Friday, May 02, 2008

Dear Secretary Rice,

Disparity of wealth and abject poverty in the world today fuel anger and desperation in the dispossessed, and in those who identify with them. This anger and desperation can be exploited by those with an extremist agenda who would use violence to further their aims. To allow grinding poverty to presist, then, threatens our safety. We could change our social system, to reduce disparity, and to ensure that those on the low end of the income-distribution spectrum are assured a significant minimum. By promoting the material security of those who are least secure, we would be promoting the security of all.

We need not violate any of our principles to bring about this change. Indeed, we need only live by our principles more faithfully. Almost everyone believes that the air and water and other natural resources belong to all. We could require that a fee be paid by anyone who takes or degrades the quality of natural resources. The proceeds of the pollution fees and natural resource user-fees would constitute a monetary representation of the value of Earth's natural resources, (including air and water), and could rightly be shared among all people equally. The value of these resources has been estimated at $33 trillion per year.

We should pay more attention to how natural resource wealth is managed and apportioned. We allow those in pursuit of profit to take or degrade natural resources, but do not require any compensation be paid to the owners of the resources, the people at large. If we address this inconsistency in our own behavior in relation to our principles, we will solve many social and environmental ills.

Equal sharing of the wealth of the commons would mean about twenty dollars per day for every person on the planet--perhaps enough to make everyone feel that they have a stake in the system and should work to build and improve it, rather than destroy it. Even those who would not do evil may sit by quietly when they know another is bent on destruction, if they feel that the current system is unjust and offers no prospect for meaningful change. We must win the hearts and minds of the world's people if we want them to help build and defend a civilization, a free and democratic global society.

We must empower the dispossessed. Would they choose a world that impoverishes them? Within a free and democratic society, what kind of world would they make? What kind of world would we make? Every one of us should have opportunities to express our opinion in meaningful ways, (ways that make a difference), regarding how much pollution, paving, noise, monoculture, or extraction of limited resources is just too much. Agreement, (or lack of agreement), between people's expressed will on these issues on the one hand and the actual reality on the other could serve as an objective measure of democracy.

This change would bring our society more into accord with our own principles regarding commons property ownership; and with principles regarding responsibility for compensating owners when damage is done or value taken. Economic power based on a shared ownership of natural resource wealth belongs to all of us. Our political and economic systems should reflect this fact.

John Champagne

Systemic flaws are not reported


Anonymous said...

John, your ideas are very well put here. It almost sounds like your plan is to incorporate communist ideas of shared resources into a capitalist economy all for the sake of environment. My question is if there could possibly be a reasonable system set up to value the Commons and to determine monetary recompensation for specific actions by companies or individuals that devalue them?

John Champagne said...

My plan, such as it is, grew out of a realization that a pollution fee would act as a sensory or autonomic nervous system for the earth.

I realized that application of this idea to a broad range of human activities would produce an enormous sum of money. Who should get it? It seemed obvious as soon as the question arose that the proceeds of fees that reflect the value of what we all own should go to all of us, to each an equal amount.

I wrote up the proposal and, after sharing it as a handbill for a few weeks, I heard someone blurt out the accusation that "This is communism!"

Yes, it is, I realized. But it is capitalism, too. I think it allows for more free free markets, (since, among other things, the labor marked need not be subject to government regulation: minimum wage laws are superfluous when a minimum income is guaranteed).

I thionk it is the best of both worlds, and consistent with Hegel's idea of the historical dialectic.