We the People, Inc.

Libertarians, conservatives, and rich people are always saying government should be run more like a business. Here are some very businesslike ideas they probably won’t like.

I think society should encourage everyone to own a little bit of land and a modest domicile, free of tax. But since the public is the granting authority of ownership rights (and also the judicial and policing authority of those rights), our doctrine should be that there is an implied public easement on all land and structures that prohibits various kinds of public nuisance and environmental harm (actually this is already implied, but too narrowly).

Perhaps we should also have a federal rent on all land above a certain “homestead exemption” value, something like the Land Value Tax (LVT) proposed by Henry George. This would be an even stronger way to assert the public interest in all our land and resources. We should have a federal tax on non-renewable resource use, too, not just on carbon.

Coste social del monopolio. Monopoly's Social ...

Monopoly’s Social cost. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I also like an idea I got from Nate Blair that the public can rent out patent and copyright monopolies instead of granting them free gratis, especially if the rent is in the form of a royalty on profits rather than an up-front cost. Since it is We the People who grant and guarantee patent and copyright rights, why should we not reserve some rights and benefits to the people?

In some cases we may want to buy back patent rights on medicines and other things that have a compelling social value to insure they will be available at or near the cost of production. As Nate writes:

Another great innovation would be for society to attempt to value the social benefit of an innovation, particularly in the field of medicine, and then make an offer that the innovator couldn’t refuse.For example, inventor of an HIV immunization could earn 10 billion in profit, but the social cost of monopolizing the treatment that some people cannot afford may equal 50 billion. Society could offer an award of 20 billion, like XPRIZE; accepting the prize would mean transferring the rights to society (to the commons) so that everyone could be treated at the marginal cost. The innovators get 10 billion more than they would have under the “free” (monopolized) market, and society has made a 30 billion dollar economic/societal profit. —Nate Blair

Patent rights in the United States during the ...

Patent rights on radio (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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