The Free Lunch, by Charles Bazlinton

Orchard book, 2002, viii + 169 pp., pb., 0 9544105 0 5, £9.99. Order this book

The author employs the term ‘free lunch’ to describe any “gift of nature which existed before human society began” (p.4) – for instance, the oil which gives to Alaskans their social dividend, and land value gains due to location or discounted council house sales. He explores peoples’ expectations of free lunches (e.g., from the lottery) – and, of course, the inequitable distribution of free lunches (as in the ‘lottery principle’, the societal process by which the poor create free lunches for the rich). Following a chapter on the ‘fairness’ developed amongst early Israelites, through such rules as the cancellation of debt every fiftieth year, Bazlinton introduces the ‘Citizen’s Royalty’: a Citizen’s Income modelled on Alaska’s. The usual arguments are rehearsed (and particularly the alleviation of the unemployment trap and the opportunity for families to plan employment and childcare more flexibly). A land value tax is suggested as a funding mechanism, and C.H. Douglas’s ideas on social credit (central bank control of money creation and the diversion of profit from money creation to fund the Citizen’s Royalty) are also discussed. Further chapters follow on land value and its taxation (a particular interest of the author, who is a surveyor), and then material on business cycles and stakeholders, citizenship, and much else.

Many of the ideas will be familiar to readers of this newsletter. What’s missing are detailed plans so that we can see how we can get from A to B, from here to there. It is possible to see that such plans might be constructed for the Citizen’s Royalty or for the land value tax. It is less easy to see how such a plan could be constructed for Douglas’s social credit.

But in the meantime, this book will be of interest to anyone who wants a lively skate through some ideas.