No subject

Sun Jul 26 15:10:43 CEST 2015

I am very grateful for the many thoughtful comments that have been
submitted on my essay. Rather than respond to them by author, I will
highlight the major concerns expressed and respond to them generically.

Q: Are common wealth trusts a panacea?

A: Not at all. We need many other institutional innovations. But for the
crucially important tasks of administering a sustainability budget and
providing income security to everyone, common wealth trusts are the best
tools available.

Q: Are common wealth trusts guaranteed to work? Can=E2=80=99t they be corru=

A. Common wealth trusts are not guaranteed to work perfectly and in all
cases, but they will do many jobs we need done better than
profit-maximizing corporations and plutocratic government.

Of course, like any other human institution, they can be corrupted, but our
task is to build on the long tradition of trusts=E2=80=99 accountability to
beneficiaries to make them as incorruptible as possible.

Q: Can common wealth trusts be created by citizens acting independently, or
is government action=E2=80=94and hence a political movement=E2=80=94require=

A: Both methods are required. A trust for almost any purpose can be
organized under existing law. The challenge is gaining control over a
common asset. That requires either government assignment of property rights
and/or a lot of money (private or public) to buy them. In either case, a
movement is essential.

Q: If government action is required to assign property rights or finance
their acquisition, doesn=E2=80=99t the fact that government is dominated by
corporations make such action extremely unlikely?

A: At the moment, yes. But it is possible that, following a major crisis of
some sort, corporate domination will temporarily falter. At such a time,
there will be an opportunity for non-linear change. We must use that
opportunity to create institutions that can stand on their own after the
crisis ends and corporate domination of government returns. We need to
create such autonomous, accountable institutions because we can=E2=80=99t e=
government to be more than briefly free of corporate domination.

Q: What about the relationships between local, regional, national,
multinational and global trusts?

A: This is a murky area, but generally, the rule of subsidiarity should

Q: How do we think beyond wealth for humans and include the interests of
other species?

A: The short answer is by proxy. When trusts that manage an ecosystem are
legally accountable to future generations of humans, that means they are
responsible for leaving the ecosystem in as good or better condition for
the next human generation as it was when the living generation =E2=80=9Cinh=
it, with the ultimate goal of making it sustainable indefinitely. =E2=80=9C=
As good
or better condition=E2=80=9D includes biodiversity. The determination of wh=
at that
means in terms of human usage limits and restoration would be based on
peer-reviewed science. Trustee decisions that fall short of this
responsibility (again, using scientific criteria to compare past and
present parameters of the ecosystem) could be challenged in court.

In other words, future generations of humans can serve as a pretty good
proxy for non-human species=E2=80=94certainly much better than corporate
shareholders, living voters, or wealthy political donors.

Q: Aren=E2=80=99t common wealth trusts just a =E2=80=9Chack=E2=80=9D of cap=
italism that fails to
adequately challenge the power of multinational corporations?

A: I think of common wealth trusts not as a =E2=80=9Chack=E2=80=9D of capit=
alism but as
evolutionary jiu-jitsu. It is true they leave a lot of power in the hands
of corporations, but (a) we need to give those corporations some room to do
business, and (b) the trusts would impose boundaries on corporate invasions
of the commons, boundaries locked in by property rights.

The trusts would also create an equal distribution sector of the economy
that partially offsets the wealth-concentrating effects of the corporate
sector. One can hope that, over time, the boundaries around the commons as
well as the size of the equal-distribution sector will grow.

Q: Wouldn=E2=80=99t it be better to use revenue from common wealth trusts f=
public and environmental purposes than for dividends?

A: I am not opposed to using some of the value of common wealth for public
purposes, but I would rather do that by taxing dividends than by usurping
them. If dividends are taxed as ordinary income, and tax rates remain
progressive, the poor will keep most of their dividends while the rich will
surrender a higher percentage. Overall, tax revenue in the US would
increase by around 25% of the dividends, which our governments could then
use as they see fit.

There is no guarantee, of course, that the tax revenue would be effectively
spent. But in thinking about this, it is very important to remember that
the ecological effectiveness of common wealth trusts rests much more in
their boundary-setting power than in the use of their money.

Finally, let me say that there is much room for further work on the design
and implementation of common wealth trusts. What I have tried to do is
describe a basic architecture, while recognizing that the devil is in the
details. I hope many readers on this list will not only think more about
design details, but will contribute to the learning process through
real-world experimentation.

---Peter Barnes---


Tuesday, June 30, 2015

More information about the P2P-Foundation mailing list