September 24, 2017

A real Republic of Opportunity? We'd have to tax land to the hilt

Posted in Irish Independent · 165 comments ·

The budget, only a few weeks away, is the main instrument used by a government to signal what type of economic policy it favours. Using the tax system, the cabinet indicates where it would like the country to go and what sort of society it is trying to establish. The taxes that it decides to levy should reveal a government’s true colours and, if it isn’t too much to expect, its vision.


This Government’s motto is “the Republic of Opportunity”.


Supposedly this is our own version of the American Dream. According to this slogan, Ireland is a country where if you get up early in the morning and go out to work, you will be rewarded.


The promise is not that we will all be equal – that’s socialism – but it is a capitalist undertaking whereby those who try will be rewarded. Working people should feel assured that the State is on their side; the more you work, the more you will receive in return.


In contrast, there are those who don’t work for a living but are fortunate enough to depend on inherited wealth for their income or who have large portfolios of assets such as land and stocks, which pay a rent or a dividend. These people should not be indulged at the expense of workers. They are the drones as opposed to the workers.


Given that most people in Ireland are not sitting on land that generates income or do not have a large portfolio of assets, the budget’s biases should be reasonably straightforward.


Most people depend on wages for their income so, as a result, the Republic of Opportunity should be a Republic that taxes wages less than assets. This bias would help create a level playing field where equality of opportunity can flourish.


Of course, a level playing field for opportunity also implies taking meaningful steps towards reducing wealth inequality in the country.


Wealth inequality is very real in our country. The latest figures from the Central Bank reveal that the top 5pc in this country own close to half the entire wealth of the country. Most of this wealth is held in property and land.


Armed with these observations, let’s look at the budgetary figures and see whether the Republic of Opportunity is just a slogan or something real.


How do we tax income and wealth in this country of ours?


Last year, the Government raised €47,664m in total taxes. Of this, a meagre 1pc, or €463m, was raised in property tax.


Therefore, the assets that are most useless – land and property that drive inequality in this country – are taxed least. Are you still hearing the Republic of Opportunity in your ears?


In contrast, the State raised €19,168m in income tax. The Government takes 40 times more tax from wages than it does from wealth. Therefore, despite all the talk, taxes on work and effort dominate taxes on inherited wealth. I say this because most land-based wealth is inherited in Ireland.


Quite apart from the small issue of wealth inequality, the other reason that taxing land is a good idea is that land is useless. Land generates no innovation, no creativity, no enhanced productivity. It is a feudal, pre-industrial-age asset, so taxing it would not hinder the economy in any way. It would simply encourage those who hold land to make it more productive. This means selling it for more productive activity like making it available for houses, rather than hoarding it.


This would drive down the cost of housing and this fall in the cost of housing would also put money back in the pocket of ordinary working people. Now that would be an opportunity.


But here in the Republic of Opportunity, we are taxing hard work over sloth and in so doing driving up the cost of accommodation when we already have a housing crisis. How bizarre is that? Is this a way of levelling the playing field?


This is feudalism. Real capitalists tax useless assets and make work as attractive as possible. A medieval feudal system rewarded land because that was what the squire owned and he in turn raised a tithe from the peasants to pay for his knights. Have we progressed much?


So, what else makes up our tax take in the Republic of Opportunity?


We raise just over €12bn in VAT. VAT is a 23pc tax, levied on most items, which we all pay for. It is levied on everything from furniture, fridges, car parts, detergent, office equipment, bottled water, washing machines… and I could go on but you get the point. It is 23pc on almost everything, bar children’s clothes and food.


Because VAT is levied on almost everything we buy, VAT is regressive. This means whether you are rich or poor, you pay the same rate. This means that countries that lean heavily on VAT as a way of raising revenue, penalise the lower paid and people on average wages and, by extension, we give a subsidy to those who own assets.


The other major tax we raise is excise duty. This is basically fags, booze and petrol and a few other things.


Ireland generates a whopping €5.7bn from this source. This is well over 10 times what we raise from property. Yet again this is a regressive tax as wealthy boozers pay the same as poor boozers. And, of course, as the poor smoke more than the well-off, it’s a hyper regressive tax.


So, taken together, the tax system is telling us something. If you are wealthy and are sitting on lots of assets, particularly land – which is the main form of wealth in this country – the State will barely touch you. If on the other hand, you are working hard and moving up the career ladder and aim to be paid above the average wage, the State will clobber you.


Now think about the Republic of Opportunity. This slogan purports to reward hard work and punish unproductive assets. But how do we square that with a tax system that does precisely the opposite?


Indeed, by overburdening indirect taxes, the State drives up the cost of living here directly and thereby leaves less income in the pocket of the already heavily taxed average worker who is supposed to be seeking opportunity.


Until this country taxes land to the hilt and reduces dramatically taxes on income, it will not be a Republic of Opportunity but an outpost of feudalism.


Feudalism is feudalism; capitalism is capitalism. What sort of system do we want?


You have a hard look at the numbers and decide.



  1. [...] A Real Republic of Opportunity would Tax Land and Property to the Hilt ( [...]

  2. Truthist

    Following next general election, the Frankfurt School of Communism will be fully rolled out by :

    Fine GAY-L riding on the mirage of Justin Trudeau

    Posh Crooks


    Fianna FAIL-AGAIN + Fine GAY-L
    With Mehole as brazen Taoiseach
    And, Fine GAY-L given “Safe Space”

    Spicy Crooks + Posh Crooks


    “Criminals with Republican Tendencies” Sinn Fein

    Scary Crooks


    Meanwhile ;

    And, the myriad of Alternative Lefties will gain extra Dail seats

    Ginger Crooks / Grumpy Crooks

    Anyway, the Authoritarian Right Wing-Left Wing Corporatism-Professional Class Hell-Hole will be using the following to control u :
    . results for search terms ;

    • Truthist

      Obviously, we have to be alert as to sins of commission & / or ommission in this article especially given that it reproduced in Wall St. Journal.
      HEADING ;
      China’s all-seeing surveillance state is reading its citizens’ faces

      Josh Chin and Liza Lin
      Jul 8, 2017, 5:00 am SGT

      In a vast social-engineering experiment, facial-recognition systems crunch data from ubiquitous cameras to monitor citizens

      SHENZHEN • Ms Gan Liping pumped her bike across a busy street, racing to beat a crossing light before it turned red. She didn’t make it. Immediately, her face popped up on two video screens above the street. “Jaywalkers will be captured using facial-recognition technology,” the screens said.

      Facial-recognition technology, once a spectre of dystopian science fiction, is becoming a feature of daily life in China, where the authorities are using it on streets, in subway stations, at airports and at border crossings in a vast experiment in social engineering. Their goal: to influence behaviour and identify lawbreakers.

      Ms Gan, 31 years old, had been caught on camera crossing illegally here once before, allowing the system to match her two images. Text displayed on the crosswalk screens identified her as a repeat offender.

      “I won’t ever run a red light again,” she said.

      China is rushing to deploy new technologies to monitor its people in ways that would spook many in the West. Unfettered by privacy concerns or public debate, Beijing’s authoritarian leaders are installing iris scanners at security checkpoints in troubled regions and using sophisticated software to monitor ramblings on social media. By 2020, the government hopes to implement a national “social credit” system that would assign every citizen a rating based on how they behave at work, in public venues and in their financial dealings.

      China’s technology companies are helping lead the way, scooping up unprecedented data on people’s lives through their mobile phones and competing to develop and market surveillance systems for government use.

      Facial-recognition technology is one of the most powerful new tools in the surveillance arsenal. Fuelled by advances in artificial intelligence, these systems can measure key aspects of a face, such as distance between the eyes and skin tone, then cross-reference them against huge databases of photographs collected by government agencies and businesses and shared on social media.

      Other countries also have begun experimenting. In the United States, the Federal Bureau of Investigation uses the technology to help identify criminal suspects, and the Department of Homeland Security is deploying it in airports to track when foreign visitors leave the country. Its use is expected to grow worldwide as a tool for law enforcement and personal identification, and US companies are among those using it in pilot programmes.

      China, however, stands apart in harnessing facial recognition as a cudgel to influence behaviour. The Chinese Ministry of Public Security – its national police force – and other agencies called in 2015 for the creation of an “omnipresent, completely connected, always on and fully controllable” nationwide video-surveillance network as a public-safety imperative. In a policy statement, the agencies included “facial comparison” in a list of techniques to be used to improve surveillance networks.

      “These security steps appear in American movies,” said Xie Yinan of Megvii Technology Inc, a Chinese tech start-up that sells facial-recognition systems to private and public enterprises. “But in China, it’s actually being used in real life.”

      Chinese government agencies, including the public-security ministry, the central planning agency and the ministry in charge of information technology, either declined to comment or didn’t return calls.

      On Chongming Island near Shanghai, a new running course has been outfitted with a facial-recognition system to ensure runners don’t take shortcuts through the foliage during timed competitions, said manager Chen Zhixian, who works at the company that built the track.

      Jogger Chen Xiang, 42, said he was aware of the system but wondered why it was needed. “Running is an activity, and we’re just out here to have fun,” he said.

      Facial-recognition cameras are being used in China for routine activities such as gaining entry to a workplace, withdrawing cash from an ATM and unlocking a smartphone.

      A KFC restaurant in Beijing is scanning customer faces, then making menu suggestions based on gender and age estimates. One popular park in the capital has deployed it to fight toilet-paper theft in restrooms, using face-scanning dispensers that limit each person to one 0.6m length of paper every nine minutes.

      A world where people can be tracked by their faces wherever they go is still a long way off, and will require much better algorithms and cameras than currently exist, said head of Michigan State University’s Biometrics Research Group Anil Jain.

      China is moving in that direction, abetted by a vast surveillance network. Industry researcher IHS Markit estimates China has 176 million surveillance cameras in public and private hands, and it forecasts the nation will install about 450 million new ones by 2020. The US, by comparison, has about 50 million.

      It isn’t known how many cameras in China are enabled for facial recognition, but any high-definition camera can potentially be linked to such a system.

      The sprawling camera network has spawned anxiety in some quarters. One night in early May, government cameras in the coastal city of Wenzhou kept watch as dozens of people filed into a Protestant church for an emergency meeting called following the installation of the cameras near and inside the church compound the previous month.

      The growing appeal of religion in China has unsettled the country’s officially atheist leadership. Three years ago, the authorities began removing crosses from many places of worship in Wenzhou, and last year, China’s State Administration of Religious Affairs ordered major churches, mosques and temples to be “fully covered” by surveillance cameras. Cameras were installed at the Wenzhou church holding the meeting and at others, including some trained on pews.

      In an interview before the meeting, the pastor said the local authorities told him the video feed went to police headquarters. “I assume the cameras have facial recognition. Why wouldn’t they?” he said. “I have Communist Party members and prominent business owners in my congregation. If they think their faces are being scanned when they walk through the door on Sunday, of course they’re going to stop coming.”

      The police authorities in Wenzhou declined to comment on church surveillance.

      Elsewhere in China, an outspoken government critic said in an interview he had been tracked and detained by police while travelling in south-western China despite taking steps to cloak his whereabouts by using an anonymous SIM card in his phone and travelling on a fake ID.

      A woman looking at a screen displaying facial-recognition technology at the Hangzhou International Future Life Festival exhibition in May. Facial-recognition cameras are being used in China for routine activities such as withdrawing cash from an ATM, but the country also stands apart in harnessing facial recognition as a cudgel to influence behaviour. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

      Police refused to say how they found him, he said, but in previous encounters, the authorities told him they had facial-recognition systems. Local police once even bragged about their ability to track him, he said.

      “They told me that whenever I walked through certain intersections, a computer system would alert them to my location.”

      Facial recognition works by breaking down a face into a series of measurements and using them to create a template that can then be compared with others in a database.

      Early systems could only compare two photos taken in relatively ideal conditions. The application of artificial-intelligence techniques such as deep learning, which uses software to mimic the way neurons in the brain process information, has revolutionised the technology. Algorithms can now pick out and manipulate patterns on their own, making it easier to detect and identify faces turned to the side, smiling or frowning, or weathered by age.

      China has access to immense amounts of data – photos uploaded by the country’s more than 700 million Internet users and a centralised image database of citizens, all of whom must have a government-issued photo ID by age 16.

      This year, China set up a government-funded laboratory to push the development of facial recognition and other forms of artificial intelligence. China hopes to become a leading innovator in those technologies. “The things we’ve been able to do in this space surprise me, and I’ve been in this business a long time,” said computer scientist Lin Yuanqing, who works for Internet search company Baidu and is a member of the team overseeing the lab.

      The Chinese start-ups say their best customers are local police bureaus, which are under pressure from the central authorities to identify and squelch threats to social stability.

      At a recent security-equipment conference in Chengdu, displays of facial-recognition systems were popular. At one booth, a promotional video by Intellifusion Technology showed a police officer directing a squadron of facial-recognition drones for crowd surveillance. “That’s a little ways into the future,” said marketer Huang Fan, from Intellifusion, the company that installed the jaywalking-detection system in Shenzhen.

      The company’s current systems can track an individual’s movements inside a building through facial recognition and alert the authorities if that person attempts to access restricted floors.

      In May, facial-recognition systems were used at the Belt and Road Forum hosted by President Xi Jinping in Beijing to promote old Silk Road trade routes. At entrances to the event, paramilitary police stood next to face-detecting video consoles linked to cameras trained on the doors.

      “It’s really advanced,” a guard said as the system snapped images of two people who had approached the screening area. In an instant, the screen pulled up their names, photos and profiles, verifying them as invited guests.

      Several dozen Chinese police agencies are either testing or using facial-recognition systems, according to facial-recognition firms and state media reports.

      In Chongqing, two systems identified 69 criminal suspects during the first 40 days they were in use last year, according to Mr Xu Li, a co-founder of SenseTime Group, which provided the systems. Mr Xu showed a letter from the local police crediting it with the detention of 14 suspects.

      During the Group of 20 international summit in Hangzhou last autumn, Megvii and other firms worked with local police. Surveillance cameras scanned the faces of pedestrians, which an artificial intelligence system checked against a list of criminal and terror suspects. Police were alerted each time the system found a match, leading to the detentions of more than 60 people over a month, according to tallies from the companies.

      Police in Hangzhou, Chongqing and several other cities identified by companies and state media as using facial recognition didn’t respond to requests for comment.

      For 33-year-old Fu Gui, the technology proved life-changing in a positive way. He was six years old when he was kidnapped from his village in Chongqing and sold to a family in faraway Fujian province, according to Ms Fu Guangyou, his aunt and caretaker at the time he was abducted. Years later, he provided his photo at age 10 to a non-profit group that reunites stolen children with their families. His aunt says she contacted the same group a few years later, submitting a photo of Mr Fu at age four.

      Early this year, the non-profit got access to Baidu’s facial-recognition program, which matched Mr Fu’s photos.

      “I immediately called his father,” Ms Fu recalled. “Fu Gui’s dad didn’t even believe me. He had given up hope.” Mr Fu, who was reunited with his family, declined to comment.

      Developers of facial-recognition systems also pitch them as an alternative to keys, credit cards and ID cards.

      China Merchants Bank allows customers to scan their faces instead of using bank cards to withdraw money from about 1,000 ATMs.

      A mobile affiliate of Ping An Bank uses facial recognition to authenticate a borrower or investor’s identity over the Internet.

      “We won’t need to remember another password,” said SenseTime co-founder and vice-president Xu Bing.

      “All you’ll need to do to unlock your phone or log in to an account is scan your face.”

      SenseTime’s Beijing showroom gives an idea of where things are heading. In the lobby, a face-detecting console estimates for visitors their age, gender, mood, attractiveness and closest celebrity resemblance, while also serving up ads based on those characteristics. The company also displayed a system it says can use camera networks to track a person’s movements around a neighbourhood.

      Still to come: A police car with a roof-mounted camera able to scan in all directions at once and identify wanted lawbreakers. Researchers at the University of Electronic Science and Technology of China in Sichuan province have developed a working prototype. “We’ve tested it at up to 120kmh,” said head of the university’s security-technology lab Yin Guangqiang.

      A national facial-recognition system is still years away, but state-run media reports that Chinese police departments already are making arrests using the technology. At least five cities are using it to identify jaywalkers.

      Jaywalkers in China are typically subject to small fines, but the authorities in the south-western city of Fuzhou are using facial recognition to identify offenders. The authorities have published the names of jaywalkers in local media and have said they notified the employers of certain offenders.

      Young Fuzhou resident Jiang Hui recently rode his electric scooter through a red light at a crosswalk. He said discouraging jaywalking is reasonable. “But sending the information to your company? What are they going to do with it?”

  3. Truthist

    I just spotted this plucky post inserted today onto forum ;
    Yesterday, 11:55 AM #6
    Analyzer Analyzer
    Join Date
    Feb 2011
    Belfield has
    The Suds centre for Law ;
    Presumably no mention there of his Tribunal appearance.
    The Smurfit Business School ;
    Presumably no mention of tax residency or other didgy episodes.
    And, the greatest joke of all …..
    The Denis O’Brien Centre for Science ;
    Well I suppose a Denis O’Brien centre for taxation studies would be pushing it.
    Even though DOB never got a degree in Science.
    Belfield is a joke.
    Expect events like that described in the OP.”

  4. [...] A Real Republic of Opportunity would Tax Land and Property to the Hilt ( [...]

  5. [...] A Real Republic of Opportunity would Tax Land and Property to the Hilt ( [...]

  6. [...] A Real Republic of Opportunity would Tax Land and Property to the Hilt ( [...]

  7. [...] A Real Republic of Opportunity would Tax Land and Property to the Hilt ( [...]

  8. [...] A Real Republic of Opportunity would Tax Land and Property to the Hilt ( [...]

  9. [...] A Real Republic of Opportunity would Tax Land and Property to the Hilt ( [...]

  10. [...] A Real Republic of Opportunity would Tax Land and Property to the Hilt ( [...]

  11. [...] A Real Republic of Opportunity would Tax Land and Property to the Hilt ( [...]

  12. Truthist

    Is The Irish State a real Republic of Opportunity in present Geo-Political Terms ?
    Here are just 2 of some present Geo-Political crucial locations that may prove to be :
    their good fortune ; Depending on what The Dreadful Few decide
    their bad fortune ; Depending on what The Dreadful Few decide
    North Korea vis-a-vis Taiwan
    As noted in some of the interesting comments within above link

  13. Truthist

    Post by Commentator in above link ;
    shirlz007 said…
    Apologies… boring topic ! ;
    But essential to understanding Morocco’s politics, future geo-politics concerning the global food supply)… Phosphates ;
    Morroco’s ‘white gold’.
    Morocco controls 75% of known global quality phosphate reserves
    The world’s food supply depends on Morocco.
    Here’s why…
    I believe Libya may also have an, as of yet, untapped supply of phosphate minerals.

  14. Pie Squared

    Agree Ireland’s personal tax system does not make you bounce out of bed in the morning to roll up the sleeves!
    Neither does its social welfare net – on the other side of the bed!

    Do not agree on raising personal taxes via land, property or anything else.
    Just makes us an even less appealing place to be/invest in.
    Would be open to reducing the switch off the alarm clock and roll over in the bed incentives though (heretical, I know!)

    Think about it. To speak of taxing “land”, in the absence of context, is daft. Where is that land? Who owns it? Who inherits it? How many inheritors are there?
    If it’s in South Dublin then maybe, but I repeat Ireland is not Dublin or South Dublin, except in ROCK’s world!

    What about the top 13 cos in Ireland spending less than 1% on tax? Is that really the best we can do?

    In any event, rather than dividing the pie even further, a fundamental principle we seem unable to grasp is: we need to grow the pie.
    Yes. Grow!

    We need our people to come home and/or invest.
    Dream up incentives to grow our economy eg incentivise people looking to move to Europe to invest outside the Greater Dublin area e.g. Spain’s golden residence visa. That’s just one idea and I’m sure the posters on this blog cd come up with hundreds…

    Ireland needs critical mass and preferably new people who will contribute to the Economy – ito needed skills or investments.

    We also need three clear and distinct strategies – one for Greater Dublin, one for the Republic o/side Dublin (focusing on fast tracked growth for Cork, Galway, Limerick and Waterford) and a NI Future one.

    There are no short cuts.
    Ireland needs to think and act strategically for a change.

    Grow our pie! Use every strength we have got.

    Focus on changing the face of Dublin into a High Rise City with world class transport.
    Focus on fast tracking exponential growth in our other cities via clever, sustainable incentives.
    Focus on the Future island and how we can make it a place our descendants are proud to make a life and a good living in.

    To actually DO all the above, we need moolah.
    We all know rule number one of making moolah: investing moolah.
    And that requires as Deco says Bonocks!

    If we continue to snooze. We will continue to lose (or if not lose, then just tread water).


  15. terence patrick hewett

    The pathetic machinations of politicians: while they try to change the world we engineers are doing it. The 4th indusrial revolution. If you only knew what we engineers have up the pipes for you. Run around boys and girls trying to put the pin in back into the grenade.

    nor all your Piety nor Wit
    Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
    Nor all your Tears wash out a Word of it.

  16. [...] labour? David McWilliams makes a good argument here why a tax on capital and assets is progressive A real Republic of Opportunity? We’d have to tax land to the hilt | David McWilliams . However such a tax in my view should not just be a soak the rich exercise (though that is [...]

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