Monday, September 05, 2011

Citizen's Income, Land Value Tax, and Green Party Policy

Dole Moors (in the distance) from Dolberrow
A green party member has been asking about the connection between ecological sustainability and Green Party policies like Citizen's Income (CI) and Land Value Tax (LVT).

CI can be developed from the idea that every human being has a right to eat.
In subsistence societies this translates into a share of the results of the communal hunting and gathering.
In pastoral societies, it translates into each family being given access to a section of land for growing food.

I live in Dolebury, near the Dole Moors, which take their name from the practice where sections of land were parceled out to the people.

Quick Google of Dole Moors yields:

There is a strange account in the Every Day Book of the annual apportion- ment of some commons, called Dole Moors, belonging to the parishes of Puxton, Wick St. Lawrence and Congresbury in Somersetshire.

1 The question as to the dimensions of the " hide " has been a fruitful subject of controversy. It was originally that measure of land which was considered to be sufficient for the support of one family, and its extent varied in every district according to the local custom and according to the qualit)'- 
of the soil. Bede (Hist. Eccl. i. 15) estimated the contents of the Isle of Thanet at 600 hides, which were afterwards found to contain nearly 70 " sulings," or Kentish ploughlands, each containing 210 acres according to the measure used in Thanet. In this instance the " hide " is shown to have contained less than 25 acres. In a poorer district it would contain much more. There was a later use of the word which made it equivalent to a "ploughland," or as much arable as a team of oxen could plough in a 
year: in this case the "hide" represents quantities varying, according to the district, from 100 acres to 210 acres, or even more. some cases been annual, and in others having originally been held once in three years but afterwards at longer intervals. It is true that there is hardly any documentary evidence to show that the arable in England was ever divided in this way. But the pastures, and notably the lot-meadows and dole-moors, were treated as common property : a primitive usage determined the division of 
the common-fields into strips and blocks, the rotation of  the crops, the erection of fences, and the use of the land after harvest bv the cattle of the whole community ; we see that the same usages prevailed in the German districts where the ownership was certainly collective ; and we are 
thus led to believe that the English farmers were at first joint-owners of all the arable land as well as of the pastures and waste-grounds in the township." 

There are many popular customs of which the origin must be attributed to a time when the villagers were united by the sentiment of partnership and the tradition of a common descent. 

In our post-pastoral times, the wealth of the land is represented in terms of money, and this can be represented as Citizens Income. 

At the same time, this line of approach gives validity to the LVT - we rent the land which is our "personal property" from the community. 

The perceived problem with CI is that it is perceived as impossibly expensive, and that it is nothing but a Ligger's Charter. 

In spite of the best efforts of the Basic Income Earth Network, and the support of various economic thinkers, it has rarely surfaced in the UK public debate, (though Comhaontas Glas (?sp)the Irish Greens, did get a report on CI out of the Government which they participated in) and if it did it would undoubtedly be immediately rubbished on by conservatives in all the main parties as being prohibitively expensive, especially in these times of austerity.

Which is why I developed the Green Wage Subsidy proposal (presented to the DWP consultation process as Work Stimulus Scheme.
This has the merit of sidestepping the cost and Ligger's Charter objections. 

It also converts benefits like JSA etc from being an administratively complex, dead, grudging dole given on condition that the recipient does no work (aside from a tiny Earnings Disregard) into a meaningful stimulus to the Green sector of the economy. 

It is therefore of help in dealing with the coming recession, and when/if we emerge from recession, will enable a mature public debate on CI to take place, with a good chance of seeing it rolled out in its full form.

It is not full CI, but is a practical effective and attractive transition policy. 

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