Another good interview that is well-illustrated with pics from my own archives and selections by the Nutmeg people. Quite a bit of my life story stuff, with an opening blast at the concept of Limited Liability that allows those who own companies to shirk responsibility for broken commitments and damages inflicted by actions from which they profited. That’s a relatively new ‘invention’ that I have for some time regarded as a curse upon our culture. When I did VegeBurger it was as sole proprietor with unlimited liability for my actions. It does focus the mind and keep one responsible.
While readying words to accompany this Nugget in a Nutshell on taxation I turned up the clearest most concise piece I have yet to read on the subject, by Dominic Frisby, who seamlessly combines his career in financial journalism with that of stand-up comic. Taxation – in a minute
Did you know that the UK tax code is ten times longer than the complete works of William Shakespeare? I sum it up in a minute on the video, as what it has always been – a funnel shifting wealth from the many to the few.
Why we need to simplify our tax code – Dominic Frisby
Back in August I took a show to the Edinburgh Festival all about tax. Not perhaps the most fertile subject for comedy – HMRC’s cock-ups aside – but I’d concluded that the dearth of media about such an important subject needed to be put right.
Tax is and has always been power. Whether kings, emperors or governments, if they lose their tax revenue, they lose their power. The aim behind every conquest in history has been to take control of the tax base. The purpose of every revolution is pretty much the same. Every war has been funded by some kind of tax, either before or after the event.
Tax permeates everything that we do. It’s as much a part of our lives as eating, drinking or sleeping. Can you name me an activity – apart from breathing – that doesn’t involve taxation in some way?
I know what you are thinking. All you’re doing by that is creating future taxpayers.
The way that a society is taxed speaks volumes about that society. In the UK taxes are taken at source, by stealth, by force and without choice. So, there’s a relationship between taxation and freedom, as well.
At the end of last year I was asked to describe a positive vision of the future for “Newtopia,” an online BBC channel. An exciting first job of 2018 and, of course, I went for a world without the state, stressing the positive and not dwelling on the negatives (just listen to the news for that).
The challenge was to compress my entire book into 2.5 minutes of audio. Phew! It would have been easier to produce 60 minutes. Feeling good about being up top on the viewing charts with it.
At 10:18am in Oregon (6:18pm Britain) the moon will totally eclipse Sun’s light as its shadow umbra begins a 91 minute race across America at over twice the speed of sound, hitting the Atlantic in Charleston, South Carolina.
Wish I could teleport to Oregon and experience this cosmic event with all my friends on site at the eclipse festival and catch Raja Ram and Simon Posford blowing minds with their post-eclipse Shpongling. But I’m not there and having a great time in London instead, with plenty of warm social time.
I didn’t set out to put some elaborate political or portentous spin on this major eclipse. Considering the bonkers state of the political world that dominates our news and drains our pockets it’s difficult to envision anything of commensurate major good that could happen. But then, something came to me – a thought exercise as much as anything else.
There’s only one big event I see that could match the bigness of a total eclipse crossing the world’s financial and military superpower. It is an event usually portrayed as a near-apocalyptic disaster yet one that could put us on the road to a sustainable future. Such was the fear of this happening in 2008 that our grandchildren’s lives were sold to the banks to stop them from pulling the plugs. This drastic action just kicked the problem downstream, in the process making the super-rich a whole lot richer. Global financial collapse temporarily averted.
Were this to revisit and happen then the upside would be:
No funding for politicians and their wars.
Bankers go out of business (as in bankrupt)
Grandchildren’s debt annulled
Ever-expanding economy no longer needed
Companies would soon find another means to express the relative values of bread, iPhones, bicycles, massages and Uber rides. It’s not all that complex, compared to making a phone. Significantly, we have Bitcoin and other crypto currencies already in place, independent of the global financial system.
As I said earlier, I had nothing in mind at the start of this scribble. But then thought that if this eclipse does augur something major and transformative the only event I find to match is banking collapse. Geography and timing fit, but I don’t predict.
Personally, I hope the eclipse will just be a wonderful inspirational experience for all those in the US fortunate enough to see Sun’s corona – the otherwise invisible mind field of this cosmic being that brings us the light of life.
Ha! I’ve managed to blend elements of both my books here – doesn’t often happen. Find out about them on my website —> Books.
America is fighting wars in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen, sending drones to Pakistan and Afghanistan, and striving to revive the Cold War with Russia. These conflicts are good for no one but the military industrial complex that has had its hands on the throat of American government for decades. This institution is a cultural cancer that spreads across the world, threatening civilisation and our species. If there are future generations, they will look back with the same degree of horror at manufactured war as we do at the history of slavery or Nazi death-camps.
Let’s face it. Those running our governments knew damn well that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. They do not give a damn about the people of Libya or Afghanistan, or whether they enjoy democracy. They support the jihadist rebels intent upon turning a formerly stable and secular Syria into an unholy mess ripe to be made holy in the mold of Islamic State. Iran is next in their sights, already under attack by severe economic sanction. Western nations are allied to far worse characters than those whose regimes they so righteously strive to change.
The rulers of today’s America need war. From their angle, as long as weapons are expended and fear generated it matters not whether they win or lose their wars. Nobody is going to invade the USA and neither soldiers nor generals will end up in prisoner of war camps. Military careers are made in war, not in peace. If their violent actions create more conflict or even bring it to Western shores that’s just more business for the security, killing and fear management industries.
This is an industry that seeks to create conflicts that will result in the death of hundreds of thousands and the dislocation of millions. I can assure you that these dead and dislocated are people very like you and me. They have, or had, children they raised and love, parents and grandparents they revere, businesses they built, homes they made home, gardens and farms they treasure.
You and I, with our taxes, fund the military industrial complex. It is a cancer that is metastasising and devouring us. Far from ‘defense’ industries protecting global citizens from danger they pose a more real and present risk to our life and liberty than global warming or a coronal mass ejection from the Sun. There is nobody out there from whom America needs defending, yet its ‘defense’ expenditure surpasses that of the next seven nations combined.
We do not want to believe that those who rule us, or those who quietly rule them, could be so cruel and heartless. They tell us they have nothing but our best interests in mind. Yet history is riddled with rulers who thought nothing of human life, rulers who slaughtered and raped all manner of innocents for all manner of reasons, including the pleasure of it.
There is no reason to assume that because we have some new-fangled way of determining who our next set of rulers will be that we thereby exclude the likes of a Nero, Genghis Khan, Hitler or Stalin from assuming power. One has only to look at the current American election to realize that we cannot rely upon the so-called democratic process to prevent dangerous criminals and demagogues from running a militaristic empire on a par with that of the Romans.
As long as we buy into the notion that top-down rulers are the best way to maintain order in our community we accept a system that disconnects the feedback loops needed to direct its evolution. With feedback loops our communications evolved from undersea telegraph cables going dot-dash to the smartphone connecting us all; our transport went from canals and bicycles to jet planes. Without feedback loops our security services have evolved from police, judges and prisons to more powerful and expensive police, judges and prisons, all of them thriving on crime. If crime rates were to halve they’d be out of work, or need to criminalise a raft of victimless crimes to compensate. The vast majority of US prison inmates today have been incarcerated for victimless crimes, and are used as virtual slave labour on production lines.
Instead of giving war-faring states the credit for our positive progress as humanity, we should applaud our own heroic ability to evolve despite their history of destructive and obstructive influence. In the freedom of the Internet major online retailers develop and improve low-cost means to control and compensate for crime without handcuffs, courtrooms and prisoners. This should give us cause for optimism. Perhaps it is possible for humanity to live together in peace without having to slaughter each other in its pursuit.
When we have top-down government determining policies with coercively enforced rules it follows that those making and applying the rules are the rulers. How those rulers arrive at their positions is not, ultimately, the point. The system arose long ago as a means for the few to live off the labours of the many, self-financing themselves with taxes demanded by force. There have been many variations on this theme in the past 4500 years or so, but wherever you have a state with the power to make and enforce rules, there is likely to be a despotic elite striving to get their hands on the controls. Sometimes they succeed.
We must recognize that just such an elite has succeeded in the US. Uncle Sam has been incarcerating his own subjects at unprecedented levels while exporting war and armed conflict across the world. This is a shocking unthinkable thought to most, but one that both presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy warned Americans of in the 1960’s. They were not paranoid conspiracy theorists and their fears have become reality.
What can we possibly do about this? The first step, undoubtedly, is to stop being in denial and to open our eyes to the truth. Stop swallowing the propaganda. Let go of the fear and recognize there is no existential need for this so-called “necessary evil.” We are stronger and more powerful than we know. Our collective belief is at the foundation of state power, more important than all its trappings and uniformed inforcers. Whoever moves into the White House next will make little difference. We can.
I write this in a world awash with nuclear weapons as two frightening characters fight over the reins of the most militarised nation in history. So-called democracy has come down to letting Americans pick which of two candidates they don’t want least. Amusing, to someone from another planet. The book that I wrote goes well beyond the “who did what to whom” approach, looking at the power of freedom and the perils of suppressing it by governmental decree. It is titled The State Is Out Of Date – We Can Do It Better. It will give you hope for the future.
Very Naughty in Nigeria – In the course of cutting arms deals for Nigeria, $15 Billion was embezzled by those in the administration of Goodluck Jonathan’s government. They got found out, but will there be justice and retrieval? Unlikely. In view of the frivolous, even fictitious, basis upon which some Western nations have launched wars of late, one might wonder whether some of our diplomats’ pockets are being lined? That anyone would countenance the deaths of hundreds of thousands for the sake of their wealth might seem unthinkable to many, but rest assured that it happens. I would not for a moment suggest that Tony Blair’s impressive wealth of £60 million could be connected in any way to his peace efforts in the Middle East.
South Africa – 738 criminal charges against? – Answer: President Jacob Zuma. Seems like he’s losing his grip on power in South Africa as the nation’s High Court has decided that it was “irrational” to drop corruption charged against him in 2009, a few weeks before he became president. His power was enough then to convince the same High Court to drop all 738 charges relating to a multibillion-dollar arms deal. Here we are again, sleazy dealing involving the arms industry. This comes on top of the scandal over his spending of $23 million on private residence improvements, with state funds. Got to admit that Western leaders have more experience at keeping their sleazies under control.
Obama sends UK to the back of what queue? – We were fed the image of poor old Britain forlornly stuck at the back of the queue, but never clearly told what queue. That would be inclusion in the hugely controversial TTIP deal that gives powers to corporations over governments and could lead to overriding of local regulations against GM foods, farming hormones, and much else besides.
Someone just leaked the full content of the TTIP agreement, which was being kept totally secret right up to the wire. We can now see why, with the content confirming the worst fears of critics. Many hope this revelation will kill it. Will it?
Luxembourg, the EU, and corporate connivance – In what has been dubbed LuxLeaks, 45,000 pages were leaked by young accountant Antoine Deltour detailing how the government of Luxembourg connived with multinationals to virtually eliminate their tax obligations in Europe. This was back in 2010 and he is now being prosecuted under laws covering industrial espionage. This is appalling, and the sort of stuff we know all to well.
What I find of special interest is that the European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker last job was prime minister of Luxembourg, were he had a hand in shaping the tax policies that now enable the corporate avoidance of tax throughout Europe. That’s politics in the EU, without even an electorate to worry about.
Saving Energy in Venezuela – Public sector workers in Venezuela get a “five day weekend,” working just Mondays and Tuesdays, at full pay, in an effort to reduce electricity consumption. Venezuela is in the grip of a serious energy crisis. Another measure moved the clocks forward 30 minutes to benefit from more useful daylight, saving lighting electricity. Climate, hydro-electrics, under-investment and poor management are contributing factors to the power shortage in this oil-rich nation.
I’ll close with as quote from Shirley MacLaine.
“It is useless to hold a person to anything he says while he’s in love, drunk, or running for office”
If you want to make sense of these stories, and recognize that war, corruption and duplicity are not an inevitable fact of life then do check out this blogger’s book.
People often think I am defending corporations when I make the point that it is usually the state that facilitates their dirty work. There is very little point in railing at corporations when they are using state-sanctioned means to suppress competition. Better to get rid of the unreal tools with which they insulate themselves from market evolution and the public’s glare. I often example those who engage military and police to evict indigenous people from assets they bought rights to from government. Here is a more easily digested example, and one involving something close to my heart.
The growth of small craft breweries in the US has been astounding. I became a beer connoisseur in the mid 1970’s and recall there then being under ten breweries in the entire USA. A decade later there were 110 and today there are 3,500.
So how has Anheuser-Busch, the world’s largest brewer, responded to the growing popularity of quality beers? No amount of advertising can lure somebody back to Bud Light when they have tasted proper beer made by beer-loving brewers. Instead, they are manipulating an outdated and irrelevant Prohibition-era law to block the brewers of craft beers from distributing them to other sellers.
As they say in the coverage of this story by Rare, “…it’s clear that what Anheuser-Busch is doing… could not take place in a truly free market…Imagine what kind of craft creativity could be unleashed for all to enjoy if the government would simply get out of the beer industry’s way altogether!”
Imagine what creativity could emerge from the market if government stopped regulating all those things that we can manage better.
It is not a case of who is paying their “fair share” of taxation but a case of taxation itself not being fair. That massive extraction, by the state, of wealth produced by human activity is at the root of our civilization’s troubles, and underwrites all its wars. Why do we think it okay that we cannot choose how to deploy half of the wealth we create? The answer simply lays in finding another way of doing things we are already doing.
Outrage has been prompted by Oxfam’s estimate that the richest 1% will soon own 51% of the world’s wealth. A predictable “steal from the rich and give to the poor” response rallies public support and thereby diverts blame from the state for its inability to deliver the services for which we pay them well. The problem is inherent waste and inefficiency, not who pays how much tax. Politicians won’t actually squeeze much out of their super-rich masters but we’ll support taxes implemented in the name of wealth redistribution and call if fair play. Taxation is the taking of money against the threat of damage for non-compliance – always has been. It’s rather like mugging, and not a lot gets sprinkled back. Over 70% of taxation is not upon our earnings anyway, but in every pound we spend; each cup of coffee, pair of shoes, drop of petrol or alcohol, massage, rent payment and watt of electricity bears the burden of a heavy state. Wealthy consumers already pay a lot more taxes on that account. If we doubled income taxes on the super-rich the extra revenue would not even cover the interest owed to bankers by our state for creating the money that prevented other bankers from going bankrupt as a result of immoral dealings. Don’t expect it to dent the deficit, and know that many of the wealthiest 1% have fingers, hands, and heads in governments across the world and would be less assured of their wealth without that leverage and control.
Were the answer to every problem “more taxation” then we would soon have 0.0% control over how we deploy our wealth, instead of just 50%. Only 10 of those 50% in taxes is eventually spent within the category of “redistribution of wealth,” which is neither an underlying purpose of taxation, nor a priority. Are we truly incapable of re-distributing our own wealth, voluntarily, to organizations with genuine charitable credentials and goals in tune with our own?
The combination of all levied taxes sees half or more of the total wealth created by people and companies sucked into the state to fund its spending. The state overspends and borrows the excess from banks, to be repaid by our future wealth creation (which must constantly increase for the scheme to work). It works for the central banks who create that money, literally, out of thin air. It’s smoke and mirrors.
“The bank hath benefit of interest on all moneys which it creates out of nothing.” William Paterson, founder in 1694 of the Bank of England,
The state is not a necessary evil and society will not collapse into dog-eat-dog savagery without them sucking out its lifeblood to preserve order. 98% of us are caring human beings who cherish the idea of living in peace and harmony with each other. We are good at doing that. Then some 2% of us are sociopaths who see the rest as a resource to be used and exploited, having no compassion for starving babies or tortured grandmothers of their own or any other race. Unsurprisingly, politics is a common career choice for sociopaths.
In our system sociopaths sometimes get to the very top. Historical examples abound, with our own era witnessing pre-planned wars waged on false pretenses destroying the lives of countless millions. That 98% cannot imagine a human being behaving so badly is the greatest strength of the 2%, and underpins the “Big Lie.” Adolf Hitler described this in Mein Kampf as a lie so “colossal” that no one would believe someone “could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously.” Even after seeing “facts which prove” they “doubt and waver,” assuming there is “some other explanation.”
Politics is not even the main game in town, though it often appears to be the only one. Examples abound of civilization self-organizing without the need of top-down control by force. In our current system, democratic or otherwise, we too often find scum rising to the top and calling the shots. In a free system we develop means to eject the scum and let cream rise to the top. The feedback loop of customer reviews does just this at Tripadvisor, Amazon, Airbnb, Uber, and other new age businesses. We can do it. We have the technology, and I’m off on a tangent here which could stretch into an entire book but will not since it is already written.
TAXATION EXPLAINED, by Jean Baptiste Colbert, 17th century finance minister to Louis XIV : “The art of taxation consists in so plucking the goose as to obtain the largest possible amount of feathers with the smallest possible amount of hissing.”
Talk of social engineering, climate management, and wealth redistribution is all about reducing the hissing.
In “The State Is Out Of Date – We Can Do It Better” I recall a cigarette-related event witnessed in Morocco many years ago that opened my eyes to the obstacles to free enterprise imposed by the state.
From Chapter 20, The State of Business: An early insight into this restrictive climate came to me some years ago at a cafe in Marrakesh, where I noticed a young man standing on the corner each evening with a pack of twenty cigarettes, selling them singly to passersby. The customers were able to better manage their habit by buying the cigarettes singly. The young man was able to set up his own business as a retailer for the cost of a pack of cigarettes—an almost inconceivable concept in our developed “free” democracy. The bridge is great between the skills we need to manage our own enterprise, and those needed to do so according to the requirements of the state. Many are unable to cross this bridge, despite having all the skills that nature demands to interact in this way with society.
Police accused Eric Garner of practicing the “free” part of “free enterprise” and killed him while enforcing regulations imposed to keep us safe. He had proclaimed his innocence of that victimless crime. Michael Brown was confronted in Ferguson Missouri for jaywalking and shot dead – for ignoring street-crossing rules. Don’t get me wrong, I am not against regulation or the policing of it – it is an essential part of community. What we need is connected regulation generated from the bottom up and voluntarily adhered to by those who want to enjoy the social facilities, connections, and benefits that accompany respect for that regulation. Such self-government would evolve along with society without creating volumes of victimless crimes and monsters like the War on Drugs or the Common Agricultural Policy.
Earlier in the book we look at coercion, the basic tool of every sovereign power, and see that refusal to pay a parking ticket could ultimately lead to one’s death. As it happens, suspicion of unlawful cigarette selling was enough for Eric Garner.
From Chapter 8 of The State Is Out Of Date, titled Legitimizing Coercion: “How does the state use coercion on us? Using a simple example like a parking fine, let us say that you absolutely refuse to pay this ticket or spend time in the court process trying to prove, say, that the police had blocked you from returning to your car in time due to a security scare. Anyway, no way are you going to pay a hundred dollars, pounds, or whatever to this uncaring and unresponsive state-sanctioned collection agency. Neither will you run and hide, accept losing your freedom and going to jail, nor will you let anyone impound your car or in any way take your money from you. So what does the state do? They will get your money, and they will coerce you into paying it; assuming that you are a relatively sane person, you will abandon your righteous determination and pay them.
Why? Because coercion ultimately means that if you are not willing to pay the fine or go to jail or run away, you can be killed. Shocking, isn’t it? Of course the state has bailiffs and ways of seizing your hundred whatevers before it comes to this. But if you really did not want them to collect their fine and either had no assets or had made them inaccessible, then the state would come to put you in prison for non-payment. If you did not go into hiding or sought to successfully resist this, actively defending yourself from being seized or stunned or gassed, then they would by some means eventually overcome and incarcerate you, or you would avoid going to prison on account of being dead. They will never say, “Well played, mate, we acknowledge your determination as righteous and will no longer press you to pay the fine imposed by our courts.”
Coercion may have been the only means to deal with threats such as Napoleon and Hitler who were, in essence, fighting other rulers for dominion over territory and the people within it. Horrifying to think, but had they won we might be looking back at them as great historic figures; a likely outcome when victors write the history. William the Conqueror got away with it, they did not. No visceral hatred of the English ever sent hoards of French or German people streaming onto cross-channel ferries armed with muskets and pickaxes. You need armies and governments to do that, or to protect us from governments and armies that do that. The more we spend on defense and security the more war and insecurity we will experience.