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Humans have a Natural Right to the progress provided by their ancestors. No living person has a superior claim to that progress. The growth in the Gross Domestic Product generated prior to one's birth is a birthright.
A Natural-Right minimum income may be calculated from the history of the Gross Domestic Product. All workers have a right to an equal share of national inheritance of increased GDP. [NOTE: Robert Heinlein wrote on this idea in 1939 -- see Appendix here.
In the Begininning
Humans began as hunter-gathers, hunting meat when they could and gathering roots and fruits that the forest provided. They earned by sweat and tired fingers a Hunter-Gatherer Income.
Then inventions began. They learned that scattered seeds would provide food in the next season and that some animals could be herded and controlled as sources of food and clothing. Their income increased.
The Growth of the GDP
Over the ages many inventions and much labor increased the people's income, not only for the inventors but for all the people - shared in a fashion dictated by custom, by law, and by accident.
The increased production resulting from the inventions and labor of men and women in the past is the property of all the people. Who can claim special rights in the production increased by the invention of the wheel? All the people should share in that increased production. The wheel (and axle) is the rightful property of all the people, not the special right of the factory owners of 1997.
Persons who labor as did their hunter-gather ancestors may rightly expect to have an income equal to those ancestors. And they may also expect to have greater income by virtue of their heritage of increased production - a common property income. These two incomes together constitute a moral minimum income - an income every laboring person may rightfully claim.
The first graph depicts the growth of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per person over the ages. Please, let us not quibble over the ancient numbers - we have more important thinking to do. You can come back tomorrow and redraw the graphs to suit yourself.
The Personal Share
Not all of the GDP is personal income. United States data of recent years shows the personal income to be about 84% of the GDP.
The second graph shows the minimal Hunter-Gatherer income, the GDP per person since 1920, and the Personal Income share. The first question is this: How much of that Personal Income is attributable to the inventor of the wheel and all the other inventors and developers of years before the birth of a "baby-boomer" in 1947?
The modern hunter-gatherer (of hamburgers and fries?) deserves the hunter-gatherer income, but in addition, a fare share in that Personal Income set up by his or her ancestors.
The Natural Right
There is a lag. An illustration is the seventeen-year life of patent rights. An inventor or producer ought to have a personal claim to the income he or she creates, at least for an arbitrary number of years agreeable to society. The following graphs use a twenty-year lag. Again, now is not the time to settle the details of this. Principles first, consensus numbers later.
Each person has a claim on the GDP growth that occurred twenty years earlier. The most recent growth has claimants based on invention and entrepreneurship.
The income which should be shared equally is part of the common property of humanity and is the "Natural-Minimum Income." Its equal sharing is a Natural Right.
So each working person earns the minimal hunter-gatherer income plus an equal share of the Common Property in past creations.
In addition, the person making an extra contribution may earn as a bonus, a proportional share ot the gross Personal Income above that of the Natural-Minimum Income.
The total, earned by sweat, by sharing of common property, and by extra contribution constitutes a Moral Income. Anyone grasping more is exceeding moral bounds. To be given less than the Natural Minimum is immoral on the part of society.
In summary, each laboring person has claim to three incomes: the hunter-gatherer, the inherited common property, and the extra contribution, if any. Those who do not labor are not in this system but may hope for survival assistance according to the wishes of society.
Management of the unemployment problem is not a subject of this essay.
Following is a summary diagram showing these three incomes on a graph of the real per-capita gross domestic product of the United States.
Footnote: There can be raised a question as to the ownership of the heritage of common property in increased production. Perhaps the diagram can be constructed for each national economy. It would be an invidious intrusion here to assert a claim to a greater share of the inheritance for the western Europe nations wherein much of the invention for increased production was made. Much of the development benefited from natural resources and labor used - some would insist on "stolen" - from other parts of the world.
No way to litigate the inheritance is readily apparent but litigation would be preferred to the wars normally used in efforts to redistribute the wealth.
The following graphs shows the annual and 50-year total amounts of the equally-shared Natural Right minimum income and the average bonus income. The bonus income is to be distributed according to each worker's extra contribution to the economy.
As with the previous graphs, the numbers are on a per person basis. The number of workers actually collecting the income in the U.S. has risen from 55% to 67% of the population from 1940 to 1997. The Natural Right to income applies to persons but workers collect the income.
The next graph express the rights in terms of worker's hourly wages, assuming a 2,000-hour work year.
Here the Minimum, Bonus, and Total are graphed separately, not cumulatively. This reveals the fall in the Bonus caused by the recessions of 1982 and 1992. The Moral Minimum Wage, being based on a 20-year lag from the GDP growth, does not show this decline as yet.
The Distribution of the Bonus
In the year 2000, a Bonus of four trillion dollars will be available to distribute accoding to the extra contributions of some of the workers. How this might be distributed is shown in the last graph. This is, of course, only an illustration of one possibility.
"For Us, The Living"
"... Did anyone live without working in your day?"
"Oh, those on relief did."
"I'm not speaking of them. They were presumed to be people who wanted to work but couldn't get work, and we have proved mathematically that they couldn't. I mean others who might have worked, but wouldn't, yet lived well."
"Positive? How about coupon clippers, land owners, owners of capital who were not in management? Idle sons and daughters of the rich? Were there none of those?"
"Oh yes, of course. A few thousand perhaps. But they were entitled to be idle if they chose. Either they or their fathers had earned the money. A man is certainly entitled to provide for his children."
"All the idle today are the rich sons of hard working fathers."
"Are you trying to kid me?"
"I didn't jest, but I did use a figure of speech. Tell me, what are the factors that enter into production of real wealth?"
[ Here Heinlein lists labor, raw materials, land, capital, enterprise, government but finds them insufficient to account for the great wealth........continuing: ]
"... Obviously the factor which produces this enormous multiplication of wealth is technical knowledge, the contribution of the creative inventor and creative artist. That is why we reward them so highly today. There is one outstanding characteristic of the creator-discoverer. His work lives after him and is cumulative in its effect. We owe more to the unknown genius who invented the wheel and axle than we do to all the workers now on earth. Furthermore, inventors stand on the shoulders of all their predecessors. No modern invention would be possible without the work done by Bacon, Da Vinci, Watt, Faraday, Edison, et cetera without number."
"Yes, that is evident but what of it? I can't see that the work of those men justices laziness today."
"These men are our forefathers. They have left to each one of us the most valuable inheritance possible, other than the good earth and life itself. To each one of us, mind you, lazy and industrious alike. To refuse your brother who prefers not to work his share in production for moralistic reasons of your own devising is to claim for yourself that which you have not earned and have no right to."
In Heinlein's world of the year 2086 each person receives a "dividend" from that inheritance. The dividend is sufficient to sustain a comfortable lifestyle.