The Case for a Land-Based Income Tax

A while back, it had come to my attention that the imposition of a conventional land value tax would require a Constitutional Amendment in the United States since there are Constitutional constraints upon the federal government with regard to imposing direct taxes. (Cf. U. S. Constitution, Article 1, Section 2 & Section 9) However, the 16th Amendment allows the federal government to tax income from any source whatsoever without those same constraints. The conclusion that I reached was that a tax on income derived from land — a land-based income tax (LBIT) — may be a more feasible alternative to conventional land value tax (LVT). I discussed this idea in my article The Holy Trinity of Taxes. Recently, it has come to my attention that the case for an LBIT as an alternative to an LVT may actually be much stronger than I originally thought.

The LBIT proposal has four main strengths relative to conventional LVT:
(1) It does not require a Constitutional Amendment and, therefore, would be easier to pass.
(2) It could be used to tax banks on income they derive from mortgage interest.
(3) It would exempt owner-occupants and, therefore, would encounter little popular resistance.
(4) It would effectively constitute a differential tax on land value. The amount of the tax and the rate would be higher on rentiers than on owner-occupants and charitable organizations.

Why Rothbard Is Not Representative of the Austrian School

Modern libertarians and anarcho-capitalists like to play revisionist history with the Austrian School of economics and pretend that Murray Rothbard was a pure Austrian. If you ask modern libertarians, Rothbard is the guiding light of the Austrian School. However, the reality is that laissez-faire fundamentalism is not an essential characteristic of the Austrian School of economics. The Austrian School laid the foundation for "classical neoliberalism," ordoliberalism, and the German social market model. The hallmarks of classical neoliberalism were the rejection of the doctrine of laissez-faire, the insistence on the need for government to create the rules and framework within which a market can function optimally, and the insistence on the need for a welfare state based on social insurance. And F.A. Hayek, the best known of the Austrian economists, was among the founders of classical neoliberalism.

Carl Menger, the founder of the Austrian School, was a supporter of progressive taxation. Friedrich von Wieser advocated government regulation of the economy and a progressive income tax. Carl Menger's brother was the chair of the Habsburg government's tax commission in the 1890s. The commission was overseen by Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk, Friedrich von Wieser, and Emil Sax, all of whom supported and wrote in defense of the idea of a progressive income tax. So, the founders of the Austrian School actually gave the Habsburg Empire its first-ever progressive income tax.

COVID-19, Vaccinations, and Politics

The Isocracy Network is dedicated to "liberty and common wealth". We take these principles seriously, that is the equal distribution of individual liberty, both positive and negative, in all its variation and diversity, is established within a commonwealth of democratic management of the productive forces of land and capital. On every possible occasion members of the Isocracy Network have argued for rights of individual self-ownership, even if the actions are destructive to the self. Indeed it is the very first item of "Our Ten Point Plan"; let this repeated in case there is any doubt:

Personal Liberty. Self-ownership, full and exclusive right and responsibility over oneself for adults of adult-reasoning, and by extension, consensus in participation. As John Locke famously wrote, "every man has a Property in his own Person." We are advocates of free speech, within the limits of defamation etc, following Rosa Luxemburg's "Freiheit ist immer Freiheit der Andersdenkenden", ("Freedom is always the freedom for dissenters"), and even includes "destructive" rights (e.g., voluntary euthanasia), as long as third party expert assessment declares the individual as being compos mentis [2].

But what are the limits to this principle individual liberty? This is typically established pragmatically, that liberties are limited to the degree that they directly and physically affect others. As noted, this should exclude all self-regarding actions and other-regarding actions, albeit with some due diligence to ensure that the actors are of sane and responsible minds. But it also means that there are democratically-decided rules - and restrictive rules - for to the "free movement" of individuals in public areas in proportion to the danger involved (e.g., road traffic rules). But to what degree do we restrict individuals where there is contagious outbreak? And do not individuals have the right to refuse vaccinations, something that is very much a self-referential intrusive medical procedure? To what degree to parents, for example, have a right or responsibility over their children?

Andrew Yang is the Champion of UBI

While everyone is praising Bernie Sanders over this pandemic relief stuff. I'd just like to point out that the most important measures are the cash transfers, and what we really need is an emergency UBI. It was Andrew Yang who ran on a universal basic income platform, while Bernie opposed such cash transfers on principle. Bernie opposes UBI because he is fundamentally a supporter of wage-slavery. Instead of UBI, he wanted a Federal Job Guarantee. Even as a temporary emergency measure, Bernie was late getting on board. Donald Trump, Mitt Romney, and Mitch McConnell all got on board with some sort of cash transfer or emergency UBI before Bernie did. Bernie kept dragging his feet because he is opposed to UBI on principle.

It is Andrew Yang who has consistently argued that a universal cash transfer (or universal basic income) is the best measure to guarantee security and stability in the midst of all crises, whether individual crises like losing a job or getting injured or general crises like a recession or pandemic. It’s nice that Bernie and AOC got on board with a temporary UBI as an emergency measure, but Andrew Yang and Scott Santens are the true champions of these measures.

While Bernie and AOC are currently getting credit for the idea of an emergency UBI and expansion of unemployment benefits, it ought to be remembered that one of their core policy proposals during non-crisis times—the Federal Job Guarantee proposal—is designed to replace cash transfers with workfare and is being put forth as an alternative to universal basic income. And we ought to keep in mind that in any other recession—in any recession not caused by a pandemic that requires self-isolation—Bernie and AOC would have preferred a workfare program to cash transfers.

The Fear of Socialism is Irrational

I'm not a socialist, but I'm also aware that your fear of socialism is completely unwarranted. Americans hate "socialism" because they are ignorant of the subject and know absolutely nothing about it. They have been brainwashed by Cold War propagandists and Fox News into hating something they know absolutely nothing about.

Yes, Marxist-Leninism and Maoism suck, but most "socialism" isn't that! Tankies are garbage, but most "socialists" aren't tankies. If you look at libertarian socialism (Kroptokin, Proudhon, Chomsky, Graeber, Zinn, Bookchin) or market socialism (Oskar Lange, Abba Lerner, John Stuart Mill, Richard Wolff, Yanis Varoufakis), it’s actually quite sophisticated and pretty brilliant. Also, it’s worth noting that some socialists see no role for the state in socialism at all, while others see the state as playing a central role in their model. Libertarian socialism and Marxism are basically antithetical models of socialism, and some forms of democratic socialism are quite similar to neoliberalism.

Coronavirus disease 2019 and a Case for Environmental Socialism

Writing about the politics of public health whilst we are the midst of a major global pandemic is a peculiar combination of churlishness and critical necessity. At the time of writing, there are 425,000 confirmed cases, and 19,000 deaths, and in a few days that number will double, and then double again, and then double again. It is worth remembering that the first 100,000 diagnoses took from December to March, the second from March 5 to 17, and the third from March 18 to 21, and the fourth from March 22 to 24. It is the single greatest health risk of this century, in part due to the relatively high rate of fatalities (approximately 4.1% of diagnosed cases), and significantly due to the relative ease of transmission. Most of all, however, the greatest risk is the effects of the ease of transmission and fatality rate combined, that is, how it overwhelms our health-care systems, which are woefully unprepared for an event such as this.

But it is not as if that the knowledge was not there. There have been plenty of warning signs, such the previous outbreaks of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in late 2002 to mid-2003, which is related to COVID-19, to the extent that academics warned of SARS as "an agent of emerging and reemerging infection". SARS had a fatality rate of 9.6% across 17 countries, with approximately 8,000 people infected. SARS was also highly infectious (R0 value of 2-4), but was successfully contained. Then in 2009, there was the Pandemic H1N1/09 virus ("swine flu"), which had a higher infection rate than seasonal influenza, and a similar fatality rate. In comparison Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), also a coronavirus, has a high fatality rate (36%) but a low transmission rate (R0 value of 0.3 to 0.8).

Recognising these rather impressive precursors, certain individuals also have tried to raise concerns. Michael Osterholm of the University of Minnesota, argued in 2005 that "Time is running out to prepare for the next pandemic. We must act now with decisiveness and purpose", and in 2017 had his book, "Deadliest Enemy: Our War Against Killer Germs" published. Virologist and flu expert Robert G. Webster warned of an upcoming 'flu pandemic, “Flu Hunter: Unlocking the secrets of a virus" late last year. The US Intelligence Team has warned about the possibility of a pandemic for years. Dr. Luciana Borio, once a member of the White House National Security Council (NSC) team responsible for pandemics, warned of pandemic threats; the team was disbanded under the Trump administration. Famously, Bill Gates argued in a TED talk in 2015, that we simply were not prepared.

Problems with Bernie's Climate Plan

Bernie's climate plan is deficient in three respects and, consequently, is guaranteed to fail. Firstly, he has abandoned carbon pricing, which was a central part of his platform in 2016. Secondly, he has vowed to ban all nuclear energy (including thorium). Thirdly, he has sworn off any reliance on carbon capture or geoengineering. These three deficiencies make Bernie's plan not just imperfect but destined for failure. It will be impossible to meet our energy needs under his plan without reliance on nuclear and it will be impossible to meet the emissions reduction goals he has set without carbon pricing and carbon capture.

Emissions & Carbon Pricing

The problem of climate change demands a political solution and one that is certainly not laissez faire. This is why conservatives and right-libertarians — people who advocate laissez-faire capitalism — reflexively reject the claims of climate science. The problems posed by climate change, as well as the other ecological crises that mankind has caused, simply cannot be dealt with in an individualistic manner. You cannot convince all the individuals and all the corporations in the world to stop polluting. In order to stop climate change and turn back the clock a bit, it will be necessary for social action to be taken. It will be necessary to alter our social relations and our economic relations!

This essay is going to be a bit longwinded and full of wonky details, but it is necessary to understand climate policy a little bit in order to understand why Yang's plan is so much better than Bernie's. If you are a climate change skeptic, check out my four-part series of articles on The Ecological Crisis & Its Solution, where I explain the science in a simple and easy-to-verify way.

February 18 is Bramble Cay Melomys Day

The 18th of February 2020, is the first anniversary of the Bramble Cays melomys being pronounced extinct. This was the 100th species to be driven to extinction since European colonisation of Australia and the first Australian species to go extinct as a direct result of climate change.

The recent fires have also pushed many of our endangered animals perilously close to extinction. Many Australians have been grief-stricken by the deaths of more than a billion Australian animals in these fires. This particularly includes our fire-fighters and first responders who have personally witnessed the agonising deaths of many iconic Australian animals, the conservation scientists who have seen decades of work destroyed, the wildlife carers and vets treating injured animals, and the First Peoples of Australia to whom Australia's plants and animals are of immense cultural importance, but also includes all the everyday Australians who have done what they can to confront our incalculable losses.

Victorian Parliament Homelessness Inquiry Submission

On 7 June 2019, the Legislative Council directed the Legal and Social Issues Committee to inquire into homelessness, and in particular, directed that the Committee should:

* provide an independent analysis of the changing scale and nature of homelessness across Victoria;
* investigate the many social, economic and policy factors that impact on homelessness; and
* identify policies and practices from all levels of government that have a bearing on delivering services to the homeless.

The Committee has since called for public submissions to this inquiry.

The following is the submission of the Isocracy Network, Inc., an incorporated non-profit association in Victoria (A0054881M).

Scale and Nature of Homelessness

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) defines a person as homeless "if they do not have suitable accommodation alternatives and their current living arrangement:

* is in a dwelling that is inadequate;
* has no tenure, or if their initial tenure is short and not extendable; or
* does not allow them to have control of, and access to space for social relations."

The ABS Census on Housing and Population recorded (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2016) that 116,427 people were counted in the Census as being homeless on Census night, of which 24,817 were in Victoria. This is an increase from 102,439 in the 2011 Census, which itself was an increase from 89,728 in 2006. Of that number, 58% were male, 42% were female, 20% (or 23,437) are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, a figure down from the 26% in 2011, but still vastly disproportionate to the percentage of the population which is 3%, as determined by the ABS. Homelessness increased in all 18+ age groups, with the most significant increase being in the 25-34 year old group.

Review: "Isocracy: The Institutions of Equality"

Like most terms referring to governance, "Isocracy" means "equal" (iso-) "rule" (-cracy). The first time we here of this phrase is in reference to the famous Attic orators, Isokrates, who was noted for his pragmatic approach to teaching and use of skills in context, and his desire for an educated, multicultural society. Robert Southey referred to William Goodwin, the first modern anarchist, as promoting isocracy. Southey and Samuel Taylor Coleridge has a proposed utopian experiment called "pantisocracy" ("equal government for all"), Grant Allen used the term in the founding documents of the Independent Labor Party in 1893 and wanted the ILP to be called the "the Isocratic Party". From there there is a handful of references, most importantly by the reputable Italian political scientist Giovanni Sartori in 1957 in his "Democrazia e Definizioni". The Isocracy Network, founded in Melbourne is a political organisation that embodies the principle of self ownership and, by extension informed consent, natural resources as the source of public income and the use for the common good, combining the best elements of the modern traditions of liberal, socialist and anarchist thought. The ten-point-plan of the Isocracy Network provides a practical implementation of this theory.

Recently, there has been an English language edition by Palgrave Mcmillan of Nicolò Bellanca's "Isocracy: The Institutions of Equality", a translation from the Italian Isocrazia: Le istituzioni dell’eguaglianza. which was published by Castelvecchi Editore in 2016. Nicolò Bellanca is an academic at the University of Florence, Department of Economics. It is this book that we now review and from the outset it should be expected that this is a contribution to debate over the meaning. After all, there are many books on the practical implementation and meaning of "democracy", and we should expect little different over "isocracy". Certainly it is clear that others are looking at these political traditions as a way to qualitatively improve existing democracies. This is both pragmatic and principled; isocracy does not seek to provide utopia, which of course, translates as "no place", but perhaps a "eutopia", a good place. Bellanca explicitly states this, saying that isocracy is not uopia, but rather "something close", "a good place to live", and offers the following definition: "We can define isocracy as a kind of society where people do not rule or obey, a place where there is order without power, and a non-hierarchical cooperation" (p.v). As such, it follows our existing tradition of combining 20th century liberal, socialist, and anarchist thought into a new synthesis. It is also clear indication that we are in the beginning of a new social ideal.

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