Bill Collier- Owning a freehold means you can live off your own land even if you have zero cash and no income and nobody can tax it away from you. This is, for is Freedomists, a moral question that supersedes everything else in the debate about how to provide public funding (taxes).
All the justifications for denying freehold to people are not just or moral. They represent a utilitarianism that has no moral or ethical basis and in accepting this for property taxes we accept it for all things and become slaves.
Before debating alternatives to property tax at a certain level, the level of what we call a freehold, let’s consider what a freehold is and whether it is good or just and desireable. This is the point my argument here; freeholds are morally necessary and dealing with how to accommodate them is a secondary concern we can work out after we have determined people should be protected in their feeehold.
In the past, freehold was a plot of land that had enough resources that you could meet your own basic needs for survival either from the land or the production of the land/your labor. The concept is simple: that which is necessary for survival should not be taxed.
As a concept, in the 21st century, a freehold is any property, real or digital, which is used to provide you with your basic needs at a reasonable level, such as food, health-care, shelter, clothing, and the like. To own your own freehold and have the means to protect and preserve it is the material foundation for all other freedoms, such as religious, speech, association, and the like.
Imagine if you had some property that could never be taxed or taken away once you bought it through your earnings.
Now, to be clear, this doesn’t mean all taxes in general or property taxes in particular should be taken away. The issue is that a freehold should never be taxed or taken away. For instance, the freehold concept has some standing in that, in the US and many countries, there is a level of income that is not taxed. We call taxable income the part of your income not essential to survival.
Our present tax codes in most countries both protect this freehold of necessity, untaxable income, and raise the needed public revenue through taxable income, that which isn’t essential to survival and basic needs.
The idea that property tax systems must burden people in their very necessity, so even a poor old woman living in a hut could lose her hovel to the tax man, is morally repugnant. Now, if you don’t agree that taxing the poor in their very necessity is morally reprehensible then we won’t convince you on utilitarian grounds.
Arguing that “without property taxes kids cannot get educated” is a utilitarian argument that assumes that not taxing freeholds and providing education are mutually exclusive and that refuses to even consider that this argument is a fallacy. It isn’t a proven or irrefutable “fact” that public education must needs tax people in their basic needs, their freehold!
It is more difficult for politicians to raise revenue when necessities are left off the table. That is a given. But it is more difficult for people to pay taxes on their freehold, especially when their income is low. It is also seems logical that an entire population living in the certainty that they are just a few paychecks away from not being able to afford their property taxes and feed themselves is a net social ill.
We can hear an argument for the concept of flat tithing, as existed in Biblical days, as a just model. But this was of income only and it is argued it was in fact from increase, not necessity.
What is more, this was religious and an act of faith, two forms of loyalty no government can rightly claim.
Indeed, a flat tax beyond necessities seems morally good, better even than property taxes which may bankrupt a person whose income may have dipped or decreased. Why tax someone for the value of something they own and take it from them when their income goes down: you increase penury and disaffection which both udnermine social order.
The freedhold concept makes you materially self-sufficient and not beholden to anyone but God. It’s that simple. If you lack the means to pay tax on your own home and it is just a basic, average home, and could lose your home to the tax man, then, we humbly submit, you are not free.
Some compromise may be possible. For instance, even property taxes could be means tested in some way so that the property tax doesn’t exceed a certain percentage of income. This would require that the way we calculate such taxes, shifting to something like “beyond necessity” income and/or property, must change. Either the average house and farm is not taxed below a certain value or property taxes are balanced by a means test.
In short, a freehold is a moral case for freedom! You either believe it or you don’t. But if you reject the moral virtue of a freehold, what other freedoms might you be persuaded to reject on utilitarian grounds?