Utilicontributism

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Overview

Utilicontributism is an economic model that considers everyone equal owners of the Earth's resources, each with a basic entitlement to live on Earth, yet the responsibility to keep it habitable for others and future generations. People are charged for use of resources beyond this entitlement, and that fee or rent is then distributed equally to everyone. This model selects for wealth equity through wealth distribution based on sustainable use, and selects for sustainable use of property--and overall, the Earth--through a use formula that charges more for more use.

Questions:

  1. Is charging people for beyond-the-share use the only mechanism to establish equitable resource use? This appears not to address plunder of resources, where plunder can be paid for by fruits of the plunder. How is this condition addressed?
  2. Is participation voluntary? Are there inherent mechanisms that eliminate or reduce the need for a policing function?

Description

Stuck on this rock together: the concept of Spaceship Earth

Consider spaceship Earth. We, as humans, should be able to agree that we each have an entitlement to live on Earth, but on one condition: living must not render the spaceship uninhabitable; living practices must be sustainable for present and future generations. This entitlement, then, comes with responsibility, and every human has equal entitlement. This entitlement is inalienable: one person, one share. This entitlement could be considered joint, equal ownership, too. However, I am going to use “guardianship” to signify that ownership beyond share is actually both imposing on others’ shares, and caretaking their shares. We can consider all humans to be in an “Earth trust,” protecting the Earth commons, which is essentially the final, networked result of all propertytrusts linked together: the property commons.

Use formula

To determine use: Use = Guardianship / Entitlement. Use higher than 1 is imposition because it is guardianship or “ownership” beyond what a person is entitled to. By controlling more than my fair share, I am imposing on everyone else’s share, and I am responsible and accountable for that: I pay for my imposition of additional use, and that payment is spread to the entitled, or the Earth trustees. In other words, I pay a use fee that is spread equally to everyone. In yet another way of looking at it, I am paying rent for extra use, because that extra use is actually renting other people’s shares.

The "Landlady Gaia" perspective

In a final way of looking at it, the Earth is being personified in the system; the Earth views everyone as equally entitled to live, but it requires overall sustainability, so it charges those that live unsustainably in proportion to their use, and then distributes that rent equally, giving the wealth advantage to those that live more sustainably. To some this may seem cheesy, but I think it's an interesting way to think about it; we are deciding to be accountable to our impact on the Earth, and each other, by creating a system to restore and maintain the health of the Earth.