Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Common Wealth

Property Rights help us invest our efforts with knowledge that we will be benefit from the fruits of our labour. Fruits come from a combination of Capital and Labour. We stand on the shoulders of giants. We produce far more fruit today than our ancestors because human knowledge is cumulative. 

Two challenges to Property Rights are (1) The First Mover, and (2)  The Veil of Ignorance.

When people first started to employ their labour, there would only have been shared resources. These resources would have been used from the abundance, and mixed with labour. Gradually there would have been more competition as resources grew more scarce, and, pre-'rule of law', force was used to take resources. We don't have full detail about the starting point, but we know it was dodgy. We know our ancestors, judged by today's moral standards, fail uniformly. Things as they stand are a fuzzy mix of today's rules and yesterday's first movers. To go forward, we need to be comfortable with a starting point.

Secondly new-comers need to be comfortable with their starting point. Our communal wealth today is not the same as that of our first conscious, common ancestors. We are born, at random, with differing genetics and geography. Much of our success depends on our starting point now. The 'Veil of Ignorance' suggests that in order to accept the rules, you have to be happy with the starting point of every player. 

An Unconditional Basic Income is analogous to a dividend on our communal wealth. It is impossible to determine what the level of that dividend should be and what our Common Capital is. 

Tax is partly re-distributive, but it is also partly a fee for use. If we are all common owners/custodians of the earth through our shared inheritance, the 'systems' our ancestors built belong to us all. The fee for use doesn't need a central government to decide how to spend it. It needs to go to the owners. It needs to go to everyone.

Welfare is redistributive. A UBI doesn't carry the stigma of charity. A UBI may simplify or reduce the need for welfare, but it is not welfare. It is part of the deal that allows people to accept the system that allows us to prosper. Why should someone in Poverty agree to accept the Rule of Law? What ownership do they have in that system? 

It is impossible to figure out what is common wealth, but if we can afford it (which we can), ending poverty through an unconditional basic income is the bare minimum.

'Olive Grove' by Van Gogh
Fruits of our labour, from shared wealth
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