It is Paine's 1797 work "Agrarian Justice" which I now draw something from. "Agrarian Justice" was written as a treatise to discuss how to fund the fledgling American republic, but there are some things contained within it still worth considering even today, some 214 years later.
"It is a position not to be controverted that the earth, in its natural, uncultivated state was, and ever would have continued to he, the common property of the human race. In that state every man would have been born to property. He would have been a joint life proprietor with the rest in the property of the soil, and in all its natural productions, vegetable and animal.
But the earth in its natural state, as before said, is capable of supporting but a small number of inhabitants compared with what it is capable of doing in a cultivated state. And as it is impossible to separate the improvement made by cultivation from the earth itself, upon which that improvement is made, the idea of landed property arose from that inseparable connection; but it is nevertheless true, that it is the value of the improvement, only, and not the earth itself, that is individual property.
Every proprietor, therefore, of cultivated lands, owes to the community a ground-rent (for I know of no better term to express the idea) for the land which he holds; and it is from this ground-rent that the fund proposed in this plan is to issue."
- Thomas Paine, "Agrarian Justice" 1797
I don't think that it is a difficult leap to suggest that not only "vegetable and animal" but indeed mineral produce should be included in all of the earth's "natural productions".
Paine viewed private property as necessary and that production which originally came from the earth should by rights belong as common property to the people. In effect if people took profit from this common property, it is akin to having stolen it from the general public who have been otherwise deprived of it.
If the general public does in fact have a claim to the produce of the earth as Paine suggests, then it makes sense that the Mineral Resource Rent Tax as proposed by the Gillard Government like the previous Resource Super Profit Tax proposed by the then Rudd Government is a noble tax because it attempts to return some of the benefits of the produce of the earth to the general public who should be rightly entitled to it.
If a mining company takes something out of the ground that otherwise should by rights belong to the people of Australia and do not return a portion of the profits back to the people of Australia, the logic of Thomas Paine suggests that the mining companies are in effect stealing from YOU.
The following is also worth considering:
BHP Billiton as a percentage of profit paid only 13% tax for 2009/10.
Rio Tinto as a percentage of profit paid only 13% tax for 2009/10.
Newcrest Mining as a percentage of profit paid only 17% tax for 2009/10.
Last time I checked, the corporate tax rate on profit was 30%.
What I find particularly insulting is the series of adverts on telly at the moment, which are trying to curry favour with the Australian people; saying that they're "part of the community".
Well if the mining companies are part of the community, hadn't they better start paying the same rate of tax as the rest of us?
Stealing from us once because we should be rightly due a share of the produce of the country is bad enough; stealing from us twice because they aren't paying even the proper base rate of tax is reprobate. Further to this, suggestions by West Australian Mines Minister Norman Moore that WA should secede and rely on China for its defence needs, is bordering on treasonous.
Let him that stole steal no more? Maybe.