7 Chapter7 Territorial Sovereignty Societies
Things could have happened differently in Pastland.
When we first arrived, a lot of people argued about which country the land was around us belonged to. In the example above, put off the fighting by having a moratorium on letting any person or country own any part of the planet, essentially creating a territorial sovereignty society.
We could have done something differently:
Many people in our world today think that ownership of land is basically a good thing, but the problem is unequal distribution of the land. If everyone had the same amount of land, everyone would be equal. We could then live in harmony, even though we had ownership.
Someone suggests that, to stop the fighting, we must make everyone equal. We divide the productive land into 1000 equal parcels, one for each of us, and then distribute them by lot. There are 1,500 acres, so everyone will get 1.5 acres.
We really aren’t in a position to give the proposal a great deal of thought. People are fighting NOW. They are tearing apart the ship to make weapons. We need to put an end to this so that we can get along. Finally, we decide to accept this idea and divide the land. We have people go out with whatever equipment we have (tape measures, levels, sticks, string) to divide the land. We draw up a map and number the parcels one through one thousand. We put slips of paper with the numbers into a hat and everyone draws a slip.
You draw a number, let’s say it is 333. Parcel 333 belongs to you. You have to look on the map to find it. then you have to trudge through the swamp to find the stakes that mark the corners.
You are now a person of property.
Some part of the world belongs to you.
If you want to get a mental picture of your farm, imagine a piece of swamp where wild rice grows. It has been divided into 1000 parcels with stakes and string. One of the parcels is parcel number 333: this is your farm. It is a square with sides 250 feet by 250 feet. Your farm is square. You have four neighbors, one on each side. The property likes are marked with string stretched between stakes that are pounded into the soft mud.
Your land is marked by stakes that are pushed into soft mud. Strings stretch tight to other stakes and these strings mark your property lines. If you go to a stake, you can push it a little and it will move.
If you can move your lot lines out by 1 inch, your parcel of land will be 21 square feet bigger. This may not sound like much and it isn’t. But this extra 21 square feet of land will produce about 2 pounds. If it is in your land, it is your 2 pounds of rice. If it is in the neighbors land, it is their rice.
Each of the farms is quite tiny. Many of us are not going to be good farmers and aren’t going to make our own farms produce enough to keep ourselves alive. Others are barely going to make it. A few square feet of additional land can make the difference between living and dying to these people.
We could all live on the ship if we wanted to. But if you are on the ship, you aren’t going to be able to keep an eye on your property. Your neighbors may normally be honest. But if you aren’t watching, there is a chance one of them may move her stake out to take away some of your land. You won’t be able to take a chance on this. Most of us are going to take whatever we can from the ship and set up camp on our land.
As long as the property lines are string with sticks, a lot of people are going to be afraid. They need some sort of durable barrier, something that is hard to move. A pile of rocks for a corner is harder to move than a stick, but if you leave for a few hours, it can be moved a few inches. The best thing to do is to build a wall. The higher and stronger the wall, the safer you are going to be.
If you look at any ariel photo anyplace that has territorial sovereignty societies, you will see the walls separating people from each other. They are obvious. Territorial sovereignty societies work in many ways that divide people into different groups and subgroups, most of which have opposing interests. From our very first moments, we will see evidence of this.
Again, incentives are not behaviors. Some neighbors won’t steal land no matter how easy this is. Some neighbors won’t be suspicious of their neighbors and will not take any precautions to protect their land. But we all see the walls all around us. In some cases, they are high and strong walls with broken bottles set in the top to cut up anyone who tries to cross.
Recall the way people from territorial sovereignty societies descried the societies they saw. They were used to societies that walled everyone from everyone else and where everyone was suspicious—with good reason—that anything they didn’t protect would be stolen. Peter Myrtar described the system in Haiti this way:
‘They seem to live in the golden world, in open gardens not entrenched with dikes, divided with hedges, or defended with walls. They deal truly with one another, without laws, without books, and without judges.’
Other Divisions: Classes
Our people are from all walks of life. We have butchers, bakers, bankers, brewers, mechanics, and equipment operators. Most of us specialized in one skill. We learned how to do something specific either in school or at work. We learned what could go wrong if we made mistakes. (Usually, we had to fix them, on our own time; some people had to pay for the damage they caused.) Then, over the years, we did whatever it is that we learned how to do over and over. We have very specific skills.
Only a few of us know everything there is to know about rice farming and are in a position to do all of these things themselves, without help. In fact, even people who have been involved in this field are going to have a lot of problems. Kathy is skilled at hiring people to do each of the jobs and making sure they do the jobs properly. She can’t actually do this work herself, because she is handicapped. (She was badly injured in the wreck and can’t even stand up without help.) There is a perfect time to take in the rice. Harvest too early and it will be green and rot or start to ferment. Wait too long and the grain falls off of the stalks onto the ground and you won’t be able to collect it. Kathy knows the right time. But she can’t actually do the work. Most of the grain on her farm will be lost.
Others will have no idea what to do. They may get some rice harvested, but nearly as much as a crew that had the right tools and a skilled operator making sure they did the work right. Some people are likely to be overwhelmed by the prospect of being responsible for operating a farm. They will see a lot of things that need to be done but won’t know which to do first. Others may simply be lazy. They won’t get out of bed until noon and will stall so long that, by the time they are ready to work, there won’t be enough daylight to get the work done.
Some farmers, of course, will realize the work has to be done and figure out how to do it. They bring in the same amount of rice, per acre, as would have been harvested if a professional had been in charge of organizing the harvest and she had hired people she who could do each of the jobs. In other words, they could collect the same 3,000 pounds of rice per acre used in the previous example. If you are good enough to make this happen, you will bring in 4,500 pounds of rice on a 1.5 acre farm.
It is easier to understand flows of value if we have a tool to measure the value, so let’s say that we start using dollars with the same value as before.
Different Capabilities to Operate Farms
Our group had a very diverse population. Some people are young, some are old. Some are healthy, others have various ailments. Some know how to tell if rice is ripe and ready to come off of the stalks; others wouldn’t be able to boil rice if they had a video to follow. At the end of the year, different people will end up with different amounts of rice.
Some will not have enough to keep them alive for the rest of the year, until the next harvest. They will have to trade whatever they have to offer with the few who have some excess or they won’t eat.
At first, they will trade their personal possessions. They can get by without their jewelry; most of us brought more than one pair of shoes; we have a few personal items we can trade for food. (Laptops and phones aren’t going to be worth much because we don’t have any electricity; we don’t have any common income we can use to pay people to provide any services at all.)
Eventually, some people who need food will have nothing to trade for food other than their land. They will begin to sell parts of their farm. They will start to trade their land for food.
We would expect them to sell mostly to their neighbors.
They could sell one square foot at a time or they could agree to move the boundaries between their farms and their neighbors in ways that increase the neighbor’s land and decrease theirs, in exchange for certain amounts of rice or money.
Of course, if you can’t get enough to keep you alive on 1.5 acres of land, you certainly aren’t going to be able to get enough on less than 1.5 acres. Once you start selling, you will have to keep selling and selling. If you have ever been hungry—I mean really hungry—you will know how painful the decision to sell land can be. If you have ever heard your children crying with hunger, you will know how hard it is to leave anything unsold if you can sell it to get food to ease their pain.
Other people will be good farmers. Even the best farmers aren’t going to have enormous amounts of rice however, because they only have 1.5 acres per person in their household. They will have small surpluses and will able to buy small amounts of land. But each time they increase the size of their farms, their surpluses grow. They have more to trade for land and can buy more land.
As time passes, the land ownership will become concentrated. This happens in all societies built on this kind of ownability of land. We may try very, very hard to start out in with an equal distribution of land. But it won’t matter how good of a job we do to start; the distribution won’t stay equal for long.
In time, some people will have no land at all. They will now have nothing to trade for food but their time. They will go from farm to farm begging for any work they can do to get enough to keep them and their families alive a little longer.
Others will have large farms. Some will own so much land they will have enough to support themselves and workers. They will hire people to do the work on their farms.
Remember, this land is bountiful. This was very easy to see when we had the natural law society: we could hire the best farm manager in the human race, in this case Kathy, to take in the rice. Kathy could then hire the best people available for each job. They would all do their work quickly, efficiently and, most importantly for us, cheaply.
No person is responsible for rice production. Nature produced rice. We only collected it and replanted it, so nature could do the same thing next year as it did this year. Since we did everything with great efficiency, only a small amount of labor and other inputs were needed to collect the rice. After we fully paid for these inputs, we had enormous amounts of rice left over.
People won’t be as efficient in sovereignty-based societies for several reasons.
The first involves skills.
Recall that the best farmer in our group, Kathy, was seriously injured and will probably not be able to do the hard labor needed to actually collect the rice, even on her own plot. In the natural law society, she only managed and didn’t have to do any hard work. In the hundred percent ownability society (sovereignty-based society), she will have to do everything herself. Even the very best farmer on Earth is probably not going to produce enough to keep herself from starving to death (Kathy is very likely to soon lose her land and, since she can’t do hard work, she will have no income and probably starve to death).
A lot of other people had specific skills that Kathy found useful in collecting the rice, but these people didn’t have the general skills needed to be good farmers. Almost certainly, the land won’t provide as much grain for the benefit of the members of the human race (the human population of the Earth, which means all of us, taken together) as it produced in the natural law society.
Free Cash Flows
A few people will be very good. They will be able to produce enough to hire workers to do all the work on the farm, and even hire managers and organizers to make sure everything runs smoothly, and will still have money left over.
Their properties will produce flows of free cash.
If they don’t want to do anything, they don’t have to do anything. They just sit back and collect the free money.
At first, when farms are small, people will only have small free cash flows. But some will have so much in free cash flows that they will have money left over after they pay all of their living expenses.
They will look for something to do with the left over money.
They will have opportunities to ‘invest’ it.
They can find people who are in dire straits and can’t make enough from their land to feed their families and offer to give them a lump sum of money or a pile of food in exchange for some of their land. In many cases, these people will have no choice but to accept the offer. Land will be ‘sold.’
The people with small farms, the poor, will get poorer.
The people with large farms, the rich, will get richer.