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Sun Jul 26 15:10:43 CEST 2015

I am very grateful for the many thoughtful comments that have been submitte=
d on my essay. Rather than respond to them by author, I will highlight the =
major concerns expressed and respond to them generically.<br>
Q: Are common wealth trusts a panacea?<br>
A: Not at all. We need many other institutional innovations. But for the cr=
ucially important tasks of administering a sustainability budget and provid=
ing income security to everyone, common wealth trusts are the best tools av=
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 cas=
es, but they will do many jobs we need done better than profit-maximizing c=
orporations and plutocratic government.<br>
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 t=
o beneficiaries to make them as incorruptible as possible.<br>
Q: Can common wealth trusts be created by citizens acting independently, or=
 is government action=E2=80=94and hence a political movement=E2=80=94requir=
A: Both methods are required. A trust for almost any purpose can be organiz=
ed under existing law. The challenge is gaining control over a common asset=
. That requires either government assignment of property rights and/or a lo=
t of money (private or public) to buy them. In either case, a movement is e=
Q: If government action is required to assign property rights or finance th=
eir acquisition, doesn=E2=80=99t the fact that government is dominated by c=
orporations make such action extremely unlikely?<br>
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, t=
here will be an opportunity for non-linear change. We must use that opportu=
nity to create institutions that can stand on their own after the crisis en=
ds and corporate domination of government returns. We need to create such a=
utonomous, accountable institutions because we can=E2=80=99t expect governm=
ent to be more than briefly free of corporate domination.<br>
Q: What about the relationships between local, regional, national, multinat=
ional and global trusts?<br>
A: This is a murky area, but generally, the rule of subsidiarity should app=
Q: How do we think beyond wealth for humans and include the interests of ot=
her species?<br>
A: The short answer is by proxy. When trusts that manage an ecosystem are l=
egally accountable to future generations of humans, that means they are res=
ponsible for leaving the ecosystem in as good or better condition for the n=
ext human generation as it was when the living generation =E2=80=9Cinherite=
d=E2=80=9D it, with the ultimate goal of making it sustainable indefinitely=
. =E2=80=9CAs good or better condition=E2=80=9D includes biodiversity. The =
determination of what that means in terms of human usage limits and restora=
tion would be based on peer-reviewed science. Trustee decisions that fall s=
hort of this responsibility (again, using scientific criteria to compare pa=
st and present parameters of the ecosystem) could be challenged in court.<b=
In other words, future generations of humans can serve as a pretty good pro=
xy for non-human species=E2=80=94certainly much better than corporate share=
holders, living voters, or wealthy political donors.<br>
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 corpo=
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 i=
n the hands of corporations, but (a) we need to give those corporations som=
e room to do business, and (b) the trusts would impose boundaries on corpor=
ate invasions of the commons, boundaries locked in by property rights.<br>
The trusts would also create an equal distribution sector of the economy th=
at partially offsets the wealth-concentrating effects of the corporate sect=
or. One can hope that, over time, the boundaries around the commons as well=
 as the size of the equal-distribution sector will grow.<br>
Q: Wouldn=E2=80=99t it be better to use revenue from common wealth trusts f=
or public and environmental purposes than for dividends?<br>
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 t=
hem. If dividends are taxed as ordinary income, and tax rates remain progre=
ssive, the poor will keep most of their dividends while the rich will surre=
nder 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 s=
ee fit.<br>
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 t=
he ecological effectiveness of common wealth trusts rests much more in thei=
r boundary-setting power than in the use of their money.<br>
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 desc=
ribe a basic architecture, while recognizing that the devil is in the detai=
ls. 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 exp=
---Peter Barnes---<br>
Tuesday, June 30, 2015<br>

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