[diggers350] Land party for affordable housing
malcolm.ramsay at talk21.com
Wed Dec 8 23:17:04 GMT 2004
I think it's worth remembering that every law and every tax rests on a threat of force - and every time we introduce a new one, we bind ourselves more tightly to an ethos that most of us abhor. Creating a new tax to mitigate some of the bad effects of distorted land laws could certainly have benefits, but it would also help to lock in the underlying injustice. If we are ever to live in a just and healthy society it must be built on coherent, rational and principled laws; and to arrive at them we need to understand the essential strengths and weaknesses of what we currently have, and refine and strengthen the parts that are good and find a way to discard the parts that are bad.
The danger I see with seeking change through the existing political processes (and other people have certainly made this point) is that if the political establishment sees any real groundswell of anger on the issue, they will - as has happened in the past - make just enough changes to defuse that passion, without addressing the fundamental fault. And we will reach a point, if we haven't already, where the existence of a majority who have something to lose, makes impotent a significant minority who have next to nothing.
Personally, I think that there is a possibility of progress on land rights by getting the courts to examine the roots of our present laws. (Though they would also need to recognise the existence of a natural right to the use of land - I posted a piece on that subject, 'Birthright in Law', to the Diggers group a few weeks ago). As far as I can see, the only justification people give for our present patterns of ownership is historic, but I think that, if we look at it clearly, history can provide the courts with reasons to alter how they interpret the law.
I don't know what motivated William the Conqueror and his supporters, but it seems to be widely accepted that our present systems of government and ownership have their roots in his rule. That is enough to satisfy me that he brought something of real value into this country - if he had not, he would have been forgotten like countless other warlords before and since. And what matters, when we examine the nature of ownership and its place in our history, is not his motivation, but the aspects of what he introduced that made it acceptable, despite its obvious flaws, to the people of this country.
As I see it, before William, Britain had had government, but it had never had a system of government. This is what he introduced, and it provided a framework in which the institutions that now make up the core of our society were able to grow up. And land ownership was right at the heart of what he introduced; land ownership was part of the machinery of government.
Historians write about William 'rewarding' his followers with land holdings - and this may indeed be how they saw it. But I suspect that it was the exercise of power that interested him, and them, more than the material benefits of holding land, and I'm sure that it was that aspect of it which gave it value to the country at large. When he gave his tenants-in-chief tenure of areas of land, what he was giving them was dominion over the people on that land - he was giving them the responsibility of governing, in his name and for his purposes, and the benefits that he allowed them to take from it were their payment for exercising that responsibility. And their sub-tenants were, in the same way, agents of the Crown, with their land-holdings defining the scope of their jurisdiction.
The point I'm trying to make here is that what we now call 'private ownership' of land came into being, not for the benefit of the individual owners, but for the benefit of the state - and the personal benefits that the landlords took were their payment for the exercise of power. But the benefit of the state was not just the pleasure of the king; there was an implicit contract between the Crown and the people, by which they acknowledged his sovereignty in exchange for protection of their rights - and the landlords' holdings could be forfeited if they abused their power. The idea that freehold tenure exists primarily to benefit the individual is a complete distortion of its original nature; it exists essentially as a practical method of distributing public responsibility for an intrinsically complex matter - and it is absurd to treat private gain as a proper use of that responsibility.
This might all seem a bit tenuous, but the law turns on fine points, and the courts have a deep need to feel that they stand on solid ground. They cannot afford to disregard history, because their own authority depends on it. If we argue that the land was stolen from the people by William and his robber barons, we are arguing, in effect, that the court itself has no authority, because it is built on the same foundations. But if we argue that the present interpretation is a betrayal of those foundations....well, they might still not listen, but we would at least be taking the argument into new territory.
8th December 2004
Mark Brown <markibrown at hotmail.com> wrote:
Apologies as James' previous message was empty.
What James may not know is that the good old Green Party as well
as the Labour Land Campaign already subscribes to much of what
I would add a rider that the Diggers believed a fair
distribution of land would precipitate the abolition of money so
they probably wouldn't have been into land tax.
Tony - 0117 944 6219
UK Planning Laws are the palisade on the rock defending the
From: "james armstrong" <james36armstrong at hotmail.com>
Land increases in utility value over the years a hundred and a
thousand fold because of the industry of the people - yet greedy
and predatory land speculators hold the population to ransom
and regulate and stifle the growth as they pocket the windfall
gains they do not generate by turning others' need for land into
cash. £3,500 an acre agricultural land transforms into
£1.25million an acre development land overnight when planning
permission is granted for housing on the edge of village, town
and city throughout the country.
Houses built on the land for £50,000 are priced at £350,000. At
present this windfall gain goes into private pockets.
Tenant farmers going out of business. In spite of £3billion
annual subsidies and EU price protection small farmers are not
surviving on £8,000 a year incomes- the land owners have
multiplied their rents!
Town Centre Shops closing down. £40,000 rents in Dorchester town
centre drive the small shopkeeper out and the start-up trader
Road safety Compromised. Rest and refreshment road pull-ins are
sparsely sited to yield rent and profits not convenience or
safety. Car Parking Charges are a hidden and a private Land Tax
Short term parking at Stansted Airport costs £5.75 per hour.
There are several acres of car parks. Each acre generates
£1million every 3 months for BAA- land which cost BAA only
£1,000 per acre to buy outright.
At French air and sea ports parking is free- because the people
kicked out the landholding courtiers in 1788. The vernacular
cottage and garden- the people's artform are proscribed while
opera is subsidised, paintings valued for rarity and unmade
beds and fag ends passed off as art. Cottages are replaced by
utility housing schemes of no architectural merit. As current
planning laws favouring land monopolists disfigure John
Constable's landscape. Where are the beautiful new villages of
individually designed houses being built? Certainly not at
Poundbury.. When did you last see a farmer building a stone
barn with tiled roof? A misguided architectural preservation
mentality focusing on the houses of the elite, with a blind
eye turned to landowners spreading rural squalor, is
substituted for freeing the proved genius of the people to
beautify the landscape by artisan house- building. Community
feeling is always identified with locality: "Private" land
isolates , divides and individualises people.
What is the meaning of being British ? Serving in the forces
under "National" service, or called on to die in Iraq & excluded
from land to live on in Britain? A world market for British land
destroys its role as the nation's and community's identifying
Land exclusion and housing exclusion
The scarcity, unavailability and high price of housing fosters
anti social and divisive tension. Whilst the hidden cause of
low standard, unavailable and expensive housing - the deliberate
restriction of the supply of new houses and the illegal
monopoly price structure of housing contractors - diverts
attention and remedial action from the greedy privileged
monopolists. Myths about spoiling the green belt and Britain
being a small island and the hysteria generated against
someimmigrants are a deliberate smokescreen put about by the
monopolists. Poor people looking for work are stigmatised but an
American filmstar, a Russian oil baron an absentee Swede and
fourth generation German junkers buy, misuse or rack-rent back
to us our land.
Britain is a small island
We Scots know this is a laughable myth. We complain of the cost
our remoteness incurs! Only people never travelling north of
Watford could believe it. (This includes the authoress of the
Barker Report who lives in Essex) In fact there is room for a
metropolis the size of Greater London in the area of moorland
south of the river Forth. This central Scotland location is
served with motorways, railways ,rivers, canals and an amenity
hinterland of beautiful landscaped hills. And Edinburgh and
Glasgow are adjacent. Nor is this first grade agricultural land
nor would it displace more than 10,000 present inhabitants.
This Scot doesn't want another London thankyou, but it is not
impracticable "because we live on a small island" There are
currently 1 million surplus agricultural acres deliberately
taken out of production. There are 8 million less people living
in the countryside to-day compared with 1801. Our countryside is
deserted. Who would criticise another Swaffham, Chipping Norton
or Killin reproduced in Wiltshire?
UK Land law was established before the people won democracy. The
nation's land was expropriated from small farmers by violence
and conquest and legally by parliamentary Enclosure Acts when
membership of Parliament, the right to vote for MP's and to
initiate a private members bill was restricted to landowners!
Either we are content with access to land decided five hundred
years ago or one re-designed to meet modern population needs of
democratic Britain. We should choose between Britain as Heritage
Park for yesterday's hangers on, or a nation where the land
whether in town or countryside is naturally available for the
homes, businesses and recreation of the people who live there.
In a democracy land is neither a family heirloom, a store of
value like a bank, a battue to coral and butcher wild animals,
nor a commodity to speculate on like the price of copper. It is
Nature's artwork gifted to us all, the centre of community life,
the essential requirement for every economic activity and its
use for building a home the means of satisfying man's
existential need for shelter his and her right.
Our history is the record of how people were excluded from using
the land. Duke William's novel land theory of ownership
(feudalism), the Tudor grab of one third of England
(Dissolution) Charles I's dis-afforestation (selling off to
private buyers), the Enclosures (excluding villagers from the
commons and destroying their cottages and shacks there), Royal
warrants to private companies -the monopoly to exploit the land
and people of others' overseas territories (The Empire) The E.C.
(a misnomer- can you think why it changes its name as regularly
as Sellafield?)- spends most of our budget (it was up to 66%)
giving land-owners grants for their land holding, passed off as
'subsidies to farmers' or "preserving the environment" when
small farmers are going out of business and land prices and
landowner's incomes are rocketing.
Councils expansion of residents parking schemes (charging for
roads which the public owns) selling off 'Council' land to
private developers is the biggest and most consistent theme of
peaceful Britain. Do historians highlight wars and politicians
start them to divert attention from the never ending war waged
by the state against the individual on behalf of landowners?
UK Planning laws are the palisade built on top of the rock
defending the landowners goldmine. Effectively restricting
planning permission to large Corporations and denying the
individual the right to solve his/ her own housing needs is both
the latest scandal and the stuff of history. Only some
restriction on a universally necessary resource can account for
the British having the second lowest Gross Domestic Product per
capita, in western Europe!
Gordon Brown didn't tell you that. Although the British work
long hours, no matter how hard you work if start-up enterprise
is restricted, because of lack of access to land then
stagnation is the result. Don't despair, with application we
might claw our way ahead of Portugal.
How to re-define land as a natural resource, not a commodity in
the market place Directing planning permission for a house to
the would be occupier would take the windfall planning gain out
of the balance sheets of contractors and land-owners and put
it in the pocket of the house buyer - i.e. substantially
reduce the cost of a new house. The availability of
new houses will halt the rise in price of the existing housing
stock. A method of redefining our land as a national not a
personal resource would be via a land tax on farm, shop,
factory, house etc which was not in the sole use of the owner.
Owning and not personally using these resources would no longer
yield net rents nor would windfall gains accrue.
This is not pie in the sky dreaming. That arch socialist and
dreamy aesthete Winston Churchill advocated reforming the
monopoly of land which he called the most malignant monopoly of
them all.- (he later got sidetracked by Hitler when he was in
office.) The economist Henry George is the father of this
system. The economist of the Bank of England- Kate Barker
2 million vegetable growers should have free access to the 1
million set aside acres they have already paid for year after
year. Those seeking to buy houses from the existing stock would
benefit as the monopoly element of new house supply and the
artificial restriction on numbers built would disappear and all
prices stabilise. We all need to stand up and demand as of right
- access to land. To build individuals' requirement of new
houses would only need 15,000 acres annualy. A political party
offering young people and those in housing need the right to buy
out of income (say at £3,000) a plot of land with planning
permission to build their own home would be very popular. Land
already assigned to an individual for his/her home would not
attract speculative prices.
James Armstrong 20th July 2004 james36armstrong at hotmail.com
"The Land is Ours" campaigns to end speculation in land. Tell us
your solution to the housing crisis.
www.tlio.org.uk We plan to make home-making easy!
We respect land as a natural resource & work to democratise
22, Harveys Terrace, Dorchester DT1 ILE
1st December 2004
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