John Wesley Chisholm
The question I get asked the most by smart and informed voters in Halifax-Chebucto is what would I do different.
There’s a lot of political talk these days but to them all the ideas are the same old same old repeated since the sixties… more taxes and debt to finance ever bigger government and corporate interests that, like a “mousetrap” game are purported to be the means to the economic and social ends we want but never really come through.
Where will our wealth come from in the future? How will we create it without making a mess? And how will we keep it, and our work, here?
We do need new answers.
I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t have a big idea to share. But the road is long and I'm just getting started.
I started by joining the political process at the place where citizens can make the most difference and joining a party most open to new ideas and new ways of looking at things.
My big idea is not going to be an issue in this election or maybe even the next. It’s not part of any party platform. It's just an idea for discussion. And that's what people are asking for. It’s too new and untested, though the basics of it will be easily recognized and familiar to most. In fact, it’s been under our noses the whole time.
I’m sharing my big idea to answer what I’m hearing as the main question I've been asked. I’ve taken out all the numbers, background theories, economic models and data so that anyone interested can easily read it and pick up on the thread of the idea.
“A new idea is delicate. It can be killed by a sneer or a yawn; it can be stabbed to death by a quip, and worried to death by a frown on the right man's brow.” ~Charlie Brower
My job, self-appointed, is to sell this idea. I need to sell it to people, parties, and politicians. It may take years of talking and writing to develop this idea fully. And I’m just getting started here. As we’ve seen with technology, new ideas grow in garages and basements, on kitchen tables and street corners. Good ones eventually cross a kind of chasm into the mainstream and that’s where change happens.
Like Victor Hugo said, “Armies cannot stop an idea whose time has come.”
I first got this idea when I was setting up the film tax credit first here in Nova Scotia, then helping the federal government and other provinces and states. I’ve been working on refining it over the last three years through my masters at London School of Economics, HEC Paris and New York Stern School of Business.
I’ve been sharing and discussing it with the most knowledgeable people I can get in contact with in the world to make it better and I’m working to get it in shape to share with Nova Scotia. I’d like to hear your thoughts.
It’s a new way of looking at and organizing regional economies that creates new wealth and broad-based prosperity by encouraging a new way to account for how we help and serve each other.
For a long time we’ve struggled with political parties that ask us to choose between Big Government and Big Corporations to fuel the economic engine.
I believe there’s a third way.
My big idea is a New Home Economics.
A fully refundable labour-based tax credit for Nova Scotia households.
It's a new type of tax system that treats every household that chooses to register like a small business. It’s the idea that all our households together are the basic engine of our economy and fundamental building blocks of our society.
The idea is openly anti-corporate and only passively administrated by government to keep the system running accountably. It puts households forward as the basic building block of our economy, not big government as socialists would or globalized business as modern liberals would.
New Home Economics
What’s the new home economics?
It’s a system to empower households to direct and improve the economy in rural regions.
The New Home Economics is a new way of looking at, thinking about, and organizing rural and regional economies. It’s based on really old and well-known ideas but it’s shaped for a changing future of technology and work that everyone knows is coming.
It returns the work we do for each other, work not accounted for or valued in the current economy, to be the central creator of value and the thing that makes rural regions like ours great.
The core idea of the new home economics is to return the household to its central place as the main building block of the economy – returning to the home the rights and responsibilities of the home.
This idea is not totally new. This is how farms work. If you like British TV, this is how Downton Abby and other big country households worked. You can get that this is how the wealthiest and most powerful among us arrange their household affairs today. My idea is that it should be available to all Nova Scotians.
The Household as a Business
The idea is, as farm households were in the past, to make the household the driving force for our future and recognize it as the central economic engine in the regional rural economy.
What is a household?
The household is the informal order all around us. It’s infinitely diverse. It’s the most basic grouping of human beings for mutual advantage. Household models through history include the family, tribe, and clan, varieties of blended families, share housing, group homes, boarding houses, houses in multiple occupation, and a single room occupancy. The future will bring us different and new ideas about the household.
The diversity and dynamics of our households becomes our strength
It doesn’t matter what size, shape or place the household takes or how it’s organized. The diversity of our households becomes our strength. In the New Home Economics households are treated like any other business. Householders will be directly empowered to shape the economy rather than big government or big business. Instead of edicts from government, pick-a-winner economic development, and debt fueled mediocrity; or globalized corporations efficiently extracting our wealth, we will create a free market of households encouraged to find the value in our everyday lives and the ways we help each other.
Simply, this means that the labour of running the home, caring for its people, contributing to its value and contributing to the human capital of the household would be deductible for tax purposes from the value of the income produced by the householders.
A simple but provocative example
Who cooked Adam Smith’s dinner?
Adam Smith was a Scottish enlightenment philosopher who invented economics as it is now studied by famously focusing on the specialization of labour, free markets, the corporate form, and an economy driven by individual preferences.
The answer is… his mom cooked his dinner. But she wasn’t paid for it. Nor was she conceived of in his economic philosophy. And that problem, now nearly 300 years old, has got to be solved. We can do it.
(For more on this see feminist economist Katrine Marçal’s amazing book Who Cooked Adam Smith’s Dinner - https://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/12/books/review/who-cooked-adam-smiths-dinner-by-katrine-marcal.html?_r=0)
Think about your own life. Are you alone in the world? Do you get up, travel, work, eat, and live just to satisfy yourself? Do you do it for queen and country? Do you do it because you're a victim of corporate marketing? No. You do what you do because you are part of a household that you love and take pride in... or you want to be. The household drives our economy not greedy individuals, corporations or government.
The principle means to realize The New Home Economics will be a labour-based tax credit available to all households who register.
How will it work?
Tap ! There’s an App for that !
Using the tax credit as either a buyer or supplier will be as easy as downloading a simple app. The app will register your household or labour for the program and then simply keep track of and report in a double entry bookkeeping system the transaction you choose to enter. It doesn’t handle any money or bills directly, you do that as you see fit, but say you hire someone to clear your driveway or look after your child, you can enter the transaction, the person you hired approves it, and it will be automatically recorded for tax purposes on your accounts and available as a credit at tax time because you’ve personally just helped the Nova Scotia economy keep our wealth working for us.
Imagine you’ve hired a roofer, plumber, gardener, child-minder, snow shoveller, porch-builder, senior care worker, or simply someone to help cook your dinner. Or that you wished to make an equitable split of income with others in your household whose contribution fills any of these roles or any other things your household needs. A kitchen vegetable gardener? A driver? A math tutor or music teacher? No problem. You can account for this and help Nova Scotia’s economy by using the Household Tax Credit… the new home economics.
It’s a program for regular people, not corporations. It’s about harnessing the power of our efforts in a new way. It’s about all the work we do for each other that really matters and really makes a difference.
It’s about valuing the work and service we do for each other in the household, in the community, and in Nova Scotia.
It's about what makes Nova Scotia great.
That seems so simple, why hasn’t anyone done that before?
The best answer is this. Imagine being lost in the woods. The best direction to go depends on where you are. But you don’t know where you are. That’s our economy in the current model. The accounting, politics, and media doesn’t capture the things we actually care about in our regular lives. That’s why many people simply aren’t bothering to pay attention any more.
Today technology has brought us to an ultimate crossroads in regional life, democracy, economics, and work. We’ve never been here before and we need to make some important decisions. Even the environment is changing. Our old maps and plans won’t work any more. And socially… the people in the backseat are getting rightfully restless.
What Would Change with a New Home Economics?
- Imagine nearly 300,000 new small businesses in Nova Scotia overnight.
- Imagine the “under the table” economy 'daylighted' and brought into a system that contributes more for everyone.
- Imagine a philosophical shift in young people from "What job can I get?" to "What can I do for my household, my neighbours, my community and my province?"
- Imagine creating our own work for ourselves.
- Imagine if you could deduct from your income expenses paid for Nova Scotia labour used to improve and maintain your household?
- Imagine if you could deduct from your income expenses to fairly compensate others in your household for work they did in the home?
- Imagine a new demand for Nova Scotia labour, jobs and work that made our province more beautiful, safe, healthy and sustainable.
- Imagine bigger more diverse and dense households
- Imagine new patterns of spending, living, and community, naturally encouraged as people take advantage in creative and unexpected ways of the new home economics.
- Imagine a new way to value, and fairly pay for the work in our economy that has gone unvalued and unpaid for too long.
- Imagine tripling the ‘speed limit’ of our economy, driving more spending and commerce without draining our wealth, incurring more debt, or depleting our natural resources.
- Imagine more of our wealth staying in Nova Scotia longer before it 'spin off' out of the province through big banks, big auto, big government, and big box stores.
- Imagine a Nova Scotian economy built on what we really cared about and what we really valued, not simply robbing future generations and calling it GDP.
- Imagine a refundable tax credit where, if basic allowable expenses of running a household exceeded household income, there would be money to cover the shortfall for the most needy Nova Scotian households.
The New Home Economics can re-launch our economy and jumpstart change.
It will make us more aware of our household spending and how it impacts the economy and the environment. We can build a faster, more fun and interesting, more fair society with a new home economics. We can encourage the most helpful, creative and unique things about our society. We can reassess what 'back to basics' infrastructure and technology we want and need in a household centred economy.
And that's just the start
From there we will rethink transportation, education and health care, localize where our power comes from and how it’s delivered, reimagine what our industries are, and importantly how we value and account for our resources and responsibilities.
The New Home Economics will enlighten a new respect for the true value of our labour, our work and regular working people who help make all our lives possible. It will will the province with a sense of opportunity, promise and excitement as we - at the forefront of democracy and economics - genuinely try something new.
It won’t turn back the tide of technology, nor should it, but it will help us appreciate and value work and workers in a new way with our households rather than government or globalized corporations at the heart of our economy and community life.
Writing about life, citizenship, and Nova Scotia.