Kingdom 2037 discussion

Kingdom revisited

Konkvistador brought up Kingdom 2037 on twitter yesterday, and elicited a few comments.

@admittedlyhuman was turned off by the idea of criticism of the King being illegal. I would refer her to, for instance, the recent article at Theden on Georgia’s Rose Revolution, or to my thinking on Bo Xilal. The state has to protect itself against revolutionaries, and has to do so efficiently enough to not turn into a police state. The most efficient method is not to wait for enemies to build a mass movement and then take the mass movement on in a fair fight — it’s to make the existence of such a mass movement unthinkable so nobody ever starts it.

That doesn’t mean that the most efficient way is to listen into everyone’s private conversations and drag Fred Bloggs in front of the Star Chamber because he said the King has a big nose. I’m not talking about going the full Thai, nor about prohibiting discussion of the merits of alternative policies. It is only the position of the King that is beyond criticism.

That was the only criticism made which I reject outright.

Mike Anissimov and C-LAR noted that a total tax level of 25% was high, since medieval monarchies ran at around 10%. 10% is a good target for the running costs of the state. But medieval monarchies often ran deficits, which had a destabilising effect. They also started out (at least in England) with very large landholdings, which were gradually depleted. A King in 2037 needs to be accumulating assets, not exhausting them. A new landed aristocracy has to be built, and that will not come cheap. In the very long run, I would expect taxation to fall to close to zero, and the administration to be funded from the profit on the royal estates, since even low levels of taxation will cost more in terms of impairment of asset values than they bring in in revenue, but in the medium term those estates have to be built up, stability has to be bought, and 25% is still a good deal less than modern people are used to.

I mentioned on twitter that the King has to compete for allies with revolutionaries who can promise to tax at 50% and deliver the profits to their supporters. The whole point of advocating monarchy as an ideal is that he does not have to compete on equal terms, but he still needs to be a strong figure, and a 17th-century beggar-king borrowing to pay his tailor’s bill is not a strong figure.

C-LAR was also concerned about immigration, and the adverse effect on “the proles”. Again, this is a legitimate worry, addressed in the commentary article. The phrase “not tightly restricted” is perhaps misleading: I never imagined open borders or unlimited immigration; that undesirables will be kept out goes without saying.

However, I think that even quite high levels of immigration can be beneficial provided that cultural integration is expected, and the immigrants do not become a politically significant bloc. The idea of an income tax specifically on foreigners (it may not be clear from the original article that I do not expect ordinary people to be paying income tax) is for symbolism as well as revenue: immigrants are permitted to live in the country, they are not entitled to live in the country. I pointed on twitter to my later article on Antidisestablishmentarianism, which is another example of the idea that the majority native culture is openly and concretely privileged over foreign and minority cultures.

In the end, immigration is a practical question, not a matter of principle. If it causes more trouble than it’s worth, cut it down.

Added: Further discussions on Twitter

Before addressing the tax situation, I need to make something explicit that should be obvious but hasn’t been mentioned: the level of tax is entirely up to the King. There is no “man behind the curtain” forcing a 25% limit on him: the only reason for him to moderate his demands is the fact of the long-term value of the country to him being higher if its economy is allowed to flourish, and of high taxes restricting that flourishing. If he believes that the economy will benefit from massive state investment projects funded by a 40%-50% tax level, that is what he will do. I think that would be a mistake, but there’s nothing to prevent it. The whole point of the system of government I’m sketching out here is to make the sovereign as safe from rebellion as possible; it would be dishonest for me to try to say, “obviously nobody would tolerate a 30% income tax, the King would be removed immediately”.

Anyway, @DocCLAR was very interested in the details of taxation. As discussed above, I’m suggesting a level of taxation around midway between what we have now and what is actually necessary to run the state. I don’t have very strong views on the actual manner of taxation, but the main considerations are the distorting economic effects of the tax, and the cost of administering and enforcing it. I had suggested Land Value Tax plus an assortment of duties and tariffs on specific goods, plus the income tax on foreigners. The thinking behind that is that LVT is relatively non-distorting, and maintaining information on the ownership and estimated value of land, while not free, is something that is reasonable and useful for the government to do anyway. I dislike general income taxes and sales or value added taxes, because they need the government to check the value of everyone’s day-to-day business in order to assess, which is both expensive and intrusive.

The reason for putting more weight on the administrative cost of taxation than on the economic impact is that the economic impact can be reduced by reducing the tax level, whereas heavily administrative taxes create a de facto tax floor by needing to collect an amount justifying the existence of an organisation of the size necessary to administer it. So while a general sales tax would be less economically distorting than, say, a fuel tax, it would require a much larger bureaucracy to collect.

Again, the reason for suggesting a (by reactionary standards) high level of immigration is that rich immigrants attracted by efficiency and stability can be a source of state revenue that doesn’t require the government to interfere economically with the mass of the population.

Tariffs are another easy-to-adminster source of revenue, but would interfere with the idea of England recovering its position as a world trading hub. I don’t completely rule tariffs out, depending on circumstances.

I’m more concerned with these governing principles than with the details of tax policy, which is not my area of expertise. Any questions anyone has about the mechanisms, advantages, and alleged drawbacks of LVT can probably be answered by searching on Mark Wadsworth’s blog.

It turned out @DocCLAR was largely concerned with the tax question in the context of central versus local government. For England I don’t think the question arises — England has been ruled as a single tax jurisdiction for almost a thousand years, give or take the farcical failed experiment of local councils over the last century. I’m taking on plenty in drawing up a blueprint for my own country; there are enough American neoreactionaries to do the equivalent work for theirs.

There is, of course, the possibility of the United Kingdom surviving in some form into the neoreactionary era. I don’t really see any practical mechanism of real devolved power; following the logic of the Act of Union, Wales and Scotland would be under the full authority of the King, though his rule in Scotland might well be adapted to Scotland’s different traditions. An alternative of an independent but friendly Scotland would be perfectly workable. A hostile Scotland working with the International Community to Restore Democracy to England, on the other hand, would be a probably-fatal problem; I don’t think a 2037 regime could survive the internal conflict that war with Scotland would produce.

It seems a little unlikely that after any large upheaval the English King would continue to rule Northern Ireland. There are conceivable circumstances, on the other hand, where the British Isles become reunited. Ireland, though, like the USA, cannot easily present monarchy — still less an English monarchy — as a return to the nation’s traditions, so that’s also a problematic contingency.