To Tax or to Borrow?

Further Reading:

public revenue without taxation

Public Revenue Without Taxation
by Ronald Burgess

No Debt High Growth Low Tax
by Andrew Purves

This is the dilemma facing the British government – and many others – as they struggle to meet the rising costs of the welfare state while trying to eliminate the budget deficit. The options are either to increase taxation, never a popular move, or to increase borrowing. The cost of the former will fall on present taxpayers, the latter on future generations and the young of today who are being wooed by Jeremy Corbyn.

What is not under consideration is serious reform of the tax system itself to ensure that the cost of collecting taxes is kept to a minimum and that the damaging impact of taxation on the economy is eliminated. In recent years the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee has repeatedly condemned the inefficiency and unfairness of the present system.

A more trenchant criticism came from Lord Soames in 1978: “If one were to set out with a specific, stated objective of designing a tax system which would penalise and deter thrift, energy and success, it would be almost impossible to do better than the one which we have in this country today.”

Mervyn King (the former Governor of the Bank of England) and John Kay in the Preface to their British Tax System (1990) wrote: “What is required is a strategy for tax reform. The warm reception initially given to the radical Budgets of 1984 and 1988 illustrates the extent of demand for reform. But the structure of the tax system is little improved and there was, in fact, no articulated strategy for such change behind these Budgets.”

So far the government has not seen the need, so an increasingly complex tax system continues to disadvantage the poor and to exert a drag on the economy generally.

However, serious thought was given to tax reform by the author of Public Revenue without Taxation. He writes that “taxation is a primal cause of both inflation and unemployment”. He also points out that “the development of Keynes’ general theory of employment leads to the conclusion that an open trading economy is likely to be most competitive, and therefore most prosperous, only when all taxation is abolished.”

To illustrate how a start could be made to eliminate taxes, Burgess draws on the distinction Alfred Marshall made between ‘the public and private value of freeholds’ to reveal a source of revenue that is peculiarly public, that arises from the very nature of a trading economy, that is not a tax in the conventional sense, and does not offend against the principle of private property.

As Andrew Purves describes in No Debt High Growth Low Tax, even when this source of revenue is only partially tapped, it has a dramatic effect on the economy.

A History of Land-Value Taxation in New Zealand

Further Reading: Ricardo’s Law by Fred Harrison (ed.) New Zealand holds a rather special status in that it was notably the first country to introduce a system of land-value taxation for raising revenue. This essay, by Ian Hopton, traces the fortunes of Land-Value...

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Rent Unmasked – A book for the people?

Further Reading: Rent Unmasked by Fred Harrison (ed.) Rent Unmasked has been chosen for the Winter 2016/17 heat of The People's Book Prize for Non-Fiction. This competition is based purely on public votes - so we need your help. Successful books from the heats are...

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BREXIT a gift to the peoples of Europe

BREXIT was a gift to the peoples of Europe by those in Britain who voted to leave the European Union, argue the authors of Beyond Brexit: The Blueprint. As a consequence of the referendum decision, the EU is undertaking a review of the crises facing Europe. At their meeting in Rome in March 2017, to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, governments from 27 countries – with the UK absent – will receive a plan from Brussels on how to address the problems which, in large measure, were due to fundamental flaws in the way the European project evolved.

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Boosting the Economy Post-Brexit

There were almost daily warnings following the shock Brexit result that Britain would be heading for a recession. Responding to this the Bank of England cut interest rates to a historic low of 0.25%. So fixated are economists on monetary policy to boost economic activity that little attention has been given to how tax reform could deliver better results. Two of our recent releases contain answers to the problem of the shrinking economy.

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“You can become wealthy by creating wealth or by appropriating the wealth created by other people. When the appropriation of the wealth is illegal it is called theft or fraud. When it is legal economists call it rent-seeking”

John Kay, Financial Times 27th Dec 2009

“If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, they cannot save the few who are rich.”

John F Kennedy, Inaugural Speech, Jan 1961

“If science is defined by its ability to forecast the future, the failure of much of the economics profession to see the crisis coming should be a cause for great concern”

Joseph Stiglitz

“Today we live in a world that is divided. A world in which we have made great progress and advances in science and technology. But it is also a world where millions of children die because they have no access to medicines… It is a world of great promise and hope. It is also a world of despair, disease and hunger”

Nelson Mandela


Rent Unmasked

Rent UnmaskedRent Unmasked explores the new economic paradigm that policy-makers need to solve global problems in the post-2008 era. With conventional economic theories discredited, the new model must equip governments with tools to re-stabilise societies in a dangerous world. Rent Unmasked explains why one paradigm only qualifies to serve this purpose: the dynamic model that reinstates time and space in economic theorising.

ISBN 9780856835117 | Price: £19.95