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 that would damage the environment or otherwise.
  6. To eliminate controversial state expenditures for such things as abortions or family planning. Individuals wishing for these services could pay for it from their dividends or utilize free ultrasound or abortion assessment services.

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.

United States: Alaska citizen’s monthly payment means recipients work more, not less

Despite endorsing a larger carbon footprint for Alaska, the Permanent Fund Dividend (PFD payment, according to a survey released last week, of one thousand employees), encouraged only one per cent of recipients to work less.

Perhaps the oldest, continuous, Basic Income-like social program is the Alaska PFD, going since the 1980s and currently paying every adult citizen $2,072 annually. Last year’s report indicated that PFD has kept 2-3 per cent of Alaska’s population – some 15-20,000 people – above the poverty line since 1990.

Wrote Jack Thorold in a blog for RSA (a charity which encourages the release of human potential to address the challenges that society faces):

“…it’s a fair guess that at least for some the PFD frees them to do other valuable activities: caring for relatives or learning new skills, for example.”

Also, according to another survey, Alaskans don’t spend their PFD on frivolous things. Instead, 72 per cent of Alaskans report earmarking their dividends for essentials such as paying off debts, education and saving for retirement or emergencies. Thorold went on in his blog to discuss the disappointing – especially relative to the idea of a universal basic income – recent results of the Trussell Trust  report on foodbank usage in the UK, which contain:

– 78 per cent of those referred to foodbanks are severely food insecure, meaning that they had gone without eating, perhaps for multiple consecutive days, in the last twelve months;

– 40 per cent of users are driven to foodbanks as a result of a delayed benefit payment;

– About two thirds of foodbank users had recently been hit by an ‘income shock’, most commonly sharp rises in food or housing costs.

Thorold ended his blog, going back to the Alaska PFD: “Alaska’s PFD provides good evidence that unconditional payments can work, and we should take notice.”

More information at:

Kate McFarland, “Alaska, US: State senator prepares bill to restore full amount of 2016 PFD”, Basic Income News, October 9th 2016

Nathaniel Herz, “Alaska lawmaker stokes Permanent Fund fight with push to add $1,000 to dividends” Alaska Dispatch News, October 6th 2016

Paula Dobbyn, “State senator prepares bill to restore full amount of 2016 Permanent Fund dividend” KTUU, October 5th 2016

Travis Khachatoorian. “With reduced PFDs on the way, protests expected at budget forum” KTUU, September 30th 2016

Scott Santens: “Is the solution to extreme wealth inequality really – Alaska?”

Scott Santens: “Is the solution to extreme wealth inequality really – Alaska?”

Scott Santens. Credit to: Singularity Bros.


Scott Santens, writer and long time UBI advocate, speaking at the Davos World Economic Forum 2017, views the Alaska Permanent Fund as a foundational aspect for the funding for a Universal Basic Income – a UBI.  Santens, and a growing number of people all over this planet are coming to the conclusion that something like a UBI is required in order to provide an effective counterbalance to the inequality of wealth distribution that currently plagues the world’s populations and the human ramifications of automation, robotization of the workplace.

Santens points out that, in a democracy, all citizens are deemed equal under the law and the Alaskan fund offers an excellent example of how the wealth being extracted from a communities resources must first and foremost benefit the people that comprise that community. The Alaskan fund extracts a percentage of the wealth being extracted from its resources and that money is then used to fund Alaska’s social programs as well as annually depositing as much as a thousand dollars or more into the pockets of every Alaskan citizen. A sort of pay to dig policy. That Alaskan Fund is now worth some fifty billion dollars. Conversely, in a similar but more aggressive manner, some years ago Finland was adamant that its offshore oil resources must benefit all of the Finnish people.  Finland took money off the top of the oil profits and put it into what is now a trillion dollar fund that is currently benefiting everyone in Finland.

But for Santens, resource funding is only one of a nation’s assets from which a UBI can produce a revenue flow that can both enrich and empower the populations it will serve.

Santens points out that a related resource, land itself, needs to be re-evaluated.  Land is not just where we build our homes, grow our crops and where our businesses and factories operate from.  Land is where wealth is invested and from which wealth is extracted. People can hide their money and their wealth, but they can’t hide their land.  Therefore a Land-Value Tax  would provide “… an extremely progressive tax on both corporations and individuals because land is so unequally distributed towards the top.”  Instead of the value of the land being decided by the owner, the land would be valued for the wealth it represents. A vacant downtown lot would then be as valued as the next door highrise and further motivate the owner to develop the land.

Secondly, for Santens a strong, social motivator for a UBI is the ever shrinking workplace where employees are increasingly being undervalued and then victimized by the threat of automation and robotization these days. Santens provides graphic representations of how the decline of collective bargaining, worker’s rights and our wages – which not too long ago had almost balanced out income distribution – have been declining proportionate to the increase in income inequality for years now. Santens understands that a UBI is not just an income supplement whereby workers canweather technological changes in the workplace, but a means whereby we finally achieve the freedom to refuse to take work that is unsafe or underpaid and, instead, achieve an equality of empowerment when bargaining with prospective employers. An equality of needs as it were.

Thirdly, Santens offers that a “annually rising intellectual property fee could be added to any intellectual property wishing to be monopolistically excluded from the public domain, with the revenue returned to citizens universally for their co-ownership of the government granting such protection.” Santens uses the example of data miners like Google and Facebook that extract information from their hundreds of millions of users for free, and then they sell that information to third party profiteers, as the reason why that information must come with a price to the data miners. When you profit from us you pay us for the privilege.

Then there is the creation of money itself. Not that long ago only the state could create new money but corporate and financial lobbyists were able to convince many governments that the commercial banks could be trusted with this responsibility. Santens wants governments to take back this responsibility and thereby put themselves back in charge of first determining the value of the money and secondly setting the value of the money significantly above the cost of producing it so as to ensure adequate funding for that nation’s UBI.

For Santens these three pillars, resource and land value funding, worker empowered bargaining and intellectual property/data mining are all keys to diminishing and, hopefully, continuing to bring greater balance to the economic inequality we see today. But Santens cautions that none of these changes will ever occur, or if they do they will not survive the reactive response of the wealthy set. For without real, effective democratic reform none of these progressive ideas will survive for long. Santens points out that “barriers to voting must be torn down, and the franchise must be expanded” if we wish to implement such radical but much needed changes to the inequality that is plaguing this planet’s populations.

Mark Zuckerberg’s US tour generates publicity for basic income

Mark Zuckerberg’s US tour generates publicity for basic income

Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has recently been traveling the United States on a listening tour, during which he aspires to visit every state in which he has not previously spent time, learning about the concerns and perspectives of residents. While in Alaska, Zuckerberg mentioned the state’s Permanent Fund Dividend (PFD) in a Facebook post, calling a “form of basic income” and commending it as a model for social welfare policy [1]:

Alaska has a form of basic income called the Permanent Fund Dividend. Every year, a portion of the oil revenue the state makes is put into a fund. Rather than having the government spend that money, it is returned to Alaskan residents through a yearly dividend that is normally $1000 or more per person. That can be especially meaningful if your family has five or six people.

This is a novel approach to basic income in a few ways. First, it’s funded by natural resources rather than raising taxes. Second, it comes from conservative principles of smaller government, rather than progressive principles of a larger safety net. This shows basic income is a bipartisan idea.

This post was Zuckerberg’s second public commendation of the idea of basic income. During his Harvard commencement address on May 25, Zuckerberg recommended exploring the policy, stating, “We should explore ideas like universal basic income to make sure everyone has a cushion to try new ideas.”

In general, Zuckerberg’s remarks on the PFD were well received by the basic income community, who welcomed the high-profile endorsement and opportunity to raise awareness of the PFD, which is widely perceived as evidence that a basic income can be practically implemented. (For more on Alaska’s PFD, including recent updates, see “ALASKA, US: Survey shows support for Permanent Fund Dividend amid continued legal controversy” in Basic Income News.)

Some commentators, however, were less sanguine. Writers like Clio Chang (in New Republic) and Sonia Sodha (in The Guardian) worry that Zuckerberg–like many right-wing and libertarian supporters of basic income–sees the policy primarily as an excuse to cut other programs, as evidenced by his praise for “conservative principles of smaller government” and apparent opposition to raising taxes, which might leave many low-income Americans worse off.

Despite speculation that the tech billionaire is contemplating a 2020 run for US President, Zuckerberg denies that he is running for public office, maintaining that his tour of the US is only a means to broaden his perspective and understand his customers.

Photo: CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 kris krüg

ALASKA, US: Survey shows support for Permanent Fund Dividend amid continued legal controversy

The Economy Security Project (ESP), a two-year fund launched in December 2016 to support investigation of basic income in the United States, has published the results of a new survey of Alaskans’ attitudes towards the state’s Permanent Fund Dividend (PFD).


The Permanent Fund Dividend

In 1976, the Alaska State Constitution created a permanent fund in which the state must invest at least 25% of its oil revenues, enabling wealth generated from the sale of a nonrenewable resource to continue to benefit future generations of Alaskans. The PFD, created in 1982, distributes a portion of the fund’s earnings as a dividend paid annually to all Alaskans.

Disbursed in equal amount to all adults and children who have lived in the state for more than a year (and intend to remain indefinitely), the PFD is widely regarded as one of the nearest “real world” examples of a basic income. Although its amount is variable, and too small to guarantee even a poverty-level existence, the PFD is universal, unconditional, and paid in cash at regular intervals, entailing that it does indeed satisfy BIEN’s definition of a basic income.

The PFD reached a peak amount of $2,072 per resident in 2015, but fell to $1,022 in 2016 after Governor Bill Walker used a line-item veto to cut the funds allocated to the PFD by the Alaska Legislature by more than half–a controversial decision that provoked a lawsuit from State Senator Bill Wielechowski, seeking to restore the full amount of the 2016 PFD approved by the legislature. Without Walker’s veto, the amount of 2016 PFD would have been $2,052.

At the time of this writing, Wielechowski’s lawsuit is being considered by the Supreme Court of Alaska, having been dismissed by a Superior Court judge in November of last year. The Supreme Court heard oral arguments on June 20, but its final decision is likely to take months.

Meanwhile, Governor Walker recently signed the state budget for 2017, without exercising any line item vetoes this year. According to KTOO News, the budget includes $760 million for the PFD, which will amount to about $1,100 per Alaskan.


Popular Opinion Survey

Earlier in the year, ESP commissioned a telephone survey 1,004 Alaskan voters, carried out by the market research firm Harstad Strategic Research. According to ESP, the new survey is the “most comprehensive review of public attitudes about the PFD since 1984.”

Respondents answered a variety of questions concerning their attitudes toward the Permanent Fund and Dividend. Asked how much of a difference the PFD has made in their lives “over the past five years or so,” 40% replied that the dividends have made a “great deal” or “quite a bit” of difference, with 28% replying that the dividends have made “only some” or “just a little” difference, and only 8% saying that the dividends have made no difference. Women were more likely than men to say that the PFD has made “great deal” or “quite a bit” of difference (47% versus 33%), and 70% of those who described their economic circumstances as “barely surviving” stated that the PFD had this degree of impact.

While 87% of respondents agreed with the statement, “How people spent their Permanent Fund checks should not determine whether or not the dividend program continues,” respondents meanwhile do not believe that Alaskans use their annual PFD checks frivolously: 85% of agreed that “Many people spend a large part of their Permanent Fund dividends on basic needs,” and 79% agreed that “The Permanent Fund dividend checks are an important source of income for people in my community.” A comparatively small number, though a sizeable minority (43%), agreed with the statement “Many people have wasted a large part of their Permanent Fund checks on such things as liquor or drugs.” Asked about their own spending behavior, 27% replied that they save all or most of the payments, while 30% say that they use the PFD to pay off credit cards or other debt.  

Respondents also view the universality of the PFD favorably: 72% support the fact that “everyone who is basically a full-time resident of Alaska” receives the PFD, and 84% agree that “As owners of the Alaska Permanent Fund, Alaska residents are entitled to an equal share of the earnings of the Fund.” Interestingly, though, only 50% favor the distribution of the PFD to “millionaires and multi-millionaires living in Alaska,” suggesting that framing effects may influence respondents’ expressed attitudes towards universality.

The survey also suggests that–in an apparently pronounced change of opinion since the 1984 survey–a majority of Alaskans would prefer the institution of a state income tax over the termination of the PFD if it became necessary for the state to adopt one of these measures to raise money for government services. The preference for keeping the PFD was strongest among those with annual household incomes under $50,000 (72%) and those who described their situation as “barely surviving” (82%). Even those respondents with household incomes over $100,000 tended to prefer preserving the PFD to avoiding income taxes (58%).

Many other related questions were also included in the survey. For more details and graphical displays, see the links in “more information” below.


More Information

Economic Security Project, “Alaska PFD Phone Survey: Executive Summary,” June 22, 2017. Official Executive Summary of the survey’s findings, prepared by Harstad Strategic Research.

Supplemental materials from Harstad Strategic Research:

Taylor Jo Isenberg, “What a New Survey from Alaska Can Teach Us about Public Support for Basic Income,” Medium, June 28, 2017. Blog post summarizing of survey results, with background about the PFD.

Photo CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 U.S. Pacific Command