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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  • Habbabkuk (la vita è bella)

    Mr Scorgie

    I hope you will be gracious enough to acknowledge the link supplied by Old Mark at your express request? 🙂

  • ------------·´`·.¸¸.¸¸.··.¸¸Node

    @ Nevermind and Jay

    I disagree with your argument against sending manned missions to Mars. Space exploration is humankind’s destiny

    A fairly hostile estimate of the budget for Orion is $3.75 (£2.4) billion/year. In the grand scheme of things, this is small beans. The US admits to a ‘defence’ budget of $640 billion/year, and you could probably safely double that if the truth were told. Blame bankers and politicians, not scientists, for the insane scale of priorities that values killing far more than healing. If Orion was cancelled tomorrow, not one more hospital would be built.

     Sure, there will be ulterior military/empire-building motives tied up with Nasa’s plans. Sure there are any number of worthy earthbound causes crying out for more funding. But forget the politics, manned space exploration truly satisfies the human psyche in a way that nothing else can.

    Humans are explorers. The stars are our destiny and our insurance policy. Robots can take us part of the way – they’re already preparing the groundwork for Mars – but sooner or later, Man has to follow. The sooner the better for me.

    Onward, to infinity and beyond.

  • Habbabkuk (la vita è bella)


    “The abuse victims have no faith in Theresa.

    Crunch Meeting As Abuse Victims Snub Inquiry
    Historical sex abuse victims say a planned inquiry will not properly investigate alleged cover-ups within the establishment.”

    I too hope that the inquiry will start soon and do a comprehensive and serious job.

    I does strike me, however, on, reading your comment, that if the victims carry on “snubbing” the inquiry and/or the Home Secretary and/or every suggested Chair, it will never do so.

    While I agree that the first two proposed Chairs were not the best who could have been chosen, surely there must be a limit somewhere to the “right of veto” that the victims can exercise in this matter?

    Indeed – and at the risk of over-stating the case – some people might start suspecting that the only Chair acceptable to the victims would be one who declares himself or herself convinced – before the inquiry even starts – that the people concerned were obviously victims of a vast, concerted Establishment cover-up involving all the people whose names are (perhaps rather casually) being thrown about at the moment.

    Just a thought.

  • Ba'al Zevul

    manned space exploration truly satisfies the human psyche in a way that nothing else can.

    Some undoubted perverts prefer sex. Whichever your inclination, romantic tosh is inevitable, though. The word ‘conquest’ is also common to both schools of thought Can I put you down as an interstellar imperialist?

  • ------------·´`·.¸¸.¸¸.··.¸¸Node

    Ba’al Zevul“Can I put you down as an interstellar imperialist?”

    It’ll take us a century minimum to get to the stars. By then, we’ll have got our act together or wiped ourselves out. I’m hoping for a future society that resembles Ian M. Banks’s Culture rather than Heinlein’s Space Troopers.

  • Ba'al Zevul

    I’m hoping for a future society that resembles Ian M. Banks’s Culture rather than Heinlein’s Space Troopers.

    On what do you base your hope? Anything tangible in our record to date? Sorry, sorry. I’m an old cynic of the deferred gratification school. Getting our act together before planning to bugger off (those of our descendants who can afford it) from the overcrowded arid wasteland we will otherwise have created by the next century looks rational to me, though I realise the hypergalactic Jeremy Clarksons currently of this world may not see it that way.

    But what we’ll actually get is the Mercatoria.

    By that time, anyway, if Hawking’s right, we’ll be subservient to a cyber-master-race which we have meanwhile unthinkingly nurtured. And with any luck it will be rational enough not to waste its resources on apocalyptic sci-fi projects. There may be hope in that direction, I grant you. For the planet*, if not for us.

    *And Microsoft.

  • Jay

    @ Node Nevermind

    One wonders which two brain cells are pushing this idiocy, for more profits to some, of which the outcome is screwing up our planet.

    Humanity compising individuals are screwing up the planet. We stop screwing up ourselves then we collectively have less screwed humanity of which should benefit the plane if we don’t turn into mindless vandals.

    Is space exploration neccesary, not judging it as a great achievement when the greatest so far is our relationship with ourselves each other and our environment.

    So a manned trip to Mars would indeed offer god like reflection on our achievements other than that off space technology.

    node travelling to Mars is ridiculous having the technology is not.

  • ------------·´`·.¸¸.¸¸.··.¸¸Node

    @ Jay.

    Any person or organisation who has control of enough $billions to finance a manned Mars mission is probably doing it for the wrong reasons. Even so, I support that mission for the reasons I gave above.

    You haven’t explained why you thing space exploration is ridiculous. You’ve said that Earth has plenty problems. I agree, but I believe most of those problems are caused deliberately by the puppet masters of this world who thrive on the needs of the masses. A world without scarcity gives them no leverage.

    Tell me why you think scrapping the Mars missions would benefit Earth.

  • Ben the Inquisitor

    ” and then camera evidence can somehow be overlooked!”

    Peacewisher; Grand Juries can only operate with the information and direction of the DA. They will indict a ham sandwich fi that’s his direction, or not.

    A lot o public support for the police because they have a hard job; (a career they’ve chosen, btw)

    Multiple manslaughters keep us safe.

  • Clark

    I’m in favour of humans exploring away from Earth. Robotic missions do great science, but there must be thousands of scientists and others who’d love to visit other planets, moons and rocks. How can you tell a geologist that she’s fundamentally wrong to wish to descend a Martian canyon, observing the strata first-hand, collecting little samples in the same way as she’s studied the strata of Earth? How can you tell meteorologists that their understanding must never be extended by experiencing the weather on other planets? How can you tell artists that no painter may ever travel close enough to paint the sulphur volcanoes of Io? It’s in our being as humans to explore. By setting off in primitive boats, humans reached every major part of this world tens of thousands of years ago. Were they wrong to explore when there were still problems to be solved at home?

  • Ba'al Zevul

    Tell me why you think scrapping the Mars missions would benefit Earth.

    For one thing, it would reduce the number of pissing contests and wasteful duplication of effort. If the US goes to Mars with people, Russia, China, India and probably N. Korea will feel they have to have a go, too. Then in this best of all possible worlds (Voltaire) they could have pissing contests about whose CO2 output falls fastest or whose quality of life, rather than standard of living, is best.

    I do admire the fluttering of the pigs as they fly by.

  • ------------·´`·.¸¸.¸¸.··.¸¸Node

    Ba’al Zevul : “On what do you base your hope?”

     As I said, it’ll be at least a century before we’re ready to think about travelling to another star. I don’t see how we can continue making technological progress for that long without sorting our society, so we won’t be able to “bugger off” until we’ve got our act together.

    Ba’al Zevul : “…if Hawking’s right, we’ll be subservient to a cyber-master-race which we have meanwhile unthinkingly nurtured.”

    An artificial intelligence singularity is a well worn theme in the SF world, but fiction can gloss over the fact that we can’t define ‘artificial intelligence’. For respectable scientists to be bandying about scare stories about concepts which they can’t even define smacks of attention-seeking. Has he got a new book to sell or something?

    And now I must get off and do some work. Later.

  • Clark

    Jay, exploring space doesn’t make people feel like gods. It makes them feel small and very vulnerable. And when they look back, Earth looks small and vulnerable too, and very, very precious.

  • Ba'al Zevul

    How can you tell a geologist that she’s fundamentally wrong to wish to descend a Martian canyon, observing the strata first-hand, collecting little samples in the same way as she’s studied the strata of Earth?

    You can tell them that it’s bloody expensive and there’s no possibility of a grant, and they’ll go and do something more immediately useful. That’s how you stop geologists on Earth, when they want to do something interesting rather than repeatedly sample drilling mud. Easy.

    Romantics. Pffft.

  • Clark

    Node, Project Orion in the 1960s examined the possibility of travelling to other (fairly nearby) stars. It’s doable with current technology.

  • Ba'al Zevul

    An artificial intelligence singularity is a well worn theme in the SF world, but fiction can gloss over the fact that we can’t define ‘artificial intelligence’.

    That’s an objection? And you a euphoric futurologist tae? I doubt the guy who invented the wheel could define circularity, either.

  • Republicofscotland

    “Some people seem to think Scotland is an oil based economy, it isn’t.”

    “It would have accounted for 13% of GDP.

    In Russia it’s 16% of GDP and they may well have to devalue their currency.

    What would Scotland have devalued?”

    Ah yes Fred the old MAY word, or might or could, Fred MAY vote SNP, Fred MAY become friends with Alex Salmond, Fred MAY join the SNP.

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

    Meanwhile back in the real world, Norway’s GDP IS based on oil revenue, to a far greater extent than Russia.

    Oh! but wait a minute Norway had the foresight sense, whatever you want to call it to create an oil fund, (unlike the useless b*stards at Westminster) exactly for times like these when oil prices are low.

    Again those greedy fat b*stards at Westminster,that unionists love so much have left the UK, in an abysmal state.

    Thanks no voters for keeping us tied to the political oinkers at Westminster, take a bow.

  • Clark

    Ba’al Zevul, 1:59 pm; cheer up! You can get a jaundiced view of human nature by watching Blair too closely. Tangibles: millions of people protested against the 2003 attack upon Iraq. Ten million people saw the sense in voting for electoral change in the UK. 45% of Scottish voters wanted to be free of Westminster’s decisions. Human nature is really pretty good, much better than you’d guess from the behaviour of powerful entities.

    Anyway, imperialism is untenable across relativistic distances, though obviously that doesn’t help within our solar system.

  • Jay

    @ Node

    Necessary on uniting man and earth before man and space.

    Are we the keepers of the earth? Going off this planet may well do us more harm.
    Let’s focus on the double glazing front garden and being self sufficient.

  • ------------·´`·.¸¸.¸¸.··.¸¸Node

    Turns out it’s Thursday not Friday, and I have an hour not a day to get ready to leave for the weekend. Out of all your questions, I choose to answer this one:
    “If you were on earth now by yourself would you to go to Mars presently?”
    If I could be convinced that I had at least a 50:50 chance of getting there and surviving for a year, yes.

  • fred

    “Meanwhile back in the real world,”

    In the real world the pound is doing just fine, up against the euro and the dollar.

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

    Brent crude $68 a barrel. That is the real world.

  • Republicofscotland

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

    Provide evidence please.

    NHS Scotland had an operating budget of £11.9 billion in 2012–13, up from £11.35 billion during 2010-11. Health and social care are devolved issues in the United Kingdom and the separate public healthcare bodies of Scotland, England and Wales are each commonly referred to as “National Health Service”.

    The latest Government figures on Scotland’s economy contain billions in service charges for activities in the rest of the UK. As pointed out by Douglas Fraser, BBC Scotland Business and Economy Editor, this raises a challenge over measuring Scotland’s economy.

    Despite claiming to present Scotland’s financial position, the Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland figures include higher costs for defence, debt and administrative services that should not apply to Scotland.

    The extra costs for services in the rest of the UK make Scotland’s finances appear worse than they actually are by billions of pounds every year. In the last 5 years these sectors cost Scotland £35 billion; yet Scotland did not receive or need £35 billion in services. Only in an independent Scotland will Scotland have full control over its own financial decisions and spending.

    Are you starting to get the picture yet Fred, that’s £35 Billion quid alone saved, need more evidence okay.

    Business for Scotland previously highlighted that Westminster has cost Scotland £64 billion in unnecessary debt interest costs. Today’s figures subtracted another £4.02 billion from Scotland’s accounts due to Westminster’s debts.

    Still not convinced? here’s more

    In the last 5 years Scotland has paid £17.067 billion to service Westminster’s debt. The UK’s failed economic model has dragged Scotland down. As a recent report by the Reid Foundation explained, political decisions have benefited London and the South East at the expense of the rest of the UK. Scotland’s accounts pay the price for this in debt interest.

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