Equal Distribution of Natural Property: Will It Work?
By Juliana Zhu, Esq.
Cancer InCytes Magazine - Volume 5, Issue 1, Summer 2016
Recently, I read a couple of articles in Yes Magazine. One introduced to the idea of common wealth – though if I had a good memory, I would have remembered this concept from one of my philosophy or history classes in college. Apparently, American Thomas Paine, in his essay “Agrarian Justice,” speaks of two kinds of property: natural property and acquired property. You may have guessed by its name that natural property is property that comes from us through nature, such as earth, water and air, and acquired property is man-made, through inventions. Paine also proposed that natural property should be belong to everyone equally and distributed accordingly, whereas acquired property should be distributed unequally. Distribution of natural property would not be charity, but that of a birthright.
What is the impact of equal distribution of natural property? Alaska effected this concept as each resident is paid dividends from money that comes from the state’s natural resource, oil. Alaskans don’t see the dividends as welfare but see it as their right to their state’s wealth.
These concepts made me think of the game Monopoly where players gets $200 every time they pass the “Go” spot. And as they land on various spaces, they have a chance to build their income depending on where they land and the choices that they make. The $200 would be the basic income or income from natural property and the other type of income gained would be acquired property.
Similar to the idea of equal distribution of natural property is the idea of basic income. Basic income for the rich and the poor introduced to the Swiss earlier this month when they voted on it, even though they voted against it. In the 1970’s, Canada and the U.S. experimented on this but didn’t go forward. Lately, it’s gaining some momentum as basic income experiments will be conducted on groups of people in the U.S. and Canada. Finland and Netherlands also have experiments on the way that will include up to 100,000 people.
One can imagine the opposing views of this policy. Opponents see this as welfare and a deterrent on motivation to work; thus, people would become lazy. Proponents see this as an opportunity for a better society in which people will be provided basic security, be less worried about finances, and have more freedom to seek more meaningful work. Since employees don’t have to worry about providing for food, etc., employers will need to treat employees with more respect, otherwise, workers can seek better work elsewhere. Also, people will have more time to search for a meaningful life with suitable work that will boost their sense of purpose and well-being. People will not have to stay at a job only because they need to in order to provide for the basics. Those countries that adopt this in their system would likely foster happier citizens.
Of course, when it comes to actualizing these policies, the outcomes may vary as many factors contribute to the results. Hopefully, they will be positive and can improve society as a whole.
Juliana Zhu, Esq.
Senior Editor, Culture & Policy
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