Jay Hammond, “Diapering the Devil: How Alaska Helped Staunch Befouling by Mismanaged Oil Wealth”

Jay Hammond, “Diapering the Devil: How Alaska Helped Staunch Befouling by Mismanaged Oil Wealth”

Jay Hammond

 

Jay Sterner Hammond (July 21, 1922 – August 2, 2005) was an American politician of the Republican Party who served as the fourth Governor of Alaska from 1974 to 1982. Hammond was born in Troy, New York and served as a Marine Corps fighter pilot in World War II with the Black Sheep Squadron. In 1946, he moved to Alaska where he worked as a bush pilot. Hammond served as a state representative from 1959 to 1965 and as a state senator from 1967 to 1973. From 1972 until 1974 he was the mayor of the Bristol Bay Borough. In 1974 he was elected governor of Alaska. He oversaw the creation of the Alaska Permanent Fund in 1976, which, since the early 1980s, has paid annual dividends to Alaska residents. From 1985 to 1992 he hosted a television series called Jay Hammond’s Alaska. He wrote three autobiographies. This article is a short introduction of his last book.

Petroleum is the devil’s excrement, warns Juan Pablo Pérez Alfonso, a Venezuelan founder of OPEC. Waste, corruption, consumption, and failing public services are repeated curses in oil rich countries. But Alaska managed to avoid much of the befouling of “devil’s excrement” by actions that served to at least halfway pin on a “diaper.”

Article 8, Section 8, of Alaska’s constitution states: “The legislature shall provide for the utilization, development, and conservation of all natural resources belonging to the state, including land and waters, for the maximum benefit of its people.” This clause prompted Hammond to attempt to assure that all Alaskans received a discernible share of those benefits and to avoid the common past practice of selectively benefiting the favored few at the expense of the many. This battle to avoid selective benefit still continues today.

Before the permanent fund dividend, Hammond had tried several ways to comply with the mandate of the aforementioned constitution, but all fell flat. His first attempt was to abolish fish traps in the Bristol Bay Borough in 1965. A whopping 97 percent of the fishing payday made within the boundary went to others and local residents got but a paltry 3 percent! He proposed a use tax to be paid by all fishermen on their catch. To offset the impact on local fishermen already paying high property taxes, he proposed to putting tax money into a conservatively managed investment account, then each year issuing residents one new share of dividend-earning stock. He called the concept “Bristol Bay, Inc.” The word “tax” made most Alaskans oppose it.

With passage of the Alaska Native Claim Settlement Act (ANCSA) in 1971, Alaska’s aboriginal peoples were accorded 44 million acres of land and $900 million by the U.S. Congress. Hammond proposed again to follow the Bristol Bay, Inc. model to manage ANSCA grants: create a conservatively managed investment account and spin off equal dividends to every Alaska Native. This account was proposed to be managed by professionals under counsel supplied from an elected advisory board of Natives representing every Native group in Alaska. People would have the opportunity to lift themselves up by being stockholders, providing themselves with the means (along with the responsibility) to use it for their collective best interests. Hammond’s proposal failed in the face of obstructions by lawyers, financially and politically powerful Natives, and other local forces.

His third attempt was to assure that the more affluent rural areas with a sufficient tax base help fund government services the same way as urban centers are required to do. Under his proposed statewide property tax, affluent municipalities, such as the North Slope Borough with high oil property values, would have to assume more of their local government service costs than would those that were virtually destitute. That proposal also fell flat on its face. Unfortunately, inequitable taxation continues to contribute to Alaska’s urban/rural divide.

In another effort to reduce crippling costs of services to hundreds of economically unviable communities – many of which were not connected by roads and lacked adequate housing, schooling, and basic services – he proposed to provide population centers with the greatest economic potential with topnotch schools and other services as a means to encourage migration from other communities. Once again the proposal fell flat.

After becoming governor in 1974, he proposed that 50 percent of all mineral leases, bonuses, royalties, and severance taxes be deposited into a conservatively managed investment account. Each year one-half of the account’s earnings would be dispersed among Alaskan residents, each of whom would receive, annually, one share of dividend-earning stock. The other half of the earnings could be used for essential government services.

Hammond had many reasons for creating such an investment account to which all Alaskans would be shareholders:

  1. To encourage contributions into the investment account and to protect against its invasion by politicians.
  2. To transform oil wells pumping oil for a finite period into money wells pumping money for infinity.
  3. To pit collective greed against selective greed.
  4. To eliminate the magnetic attraction for others from elsewhere who might otherwise be inclined to flock to Alaska in order to get big money in a short term.
  5. To instill a sense of ownership in all Alaskans that would incline them to support healthy resource development and resist unhealthy versions.
  6. To eliminate controversial state expenditures for such things as abortions. Individuals wishing an abortion could pay for it from their dividends.

To promote these concepts, fashioned after his failed Bristol Bay, Inc. proposal, Hammond created “The Alaska Public Forum”. Fortunately, this attitude came in the wake of a $900 million windfall in 1970 from leases issued in Prudhoe Bay which had been “blown” in the eyes of many people. To their credit, however, a sufficient number

of legislators were successful in passing legislation creating what they termed “The Alaska Permanent Fund.” This statute at least created a semblance of Alaska, Inc., but fell far short of what Hammond had hoped for.

For more detailed information about the book, please click here.

Many thanks for Russell Ingram’s reviewing and editing.

China: The State Council has issued its first ArtificiaI Intelligence development plan

China: The State Council has issued its first ArtificiaI Intelligence development plan

The State Council of China released an Artificial Intelligence (AI) development plan on July 20, 2017, which aims to build a domestic industry worth almost $150 billion and positioning the country to become the world leader in AI by 2030.

There are three steps in the plan. By 2020, the Chinese government expects its companies and research facilities to be at the same level as those in leading countries such as the United States. After another five years it is aiming for a breakthrough in aspects of AI that will drive economic transformation. Then by 2030 China aims to become the world’s premier artificial intelligence innovation center, establishing the key fundamentals for a great economic power.

However, rapid development of AI solutions is not without its drawbacks. In June, Kai-Fu Lee, the chairman and chief executive of one of China’s leading venture capital firms Sinovation Ventures and the president of its Artificial Intelligence Institute, expressed concerns about the downsides of AI, particularly the potential for mass unemployment. He raised basic income as a feasible solution.

According to Kai-Fu, the AI products that now exist are improving faster than most people realize and promise to radically transform our world, not always for the better. They will reshape what work means and how wealth is created, leading to unprecedented economic inequalities and even altering the global balance of power.

He highlighted the challenges brought about by two specific developments: enormous wealth concentrated in relatively few hands and vast numbers of people out of work.

Part of the solution to the loss of jobs will involve educating or retraining people in tasks where AI performs poorly. These include jobs that involve cross-domain thinking such as the work of a trial lawyer, however, retraining displaced workers to perform these highly skilled tasks will not be feasible in most cases. There is more scope for people to occupy lower-paying jobs involving the nuanced human interaction that AI struggles to perform, such as social workers, bartenders and concierges. But here too there is a problem: how many bartenders does society really need?

The solution to the problem of mass unemployment, Kai-Fu suspects, will involve “service jobs of love.” These are jobs that AI cannot do, that society needs and that give people a sense of purpose. Examples include accompanying an older person to visit a doctor, mentoring at an orphanage and serving as a sponsor at Alcoholics Anonymous – or, potentially soon, Virtual Reality Anonymous for those addicted to their parallel lives in computer-generated simulations. In other words, the voluntary service jobs of today may turn into the real jobs of the future. Other voluntary jobs may be more professional and therefore higher-paying, such as compassionate medical service providers who serve as the human interface for AI programs that diagnose cancer. In all cases, people will be able to choose to work fewer hours than they do now.

In order to pay for these jobs, it will be necessary to take advantage of the enormous wealth concentrated in relatively few hands.

Kai-Fu Lee writes:

“It strikes me as unavoidable that large chunks of the money created by AI will have to be transferred to those whose jobs have been displaced. This seems feasible only through Keynesian policies of increased government spending, presumably raised through taxation on wealthy companies.

As for what form that social welfare would take, I would argue for a conditional universal basic income: welfare offered to those who have a financial need, on the condition they either show an effort to receive training or commit to a certain number of hours of “service of love” voluntarism.

To fund this, tax rates will have to be high. The government will not only have to subsidize most people’s lives and work; it will also have to revenue previously collected from employed individuals.”

 

More information at:

In Chinese:

Guo Fa, “State Council for a new generation of AI to inform development management“, Chinese State Council, July 8th 2017

In English:

Paul Mozur, “Beijing wants AI to be made in China by 2030”, The New York Times, July 20th 2017

Kai-Fu Lee, “The real threat of artificial intelligence”, The New York Times, June 24th 2017

 

Article Reviewed by Caroline Pearce

China: A city social dividend proposal captures national attention

China: A city social dividend proposal captures national attention

Shenzhen City

Shenzhen is one of the four current first-tier cities in China, and the other three are Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. In February 2017, Shenzhen Innovation and Development Institute, a famous think tank founded in 2013, issued an “Outline of Shared development in Shenzhen”, which calls for a social dividend program in a package of reform measures.

Shenzhen is the first Special Economic Zone in China. In 1980, it was a poor rural area with 30,000 people. But now, more than 30 years later, it has a population of almost 20 million, with 11.9 million local permanent residents. Its total GDP is similar to Hong Kong, one of China’s Special Administration Regions. Shenzhen citizens’ per capita GDP was US $25,400 in 2015, and it is stepping into global middle developed cities. “The Sharing Shenzhen” is a new strategy after the previous “The Speed Shenzhen” and “The Quality Shenzhen”.

Although Shenzhen’s nominal per capita GDP is similar to that of South Korea, its per capita disposal income is only half of the latter’s. At the same time, the housing price in Shenzhen is double that of South Korea. Most people are living in substandard conditions, especially those 8 million non-permanent residents who have been totally excluded from the local social security system. Furthermore, no matter their income levels or social security levels, there are big gaps among even permanent residents. The Gini coefficient in Shenzhen per capita income is almost 0.5.

Shenzhen is thus facing a very big challenge of adjusting income structures to achieve social justice. Twenty Suggestions for “The Sharing Shenzhen Outline” include:

  1. One billion tax relief program, to help enterprises and people;
  2. To continue to raise the minimum wage;
  3. To raise working income and expand the proportion of middle-income workers;
  4. To improve the salaries and benefits of civil servants, so that the city managers can share the fruit of urban reform and development;
  5. To establish state-owned capital dividend fund, letting all the people share the results of reform and development of state-owned enterprises;
  6. To restart the “common prosperity” plan, to reduce the gap between permanent residents and the immigrants;
  7. To raise and expand the minimum guarantee income system, to cover the whole population;
  8. To expand the social assistance system to the medium income families including the immigrants;
  9. To establish a more equitable social security system covering the immigrants;
  10. To put the non-household residents into the housing security system, to achieve the safe living dream for everyone;
  11. To establish the welfare and service system for the elderly;
  12. To establish the universal social welfare and relief policies, so that Shenzhen’s warmth and sunshine can reach all children;
  13. To develop social charity system;
  14. To reduce the subway and bus fares;
  15. To promote equal employment;
  16. To promote fair education;
  17. To reform the expensive medical system;
  18. To relax the conditions of household registration, to make more people permanent residents;
  19. To control and reduce the high housing prices, to make young people full of hope and dream;
  20. All residents to enjoy the right of participation in social management and assume the obligations.

For the specific suggestion No. 5, the outline suggests Shenzhen should learn from Singapore, Hong Kong and Macau to give citizens a social dividend from the city’s fiscal surplus. In 2015, Shenzhen had 918.1 billion yuan [US $135.9 billion] total assets of state-owned enterprises, 461.6 billion yuan [US $68.3 billion] net assets, and 36 billion yuan [US $5 billion] profit. In addition to the corporate tax, the municipal government should get their net profit of 12.7 billion yuan [US $1.88 billion] per year as shareholders. Based on the average dividend payout ratio of Chinese listed companies, at least one third of the annual net profit could be distributed in cash as social dividend among all the residents. Given present figures, that would be 1,000 yuan [US $148] every two years for every resident. While this dividend might appear small, it is just a very conservative part of the net profit, and we can expect an increase in the future.

In the above description, Shenzhen is basically China’s miniature. The whole country faces similar problems and situations. So this plan captured the national attention after its announcement. Additionally, the director of the Shenzhen Innovation and Development Institute, Zhang Siping, is the former deputy mayor of Shenzhen city itself, and many councilors of the Institute are formerly from government sectors. They know the real crux of the city’s development, and they are making a fair plan out of their offices. This is another reason why “The Sharing Shenzhen Outline” is so striking in China.

In fact, China has not only local but also national state-owned enterprises, and the latter ones have much bigger profits. “The Sharing Shenzhen Outline” mentions only the former. All Chinese people could expect to get a national dividend plus a local one in the future.

 

More background information at:

Karl Widerquist, “SINGAPORE: Government gives a ‘growth dividend’ to all adult citizens”, Basic Income News, June 8th, 2011

Special thanks to Kate McFarland for reviewing this article.

Wealth Partaking Scheme: Macau’s small UBI

Wealth Partaking Scheme: Macau’s small UBI

Macau City

 

The government of the Macau Special Administrative Region (SAR) in China has announced the “Wealth Partaking Scheme 2017” (WPS), under which local permanent residents are entitled to receive a small annual unconditional basic income of 9,000 patacas [US $1,128 (1)] and non-permanent residents 5,400 patacas [US $672]. With the Administrative Regulation No. 18/2017, the scheme came into effect on 6th June 2017, and its implementation officially started on 3rd July.

Since 2008, the government of the Macao SAR has given an annual state bonus to its all citizens. The WPS 2017 is very similar to the 2016 one. This year, there are 638,600 Macau permanent residents entitled to WPS, and 62,000 non-permanent residents. The total budget for the WPS 2017 is 6,080 million patacas [US $757 million].

Recipients must have been holders of valid or renewable Macau SAR Resident Identity Cards as of December 31, 2016 to be entitled to receive the cash premium, according to a statement from the Financial Services Bureau (DSF). Holders of a valid or renewable Macau SAR Resident Identity Card who are currently residing abroad will be granted the cash premium, provided they can prove that they are unable to renew their Macau SAR Resident Identity Card due to being either bedridden or completely or partly paralyzed. Those who submitted the relevant documentation and were granted the cash premium in the previous year may be exempted from document resubmission if the Social Welfare Bureau (IAS) concludes that no new evidence is required.

A direct bank transfer will be arranged for those who are receiving financial assistance or senior citizen subsidies from the IAS, according to the statement. The same will apply to retired civil servants receiving a retirement pension and other persons receiving such a pension for the family of the deceased. Most of the rest of the populace will be awarded the cash premium through a crossed check via mail. The crossed check can only be deposited into the payee’s account. In this way, the DSF notes that even if one receives a check addressed to another, it cannot be cashed.

A different procedure applies to beneficiaries under the age of 18. They will each receive a check made payable either to themselves or their parents, which may be deposited either into the beneficiary’s account or the account of one of their parents.

In addition to the WPS state bonus, the Macao SAR government has injected an annual capital into all qualified Provident Fund Individual Accounts since 2010. Provident fund individual accounts are provided to Macao SAR residents of the age of 22, and they are used to receive the “incentive basic fund” and “special allocation from budget surplus”. No formalities are required for the individual accounts of those who are already on the list of special allocation from budget surplus, which is 7,000 patacas [US $872] for 2017. Individuals who are entitled to the allocation of funds for the first time will also be allocated the incentive basic fund of 10,000 patacas [US $1,245].

 

Notes:

(1)   – At July 2017 exchange rates.

More information at:

Governo da Região Administrativa Especial de Macau [Special Administrative Macao Regional Government], “Plano de Comparticipação Pecuniária no Desenvolvimento Económico do Ano 2017 [2017 Wealth Partaking Scheme]”, 2017

Governo da Região Administrativa Especial de Macau [Special Administrative Macao Regional Government], “Fundo de Segurança Social [Social Security Fund]”, 2017

Paulo Coutinho, “Handout distribution starts next month”, Macau Daily Times, July 3rd, 2017

Furui Cheng, “China: Macao gives an annual state bonus to all citizens”, Basic Income News, August 31st, 2016

Karl Widerquist, “China: Macau residents to receive annual basic income”, Basic Income News, June 30th, 2015

Karl Widerquist, “Macau: Government Distributes Temporary Basic Income”, Basic Income News, August 23rd, 2014

Article reviewed by Kate McFarland.

Alf Hornborg, “How to turn an ocean liner: a proposal for voluntary degrowth by redesigning money for sustainability, justice, and resilience”

Alf Hornborg, “How to turn an ocean liner: a proposal for voluntary degrowth by redesigning money for sustainability, justice, and resilience”

In an article published in the Journal of Political Ecology, Professor Alf Hornborg of the human ecology division of Lund University proposes that each country establish a complementary currency for local use only, which would be distributed to all its residents as a basic income. In this way, humanity as a whole would regain justice and sustainability.

In pre-modern societies, monetized exchange was largely limited to long-distance trade in preciosities, while most basic needs were met through socially embedded relations of reciprocity and distribution. Radical institutional changes in the nineteenth century then made money a medium for obtaining all kinds of goods and services – what we might call “general-purpose money”.

Efficiency is the inherent logic in general-purpose money. Adam Smith identified the benefits of general-purpose money at the local level. Yet when such efficiency is pursued at the level of a globalized economy (possible because fossil fuels have minimized transport costs), the potential for power differences, polarization, exploitation and collateral damage is vastly greater. In this way, the claimed “efficiency” is perhaps even inverted. As long as we subscribe to the assumption of general-purpose money as the medium of exchange organizing human societies, exploitation and underpayment are inevitable implications of production processes.

Economists often deplore such negative aspects of globalization: environmental damage, increasing inequalities, growing regulations, and resource depletion. Yet few tend to consider general-purpose money as a cultural peculiarity to which there are alternatives. Not even Adam Smith drew this conclusion, nor did Karl Marx.

Hornborg suggests that current concerns with climate change and financial crises offer a historical moment for reflection on how the operation of the global economy might be reorganized in the interests of global sustainability, justice, and financial resilience. The societal objective must be to strike a balance between such distinct interests and concerns as market principles and capitalism, everyday local life versus global finance, and long-term sustainability and survival versus short-term gain. In Hornborg’s opinion, the solution is to establish ways of insulating these competing values from one another, rather than allowing one to be absorbed by the other.

To increase sustainability, reduce vulnerability, and diminish inequalities, he advocates a complementary currency issued as basic income. To the long list of questions one may have regarding this policy proposal, Hornborg provides some preliminary answers in his article.

In fact, addressing the negative aspects of general-purpose money itself is not a new idea. Silvio Gesell (1862-1930), a German-born entrepreneur living in Buenos Aires, was an early pioneer of this endeavor. John Maynard Keynes mentioned Gesell in his General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money:

“It is convenient to mention at this point the strange, unduly neglected prophet Silvio Gesell, whose work contains flashes of deep insight and who only just failed to reach down to the essence of the matter. …their significance only became apparent after I had reached my own conclusions in my own way. …I believe that the future will learn more from the spirit of Gesell than from that of Marx. The preface to The Nature Economic Order will indicate to the reader, if he will refer to it, the moral quality of Gesell. The answer to Marxism is, I think, to be found along the lines of this preface.”

“Gesell’s specific contribution to the theory of money and interest is as follows. In the first place, he distinguishes clearly between the rate of interest and the marginal efficiency of capital, and he argues that it is the rate of interest which sets a limit to the rate of growth of real capital. Next, he points out that the rate of interest is a purely monetary phenomenon…This led him to the famous prescription of ‘stamped’ money, with which his name is chiefly associated and which has received the blessing of Professor Irving Fisher. According to this proposal currency notes would only retain their value by being stamped each month, …with stamps purchased at a post office… The idea behind stamped money is sound… But there are many difficulties which Gesell did not face.”

From the above, the reader can identify the similarities between Hornborg’s and Gesell’s proposals, from different perspectives, for redesigning and constraining the power of ‘man-made’ general-purpose money.


Alf Hornborg, 2017, “How to turn an ocean liner: a proposal for voluntary degrowth by redesigning money for sustainability, justice, and resilience,” Journal of Political Ecology.

John Maynard Keynes, 1936, Chapter 23 of “The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money,” Palgrave Macmillan.

Article Reviewed by Genevieve Shanahan.