Public: Tax
A Place in the Sun   (+4, -8)  [vote for, against]
Just the one

Simple idea to help narrow income gaps and replace the widely disliked inheritance taxes:

Each adult person has the right to one freehold property sufficient to build a small house. Families may add together allowances to get a larger house.

You are free to own more property than the right entitles you to own, that's not a problem. The catch is that when you purchase, acquire or otherwise come to possess that property it becomes leasehold with a 20 year lease. When the leasehold expires, the property is auctioned in an auction only open to those who have not yet used their property allocation right.

This means that families who derive great wealth from renting out expensive parts of London will lose their properties in 20 years and have to keep just one small plot each. It means that parents can still pass down property to children provided those children haven't already purchased their own property.

Finally, it encourages people to make full use of housing by making it financially attractive to have someone in each bedroom rather than having a single guy in a three bedroom house.
-- vincevincevince, Jan 06 2008

tied cottages http://www.bopcris....bopall/ref8623.html
[pertinax, Jan 10 2008]

//who derive great wealth from renting out expensive parts of London will lose their properties in 20 years and have to keep just one small plot each//

sounds like you're proposing the near-equivalent of "patents" for landowners: you can only profit off of your real estate properties for 20 years, then, keep one place to yourself and give up the rest.

in 3rd world countries, your idea is known as an Agrarian Reform Program [since economic activity is centered on agriculture], in urban areas like new york, the idea of partial wealth distribution takes on the form of rent-controlled or rent-stabilized buildings.

your proposal is a good try at equitable distribution of wealth, some things though, like the fact that savvy previous owners will surely invest the proceeds from property sales into other profit-gaining endeavors, or, convert all of their residential buildings to commercial ones just to retain ownership, will work contrary to your plan of wealth redistribution.

however, you would be pleased to find out that some very rich people actually want equity, warren buffett and the father of bill gates both want the inheritance tax increased.

from, "In testimony to congress, Warren Buffett expressed his opinion that the inheritance taxes were meant to recirculate accumulated great wealth and that repealing them would support an undesirable "aristocratic dynasty of wealth."
-- pyggy potamus, Jan 06 2008

No thanks.
-- MaxwellBuchanan, Jan 07 2008

What's to stop me from buying a property for rent, selling it after 18 years, then buying another with the proceeds, other than even further state interference? Why are you trying to reduce the availability of rental property? Why do you want to remove incentives for potential investors?

The state should be protecting individual property rights, not actively infringing them. Fishy, just for being Marxist.
-- angel, Jan 07 2008

//What's to stop me from buying a property for rent, selling it after 18 years, then buying another with the proceeds//

You'll not get a good price for it. It was converted to 20 year leasehold when you purchased it and so now anyone who buys it from you only gets to keep it two years before total surrender.

//[marked-for-deletion ], rant// Not a rant. Real problem, my solution.
-- vincevincevince, Jan 08 2008

//It was converted to 20 year leasehold when you purchased it//

So I would only be buying a 20-year lease, which would be far cheaper than freehold. But anyway, it's still a rant; similar ways of preventing people with money from benefiting from it were new inventions a century or so ago, but they weren't particularly well thought out ones even then.
-- angel, Jan 08 2008

The whole idea is based on the assumption that, if I work hard and get stuff, then (a) I'm not allowed to keep it and (b) I'm not allowed to give it to my children and (c) somebody approved by vincevincevince has the right to take it away from me.

It's also based on the assumption that there's only so much stuff in the world, which is naive. In fact, the land area of the earth is enough to give everyone a plot about 160m x 160m. So, if it's OK with you, herr vince, I'll have my football pitch in Chelsea, and my wife and daughter can have theirs on either side.
-- MaxwellBuchanan, Jan 08 2008

It's not a rant in tone; it may not work, but please speak to the contents, rather than mfd'ing it or personally attacking the poster.

There's this very fundamental concept of a "social contract" where individuals give up some rights in exchange for order. Societies where invidiuals can opt out of the social contracts entirely are usually the stuff of science fiction novels.

The rules vincevincevince suggests are one possible variation on such social contracts. So, one can certainly disagree with the specific balance between individual rights and group egality he's trying to strike, but saying that nobody should be allowed to tell you *anything* questions very widely accepted tenents of civilization in general.
-- jutta, Jan 08 2008

Hmm, well, point taken. In a more measured tone, then, I disagree with the concept that the best strategy for a society is to distribute things uniformly regardless of individual accomplishment, and to prevent children benefitting from the success of their parents. The experiment has been done (perhaps badly, but there's no reason to believe another attempt would do any better), and didn't really seem to benefit society as a whole.

This then leaves the question of whether a government should have the right to impose such a system. If a government were freely voted in with a manifesto to do this, then I guess it would have the right to do so. The government does indeed have the power to set the balance between social context and individual rights, but only so long as the majority of people give it that right. In the societies with which I'm familiar (a small number), the general consensus is that it's the government's fundamental job to ensure basic standards for all, and to provide a stable and safe environment where people can pursue their own interests fairly. There is already a large measure of redistribution in the form of taxation and inheritance tax, and this seems to be about as far in this direction as the consensus wants to go.

On the other hand, in the absence of alcohol, I know bugger all about politics or social engineering.
-- MaxwellBuchanan, Jan 08 2008

//there's only so much stuff in the world, which is naive// If this is so naive, then why hasn't someone proposed a perpetual motion machine based on burning the unlimited extra stuff?

//the land area of the earth is enough to give everyone a plot about 160m x 160m// ...if you like deserts. The *habitable* land area of the earth is rather more constrained than this.

In a confined space (such as south-eastern England), it soon becomes apparent that the freedom of individuals to own as much land as they like can often conflict with other freedoms, such as freedom of movement and sometimes even freedom from fear. Consider, for example, the career of gangster Nick van Hoogstraten, who was very keen on his private property rights.
-- pertinax, Jan 09 2008

//The government does indeed have the power to set the balance between social context and individual rights, but only so long as the majority of people give it that right.//

Well, it can easily be argued that such a government may indeed have a legal and constitutional right, but no moral right; two wolves and a goat voting on dinner. And it's only a democracy if you can also vote them out.

//There's this very fundamental concept of a "social contract" where individuals give up some rights in exchange for order.//

Order can be well maintained without anyone giving up any real rights; there just needs to be a revision of what 'rights' entails. Your right to property doesn't imply an obligation on others to provide you with it, simply an obligation not to forcibly take it from you. It's that obligation that the state should be enforcing. And so on. You'll note that you're constitutionally guaranteed the right to 'the pursuit of happiness', not happiness itself.

//Consider, for example, the career of gangster Nick van Hoogstraten, who was very keen on his private property rights.//

Perilously close to version 37 of Godwin's Law there.
-- angel, Jan 09 2008

Just to clarify; I'm *not* making an argument of the form
a. Van Hoogstraten likes private property rights.
b. Van Hoogstraten is a bad person.
c. If you like private property rights, you're a bad person.

Instead, I'm making a much more specific argument, namely,
a. Van Hoogstraten, though a private citizen himself, tyrannised a number of other citizens.
b. Van Hoogstraten was able to do this because of his ownership of large and numerous properties (including the homes of some of his victims).
c. In at least some cases, the concentration of land in a few private hands is, itself, the main threat to freedom for many citizens.

For other examples, see Latin America and C2nd BC Italy.
-- pertinax, Jan 09 2008

[pertinax]: I agree that you didn't suggest that those who support property rights are de facto bad; but what even your clarification suggests is that the existence of property rights can be - or at least, can enable - a threat to freedom, and that the denial of those rights increases - or can protect - freedom, which is kinda the wrong way round. What you *should* be preventing is the abuse of power which can result from such a situation; but then you should be preventing such abuse whatever its root. It's possible to keep the baby while disposing of the bathwater.
-- angel, Jan 09 2008

I don't know whether this whole idea would work, but I think it's worth pointing out that, contra [UnaBubba], that it's neither socialism nor anarchism.

Under socialism, the government would own the properties.

Under anarchism, no-one would own the properties.

What [vince] is proposing is the much less radical idea that private individuals should own the properties, in the traditional petit-bourgeois way - with only one twist, namely, that no one private individual would own too many of them.

As I understand it, he would still have to buy and pay for his house. He would just have some protection against house-hoarding by, as it might be, the Duke of Westminster.

In political terms this is really quite conservative, in so far as it would actually expand the property-owning class, in rather the same sort of way as Margaret Thatcher's 'buy your own council house' scheme.

I can see it getting dragged down by legal and semi-legal work-arounds, as some other posters have indicated, but it doesn't seem crazy.
-- pertinax, Jan 09 2008

The Thatcher 'right to buy' scheme (which, for the benefit of non-UKers, gave tenants of council-owned properties the right to buy them at a discounted price), was totally different. The properties were already owned by the state (in the form of the local authority), and were being taken into private ownership. So, instead of me subsidising your rent *and* your repair and decorating costs, you buy the house cheap and look after the ongoings yourself. The result should have been that local authorities' rate-payers were relieved of the financial burden of maintaining the properties. A relatively small one-off loss on the purchase price was exchanged for the long-term liability. What actually happened was that most councils proceeded to restore their stock of social (ie, subsidised) housing, thus perpetuating the situation. What's being suggested here is that the state attach private property and give it to some other individual who has no right to it.
-- angel, Jan 09 2008

//In a confined space (such as south- eastern England),// For reference, I've heard rumours that the northern and western parts of the UK (perhaps even as far as Wales) are also habitable. Scotland, obviously, is out.

This gives us about 260,000 square kilometers of land area to divide amongst about 60,000,000 people. This is about 4000 square metres, or a plot about 60 metres on a side.

So, if it's OK with you, I'll take my 60 x 60m plot in Chelsea, and my wife and daughter can have the plots on either side. I'm sure you'll be happy with a similar plot somewhere in rural Norfolk.

What you want, I suspect, is not to ensure that everybody has enough space to live, but that nobody has more than anyone else - which is not the same thing at all.
-- MaxwellBuchanan, Jan 09 2008

//What you *should* be preventing is the abuse of power which can result //

It's generally too late to prevent the abuse of power after you've allowed it to be concentrated. For example, consider all the rights written into the constitution of the Soviet Union. They weren't worth anything, because the concentration of power in the Communist Party was so great that no countervailing power existed which could enforce those rights.

For contrast, consider the constitution of the United States, where the 'separation of powers' is stipulated even before you know whether anyone is planning to do anything bad with those powers.

Large-scale ownership of land is a form of power. In the Middle Ages it was *the* form of power, the basis of aristocracy and the antithesis of democracy and freedom.

//the state attach private property and give it //

Maybe this is a pedantic point, but I don't think the state attaches the property at any point, nor is the property given to anyone. Instead, the property is to be sold to another private individual at a market price determined at auction.

//northern and western parts of the UK [...] are also habitable//

That rather depends on where you can get a job.

//that nobody has more than anyone else //

I don't mind at all you having more than me. What I would object to is you having so much more than me as to place me at your mercy.
-- pertinax, Jan 09 2008

Well, do you feel you're at my mercy? I guess I should leave this as is. Personally, I don't like this system and wouldn't vote for a government that I think would enforce it. But as long as I get to vote, that's good enough for me.
-- MaxwellBuchanan, Jan 09 2008

[pertinax]: The Soviet Union was a totalitarian state; no-one had any rights. (If they're not protected, they ain't there.) In the middle ages, there was no real government as we understand the term now. The first Magna Carta defined who was allowed to do what, and it specifically limited the power of landowners.

//I don't think the state attaches the property at any point//

Imagine that Adam has £1000 and Barry has £10. The state takes £200 from Adam and gives it to Barry. How much does each person have? None, the state has it all; if you cannot determine how you use your stuff, you don't own it.

[UnaBubba]: That's what socialism is; it's fine so long as you're getting stuff that you're not working for, but not so good when you have to give stuff that you *have* worked for to other unproductive parasites.
-- angel, Jan 10 2008

I wonder what becomes of any improvements the owner might have made to the property once it is auctioned. On my property I have erected a one million foot tower built of solid gold. Do I lose my rights to that at the 20 year point?

Here is what I would do if I were a wealthy person in such a system. I would find a set of dispossessed folks who did not own their own property. A consortium of these folks would be the actual title holders to the property underlying my tower. They sign a contract agreeing that they will not sell or bequeath to anyone but me - if this should take place, I find another dispossessed person to take the place of the seller. In return they would be paid an allowance by me.
-- bungston, Jan 10 2008

//Well, do you feel you're at my mercy?// No, but that's because I don't live in the tied cottage at the bottom of your vegetable garden (see link).
-- pertinax, Jan 10 2008

//I don't live in the tied cottage at the bottom of your vegetable garden// As far as I'm aware, nobody lives in the tied cottage at the bottom of my vegetable garden - I'm sure the gardener would have told me if they did.

I guess the basic issue is that some people have more things than other people. I don't really think that land or housing is fundamentally different in this respect from anything else.

Anyway, good luck in politics - I'll leave it there.
-- MaxwellBuchanan, Jan 10 2008

//(If they're not protected, they ain't there.)// Isn't that the same as what I said? (//They weren't worth anything, because...//) I think we're acrimoniously agreed on that point.

I'd like to make it clear that I do recognize the importance of private property rights as a firewall against the arbitrary extension of state power. I just don't agree with the absolutist interpretation of them expressed by [angel]. I don't mean 'absolutist' as an insult; I just can't think of a better one-word characterisation of the position expressed by //How much does each person have? None, ...//, which implies that any tax regime at all is incompatible with property.

//Magna Carta [...] specifically limited the power of landowners// So, if a tax-payer-funded law-court were ever to enforce one of those limitations against you, would you regard that as evil government interference in your property rights? If not, why not?

//you're getting stuff that you're not working for// Well, maybe I'm not typical, but my wealth, such as it is, comes from a combination of sources:
a. my hard work
b. my sometimes quite pleasant and interesting work
c. the kindness of friends and family
d. bastard luck
e. tax-payer-funded education and health
f. the bounty of nature
g. the Grace of God
h. cunning
... not necessarily in that order.

Now suppose that, to avoid future taxes, I wanted to migrate to [angel]'s ideal society, on a small tax-shelter somewhere in the Caribbean. However, so as not to be rejected as a socialist parasite, I must bring with me only the products of my own hard work. How do I decide what I should leave behind?

//In the middle ages, there was no real government as we understand the term now. // Well, it was unaccountable, nepotistic and prone to violence. Many of its functions (including education and social services) were mediated through churches and monasteries, or through a sort of franchise system. However, most of this was ultimately funded by involuntary expropriations. So, (I'm curious here), which part of this made it not 'real government'?
-- pertinax, Jan 11 2008

//On my property I have erected a one million foot tower built of solid gold.//

Ah yes. I have a lot of sympathy for your problem here, [bungston].

I'm afraid you might find that some of the fine print of [vince]'s legislation makes those contracts unenforceable.

However, for a one-off cost, you might be able to solve the problem as follows:
1. Build a slightly-less-than-half million foot tower of base metal somewhere between your main residence and the additional residence where you have your tower.
2. Gently topple the golden tower so that it pivots on the top of the tower of base metal and comes to rest upside-down somewhere closer to home.
3. Repeat until the golden tower has pride of place in the living room of your principal residence.
-- pertinax, Jan 11 2008

<why I won't just be reasonable and leave this one alone>

Sorry to be boring about this, but narrowing of the property base through consolidation into a few hands can have serious political repercussions, often ending up in unstable military dictatorships where no-one has any rights at all. It has happened in the past, and it can happen again. Maybe I'll shut up now.

-- pertinax, Jan 11 2008

//I think we're acrimoniously agreed on that point.//

Sort of; you're saying that under certain circumstances rights exist but are useless, and I'm saying that under those circumstances they don't exist.

Magna Carta's effect was to impose a form of what I might call (if I were to get all formal and poncey about it) 'natural justice'; it sought to prevent unwarranted assaults on the liberty of others (such as by attaching their goods, and obliging their servitude). Even a legally-constituted court has no moral right to make those impositions. Governments make rules, not laws in the moral sense; those already exist, and the purpose of government should be to protect them.

//any tax regime at all is incompatible with property.// ... //[angel]'s ideal society, on a small tax-shelter//

You're mischaracterising or misunderstanding; or most likely, I'm just failing to explain, for which I apologise. My 'ideal society' is one where true public goods are publicly funded and anything else is not. (A public good, to clarify, is one whose benefits are used by all and which cannot be costed on a per-use basis. National defence and the judicial system are the most obvious, and there are very few more.)

May I reword "stuff that you're not working for" as "stuff that you're not entitled to", with the proviso that 'entitlement' is my version, not some state-mandated version.
-- angel, Jan 11 2008

//for which I apologise//

Apology accepted; your clarification is helpful, thank you.
-- pertinax, Jan 14 2008

random, halfbakery