6 Chapter 6 Incentives in Natural law societies
When we arrived in the ancient past, the land was already healthy. Nature created a balanced ecosystem. This is the entire reason we get our checks each year: We are getting a part of the benefits of a healthy ecosystem. Since it is healthy, it produces an immense bounty each year.
We share the bounty by sharing the basic productivity of the land, the $2.4 million that represents the money value of the bounty.
The land is producing a flow of free cash. This truly is free: we don’t have to do anything to get it. But there are things we can do to cause us to stop getting it. If we harm the land, it won’t produce as much. We will still have to pay costs. But there won’t be as much left over. This is the money the human race shares. The less we have to share, the less we each get.
If any harm comes to the land, we all suffer.
We don’t just suffer the way people in territorial sovereignty societies do, by feeling sad that their children’s legacy has been stolen or having to put up with the mental agony of seeing a devastated ecosystem. We suffer in a real way that we can all measure. If harm comes to the land, our incomes fall.
Some of us have incomes from other activities and don’t care much. Tanya sells eggs, Dennis runs the bar, and many other people have businesses that generate money. To these people, the $2,000 they get from their share of the bounty of the Pastland Farm may not be very important. You may be one of these people: it may not matter much to you.
But if you don’t care, you better not let other people around you know it is not a priority. This is one thing we all share. We are all in the same boat. Destruction doesn’t just hurt you financially, it hurts everyone financially. Anyone who does any harm to the land, or lets harm come to it (by standing by and not interference in things that may harm it) is stealing from every single member of the human race.
If you talk casually about something you did that harmed the land, or something you let happen that harmed the land, you can expect extreme levels of anger from everyone around you. It is not a minor thing. We may have disagreements about a lot of different things. But there is one thing that we will all agree on: harm to the world hurts every single person on earth.
Some, of course, are hurt more than others. Some people have no outside income. Their only income is their share of the bounty of the world. Two thousand dollars a year is not a lot of money to live on. These people don’t eat steak and lobster at fancy restaurants with live bands. They have boiled rice, perhaps a single egg per day, and meat once or twice a week. A few dollars a year less and the meat has to cut back; a little more and they don’t get eggs. If you don’t think keeping the environmental healthy is important, you better not let them know you feel this way. If you are talking to anyone you will be careful about the topic. Even saying something that implies you might not care as much as the others do can turn people against you.
Other Natural Law Societies
Our people in Pastland didn’t create a natural law society intentionally.
When we passed the moratorium, we weren’t trying to ‘create a society.’
We just saw that certain topics led to conflicts which often got violent; people could get hurt or killed. Our people were all raised in societies that teach children that they are supposed to love their country, be willing to kill for it if asked, and be willing to accept death, if this is the only way to protect the country. They are taught that violence is not only permissible, it is required if people won’t respect the sovereign rights of their country. When people decided the land around them was the sovereign territory of their country, and saw that other people weren’t going to respect their rights, this training kicked in. They were supposed to get violent. It was the right thing to do.
We saw that the arguments over which country the land was in led to conflicts that often got violent. These arguments could break out and get violent at any time. We didn’t want to have to deal with these arguments and worry about all the other matters related to being cast millions of years in time. We didn’t want to make any permanent and absolute decisions. The idea of nations owning land was not off the table entirely. We just didn’t want to have to deal with this issue immediately. We wanted to have time to solve other problems. Then, if people really thought we needed countries and wanted to form them, we could discuss this. The moratorium was just a temporary pause in these matters. Unintentionally, we created the same basic rule that was the prime directive of thousands of different societies that existed for tens of thousands of years in the Americas, before the conquest of these societies began in 1493.
We didn’t create the environmental intentionally either. We didn’t sit down and decide we wanted everyone to be on guard against harm to our world. The incentives to protect the environment were just side effects of flows of value that naturally take place in natural law societies. The land around us is unowned so the bounty it produces is not owned. We divide it by dividing the $2.4 million in basic productivity left on the table toward the end of every yearly meeting. If there is less to divide, everyone suffers. If there is more to divide, everyone benefits. Any society that is built on this foundation will have the same incentives.
A great many different natural law societies existed in the Americas before the conquest. Some had enormous cities, used money for transactions, had extensive markets and many goods and services available, just as we have in Pastland. Other groups lived simply and roamed the hunting wild game, trading meat and livestock products for other goods at pow-wows or other gatherings, and rarely even seeing money. But they all shared a common feature: no human entity owned any part of the planet around them. They all lived on a very bountiful world and shared the bounty. If they could keep the land healthy, it would remain bountiful. If the land was harmed, they had less to share and everyone got less.
Quotes about the People of The Land Beyond The Western Ocean
When Columbus arrived in the Caribbean in October of 1492, very large numbers of people rowed out in canoes to meet him. He had arrived in an area with thousands of islands, each with large populations. They made different things and had different things to trade, either with people from other islands in the Caribbean, or from people from anywhere that might have something they wanted to exchange for things they had.
Columbus visited many of these islands. He was totally amazed by the incredible health of the land. He had never seen anything like it. Here are his words describing several different islands sequentially:
‘This is a large and level island, with trees extremely flourishing, and streams of water; there is a large lake in the middle of the island, but no mountains: the whole is completely covered with verdure and delightful to behold. The natives are an inoffensive people, and so desirous to possess any thing they saw with us, that they kept swimming off to the ships with whatever they could find, and readily bartered for any article we saw fit to give them in return, even such as broken platters and fragments of glass.
Near the islet I have mentioned were groves of trees, the most beautiful I have ever seen, with their foliage as verdant as we see in Castile in April and May. There were also many streams. After having taken a survey of these parts, I returned to the ship, and setting sail, discovered such a number of islands that I knew not which first to visit; the natives whom I had taken on board informed me by signs that there were so many of them that they could not be numbered; they repeated the names of more than a hundred.
I determined to steer for the largest, which is about five leagues from San Salvador [the name he gave the first island where he landed] the others were some at a greater, and some at a less distance from that island. They are all very level, without mountains, exceedingly fertile and populous’.
The island is verdant, level and fertile to a high degree; and I doubt not that grain is sowed and reaped the whole year round, as well as all other productions of the place. I saw many trees, very dissimilar to those of our country, and many of them had branches of different sorts upon the same trunk; and such diversity was among them that it was the greatest wonder in the world to behold. Thus, for instance, one branch of a tree bore leaves like those of a cane, another branch of the same tree, leaves similar to those of the lentisk. In this manner a single tree bears five or six different kinds of fruit.
In the meantime I strayed about among the groves, which present the most enchanting sight ever witnessed, a degree of verdure prevailing like that of May in Andalusia, the trees as different from those of our country as day is from night, and the same may be said of the fruit, the weeds, the stones and everything else.
A few of the trees, however, seemed to be of a species similar to some that are to be found in Castile, though still with a great dissimilarity, but the others so unlike, that it is impossible to find any resemblance in them to those of our land.
I assure your Highnesses that these lands are the most fertile, temperate, level and beautiful countries in the world’.
This island is the most beautiful that I have yet seen, the trees in great number, flourishing and lofty; the land is higher than the other islands, and exhibits an eminence, which though it cannot be called a mountain, yet adds a beauty to its appearance, and gives an indication of streams of water in the interior. From this part toward the northeast is an extensive bay with many large and thick groves. I wished to anchor there, and land, that I might examine those delightful regions, but found the coast shoal, without a possibility of casting anchor except at a distance from the shore. The wind being favorable, I came to the Cape, which I named Hermoso, where I anchored today.
This is so beautiful a place, as well as the neighboring regions, that I know not in which course to proceed first; my eyes are never tired with viewing such delightful verdure, and of a species so new and dissimilar to that of our country, and I have no doubt there are trees and herbs here which would be of great value in Spain, as dyeing materials, medicine, spicery, etc., but I am mortified that I have no acquaintance with them. Upon our arrival here we experienced the most sweet and delightful odor from the flowers and trees of the island.
The next island.
This island even exceeds the others in beauty and fertility. Groves of lofty and flourishing trees are abundant, as also large lakes, surrounded and overhung by the foliage, in a most enchanting manner. Everything looked as green as in April in Andalusia. The melody of the birds was so exquisite that one was never willing to part from the spot, and the flocks of parrots obscured the heavens.
The diversity in the appearance of the feathered tribe from those of our country is extremely curious. A thousand different sorts of trees, with their fruit were to be met with, and of a wonderfully delicious odor. It was a great affliction to me to be ignorant of their natures, for I am very certain they are all valuable; specimens of them and of the plants I have preserved.
Afterwards I shall set sail for another very large island which I believe to be Cipango [Japan], according to the indications I receive from the Indians on board. They call the Island Colba, and say there are many large ships, and sailors there. This other island they name Bosio, and inform me that it is very large; the others which lie in our course, I shall examine on the passage, and according as I find gold or spices in abundance, I shall determine what to do; at all events I am determined to proceed on to the continent, and visit the city of Guisay, where I shall deliver the letters of your Highnesses to the Great Kahn, and demand an answer, with which I shall return.
The reason that the height of trees and health of the forests was so unusual to him was that, in Europe and the parts of Asia and Africa where he had been, the forests had been destroyed. The reason for this was war:
At the time, the only way to make iron weapons was to first make enormous amounts of charcoal. Then, you build a kiln and pour in very thin layers of crushed iron ore followed by very thick layers of charcoal. Workers would man giant bellows to pump as much oxygen through the fire as possible, to make it as hot as they could. Under the right conditions, it is just barely possible to get iron to ‘smelt’ out of the ore and drop to the bottom of the kiln in small amounts. The iron could then be cast into weapons. Although iron weapons were far stronger and harder than weapons made of bronze, brass, or copper, the weapons makers could make even better weapons by turning the iron into steel. The problem here is that it takes an enormous amount of charcoal to make even a tiny amount of steel. (You need to heat the iron up to white hot in a charcoal kiln fed with massive amounts of oxygen through a bellows. Then hammer it flat, heat it again, and fold it over. Do this over and over, thousands of times and, gradually, the iron will turn into steel.)
Armies with iron weapons could defeat armies with only brass, bronze, or copper weapons. Armies with steel weapons could defeat armies with iron weapons. The people who ran the wars wanted as much iron and steel as they could get. But it takes an enormous amount of wood just to make a small amount of charcoal. They cut down the forests to get this wood. First, they cut the forests close to the iron refineries. Then they cut the ones farther away, and kept cutting and cutting. After thousands of years of this (the iron age began about 1200 BC), the forests were basically gone.
People who wanted to build large things, like ships, needed very long logs, preferably made of hardwood. They were incredibly rare and therefore fantastically expensive. Columbus knew these things. He had been given rights to take the resources from any islands he discovered and sell them, splitting the money with the king of Spain 50/50. His first priority, of course, was gold. That was money directly: there is no need to sell it. But the next most valuable product of the islands he discovered was lumber. He was amazed. There were no healthy forests in his homeland. Here, they were everywhere.
In his book ‘The Devastation of the Indies,’ the historian Bartolomé de Las Casas describes what happened to these formerly beautiful islands after the Europeans arrived in great detail. The Europeans began to take everything of value, without any regard whatsoever for the health of the land.
As the name of Las Casas’ book implies, they left nothing but devastation.
Columbus eventually ended up on the island that he thought was the most beautiful of all, the ‘terrestrial paradise’ (as he called it) that the natives called ‘Haiti.
In the native language, this means ‘the mountainous island.’ When Colubus returned to Haiti in 1493, he brought armies of loggers to cut the forests and charcoal makers to turn the lumber into charcoal. They worked so rapidly that, within two decades, the land was (to use Las Casas word) ‘devastated.’ But the healthy forests didn’t just make the island beautiful. Torrential rains and massive storms that the natives called ‘Hurricane’ hit the island on a regular basis. As long as the forests where there, the roots held the soil in place. When the forests were gone, the rains washed everything away. Massive landslides pulled entire mountainsides down across the plains.
The rains in the mountains that used to soak into the soil now bounced off of the rocks and poured down the slopes like tidal waves, sweeping everything in its path down the hills. Stagnant pools of water bred bacteria that spread disease.
Earthquakes are common in Haiti. If the forests on the mountains were healthy, people got shook up, but there was little damage. With the forests and soil gone, the shaking sent giant boulders down the mountains killing everyone in their way. Each time a boulder hit it shook loose a dozen more and rockslides took out everything in their path. What would have been a minor annoyance while the land was healthy was now a serious disaster that could kill millions of people.
Columbus called Haiti ‘terrestrial paradise.’ When he arrived, it looked what he imagined that heaven would look like. It had been under the care of people with natural law societies for thousands of years. They kept it healthy.
What happened to this land after people with the different society conquered it? Here is a description from 2010:
“If you want to put the worst case scenario together in the Western hemisphere it’s Haiti,” said Richard Olson, a professor at Florida International University who directs the Disaster Risk Reduction in the Americas project.
The list of catastrophes is mind-numbing: this week’s devastating earthquake. Four tropical storms or hurricanes that killed about 800 people in 2008. Killer storms in 2005 and 2004. Floods in 2007, 2006, 2003 (twice) and 2002. And that’s just the 21st Century run-down.
“There’s a whole bunch of things working against Haiti. One is the hurricane track. The second is tectonics. Then you have the environmental degradation and the poverty,” he said. This [the 2010 earthquake] is the 15th disaster since 2001 in which the U.S. Agency for International Development has sent money and help to Haiti. Some 3,000 people have been killed and millions of people displaced in the disasters that preceded this week’s earthquake.
This week’s devastating quake comes as Haiti is still trying to recover from 2008, when it was hit four times by tropical storms and hurricanes, said Kathleen Tierney, director of the University of Colorado’s Natural Hazard Center. Every factor that disaster experts look for in terms of vulnerability is the worst it can be for Haiti, said Dennis Mileti, a seismic safety commissioner for the state of California and author of the book Disasters by Design. “It doesn’t get any worse,” said Mileti, a retired University of Colorado professor. “I fear this may go down in history as the largest disaster ever, or pretty close to it.”.
For this to be the deadliest disaster on record, the death toll will have to top the 2004 Asian tsunami that killed more than 227,000 and a 1976 earthquake in China that killed 255,000, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
While nobody knows the death toll in Haiti, a leading senator, Youri Latortue, told The Associated Press that as many as 500,000 could be dead.
“This was not that huge of an earthquake, but there’s been a lot of damage,” he said. “It’s the tragedy of a natural disaster superimposed on a poor country.”.
The above passage was written in 2010, a long time ago in terms of environment disasters in the devastated lands of the Caribbean. Since then, things have only gotten worse. If you look on today’s news, you will almost certainly find something catastrophic that happened in the last few weeks, killing thousands, tens of thousands, or hundreds of thousands of people. And there is no hope on the horizon. The type of society that now controls the land can’t function if it doesn’t have enough jobs so that everyone who doesn’t have an outside income can get one. The only way to create jobs is to turn a blind eye to the destruction caused by the job creators. Mining companies can still take out metals profitably as long as they don’t have to worry about releases of cyanide, mercury, arsenic, and other toxic materials they use. If the government doesn’t regulate these things, the companies can mind there, rather than in other countries, and they will have more jobs. Many companies on the mainland produce dioxins and other poisons that never break down and are so deadly the companies have been banned entirely: the companies have been told they can’t operate on the mainland anymore. There are a lot of impoverished islands in the Caribbean that want these ‘job creators’ to move there. Perhaps, with the with the right amount in grants, Haiti will win this competition and the companies will build their facilities there.
In 1492, Columbus called Haiti ‘terrestrial paradise,’ an image of what heaven must look like. By 1542, when Las Casas wrote about it, it could have been used as an example to help people see what hell must look like. Now? Well, if you are brave enough to go there (and few people are; it is considered one of the most dangerous places on earth), you will find it is even worse.
Historians who try to estimate populations from pre-conquest times generally come up with very low numbers until immediately before the first Europeans arrived. There were a lot of people there when the Europeans arrived: this is undeniable. But there couldn’t have been a lot of people before this. We know this because, when large numbers of people live in an area for a long time, they destroy it. People couldn’t have lived in the Americas in large numbers for very long, because we don’t see the destruction.
For a long time, this simple argument was accepted. There were a lot of people in the Caribbean, Mexico, and the Southeastern part of North America when the first Europeans arrived. But these people were recent arrivals. Go back a few hundred years, and the population had to have been zero, so close to zero that we can basically ignore it.
But modern tools are showing that this simply wasn’t true. Humans lived in the Americas for more than 10,000 years. Humans, like other animals, have sexual desires. They have sex and this leads to babies. If there is no birth control, and food is plentiful, populations increase. With four children that live to sexual maturity per couple, they double ever 25 years. How is it possible to have a population of few thousand people that remains stable for 10,000 years? The people would have to not have sex. They would have to have not fed their crying babies. Animals that don’t have sex and/or don’t feed their babies go extinct very quickly. There is no natural force that can keep populations steady for even hundreds of years, let alone thousands.
Each decade, as technology advances, the evidence shows that the population had to be much higher than the estimates a decade before. At first, it was 45 million (close to the figures for the parts of the Americas the Europeans first encountered, before European plagues arrived; for this to be the total population, the parts of the Americas where the Europeans didn’t arrive immediately would have had to have been vacant.) It kept going up and is now at hundreds of millions. How many hundreds of millions? Now, the population of the Americas is about 900 million.
We can find evidence that the pre-conquest American people went to great lengths to keep their environment healthy in many places. But the most obvious evidence is the fact that hundreds of millions of people lived on these continents for thousands of years without destroying it.
When I talk to people about the state of the environment, I get nothing but depression. They say, almost universally, that we are doomed. It is not possible, they say, for large numbers of people to live in an area for any reasonable period of time without destroying the land and making it uninhabitable. This is a truism that they accept as if it is a self-evident fact, not worth taking the time to prove because there is no possible way it can’t be true. Since it is impossible for us to survive, there is no point in trying. Why waste time doing the impossible?
But history tells us it is not impossible. Other people did it. Why can’t we?
The quote below shows how a person born and raised in a system like this might look at the world around them and might view people they see who treated the world differently. It comes from a letter by Chief Seattle to the Duwamish to William Medill, the head of the Indian Affairs Department, a division of the Department of War of the United States of America.
Medill worked for the Department of War of the United States government. Medill reported directly to James Polk, the President. Polk was an expansionist: he believed in a principle called ‘manifest destiny,’ which holds that the creator of this planet had a destiny in mind for each part of it. The creator made this destiny ‘manifest,’ or obvious to the people, by granting the people he wanted to have each part military superiority and then manipulating the battles so that the side he wanted to have the land won the battles and gained control of the land. The creator he believed in, God, had given the United States the largest and most powerful military the world had ever known and surrounded the United States with land populated by people with very limited abilities to defend the land where they lived. Polk believed this indicated that it was God’s plan that the United States take control of this land. He wanted to go to heaven. He couldn’t do this if he didn’t do what God required him to do. He would have to take this land.
He had ordered Medil to remove the people who lived in the areas United States corporations wanted to use to set up their operations. People lived there. Medil had the authority to use military force to remove the people around the Puget sound, but his armies were already stretched thin and didn’t want to have to do this. He sent in negotiators to try to get the people to move voluntarily.
They presented their standard offer: they had identified certain land they would set aside for the ‘Indians.’ This was land that the United States government had determined didn’t have any significant resources and wasn’t very productive farmland, so the corporations and farmers of America wouldn’t put pressure on the government to make it available. The people who lived around the Puget Sound could move to these places. If they agreed to move voluntarily, the government would grant them safe passage and provide them with food and supplies on the trip. When they arrived, the government would give them money. The negotiators framed their proposal in a way that seemed strange to the Duwamish: they were offering to buy the land from the people. The leaders of the people in the Puget Sound knew that the United States had a massive army with equipment and weapons far beyond the means of the Duwamish. The United States could destroy them. They knew that, if they rejected the offer outright, this would happen. They not just lose their homes, they would die horrible deaths at the hands of the conquerors.
The Americans had been negotiating with a leader named Chief Seattle. When he got the offer, he took it to the leaders of the various villages and towns in the area. The different groups had meetings to discuss the response and drafted a response to send to Medill. The passages below are from the response:
How can you buy or sell the sky, the warmth of the land? The idea is strange to us. If we do not own the freshness of the air and the sparkle of the water, how can you buy them?
Every part of this earth is sacred to my people. Every shining pine needle, every sandy shore, every mist in the dark woods, every clearing and humming insect is holy in the memory and experience of my people. The sap which courses through the trees carries the memories of the red man.
The white man’s dead forget the country of their birth when they go to walk among the stars. Our dead never forget this beautiful earth, for it is the mother of the red man. We are part of the earth and it is part of us. The perfumed flowers are our sisters; the deer, the horse, the great eagle, these are our brothers. The rocky crests, the juices in the meadows, the body heat of the pony, and man—all belong to the same family.
So, when the Great Chief in Washington sends word that he wishes to buy our land, he asks much of us. The Great Chief sends word he will reserve us a place so that we can live comfortably to ourselves. He will be our father and we will be his children. So, we will consider your offer to buy our land. But it will not be easy. For this land is sacred to us. This shining water that moves in the streams and rivers is not just water but the blood of our ancestors. If we sell you the land, you must remember that it is sacred, and you must teach your children that it is sacred and that each ghostly reflection in the clear water of the lakes tells of events and memories in the life of my people. The water’s murmur is the voice of my father’s father.
The rivers are our brothers, they quench our thirst. The rivers carry our canoes, and feed our children. If we sell you our land, you must remember, and teach your children, that the rivers are our brothers and yours, and you must henceforth give the rivers the kindness you would give any brother.
We know that the white man does not understand our ways. One portion of land is the same to him as the next, for he is a stranger who comes in the night and takes from the land whatever he needs. The earth is not his brother, but his enemy, and when he has conquered it, he moves on. He leaves his father’s grave behind, and he does not care. He kidnaps the earth from his children, and he does not care. His father’s grave, and his children’s birthright are forgotten. He treats his mother, the earth, and his brother, the sky, as things to be bought, plundered, sold like sheep or bright beads. His appetite will devour the earth and leave behind only a desert.
This we know; the earth does not belong to man; man belongs to the earth. This we know. All things are connected like the blood which unites one family. All things are connected. Even the white man, whose God walks and talks with him as friend to friend, cannot be exempt from the common destiny. We may be brothers after all. We shall see. One thing we know which the white man may one day discover; our God is the same God.
You may think that you own Him as you wish to own our land; but you cannot. He is the God of man, and His compassion is equal for the red man and the white. The earth is precious to Him, and to harm the earth is to heap contempt on its creator. The whites too shall pass; perhaps sooner than all other tribes. Contaminate your bed and you will one night suffocate in your own waste.
But in your perishing you will shine brightly fired by the strength of the God who brought you to this land and for some special purpose gave you dominion over this land and over the red man.
That destiny is a mystery to us, for we do not understand when the buffalo are all slaughtered, the wild horses are tamed, the secret corners of the forest heavy with the scent of many men and the view of the ripe hills blotted by talking wires. That is the end of living and the beginning of survival.
Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect. Man does not weave this web of life. He is merely a strand of it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.
You and I and other people who live in territorial sovereignty societies are so used to destruction we take it for granted. We see it as natural and simply a part of the way existence works.
But it isn’t. When I read Seattle’s letter, I can’t help but put myself in his place, mentally, and think about what these people must have thought the first time they saw people clear-cutting forests, stretching nets across rivers to take every single fish, or using tons of cyanide and other toxic chemicals to extract a few tiny flakes of gold. How could they even believe such a thing could be possible?
Social and Personal Responsibility Incentives
Natural law societies and territorial sovereignty societies work in different ways, creating different incentives. Some of the most important incentives involve the forces pushing people to get along with others.
Territorial sovereignty societies give massive rewards conquerors. The group that conquers land becomes its sovereign owner. Everything on the land belongs to them. Everything under the land, from the imaginary lines that mark the borders of their conquered territory in a pie-shaped wedge to the center of the earth belongs to them. Everything the land produces now belongs to them. Everything that the land will ever produce until the end of time belongs to them. These are the rewards the territorial sovereignty societies offer for the most violent and inhumane behaviors within the capabilities of human beings.
People intent on conquest can use promises to share the benefits of conquest to induce others to help them. They can tell directors of corporations that if the corporations help them, they will give some of the land they take to the corporations or sell it at a ridiculous price that is far less than they would have had to pay for similar land. They can post notices all around the world promising to give land to any soldiers that join the military and then follow the orders of their commander, knowing that they will be ordered to kill large numbers of people and inflict unimaginable misery on people who have done nothing to deserve this misery.
They can use the income they get from prior conquests to pay people to make weapons for their next conquest. If they have been very successful, they may set up extremely large organizations, with millions of people who come to work and spend more than ¾ of their waking hours doing nothing but helping provide supplies to build tools needed to commit the most brutal acts imaginable. They can use part of the wealth they get from conquest to hire trainers to put young men under conditions of great stress so they can’t really understand what they are doing, and then train them to kill on command, without a second thought, and follow orders that, if followed, will clearly get them crippled, driven insane, or killed.
The people who gain most from conquest can use part of the wealth they get to create massive organizational structures dedicated to efficient, well organized, and remorseless mass murder and destruction.
We might think of ‘social responsibility’ as ‘acting in a way that promotes a safe, orderly, and peaceful world for the other members of the human race.’ It is hard to think of anything that is more socially irresponsible than the behaviors that the societies we inherited reward.
We might think of ‘personal responsibility’ as ‘dealing responsibly with others in your personal relationships.’ Everyone who has ever lived in a territorial sovereignty society knows about crime. It is everywhere. The great majority of the people in all territorial sovereignty societies are in a category called the ‘working class.’ These people have no right to share in the bounty of the land and, generally speaking, get nothing at all unless they work. If there aren’t enough jobs for everyone, some people are not going to eat. (You might take a job away from someone by offering to work for less, but that doesn’t mean there are now enough jobs for all: Just as many people are unemployed as before.) Some people are not going to stay alive if they act responsibly and honestly. The reward for crime is the right to remain alive and get enough to eat for a short while. Territorial sovereignty societies work in ways that not only reward socially irresponsible behaviors, they punish social responsibility, often with death.
Natural law societies have entirely different incentive structures because of the way they distribute the basic productivity that represents the bounty of the land. Our group in Pastland has created a natural law society. No country exists to make rules about the bounty. No owners have any rights to decide what to do with it. If we had countries or owners, we (as a group) wouldn’t have to worry about deciding what to do with the bounty of the world. The country or owner would have rules for this. We wouldn’t be involved.
But since we don’t accept that either countries or individuals can own land, there are no rules in place. We have no choice. We have to have meetings and divide the bounty of the land somehow. This leads to some very understandable relationships that tie the rights to get wealth to both personal and social respnsiblity.
Personal Responsibility in Natural law societies
If no one owns the land, no one owns the things it produces. If the land produces rice, no one owns that rice. The group must have meetings of some sort and make decisions about what to do with this rice.
In our case in Pastland, we sell this rice (trade it for money). We then divide the rice by dividing the money. We would be very foolish not to reward the people who went out of their way making sure the land was seeded, and making sure the rice got collected at the right time and brought into storage. If they don’t do these things, we get nothing and we all starve. We must pay them, not because they demand it, but because we need to create incentives for them to step forward in the future.
The amount we pay depends on market forces. If we overpay, more people will volunteer for the work than can take the available jobs. People will compete to get the right to work by offering to work for less than the prevailing rate. We will accept their offers of course: any money we save on production costs goes directly into our own pockets. In time, of course, we will learn what it takes to make sure enough people show up to do the work when it has to be done.
In our case, we wind up paying $700,000 a year for workers and $50,000 a year for the person who organizes everything and the people she needs to help with organizational tasks. We pay a total of $750,000 a year. This leaves $2.4 million, the ‘free cash flow’ of the land. You could think of this as a gift from nature. It will go somewhere but the people who get it will not get it in exchange for anything they do in production; they will get it for free.
So far, we have been assuming we divide the bounty of the land the simplest possible way: everyone gets an equal share.
But we don’t have to do this.
What if people do things that bother the great majority?
They aren’t ‘crimes,’ per se, as we haven’t drawn up a long list of books describing of every single act that might bother anyone in minute detail. There are a lot of things people can do that can bother others. We might not try to write them all down and describe them. People will still know that these things bother others.
Some people like to stay up late and listen to music or watch TV. If walls are thin, this can bother their neighbors. Some parents ignore their children and don’t keep them from bothering the people they see around them. Some people smoke upwind of non-smokers, or swear in inappropriate places. Some people keep doing things that bother others even after they have been told it bothers others and been asked to stop.
In territorial sovereignty societies, there really isn’t anything the people who are bothered can do about this. If it isn’t illegal, the police won’t do anything about it. (My neighbor has a lot of dogs and beats them. I hear him getting angry and screaming at them. I hear the sound of him beating them and then I hear them howling in pain. I have called the police. I live in a remote area with very limited facilities. They say that the law really isn’t very clear on this issue. It will be a very hard case for them, if they get involved, and they aren’t sure they can win. They would rather not try. There is nothing I can do.)
Natural law societies are different.
Our group in Pastland collects the gifts the land provides to the human race. We then divide these gifts the way we agree is best. There is no requirement that we give everyone the same gift. If people do things that bother others, the people who have been bothered can raise the issue at a meting. We don’t have to have a written law against whatever they did to send them a message. We don’t have to ‘take anything away from them’ to make it clear we don’t like the way they are acting, and we certainly don’t have to put them in jail. We were going to give them a large gift. Everyone who was responsible will get a large gift. But the people we have doubts about—the people who haven’t proven to use that they are responsible—will get less.
We don’t have to prove that they did something wrong. In fact, they may not actually do anything wrong at all. It is enough that we think they might be doing things we don’t want to be done. We can make it clear, by the way we divide the gifts the world gives us, that we need people to do more than just ‘not do anything that is obviously irresponsible.’ We need them to act in ways that make everyone around them believe that they are responsible.
If someone loses her temper and causes trouble, even once, she is going to have to win her back into our good graces. This may take months. It may take years. But she is going to have to show that she has her temper under control. If she succeeds, she will be back with the other people who have reputations for honesty. If she fails, we aren’t actually punishing her, we just aren’t giving her the same rewards we give to people who have proven they are responsible.
The concept might be easier to understand if you realize that most natural law societies distributed wealth in parties. When they had a successful hunt, there was a feast and celebration. After taping maple trees for syrup, some people would make candy and there would be music, drink, and confections. Every harvest had is festival and people who had helped got their rewards. People who cause problems don’t have to be ‘punished.’ All we have to do is not invite them to the feasts and celebrations. We eat. They go hungry. They will learn.
We would expect people in natural law societies to not reward people who are irresponsible. We can put this another way: they are rewarding responsibility. In Pastland, we give out the rewards in money. We pay people to be responsible. Everyone who is responsible will get money. People who are not responsible will not get the same amount of money. People who do things that are extremely irresponsible, say stealing, getting into violent fights, or forcing others into sex, may be cut off entirely.
In territorial sovereignty societies, if people commit crimes and get caught, they are put in jail. In jail, they have a safe place to sleep, enough to eat, and at least basic health care. Often, people in territorial sovereignty societies have better lives in jail than they had on the outside. Many people who go to jail and get released commit new crimes almost immediately so they can be put back into the only home they know.
In natural law societies, acts that harm others always have negative consequences. If you are used to getting $2,000 a year as your income from the bounty of the land, and now find you are only going to get $1,000, you will realize your life is no longer as good as it would have been if you had been able to get the same reputation for responsibility as the other people in the group. It is real pain.
Social And Environmental Responsibility Examples In Real Territorial Sovereignty Societies
When people from territorial sovereignty societies first arrived in natural law societies, they were astounded by the behavior of the natives. They had no experience with people who seemed to be naturally honest and caring.
You can clearly read the surprise they felt in their writings. This is from the very first encounter that Columbus had with the people of the first inhabited island he found:
They are very gentile and without knowledge of what is evil, nor do they murder or steal. Your highness may believe that in all the world there can be no better or gentler people. All the people show the most singular loving behavior and they speak pleasantly. I assure Your Highnesses that I believe than in all the world there is no better people nor better country. They love their neighbors as themselves and they have the sweetest talking the world and are gentle and always laughing.
The most prolific writer of the period, Bartolomé de Las Casas, described them this way:
All the land so far discovered is a beehive of people; it is as though God had crowded into these lands the great majority of mankind. And of all the infinite universe of humanity, these people are the most devoid of wickedness and duplicity. They are by nature the most humble, patient, and peaceable, holding no grudges, free from embroilments, neither excitable nor quarrelsome. These people are the most devoid of rancors, hatreds, or desire for vengeance of any people in the world.
They possess little and have no desire to possess worldly goods. For this reason they are not arrogant, embittered, or greedy. They are very clean in their persons, with alert, intelligent minds. Some of the secular Spaniards who have been here for many years say that the goodness of the Indians is undeniable.
The official historian of the Spanish Crown during the time that Columbus was alive was a Dutchman named ‘Peter Myrtar.’ Myrtar was very impressed by the honesty of the people of the lands he studied. He studied the people and came to the conclusion that there is something about the idea of sharing the land and the things the land produced that led to this behavior. Here are some quotes from his official report on the people of the new world, called ‘Orbo Novo’ (The New World), describing the people on the island of Haiti:
It is proven that amongst them the land belongs to everybody, just as does the sun or the water. They know no difference between meum and tuum, that source of all evils. It requires so little to satisfy them, that in that vast region there is always more land to cultivate than is needed. It is indeed a golden age, neither ditches, nor hedges, nor walls to enclose their domains; they live in gardens open to all, without laws and without judges; their conduct is naturally equitable, and whoever injures his neighbor is considered a criminal and an outlaw.
He goes on:
They know neither weights nor measures, nor that source of all misfortunes, money; living in a golden age, without laws, without lying judges, without books, satisfied with their life, and in no wise solicitous for the future.
Columbus left his personal papers, including the logs of his 1492 voyage, to the historian Bartolomé de las Casas. Las Casas reproduced these papers in a multi-volume work called ‘Historia de Las Indies.’
This book was banned shortly after it was published. The authorities considered many of the passages of this book to be dangerous and harmful to the war effort and morale of both the troops and people at home paying for the wars. (They wanted to conquer the land and take its wealth; the inhabitants were in the way and they wanted them removed. Any literature that humanized the inhabitants or made them seem worthy of empathy was dangerous.)
The ban was in place for five centuries; it was finally removed on June14, 1966. People could now legally read original records of this period, written by people who were actually there and wrote about the things they saw the same day they saw them. But that doesn’t mean this information immediately became available. Most of the banned books had been kept in secret: While the books were banned, the authorities could and did execute any people found with them, often through public torture. Obviously, there weren’t a lot of records that showed where they books were located and now to find them. These books only really became accessible in the 2000s, when researchers began taking scanners into the archives; they scanned everything, digitized it, and then indexed it so it could be searched. People who wanted to understand what actually happened could finally do so.
I encourage anyone interested in what really happened to read the actual records of the events written by people who were there. The logs that Columbus kept tell us a lot about the clash that took place between these two entirely different cultures. We, living in the far distant future, don’t know what really happened. The authorities didn’t really want people to know what happened (otherwise, they wouldn’t have felt they had to ban the records). There are thousands of books and other documents that have been banned, hidden, or distorted that can help us understand how events in the past really unfolded and how the world came to work as it does.
Here, I want to just focus on the issue of social and personal responsibility, so we can see the differences in the two different societies that have existed in human history.
Columbus had many occasions to witness the honesty of the people of Haiti and the other Caribbean islands. One such occasion was Christmas day, 1492. Columbus had been able to let the natives know certain day, the 25th of December, was a very important to his people. The people of one town in Haiti decided to take advantage of this to organize a party. They put together a massive feast and celebration to be held on Christmas. A man named ‘Guanahani,’ who Columbus referred to as ‘the king’ in his records, had invited Columbus to be his personal guest at this festival. Columbus had accepted the invitation.
Columbus had three ships, two tiny, highly maneuverable ‘caravels,’ the Nina and Pinta, and an extremely large and heavy supply ship, the Santa Maria. Columbus had taken command of the large ship. Three days before Christmas, he began making his way to the town that had issued the invitation. He had not planned his time well and knew he wouldn’t make it on time unless he hurried. By the time of nightfall of Christmas Eve, he was still far away and decided to take the risk of running at night, so he could be there on time.
This was dangerous because the waters around Haiti have many reefs, sandbars, and rocks that could damage the ship. Shortly after midnight, he ran the ship on a reef. It was stuck. He couldn’t get it off. (If you read his logs, you will see that Columbus was an arrogant man who wanted to take credit for everything good that happened and wouldn’t take responsibility for anything bad. He came up with a long story to blame the wreck on a cabin boy and the watch captain who disobeyed standing orders to let the cabin boy take charge. But he was in charge. If the ship wrecked, in my opinion, he was responsible for it.) The ship had all of the provisions for the expedition. He tried to save it by having everything thrown overboard that wasn’t nailed down, in the hope this would lighten the ship and they could float it off the reef, but this didn’t work and the ship sank.
He then did a lot of different things that he describes in his logs. One was to send a man ahead to tell Guanahani that he wouldn’t be able to make Christmas dinner as he had promised. He wasn’t asking for help, he just wanted to let his host know that he wouldn’t be there. Here is what happened next, from the logs:
I sent boat to shore to inform the king, who had invited the ships to come on the previous Saturday. His town was about a league and a half from the reef. They reported that he wept when he heard the news, and he sent all his people with large canoes to unload the ship. This was done, and they landed all there was between decks in a very short time.
Such was the great promptitude and diligence shown by that king.
He himself, with brothers and relations, were actively assisting as well in the ship as in the care of the property when it was landed, that all might be properly guarded.
The king and all his people wept. They are a loving people, without covetousness, and fit for anything, and I assure your Highnesses that there is no better land nor people. They love their neighbors as themselves, and their speech is the sweetest and gentlest in the world, and always with a smile. Your Highnesses should believe that they have very good customs among themselves. The king is a man of remarkable presence, and with a certain self-contained manner that is a pleasure to see. They have good memories, wish to see everything, and ask the use of what they see.
Here is the log entry for the next day:
All of the goods of their supply ship had been scattered to the sea. The ship itself had been torn to pieces on the reef. The natives arrived with large numbers of divers. These divers scoured the sea. They collected everything from the ship. All the broken boards, all the nails. They had had to break open some of the cabinets to remove the things inside but all the contents, together with the boards and nails, had been collected.
They brought these items to town and stored them outside, while they had several people empty their homes of their personal items, so that the items from the ship could be stored in these buildings. Hundreds of people had access to these items. Any of them could have secreted something away. If this had happened in Lisbon or Palos, Columbus wouldn’t have expected to recover anything: people would take everything, starting with the most valuable items. But on Haiti, this didn’t happen. In many places in the logs, Columbus describes how badly the natives wanted the things the ship carried. They would trade family treasures made of solid gold (something they quickly realized Columbus valued) for trinkets like the little brass bells called ‘hawks bells.’ They wanted these items, but only if they could get them honestly.
Perhaps, in Lisbon or Palos, there would be some people who would feel bound to return at least some of the things they collected. Some people would return everything and not even ask for a reward. But the people of Haiti appeared to all be honest. How could such a thing happen?
If we understand the incentive system, and realize that incentives really do matter, this makes sense. The system they live in naturally rewards responsibility. People are paid (if they use money) to act in responsible ways. They can get far more by being honest than by being dishonest. They grow up with this reality. It is a part of their lives from birth. The people around them are honest. They see this every day. They would not see this as a result of cultural conditioning due to the inherent reward systems of their society. To them, this is just the way human beings act.
Back to the Future
How about today? Is there something about the island that makes anyone who lives there incredibly honest and responsible? People who run the United States government’s travel department collect data about the different places government employees may travel and present information to help them prepare for their trip. The quote below is from the site, referring to the people of the same island today:
Reconsider travel to Haiti due to crime and civil unrest. Violent crime, such as armed robbery, is common. Protests, tire burning, and road blockages are frequent and often spontaneous. Local police may lack the resources to respond effectively to serious criminal incidents, and emergency response, including ambulance service, is limited or non-existent.
Travelers are sometimes targeted, followed, and violently attacked and robbed shortly after leaving the Port-au-Prince international airport. The U.S. Embassy requires its personnel to use official transportation to and from the airport, and it takes steps to detect surveillance and deter criminal attacks during these transports.
The U.S. government has limited ability to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens in some areas of Haiti. The Embassy discourages its personnel from walking in most neighborhoods. The Embassy prohibits its personnel from:
Visiting establishments after dark without secure, on-site parking.
Using any kind of public transportation or taxis.
Visiting banks and using ATMs.
Driving outside of Port-au-Prince at night.
Traveling anywhere between 1:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m..
Visiting certain parts of the city at any time without prior approval and special security measures in place.
If you decide to travel to Haiti:
Arrange airport transfers and hotels in advance, or have your host meet you upon arrival.
Be careful about providing your destination address in Haiti. Do not provide personal information to unauthorized individuals located in the immigration, customs, or other areas inside or near any airports in Haiti.
As you leave the airport, make sure you are not being followed. If you notice you are being followed, drive to the nearest police station immediately.
Do not physically resist any robbery attempt.
Shortly after Columbus arrived, the newcomers began destroying the societies that had been there for thousands of years. They were raised in entirely different societies that worked entirely differently. They wanted to get rid of the societies that were there and replace them with those built on the principles they understood. They seemed to have succeeded.
‘Personal responsibility’ means being responsible in your dealings with others on an individual level.
‘Social responsibility’ means help to create a better society.
It is hard to imagine anything that is more socially irresponsible than this:
Imagine you are a member of a peaceful and generally responsible group. You see there is wealth that is shared among the people and want it for yourself. You can’t take it personally, because you can’t overcome everyone else to take it. But you can find ways to create a gang and somehow convince them that they are entitled in some way and for some reason to the wealth. It is theirs and they have a right to take it. You will lead them and help them. It will be hard, but if they succeed, they will have something that is rightfully theirs, and the people who get it now (who are not entitled) will not get it.
You might try telling them something like this: They won’t be ‘members of a gang’ they will be ‘founders of a nation.’ You may hire someone to come up with a glorious sounding piece of music to be a ‘national anthem.’ You may hire someone to sew some cloth into a special pattern and call it a ‘flag.’ You might draw up a document that says that your nation stands for wonderful principles and expresses high sounding ideals that, by implication, the others around you don’t care about. The people of this nation are not independent. Other people who are not citizens of the nation are sharing the wealth of the land that has been properly claimed by and therefore belongs to the nation. The people of the nation are not free: they don’t have the right to determine what happens to the wealth of their nation without interference. Freedom and independence are not given, they have to be taken. If the people of the nation don’t fight for these things, they don’t deserve anything at all. You can hire professionals to write stories about the horrible things that the people who hate the country and want to deny it rights are doing. You can call them tyrants, villains, demons, devils, and monsters. You can make up and spread stories that they do horrible things, like terrorize ‘their own people’ and kill and eat babies.
The people who start wars in our world today spend months or years preparing people for the wars. They need people to have a certain mindset. There are a lot of books that explain how to create this mindset. It is not an art, it is a science. You can learn this science in school. Follow the procedures, go from step to step, and pretty soon people’s minds will be prepared. They will be itching for war, anxious for it, craving it, ready to fight anyone who says the war is a bad idea or tries to use reason to combat the hatred.
This sounds like a truly horrible thing for anyone to do and if you want an example of ‘the most extreme kind of social irresponsibility possible’ you probably couldn’t find anything more extreme than this.
Now think back about your schooling. Some group of people created the ‘curriculum’ (the general guidelines for the educational process). Who was in charge of this group? (Was it the same organization that organizes for war?)
You and I were raised in a crazy world.
The schools in our world today teach children that their highest allegiance is not to the human race (we don’t pledge allegiance to the human race) or to their planet, or to nature and its wondrous gifts. Their highest allegiance is to an entity called a ‘country.’
What exactly is a ‘country?’
Why are children required to pledge their allegiance to it?
Children are told that their country is a wonderful thing with qualities that sound too good to be true, like liberty and justice for all. Is this really true? In countries that make this claim, is it really true that no one has ever been subjected to injustice or treated unfairly? (Is there ‘justice for all’?) No one has been put into prison, forced to work to get the necessities of life, conscripted into military service, or otherwise deprived of their liberty, ever, under any circumstances? If it does not do this, what is the logic behind having children openly claim it does? Is this done to make the world a better place and to improve conditions of existence for the human race? Or is there some other purpose?
What about telling children lies that are called ‘history lessons?’ What is the purpose of this? Why did the leaders of the societies in power ban actual records of events regarding the clash of societies that took place 500 years ago? Was this to make the world better for everyone? Or were they trying to manipulate the way children thought and keep truths from them that would make it harder to create this mindset?
Social and environmental responsibility in natural law societies
Our group in Pastland has passed a moratorium.
The majority of our group—which is the majority of the human race—has decided we don’t want any human entities owning any part of the world, at least not right away. A few people don’t like this moratorium and voted against it. But after the vote, the chairperson talked to these people. She said ‘the majority has ruled; are you going to respect the will of the majority or are you going to try fight to get rights to this land for yourself or a country?’ Most were willing to accept the will of the majority. Two people said they were not willing to accept: they were raised and educated to believe they had a responsibility to put the interests of their country above everything else. The country was more important than life itself. They would not agree to stop fighting for rights for their country.’
She told them that, if they want the benefits of living with a group of people, they have to make certain concessions. They have just announced that they will use violence to make sure the majority will not get the things the majority wants. We can’t let someone who is going to use violence against the majority to live with us. If you can’t agree you will follow accept the rule we made (a simple one, the moratorium) you will have to leave. The two people who had said that they refused to honor the moratorium thought about this and realized that the benefits of living with an organized group, working together, were far greater than the benefits of having the right to organize for violence against the majority (of the human race) to try to gain some advantage over others.
Territorial sovereignty societies rest on a certain foundation: Each self-defined group of people in the world can stake out a certain part of the world and call it their sovereign territory or ‘nation.’ They can then use any means necessary, including organized mass murder, to make sure no one interferes in their claimed rights. These societies are built on social irresponsibility. They can’t really exist without it: It is true that some countries may have peace and responsible leaders for a time, but it will always be possible for a person to take over a country and use its wealth for things that harm the people of the world as a whole. If we think of ‘the society on earth’ as a single entity, it always be possible for someone to harm it.
Our simple natural law society in Pastland includes all members of the human race. Everyone in it has agreed they will not take any steps to try to use force to overthrow the will of the majority of the members of the human race. They have accepted this is the prime directive of our race and nothing is more important to us than protecting this prime directive. Anyone who violates this can’t live with us. We will do anything and take any steps necessary to make sure any attempt to use force to override our directives does not succeed.
We have to do this. We have no choice. If we ever allow people to get away with using force to prevent override the will of the majority we (referring to the human race as a whole) lose all ability to do anything collectively as a group. Nothing we want (where ‘we’ means ‘the people of the earth’) matters. We become helpless. This is why our prime directive has to be to make sure that no one ever has the ability to overcome the mandate of the majority. This has to be there to support anything else we do.
National law societies have a characteristic that makes it very hard for small groups of people to gain control of enough resources to force undesirable change on the group as a whole: they use direct democracy to determine what happens to the most important flow of wealth, the bounty of the land.
Our group in Pastland provides a good example. After we pay the people who do things in production, we have $2.4 million in cash on the table. We have meetings and elections to determine what happens to it. We use it for whatever we want. If people want more of it, they have to convince us to let them have it. If they try to take it, by force, they will not be able to do this because they will never be able to match the resources of the defenders. If people try to use force to get more of this wealth than an equal share, we can cut them off entirely and not even give them an equal share. We can give them nothing at all. Then, they have no hope at all:
A small group with no resources can never defeat a large group with enormous resources. People realize this. They know they are not going to win, so they won’t even try.
In territorial sovereignty societies, the bounty does not go to the people. The land is in a country and has an owner. The country makes primary rules about the wealth (obviously, the leaders of the country will get something) and the owners make the secondary rules. There is no wealth that flows to ‘the human race’ or even ‘the people.’ No wealth means no resources to protect their interests. They are at the mercy of the people who do have resources.
Generally, the people who do have resources are either wealthy people, owners, or people who have gained powerful positions in government. The people at the very top are generally in all three categories at the same time: they are wealthy, they own large amounts of cash-flow generating land (so they get enormous incomes) and they have political power. These people make the rules. They decide what they want. If they want to make changes in society that harm the human race as a whole, or ‘their own people,’ they can do this.
Natural law societies have a very simple incentive profile. So far, we have looked at half of it. We have seen that the internal reward systems of natural law societies naturally encourage environment, personal, and social responsibility. People don’t just get good feelings inside their hearts of they act responsibly, they get cold hard cash (in societies that use money for transactions). The amount of money they get depends on how good they are at keeping the environment healthy, maintaining good relationships with as many people as possible, and making sure that the basic functions of society work smoothly and benefit everyone.
Unfortunately, natural law societies also have some extremely undesirable and even dangerous incentives. These societies are so dangerous that they basically disqualify natural law societies as options for us now: we can’t hope to save ourselves by trying to convert to natural law societies.
However, that doesn’t mean that we can’t profit by studying them. they do have very desirable incentives. Territorial sovereignty societies also have desirable incentives. It turns out that these two incentive structures are basically complimentary. Territorial sovereignty societies have incentives that natural law societies don’t have but need, and vice versa. If we understand why this happens, we can design societies that are basically hybrids, giving us the best of both starting societies without the disadvantages of either.
Now let’s consider where natural law societies fail us and the reason that they are not able to help save us from our current dilemma.
There are a lot of ways to get rich in territorial sovereignty societies.
The easiest way is to be born with rich parents. Unfortunately for me, I didn’t know this in time and, by the time I figured it out, it was too late as I was already born. But there are other options.
You can also invent something, discovery something, or find a new way to do things that make life better for others. You can also improve some part of the world. You can buy something, a run down house for example or a farm that needs something it doesn’t have, fix it up, and sell it. You can make fantastic amounts on the increases in prices. The difference between the price you sell the property for and the price you buy is called the ‘capital gain.’ You can make fantastic capital gains for doing things that really aren’t very hard. Mainly because people can make these capital gains, territorial sovereignty societies have very strong incentives for people to gain control of property somehow (usually by buying it), making improvements, and then selling.
In want to give a quick example:
If you look on Loopnet.com or some other website where farms are bought and sold, you will find thousands of ‘properties’ for sale all around the world. Nearly all of the ads will mention the ‘free cash flow’ of the property very prominently; they know that people who are buying properties are far more likely to buy a property that generates free cash and will pay significantly more money for a property that generates a higher free cash flow than a low one.
As I write this in 2022, farms are selling for about 20 times the free cash flow. This means that a farm like the Pastland Farm, with a free cash flow of $2.4 million, will be offered for about $50 million, with the expectation that buyers will make offers slightly lower than the asking price and the farm will eventually sell for about $48 million. A farm with a free cash flow that is 20% higher, or $2.88 million, will be offered for about $59.6 million with the expectation it will sell for about $57.6 million.
Consider this: Say you could find a farm like the Pastland Farm for sale on Loopnet.com. (Don’t worry about not having the money; if you have good credit you can borrow.) Say there is a way that you can make changes to drive up the free cash flow by 20%. (In fact, this would be quite easy to do; see textbox below.) Then, you sell for the higher price. You buy for $48 million and sell for $57.6 million, putting $9.6 million in your pocket, minus whatever it takes to make the change.
Say you can get the improvements made for $1 million. (In other words you can hire people to do everything required to make this work for $1 million. You can get the real estate people working for you, hire people to draw up the plans, get the permits, and actually do the work, then put the improved property on the market again and take care of the paperwork. After all this is done, you will get a check for $9.6 million.)
You make a gain of $9.6 million and pay a cost of $1 million, leaving you with $8.6 million left over.
You can spend this or invest it.
If you invest it at 5%, you will be able to sit back and collect $430,000 in returns, without ever doing anything again for the rest of your life.
Assuming you can borrow the money to make this work, you will basically have to make a few phone calls and tell people what to do. Then, a few months later, you will be set for life, making more than 10 times the income of an average worker who will have to work 40 hours a week for the rest of his career, without doing a single thing, ever.
If I could find a deal like this, I would jump on it.
In fact, people are scouring all sales websites constantly to look for deals like this.
This is why all rice farms have already been leveled.
There are always people looking for farms that can easily be improved.
If they find them, they buy them, improve them, and resell them. I have been in many countries, from the poorest to the richest, and seen many rice farms. Every one of them has already been leveled. If it is on flat land, when it is flooded for seeding there is a mirror-smooth finish on the water, even though it is only a few inches deep. The water looks the same color because the depth is exactly the same everywhere. If is on a hill, it is terraced, with each terrace looking the same. People even grow rice on very steep mountains. When they do, the terraces look like staircases, one flat step after the next. It doesn’t matter what religion people are. Their political party or affiliation doesn’t matter. Their language doesn’t matter. Even in areas without roads, electricity, or schools, the land is level. This is so common, in sovereignty based societies, that many people might think that this is just the way human beings treat rice land. There is something about ‘human nature’ that makes us want to see the flatness and levelness.
But this isn’t true:
The book ‘The Wild Rice Gatherers Of The Upper Lakes; A Study In American Primitive Economics’ discusses the practices of the people who lived on some of what is now the most productive rice land in the world, before their land was conquered and taken over by people from territorial sovereignty societies. It describes the practices of these people in detail. It has pictures. (You can find this book on the PossibleSocieties.com website.) The author, Ernest Jenks, has interviews with the native people who still lived off of these lands in the late 1800s, before the last of the people born and raised in natural law societies who refused to renounce their way of life were forcibly removed from these highly productive lands and put on ‘reservations.’
If you look at the pictures, you can see that the land was far from level.
In fact, the land looks basically unchanged from the way nature made it.
In 1803-1805, Lewis and Clark made a voyage from the headwaters of the Mississippi river in what is now the state of Minnesota to the mouth of the Columbia river in what is now the state of Washington. They traveled slowly. Merewether Lewis, in particular, liked to walk and would walk through the meadows alongside the rivers while the crews pulled the boats along. He remarked often of the incredible variety of nature and how rich and healthy the lands were. He also commented on how strange it was that this rich land was not cultivated.
When the crew stopped for the night or rested, the native people would invite them to their villages and feed them. The staple food in the Pacific Northwest was bread which was made of the roots of the camas plant.
When the natives wanted camas to make bread, they natural meadows; they dug it up, dried it, ground it, and baked the bread. The observers thought that the natives were simply hunter gatherers: nature made the camas grow and they simply gathered it.
We now know that camas has to be cultivated: it is never safe to eat wild camas because one out every 100 plants or so develops into something called ‘death camas.’ It is deadly poisonous and if you eat it you die. The only way known to identify death camas is by the flowers. You need to go to the field, find the dangerous plants, and kill them at the right time of the year. Otherwise you won’t know which are ‘death camas’ and which are safe: grind them together and eat the bread and everyone dies.
The natives did practice agriculture. Many of their crops had to be cultivated. But they didn’t treat their agricultural land the way people from the conquering societies did. They didn’t alter it and modify it, plow it and shape it to try to drive up the value of the land as did people in territorial sovereignty societies, because they didn’t buy and sell land. They grew crops but grew them so much differently than the invaders that the invaders didn’t even realize they were looking at ‘intentionally cultivated farms’ when they saw them.
In territorial sovereignty societies, everything is ownable.
The people who run the governments of the individual territorial units have sovereignty. This means they can create any laws they want. (Subject, of course, to any limitations the ‘founders’ of the country created when they made the country.) If they want people to be able to own ideas, they can make ideas ownable, by making patents, copyrights, and trade secrets ownable. If they want people to build factories, they make collective financial systems like ‘anonymous, zero liability, joint stock companies’ ownable.
The entities called ‘governments of countries’ can pass laws that make it legal to own pretty much anything and then protect the rights of the owners. The owners can then by and sell their rights in ways that allow them to make fantastic sums of money by ownership of things we may not even consider to be important, like even the simplest ideas.
Here is an example: In 2009, Jack Dorsey came up with the idea of a media company that had very, very short ‘stories.’ This company wouldn’t allow any story to be more than 140 characters long. He knew that people had very short attention spans. They thought they would be more likely to spend time on a site that had lots of stories they could read in a few seconds, than on traditional media sites where it took several minutes to read a single story. Dorsey and some of his friends bought servers and set up a system where people could post these stories, which they called ‘tweets.’ They didn’t want to have to worry about possible personal liability for damage that might be caused when people posted things that led to violence, so they created a corporation for this. (See text box above for more about liability and corporations.) They called it ‘twitter’ and called the extremely short stories ‘tweets.’
They had no idea how they would make money from it and didn’t even really try. They just thought it would be popular and figured that, if a lot of people came to their site, someone else would figure out a way to make money out of it. The people who figured this out would buy their process by buying the corporation that they had created, ‘Twitter Incorporated.’ In 2013, a lot of people had ideas for this and began to make offers for the company. They people who created it began to sell at a price that represented a total value for the corporation of $1.8 billion. Dorsey became one of the richest people on earth overnight. He sold his shares and used part of the money to create other corporations that incorporated other new ideas. Now his is worth $4.6 billion. (Actually, we can’t say the exact amount because his wealth is in ownership shares in companies and their value changes every second of every day the market is open. Between the time you start this sentence and the time you finish it, he may be $100 million richer.)
This kind of thing happens in territorial sovereignty societies. The people who run the countries can make anything they want ownable, including ideas. (They have sovereignty which means they can do anything the laws created by the founders and people who came before them don’t prohibit.) These societies start with the idea that parts of planets are ownable. They extend the ideas related to ‘ownership of parts of planets’ to other things they want to be ownable.
This chapter is not about territorial sovereignty societies, it is about natural law societies. I am only discussing territorial sovereignty societies here so you can see that the realities of natural law societies and territorial sovereignty societies are totally different and the way people can get rich in these societies are totally different. (The next chapter discusses the practical realities of territorial sovereignty societies and shows how they work.)
A lot of the ‘ways people can get rich’ in territorial sovereignty societies seem mysterious. Where, exactly, does the $4.6 billion that Jack Dorsey has come from? What process caused this money to flow to him, who gave it up, and why did they give it up? The processes that cause people to get money in territorial sovereignty societies are far more complicated than the processes that cause people to get money in natural law societies. It is pretty easy to understand how people get money in natural law societies and all the flows of money make a lot of sense. Since we know where the money comes from and how it gets to the people who end up with it, we can easily understand the incentives.
In natural law societies it is easy to see why people get money and where it comes from. The system in Pastland is particularly simple (I created it to be easy to understand). Each year, all rice the land produced is sold (exchanged for money). We put all the money on a table. We then decide what to do with it. Some of it goes to people who work and do things that benefit us. We know we are better off letting them have this money and give it to them. But the world is bountiful so, after we have paid them, the great majority of the money is left over. This is the ‘free cash flow’ of the land: the money that flows from the land each year. We divide this evenly. Everyone gets whatever money they have earned plus an equal share of the unearned wealth.
But in territorial sovereignty societies, people can make fantastic amounts of money without doing anything. Dorsey didn’t make his $4.6 billon as salary, as pay for anything he did, or as profits. He got this money by ‘owning’ things. The amounts of money that people can make by ‘owning things’ is so vast, in these societies, that it dwarfs the amounts of money people can make working, providing services, or even by operating profitable businesses. (Twitter had not generated a single dime of revenue when Dorsey became a billionaire.)
Now let’s expand this to a larger scale: In November of 2021, the market value of all publicly traded stocks sold on organized stock market exchanges was $109 trillion. This was an increase of 19.7% over the previous year, so the people who owned these stocks made roughly $21.473 trillion that year. The ‘global GDP’ or the ‘total money value of every good created and every service provided everywhere on earth’ was $93.86 trillion that year. The people who owned publicly traded stocks made enough money to buy more than 20% of this.
And this is just one asset class. In other words, it is just one of the ‘things that people can make money owning in territorial sovereignty societies that can’t be owned at all in natural law societies.’ I chose it for this example because data is easy to find so there can’t be any controversy over them. How much money do ‘owners of the many items that can be owned in territorial sovereignty societies that can’t be owned in natural law societies’ get, in total, each year? How much of the ‘things of value created and services provided on the earth’ are purchased with this money? How does this compare to the amount of wealth that people can get by working at a job or by making actual profits by operating a business that creates value?
Why do people get money in territorial sovereignty societies? What are the structures that make this happen? What are the side effects of the operations of these structures? What incentives does this distribution of wealth create?
To answer these questions, we need to examine territorial sovereignty societies and that is not the purpose of this chapter. But there is one thing we can say for sure, without knowing the answers to these questions: territorial sovereignty societies allow people to get very rich if they do things that lead to progress, advances in technology, and growth in the ability of the land to create value. We may argue about whether Jack Dorsey really made the world better in any substantial way by creating Twitter. Perhaps the people who use his product only think their lives are better, because they have snippets of stories that they can use as talking points to make people think they understand things that they don’t really understand. But this society offers such fantastic rewards to people who do things that may possibly improve life that even creating an illusion that he made life better (by making sure they never saw ‘stories’ that were longer than 140 characters) made him a multi-billionaire.
We can’t know exactly why these flows of value encourage people to try new things without understanding the details, but we can see there is a connection: people will think and plan. They will get up before dawn, chugging coffee to pull them to alertness, so they can get to work solving problems with their idea. They will make their children do without things they want so they can hire people to help them or buy equipment they need to help with their work. They will spend all day, every day, welded to their workspace, keeping jars around so they don’t have to leave even long enough to go to the bathroom. They will lose track of time as the hours and days drift by, only stopping when their bodies can no longer function due to the lack of sleep. They will take incredible risks and chances, putting everything they have earned their entire lives on the line, just on the hope that they can be the next Jack Dorsey.
Territorial sovereignty societies clearly have some kind of incentive system that does NOT exist in natural law societies that pushes people in them to do these things. Because of ‘whatever these incentives are’ we have media and advertising venues that would not otherwise exist. We also have electricity (Edison was clearly driven by his work), phones, televisions, jets, computers, solar panels, and audio-video cameras that can capture and record everything that happens around us with better resolution than our eyes and ears can detect.
Territorial sovereignty societies are dynamic societies: they are always changing. They change so fast that it is scary. Often, people in these societies make more progress in a single year than the entire human race made in the entire 344,000 years that we were on this world before the first territorial sovereignty societies came to exist about 6,000 years ago.
Natural law societies are not dynamic societies. They can remain unchanged for incredibly long periods of time. Humans have had fire, clothing, and the ability to make homes for hundreds of thousands of years. (Forensic History provides the evidence for this.) You might imagine how these people lived. If you then pick up the Journals of Lewis and Clark from their voyages in 1803-1805, you will find descriptions of the way the people who still had natural law societies in North America lived. They lived with at three large communities of these people for many months (the Hidatsu of Minnesota, the Nez Pierce of Idaho, and the numerous tribes that lived together along the coasts of what is now Oregon and Washington in the winter of 1805). They describe the way these people lived in great detail. When I read these descriptions, I can imagine that the same people lived the exact same way a century earlier; in fact, they may have lived the same way a thousand years earlier, or even ten thousand years earlier. Their way of life may well be no different than it was when the first humans came to this area.
Our group in Pastland has a natural law society. The incentive systems of these societies ‘condition’ us and lead to certain realities we would expect. We are all harmed if the land around us is harmed so we have incentives to make sure no harm comes to it. We are all ‘paid’ for personal, social, and environmental responsibility: we get a share of the bounty of the world around us if the people who decide who gets this money/wealth agree to let us have it. We have incentives to make sure the people around us see us as responsible people. But the forces that push for progress, growth, technological advances, investment, discovery, and invention in territorial sovereignty societies do not exist in our natural law society.
This does not mean that there will never be progress and no one will ever invent anything. Incentives are not behaviors, they are behavioral motivations. People have ideas in any society. They may not be able to make any money off of them, but they often try to make things work even if there is no money in it. Some of these ideas work out. But even if they do, natural law societies don’t allow people to take ownership of these ideas and buy and sell rights to them in ways that will allow them to create large-scale systems that will allow the ideas to advance. The ideas may be passed down from generation to generation for a few generations through some oral descriptions, but mostly as curiosities. But there is no pressure to figure out how to alter these new things in ways that will turn them into specific products that are in demand. They discoveries eventually are lost and become a part of history.
For example, consider the metal bronze, made by mixing copper and tin. It is far stronger than either individual metal and extremely useful, particularly as weapons in warfare. There is evidence that people made bronze items, in small quantities, in natural law societies, off and on, for thousands of years. But the process didn’t become a regular part of human societies in general until about 2000 BC, well into the age of territorial sovereignty societies. when weapons makers found about its advantages. (Many people like to decorate themselves with jewelry. This is true in the societies we inherited and was true in natural law societies. People making jewelry generally have to heat metals and mix them, to create different colors for the finished products.)
Things are discovered. But no one puts together formal systems to turn these discoveries into useful items and build them in large numbers. Eventually, the discoveries are lost. This can explain why the natives of America were able to live in very primitive conditions, even though they had been around for many thousands of years and showed the same level of curiosity and intelligence as people in the world today: these societies didn’t have any forces that even allowed them to maintain their current level of technology, let alone improve it.
Reversion to Primitiveness in Pastland
Our group in Pastland brought back a lot of wonderful things from the future. We have the ship itself, made mostly of steel (an item that doesn’t normally exist in nature and has to be manufactured by humans). We have computers, the generators and solar panels we use to generate our electricity, refrigerators to keep our food from spoiling, machines to help us sow the seeds and harvest the things the land gives us, radios, televisions, telephones, and the internet.
We have these things now, but they aren’t going to last forever. When they break, we won’t have parts to fix them.
The ship is made almost entirely of steel. If steel gets exposed to oxygen from the air, it starts rusting immediately. Steel parts have to be protected by paint or they will rust to nothing. We didn’t bring paint with us from the future. A lot of paint was scraped from the ship in the events related to the time warp and many parts of the ship are already rusting. Within a few decades, structures that were once thick enough to drive a tank across will be thin enough to poke a hand through. Within a few generations, the floors and walls of the ship will be paper-thin and the ship will be so dangerous that we won’t be able to live there anymore.
We will have to move out onto the land.
If we still have an absolute prohibition on ownability and prohibit any alterations to the land, we will have to live in temporary structures like the teepees that the American natives in this area used before the first European people arrived.
When we arrived in the past, we had electricity produced by generators and solar panels. We had a great many products that used electricity to operate. These items have moving parts. Generators have rotors that turn on bearings, and bearings eventually wear out. Eventually our generators will break, and we won’t have the parts to fix them.
When the last of our generating devices fail, all our electrical devices will become useless. All the data that was on hard drives will be lost forever. If we have no paper factories, we won’t be able to write any of this information down and will have to pass it down to future generations verbally. It won’t take long before the great bulk of the information about how to make things that we brought back from the future will be lost.
We will have babies: we don’t need any technology or factories for this; no investments are required. Have sex and babies will come. We have plentiful food; even without machines to collect the food, we will all have plenty to eat. Babies will have good nutrition and grow up healthy.
Before modern birth control methods came into existence, the average woman gave birth about 8 times in her life. If half of the babies survived to breeding age themselves, the population would double in a single generation. (Four offspring would be alive and ready to reproduce from the original couple.)
If the population doubles every generation, it will increase by a factor of 32 every century and by a factor of more than 1000 every 200 years. We don’t need technology for population to grow. All we need is food and we have plenty of that.
The human population of the earth will grow. We will spread out across the land. Children will hear the stories of all of the wonderful things that people used to have, like giant ships that sailed the oceans, computers that stored vast amounts of data, and refrigerating devices that provided wonderful treats like ice cream on the hottest days. In time, children will start to think of these stories as nonsense; stories told by adults for some unknown reason that really have no relationship to anything real or important in their lives.
They will stop believing these things.
Parents will not waste time telling their children stories that they don’t believe themselves. All of the information we brought back from us from the 21st century will be forgotten.
Why Does this Matter?
If we keep the natural law society, we will eventually wind up living much as the American native people lived, as described by Lewis and Clark in their journals.
Some may say this isn’t a bad thing at all.
These people lived in harmony with the land.
They did have conflicts, but they didn’t form giant organizations to take wealth from the people as taxes and pay massive corporations to make weapons. Their conflicts were ‘like the games of children’ compared to the conflicts that took place in territorial sovereignty societies. No one would have to worry about being wiped out in a nuclear war or destroyed by global warming.
In fact, when both cultures existed at the same time, a great many people basically ‘ran away’ from territorial sovereignty societies to live withthe people of natural law societies. Records from the first few centuries of the settlement of North America discuss the problems tracking down both slaves and indentured servants (white slaves) who ran away from their masters. If the slaves/servants ran away to join the ‘Indians,’ they generally would never be recaptured. Many people left the societies of the conquerors to live with the natives for the simpler lives. Some of them eventually returned to society and wrote books about their experiences. (Alexander Henry wrote a very good book about the 7 years he lived this way.) The lifestyle of these people still holds some appeal today and many people spend small fortunes to have an opportunity to live ‘the way the Indians lived’ for a few weeks a year during their vacations.
Why not keep the natural law society in Pastland indefinitely?
In fact, this is not a solution to the problem we face. Although natural law societies can last longer than territorial sovereignty societies, they have a very serious problem that will eventually cause them to go away too. At times, the people of these societies will live through poverty that is almost unimaginable to people who live in territorial sovereignty societies. They will watch people starve to death daily. They will not be able to sleep for the crying of children who have not been fed. They will have to resort to horrible practices that include infanticide, gericide, and even ritual human sacrifices to cull their population to match the food supply.
They will look for anything that can help.
They will realize that letting people own can help. If people can own parts of planets, they have incentives to do things that improve it and drive up the amount it produces. There will be real, practical, pressure to change the foundational principles of their societies.
This pressure was a part of human existence for hundreds of thousands of years. But there was incredible resistance to it. Natural law societies have very desirable features. They seem fair and reasonable: people get paid for doing things that improve social, environment, and personal realities. They don’t get paid for doing things that harm others and the world. To people raised in natural law societies, the idea of accepting the ownership of parts of planets seems crazy.
The people may resist the temptation to change the foundation of their society for incredibly long periods of time. But eventually, one group somewhere will not be able to resist.
Perhaps, if they had a science of society that would allow them to understand other systems, they may convert to a system that has the same advantages of the natural law society and has a limited kind of ownability that grants ownership of the rights to profit by improving land (perhaps allowing them to own the right to keep all of the increased value for a certain period of time, like the rest of their lives). But if they don’t have a science of societies, they will not know these kinds of systems are even possible. To them, the choice will be: no rights to the world ownable or sovereign rights (all rights) ownable. In other words, if they don’t know about other options, all they do is have either natural law societies or territorial sovereignty societies.
A Fatal Flaw
The chart below shows what happens to the population of a group that starts at 1,000 and grows at an average rate of 3% per year. This represents three children per couple that survive to breeding age. Note that after 40 generations, or 1,000 years, the population that starts at 1,000 will be above 1 billion. This is about the 2022 population of the entire American landmass.
Long before a thousand years have passed, there won’t be enough food for the people. But, without birth control, the babies will keep coming. Eventually, the people in the natural law societies will have to take desperate measures to deal with the problem. Most of these measures are too horrible for us to even think about. (Infanticide, gericide, and human sacrifices—often where people volunteered to die for the good of the community—were parts of many American societies when the conquers first arrived.)
In the end, the lack of constructive incentives will be a fatal flaw for natural law societies and cause them to disappear.
Eventually, some group somewhere will come accept the idea that a certain group of people is the natural owner of a certain part of the planet with total sovereignty over it. It is their sovereign territory.
Once a group has this other type of society, that group’s production will grow, and its technology will advance. The people in this group will be raised to believe that the land belongs to the country that claims it. People from the first country will head out to areas where there are no countries and form their own countries. Countries will have conflicts with other existing countries over which country certain parts of the world belong to. The people who run the countries will need to defend the land they claim is theirs. If two countries claim the same land, conflict is inevitable. If one side uses force and the other doesn’t, the side that uses force will win. Everyone will see this. Each country will have to have its own military or it won’t be able to protect the land it claims.
The countries will generally find it is easier to take land controlled by the people who still have the old system than to take land controlled by an existing country. They will move out and expand. Countries that can expand faster and gain more land will be able to build bigger armies, allowing them to dominate other existing countries. The people who run countries will organize for conquest. They will be able to take land very rapidly.
The expanding territorial sovereignty societies will face competition, but very little of this will come from the people who have natural law societies. People from other countries will fight them to gain control of the best land. These fights will be brutal and vicious, with enormous numbers of people in the competing countries dying to gain priority for their particular ‘country.’
As a strategic measure, the countries will have to conquer even land that doesn’t have any real use by the conquerors. (It can’t be profitably farmed and doesn’t contain minerals or other resources.) They will have to take all the land. If they leave any land to be not a part of a country, competitors will take it and use it as a base to launch attacks on the more desirable land. The expanding countries will eventually take everything.
Nothing will be left unowned and unownable.
Natural law societies may exist for a very long time. But they will eventually disappear.
This is an important observation for our group in Pastland. If we can accept that the natural law societies are temporary, and will eventually disappear anyway, we might as well use our technology, our skills, talents, and the other advantages that we have to figure out something better and put it into place while this is easy for us to do.
What else is possible?
To understand this, we really need to understand the features of societies that accept ownability. Let’s take a mental trip—a ‘thought experiment’—and see if we can figure out aspects of societies that accept ownability that we can incorporate into the simple natural law societies we started with to create a sound system that can meet the needs of the human race indefinitely into the future.
Part Three Animalistic Territorial Societies