Our Land Our Rent Our Jobs

Reviewed on September 26, 2015 by Moira Swardt in artscomments:

Our Land Our Rent Our Jobs, a book review

Our Land Our Rent Our Jobs coverStephen Meintjes has an impressive academic background.  He read law at Stelenbosch University and then won the Rhodes Scholarship and read law further at Oxford.   He worked for Anglo-American before being head-hunted by a bank.  He is an investment expert.  He is also one of the authors of a book entitled Our Land Our Rent Our Jobs, Uncovering the explosive potential for growth via resource rentals. The other is the late Michael Jacques.

The seventeen chapters of the book are not an easy read for someone like myself who doesn’t regularly follow business, economic and investment news.  What Meintjes is proposing is a radical repositioning of taxes and he starts the book by claiming that taxes, unlike death, are not actually inevitable.  During this process he looks that the economic and socio-political histories of Britain, USA and Brazil.  He also blames Adam Smith, the Godfather of Modern Taxation who wrote a book, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations in 1776, although in the next chapter he unpacks Smith’s idea that rent has superior merits as a source of public revenue.

The book moves on to discuss how rental collection stimulates economic growth and taxation decimates it, the problems and precedents of land rentals, unpacking the tax burden and how to go about rental collection generally and in special cases.  Mining, industries, agriculture, infrastructure and rural and urban areas all get their turn to be examined.

He compares an actual budget year (2009/2010) with his notional land resource rental based budget and then comes to the nitty gritty – how this will affect you and me, the rich, the poor, farmers and financiers.

He looks at remedies and asks “Why not South Africa?”

It is a radical change to South Africa’s tax system.  It is not a new theory.  Henry George proposed similar ideas in his book, Progress and Poverty, published in 1879.  David Ricardo and John Stuart Mill also had thoughts along these lines.  The principle has been applied in various parts of the world.

The shift from taxation of capital and labour to the collection of land rental would provide incentive for landowners to optimise the potential of their land, more land coming onto the market as inefficient holders sell, improved delivery service from all levels of government (I’m not so sure about that one), government land to be used or sold, rural development, more housing and labour and business becoming partners, not adversaries.  Of course land can’t be hidden offshore either. And more jobs will be created.

I don’t really understand all this, but the book should open doors for national dialogue.  It seems to benefit everyone except people who hold land they are not using.  It is certainly interesting to a number of people.  My boss saw it on my desk and commented and a friend is just waiting for me to finish the review so he can read it.  Certainly worth a read.

  • Title:  Our Land, Our Rent, Our Jobs
  • Sub-Title:  Uncovering the explosive potential for growth via resource rentals
  • Forward:  Nobantu Mbeki
  • Authors:  Stephen Meintjies, Michael Jacques
  • Publisher: Quickfox Publishers
  • Year: 2014
  • ISBN:  978-0-620-62142-7

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