3 Chapter 3 Pastland
Imagine that you are looking on the internet and find a cruise that has some luxury cabins available at almost unbelievably low rates. Impulsively, you book passage. I see the same ad and book a room myself. The ship leaves from Tampa, Florida and heads southwest toward Cozumel, Mexico.
We are in the open water when a giant bright white cloud appears. It surrounds us like a tornado and lifts us up. It carries us along, faster and faster, eventually moving us so fast that light itself starts to bend. The process then starts to reverse, and light straightens out. We go slower and slower. Then we hit against something hard—a piece of land. The water starts to recede. We are carried along on the receding water for several horrifying hours with no idea what is happening to us.
Finally, we come to a stop.
None of us on the ship realize this yet, but the realities of human existence have changed. A government somewhere was testing a new type of nuclear bomb. The military of that nation was trying to build a device that would send out a special kind of electromagnetic pulse (EMP) to destroy electronic devices. Many of these bombs were tested in history, starting in the 1950s. But this one had some components that had never been tested before. Sometimes, materials act differently than scientists predict in the intense heat, pressure, and gamma radiation at the center of a nuclear explosion.
The scientists had hoped that the new materials would lead to a tunable EMP, one that would destroy the enemy’s electronics but not its own. But they made a tiny, tiny, mistake in their calculations. The materials didn’t act as they expected; instead, they created a momentary vibration in the space-time field.
This was unfortunate for the majority of the people on the planet Earth: the vibration led to an ‘unsyncing’ of the motion of the electrons the in atoms that make up our world. They were only out of sync for a tiny fraction of a microsecond. But when the distortion ended, the electrons couldn’t find their way back into orbit around their nuclei. All of the atoms of the great majority of the planet Earth disintegrated into bosons, quarks, and mesons that will never again be atoms—let alone a planet people can live on—for the rest of time.
The people on the cruise ship were lucky, however.
The space-time distortion field was shaped like a tornado. It had powerful forces at the edges but included a calm eye at the center where almost nothing happened. We were in the exact right place to catch the calm eye in the center of the distortion. The space-time distortion sent our people, our ship, and several thousand cubic miles of ocean water back a little more than 4 million years in time. We are now in the remote past.
We have gone back to before the first humans arrived on this world.
This makes us the world’s first humans.
The First Human Societies
Since no humans have existed, no human societies have existed either.
This means that the people in our group don’t have to follow anyone’s rules about how societies are supposed to work.
We haven’t inherited a legacy of ‘national debts’ that we must repay. We don’t have to accept that we have traditional religious or racial enemies anymore, and tax our people so we can build militaries to attack them and defend ourselves against their attacks. We don’t have to make sure that the nations, corporations, and individuals who ‘own’ parts of the world are able to keep people who don’t ‘own’ from benefiting from the existence of the part of the world that belongs to them, because there are no owners. We don’t have to make sure that the imaginary lines called ‘borders’ that determine the limits of ‘nations’ are respected, because there are no borders and no nations. We don’t have to pay taxes to cover the cost of police to enforce the existing order, because there is no existing order to enforce.
We have complete freedom as to what kind of society to form. We can determine what ‘modes of existence’ we want. We can make our own rules.
The space-time wave moved us hundreds of miles from our previous location and washed us up, along with several thousand cubic miles of ocean water, deep into the interior of a continent. When the water receded, it dragged the ship several miles and tore the bottom of the ship to pieces, leaving the upper part lodged in a muddy swamp. The trauma killed more than a thousand of the people on the ship.
As soon as the ship comes to a stop, the people who were physically able to do so began working to rescue the trapped and save any who could be saved. A few of our people had medical experience. These people set up a triage center and makeshift emergency hospital on an upper deck.
People who find injured people bring them there.
A minister locates a parcel of land to use as a cemetery so we can bury the dead, to prevent an outbreak of disease. For several days, all able-bodied people help with the rescue attempts and a burial party makes sure the dead are buried.
Finally, we get to a stopping point and have a meeting so we can take stock of our situation.
The social director of the cruise ship opens the meeting. She does this in part because she knows many of us—having organized the welcome party and some drinking games right after we left—and in part because no one who is in any position of authority is left alive. The ship’s captain and everyone who might claim to have authority perished in the wreck. She wants to make sure we realize she isn’t claiming to be in charge of anything: she has just come forward because no one else came forward first.
Like the rest of us, she has been digging through the rubble to try to find and help survivors. She hasn’t slept for days, she is filthy, and her clothing is torn and covered with dirt and dried blood. She thanks everyone who pitched in to help and says that this has saved many lives. She tells us she has counted and there are 1,000 survivors, including people who are injured but are going to recover.
She says she has no idea where we are or how long it will take to get us rescued. (She has no idea we are in the past. She has been working so hard to save lives she hasn’t had time to worry about such relatively unimportant things.) She asks if anyone can shed some light on this and another woman comes to the front.
The other woman is an engineer of electronics who has been trying to get the ship’s electronic systems working. She has gotten everything going but hasn’t been able to reach anyone on the standard rescue channels. The GPS, satellite TV and satellite phone appear to be working but she can’t pick up any satellite signals. She had a simple battery-powered satellite finder in her luggage. She has been scanning the sky to try to find satellites, but her device hasn’t picked up any of them. She finds this very strange: there are supposed to be thousands of satellites in the sky. They seem to have all disappeared.
She is about ready to step down when she pauses to tell us something else: all of the clocks on the instruments have a reading that she can’t figure out: they read the year as ‘-4,000,000.’ She says that this might mean ‘4,000,000 BC.’ This seemed so strange that she didn’t want to mention it, but she says it is possible we are all in the remote past. She will keep trying to reach someone and get us rescued, but in the meantime, she suggests we try to make the best of what we have.
We may be here for a long time.
Another woman comes up, this time an astronomer. She tells us that the stars all appear to be out of position from where they should be. We are in an outer spiral arm of a galaxy and are orbiting the center of the galaxy at a speed of about one million miles per day. This causes the view we get of certain stars and galaxies to shift. She has calculated that the stars are where they would have been 4,002,020 years before we started on this trip. This seems to confirm the information on the clocks. It is possible we are in the remote past.
Someone jokingly says, ‘Welcome to Pastland.’ The name sticks. People start to call our new home ‘Pastland.’
How and Where We Will Live
First, I want to go over some practical realities of our existence like where and how we will live and where we will get food and other necessities of life, so you can see what we have to work with in forming societies:
We will live in our cabins on the ship for the time being. Although the extreme bottom decks of the ship were destroyed, we can still use most of the rest. The ship is sitting on land that is more or less level. People need to sleep somewhere, and people have moved back into their cabins to have places to sleep.
We ended up next to a large river with plenty of flow to turn turbines. Some of the passengers are handy with tools. They salvage the ship’s propellers and some other parts and use them to make a power plant to turn the ship’s electricity generators. Many people volunteer to help build the power plant because we really want electricity: it is hot and muggy where we are, and we want our air conditioners back on.
The ship has freshwater piping to all cabins. Some people rig up a piping system to move water from a clear spring and pump it into the freshwater distribution system. The ship’s waste treatment plant still works so, once we have water, we can use our toilets. Since we have both electricity and fresh water, we can take showers, do laundry, and even fill the ship’s swimming pools so we can swim.
The ship that went back in time with us gives us a place to live. We have water and sanitary facilities. We only need one thing that we don’t have now to sustain us: food.
The Bounty of the Planet Earth
We are very lucky to have ended up where we are. Although some people call our landing place a ‘swamp,’ some use an alternate term and call it a ‘freshwater marsh.’ Wild rice grows in this marsh in great abundance. For thousands of years before we got here, this land has had a stable and productive ecosystem, producing large amounts of rice for the benefit of its (non-human) residents.
In the spring, runoff from snowmelt on lands upriver causes the rivers to swell. When this happens, the water level rises above the level of the land to a depth of about a foot. This creates the perfect conditions for rice to grow. Wild rice has grown here every year for thousands of years.
Qqq wild rice here.
Late in the summer, the river flows ease and the water table falls. By early fall the water table has fallen below the level of the land and the land becomes dry. The rice ripens to a golden brown and the kernels fall off of the stalks onto the ground.
This has been happening for many thousands of years before we got here.
The wild rice never went to waste. Each year, giant flocks of ducks, geese, cranes, passenger pigeons, and other migratory birds arrived to feast on nature’s bounty. When winter came and the birds had moved on, possums, raccoons, beaver, otters, minks, muskrats, weasels, deer, elk, and other animals came to share the rice that the birds missed. In the spring when the water rose, schools of fish—sturgeon, cavefish, shiners, darters, paddlefish, sunfishes, bream, catfish, crappies, and black basses, to name a few—moved in to feast on whatever was left.
The animals didn’t always thoroughly chew the rice kernels, however, and many kernels passed through their digestive systems intact. This provided seeds for next year’s crop.
The next year, everything happened again.
This land is bountiful and produces large amounts of rice without any need for human effort. For all of history so far, this bounty has gone to other animals.
But this is going to change.
Humans have abilities that other animals don’t: we can collect the rice at the exact right time of the year and put it into granaries so other animals can’t get it. We can take the bounty the land produces for ourselves if we want. Other animals will only get any of this rice if we let them have it, either by giving it to them or by deciding not to take it ourselves.
Some people are curious about whether the land will produce enough to support us and have made some calculations.
Two of them measured the rice-growing area and determined its size: it is 1,500 acres. They have decided to call this area Pastland Farm. One person carefully measured out one square foot of land, cut the stalks on that land, removed the kernels and weighed them to get just under 1/20th of one pound per square foot, which works out to 2,100 pounds per acre, or 3.15 million pounds for the entire marsh/farm. We have 1,000 people so if we divide this rice evenly, we will have 3,150 pounds for each of us per year, or just over 8 pounds for each of us per day.
Each person needs about 2 pounds of rice per day, as a minimum, to stay alive, so we will clearly have much more than we need.
Kathy and The Pastland Farm
I want to introduce someone who will be involved in some key decisions in this book:
Kathy, a passenger on this ship, is an experienced rice farmer. Kathy was seriously injured in the wreck and has been in a coma since it happened.
When she wakes up, lying in a cot set up in our makeshift infirmary on the top deck of our ship, she thinks she is dreaming because she is imagining she is back in her childhood home. Before she even opens her eyes in this dream she is having, she knows where she is from the smell and feel of the air.
The wild rice-producing marshes of Texas have native bacteria that ‘fixes’ nitrogen, taking it from the air (which is 69% nitrogen) and turning it into a form growing plants can use. The bacteria evolved with the rice, millions of years ago, and the two living organisms depend on each other for survival. The bacteria provide nitrogen that the plant needs, and the plant’s waste products sustain the bacteria.
The bacteria impart an unmistakable smell into the air. Kathy was raised in Texas rice country and grew up with this smell. To her, this is the smell of home. Before she even opens her eyes, she knows where she is.
Not only does she know where she is, she knows what time of year it is and roughly what time of day. She can feel that the air is heavy with moisture with a powerful sun trying to bore through the mist, just as she remembers from her childhood home before a summer thundershower. She is afraid to open her eyes for fear that she will find it is just a dream.
When she summons the courage, she looks out to see the silhouette of the distant hills against the horizon she remembers from her childhood. This is the same view she got from her bedroom window on the farmhouse that used to stand on this very spot when she was growing up.
She knows this land. She can tell you what the dirt looks like and what it feels like if you take off your shoes and walk barefoot through the shallow marshes, as she did in her childhood. (She will warn you that you can’t wear shoes, because they will stick in the muck and you will lose them.) She can tell you how to locate good spots to fish in the big river and how to find the best spots for wild berries, grapes, fruits, mushrooms, sunflower seeds and other nuts in the surrounding forests. She can tell you how to find straight softwood trees for poles and very strong hickory for working into tools and other products.
She was practically raised here. Her aunt and uncle had owned the farm that had stood on this very land and her family had spent a great deal of time here. When she was very young, before her aunt and uncle had switched to hybrid rice that requires chemicals to grow, the farm raised the exact same kind of rice that grows wild here now. She helped with many tasks and knows how to raise it.
When Kathy recovers enough to attend group meetings, the rice is ready to harvest. She tells us that we have to harvest it quickly because if it gets too dry it will fall onto the ground and be impossible to collect. Some people are pretty handy with tools and have drawn up plans to build a harvesting machine with a gasoline motor and some other parts found on the ship. We don’t have any gasoline, but we did find some tanks with ethanol and we can use this for fuel (for next year, people will make more ethanol out of rice, as you will see).
She says she can put the entire operation together for us because she has harvested rice before. However, she will need to ask some people with specialized skills to help her and she doesn’t feel right asking them to work for nothing. She wants the ability to pay them somehow. She knows how to make this work if we have some kind of money. She knows that the rice this land produced was ‘worth’ about $1 (one British Pound) per pound in the future we came from. She says it would be nice if we had some kind of money so that she could ‘sell’ the rice (trade it for money) and then use the money to pay her workers.
This book examines a great many different types of societies that are possible for thinking beings with physical needs. All beings with physical needs must have some thing physical coming in from the world around them to survive. Humans, for example, need food on a regular basis, to replace the sugars used by our live processes. If we don’t have this ‘income’ (food) we die. This book uses the term ‘value’ to refer to items that humans need to keep us alive, together with the things we want to make our lives more comfortable. We need some income in ‘value’ to survive. If we have more income, we can have better lives.
It doesn’t matter what type of society we have: we need an income of value. Always.
To compare all of the different societies, we will need some way to put the amounts of value in context. How much value do you need to stay alive? How much extra value might you get to make your life more comfortable if things worked differently? People have created tools that can help us understand flows of value.
Later, when we look at territorial sovereignty societies, we will see that they have special needs that make some kind of money essential: they can’t work very well, or for very long, on barter economies or economies that don’t have a standard way to measure and transfer value.
When we get into the discussions of Part Three, we will see that the concept of money is actually quite complex, at least in societies where people can buy parts of the earth with the same tool that people use to buy bowls of rice. (What is the right amount of ‘bowls of rice equivalent in money’ to pay for ‘the ‘the drainage basin of the Missouri river and its tributaries’ [the legal description for the Louisiana purchase]? It is hard to compare bowls of rice to drainage basins of massive rivers. The tool of money doesn’t really appear to be versatile enough to use for both of these things, yet it is used for both. How does this work? It can be understood, but it is extremely complicated.)
However, to compare societies in general, we don’t need to know all of the scientific details of money. (In the same way that you don’t need to understand the scientific details of jet aircraft to understand how to book and get on a flight from Chicago to Paris.) We all have practical experience with money and know how to use this tool in practical situations. When dealing with the simple things that money can do, like helping to distribute the food a part of the world produces for the people, money isn’t hard to understand and will work basically the same way in all of the societies we examine.
This means that, for most people, money is just a tool, in the same way that a hammer is a tool. They may not know the science behind it and they don’t have to. It is useful so people use it.
The people of any kind of society can use this tool, just as the people of any society can use a hammer. We know from historical records that nearly all natural law societies used money of some kind. American native people used a kind of money that was based on the premise of ‘proof of work’ (the same theoretical construct that backs up bitcoin). Again, most of them probably had no idea how and why the things they used for money had the value they had, but they knew they did, so they were willing to accept them in trade for things they had for sale.
I want to use the same standards to measure value in all of the systems examined, to make it easier to compare them. You and I and everyone who might be reading this book will be used to using money for these things because all economies in the 21st century use money for transactions.
We will be collecting 3,150,000 pounds—more than 15 tons—of rice. After the harvest, we will have meetings and make decisions about how to divide this rice. It will be very hard for us to do this by distributing physical rice. Someone suggest that we create some sort of paper certificates that each represent a certain amount of rice. For example, we could have ‘one pound notes’ that are worth one pound of rice. We could have ‘ten pound notes’ that are worth ten pounds, and for large transactions, we could have 100 pound notes that are worth 100 pounds.
We want certificates that people won’t be able to counterfeit very easily. (Otherwise, people will simply print their own money whenever they want it.) After some discussion, someone points out that we already have counterfeit-resistant paper certificates: the ship’s casino has a safe that contains a large amount of British currency. This safe hasn’t been opened since the wreck because no one has had any need for British currency. (The country of England doesn’t exist yet, so its currency is basically just pieces of paper to us here.) We can use the British pound certificates in the safe as rice certificates, with each $1 representing one pound of rice.
Here is how it will work: after Kathy has harvested the 3.15 million pounds of rice she will put it into the cargo hold of the ship. We will call the cargo hold our ‘treasury.’ It will hold the real value we own, the ‘treasure.’ We will then issue a one pound note for each pound of rice in the treasury. We will put this on a table in our meeting room. We will then have a meeting to decide how to divide this money. If you get a $1 note, you get a certificate that you can trade for a pound of rice any time you want (or at least any time the treasurer’s office is open).
We will elect a treasurer to deal with the actual transactions. She starts by asking if anyone here has British currency. For this example, let’s say no one has any. (If they had it, they could turn it in; to make sure no one has any currency hidden away, she can scan all of the money that is valid to record the serial numbers and any currency with a number not in the database would be assumed to be counterfeit and worthless. This could be done but it is easier to just assume no one has any.)
Now, all British currency that exists in our world is in a safe. She opens the safe, on camera and with a witness, and takes out exactly $3.15 million.
She puts this money on a set of tables in the center of the room. We will now have a meeting and decide who we want to get the rice in the treasury. If we want a certain person to get a pound of rice, we will give her a one pound note. The treasurer has posted hours where she will trade a pound of rice for a one pound note on request from anyone who has money.
How We Will Distribute the Money
Before the harvest, Kathy asked various people with special skills to help her with certain tasks, and asked for laborers to come forward to help with tasks that didn’t require skills. She told them that she thinks that people who help with work need to be compensated for their work at a fair rate. She told them that, after the harvest, she is going to work hard through whatever system evolves to make sure that they get fully compensated for the things they do, at the same rates they would have gotten back in the 21st century.
Kathy expects the group to agree to her requests. We all know that it takes work to harvest grain. We want people to be willing to do this work in the future. If we pay them, at rates they think are fair, we can be confident they will do the work, year after year, and the rice will be brought in and put into the cargo hold, where people who need to eat can get it.
At the meeting, Kathy is going to be very convincing and get her way: the people who work on the farm are going to get paid the same amount of money they would have made in the 21st century United States for doing the same work.
The value of a dollar will be about the same as it was back in the 21st century United States: it was enough to buy a pound of fully organic, 100% chemical-free wild rice there and it will buy the same amount here.
We will see that people can make a great many things out of rice or parts of the rice plant; people will start to make these things and offer them for sale at prices that reflect the input materials, their labor, and a reasonable profit. Because labor and material costs will be about the same as in our 2020 world, the costs of the many other products they will make out of rice will be about the same as in the 2020 world, as measured in United States dollars.
Costs of Harvesting
Humans don’t make rice.
Nature makes rice.
When we got here, the rice was already here. All we had to do was collect it.
Since we came back with an understanding of technology and a lot of parts to use to make machines, we were able to make machines that allowed us to harvest the entire crop in only a few days. Kathy knew how much money people needed for doing these things back in the 21st century and wants her people to make the same amount in Pastland. She has put together rates that lead to about the same total costs of harvesting and replanting she would have paid back in the 21st century. These costs total $500,000. There are huge stacks of money on the table. She is going to ask for $500,000 of this money to pay her workers and suppliers.
Since we collect all the rice, there will be no natural reseeding. We therefore have to put some of this rice back into the ground as seeds for a crop next year. She intends to buy the rice seed (trade money for it) and she needs 190,000 pounds of seed. If we want her to make sure the same crop comes in next year, we will have to give her another $190,000 to buy the seed, and another $10,000 for the cost of planting, a total of $200,000.
She is therefore going to ask for $700,000 of the $3.15 million that is on the table. If she gets this, she can make sure everyone who does any work on the farm or provides any supplies gets fully paid at rates that are about the same as they were in the 2020 United States, and we have enough to reseed next year so we will get the same crop next year.
Organization and Management of Food Collection
Kathy makes this request. We vote and approve it. Kathy has asked one of her friends to help with the money transactions. Her friend is a professional accountant named ‘Sara.’ Sara will keep the books and make sure everyone is paid. Sara comes up to the front with a luggage cart and takes stacks of money, until she has taken $700,000 off the table and put it onto the luggage cart.
The treasurer has her sign for the money.
Sara will make sure everyone is paid.
Sara asks to speak. She tells the group that we have fully compensated everyone who provided labor, supplies, equipment, fuel, and other things needed for the operation of the harvest. But we haven’t paid everyone who did anything important. In fact, we haven’t paid the most important person.
Kathy has not done any physical work. She was badly injured in the wreck and hasn’t been able to leave her bed. She organized everything on paper, made calls to round up the workers, got them to give daily reports on their activity, and had people she trusted check on them to make sure they were honest in their reports.
Kathy is a very nice and friendly person and a lot of people like her. She couldn’t do everything herself because of her health, so she asked her friends to help out with some of the tasks needed to organize the operation, manage the workers, and take care of the accounting and other details.
Sara falls into this category. She helped out with the accounting because Kathy asked her to help. She did it as a favor. After she started, she realized that Kathy really shouldn’t be doing this kind of work anyway: Kathy was on meds and might make mistakes in her data entry or calculations. Sara has done this kind of work for 20 years and could do these things in her sleep.
If she had been doing this kind of work in the future, before she took this trip, she would have charged $5,000 for her services. It didn’t take a lot of time so she wouldn’t charge for ‘hours of work.’ Her clients weren’t paying for ‘hours of work,’ they were paying to make sure a very complicated task was done properly. In this case she did it all for free—this time, at least. But who knows what will happen in the future? If Kathy gets fully paid for all of the things she did, she can take care of Sara too, giving her enough to justify doing the same work next year.
A few other people also provided a great deal of assistance. One person used to be in the field of ‘human resources’ back in the future. Her job was finding out who could do what and finding out how to best utilize the skills and talents of the various people involved in the project. The human resources expert created a database that showed what skills were available. She found out who could do what and talked to the people who could do various things to see if they were wiling to help out. After she found people who could help, she told them what Kathy had in mind: she intended to ask for money to pay them at the same rates they had been paid in the future for the same work. She found people who were willing to do the work, under the condition that Kathy kept her word and did everything she could to get them paid. The HR expert helped a lot: if she hadn’t been there, Kathy may not have been able to find the people needed to make things work smoothly. The HR expert didn’t ask for pay, but Sara says we should make sure Kathy has enough to pay her anyway. Everyone who did anything to make sure the grain got into storage should get something, even if it is just a token to show that we aren’t taking them for granted and are going to take care of people who do these things in the future.
How many people were involved? How much money should they get for the things they did?
Sara says she doesn’t know.
Kathy made these arrangements. Only Kathy knows.
However, we can make a pretty good guess:
Back in the 21st century United States, certain companies kept teams of people to do the work of organizing and managing properties that generated revenue. Sara says that she used to work for a company in this field and knows that they would have charged $50,000 a year to do the things that Sara did, if these things had taken place in the 21st century. Sara suggests we give Kathy this amount of money as her compensation for organizing everything and managing it, with the understanding that she will take care of everyone who stepped forward to help her so that they won’t feel anyone is taking advantage of them and that we all appreciate their efforts.
We discuss this issue.
Later in this book, I will discuss some complicated arguments that we might expect at this point. There are a lot of people who feel that it is immoral to pay people who simply organize and don’t do any actual physical work anything at all. If we do pay them, they think that it isn’t moral for them to get more, per hour of work they do, than laborers get. The people get angry when they find out that the people who don’t do any real work and merely organize—often not really doing anything significant at all—get paid at rates that work out to be hundreds of times more, per hour of work, than people who do hard physical work.
They think this is immoral and won’t accept it.
We will also see that people in some real-world natural law societies refused to pay for organizational services at rates that encouraged people to gain the required skills. In these systems, no one really knew how to organize tasks that were needed for complex operations like the operation of a rice farm. We will see that it was quite frequent for people in these situations to not get enough to eat and end up with extreme hardship and mass starvation. No one knew what had to be done to keep food coming in and no one had any real incentive to go through the effort to figure this out. There was food out in the fields but, because they couldn’t bring it in properly, store it, or make sure everyone was compensated for the things they did, the food went the same places it had gone before humans arrived (to other animals) and the humans starved to death. Humans are capable of planning and organizing. We can do these things. But if we don’t do them (perhaps because of a belief that paying certain people is unfair), we have no advantages to compensate for our incredible disadvantages relative to other animals. (For example, a great need for energy to keep our uninsulated and unprotected bodies at the proper temperature, the need to be basically unconscious for a third of the day while we sleep, and the need to spend more than a decade to raise each newborn to self-sufficiency; if we don’t have advantages to offset these disadvantages, we are not going to be able to compete with birds, fish, possums, and other animals without these disadvantages.)
Some natural law societies refused to pay for organizational and management services, but some realized the importance of these skills and set up systems so that they had well organized systems to take in food and other necessities. Those that did this survived; those that did not perished.
It is important for the points of this book that the people in our group accept the need to have these things done and agree to take care of the people who do them so they keep doing them.
Sara has proposed we pay Kathy $50,000 a year, with the understanding that she use this money to pay the people who helped her enough to show that we aren’t taking them for granted; she can keep the rest of the money herself. We approve the expense.
This makes a total of $750,000 that has been taken out of the pile of money. It started with $3.15 million, so now there is $2.4 million there.
Everyone who has done anything associated with planting, management of the farm during the growing season, or harvest, has been fully compensated for everything they do. No one in our group can claim to be responsible for the existence of the rice this extra money represents.
Yet it must go somewhere.
I want to skip over the discussions were we argue about how to divide this money for now and discuss what would happen if we simply divide it evenly.
There is $2.4 million on the table. There are 1,000 of us. Everyone gets $2,400. The treasurer calls out our names, one by one, and we come to the front and get our cash.
Everyone on earth gets $2,400 of this $2.4 million.
This is a kind of ‘basic income’ that everyone gets: it is the foundation of their total income. People who work in production get more. (It doesn’t make sense to exclude them from the divisions of the left over money because they worked; this punishes them for working.) People who organize or help with management get more. But everyone gets at least $2,400.
A Basic Economy
You are there in Pastland.
You get a pile of cash.
Each $1 bill is a receipt for 1 pound of rice. You have enough money to buy a total of 2,400 pounds of rice over the course of the next year. This works out to 7 pounds of dry rice every day. This is a great deal more rice than you could eat. It would be enough (dry) rice to make 15 pounds of boiled rice each day.
You could not eat this much.
You would explode.
For a few weeks, however, most people live on boiled rice, because no other foods are available.
One of our people, a woman named Tanya, used to be an organic duck and goose egg farmer back in the future, before we took this trip. She buys several hundred pounds of rice and puts it out to attract ducks and geese. She puts several small piles of rice out in the open that they will see from the sky, in order to attract them to the ground. She then makes little trails of rice that go to nests she has built for the birds out of rice straw, in an area she can protect from predators.
Ducks and geese see the rice piles and come down to investigate. They follow the trails to the nests. They like the nests and spend time there. Birds have horrible night vision and have to bed down for the night; they often have a hard time finding safe places. The nests are safe (Tanya makes sure of this). They spend a lot of time there, eating the food Tanya puts out for them. They lay eggs in the nests.
The birds are basically acting as protein factories. They take in the rice, which is carbohydrates, turn it into eggs, which are mostly proteins, and then lay the eggs. Birds’ bodies are very efficient at this conversion process. (There is an evolutionary reason for this efficiency: eggs are very good food for many animals. Most of the eggs that birds lay get stolen. If they weren’t efficient at producing more eggs, they wouldn’t have enough chicks to replace them and would die out, to be replaced by more efficient birds.)
Tanya knows how to keep her egg production high. She keeps track of the amount that each bird eats and the number of eggs it lays. Birds that don’t have a very high ‘conversion efficiency’ of carbohydrates into proteins become dinner themselves. Those that lay very well remain in her flock. Those that lay extremely well may be allowed to keep their chicks and raise them, to make sure the next generation lays very well.
The ship’s internet is still working. Tanya sets up a website she calls ‘Tanya’s Organic Eggs’ and offers eggs for sale.
Now people can buy two things with their money: rice or eggs.
One man sees some wild goats and puts out some rice to attract them. Over a few weeks, he brings them closer and eventually he can pet them. A few weeks later he is feeding them daily. Some of the doe goats he feeds are pregnant; they have kids. Doe goats produce a lot more milk than their kids need. He milks them and opens a dairy where he sells milk, cream, and butter. A lot of people like these things; demand is high, and the supply is low (at least at first) so he makes a lot of money doing this. Others realize they can make money doing the same thing. After some time, several people are offering dairy products and the prices come down to the level where everyone who wants dairy products can afford them.
Wild pigs live in this area. A woman puts out some rice porridge to attract them. They love it. (Uncooked grains are very hard for pigs to digest so they generally ignore them. But the cooked rice is like a feast to them.) She puts out the porridge every night. After a week, she digs a trap, covers it with straw, and balances a bowl of porridge on some sticks on top of the trap. A pregnant sow drops into the trap and soon she has a dozen piglets and a sow.
She puts up an ad on the ship’s internet advertising that she will pick up anyone’s food waste at no cost, to feed her pigs. People start putting out their food waste for her to pick up.
Pigs are like living garbage disposals. They eat just about anything and turn it into pork. She makes a deal with a person who used to be a butcher back in the future: she will provide the live animals, the butcher can turn them into bacon, ham, pork chops, and ribs, and they will sell the meat over the internet and split the income.
A person begins to grind the rice into flour and several people start baking breads, noodles, tortillas, cakes, and cookies with the flour and selling all manner of baked goods. You can place an order over the internet and they will deliver the baked goods to your cabin door.
One person in our group, a man named ‘Dennis,’ used to own a microbrewery back in Spain. The main ingredient in beer is rice. Dennis starts making beer and selling it in one of the ship’s bars.
One of our people used to make ethanol for fuel for vehicles back in Indonesia before she took this trip. She made ethanol out of rice and understands the method: boil the rice for several days to turn it into a mash, let the mash ferment for several weeks until the sugars turn into alcohol, then distill the mash. After the first distillation, she gets a mixture of rice water and alcohol, called ‘saké.’ This is an alcoholic beverage that a lot of people like to drink. After the second distillation, she gets pure grain alcohol, called ‘ethanol.’
She makes both saké and grain alcohol. She sells the saké to Dennis to resell in his bar and sells the ethanol to people who need fuel, like the operator of the harvesting machine.
Wild grapes grow along the river. Several people start making wine. They sell their products to Dennis to resell in his bar. Crawdads, catfish, and lobster live in the waterways. People catch them and sell them. Various people open clubs and restaurants to serve meals and drinks. The clubs hire musicians to attract guests.
One of our people, a woman named ‘Sally,’ used to run a bank in England before she took this trip. She knows a lot of people don’t like carrying cash. They would rather just have a card and pay for everything with the card. She opens a bank here in Pastland: she will take in deposits, hold the money for the owners, and allow them to make withdrawals with cards. (On cruise ships, people use their electronic door keys for credit cards to buy things. Everyone already has a card and there are thousands of electronic card readers all over the ship.)
Initially, Sally charges very high fees. Several other people open their own banks to compete with her, driving bank fees down. You can choose to keep your money in a bank; if you decide to do this, you can decide which bank to use.
Now that we have banks, most people don’t even bother with cash: they have their incomes deposited directly into their bank accounts and pay for everything through electronic deductions over the internet or with their debit cards.
How Do We Live?
No one pays for shelter.
We all live in our cabins on the ship.
Volunteers have set up an electricity system, a water system and an internet. (We will vote to pay them soon: we want them to know we aren’t taking them for granted so they will keep working.) We get electricity, water, and internet for free.
All we need coming in on a continuing basis is food.
Over the course of the year, people will trade their money for rice. The amount of rice in the cargo hold will go down and the amount of money in circulation will go down at the same rate. (When a $1 bill is traded for rice, the serial number is taken out of the database of ‘currency in circulation: this is no longer money. The bill is put back into the safe to be taken out after the harvest when we again have to trade rice for money.) By the end of the year, a lot of people are getting pretty short on cash. But then Kathy organizes a harvest again, puts 3.15 million pounds of rice in storage, and we go through the same process.
Everyone gets $2,400 again.
The electricity plant was put in place by volunteers. When we first got here, it was hot and everyone wanted air conditioning. A lot of people pitched in to build the plant and it now exists. It has a turbine that sits in the flow of the ricer and runs a generator. It doesn’t take a lot of work to keep it operating, but someone has to check on it. A volunteer has been doing this.
The water system is also pretty automatic. Most of the time, no one has to touch it. But, once in a while, someone has to go to make sure the pumps are working right and keeping the tanks on the ship at the property level. The internet works pretty seamlessly, but sometimes it fails and someone has to unplug the servers, wait 10 seconds, and plug them in again, to get them to reboot. We also have a treasurer and granary operator who work for free.
We want these people to know we appreciate their effort. We decide to pay them and vote on the services individually. At the end of the election, we wind up spending $400,000 on public services.
This doesn’t reduce the amount of value that each of us gets out of the $2.4 million left after paying production costs. We still each get $2,400 a year; we just get $2,000 of this in cash and $400 of it as ‘free’ electricity, water, treasury services, grain storage, and other services. We are all getting a minimum of $2,400 a year from the land.