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environment & politics
So, the basic ideas are
1. Participatory Budgeting
2. Progressive tax structure and more spending, including inheritance taxes.
3. Living wage
4. Tougher environmental rules
5. End of private schooling
1. Participatory Budgeting – I support this, to some degree. The downside of it versus a budget voted up or down is that it tends to create all kinds of political hand-outs for well-connected politicians in the legislature.
2. Progressive tax structure – I support a steeper inheritance tax, and not just because I think it’s useful for preventing the rise of concentrated wealth in particular families. It’s also useful for encouraging charitable donations. The downside is that we did have this in the US and elsewhere, and it’s been steadily undermined over decades across all political coalitions. You’d need some serious shifts in political views to reverse it, as well as some way to prevent the highly mobile wealthy folks from just moving to another country.
3. Living Wage- I don’t support this, for several reasons. The first is that it’s a source of unemployment – high wages like this tend to encourage shifts to labor-saving technology to happen even faster than they otherwise would, unless the new wage floor is still below or at the equilibrium wage level. It also focuses too much on the “Income” side of Living Standards, when those are really a product of wages and costs of living.
If you’re going to be doing generous social benefits already, you’d be better off just subsidizing poor workers directly.
4. Tougher environmental rules: Sounds good, although we should always consider mechanisms that take advantage of incentives and markets. That’s actually been useful in saving the lives of elephant herds – when they put control and care of them in the hands of the local villages, the villages tended to organize patrols to protect them from poachers. It also can require less bureaucracy (one of the reasons why I favor steep and increasing gas taxes as opposed to mandatory emission requirements in cars).
5. End of Private Schooling: While I can understand the rationale behind this (Canada uses a similar justification for the bar on private insurance that also covers stuff covered by the public plans), I don’t like the idea of closing off potential venues for alternative schooling and experimentation in education, as well as possible places for students who don’t fit with the public schools in their areas. In my country (the US), the biggest gap issue is more about the differences between public schools in affluent areas versus those in poorer areas, instead of public vs private. Not sure what it’s like in the UK.
Thanks for the detailed thoughts on that. Broadly in agreement.
3. Living Wage – the National Minimum Wage in the UK had no effect on employment levels. Higher wages tends to be one of those fears of big businesses, but it’s rarely supported by the evidence. I’d be interested to see any though.
4. In my experience, markets have, generally, for the environment, been catastrophically ineffective. Take carbon trading schemes, for example, in which polluting firms ended up making bigger profits. It’s always been regulations that have been the stick to beat companies that have had success.
5. Private schooling – well, I agree with you on he experimentation, though it does run the risk of having nut-job schools brainwashing kids with nonsense. There does seem to be a split between poor and wealthy areas in the mainstream school system, certainly. Rich parents move to areas with good schools, thus elbowing out the poorer children to areas with worse schools. There’s a huge difference between public and private education in the UK, however, in standards, experience and the different social classes they’re exposed to. It is a bubble.
© 2013 Mark Charan Newton