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Journal Journal: Not Voting is a Valid Option 11

I write this because so many have said that if you don't vote, you have no right to complain. I agree that people should make the effort, but spoiling your ballot is an entirely reasonable thing to do.

The reason why is to some extent game-theoretical, although it is hard to make the argument rigorous. Essentially, a priori, one "should" have an equal probability of voting for any given candidate. The effect of this is that in a (say) five candidate election, apart from one's choice getting elected, you can also pass on a message of how to win your vote next time.

Assuming that your choice doesn't get in, this means that you can pass on one of four messages. If these choices are a priori equiprobable, the information transmitted is as much as you'll be able to transmit most of the time, given that you're a typical voter. However, it is possible to transmit still more information if not voting is an option. What's more, a vote for a candidate carries still more meaning if not voting is an option, so that spoiling your ballot should be a priori as probable as voting for any one of the candidates.

Since not voting carries clear voter intent, you have as much right to complain about the government as any voter.

The Almighty Buck

Journal Journal: A Friend's Georgist Economic Speech

A friend a mine, Adrian Wrigley, recently gave a talk that I think folks on Slashdot would find interesting. I also wish to increase his exposure and that of the ideas that he is pulmigating.

Taxation, Housing and Social Mobility

presentation for Fringe meeting, Liberal Democrat Conference, September 2008, Bournemouth.

Dr. Adrian Wrigley

Today I'm going to talk about some ideas we've been thinking about up in Cambridge. We've called these ideas "Systemic Fiscal Reform", or SFR for short. It's our name for a mixture of existing concepts and their application to contemporary problems. I'm going to give you a flavour of these ideas, particularly in relation to housing and the Credit Crunch, poverty and social mobility.

So what is the system that our systemic reform speaks of? It is the current system of taxation, welfare, money and land. It is in fact the capitalist system! It is a system that has arisen by the use of conquest, revolution, force and finally the so called "democracy" of today. It is a complex system of interacting components and flows of money, value and power. In spite of its many strengths, the flaws of modern capitalism are becoming increasingly apparent. We believe the reforms we propose will strengthen the existing system while overcoming its problems.

And we find the necessary reform delivers little short of the emancipation of the people and of the planet. For without such reform, we are condemned to the immorality not only of financial slavery and economic instability, but environmental catastrophe. At the heart of this reform is a new relationship between money, the state and the people - the Fiscal System of tax, benefits and money creation.

The current tax and welfare system is a complete mess. It's not efficient. It's not fair. It's barely comprehensible and certainly not simple. It fosters tax avoidance and cheating. And sadly, the Liberal Democrats' response is to accept it broadly as it is, just like the conservative parties.

The whole group of taxes which focus on economic transactions, such as trade of labour, goods, houses or shares, including gifts, inheritance and profits, I will call Transaction Taxes or TransTaxes. Just like trans fats, the TransTaxes are wholly bad for you. There is no minimum requirement of TransTaxes for a healthy society. So what kind of tax isn't a TransTax? A levy on digging up fossil fuels or dumping waste. A tax on land ownership or radio spectrum allocations. A charge for access to the roads, rails or runways - even the poll tax and TV license are not TransTaxes.

What is it about TransTaxes that makes them so bad? We start from the basis that transactions are fundamentally good! We don't want to block them! Transactions in the general sense are key to improving human welfare. And the TransTaxes gum up the very arteries of the economy. They are "welfare negative". In economics terms, they have a deadweight cost - a pure waste of economic resources and potential. But it goes deeper than that.

TransTaxes have become complex and expensive because people are devious and their transactions are complex. People become companies, partnerships, charities, or non-doms. Transactions are masked, hidden or restructured for the tax-man. Transactions are extremely numerous, and virtually every one of them now is covered in two or three layers of corrosive TransTaxes.

Under the current TransTax system, the benefits of effective government are delivered on a plate to the landed few. It's no wonder then that ordinary voters have lost interest in politics! They can plainly see their taxes channelled away for the benefit of others and rightly conclude that their interests are being ignored. The tax system is at the heart of the democratic deficit.

So if TransTaxes are so bad, why are there so many of them? Paradoxically, the answer is that there are so many because they work so badly! You simply cannot collect enough from any one of them to fund modern government. In the current economy, VAT, for example would have to be about 120% in order to supply all the funds. Corporation Tax would have to be 300%. Income Tax would have to be nearly quadrupled! The main transaction taxes are now working flat-out as they are. The greater the TransTaxes, the greater is the loss to society.

Income Tax and Means Tests are the statist solution to raising revenue and poverty protection. They are cumbersome, bureaucratic, highly intrusive. But most of all, they place the self-interest of the government machine above the interests of the people. It becomes clear why government policy is so work-obsessed. It is because their income is derived from the wages paid and price of goods consumed - and it is lost through benefits paid. And government has become oblivious to the value in the economy.

Now it seems people are resigned to having an intrusive system. They have become compliant in the face of a wall of regulatory changes. As politicians and the public see the symptoms of the TransTax disease, they demand state remedies. Farm subsidies to ensure a Basic Income for farmers. Transport subsidies to address underinvestment. And housing subsidies to address high house prices. We end up with public acquiescence to a system spiralling out of control.

We have been duped into thinking this is the only way. That taxes on work, creativity and success are not only fair and efficient but necessary. And means-tests on pensioners and the unemployed create the right incentives to save and to work. But standing back a few moments it becomes obvious we have become brainwashed by rhetoric without substance.

The task of managing this hideous beast has become a major focus of political debate. Those mandarins in The Treasury know that it has become a futile task of fire-fighting the flux of fixes to a failing system.

And widespread use of Transaction Taxes is necessary for efficient implementation of a totalitarian state. By abolishing these taxes, the shift to totalitarianism can be stalled.

Corporate power is granted by the government through the controls and inefficiencies of the tax system. The tax system imposes a heavy penalty on small business, self-reliance and entrepreneurship.

I suggest that the transaction taxes have become so complex, divisive and problematic, that they have enveloped almost the entirety of political debate and legislative time, pushing out the simple, effective solutions. In effect, we are simply chasing our tails trying to solve problems of our own creation.

We should leave the Statists in Labour and the Tories to fight over 10p tax bands and stamp duty holidays. What is at stake here is much more important. The long term solution has to be to rid the world of TransTaxes altogether.

So what is Systemic Fiscal Reform? It is a programme of abolishing TransTaxes one by one and replacing them with a system of charges for consumption of government services, and the collection of unearned scarcity rents. It replaces means-tested and conditional welfare payments with a universal Citizens' Income. And it restores the role of the state as the exclusive issuer of the currency - removing the ability of banks to create new money.

The biggest scarcity rents are those of land and of fossil fuels. Both are essential for modern life, both already command high prices. The land scarcity rent is collected as a Land Value Tax - hence my appearance today at ALTER. And the fossil fuel scarcity rent is collected as a Carbon Tax on importation and mining of coal, oil and gas.

Europe desperately needs the Carbon Tax - VAT however is needed like a hole in the ozone. layer Surely in this time of global emergency a swap can be achieved?

And what of the user charges? In the case where the state is taking care of you - such as in a prison, care home or school, part of the cost of the care is charged to your Citizens' Income. In the case of access to road space, a fuel duty or toll is charged.

There is a historical issue here for us LibDems. Why did the party drop the policy of a Citizens' Income? Because you cannot begin to deliver such a policy with a hopelessly inefficient tax system. You simply cannot collect enough transaction taxes to pay out a credible Citizens' Income. By failing on tax reform, we had to ditch the Citizen's Income. Lord Russell was right to call for the parties old Citizen's Income policy to be dropped, but failed to provide a viable alternative.

It is surprisingly expensive to collect tax from one group of people, and hand it out to another group of people. Both groups are seen squirming to play the system, either to under-pay, or over-collect. Effectively, the costs of the two activities are compounded. Is it not so much better simply to cancel out benefits and pensions with any tax liability and settle the difference?

So where does housing fit in? The first and most important thing to understand is that there is no housing shortage in this country. None whatsoever. Access to housing has been squeezed out by the speculative aspirations of the wealthy. You can tell when you have a housing shortage because the average occupancy rises sharply. It has done the exact opposite. Home rents would have surged too. They haven't.

Land is now the biggest tax haven of all. Consistently, British governments have pursued the perverse policy of pumping the price of houses! What more could you do if you wanted to boost poverty and widen inequality? If that was the aim, Britain has been exceptionally successful. The wealth gap has widened, not only under Conservative governments, but under the Labour which asserts addressing inequality is a priority! And now that wealth gap is matched by a corresponding health gap. Did our leaders sleep through their economics classes? For the politicians today clearly fail to grasp even the basics of Political Economics.

The pumping of house prices is from two sides. First they have strengthened land's role as our local tax haven. Secondly and more subtly, they work with the banks who are the beneficiaries of the money they create to buy the houses. The banking subsidy alone is worth in excess of £70bn/annum in the UK. The housing crisis and credit crunch are a predictable result of little more than a giant money laundering scheme for banks creating new money passing through the property market to the wealthy. If any sector deserves windfall tax, it is the banks.

There is a long tradition of supporting Land Value Tax in the Liberal Party since Churchill in the 1900s and before. Such support however is not confined to the Liberals - The Fabian Society is founded with Land Value Taxation at its core - a fact that seems to be very poorly understood by its current members. Labour was right to drop Clause 4 and the common ownership of the means to production, but wrong to leave a philosophical vacuum in its place. Had the membership read Henry George's Progress and Poverty, I have little doubt that Labour would have adopted a Georgist constitution.

Until you understand the key relationships in the economy - that government spending in general delivers tax-free income and windfall gains for landowners, you will not grasp the profound significance of the Land Value Tax. Every time the tax on workers is spent on improving transport links, schools or hospitals, it is like a shot in the arm for the land and homeowner. Progressiveness of the tax system is largely a smokescreen! Poverty is caused by the regressiveness of the spending system and the perverse effects of targeted welfare.

Society must recognise that we are not discussing a fringe issue like drugs policy or even a major issue like education. We are discussing the central issue in politics as well as the delivery of our core values. We must be working towards a comprehensive and radical development of party policy.

So how does this fit in with the question of social mobility? There is much to be said here. Firstly, the right to all you produce yourself is immensely powerful. It gives you access to the full value of your education, your unique skills and your diligence - in effect, you retain your own economic rent. This is a powerful driver to self-investment and to entrepreneurship. At the other end of the spectrum it denies the idle rich the opportunity to maintain their position simply by charging the poor for access to natural monopolies. It clears the way to improve your circumstances. Only by eliminating the poverty trap can we achieve social mobility.

These reforms should not be contentious! Opinion polls show that Income tax is reviled, Inheritance Tax is abhorred. And benefits cheats are hated. But beyond that, abolishing the system of state oversight and tariffs over everybody's lives is the real political win.

The tax system must be robust against being undermined by narrow political interests. This is an immense challenge which Transaction Taxes comprehensively fail. They are adjusted annually for political expediency, and are the subject of political vote buying. Systemic Fiscal Reform has a uniform, ultra simple and consistent approach and by aligning political and financial interests, it should be much more robust.

Also, being much simpler, with fewer moving parts, there is much less to go wrong than in an economy bound by Transaction Taxes, welfare, fixes and subsidies. The principle of Occam's Razor is paramount; we must keep it simple.

Land Value Taxation goes a long way towards broadening access to land because there is no need for a bank to to create large sums of money to lend to a prospective land purchaser. Anybody with an appropriate plan will have land available to them, essentially debt free.

So what about banking? Most money created in this economy is not issued by the government and used to invest in businesses or public facilities, but is issued by banks as debt to be used to buy land at speculative prices. But we are not here to bolster the interests peculiar to the banking industry. And none of this unseemly scramble to own land is economic investment at all - for every buyer investing, somebody else must be selling their investment.

The two main taxes in Systemic Fiscal Reform, Land Value and Fuel have an overwhelming catalogue of reasons for supporting, and essentially no valid reasons to oppose. It is not a question of balancing the "legitimate interests" of different groups, nor of carefully comparing costs and benefits. It's what you might call "a no-brainer". And likewise, for welfare policy the Citizen's Income is an absolute "slam-dunk" - there is no alternative that even comes close. I looked.

I examined alternative schemes to improve tax efficiency or annihilate poverty. The Flat Tax, The numerous "Fair Tax" proposals, and others. Their advocates promote their solution based on how much less damaging it is compared to the present system. They are generally correct in having found less bad systems. But positive benefits are few and far between. We have seen The TUC call for an expansion of this failed system backed by journalists and the public apparently completely blind to the basic economics.

If you had Land Value Tax with Citizens Income, who would want to abolish it for TransTaxes? Certainly not the workers who would have their earnings curtailed. Nor the poor who get a significant fraction of their income from Citizen's Income. Nor the businesses who would have to administer the alternatives. The lazy owners of large tracts of land will have already sold out or started using it, so even they wouldn't be so keen.

Just as Universal Healthcare has won hands down against other models such as in the US - in spite of concerns about affordability, Universal Welfare will win decisively against a mean, vindictive "us and them" model of selective and conditional welfare. The conditions imposed on claimants such a ban on working create poverty.

In countries without universal healthcare, access to medical help is a constant worry. The elderly are advised that a substantial proportion of their retirement savings will have to be allocated to health. This worry and stress has been entirely eliminated in the UK by universal healthcare. But people still face financial worries. Will they be able to afford the basic necessities of life? This is where Universal Welfare must be a priority of a Liberal Democrat government.

Some people will say that Citizen's Income will introduce a something for nothing culture. We already have a something for nothing culture - the banks with their unfettered credit creation rights, the owners of land collecting our civic amenity value, and most importantly, the government with its baseless TransTaxes - little more than legalised extortion. We must turn the tables on the government by making it work for us, not the other way round. This can only be done through value taxation for the amenity it delivers to the community, not price taxation on transactions we do between ourselves.

But note that something for nothing is an economic fact of life - economists call it "economic surplus" and "economic rent". Somebody has to get it! The only question is how we share it! The current system of sharing economic rent on the basis of wealth is the crux of the matter. It explains the paradox of poverty amid plenty and the shortage of housing amid under-occupancy. And it is the major cause of an entrenched social divide.

How do we go about introducing Systemic Fiscal Reform? Let me make it clear. The economy is in grave peril. But we must not let short-term fixes impair future stability and we must not let house price inflation resume. For that is certain to lead us further down the road of inequality, inefficiency and instability. The best solution is to use Land Value Taxation to block house price rises while abolishing TransTaxes one by one.

We must carefully unwind the the house price inflation of the past thirty years. To achieve this, we need a powerful combination of policy steps that are extremely sensitive to existing interests. You cannot expect support by attempting a massive programme of redistribution.

We must reject the notion of windfall energy taxes when they are driven the deeply flawed European carbon policy. Phasing out VAT across Europe for the carbon tax is fair on business, fair on consumers and fair on the planet.

Systemic Fiscal Reform is scrupulously impartial and non-discriminatory in its approach. The Citizen's Income is available to all resident citizens. The land value tax does not try to select some owners for punishment or favours. The Carbon Tax does not seek to reward coal or some other fuel because is is "fuel of the month". It is an amoral system. This strength will help ensure widespread appeal.

In conclusion Systemic Fiscal Reform is ambitious, yes. Does it have technical challenges? yes. Can it win universal support? Probably not - but I have found support coming from right across the political spectrum - including those who find themselves unable to support existing parties. People hear the basic concept and ask who they should vote for.

For the Liberal Democrats, this is key. Unless we have revolutionary policies effectively presented, we will never see Vince hold the keys to number 11.

And revolutionary policy is needed. Wealth is all around us. Persistent poverty is unnecessary. Access to housing must be restored. Finance must be tamed.

We should Restore the Citizen's Income policy linked to a full Land Value Tax! We should scrap VAT for a Carbon Tax. We should phase out these cancerous Transaction Taxes.

This is real change through real economics. This is Systemic Fiscal Reform.

Dr. Adrian Wrigley, Bournemouth, September 14th 2008.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Bill O'Reilly, Jesse Jackson, nuts, JonBenet...What!?!?!11 2

I felt using the MSNBC article was only appropriate in this JE.

Too much irony, disgrace and just what I expect... I have to learn not to sit down in front of the tv with people who come in the room and flip through channels leaving them on each channel just long enough for this crap to hit me. I didn't make it out of the room before hearing something about the JonBenet case either.

If we can build a smart chip to filter out sex and violence, can we build one to filter out this stuff? I don't mind if you put it in my tv against my will...

b*tch, moan, rant, whine...
User Journal

Journal Journal: How Do These People Sleep At Night? 4

This is the article where I was stunned to read about this massive contract first. I also watched the news on the tele tonight because of the wild fire coverage and heard it mentioned there too. I suppose when you hear about anyone making this much money in the midst of so much negativity it makes them sound greedy.

Why yes Virginia, you're the one that is out of touch here with reality and not the parties involved...

I know that $400 million or whatever the figure is wouldn't help my insomnia--the tossing and and turning that keeps me up each night. I've never had anything close to that amount of money. In the way you know these things about yourself, I just know that having that much money would make it worse for me. I'm already taking 20mg of ambien a night too...
User Journal

Journal Journal: uneasy days 2

My dear old poetic cousin Robert Frost has a quote that I keep on the bathroom mirror: "In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life: it goes on." This assures that I have to read his advice upon starting my day and ending it.

The world seems dim these days even with the lifting of my depression. That is to say that I can again see colors, but they are not shades that please me. Though a lot of my heroes and friends tell me that comes with age, I'm not content to believe--deep within parts of my mind I will always be young. That and I have a memory loss disease so my take on the world before is evanescing rapidly.

It has been such a long week, I can't tell you the day because I have so few hours of sleep. I do hope Sarah can sing me to sleep finally:

Cast me gently
Into morning
For the night has been unkind
Take me to a
Place so holy
That I can wash this from my mind
The memory of choosing not to fight

exerpt from Answer by Sarah McLachlan

User Journal

Journal Journal: What a shitty Monday! 1

George Carlin fucking died!!! That just bloody sucks. He was a funny funny man responsible for a lot of laughter. May he rest in peace. My heart goes out to his family and loved ones! I'll miss you George!

unapologetic for my potty mouth on this occasion,
User Journal

Journal Journal: She Must Have Been A Mistake [rictameter: modified] 1

She Must Have Been A Mistake

broken: her mind.
Self-image. Pillaged
too many times she believed.
Dreams ripped and raped from ravaged hopes...
Now pity stings so much like real life.
Charity slaps her face--
tears she lets free,

© 2008
User Journal

Journal Journal: Auditory Identity (random rictameter, non modified) 1

Auditory Identity

Don't just hear me--
within my timid tones.
This voice prone to raise herself, else;
Demand an audience, above life's din.
Heed instead, my soft silences;
significance in stillness.
Meet my soft say--

Constructive criticism is always encouraged, especially when I post the poetry! General thoughts, musings and intelligent discussion also welcome. =) Thanks if you read this.
User Journal

Journal Journal: Fair use clause 3

This article about a U.S. District Judge finding against Yoko Ono based on the "fair use" clause jumped out at me. (How unfortunately confusing that in this case the judge shares a last name with the star of the documentary--don't mind me, I have memory problems so I notice names more than the average person.) I am very fond of the song and its name in particular. As a musician that doesn't believe in free downloading without the permission of the creator as well as a fan of the documentary (generic, not this specific title) this is a ride the fence decision for me!

Someone told me once, "Fair is where you show pigs in the fall." That advice made my life easier.

I'm guessing it is not just about free use, but that his music is going to be associated with an idea. Sure, I believe that most of us are old enough and smart enough to make up our own minds. I have no idea what amount Ms. Ono and the rest of the party were suing for (if any) beyond stopping the event. I am the first to admit I don't keep tabs on their financial status or habits. Perhaps it is the idealist in me to hope that the goal of the lawsuit was to separate one idea from another. Regardless of the terms and with respect to the family I make my next comments. I wouldn't want the song in the movie either. However, I believe in freedom of speech. Still, I assume these guys are charging people to show the movie and that is why it ends up in court?

Is this legal decision involving a very profound piece of music mixed with the context of documentary another reminder that even in the current US political climate the First Amendment will still ring out loud and clear? Perhaps the "fair use" clause is an indirect way there or a fluke loophole? This is where I would welcome intelligent discussion. I find it (the clause) showing up interesting. Perhaps it is invoked more often. It didn't help my cause when I made a video commentary about hate with a popular song as background music--my video still got pulled from youtube for "music copyright."
The Media

Journal Journal: Why I don't watch the "news" 6

Someone sent me a link to this article about Rachael Ray, donuts, fashion and jihad.

I think I know the commercial that the article refers to. It was so bizarre to me that I didn't notice she was in it, let alone stop to critique her outfit. Eating food that was cooked by a group of welders just seemed unsavory and my brain tuned the rest out.

Much like how I was reading this article and saw Fox news was involved and stopped reading the rest of it.

This amount of irony is outstanding here when there are interesting, important, informative, and humanitarian issues to be addressed.

I will sleep better tonight knowing that my co-workers' donuts are not supporting extremist fashion according to some guy at Fox news. Unfortunately, Rachael Ray's styling consultant is most likely unemployed now due to a "wardrobe malfunction". Hopefully someone has a spare "Save Paris" tee-shirt she can borrow.
User Journal

Journal Journal: Building Rictameters? anyone care to play along 9

I haven't seen anything in the site guidelines that doesn't allow threads like this one. Rictameter has more than one form, and for the purpose of this exercise, I'm using the second example found here at

I'm practicing Rictameter, and have seen some less lonely ways to do so.One involved a person posting a piece and the next reply would contain a Rictameter that began with the last word(s) of the former post.

If this is really lame, no problem. I won't get my feelings hurt. It is just more fun to work on these things with friends and strangers.

For the purpose of this thread, I'll take the definition of a rictameter as having 9 lines in the Rictameter modification format (see the above link):

2 syllables
4 syllables
6 syllables
8 syllables
10 syllables
8 syllables
6 syllables
4 syllables
2 syllables

reply along if you desire, please. I don't intend to make fun of any silly lines. The one I'm starting with isn't exactly earth-shattering!


Time slips away.
Yet the boss walks my way.
Why me!? I'm always unprepared.
As if the top of my desk were too slick,
For the key tasks that need to stick.
Word from above-what now?
"You're promoted!"

(don't be shy, everyone starts somewhere...if you feel inclined, try one out starting with "Speechless")
User Journal

Journal Journal: Poetry: Neural Ink Flow (format up in the air) 4

Neural Ink Flow

Atramental sight
Grayscale tracks of black and white
Tread across this life

Doppleganger pain in time
How color finds kinder mind

Neural Ink Flow

Atramental sight
Grayscale tracks-
Black and white
Tread across this life

Doppleganger pain in time
How color finds kinder mind

I prefer the westernized Tanka 5-7-5 7-7 even though some people object to using Tanka with English. The second version is a revision suggested by a critic on a writing forum. It breaks the flow I really fancied and the rhyme just doesn't seem right.

Feel free to comment.

**I'm not sure why Doppleganger and Atramental aren't in the spellcheck dictionary--uncommon usage? I'm fairly sure I triple checked spelling with my big dictionary.

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"Look! There! Evil!.. pure and simple, total evil from the Eighth Dimension!" -- Buckaroo Banzai