by Serban V.C. Enache
Toward the end of October, local elections will be held in Bulgaria. The recently, legally-formed BTR party has announced its participation. Last year I wrote several radical proposals for Bulgaria, well aware that BTR was organizing and gathering signatures to make the shift from political movement to political party. I also put together a promo vid for them, in hopes of getting the word out and trying to persuade them to adopt the Georgist framework.
The main purpose of BTR [Bulgaria of Labor and Reason] is to activate its local municipal and regional structures, as well as to persuade the electorate it has a true alternative to the established neoliberal outlook and neocolonial way of doing business. BTR is trying to get the word out on its policies and attract people of various political persuasions under a single banner toward a common goal: the restoration of Bulgarian statehood, sovereignty, and prosperity. Anyone who longs to break the cycle of organized theft, sabotage, and national humiliation is welcome in BTR.
They sport many high-profile individuals at grassroots, patriots and excellent professionals, who can win the election and transform local politics and administration for the better. The main objectives are outlined in their manifesto. I’ll enumerate the more important ones and provide suggestions – the things I’d emphasize for these local elections in order to smash the traditional framing, to which all the other parties subscribe, that leads to nowhere.
On the social side, BTR wants: a Job Guarantee programs that offers work at decent pay to anyone willing and able to work, public health insurance and education services without extra fiscal drag levied on the citizens. And on the geopolitical side, BTR wants the restoration of Bulgaria’s sovereignty: to eliminate the currency board, [through which the ECB is effectively in control of the country’s money], and issue a sovereign, free floating Lev, and to get Bulgaria out of NATO and the European Union.
Running on an ‘old school’ labor platform, BTR wants to re-nationalize key industries and infrastructure, while pursuing the elimination of all regressive taxes. Treating the new Lev as a state-issued tax-credit, BTR recognizes the [extrinsic] value of the currency rests in the country’s land and natural resources, and in the citizens’ productive power of labor [manual and intellectual]. BTR wants to revitalize and expand the national infrastructure, revive the Bulgarian countryside, turn around the country’s catastrophic demographic situation, protect and promote the family [like the State used to do in a past epoch], put an end to economic migration, and excise all the bureaucratic overhead.
It’s good to advertise the macro plan, but since these are local elections, heterodox policies have to be carried out without the help of central authorities and against the rotten, neoliberal traditions of that same center. These policies include things like: untangling the bureaucratic quagmire, redistributing the fiscal burden from active / productive agents to passive / unproductive ones, investing in public utilities, promoting CLTs [Community Land Trusts, which ensure affordable housing], easing operation costs for farmers and securing demand for their produce, implementing biochar programs [good for agriculture and the environment].
I wrote about funding schemes for local governments in the past as well. I wish BTR, on top of promoting MMT [Modern Monetary Theory], would also firmly stress the Georgist philosophy on taxation. It’s quite simple. If you tax productive economic activity, you get less of it. If you tax unproductive activity, you get less of it and more productive activity. Labor, buildings, sales, and enterprise should be tax exempt. Economic rent and negative externalities [like pollution] should be taxed.
Local governments should evaluate and tax land values and eliminate the property tax. Land value taxation also takes into account the situation of poor farmers and the need for environmental protection. On the question of finance, the initiatives of public banking and credit unions [credit cooperatives] should be merged. Community banks don’t operate under the shareholder principle, but on the stakeholder principle, just like CLTs. There are no shareholders and there are no dividends; their goal isn’t to maximize markups or gamble on asset prices, but to finance productive economic activities within the community. These banks have trustees, who run the company – but they can’t sell their “trusteeship” to anyone else. So 100 percent of the revenue minus operation costs is reinvested in the company [the money is recirculated in the communities].
Disclaimer: I’m not a member of BTR, and I don’t necessarily agree with everything they pledge in their manifesto. However, being a new party with new people and some great ideas overall, I offer them my moral support and my two cents on policy.