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

Public Service

Can one person move the universe? Actually, we all can, and we all do  … however, not always in the hoped-for direction. Recently, fortunately, I actually did trigger a reaction that pleased me, that yielded some desired results. I don’t how often that happens to you, or how often you go up against the tide, but in my life, that positive reaction really gives me hope.

The past few weeks, I’ve been pestering our official, public economists for a statistic absent from government websites—to wit: how much is the worth of Earth in America? Rather than get a run-around, I wanted my leading questions to drill down to the answer, to the stat that surpasses all stats!

No harm in asking, right? All they can do is not answer or answer with a non-answer. Amazingly, some actually went out on a limb—they answered with answers.

Without me revealing their identities, you might like to read a few excerpts from their replies

“Jeff,

Was it Truman who [was so exasperated with his economic advisor always telling him, ‘Well, on the other hand …,’ that he] wanted a one handed economist? There really are different uses for the various surveys! Try asking the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) who bought what!

—Revi K., Bureau of Labor Statistics”

—————

“Jeff,

How much is land value? It’s a lot! (No pun intended :) It’s my understanding that the BEA (the people that do the GDP) is working on including land in the National Balance Sheet, but they’re not there yet. You would want to clarify whether you are talking just about “urban land” (that is, “real estate” land), or also land that is productive as such in its own right (without buildings) such as farmland, timberland, mining land. Also about whether to include dedicated open space (such as parks—how much is Central Park ‘worth’?).

I suggest you contact Professor MD. He subscribes to a data service in order to update his estimate just about daily. [Ed. Note:  And the good prof did come through, writing me that all residential land was now priced at only $9 trillion—a pitiful amount for all home sites in America, actually.]

—DGL at MIT”

—————

“Jeff,

I am in the process of updating the estimates and hope to be able to publically [sic] release the updated indices by later this summer. I’ll be sure to send you a link to the new indices once they are released.

Thanks for the detailed comments.

The data is [sic] based on transactions, so it does not include all properties and land in the United States. Extrapolating from this data to the entire nation is possible, but any such measure should come with the appropriate caveats.

I have had discussions with staff at Census on using the data to improve our estimate of land values, but we have not had a chance to work on that project yet.

 —Jay N., the US Federal Reserve”

—————

“Dear Jeffery,

Sorry for the delay in getting back to you. Would you be available on Friday 4/22 at 2pm for a phone conversation? RL, an economist who follows real estate for the Financial Accounts, can join us then.

Regards,

—Luz Q., the US Federal Reserve”

—————

Kudos, Hope, & Pride

If I’m correctly reading in what was written in … tell me that’s not all way cool! Of course, one must respect their need to respect their job security. I must go slowly as I urge them to tally up the value of all land and resources. Yet it does seem that they have not yet reached the end of their tether, that nobody upstairs is reeling them back in. It really seems like a lot of good will come of this, and relatively soon. Doesn’t it?

I hope so, and the hope appears not to be unfounded. Right? People do want be seen as professionals, do want to contribute their talents to society, right? Everybody wants to do good; that’s human nature.

For opening up as much as they have, I feel proud of them. How many other bureaucrats would’ve just walked away? [Answer: most.] If anyone’s going to get the job done, it’s going to be these few knowledge providers, this handful of helpful bureaucrats.

Ever Onward

From here on out, the main thing is to maintain and strengthen these relationships, keep the fires lit, the workers on task. Reward with praise every refinement they make that brings into sharper focus the truth about the worth of Earth. Do all I can to keep the bar set high, at its new height.

Their desire to know seems genuine. So does their commitment to find out. I bet we’re all going to have some really good news soon, in mid 2016.

Imagine if more than one person, but a group together, were to push leviathan in the direction we all want it to go? If you have any questions for them, get in touch. We can have another fun conference call!

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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