ApologiaNo, I am not running for election. These are my suggestions for future world governance.
IdentityEvery person in the entire world is a unique person, and, since modern technology can easily accommodate it, morally entitled to be recognised as such. Each person in the world should have a unique identifying number and a means of identifying him/her-self with that number. This should be regarded as a human right.
The benefits of registered identities are immense and include:
- An end to incessant form-filling;
- Quick identification of accident victims;
- On-line storage and access to medical records (for authorised persons);
- No-nonsense immigration control;
- An end to identity-theft;
- An end to social-welfare fraud;
- Uncovery of money-laundering by data-mining rather than form-filling;
- Multiple improvements in public-sector productivity.
A person who has no identity number, or whose identity number can't be ascertained, would be given a new number on his/ her first communication with modern society, e.g., on entering a country, on opening a bank account or on application for a job or to enroll in college. Offline data matching would discover his/ her old identity, if any.
Sales and Theft RecordsEvery bicycle, television and computer (as well as most other consumer commodities) has a unique identifying number. The law should require that the number be included in the receipt for each such item sold, as well as being stored in the records of the vendor (or passed to a central database). It would follow that all recoverd stolen items would be easily traceable back to their owners by searching the database.
My wallet was taken once, when I was on a visit to Montmartre in Paris. I called to the police to report the theft. Having taken down my details, the gendarme enquired as to whether I required a docket from the police for insurance purposes. Since I had already cancelled my credit card having confirmed that there were no unauthorised charges, I answered: no. To my surprise, the gendarme tore up his report and threw it in the bin. There was, apparently, no need to keep a record. Now, if records are not kept, how can the police paint a picture of where crimes are being committed. A database of reported crimes could be used to improve the detection of crimes.
Prohibit destruction of DataThe destruction of data should be an offence. Instead of requiring the destruction of old records deemed no longer relevant, all data should be preserved. Companies going into liquidation should be obliged to pass their old records of sales and purchases to a public database, so that information can always be traced back by legitimate investigation.
Abolish FormsA consequence of having registered identies could be the abolition of incessant form-filling which now plagues our lives. All relevant information about an event would be recorded on the happening of the event, e.g., birth, marriage, divorce, death, adoption, opening bank account, medical event, criminal charge, house-sale and house-purchase, lodging with hotel. As a consequence, form filling would be unnecessary: one merely produces one's card at the time of an event, and that event is added automatically to the official record.
To abolish forms requires other changes too: for example, in tax systems.
Change Tax SystemsEvery era has a tax system suitable to it. Paleolithic (hunter & gatherer) communities shared all commodities within the tribe. Agricultural and pastoral societies levied land and herd owners to support a king and his retinue. Town societies levied property and trade. The Industrial Age taxed income, property and trade.
We are in a new post-industrial age, and new forms of taxes are appropriate. We should move away from taxes that discourage enterprise or involve complex tax returns and move instead towards painless, formless, automatic taxes.
Universal Weallth TaxNational systems of wealth tax have proved unsatisfactory, since wealth can easily be dispatched across national boundaries. I propose an international wealth tax, collectable by the United Nations, to replace the existing funding of the United Nations (which is by national contributions).
Every person in the world, whether a citizen of a member of the United Nations or not, would be subject to this tax. The first $50M would be excluded from the tax and the rest would be taxed at 0.1%. If, then, you own $150,000,000, your annual wealth-tax bill would be $100,000. At this rate, if you are earning nothing (which is unlikely), it would still take 1,000 years before the tax would have eaten up your fortune.
The universal wealth tax would take in more than 2 Trillion US Dollars per year, nearly 40 times the amount collected by the present contributions, and would enable the expansion of world programmes as envisaged below. (See figures for world wealth at: http://tinyurl.com/psq88wr. See UN Budget at http://www.un.org/press/en/2013/gaab4096.doc.htm).
An investigation agency would be set up to collect the tax, which would be a tax on individuals, not companies. (Company wealth is held in shares, which form part of the wealth of individuals). In respect of any country which does not cooperate with the United Nations in the collection of the tax, it would be taken from the wealth of these individuals held or traded in other countries.
Redistribution of WealthThe accumulation of wealth by individuals and impoverishment of the masses has always been the cause of revolutions and wars from the earliest times. There is need for the world to take steps to assist wealthy people to distribute their assets.
In former times, where taxes were avoided by owners' giving away their wealth to others, governments took pains to collect the tax anyway. One example is Great Briton's death duties. When the tax agency discovered that owners were avoiding Death Duty by making gifts to their family and relations before dieing, they brought in a tax on gifts given in anticipation of death. Then they went further and extended the tax to all gifts and to all inheritances, and called it Inheritance Tax. However, these taxes actually inhibit owners from gifting their wealth to others.
If you have $150M and you try to avoid my Universal Wealth Tax by giving $50M to each of your two children, this should be applauded, even though it takes you out of the tax net. Parents' distributing their wealth is one important voluntary tool in distributing wealth. For the foreseeable future there would be an ample number of people of sufficient wealth to fund the United Nations with my tax, and, if the pool diminishes in future because of re-distribution of wealth by potential tax-payers, the revenue could be improved by lowering the threshold, though this is unlikely to be necessary. What must be avoided is evading the tax by nominal gifts. The test would be that the gift gives actual and irredemiable control of the gifted wealth to the donee.
Other means of encouraging re-distribution of wealth include schemes to make it attractive to wealthy people to spend more, and voluntary taxation such as philantropy and gambling.
Universal Transaction TaxMy next new tax to assist in the abolition of form-filling is a Universal Transaction Tax. This is not a tax on share-trading as has been proposed, but a tax on each and every bank transaction, i.e., on every transfer of funds from one bank account to another. It would be a very small tax in percentage terms, but would painlessly take in a great amount of money.
The intention would be, in time, to replace sales tax completely, with the universal transaction tax. Every bank would be obliged to install the necessary software to take the tax from every transaction. Government inspectors would be authorised to walk into any bank at any time and check that the software is in operation, and to take over control of any bank not complying for the purpose of making it comply.
Cash TaxTo encourage payment of bills by bank-transfer rather than cash-payments, there would be a tax on lodgment and withdrawal of funds. This tax would be double the amount of the transaction tax.
Land-value TaxA Land-value tax (or site tax) would be a tax on the value of land, but not on buildings on the land. As against other types of property-tax, this would discriminate against people who under-use their land and would encourage the maximisation of land-use and economic growth.
A tax on buildings has often led to the demolition of buildings and the holding of land in a derelict state.
Zoning ReformLand zoning, which prohibits building except in permitted locations, and often leads to houses becoming unaffordable to people of modest wealth, should be reformed.
One land-owner had his agricultural land re-zoned for housing, thereby acquiring a fortune. His neighbour's land was not so re-zoned, and he remained poor (as well as suffering encroachments by the new population on his neighbour's land). This discrimination should simply be discontinued. Zoning enriches some at the expense of others and encourages corruption.
Instead, any person who owns land should be permitted to build houses and appartments on his land (but not factories or commercial buildings) once he complies with building regulations (which would impose adequate provision of utilities).
Having insufficient land zoned for housing often causes the price of zoned land to rise to levels that make houses unaffordable and causes unauthorised slums and shanty-towns to spring up, since people have to live somewhere.
Migration SupportInternational Agreements require nations to accept refugees from other countries, but provide little support for those countries which are forced, as a result, to accommodate these refugees. Where the international community imposes these values, it should also provide the economic means of complying without putting the economies of the recipient countries under undue strain.
Excessive immigration causes the disruption and destruction of communities, ethnic conflict, creation of slums, shanty-towns and ghettoes, and criminal acts and cultures sparked by destitution. It places an inordinate strain on the economy of the receiving country.
If a country is obliged to receive massive numbers of immigrants, then the international community should provide the necessary supports, including the building of sustainable immigrant cities to replace refugee camps and slums.
Building Regulation and Waste SystemsInstead of emptying human waste into existing sewerage systems, new building projects should be obliged to macerate this waste and treat it with bio-digesters to save and recycle. Every new high-rise building should have a complete system for re-cycling the human waste created within the building.
Urban FarmingAs I grew up, I observed Dublin City gobble up agricultural land and cover it with suburbs. A city building, can, instead of gobbling up agricultural land, multiply the areas of cultivation. A high-rise building could have several floors dedicated to horticulture and small animal farming (chickens and other fowl, guinea pigs, snails, fish, etc.).
Urban Farming is linked to the notion of Sustainable Cities, as in the following sample:
Dongtan Eco-City, Shanghai, China
However, we don't need to wait for the development of the Sustainable Cities. roofs can be gardens and intermediate floors horticultural and agricultural production areas, multiplying the productive capacity of the original plot on which the building stands.
Citizenship RewardsIn ancient Athens, the home of Democracy, after Solon's quiet democratic revolution, there were several regressions to tyranny, caused partly by the laziness of citizens to exercise their democratic functions (See my blog on Monkeys and Pigs). A solution was found: citizens were paid a stipend to attend the democratic assembly.
I propose a similar solution for the worldwide lethargy of electorates. Every citizen over 18 years of age would be paid a stipend for participation in the democratic process, involving voting at elections and attending citizens seminars where realities of governance would be discussed. Failure to vote or attend a stipulated number of seminar hours would result in forfeiting the stipend. The stipend, like all other income, would be subject to a flat income tax, giving a net reduction in income even for high earners where the stipend is withheld.
The idea of earning the right to be a citizen, as in ancient Athens, should also be re-introduced. All 18 year olds in Athens had to complete two years' military service before being admitted as citizens. In our more peaceful times, military service would be replaced by community service, but could be part-controlled by the Army.
Self-employment SupportIn many countries, the self-employed are discriminated against by the welfare state. For example, artists I have met in Dublin's Peoples Art Exhibition have often told me how they were refused Unemployment Assistance or Job-Seekers Allowance because they were attempting to sell paintings. This discrimination also extended to the denial of all the attendant benefits that accompany the dole. Few of those I spoke to were making a living out of their art. They were working very hard for very little award, in the hope of making it in the future. One told me how a politician suggested he should apply for disability benefit - but again such benefit is only paid to those unable to work.
The same applies to those setting up cafés and other small businesses. Once they try to make a go of it, they are denied the dole and subjected to rigorous regulation.
I suggest a reversal of these schemes. All Unemployment Assistance, Job-Seekers Allowances and Disability Benefit should be abolished and replaced by Self-Employment Support. In other words, everybody not in paid employment should be deemed to be Self-Employed. A stipend should be paid to them on the basis that it would be supplemented by earnings by their own efforts, assisted by Community Employment Schemes and assistance to find markets for their products. Training Courses should concentrate on maximising product and profit and exploiting all openings for enterprise, as well as training for existing paid jobs.
Self-Employment Support should never be removed, even when the business prospers - instead, it should be subject to flat Income Tax like every other income, and constitute a slight tax advantage for the Self-Employed.
Flat Income TaxThe benefit of flat income tax is that it eliminates the need for complex forms. The first part of earnings would be free from tax, but once that threshold is reached, all income woul be subject to a flat rate, without allowances or credits.
Introduction of Flat Income Tax would be accompanied by a shift to new taxes such as the Universal Transaction Tax referred to above, which would shift the burden away from tax returns to automatic taxation.
Voluntary TaxationTwo existing forms of Voluntary Taxation are National Lotteries and Philanthropy. Both of these should be expanded, lowering the burden of imposed taxes.
There are many examples of wealthy individuals - including Bill Gates - who donate massive amounts of money to good projects. Government Agencies should promote this area, inviting sponsorship of good projects, giving due acknowledgment to philanthopic gestures, and finding other means of increasing philanthropic input.
Another means of improving the input of voluntary taxation is finding ways for wealthy people to spend money. The more luxury spending takes place, the more money is recycled to other levels of society. Luxury spending can, therefore, be regarded as another leg of voluntary taxation, supporting many strands of society.
Tube TransportMotor cars and buses are obsolescent. Recent urban transport innovations go part of the way, but future transport must be a Tube Transport System that delivers door-to-door transit and automatic routing. See Future Transport - Krunchie's Cab.
Electronic VotingLook, paper-based voting is stone-age technology. Electronic voting brings immediate and highly reliable results. Let's end the nonsense and bring in electronic voting - and do it on the Internet. Even from the current highly inefficient Registers of Electors, Internet Voting can be introduced, with effective identity recognition. Automate the construction of Registers of Electors (from persons data) and the future system can be streets ahead and much more economical than current manual systems.
Abolish Criminal LawThere was no Criminal Law (or jails) in Ireland before the arrival of the Norman invaders. Instead, (as in other ancient pre-piscean systems), the emphasis was on compensating victims of wrong.
I suggest that, now as we leave the Piscean Age and enter the Age of Aquarius, we return to this focus.
In Criminal Law, the focus is on the perpetrator. In pre-piscean systems, the focus is on the victim.
The Criminal Law identifies specific actions, considered to be reprehensible, as offences, and sets out to punish people who take those actions. It requires two elements to be proven: (1) a criminal act and (2) a criminal intent.
Pre-piscean systems, instead, ask "was the complainant harmed by a wrongful act of the accused?" If the answer is "yes," then the victim is to be compensated. Criminal intent does come into it, but is not the primary question. If the wrongful act was intended to harm the victim, rather than an unfortunate result of careless behaviour, then the court could award increased compensation over and beyond the value of the actual harm suffered.
O, the ancient Irish Law did have categories and detailed descriptions of wrongful acts and many rules for calculating the appropriate compensation. But it was not confined, as is the Criminal Law, to specific defined criminal actions, but was always open to consider new forms of wrongful acts. Crimes were not defined by parliament, but wrongful acts were "discovered" by judges who applied the fundamental notions of right and wrong (often embodied in cryptic maxims composed by learned poets) found universally in human consciousness.
If an offender was unable to pay the compensation out of his/ her own resources, his family or close relations could pay it for him (and usually expect to be refunded by the offender). If his people failed to come up with the cash, the offender was bound to the victim, i.e., became his bonded servant. If the victim did not keep slaves himself, he could then sell the offender to a slave-master. A bonded servant could be bought out of slavery by somebody paying the compensation on his behalf.
The ancient world did not have the notion of paid employment. There were free men, tenants and bonded servants. The modern equivalent would be a levy on the earnings of the offender and prisons which engage prisoners in wealth-creating employment.
There are two very readable, informative and short, books on the ancient Irish ("Brehon") system:
A Guide to Early Irish Law
The Lost Laws of Ireland