11 Jan 2015

Charlie Hebdo - What now?

It is one thing to say that we want to defend the 17 principles of the Declaration of the Rights of Man, principles that can be summarized in the three basic ideas of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity. But we have a real problem. Hundreds, even thousands, of young French men and women have been convinced that they should join the Jihadist terrorists - that they should devote their lives to destroying the model of society that lies at the heart of the western society.

What can we do?

While I will never defend the outrageous and inhuman behavior that led to the carnage this week in Paris, I have to admit that there is a problem. The principles of justice and equality that are at the heart of the French Nation, and which, in principle, we in the west should all share, are so clearly so far from the reality in which we all live, it is no wonder that a few Islamists can find perfectly good arguments that prove that western society is not the model that we should be aiming for.

When 85 individuals have the same wealth as half the population of the planet, is it surprising that you can convince people that our society is fundamentally unjust?

When 0.01% of the US population has the wealth of the bottom 2/3 of American society, can we honestly say that we have got it right? 

When our entire monetary system is based on the principle that Bankers are allowed to lend money that they do not have, and charge us interest to rent us  their money, can it be surprising that Islamic models that regard usuary as a heinous sin could be attractive to disenfranchised youth?

When the simple fact of being born a Muslim of immigrant parents means that your chances of getting a job and being able to play a useful role in society are slashed, can we really be surprised that so many such people are attracted by the Jihadist extremists?

So, what do we do?  How can we reduce the attraction of jihadist extremism?

Do we answer the problem by increasing the number of police so that there are 25-30 people working full-time to control the activity of every potential terrrorist? With thousands of people in France that already need to be monitored, we could end up with half the population forced to devote their lives to preventing the desparate members of our society resorting to terror to get their own back?

I say no. The only real solution is to  change our society. We need to change things to show that our model is the best one there is. That we have the solutions. To put it mildly, there is clearly some room for improvement....

I believe that if there is one thing that would change things more than anything else, it is the introduction of an Unconditional Basic Income for all. Yes, if every man, woman and child had, by right, enough to live decently, then many of the recriminations that can justifiably be projected at our society, would collapse.

As I have argued elsewhere, a tiny sum paid to people in third world countries in Africa and elsewhere could transform our world. 

For a fraction of the cost required to set up the police state that would be required to maintain law and order, we could have a fair and just society. A society that would implement the basic principles that were already there in 1789. Principles that were taken even further when Thomas Paine proposed the idea of a Citizen's Income in his document "Agrarian Justice" in 1795-6.

Isn't it time for people to take this idea seriously?


  1. The agrarian justice idea involves a tax on the ground rent to finance the social fund.The old physiocrats supported this.It prevents land prices from being speculated up in price bubbles.this leaves land affordable and accessible.It also means that taxes don't have to be placed on income,consumption and trade and employment.which are a drag on the economy.The land value tax really make the most sense.

  2. Sam... watching the millions of people in France defending the principles of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity makes me think that maybe today could be the start of a new revolution. And if a land tax was used to fund a social fund, as Thomas Paine proposed back in 1795-6, that would be fine with me. Personally, I'd be happy to combine the land tax with a bit of financial transaction taxes too! But, it's almost not important.