Energy and Economic Justice
We noted earlier the political power implications of different forms of energy generation, and we noted the level of subsidies received by the massive corporations involved in energy extraction. The other part of this is that hydrocarbon revenues are due to Land, whereas the revenue from renewable energy harvesting essentially derive from Capital. In the just conditions of Henry George’s Remedy, the tax burden on Labour and Capital wouldn’t be there, and economic rent would be collected from Land. The price comparison between modes of energy, the actual accurate figure, would then look damningly different.
Energy generation at the moment comes from that part of the commons, of Land, which been taken into private ownership, monopoly; while renewable energy, driven by the wind, driven by the Sun, comes from the part of the commons, of Land, which has remained unownable.
A just public revenue system, taking resource rents and not taxing capital equipment, would produce a bloom in the development and deployment of some of the microgeneration systems featured earlier in these notes. Inherent in the Remedy are the correct economic incentives that are needed to face the future.
The Remedy, economic justice, has a huge implication in terms of the energy wasted by our current system and the environmental destruction caused by the current arrangements of land tenure. As cities grow wealthier, large areas are locked away for land speculation. After all, in the current circumstances, it’s a banker. This causes leap-frog development, and people who work in the enterprise zone that is a city, are forced further and further out to find an affordable home. The facilities and services that a population needs then become stretched, and everything becomes more expensive, polluting and energy intensive, people are pushed further and further out of town and people who work in the city have to lose more of their day travelling, uncomfortably, as a captive clientele for the rail rentiers, as well as to all the other forces they’re captive to.
Within the city, the absence of just arrangements is reducing London to this, to a kennel.
Meanwhile, The Campaign to Protect Rural England have identified that:
In England there is sufficient brownfield land available and suitable for 1,494,070 new dwellings, and much more on top of this suitable for business or industrial development. In Northern regions (the North West, Yorkshire and the Humber and the North East) there is enough brownfield land for over 444,000 new homes. Even in the South East, where housing demand is highest, land supply outpaces demand with one quarter (26 per cent) of suitable brownfield plots going unused.
If we could start the programme to bring in the Remedy tomorrow, one immediate effect would be that land speculation would immediately become uneconomic. Huge amounts of brownfield land would become available – 31,000 hectares in London alone, large scale housing could be built inside London.
Nationally, 1.5 dwellings, housing six, seven million people. That would certainly improve national wealth. 1.5 dwellings being built would have a huge downward pressure on property prices, which is probably why politicians couldn’t countenance it, because property prices, above all, appears to be their measure of economic success in this bizarre upside-down real world.
In the UK now, the term generation rent has become current.
Building dwellings on this brownfield land would present a huge opportunity to build 1.5 power generating buildings of the kind Germany build. It can be done. It really can all be done. It would be easily funded, as well. Just do it. Wake up and do it.
Application of economic justice would mean that huge amounts of energy would be saved as a result of infill development, and cities would work so much better in every way, as people’s homes. The Remedy would take away the brownfield blues.
Deeper understanding of the full effects of Henry George’s remedy reveal that, far from being observations from a far-gone agricultural age, they have never been as searingly important, and, naturally, provide all the correct incentives for addressing biosphere distress. It’s all for future and deeper study, Lindy Davies’ afterword to The Science of Political Economy is a very good starting point.
As he says, of the complexity of the questions ahead:
- the fundamental principle that the value of natural opportunities must be collected for common benefit is a powerful de-obfuscatory tool, as useful in the academy as it is at the grassroots.
(For further analysis, take a look at Mason Gaffney's Economics in Support of Environmentalism)