2% Royalty Plan for Sharing Resources
[Reprinted from Land and Liberty,
EARTH DAY 1981 was internationally celebrated on March 20, the Spring
Equinox when day and night are of equal length everywhere on the
globe. The first Earth Day was celebrated in San Francisco in 1970,
the brainchild of John McConnell and his Earth Society Foundation.
Since then, Earth Day has gained wide recognition. This year in San
Francisco, Mayor Dianne Feinstein, at the urging of the World Citizens
Assembly, proclaimed March 20 as World Citizens Day. She encouraged "all
citizens to participate in the festivities linking people of our city
to people of all the earth, acknowledging our common humanity."
The World Citizens Assembly is a non-governmental organisation that
works in cooperation with the United Nations.
At the United Nations in New York, the Peace Bell was rung at 12.30
p.m., the exact moment of the Equinox. Several persons spoke to the
outdoor assembly, including UN Ambassador Arvid Pardo of Malta, the "father"
of the Law of the Sea Treaty, and John McConnell.
McConnell and Pardo were also among the guest speakers at "Economics
of Peace: An Earth Day Conference" held at the Henry George
School of Social Science, located not far from UN headquarters.
McConnell pointed out that humanity is at a point in its evolution
when it must decide to "grow up or blow up!" He related how,
looking to the past as well as to the future, he based his choice of
the Equinox for Earth Day on the ancient Earth-culture of Stonehenge,
which was built to mark the occurrence of the Equinox and other
One of the tools used by McConnell's Foundation to promote Earth Day
is the Earth Charter. Its
preamble opens with the statement that
We are the first generation to
determine the life or death of the planet we have inherited. The
care of Earth is now our most important task. ...We believe that a
vigorous united effort to understand. protect and revive our planet
will at the same time promote mutual trust and accommodations needed
for creating a peaceful future.
The Charter goes on to outline its principles of "Earth Care,"
"Earth Rights," "Stewardship," and "Guidelines
for Action." It urges the development of technologies "that
will increase rather than destroy Earth's renewable bounty."
A detailed exposition of the principles of Earth Rights is found in
the Foundation's Planetary Inheritance Declaration.
The Declaration.'s central point is
That among the equal rights of men
is the right to an equal share in nature's bounty; a right of each
man to his planetary inheritance. ...No one can, by any compact.
deprive or divest their posterity. or any other man's posterity, of
the right to his portion of Earth. All natural resources belong
equally to every living person. ...To this end each nation should
collect a two per cent royalty each year for all use (including its
own) of any land or other resources. These royalties would be based
on the selling price of the natural Earth materials sold or used.
These royalties would be separate from taxation for government
needs. and be distributed equally to all citizens.
In this way
within a fifty-year life span there would be full and just
compensation to each person for any use of his portion of Earth's
The Declaration extends this principle to the use of the sea and sea
floor: the royalties from such uses would be collected by the United
Nations and distributed equally as with the other royalties. The
difference among nations relative to natural resources could be
further equalized via a global Natural Resource Royalties Pool. The
Declaration also recognises that
The benefits of nature's bounty
can only be realised through man's constructive effort and the wise
use of his accumulated knowledge Therefore. no individuals. or
groups. should be deprived of any just benefits obtained from the
industrious use of Earth's resources. so long as they meet their
obligations to Earth and Earth's people.
These obligations, according to the document, include the payment of
the two per cent royalty and non-pollution of the environment.
Polluters would forfeit their right to receive royalties for specified
periods of time, depending on the damage done.
Paralleling the developments of Earth Day, from small obscure
beginnings to international recognition, is that of the Law of the Sea
Treaty. For 12 years the UN has been seeking to draw up a legal
framework within which all people can conduct activities within the
marine environment. Ambassador Pardo, who first proposed the idea,
traced the development thus far, going back to the early legal status
of the sea. While there had been attempts by powerful governments to
claim the sea as their own (e.g., the Pope at one. time divided
ownership of all ocean water between Spain and Portugal), it has been
generally accepted that, in the words of the Dutch jurist Hugo
Grotius, "the sea is free", i.e., beyond the jurisdiction of
Modern times have seen the eroding of this principle. The discovery
of off-shore oil in the '40s led US policy makers to claim a "contiguous
zone" which extended national jurisdiction beyond the traditional
three miles to 12 miles out from shore. This trend has continued, with
other nations following suit and escalating the claims. Today only 40
per cent of the marine environment remains unclaimed.
It was to halt this trend towards total nationalisation of the ocean
that led Pardo to develop the concept of the Law of the Sea. Under the
proposed draft treaty, the UN would create a Seabed Authority to
oversee and manage the exploitation of undersea fisheries and such
resources as hydrocarbons, algae, petroleum and manganese. The waters
above the international seabed (the unclaimed 40 per cent) would
remain "high seas", i.e., free for all to navigate upon.
The draft treaty is currently being held up for review and possible
rejection by the Reagan Administration. Parts of the draft treaty
propose mandatory transfer of financing and technology from those
willing and able to mine the ocean floor to the Seabed Authority. The
US and other industrialised nations see this as a form of taxation
imposed on their citizens for the benefit of "Third World
there are other unresolved issues: the use of the sea for military
purposes; conflicts of interest between coastal and inland states; and
whether or not the revenue collected by the Seabed Authority should be
divided among all nations according to some formula, or used by the
Authority itself to finance and extend its own operations (the method
advocated by Pardo).
In his address to the conference, Robert Clancy, president of the
International Union for Land-Value Taxation and Free Trade, stressed
the ethical imperative underlying the need for reforms that implement
the idea of "common heritage". He used some basic statistics
to bring home his point. The total surface of Earth is 196,938,000
square miles (with 640 acres per sq. mile), the total dry land area
being 57,500 square miles. With 4.1 billion people inhabiting the
globe, the dry land could be divided into 36 acre lots per family of
Of course, since land is not of equal quality, situation or value,
and since some people require more or less land than others, it would
be impossible to divide up Earth equitably among all people. Yet there
is a solution, said Clancy, and that is to take the rental values that
attach to sites and resources and distribute them in equal shares to
every person. This could be done on a global level, as proposed by the
Planetary Inheritance Declaration or the Law of the Sea; on a regional
level, as proposed in Alaska and practised in Alberta; or on a local
level, via a "single tax" on land-values as proposed by
An alternative voluntarist method of land reform, the community land
trust, was detailed by Dan Sullivan of the Henry George Foundation.
The land trust, of which there are over thirty in operation in the US,
is a legal entity that acquires land by gift or purchase. The land is
then leased out in parcels to tenants, but it is never again sold or
otherwise taken out of "trust." The rent collected by the
leases is used to defray property taxes and other community expenses,
with any surplus distributed as dividends to the original "investors"
in the trust, or to the tenants themselves.
The voluntarist spirit was manifest in several of the other guest
speakers at the Conference, as well as in many of the participants
among the audience. Conference co-ordinator Mildred J. Loomis of the
decentralist School of Living, Jack Schwartzman, editor of the
individualist quarterly Fragments, and Mark Brady of the Students for
a Libertarian Society, each criticised militarism and governmental
One of the more controversial speakers was Kirkpatrick Sale, noted
author of Human Scale. Speaking on the advantages of localism and
appropriate technology, Sale also correlated peace and decentralism by
using statistics showing that, throughout history, periods of
inflation and periods of war coincide with periods of growth of the
The evils of nationalism were also criticised by Dr. Harry Lerner of
the World Citizens Assembly. According to Dr. Lerner, a world economy
geared to the production of nuclear armaments, to the detriment of
both the taxpayers and real human needs, now poses the grave threats
of "omnicide, the killing of us all; and terracide, the killing
of the Earth." And the present costs of the misallocation of
financial and agricultural resources (into the hands of military and
corporate elites, both in industrial and developing countries) was
outlined in Lynn Stone's talk on the world crisis in food production.
While the problems presented were apparent and interrelated, the
solutions presented sparked much discussion and disagreement among the
conferees. Not all could accept the desirability of nuclear
disarmament, or of governmental measures to effect more equitable
access to land and natural resources. Anti-statists shared the
platform with world-govenmentalists. There was, however, a general
agreement that what is good for planet Earth is also good for the
individual human being. A world at peace would be one where each
individual had access to Earth on an equal basis with others, where
special privileges and destructive powers had been eliminated,
allowing global cooperation to flower and transcend the artificial
barriers of political geography and ideology.
- The "Proclamation"
was published and distributed by the Henry George School, 833
Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94103.
- Published by the Earth Society
Foundation, 919 Third Ave., New York, NY 10022.
- As above.
- Prof. Karl Brunner, reported
in Fortune, April 6, 1981.
- Statistics from The Heritage
of Earth, Dr. Samuel Scheck, Woodbury, NY.