Aux armes, citoyens...
Regular readers of the Business Blog will have noticed that revolution is in the air. Cast in the roles of Brum's own Danton and Robespierre are John Clancy and David Bailey. Their revolutionary text is this blog from a few days' ago in which they advocate confiscating the land owned by Britain's 100 largest landed estates and returning it to the control of the Crown so as to give the economy a ÃÂ£100 billion boost.
The nub of the argument is that Britain's current landed estates are nothing more than an unfair historical accident and that very few (if any) of our richest landed families have done anything which in John's and David's eyes now merits their vast wealth. The article ends by asserting that "before you say it's a crazy and can't happen, please note that most other countries have had land revolutions at some point. The enduring feudal legacy of British land ownership needs to be tackled for the benefit of wider society". So, no doubt with a stirring rendition of la Marseillaise as an accompaniment, I think we are all supposed to knock on the door of Sir Euan Anstruther-Gough-Calthorpe (its local connections mean that the Calthorpe Estate is a particular target) and ask him to hand over the keys to all the loot.
I hope that I'm not the only person who thinks this is an idea that is at best a wee bit daft and at worst downright dangerous. Here's three (I trust pretty obvious) reasons why:
(1) Everyone involved owns the land in accordance with the laws of this country. How they inherited the land may seem unfair and arbitrary, but it isn't illegal or obviously wrong. If you are going to redistribute land, when was it ever 'fair' (whatever that means) that some people had property and others didn't?
(2) If you're going down John's and David's route, there doesn't seem to be any intellectual justification for stopping at the hundred richest families. Why not the richest thousand? Or the richest million? Or the land of anyone who earns enough to be a higher rate taxpayer? Or the land owned by anyone who pays tax at all? Heck, if we're going to have a revolution, why not have a real cracker where we confiscate everyone's land and run the country along proper communist lines?
(3) Maybe I'm reading too much into it, but the whole idea has the hint of snobbery (or inverse snobbery at least) about it. Picking on posh and rich landowners is no more (or less) arbitrary than deciding to confiscate the land owned by former commercial lawyers called John who run SMEs, business academics in the Coventry area called David or Dundee United-supporting lawyers called Stuart all in the name of the greater economic good.
Dr Linus Pauling, the only person to have won the Nobel Prizes for Chemistry and Peace, once said that "The way to get good ideas is to get lots of ideas, and throw the bad ones away." I for one can't help but think that John's and David's idea is definitely one to be thrown as far away as possible.