To the editor:
Re Dale Krieger’s fascinating article “The Curse of the Golden Egg”:
The article quotes Thomas Friedman about how oil-backed regimes “do not have to listen to their people,” can “buy off potential opposition,” and “can afford repressive security measures for those who won’t be bought.”
None of this would be possible in a world where all natural resources, including oil, were considered to be owned by the public, not by any government. Indeed, government claims to own such resources are inherently illegitimate, as are private claims to ownership. Assuming that at one time all resources were unowned, there is no mechanism by which any particular individual, group, or government could originally acquire ownership aside from (shades of Proudhon!) . . . theft. And of course no one who does not have ownership could legitimately transfer ownership to someone else.
The only non-arbitrary way to determine the ownership of natural resources is to deem them owned by the public (again, not to be confused with any government), defined as every man, woman, and child subject to the jurisdiction of a given government. Government could then act as a trustee for the public, auctioning time-limited rights to exploit particular resources to the highest bidder, and distributing the resulting income to the public in periodic social dividends, with equal amounts paid to every man, woman, and child in that public.
Financing the government would then have to be arranged on the basis of taxes, exactly as is the case in countries which are not resource rich.
The Alaskan oil dividend to all state residents is an approximate example of how such a system could work.
Ideally, the public in question would not be a parochial, national, public, but the world public, everybody on the planet. But it would be a step forward for such systems to be instituted at the national level.
This is unlikely, since the establishments in curse-of-the-golden-egg countries have strong personal interests in keeping things the way they are, and if they are overthrown their successors would have equally strong interests to maintain the current kleptocracies.
I have no idea how to get from “here” to “there,” but in theory it is crystal clear that “there” is where we need to get to.
For further analysis see my on-line discussion, The Metaconstitutional Manifesto: A Bourgeois Vision of the Classless Society at http://www.deLespinasse.org .
Paul F. deLespinasse, Ph.D. 1966