Chapter 5. Henry George’s Property Rights Law: A Modern Information Commons
This is a chapter from the book, Money; A Mirror Image Of The Economy. Visit that link for more information about the book.
Restructuring the developed world is prevented because information is monopolized by the financial power of the four primary monopolies—land, technology, finance capital, and communications, and the major secondary monopolies, insurance, law, health care, etc.
Control of information controls people, albeit without their realization, which in turn protects these monopolies. This process ensures that the distribution of wealth will remain in the same channels going to approximately the same people. Use values, produced by the resources and technologies of nature, confiscated from productive labor through exclusive titles to nature’s wealth and technologies, and monetized in the markets through capitalizing yearly profits by 10 to 30 times, will circulate among a predetermined group as they each jockey for position to maximize their interception of social production.
Belief Systems, spin, and frameworks of orientation are kept firmly in place through monopolization of the communications industry and it requires no conspiracy. Each one does just what we would do: fiercely protect the source of our livelihood and opportunities to, under the legal structure of exclusive titles to nature’s resources and technologies, lay claim to unearned wealth.
Thus the citizenry know little about past battles through which the limited rights they have today were wrenched from those laying claim to the major share of the wealth produced by nature and technology. Professor Herbert Schiller explains how America’s view of the world has been distorted through labor having been “sealed off” from much of their history:
How many movies did [corporate America] make about the labor movement? After all, America is made up of people who work. Where is the history of these people? Where’s the day-in day-out history of the African American population? Where’s the day-in and day-out history of women? Not just one program. Where’s the whole history of the people? Where’s the history of protest movements in America? Can you imagine the kind of material that could come from American protest movements? The entertainment people are always saying that they don’t have enough dramatic material. Who are they kidding?1
Just like the windmill, steam engine, and electricity becoming so cheap that the powerful lost monopoly control, low-frequency WiFi has the potential of being so inexpensive that, within both the wealthy nations and developing nations, African Americans, Latin Americans, environmentalists, the peace movement, lower-paid labor, and all other politically weak segments of society will be able to reach the citizenry with the histories of their dispossessions. The wealth being confiscated from productive labor can then be reclaimed.
Make no mistake about it. Powerbrokers will use all the deceits and power at their disposal to prevent or delay the economic efficiencies that are possible and, just as they have been successful in the past, they may succeed again. Witness these four primary monopolies and many secondary monopolies which are firmly in place, yet we are told they do not exist. Those powerbrokers are, as we speak, buying up exclusive titles to the extremely efficient lower frequency communication spectrums with the intent of forever forcing the citizenry to pay those monopoly prices:
Imagine … that you’re relaxing on the white sand, with a slight breeze in the air, just steps from clear blue water. The beach is open to the public, but it’s never too crowded. It’s a great place to surf. But then one day you show up and there’s a huge brick wall blocking your path to the shore. Without telling anyone, the government sold off this seaside spot to a private developer. … If you still want to dip your toes in the water, the new management expects you to pay through the nose. You’d be pretty angry. Right? Well that’s exactly what is happening right now in Congress. Only the valuable public resource being auctioned off isn’t the beach—it’s a prime slice of the public airwaves. …
The airwaves being taken over by the broadcasters are the Malibu of the radio spectrum—fine beachfront property. Signals at these lower frequencies travel farther at lower powers and can go through obstacles like walls, trees and mountains. That means lower infrastructure costs for broadband providers, encouraging the development of local wireless networks and lowering prices. With more unlicensed spectrum, the “Community Internet” networks being setup across the country would be faster and even more reliable. Super-high-speed broadband connections for just $10 a month could be a reality. … We’re headed for a world in which all communications—television, telephone, radio and the Web will be delivered over the Internet. … We can sell off our public resources … or we can invest in the future, bringing the benefits of broadband to all Americans. But first our lawmakers need to pull their heads out of the sand.2
As this 2nd edition goes to print, legislator’s heads are still in the sand. This example of establishing exclusive title to nature’s wealth and forever claiming wealth produced by others without providing equal value in return is a beautiful example of how exclusive-title-monopolies have been structured through property rights laws for centuries. Each of those exclusive titles or licenses permits massive overcharges to the public for use of what is properly their share of those social services and nature’s wealth, a social right and a human right.
These public properties must be managed but, as we have shown throughout our research, conditional titles to nature’s wealth, society collect the rental values or services offered as a social or human right, are many times more efficient and productive. Those exclusive titles were designed centuries ago specifically to monopolize the production of nature and force others to pay for what is already rightfully theirs. As we go to press, the monopolists are holding the line. However we are optimists and will assume that either the American Congress will wake up or the monopoly system will collapse and society will restructure. In the Conclusion, we will be addressing the enormous possibilities if the centuries-old monopoly system is swept into the dustbin of history.
Not only can community-installed low-frequency WiFi bring you broadband connection, if not denied the most powerful low frequency spectrums, but phone calls, television, radio, music, and pay-to-view movies can all be beamed over community owned and operated WiFi. The $10 to $30 a month cost, or even free, compares to the well over $100 a month it would cost to obtain all those services over cable today.
Even if those extremely efficient lower frequency communication spectrums are auctioned off to corporations, we do not think they will succeed in maintaining their monopolies. In June 2005, Boulder Colorado installed solar panel WiFi that, if the most powerful spectrums had been used, would have cost under $10 per home. They are getting calls from all over the world on how a solar panel WiFi system is installed. San Francisco is searching for ways to install WiFi for the same free use as their highways and city streets. Google, currently providing free access to neighboring Mountain View, points the way.
An Internet search will bring up a microcosm of the current struggle to monopolize that technology. It ranges from monthly charges of $20 a month (this would be a natural monopoly so that charge would soon increase) to free access paid through popup ads, to it being a public utility paid for through taxes. WiFi in Oregon covering hundreds of square miles is free to the public with police and other first responders’ contracts covering those costs. Cleveland Ohio is studying on free WiFi for all its citizens. By the time you read this book there will be many free WiFi cities or countries around the world. Monopolists will have a hard time justifying high charges for what their neighbors get for free. An Internet search for “WiFi, free” will keep one up with those developments.
With only 2% of those valuable low frequency bands crucial for WiFi technology now in use and many communities putting WiFi services in place for free, surely those monopolies will fall. But they are not planning on it. Through political power they are buying up the most powerful spectrums with a radius of 25 miles and that will pass through mountains and passing off the spectrums with ranges of 300 feet onto community WiFi. At an excessive charge, they are then bringing out their own WiFi broadband connections.
Efficient, Cheap, Communications May Eliminate Monopolization
Communication is considered cheap. Yet a fully WiFi wired nation, region, or world would have 10 times the communication capacity for 10% the cost as when wired only with satellite and fiber-optics. Assuming the world breaks out from under the many forms of monopolization being continually structured into property rights laws, this means a 99% reduction in cost per unit of communication capacity is possible and technology is still rapidly advancing.
With satellite and-or WiFi reaching each home, it is possible to educate a population for as little as 5 to 15% of what is considered normal today. Here the developing world has the opportunity to make an end run around wealthy nations. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, NASA, and Google, combining their expertise and money, are now ready (2008) to market indestructible, WiFi and cell phone equipped, $200, laptop computers to developing-world governments to provide free to children to keep at home and take to school. This tool educates at home at very little cost. Current laptop computer annual production of 150 million units will, since developed world school systems are looking into buying units for their classrooms, quickly expand to several hundred million. As those inexpensive computers will have free linux operating systems, monopolized, expensive, operating systems will, again due in large measure to the interest in developed world classrooms, eventually be discarded to the dustbin of history.
Assuming monopolization can be avoided, it is possible for a nation, or the world, to establish a communications system where everyone can talk to anyone anywhere in the world for the penny per minute calculated 30 years ago. With operational costs for individual service now cheaper than accounting, those costs can be borne by society. By a community providing the communications system—just as they now provide roads, sewers, and water systems—those efficiencies can be attained. Already Skype users use VoIP, Voice over Internet Protocol, to speak to each other across the world for free.
Phone calls worldwide can ride along for free as TV and radio stations stream their programs into WiFi. TV and radio stations having access to every viewer and listener through WiFi eliminates the need for down stream booster stations. Consumer choices will expand exponentially as overseas TV and radio feeds into WiFi and the then-unemployed, stand-alone, stations designing and producing new programming join the list of choices.
The shakeout within TV and radio stations will be at the same pace as WiFi is installed. Every radio station, each with varied program content, will have equal footing with Clear Channel Radio which now monopolizes America’s airways now relaying the same non-varied programming to their captive audience. With primary TV stations streaming over WiFi, the only way for the now-unemployed former down stream booster stations to capture and keep viewers would be to provide more interesting programming. Take Oprah Winfrey for example: Her Chicago station would stream into WiFi and no longer need booster stations to reach their loyal viewers. It is not likely that any of those now-unemployed stations can create a program to pull an audience from her, or any other, already-popular program.
Outside those loyal listeners, the market for programming without advertising will trump the advertising stations and the now-out-of-work TV and radio stations unable to gain an audience, which will be most of them, will have to produce programming for a narrow, single-interest, audience.
The five major news networks in America, currently habituated to parroting the same very incomplete news, will suddenly face the full brunt of competition as alternative news from around the world becomes available to all. Democracy Now, Link TV, Mosaic, BBC, AlJazeera, INN Report, Indymedia, documentaries, and news from all countries in all languages would present a view of the world that many citizens within the information-insulated wealthy world are totally unaware of and those major news networks will have to address those various views of reality or become irrelevant. Twenty-four hour news channels, currently presenting over and over little more than that presented in the 22 minutes on the evening news, will have time to present all the news and, to compete, they will do so. The ability to propagandize populations will be severely constrained and control of the citizenry through control of how they view the world may become impossible.
As few people can handle such an overload of viewing choices, sports will gravitate to one bloc of stations, music and sitcoms will each gravitate to their blocs, and the viewers will further subdivide into regional and other subdivisions such as a bloc of channels with pay-to-play movies.
No longer able to charge monopoly prices and unable to compete in a highly saturated market, stations forced to close will be picked up by NGOs and political groups for pennies on the dollar. Formerly forced to the margins, dedicated progressives, environmentalists, sustainable-living researchers, permaculturists, the peace movement, minority rights, labor rights, women’s rights, children’s rights, antipoverty, and a thousand more causes will be able to reach the citizenry with their views of the world.
Politicians then must address questions brought up that were previously kept off the table. Alert viewers will have hard questions; those answers will be available, will be voiced, and will be understood. Propagandists will no longer be able to create justifications for war and full and equal rights with peace and prosperity for all will be possible.
Communication Eliminates Intermediaries and Reduces Trading Costs
The difference between manufacturing cost and the consumer price measures the major cost of most products, distribution. Typically, manufacturing costs are under 20% of the final selling price.3 With mail-order shipping charges from two to five percent of retail price, no one would pay intermediaries three to five-times the production cost when it is feasible, in this WiFi age, to study the products on an Internet database, contact the producer, buy the item, and have it shipped directly at 30-50% today’s cost.
A large share of American and European consumer products is imported. But, if full and equal rights were attained worldwide, production would be primarily regional, not international. Shipping half way around the world what could be produced next door is economic insanity. Once the common sense principle of equal pay for equal work worldwide is accepted and put in place, it will be much cheaper to produce and distribute regionally and those shiploads of identical consumer products passing each other on oceans and highways—consuming enormous finance capital, industrial capital, and energy—will be history.
Besides doing office work at home, with that same WiFi wired computer one can search for, and order, one’s share of larger and more expensive consumer durables. Shopping requires information and middlemen are primarily in the information business. On the Internet, it would be possible for producers and consumers to trade directly and cheaply again, just as face-to-face trades for thousands of years. The monopolization of distribution with its army of intermediaries would disappear.
Trades over the Internet are surging 22% a year. As those marketing channels become operational, prices for middle-priced to expensive items will drop 50% or more.
Currently America has 10 square feet of retail floor space for each shopper and, with four stores opening for each one closing, they are headed towards 12 square feet. In comparison, Britain has only two square feet per shopper. That surplus retail space will disappear as Internet shopping rapidly lowers costs to a fraction of current levels. A great shakeout of the retail industry is inevitable. The buildings and support infrastructure for at least 30% and possibly 60% of what the developed world today considers necessary for distribution will be available for productive uses.
Bill Gates, who accumulated $60 billion because he understood communications technology better than most, said, “The information highway isn’t quite right. A metaphor that comes closer to describing a lot of the activities that will take place is the ultimate market,”4 the market we are describing.
Big-Ticket, Infrequently-Purchased Items
Autos, appliances, furniture, farm equipment, industrial equipment, and major tools are all big-ticket, infrequently-purchased items whose buying requires accurate information but not the promotional-persuasive advertising that hammers at us incessantly. We trust and get information from experience and we make the most important decisions by observing products in daily use. In a communications commons, customers would make purchase decisions by dialing a database containing all manufacturers and models of a product.
That database would have information required to make an informed decision, energy efficiency, noise level, hours of useful life, price, and other features. With tests by independent researchers, such as Consumer Reports, note the pressure this would put on manufacturers to make the most efficient products and stand out in this all-important master index. Buyers would, at their leisure, study engineering specifications, styling, and actual use of the product on their television or computer. Once a decision was made, they would only need to punch in the code for the desired order—such as model, color, and accessories—and a databank computer would note the closest distribution point where that item was available. Or buyers could choose delivery from the factory.
The bank account number, thumbprint, eye-scan, thermogram and signature of an Internet shopper would be verified by a master computer and that account instantly debited. If a credit line had been established at the local credit union or bank and recorded in an integrated computer, credit needs would be handled simultaneously. The process, not involving advertising, sales, or banking labor, would greatly reduce transportation, storage, and sales costs.
Product guarantees, maintenance, and repairs would be taken care of by local private enterprise under standardized guarantees. Direct trades between manufacturer and consumer, elimination of distribution intermediaries, will be guaranteeing high-quality products at the lowest possible price.
Both seller and buyer would save time and labor, as verbal explanations and mailing of information will be largely eliminated. The current time-consuming exchange of information would be studied at the consumer’s leisure. This would conserve millions of acres of trees and eliminate huge amounts of financial and industrial capital as well as tens of thousands of jobs currently manufacturing paper, producing brochures and distributing that information, including salespersons and a large percent of the labor servicing and maintaining retail establishments as well as the retail establishments themselves.
Every qualified producer would enjoy the right to place his or her product or service in the databank and pay a very small percent of gross sales out of cash flow. In place of millions of dollars up front to advertise through the present openly-monopolized media, there would be only a small charge for entering the product information in a database. To eliminate clogging the databanks with useless information of producers no longer in business, regular minimum payments would be required to retain the privilege of selling through this integrated communications network.
This would break the monopolization of production and distribution by huge corporations. Starting up a truly productive industry would become quite simple. A new company’s advertising would have full billing alongside major entrenched producers. With consumers having easy access to all choices, a few wealthy corporations would no longer decide, through promotional-persuasive advertising, what the public wants.
In the United States, once direct contact is established between producer and consumer via product databases, it would only require roughly 100,000 railroaders, possibly one million truckers, down from 1991’s 1.3 million, and a system of organized freight terminals to distribute the nation’s production. It would be a freight postal system just as with Christmas packages today. The item would be delivered or consumers would receive notice, by phone, of the arrival of their purchases and pick them up at the local freight terminal.
There are normally several trucking companies in any moderate-size city, each complete with loading docks, storage capacity, dispatching equipment, and staff. The following shipping pattern is already operational:
1 Shippers punch into a common-use database loads to be shipped;
2 truckers with WiFi computers punch in their location, freight preferences, and where he or she would like to deliver the next load;
3 the computer instantly shows where the loads are, the type of freight, the required pickup and delivery times, the rate per mile, etc;
4 the trucker chooses a load, informs the computer, and records his or her identification number;
5 and the computer records the acceptance, removes that load from the databank, provides a contract number to the trucker, and informs the shipper.
There will be no need for duplicated dispatching services, loading docks, storage facilities, equipment, and personnel. Competitive monopolies created by the minimum capital requirements for trucking companies are eliminated, placing independent truckers on an equal footing with corporate truckers. The nation’s freight will quickly settle into flow patterns and be moved as regularly as mail by the cheapest combination of rail, truck, ship, and plane.
It might take a consumer three days to receive small items and up to 10 days for large items but, at one-half the price or less, they are well paid. Actual transit time between producer and consumer would be a fraction of that currently through jobbers, wholesalers and retailers.
Manufacturers’ on-time delivery of parts to the factory that greatly reduces storage and finance capital costs will have been expanded to on-time shipping to consumers. Those within the retail system who formerly bought, stored, and sold these products are available to engage in productive labor. Society will eventually attain an undreamed-of efficiency. Over 50% of these intermediaries between producer and consumer will eventually be eliminated and, assuming society was alert and restructured labor’s working hours and other crucial adjustments, all would be free to share the remaining productive work with employment outside the home of only two to three days per week.
Once those productive jobs are shared, the average workweek reduced, and labor fully paid, the small amount of time necessary to labor for one’s share of the nation’s wealth would be the proper measure of the price of products and services. Our continued research concludes that an efficient economy using modern technology of production and distribution could reduce employed working hours by at least 50%. That potential reduction in costs through elimination of unnecessary labor and productive labor being fully paid is the meaning of Adam Smith’s little-noticed insightful statement, “If produce had remained the natural wages of labor, all things would have become cheaper, though in appearance many things might have become dearer.”
Inexpensive, Small, Frequently-Traded Items
The markup on perishable groceries is about 100% while the markup on small consumer durables is several hundred percent. There is a competitive sales monopoly at work in the latter. Taking full advantage of modern communications would remove all purchases above an intermediate price range out of the wasteful, duplicated retail outlets. Simultaneously, the consumers’ choices would be increased by access to these products through databanks.
Groceries, household supplies, cosmetics, knickknacks and most small, inexpensive consumer items would be most efficiently distributed through the present retail outlets. The breakeven point would be in the lower range of the intermediate-priced occasionally-purchased items.
Wholesalers of small-ticket consumer items would keep the quality and price of all products posted in a databank. Once trust had been established, retailers would check those bulletin boards for the best buys. This would eliminate the need for many jobbers and other salespeople.
Shopping as a Social Event Entails a Cost
Shopping is recreation for many people and a status symbol for others. Those status shoppers would have no trouble finding merchants to accommodate them. To compensate for the additional labor, showrooms, and storage, the products would cost more which is properly accounted for under socializing and recreation, Tupperware or Avon, or social status, Tiffanys. The majority would surely choose the most direct and least labor-intensive, cheapest, method of completing a trade. As direct trades would be only for intermediate to big-ticket items, this would in no way impinge on local coffeehouse-type trades where socializing is the primary activity.
Reserving TV Time for New Products
While innovations on a familiar product would be readily presented to the public through a databank, totally new products would require special access to the public. To complement other methods of familiarization, some TV channels should be specifically reserved to promote such innovations. Novelty buffs comprise a large segment of the population, and there are few who do not have some interest. A program demonstrating these creations would be quite popular.
Once a production-distribution infrastructure is in place with society energized and accustomed to that standard of living, promotional-persuasive advertising becomes wasteful. Rather than titillate the consumer with thousands of toys to be played with and discarded, it would be much more socially efficient to abandon promotional-persuasive advertising and permit people to advance to a higher intellectual, social, and cultural level.
The maximum average living standard within the capabilities of the earth’s resources and ecosystem can be calculated. Society could, and should, use those proven promotional-persuasive methods to educate people about the waste of the current production-distribution systems. Just as many in the developed world have already abandoned the “conspicuous consumption” lifestyle, a rational lifestyle would be made popular.
If people are so dull that a society with a respectable living standard cannot function without promotional-persuasive advertising, which we do not believe, society could analyze advertising for essential and nonessential products for the desired standard of living. Many items—cigarettes, alcohol, and chemical-laden processed foods—lower the quality of life, spending social funds on their promotion is economic insanity. Even when spent by private industry, the captivated public pays for the debasement of their lives.
Driving a $60,000 luxury automobile while others are driving $20,000 cars may draw admiration today, but if society were taught this was at the expense of humankind’s survival it would incur broad disapproval. The resources saved and pollution prevented by that refocused social mindset would be essential to the survival of thousands of species, to humankind’s quality of life, and most probably to our survival.
Music, Sports, Movies, and Game Shows
Music, sports, movies, and game shows draw large audiences. Fifteen to 20 WiFi channels should be reserved for each of these interests. Only pennies per viewer, paid painlessly through consumer purchases as per the product databases addressed above, would bring in millions per broadcast to the investors, stars, directors, managers, and support labor.
With communication channels no longer monopolized through high-priced promotion there would be many more people investing, designing, producing, and starring in many more shows. Along with more time to enjoy TV, viewer choices would rise and the truly talented artists would be well paid for their efforts. All would have a reasonable opportunity to prove their abilities. A formula of gradually reduced pay per million viewing hours as a show increased in popularity would compensate performers relative to their popularity, little different than now. With access to the public for new performers, monopoly control of entertainment industries disappears.
Investment and Job Opportunities
Several WiFi channels should be reserved for direct communication between those offering investment opportunities and investors looking for them. As everyone with savings would have access to investment information stored in databanks, money monopolists would be bypassed. Individual investors would put their risk capital in innovations that went unrecognized by regular loan institutions. If the investment were truly productive, investors would receive much higher than average returns. However, if their claims to insight were not valid, they would not be able to hide behind the protective shield of monopolization.
An entrepreneur who had obtained community approval and initial investment capital from the bank, they need both now, would deposit a prospectus in a databank. Investors would study the various investment plans, buy shares in the most promising, and have their accounts automatically debited, all without intermediaries.
Talented workers would look over prospectuses, which would include labor needs and incentives, and, if they saw where their talents would be used productively and profitably and assuming they had fulfilled their contract to train a replacement, they could transfer to that new job. Labor would be mobile and free, not dispossessed as in a reserve labor force, as they utilized their social right to their share of the efficiency gains of technology. In a modern industrial society, each worker would work only two to three days per week outside the home. See the work of Charles Fourier 180 years ago and Thorstein Veblen, Bertrand Russell, Lewis Mumford, Stuart Chase, Upton Sinclair, and Ralph Borsodi in the first half of the 20th century. Late 20th century writers describing the same phenomenon are Juliet Schor, Seymour Melman, Samuel Bowles, David Gordon, Thomas Weiskopf, Jeremy Rifkin, Andre Gorz, Hans-Peter Martin and Harold Schumann, and numerous European authors.
If a replacement were not immediately available, other workers at the factory could double their pay by working five days a week. Strict rules of later time off to compensate would have to be followed. Permitting doubling up on established jobs would appropriate the labor-rights of others and subvert the economy through again creating a superior class with superior rights. The underemployed would be denied their share of social production while those working excessive hours would have more than their share.
For their risk, the original innovators and investors would receive the initial higher profits plus the increased values of a successful company. Through sharing in the profits, workers and management who bought stock through deductions of 10-20% of their wages would be well compensated. The profit potential would increase their desire to maximize efficiency and provide incentive to look for new industries to develop.”5
Others would quickly analyze and duplicate the innovative production or distribution process; prices would fall to just that required to compensate the innovators, labor, and capital. Through low priced products, equal pay for equally-productive labor, and rights to a productive job, each member of society would be receiving their proper share of wealth provided by nature and the efficiency gains of technologies which are gifts of nature nurtured by inventors’ labors and talents.
If a communications commons functioning under the inclusive property rights laws of Henry George reduced production and distribution costs 60% and adequate compensation to the innovators was 10%, measured in hours of labor required to purchase a product, the public would quickly benefit by a 50% reduction in the price of consumer products. Through the reduced income of a shorter workweek matching the reduction in living costs there would be no loss in living standards. Societies which decided to forego a throwaway society and opt for a fuel cell, hybrid car, bicycle economy and other efficient transportation systems would provide a quality lifestyle with even less labor.
Global warming is fast becoming the world’s most serious problem. We sincerely believe that a sensible world society, designed to reduce pollution, reduce greenhouse gases, and still provide a quality life for all, can be designed with each working outside the home only 2.5 days per week. The human animal has tremendous energies which must be channeled into pleasurable channels that do not consume precious resources or pollute the environment.
Children want the approval of their parents and other members of society. They love to excel and desire equality with their peers. They are curious and, if not discouraged, love to learn. Today’s educational system creates too many barriers; “half of all gifted children float through school with average or worse grades, never realizing their potential … almost 20 percent will drop out.”6
There are many reasons: a child may be timid and terrified of school, an inferiority complex may prevent a student from functioning or excessive pressure to do well may be daunting. The school district may have obsolete books and teaching aids and students may not get the individual attention they need. Local peer groups, gangs, may replace parents and teachers as role models. Parents may not be involved enough in their child’s learning. Or the curriculum may be so slow it is boring. With elimination of these and other barriers, many with low grades will blossom right along with their peers.
Schools are a commons but they need to be modernized. With 40 to 60 WiFi channels reserved for education, every subject now taught at elementary, secondary, college, and university level would reach every home free of charge. Each subject would have several recorded lecturers and be broadcast at various hours of the day. The competition would be intense for the teaching positions on such programs and these best educators in the nation would be well paid. Each recorded course would be edited for maximum clarity, simplicity, and comprehension. Everything in a book, or dozens of books, can be summarized in a recorded lecture. Reasoning is quite natural and nothing can beat a good educator whose recorded lectures anticipate, and are carefully structured to answer, most questions. With all society having access, the fictions and omissions of history, especially omissions, would be challenged, researched, and corrected.
With their lessons recorded, these high-quality educators would be spending less time teaching than any one of the tens of thousands they replaced. They would concentrate on studying their own and others’ lectures for ways to improve. Modeling is the most potent teacher of all and these great teachers would be great role models.
The equipment required for each student would be a TV set or computer such as the $200 one intended for every student on earth addressed above, while the local education system would provide workbooks to match the TV lessons. As these lessons would be in a databank accessible through the integrated communications system, downloading to a hard drive would record them for later study. They could replay the lessons as many times as necessary for maximum comprehension.
So long as a student maintained an adequate grade average, a share of the money society saved on maintaining the present school system could be paid to each child’s family. Allowing for each child’s ability, it would be logical to pay this incentive for each subject and on an average of all subjects. This would be high motivation for families to restructure their time for home education. With spending money earned for each subject, motivated students would zip through many subjects. Developing nations do not have to deconstruct an entrenched, expensive educational system and their citizens’ motivation for education is high so there would be no need for incentive pay. But they would have high incentive to utilize their current classrooms as administrative and testing stations and educate their populations, children and adults, through WiFi television.
With the two to three day workweek possible in a developed economy, there would be adequate time for parents to monitor their children’s learning. With rapport between parent and child, the brightest would cover a current year’s education in as little as four months, some in two months. The most intelligent and motivated would have the knowledge of PhDs at an age when they would normally be entering universities, which, incidentally, would eliminate another monopoly.
Actually those students would have a much broader education than most PhDs. Current doctoral studies are very narrow in focus. Without breadth of education, the answers to the world’s problems will not be found. Conversely, if universities emphasized graduate degrees covering a broad spectrum of disciplines instead of narrow fields, answers would be found relatively quickly. Through free TV studies, students would have that broad education. This is proven by over one million American children already being successfully home schooled, doing well in universities, and their numbers are growing 15% a year, all without government support.7
Students would not be pressured to follow the teaching of any one professor. Others might have a different view and students could listen to all views. Judgments would be made while still young and idealistic. All this would be gained while enjoying the irreplaceable quality time between parent and child. Some talented students who do not have parental support would find a surrogate family by immersing themselves in education.
Private or public education centers would be operated for the few who could not function under home self-education. Those who were intellectually capable but failing would be required to attend specially structured classes. Upon doing satisfactory work, they would still receive incentive funds.
The compensations and identity received by siblings and friends for successful home schooling would be noticed by younger children and provide motivation to avoid the formal school setting.
Any child would be proud to go shopping with their own earnings and it is hard to visualize many children being irresponsible toward their education if it meant losing both their freedom of choice and their spending money. They would quickly learn responsibility when it meant both financial and emotional rewards. Society would quickly become accustomed to such a system and the need for brick and mortar schools would be very minimal.
Children can be just as easily culturally trained to quality as they can to trash. So it would be logical to eliminate the senseless violence in today’s children’s programs. At the least, quality programming could be assigned a bloc of channels so conscientious parents could maximize their children’s intellectual and moral growth.
Incentive funds, as a social right, would in no way impinge on others’ rights. Those rights could only be exercised by obtaining a set grade average. Home education would save society far more than the incentive costs. In fact, those funds cost nothing; they go right back to the people from whom they came. Over time, such incentives would be looked upon as normal as wages.
Older students would soon learn to structure their flexible education time around their job. There need not be a sharp cutoff between school years and entering the workforce. The options for pursuing education for a career and earning one’s living would be increased. Instead of a division between students and workers, the two would overlap until the young adults opted for a career.
Motivated children, youths, young adults, and adults would obtain most of their education at home and at their own pace. Children with a desire to learn, which is most, would find the field wide open. Left to their own devices, they would quickly learn it was their time and labor being conserved by dedication and attention to the subjects being taught. The alert would be developing university level leaning skills while in grade school
Many talented children’s potential, now lost through boredom and diversion to socially undesirable activities, would be salvaged. The brightest would attain a 12th grade education in less than eight years, the middle level in 10, and even the slower group, which currently sets the pace of a classroom, would learn more quickly. There would be adequate resources and time to give special support to the few who are unable to cope for various reasons. This would not only conserve society’s labor, it would economize students’ energy and time. This potential was shown by an experiment with interactive videos reducing learning time while increasing comprehension by 30%.
Having watched great videos on Free Speech TV, Link TV, The Learning Channel, The History Channel, The Arts and Entertainment Channel, The Discovery Channel, and public broadcasting channels, we conclude the statement, “A picture is worth a thousand words,” should be changed to; “One documentary is worth a million words.” The best of those documentaries combines the wisdom of many researchers developed by many lifetimes of study. All viewers will absorb that knowledge at some level. Avid reading will seldom bring one close to the understanding gained from a well-researched documentary. The gain for the slower and less avid readers would be of much greater dimension. As opposed to being bored and discouraged, students will enjoy their education.
A central testing facility would be maintained that would issue scholastic level certificates and incentive funds. These achievement tests would be designed to educate children to compete with the best in the world. This would quickly equip all nations to be competitive.8 Since credentials are crucial for obtaining good jobs, all would have access to their scores, the right to analyze their answers, and the right to retake tests.
Classes requiring hands-on learning would be held in a classroom setting along with supporting recorded programs. Millions who dreamed of additional education would find it freely available in what was previously their idle time.
As no one’s knowledge is complete, every curriculum would be subject to review and correction. The Great Saint-Mihiel battle of WWI that never happened and other examples of fraudulent history addressed throughout this author’s books are not exceptions.9 Severely distorted history is the norm and such failures to tell the full truth seriously retards democratic development while correct and full knowledge is critical to planning one’s future.
Every day we learn something new or reinforce what we already know. To waste huge amounts of resources while continually affirming nice-sounding slogans about efficiency, justice, and compassion while operating an inefficient economy and violent foreign policy seriously limits true knowledge. Redesigning society to produce and distribute efficiently and peacefully would give children a better cultural education.
It is not possible to get every student to enjoy learning for its own sake. If given a choice, most people would choose to do things that best support their need for identity and security, for many that is obtained in work, sports, and hobbies rather than intellectual pursuits. There will be those who, though unable to compete across the board scholastically, will take great interest and do well in a field of their choice.
Schools, as now structured, do perform a babysitting function. But, if that is the criterion, society should be aware that the potential of many children is lost and that child care is what they are paying for, not education. One must also be aware that early industrialists hoped “the elementary school could be used to break the labouring classes into those habits of work discipline now necessary for factory production….Putting little children to work at school for very long hours at very dull subjects was seen as a positive virtue, for it made them ‘habituated, not to say naturalized, to labour and fatigue.”10
Inspired Teachers for Every Student
People feel insecure at any suggestion of fundamental change in their social institutions and most are closely attached to the institutions of education. But, in the current school structure, where is that all-important role model if the student has a poor, mediocre, or burned-out teacher? Under the system proposed here there would be many great teachers, each teaching his or her deepest beliefs, and their recorded lectures would be freely available for all.
In the soft sciences, economics, political science, finance, some social studies, and, especially, history, what passes for education is, unwittingly, really programming encasing society within a belief system protecting the monopoly system, those exclusive titles to nature’s wealth we all grew up with.
Certainly, good hands-on teachers are wonderful, but how can they hold enthusiasm with 25 or 30 children to teach? Would not the best possible teacher, backed by professional graphics, be able to put on an enthusiastic performance, and that enthusiasm is there forever on DVD or videotape? Even a slow student could learn more than in a crowded and socially isolated classroom. Would not slow or timid students have a better chance of not developing an inferiority complex, and thus do better?
Parents Interacting Closely with Their Children’s Education
With their increased free time, motivated parents would enjoy watching their children learn and answering their questions. Children would ask an interested parent many more questions than they would a teacher. A motivated parent will go into deeper detail than the teacher who has so little time to spare for individual attention. Students too timid to function freely in class would function confidently in a home setting. In the upper grades, motivated parents would share the experience and learn with their children.
Better Institutions for Socialization
Socialization is of high importance. But the elimination of this function within education would free students for concentration on their studies. Youth social clubs would spring up and children would sign up voluntarily as opposed to the requirement to attend school. When children join a social club by choice, they would be bound by the rules of social courtesy, not classroom discipline, and would mix, relate, and learn social graces at a faster pace than in a school setting. Parents would automatically seek such groups to replace the baby-sitting function of schools. With increased free time, the arts—music, dance, sculptors, singing, painting, and other skills—would expand rapidly.
Maintaining Curiosity, Creativity, and Love of Learning
Education freely available to all in their free time would bypass that greatest of all destroyers of curiosity and creativity, the straitjacketing of children into conformity. We cannot count on a great teacher in every classroom. We cannot count on even half being good. Witness Massachusetts, a state with much higher quality schools than the average, in 1998 over half the teachers failed state qualification tests. There are over 15,000 educational experiments yearly. Some show dramatic improvements in education scores. Yet the overall average of scores does not improve. Either these better teaching methods are not spreading to other schools or those schools do not have motivated teachers. Why not combine modern technology with the students’ abilities and desires and trade the constraints of current classroom and university systems for the opportunity of an inexpensive, high quality, and enjoyable education?
Certainly one can point to great teachers and the gains for their lucky students. But there would be no loss to those children in this proposed educational structure. Instead, the number of children educated to their maximum potential would increase by a factor of two, three, or more. With easy access to classes in their spare time, many adults would broaden their education. Those who have a burning desire for another profession can gain credentials for their desired career even if finances are limited. Potentially great artists would have the opportunity to discover their talents, painters, poets, writers, singers, sculptors, ad infinitum?
There are undoubtedly many latent Einsteins currently spending their lives in drudgery who would educate themselves and have their genius suddenly blossom for all the world to see and enjoy in the form of a book, a song, a new theory, an invention. A large percentage of society educating itself to a much higher level would develop an even more efficient and productive society while protecting the environment and natural resources.
Once Borderline Teachable Graduating at the Top of Their Class
Inspirational teachers and programs have proven they can parent impoverished children with damaged psyches into becoming successful citizens. One such teacher is Ms. Marva Collins in Chicago. She worked among her students, rather than from her desk. Each time one did well she would put her hand under his or her chin, lift the child’s eyes to hers, and say, “You are brilliant,” or give some other sincere compliment. Minority children in her class deemed borderline teachable graduated from the university at the top of their class, and went on to become professors, lawyers, and other successful professionals. Failures were almost nonexistent.
Charles Murray, in his infamous book The Bell Curve, cited Ms. Collin’s program, specifically, pointing out that such programs could not possibly improve academic achievement or cognitive functioning. Having documented Ms. Collins successes 20 years earlier, Sixty Minutes went back after Murray’s book came out and checked on those 33 children.11 Those students were the roaring successes described above and thoroughly proved Murray’s thesis was racist nonsense supported by corporate hard-right think-tank money as outlined in this author’s primary research, Economic Democracy: A Grand Strategy, chapter six.
While restructuring to a just society, such programs would be used to salvage such at-risk children. Once all have equal access to a society’s benefits and opportunities, most will be good parents and most children will be well educated.
Culture and Recreational Learning
Fine arts and recreational learning programs, such as are produced by public broadcasting stations, are enjoyable and add to one’s knowledge. Fifteen to 20 WiFi channels should be reserved for these high-quality shows. The social benefits of learning while relaxing are self-evident and popular talk shows and good recreational-educational TV commands a loyal audience.
One live commercial show can easily exceed one PBS station or alternative view station’s yearly cost for all recorded shows. With their fair share of funds through restructured funding as described below, the present financial struggles of those who broadcast quality programs would be eliminated which would lead to the production of many more great documentaries.
Among the cultural and educational programs would be one or more channels reserved for introducing and demonstrating innovations, including governing and banking concepts and inventions. Alert, imaginative minds would relate their special expertise to other machines, production processes, distribution methods, and social policies. Along with alerting consumers to new products, society would be devising simpler methods of manufacturing, distributing, and governing.
Twenty to 30 channels would be reserved for ethnic minorities. Within the American culture they are inadequately represented and participate in national culture only to a limited extent. With these new rights, they would quickly develop outstanding media and political personalities to articulate essential issues and challenge the belief systems that protect power structures and keep others in bondage. With their own communication channels, equal access to land and jobs, and the right to retain what their labors produce, minorities would share the nation’s work, its wealth, and participate in national decision making. Every citizen might at last attain the full rights of equal citizenship.
Though programs created by cultures of other nations will be streaming over WiFi, guaranteed representation of their views should apply also to foreign cultures. When the vulnerable are not present to defend themselves, managers of state, seeking followers for aggressive intent, portray them as enemies. With the world in all living rooms through WiFi wired communities with blocks of channels for each culture, it would be difficult for managers of state to hide their aggressive intentions as they create enemies to justify their wars.
By mutual agreement there should be reciprocal presentations of cultural programs between countries to provide cross-cultural information. Redrawn broadcast standards would limit propaganda. Beamed to every home, programs would show people throughout the world at work and at play. People would begin to appreciate and respect both what we have in common and what is distinctly different. Full rights globally will evolve if ever a federation of nations restructures their economies to full and equal rights for all.
With all TV stations able to stream worldwide over WiFi, the meaning of a local station would totally change. Those with superior production teams could gain a national or even an international audience. As a source of community information and culture, citizens will share ideas and experiences. Local sports, concerts, plays, parades, and community information forums on a broad range of issues will be hosted. Meetings of governing bodies, normally open to the public by law, would be beamed over local TV.
With politicians having access to the public through reserved WiFi channels, there would be no need to spend private funds for elections. Politicians want to be just as honest as anyone else. With each of them having equal access to the voters, campaign funds could, and should, be made illegal. All understand they are bribes. With free access to the citizenry over WiFi assured by law, campaign contributions will be a liability and disappear into history.
Ten to 20 reserved TV channels would be needed for serious leaders to present their views with a substantial segment of the population to represent: corporations, business people—farmers, all now over-represented—women, who have just gained representation, labor, represented but unwittingly supporting suppression of other labor worldwide—the purpose of the propaganda process—minorities, the poor, conservationists, peace groups, and others.
Politicians must be in the spotlight. Those not attending in-depth background discussions would be relinquishing their claim to leadership. With authorities such as those cited throughout this book invited to these forums, it would be difficult to duck the issues. There would just be too many questions.
Only when all have the opportunity to present their views, making social-control rhetoric counterproductive, can there be true democracy. Those who presented a consistent and accurate view of reality and promoted a policy for the maximum good would gather a loyal following. Interested people would make value judgments on the history leading to the present problems, study the different solutions that were presented, and analyze the intelligence and integrity of the leaders proposing these solutions. It is their opinions that guide the thinking of the nation.
These opinion makers—intellectuals, leaders, and the news media—would watch the information forums to inform themselves and, in turn, inform the public. To do less would leave one uninformed and lose one’s followers. With elections structured for candidates to prove their mettle, like the famous Lincoln-Douglas debates, the now-informed citizens would be enabled to make responsible voting decisions.
It must be emphasized monopolists will use every power at their command to prevent cheap communications between all people and all elements of society. However it will happen, either quickly or slowly, and when it does today’s monopolies will, just like aristocracy, be history.
A Socially-Owned Banking System Paying for WiFi
We documented above the justifications for society collecting the profits from their banking system. There would be no shortage of funds for operating the economic infrastructure that would reduce both communication and education costs by 85%. Communication and education as a commons would be as cheap as access to highways, sidewalks, and parks.
The current monopoly system stands exposed as the system of theft it was designed to be throughout the past 700-plus years as power brokers wrote property rights laws to protect, and further expand, their wealth and power. The privatizations ongoing worldwide today are those same protections and expansions of wealth and power. The protection and expansion of unearned wealth and power through property rights laws is proof that, even though this is never mentioned in textbooks or the media, except obliquely leaving the curtain hiding reality firmly in place, powerbrokers fully understand that the heart of their monopoly systems are unequal property rights laws.
- Herbert Schiller (Interview), “The Information Highway: Paving Over the Public,” Z Magazine, March, 1994, pp. 46-50. See also Peggy Norton, “Independent Radio’s Problems and Prospects,” Z Magazine, March, 1990, pp. 51-57. Back to text
- Craig Aaron, “Sun, Sand and Spectrum Policy,” In These Times, September 19, 2005, p. 13. Back to text
- Paul Zane Pilzer, Unlimited Wealth (New York: Crown, 1990), p. 44. Back to text
- Steven Levy, “Bills New Vision,” Newsweek, November 27, 1995, p. 68. Back to text
- Steven Levy, “Bills New Vision,” Newsweek, November 27, 1995, p. 68. Back to text
- Anne Windishar, “Expert: 20% of Gifted Kids Drop Out,” Spokane Chronicle, January 7, 1988, p. B7. Back to text
- Rebecca Winters, “From Home to Harvard,” Time, September 11, 2000, p. 55. Back to text
- Thurow, Head to Head, pp. 273-79, especially p. 278. Back to text
- George Seldes, Even The Gods Can’t Change History (Secaucus, N.J: Lyle Stuart, 1976), p. 16. Back to text
- Juliet Schor, The Overworked American (New York: Basic Books, 1991), p. 61. Back to text
- 60 Minutes, September 24, 1995; Herrnstein, Richard J., and Charles Murray. The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life (New York: Free Press, 1994), p. 399. Back to text
Chapters for “Money; A Mirror Image Of The Economy”
- Introduction to Money; A Mirror Image of the Economy
- Chapter 1. Henry George’s Property Rights law: A Modern Money Commons
- Chapter 2. Henry George’s Property Rights Law: A Modern Land Commons
- Chapter 3. Henry George’s Property Rights Law, A Modern Technology Commons
- Chapter 4. Secondary Monopolies Disappear Under Henry George’s Property Rights Law
- Chapter 5. Henry George’s Property Rights Law: A Modern Information Commons
- Chapter 6. Capitalism’s Powerful Economic Engine: Henry George’s Smaller, Mightier, Engine
- Chapter 7. Summary
- Chapter 8. Conclusion: Henry George’s Property Rights Law: Creating World Peace and Prosperity
- Appendix I: Myths in Monetary Theory
- Appendix II: A Practical Approach for Developing Poor Nations & Regions
This is a chapter from the book, Money; A Mirror Image Of The Economy. Visit that link for more information about the book.