Sunday, April 1, 2012

Whos the author? Mark Wadsworth?

Leader: Land reform remains one of the great progressive causes

69 per cent of the acreage of Britain is owned by 0.6 per cent of the population. More pertinently, 158,000 families own 41 million acres of land, while 24 milion families live on the four million acres of the urban plot.

Posted by greenmind @ 04:02 PM (2579 views)
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32 thoughts on “Whos the author? Mark Wadsworth?

  • Capitalism is great – if you have capital.

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  • “69 per cent of the acreage of Britain is owned by 0.6 per cent of the population”

    Wouldn’t it be better to look at the distribution of land values instead distribution of of acreage? I have no doubt that the numbers will still be skewed but not so enormously as the article suggests.

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  • qg – still. the big landowners own urban as well as rural land – e.g. huge swathes of the poshest parts of London are owned by the Grosvenor, Cadogan, Portman and Ilchester Estates.

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  • qg – I agree with Icarus. It’s not just London either – the Grosvenor family own large chunks of central Liverpool and at least one imposing property in central Chester (probably a lot more). There’s very little data on this – the Duke’s landholdings predate the formation of Land Registry by quite a few years.

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  • The bigger issue is that a handful of bankers have 100% control over the issuance of money and credit, and money is one half of every transaction! It is that power which concentrates assets into a small number of hands. People like Marx Wadsworth would call for a new tax to break the back of the land owners, but it wouldn’t work, because it would further impoverish people outside of the loop. Meanwhile the banksters can then buy up more land for yet less just by printing more money.

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  • Libertas @ 5 I think you’ll find that Georgism is a long way from Marxism. Moreover, the two men didn’t like each other or each other’s ideas.

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  • we're all in this together says:

    It’s absolutely right, of course. Only snag is getting the permission of the people who own the country.

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  • There is a certain conceit about the way the left likes to dub it’s ideas as ‘progressive’…

    If you want to see what happens when you take land ownership away from the few and give it to the many, look no further than Zimbabwe..

    ..however noble one’s ideals, this is where the law of unintended consequences needs to be kept very much in mind..

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  • @uncle tom – Fair taxation will solve the issue. Nobody is talking about dissolving property rights.

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  • @UT
    IMHO there is a lot of conceit in the way the right likes to characterise the ideas of the left as well-intentioned idiocy. Britain has among the least dispersed land ownership in the world. Strange that a wider allocation of land does not seem to have disastrous consequences everywhere else. Another well worn trope is the hysterical comparision: pick the worst done example of land reform and infer that all attempts at land reform (including LVT) fall into the same category. Monetary reform? Look what happened when they abolished money in Cambodia! etc.
    N

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  • N,

    Maybe for conceit on the right one can substitute the word ‘wisdom’ – the human race learns from it’s mistakes, and the ‘well-intentioned idiocy’ of the left is extensively documented.

    Neither side of the political spectrum has a monopoly on virtue, but I personally prefer ideology that works in the real world to that which might work in some utopian fantasy..

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  • cynicalsoothsayer says:

    Mr Wadsworth does have a point in that better uses could be found for a lot of land, eg there are huge estates in Scotland that have been cleared of people, initially for sheep farming, and are now used to release factory bred birds to be shot in a picturesque setting by well heeled punters. Many of these estates run at a loss. Much greater variety of uses involving many more people could evolve there if the landowners stranglehold was broken.

    Central London and Liverpool are put to good use, even if you think they should be taxed more. Zimbabwe is a good case of how not to go about it even if the end result, wider ownership, is a good thing.

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  • UT
    Yes, it works really well doesn’t it? Look around… unemployment, economy going down the tubes, executive pay soaring, living standards of ordinary people falling, health and other services being carved up and the juicy bits being sold off to private companies, regulatory capture, finance booming out of control then going bust because of deregulation. works really well in the real world. not.
    N

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  • cyn,

    The Highland clearances are a dark chapter in our history, but it has to be noted than many of hose who were not forcibly moved, subsequently did so of their own volition. Crofting sounds idyllic, but in practice was a pretty miserable existence, prompting many to prefer life in city tenements.

    Besides sheep, forestry, and tourism (including shooting..) – all of which demand economies of scale – the land in that part of the country is not fit for much else.

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  • mark wadsworth says:

    GM, ta but no it wasn’t. I am just one of many people who have realised that this is the way forward.

    QG, yes, good point. An average farmer owns 150 acres @ £7,000 per acre, this is much the same as the value of land owned by average owner-occupier household. Acreage is irrelevant, values are important. We know that the top 1% pay 27% of all income tax, so income distribution is quite skewed, but the concentration of land ownership is far more extreme, the top 1% own half of all land by value (or whatever).

    UT, Zimbabwe is completely irrelevant and has nothing to do with LVT, which you know perfectly well. User charges on the rental value of land have got a lot less to do with state-confiscation of private wealth then taxation of income. What Zimbabwe did with land grabs has far more similarities with Home-Owner-Ism, i.e . small elite get to own and control all the land.

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  • Zimbabwe is always used used as the example of everything going bad as a result of self-serving politics, cronyism and hyperinflation. It would be amazing if the situation there were as bad as is usually painted. A 10-year study by the Institute of Development Studies has shown that perceptions of land going mainly to political cronies, lack of investment, decay, reduced output, chronic food insecurity and collapse of the rural economy are sterotypes that don’t stand up to scrutiny. The picture is in fact pretty mixed – output of some crops falling, others rising, many non-crony farmers feeeding their families and selling food in local markets, and local infrastructure investment. Of course it’s not a success story and a lot more external investment is needed for national food security and broader economic development – but that was true also of (massive) government/external support (subsidies, technical support, marketing, infrastructure) for white farmers before and after WWII (while smallholder farming was ignored).

    You’d need to look to Cuba for a more successful programme of land reform.

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  • Nick,

    The problems you highlight are largely beyond the grasp of of liberal centre-left government, where all of our three main parties now reside.

    Unemployment needs a little tough love – staying in Llanelli recently, an unemployment blackspot,; the hotel found it necessary to engage Polish staff. Clearly there is a need to motivate the long term unemployed, and get them doing some sort of constructive work in return for their benefits, in readiness for a return to normal employment.

    The economy was living on air, and now needs to return to reality. The compensation culture, coupled to excessive health and safety regulation, makes it almost impossible now to start and grow a manufacturing business in the UK. We now have more lawyers than doctors – that needs to reverse; and we need to train a whole new army of engineers.

    Executive pay is a distraction, and hard to address whilst we are excessively international, and too dominated by a relatively small number of big companies. Giving small companies a modest tax advantage over large ones would level the playing field, but is almost impossible whilst we stay in the EU.

    Living standards have fallen, because we were previously living on growing debt, both public and private. No clever answers there, adjustment needed.

    Health is a mess – too many administrators, and the whole system throttled by the compensation culture. A large slice of the NHS budget is spent keeping dying people alive in a state of indignity that they would never have wished for. Yet it is a nettle that none of our current crop of politicians has the guts to grasp.

    Boom ‘n’ bust? – Who said he’d abolished that??

    – So which political ideology has the answers? The soft socialist driven left, or the robust and principled right?

    We can see that the centre is going nowhere..

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  • mark wadsworth says:

    UT, yes, amen to all of that.

    But this does not detract anything from the fact that it is better for governments to raise funds for common expenditure by levying user charges on the rental value of land instead of taxing incomes, output, profits, private wealth etc. Any “principled right winger” comes to exactly the same conclusion.

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  • The whole “Left versus Right” debate is a complete waste of time. The right complains of benefit scroungers and argue for benefits to be cut to incentivise work while the left complains of widening inequalities with big business capitalists exploiting workers and causing poverty bla bla bla. Georgism offers a way out of this intellectual cul-de-sac.

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  • UT
    Centre left is hardly a fit description of any of the governments we have had since Thatcher. Free market capitalist or neoliberal maybe. Principled?! Let’s not go there. I’d take a look at the Scandinavian economies if I were you to see what a real “centre left” government looks like, and their results knock the socks off ours.
    N

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  • Greenmind,

    ‘Georgism’ – a 19th century alternative to Maxism that has never caught on.

    – When you get older and wiser you’ll realise that it’s better to stick to what is achievable, and will pass muster in a democratic state..

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  • Uncle Tom,

    You will find the hotel in Llanelli was likely paying slave wages, which only desperate immigrants were willing to accept. Pretty soon far more of us will be on slave wages unless there is some sort of organised fight back.

    The UK is following the US into the third world model for wealth dispersion.

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  • I thought there were examples of LVT as a major source of govt revenue in democratic states, including various Australian states in the early 20th century and Hong Kong (not democratic but pro-trade and British) received 30% of its government revenue through LVT in the 1970s – and flourished as a result. What would have been undemocratic about getting land/property owners close to its stations to pay for the Jubilee Line (£3.5 bn) out of the £13bn or so that was added to their wealth by the Line that was funded from general tax revenues?

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  • shipbuilder says:

    UT, I’m interested to know what you find excessive about our health and safety legislation – are you actually familiar with the way the Health and Safety at Work Act works?
    Your point about the EU and tax is a bit wide of the mark, as shown here – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-17582541
    I agree with much of the rest, although the ‘robust and principled right’ made me chuckle – anyone still wedded to political ideologies simply appears a bit naive these days..

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  • shipbuilder says:

    Icarus,

    I believe there are also a few, (some very small government, right wing) states in the US where property taxes are a major source of revenue, but sure what do facts count for when you’re older and wiser? Georgism is clearly communism and utterly unpalatable to any electorate…

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  • letthemfall says:

    This jubilee year would seem an apposite time to be discussing the dismantling of the aristocratic land hegemony. But UT does have a point about unintended consequences: I can’t imagine any dramatic change in land ownership running smoothly, and probably some very nasty thing would happen – rather a traditional aristocrat than a “self-made” econoaristocrat. That of course does not mean that land reform should not be a long-term aim.

    What passes “muster in a democratic state” is not the same as what is good for democracy. The aristocrats certainly have less direct power since they were mostly expunged from the Lords, but the fact remains that they and the corporate barons have far more influence than the average man with his ballot paper and blunt pencil. Land tax and wider reform is undoubtedly in the interests of the wider population. What is so remarkable is how they are persuaded otherwise.

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  • UT, its hard to argue that the implementation of LVT is more than a pipe dream at present. But if nothing else an understanding of the principles behind it at least allows one to see whats really going on in the world at present.

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  • shipbuilder,

    I have had more dealings than most with the HSE, having had to negotiate explosive factory licences in the past..

    ..the HSE are the most pathetic spineless bunch of parasites imaginable – incapable of admitting their own failings, incapable of defining acceptable risk limits, or reaching a definitive opinion on grey areas of law – but always capable of finding fault after the event..

    If the HSE was abolished tomorrow, nobody would grieve..

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  • shipbuilder says:

    UT, fair enough, but that isn’t really the same thing as excessive legislation.
    Most hysteria about Health and Safety law seems to come from the idea that there are reams of rules detailing what people can and can’t do in any given situation.
    In fact all it does, basically (apart from the other statutory instruments which go into more detail), is place duties on employers and employees to ensure that work is as safe is is practically possible, which seems quite reasonable. Thus the ‘elf and safety gawn mad’ stories are due to interpretation of employers, authorities and individuals.
    My previous employer, a blue-chip multinational engineering firm, far from seeing H&S as a drag, had a very strict zero injury policy which they saw as a positive business move, particularly in line with lean manufacturing for increasing efficiency.
    Hence I wonder why and what parts of the legislation you find excessive.

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  • shipbuilder says:

    Just to add, a typical lean manufacturing environment these days would indeed go way beyond what might be seen as reasonable to mitigate against injury because in that environment such measures are actually an aid to efficiency, the very opposite of the public perception of H&S.

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  • UT
    >When you get older and wiser you’ll realise that it’s better to stick to what is achievable, and will pass muster in a democratic state..
    And you complain about “conceit”?
    A few years ago nationalisation of the banks would not have qualified as “achievable” in a democratic state. However, what is achievable in our pseudo democracy / kleptocracy is heavily influenced by corruption. i.e. what kind of “democracy” do we really have when government policy can be massaged in a corporation’s interests for a cool £250,000? (“It will be great for your business”). The cynic in me thinks that the recent scandal was actually a set up by the government to advertise its prices more widely.
    N

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  • letthemfall says:

    UT:”..the HSE are the most pathetic spineless bunch of parasites imaginable – incapable of admitting their own failings, incapable of defining acceptable risk limits, or reaching a definitive opinion on grey areas of law – but always capable of finding fault after the event..”

    Sounds like a balanced judgement. I imagine HSE could be very fussy in a fireworks store.

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