The world most of our politicians and their policy advisors live in doesn’t exist anymore. Radical ideas that require the electorate to think, engage and progress are considered too risky by the political elites, and having failed to provide a valid alternative they are at the mercy of polemic cheerleaders who figure if no one is selling the future then old fashioned values of the left or the right remain the only options.
The problem I have with people like Corbyn looking to redistribute wealth within the current economic system is that it means they accept there is no alternative to that failed system. Instead of trying to alleviate the flaws of an out-of-date system designed to work only for the few, we should be developing a new vision for society that compliments the technologies and social constructs of today.
The Scottish Government is renewing its focus on managerial competence, looking to show a steady pair of hands in comparison to the omni-shambles of Westminster, a safe if uninspiring option. However, if they simultaneously present a bold and imaginative vision of a fairer, more prosperous, people-centred (but also business friendly) society that can be achieved only with the powers of independence, then as Brexit unravels the people won’t need to be sold on a second referendum, they will be clamouring for one.
However, like most mainstream political parties the SNP’s track record on radical, progressive, far-sighted reform has been underwhelming. Remember past reforms to the Council Tax, Scottish Enterprise and business rates?
It seems that the SNP’s big policy idea is to “be more Corbyn” – ironic when Corbyn’s big idea is to “be more Nicola”.
Then suddenly, out of the blue, a commitment from Derek McKay to commission a report into Land Value Tax. Lets hope this is a sign that the Scottish Government is now looking to get the balance right between projecting managerial competence and sharing a compelling vision of the future.
If the SNP want to be a bit more exciting here are just three of the ideas from the developing BfS manifesto that would utterly transform Scotland, and set the bar higher for all policy-makers struggling with the end of golden age, finance-led economics.
Firstly: Land Value Tax. This involves placing an annual charge on the rental value of land. It applies to urban and rural land focusing on the stewardship of land encouraging owners to dispose of if it or make it more economically viable if it becomes a tax liability. This system would lead to all land making a financial contribution to government revenues, offering the possibility to reduce taxes on wages and other taxes that are detrimental to economic growth. Sure, major landowners will be unhappy and it sounds a bit socialist, but it appeals to the right as well as it’s a simple and streamlined taxation system that will cut government bureaucracy and landowners will be forced to develop vacant and underused land or sell to those that will stimulate the economy.
Secondly, Scotland should take the lead in developing a commonly owned blockchain system. Originally designed as an incorruptible ledger for the digital currency, Bitcoin, blockchains allow information to be stored across multiple computers in a distributed network that is providing the backbone for a new more secure internet.
Why? Well for a start we could launch our own crypto currency running alongside Sterling and facilitate local crypto currencies. Blockchain-based security is almost impervious to hacking and identity theft. The banks want a cashless society, as every time you use card they get a transaction fee. Who do you want to control your future financial transactions – big banks or a publicly owned not-for-profit?
Blockchain would also enable secure online voting. Young people see centralised parliamentary systems with old-style political debate as spectacularly uninspiring and irrelevant to them. This means political decisions are made by those with less time to live with the consequences of electing fools. Just as postal voting helps old folks vote, secure instant mobile voting will encourage younger generations to have their voice heard. If young people aged 16-25 voted as often as those over 50 then everything would change.
The electorate would be far more open to progress, The SNP would have a Holyrood majority and the Greens would have several MPs. Jeremy Corbyn would be Prime Minister (and would be failing as badly as May), but then again, the UK would also have voted to remain in the EU.
Finally, I am not a fan of raising personal taxation on middle income families and there are so few super rich in Scotland that raising their taxation would produce marginal gains but generate lots of tax avoidance. I would rather the UK Government collected appropriate levels of taxation from highly profitable large corporations who pay staff low wages, but offer senior management large bonuses for operating tax avoidance schemes.
That’s why I have suggested a Benefit Corporation Tax Credit system based on the mantra that if big companies want to pay less corporation tax, let them earn it.
So reset Corporation Tax to 20 per cent for companies with more than £200m turnover but allow them to earn it back and more through tax credits earned by targeted investment and corporate behaviours that help to create a better, fairer, more prosperous Scotland.
The key is to offer tax credits for firms investing in environmentally sustainable practices, employing more young people, paying the Real Living Wage, investing more in R&D, expanding international exports, paying suppliers in less than 30 days and hitting equality targets. Those companies add value to our economy rather than strip value from it. The reduction in corporation tax revenue would be more than compensated for by the benefits of economic growth, improved balance of payments, lower benefits bills, higher employment, and related taxation.
Maybe its time for big thinkers, and for braver politicians?