Chapter Fourteen Treatment
THROUGHOUT THIS BOOK, I HAVE TRIED TO STACK evidence on top of evidence to make a very simple point:
Survival for our race is possible.
Most of this book presents arguments to back up this claim.
I believe that the technical steps that we need to take to prevent extinction really aren’t particularly complicated. If we know where we are now and how the society we inherited works, and we know how a sane, sound, and healthy society works, we can design a plan to get from here to there pretty easily. The plan itself isn’t the hard part of this kind of transition. The required steps really aren’t onerous or traumatic.
As I worked out the principles of this book over the years, I have tried to discuss its message with many people. Almost without exception their response has been the same: they have tried to argue with the premise. They claim that it is not possible to stop the forces now at work. We are on a path to extinction, we have been on this path for a long time, and there isn’t anything we can do to change this. Anyone who even thinks about what must be done to change it is the very definition of a fool: nothing could be more foolish than to think about trying something that everyone knows is impossible. If you believe a better world is possible, you are a ‘utopian dreamer.’ Nothing could be more foolish than to dream about something that can never be. Anyone who claims there is hope for our race is to be ridiculed.
It seems to me that we are like the engine in the children’s story, ‘The Little Engine that Could,’ only in reverse. We are ‘The Little Engine That Couldn’t.’ Logic and reason tell us we can do it. But there is something about the way we were raised or the way our minds work that somehow makes us believe we can’t. If someone tells us we can do it, our response is to first to laugh at them (they must be joking, right?) and, if this fails, to try to help them to see reality by pointing out the errors in their arguments.
What of the people who try to actually do something? What of Pythagoras, Socrates, and Sir Thomas More? How do we treat them? Do we embrace them: they are working toward a better world, something that makes them better than the rest of us? Or do we fear them? They are saying things that can destroy our world view and the way we look at reality. We want to believe that our depression and lack of action is justified. Those who act are foolish. We, who do nothing, are the ones who are reasonable: those who try to do the impossible are causing problems, diverting attention from important things that need to be done today (don’t we need to win the current war or put people to work to prevent a recession?). People like Pythagoras, Socrates, and More are dangerous. They can harm morale. For the good of society, they need to be removed from society: all three were put to death, with the claim that this was needed to protect society from their heretical and seditious ideas.
The cartoon family the Flintstones had a car that would go if they put their feet through the floor and run and would stop if they dug in their heels through the same hole in the floor. We are like a race of people on a giant train, which easily could make it up the hill ahead, but is full of people holding their feet through holes on the floor, rubbing them raw in an attempt to slow us down, all chanting ‘I think I can’t, I think I can’t, I think I can’t, I know I cant!’ There is something about our psyche, or perhaps the way we were raised, that makes us want to believe we can’t make it. As long as the people of the world think this way, they have a vested interest in extinction: it will vindicate them. It will prove that they were right all along, that they did the right things, felt the right things, and if there is an afterlife they can tell the souls there, ‘See, I told you so.’ Logic and reason are enemies to these people because logic doesn’t support their contention. Logic holds that we, the members of the human race, are the dominant species on this planet. Logic tells us that we are capable of organizing ourselves in non destructive ways.
I think part of the reason that people want to believe everything is hopeless is personal guilt. As long as people can keep believing there is nothing anyone could do, they won’t feel guilty about ignoring the topic. What if they find that solutions really are possible at some point, that there is something they could have done if they had simply allowed their minds to think about it, but their inaction led us further down the path we could have avoided? How must people feel? It must be much more satisfying to simply fight anyone who says that we might possibly make it. As long as they can convince themselves that everything is hopeless and our only reason for existence is to fight for our countries and pray for afterlife redemption, they don’t have to feel ashamed of their lives.
Others have seen this. George Orwell claimed that we are trained to resist any attempt to apply logic and reason to certain areas of our existence: basically, anything that involves thinking about changes that might alter the existing order is off limits. He claimed that we were trained to believe that we don’t even have the right to think about these things and, if we violate this training and let our minds go where they aren’t supposed to go, we are committing a kind of crime against humanity. He called this kind of thinking ‘thoughtcrime.’ He writes that we are taught mental techniques to help protect us from the dangers of thoughtcrime. One of these techniques is called ‘crimestop.’ He describes it this way:
Crimestop means the faculty of stopping short, as though by instinct, at the threshold of any dangerous thought. It includes the power of not grasping analogies, of failing to perceive logical errors, of misunderstanding the simplest arguments if they are inimical to Ingsoc [Orwell’s term for the philosophy behind the societies around us] and of being bored or repelled by any train of thought which is capable of leading in a heretical direction. Crimestop, in short, means protective stupidity. But stupidity is not enough. On the contrary, orthodoxy in the full sense demands a control over one’s own mental processes as complete as that of a contortionist over his body.
I can read the frustration in his mind as he wrote these words. Clearly, he has tried to get people to look at the world logically. Clearly, he saw that we could understand things if we looked at the world logically that we couldn’t understand otherwise. But the people he talked to went to elaborate lengths to avoid thinking this way. Then, when he tried to press them, to get them to see things that were pretty obvious to him, they appeared to be trying to misunderstand even the simplest arguments. When he clarified, creating arguments so simple that no reasonable person could misunderstand, they changed their tactics, claiming that such analysis made them bored and even repelled them: we aren’t supposed to think about such things. They turned off their minds to make it impossible for them to think about societies logically. Orwell appeared to be describing something he had experienced.
In this book, I have tried to make the point that the problems that threaten us are structural problems. We can’t solve them with superficial efforts. We need to understand the way human societies work and the way they can work. Some foundations can support sound societies, others can’t. We happened to have been born into societies in the latter category. These societies have a disease which is clearly fatal.
This disease involves a belief. The people who created these societies started with the premise that humans are capable of owning anything at all. We can own the stars, we can own the planets, we can own animals, and we can own mountains, rivers, lakes, forests, and even nature itself. We can own anything at all if we form into groups, call our groups the right names (nations for example), sew up flags, compose anthems, and draw up documents like constitutions and declarations of independence. People born into natural law societies believe that nature is above humans and that humans depend on nature entirely for our existence. They believe that the dependence of humans on nature is a self-evident law of nature, one that all thinking people should understand. People in sovereignty-based societies somehow believe that we can trick nature into being ownable, provided we go about it the right way, create enough icons, songs, documents, and monuments, and raise our children to believe the same things we believe.
Is it really Mental?
The actual practical steps needed to create a sane society aren’t really difficult to understand; we will go over them shortly. The hard part is getting to the right mental state. To see this is true, consider this thought experiment:
Imagine that a group of aliens have a mind ray that can selectively erase memories in entire populations. They set it to erase all memories related to political education on Earth. People can remember everything else, they just can’t remember anything related to their country or the idea of countries.
You can still speak; your vocabulary is the same. You can add and do math just as well as before. If you knew how to drive before, you can still drive; if you could program a computer or play a piano, you can program and play. Anything you knew from before you still know except if it has to do with countries. You don’t know anything about countries; the word is meaningless to you. If someone were to ask you, ‘Does this land belong to your country?’ your response would be, ‘what is a country?’
Do countries have rights to own and prevent others from benefiting from mountains, rivers, lakes, and other parts of the world? This question would make no sense.
All of the people will look around them and see that they live on a wonderful world, full of bountiful farms, automated factories, and well-built homes. Who has the right to use these facilities? If we believed in countries, we would believe the documents countries have issued that grant rights to certain people, making them individual or corporate owners. But if we don’t believe in countries, we really have no idea who has the rights to these wonderful things.
If we have no idea, we have to come up with something. What makes sense? We are intelligent. Why not figure something out that makes sense? What are the different ways that humans can interact with the land around us? (In other words, what ways that humans interact with the world apart from forming countries and letting countries make the rules?) We can find something that works and put it into place.
It is true that some people will try their best to come up with excuses to try to convince others that they have special rights. They are living in a home. Does that give them special rights? In Inca cities, it did not: the homes weren’t owned by the people who lived in them. They were built as common resources and then divided by lot once every 10 years. If you have been living in a home for 10 years, the Inca people would say that it is time that you give someone else a chance.
We might decide to think of the existing stock of housing and other buildings as similar to the existing stock of forests and mountains; no one owns them, they are common resources, available for the benefit of all. What is the best way to let people benefit from these things? Perhaps, we may decide to set up an auction system and lease them out.
Who will get the lease payments? Since no one owns the land and buildings being rented out, no one owns this money. We could put it into a common fund and then have general elections to determine what happens to this money. Without countries, we would have no particular reason for excluding people born in various other parts of the world from the elections. Everyone could participate. Later, we may decide that we want people to have incentives to improve the properties they are leasing, so we could make the leases marketable, turning them into leaseholds.
The above example was designed to make a point:
If no one had any political indoctrination at all, it wouldn’t be hard at all to move to a sound society. In fact, a little intelligent analysis, and we would move there almost automatically.
Treatment Plan, Phase One
Phase One of the treatment plan involves creating an organization that grants the human race authority over some aspects of global society, shifting some of the authority to make decisions from the entities called ‘governments of countries’ to the human race.
We can do this by going back to Henri Dunant’s plan, as originally envisioned, and starting again. Dunant ultimately failed in his attempt to transfer power and authority to the human race. But if we understand the exact reasons he failed and take steps to avoid the same pitfalls, we can increase our chances of success a great deal. Let’s start by considering what we can learn from Dunant’s efforts, his successes and his failures.
Dunant succeeded in creating a new kind of human body that basically goes above the heads of governments and puts certain decisions into the hands of bodies called ‘non-governmental organizations’ or NGOs. There are currently thousands of NGOs around the world, most of which are working to provide services to the people of the world that governments aren’t providing or don’t provide in consistent ways. Many of these NGOs are enormous organizations with global reach. The largest are the ones that Dunant created. It is true that these organizations aren’t playing the role that Dunant envisioned for them, but they definitely do things to benefit the human race that the governments of the world aren’t willing or able to do.
The fact that they exist at all tells us something very important: it tells us that the people of the world really do care about the conditions on Earth and really do want to help make it better. They have to give to their governments by paying taxes. We can’t really judge by their willingness to give to government-sponsored causes what they care about. But anything they give to NGOs (non-governmental organizations) is given voluntarily. We can tell by the level of support that people voluntarily give the NGOs that Dunant created, and the other NGOs that were created later on the same model, that people don’t just sit back and passively talk about these things. They are willing to back up their concern with their time (volunteering to help), talent, skills, property, money, and anything else they have.
The non-governmental organizations that Dunant started, including the World Court, the World Library (a part of the work of the organization now called UNESCO), the ‘Society For The Complete And Final Abolition Of The Traffic In Negroes And The Slave Trade’ (which provided the foundation of anti-slavery societies around the world which are still active today), the Red Cross, and the Geneva Convention, get support from all around the world.
The societies that Dunant started didn’t end up bringing about the changes he was trying to bring about when he formed them. As we saw earlier, both patriotic and religious forces came into play to prevent these organizations from altering the structural realities of the world, as they were originally intended to do. But Dunant’s efforts helped set up a new approach to dealing with human problems.
The pre-Dunant efforts were based on the premise that the governments of countries were the only real tools that humans could use to solve problems. Dunant realized that governments of countries really couldn’t do anything about the most serious problems of the world, because these problems were global, not specific to any country. In fact, the most serious problem of all, war, was the planned and intentional result of the activities of the governments of countries. It is rather silly to expect these bodies to be useful in solving these problems because the only reason that these problems exist is that governments undertook long-term plans and appropriated massive amounts of wealth to intentionally cause these problems. They not only plan the military activities themselves, but they also use all of the tools at their disposal to create the mindset needed to allow the governments to continue to do these horrible things. To expect governments to help eliminate these problems would be like expecting wolves, grizzly bears, and cougars to take the lead in efforts to protect lambs from predators.
Dunant realized that we can go over the heads of the governments of the world. The people of the world really are interested in taking steps to prevent wars and destruction. He wanted to create an organization that was not associated with any government, but which was intended to give the people of the world tools that they could use to meet their collective needs.
The organizations he created weren’t able go to nearly as far as Dunant intended for them to go. But even with their limited effect, they have done truly incredible things. When disasters come, representatives of the International Red Cross contact the local governments to get permission to help. If the governments allow them to enter (and this often doesn’t happen), the Red Cross moves in a very well organized and well-planned manner to deal with the hardship. It is very rare that government bodies can even come close to matching the resources and capabilities the Red Cross has to deal with disasters.
Dunant helped us understand a new way to deal with human problems: rather than begging our governments to stop spending so much effort on wars and stop supporting destruction of the world, we can give to organizations that are designed to and intended to advance the condition of the human race and planet Earth, without regard to which country is involved.
The organizations he created didn’t go nearly as far as he intended, but they still do things that the people of the world clearly want done. The success of the organizations Dunant created has made it clear to others that they need to transcend the boundaries of countries if they want to have any real impact on the problems facing the human race.
Dunant showed us that, if we set up these organizations and allow people around the world to help run them and support them as they see fit, people will come, help, and support them. We can see this: people want a better world. They are willing to sacrifice their time, effort, property, talent, and skills, to try to make the world better. If we build an NGO that is intentionally designed to solve the problems that threaten us, and which works in ways that move the human race toward better conditions at every step of the way, people will come together and make it work.
The basic idea behind the NGO I propose is not new. I am basically proposing the same organization that Dunant originally wanted, with a few additions and modifications that incorporate tools and structure that weren’t a part of Dunant’s plan.
You may recall from the discussions above that Dunant was trying to do something that the other administrators of the organizations he set up thought was against the principles of their religions. He was trying to do things to limit the ability of governments to conduct war with an aim to eventually end war. For example, he wanted an organization that would use lobbying, grassroots pressure, and other tools of influence to get the governments of the world to agree to binding accords that would require them to submit any disputes they had with governments of other countries to an organization called the World Court.
The World Court would have certain tools it could use to make sure that the governments in the accord complied with its rulings. If the tools of the court weren’t strong enough to make this happen, the other governments that were part of the agreement would have already agreed to support the World Court to ensure compliance.
The NGO called the ‘Geneva Convention’ would also work to limit the scope of war, should it break out in spite of the efforts of the World Court. It would work to organize agreements to NOT use certain weapons, to treat civilians in a civilized manner and protect them from the impacts of war, to resettle displaced persons in a humane manner, to provide humane treatment for prisoners, to notify families of prisoners of the status of the prisoners, to allow prisoners to get care packages and letters from their families, and to abstain entirely from certain unconscionable acts like the use of prisoners for medical experiments and acts of torture.
Although some of Dunant’s ideas were implemented in a very limited way, his grand plan never became reality because of opposition from key officials at the organizations Dunant created. He started the organization with a small group of very rich and powerful people who had the money and connections necessary to create the required legal structures. The members of this small group of people were religious. They shared a common religion, the ‘Calvinist’ branch of the Reformed Protestant branch of the Abrahamic religion called ‘Christianity.’ All Abrahamic religions are based on the principles of the First Book of Moses (called ‘Genesis’ in the Christian version). This doctrine holds that a spirit being who lives in the sky named ‘God’ had created the planet and then created humans. This being then let humans live without countries for 1,634 years but was not satisfied with the results, so he killed everyone except for the members of a family headed by Noah with a great flood and started fresh.
This time, he set up a different system: the spirit being divided the land into countries with well-defined borders. God then chose specific descendents of the surviving family to be the owners of individual countries, with the ownership passed down to descendents of the original owner. (You can find these discussions in ‘Genesis,’ starting with Chapter Ten.) Shortly after God divided the world this way, the countries started using war to try to take additional land. God makes appearances in the religious books from time to time and clearly accepts that the countries that are able to gain dominion over each area (the ones that win the war and drive out or subjugate the other residents of the land) are the legitimate owners of the land they conquer, with the same rights to it as they would have had if the land had been a part of the original land grant.
The religion claims that God has the power to do anything and nothing can exist without God wanting it to exist. Since God created the conditions that lead to war, allowed wars to take place, and accepted the results of the wars as changing the country that owns the land, this all must be a part of God’s plan for the human race.
Dunant wanted to tie the human race together into a world community which would limit the effect of war and, hopefully, eventually eliminate it. In fact, if Dunant’s efforts succeeded, the countries would no longer be the true owners of land: the countries would be subject to the rulings of the World Court, which would be under the control of the human race, so any rights that countries had would be subject to the consent and approval of the people of the planet Earth. If Dunant’s efforts succeeded, countries would no longer have the rights that God gave them (and therefore clearly wanted them to have); they also wouldn’t have access to the tools that they needed to protect these God-given rights. Dunant was trying to interfere in God’s plan for the human race.
Religious people thought they had some rights. Their holy books had two parts, the ‘Old Testament’ and the ‘New Testament.’ The second book is about a benevolent son of God that seeks to mitigate the misery caused by the principle character in the first book. After a war has come through an area, they have the right to come in and alleviate the misery, treat the wounded, and help rebuild the structures that have been destroyed. But they didn’t believe they had any real right to alter the structural realities of society. It was built around countries with God-given rights. The countries must continue to exist and keep these rights. This foundation leads naturally to war. The spirit being who is claimed to have created countries clearly wants war to happen and humans have no right to interfere or get rid of this.
The other key officials in the NGO Dunant created believed that humans did not have the authority to do the things Dunant wanted his NGO to do. They fought Dunant and eventually had him removed from any position of authority in the NGO he created. (As discussed earlier, they had to take all of his money before they could do this; they did this with a series of legal battles that they could easily afford—they were rich—but that Dunant could not afford. After he was broke, they found it easy to remove him.)
After Dunant was removed from the first NGOs he created, he created others, this time starting with allies with more open minds and fewer ties to organized religion.
But here he faced a different problem: the governments of the world would simply not do certain things. The key element of the societies of the world is the idea of sovereignty for countries. The countries claim to be sovereign entities, able to deal with all matters inside their borders without any interference from outside entities. You could say that sovereignty is their prime directive, their ultimate law, something that could never be violated.
NGOs like the World Court could issue rulings about what they think is right and they would happily assign someone to listen. But they wouldn’t agree to be bound by the rulings. To agree to this, they would have to give up their sovereignty. Nothing was more important to them than sovereignty. They wouldn’t give it up, period.
From Dunant’s failures, we can learn that there are certain obstacles that will be in our way. We need to understand this and find ways around or over these obstacles. These obstacles are formidable. But if we understand the tools discussed earlier in this book, we can use them to help us get to a system that transfers control over wealth, and therefore transfers power, to the human race. The more wealth the human race has the more power it has. Eventually, the human race will have enough power to make it the leading authority on Earth. We can be in charge of our destiny, with direct control of the most important variables through biding elections.
The Community of Humankind
We start with an NGO. I will call this NGO the ‘Community of Humankind’ in this example. This may be a new NGO, created specifically to tie the human race together and give us authority, or it may start with an existing NGO that already has a large organization and infrastructure and is willing to accept a model that will increase its scope and power.
It might even be the original NGO that Dunant created, the Red Cross. This organization has changed its orientation over the long period it has existed. As science advances, it becomes able to explain many things that, earlier, could only be explained with references to magic and spirit beings. People educated in science tend to look for and accept scientific explanations for the things they see. People with these education often think of the religious books that claim these same events happened by magic (as a result of the powers of a spirit being who can’t be seen or otherwise detected) as silly remnants of our superstitious past.
If we discard religion, we can see evidence that the human race is actually in charge of its own destiny. We are where we are now because of decisions other people have made in the past. If we want to change the basic structural realities of the societies we live in, we have the ability to do this and we have the right to do it. I think that people are more enlightened now and it is even possible that the organization that Dunant created and was then kicked out of may want to move back to the original plan.
Whether we start with an existing NGO or create a new one, the approach is basically the same: we want an organization that is intentionally designed to empower the human race and give us control over things that, currently, we can’t control.
What gives the human race power? The simple answer is ‘money.’ But money, as a one-time gift, doesn’t really meet our needs. The human race is forever. The money is only going to be available to spend once. If we want to empower the entire human race, including the members of the human race that have not yet been born, we need to set up a system that will allow the human race to have some share of the wealth the world produces over time.
This is clearly possible. We live on an incredibly bountiful world. It produces fantastic flows of free cash over time. This cash represents the right to share in the enormous wealth that flows from the planet. We can set up a system where some of this wealth flows into a fund that belongs to the human race.
The Community of Humankind will do this mainly by accepting endowments and bequests of real estate and corporate assets, then selling leaseholds on these properties. The properties will remain private and the leaseholders will own real rights to them. But some portion of the free wealth that the land produces will flow into a fund that belongs to the human race.
This system is likely to appeal to people for many reasons. One of the main reasons, I believe, is people’s personal attachments and concern for the particular part of the world they have experience with. Say that you were raised on a cattle ranch. You know every inch of the farm and what it can do. You are getting old and know that there will come a time when you won’t be there to work the ranch or even protect it. Many people look at real estate as nothing but a bit of land that sits on top of oil, coal, iron, or other resources. They want to get control of the land so they can destroy it. Say that you don’t want this to happen to your farm. Say you want your farm to continue to be a farm, to raise animals and allow at least some of the people of the world to live in commune with nature.
How can you make sure this happens?
In our 21st century world, there really isn’t any way to do it, at least not any way that anyone is going to have confidence is going to continue working after they are gone. Trusts can be busted. Giving the land to the government isn’t a sure thing: the government can simply sell the land to a corporation that will start raping it right away. There are some NGOs devoted to conservatorship, but they really don’t have the ability to protect land that they own: they may be able to hire rangers to protect large parcels of land that are contiguous, but won’t be able to protect a ranch that is the middle of an area of private ranches. (Donate it to them and they are likely to sell it and use the money to buy land that is close to their existing land and that they can protect.)
The Community of Humankind (capital letters mean this refers to the NGO) will create a leasehold and sell the leasehold with socratic leasehold ownership. The buyer of this leasehold will pay a price that is always five times the yearly leasehold payment.
As a result of market forces, this price must be quite high.
The people who want to buy leaseholds will have to pay a lot of money for them. They know they can get this money back later, if they want, by selling the leaseholds to someone else, so they think of the price as almost like a refundable deposit. To get their deposit back, they have to take care of the property and follow the rules in the leasehold agreement.
The Community of Humankind will set up leasehold agreements with rules that require the leasehold owner to take care of the property and keep it safe from harm. Because they have a large amount of money invested and stand to lose all of this money if they don’t follow the rules, they have very strong incentives to follow the rules. (If they don’t, the Community of Humankind doesn’t lose; it can cancel the leasehold agreement without recourse, keeping the full price paid. It can then use this money to restore the land to its former condition and sell another leasehold on it, all without loss to the Community of Humankind.)
I know a lot of people who had close relationships with a certain part of the world. A friend of mine had inherited a forest in New York. He wanted to protect it forever. We talked about ways to do this and concluded that he could keep it protected while he was alive, but not after he was gone.
Forestry experts had told him that the best way to keep the forest healthy is to remove excess growth. Cut some of the trees each year and remove underbrush that may catch fire and destroy the forest. He had a logging company come in and do the necessary work. This not only protected the land, it provided a steady income for him: the logging company sold the logs, paid itself for the work it did, and gave him the rest of the money.
If a system like the Community of Humankind existed, he could make sure the land is protected forever by donating the leasehold rights to the farm to the Community of Humankind. The Community of Humankind could sell the leasehold with the provision that the forest must remain a forest and be operated as a productive forest, with strict rules prohibiting any potentially destructive use. The buyer/owner of the leasehold would have money on the line. The forest would produce an income. The leasehold owner would share this income with the human race, giving us our leasehold payment, and keeping the rest. The leasehold owner would take on all risk and make sure the interests of the human race were protected.
If the leasehold owner could find other ways to generate revenue from the land that didn’t violate the rules protecting it, she could keep all this additional revenue. For example, a lot of people in New York live in cities and would really like to get away to a nice cabin in the woods once in a while. If the rules that the Community of Humankind set up to protect the land didn’t prohibit this use, the leasehold owner could build some cabins and rent them out. She could keep any additional cash flows the land generated from the rental income. Then, at some point, she may want to get out of the forestry business. She may then sell the leasehold on the forest. Others will be able to pay significantly more for it than she paid, because the land now produces a much higher free cash flow. When the leasehold sells, everyone benefits: the seller gets a higher price and the human race will begin getting a higher leasehold payment (the leasehold payment will reset to 20% of the higher price).
People who control a part of the world and want it protected can donate the leasehold rights to the land to the Community of Humankind. The Community of Humankind can then sell the leasehold rights and give the money to whoever the donor wants to have the money. (It could be to her heirs, perhaps, to the Community of Humankind, perhaps, or perhaps even to herself; she doesn’t have to wait until she dies to donate.)
There will be three benefits to disposing of property in this way:
1. The property will be protected through a secure mechanism which is undiminished through time. A person with real estate to protect won’t have to worry about someone eventually finding a way to destroy the property. The protection will continue indefinitely. A person with a corporation that is designed to and intended to do things that make the world better can donate it and be sure that a leasehold will be sold that prohibits any activities that will turn the corporation to activities that harm the world or people on it. The buyers of the leaseholds will put up money as a guarantee that they will follow these rules. They don’t want to lose this money so they will have to follow the rules the donor creates. This system will align the interests of all future owners with the interests of the donor. There is no way to create this alignment in our world today; it will be easy for people who have built corporations or formed close personal relationships to real estate and want these things protected to do this by taking advantage of this system.
2. Donors will know that the property will soon begin to bring real benefits to the human race in ways that can be measured and easily understood. These benefits will never end; the donors will be doing something that they know can’t be turned against the interests of the human race, because the human race directly controls everything that happens.
3. Donors will be able to turn their properties into cash very quickly in this system. The Community of Humankind will be the guardian of the leasehold ownership system. This system will work much better if there is an electronic global market that is as large and liquid as possible to make sure that people who buy leaseholds will be able to sell them quickly and for the highest price the market will bear, and people who want to improve the world can easily find a leasehold property available for sale that matches their skill sets.
This is actually fairly easy to do because leaseholds have certain important advantages over freeholds that make it much safer and easier to buy them than to buy freeholds. (The reasons for this are rather complex so I won’t explain them here, but you can find an explanation in Possible Societies, available on PossibleSocieties.com website. The main reason is that leaseholds have a ‘correct value’ is that there is a fixed relationship between the free cash flow and the market value of each leasehold; because people know that this is true, they know they aren’t going to lose money through the dramatic price swings that are part of freehold systems.)
If there is a massive global market for leaseholds, with special structures included to make sure this market is liquid (something that people know how to make happen), leasehold properties can be sold very quickly. This will be very appealing to many people who have property and want to turn it into cash quickly and without trouble: merely donate the leasehold rights to the Community of Humankind and instruct that the money from the sale (the price of the leasehold) go to them. People who donate by bequest will know that their heirs will get checks within days, rather than the many years that are common for bequests in freehold systems.
The Community of Humankind will have both short-term and long-term goals. Over the short-term, it will provide services that the people want but that the governments of the world don’t want, or at least don’t want enough to actually fund them.
This is the great appeal of NGOs in general. Most of the people of the world realize that governments aren’t really working to make the world a better place. Governments not only aren’t putting out any serious efforts to solve the key problems of the world, they actually intentionally create the most serious problems of the world today.
The Community of Humankind will create a fund in banks throughout the world. People will make their leasehold payments into this fund. This money will come in without any need for the Community of Humankind to collect anything or even send out notices: the leasehold owners have paid a price for the leasehold that is five times the yearly leasehold payment. If the leasehold payment is not in the account of the Community of Humankind when due, it is late, and the leasehold owner has violated the terms of the leasehold agreement. The agreement then automatically cancels and all rights to the property revert back to the Community of Humankind. The Community of Humankind can then sell it and get five times the amount we would have gotten if the leasehold payment had been made. The price actually functions like a rental deposit. Since this ‘deposit’ is five times the amount of the yearly ‘rent,’ we have total security and our money will come in automatically.
Once the money is in the account, it can only come out of the account through an election process. Each registered voter will get votes that represent a certain amount of money each. For the sake of example, say that each vote is worth $1. Say that $2 million comes into the fund on a given day. This generates 2 million votes that are distributed among all registered voters. Voters may cast their votes for any fund that has been approved through voter referendums.
You can cast your vote to give the money to governmental organizations or non-governmental organizations. If you think that the governments of the world do a good job and nothing else is needed, you can cast all your votes to a ‘national and local government fund.’ This fund will divide any money put into it among the governments of the world, to use as the governments of the world want.
However, if you think that the governments of the world aren’t doing some of the things you want to be done, you don’t have to give them this money. You can send the money to one of the NGOs that are dedicated to providing specific services and solving specific problems.
In most cases, the Community of Humankind won’t have to form new NGOs to do the things the people want done. NGOs already exist to do most of the things the people of the world want done. Doctors Without Borders, for example, provides medical care all around the world. Habitat for Humanity builds affordable homes. The Red Cross provides disaster relief. If you think that governmental bodies aren’t doing a good job, and that non-governmental organizations can do better, you may decide not to cast any votes at all to the ‘national and local government fund.’ You can give all of your share of the bounty of the properties that are in the system to NGOs. If an NGO already exists that does the things you want done, you can simply cast a vote for it. Say you cast a vote for Doctors Without Borders. This vote will initiate an electronic funds transfer from the account of the Community of Humankind into the account of Doctors Without Borders.
Say that there is something that you want to happen to the world that governments are not doing, and that no NGO currently does. You can form your own NGO. You can use the same funding systems that are currently in use to form NGOs. Once it gets into operation, you can sponsor a referendum to add it to the ballot. If it gets enough signatures, it goes onto the ballot and anyone on Earth can cast votes for it. Each vote cast transfers $1 from the general fund of the Community of Humankind to the NGO you created.
Global NGOs already exist. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel to have them. We know that people like the work NGOs are doing. We know this because they are supporting the NGOs; they wouldn’t support them if they didn’t like the work they are doing.
People who run NGOs know that they can get funding through their traditional sources of funding and through the Community of Humankind. They will know that there are 7 billion people who are all potential donors. They will know that the more they can please their donor base, the more money they will get. The people who run the NGOs will naturally want to broaden the appeal of their organization as much as they can, to attract the attention of more people.
The Community of Humankind won’t be a service-providing organization itself. It will be a conduit that will funnel money to other service-providing organizations. The people will control which services are provided. If the people like the services governments provide, they can vote to send money belonging to the human race to governments. If the people think that the governments do a very good job deciding what programs to fund, they can give the money to a fund that allows people in the government to do anything they want with it.
If the people of the world think that governments are not particularly good at providing services, they can give the money to NGOs. The money that goes into the Community of Humankind is under the direct control of the human race. The people of the world decide what happens to it. If we don’t want either the governments of the world or NGOs to get any of it, we can simply divide the money among ourselves: we can cast votes for a ‘basic income fund’ that will be divided equally among the people of the world.
Governments will still exist. Countries will still exist. But there will be a new entity, the Community of Humankind, that will also have power. If the people of the world think that the Community of Humankind is doing good work and making the world better, they can increase the organization’s power and wealth as they see fit, by donating their time, skills, talents, property, money, or any other resources they control to the cause.
Over the short run, the Community of Humankind will be designed to help the human race meet needs it is not currently able to meet. Over the long run, the Community of Humankind will be working to change the foundational structures of the societies of the world.
People are self-interested. If a group of people that make up a minority of the human race controls wealth, they will want to find ways to use that wealth to advance the interests of that particular group. For example, no country includes a majority of the people, so all countries are minorities. They control wealth and they use this wealth to advance the interests of their particular minority. Over history, the people who control the wealth of countries have found that they can advance the interests of their group by using the wealth to form armies and then using the armies to conquer land in other countries, causing the wealth of this part of the world to flow to the conquering country. They act in the interests of the group, which usually are entirely different than the interests of the human race.
In this case, the group with control over wealth is the human race itself. If the human race acts in its own interests—something we expect every group to do—we use this money for things that benefit the members of our group. We will use it for things that make the world better for our constituency, the human race.
The flow of income-generating assets into the system is a one-way flow. Properties can get into the system very easily: any time anyone donates a piece of real estate or a share of stock, it becomes a part of the system and its bounty is used for things that benefit the human race. It can’t ever get out of the system unless the majority of the members of the human race want it out of the system: they need to vote to buy back the leasehold of this property and then sell or give away a freehold on the property. This kind of transition clearly harms the human race so, if the people of the world act in our best interests, this is very unlikely to ever happen. If it doesn’t happen, the flow of properties into the system will be a one-way flow.
The income of the human race will increase through three mechanisms. The first will be improvements. People may buy existing leaseholds, improve the underlying properties so they generate higher free cash flows, and then sell leaseholds on the improved properties for more than they paid. (All this was discussed in great detail in previous chapters.) They will do this out of greed: they want to make money and they can make money buying leaseholds on properties that are in need of improvements, improving them, and selling for higher prices.
They may be doing this only for their own benefit. But they can’t make money themselves without also benefiting all other members of the human race. When they sell the leasehold for a higher price, the leasehold payment will automatically adjust upward to be 20% of the higher price. The income of the human race will go up.
In this system, the interests of individuals align with the interests of the human race. In any system that has this alignment, we all benefit if people are greedy, selfish, and interested in profit: the more money they make, the more they advance the interests of the human race. Since it is highly unlikely that people will ever stop being interested in their own personal welfare, we don’t have to worry about our welfare: they will make sure that the power and control of wealth of the human race will constantly increase.
The second method of increase is donations. The people of the world will see that the Community of Humankind is doing things they want done. People can give to the organization in many ways. They can donate their time, their skills, and their talents. They can also donate property and money. All these donations either increase the revenues of the Community of Humankind or reduce the operational costs, allowing more of the endowments to be used for purposes that benefit the human race.
The third mechanism is purchases. The human race can use part of its income to pay people to look for and purchase freeholds on cash flow-generating properties around the world.
Over time, we would expect the power and wealth of the Community of Humankind to grow. As this happens, the power and wealth of the human race will grow.
Eventually, the Community of Humankind may have enough wealth to start to relieve the countries of the world of some of their financial responsibilities. Consider healthcare: most national healthcare systems are not particularly efficient and don’t run very well. Governments have a lot of other priorities. They often need large sums of money for emergencies like war or the subsidies on destruction that create jobs. They can often get this money by raiding funds that were designed to provide health care. (Virtually all of the money that was allocated to Medicare and Medicaid in the United States has been ‘borrowed’ by the United States government to use for other programs; the money is gone and the funds are empty, so the government can’t provide the intended services.)
Why should this be something governments do? Can’t non-governmental organization do it? If NGOs do it, they will have incentives that governments don’t have. They will have incentives to provide universal care, without any need for restrictions or qualifications, in the most cost-effective manner possible. Perhaps, with the Community of Humankind providing these services, the governments of the world will be able to cut back and eventually leave this particular service to non-governmental providers. This will allow them to reduce the tax burden on their people and, if the people in the government are responsible, they will cut taxes to reflect their lower costs.
Perhaps, over time, more and more services can be taken on by the Community of Humankind leaving less and less for governments to do. Remember, the Community of Humankind is run by direct elections and can’t send money to anything that the people don’t want. We therefore know that the people want the services the Community of Humankind provides. We don’t know whether the people want the services the governments provide.
Do we really need governments? Do we want them? The people of the world may decide that they do want governments, but they don’t want the particular governments that have formed over their history. They want different governments, governments that are under the direct control of the people.
The people may create a fund to create a global government. They may decide that they want a body with the authority to rule, control, or otherwise ‘govern’ the people, as there are certain things that need to be done that can’t be donewithout this power. They may then create a fund to fund this government. People who want more money to go to the global government they created can vote for it. People who want more to go to the national and local governments that already exist can vote to give money to them. People who don’t like governments at all may choose to give only to NGOs or to the ‘basic income fund.’
If the global government that gets created doesn’t do a good job, the people don’t have to overthrow it. They simply stop voting to fund it and it will disappear. If they decide they made mistakes in forming this government, and gave it powers they don’t want it to have, they can stop funding this particular government and begin to fund one that works the way they want it to work.
The people who run national and local governments will eventually start to realize that they can attract additional funding, without putting any additional tax burden on their people, by having their particular national or local government work with the global government or NGOs in a way that allows them to provide services better and cheaper than before. They can become local arms of the global government, playing the same role as the local chapters of the Red Cross play in providing disaster relief. Local and national governments that do a very good job at this will be able to attract enough funding from the Community of Humankind to eliminate taxes. After this time comes, the local and national governments will be in the same category as the global government: nothing but a tool that the human race uses to help it accomplish its common goals.
The Journey Part One (Basic Information)
How will such a progression work?
To explain this, I will need a visual aid.
The back cover of this book contains an illustration marked ‘the Road Map of Possible Societies.’
We were born into societies on the extreme bottom line (sovereignty-based societies, or societies with 100% ownability). All options on this line are sovereignty-based societies; they vary with regard to the degree of authoritarianism or, to simplify a little, the degree of government control.
All societies that exist as of 2020 are very close to the middle of the range. There are practical reasons for this: sovereignty-based societies have very powerful forces that push toward war. Societies (states, countries, or groups of states/countries) that are too extreme in one way or the other aren’t able to compete in war. Too much authoritarianism prevents innovation and progress (people must have the freedom to do things that lead to innovation) and make countries in this category unable to compete effectively against those with more advanced weapons. Societies too far to the right (very small governments and little authoritarianism) aren’t going to be able to be organized around war and will devote more to social programs and services, with less emphasis on keeping the military complex well-equipped and ready for battle. (Societies toward the right can work if we move farther up the chart, to areas where war risks are less severe, but they can’t compete in sovereignty-based societies. The book ‘Possible Societies’ on PossibleSocieties.com goes over the details.)
There are some differences between the different countries, sovereign states, unions of states, and countries in the world today, with some farther to the right of center and some farther to the left, but the differences aren’t very great. The numbers on the bottom scale represent the percentage of the total amount of value/wealth created that is under the control of governments. Most governments report these figures and the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) goes over these figures to make them consistent and reports them on its website. If you want to know what percentage of total value created (called the ‘Gross Domestic Product’ or GDP by the CIA) is under the control of the government in any particular country, you can find this by searching in the CIA Factsheet for ‘percentage of GDP controlled by government.’
Because differences between current societies are very small, I simplify the analysis here by representing ‘current societies’ by a single point, the point at the exact center of the bottom line marked ‘2020 Societies.’
If we want to change societies, we can’t choose where we start. We start where our ancestors put us, which is at the point in the center of the bottom line of the Road Map of Possible Societies.
If we want to move to a society anywhere on the chart, we will need to go ‘through’ other societies to get there. For example, say that we want to move to a socratic society that has the same basic level of government involvement that exists in the world today. This would be represented by a point at the center of the line marked ‘Socratic Societies on This Line.’ To get there, we must go along a line that is marked ‘Journey Line A.’
We are starting with a system where 100% of the rights to the wealth of the world are ownable and nothing is left unowned, unownable, and under the control and direction of the human race. The center scale of the Road Map of Possible Societies shows the percentage of the wealth of the world that is unownable and allocated by the direction of the people of society. Note that at the bottom line it is at 0%. If you go up a tiny bit off this line, you move to a system where some very tiny percentage of the wealth of the world is unowned and unownable.
If we create a system like the one described earlier in this chapter, where an NGO like the Community of Humankind gains control of certain parts of the world and sells socratic leasehold rights to private owners, the human race will gain some automatic and risk-free income from the land. At first, there will be only one property in the system, so we will have only a tiny income from the land. To put this another way, a very tiny part of the yearly wealth the planet produces will be considered unowned and unownable and will flow to the human race through automatic mechanisms.
This will pull us off the extreme bottom line. It is true that, at first, the wealth that is unowned and ownable and directed by the human race will be very, very small, perhaps only a tiny fraction of 1%. But any positive number is more than 0%. As time passes, more and more properties get into the system and the properties that are in the system get improved so that they are more bountiful and then sold for higher prices, causing the wealth that goes to the human race to increase. As more wealth falls into this category, we will move upward along the line marked ‘Journey Line A.’ Each movement will take us to a society that is slightly different than the one we had before.
The Journey: Part Two (Changes in Latitude)
As we go upward along this line, we will move to societies with different flows of value and different incentives. The scales on the extreme right side of the Road Map of Possible Societies indicate the strength of two important kinds of incentives: incentives to destroy value and incentives to create value.
Some societies work in ways that send money/wealth to people who do things that harm the planet or human race. These societies destroy what we may call ‘value,’ which can be broadly defined to include anything that humans want or need. A clean environment is ‘value.’ A safe living situation, where people are free from the threat of war is ‘value.’ Some societies work in ways that send wealth to people who destroy value. This creates financial incentives to destroy value. This book calls incentives that encourage people to do things that destroy value ‘destructive incentives.’
Different societies work in ways that lead to incentives of different strengths. Some societies have very powerful destructive incentives; they send a lot of wealth to people who do things that reduce the amount of ‘value’ on Earth. Some societies send small amounts of money/wealth to destroyers; they have weaker destructive incentives. Other societies don’t send any money/wealth to destroyers; they don’t have destructive incentives at all.
The scale on the inside right of the Road Map of Possible Societies indicates the strength of destructive incentives. Note that sovereignty-based societies (those all the way at the bottom) have the strongest possible destructive incentives: they literally make all of the wealth the world produces and contains available to people who do things that harm the human race and planet. Anyone who can convince people that they are a ‘country’ and that she is the leader of that country can start war and start conquering land. Once she is the conqueror, she can take anything the land produces and contains and use it for anything she wants. If the part of the world she conquers contains oil, she can pump it and sell it.
The system at the extreme bottom of the chart represents systems where all of the wealth of the world is available to go to destroyers; it has the strongest possible destructive incentives, 100% in the chart.
Move up and you go to systems where some of the wealth the world contains and produces is under the direct control of the human race, leaving less to go to destroyers. Less is available for destroyers, so the destructive incentives are weaker. (The mechanisms that cause the wealth to go to destroyers aren’t really as simple and obvious as this explanation implies; the book ‘Possible Societies’ explains them in detail. Here, I am just trying to give you a general idea.) If we start our ‘journey through societies’ at the point marked ‘2020 societies here’ and then move up, we move through a range with progressively weaker destructive incentives.
Incentives are behavioral motivations. You could think of them as invisible hands pushing people to act a certain way. These invisible hands work by basically pushing people toward a river of money. The bigger the river of money, the stronger the incentives. (You may be able to see why Cheney and his minion George Bush were willing to risk a global war that might destroy the planet to get Iraq’s oil: $200,000,000 per day is a lot of money.) As we move up through the chart, we move to societies with weaker destructive incentives: the invisible hands are still there, they just aren’t pushing as hard.
Of course, at first, the destructive incentives will still be extremely strong, and we won’t expect a huge reduction in the amount of destructive behaviors. But incentives have a very well understood and very consistent impact on behavior: give people less money to destroy and, although many people will continue to destroy, some people who would have chosen to destroy if more money had been involved, will decide that it isn’t worth it and choose not to. Rates of destruction will fall. Perhaps they will only fall by tiny amounts, but they will fall.
The outer scale represents the strength of different kinds of incentives: some societies work in ways that allow people to get money/wealth if they do things that lead to invention, innovation, technological advancements, mechanization, and increases in the amount of wealth that the land can produce in sustainable ways. Some societies work in ways that allow people to get money/wealth if they do things that lead to more value existing in the world. Again, we can interpret the term ‘value’ in a very broad sense. The world has more value if there is no polio or smallpox available to kill our children. The world has more value if people are free from the threat of war and the risk of destruction.
Constructive incentives are the opposite of destructive incentives. One encourages people to create value (again, broadly defined) and the other encourages people to destroy value.
If you start at the point marked ‘2020 societies’ and go upward on the line marked ‘Journey Line A,’ eventually your journey will intersect with the line marked ‘Minimally Sustainable Societies Here.’
Part Three: Minimally Sustainable Societies
There are certain conditions that must be met to have a sustainable society. (I find it strange that many people advocate sustainability without even trying to define the term. How can we move toward a sustainable society without knowing what this term means?)
It is possible to create more value than is destroyed indefinitely. We can have better and better housing, better and better food, better and faster public transportation, cleaner air, increased health, all without limit. There is no point where life becomes too good and we all destroy ourselves.
However, it is not possible to do the opposite forever. If a society destroys more value than it creates, eventually some key item of value, say the atmosphere, the ozone layer, the state of health of the people, or something won’t be sufficient to support us, and we will perish. It is not possible to continue to destroy more value than is being created forever.
Any society that destroys more value than is created is unsustainable. If we know this, we understand the absolute minimum conditions needed for sustainability: the amount of value that is created over time must be equal to or greater than the amount of value destroyed.
If you start at the societies at the extreme bottom of the chart, then move upward, you move to societies that are different in two ways. First, destructive incentives are weaker as you go up, for the reason discussed above. Second, the constructive incentives—the incentives to create value—get stronger.
This happens for several reasons that mainly have to do with taxes and regulation. Sovereignty-based societies have no common income that can be used by the people to meet their common needs. These societies work in ways that create governments that need enormous amounts of income. War is a constant risk; it can come at any time and, when it comes, governments need every single bit of wealth (money in systems that use money) they can get for the war. Even during times when there is no war, they can’t stop spending, as they must be prepared for war. This is a fantastic expense and governments must get the wealth to cover these costs somehow. Generally, they get this wealth through taxes.
These societies also totally disenfranchise the majority class of society, the working class. The working class gets no share of the bounty at all; in fact, they get nothing, and starve to death, unless they can get jobs. Technology is causing jobs in production (creation of value) to disappear. Governments must find ways to create jobs. Most of the job creation programs in effect today focus on paying destructive industries subsidies so that they can compete with non-destructive industries and keep the non-destructive industries (which don’t create jobs) from taking over. These subsidies on destruction started out small but must get bigger and bigger over time to keep people working. As I write this in 2020, these programs are truly massive: globally, subsidies on destruction exceed a trillion United States dollars a year and the only thing that the global governments spend more on is military activities.
Governments spend such fantastic amounts in these two areas that they need massive taxes just to function. As a result, the tax burden is often about 50%.
Socratic leasehold ownership systems work in ways that cause wealth to flow into public coffers automatically and without risk. The money that goes to the public does not come from anything anyone has done to earn: it is always a part of the free cash flow and free cash is, by definition, free. It is always unearned.
If the public has revenue that comes from unearned income, there is no need to take money that people have done anything to earn. In the socratic society discussed earlier (for Pastland), people could keep everything that came from improvements that drive up cash flows on properties; there was no need for taxes and, since taxing people for doing things that create more value and make life better don’t make sense (you don’t punish people for doing things you want them to do) there was no reason to have them.
If we start at the point marked ‘2020 societies here’ and go upward, we move closer to a situation where people aren’t penalized for improving the world. As the Community of Humankind gains the ability to regulate international disputes, international tensions will fall and governments will find it isn’t necessary to spend as much as before on weapons, allowing them to reduce taxes. As the Community of Humankind takes over services that the people want, again, governments will be able to reduce taxes. People who improve anything will be able to keep more of the increases in revenue from the improvement. Constructive incentives will grow in strength.
Incentives mater. They affect people’s behavior. Not everyone will react every time the incentives change; in fact, most people won’t. But the incentives will make a difference. We can expect the behaviors related to the ‘creation of value’ to increase and the behaviors related to the destruction of value to decrease. We can expect the amount of value created over time to increase and the amount of value destroyed to decrease.
At some point, we will reach the line marked ‘minimally sustainable societies on this line.’
Minimally sustainable societies are NOT non-destructive societies. Destruction is still a part of these societies. They still have destructive incentives and, if destructive incentives exist, people will destroy value. But these societies work in ways that lead to far weaker destructive incentives than exist in the sovereignty-based societies we started with at the beginning of the trip.
Sovereignty-based societies also have incentives that lead to the creation of value and modification of the Earth so that it produces more things of value over time. Incentives matter: they impact behavior. Because of these incentives, we would expect far more value to be created in sovereignty-based societies than in societies without constructive incentives, like natural law societies. Minimally sustainable societies work in ways that lead to even stronger constructive incentives than exist in sovereignty-based societies. Again, incentives matter. They affect behavior. We would expect greater efforts to create value, to modify the planet so it produces more value and wealth over time, in minimally sustainable societies than in sovereignty-based societies.
Minimally sustainable societies are those that have strong enough incentives to create value and weak enough incentives to destroy value that the total amount of value of all kinds (including the value of having clean air, stable weather, and safe living conditions) does not decline. This is the minimum condition needed to have a sustainable society.
It is not the only condition. Obviously, if value is being created by turning wood into fancy sailing yachts but is also being destroyed by destroying the air and water the people depend on, the system will not be sustainable. In sovereignty-based societies, the human race has no revenue and no way to impact such variables. (The governments of countries can affect them, but governments of countries don’t have incentives to improve global variables like atmospheric carbon dioxide levels or war risks. We, the people of the world, care about such things and once we have control of wealth, we can create structures to deal with them.)
However, it is a minimum condition: the destruction of value must be less than or equal to the creation of value to have a society that is even potentiallysustainable.
Part Four: How Far Do We Have to Go?
I put the level of minimal sustainability at about 97% on the chart. This number refers to the percentage of the bounty (free cash flow) of the world that is buyable and ownable by private individuals and does NOT go to the human race. To put this another way, the human race would get 3% of the bounty of the world. To make this happen, about 3% of the cash flow-generating properties on Earth would have to be controlled by socratic leasehold ownership.
For comparison, a socratic society like the one described earlier for Pastland would be an 16⅓% ownability society; this means that 83⅔% of the bounty of the world would flow to the human race, more than 40 times the amount that goes to us in the minimally sustainable societies.
This is an approximation of course; it is basically a guess about the minimum amount of wealth that the human race would have to have in order to have enough control over important variables in our world to reach minimum sustainability.
How much money would we, the people of the world, get each year under this condition? The best figures I could find for global value creation come from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, that provide estimates of these figures. The most recent figure on the analysis page for the World Bank (taken from https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GDP.MKTP.CD) show that the global production of value is about $80 trillion a year. How much of this is bounty depends on many different factors and would be pretty much impossible to work out, but we don’t need an exact figure for this analysis, just a very rough number. A figure of half would be very conservative; in other words, it is almost certain that more than half of all production is bounty. We live on an extremely bountiful world and it gets more and more bountiful each day as machines replace workers, allowing wealth to be created and collected with no effort. (A system where machines produced everything would have zero labor costs. Many economists argue that labor is the only true cost of production: if things are produced without labor costs of any kind, with zero-cost energy systems like solar power running the machines, everything that is produced is bounty.) So we have a number to work with, let’s say that the total bounty of the world (the total global free cash flow of all land, corporations, infrastructures, and anything else that is ownable and generates free cash flows) is about $40 trillion. If we get 3% of this, we end up with $1.2 trillion ($1,200,000,000,000) per year. Remember how socratic leasehold ownership works: leasehold owners must put up a price that is five times the leasehold payment. Because they know they will lose this entire price if the leasehold payment is even a second late, they have powerful incentives to make this payment and the income of the Community of Humankind will be automatic. In the event they miss the payment, all rights to the property will revert to the Community of Humankind, which may then sell the leasehold rights again for five times the amount of the missed payment. This system works in ways that lead to an automatic and risk-free income for the human race.
This income does not come from taxes. It is a flow of wealth that comes from the productive properties of the world anyway. We, thenmembers of the human race, have set up a system that allows private individuals to control parts of the world without consent as long as they follow the rules that we have created to protect the planet and human race, and share the flows of wealth that come from the land with the human race.
When we start out in our journey toward a healthy society, we get none of this wealth. As we progress, we get more and more. At a certain point, we will get 3% of this free wealth. (For this to be true, about 4% of the cash flow-generating properties on Earth would have to be controlled with socratic leasehold ownership.)
Obviously, 3% is not much; it is nothing like the 83⅔% that we would get in a socratic society. But we live on an incredibly bountiful world. When we get up to this percentage, we, the members of the human race collectively, control wealth that works out to be about $800 per person per year. This may be easier to picture if we think of it as a ‘per family’ figure and multiply it by 4, to get $3,200 per year per family on Earth.
Again, this isn’t much. But it is enough to make a real difference. The human race has certain common problems that the governments of the countries of the world aren’t doing anything to solve. (In fact, the governments of the world are responsible for the most serious of these problems; they create them intentionally.) Once we get to minimally sustainable societies, we reach the point where we have enough power and wealth to set up global structures to deal with the most serious of these problems.
The governments of the world will have far less pressure on them to encourage destruction and make war. They will see that the creation of jobs, while still necessary over the short run, won’t be necessary over the long run. Even at this tiny percentage of the bounty, we will have enough money to provide some basic incomes for the people of the world.
We will all be able to see that there will come a time when the human race will have enough income, from our share of the bounty of the planet, to provide basic incomes that can meet the basic needs of the people. After this time comes, the people will gain nothing by having their governments take money from them and use this money to subsidize destruction or create military tensions to create jobs.
When the human race gets to this level (again, about 3% of the bounty of the world flowing to us) we will have more power than the great majority of the world’s governments. This will put us into a position to start to do some of the things that Dunant had in mind for the organization he created that have a real impact on international relations. We can create a true World Court, not the token organization that makes only non-binding decisions that we have now, but a body with tools that it can use to compel the governments of the world to accept its rulings, and to create agreements that will push the governments of the world to work together to ensure the compliance of governments that have lost cases at the World Court and are required to give up land or control over people that they have gained through activities the court rules are unacceptable.
We will have the ability to create binding limitations on carbon emissions and have the governments of the world sign accords agreeing to enforcement mechanisms that the human race has funded. (In sovereignty-based societies, governments can agree to anything, even somethings they have no intentions of doing, because there are no enforcement mechanisms in place. They can simply make up some excuse and ‘pull out’ of the accords, or simply modify them, or report compliance when it isn’t happening, and there isn’t anything anyone can do about this.)
Once we get to this point, we, the members of the human race, will have tools that we can use to get governments to back off on their attempts to prevent sustainable processes like solar from taking over. Currently, the great majority of the governments in the world have complex policies designed to protect jobs in destructive industries that can only work if the switch to sustainable processes doesn’t take place. When we get to a level of about 3%, we will have enough power through our control over wealth to educate the public about these policies so that they don’t support them and replace government officials who do things that harm the human race in the countries of the world. Again, 3% is not much. But there is already pressure in this area: more and more people are realizing that their governments are tricking them to prevent the world from moving to sustainable systems.
All the above changes will work together. It won’t eliminate destruction, but we don’t have to eliminate destruction to get meet the minimum conditions needed for sustainability. We merely have to reduce the amount of destruction enough, and increase the rate of progress and growth enough, to get the progress we are making to be enough to offset the destruction that is still taking place.
How far do we have to go?
This particular estimate, to a system where 3% of the bounty of the world flows to us, is just a guess. But I think it is, if anything, conservative (in other words, we may easily get to sustainability with far less of the world’s wealth flowing to the Community of Humankind.) Technology is already growing at an extremely rapid rate, creating many tools that we can use to pull the human race together and deal with common problems, even without us having any structural organization at all. The internet is making it harder for governments to convince their people that the ones born on the opposite side of imaginary lines are evil monsters who deserve only death and misery. We can get both sides of the story; we can see that the ones our governments want us to kill have children, feelings, and that they care about the same things that we care about. When we see a mother searching for her children in a war zone, it is hard to really think of her and her children as enemy monsters to be destroyed.
Solar costs have plummeted and now are so low that the old argument against solar—that it is too expensive to consider—aren’t even remotely believable. (The book, ‘Anatomy of Destruction’ shows that solar costs fell below the costs of the most common destructive systems as long ago as 1978, when solar technology was still primitive. Solar costs now are less than 5% of what they were in 1978 and the costs of destruction have only gone up. As a result, even the analysis that is designed by the gas and oil industry—like the BP energy survey, which would show that destruction is cheaper if there were any way to twist facts to make it appear to be true—shows that solar is the cheapest energy system available.) Governments have only been able to prevent a switch to sustainable energy systems with extremely aggressive action, restrictions on use of solar (like PURPA, which makes it illegal to sell solar energy in the United States; this is discussed in the book ‘Anatomy of Destruction’), massive taxes on solar, and massive subsidies on destruction. Even without any organized and concerted effort on the part of the human race, governments are having a very hard time preventing sustainable systems from taking over. I think that this particular estimate of the power the human race would have to have to counter the efforts of countries, with 3% of the bounty of the world flowing to the human race each year, is very conservative; we could probably do it with a lot less.
How far are we from the line marked ‘minimally sustainable societies here?’ We don’t have nearly enough information to determine this. However, once we begin on the journey and get started with the system, sending some (rather than none) of the bounty of the world to the human race, we will be able to map the progress and make a better estimate. Again, I think that the 3% figure is conservative. Chances are we will be able to meet the minimum conditions for sustainability long before that.
How long will it take to get there? Obviously, if we don’t know where ‘there’ is, we can’t really estimate the time it will take to get there. But we have evidence to show that NGOs that do things that the people really want done can grow extremely rapidly. I think it is reasonable to estimate that, if we started today, we could meet the minimum conditions for sustainability in less than 30 years.
A Look Around
Sometimes, when you are on a trip, you may see something that wasn’t on your agenda and stop to take a look. You may find a wonderful beach, a fantastic waterfall, a great museum, or a walking street (like La Florida in Buenos Aires, Las Ramblas in Barcelona, or Nan Jing Da Ja in Shanghai); sometimes, you may find something along the way that is so nice you decide you want to stay there, rather than go on to your original destination.
Once we get to minimally sustainable societies, we can look around. Do we want to continue down the path to the socratic? Perhaps. Perhaps we may want to pause a little, remain where we are so we can consolidate our gains. The socratic is a very nice society, of course, but we are starting from a terrible mess with many hardships. Rather than focusing on ‘getting there at any cost’ we may want to focus on expanding the quality of life for the people of the planet, dealing with the population so that problems related to population stress don’t get any worse, or take some other steps to make our eventual progress easier but will slow us down and push the ultimate goal farther into the future.
Population: The definitive work about population was Thomas Malthus’ 1798 book ‘On Population.’ This book was and still is highly controversial but it really the only book I could find that takes an objective look at this issue.
The book points out that the population of the working class will grow exponentially if there is enough food to support higher populations. (More food means lower food prices; if a working class family can support more members, more will be born and grow to maturity, leading to very rapid population growth.) More recent analysts call this effect a ‘population explosion.’ This explosion only takes place in the working class and is very pronounced in the most impoverished areas: greater poverty means more rapid population growth.
Since he wrote this book, his basic theories have been confirmed and you can easily look at the data and see the result: populations with greater prosperity tend to have smaller families with the most prosperous half of the global population either entirely stable or actually falling. The most impoverished demographics have very rapid population growth, with some—the most impoverished part of the human population—doubling everyngeneration. If you look at a list of the countries with the highest population growth rate in the world today (you can find this at https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/rankorder/2002rank.html) and cross-reference it with a list of the poorest countries in the world (available at https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/fields/221.html) you will see that it is basically the same list. All of the 25 countries with the highest grow rates are in Africa; all have total gross domestic product per person of less than $2,500 per person.
Why does this happen? Analysts point to two reasons. The first is a lack of birth control. Extremely poor people can’t afford it. We all want to have sex and, without birth control, sex leads to pregnancy. Once the woman is pregnant, she has no choice: there will be a baby (if she can’t afford condoms, she certainly can’t afford abortions). Mothers don’t let their babies starve to death if they can help it so they will do anything they can to keep the baby alive. If there is enough food, and any way for the mother to get it, the population will grow and can easily double each generation.
The other reason this happens is social security. Very poor countries don’t have it. People get sick and will get old. Without any family to care for them, they will die. Very poor families need to be large to be secure.
Most countries in the world today have enough prosperity to keep populations stable. (At least this is true for natural increase; immigration from poor countries is also driving up the population of wealthier countries.) But the population in extremely poor areas is exploding. It is growing at a fantastic rate that is putting pressure on resources all around the world.
Once we get to the point where we meet the minimum conditions necessary for sustainability in general, we may want to divert some attention to the population problem so we can reduce the pressure on resources caused by the need to feed an ever-growing number of extremely poor people. This is actually a pretty simple fix, but it will require allocating a lot of wealth to two areas that may not seem like a very high priority at the current time:
1. Reliable, affordable, safe birth control for everyone who wants it.
2.Global social security programs that are designed specifically to reduce the stresses that induce the very poor to have large families.
The problem of an exploding extremely impoverished population will make it extremely difficult to limit the power and authority of the governments of countries. As time passes, there will be more and more pressure on them to isolate their countries to prevent a massive inflow of people with no skills, no education, no wealth, no incomes, and no experience with the realties of life in the countries they flee to. We can already see the impacts of this: isolationist policies have been increasing in popularity for decades. These policies have widespread popular support among the wealthier nations of the world and it is very hard to enact policies that tie the human race together when so many people will do just about anything they can to make sure that the people from other countries can’t even walk on the land they claim as theirs.
What can we do about this? It seems obvious: the first step is to create a global birth control system that makes the highest quality pregnancy prevention methods available today available to even the poorest of women, around the world. The second step is to devote funding—a lot of it—to the development of better birth control methods so that, after these systems become available, the only babies born will be those that people want and plan for.
The third step is to study and examine the pressures that lead to the clear relationship we observe between poverty and population growth. If it turns out that the problem is a lack of social security, we need to extend the same social security systems that are available to people in more prosperous countries to the rest of the world. Obviously, this is going to be expensive over the short run. But any success is going to bring massive dividends. The population explosion among the poor will go away and, when this happens, poverty becomes a solvable problem. At some point, we won’t have to worry about the population of impoverished people exploding anymore, because there won’t be any more poverty.
Once we get to minimally sustainable societies, we have a little bit of time to reflect. We can look around us. We can stop worrying about how we are going to avoid extinction because extinction isn’t going to be a threat anymore. We can begin to examine ways to create the best society that humans can have, and then make it happen.
Life In Minimally Sustainable Societies
Superficially, minimally sustainable society are extremely similar to sovereignty-based societies. People still have jobs, they still get up early and drink coffee, commute to work, listen to the news, and shop at supermarkets. They still pay for things either with cash or plastic, and most of the income of most people still comes from their jobs, their business income, or from returns on wealth. The great bulk of the properties on Earth will still be owned and controlled through freeholds, with no real difference in the way this system works. (The minimally sustainable societies only need about 3% of the properties to be controlled by leasehold ownership.)
Girls will still try to make themselves attractive for boys, boys will still try to get girls to go to bed with them, the social games people at all levels play will be the same as they were in the sovereignty-based societies that used to exist. The financial structures don’t need to be significantly different than those in place in our 2020 societies, prices won’t be much different, the options people have for making money and spending it won’t be much different. Superficially, minimally sustainable societies are very similar to sovereignty-based societies. But they are entirely different structurally. They have flows of value that bring the human race together into a true Community of Humankind. The entities we call ‘governments of countries,’ although still very important, will no longer be omnipotent. They will no longer be able to dictate global policy to the people of the world and force us all to accept whatever they tell us.
The differences aren’t enough to completely solve the problems that threaten us. But they are great enough that people with at least reasonably good eyesight will be able to see that our situation is not hopeless. We will have a venue, authority, and power. We will have control over variables that we can use, if we want, to increase the amount of authority and power that belongs to the human race. We will see that our destiny really does belong to us and we can make the world work in a safe, sane, and healthy manner. If we want to do this.
It is hard to make any decisions of any real importance if you are being forced to pay a game of Russian Roulette and may blow off your own head at any moment.
Humans can clearly organize the realities of our existence many different ways. Which is best? This is actually a very complicated topic. I have tried to provide a starting place in this analysis in the book ‘Possible Societies,’ available on the PossibleSocieties.com website. But this is just a starting point. To really understand our options, we will need to take a lot of time. We will have to create new sciences and do research in them. I think that we will find when we approach this topic scientifically, it opens our horizons in wonderful ways. We will find that we are capable of having societies that bring us prosperity, peace, and a safe, clean world where we can ask important questions that will help us find a better future.
I needed to present an example of a healthy society for the points of this book, so you could see that a healthy society is possible. It is within the capabilities of the wonderful and terrible beings around us that we call ‘humans.’ The socratic is just an example. It is one of the places that we might go when heading toward a better existence.
Are socratic societies the best societies humans can form?
Probably not. You can’t expect to get everything right the first time. But it doesn’t have to be the best society to make the point I am trying to make: we can survive as a race. If we start where we are now, and then head in the general direction of the socratic, eventually we will get to minimally sustainable societies. Once we are there, we are out of the woods. We can take our time and find the best place to go from there.
It’s hard to make a long-term decision about your future while you are in the middle of a forced game of Russian Roulette and your head could become mush in the next second.
Once we get to minimally sustainable societies, we will be in a position to look at the next step. We may see that we can get to a better system if we simply keep heading in the same direction. We may want to go somewhere else. But either way, we will have taken our destiny out of the hands of the primitive and barbaric people who created the extremely destructive and dangerous societies that we had been in before and put our destiny into our own hands.