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 Progress.org/Counting-Surplus

Your Guide Awaits

Are you tempted to enter a new field of knowledge, despite the “No Trespassing” signs? If you were to step into the field of geonomics, you would have a guide, several of them. Already, some experienced researchers have sought the geonomist’s Holy Grail of the sum total of the worth of Earth. Those few overcame the institutional obstacles with some success.

  • They found scattered articles not on anyone’s radar that calculated state-of-the-then-art best guesses.
  • They found official sources of data in surprising places (the Department of Labor?).
  • And they refined past attempts and extrapolated their own best guesses of Earth’s worth.

They are happy to pass on a map of landmarks for other curious souls to follow.

Those intrepid intellects are sort of like Kit Carson and other trail masters who led wagon trains across the prairies to the Pacific Coast, with one big difference—most of those immigrants made it all the way while our investigators did not. Those American families seeking land did arrive where they could stake a claim, overcoming the original inhabitants and inclement weather along the way. Our research antecedents, however, did not complete the task—a tolerably accurate tally of the flow of rent in a region or nation at one point in time.

A better analogy, in that case, might be exploring a cave yet not finding the secret passage leading to a vast exquisite chamber, such as you might find in the Alps of Italy (Damanhur).

Idle Curiosity Remains Idle

Does the willingness of veterans to offer helpful suggestions embolden the next wave of researchers and reformers to investigate the value of land and resources? Since the veterans were not able to total all of society’s spending on the nature we use, are they competent? Just how useful would their guidance be? Very. Discovering dead ends is useful knowledge, too, as are incomplete answers. Both are building blocks that would save the next generation of students valuable time.

While we do have our scholarly scouts, they lack the followers to build on the predecessors’ early work. Better informed observers may be glad someone else took a first step, as they are glad when anyone out there expands any field of knowledge. But appreciation at a distance is where the admirers stop, without seeking to know more. They’re polite, but they hope that somebody else will tend to it. And so tasks go undone. (Sound familiar?)Thus our willing guides may be frustrated with incurious reformers, and have turned self-defensively aloof, or they may be patient with blind-spotted statisticians, waiting for them to come around.

Guides, At Least, Realize the Urgency

Actually, society had better take advantage of its trailblazers. They are a window of opportunity that can’t stay open forever. Nor are our societies and ecosystems able to stay at a tipping point forever. Sooner or later they must come crashing down. If cognizant predecessors who have dug into this data are worried about the lack of measurement progress, you can see why.

Our guides have not only been there and done that regarding research into rents, they’ve also copped out and initially held back. It’s a normal enough phase; they knew the same reticence as everyone else before they were overwhelmed by curiosity in part and also by the realization that rent flows matter. The distribution of rent will make or break a society, a democracy, an ecosystem, and of course an economy.

In the past, humans have managed to survive poverty, bad government, and foul customs, even ruined environments that were localized. But the question is still open as to survivability of total planet degradation, when every breath taken, every drink gulped, every morsel eaten is to some hazardous degree toxic, and links in the food chain have gone extinct. The need to reverse those ominous trends is what moved me and could motivate a critical mass to get real about economics, to upgrade it into geonomics.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
—Margaret Mead

What Margaret Mead Said

As others get serious, they’ll remember those who went before and turn to them for suggestions re the best sources of data in this largely unexplored field that tracks the flows of rents and other major spending streams. If you’re interested, I can think of a handful of researchers who’d be happy to share their discoveries and strategies with the sincerely curious. As Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

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 Progress.org/Counting-Surplus

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