The thoughts behind the Renegade Ecologist

From my 30 years as a nature conservationist I have learned the utter futility of trying to protect nature under our current economic system. But by making some small changes to our taxation system we could make a world fit for our children to inherit full of wildlife & prosperity for all.

There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root....
Henry David Thoreau
"In many ways, nature conservation has become just another method of rent extraction by landowners who are trying to hide the fact that modern farmers’ fields are essentially deserts, devoid of wildlife, and the taxpayer must pay ‘rent’ if we want wild animals to occupy ‘their land’."
Peter Smith

Land Value Tax, which is in my opinion the Holy Grail of legislative changes to protect wildlife, is the simplest expression of the Economic theories of Henry George. This theory goes that if we abolish all harmful taxes on our hard work and trade and instead charge a rent for the use of natural resources such as Land we will not waste them or allow private interests to exploit the rest of humanities access to them.

Such a tax would not only stimulate jobs and enterprise but put a value on all of our natural resources and force us to look after them. If it was implemented for agricultural land, where the lower value of perpetually designated wilderness or natural grazing land is reflected in its land value taxation, it would be the surest way to save the wildlife of the UK and for the least cost to the taxpayer”

This would mean hard to farm areas, steep banks, riverbanks, rocky outcrops and areas landowners want to designate a nature reserves, which must be legally binding, could be set aside for wildlife and as such attract no taxation. The result of this would be that unproductive and marginal land would become wildlife havens and receive long term protection for future generation to enjoy. But it would also take away land and monopolies from our plutocrats who own wealth with no obligation to the rest of society, these plutocrats fund both the red and blue (and Yellow) faction of the vested interest or ‘line my friends pocket’ parties that control the legislature in Britain.

This blog is dedicated to teaching those who love nature that there is a simple ‘magic bullet’ that can save the rare wildlife of this country at no cost to the taxpayer. This magic bullet will actually grow our economy and create jobs and help create a better society based on rewarding those who work hard while penalising idol people who make monopolies such as bankers and landowners.

The solution if adopted worldwide would alleviate poverty and starvation and make a significant contribution to preventing war and terrorism.

Follow me on twitter: @peetasmith

Views are my own and don’t reflect the views of Wildwood Trust

Saturday, 25 June 2016

BREXIT: Why Land Value Tax can kill Fascists & Save the Planet….

Or….. J'accuse....! Why the Guardian columnists have created BREXIT and the rise of the new fascists of the west & the calamity of environmental destruction…..

Brexit has caused outrage among the established commentators of the Gruaniad today and they are all missing the point and only have themselves to blame. A bold and unfair accusation, but hear me out & I shall explain why I accuse some of the best educated and most thoughtful social commentators on politics and the environment. I voted Remain but I also have serious reservations about Europe and now want the Left, Liberal and caring Conservatives to own up to their mistakes and fix them fast. If we do not the ugly rise of fascism and environmental collapse is a real possibility.

In this blog I liken my message to the Guardian columnists like the pleas of Tolstoy to Tsarist Russia, Michael Flürscheim to the German Imperium or Churchill and Lloyd-George to the British Empire. Only a Land Value Tax can save us from the populous turning to extremism or the elites turning to conflict and war.

After reading the Guardian Columns by Damian Carrington & Poly Toynbee today I am writing this blog to say I accuse! I accuse you both of being at the centre of why this country voted for Brexit and that your ill-informed opinions are creating the very thing you campaign against, the rise of the far right, growing social inequality, environmental destruction & the propensity to wage war on the world for resources and power.

UK's out vote is a 'red alert' for the environment, Damian Carrington:

Dismal, lifeless, spineless – Jeremy Corbyn let us down again, Polly Toynbee:

The problem with leaders, whether it is a politician our guardian columnist is they want be seen to be a ‘leader’ and be responsible for solutions, enacted by rule & law, when what we really need to do is implant policies that create the incentives, the very legal and economic topology, for everyone to be rewarded for being a caring neighbour, hardworking risk taker and steward of our natural heritage. Actions that destroy the environment, rob people of jobs and stop us looking after others should be not rewarded economically but penalised.

But our legal system and culture cannot change the fact that we, under our current economic rules, are disadvantaged when we do charitable work, our wages are cut when we welcome asylum seekers and immigrants, and can become instant millionaire if we get a right to exploit natural resources or planning permission to build a house on land we own.  The incentives are all wrong and none of the political establishment are ready to tackle the vested interests that are benefiting from this system or acknowledge the poor who are suffering because of it.

If I discuss this with my working class family members they are outraged because they too see me as a Guardian reading middle class lefty. To them the Guardian readers are the very manifestation of hypocrisy and privilege, wanting lower wages for their plumbers and nannies, while at the same time wanting their houses to rise in value or the speculative gains from in Buy to let property?

There silly solutions of taxing workers to provide social services to counteract the effects of immigration are treated with scepticism by the working classes and rightly so.

As best explained by Leo Tolstoy, perhaps even a more fervent exponent of Land Value Tax than myself:
“I sit on a man's back, choking him, and making him carry me, and yet assure myself and others that I am very sorry for him and wish to ease his lot by any means possible, except getting off his back.”
Writings on Civil Disobedience and Nonviolence (1886)
Tolstoy understood that land value tax had the solution to the rising tensions in pre-revolutionary Russian and pleaded with the nobility and the Tsar’s chief advisors to implement this policy in a letter to Prince L. D. Urusov he pleaded:

“If the new Tsar [Nicholas II] would ask me what I would advise him to do, I would say to him: use your autocratic power to abolish the land property in Russia and to introduce the Land Value Tax system; and then give up your power and [grant] the people a liberal constitution.”

Tolstoy said in another letter which foretold the calamity of revolution and the rise of extremists:
“People do not argue with the teachings of Henry George, they simply do not know it. ... He who becomes acquainted with it cannot but agree.”
“Of all indispensable alterations of the forms of social life there is in the life of the world one which is most ripe. ... The method of solving the land problem has been elaborated by Henry George to a degree of perfection that under the existing state organisation and compulsory taxation, it is impossible to invent any better, more just, practical and peaceful solution.”
“Quite difficult matters can be explained even to a slow-witted man, if only he has not already adopted a wrong opinion about them; but the simplest things cannot be made clear even to a very intelligent man if he is firmly persuaded that he already knows, and knows indubitably, the truth of the matter under consideration.”
“The only thing now that would pacify the people now is the introduction of the Land Value Taxation system of Henry George. The land is common to all; all have the same right to it. Solving the land question means the solving of all social questions.... Possession of land by people who do not use it is immoral — just like the possession of slaves.”

Yes the working classes do not want handouts, they do not want welfare, what they want is that their labour is valued and the cost of living is affordable. This is the fundamental message we are getting from Brexit campaigners across Europe and the rise of Donald Trump in the states.  But because our political & social leadership has failed us so badly, the frightened working classes are running into the arms of demagogues like Trump, Farage, Le Pen and Geert Wilders, just as they ran into the clutches of Lenin, Stalin, Hitler and Mussolini when social tensions rose to fever pitch when wages stagnated and a financial system based on banking/high land prices collapsed.

So to, our environment and wildlife do not want endless government grants funding cushy jobs or grants to pay for ‘signs or wildlife art installations. What our wildlife and environment need more than any European Habitats Directive, Water Frameworks Directive, Carbon Trading scheme or a host of other bureaucratic nonsense is to be not abused. What our wildlife and environment needs is to have their habitats left alone, to stop polluting the land and air? What our environment needs is a way for us to all stop benefiting from its abuse. 

The only logical way to do this is to make charges and put taxes on the use and abuse of land and the natural environment, this will do more than any complicated directive or law as we will not incentivise people to circumvent these policies and laws, it will push everyone into finding new ways to increase the efficiency of land use, leave land for nature, it will incentivise business and people to pollute less and find new ways to protect the environment as they will financially benefit  from doing so.

Our political establishment – both left and right tell us of the benefits of immigration, rejoice in economic growth and welcome the ever increasing costs of housing. Yet they all rob the poor and funnel money into the pockets of the wealthy and privileged irrespective of their political affiliations.
Thankfully the solution to what caused people to vote for leaving Europe and rejecting immigration is the same solution to the problems of social inclusion, jobs, economic success & environmental protection is all the same: LAND VALUE TAX!

The tax shift to reclaim economic rents as our tax base, taking taxes off of those who work and aspire to work will fulfil both the stated objectives of all our main political parties, but they are too afraid of the vested interests who are farming our economy of the economic rent of monopoly and the killings to be made destroying our environment and misusing land.

To enhance social inclusion Land Value Taxes will drastically reduce housing and welfare costs. This will allow us to take taxes off productive businesses and jobs causing an explosion in the value of labour, increasing both jobs & wages. This positive cycle will decrease the costs of housing, welfare, crime and the distress shown when we welcome asylum seekers and immigrants to our island home.

The swivel eyed loons lead by George Galloway, Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson have captured the fundamental truth that no one wishes to mention, immigration really does push down wages for the poorest, but what is more it forces up living costs mostly through housing. Letting these demagogues capture public support is an extreme betrayal of our established politics. The stupidity and lazy intellectual opinions of our elites could lead us to the calamity of a rise of fascism and an acceleration of environmental collapse.

The centre ground are quick to tell us immigration does improve our economy & I agree it does, but who receives the benefits of that economic growth. The recipients of this free handout are landowners, landlords and those that employ people for less wages.

So if you are a progressive socially minded person who welcomes helping others and protecting our environment you better start advocating Land Value Taxes & the elites need to own up to their selfish motivation protecting their privilege….

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