Timmy elsewhere

Letter in The Guardian:

Intensity and diversity are not opposites. Monoculture and diversity are, intensive and extensive are. Many peasant farming systems are intensive and diverse for example, some industrial monocultures are extensive.

However, the report Felicity Lawrence refers to also explains that the less industrial agriculture preferred by the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (Ipes) requires a greater input of human labour in order to avoid one of the traps that the industrial system catches us in – cheap food. Non-industrial agriculture will require more labouring away in the fields in order to provide us with more expensive food. It’s difficult to see this as an advance in the human condition.

Tim Worstall
Senior fellow, Adam Smith Institute
Messines, Portugal

30 thoughts on “Timmy elsewhere”

  1. A few days ago I can across the UN report that we need to double our food production to feed the project 9 billion we will have in the future. As we already produce more than enough food to feed those 9 billion, and just have a distribution problem, my reaction to the title* is that our distribution system is projected to become far more inefficient in the future. Given the market restrictions imposed by our ever expanding government(note: not all big government is bad, just most of it) I view this a plausible. Based on the source I am fairly certain getting government out of the way wasn’t considered an option which is why we have to waste so much more food.

    * I didn’t have time to read the full report and haven’t been able to find it again. If anyone has the link I wouldn’t mind seeing if my reaction is valid.

  2. Thank God for his blog: Worstall is comprehensible in that, all too much so perhaps.
    Didn’t know the Adam Smith Institute is based in Portugal. Will be sending them the key quote from Adam Smith as reclaimed for the forces of righteousness by Oliver Wainright architecture critic of Guardian,”nothing could be more reasonable”, (as Smith said about Land Value Tax).

  3. Bloke in Costa Rica

    The sacralisation of agrarian labour seems to be a distinguishing feature of socialists, whether of the communist or fascist variety. Blut und Boden, all those Soviet Realist posters of diligent peasants. God I hate them.

  4. LVT also cures herpes! Thanks for your input DBC.

    Actually, I do have a serious question. Who has read On The Wealth Of Nations cover to cover? Disclosure – not me.

  5. I can’t understand the appeal of LVT. Until that land is developed, and turning resources into reserves qualifies IMHO*, the value is a total of zero outside of speculation. Therefore a LVT taxes nothing or a perceived value. If we are taxing the perceived value we might as well tax the gambler with 3 10’s when an opponent has 4 queens. That level of government intrusion into determining valuation reeks of failure.

    * I hope the education I got from TimmyU was good enough I am not confusing terms. If not I’d ask for my money back but I’ve paid no direct costs that can be reimbursed. On less economically informed sites I wouldn’t care. They don’t understand there is a difference anyway.

  6. You’re missing the ‘V’ part of LVT LY. The point is to tax you on what it could earn (according to someone in a nice office), whether it’s actually happening or not. Tax you on it before it gets developed.

  7. Joke. Tim’s awful letter in The Guardian manages to suggest that the ASI has a postal address in Messines, Portugal.
    The scandal is that this influential organisation misrepresents Adam Smith’s laissez faire so thoroughly that the esteemed bar-flies of this blog, who, of course, know everything by unerring instinct without having read anything, have no idea that Smith was the founding father of the Land Tax based economic system. If you think about it, (not advisable without some experience), pell-mell investment will only put up the price of land and property without LVT .And that’s exactly what’s happened. Cor blimey. Clever people like what we are and taken for complete mugs! And now you’ve got us barred from our principal export market!

  8. Joke. Tim’s awful letter in The Guardian manages to suggest that the ASI has a postal address in Messines, Portugal.

    That’s like saying a letter signed “Captain James Smith RN, Northampton” implies the Royal Navy’s address is in Northampton.

  9. The trolling ’round here is getting very low quality.
    Tim, please provoke some more intelligent trolls, the current batch are well substandard.

  10. What’s the problem? The extra field labour will be provided by little brown men and slavic grannies, not by Guardianistas.

  11. @DBC
    Does it never occur to you that Smith was writing at a time when general income taxes, capital gains tax or a host of other taxes had never been envisaged, let alone imposed. So in embracing an LVT he wasn’t arguing for it in preference to modern taxatio0n policies but in preference to policies of his time. As with much else, context is important.

  12. @BIS
    You should be addressing your comments to our host,TW : he is a greater enthusiast and, I am prepared to admit, better exponent of Adam Smith’s land tax based economic theories than I.In fact it was TW’s defence of LVT with Adam Smith back- up that drew me to this blog, where I have tended to remain as all the laissez -faire spouting ,minus the magic ingredient of LVT, has provided such rich pickings.
    You are right, inadvertently : in Smith’s day people would not have assumed a discussion about tax meant Income Tax, rather showing that the present preoccupation is simply habitual.

  13. I don’t believe I need to address my views to TimW. On LVT, enough people have done so on my behalf. But on a general point, this & other libertarian ideals is why I’m far from a theoretical libertarian. Because a lot of libertarian theory doesn’t survive in the context of the non-theoretical world. In fact you can tear up a great deal of philosophy, at the same time.

  14. Ltw,

    I know I am missing the value part. That is my entire issue with LVT. Until the land is actually developed, resources turned into reserves, the only value is speculative. For example owning an acre in a greenbelt is less desirable than owning the adjacent acre which can be improved. The greenbelt’s value isn’t zero because some improvements, ei hiking trails, are still acceptable. Take away all opportunities for improvement and an acre of land in the center of London is worth zero.

    This wouldn’t be a problem if the government was able to do a good job determining value. I trust I don’t need to post examples of why this doesn’t work. Since markets are far superior it makes more sense to me at this time to tax the actually value created by improvement or the paper value created by speculation.

  15. Bloke in Costa Rica

    LY, those are my feelings exactly. LVT sounds good right up until the point where it bumps up against reality. Given that the people making the assessment of value will be bureaucrats rather than the market, it would seem to me that Public Choice Theory holes it below the waterline.

  16. BiCR,

    why does it have to be idiots in offices assessing the ‘value’, surely the market can do that much more efficiently.
    Each period, every sq foot of land comes up for auction (the right to occupy a piece of land exclusively), land perceived as valuable will be fought over in the market, marginal land will attract almost no bids.

    The problem with LVT is how do you start, the land is already occupied.

  17. BobRocket,

    I can kind of see how it would work. We couldn’t have any permanent structures so no advanced civilization. This is ok because the plains tribes survived perfectly well in teepees. Without industrialized agriculture the world population would plummet though. I am mildly curious how much Manhattan would sell for with no glass works to provide beads.

  18. let’s abolish freehold. I can see people going for that…

    So we have a system of leasehold where the Landlord is the Government and can evict the tenant in favour of whoever bids to pay a higher ground rent? Rather contrary to all the trend toward enfranchisement and right to buy isn’t it. And what if it were like those auctions for undesirable TV franchises where there was only one very low bid?

    Not going to work out well is it.

  19. djc,

    Both BiCR are against LVT.

    My argument is that land itself has no value until that land is improved. For example land that contains $100,000,000,000 worth of gold is worth zero until the improvement is made to extract that gold. It is the improvement that turns a resource into a reserve and creates value. We need to tax the value created through improvement and not the potential value the land may have after it is improved.

  20. @ DBC Reed
    We already have a tax on Land Values – it was called “Rates” when I was young and now has a variety of names. One of Adam Smith’s arguments in favour was that it was inescapable, but the levy is now so high that avoidance and evasion routes are commonplace.
    There is one major problem that I have pointed out to you more than once and you have not yet bothered to explain away – annual taxation in the UK is now greater than the value of all the land (land, not including buildings thereon) in the UK. A LVT of more than 100% would work for one year but not on a sustainable basis.
    Adam Smith died long before J M Keynes said “when the facts change, I change my opinion – what do you do, sir?” but I am confident that anyone as enlightened as he would disadvow an annual tax of more than 100% of the capital value of land.

  21. @ LY
    LVT is supposed to be based on the value of the crop that would be harvested from unimproved land – i.e. the farmer gains all the benefit from digging ditches to drain waterlogged land or from irrigating dry land or from fertilising sandbanks or mixing in some peat into lumpy clay.
    Gold doesn’t come into it!

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