"He not busy being born is busy dying."
It is the plaintive cry of the cynical mind, "So what's your solution then?" As all communication is an attempt at deception (at least according to Jeff Winger - see Community), it's often instructive to unpack the sense of what a person is really saying. "So what's your solution then?" roughly translates as, "Well, I haven't come up with any solutions, and as I can only filter the world through my own reality and belief structures [see Polyphemus and the Myths of Monomania], I cannot conceive of anyone else coming up with anything better than what we have now."
Yet there is very little that cannot be improved upon. In an age when the turnover of technology is ever increasing, it's odd that we still rely on systems that are centuries old. Tradition is a poor excuse. Tradition is another way of saying that no-one's had a better idea in a while. A friend of mine worked for a bank. When he threatened to report management to the Employment Tribunal Service for bullying behaviour, he was told, "That's the way we've always done things." Habitual poor behaviour leads to financial meltdown. Insanity, as Einstein reminds us, is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
Solutions are there to be had and more people should offer suggestions, even if they are terrible. A properly functioning society should work on the same principles as evolution. Myriad solutions are created for problems that might occur in the future. The ones that are beneficial to the changing environment thrive and go on to propagate. The ones that don't, die. I present three solutions. Whether they are good, bad, or indifferent worm food, only time will tell.
Taxation, as I'm sure most people will agree, is a mess. It's meant to be that way. How else can companies like Amazon, Apple, and Google get away with paying so little? My old socialist definition of capitalism is the free-flow of wealth and resources from the most needy to the most greedy, but in fairness, that only deals with the form of capitalism that we have operated up to now. I often wonder how there can be poverty in a capitalist society. After all, capital is in the name. If there are people without capital in a capitalist society, hasn't capitalism failed in its one and only aim? Fundamentalists wish to convert everyone to their way of looking at the world, whether they be Marxist, Islamist, or Christian missionary. A true capitalist would want everyone else to be rich.
In a functioning capitalist society, taxation should be the simplest thing in the world. Capitalism is entirely based on financial transactions. Billions, if not trillions, take place every day. So that is what is we charge. For every financial transaction that takes place, a small levy is imposed by the government for the right to conduct that financial transaction within its borders. The rate of the levy is fixed, non-negotiable, and the penalty for defrauding the exchequer is severe. For the sake of consideration, let's set this rate at 5%, although in practice it would probably be even lower.
The advantage to a system of levies against financial transactions is that the larger an entity is, the more it pays as a result. An individual may have a job, rent a home, run a car, raise a family, and all of these circumstance require financial transactions to be made, which incur levies. You will be charged when you get paid, when you place your pay in the bank, and when you withdraw it once again. However, these charges will be still be nominal compared to Income Tax and National Insurance deductions as they are now.
A small business requires stock, which increases the number of financial transactions its owner has to make over an individual in order to operate. As a result, the small business owner pays more in the way of levies, which seems fair given that a business has a larger presence, and a larger impact on the community than a typical nuclear family. A larger company requires staff, which brings more revenue into the country's finances. A manufacturing company requires raw materials, which require transportation, placing increased strain upon infrastructure. However, this is offset by the additional contributions made to the economy by the manufacturing company. Companies like Google and Apple buy other companies. This can hardly be discouraged when it triggers such large windfalls for the public purse.
This is not an entirely new suggestion. However, the innovation is to make the levy dual-user. For every financial transaction, there is a seller and a buyer. Each participant in the transaction pays a separate levy, so that even in international sales each home nation receives payment for its end of the sale. More importantly, it is an effective way to track criminal activity by creating a kind of financial quantum entanglement. For instance, a person goes to a cash machine and withdraws £10. The customer is charged 50p for the privilege, and a system records the receipt of payment, that the levy was incurred for withdrawing £10 in the form of one £10 note, and the serial number of that note.
The individual is now free to spend the £10 note as they wish without any further charges being incurred. However this is a dual-user levy, and the transaction is not regarded as concluded until the note has been tracked to another location, where the other half of the levy is paid when a sales is made. In the case of card transactions, both seller and buyer pay their levy at the point of sale.
Crime hotspots, near a local drug dealer say, would show as areas where money was being removed from local cash machines and not reappearing anywhere else. At the very least it would require criminal organisations to launder their money through legitimate companies, which would be required to pay levies on everything being laundered. We may never be able to eradicate crime entirely, but we can at least ensure that it contributes to the upkeep of society the same as everyone else.
Levies work because they're fairer and they're paid at source, making them effectively invisible. We pay Value Added Tax (VAT) on most commercial products in Britain, meaning that we barely notice it (unless you smoke or drink spirits). Levies would be the same, except that they would be a quarter of what VAT is now, applied to everything, and mandatory. No more tax havens, or expense accounts that could win Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. What's more, it would be popular, because the world is made up of individuals and individuals pay the least under this scheme. Individuals also vote, unlike corporations.
It will require new technology to track all these transactions, but capitalism loves new markets in which to flog its latest flavour of magic bean. They rolled out chip and pin and contactless in no time, so it isn't beyond the realms of possibility to replace all taxation with dual-user levies.
“If there were a nation of Gods, it would govern itself democratically. A government so perfect is not suited to men.” So said Jean-Jacques Rousseau. All so-called democratic countries are in point of fact systems of elective representation. Again, this is a fine system in theory, but in practice it leaves corruption open to fester. Refer to the antics up on Capitol Hill to see what happens when the legislative branches of the greatest capitalist nation on Earth are left to collapse under the weight of personal gain and self-interest. The rise of Donald Trump gives rise to the very reasonable proposition that just because anyone can become President, it doesn't necessarily mean that anyone should be allowed to become President.
Two possibilities present themselves. One is to recognise that if we are to have elected representatives, then we should regard the role as we do any other position of responsibility in society. Not just anyone can become a teacher, or a doctor, so why should just anyone be allowed to be a politician? It should be a job that you have to study for, take a degree in politics, go on to a undergraduate thesis in some area of politics or public life, before serving in local government as a junior politician over a number of years. The role of Member of Parliament should be reserved for those that are the equivalent of a consultant in the medical profession, fellow of a Royal College of Politicians. Ministers for Education, Health, the Armed Forces etc. would have to have some form of specialty in those subjects.
Of course, the above course severely reduces the number of people that could conceivably become politicians, which in and of itself might not be a bad thing. You wouldn't let just anyone cut out your child's appendix, so why should just anyone decide how much is to be spent on your child's education over the course of their formative years? The other way is to do as the Greeks did and return to a system of government by lottery. It would work much the same as jury service, only for longer. People would be chosen to serve in government by ballot. They would serve their time for a certain number of years, after which they would be called before a committee and asked to justify their actions during office. Any criminal behaviour would be punished. Good service would be rewarded, with the chance to remain in a similar role for another term, or serve in a more senior role. Ex-politicians would receive a full salary for the equivalent time that they were in office and barred from doing any other paid work during this time. This would severely curtail the power of lobbyists.
Perhaps some happy medium would be more appropriate. In Britain, England needs to have its own parliament the same as the other home nations. Then England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales would have their own elected representatives, and Westminster could become a true House of Commons by electing its members by popular ballot. The House of Lords would be abolished, and I suppose we could keep the Queen as a kind of appendix to the body politic, although I've yet to hear one good reason why a head of state is required at all, let alone who that head of state should be. The Greek's chose a different person every day (although their society was also based on slavery, I'm not saying their theories don't need some modification.). That said, the Queen's never really impacted my life directly, despite being Queen my entire life, so as far as unelected heads of state go, I suppose she's fairly benign. It those further down the political food chain that are the real problem.
This one's more of a prediction, and relates to how we access the internet/world wide web. When there are so many ways to watch or access paid-for material for free these days, there's going to come a point where web access will be treated like any other utility and its unit price hiked. Most things beyond that point will be freely accessible, but the time that you spend on a particular site will be deducted from the one-off or monthly fee that you pay and given to the company or individual that runs the site. It means, for instance, that if you spent an hour and a half watching a film, ninety minutes worth of the fee you have been charged will be given to the company that made the film, to be distributed among the other interested parties.
This isn't necessarily a better system. Indeed, it is open to all kinds of abuses, but I can see it being the model that large corporations go for. If people are being charged a flat rate for access anyway, they are more likely to go to an approved site than a site hosting pirated material. Moreover, large corporations would have more legal power over pirates as the pirates would be receiving direct payment for hosting visitors to their site. It would also allow artists and entertainers to actually get paid directly for people viewing their work, irrespective of whether or not the visitor liked the site they were visiting.
There is great talk of the coming 'internet of things', but I can see a greater expansion of the internet, where literally every TV show, film, and video clip has its own webpage. You won't tune in to BBC2 at 9pm to watch Top Gear anymore (if you even still do), you'll go to the Top Gear page on your TV and at a certain time on a certain day a new link for a new episode will appear. This already happens via the BBC iPlayer, but in the 'internet of all' that link will remain up forever. YouTube and Vimeo may still have some currency, but they will be hosts to links to unique pages on the web. Everything that isn't needed for actual sustenance or human interaction will be freely available on the ubernet, even physical items as 3d printing tech gets better and cheaper.
And you know what? It might just work. However, in order to make it profitable, it will require a large increase in the cost of what we pay for web access at present. Most forms of entertainment will be free from that point on, as your subscription will be divided between those who provide your entertainment, or other professional assistance. Multiple devices will trigger multiple charges, the same as separate electrical sockets. It would also mean that musicians would get paid every time that you listened to their music, rather than just when it is downloaded to a music player.
The other advantage with people actually getting paid for what they provide is that they will need to be less and less reliant on advertising. Less advertising is always a good thing (zero would be ideal), but we have reached a point where some web pages are impossible to scroll through on a hand held device, thanks to the page hanging every two seconds from embedded advertising. The idea that anyone should have to prostitute their creativity, or lend credibility to soulless, non-essential items presented as portals to eternal happiness, is always a depressing thought. Paying content providers direct would decimate online advertising at a stroke.
So there you go. There's some suggestions. You be the judge of their validity. One of the reasons that we are in the mess that we are in is that too often we are told, we have to do it this way because it is the only way to get back on track, but few people go, hang on, that can't be right. How about doing this way instead? Or this way? Or this? There are literally dozens of ways of approaching this or any problem, and we should give serious consideration to all options, even the bad ones, so that we can get a sense of what might be the right direction. Everyone seems to have an opinion on Kim Kardashian and Wayne Rooney. Politics should be no different. It's no less important and no more presumptuous on which to offer an opinion. It's just life.