SA54. Saving the Commons in an age of Plunder – by Bill Batt

ABSTRACT. Land ownership, as commonly understood today,  originated with the enclosure movement during the English Tudor era almost four centuries ago. Karl Polanyi referred to this “propertization” of nature as the “great transformation.” That land, water, and air was a social commons is now archaic and forgotten, and with it the classical economic concept of rent, which was, in theory, once paid to royalty as the earth’s guardian. Garrett Hardin’s article, “The Tragedy of the Commons,” raised alarm about the abuse and loss of this realm, and he recommended constraints and privatization to prevent this. Most  people view titles to landed property much as they do their household goods, but Henry George saw that the earth should be seen as a common resource and its value taxed to benefit everyone. This would restore economic equilibrium to market exchanges and pay for government services. The capture of natural resource rents can  supplant taxes on wages and capital goods, and it comports with all textbook principles of sound tax theory. This policy can be the modern replacement for the commons, and implementing resource rent capture is both economically and technically feasible.

Garrett Hardin’s Lament

Almost 50 years ago, Science Magazine published ecologist Garrett Hardin’s (1968) article “The Tragedy of the Commons,” now arguably the most widely cited and reprinted scientific article in recent history. As both history and parable, it purported to show how unattended and unprotected natural resources were exploited and ultimately destroyed by  villagers  in  16th-century  Tudor  England.  The  context  was   the  enclosure movement that drove peasants off the land into the cities and provided cheap labor for the ensuing Industrial Revolution. “The commons” was well understood as the shared land, usually pasture, that provided the space for grazing animals (Polanyi 1944). Hardin recounted in metaphoric terms an explanation of an ecological history of resource overshoot that has since been replicated countless times over. Continue reading

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SA53.- Eurofail – VAT, by Henry Law

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The EU began as a noble concept. Unfortunately, it has consistently got the economics wrong, thereby sowing the seeds of its ultimate disintegration. The EU gave us VAT, CAP, a tariff wall and expensive food. It would be difficult to conceive of a worse combination, apart from capping them with a common currency. Bearing in mind that all taxes apart from LVT amplify the effects of locational disadvantage, it is not surprising that support for Brexit came from the country’s margins, not excluding parts of the South-East. This is not to suggest that those who voted to leave were making a reasoned and calculated choice. At that level it was a gut reaction, with nasty overtones. However, if one neglects one’s back garden, weeds will grow. Some, such as knotweed, can undermine a house. The UK has neglected its fringes for many decades.

The first of the ugly sisters is VAT.

Older people will remember the queues at customs when returning to the UK from abroad, asked if they had “Anything to declare?”. It is the EU wide VAT that has made it possible to do away with this unpleasant ritual. However, it replaced one bad tax with another. Purchase taxes promoted cross-border shopping and created the artificial crime of smuggling. VAT facilitated cross-border trading, but at a terrible cost. The EU requires it to be set at a minimum of 15%, apart from special exemptions. Contributions to the EU are based on a notional VAT yield, on the assumption that aggregate VAT is an indication of the size of a country’s economy. Continue reading

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SA52. Low Hanging Fruit – by Henry Law

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Exit from the EU opens up the possiblity of some quick wins, sometimes referred to as “low-hanging fruit”.

One of the most malign features of the EU’s economic and fiscal policies is VAT. Governments can not reduce it below 15% or abolish it or replace it with a different sales tax or a different tax altogether. It is regressive and expensive to administer, especially for small business because of the amount of paperwork it causes. It is also vulnerable to fraud and avoidance. It adds to the government’s welfare bill as money has to be paid to the poorest people so they can pay it back to the government in tax. EU membership has prevented any discussion of the subject. Debate is always shut down with the killer statement that it cannot be changed. It is an important factor in the throwaway economy as it is charged on repairs, even to buildings. The issue has never been raised at EU level, not even by Green politicians. Continue reading

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SA51. Location Theory and the European Union, – by Peter Holland

  1. Introduction

Current economic analysis and theory pays little attention to the actual locations in which economic activity is taking place. The benefits of a particular location include factors such as inherent fertility or proximity to natural resources, but the largest factor in a trading economy is that the work of the whole community confers a great advantage on particular locations. If individuals, firms or nations are allowed to claim this for themselves the result is a large, unfair and ever increasing disparity in wealth, unemployment and civil unrest.  This article introduces a quantified analysis of the economic potential of the major countries in Europe. It describes how these changed with the formation of the EEC and subsequently the EU, and shows how this effect provides riches for some and condemns others to poverty. The paper also describes how this unfair advantage is exacerbated by the Euro. Finally some possible solutions to correct this error and provide an equal opportunity for all to prosper will be outlined.

Map 1 Europe pre treaty of Rome


  1. Origin and Development

The original work on Location Theory is accredited to Von Thunen (1783-1850) a north German academic with formal scientific training and practical experience as a farmer.  He was interested in whether there was a natural location for particular forms of endeavour.  For the next century these ideas were developed in North America, especially with a view to determining the best location for new industries.  In the 1950’s Prof. Colin Clark was introduced to these ideas and he developed them further.  He implemented a major project to determine the effect on the UK manufacturing industries of joining the EEC and the results of which are outlined here. Continue reading

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SA50. Finland’s Basic Income – why it matters by Fred Foldvary, Ph.D.

Fred Foldvary, Ph.D.

The government of Finland is planning to be the first European country to provide to each adult citizen a basic income, replacing its existing welfare, social security, and unemployment payments. A pilot program is planned for November 2016, to be implemented by the Finnish Social Insurance Institution.

The replacement of qualified welfare payments with funds not related to any income, employment, disability, or age status was proposed in 1962 by the free-market economist Milton Friedman, as a negative income tax. It was partly implemented by the US federal government as an “earned income tax credit”. A basic income does not depend on the tax code, and eliminates the negative incentive of getting money by qualifying as poor, disabled, or unemployed. Continue reading

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SA 49.Prosper Australia – Vacancies Report

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[ We have included the Executive Summary and Conclusions of this paper, to read the full article click here ]

Executive Summary

Prosper Australia’s Speculative Vacancies Report demonstrates how Government housing, tax and supply policies have allowed widespread residential and commercial vacancies in Melbourne.

Melbourne’s three main metropolitan water retailers, City West Water (CWW), South East Water (SEW), and Yarra Valley Water (YVW) made their data available for this report. Continue reading

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SA 48. LANDED (Freeman’s Wood) by John Angus-StoreyG2

We are grateful for this example of land appropriation, and at the end will add our comments on how the proper collection of public revenue would bring justice.

– an exploration of land ownership through contemporary art.


StoreyG2 is a small contemporary art organisation based in Lancaster, in north west England. In 2014-15 we ran a project researching land ownership and its effects on people’s lives. “Landed (Freeman’s Wood)” is centred on a plot of land where the interests of a local community collided with those of global capital. Continue reading

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SA 47. Justice and the Common Good by Joseph Milne

I begin with a quotation from Aristotle’s Politics:

“And it is a characteristic of man that he alone has any sense of good and evil, of just and unjust, and the like, and the association of living beings who have this sense makes a family and a state.”

― Aristotle, Politics Book I Chapter II

It is worth pondering what this is saying. The human species is distinguished from all the other species because it alone has a sense of what is good and evil, and a sense of what is just and unjust. Continue reading

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Land value tax (LVT) has been high on the political agenda for most of the past two centuries; in the three decades up to World War I it was backed by a widespread popular movement. Thus, in the broader perspective, its eclipse since about 1950 is exceptional. The flurry of fresh interest in recent years is due, amongst other things, to the
realisation that tax systems have hit the limit to what they can raise, whilst expectations of government continue growing and attempts to cut large welfare bills consistently fail.

LVT in its classic form is a tax on the annual rental value of all land, ignoring buildings and other developments, the valuation being on the assumption that the land is at its optimum use. It would not be additional to existing taxes but a partial or complete replacement for them. Proponents argue that it is a precondition for the solution of a wide range of apparently intractable economic ills. Opponents usually come up with objections
which are criticisms of what is not actually being proposed. Continue reading

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