A question of natural resources

1383634_621685894541734_856692664_nEditor’s note: We had a visitor ask a question and thought others might have the same or similar questions. 

Question: Since everything in Copiosis is property, and all property is owned by someone, what is the story around basic resources?  How are resources allocated to provide the most Net-Benefit? How is this determined and by who?  How does somebody own the basic minerals, water and air?  Where does the concept of the commons and community property fit in? 


In every case, things are allocated by private individuals according to their private interest. This also applies to basic resources in some cases. In others, the allocation is determined by the community at large through the Payer Bureaucracy (which is the supporting organization of the Payer Organization).

For minerals it’s easy: the land in which the minerals are located are owned by a private individual. That person has the ownership right to manage that land as he sees fit for his own benefit according to how the economy works. Ownership in Copiosis is more akin to “stewardship” than “ownership” as we know it today.

Today, we have entities responsible for managing water “rights”. There are water utilities (munis). There’s the US Environmental Protection Agency and others. There are agreements in place dating back hundreds of years detailing who has “rights” to water. In a Copiosis Economy the people best suited to take ownership of property are the ones likely to do so. You wouldn’t want my mom being in charge of the water in your town. But you’d probably be ok with the Senior engineer of the Water Bureau or Water Utility in your town managing that resource, wouldn’t you?

Let’s assume your answer is yes. Now, that engineer only owns the “resource”. But he can’t own all the assets used to manage that resource. There are too many tools, vehicles, pipes, switches, computers, pumps, etc. He also can’t “own” the natural aquifer where the water is sourced, the tributaries that feed it, the watersheds that feed tributaries or the vast range that feeds the watersheds. He also doesn’t own the clouds that bring the water, or the sun that gets the whole process going.

However, there are lots of people who also work in the Water Bureau who could own parts of this “resource system”. The men and women who maintain the pipes, valves, spigots, the guys who drive the service vehicles, the scientists who test the water, the security people who keep the system safe….all these people in a Copiosis Economy, if they choose, could take ownership of specific aspects of the water utility system. All these people could then own and manage their portion of the system as they see fit. Of course, they would have to do so in a coordinated fashion. They would also have to coordinate with users of all kinds as well as the Payer Organization, to make sure the system operated in a way everyone agreed was the optimal use of that system. Coordinators would obviously help with that.

There’s bound to be disagreement, that’s why there would be mediators (current-day judges) to help come to fair and equitable decisions on such matters. Copiosis dramatically alters the Justice system. But that’s a whole other story.

Water “rights” such as those out of streams and rivers are a different matter. That said, those rights are still managed by someone. It may be the (I think) US Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and other federal agencies. In Copiosis, those agencies go away, but the people who work in those agencies don’t. They can continue (if they want) working on these issues. The good news is, these issues suddenly become free of the political machinations that make these things so contentious. In fact, the political appointees to all these agencies and organizations – the directors, administrators and such – they no longer have a role to play in managing the resources, unless they want to and can adequately perform as coordinators.

Also, our methods of using water (as well as all resources) change dramatically after The Transition, which, presumably makes many of these concerns over time go away. That is where the Payer Bureaucracy comes in. More on that shortly.


The Atmosphere and the air we breathe

I personally don’t think specific people will be able to take stewardship of the air. The atmosphere is more of a commons, as would be water that exists outside water utilities (such as water in major rivers, lakes, oceans and such). These resources – including some basic materials (i.e. minerals) get managed by the inherent nature of the Payer Organization Bureaucracy and the Net-Benefit calculation.

For example, since there is no federal, state or local governments, people who work in entities such as the state level Department of Environmental Quality, EPA, and the US Coast Guard and such would no longer have jobs in those agencies (as with the other federal agencies mentioned above). However, some of the skills these people possess – the scientists, researchers, data wonks, public health PHds, analysts, etc., would find themselves highly sought after in the Payer Organization Bureaucracy. Some of these people, such as rangers, inspectors and enforcement personnel could continue their work, but they would work independent of any organization other than a loosely organized team or coop of folks voluntarily united by a common purpose. Their work could support the Support Bureaucracy.

The wonks, researchers and scientists and their knowledge, skills and output would be used to calculate, for example, how much negative Net-Benefit is created when a car, plane or jetski spews emissions into the air, or when a farmer uses technology and farming practices that waste water, or when a factory uses processes that not only consume millions of gallons of fresh water (such as fracking) but also results in water that is not reusable and a resource – natural gas – that harms the atmosphere. This information is fed into the Net-Benefit algorithms, and Income Signals (as opposed to price signals) and sent to Producers who, presumably alter their behavior in order to maximize their income. If, for (an extreme) example (for purposes of illustration), I’m the owner of a coal-fired power plant, the Payers might tell me one day that my use of coal and the emissions I create by burning it cause so much impact to the environment that operating my plant will earn me 2% of what I was earning previously, based on the Net-Benefit calculation.

WTF? I would say at first.

Now there are several actions I could take. I could get mad and stomp around and operate my plant anyway. This would be a problem though because not only will I get only 2% of what I was making in income, everyone who helps me make that plant run also sees a similar decrease for contributing to the Net-Benefit my plant now produces. Same with vendors, suppliers and contractors to the plant. So it isn’t likely I’ll be able to run my plant under those conditions because I can’t run it by myself and I’m sure all those other people will refuse to work for only 2% of what they were making before.

Copiosis does remarkable things to human choices that capitalism never will: it frees people. In this example, I may no longer want to run my coal plant. In Copiosis, the balance sheet costs of my plant are irrelevant. What’s more, changing my plant in Copiosis is a relatively easy undertaking. That’s because so long as the changes I may undertake enable my pant to produce Positive Net-Benefit, all the material, equipment and labor I would need to change it will be provided to me at no cost. So, let’s say I’m a smart guy. I’m reading the economic tea leaves and realize that coal as an energy resource is dead as a doornail. It’s clear, since the marginal cost of production is now 0 for all goods and services, that renewable technologies suddenly become highly attractive, and more “economical” than any other energy source – even Nuclear power.

If I were to convert my plant from a coal-fired plant to a bio-fuel-fired plant, I could do better. But the emissions I would create from burning the fuel could still impact my income. But I know a guy who had developed an innovation that captures all those emissions and recycles them into more energy. I could go that route, but really, the best energy source in terms of Net-Benefit is one that does not produce any emissions. My plant just happens to be located out in the boondocks because the EPA in the old days wouldn’t let me site it close to the consumption centers. That turned out to be a good thing because my plant is surrounded by relatively little. It’s mostly prairie land. The land my plant sits on is owned by me, but the adjacent lands are owned by other folks. Maybe I could create a solar farm? Geothermal? Maybe I can provide my land to another energy company that is in the solar business. Maybe I could join a team and investigate other ways to create energy, ways that don’t require a bunch of land….maybe…maybe….


Freedom of thought, freedom from “affordability”

This openness of thought and opportunity is made available because I don’t have to pay for my home. I don’t have to worry about insurance or medical bills. My food, my kids education, all that is covered. If I really wanted to continue running my plant, I could convert it to the Bio-version and still make income. I wouldn’t maximize my income until I figured out a way to capture and eliminate the emissions. I could probably find a way to do that with some time and thought, which are abundant in a Copiosis Economy.

This story hopefully illustrates that the “commons”, air, water, some land, elements and minerals are held in stewardship through the Payer Bureaucracy and the Net-Benefit calculation. The people who today work at capturing all the data we use to currently keep track of these “commons” and their quality, status etc., work in a very large number of separate institutions, consulting firms, engineering firms, governments and nonprofits. After the Transition, they would earn income doing those same tasks, but as part of a massive organization (loosely managed in an open-source, transparent and connected environment) supporting the Payer Organization. Their skills would be used to inform civilization about the state and quality of these commons, and their work product (their results) would inform all manners of Net-Benefit calculations. Of course, anyone could join this bureaucracy to help inform it, so if you don’t like the results they come up with, you have the ability to play a role in creating the results. Most importantly, all their work would drive entrepreneurs, industrialists and innovators to seriously begin taking on problems that languish because “we can’t afford it”.


Some people argue that the politics involved in dealing with some of these decisions would result in stagnation. I think such stagnation, as well as the policy pendulum swings we see today, occur because there currently are too many perverse incentives driving such decisions including the false scarcity created by affordability. Scarcity-based economies always have this problem. Post-scarcity economies do not. Take these incentives away and I believe people will make better decisions faster.


Everyone becomes an environmental steward

All commons and community property is managed in the same way. Any property or material value too large for individual stewardship is managed by the Net-Benefit calculation which increases the consequence of resource consumption as that resource nears depletion: the closer towards depletion, the greater negative impact consuming that resource has on a Producer’s income. Also, as resources near depletion, the Net-Benefit value of actions that restore said resources increases.

In fisheries for example, I could envision fishermen earning income fishing stocks, but as those stocks near depletion (they don’t have to get CLOSE to depletion) Net-Benefit Income Signals would transform those fishermen into conservation managers as they would earn more income restoring the stock than fishing it. Over time I would presume smart fishermen would self-manage these resources to maintain an optimum level of income balance by “sustainable fishing practices”. The same would occur for power plant managers, factory managers and other facilities that consume or impact the commons.




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