Why Should We Be Beggars? 221

There is a great campaign song from the 1890’s, of which the chorus goes

The Land! The Land!
‘Twas God who made the Land
The Land! The Land!
The ground on which we stand
Why should we be beggars
With the Ballot in our hand?
God gave the Land to the People!

That key question – why should we be beggars with the ballot in our hand? – was the fundamental driver of the Yes campaign in the Scottish referendum. The answer is, of course, the beggary remains because our corporate masters are enabled to buy off a small but significant minority of the less poor and then brainwash or terrify enough others through their control of mass communication. But so many people are now wondering how on earth we have beggary in a land of so many billionaires, that the question is refusing to go away.

The song above was the anthem of Henry George’s land movement, and it has resonance today. I found land ownership the most passionate of subjects in the referendum campaign. It was as strongly felt in urban communities of Dundee as in the Highlands. There is an excellent article on the subject by George Monbiot today. It ought to be as important in London as in Scotland. The extreme wealth of the Westminster and other London inherited estates ought not be tolerated in a modern society.

I too applaud the Scottish government’s courage in tackling the issue. I wish, however, they had been a bit more bold. That business rate exemption was ever given to sporting estates, by both Tories and Labour, is an abomination. Of course the rate must be imposed. The truth is, much of the Highlands historically supported a greater population than it does now, and there is much land unused that can produce root crops and cattle. The aid for crofting communities acquiring land is also welcome, but should be backed by firm compulsion.

The proposals to end primogeniture may break up large estates over time, but I confess to being not greatly excited by progress measured in half centuries. The major answer should lie in two well understood taxes: inheritance tax and land value tax. I would favour 20% inheritance tax on all estate value above 500,000, 50% on all value above 1 million and 80% on all value above 5 million, with no exemptions or gifting and beneficial ownership ruthlessly traced.

On Land Value Tax, I am particularly attracted by a residency test. LVT should be quadrupled for non-residents, with residence defined as where you pay your income tax. In an independent Scotland, that would sort out a great deal of the problem pretty fast.

Simply repealing the Inclosure Acts would perhaps have difficult ramifications, where the original beneficiaries’ estates have sold land on to become eventually, for example, individual residential plots. But revisiting the Inclosure Acts is a weapon we should not forego when looking at problems like the Buccleuch or Grosvenor Estates. Though for the major aristocratic estates I would favour straightforward nationalisation.

The Establishment, Conservative, Labour and Liberal, have re-introduced the appalling notion of the “undeserving poor”. It is time for action against the undeserving rich.

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221 thoughts on “Why Should We Be Beggars?

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  • nevermind

    Nothing I have heard and read here can persuade me that humans should approach/ wreck another planet because they are unable to live sustainably on this one.

    If there were other intelligent beings out there who periodically come here and watch our chaotic antics, our exploration of space for something similar, they must be tempted to put an end to it all.

    The clever thing would be to send robots to do the job of collecting soil samples, show what we can do if we put our mind to it, not waste huge amounts of resources to get fragile humans on to the planet.

    I wish you well on Mars anode, your one way mission will be remembered as tomfoolery in 100 years time.

    Mind, going by the sabre rattling that is going on in NATO HQ , the slobbering sounds of drooling chicken hawks who never risk their own lives, we might not even get to the election before the nukes drop on Lakenheath’s nuclear repositories, so we will never get to that planet.

  • Republicofscotland

    “An independent Scotland would be seeing twice the annual health budget wiped off their economy.”


    Where in that (I can only call satirical report) does it say your wild statement above.

    I’ve read the whole report and can’t find it.

  • Republicofscotland

    After checking out the architect and keystone of your point, Stephen Daisley’s Twitter page, I’m not surprised to read his hilarious column, you linked to.


    I wouldn’t go around Fred quoting this guys work, as kosher.

  • glenn_uk

    @Ben: “The choke-hold is illegal in NY.

    Apparently, it’s against guidelines, but not actually illegal in NY.

  • guano

    UK Defence spokesman says Bahrain naval base is needed because UK has long term interests in the ( in- ) stability of the region.
    BBC Today Program.

  • Fedup

    Are the likes of Fedup & Glenn really claiming that employers are twice as likely to discriminate against brown people called Miah or Ali at twice the rate they discriminate against brown people called Sengupta or Chakrabharti ?

    Oh the pearls of wisdom! Pointless to debate any point with the likes of oldmark a jaundiced view “first hand expert” who can reel off the high incidents of diabetes, and hypertension, among the target population of the minority Muslims without even realising these diseases are stress born and due to poor diet.

  • OldMark

    Pointless to debate any point with the likes of oldmark a jaundiced view “first hand expert” who can reel off the high incidents of diabetes, and hypertension, among the target population of the minority Muslims without even realising these diseases are stress born and due to poor diet.

    Pointless to debate with someone who can’t follow links given previously- my link yesterday to diabetes UK confirmed that genetics plays a part in the condition, to the disadvantage of south Asians.


  • Habbabkuk (la vita è bella)


    “The centre of the moon MAY be made of green cheese, get the picture Fred?”

    It isn’t, RoS


    This point replaces a more trenchant reply which one of the Moderators saw fit to quietly delete.

    It would be more transparent if the old practice of leaving the poster’s name, followed by the mention “deleted” were re-instated. That would enable everyone to see whether one paeticular poster or other seems to be singled out for special attention.

  • Angus

    Craig, can you clarify “I would favour 20% inheritance tax on all estate value above 500,000,”?

    That seems to be considerably less than it is just now! granted of course the big landowners avoid this altogether.

    ” Most estates don’t have to pay Inheritance Tax because they’re valued at less than the threshold (£325,000 in 2014 to 15). The tax is payable at 40% on the amount over this threshold or 36% if the estate qualifies for a reduced rate as a result of a charitable donation.” http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/inheritancetax/intro/basics.htm

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