Friday, June 17, 2011

Is land value tax as bizarre as antimatter? Sherlock Holmes' brother Mycroft says NO!

I expect you have become intrigued about the current hunt for antimatter that is supposed to exist...or to have existed...either actually...or only in the mind of scientists. For me the interest grew when I needed a bit of matter to prop up a wonky table leg. I picked out a dusty tome from my shelves (the book had come from a secondhand bookshop in Radstown, in the bee-keeping area of the Sussex Downs), but unfortunately something was the matter - too thick. I flipped it open before replacing it on the shelf.

Would you believe it! In its browning pages was an account of some previously unknown conversations between Sherlock Holmes the renowned detective and his biographer Dr Watson and others, about this very subject, and much more. It seems that Holmes was a acquaintence of Arthur Schuster who first coined the term 'antimatter' in 1898. This seems unusual for Holmes as earlier he was renowned for trying to expel infomation from his mind if it seemed to have no possible bearing on likely cases that might come before him. He dreaded cluttering his brain with useless information - it might take up valuable space needed for more vital things.

The book is from a time well after the Moriaty incident and we find Holmes in an unfamiliar philosophical mood. His experiments in chemistry and the superior deductive skills of his older brother Mycroft, the high ranking government official, seems to have led him on to want to fine-tune even his famed powers. 

Mycroft Holmes was a supreme source of  current political and social information, moving as he did in the highest government and political circles. He was not personally a man for fighting causes, but he knew so much about the workings and financings of government that he once told his younger brother Sherlock that there was only one way to solve what he foresaw as the continuing problem of poverty. Sherlock was aghast at this idea: 'Surely, Mycroft we are on an upward path of growing and shared prosperity - what with the railways and the penny post, no one will lose out in future?' 

Mycroft carefully took his brother through his inside knowledge of where wealth grew and resided in the nation, culled from his own working day experience and as explained so clearly in Henry George's 1879 book 'Progress and Poverty'. His work for many government ministries had convinced him that Henry George was absolutely right to point out that if an annual levy on land values was not made, the modern state would have to greatly increase the tax on the incomes of ordinary people. Mycroft had seen the battle to abolish income tax in the last decades of the 19th century  - when almost no ordinary citizens were then liable for it. He said that anyone with the most elementary understanding of evidence and ordinary deductive powers would see this.  At this point Dr Watson records that at first Sherlock's face drained of colour, he then he leant forward eagerly as the power of his keen intellect was directly focussed on a new subject worthy of intense interest.
Mycroft: 'My dear Sherlock, there is far more evidence for this enlightened policy than the antimatter mystery that you are fussing about: It is elementary - landowners of all sorts get something for nothing as their land increases in value. Where does this value come from? It is only the surrounding successful society that creates the value in their land. The roads, railways, water supply, the new-fangled electricity, other people's businesses - all these enhance the value of any piece of land nearby. Did the landowner somehow engineer this  spectacular increase through effort? No! '

'Sherlock, remember this: Don't tax the buildings, don't tax the work people do and don't tax enterprises until you have fully taxed the land which attracts community-inspired value like a magnet attracts iron filings. If they don't follow this path then the poor will need increasing help though the decades. No more something for nothing should apply to all land and home owners as much as it does to welfare scroungers and to the apprehension of criminals that you are such a past master at.' And with that he shambled off to the Diogenes Club, where they sit silently - not even discussing antimatter - but where the occasional smirk or grimace at a satrical article is permitted.

posted by Charles Bazlinton with acknowledegments to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and help from Wikipedia.
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