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

Who Can Call for a Reckoning?

What do you reckon? Will the worth of Earth soon, or ever, get added up? Innocent scientific inquiry by itself won’t suffice. Rather, it will take popular demand to let science move forward, or so the insufficient responses by those who should be in the know make it seem.

On your own, you can not determine the worth of Earth in your region or nation. It’s something that a society of land appraisers or an association of banks (mortgage lenders) or a department of government statisticians would have to tabulate. Presently, they don’t. They have collected enough data to be able to do so, but determine the worth of Earth in America is not something they’ve done yet. Perhaps they could be persuaded.

Are you, dear reader, a statistician, scholarly researcher, real estate or investment professionals, or a concerned citizen—or at least a millennial geek unable to afford to live where you love? This could be your chance to shine, to demand the number, or at least ask for the raw data from which one could calculate the number. Forming a critical mass of the curious will get the job done.

How Can a Call be Understood?

If a call to action is to be at all effective it must be understood. Yet language is the enemy of determining the worth of Earth: There is no single word familiar to English language speakers that means the worth of Earth. People use the word “rent” to refer to paying for temporary use of land but also for temporary use of a building.

If a call to action is to be at all effective it must be understood. Yet language is the enemy of determining the worth of Earth. There is no single word familiar to English language speakers that means the worth of Earth. People use the word “rent” to refer to paying for temporary use of land but also for temporary use of a building.

Specialists use the term “rent” to refer to a way of looking at the phenomenon; that is, as the return to landowners rather than as the payment by land users. Further, sometimes they use the term to refer to money that is actually being paid for some sites and sometimes they refer to that actual rent plus imputed rent or value of land that is not presently being paid—two drastically different totals.

And it's not just spending for land in the sense of the surface of the earth but also for the subsurface minerals and the supra-surface geosynchronous orbits. Trying to communicate the notion of society’s spending for all kinds of land from fields and forests to the broadcast spectrum with undersea oil in between is so difficult that it reminds one of the old comedy routine of Who’s On First? by Abbot and Costello.

Abbot: “How much is rent.”
Costello: “How much is rent?”
Abbot: “Yes, it is.”

Who Wants the Call Answered?

With the confusion cleared up, and with officials answering the call of science, and keeping their statistics up to date, then you could always find out how much rent gets spent in your economy whenever the mood struck you.

Would the mood strike? Not likely. Most people don’t often ask what the GDP is. Or the Federal budget. Or the Federal deficit. Would the worth of local Earth be any different?

While most people wouldn’t care, there are specialists who would look up the number: curious souls for the sake of scholarship, others interested in the healthy of the general economy, and some to safeguard savings and/or maximize returns to investments. And not just the practical minded but also the justice minded. This number should be public knowledge. And the public should decide what to do with the value—a value generated by the presence of the populace—that the number represents.

While most people wouldn’t care, there are specialists who would look up the number: curious souls for the sake of scholarship, others interested in the healthy of the general economy, and some to safeguard savings and/or maximize returns to investments. And not just the practical minded but also the justice minded. This number should be public knowledge. And the public should decide what to do with the value—a value generated by the presence of the populace—that the number represents.

Who’s Answering the Call?

One can detect a groundswell of interest in all things related to the worth of Earth among the idealists and the practicalists:

There has been a steady stream of guesstimates by specialists:

Like-minded folk have gathered to talk up the topic and share war stories:

They’re building a bandwagon that more and more are climbing aboard:

You may have noticed that the issue of how the worth of Earth makes our standard of living comfortable—or not—has arrived in the public limelight.

Feeling the Fever

What’s the big deal? Here’s the deal. It’s about an immense amount of money. It’s money that’s basically a windfall. And it’s a stream of spending that drives a way wide wedge between those comfy and those struggling. That’s why it pays to pay attention.

Witnessing the enthusiasm for investigating the worth of Earth, an impartial bystander can’t help but get a “contact high”. The excitement of those researching the totals of land value, and rent’s impact on economies, plus the nature of the unaffordability crisis in places like New York and San Francisco, while discovering solutions, etc, rubs off on observers. Impressed by the fervor, one grows curious.

Given all that emotion on the part of clearheaded people, it only stands to reason that there must be some clear thinking behind it. So it’s only natural to want to know more, to read on, to be ensure learning how it plays out. Just turn the page.

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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