Almost all of my stories written over the last few months were in the context of necessary changes to the system from the perspective of solving technological unemployment, political systems, global warming, and many other things, so we would avoid sliding into the dystopian society.
There are many solutions, and the best option would be if they could all work together. However, the biggest change that needs to happen must happen in the political and economical sphere. In order to make that change, we are lacking intermediate steps that would help us to avoid sudden disruption. We do not need another revolution that will start a new cycle, rising like a phoenix from the ashes, repeating the same thing all over again. We need a fix for the currently malfunctioning system, and we need steps that will allow everyone to adjust and adapt to new requirements.
In this article, I will write about that. I will write about that small piece of the puzzle necessary to push us forward to a society based on direct democracy and basic income.
But, do not forget: even when we get there, those are just temporary states; at the end, there will be no money, there will be something that we have not seen before.
How to get there?
Before, direct democracy was not possible, as technological means were not good enough to allow us to communicate on a larger scale in a timely manner. Referendums are expensive and time-consuming. In contrast, online surveys are cheap, quick, and easy. If we would use the online solution, properly designed, we could speed up debates by removing repetition of the same arguments. Nowadays, many existing online social platforms already have similar properties like that.
In the economic sense, crowd-funding platforms have the ability to join the resources of many people, in order to accomplish higher goals. In return, people who fund projects get some kind of reward.
Following the same logic, government is one very large crowd-sourcing fund: it takes our money and invests it in the things that are important for society (most of the time).
What is wrong about this picture?
Similar to some of the crowd-funded projects, government can waste money. Sometimes, it happens because of corruption, but it is usually because they are not able to control everything in a way that would prevent misuse. Disproportion between the size of the government and the body they control can create a bottleneck, preventing them from carrying out positive changes they would like to do, thus creating unintentional issues. I believe that most of the officials are not bad as portrayed, but, instead, it is more the case of misguided intentions.
Thirdly, there are years of capitalism that lead to the concentration of wealth into one small percentage of the population, basically jamming the system, and potentially risking large economic and political failures. The way to solve this is by using Basic Tax Control funds, supported by online social networks.
Basic Tax Control means that a certain amount of money is given from the tax budget to each person of a certain age. Then, each person needs to invest the received money into the projects created by people, companies, or government for the public good. In return, those projects are given to public ownership or a portion of the project's profits are given back to the fund, either as a percent of the profit or as a share in company's ownership.
Philosophy behind Basic Tax Control
The main idea of Basic Tax Control is identifying and fixing the real issues in the current system, instead of destroying the existing system completely and starting from scratch all over again.
Starting anew does not guarantee that we will not repeat the same mistakes, and, as history has shown, we have already done it many times, and it did not fix the things that were broken. What was broken back then is broken now, causing more issues than before.
A good analogy would be to imagine a car that has flaws. At some point, while driving those cars, we realise that there are flaws and that some of those flaws will appear only after we drive a certain amount of miles. Furthermore, the faster we drive, the more dangerous those flaws become, endangering our lives and safety. We get angry, and, instead of fixing the car, we get the revolutionary idea to stop, burn the old car down, and start from scratch building a completely new car. Now, building from scratch is a complete setback for our trip; we are not travelling, and we are wasting time repeating the same thing. Even worse, while building the new car, we use the same engineers who have the same mindset as the builders of the previous car, and even worse they use the same plans, at the end the only things they are changing are the colours, door knobs and driver. After driving the new car for a while, we will again realise that we have the same issues as before. However, it is even worse now, as we lost time building the new car, so we decided to drive as fast as possible, but, the faster we drive, the more those flaws become noticeable, and the more dangerous they become for everyone.
Instead, we could decide that we do not need to stop; we could just slow down a bit and fix the flaws while driving. Although this looks impossible, we need to remember that we invented open heart surgery, and we have practiced it for quite some time. Cars are far simpler than the human body, and, although no one ever tried fixing them while they running, as they do not have life and cannot die if they are disassembled, I am pretty sure that, if we needed, we could easily invent a similar procedure. Our socio-political structures have life like our bodies, but by the complexity there are more like cars. They are also far more resilient: they can withstand many changes without major society disruptions or breakings. We can replace many parts, and our society will still run as usual.
Basic Tax Control philosophy is fixing instead of rebuilding, evolution instead of revolution.
Ideally, what we want is to modify and fix without affecting normal life, without causing major negative disruptions, destruction, or wars. Similarly, people were not hugely disrupted by the mobile phone revolution; we just changed our habits and adapted to new.
What is Basic Tax Control (BTC)?
Basic - stands for a small amount of money that is given back from taxes at the beginning. But, also it means a basic form of control of those taxes by the people who receive them.
Tax - each person will get small amount of money from the taxes collected, and each person will have the ability to decide where he/she wants to spend that money on projects that are of public and social interest.
Control - each person is controlling his/her own dedicated tax money, and the nature of control is basic, as the amount of money is very small; in the first phase, it will not largely impact the current tax budget.
A person cannot use the funds for personal gains but can decide on her/his own how and where to “invest” those funds. This is a paradigm change; although it looks small, it can have a massive positive impact on the economy and on the welfare of the overall population.
Who should receive Basic Tax Control funds?
Almost every person should receive Basic Tax Control funds.
Every person who is a citizen of a certain area and is literate enough to know how to read and write, has basic knowledge of how to use the internet, and has the minimum necessary cognitive abilities — should receive funds.
In other words: every person older than 9 years who does not have any cognitive disorders that would prevent him/her from thinking or using the system.
How much money do we need?
Not much. For a country the size of the United Kingdom, for instance, with 64 million people, we would need as little as £5 per person for the initial phase, which would total £285 million per month.
57 million people * £5 for each person = £ 285 million
For one year, that is £ 3.4 billion or 0.13% of GDP.
For the year 2014-2015, the projected tax revenue in the UK was £648.1 billion *3; therefore, for the Basic Tax Control, we would need to set aside 0.5% of total collected taxes. This is miniscule, especially if we consider the good things that BTC can accomplish. Think about one more number: the UK’s military expenditure for the year 2014 was £60.5 billion. Now, ask yourself: if we can find money for wars, can we find 20 times less money to create peace and welfare for everyone?
If you still think that neither of these things is an option, think about one more number — one important number that must not be forgotten: the amount of tax avoidance. In the UK, just for the tax year 2012/2013, the price tag of tax avoidance damage was £34bn.*4 It is a huge number and also the reason why it is important that everyone pays a fair amount of taxes. Movements like “Fair Tax Town” have brought this issue to national attention, especially bringing to attention that tax evasion is available for any business, and it is very easy to setup.
For Basic Tax Control, it would be possible to take the money without any significant pressure to other services, but, if we could retrieve money dodged by big corporations, we could get significantly more money — more than enough to do the trial test of a Basic Tax Control system.
Basic Tax Control should be funded from collected taxes, but, for the early implementation and test runs, it would be possible to use private (our own) money, but it should not be continued as a practice. The end goal is to take money from already existing means of socially-collected funds: taxes we already collect for public purpose.
Should the Basic Tax Control amount always be the same?
Every country or community (if privately funded) should decide the amount of money they want to dedicate for BTC, but, whatever amount is decided, it must be the same for all members of the group.
The BTC amount per person should not be fixed. Potentially, it should increase over time, until it gets to the proportion that is equally comfortable for the government and for the public. The more directly democratic society is, the more taxes will be controlled by it. The idea is to shift/disperse a portion of responsibility from the government to each person in society.
Increasing the funds controlled by the people should happen gradually. For instance, if the trial has been successful after 3 months or so, the amount should be increased relative to the size and amount of success. Ideally, the increase should be calculated in a way that would achieve optimum efficiency for the next step.
In theory, the public could control 100% of the tax revenue, but that would require a high level of understanding about public services and public needs, like welfare, healthcare, state pension, defence, justice, etc. Any disproportional funding could cause disruptions and issues. Although 100% is very difficult to achieve, it is possible with the proper level of knowledge of people who are involved.
Shouldn’t we move from taxes?
There is an argument that taxes, as they are mandatory and not voluntary, are a tool of oppressive governments. In this view, taxes should be abolished.
Why is that a wrong assumption?
There are two parts of our lives: one is personal, and the other is social.
In the same way as we have personal needs defined by Maslow's hierarchy, we have our societal needs. We collect taxes, in order to satisfy those needs. Roads, electricity, gas, communication, law, justice, healthcare (in many countries), and many other things are there because of tax collection. Tax collection is helping us to move our society forward, build infrastructure, and increase overall wealth.
A voluntary approach to taxes would raise many other issues, like protection of community property from the members who wished to be excluded. Here’s a question: if people who choose not to pay taxes are invaded by another country, does the military come to their defence? In order to simplify things, at some point, we decided that we all must pay a share, and I agree with this. Taxes are important, but, also, it is important what we do with them — are we using them for good or bad things — and that is something that should be everyone’s moral decision, not just the burden of our governments.
Why Basic Tax Control?
Basic Tax Control is cheap and easy to implement. The amount of money necessary to implement Basic Tax Control is significantly smaller than the amount of money needed for full Unconditional Basic Income. Although Basic Tax Control is not private and unconditional like the Basic Income, Basic Tax Control’s purpose is implementation of Basic Income and full democracy.
Basic Tax Control can be implemented gradually, and every country can set its own amount of money controlled by the public. It can be adjusted per GDP or per amount of taxes that are collected. Basic tax control can be a much easier step forward, especially for those countries that do not have enough money for basic income.
Basic Tax Control can build entrepreneurship, collaboration, a sense of being a part of and belonging to the community. Basic Tax Control counters the sense that your government is some ruling entity somewhere above you and that it must do something for you or that you have to do something for your government. Instead, Basic Tax Control gives the sense of being a part of that government, being a part of that society, being part of change — instead of dreams, wishes, and hopes — the role is shifted, and everyone has the ability to decide, create, or take action in creating a future society.
As Basic Tax Control is transparent for the public and for the companies involved, it builds a sense of trust and decreases the chances of fraudulent activities and manipulations.
Basic Tax Control will be an online platform, which increases efficiency and our ability to communicate, regardless of distance. The prices of smart phones and computers are constantly dropping; there is no reason why anyone should not have access to Basic Tax Control through an online platform.
How is Basic Tax Control a step toward direct democracy?
Government primarily rules by two means: by managing tax collection resources and by creating laws and policies. By shifting a small portion of money back to the public, and allowing the public to be more involved in affairs for public welfare, gives a small amount of government responsibility back to the public.
By direct involvement, the public learns how to be more socially and democratically active, learning how to think in the sense of the community and what is good for others — not just what is good for single person. Therefore, Basic Tax Control is a way to allow society to achieve fairer and more direct democracy.
The main argument why power cannot be transferred to a wide population is mob behaviour. However, the reason why some societies become more liberal toward minorities and different races is due to advances in technology, communication, change of generations, shift in thinking, but also because the power was in the hands of a few who were enlightened enough to see the benefit in those changes. Increasing the rights of minorities is a very good example that not everything the government does is bad; we can argue that there were always opposite currents in government, and that this is not a rule but the exception. Still, we must ask what would happen if those decisions were left to uneducated masses of people. Many things would never happen, and we would still have widespread racism and oppression of different sexes.
A major hurdle to direct democracy ideas can be mob behaviour, so, meritocracy is still necessary, in some sense. In order to find a solution, society still needs the most skilful people for certain subjects and needs people that have multidisciplinary knowledge. Those most skilful people need to present solutions in simple, understandable ways and be open to discussion or scrutiny by peer reviews. From that point onward, the public would decide what is the best solution or approach.
This is similar to daily life: if we need to design a building, we would find an architect; if we need complex calculations, we would find a mathematician; if you need to examine material for certain properties, you would find a chemist. Every field has people with certain knowledge, and each type of knowledge can help. Science has become an integral part of our lives — no one can deny that — and it is neither good nor bad in itself. It is a tool to be used, and way we use it defines its nature. If we have moral questions, we would ask a theologian, philosopher, ethicist, or psychologist, or maybe even a religious monk — point being that every subject has people who have domain knowledge and who can help us when we get stuck with difficult questions.
Having experts proposing solutions does not mean that society is meritocratic; it only means that we will find solutions faster, and, whatever they, the find final decision will still lie in the hands of the general population.
What are the benefits of a Basic Tax Control system?
Basic Tax Control teaches, in a practical way, what democracy is all about. Through the platform, people learn about responsibility, what social life means, and that their own actions can impact their own future. They learn how to be responsible, and, by taking that responsibility, they switch from a “vote, hope, and forget” system to active involvement in the making of our society — the society we need.
Basic Tax Control is, in some way, like a driving licence for democracy, teaching us that driving is not about ourselves but also about other people in traffic. It also teaches us that, whatever destination we are trying to reach, we will get there only by respecting the rules and those other drivers around us.
Through active involvement inside of the platform, the general population learns how to be open to each other and how to communicate in an open, non-violent way, respecting others and their needs.
By using Basic Tax Control, democracy is not just learned, it is exercised on a daily bases. The person has to be involved, think, and make decisions. Although those decisions look small and insignificant, because of the small amount of money we need to manage, when combined, those “insignificant” amounts can make a significant impact on society.
More prominent and altruistic members will spend more time on the platform. They will read more and learn more about different subjects, in order to help the community by enhancing social entrepreneurship; that will lead to change. Think about it: if we can spend hours inside virtual worlds, why not spend time inside of the “game” that will actually change our own world to become something better.
The best way to explain would be by giving a few examples:
- The company “West Wind Acme Ltd” needs £200K, in order to start production of a new type of wind electric generators with 10KW capacity. In return, it will give 20% of each year’s profit back to the Basic Tax Control fund.
- The company “Veggie Robotics Ltd” needs £500K, in order to produce 5 lines of fully-automated vegetable farms. In return, the company is offering 50% of its shares to the Universal Basic Income public fund.
The Basic Tax Control platform can boost fresh ideas and the economy; also, it could be used to tackle difficult issues, like global warming, for instance. If the idea is good, it can be funded by the public, instead of waiting for investors or grants that usually favour high yields with technologies that are part of the problem, instead of the solution, such as oil companies.
Each person from the crowd has a small amount of money to share across the projects she/he loves and wants to support. Those projects should be for the good of the entire society. In return, projects need to satisfy two principles: either they will be made exclusively for the public good (fixing the roads, building public libraries, etc.), or they are companies that are funded to return equal or greater amounts of money into the BTC funds over time, by sharing their equity with the public through Basic Tax Control fund or Universal Basic Income fund.
Basic Tax Control, combined with shares of equity, in exchange for investment, is an alternative approach for one country to achieving Universal Basic Income, which is especially convenient for countries that are less developed and do not have a high GDP. This approach should not be used to undermine implementation of Unconditional Basic Income as a basic right. Unconditional Basic Income should be implemented, regardless of the path we choose in the near future, because of increasing automation and technical unemployment.
When shares are equally dispersed, instead of giving them back to the BTC “investors,” those shares could work for everyone equally. In order to keep things interesting, some kind of reward system should be considered for those “investors” who are more successful and more active. By investing in projects and companies, money will circulate more, new jobs will be created, and new solutions will emerge, as a result of that process, creating a generally positive effect on the job market and the economy. That would significantly boost GDP, and, more importantly, it would direct people to work together and form solutions to fight difficult challenges, like the climate change example.
Additionally, the idea would be that any company that achieves a high level of automation has to pledge most of its earning to the public funds. Once a company is 100% automated, it has to become a public service, giving its owner lifetime benefits, similar to what we do for former presidents. *5
Basic Tax Control would create and finance companies that give money from profits back to the public. As this system permits big investors in those companies, money would not go to the top 1%. By dispersing wealth, we would avoid the accumulation of wealth and the dangers that go with it. When everything becomes owned by the public, we will think twice before investing in technologies that can harm the planet or us.
Also, this type of ownership is neither government nor private ownership — it is "Public" or rather "Social-private" ownership. "Social-private" ownership in those companies is not transferable and not inheritable. Upon death, everything that has been under the control of that person should return to the BTC public fund and dispersed to other members of society.
This is very much like what nature does with the atoms of our bodies when we die, spreading them around. Think about it: no one complains because he did not get all the atoms of his grandfather when he died. In the same way, we should not complain about where our money goes when we or our relatives die. We should be like the sun, shining equally on “good” and “bad” people.
Support for the implementation of Basic Income
Universal Basic Income can be implemented from return on investment in Basic Tax Control projects. Dividends and profits from projects funded by the public through Basic Tax Control can be the foundation for Basic Income. Gradually, more projects and more automation will increase global wealth and bring people out of poverty and beyond what is considered the Basic Income level.
Wealth is nothing more than an amount of commodities we can provide to the population, in order to satisfy wants or needs. Therefore, using this model to increase the overall wealth of the population would be a natural, evolutionary step in our economic development.
What should the BTC platform look like?
If you ever used platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, online banking, IndiGoGo, KickStarter, or something similar, the Basic Tax Control platform will not be significantly different. However, there are some specific things we need to mention:
The BTC platform must be transparent
Every transaction, every discussion, every comment, must be publically visible. Companies seeking investments would need to open their books and show how they do business. They would need to disclose all accounts and everything that is connected to that investment — every single expenditure and transaction must be visible to their “minority share holders” or “public patrons”.
In this way, every transaction can be a part of public scrutiny and open for discussion. If the “project owner” is spending too much and not accomplishing what he has promised, that should be visible to the public, along with the reason why that happened. It is a form of “public shaming” and provides security and assurance against future fraudulent attempts from the same individuals or companies. Rogue companies and bogus projects, as well as people connected to those, should be stopped by this type of full transparency and by existing laws.
Companies must give regular updates reports on progress and how money is spent; all information must be standardised and easy to understand.
Bad money management by the company/project owner or fraudulent activities will impact ratings of the company and people involved. If someone does not fulfil the promises he made, for instance, no one will invest in him in the future, as his ratings will be downgraded. Bad ratings will mean an inability to apply for future investments, and, in more severe cases, can have legal implications. If track records and ratings are good, the public will be willing to invest in the same company/people again.
The system is designed to balance itself. Those who are not successful in meeting their funding goals will not be treated as failures, and negative rankings would not be applicable to them. Negative rankings would be reserved only for those who get full funding but do not complete what they said they will do or do not execute the project satisfactorily.
Both government officials and public investors could check the validity of operations at any moment, since the platform is open. Anyone would have ability to check, monitor, and react, in the case of suspicious activity.
Transparency is one of the key requirements; if someone wants to ask for money, then he/she has to show how it is being spent. At the end of the day, we want to avoid situations where someone is pleading for money to save whales, but spends it in a casino in Hawaii while drinking Piña Coladas.
The BTC platform allows anyone to create projects
Anyone can create a project, but that project must adhere to the existing rules. If a project is good, and it can benefit society, there is no reason why anyone who has a good idea cannot create project.
The BTC platform rewards success and talent
Successful projects and good ideas should be rewarded. A reward system, if done right, could additionally enhance entrepreneurship, innovation, and altruistic spirit, uplifting and empowering people to do more by putting additional effort into learning and doing more.
The BTC platform must be publically owned
The same public that gets BTC funds should also own the platform in equal proportion. The BTC platform, must not wind up in the hands of the government, private owners, or corporations — especially not giant corporations, like Google, Facebook, Apple, etc.
Although the public type of ownership does not currently exist legally, it could be created for this purpose. Public ownership, unlike private ownership, would not be inheritable or transferable; public ownership is always dispersed over the members of the group equally. Only in this way would it be possible to keep the level of transparency and independency need for a truly democratic operation of the BTC platform.
The BTC platform should respect the open/close principle
Open to connect and open to communicate. Closed to outside influence and control.
The end goal is to have BTC that has multiple levels: local, constituency, country, and world. Levels or nodes can open to each other, but not everyone is connected to everyone. Nodes should be connected as balanced topological networks.
Connections should be either based on the principle of geographical relations or communities similar to those of “twin towns” (“friendship towns”).
The BTC platform must have a discussion section
This discussion section, if designed properly, should help people discuss, in a constructive way, current and future projects, but not just projects, any matter of public interest can be discussed there. The goal is to reduce clutter but give everyone a chance to speak and express opinions in a non-violent manner. Ideas, discussions, and arguments should not be repeated; they should be brainstormed and then narrowed down to the most optimal ones.
BTC control should be more by design than by people and rules
Users decide how to use the platform; there should be general rules, but fewer the better.
Rules should be imposed, like in any other online system, more through functionality than through the wider set of regulations one needs to follow. Basic Tax Control has some integral parts: funding model, reward system, and a discussion platform – and those are good examples of control by design. One can only do actions inside the platform that the platform allows them to do.
The general rules of debating should be applied, in order to avoid inappropriate or spam behaviour. The idea is to enhance cooperation, efficiency, and the level of public service needed for the wellbeing of all members of society.
The BTC should serve as a knowledge base for success
Individual success stories of people and companies, and especially stories on how to avoid challenges and overcome the problems, are an important part of the knowledge that should be freely available and shared openly. Those communities that succeeded and became self-sustaining should share their success stories and help others.
It is illusory to talk about real cooperation by excluding some areas, countries, or races; if we really want change, we will bring that change to everyone, regardless of their origin or religious beliefs. The success stories should be there for everyone to learn from and for everyone to share. We live on one finite planet, and the issues we experiencing do not know about borders or differences; therefore, solutions should not know borders, either.
Both companies and people should have ratings. Individual ratings are reserved for members that support platforms with their expert knowledge or are involved in debates.
All projects will have several types of ratings: efficiency, execution, quality, ethics, impact, and similar. Negative ratings are applied only for deceitful and fraudulent actions.
The ratings for companies are a cumulative sum of not only their projects but also the people involved.
Those who have ideas that can achieve a great impact and can benefit society the most, along with a delivery that was within the boundaries of what was promised, are rated the best.
BTC is dynamic
The core rules must be kept, but the platform will change over time, in order to improve performance, user experience, or functionality. Basic Tax Control can be adjusted to better suit a certain environment, but it must not lose the main purpose and core rules from its sight, and that is moving toward a direct democracy and a society where none of its members need to struggle for survival.
Moral question of tax control
Previously, in the post about “Political systems,” I mentioned the moral problem connected with paying taxes. The moral dilemma I explained there is whether you, as a taxpayer, are responsible for the evil deeds your government committed in your name?
As a good, law-abiding citizen, you pay your taxes each month, and your vote was cast for the elected government. If your government uses those taxes for evil means, like guns and bombs, you are partly responsible for their actions, and, in case some innocent soul dies from those arms, you are directly responsible for that death.
Using the Basic Tax Control platform should tackle that problem. You would use Basic Tax Control like you would otherwise use any online shop: you would log in securely, and, instead of letting someone else decide how your tax dollars are going to be spent, you could do it on your own.
For the portion of money you do not control, you could make recommendations to your government on how you wish they would spend your money. This could be created like a “wish list” from Amazon: sometimes your friends will grant those wishes, and sometime they won’t; at least the government will know where your heart was.
You will have the ability to dedicate your tax dollars to whatever you think is the best thing for your society. If this already works for all the banks and businesses, there is no reason it would not work for taxes, as well.
Using the Basic Tax Control to manage small amounts of money and express their opinions about different country/area functions is a great way to help the government understand how their people really think and feel.
I would invest my tax dollars into education, green energy, infrastructure, space exploration, science, and healthcare. On the other hand, I would never invest in offensive military actions, because I personally feel that we have already reached a stage in destructive power where we could wipe ourselves from the planet in matter of minutes, and, instead of finding money for wars and destruction, we should find money for sustainable coexistence. Maybe someone else does not feel the same way, and I do not have anything against other people’s choices; whatever you decide, it will be on your conscience.
What about you, where would you invest your tax dollars?
Next time, I will explain relations between the “Basic Tax Control” and “Unconditional Basic Income”.
Official web site for Basic Tax Control: