Tourist tax

The regular visitors of Republic of Lagrangia will be aware of our opposition toward income taxes, and instead we advocate the raise of public revenue through the lease of land and radio spectrum frequencies. Additionally we have argued in favour of so-called health taxes on sugar, soda, salt, fat to partially fund a universal single-payer healthcare system (and to reduce the amount of unhealthy ingredients in food).

Mordan citizens and permanent residents will enjoy both free healthcare as well free public transport, which they have paid for through the LVT. However, foreign tourists will also made use of these particular services. It seems reasonable to us if tourists will also contribute to these services. The question is how they can do this.

In the Netherlands there’s a local tax called tourist tax (toeristenbelasting), which local governments are allowed to levy upon tourists from outside their jurisdiction (both domestic and foreign). Usually this tax is charged per night spend at an ad valorem base. If a hotel charge 100 per night, and a tourist has to pay a 5% tourist tax, he will have to pay 105 to the hotels, which will turn 5 to the local government.

We propose to introduce a similar scheme, but with several adaptations. First our tourist tax will be collected by the federal government rather than by local governments. Hence there will be a uniform tariff throughout the nation (in the Netherlands local governments are not obliged to charge tourist tax). Second in our system the tax will only be charged onto foreign tourists, not on domestic ones.

Uterine transplants: a first step towards male pregnancy?

In Sweden nine women have received a uterine transplant, with the intend of getting pregnant very soon. According to the BBC the nine women were either born without a uterus, or had their own uterus been removed for medical reasons. Uterine transplants are a new area of medical science, earlier attempts in Saudi Arabia and Turkey have failed.

But suppose that the Swedish experiment works, after all organ transplants have a history of failure and ultimate success, then it will be possible to transplant uteri into males as well. Most academic discussions about male pregnancy, are about ectopic pregnancies (i.e. implantation of the embryo outside the uterus). But since ectopic pregnancies are usually lethal, no serious attempt has been made to induce such pregnancy in a male. Only a few ectopic pregnancies have resulted in live birth.

However, with uterine transplants the whole problem of ectopic pregnancies is avoided. If successful in women, there’s from a medical point of view no reason to refuse such treatment to males. Whether transplanting uteri into males is desirable, is a totally different matter.

Terminology

Lagrange points

Talking about and referring to Lagrange points can be confusing, since there are Lagrange points in every system in which one celestial body orbits another. So when talking about Lagrange point colonization, one need to specify which system he is referring to.

Republic of Lagrangia is in favour colonizing the 4th or 5th Lagrange point of the Sun-Earth system. Since it’s quite cumbersome to repeat this phrase all over again, we will from now on simply refer to these points as SEL-4 or SEL-5, with SEL standing for Sun-Earth Lagrange point. This system allows us also to easily refer to other Lagrange points: SML for the Lagrange points of the Sun-Mars system, or SJL for the Sun-Jupiter system.

Asteroids

The Main Asteroid Belt (MAB), or simply the Asteroid belt, consists of those asteroids which orbits are between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. These asteroids are called main belt asteroids (MBA).

There are also asteroids outside the MAB. Those asteroids which orbits are (at least partially) within the orbit of Mars are called Near Earth Asteroids (NEA).

Trojan asteroids are asteroids which have been trapped into a system’s L4 or L5. Most famous are the Jovian Trojans, but also Martian, Neptunian and Terrestrial Trojans have been discovered. Especially the last are of particular interest, since a population of Terrestrial Trojans will provide the mineral resources needed to build space habitats and for export to Earth.

At this moment the existence of one Earth Trojan Asteroids has been confirmed, but scientists believe more Earth Trojans should exist.

Space habitats

A space habitat is a space station designed for hosting a permanent population of a substantial size. Space habitats, also known as space settlements, are located in free space as opposed to colonies on or under the surface of a celestial body. When we talk about space colonization, we mean the creation of space habitats.

Spacers and Robots

In the Robot series novels by Isaac Asimov, humanity is divided into two groups: Spacers who have colonized space, and those who have remained on Earth. The main difference between these two groups is the use of robots. In Asimov’s universe, Earth has banned the use of robots, whilst Spacer use robots for everything.

Though Asimov gives a weak explanation for this state of affairs in his novels, his vision is quite plausible. It’s my hypothesis that future Space Settlements will more likely to become dependent upon robots, than terrestrial societies.

Here on Earth the overall majority of people depends upon jobs to survive. Hence becoming unemployed is one of the modern man’s greatest fears. Robots and automation are a potential threat to the jobs of large numbers of people, hence many people might oppose further automation, regardless of this threat is real or imaginary. For this reason trade unions might lobby governments to restrict the use of robots, and related social-democratic parties might introduce such policies in order to appeal to a large portion of the electorate.

In Space Settlements, however, labour will be scarce and hence expensive. This would create a great incentive to invest in robots and automation in general. And because the small number of people in Space Settlements, massive opposition towards robots will be absent. Consequently Space colonists are more likely to stimulate robots, whereas terrestrial governments might be tempted to restrict robots for electoral gain.

For your amusement, here a few YouTube videos of quite spectacular advancements in robotics:

HRP-4C Miim’s Human-like Walking

Creepily realistic robot can hold conversations and answer questions

Robot Actress Steals the Show

The Cheering of the Bulls

Bull fighting is barbaric and should be prohibited, and not only in space settlements. But for some reason people have a unsatisfiable need for “gruesome” entertainment, hence a proposal for a totally animal friendly alternative for bull fighting.

First like traditional bull fighting, this game is performed in an arena. Second we substitute real bulls with two humans in a realistic bull costume (including sharp horns), alternatively we could remote-controlled animatrons (but my preference is the first option). Third we need a human who fights the “bulls”, this person is referred to as the “coward”. Fourth within the arena there’s a field with a marked line, called the “ring”.

The rules are quite simple. First, the coward enters the arena and will stand at the midpoint, then (s)he will greet the audience. Meanwhile the coward is booed and insulted for coward by the audience. Subsequently two “bulls” enter the arena, and now the audience is cheering for the “bulls”.

The task for the “bulls” is plain and simple: pushing the coward outside the ring, for each time they manage to push him outside the ring they will receive a point. But also the coward can earn points by leaping over the “bulls”, each time he succeeds in leaping over a “bull”, the coward receives a point. The team which has the most points after fifteen minutes, wins the game.

To make this game even more exciting, each time the “bulls” earn a point the audience will cheer, but every time the coward earns one they will boo him.

 

Free Public Transport

We have discussed some ideas on public transportation in space habitats in an earlier post. In this post we will argue in defense of introducing free public transportation in Mordan.

Public transportation is in many developed countries already heavily subsidized, in some cases to such extent that travellers pay no more than 20% of the costs of public transportation. So we might wonder why bothering with charging fares at all? If you believe that people should pay for their own transportation, than you should oppose any subsidies on public transportation. But if you believe that some public subsidies on public transportation are fine, you should explain why we should not subsidize it for 100%.

We believe that freedom of movement is a fundamental right. But freedom of movement is also of great social and economic importance. People have to be able to travel from their homes to their jobs, students to their schools, consumers to the shops and so on. A good and accessible public transportation system will increase economic activity and hence wealth.

Since anyone, workers, employees, businesses, and consumers will gain from public transportation, we believe it will be fair if the government would use public funds to provide free public transportation. In principle the funds needed to finance such free public transportation will be supplied by the revenues generated by the lease of land by the government.

Related topics

The case for universal, single-payer health care

Banking reform

Intro and recapping

In part two of our series on monetary reform we briefly discussed the role of banks within the Mordan banking system. There we argued against fractional reserve banking, and to distinguish between on demand deposits and time deposits. The difference between these two types of deposit, is that in the former case the account holder can withdrawn his money from this deposit at any time, whilst in the latter case the account holder deposits his money to the bank for a certain period of time, during which he can’t withdraw his deposits.

Subsequently, we argued that banks should only allowed to lend the money from the time deposits, but not from the demand deposits. In technical terms we can see that time deposits are loans, more precisely a mutuum, from savers to the bank. And demand deposits are just money given to the bank for save keeping.

In this post we will give a further discussion of the Mordan banking system.

What are banks?

The term “bank” covers a whole lot of different kinds of financial institutions, hence it’s necessary to specify several types of banks. First we should make a distinction between retail and investment banks. Retail banks offer financial services to consumers rather than to corporations. Investment banks are usually involved in raising capital for corporations in other ways than by providing loans.

Retail banks offer a wide ranges of services to consumers and businesses: save keeping of money, facilitating financial transactions, accepting savings from and providing loans to the public. It’s perfectly possible to separate these functions in separate banks, saving banks typically only perform the last two function. And we can also imagine a bank which only accept demand deposits and facilitate transactions (in return for a fee), we could call such bank a transaction bank.

Many retail banks also offer asset management to wealthy clients, but we believe that asset management should be separated from the ordinary banking.

Organization of the new banking system

We propose a strict separation between investment banks and retail banks. This means a total ban on so-called universal banks. Practically investment banks are prohibited from offering retail banking services, and vice versa. In order to maintain this prohibition investment and retail bank should not be allowed to be united in any way.

Besides we also propose a strict separation between banking and insurance companies (we will cover insurances in another post). It’s nowadays a common practice for banks to sell insurance policies in addition to their banking services, this is mostly only for the purpose of raising more revenue for the bank. We believe that it’s in the interest of the consumers if banking and insurances are clearly separated from each other.

Currently most banks are stock companies, owned by their shareholders. Consequently banks have more incentives to serve the interests of their shareholders rather of the interests of their clients. Therefore we propose that all retail banks should be run as consumer cooperatives, i.e. only cooperative should be able to obtain a retail banking license.

Not only is this proposal in line with our commitment to a cooperative economy, but also because a cooperative bank is owned by its own clients, such a bank will pursue the interests of its clients. Additionally cooperative banks are by their very nature protected against hostile take overs. Hostile take overs have a disruptive effect on the financial sector and hence on the economy.

The obligation of being a cooperative will not apply to investment banks or asset managers.

Supervision

Of course these rules have to be enforced, there we propose the establishment of the Mordan Financial Services Authority (MFSA). This supervisory agency will be separate from both the National Monetary Authority and the MFK. The MFSA will supervise the entire Mordan financial sector, it will license banks and can retract those, and quite importantly it will have the authority to arrest bankers for noncompliance with the law.

Related topics

Space settlements and monetary systems. Part 1

Space settlements and monetary systems. Part 2

Space settlements and monetary systems. Part 3

A Cooperative Economy

The Federal Credit Bank

The Problem of Taxation. Part One

The Problem of Taxation. Part Two

Happy New Year

We wish you all a happy new year!

2014 will be an important year for Republic of Lagrangia. In February it will be fifteen years ago I started with the first version of this project, and we will celebrate this third lustrum.  We intend to publish the Mordan Ideology around February 14th. In this we will give a systematic overview of the reforms we want to introduce in Space Settlements. Later this year we intend to publish a first draft version of the Constitution. And some time around October 4th, we want to publish a proposal for the national language of our Space nation. In order to increase the interaction with our readers, we will make more use of polls in 2014.