Thesis Number: #10 (Page 6 of 8)

Empowering local networks

Local communities would flourish. Compact development would conserve green fields. High streets would be revived, the charity shops replaced by self-help initiatives meeting the needs of a newly confident citizenry.

  • Production would be de-centralised. Low-cost capital would enable people to create self-employment enterprises to compete with the conglomerates, leading to a break-down in corporate monopolies (Box 5).
  • Local media networks would spring up to serve people’s need to communicate, stimulating the regeneration of decaying neighbourhoods.
  • Politics would become participative, reversing Democracy in Retreat (Kurlantzick 2013). New kinds of institutions would emerge to transform nation-states.
  • Self-determination would become meaningful for indigenous peoples as they defined the terms under which they adapted their cultures to the opportunities of our world.
  • The arts would receive the support they need to help us visualise the components of the symbolic space we need to inclusively reintegrate our material and moral worlds.

The list of creative possibilities is open-ended. But while embarking on this new voyage of discovery, we should never forget the risk of the rent-seeking virus re-incubating itself.

Box 5

The real brave new world

Aldous Huxley, one of the 20th century’s Prophets of Doom, visualised salvation through decentralised production and the diffusion of the ownership of capital (Huxley 1947). Technology need not lead to the robotic tyranny that is undermining the jobs and wages of skilled middle-class people. But in Brave New World, Huxley omitted to mention – as he subsequently admitted in a preface to that book – that future prospects would be different if taxes were replaced by the rents that people created in common.

Citizen’s Rent Dividend

The gains from reform of the public’s finances would be enormous, and they would become a temptation to those who would like to claim the privileges associated with the rent-seeking lifestyle. People would need to be ever alert to this risk. One way to strengthen society’s immune system would be to institute a Citizen’s Rent Dividend.

Communities could allocate part of its rental gains as an annual payment to citizens, with the explicit intention of safeguarding the social status of this stream of revenue. The dividend could also be designed to encourage life-affirming forms of behaviour. The citizen’s Rent Dividend, then, would serve two major purposes:

  1. The social nature of rent would remain uppermost in everyone’s minds. Citizens would be vigilant over the way this income was measured and distributed, and they would be ever-ready to repel privilege-seekers. The covert deeds of corruption, such as those that now disgrace the deals between corporations and public agencies, would become a thing of the past.
  2. The dividend would encourage the activities that enlarge the stream of rental revenue. Everyone can contribute to social welfare in ways that expand personalities and the cultural endowments of each community. These, ultimately, translate into higher rents.
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