Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Columbus Day, 2011

This is the day when everybody gets together unofficially (officially this past Monday), to celebrate the (fourth) European discovery of America by Christopher Columbus in 1492. Maybe fifth or third, it's hard to say. It could be the sixth, seventh, or eighth. It depends on which source you take as authoritative. Some recent research suggests that the first settlers came from the east, not west, and became "the First Americans" until displaced by the next wave from Asia. Do we believe that the Welsh settled North America, giving some of the Indians blue eyes? Saint Brendan the Navigator sailing in a skin boat? (I can't spell the Irish for "skin boat") Leif Ericsson? English fishermen keeping quiet about the Grand Banks to keep poachers away? Does it matter?

Not for our purposes. Let others get into endless arguments about the good or bad of it. We're dealing with what is. And what we're concerned with is how it could have been done better. Because land is a limited resource, people got it fixed into their heads that all capital is also limited, and the only way to get any form of capital is either 1) take it away from somebody else, or 2) cut consumption and accumulate enough "money" to purchase capital from somebody else. In either case, somebody has to do without something, either permanently or long enough that you don't give a damn about it when you finally get it.

As any reader of this blog should be able to tell by now, there is a much better way to finance new capital formation, one that doesn't force anybody to do without: monetize the present value of future production instead of unconsumed past production.

When the European settlers started moving in, things could have been a lot different had they known about the ESOP, the HEC and, especially, the Citizens Land Bank. Everyone, white, red, and black (we abolished slavery in our scenario by never letting it get started — it's written into the bylaws of the CLB) got a single, no-cost, non-transferable, fully participating voting share in the CLB. All groups got together to decide the optimal use of the land to everyone's benefit.

There was a downside, of course. Those damned buffalo are a public nuisance, running free from Canada to Mexico like that, even though they supply meat and hides for the entire population and are a major export. And the passenger pigeon dung piles up in the streets like you wouldn't believe. Those poor European rock doves never could compete, and died out soon after they were introduced.

You get the idea. The good part about this kind of "what might have been," however, is that it still could be. With a CLB, ownership of America's land and natural resources can be vested in each and every citizen as private property as a right of citizenship. There's no reason to curse or blame anybody. Let's get organized and fix things right.

Well . . . maybe except for the passenger pigeon dung.


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