Monday, 26 June 2017

Socialism / Not Socialism

We (or maybe just me?) got ourselves into a long discussion on an earlier post that rather lost its way.  So I thought I'd try to make a bit clearer the point I was trying to make.  First of all I would expect that all of you know about the Nolan Chart? (I accept that it is a simplification).
Top = Liberty and Personal Responsibility
Bottom = Slavery and Personal Irresponsibility 
Now, the key point today is that I maintain the left v right is passé.  It's old hat.  What we really need to be talking about is top v bottom.  I do not consider myself either left or right.  All the evidence tells me that the left - aka socialism - does not work.  In fact cannot work.  And similarly the Right 'conservative' does not work. And in fact cannot work.
If you look at the history of conservatism in the UK it is exemplified by its ability to gain power by accepting the changes made by the Left.  It has 'conserved' things that were not previously thought of as Right wing or conservative.  And it tends to be authoritarian. Witness the way Osborne handed Draconian and arbitrary power to HMRC or the constant attempts to 'control' the internet. Finally by definition Toryism grew out of land ownership - i.e. rent seeking.
On the left the constant failures of economic rationing by bureaucrats, and because of the skewed incentives of those bureaucrats, will tend to lead to more and more regulationism and less and less economic freedom. The left defined itself by mis-defining 'capitalism'. It looked horizontally across the Nolan Chart.  It should have been looking upwards. It decided that on the evidence of that horizontal view markets were not good enough and that central planning by wise bureaucrats was much better. Keynes did not look up either.
In short both left and right will tend to trend downwards over time to the bottom. They will both end up as totalitarian regimes. (Witness Corbyn's threat to requisition houses).
The chart implies something else.  Without both economic and personal liberty there can be no Liberty.  Property rights (including sound money which is a form of property right) are fundamental to liberty. And this is why the Left can never embrace liberty.
But given that the Nation State is a Good Idea what is the least worst way of paying for it that does not erode liberty and economic freedom and uses the least possible coercion?  Enter Georgism.
To my mind Georgism achieves two things.  One, It raises tax income in an equitable and efficient way and two, if done properly increases liberty by removing the ability of the few rent seekers to suck the wealth away from the productive in 'economic rent'.  I see no contradiction between Georgism and Liberty. But then I am not an anarcho libertarian.
There is a lot more than can be said about this, but I wanted to be as brief as possible and to promote discussion.
So what do you think?


Ben Jamin' said...

Well yes. Fairness and efficiency are two sides of the same coin brought about by just property rights etc etc.

So when we reach the stage of a very small State that needs very little in the way of force in order to maintain the status quo, we'll have reach the goal we are all looking for.

Get the fundamentals correct, everything else sorts itself out is what I say.

As far as that's concerned, over human history its been two steps forward, one and three quarter steps backwards. Really making a meal out of something that's obvious. God knows how we put a man on the moon, yet the majority of people support the current economic paradigm. Very odd indeed once you take a step back and see the bigger picture.

Lola said...

Perhaps in hindsight I should have said 'user charges' not Georgism. For example road pricing.

Mark Wadsworth said...

What bugs me is Home-Owner-Ism, that's our biggest problem.

Mark Wadsworth said...

... my point being that Home-Owner-Ism (which entails govt misspending and deficit spending, high taxation on productive activity, rent seeking unemployment, financial crises etc) is pretty much the opposite of Georgism.

I'm not sure which corner Georgism would go in, or even Home-Owner-Ism.

Mark Wadsworth said...

.. my other point being that Georgism just works, whether that is in an authoritarian single party state like Singapore or the Georgism Lite of most western democracies and Japan in the decades after 1945.

Shiney said...

I'm with you... on all the evidence Georgism just seems to 'work'.

Slightly off topic (sorry)......Can any of you guys explain why a bunch of white-rent-seeking-homeownerist-hunter-wellie-wearing-middle-class-luvvies at Glasto cheered Jezza so enthusiastically?

I mean... if he and McDo get into power they'll all be wiped out (economically and possibly literally). I don't get it. I can see public sector workers liking him. And train drivers. And the crusty types who used to go to 'Pilton' back in the day.... but the Glasto set?

Lola said...

MW. Yes. Indeed. But Georgism - the recovery of economic rent if you like - fits right into the libertarian mould, once you think about it. It's absolutely compatible with property rights because it's not a tax on your property as such. It's a tax on your usage of everyone's property. Or the value that everyone else has created.(yes yes I know I know, libertarians and homesteading etc), but the value of that homestead grows from the success of the collective effort.

And as I said I am not an anarcho libertarian. In other words I accept the need for 'government' of a nation state which generally are nowadays fairly large and therefore complex, meaning that there is some need for coordination and free rider issues, dealing with auctioning off the electromagnetic spectrum etc

I agree about the authoritarian / Georgism remark. But I cannot reconcile the authoritarian bit. Mostly because I think it's a bloody cheek and there will always be lots of cronyism. And I bet there all sorts of 'licences' for carrying on your trade...

If only Corbyn and Co. would do just Georgism it'd be fine. But their mindset is incapable of doing that. And they don't want to as Georgism undermines their power base - especially if combined with CI. Don't forget they think that they can sort all this out without LVT (look at Harman's egregious Equalities Act for example). They believe in bureaucratic rationing rather than prices. And anyway you cannot trust socialists with property rights or money. History has shown that.

So the $64000 question is, how does one get this sorted? As I was saying I think it's a more than one stage process. I think liberty and democratic accountability is the prerequisite.

IMHO this whole discussion may be futile because there is going to be the mother and father of all busts and what will fall out from that, God alone knows.

Lola said...

Shiney. The Glasto set are faux countrysiders. And they are probably pretty well all of them on the taxpayer gravy train.

paulc156 said...

I'm only willing to accept the reality of the nation state on pragmatic grounds. I'm not persuaded that we can't do better than that in time. A world without borders may be Utopian but then once we thought the divine right of kings to rule over us was probably eternal.So that sees me towards the libertarian end of the spectrum. I have sympathy with the idea that CI combined with LVT in place of taxes on labour and production etc might bring about greater economic freedom and dynamism but would see it as an experimental measure to be judged on results rather than a superior system a priori.

When BJ asks rhetorically how the heck did we put a man on the moon (he may as well have pondered the development of a huge number of industries and technologies) it is more than a little telling that pure libertarianism wouldn't have achieved it even today. Only that bloody military industrial complex was ever going to get us there. So maybe further down the chart?

In any case, I'm no idealogue unlike one or two on here but rather an empiricist who would go in the direction that offers most prospects of success. So for me, the Nordics and they're high levels of economic freedom coupled with a strong and active state is the best we have achieved thus far and as such is worth emulating. Nor do I find convincing the desperate attempts by some to find that the Nordics prove that a large state high tax economy doesn't perform. It only goes to show that you can distort any story to suit your own ends. On the other hand I would really welcome much greater worker involvement in management of large scale enterprises, public and private. Economic democracy is as important as political democracy if not more so. So that puts me nearer the top of that chart again...

Lola said...

P156. Nor do I find convincing the desperate attempts by some to find that the Nordics prove that a large state high tax economy doesn't perform. It only goes to show that you can distort any story to suit your own ends. That logic cuts both ways. In any event high taxes must = less liberty. And I confess I consider liberty primary.

Striebs said...

Re: Corbyn and the middle class Glastonbury set .

Yes Labour had LVT in their manifesto but probably as a token gesture because they didn't seem to appreciate what it could do .

Corbyn and McDonnell see no problem with the bureaucracy and wider public sector enjoying terms and conditions which are not available to the plebs , e.g. DB pensions .

They are obsessed with taxing productive activities into submission .

The cult of Corbyn looks like he could become a despot .

In short they have elitest tendencies and I wouldn't be at all surprised if they proved as home ownerist as the rest including with regards to inheritance/estate taxes .

Those Glastonbury sorts either have their head in the trough or were born with a silver spoon in their mouths and don't have to work (even if they were capable of working which many of them are not) .

Bayard said...

Has this blog turned into the Daily Mail? I know this is OT, but the meeja show a few pictures of ageing hippies and young ravers at Glastonbury and suddenly they're all workshy dole-scroungers or trustafarians. There is a reason why the festival is put on at the weekend, you know. It's so that the festival-goers can go back to their, er, jobs the following week.

Back on topic, it's interesting to see that, in Nolan's view, the right wing is as statist as the left, despite their stolen libertarian clothing. It also agrees with my theory that both left and right are equally patronising towards "the people", with many unstated assumptions that they are unable to look after themselves and must either be regulated by the state or controlled by the elite, depending on your political flavour.

Following up on my second law theory, I think that the "Statist" sump is the same crony capitalism that everything degenerates to when efforts towards liberty cease. That's the real "trickle-down effect". There is a speech by Tony Benn doing the rounds on Facebook to this effect, although Tony was pretty statist himself.

ontheotherhand said...

This chart much better, apart from red and blue being the US way round.

DBC Reed said...

There is a reckless division here between private property (freedom!) and public property (tyranny!).But most public property is very liberating: for a small fee, often on the insurance principle, you get access to a public health system (as and when/ compare the fees for a fucking vet); various public transport systems (you don't have to buy and maintain the capital equipment); libraries (you don't have to buy and store all those books); you don't have to maintain the road to your house (see Rebecca Riots for private provision mess).

Lola said...

DBCR. This 'fucking vet' profession. Has it something to do with artificial insemination.

Bayard said...

"(see Rebecca Riots for private provision mess)"

AFAIR, the Rebecca riots were not about private individuals building new roads, but landowners "improving" existing public roads, which "improvement" usually consisted of putting a gate at each end and making people pay for what, up to then, had been free.

Shiney said...

Whoa @B
"but the meeja show a few pictures of ageing hippies and young ravers at Glastonbury and suddenly they're all workshy dole-scroungers or trustafarians."

I didn't say that... at all. In fact it was only the 'crustys' that used to go to Glasto. Now they can't. Because its expensive, an acid-free zone.... and there's a f*****g great big wall (oh the irony) to keep them out.

I was asking why (probably self-described) middle-class types think Jezza is so great when most of his policies would royally f**k them over.

DBC Reed said...

I didn't realize you were old enough to remember the Rebecca Riots! Those turnpike trusts: what a brilliant way to organise road maintenance. But there's plenty on here who propose tolling roads. What next ? Private competing fire brigades where the rival crews fought each other for water supplies while the houses burnt down? Or competing bus services where nobody could publish a timetable for fear of rival buses turning up early at your stops to lift your queues?What the neo laissez fairites never seem to notice is that half their ideas have been proved to fail a long time ago.
I would guess that those young people cheering Corbyn are invigorated to find (from the Labour Manifesto)that there are old Macmillanite mixed economy ways of dealing with problems that the Tories have now deemed insuperable even by public school superbrains like themselves.To some extent there is a 50's political revival
going on.
The Tories have got nothing to offer. They used to offer untaxed capital gains in the price of your house to compensate for their abolition of the Welfare State. The young are waking up to the fact that the homeownerist route to work-free money has been closed and there's no longer effective welfare.No wonder they're acting funny.

Mark Wadsworth said...

PC: "I have sympathy with the idea that CI combined with LVT in place of taxes on labour and production etc might bring about greater economic freedom and dynamism but would see it as an experimental measure to be judged on results rather than a superior system a priori."

You are confusing tax raising and spending sides.

CI - Universal benefits always 'work', see NHS and state education, see Child Benefit and old age pensions, the right to vote, to use a public library, call the fire brigade etc.

LVT - always works better than existing taxes, particularly super-taxes on output and employment (VAT and NIC), unless you support those? There are endless examples of it working, from this country and many others, from history and in the present. Or do you think shifting from quasi-LVT (domestic rates) to a Poll tax was a good idea?

Mark Wadsworth said...

B: "Has this blog turned into the Daily Mail?"

No, people post stuff and other people comment, there's no particular collective view or anything. Feel free to post and comment in a non-Daily Mail fashion :-)

Mark Wadsworth said...

Also, I don't like this "mixed economy" phrase, it's a cop out.

There are things that are rightfully up to the 'state' to decide collectively or democratically, like where roads get built and what the speed limits are. And there are things that are rightfully up to the private sector/individuals, like actually building cars, buying them and driving them.

It'd be stupid to say we need a mix of public and private roads and a mix of state-owned and privately owned car manufacturers.

Bayard said...

Shiney, it wasn't your post I was referring to.

DBCR, Rebecca Riots. AFAICS, the turnpike trusts started out by building new roads (mainly in England), so that the travelling public could either use the old road for free, or use the newer turnpike and pay. Where it went wrong in Wales was that landowners realised they could nominally "improve" a stretch of existing public road and this gave them the right to charge people to use it, have actually done no improvement at all, or possibly filled in one pothole. So it worked well with constructing new roads, like the peages in France, but failed abysmally when the idea was extended to maintaining existing roads.

"Or competing bus services where nobody could publish a timetable for fear of rival buses turning up early at your stops to lift your queues?"

I remember that actually happening.

Mike W said...


'I have sympathy with the idea that CI combined with LVT in place of taxes on labour and production etc might bring about greater economic freedom and dynamism but would see it as an experimental measure to be judged on results rather than a superior system a priori.'

100% Yes.That's the whole point, it seems to me. But you seem half hearted about it? You alluded, in the section above, to a World State idea. Why? The important point about HG/LVT/CI is that it is superior, because it can be implimented in a Popperian, 'experimental' fashion. We are confident in the arguments and the evidence sure, but it is in its ability to be carried out, in the democratic context(here and now) that ultimately recommends it.
It does not require, for example, Revolution, the collectivisation of all farming(Marxism), or the expulsion of millions of young people from the country of birth(Neo-Liberalism) offering, after all that suffering and misery, a promise of a utopia at some unspecified date in the future. We, simply start, test and fine tune as we go.

Shiney said...



Lola said...

Competing bus services. Like airport landing slots auction them off. Sorted.

Mark Wadsworth said...

They have competing bus services in Manchester, it is a complete mess and very expensive for commuters.

They had competing bus services in Malta until a few years ago, it worked a treat. The government decided the bus routes and the standard ticket price (about one lira = £1.20) and that was that. If you want to drive a bus, you buy a bus, keep it maintained, decided which route you were doing and drive it round.

So it's all in what the ground rules are.

Lola said...

Rebecca Riots.

From Wiki

The farmers were faced with a drastic reduction in their income, but had no financial relief in similar reductions in their outgoings, mainly rents, tithes, county rates, poor rates and the turnpike tolls.[4] Farm rents stayed mainly static, but the tithes, tolls and poor rates increased.

It's them pesky 'rents' again. If the farm incomes had fallen clearly the value of the farm land had fallen. So why didn't all those rents fall? Would not LVT Man and his %age charge on reduced land values have sorted that?

paulc156 said...

MikeW. Not so much half hearted as pragmatic. To introduce LVT/CI it can and will only be done incrementally and it will have to run a guantlet of opposition which ultimately might prove its undoing. As with any experiment, [manifestly so in in the arena of the social sciences] it will always be a matter of judgement as to the effects of the changes. In other words it will likely be quite possible to produce convincing arguments as to the policy changes efficacy 'either way'. It's not a very controlled experiment in the sense that all manner of other things will be going on at the same time as relatively small adjustments are made to taxes and benefits and other extraneous events will always threaten to overwhelm the changes. I'm in favour because I've been persuaded but from where we are right now I see governments and political parties of all stripes wedded to income taxes, NI and VAT. Though some are happy to see the demise of corporation tax, IHT, they do so for self serving reasons or beggar thy neighbour tax competition which might ultimately put more pressure on Income Taxes and/or hypothecated taxes and indirect taxes which seem to be an easier sell politically.

Re world state? I'm just on a flight of fantasy on that score. I doubt the state is the final development in political geography. Technological developments will likely determine the future world map. I think it's realistic to expect in this century, life extension to the tune of hundreds of years [maybe longer!] and other revolutionary advances in bio genetics, so human nature itself can't simply be trotted out as some impediment to this or that change. Just musing. :)

MW. As noted above, it's not me who would need convincing. I'm supposing that CI replacing benefits might be expected to gain traction from libertarian and some leftish sources but LVT will always be seen as an attack on home ownership by most home owners. Maybe it would be more readily accepted when even more of the electorate are renters in the private sector?

Re mixed economy. I've always found it quite a useful term. It makes perfectly good sense in macro not micro terms. eg. A mix of public and private sources in the supply and generation/production of goods and services in a national economy. It's not a term necessary to argue for anything merely a description of what we have.

Mike W said...


1,Thanks perfectly clear. I detected a H G Wells like comment but didn't want to start down that route if you hadn't meant that.

2,Methodology in the social sciences. Agreed the changes are not 'controlled' in the textbook experimental sense.But as we shift the tax burden, we expect to be able to demonstrate the gains year in year out. Notice it is not just LVT/CI but Wadsworth's 'LVT lite' we (I hope Labour)are looking to impliment.

3, I have been pondering the Michael Gove YPP comments here, for some time. He was talking about the 1920/30s I recall, and why LVT is talked about in opposition but not done in practice. One might assume that a historian would simply refer to the 1910 budget. Point being your 'other extraneous events'. You are correct. The destruction of the Georgist project has been achieved once before.So we do know what is coming even if we get that far with the next Labour government. I was reading around and found that the Civil Service, had, in fact, come quite some way in valuing sites in Inter War Britain before the bastards quietly finished it off.So it seems it was not all empty polital bluff by Lloyd George.