At an Impasse
When all your original strategies don’t pan out, better stop and take stock, figure out what went wrong and if anything can go right.
July 12, 2016
Jeffery J. Smith

This article is part of a series by Jeffery J. Smith on the surplus—also known as “economic rent”—that exists in the economy. Currently, this surplus is hoarded; yet once shared, this surplus could generate undreamed of possibilities for the entire human population. To see the entire series, visit

Have I Closed All Doors?

There’s a wall in running a marathon. Is there one in writing a book? Did earlier successful popularizers of science—Mary Roach, Bill Nye, Julian Huxley—reach the point where all their efforts felt in vain, when the facts simply could not be ferreted out? Maybe not. They were lucky. They were reporting what had already been discovered. In writing this book, we’re trying to discover something new—the worth of Earth, a datum either unknown or as thoroughly buried as eagerly I try to unearth it (pun intended).

What has to happen in order to know the worth of Earth? Whatever that is, can one investigative reporter on his own bring that about? What’s holding up this investigation into the standard procedures of business, government, and academia, to wit, their treatment of the total for rents, for society’s spending on all the land and resources that all its members use?

Is it me? Do they see me as partial? As a critic? An amateur? An agitator trying to rock the boat? Does merely asking a question of an official seem like prying? Imply criticism? Appear to be taking sides?

Can I Change Myself?

Wanting to know probably does make one suspect. So how can the curious convince the knowledge monopolists of one’s impartiality, of one’s scientific neutrality? While still digging deeper?

It’s simply not feasible to go back to college and get a formal degree. That was not necessary for other investigative reporters, successful ones such as Greg Palast et al. Yet merely investigating the standard practices of the data keepers does seem to unavoidably set off screeching red alarms in their minds. Maybe I can reprogram myself to not just appear impartial but go one better and appear ant-partial.

I would not mind operating at utmost objectively. It’s the brain’s job to assume, to prejudge, which hinders doing good science. Try as I might, I know I’m just as susceptible as anyone to errors in judgment.

The problem is, one gets only one chance to make a first impression. In my enthusiasm to ferret out the facts, I failed to keep my cards close to my vest. The cat’s out of the bag. Those who want to cover up and misdirect anyone’s interest in the facts about rents, they know me, if they know me at all, as one on the other side, as somebody who wants to discover and broadcast information about society’s spending for land and resources. With them, I may have burned my bridges.

And let’s face it. While I’m all for greater objectivity and impartiality, I do feel nobody should ever have to apologize for their curiosity, ever. That must show. With my drive to know, I’ve branded myself as someone who’d go too far to learn the truth about how the world really works.

Needed Introspection

It’s the gadfly’s dark night of the soul. When being so relentlessly inquisitive cuts one off from the rest of humanity. When all’s said and done, I’m just another misfit. Abnormality is not just disheartening, it’s embarrassing.

To think that I could bend the powers-that-be to my will, just by being logical and persistent. Hah! How puerile, egotistical, and plain dumb. Success will take more than what I’ve brought to the fray so far. If I bring nothing else, to those who fend off the occasional probe into data on the worth of Earth it will seem another one bites the dust.

Well, if I can’t beat them, maybe I can join them. Perhaps some bastion of obscured data has need for an apostate investigator who’s an expert in all the reasons why a precise answer of the worth of Earth is impossible to ever know. A job with no curiosity allowed, just caution and conformity. What is that job title? Public Information Officer, right?

This article is part of a series by Jeffery J. Smith on the surplus—also known as “economic rent”—that exists in the economy. Currently, this surplus is hoarded; yet once shared, this surplus could generate undreamed of possibilities for the entire human population. To see the entire series, visit

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Jeffery J. Smith

JEFFERY J. SMITH published The Geonomist, which won a California GreenLight Award, has appeared in both the popular press (e.g.,TruthOut) and academic journals (e.g., USC's “Planning and Markets”), been interviewed on radio and TV, lobbied officials, testified before the Russian Duma, conducted research (e.g., for Portland's mass transit agency), and recruited activists and academics to A member of the International Society for Ecological Economics and of Mensa, he lives in Mexico. Jeffery formerly was Chief Editor at