The land and all natural resources belong to The People. To the extent it benefits individuals and The People, individuals will be granted the use of these resources via permanent leases with rates set according to the value of these resources. Individuals or corporations will own all improvements to the land, and therefore must be appropriately compensated for their value if a lease is terminated. Improvements shall be encouraged provided they are compatible with the needs of The People to preserve or increase the value of the land and ensure its efficient utilization.
Although it may seem radical, as a practical matter there is very little difference between this design and current practice. There are already a great many restrictions on the use of land individuals may “own”, including zoning, covenants, land use and building codes, and environmental regulations. Individuals can be easily deprived of “their” land by seizure due to unpaid taxes or other liens, or even via methods entirely outside their control such as using eminent domain for public works projects or to eliminate blight.
This design is primarily an improvement in the honesty of how the system currently actually works, but does have some additional advantages. Firstly, it emphasizes the obligation of all The People to ensure that these resources are not abused or exploited. Although the immediate effect of this will most likely be higher commodity prices for products that come from public land as The People raise resource extraction rates to reflect their interests, this increase will be offset by a corresponding decrease in the tax rates elsewhere.
Secondly, it moves authority for approving significant changes to The People, who may decide that it is better to leave some resources (e.g., oil and gas) in the ground as an investment in the future rather than having wells drilled in their neighborhoods, even if that means higher short-term prices for those commodities. Current practice almost always favors the rights of the extractors over the rights of The People.
Finally, it ensures that The People will regularly review the use of the resources and can more easily change these uses if doing so aids in achieving the Goals: Individuals are far less likely to resist these types of conversions if their conception of their rights to the land only extends to its use. This denies that they have some special right to the land because they “bought” it, or are squatting on it, or merely that their ancestors lived on it at one time. This will greatly reduce the emotional content of the process of conversion of the land to eliminate blight, reassignments to more productive use, or remove it from use entirely (e.g., in flood or other hazard zones) by converting it to Parkland. Most property “owners” will be unaffected by this change: Only those who misuse the land or hold it for speculation or to deprive The People of its productive use will have their plans put at risk.
Locality income will come from land leases, which will be based on the market value of the property, and also from fees collected from users of government services and infrastructure, the amounts of which are to be approved by the individuals in that Locality upon the recommendation of the Locality Manager.
Here there be dragons: Property taxes are a nightmare in the US, with most counties using seemingly arbitrary systems for setting property values and levy rates. Furthermore even calculating the required income will prove to be extremely difficult because county financing is so dependent on local sales tax rates, state subsidies (particularly for transportation and education), and the exact fees charged for services (which vary wildly between counties). Along with the difficulty in determining the required income, there are also vast areas of inefficiency (if not outright corruption) in the way these funds have been spent because The People have very little awareness of (and no supervision over) individual budget items at this level.
Secondly, all existing national public debt and significant amounts of union and corporate pension debt will have to be refinanced as Locality debt as part of the implementation process. This will also tend to increase land lease rates which will in turn increase mortgage PITI (Payment Including Taxes and Interest, which would actually become “PILI”) and rents.
Finally, the issue of land lease rates for religious organizations, educational institutions, etc. must be addressed as there are very different policies in different areas. Not requiring any payment from them at all is obviously unfair and impractical (they use public services, including fire and police protection, and so should pay for them). But because they do provide benefits to the community it would seem reasonable to charge different types of organizations at different rates from commercial and residential real estate, just as those two currently differ.
This will all have to be designed, and may result in significantly different rates than property owners are paying now, but once the first few Localities have been established and have a budget track record of a few years it will be straightforward to apply the acquired templates to all future Localities (modulo the large number of lawsuits and criminal prosecutions that will be triggered by having independent auditors go through the previous government’s books).
Note that land lease rates do include the value of the improvements to the land, but that there is no provision for taxes on personal or business property. These sorts of taxes are widely abused via loopholes and underreporting and are a nightmare to compute even for those who choose to pay them because they have to factor in things like the current very complicated basis/depreciation calculations. By replacing income tax with a sales tax there is no need for that timeconsuming, inefficient, and dishonest system anymore (e.g., even calling it “depreciation” is frequently a misnomer because, for example, the structure of a building generally doesn’t actually depreciate: It’s value may actually increase in the interval between when it is bought and sold. This requires that capital gains (income tax) be paid to recapture this, rendering many what should be routine investment decisions extremely difficult to make).
Current systems for property assessment are fundamentally flawed and corrosive to civilization because they usually pit the government against The People. Individuals want taxes as low as possible and so attempt to get the lowest assessment possible whereas the government seeks to maximize revenue. Eminent domain foreclosures become an expensive nightmare of legal proceedings because the value of a property is never agreed upon. A bit of social engineering would solve both of these problems efficiently and fairly: Add a dynamic so that The People are in competition to establish these things. For example, any eminent domain compensation could be tied at the last assessed value + 20%. If a developer wants to knock down a housing subdivision and put in a shopping mall (or vice versa), they would prepare a proposal, using the value + 20% number to establish viability, and then get it approved by a vote of The People. There would be no haggling over price of each property because there would be an implied consent that the value was accurate by virtue of the land lease having been paid based on that value. There would be no issues of corruption or favoritism by elected officials because they would not be involved in the decision. The displaced individuals or companies would take their 20% bonus (perhaps split 50/50 between owner and renter for rental property) and use it to relocate and likely upgrade. The developer would get a quick and inexpensive decision, and no unnecessary delays in completing the project. The People would get the new infrastructure they believe they need with a minimum of delay and legal expense. The only losers in this system would be those who believe that their individual needs outweigh the agreed-upon policies of The People, i.e., individuals who are indulging a deprecated Clination.
Since there will be consequences to the global sales tax system from shifting to a wholly land lease local system, the two systems must be designed together (e.g., by not imposing the taxes on mortgage interest and rents (as proposed for the FairTax) to account for land lease rates that will end up being higher than current property taxes in some areas where sales taxes are also used to fund local governments and where public debts are high).
Parkland, and the species that require it to live, have an incalculable intrinsic value to The People. They must therefore establish specific goals for the acquisition and maintenance of these lands.
The use of the word “incalculable” is not an attempt to use mysticism as a justification; it’s merely a statement of fact. For example the proposal that it’s important to save the rainforest because there may be undiscovered organisms there that may contain a cure for some human disease is an incredibly superficial analysis. An analogous situation may be chaos theory as it applies to weather, as in the old saw about a butterfly flapping its wings in China causing a hurricane in Florida six months later: The direct effect is not what it’s important to consider, it’s the ultimate result.
In the case of species extinction, it’s not just that a particular species butterfly goes extinct; it’s that the species might have been the inspiration for the greatest work of art that human beings will ever create. It’s not that some species of tree goes extinct, but what if apple trees had gone extinct and having an apple fall on his head was somehow a crucial component to Newton deriving his theory of gravity? And it’s not that only one or two people might be saved by an antibiotic discovered in the rainforest, but what if one of those people was to be the next Mozart and the other the next Einstein? And while each of those examples is highly unlikely individually, they represent only a single additional level of interaction. Multiply the probabilities of all possible interactions throughout millennia of interaction, and we are virtually guaranteed to find enormous costs in that matrix somewhere. And this presupposes that we even have a valid valuation function to use to determine the costs: We have no idea how a future, more culturally advanced, civilization will even value any of these things and therefore how they would value the preservation of species or habitat.
As such, until we know, and have gained the power to control, exactly what we’re doing, allowing even a single species to go extinct is an unforgivable act and must be prevented regardless of the cost to the human economy. Our current civilization is the moral and engineering equivalent of a toddler, bashing around breaking things when we have no idea of the value of anything. Like children we are completely oblivious to the majority of the damage we cause.
Certainly we know that at this point there is already far too little Parkland for many species to even continue to survive, especially in areas that are suitable for agriculture and resource extraction, so the focus now must be acquiring and restoring Parkland, not just limiting the degradation of existing land. Part of this process will necessarily be the establishment of specific targets for the human population of the earth and then putting social engineering policies in place to ensure that we reach these goals.
This is not a blanket endorsement of any spiritual form of environmentalism: As the dominant species on this planet it is our right to decide what to do with it, including the fates of all the other species on it (although we might quibble about the fate of existing individuals of other species). If we collectively and rationally decide that the species “variola” (smallpox) is just not worth preserving, we have the moral right to eradicate it. The same applies to mosquitos, the passenger pigeon, or giant pandas. But the elimination of a species is something that must be decided rationally and consciously, not just as an accidental side effect of the behavior of a few humans who might benefit from the acts that caused the extinction. Indeed, if we decide that we want the planet a few degrees warmer or are merely willing to accept that in exchange for a more comfortable lifestyle in the short term, we have the right to put all the carbon in the ground into the air. We just have to be sure that this is something we have collectively decided on, and that we have prepared for any consequences (i.e., the fate of those hundreds of millions of people living near a rising sea level must be a part of the plan).
This rule also applies to our own existence as a species: If we are given the opportunity to implement some technology that would allow each of us to live the life our dreams at the cost that our species goes extinct after the current generation, this is a decision we have the moral right to make. We owe no obligation to those who have not been (or may never be) born. It is our obligation to choose wisely and collectively, however.
This provision of The Code relies on the Clination Appreciation for Nature. If humans didn’t have that, the most appropriate civilization would (at least eventually) be one where all arable land on earth was used for agriculture and the rest used to house the maximum human population that could be supported (assuming no “anti-overcrowding” Clination, of course). There would be no need to maintain “wild” areas, particularly if the experience of these could be simulated and preserved via technology (e.g., DNA samples of all species stored digitally and visuals/sounds/smells or even complete organisms or habitats recreated for entertainment or research purposes). But this is not how humans are: A strong desire to explore uninhabited areas and see unrestricted wildlife is built into our genes and probably what led to our colonization of even those areas that are generally unsuitable to support us. So the question then becomes where to put the balancing point between the wild and the human-occupied areas.
Which again brings us to some issues with Libertarianism and Utilitarianism vs. Matchism. Axiomatic rules about individual or collective benefit run into serious problems with the issue of population control. Is the greater good having more people with less freedom? Certainly by strict Utilitarianism this must be the case. It would seem to be the case with Libertarianism, at least to the extent that “freedom” includes complete reproductive freedom. But imagine a world with only a few thousand people in it. There would be no need for any of those pesky rules that Libertarians rail against: No building codes, no pre-emptive anti-pollution or land use regulations, and vastly fewer behavioral restrictions. The ecosystem could easily absorb any assault this small of a group could inflict on it. This scenario provides much more freedom individually than a highly populated world. A population at the carrying capacity of the planet, on the other hand, would require a wide range of freedom-restricting rules, including the restricting the very reproductive freedom that brought it to that point.
While Libertarians might insist that there’s a big difference between preemptively restricting freedom and only restricting it after a serious problem arises, even stating the issue like this make it clear that this is just an endorsement of bad engineering practices rather than any sort of philosophical benefit. Our individual freedoms are already cripplingly restricted compared to that “thousand person earth” and they propose leaving the decision up to the individuals or market forces even though that promises only more of the same, or worse? Why is the freedom to reproduce indiscriminately so much more important than the freedom from the onerous regulations a dense population required or access to wild space that humans instinctively prefer to have? Matchism, being dependent on human nature and level of technology, is free from both the axiomatic and the engineering problems that those philosophies must deal with. It does not require any specific population goal or method of achieving that goal, only that one be established and the appropriate social engineering techniques be used to achieve it. These goals and practices will be defined and accepted by The People rather than by philosophers or ideologues.
To ensure consistent and proper management of Parkland, this shall be the responsibility of the Globality.
Localities have a vested interest in reduction or inconsistent management of Parkland because conversion to Parkland and/or elimination of productive use of the land reduces their income and so increases the taxes that everyone else must pay. The much greater income at the Global level will also make purchases of Parkland much easier to arrange.