What Troubles Disappear If We Share Rents?
Much of what torments us we can alleviate when we share Earth by sharing her worth.
July 22, 2021
Jeffery J. Smith

If your income went up without you having to work more or invest more, what could you expect less of? If society shared its social surplus—mainly the worth of Earth—what depredations wither away? If you got a Citizens Dividend, what thorns in our sides would income security dissolve?

Fewer Mind Numbing Jobs

If your job does not reward you, you could move on to one that does. People presently passionless about the tasks that fill their day would become scarce in the workplace. Customers would encounter far fewer grumpy service providers.

Unhappy workers would no longer drag down productivity. Bosses would offer fewer jobs that pay too little or bore the brain or pose risk. The conformist work that merely garners a salary but does not produce true value gets deleted.

If employers find it cheaper to automate, employees wouldn't fear losing their jobs to robots nor resist progress. Indeed, they’d not fear the future but welcome it. Imagine the benefits.

Fewer Low Wage Jobs

An extra income gives workers leverage to negotiate higher wages besides interesting work. And workers attain both goals without unionizing. People with like interests would still associate in clubs but not need to go on strike.

For employers to pay more, employees must perform better. People could work part-time to attend school. And acquire higher skills, not submit to dull studies in order to win dull yet high paying jobs.

Fewer friends try to sell you something. They’d not turn every hobby into a “side-hustle”, which leeches the enjoyment out of their avocation. Those friends you’d no longer have to dodge.

Fewer people would limit themselves to working for a boss, they’d aspire to work for themselves. Such entrepreneurs would not have to fundraise or work two jobs. The extra income covers startup costs. They’d become small business owners yet we'd not be duped by stories of pulling themselves up by their bootstraps, knowing a Citizens Dividend played a major role.

Less Debt

If you have debts to pay, you could pay them off. Students could unburden themselves. Then find out if getting a degree was worth it.

Nobody would feel so desperate to take on payday loans. One wouldn’t lose future paychecks to loan sharks. In low-wage parts of town, you’d see fewer loan shops. Also fewer pawn shops. Your family heirlooms would be safe.

Less Poverty

Less embarrassment from putting groceries back at the checkout. People who now have no choice but to buy cheap things that won't last could buy quality. They’d produce less fill for the county dump.

Never wondering if and when utilities will be shut-off. Never worrying about something breaking down at the worst possible time—like an old vehicle—with no means of fixing it.

Fewer people ration unaffordable medication they critically need. No delaying treatment of cavities, symptoms, chronic illnesses. Less dependence on ER.

Less Disintegration of Family

Fewer parents working two jobs, meaning every member of the family eats alone. Despite the fact that eating swinging spaghetti is better done alone. Or at least with social distancing. Some might also choose privacy for downing ribs or watermelon. Fewer food fights.

More seriously, fewer divorces due to one partner not pulling their weight.

Fewer hungry children. Fewer children of poor parents placed into foster care. OTOH, more adoption of orphans by couples who finally could afford it.

Less getting pregnant or separated to receive more welfare. Fewer single moms or single dads. Fewer neglected children, thereby breaking intergenerational poverty.

Less stress reduces domestic violence. Yet if spousal or child abuse did occur, fewer assaulted parents would stay in a toxic relationship. They could afford their own home. Courts might redirect the attacker’s CD to their ex.

Less Disintegration of Community

Certain people need help above what most other people need. With everyone receiving a CD, the special needs person would have family members and community members with plenty of income to spend on providing special help. No bureaucracy needed.

Fewer people would end up on the street. Cities would have nearly no homeless squatters or shelters. Just some talented, non-starving-artist buskers.

Crime drops. Fewer turn to theft in the streets, or in the suites. Nobody would be desperate to steal. And rising out of poverty, people feel less apathetic toward politics. Lobbyists would find fewer elected officials they could wrap around their little finger.

Less Feeling Depressed

Knowing they can pay their bills every month, fewer people feel stress. Able to take care of themselves or loved ones, anxiety drains away. Fewer would feel the low self-esteem that comes from an overly wide wealth/income gap.

That old despair from not seeing a way out of an awful situation rarely crops up. Fewer turn to alcohol or drugs, so there’d be less addiction,  less homelessness, and less petty crime. Addicts trying to quit, who can’t tolerate going cold turkey, could afford the treatment that provides a soft landing.

When one needs time off or to change their routine or take a vacation, they’d have the time, money, and resources to pamper themselves. That’d keep everyone happy. Fewer people would be downers.

There’d be fewer fatal mistakes that depressed people, not paying attention, make. And fewer mistakes they intentionally make—suicide. Adult males, who base their self-worth on being a provider, often harm themselves. Suicide is far more rampant than homicide. And each year it gets worse.

Feeling content and confident, fewer people would lead atomistic lives, adopt an anti-neighbor identity, nor behave anti-community, dropping litter, playing loud music late at night, burning plastic in fires, parking on sidewalks, and other nuisances.

Less Disease

Mental illness typically causes physical ailments. Fewer people would suffer those pains. The insomnia epidemic recedes with fewer sleepless nights. Nobody would be on their feet all day doing a menial task, or walk long distance when even bus fare is too much. Fewer suffers—mental and physical—relieves the healthcare system. It also lowers insurance costs.

Less Waste of Human Potential

People won’t kowtow to bosses to survive, no longer losing the majority of lifetimes to jobs. Regular paychecks plus an extra income would cover basic needs and more—go live your life fully. There’d be less schooling, more education, as it was in gatherer/hunter tribes. People could delve into subjects that reward their curiosity and develop their talents. But what becomes of the world’s oldest profession?

But Only If …

All the above excising of suffering would be ephemeral if the extra income—a “Basic Income” to cover basic needs—is merely another budget expenditure. Then it’d raise taxes and indebt governments and hurry inflation and worsen the cultural divide.

Only if the extra income—a “Citizens Dividend”—is a share of social surplus, mainly of location value and patent rent, then the healing of society and politics becomes permanent.

* Fewer evictions. Getting a share of land value, people can always afford housing. Fewer would rent, more would buy. They could afford either to live closer to work or work closer to home, reducing commuting.

* As fewer people crowd into cities for jobs or welfare, cars create less traffic. Less rural brain drain to the cities. Cities lose crowding, become human-scale.

* Getting a share of the monopoly value of utilities, residents could always afford water, sewage, electricity, internet.

Less Complication

Abolishing means-testing while paying citizens a dividend makes it possible to lessen red tape and shrivel bureaucracy. Fewer costly programs makes it possible to cut taxes and shrink government. We could lock the hood on the economy and the polity. Life need not be so complicated. What a relief, what a joy.

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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 Progress.org. A member of the International Society for Ecological Economics and of Mensa, he lives in Mexico. Jeffery formerly was Chief Editor at Progress.org.