[ExI] Social right to have a living

Damien Sullivan phoenix at ugcs.caltech.edu
Sun Jun 26 19:20:38 UTC 2011

On Sun, Jun 26, 2011 at 10:54:49AM -0700, spike wrote:
> Subject: Re: [ExI] Social right to have a living
> On Mon, May 23, 2011 at 5:41 PM, Damien Sullivan <phoenix at ugcs.caltech.edu> wrote:
> >...
> > So a fair society would give an equal bloc of land to everyone...
> This comment caught my attention.  In more agricultural times, that
> might have made some sense, but in the industrial age, litigation has

My model presupposed an agrarian society, to simplify matters and show
what an egalitarian yet market and not oppressive society in those
circumstances could look like.  It's a thought experiment, not a
prescription.  Modern equivalents would be more complicated; given the
importance of human capital, public education is partly this.  Thomas
Paine's idea of a capital grant given to everyone at age 21 would be a
step closer, though still alienable.  A bundle of stocks today, perhaps.
The main point is to avoid both welfare and exploitation by giving
everyone direct control of some means of production they can use to make
a living.  In the agrarian world, that means land.  In the modern real
world, it's less obvious, and would probably have to be more abstract
and indirect.

Of course, land is also useful as a place to live on.  Homelessness
might look different if every citizen had by right a place they could go

> replaced agriculture as a leading accumulator of wealth, even if not

"litigation is the leading accumulator of wealth"?  You exaggerrate for
bizarre humor, surely.

> actually a creator of wealth.  Today land ownership is mostly a
> liability.  Liabilities must be insured.  Most people couldn't buy

What insurance does the ownership of a plot of land compel you to buy?

> In the age of cheap food imports, it generally costs more to grow
> one's own food on one's own land than to import the same amount of
> food from countries in which wages are low and people are hungry.  So
> most people in the states could not afford to grow their own food if
> given the land to do it.  Those equal blocs of land would go mostly
> unplanted and unharvested, which would soon convert this rich land

You seem to have missed several points.  In the scenario, good farmers
can rent the grant land of other farmers.  The mapping to today would be
agribusiness running as normal, but paying a rent to the people who
owned the various plots of land it was usinng.

And if you own a plot of land, and have some seeds and tools to start
out with, you can grow food on it.  You don't need to afford anything
else.  It's a crappy subsistence agriculture lifetyle not really suited
for the modern world, but the existence of cheaper food -- which you
can't buy, because you don't have money -- in no way blocks you from
growing food as a backup to avoid starvation.

Not, again, that it's a direct recommendation.

-xx- Damien X-) 

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