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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  • Fedup

    “The fantasy is that there is a core British culture that was created probably 2,000 years ago and carried on, and now it’s being threatened by all those barbarians that are coming to our gate.

    “This is utter b******t, but who is going to say this? That is why I think we have a problem with political conversations that we can’t have.”

    UK migrant threat ‘fantasy’ – envoy

    Muslims are facing the worst job discrimination of any minority group in Britain, according to new research which found that they had the lowest chance of being in work or in a managerial role.

    Muslim men were up to 76 per cent less likely to have a job of any kind compared to white, male British Christians of the same age and with the same qualifications. And Muslim women were up to 65 per cent less likely to be employed than white Christian counterparts.

    British Muslims face worst job discrimination of any minority group, according to research

  • Ben the Inquisitor

    Mods; Be consistent at the very least and delete my 9:45 as well. You know, in the interest of fairness and equality?

  • glenn_uk

    @Fedup: Sounds pretty grim, but surely there are few enough real white “Christians” in this young male category? They might tick the box of “Faith: Christian” in the census, but how many of them have been to Church (other than for a wedding/funeral) in the past few years?

    We’re seeing the result of official fear-mongering. Muslims in the UK have far more to fear from their white male counterparts, in reality. Why don’t we have as much emphasis over white supremacist freaks, with their nail-bombs, hate propaganda, and arsonist tendencies?

  • Ben the Inquisitor

    Well. That’s fair Glenn. I made an insidious and gratuitous attack on a troll and I was rightly deleted. 🙂

  • OldMark

    ‘Muslims are facing the worst job discrimination of any minority group in Britain, according to new research which found that they had the lowest chance of being in work or in a managerial role.’

    Yeah, the low economic activity rates for muslim Bangladeshis and Pakistanis are purely the result of discrimination. Poor English language skills, larger families, and a high incidence of long term ill health (both of which make a life on benefits more advantageous, and likely) aren’t of course contributory factors. Indeed, only a racist would suggest that factors other than discrimination are in play here.

  • glenn_uk

    I have to say, Brian has a point. Noticed it at the time but… Ben, surely you know Node is not a troll?


    OldMark: Most Muslims/ Bangladeshis/ Pakistanis here (particularly the younger examples) are surely well established, and do not suffer from language skills and “long term ill health”? We were talking about “young males”, after all.

    Even fewer of these Muslims are likely to be suffering from the drink/drug problems which beset all too many “Christian” men of the youthful persuasion in this country.

    Are you seriously suggesting these young Muslim men would tend towards a persuasion that would “make a life on benefits more advantageous”? Seriously?

  • glenn_uk

    Forgive me, but I must provide this quote: “No attempt at ethical or social seduction can eradicate from my heart a deep burning hatred for the Tory Party. So far as I am concerned they are lower than vermin.”
    – Aneurin Bevan

  • craig Post author


    I haven’t written memoirs that far back yet, but for the record I was personally involved in the prevention of Iraq obtaining weapons or their components, purely on the aspects of analysing the intelligence and organising interception or other means of foiling them or disruption (including stopping the financial transactions). I was never involved in the enforcement of wider sanctions, which indeed I believe only came into being after I had left these duties.

    At one stage Carne Ross worked briefly as my assistant. Unlike me, he was involved in the later sanctions regime, and was sickened by it and also became a whistleblower.

    I think that if you intend to continue your personal criticism, you ought to read my books so at least you have some idea what you are talking about. Making constant comments on my past from a position of profound and wilful ignorance is not a good position. Your local library will be able to get them for you.

  • Resident Dissident

    Given that historically many of the most worst landowners have been Scots abusing their fellow Scots it is not unsurprising that it is still seen as a more important issue in Scotland.

  • craig Post author


    The Wikipedia article is very good (as it often is). For me the great advantage of LVT is that it is fair. The reason a house in North London is worth six times the value of a precisely identical house in Wigan is that 80% of the value of the London home is the value of the parcel of land it is built on. And the London land is that valuable because of the enormous concentration of public resources spent on developing London.

    So LVT makes landowners pay, but on the great estates it would fall much more heavily on the Duke of Westminster estate than a rural one. It would nonetheless hit the huge rural estates too. The land value of Fred’s smallholding is comparatively small. There is also no reason at all why it has to be a flat tax. It can be far higher on land on which you are not effectively resident, which should protect Fred further, and it can be progressive – the greater the value of land you own, the higher rate you pay at.

  • Phil

    “I was never involved in the enforcement of wider sanctions, which indeed I believe only came into being after I had left these duties.”

    You believe they only came into effect after you left these duties. Oh, the weasel words of politicians!

    The murderous sanctions against Iraq began at exactly the time you began your duties. That you do not know this is simply unbelievable.

    You were an enthusiastic bureaucrat for a murderous empire. As if I don’t have better things to do than read your memoirs.

  • Phil

    “Everybody else who is British and did not get off their arse apart from going to some demo’s, is as guilty of Iraq’s casualties as Craig is.”

    You do realize the Iraq war was a different matter to the sanctions I am banging on about don’t you? Anyway, let me simply point out there are degrees of complicity. Your logic of course leads to the absurd notion that Gordon Brown (the evil war criminal one) is equally complicit as you and I.

    Stop barking like an aggrieved guard dog.

  • nevermind

    Re: the announcement of more damp squid yesterday. There will be 30 billion worth of finest trout and salmon ( tax cuts) dished out to mainly those who already have enough, whilst working benefits are being targeted for more austerity cuts, etc.
    Kookie nutjob is still cutting the poor’s essentials, whilst Cable and Clegg nut, the co owners of this rusty trawler, have taken to the dinghy rowing furiously towards a dim light at the horizon.

    Re: LVT Why should developments that degenerate the diversity and ecology of a piece of land, which enables us to live of what it produces,be increasing the value of that land?

    In an overpopulated world, what should have more value clean water or clean petrol?
    I could go on, but if we never value what sustains us, so called intelligent beings, how much longer before we realise that the walls in the hole we are digging are dark black and that the bit of light at the top is far too far away to get out of it?

    Freds allotment is of higher value, he has increased bio diversity and improved the land with mineral rock aggregates, so in sustainability terms he should pay a little more than he does now.

    In a nutshell that is Green Party policy.

  • Phil

    Reluctant Observer

    Sorry I am writing these response at work and do not have time to give you a considered response. I am aware that I am in danger of loosing good points because I am rushing answers. I see some of my sentences are not even coherent. I will try to respond later.

  • nevermind

    Stop barking like an aggrieved guard dog.

    So sorry to offend your flounce Phil, I’m trained to bark at postmen and journalists and other uniformed agents of the state.

    Your logic is so compelling Phil, but sadly you are as complicit because you did bugger all apart from shouting your mouth off then, and it started with the first Gulf war, not with the sanctions. Saddam informed the US that he’s going into Kuwait, because the lowe oil price made it unable for him to make ends meet at home, his country was destroyed by the war he undertook on our behalf with Iran and he felt aggrieved abandoned and peeved.

    The US send nothing in return but a polite notice saying not very much, so he went ahead and all hell broke loose.

    Saddam failed to win, that was the first nail in his coffin, he was unable to do what the west wanted and he started to get into bed with people like Bull, he was equipped with tons of mustard gas and the US gave him VX gas, Craig’s job was to work out how much he was getting. from where and how to prevent him to get it, he was not in charge of sanctioning or the UNations arm twisting contests.

    What did you do in the 1990’s apart from blowing your non existing vuvuzela?

  • Abe Rene

    @Craig Abe Rene
    You would be wildly wrong!

    I could be wide of the mark, though I did say ‘projected’. I assume your house is worth a six-figure sum, and your forthcoming books will be so successful, that they will double it, correct?

  • craig Post author


    “My” house is worth about 400,000. The only problem is the bank owns a lot more of it than I do 🙂 A very successful non-fiction book in the UK sells about 20,000 copies. The author gets an average of not much over 1.20 a book.

  • Ba'al Zevul

    As predicted, Osborne’s only ‘solution’ to the ongoing disaster of the UK economy (it’s ‘growing’ without actually being in any sense profitable) is to pump up housing. Again. If only the plebs would buy houses, on their zero-hours contracts and desperate ‘self-employed’ half-jobs, instead of buying White Lightning and drinking it in the park…

    Trust fund cunt. I really would like to hurt him.


  • craig Post author


    I think you are wrong. I think the sanctions on Iraq were brought in by a number of progressive UN resolutions, and weapons were first, passed immediately after the invasion of Kuwait. I don’t think the regime on food and medicines were brought in till after the first war, by one or more further UN Resolutions. But that is purely from memory. Someone may have time to look up all the UN Resolutions on Iraq at that time.

    The reason I do not remember better is that in any event my own job, from August 1990 to March 1991, was purely concerned with weapons, and I was not involved in interdicting anything else. Nor was I involved in the drafting or negotiation of any of the appropriate UN resolutions, Nor did I ever see any intelligence relating to non-weapon items. My job was limited solely to preventing Iraq getting weapons. I was not aware at that time of anybody stopping Iraq getting anything else in that period.

    You are straining the limits of my tolerance of people criticising me based on things I did not do. You are quite entitled to criticise anything I actually did, but if you keep saying I did things I did not do I shall have to stop you, with genuine regret.

  • doug scorgie

    4 Dec, 2014 – 1:05 am

    [referring to the low economic activity rates for Muslim Bangladeshis and Pakistanis]

    “Poor English language skills, larger families, and a high incidence of long term ill health (both of which make a life on benefits more advantageous, and likely) aren’t of course contributory factors. Indeed, only a racist would suggest that factors other than discrimination are in play here.”

    I would be very interested, Old Mark, if you could point to data which backs-up that comment.

    Thank you in advance.

  • fred

    “Your logic is so compelling Phil, but sadly you are as complicit because you did bugger all apart from shouting your mouth off then, and it started with the first Gulf war, not with the sanctions.”

    We didn’t know about it then, this document from 1991 was still classified.


    It wasn’t till later we found out half a million Iraqi children had died and it wasn’t till after that we found it was planned, they were killed deliberately.

  • N_

    (For) the major aristocratic estates I would favour straightforward nationalisation.

    Me too.

    And good luck trying to force that policy on the SNP leadership. (You won’t succeed.)

    Did you know that in 1945 the Labour Party supported a 100% tax on land development? So should we.

    The proposal got scuppered by the civil service and the aristocracy.

    Fed up with the ultra-leftist view that Labour has always been the same as the Tories, I researched the differences between those parties, by looking at manifestos. (It’s the Labour manifestos you’ve got to look at most.) The biggest differences, from the 1940s to the 1970s, were on

    1) land – especially the problem of the huge landowners
    2) private schools

    (The land proposals got scuppered in the late 1940s. Those who want to go deeper into what went on should also look at how the Clarendon Commission on the top private schools, back in the 19th century, led to the opposite of what some reformers had hoped. A scandal was dealt with by making the underlying conditions even more deserving of scandal. That’s the British way, isn’t it? “Can I take your date of birth? It’s for data protection.” Ah, so that’s all right, then. I digress – but only a bit. The set of major reform proposals in Britain that have been scuppered is a small and very interesting one. Why? Because it starts to show who’s really in control. They don’t care about all this ‘democracy’ shit, or about reasoned argument. Look too at inheritance law and trusts and equity.)

    But when ‘people’s solutions’ to the great land estates are concerned, beware of corruption. I know of a number of rural areas in Scotland where changes involving ‘the crofters taking over the land’ have, in reality, involved anything but. What’s really happened is that a few lawyers and a few corrupt men at regional ‘enterprise’ offices have lined their pockets.

    In both England (e.g. Duchy of Devonshire estate) and Scotland (e.g. Duchy of Sutherland estate), the big landowners are very much in the saddle.

    Go to local museums in Sutherland, and you can read about how ‘many people decided to seek their fortunes abroad’ in the 19th century. What they’re talking about is the obscenity of the Highland clearances.

    Go to local museums in Derbyshire and Yorkshire, and you can read about how a modern policy of ‘mixed ownership’ has made the present so much better than the future. What they’re talking about is where Lord Muck owns 1,000,000 acres and four different other landowners own 11, 17, 3 and 2 acres each.

    Go walking on Kinder Scout, site of a mass ‘trespass’ in the the 1930s (a fine act with CP involvement – you can’t fault them in this instance for actually sticking it to the ruling class, which in so many other instances they were loath to do). You’ll see photographs of the chairman of the ‘people’s rambling association’ (or whatever it’s called) shaking hands with the big landowner, or his lackey, or some council or ‘Heritage’ official fronting for him. Their lordships must be raking in millions from public funds just to ‘allow’ the hoi polloi to walk on their land occasionally. Well fuck that! That’s not what the ‘trespassers’ of the 1930s. Whose land is it? It’s our land, that’s whose!

    So…as well as nationalisation of the great estates, a second plank of land reform is needed, namely the unrestricted right of people to build on their own land (up to say 2 acres) for their own residential purposes or the residential purposes of their immediate family. And police this properly.

    Such a reform would change the face of this country almost overnight. Among other things, it would mean that far fewer people would get into huge debt just to be able to get a roof over their heads. It would break the banks.

    It would also lead to a florescence of genuinely individual architecture. All the decent people would welcome this. (But green politicians would hate it.)

  • N_

    Oops. Typo!

    I typed

    you can read about how a modern policy of ‘mixed ownership’ has made the present so much better than the future

    What I meant to type was

    you can read about how a modern policy of ‘mixed ownership’ has made the present so much better than the past

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