Enclosure – property – (outside flood, famine, storm and war) is the single greatest drain on economic vivacity. The effects of land property are well documented – that is, it accumulates fruits of productivity in rising land value and increasing rents, while also contributing nothing to that economy. Land owners sleep, while their wealth increases (J S Mill). The creators of wealth, become increasingly poor to the same degree. Plainly this process leads to economic collapse.
The solution is also well documented – from Tom Paine to Henry George – property holders should pay ground rent for the land, which they’ve removed from the community – to be re-distributed as simple social justice, via a universal citizen’s dividend.
But enclosure-wealth also buys political and so judicial power. All developed economies are guided by property owners, who will resist and have always resisted Tom Paine’s remedy.
Property brings a fortressed defensiveness (home as castle) which is deaf to reason. Taxes on property are more fiercely fought than taxes on income. Yet taxes on income restrain productivity. VAT is even worse, in that respect. The poor pay a higher rate of tax (through VAT) than do the wealthy by all their taxes.
But land is not the only property. Other enclosures include money-creation, intellectual property, seed monopoly, resource monopoly and another which is seldom mentioned, but is equally pernicious – that is status property.
Similar to land property, status property accumulates wealth generated by others – accumulating at precisely the rate that economies are hollowed.
There is no reason for a lawyer to charge £250 per hour, other than that of rent (extortion) for her monopoly. If I need a lawyer, I must take my £4 per hour to somehow pay that £250 per hour. Plainly the transaction wrecks my economy. In macrocosm, it wrecks the larger economy. This is plainly malicious behaviour, but custom has numbed the truth. We accept the custom – so much so that our lawyer has come to see extortion as a protected right.
All these trades have bred status racketeers – law, medicine, dentistry, architecture, parliamentary representative – and then a wild plethora of “consultancies” – food, farming, planning, political…
Does this mean that as it tends to decadence, the middle class itself becomes an economically destructive racket? Is it the grandest of all enclosures, which accumulates wealth as it sleeps and so collapses economies as it sleeps?
Plainly my local GP works hard and responsibly and so her extortion becomes extortion only at the point where it exceeds a proper wage.
Custom is a powerful thing – so powerful that it’s maintenance comes to be seen as a common fight.
Home as castle, status as castle, custom as castle – all monopolies as castles – are customs, which unite rich and poor in fear of the unstable and the unaccustomed. Even though poverty sinks into deeper poverty and the rich to become richer by it – rich and poor together, vote for that status quo. Nationalism as castle, racism as castle… have been cynically sold to the property-less by the propertied through newspaper headlines – so that the dispossessed have illusory castles to defend. Of course, those properties will finance neither rent, not the weeks shopping. Nevertheless, they may explain both Theresa May’s parroted phrase and the weird popularity of such economically-destructive far right politicians. As infrastructure crumbles, so castles in the air unite us, as we fling missiles at scape-goats from the castle walls…
A politician who encloses the idea of customary home life, can suck the lifeblood from that home and yet still receive the passionate vote of the householder. That home contains what is human – tender relationships, loyalties, joys, sorrows, memories… – home as castle.
Because those loyalties are deep – truly profound – they can overwhelm the truth. Post truth (strong and stable) has an easy ride. Statistics; physical truth can have no counter-effect. There can be no discussion at the castle wall.
Those yearnings are held by what is currently a majority heading to the polls for the general election. That majority will vote for its own destruction. We cannot reason with it. We can only hope for a larger yearning and a deeper and expanding loyalty – to community as castle – to lovely Earth as castle – to justice as castle.
We don’t need the economists – (though we could do with proper economists, because genuine economics is a branch of moral philosophy)
We need the unacknowledged legislature of the poets.