Friday, June 29, 2018

Natural Law Requires Respect of PUBLIC Property Rights, too.

Human beings have a collective moral right to assert public property claims. We have a collective moral duty to do so, too. Public property rights are human rights. Human rights are an example of natural law. As a kind of natural law, human rights (including property rights) must be respected. Public property rights include the collective right of the people to benefit from commons resources. Public property rights include a shared right to decide overall limits to humans' impact on the environment. These collective rights imply corresponding shared moral duties to create systems of governance that assure that natural wealth is shared equitably and that limits on pollution and on rates of taking of natural resources are consistent with the will of the people at large. No society can hold together in the long run in the absence of a respect for basic rights. Economic justice, the stability of our society and the future health of the planet all depend on us recognizing these rights and carrying out these responsibilities.

Natural phenomena emerge in the cosmos according to natural law. Moral precepts can be seen as natural laws of social interaction, while the emergence of civilization can be seen as a particular kind of natural phenomenon. But civilization as we've made it thus far exhibits some serious flaws related to our near-total neglect of a basic moral precept. There is broad agreement on the idea that human beings have a collective right to define limits to pollution and limits to the rate of taking of natural resources, yet we have thus far failed to carry out our collective duty to establish those limits in reality--limits that are in accord with the average opinion of the people. This neglect of principle impairs economic justice. Neglect of this principle impedes efforts to build a sustainable society.

We have a civilization that is plagued by widespread extreme poverty and we are threatening to produce a planetary ecological disaster. We are challenged by circumstances to create a sustainable and more just civilization.

Civilizations thrive then collapse because they grow beyond what the natural environment can sustain. Economies boom then bust because they grow beyond what their resource bases can support. The arc of civilization and the boom and bust of the business 'cycle' are similar phenomena seen at different scales. These sometimes wild swings may appear to be cyclical variations, but they actually reflect chaotic instabilities. A closer adherence to basic principles would mean a dampening of these gyrations to the point that they would no longer pose an existential threat to the system.

Fees on the taking or degradation of natural resources could be applied as a mechanism to moderate human economic activity, with the aim of keeping overall environmental impacts within limits that most people find acceptable. (We might assume that people will identify as acceptable that which they believe is sustainable--a society that is democratic in terms of limits to environmental impacts is more likely to be sustainable.) We could use a system of random surveys to discern whether more people want to see more strict limits on pollution levels and on the rates of taking of resour-ces, or more want to be more lenient, or whether there is a balance between the number of people in one camp vs. the other. A fee is a lever or mechanism that society could use for applying incentives to influence the behavior of those who use natural resources. Fees for particular kinds of environmen-tal impacts would rise or fall, as need be, when the actual conditions do not match what most people want to see. Fees would be held steady when the reality matches what the largest number of people say is the best balance between the alternative positions: Freedom vs. constraint; More vs. less impact on the environment. [There is an implicit trade-off that translates restraint now into more opportunities later, as stricter limits on environmental impacts now leads to a more healthy and resilient environment and more abundant mineral reserves in the future. (This mirrors the challenge that confronted traditionally nomadic, hunter-gatherer humans who had begun to settle in choice spots several thousand years ago: Either eat your seed grain, or sacrifice now so that you might prosper in the future.)]

Defining appropriate limits to humans' environmental impacts is a primary function of government in an advanced industrial society. Such a system as that described above would ensure that the basic human right to collectively decide limits would be respected in practice. The hope and expectation is that people will in fact choose to keep overall impacts within limits that the larger environment can sustain. Apparently, eternal vigilance is the price citizens must pay to ensure that a human population that has the ability to go beyond what the Earth can support in fact does not go beyond those limits.

Citizens (even those who are not particularly 'environmentally conscious')would have a natural inclination to call for less impact on the environment (higher fees) because the sum of all proceeds from these fees would be a monetary representation of wealth owned by all. Equal sharing of fee proceeds would be a way for society to equitably share (this monetary representation of) that which we all own in common. Less environmental impact translates to larger natural wealth stipend. Equal distribution of this money would buffer the downward slide of a shrinking economy, because the entire human population would continue to receive a modest income from shared natural resource wealth, independent of income from work, from family inheritance, or from investments. A 'floor' on the loss of human confidence that causes or contributes to business contractions would be created. Spending in support of basic human needs would continue. Resources would continue to flow to the sectors of the economy that provide essential goods and services. With a modest income assured, people would continue to spend in ways that support the most vital economic activities. Sectors devoted to meeting basic needs would be insulated from the worst vicissitudes of the business 'cycle'. Swings in the economic climate would be moderated. With demands on renewable biological resources (e. g., forests and fish stocks) kept sufficiently low and with availability of minerals extended farther into the future through a fee mechanism, civilization becomes a more sustainable phenomenon. With extreme poverty ended and disparity of wealth reduced through equal sharing of fee proceeds, society rests on a stronger foundation of justice, which would further contribute to social stability.

We can imagine an equal payment to all people that would protect every person against extreme material deprivation. This natural resource wealth stipend would be drawn from the proceeds of fees charged to those who take or degrade natural wealth in pursuit of profit. Those who are at the greatest disadvantage under the current system will be better off with this policy. Respect for public property rights would significantly improve the material condition of those who experience the greatest economic hardship. We will no longer have vast regions of the world populated by mostly dispossessed people.

Everyone benefits when the economy adapts to the pricing of natural resource wealth. This adaptation is implicit in the transition away from an economy that allows economic externalities to go uncompensated. Externalities are the hidden costs (or benefits) of economic activity. For example, the cost of pollution (born by the human community and the larger community of life) is hidden from investors, corporations and consumers when producers do not pay a fee proportional to the amount of pollution that they cause. If there is no monetary payment made when pollution is created, then pollution costs are not reflected on the financial balance sheet. Economic actors are unable to see costs that are off the balance sheet and therefore hidden from view. They cannot properly take account of these costs. Because environmental impact costs are hidden, all choices about what manufacturing process to adopt, what products to buy, what mode of transport to use, what to eat, etc., are skewed toward more environmentally-harmful acts and away from sustainability.

Putting a price on natural resource wealth moves us toward an economy that embodies the concept of public property rights in its structure and accounting. Industrial processes and business models will be redesigned to improve resource efficiency. Individuals will change habits toward more sustainable practices. People will choose more environmentally-friendly lifestyles--even if they are not trying to do so because they are temperamentally inclined to be concerned about environmental issues. This means improved conditions for everyone: More ecological health and more personal health. (Environmental impact pricing would favor whole foods, locally-produced foods and plant-based diets.) A sustainable human society built on a broader moral foundation is good for all Earthlings.

Taking ownership of our environment is even good for us in ways that may not be immediately obvious. For example, if we were to decide that advertising billboards are an adverse environmental impact due to their contribution to unwanted visual blight, then fees could be charged to those who post such ads, to assure that the prevalence of billboards on the landscape is kept within acceptable limits. Maybe signage in earth-tones would be considered less offensive. (What would a random survey reveal?) There could be a graduated fee structure.

Now imagine that every kind of television or radio broadcast is a sort of billboard in the public space (the public airwaves). If we want to manage the use of the airwaves in a way that is consistent with the will of the people, we could charge a fee for certain uses of the broadcast spectrum that promote private or commercial interests rather than the public interest. With the proceeds of this fee, we could pay a stipend to broadcasters and/or producers who offer programming that a random survey indicates would make a valuable contribution to the public interest or public good, in the view of most people. Sculpting or shaping our use of the broadcast spectrum toward the public interest might change the character of broadcast television and radio in profound ways. We could glimpse how these changes would affect our culture if we start asking the pertinent questions. Given a multitude of choices for how to use the broadcast spectrum, how might we best promote the public interest? Making channel space available for distribution of programs according to what random surveys show would promote the public interest will produce a menu of programs that would serve the public interest more effectively than what we have now. The current system favors quantity (size of audience) over quality (depth of engagement with topics that matter).

We can make the world more what we want it to be. By changing our relationship with our political and economic systems--by changing the way we participate in them--toward a fuller respect of our basic principles, we transform our society and ourselves. With a change in the rules toward greater respect of basic moral principles, we can build a global civilization that is both sustainable and more just.


Are Corporations Evil?





Monday, June 18, 2018

Equal sharing of natural wealth promotes justice and sustainability

Natural phenomena emerge in the cosmos according to natural law. Moral precepts can be seen as natural laws of social interaction, while the emergence of civilization can be seen as a particular kind of natural phenomenon. But civilization in its current form is plagued by widespread extreme poverty and our society is threatening to produce a planetary ecological disaster. We are challenged by circumstances to create a sustainable and more just civilization. This will require a fuller respect of basic moral principles.

Civilizations thrive then collapse because they grow beyond what the natural environment can sustain. Economies boom then bust because they grow beyond what their resource bases can support. These sometimes wild swings may appear to be cyclical variations, but they actually reflect chaotic instabilities. The arc of civilization, the boom and bust of the business 'cycle' and the formation and collapse of real estate and financial bubbles are all similar phenomena seen at different time scales and different magnitudes, and with different enabling factors becoming scarce at the point of collapse. A closer adherence to basic moral principles would mean a dampening of these gyrations. Respect of moral precepts would keep natural variations within limits that would ensure that they would not pose an existential threat to the integrity of the system.

If we recognize a basic human right to define overall limits to environmental impacts, then, as citizens of a democratic society, we must acknowledge a corresponding responsibility to create a government that brings about the limits in reality that the average opinion of the people says are most appropriate. But our governmental institutions are not functioning in a way that ensures that actual impacts are within limits acceptable to most people. So we must change our institutions. We must change the way that we participate in the political process.

Increasing social instabilities and dwindling resources present us with a great challenge. A change in our thinking about property rights could offer a solution. Since the advent of civilization, we have developed the concept of private property rights. Now, if we look closely at our fundamental rights and moral duty in relation to the natural environment and our social environment, we can see the concept of public property rights emerging. A concept of public property rights is rooted in our innate sense that we have a right to use air and water and other natural resources. With public property rights respected, natural opportunities (natural wealth) will be shared equally. This concept of property rights implies that we also have a collective duty to define limits regarding the extent to which human beings will degrade, deplete and destroy these shared resources. A public property rights paradigm will emerge when we bring our actions in the political and economic realms more into alignment with basic moral principles. When we collectively resolve to only vote for lawmakers who support programs that will result in effective limits to adverse environmental impacts (limits consistent with the will of the people at large), then we will begin to carry out the duties that correspond to our public property claims.

As a kind of natural law, basic human rights must be respected. Society cannot hold together over the long term when basic rights are chronically and systematically neglected. When we carry out our collective duty to use our systems of governance and the political process to define effective limits to humans' environmental impacts, then our basic right to define these limits will be respected in practice.

We need to start accounting for economic externalities. Externalities are those side-effects of economic activity that are not reflected on the financial balance sheet of profit and loss, income and expense. Sometimes there are spillover effects produced by economic actors that actually benefit a community, but more often, externalities consist of negative side-effects of industrial and commercial activity. Externalities (also called 'market failure') can be seen as a way that producers (and consumers) foist environmental impact and depletion costs onto society and the larger community of life.

Pollution is a classic example of a negative externality. Resource degradation from excessive use or extraction of resources is another. Since these costs to society and to all life on Earth are not reflected in prices or in the cost of doing business, producers do not take into proper account the true costs of their actions. Corporations will pollute the air and water more and use up resources faster when the costs of doing so are hidden or partially hidden. In pursuit of higher profits, economic actors put effort into reducing costs that they can see on the balance sheet. When costs to society are not shown on profit-and-loss statements, businesses act as if those costs do not exist. Almost since we started carrying things (or since animals much like us started carrying things), we have traded based on what we could see as the costs and benefits of a transaction. But the effect of externalities is to prevent us from seeing clearly.

We know that natural resources are valuable—even indispensable—to industry and to society at large. Yet we allow industries to take and degrade natural wealth without any expectation that they will pay compensation for the damage done or value taken. A fee charged against those who take or degrade natural resource wealth is a tool that society can use to influence industrial and economic sectors, to en-sure that sufficient effort is put into resource conservation and sustainable business practices. This fee mechanism can replace other, less efficient means of managing natural resources. A fee would reflect the environmental costs of human activity on the financial bottom line. Costs now hidden would become apparent. Fee proceeds should be shared equally to all the world's people.

Charging fees on the taking or degradation of natural resources could moderate particular kinds of human economic activity, with the aim of keeping overall impacts within limits that most people find acceptable. This could ensure that the basic human right to collectively decide such limits (a mere theoretical construct) is respected in practice. The hope and expectation is that people would in fact choose to keep overall impacts within limits that the larger environment can sustain. Eternal vigilance by citizens will be required to ensure that a human population that has the ability to exceed what the Earth can sustain does not go beyond those limits in reality. It might be easy to persuade people that stricter limits on environmental impacts are preferable when it is understood that stricter limits will mean higher payments to the people by those who produce the adverse impacts. Higher fees charged to industries that pollute or deplete natural resources in pursuit of profit means higher payments to the people in the form of a natural wealth dividend. There is a happy coincidence of interests: What is good for the individual is also good for the community. Similarly, profit-seeking corporations will do things to save money and increase profit that will also benefit society and the larger environment.

Proceeds from environmental impact fees would be a monetary representation of the value of natural resource wealth. Equal sharing of these proceeds would buffer the downward slide of a shrinking economy, since the entire human population would continue to receive a modest income from shared natural resource wealth, independent of income from work, investments or family inheritance. A 'floor' on the loss of human confidence that causes or contributes to business contractions would be created. Spending in support of basic needs would continue, regardless of economic climate. Money will continue to flow to the most vital sectors of the economy. The part of the economy devoted to meeting basic needs would then be insulated from the worst vicissitudes of the business 'cycle'. With human-caused stresses on ecosystems and demands on natural resources kept sufficiently low through a fee mechanism, and with swings in the economic climate moderated, civilization becomes a more sustainable and more stable phenomenon.

The short answer for how to change institutions toward a public property rights paradigm of sustain-ability and moral responsibility would be to start voting green AND libertarian (or left-libertarian). A marriage of these threads from our political tradition would combine a good sense of the practical challenges and responsibilities of government (what government must do) with a principled understanding of the proper limits to government power (what government must refrain from doing). And the other short answer for how to make this change happen is to let people know it is possible.

Government power has limits to its authority, as does individual power and autonomy. Political activities (such as voting) must be moral undertakings to have good results. If we understand that governments get their just powers from the consent of the governed, then any moral foundation for governmental powers requires that we only delegate powers to government that we legitimately have as individuals. If we do not have authority to initiate the use of force or coercion against a peaceful person, then we cannot delegate this power to governments. We cannot legitimately use government to regulate others’ private actions. We cannot legitimately vote for politicians who would do so, either. Principled limits to governmental power and authority must be respected.

It is quite fitting that we should stop trying to regulate private behaviors as a matter of principle. Such a change may be absolutely necessary from a practical standpoint, too. Perhaps only by freeing-up the attention and resources now devoted to fighting drug wars and other wars can we have sufficient attention and resources available to meet the great challenges facing the entire human community.

An economy based on true-cost accounting will make material consumption cost more on the financial bottom line. This will reflect more honestly the fact that materialism costs much in terms of natural resources used. This new economy will spread material wealth more evenly across the human population, while improving the fluidity of the job market. (People will be more free to leave oppressive or disagreeable employment situations when their work income is not their sole source of income.) The new economy will limit pollution levels and rates of taking of natural resources so that they are within limits that most people agree are acceptable. We will have a more true democracy.

This change makes the chaotic thriving and collapse of civilizations (the large-scale version of the boom and bust of the business ‘cycle‘) into a less wildly gyrating phenomenon; still on the edge of chaos, perhaps (as are all living systems), but a potentially sustainable phenomenon.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Letter to the Editor: Share natural wealth

When pollution or environmental disasters are reported or when depletion of resources is reported, an efficient and fair policy of charging fees to industries that pollute or deplete resources in pursuit of profit should also be mentioned.

When poverty or wealth disparity are reported, a moral precept that says natural wealth belongs to all should be mentioned. Sharing proceeds from environmental impact fees is a possible solution to the problem of poverty and wealth disparity.

When (if) we account for economic externalities, industries that cause the most ecological damage will either shrink, transform themselves into something more benign, or disappear. When we share proceeds from environmental impact fees to all people, no one will live in poverty. Why are solutions to systemic problems not mentioned when the symptoms of those problems are reported? Systemic problems include economic externalities and our failure to share natural wealth.

When economic instability and contentious arguments about interest rate adjustments are in the news, the stabilizing effect of sharing natural wealth should be mentioned in those news reports. If we manage environmental impacts by charging fees to industries that pollute or deplete resources, we will notice that fees increase when the economy is in an expansive mode (assuming that we are aiming for fees that are set just high enough to hold impacts within limits acceptable to most people). When the economy expands, there will be more demand for pollution permits, etc., so the fees would necessarily increase. This would put an automatic damper on further expansion. There will be no need, then, to manipulate the money supply to curtail economic activity. Sharing natural wealth produces a dynamically-stable economic system. Fees, set at the appropriate amount, will promote sustainability over the long term by motivating industry to reduce impacts on the environment.

The tendency for an expanding economy to be held in check when natural resource extraction fees respond to economic conditions is complimented by the tendency of a slowing economy to bring a gradual reduction in the amount of the natural wealth stipend. A gradual loss of stipend income would motivate some of the people 'sitting on the sidelines' to seek employment opportunities. Millions of people entering the job market or seeking to increase working hours will make business expansion easier precisely when economic conditions call for expansion. These feedback mechanisms are analogous to the physiological mechanisms that keep conditions within biological organisms at a dynamic steady-state.

A natural wealth stipend paid to all citizens will sustain economic activity that provides basic goods and services, regardless of economic climate. The natural wealth stipend enjoyed by all will be enough to live on, in the view of some people. [A comprehensive estimate put the value of natural wealth beyond $100 per day for each person. (Nature, 2014)]

Some citizens in a society that respects public and private property rights will choose to work few or no hours for wages and instead will aim to live frugally and within the limits of that stipend. With this alternative paradigm, if the economy is slowing, the amount of the natural wealth stipend will decrease over time, as lower environmental impact fees associated with a slowing economy reduce the funding source for the stipend. More people seeking opportunities to earn a wage, and lower environmental impact fees, contribute to a counter-cyclical influence on the pace of economic activity. There will be no need to inject new money into circulation with low or zero interest rate loans as a form of economic stimulus. Downturns will simply not get to such a degree of severity, and will not imperil essential economic function, in a society that fairly shares natural wealth and accounts for externalities. With a natural wealth stipend going to all people, the essential functions of the economy will be insulated from the worst vicissitudes of the business 'cycle'. People will continue to spend money on food. They will continue to support the food-producing capacity of the economy. People will continue to spend in support of basic shelter and healthcare needs, even during economic downturns.

News reports should mention shared (equal) ownership of natural wealth when problems that could be solved by equal ownership of that wealth are reported. You should mention efficient and fair means of accounting for economic externalities when you report problems caused by externalities ("Externalities" a.k.a. "market failure" or "tragedy of the commons").

When there are two serious problems that seem unrelated, but they can both be solved by a single policy, we might take that as a hint that the problems are related. You should report policies that offer systemic solutions when you report symptoms of systemic problems. (Charge fees to those who cause adverse impact on the environment; Give fee proceeds to all people.)

John Champagne

Civilization can be made sustainable and just

Systemic flaws are not reported

A sustainable and just civilization requires that we use our moral sense

Systemic flaws are not reported

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Citizen's Responsibility

Human beings have a right to share in the benefits afforded by natural resources.

We have a right to share in defining limits to how rapidly we use up resources or put pollution.

These rights can only be manifest in reality if we create an effective system of governance that has its explicit aim to manifest these rights.

Someday, humans may assert their right to share in deciding limits to environmental impacts by responding to surveys that inquire about what the limits should be regarding specific kinds of impacts. Until that time, we must explicitly assert that we have this right and we must assert that government should function so as to manifest in reality the basic principle.

Similarly for our right to share in the benefits... We will someday assert this right by accepting a natural wealth stipend and spending the money. When the government institutions do not yet exist to collect the fees and disburse the proceeds, the role of the citizen is to SAY that this must be a function of government. (Governments will not spontaneously start manifesting that principle in the absence of a demand from citizens.)

Basic moral precepts will only be manifest in reality when people SAY that they should be manifest. Principles must not be mere words or ideas. They must be embodied in practice.


What do we need to know that news media are not telling us?
Systemic flaws are not reported

A sustainable and just civilization requires that we use our moral sense

Friday, November 11, 2016

Don't settle into a more polarized state just yet, America.

Electors decide in December. Let's not try to squeeze into a Trump-shaped universe just yet.

There was no majority of votes cast for any single candidate on November 8th. AND the votes that were cast were not expressions of support as much as of fear, distrust or dislike of the other. So, no mandate.

We can in good conscience ask Electors to find a consensus candidate. We should insist that they discuss among themselves and find a candidate who most of them and who most citizens can agree would be a better choice.

We can still avoid a disaster. Who cares?

Jon and Tracey Stewart
Photo: New York Daily News

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

How to Fix Civilization

Civilization is unstable because of a systemic flaw:
Natural wealth is not shared equally.


If we charge fees to industries that put pollution or take natural resources, and set the fees just high enough to cause industries to cut down on environmental impacts (to the point that most people think they are being held to acceptable limits)..., we will have accounted for economic externalities AND we will have produced an economic measure of the value of natural resources to the economy and society. We will have fixed the defect that causes the economy to disregard the costs of destabilized climate, damage to the environment and depletion of resources.

The proceeds of fees should be shared equally worldwide. (We might decide to put some portion of this money toward support of public programs so that we can reduce or eliminate conventional taxes.)

A system that is calibrated against an absolute limit to to the overall extent of environmental impacts would have increasing fees when an economy is expanding, to prevent growing demand for pollution permits, etc., from causing the economy as a whole to blow past the limits (in terms of environmental impacts) acceptable to the people. The rising fees would put a damper on the pace of economic activity, thus preventing what otherwise could become an unsustainable boom. This damper on excess activity is a counter-cyclical influence that functions automatically.

With fee proceeds shared, everyone will continue to spend in support of their own basic needs, regardless of employment status. This would insulate the sectors of the economy that provide basic and services from the worst vicissitudes of the business 'cycle'. All people would continue to spend in support of these sectors during an economic downturn. Economic downturns, then, can never become so severe that they threaten social cohesion and stability.

Within this alternative paradigm, some people may choose to live a very simple life and reduce their need to seek income beyond their natural wealth stipend. When the economy slows, the falling demand for pollution permits, etc, would mean reduced fees (or reduced permit sale prices, if permits are bought at auction). This would mean reduced income for those relying largely or entirely on their natural wealth stipend. These people would feel increased incentive to enter the job market. Additional job-seekers would make business start-up and expansion easier. This paradigm would (again) provide a counter-cyclical influence. The economic system is less inclined to 'boom and bust'. The civilization is perhaps sustainable. (With pricing of natural wealth, there is an economic incentive to reduce impacts on the environment.)

A system of random surveys could tell us what limits people want on various kinds of impacts.

We talk more about minimum wage than we do about minimum income. That could change when we start talking about sharing natural wealth equally.


John Champagne


Equal sharing of Natural Resources promotes Justice and Sustainability

Integration of human society and the biosphere

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Put Public Funds Directly into the Hands of the People

Who should decide how to spend public funds?

Hardly a day goes by without another news report about supposed-to-be public servants violently assaulting the citizens who they are supposed to be protecting. (Until editors decide that the story is old and they move on to the next hot topic. Then we will likely see those reports only if we look for them, or if an incident sparks an uprising.)

Hardly a day passes that we don't see new reports of corruption by elected and appointed officials somewhere in the world. Corruption anywhere is a threat to civil society everywhere, because if we fail to create systems of government that are honest and responsive, we will suffer further erosion of trust in the integrity and value of our civil institutions. There will be some segment of the population that is more prone to being seduced by claims of a pure, perfect ideology, an alternative system, if the established order is in decline. Whatever fundamentalist, reactionary ideology is most prominently opposing the establishment will inevitably appear more attractive when contrasted with this unsustainable and corrupt system that we've made [even though the competing, reactionary ideology brings its own less visible systemic defects (less visible to its adherents).]

In order to thrive, our society requires healthy institutions that enjoy the confidence of the people. We need to see and have confidence that governments and public officials are operating in the public interest.

Would we be better-off with an alternative political paradigm that puts public funds directly into the hands of the people? Each of us might be asked to decide how to spend a small, equal fraction of the total public budget. We would spend in ways that we think would benefit the public, with the condition that our choices must line up with the opinions of at least a significant portion of our fellow citizens. If I spend my share of public funds on things that, say, 50% of citizens feel promote the public interest... we could be pretty sure that my choices, whatever they are, will in fact promote the public interest at least somewhat and probably quite a bit. We can use public random surveys to know what people think regarding this or that public service (to find out to what extent people think particular services produce benefit for society and the larger environment). We can make a paradigm that, in its very operation, directs people's attention to the question of how public funds are being and should be used. Imagine a system of surveys that ask where more public funds should be directed, and where we should reduce public spending.

If I put a large fraction (say 80%) of my share of public funds toward support of programs and projects that three-quarters of citizens agree promote the public interest, I might be allowed more latitude in deciding how to use the remainder of my share of these funds. I might be free to use that smaller fraction to support programs that, say, 20% of citizens agree promotes the public interest. This question of what might benefit the community is a really big question, and one on which reasonable people might disagree. Within this paradigm, the most widely-supported programs would receive the bulk of the public dollars (or Bitcoins, maybe), while other programs (more controversial or experimental programs, perhaps) would also have access to reduced but still significant amounts of public funding.

If we apply more generally this idea of dispersing public policy decisions to all the people, we could manage environmental impacts in ways that are in accord with what most people think is acceptable. If we take a survey and learn that most people think we would be better-off and our children would be better-off if we were to reduce carbon emissions by, say, 40% over the next ten years, then we should have a policy that would bring about that reduction (about 5.5% per year). We can assume that some people would want a greater-than-40% reduction, while others would want less-rapid reduction or no reduction. Forty percent in ten years might be the median or average rate at which people think we should reduce emissions of carbon to the atmosphere.

We could issue permits for fossil carbon emissions (or carbon extraction) and auction the permits in a free market, with the number of permits offered corresponding to what most people think is acceptable. We can apply this idea to the management of all kinds of human impact on the environment.

When the decision of how to spend public funds is put into the hands of the people at large, no person would be forced to support a program with which they had a philosophical disagreement. With a sliding-scale criterion for eligibility, there would be no hard cut-off point for access to funds. No program manager would have reason to be hyper-concerned about achieving a particular qualifying score (50%, for example). Instead, all managers and providers of public services would have an abiding interest in improving their service or efficiency, regardless of precisely where they might fall on a public approval ratings scale.

Within such a paradigm, I suspect that there would be broad support for public sponsorship of secular (non-sectarian) schools, public parks, libraries, basic scientific research, public health services... I know that I would want to support these things. [One thing I like about secular (non-religious) schools is that we would be less likely or not at all likely to find the teaching of an 'us-vs-them' mentality. We would be more likely to see expressions of the idea that we are all Earthlings. We must work together to make a healthy global community and to solve the great challenges that confront us.]


Biological Model for Politics and Economics