Summarising our whole system shift for a new economy

Designing a new economy has major challenges politically. We want two major changes that actually aren't politically realistic in the current world where eight individuals own as much wealth as the poorest 50%. There is too much concentrated power.

If we want monetary reform it is unavailable at national level because there are simply too many bank lobbyists in the world's capitals who are spending far too much for any public interest lobbyists to match. Then again, if we want to replace

Then again, if we want to replace income tax with land tax, forget it. Not a goer either from a practical political viewpoint. No self respecting politician will touch it if taxing land reduces its market value and threatens a politician's votes.

What about getting a Basic Income and replacing the intrusive welfare system? Well that depends on how you would fund it. The problem is most of the current solutions are a drag on the economy. You must not fund it from GST which is regressive or from income tax which is a drag on the economy.You must fund it by sharing the rent on land and other monopolies.

Well where do we go then? You have painted a dismal picture.

Most respond by saying "Oh well bring A or B in gradually". That takes ages and moreover when A is implemented it affects B and C. So the idea of just imposing a 1% land tax and bringing it up gradually is quite impractical. We have to think in terms of whole systems. It is a whole system shift we need. Redesign the political economy from scratch.

The fact of the matter is that we must be politically savvy to come up with a solution. Many economists might agree that land tax is the most logical tax, but unless they are standing for office, they don't have to face the public. It is one thing to be an economist and another to be a politician. Victoria University's 2010 Tax Working Group which was stacked with economists from many government departments as well as consultants and academics, proposed a land tax. Did the government listen? Not that I can recall. I don't remember their recommendations on land tax being discussed in the public arena for more than a day.

What about Positive Money and all its followers saying that money should be spent into existence not lent into existence? They make a very good case, you can't fault it. And yes, the British Parliament took it seriously enough to have a parliamentary debate. But do you believe it will go further? You only have to read Nomi Prins book 'All the Presidents Bankers' to get an idea how close presidents have been to the big bankers for over a century. Hilary Clinton's campaign was funded by investment bankers and Trump has six Goldman Sachs bankers in his cabinet. He has already moved to get rid of the weak regulations they now have.

When considering the political feasibility of putting in the idea of Michael Kumhof and Jaromir Benes' Chicago Plan Revisited, a plan making bank debt illegal, Lietaer, Arnsperger, Goerner and Brunnhuber listed five reasons for not recommending it.[1]
"1.Replacing a monoculture with a monoculture is not the way to generate diversity in exchange media.
2. While it is true that a Chicago Plan reform would eliminate risk of widespread banking crashes and of sovereign debt crises, there would still be monetary crises.
3. If governments were the only ones in charge of creating money there might be a risk of inflation. Such a risk is real and demonstrated in 2009 by the hyperinflation crippling the Zimbabwean dollar after President Mugabe instructed the central bank to print its currency by the trillions.
4. The fourth reason can be summarised as ‘political realism’. Any version of the Chicago Plan will be fought to the death by the banking systems because it threatens both its power base and its business model. Even after the excesses triggering the 2007-8 collapse, or in the middle of the Great Depression of the 1930s, the banking lobby managed to deflect the implementation of any significant changes. In 2010, for every elected official in Washington, there were three high-level lobbyists working full-time for the banking system. The financial services industry including real estate spent $2.3 billion on Federal campaign contributions from 1990 to 2010, which was more than health care, energy, defence, agriculture and transportation industries combined." (In USA, according to Gar Alperovitz, in 2010-11 the FIRE section (finance, insurance, real estate) section spent nearly $1 billion in lobbying against bank regulation.)

"5. The final argument is about risk. Nationalising the money creation process cannot be done on a small pilot scale. It must be implemented on a massive, national scale or, in the case of the euro, a multinational scale. Any change always involves the risk of unintended consequences. Logically, large scale change involves greater risk."

Yes, there is a way to go. The ideas came from the permaculture teachers in our new economics movement. Reform the very structure of governance to give quite substantial powers to  local government, turn governance upside down as well and then we might have a chance. The centralised governance structure must be replaced with distributed governance. Then we need to rethink the powers given to or claimed by local governance. In fact central government is not going to give very local government big powers like money creation, land ownership or revenue raising power, so they have to claim it themselves. This is where rebellion must be focussed. 

So we have proposed spending money into existence at the very lowest level of government (in New Zealand that would be the Community Board). That money will gradually buy up land. The Community Board would then receive land rent from the property holder and pay the rates (local taxes) of that property holder. This process happens gradually, while closely monitoring inflation. If there is a sign of inflation, the rate of decay of money can be adjusted or the money spent at a higher level of governance.

So the Community Board claims the right to issue money, to buy land with that money, to receive public revenue. It could also impose certain resource rents to be determined.

With the growing revenue from land rent the Board would be able to distribute regular Citizens Dividends and build and maintain essential infrastructure.

There would have to be participatory budgeting so that the balance between infrastructure and dividends was maintained and the public was behind the Board.

Now if we are going to reclaim the right to issue money, we might as well design it properly while we have the chance. It is there we look to history and read Bernard Lietaer. He cites a period of 2000 years of a decaying Egyptian currency which had huge social, educational and economic benefits, 200 years of European currencies in the central middle ages that resulted in an age of prosperity, equality, high education and more leisure and finally a period in 1932-3 in a small Austrian town during the Great Depression. Each of these had a decaying currency, much as goods decay.

So the new money would be designed to decay. In practical terms, it would keep its face value but attract a regular payment to keep it valid. The local Board would develop a more equal relationship with its local Council who would inevitably end up accepting the new currency for rates. This would eventually pass on to central government who would have to accept it for taxes.

So what we propose is a new currency that soon is accepted by central government for taxes. This means it is a new national currency. They way this works out is that each local board keeps its currency from inflation so all are on a par. They flow into a stream that flows into a river towards central government.

Green Capitalism The God that Failed

Richard Smith, an economic historian, has written an amazing article which I have only just discovered, (thanks to the wonderful people on our Facebook group).

He comprehensively dismisses green capitalism, as recommended by people like Paul Hawken and Amory Lovins. He says green growth is a completely blind alley, a God that failed. You can't shop your way to sustainability.

He describes scary scenarios for a four degrees global warming, notes the lack of progress on reducing emissions over two decades and concludes that there is something wrong with capitalism itself. "From Kyoto to Cancun, governments have all made it abundantly clear that they will not sacrifice growth today to save the planet tomorrow."

Cap and trade usually gets watered down. This is because there is such a huge range of occupations that negatively affected by it that the lobby opposing it is too broad and too powerful. The theory was nice. The cap was supposed to come down over time, but industry lobbyists in Germany badgered the government for higher caps and special exemptions of all sorts. "They warned of unemployment, threatened to pack up and leave Germany and so on.  In the end governments caved." So in the market solution – cap and trade – profits ended up with the polluters and traders.  He says even carbon taxes when implemented can never be set at high enough levels to make a difference. And it makes no difference if it is revenue neutral or not.

Smith writes,"But the problem is not just special interests, lobbyists and corruption. And courageous political leaders could not turn the situation around. Because that's not the problem. The problem is capitalism.....There is no way to cut CO2 emissions by anything like 90 percent without imposing drastic cuts across the board in industrial production. Because we live under capitalism, not socialism, no one is promising new jobs to all those coal miners, oil drillers, gas frackers, power plant operators, farmers and fertilizer manufacturers, loggers and builders, auto builders, truck drivers, airplane builders, airline pilots and crews and countless other occupations whose jobs would be at risk if fossil fuel use were really seriously curtailed."

This book reminded me of Naomi Klein's This Changes Everything in that it clearly states the problem is capitalism.

The article was written two years ago. During the last eighteen months the price of oil has declined 70% and now hundreds of thousands of oil workers have lost their jobs. Soup kitchens in Aberdeen are feeding former oil workers and tens of thousands of jobs continue to be lost in Alberta and North Dakota and Texas alone. In Nigeria 120,000 jobs have been lost. This month the New York Times put the global figure at 250,000 jobs lost. Meanwhile, and connected with this, the global economy is under severe threat of a complete meltdown, and central banks clamber to find yet another way to calm the markets, always by injecting more debt into the system.

So what answers does Smith come up with? He offers eco-socialism. A quick look at their website indicates they would nationalise the fossil fuel industry and the industries that are heavily based on them which means the auto industry, aircraft and airlines, petrochemicals, and so on.

So while it is wonderful to see Richard Smith facing the political realities of climate change, overconsumption, waste and pollution, there is another step or two he could take. He could ask, "And is there something structurally in the system that has demanded this incessant growth? Is growth written into the system? Which system? And if so can that be reformed?" Now Richard Smith may know this. I wonder if he also knows you have to transform the land tenure system if you change the money system, since the first reform demands the second. When you know about the money system you often wish you didn't – that you could put the genie back in the bottle, so to speak. The corporates, as TPP has shown us, are more powerful than ever before in history and that changes the political landscape and our strategies. Few centralised solutions are now politically possible.

In our movement we have been struggling for over four years to work out some politically viable solution to our massive global problems. Maybe nationalising all these industries doesn't get to the bottom of the problem. We need elegant, more lasting solutions.

Anyway his article is superb as far as it goes. He also has a book of that name.
http://www.worldeconomicsassociation.org/downloads/green-capitalism-the-god-that-failed/ is the e-book

And here’s a review of the book: http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/31959-book-review-green-capitalism-the-god-that-failed

Tax reform or monetary reform? Which is most important?

The meshing together of Georgism with monetary reform remains a challenge, especially for ardent individuals who claim their cause to be the most critical. I have heard monetary reformers say Georgism is irrelevant and I have even heard a Georgist describe monetary reform as "heresy" and declare it must be "exorcised" at all costs. Then there are the moderates who say Georgism is more important than monetary reform but willingly acknowledge monetary reform is needed. Critics come in many varieties. Regrettably there is a tendency for advocates from both sides tend to promise a growing list of wonderful results from their reform. Maybe Henry George School people only see landlords as “the enemy,” and to mention money, credit and bankers confuses them. Do we see people on both sides arguing that the others should just get off their territory?

Recently I heard a Georgist argue that if you transfer land into community ownership then the money issue disappears.

So let's tease this one out. To some extent he is right, but he misses several vital factors. For instance he doesn't appear to understand the growth imperative will still be present, so he needs to work out where the excess money will go, and follow the results to their logical conclusion.

Take the important book Money and Sustainability, The Missing Link, a Club of Rome Report by Bernard Lietaer, Christian Arnsperger, Sally Goerner and Stefan Brunnhuber. The authors say there are five results of creating money as interest-bearing debt – amplification of boom and bust cycles, short-term thinking, compulsory growth, and devaluation of social capital where selfish behaviour replaces co-operative behaviour.

Or take another example of monetary reformers overpromising. While we can't tell if she actually believes it herself or not, monetary reformer Amanda Vickers lists their extravagant promises. She writes in the Otaki Mail, "Sovereign money advocates extrapolate further that the outcome would also be far-reaching throughout our economy and our lives. They say it could also improve: the inequality gap, child poverty, housing bubble control, student debt, state asset sales, job security, local businesses performance (due to the 10% higher output gains), budgets for local community projects and facilities, health care and education."

Positive Money in their little video says money is created every time someone takes out a mortgage. The money doesn't come from someone else's saving but is new money just created. The bank enters your debt as an asset on their accounts then enters the same amount in the liabilities column of their books, your deposit. The entire money supply is on loan from the banking system. When they charge interest on this money creation £200 billion a year is transferred from the public to the financial sector every year in UK. Since money is created as interest-bearing debt, if we all pay off our debts the current economic system would collapse. There would be no money in the system.The debt can never be repaid. The money creating power needs to be transferred to some democratically accountable body and spent into existence instead. He mentioned it has been pumped into property bubbles and financial markets.

They claim it would reduce inflation and that you would also be able to move towards a low carbon society this way.

dscn1459So what I take out of this is that Positive Money people, by not addressing tax reform, may think that if you create money by spending it into existence you will avoid rising land prices. By creating a monetary authority to control inflation they give their new monetary authority magic power to stop money going into a land bubble. It simpley wouldn't happen this way.

So let's go back to the Georgist's claim that when you have land in community ownership the money issue disappears. Not so. If you continue to create money as interest bearing debt, then money still moves from the public to the financial sector. Though there is always the personal desire to pay off your debt the money supply would disappear if everyone did this. Moreover, there is always the mathematical imperative for the money supply to grow in order to pay off the debt with interest. That is what we don't want on a finite planet.

It is true that when there is either no cost or little cost on the holding of land AND money is created without interest or with low interest, you get money pouring into land inflation. Anyone who has paid a mortgage knows that when interest rates decline, there is what they call a housing bubble (it is really a land price bubble). This is undesirable. And if you take land out of the market entirely money won't go into a land bubble, but it will go into some other form of monopoly.

When Karl Fitzgerald of Prosper Australia did his 2013 study Total Resource Rents of Australia, he subtitled it "Harnessing the Power of Monopoly." The list includes Land Residential, Land Commercial, Land rural, Land other, Subsoil Minerals, Oil and Gas, Water Rights, Taxi Licences, Airports, Utilities, Fishing, Forestry, Gambling, EMS, Satellite Orbit Rights, Internet Infrastructure, Domain Name Registration licence, Banking Licences, Corporate Commons Fee, Patents, Parking fees, Public Transport, Liquor Licences, Vehicle Rego Licences, Sin Taxes on Tobacco and Alcohol, Carbon Taxes, Non Tax Revenue (sale of goods). That's quite a list of the things you can claim a monopoly right on. "Land" in its widest sense is actually a list this long and longer.

So if we just deal to land by taking it out of the marketplace, you just put your money into monopolising another part of the commons. You could buy a much desired personalised number plate. The plate "F1" fetched £14 m and the number plate with the number 1 was bought by an Emirati businessman for £7.25m in 2008. Perhaps you could buy a domain name? Sex.com sold in Nov 2014 for $10m and insurance.com in 2010 for $35.6m.

Or the extra money could go into the financial sector including securities, commodities, venture capital, private equity, hedge funds, trusts, and other investment activities like investment banking). Nothing productive here. Yale economics professor Robert Schiller says, "The classic example of rent-seeking is that of a feudal lord who installs a chain across a river that flows through his land and then hires a collector to charge passing boats a fee (or rent of the section of the river for a few minutes) to lower the chain. There is nothing productive about the chain or the collector. The lord has made no improvements to the river and is helping nobody in any way, directly or indirectly, except himself. All he is doing is finding a way to make money from something that used to be free. If enough lords along the river follow suit, its use may be severely curtailed." Yet that is where a lot of money and activity is going.

In June 2015 the Guardian reported that "Adair Turner, the former chair of the Financial Services Authority, gave a memorable critique of the UK financial services industry in the wake of the credit crisis when he said that some of the activities carried out by the City’s finance firms were “socially useless”."

There are many places where the excess money can go if there is tax reform but no monetary reform. We haven't even touched on fishing quotas, art investments, oil and gas, utilities, or forestry. Leaving the growth imperative firmly in place by leaving money created as interest bearing debt will invite trouble and plenty of it.

However there is no doubt that land price inflation would disappear if all land was owned communally and leased from a public entity instead. While the boom-bust cycles would exist for other parts of the commons that remain in the market place, these cycles would no longer be present for land prices.

As Professor Michael Hudson explains "In a nutshell,land rent today is paid out as mortgage interest. Ditto for oil and gas, and monopolies.In terms of reform, financial and tax reform must go together. What is not taxed will be capitalized into bank loans. That’s the basic message."

In one of Michael Hudson's papers he quotes from Tolstoy when discussing the issue with Henry George. "The land cultivator in a bad year, not being able to pay the rent exacted from him by force, would have to enslave himself to the man with money in order to keep his land and not lose everything."
225px-C_H_Douglash-g

Why we need to solve wicked problems using systems thinking

Do we solve the big political problems one by one or as a whole system? We say as a whole system.You can't do it one by one.

In a system where everything affects everything else, if you change one element it has an effect on at least one other element and sets off a chain of responses.

We have assumed there is a need to change the tax system, the money system, the welfare system and the governance system. What happens if we don’t tackle it as a whole system?

Let’s just change the tax system. The result of taking off the deadweight taxes like income tax, GST and company tax and changing to charging a rent on the monopoly use of natural resources only, we still get an increased systemic pressure from the money system for growth. The result is continuing growth of private debt at interest. The banks become more powerful than ever.

If we change the money system but don’t tackle the tax and welfare system we get huge land and resource inflation resulting in inequality and booms and busts.

If we change two of them e.g. the tax and welfare system the result is more equality but still the growth of interest bearing debt.

Change all of these but not the governance system and the result is an equal but increasingly dissatisfied population. They are disenfranchised and don’t trust the government. Democracy deteriorates.

Everything in the political economic system affects everything else.

So we to change them all together by obeying Buckminster Fuller’s warning that “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”

The new model that makes the existing model obsolete is this: Money is created at the smallest possible level of government by spending it into existence, not lending it into existence with interest. The rules governing the trade in that currency are made locally to turn the tax system on its head. The rules of rent are decided at local level to share the values of location of land and of monopoly resource use. A small Citizens Dividend growing to a full Basic Income is distributed. Power, function and revenue flow from the periphery to other centres to create a new system – a complex, dynamic and self regulating political economy.DSCF0029

Why not create a national currency at local level?

upmapOver a period of two years or more we have proposed:

1. A second national currency. The currency to be issued by Treasury, spent into existence to buy land. The new currency will have no other taxes than land rents, natural resource rents and taxes on bads. We aim to move to a tax system that taxes the monopoly use of the commons rather than labour and sales. Some revenue will be distributed as a Citizens Dividend to all citizens who have lived there for a year or more, the rest will be shared by all levels of government. We advocate a Land Rental Index to be set up in each area, with land rents being adjusted annually according to the index. Land rentals are relatively very stable over time. It is only when there is a major event like and earthquake that they decline or when a railway is put in or a labour intensive business arrives that they rise more than just a tiny bit. The new money would be good for the payment of rates and taxes. No further rates would be payable.

2. We have occasionally advocated a Christchurch currency and an Auckland currency created by spending it into existence to buy land. This would require complete cooperation from the central government as legislation would be needed to make it free of income tax, GST and company tax as before. Rents would be shared as a small Citizens Dividend. The rest would be shared with central government. So a similar design but a city currency as well as a national one.

3. Then very recently we went a step further and suggested that Local Boards (the Auckland supercity calls them this and there are 21 Local Boards as shown on graphic) create the currency, spend it into existence to buy land. A monetary authority will have to be set up to ensure there is no inflation. Revenue from land rents and some natural resource rents can be gathered by Local Boards and first distributed to the local citizens then the rest used at local board level and then sent up the line to supercity and to central government. Supercities would have power to impose taxes on water pollution e.g. leaching of nitrates that uses the commons of the aquifers and rivers. (and to tax the use of water for commercial purposes.)

This option 3 would require several currencies to co-exist. The usual NZ dollar, the new NZ dollar, the supercity dollar and the Local Board dollar. We had considerable difficulties and confusion when discussing exchangeability of currencies.

images

4. Option 4 arrived a couple of days after I spoke to a meeting at a Motueka ecovillage in response to the questions and problems. This one is simpler and is like the formation of a river from the small streams to the river to the sea. Create the new national currency at Local Board level and pass it up the line. Local Boards would set up a Land Committee to decide which land should be bought first. Each local board might decide differently in consultation with its community. Every decision has the right to be vetoed by the local hapu or iwi and where applicable the Maori Land Court should be involved. You would also need a local committee (perhaps the same one) to administer a Land Rental Index or where appropriate because of different desirabilities of sites e.g. Wellington hill suburbs for sun. You would also need a local Monetary Authority to monitor inflation. It would work closely with the Supercity Monetary Authority and the Treasury Monetary Authority to ensure there is no inflation and that no local board would issue too much or too little new money. These are such important entities that they would have to be voted in.

There are so many issues to comment on here, it would be really good to have a general discussion. Then we can perhaps divide up the discussions. Option 4 finally gives real powers to the local economy, which is in line with our policy. The land board may, after consultation with the local community, choose a local business which needs capital, or choose undeveloped land owned by absentee speculators or the local iwi may have very strong preferences.

For instance, if the local committee chose five sections each valued at $200,000 it would create $1m of national currency. If the committee chose to purchase the land of a speculator, that speculator, seeing no future, might sell the lease and thus release the land for genuine use. Many with mortgages will want their mortgage reduced and, because the new currency is legal tender, the bank would have to accept it for paying off a mortgage. Or the committee may be persuaded that a local business needed capital to employ local labour and grow. A community land trust might ask for their land to be bought so they can take land out of the market. This would enable them to sell houses to younger people to join their village, as otherwise the cost would be unaffordable. They could then use the considerable injection of capital to develop their labour intensive businesses and the ones that use local materials.

Then the monetary authority, in conjunction with the monetary authorities of the supercities and the government would make sure the local board did not issue more money than it was allowed, as inflation must be kept strictly under control.images-1There could be problems with certain rogue local boards. Either they issued too much money and wouldn’t cooperate with the monetary authorities elsewhere, or their leadership was questionable. In that case there should be provision in law to instal a Commissioner until the Board's administration improved.

In models 1-3 we have designed in a circulation incentive in the form of a dated currency. However perhaps in model 4, since all money flows downstream from local to central, there may be no need of this.

My questions are (and you will raise plenty too):
  1. Exchangeability with the national currency NZ dollar? We had it as they are issued at par and redeemed at par and in between the value changes according to the market. Some have argued there should be no exchangeability with the old national currency.


  2. Will the creation of a second national currency at local board level stimulate the local economy?


  3. How does this all line up with the Maori Land Trust boards and Incorporations situation?


  4. How would the public be protected from local board that go rogue and how would the wider public ensure that local boards representatives can deal with this level of responsibility?


Now there is one more thing that comes before any of this. Councils and Government should never sell land. The idea of the government buying up the land in the Green Frame and then selling it off into private hands is unacceptable. They should keep it and auction the leases to the highest bidder, then share that revenue with the public (via a Citizens Dividend) and the central government. This should be entrenched in law somehow. Meanwhile a private bidder Auckland City Council has been offered $75,000,000 for a council car park. What a dreadful thing that would be if the council sold off this prime city land for cars to park and for a private enterprise to gain, both in car parking, and in capital gain. As they said in a The Nation programme on TV3, they are developing around traffic hubs. Of course. That means the public pays for the transport infrastructure and private land "owners" benefit from rising land values. Not fair, all wrong. Let logic prevail!

Reservations about Crown Leasehold Land. There are many who will have reservations about the government or the local board buying up their land. The alternative we used to have was that the Government pays you for your land, and the title of your property then bears a covenant, an obligation to pay a ground rent from then on, whoever owns the land. While it is more difficult to explain to the public, a covenant of this nature would give much more peace of mind when it comes to secure tenure of the land. "Leasehold title" has such a bad reputation that it is difficult to explain there are no sudden rent rises if the rent is linked to an index and that the tenure is for a lifetime, with rights that your descendants can get the next lease. No matter how much this is explained it may be better to have a covenant.

Land and money issues must be solved together

In a forum on Land Value Tax on Facebook one member says "Full LVT and CD of the surplus will fix almost all monetary problems".

No so. While money continues to be created as interest bearing debt by private banks, there will be more debt in the system than there is money. Banks create the principal but not the interest, so everyone has to compete to earn the interest they must pay. This leads to competitive behaviour, and some will lose out and go further into debt, widening the gap between rich and poor. No, banks can no longer be permitted by society to create our means of exchange as interest bearing debt. Money should be created by the people who use it, by society itself and it should never, never be created as interest bearing debt. Besides if you leave money creation to banks, they will continue to create the bulk of it as mortgages on property. They will continue to have land as their security. Society at large should have this land as security backing their currency.

And just as you can't just solve the land problem by imposing a full rental on the site value, you can't solve the money problem without addressing the land problem. Most pressure groups and political parties who advocate monetary reform alone will recommend spending money into existence by government for the building of infrastructure. But when roads and railways are built without a full location fee on land, the price of land will rise. This increased land value is privately captured by the property owner and also by the banks who earn interest on higher and higher mortgage loans.

Land tenure and monetary reform must be implemented together. Tweak one of them only and all you have done is skew the system.

Here is a 42 minute radio interview of Deirdre Kent with Karl Fitzgerald of Earthsharing Australia for the website Renegade Economist. When asked by Karl at one stage of the interview why they should go together, I missed answering one part. http://www.3cr.org.au/economists/podcast/renegade-economists-09102013

Slideshow on the Post Fossil Fuel Economy – Jobs, leisure and innovation

The new slideshow is at http://www.slideshare.net/deirdrekent/steady-state-economy-jobs-for-a-postgrowth-economy. It addresses many of the questions our members have been asking and hopefully makes it easier to understand. There are presenter notes with most slides.