their television and radio shows (even for children) show their view has not changed. They still want Israel exterminated.

    You ask why people who want to utterly exterminate Israel are not welcome in Israel?

    An individual Muslim property owner is fine. As long as they have no evil intent.

    A “Palestinian” collective is not fine – not fine at all.

    You know all this as well as I do.

    There is no real disagreement on this point.

    Sadly there is also tradition in Islamic theology that it is wrong for Muslims to be ruled by non Muslims – that Muslims are a “community”.

    This is also a rather important.

    As is the importation of such notions into Christian tradition.

    Such as with Pope Innocent III and his Council.

    They imported Islamic notions into Christian Europe (for example that Jews should be forced to wear special badges and so on) – and did not even have the honesty to admit what they were doing.

    There have been good Popes and bad – and Pope Innocent III was one of the worst.

    Or one of the most “unlucky” if one believes that such things as the slaughter of the innocent in what is now Southern France, the sacking of Constantinople, the attempted destruction of Magna Charta (and on and on) were all not his fault really.

  34. Actually I think this is Mr Webb’s point.

    There is a vast difference between a Frenchman buying land in Britain.

    And a Frenchman buying land in Britain and then saying………

    “Right this is now part of France”.

  35. Israel is all stolen land. Every little scrap. By the way, nobody can buy land in Israel. Say that again and I will flat out call you a liar ;)

  36. So the land bought in the 19th century is stolen?

    Actually I do not like the land situation in Israel – too much government land and too much land owned by foundations.

    Too little privately owned land – think Nevada (rather than Texas).

    But when the Prime Minister offered to sell government land the same GEORGE SOROS FUNDED protestors (who had been screaming about the high cost of housing) started to scream that government owned land must never be sold into private ownership.

    One can not win with those GEORGE SOROS FUNDED protestors.