Thursday, January 30, 2014

Looking for a Sci-Fi novel – recommendation please

I note with interest that Malta is in the process of selling EU passports to the wealthy. The scheme allows those  (and their dependents) with capital to simply buy the right to EU citizenship.  Of course, there are those who will argue that this will benefit inward investment and raise questions on those that oppose it.  I take the view that investment is more than financial capital and we should instead introduce a scheme to provide passports to those who have something positive to contribute rather than wads of cash.

What interests me however is there exists a rather nasty and hypothetical scenario for the future and it certainly seems a good subject for a Sci-Fi novel. 

The scenario would be as follows: -

First, a government might oppose this purchasing of passports but under the auspices of the TPP then a company selling passports would be able to sue for loss of profits if the scheme was denied. 

Second, the act turns citizenship into a commodity that can be bought … and therefore also sold. It’s the later that is the key to this scenario.

Third, bitcoin is growing and becoming more stable. Unfortunately with bitcoin comes long-term issues on taxation. This could mean that in practice income tax is likely to end up voluntary to an extent and the only secure means of raising taxation will be through land and citizenship tax.

Land tax (and as a first example of this then the mansion tax could be used but it’ll have to expand from there) would lead to centralisation of land control in private hands and extensive lobbying efforts to limit it.  Hence, a case could be made that we’re more likely to see a citizenship tax over time.

This itself creates a problem. Suppose I’m fabulously wealthy in bitcoins. There are many ways to obfuscate that wealth and proving the identity of an address holder can be made very difficult. Hence, it’s relatively easy for me to claim I’m poor when I’m not. So, how do you determine who is actually poor (and can’t pay a citizenship tax) against those who are wealthy and hide it? The answer is you can’t.

You can certainly claim I live in a nice house, drive a nice car etc but I could just as easily create charitable vehicles to provide these things. In a world of well managed bitcoin addresses with people specialising in wealth obfuscation then I can make it extremely difficult for any Government to determine any income or wealth owned. However, I’ll pay just for the right of citizenship.

But what about the poor person who can’t play? You can’t know whether they’re wealthy and just hiding it or if they’re genuinely unable to pay? The cost of investigation will be significant and alas you can’t simply ignore this because everyone else would quickly learn that they could dodge the citizenship tax.

Fortunately there’s a solution. If someone can’t pay their citizenship tax then you can simply sell their passport (citizenship being a commodity) to someone who can pay the citizenship tax and buy the person a cheaper passport (i.e. citizenship) in some other cheaper part of the world. 

It’ll become a monetarist’s laissez faire dream enabling the transportation of poor people to poor countries and turning parts of the world into a haven for the wealthy.  Of course, there’d be exceptions for military service - you need some measure of force to keep the divide and naturally we’d have to conveniently forget that poor people don’t make poor financial decisions simply because of incompetence but instead because they’re poor and the stress that being poor creates.

Endless arguments could be created to justify such a dystopian nightmare, the reinforcement of such a social divide and the inevitable repression and dearth of social mobility.  Rather than have 500,000 people in the UK relying on food banks and unable to afford citizenship tax, you could sell their citizenship for 1M Euro (say about 50 bitcoins in the near future), buy them citizenship somewhere else for 100,000 Euros (say 5 bitcoins in the future), give them 30 bitcoins (about 600,000 Euros in the future) as a ‘thank you and on yer bike’ and pocket the remaining 15 bitcoins (say 300,000 Euros). 

It’ll turn citizens into a commodity to be traded and a nice little earner at that.  Which is why someone, somewhere must have written a Sci – Fi novel on this? 

Now, I don’t think this is likely to happen – my view is the idea is ludicrous. I’d respond with about the same level of derision as if you had asked me twenty years ago that the NHS could be privatised. 

Still, I’d love to read a novel on this. Any recommendations?