Ideas Whose Time Has Come
A State Bank for California
The California Green Party puts forth some proposals nicely in line with geonomics. This 2010 article is from Beyond Chron.org‚ Nov. 10.
by Bernard MarszalekThe idea of a state bank -- proposed by the California Green Party -- can be found in Ellen Brown’s Web of Debt which describes the North Dakota State Bank, a financial institution dating back to 1919.
The State of North Dakota, in part because of its bank (they have oil, too, and very little land speculation), has remained solvent during the financial meltdown. Their state bank arose from a vibrant populist movement one hundred years ago.
With a public bank, how about our own money system? For years Argentina used the American dollar, until we pulled the rug out from under their economy. We could continue to use the dollar for international trade, and for local trade nothing stops us from creating our own currencies, an option some communities are discussing now.
In Alaska, each citizen receives a yearly dividend check from the tax on extracting Alaska’s oil. I am not advocating off shore drilling, but mentioning the Alaska Fund as an example of citizens sharing the bounty from their natural resources. The Bush Regime even floated this idea for Iraq.
California’s resources, however, go far beyond oil -- we have deserts, for solar energy; water (including tides) and wind; forests that could be sustainably harvested (in agreement with the federal government); minerals of all sorts, and the list goes on.
Of course, this means renegotiating with those companies that currently rip off the citizens of California mainly to benefit out-of-state investors. No self-respecting world-class economy should tolerate that. The ultimate aim of creating a state fund like the Alaska model is not to make us all rich, but to begin the process of securing our commons to generate an income for all, separate from jobs.
Developing our resources (sustainably) for general benefit recalls the old idea of the commonwealth in a new context. The funds accruing to the citizenry could work as a subsistence income, freeing the state of enormous welfare expenditures, and providing more traditional sources of income to act as a supplement.
Job sharing could appeal to many to “top-up” their basic, commons-generated income. Crafts people, artists, besides hobbyists and DIY enthusiasts, might be encouraged to develop small enterprises that otherwise would be impossible without their basic survival addressed. Rethinking the economy in this way opens the prospect of moving beyond endlessly growing the economy, but actually downsizing it, in terms of its carbon footprint, and getting it out of our way as we can create a richer way of life.
With a citizen dividend, why not resurrect citizen diplomacy and incorporate it into a system of informal ambassadorships? Citizen ambassadors, respected individuals from various fields, not political patrons, could seek agreements to increase friendly association and exchange on cultural and civic matters. A state ambassador could visit Oregon and Washington to explore regional interests; imagine Governor Cuomo in New York welcoming California’s ambassador.
Such contacts could lead to more cooperation on economic matters of mutual interest, overcoming the shortsighted competitiveness that now prevails. And maybe grassroots diplomacy might spur consideration of more substantial plans such as several states forming a regional investment bank, like the Banco del Sur, set-up by Latin American countries.
Extending this idea of civic participation, how about Citizens’ Cabinets to advise the governor and legislature? In a democratic version, the Cabinet of the Arts would be chosen by the arts community, the Cabinet of Local Agriculture by small farmers, the Cabinet of Alternative Energies by people in that field, the Cabinet of Affordable and Sustainable Housing, etc. And so what if we have fifty cabinets? Even if they contend with one another and issue contradictory White Papers, the civic life of the state would be invigorated, as it hasn’t been since Upton Sinclair ran for Governor.
Utopian visions leading to real social experiments need to be grounded in reality and here is where this all began, with a state bank. According to the President of the North Dakota bank, twenty-five states have contacted him to learn more and six state legislatures are actively studying the idea. Let’s establish one in California.
JJS: Alongwith North Dakota’s bank, let’s not quickly forget the real world example of the Alaska oil dividend. That dividend may have had more impact than the bank. Alaska is the US state with the least wide income gap and the only one where the gap is not growing.
And North Dakota was far from alone in dodging the recession. Every place where land speculation was not rampant -- the desolate places of little population where most people do not want to live -- also evaded the downturn. The “real estate” (land, actually) bubble bursting caused the downtown, so no bubble, no recession.
In any state, or in any size jurisdiction, citizens can enjoy a dividend not just from the more familiar natural resources such as oil but also the EM spectrum and surface land itself. In cities, the downtowns (which usually are owned by outsiders) have so much site value that if the local polity recovered those socially-generated ground rents, it could eliminate most counterproductive taxes and still pay residents a dividend. This green shift of taxes and subsidies goes by the name of geonomics, and many Green Parties have endorsed all or some of it, even California’s did back in the early 1990s.
Editor Jeffery J. Smith runs the Forum on Geonomics.
Why are we raising the pay of big wasters?
Get oil rent and/or pay airport rent is another way
California considers a dividend to residents
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