Basic income and a land tax

Photograph: Alan Betson

Photograph: Alan Betson

 

A chara , – The Irish Times of November 26th published columns about two progressive and related ideas that are essential for a fair society and a healthy economy: universal basic income and land taxes.

Basic income (Breda O’Brien, Opinion & Analysis) is a concept with a long history, and it has the potential to support all kinds of work, paid and unpaid. It can support care for people and for the environment, along with support for education, innovation, creativity, local and community economies, rural life, farming, employment and self-employment, small businesses, social enterprises and cooperatives.

It would be a shame if the broad potential of basic income were ignored by those who see it only as a mechanism to compensate people who lose their jobs to automation. There are already many people in society whose creative ideas and desire to contribute to economy and society would be immediately boosted if a basic income were introduced. There are also some whose level of readiness to contribute is not so developed, who would need a longer time to build up their capacity, supported by basic income and appropriate education and development programmes.

Readers and journalists alike can find out more at the websites of Social Justice Ireland and Basic Income Ireland.

David McWilliams’s welcome article (Weekend) on the need to tax land did not emphasise that the tax is levied on the market value of the land in question. It does not tax any buildings on the land. This value is created not by the landowner, but by the activities of the community and by State spending. The tax is more appropriately called a land- or site-value tax and it should replace our current property tax. In 2012, Feasta, the Foundation for the Economics of Sustainability, published an excellent collection book called The Fair Tax, detailing the many benefits of land-value tax.

Land-value belongs to all of us; it is a public good which is currently privatised. Land-value tax should of course be used to furnish public goods and services. Many proponents also argue that it should fund a basic income.

The principle involved here is similar to the idea that data should provide a source of revenue for basic income. We all provide data to companies such as Facebook and Google and the profits they make from using our data should be used to pay a dividend to all citizens of the globe. – Yours, etc,

ANNE RYAN,

Co-ordinator,

Basic Income Ireland

and Director, Feasta,

Celbridge, Co Kildare.