Thoughts on Dan Larimer’s “Universal Resource Inheritance”

in #economy3 years ago (edited)

I don’t believe in property and never truly have. I don’t know why this particularly is, as a child born in the 70s and growing up in the country where the saying goes that everyone has a brick in their stomach and thus wants to build an own house, I liked having things.

I was lucky because my father was a closet nerd and thus we had a Magnavox, a VIC20, and later a C64. No wonder that IT and the Internet would become my playground later. Even if I never had an Amiga or Atari ST, yet later on in life I would get hold of a Macintosh Plus. But I digress.


Spot the even later acquired Mac Classic II in my former coffee shop in the UK

Being sole descendant in my family, I stand to at some point inherit 4 houses, one standalone house and three historically protected smaller townhouses in my town of birth. Plus the revenue of the sale of the house of my late grandfather from father’s side.

And I want none of it.

That’s right, nothing. Nada, noppes, zilch... zero. None of it at all.

Because I don’t believe in the transcending inheritary value of titles or in ownership received without actually having worked for it and deserved it.

Yet, that’s not how our modern society functions and nor how elder societies did. Ownership, property rights are a fact and they cascade down on, most often, the next of kin. Thrown in your lap, complete with a selfpat for being so awesome and hopefully so deserving of it. Maybe even rich.

All you had to do was be patient. Wait and outlive the generation before you.

“Beware of overconcern for money, or position, or glory. Someday you will meet a man who cares for none of these things. Then you will know how poor you are.”
—Rudyard Kipling

Universal Resource Inheritance

As a Steemian, who doesn’t condone of tribalism, I don’t follow Daniel Larimer, he of Bitshares, Steem, and now EOS fame - AKA @dan or @dantheman, much. Yet, I admire Dan for being a great designer of possible alt-economies and much of his personal writing and thoughts interest me more than the latest platform he is active with nowadays, next month or next year.

Because it seems that at heart we share similar values, beliefs.

And so I stumbled some days ago on a recent post by him on Medium: Universal Resource Inheritance. Much like myself, Dan doesn’t believe in the perpetual aspect of property either.

... Furthermore, one must ask the question, why do Adam and Eve have the right to control the definition of legitimate ownership of property for all eternity? Is each new generation bound to recognize the property rights allocated by the prior generation?

Is “first come, first serve” a proper basis for assigning initial ownership to unowned property? Does this generation have the right to consume all the oil and rainforests? Does this generation have the right to allocate all the mineral rights for all of eternity?

While, obviously, I would claim that content should be on the Steem blockchain, most definitely, that’s a stone I better leave unturned, yet one of Steem’s one time visionaries touches upon some great points which I think deserve some attention. Especially on this brilliant platform with true potential to improve distribution and eventually, if the stars are aligned correctly, slightly disrupt the status quo.

As Larimer highlights, of course, the issue extends beyond the titles to real estate or jewelry and also involves rights to land, land which may contain other natural resources which can be mined and stocks.


Photo by Bill Wegener on Unsplash

Larimer suggests a “Wealth tax” of 5% which would redistribute, or at least universally reward everyone on this planet with a yearly amount. While I doubt that the solution of the 5% “wealth tax” is more than an actual “good conscience” tax for wealthy people it nevertheless deserves some attention to be given. Even more so in an era in which many some few always more wealthy people decide to donate their wealth for philanthropic purposes - or at least partially.

Larimer mentions some staggering numbers a simple 5% tax would distribute. Numbers which would empower large swathes of society, even more so in less wealthy areas and especially when families were to collaborate.

Total global real-estate is worth about $217T distributed among 7 billion people about $1500 per person per year. Total global stocks are about $100T or $1200 per person per year. Total world wide money supply is also about $100T. All told this would give everyone, including the billions of poor and starving individuals in Africa, India, and China a total income of about $4000 per year or $333 per month. This is greater than the global median per-capita household income. This is over 4x the median income in Africa. Talk about impacting world-wide poverty!

Despite not solving the generation over generation, pretty much eternal ownership of title deeds, the tax does deserve attention, all while still maintaining the exponential curve possible by the head start because of inheriting ownership titles.

First, and foremost, everybody would be above the “poverty line” and elements such as welfare and even tuition fees would become less of an issue, much less. This in return would make development worldwide much more of a reality, also under flawed and corrupt governments, because citizens would be able to contribute their basic share or not require assistance anymore, except for maybe in a very few not necessarily financially driven cases.

Yet, the most interesting aspect of the “wealth tax” is that given that the powers that be would most likely never approve of such, any initial start of URI would have to happen on a voluntarily opt-in basis. An opt-in obtained only by demonstrating sound understanding of the so-called “peace treaty” that is URI and its economics, as explained in a follow-on post:

In the mean time, I believe that non-hypocritical supporters of a fair property right system could voluntarily create a private society that operates under these rules. If this private society can grow in market power and influence, then eventually it could take over public opinion. The key to the success of such a private society is that it condition membership and therefore qualification for URI upon tested understanding of the economics and principles behind URI and voluntary payment of dues proportional to wealth.

Keeping in mind, and leaving out of this post, the economic designs blockchains - especially Proof of Stake based ones - have brought us, all while assuming the whole system would indeed operate on such blockchain and be governed by Code is Law and its limited but defined arbitration processes, one can but wonder how an initially limited but educated URI society, dare I say civilization, could change lives and empower new middle classes.

And, possibly, be a jumpboard to scale and achieve real change and disrupt the stasis and the 0.01% swamp.

URI, as a wealth tax may not solve the title deeds issue which brought us perpetual rather than ephemeral property ownership, but it could most definitely be a bringer of change and possibly even an optimized model for many philanthropic efforts we see now. That because URI is a full circle process allowing us to tackle each aspect of a society’s need. All while both, obviously, aren’t mutually exclusive.

Education, of course, is a key element in Larimer’s URI wealth tax concept. Just like understanding the difference between “needs”-based and “available for redistribution”. Without such an unschooled mass led by wealthy advertising and propaganda may result merely in festishization of poverty.


  1. Universal Resource Inheritance by Dan Larimer
  2. In Defense of Universal Resource Inheritance by Dan Larimer

I was reading though this yesterday and it is interesting to consider and would probably be a more agreeable way for many to find a basic income (if they understood it). The way inheritance works currently in most places is just increasing the income gap issues so at some point, the current system is going to fail anyway.

Great post! Code isn't law from Dan Larimer's perspective. The “Intent of Code” is Law

Thanks for that addition, I considered linking to it rather than referring to code is law with limited arbitration processes but I decided to stay broader in scope.

Yet, it is indeed an important element when considering Dan’s focus.

On an entirely different note, thank you for your comment, @teamsteem. I actually thought of you while writing this post and even considered tagging you on Twitter. Here’s hoping we will see you more often again on Steem.

I compare ubi to the natural behavior of humans when things are given to them from birth. In most cases, the person had no idea that what they are given, isn't a right. They can either recognize that or dismiss it.

The former can be anyone and live a life that would have otherwise been in poverty. But the latter will always be what we call entitled.

In the real world, we are born into nothing except what was given to us. Any advantage we have starts at birth. We other wise have to repeat what our parents did. And there in lies the problem. We all view life in a different way and feel entitled about different things. Many of us have such an advantage in terms of basic needs (food and shelter) that we lose sight of the survival instinct.

The result of some is that we try to recreate the hardship to gain it back. So does ubi/uri really work? Unlikely in my opinion because all it does, is make those who feel entitled, feel entitled for more. It makes those who miss the struggle of human nature, struggle to find ways to cope.

Although I whole heartedly support philanthropy, I think it has to be merged with natural human behavior to succeed. If you make some one earn their income, even if it's bullshit work, it goes a long way to filling the need to struggle and succeed.

Actually, I come from a first world nation with a solid welfare setup. A welfare setup which not to be forgotten was fought bitterly for by my grandparents. While, they went through one world war and being born at the tail end of the second.

We, they, didn’t;t have many rights back then. They fought for them and got them, because as Dan Larimer put it:

These systems exist because the powers-that-be know that people with “nothing left to lose”, “lose it”.

Nowadays, I live in a development nation, by choice, and opted for a simple lifestyle and I live amidst locals in simplicity. Yet, a big issue is not that they don’t want to work but that even while they work - not different from many lesser skilled professionals in first world btw - they couldn’t yet level up. It takes a college degree to go and work for Accenture, moderating Facebook posts which are outsourced against a locally rather solid wage for local standards but also come with horrendous quotas (6 seconds/review). Yet, when I say solid wage that solid wage doesn’t allow them to mortgage for a condo, which here is pretty much only as big as sufficient space to walk around the furniture and not stumble yourself against it when not drunk.

The concept of UBI (which doesn’t work because it may cause hyperinflation) or in this process URI, which aims to redistribute, is to actually empower [even more so if the singularity happens]. There have been ample studies that many will continue to majority, a vast majority will that also because the workplace is the social life many. At the same time, the basic income will allow more entrepreneurial ventures from the grassroots up.

That’s not to say I don’t share your concerns, I do understand them. But the distribution is flawed and the abundance is a nice story but if you look beyond the world of nice condos and SUVs... the reality isn’t that “abundant” at all. And now with a strong USD... it’s going to get worse.

Yet, education is primordial. Education about the concepts and the processes. Without that... we just give the commons x/month more and they will merely spend it on more things. Which, of course, would serve the 0.1% rather nicely.

Obviously, I’m a weirdo because I’m born into a nice degree of ‘not needing to care’ and over the years the family has managed to improve upon that even. Yet... I don’t want any of it. Something I made clear merely weeks ago as well when I rejected a birthday gift (an iPhone X) for not ‘having deserved it’.

The interesting thing when you work with many homeless people for example is that it isn’t that they don’t want (some are too intoxicated to, yes) but they lack the ability to find/impose a structure on their own life. The same core wanting has often been a sore discovery for charitable projects in third world nations where “white guy with money came and built the school” but the locals never used it. Because they didn’t think it was theirs. And maybe, maybe they had different and more stringent needs too.

So, I totally agree but we need to fix distribution. Urgently. And the premise, the question of eternal rights we are born in, and how we can (ab)use or fully drain those, taking away from next generations, is an issue we need to tackle.

Because... soon “they are going to lose it”.

Lots of good points but I want to focus on the education part and the inability to provide for themselves because they don't know how to.

Dishing out x/month is obviously not the solution. For those who want to be better, it masks their need to struggle to be better. Part of that struggle is learning to improve, based in prior experience. That experience is the core nature of what we are discussing here in my opinion.

Take for example, why you feel that you did not deserve an iPhone x as a gift because you didn't earn it. None of us deserve an iphone x. None of us deserve it unless we purchased it ourselves.

Instead the man who thinks to improve life may see the gift as a tool to improve one's self. Far fetched, I know. But my galaxy note 8 is impreitive to me improving my life because it allows me to exponentially work better.

Now, going back to the education thing. It think you are spot on. Someone who wants to do better but simply can't because they don't know any better. A shakespearian tradegy at its core.

I think about technology replacing all the shitty jobs that no one else will do. And where the poor fit into this world. There will always be a point where work related to the basic nececcities of life will be automated. Where will the poor go then? Education becomes their only way out, but that begins at a young age.

Suppose we provide strong education at a young age. We know the result. They will cause an uprising once they feel that the game is rigged against them, no matter what system you put them in (capitalism or any form of social welfare).

So what are we to do? Keep the poor uneducated? Or let them revolt? Say we do the later, where do we end up? Poland perhaps? Where nearly everyone under 30 has a degree, yet there isn't enough work for all the educated to fill because there isn't enough centralized capital to get things going at a fast enough rate.

I may be ranting at this point, but my point is that I don't see a way out. We do need to redistribute, but in a way that makes sense, I just can't make sense of it.

Maybe the problem is really over population.

That last sentence is definitely something to consider. Yet, for the first time in history we are beating Mother Nature at the game. In every species “self extinction mechanics” are built in, may that be actual cannibalism or in form of epidemics like the Black Death.

If we look back at last 50-60 years, only the pretty much oldest epidemic - the Big C - has survived and is still making inroads, eventhough a cure is coming nearer every day. HIV is a battle pretty much won, Ebola and bird flu and their ilk are contained always faster than the panic makes sound possible.

PS: Each Western European nation has the saturation of college degrees as a problem. A college degree merely buys you a job to stack shelves nowadays. And it isn’t any different in development nations either.

One of the benefits of redistribution could be more entrepreneurial behavior. In fact, we would mostly reset the cycle 50-60 years back and buy some more time. More time before the whole exponential curve kicks in again. Hopefully when that happens again, we’ve found a better solution for the next cycle.

Here's my problem with entrepreneurial behavior.

Most people will fail. Most people don't have the right fight to survive. They don't have something solid. They only have a dream where success is the only possible outcome because they don't know any better.

Granted maybe they will succeed, but reality is that they will simply earn a basic living.

This is what I always see in NYC, where I live. One person had a dream of the best soap in the world, but the cost of procuring material and labor causes the soap to be extraordinarily high. 10x the price of commercialized soap. So they barely keep afloat, even if they are grossing 10k a month.

The general public, like me, can't afford $20 soap because we are also trying to save. The business closes and another shop opens up, this time selling bubble tea. And the cycle continues. Ofcourse nyc is a cut through environment. But so is life.

Great point on us just pushing back the clock though. I think that's all we can do until we come up with a better solution.

That’s how they learn. Live and #flearn.

I have no problem with entrepreneurs earning only little. Not everyone is set for success and the name doesn’t de facto include riches.

But, honestly, it wouldn’t be worse than having naively bought into the short term Uber marketing pitch and even before the Uber machine reaches selfdriving status already needing to sleep in car parks. More often than not with an overpriced loan on the car too.

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