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

No Quit In Us

We are along for the ride—and are captaining this ship! We—reader and writer—will find out what has been dug up to date on the worth of Earth in America. We will map out the ways to discover more data and the most recent and reliable data at that.

By doing all this, we will sustain and swell our hope of filling in the blindspot that so many humans have toward natural values. Thereby we’ll paint a bigger picture, one to become a vision of a better world for all.

Expect our stick-to-it-ness to run up against the time horizon for this project of geonomic research. The day when we’re finally able to add up how much society as a whole spends on the nature it uses—land, resources, etc—that’s down the road a piece. Then putting that data to good use in our personal investments and our public policies is even further off. Yet every journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Counting Bounty is our initial step.

Is the Right Path Ever Easy?

It’s not like this research is a piece of cake. In order to total all the rent streams in the US economy, there are numerous research papers to gather, research methods to compare, and official sources and business sources of the raw data must be squeezed dry. And when questions arise, the people who work in those centers must be cajoled to cooperate. None of these tasks are easy but all are surmountable.

Then, once all that is done, the precise-as-possible figure for all the natural surplus in America must have an impact. Other researchers, academics, and business analysts must sit up and take notice. The results can’t be simply ignored or blacked out.

Ideally, it’d be the next intellectual tour de force following on the heels of Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the 21st Century. Ours would be more like Land Rents in the 21st Century, but too few readers would grasp the special meanings of those technical terms. Counting Bounty it must be called.

Don’t Be Shy

Knowing how indifferent or critical most of academia and government and business are toward the torrential flow of rent and toward any attempt to measure that surplus, it’s a normal human reaction to feel somewhat embarrassed by hopping on a bandy bandwagon. It’s like being the first one at a gathering to dance—awkward but soon almost everyone is dancing, even if it’s an odd place to dance and all the participants are strangers! Those who know what’s fun—or affirming—go from the sidelines to gung-ho.

While the destination (the measurement of all rents) remains primary, the journey also takes on importance. Who are those seeking the statistic now? Who were the ones who went before? What gave them the chutzpah? Can they get a critical mass to dance the measurement dance?

As has happened before in the realm of science, eventually, Leviathan can be turned. The old beliefs generate psychological dissonance and no longer comfort the mind. Resistance to the new paradigm is overcome and the once ridiculous becomes mainstream.

As Mahatma Gandhi is supposed to have written, "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” However, although Gandhi wrote something like that in a longer version (Freedom’s Battle, 1922), a version that is shorter and more word-for-word similar was spoken in 1914 by labor leader Nicholas Klein in his speech to a textile union. Whoever deserves the credit, it is one of the most cited quotes and neatly expresses the stages of social change.

One satisfying reason to see this quest through is to produce the proof that the quester is not wildly off the wall. The flow of rent is great, its impact is great, and that flow can be measured with acceptable accuracy. Proving that rent is big makes it easier for others to accept that it’s impact is great, too. Even if the number is as small as skeptics or obfuscators say, make the authorities get off their duffs and prove it. One wants proof they’re being foolish seeking to know Earth’s worth.

Need To Know

Tracking the progress of those trying to gauge the size of the stream of rent is a little like playing the lottery. There is a jackpot of immense size that inspires dreams of a better life that become like a narcotic so gamblers keep playing and lose unfailingly. The big difference, of course, is that the chance of hitting the jackpot is one in a million while the tabulation of all rents is inevitable, just a matter of time.

Some information is shared only on a need to know basis. The size of the stream of rent is information all members of a society need to know. How else can they mull over what’s best to do with it?

Hence we are committed to seeing this through. It’s not fair to be kept from this information. The worth of Earth in one’s nation really should become public knowledge.

Commit

Like Johann Wolfgang von Goethe said, 

“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back… the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.”

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

© Text Copyright Jeffery J. Smith rights reserved.
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