There are some things in life many people tend to take for granted, but when you lack for them, you begin to understand their true value.
Not least among these things is safe, hygienic means of dealing with bodily waste products. Most of us who grew up in industrialised nations have rarely if ever lacked access to indoor toilet plumbing, unless we are elderly and rural.
Most of us rarely if ever need to think about anything other than remembering to purchase toilet tissue at the market, and making sure the toilet is clean enough for company.
But, the truth is, the acceptable means which our socio-cultural-economic system has chosen to deploy for the disposition of human waste require vast expenditures on public infrastructure and immense environmental impacts that are increasingly unrealistic, and the comforts of which which billions of people will likely never enjoy.
To add insult to injury, those in the wealthy nations who are unable to care for their hygienic needs in the prescribed, acceptable manner are stigmatised, and their ability to escape their situation is compounded.
I’m unhoused right now. Some people might say “homeless”. I just pooped in a bucket full of sawdust. I thank the Sun, Moon, and Stars Above that I possess a bucket in which to poop and a ready supply of sawdust to cover it.
If you have not read Joseph Jenkins’ “The Humanure Handbook“, you might be interested to know that I regard it as one of the most important books in history, and that it is available for reading free, online.
We see ourselves as “people”, not as “the people”. We posit ourselves as individuals, and relegate our civic duties to “the state” or “the government”, ie, “somebody else’s responsibility” or “somebody else’s problem”.
Representative democracy will always eventually fail to scale upward beyond a certain magnitude. While the abstraction of trust and the division of labor are necessary for the advancement of human civilisation, there are yet limitations to how far we may abstract that trust, to how far we may specialise our place in the networks of interdependency which make up a healthy civilisation and a healthy community, before those qualities are no longer distinguishable from their inverse. This is a simple and unalterable fact of the middle scale of human consciousness.
The federal government of the United States has grown too large, primarily because Amendment XIV gave the federal government the authority to seize our incomes to the point where most of us pay 75% or more of our civic remittances at the federal level, and only a quarter or less goes to out state and municipal governments.
While this may have made some sense when the nation was engaged in total war—we shall set aside recovering from the artificial financial disaster caused entirely by the private sector which preceded it—this is exactly the reverse of how we ought to allocate our civic funds. Because we do not, we find it increasingly impossible to form a consensus on any matters of import, at all, our political sphere has become contentious to the point of episodic retaliatory brinksmanship, and nothing is getting done that really needs to get done.
Perhaps many of my friends chuckle at my naïveté when I constantly repeat the words of Henry George: “We must make land common property.” The idea seems ludicrous to nearly everyone, I am certain. The massing of the political will to enact such a thing from the top down would be impossible in today’s political climate.
But here is what we *can* do, and it is more than just a nice idea in theory, it is actual, proven history: We can, at the municipal and state levels, stop assessing taxes on incomes, and on buildings and other land improvements, we can remove the plethora of administrative fees which impact the poor and marginalised disproportionately, and raise the rates at which we tax the value of land, in their place.
At every point in history, in every society around the world, it has been proven wherever it has been enacted to be the most effective and equitable means of civic finance, and has ignited economic booms from the bottom up. Perhaps you do not believe me, but the history is there, written plain as day, awaiting only for you to pick it up and read it.
Lowering income and improvement taxes, eliminating fees, while raising land value taxes will prove itself very quickly, and in very short order, we could build upon those examples and fully convert our towns, cities, and states, and finally develop the political consensus to bring our governments, our promises of equality, liberty, and justice for all the people home, at last.
And maybe, just maybe, we could stop flushing lives down the drain and build a few public composting toilets with our newfound wealth, so that no one would ever again live in fear of not having the basic necessities of human dignity.
— Gemma Seymour, 8 July 2017