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

Sunday, 31 March 2013

How do we Value Rural Britian

This week there has been many reports on second homes. Our recent Budget speech was basically a charter to give public money to underwrite loans to buy homes. Most of these will be sold to speculaters,  landlords and people wanting a second home and not for the purpose the deceitful chancellor George Osborne stated; in helping people buy a house for their own occupation.

Leading on from this press activity former poet laureate, Sir Andrew Motion, now head of the campaign to Protect Rural England, has made the headlines in all the UK media, calling for tax increases on second homes in the countryside to preserve communities. He is of course correct but if we dig deeper into what do we as a society want to see in the countryside we must look at the issues and values that will save rural communities.

A number of papers have posed the question of how do we value rural Britain and protect its social and natural character.

Here is my response:

The Value of Nature is complex – (once you look into what is meant by value and the psychological and economic ramifications of value theory and its relationship to natural wealth)

The psychological value of nature, is best expressed in economic terms, in the uplift in land values of rural properties. This is a truly staggering amount of money. The privatisation of this ‘uplift’ is a form of cheating, robbing from everyone for the monopolistic benefit of the few. This uplift in value should belong to the community as a whole and those that take away this ‘value’ should compensate the rest of society in the form of a ‘rent’ for that loss.

This sounds complex but in essence the remedy that will solve this, is my stuck record one, that of taxing the value of land and other natural assets.

The issues that I think we want to address in the countryside for people and wildlife are:

1. Efficient use of land and natural capital like rivers etc.
2. Biodiversity protection
3. Free open access to natural wealth and enjoyment of the countryside
4. The right to own property in the countryside and have enjoyment of it
5. The right to make a living in the countryside

In all the issues, Land Value Tax is the mechanism that will achieve these objectives, with fairness, as it balances stewardship of scarce resources (such as having a lovely second home in the country), resource efficiency and is a constant force rebalancing inequality in Land access with freedom to have exclusive possession.

In general second homes demonstrate the division in our society and economy where those with  exclusive land ownership have a free ride when it comes to possession of scarce resources, while those that work and toil for their income are denied access due to high land prices and high taxes on that human effort.  Shifting taxation off of earned incomes and onto exclusive land possession will solve this problem fairly and efficiently. The uplift in value of rural properties is often far more than the taxation of the work that was needed to buy the property and pay the mortgage, this is Ricardo’s Law and this is the fundamental issue at the heart of economic unfairness that those that possess monopoly, of all kinds, have a huge amount of unearned income from the uplift in those values at the expense of those that do not possess and it is that very labour of people, intellectually & physically  that creates that increased value of the land.

A short lecture I gave on the Value of Nature:

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