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.


221 thoughts on “Why Should We Be Beggars?

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  • Kenny

    A YES vote in September would have meant no Trident and no House of Lords and no monarchy. Complete control over our own oil and whisky. The ginormous savings would have been used to end the crimes of child poverty, unemployment, food banks and the attacks on the poor and disabled in Scotland.

    Anyone who helped to ensure a non-democratic campaign by working through the media to invoke scare stories and the like is actually a criminal — or at the very least an accomplice to a crime against the one in four children in Scotland living in poverty in what is, essentially, the richest country in Europe in natural and other resources.

    I would certainly introduce a clause in any Land Reform Act that anyone doing the above, who was also found to own land in Scotland worth more than five million pounds on 18 September 2014, automatically has his land nationalised. And please don’t say: we can’t do that! The Americans or the WTO would not allow it!

    A sovereign state can do anything. Anything else is just propaganda. And since 1280 in Scotland the people are sovereign.

  • Phil

    Fuck these arbitrary lines which no doubt reflect where you perceive yourself.

    100% inheritance tax is the only way to go.

  • Giyane

    Enclosure was justified on the grounds of agricultural improvements. In reality it was, as for today’s neo-con elite, a reward for slave owners and colonisers for oppressing Islam and bringing home the world’s bounty to the UK.

    If Scotland can stand against the tide of the rich-poor growing divide, more power to your elbow. In reality the boldness of the neo-cons and their yearning for rewards for the War against Islam while building a manufacturing base in the Far East, will have to be buried under New Labour manure for a few years.

    The destruction of the Middle East through the Arab Spring is not a matter which polite society can be seen to crow too much over.
    As always in the UK contentious matters are buried under a sea of meaningless political posturing. An election and years of pseudo Socialist waffle from New Labour will bury land reform anywhere.

  • Herbie

    This is from a few years back, partly based on Kevin Cahill’s book, so it’s probably got a lot worse:

    “Redistribution is even more desperately needed in Scotland where 103 people own 30 per cent of the land.

    Britain’s land is still owned by an aristocratic elite – but it doesn’t have to be this way”

    “When it comes to land ownership, Britain today is a more unequal country than Brazil – where there are regular land riots. We are beaten in the European league tables only by Spain, a country which largely retains the land patterns imposed by General Franco’s fascist regime. It’s time we realised: this land is not your land, from Land’s End to the Scottish Highlands. It is theirs.”

    http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/commentators/johann-hari/britains-land-is-still-owned-by-an-aristocratic-elite–but-it-doesnt-have-to-be-this-way-483131.html

    http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/1841953105?*Version*=1&*entries*=0

    Not to worry though.

    Buy a plot of land in Scotland starting from just £29.99

    Everyone’s a winna!

    http://www.highlandtitles.com/

  • Clark

    From Craig’s link to Monbiot:

    As Scotland – where feudalism was not legally abolished until 2000 – becomes a progressive, modern nation, it leaves England stuck in the pre-democratic past.

    Scotland is rudely interrupting the constructed silences that stifle political thought in the UK. This is why the oligarchs who own the media hate everything that is happening there: their interests are being exposed in a way that is currently impossible south of the border.

  • Herbie

    Apologies

    It’s not so good a deal as it first looked.

    Works out at £1,306,364.40 per acre, which is a bit steep.

    “In 2013 bare arable land values rose by 17% to £5,850 per acre and bare pasture land rose by 1% to £3,450 per acre, while the average price of equipped land remained unchanged at an average of £6,250 per acre.”

    http://www.scottishlandandestates.co.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=2227:scottish-farmland-performing-well&catid=71:national&Itemid=107

    The little guy always gets ripped off by the big guy.

  • craig Post author

    Phil

    I neither expect to inherit anything at all, or to leave anything to anybody. So your insult is wide of the mark (as usual – if you could expend more of your bile on, say, Ian Duncan Smith or Rupert Murdoch, rather than Craig Murray, I would feel that was more just).

  • Evgueni

    Why concentrate attention on rural land ownership? Land rental values are much much higher in urban areas. Wasn’t that the thrust of H. George’s argument?

    Any inheritance tax discussion is fruitless so long as the concepts of absolute ownership and possession are conflated (intentionally by those who benefit from such confusion). Proudhon explained this well – the right of absolute ownership is equal to the right to deny life to others. Those who save their earnings and those whose income is derived from rents, should be taxed differently. Rent value tax (rent from any common resource, not just land) takes care of this.

  • guano

    Communist regimes dream of land nationalisation as a means of apprpriating land from the commonweal. Tories have a new elite of job exporters, cover-uppers like Rusbridger, troughing politicans, blaggers generals, corporatists, all of whom want honorification and LAND for services rendered to the Neo-cons.

    Therefore, considering that the aristos who own the land may have contributed nothing to the War on Islam or export of jobs to overseas lands where the UK owned factories cannot be sabotaged by angry Muslims, the Trots and Tories would both be delighted to open up land reform if it takes land from aristos and gives it to neo-cons.

    Aristo large estates – punitive taxes. Up to 5000 acres – incentives. Now the neo-con elite can do what they are really good at, pretending they are making liberal reforms while actually stuffing their own pockets. Done deal. Shake hands Miliband and Cameron. Scots Gnats need to watch the neo-cons, much as early Christians were advised to beware the leaven ( interest cash ) of the Pharisees.

    Only high ideals for the Highlands.

  • Ben the Inquisitor

    “Why should we be beggars

    With the Ballot in our hand?”

    ………………………………..

    People should not fear the government. The government should fear the people

    T.Jefferson

    The government is terrified of an informed electorate. Having the ballot in your hand is not enough. The entire point of having the vote is a foundation of participation, and such does not begin and end by throwing darts, or ‘paper, scissors, rock’ selection process. The government and co-sonspirators know this. Keeping you too busy earning a living, feeding you half-truths and manipulating your vote is their defense mechanism. Wake up sheeple.

  • Herbie

    “the concepts of absolute ownership and possession are conflated”

    Dunno about Scotland, but I think in rUK there is a distinction between possession and absolute ownership.

    That’s where squatting came from – That distinction. Though this has been amended somewhat recently.

    You have to actually be capable of possessing in order to fully enjoy ownership, if you will.

  • Phil

    Craig

    Actually my comment today wasn’t particularly aimed at you. I just have an aversion to using “one” and “oneself”. Come on don’t be touchy. I didn’t even mention your complicity in the death of hundreds of thousands of innocent people.

  • guano

    Phil

    Craig has never been complicit in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent people.

    You remind me of a shrink who insinuated that I’d been complicit in something …

    what more do you have to do not to be complicit in something than to object to it loudly and publicly for a very long time. Prat!

  • Ben the Inquisitor

    “Craig has never been complicit in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent people.”

    Do you know what the context is? We are all complicit to some degree, by our silence or approval via ‘ballot boxes’.

  • fred

    So the people in the Central Belt want to take our beautiful unspoilt countryside and put windmills on it to feed their greedy cities. Take our rural landscape and make it industrial. Benefit in jobs for the locals, nil. The government are using large absentee landlords as an excuse to hammer the Highlands but their new laws will have an affect on the medium sized and even the small land owners as well. Smallholdings which have been handed father to son for generations, generations of people who tended and cared for the land which will have to be broken up and sold probably to the Edinburgh property developer to put windmills on. If a man wants to leave his farm to his son in his will he should have the right to do so.

    The new drink drive laws came into force today. What affect will they have on the criminals who get plastered and mow down innocent bus queues? Nil, zero, none, they broke the law yesterday and they will break the law tomorrow. The changed is designed to penalise the law abiding citizen which just about sums up the Scottish government giving amnesties to Poll tax dodgers because they know they vote SNP.

  • Phil

    Guano
    “Craig has never been complicit in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent people.”

    I can’t speak for how your ex shrink or Ben define complicity. I know what complicity means though.

    Did I say hundreds of thousands of innocent people? My mistake. The WHO estimate the sanctions against Iraq were responsible for the death of half a million innocent children. Craig was a senior member of the team which enforced these murderous sanctions. He was complicit.

  • Abe Rene

    @Craig “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…”

    I would guess that the projected value of your own estate is about 500,000. 🙂

  • Ben the Inquisitor

    “I can’t speak for how your ex shrink or Ben define complicity”

    To me it includes accountability, but that awareness is not always present.

  • Republicofscotland

    The SNP want to create a Scottish land Form Commission, which would oversee new land rules.

    They would have the powers to intervene where land ownership and management, had become a barrier to local sustainable development.

    The above measures have infuriated the Scottish branch of the Tories, Alex Ferguson, MSP denounced them as unacceptable.

  • Geoffrey

    Craig,if your policies were adopted the state after a generation or two would own everything.
    In effect you’d out Farage Farage-everyone would leave!

  • Republicofscotland

    O/T

    A book published tomorrow, lays bare the machinations behind the scenes of the Better Together camp, in the run up to the referendum.

    In “My part in Alex Salmond’s downfall” (A Nazi connotation in my opinion) Daily Telegraph’s Scottish Editor, Alan Cochrane, claims that an off the cuff remark by old droopy chops HRH the Queen, “That Scotland should think very carefully,about the referendum” was a deliberate and put-up job by the palace.

    Cochrane claims he was told that the police, told press at Crathie Kirk, in September to move to where they could hear what was being said, as the Royal party came out.

    Cochrane added, it was a bit of a coup for the palace, and the queen herself.

    There is absolutely no doubt, that she did it deliberately.

    ————————-

    I believe you Cochrane, as you are as almost despicable and beneath contempt, as old bag of chisels face HRH, a begging your pardon mam.

  • fred

    “The SNP want to create a Scottish land Form Commission, which would oversee new land rules.

    They would have the powers to intervene where land ownership and management, had become a barrier to local sustainable development.

    The above measures have infuriated the Scottish branch of the Tories, Alex Ferguson, MSP denounced them as unacceptable.”

    That sounds like a good reason to vote Conservative at the next election.

  • Roderick Russell

    Re Craig’s comment – “The proposals to end primogeniture may break up large estates over time”.

    I doubt it. One will only break up large estates if one tackles the issue directly and, even then, I don’t see any politicians on the horizon who have the courage to do so.
    Large estates are often owned by trusts. As these trusts never die (it’s just the beneficiaries who die and are replaced as beneficiaries by their children over time) it is unlikely that any form of inheritance tax or death duties could be designed to affect them – at least not any form of legislation that the UK’s politicians would be allowed to pass.

    Back in the early post ww2 period the Atlee government raised the highest marginal rate of income taxes briefly to an amazing 97.5% — yet it was never allowed to honestly deal with the use of trusts to avoid death duties (estates who paid high duties on death only did so because they failed to plan and adopt proper avoidance measures).

    Most of these estates have never paid the same levels of real tax rates as the middle and working classes have paid. This is because they have been able to dictate (behind the scenes) to our politicians of all parties. It is said that property (land) has its rights — but property also has its responsibilities; something that most of our large estates don’t adhere to.

  • Republicofscotland

    I know its naughty but kudos to those SNP councillors who burnt a copy of the Smith Commission report, it wouldn’t have taken long for it to burn, to be honest there wasn’t much in it, from what I’ve read.

    Unfortunately for the councillors they’ve been suspended, for their actions, now if only they could get their hands on a copy of Gideon Osborne’s Autumn Statement.

  • lysias

    A wealth tax should also be considered. This is one of the chief recommendations of Piketty’s book Capital in the 21st Century. Historical examples and contemporary examples in various countries suggest something on the order of 1% per year of total wealth above some threshold.

  • ------------·´`·.¸¸.¸¸.··.¸¸Node

    Fred : “So the people in the Central Belt want to take our beautiful unspoilt countryside and put windmills on it to feed their greedy cities. Take our rural landscape and make it industrial. Benefit in jobs for the locals, nil.”

    Look about you, Fred, it’s already happening, all over the UK, nothing to do with the SNP’s land reform proposals.

    Fred : “The government are using large absentee landlords as an excuse to hammer the Highlands but their new laws will have an affect on the medium sized and even the small land owners as well. Smallholdings which have been handed father to son for generations, generations of people who tended and cared for the land which will have to be broken up and sold probably to the Edinburgh property developer to put windmills on. If a man wants to leave his farm to his son in his will he should have the right to do so.”

    As far as I am aware, the SNP has published only a consultation document regarding its proposed land reform. (1) How do you already know the laws which will result from it? (2) Which part of the document justifies your assertion that small holdings will have to be broken up?

    Fred : “The new drink drive laws came into force today.”

    No, they come into force on Friday the 5th.

    Fred : “The changed is designed to penalise the law abiding citizen which just about sums up the Scottish government giving amnesties to Poll tax dodgers because they know they vote SNP.”

    Suggest a plausible motive for the SNP designing laws to specifically penalise law abiding citizen otherwise I must conclude that your crazy assertion just about sums up your unreasonable obsession with the SNP.

  • ------------·´`·.¸¸.¸¸.··.¸¸Node

    Fred, the Torygraph published that on 30th Nov. It was a scare story based on what they claimed the SNP’s plans would be. At that point the SNP hadn’t published their consultation document. The Torygraph did an update on the story yesterday in the light of the consultation document. They didn’t mention smallholdings. I ask you again to point to something the SNP have said, (not the estate-owners’ mouthpiece Telegraph) which justifies your assertion that smallholdings will have to be broken up.

  • Roderick Russell

    Lycias 5:09 PM above. Yes, a wealth tax makes sense (it is much fairer than income tax) but only on real wealth – i.e. oligarchs / large estates and not the long overtaxed middle classes. And only if one is prepared to look through all the avoidance schemes like trusts, offshore tax havens, etc.. Otherwise it will not work

    And why would a wealth tax be only 1%? The very wealthy, with the best investment advice in the world (and inside knowledge), should easily be able to make 10% on their money – suggesting a rate of 5% PA on total wealth.

    If taxes are going to be fair, we have to find a way to ensure that oligarchs pay their share. I would suggest that, if one added all taxes up, the average middle or working class person is already paying total taxes each year that are well in excess of 5% of his/her total wealth. I don’t want to sponge the rich; I just want them to pay the same levels of taxes as everybody else (and not to bend the rules as they are want to do)and this would suggest a rate above 5%.

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