Monday, December 5, 2016

Proposal of a Geo-Painean-Friedmanite Caucus of the Libertarian Party

            The following four paragraphs contain the description of a political study group which I created and administer on Facebook in November 2016, entitled “Basic Income & Tax Reform”.:

            Basic Income & Tax Reform (formerly Give Me My Money) is a study group promoting radical tax reform alongside cash payments to the poor.

This is a group to bring together proponents of:
(1) Land Value Taxation and Split-Rate Taxation,
(2) the Negative Income Tax,
(3) the FairTax,
(4) Citizens' and Residents' Dividends,
(5) Sovereign Wealth Funds and Permanent Funds,
(6) Universal / Unconditional Basic Income Guarantees,
(7) extensions of the Earned Income Tax Credit, and
(8) expansions of ordinary people's tax deductions for expenses of care.

We believe that serious discussion of taxation reform, environmental policy reform, and welfare reform must take into consideration the need to take an integrated and comprehensive approach to these three issues. Reforms which must take place alongside our proposals include reforms to property rights, natural resource extraction, homesteading, and the budget.
We look forward to building coalitions with libertarian-leaning and progressive Democrats, moderate and libertarian-leaning Republicans, third parties and independents, Georgists, anarchist and direct action groups, and others.

Basic Income & Tax Reform desires to help lift the poor out of poverty (and remove poverty traps in the welfare system) while creating an economic environment more conducive to investment and savings (whether domestic or international) through less government intervention, not more; with redistributive taxation and involuntary taxation used only as last resorts. The types of tax proposals which we deem most necessary and proper, as well as urgent, are proposals which provide tax relief to the poor, while refraining from hindering productive behavior.
Proposals in include 1) extensions of the Earned Income Tax Credit (E.I.T.C.); 2) repeals of non-luxury sales taxes; 3) curbing inflation – through balancing the budget and paying off the debt – in order to lower what effectively amounts to the taxation of savings, which discourages savings; 4) expansions of homesteading tax credits so as to allow credits to apply to apartments, and tiny houses (alongside homesteading reform); and 5) permissive tax deductions for expenses from child care, elder care, and health care and insurance.
After those first five short-term proposals are achieved, our medium-term goals include 6) Cut-Cap-and-Balance measures; 7) reverting to zero-based budgeting; 8) passing across-the-board tax cuts; and 9) supporting measures which make taxes flatter. Our long-term goals are 10) formally repealing the 16th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution; 11) passing a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution); and 12) reforming the structure and philosophy of taxation into one that embraces geo-libertarian principles.
We would like to see all taxes imposed by the most local level of government possible (without sacrificing efficiency), and we desire that government be funded wholly through taxation proposals permissible under the umbrella of Land Value Taxation / the “Single” Tax (including carbon taxes), in addition to receipts from user fees, and revenues collected through voluntary contributions.

In the event that Georgist and geo-libertarian tax proposals were to fail, Basic Income & Tax Reform regards neither the FairTax nor the Negative Income Tax (N.I.T.) preferable to the other. This is because there are several things at issue; namely, that of progressive vs. regressive taxation, as well as problems associated with precisely which types of behavior are being taxed and which are not.
In one sense, the Negative Income Tax is preferable to the FairTax, because the N.I.T. is more progressive than the FairTax is. The FairTax has a reputation of being regressive, and in one sense it is, because it penalizes the purchases of ordinary people. On the other hand, the FairTax comes with a “prebate” that compensates people for the expenses they incur in paying those sales taxes (up to a certain point). But the prebate aside, the Negative Income Tax is a flat tax which has a reputation of being effectively progressive; this is because the poor would receive money overall instead of paying taxes. This is why the N.I.T. has been described as a flat tax which is effectively progressive; the poor would “pay” a “negative tax rate”; i.e., receive money.
On the other hand, the FairTax is preferable to the N.I.T. – especially as far as Georgists are concerned, and to some extent as far as many conservatives are concerned – because the FairTax penalizes consumption and the purchase of luxury and ordinary goods, while the Negative Income Tax penalizes the earning of income. Since some conspicuous consumption is wasteful, this means waste is more similar to consumption than it is to productive labor and the earning of income. Hence, the FairTax is less detrimental to productive behavior than is the Negative Income Tax.
Basic Income & Tax Reform is interested in ascertaining the beneficial aspects of, and principles behind, each of these two tax proposals (the FairTax and the Negative Income Tax) into a new philosophy of taxation.

As a way to avoid taxing either sales or income – and lessons from the FairTax and the Negative Income Tax having not yet being ascertained for the purposes of improving the rest of Basic Income & Tax Reform’s platform – taxation proposals permissible under the principles of Land Value Taxation (L.V.T.) should be the only taxes levied which are involuntary. Of course, convincing others that these taxes are appropriate, and winning elections, is how L.V.T. becomes voluntary.
The environmental objective of enacting Georgist taxation to its fullest extent, involves establishing Community Land Trusts (C.L.T.s), Community Water Trusts (C.W.T.s), and, if governments please, Community Air Trusts (C.A.T.s). These agencies could choose to unite these three functions into a single office; perhaps an “Office of Taxation, Environment, and Welfare” (O.T.E.W.).
Municipal and county governments would be encouraged to offer fewer services and shrink spending and taxes, while at the same time establishing these agencies. Additionally, unincorporated communities – and autonomous, independent, unincorporated local voluntary associations – would be encouraged to refrain from applying for recognition as official incorporated municipalities, and instead to build these agencies as the act establishing their legitimacy.

Communities would be encouraged – either that, or required, as a condition of participation in a coordinated effort across communities to build the same agencies and implement similar-enough policies – to set up Sovereign Wealth Funds. The concept of Sovereign Wealth Funds, Permanent Funds, Citizens’ Dividends, Residents’ Dividends, the Universal or Unconditional Basic Income Guarantee, the prebate from the FairTax, and the bonus given through the Negative Income Tax’s “payment of a negative tax rate”, all amount in the same thing: cash payments to people; either to all of the people, or only to those earning below a certain level of income (often set as the poverty rate).
The Sovereign Wealth Fund (or whatever name it has, given that so many names apply to such similar ideas) would be funded and backed by the chief export or exports of the community and / or region. It would also be funded by receipts and revenues originating from the imposition and collection of user fees, voluntary contributions, and taxes admissible under an extended Land Value Taxation system.
O.T.E.W.s (or their components, working independently of one-another) would be free to choose whether to establish currencies backed by the value of natural resources, and / or by the fees imposed for the privilege of extracting said natural resources, and / or backed by export sales. Such currencies could originate in local, state, or regional government; or they could be outgrowths of electronic currencies, or other types of alternative currencies.
O.T.E.W.s would operate as not-for-profit (or non-profit) consumer-cooperatives. They could be either quasi-governmental, non-governmental, or entities which are non-incorporated altogether. Any purchasing by these entities should be performed as a consumer-cooperative purchasing society.
These agencies would be free to become corporations, but not through official recognition by government. They would be independent corporations – really, consumer credit unions – which would sell stock. The value of the stock would rest upon the degree of success of each of those agencies in preserving its respective sphere of the environment (that is; land, water, and air).
The value of the optional natural resource –backed currencies would derive from both the degree of success of O.T.E.W. agencies in preserving the environment, and also from chief export sales, as well as general faith and credit in the government; and in the solvency of its taxation, banking, and financial systems.

Basic Income & Tax Reform feels that the above set of policies is the platform most likely to unite members of the Libertarian Party with members of the Green Party; through creating a convergence upon geo-libertarianism as a philosophy that lies between the two. We encourage Greens and progressives to come towards the positions of the Libertarian Party.
We additionally encourage Libertarian Party members, ideological libertarians, and libertarian-leaning conservatives, to embrace Georgism, or at least to support Thomas Paine’s basic income proposal, which in my opinion is compatible with Henry George’s ideas. In Paine’s proposal, a citizen’s dividend would give a basic income for all adult citizens, as a form of compensation for government takings from the full bundle of freedoms and rights which come with private landed property ownership in full allodial title (rights such as freedom from taxation of that land, the freedom to deny even government agents access to the property, and the freedom to explore one’s own property for natural resources without compensating the community).
The author of this article, himself, feels that the best avenue and vehicle for embodiment and presentation of this platform, would be as a Thomas Paine Caucus; revived from its late-1990s form as a voluntary association comprised of libertarian Georgists, but as a caucus of the Libertarian Party. The caucus should make sure to bring followers of Henry George and Milton Friedman into the mix; so I propose a Geo-Painean-Friedmanite Caucus of the Libertarian Party of the United States; to consider radical tax reform and cash payouts, in addition to increasing tax deductions and low-income tax credits.

In light of what the Constitution has to say about the environment (which is nothing), and welfare (which is that government spending should benefit everybody), it is important to consider at what level these reforms are to be implemented.
It seems appropriate to recommend (and highlight) that this system works best as a decentralized or diffused federation of communities – or as multiple, geographically overlapping confederations – rather than as a centralized system or a polycentric system. Polycentric agencies may be helpful to prevent disproportionate favoritism of productive firms based in urban areas; but political power paradigms that are as diffused as possible are what are generally desirable. Encouraging jurisdictions to expand and overlap would help maximize this diffusion of power.
But if a centralized or oligocentric government ought to exist in any form; it should primarily be in the businesses of 1) allocating land in a macroscopic way; 2) ensuring mutuality of exchanges and transactions; and 3) registering individuals’ political membership. These functions reflect the main functions of legitimate governance as regarded by the schools of 1) Georgism; 2) Mutualism; and 3) Panarchism.
It might additionally prove appropriate for a centralized government to guarantee certain basic civil rights and civil liberties; such as equal protections under the law, like the right to defend oneself in court, and the equal right to sue.
However, it could very well turn out that those are simply the last functions of government which would dissolve, while a Geo-Mutualist Panarchist system emerges out of the unentangling last vestiges of a constitutional republic. And that goes whether it's a minarchistic one that's decided to embrace true liberty, or whether it's a corrupt democratic republic that ceases functioning or collapses (in any given imaginable scenario).

Written between Mid-November and December 5th, 2016

Edited on January 19th and 29th, 2017, and December 1st, 2018

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