I’ve been trying to figure out a sane approach to creating a country. Geolibertarianism has caught my eye. The idea that the land is owned equally by all citizens of the country is both appealing and natural, but geolibertarianism avoids the pitfalls of communism by limiting collectivism to the land, recognizing other property as private. But I don’t like the idea of the government raising taxes on land under democratic assent. That seems prone to abuse to me.
The approach I’ve been considering is an auction-based geolibertarianism. I don’t have a name for this and I’m fairly sure it’s already been considered, but I haven’t found out where. The idea is that the right to use each individual piece of land in given ways for a given period of time is auctioned. All land rights in the territory so governed are leases granted for limited periods and allocated at auction.
The proceeds are then divided equally among the population as income. This system prevents land falling out of use because it is uneconomic to pay the land value tax on it, and also side-steps tricky issues of assessing the value of land. It also allows for sane environmental policy, as certain rights (like the right to strip mine the land) are simply never granted in the leases generated. Other environmental law can be based in the collective ownership of the land itself.
Sublease is another very interesting land right that may or may not be granted. Transferability of leases, use for original purposes and so on are also open questions. Speculation is highly questionable because it creates a bunch of pathological incentives, like borrowing a pile of money to lease land one doesn’t intend to use, creating a bank-run economy because of the way the State uses its monopoly power. We’ve been there, let’s not do that again.
This gives a universal basic income which is not raised by taxation, floats freely with market conditions (and so remains realistic) and still provides meaningful private land ownership.
A “zoning board” would set land use terms and lease lengths, and also deal with the tricky issue of intelligently figuring out property boundaries to minimize pathological cases. Clearly this is a nexus of power that needs much more analysis.
Another interesting aspect of this system is the possibility of some land being allocated by lottery rather than auction. More on this point in a later post.
The temptation here is to cut 20% off the top of the auctions, call it taxes, and use it to run the government. I think this is an extremely bad idea, because it implies that the government somehow (ahem, democracy) has the right to eat the entire pie. Citizens vote to raise taxes to pay for projects, and we are back to square one. So the question of how the government is funded is still open, although the question of where the social safety net comes from is possibly answered by this proposal, albeit not for existing nation states.
Another interesting question is whether the current lease holder should be cut in for a share of the proceeds when the land is next auctioned to compensate them for making improvements like taking good care of farmland or building irrigation. I’m tempted to say “no” as an antidote to land speculation. This probably makes lease length into a critical variable in the political system, and odds-are one would randomize land lease lenghts at the outset to see what worked and what didn’t.
Microstates can be hotbeds for innovation in government and society. That is why their formation should be encouraged, and the prototypes left alone.