We all must insist that all natural monopoly industries  – all those industries which tend towards monopoly without government intervention – need to be operated as transparent and equitable governmental monopolies with thorough democratic oversight. To allow these traditional governmental powers to be stripped away from our republican form of government and operated as oligopoly, oligarchical, and autocratic mega-corporations, is to violate our Constitution and to grant powers of ignobility to these corporations. It has as little to do with free enterprise than if I were to claim the Presidential power to grant pardons in the name of private enterprise. Governmental powers must remain within Constitutionally circumscribed government and the powers to control our natural monopoly commons are inherently governmental powers.

These commons serve as central components of our commercial and industrial infrastructure. Whoever controls these commons enjoys a governmental power over all others who rely on these resources. In what follows I outline: 1) how the Federal government can undo the unconstitutional privatization of our commons for interstate and international commons; 2) how the Federal government can aid state, county and local communities in taking control of their own commons and once again make them into public commons; and 3)  how we can facilitate public innovation in the commons and likewise facilitate innovation in our commons through temporary grants to private enterprise.

In large part, the strategy involves making use of eminent domain to acquire and recoup property which either should have never been made private or was assembled through improper delegation of governmental powers to private enterprise. While some of this requires public expenditures to transfer title from inappropriate private titleholders back to the public these expenditures will be small in comparison to the hidden taxes we now pay to the private monopolists who wield their monopoly powers over the rest of us. In the case of banking and finance, the acquisitions involves both assets and liabilities and so no other compensation is necessary. In other cases, the acquisitions through eminent domain require only acquisition of minimal land and easements, and some minimal quantity of depreciated infrastructure.

In any event, the acquisition, socialization and nationalization of these various commons involves an investment which initially merely transfers ownership from a private ignoble corporation to the public treasury. However, that transfer also facilitates public proprietorship and stewardship of the commons. These expenditures are also offset by the potential revenues from user fees for use of these services and also the diminished burden of a hidden tax levied through the price gouging that monopoly and oligopoly corporations enjoy when controlling these commons. In that way, these acquisitions involve government in the proprietorship of these commons, but need not increase the taxpayer supported segment of government. In fact, these acquisitions can even facilitate diminished tax burdens as the net revenues from operations enter the public treasury rather than lining the pockets of monopoly corporations.

The proposed acquisitions complement my proposed Marshall Plan for North America. This Marshall Plan would invest heavily in modernizing, upgrading, and greening the infrastructure throughout the continent. However, it is crucial to first socialize this infrastructure to avoid the corrupt raiding of the public treasury which subsidizing this infrastructure would involve if it continues to be held by private for-profit ignoble corporations.

Federal Commons

  1. Money system: This involves the most clearly corrupt and unconstitutional private usurpation of our commons. As I have outlined in my proposed monetary reforms, we can regain public control of our monetary system with minimal outlays. Simply by reclaiming the Federal power over money we will eliminate as much as $2 trillion in our national debt which could be used to finance other eminent domain acquisitions. The Federal Reserve currently bears about $46 billion in capital. However, that capital is largely paid in by its members for the unwarranted privilege of enjoying a guaranteed 6% return on investment pilfered from the American people through the Federal Reserve’s origination of new money. Once we revoke that privilege through repeal of the Federal Reserve Act, these member banks will no longer enjoy that privilege at our expense. Regardless, we do not need to pay any compensation to these member banks for revoking this privilege.

    For federal control of our electronic money, we may want to acquire some existing operations such as the Federal Reserve’s Fedwire and Automated Clearing House electronic funds systems. It may also be desirable to acquire a controlling stake in one or another of the private for-profit electronic money system cartels such as Mastercard (at most, $5 billion in acquisitions but ending the 6% guaranteed profits to Federal Reserve member banks and ending fractional reserve lending recovers trillions in assets for the public treasury).

  2. Commercial systems: I propose new commercial systems to empower small business and ease commerce for all including: An electronic money and portfolio asset tracking system; a system for electronically describing commercial products, financial instruments, and agreements; a federally hosted intellectual product repository; and a system of cooperative franchising (all new; so no acquisition but instead covered as part of my proposed Marshall Plan for North America).

  3. FDIC insured deposits: Like the electronic general ledger demand deposits of our monetary system, socialization of FDIC insured deposits require no public outlay of funds since the acquisition of these accounts constitute relieving the banks of their liabilities. However, to ensure the public treasury broadly conceived is maintained, I propose we also bring an equal value of assets into the public as well. These assets will be mortgages, student loans, consumer credit, business bridge loans, municipal bonds and other assets held by the banks. No public outlay is necessary therefore as the National Credit Union will bring equal value of savings accounts bank liabilities and general loans bank assets. The public savings options will make use of the same financial infrastructure available to all independent and decentralized borrowers, lenders, and intermediaries created for the electronic money system: electronic money and portfolio asset tracking system ($0.00).

  4. Insurance risk funds: SImilar to savings deposits, our insurance risk funds can also be socialized without any outlay. By taking both premium assets and policy obligations from private insurance funds, the balance due these private oligarchs is zero dollars ($0.00).

  5. Interstate and international highways: These are largely public already, though I think we should ensure that every segment of the Interstate Highway System is publicly controlled. I generally think tollways are an inappropriate mechanism for funding highways since the fuel excise tax should be sufficient to serve as a user fee dedicated to funding our transportation systems. Tollways generally treat some motorists in an inequitable manner compared to other motorists. However, more targeted bridge tolls, rush hour fees, and other specially targeted user fees are appropriate. I would support legislation which eliminated tollway authorities and placed control back into thoroughly public and thoroughly democratic hands ($0.00 though possibly some acquisitions).

  6. Interstate and international Railways: This is the first category of acquisitions which require any significant public outlay. However, we do not want nor need to acquire the entire railroad enterprise, but merely the railway itself. These railways were built through an improper grant of power of eminent domain (i.e., a grant of a title of nobility) to the railroads to assemble the land. I therefore think that we should compensate the railroad for the amount expended on assembling land adjusted for inflation to todays dollars. To pay any more would be to fleece the American public a second time. In addition to paying for the land, and right-of-way easements from each railroad enterprise, we would also acquire the track, trackbeds, switches, and other infrastructure: paying the depreciated value of these fixed assets. While the acquisition of these assets will undoubtedly still require a significant outlay in public funds, we should think of this as a necessary public infrastructure investment. We would be expending even less than it would take to build this railway system from scratch because we would pay the depreciated value of the fixed assets and the original inflation-adjusted cost of the land and right-of-way easements. Even more importantly, the railway industry is eagerly expecting enormous public assistance for their privately held infrastructure. We should not make any such investments from the public treasury until we have socialized this common infrastructure and made that infrastructure itself a component of the public treasury (estimated: $50 billion investment).

  7. Interstate and international communication infrastructure: This was all originally government owned and operated until both Republican and Democratic administrations decided it was suitable to sell off these public commons for private gains. This infrastructure has largely gone digital and the federal government should acquire or reacquire the internet backbones, undersea cables, and communication satellites which form the central spinal system for the entire national and international communication infrastructures (not yet estimated, but likely a few billion dollars).

  8. Wireless networks serving interstate highways and interstate railways: Our wireless cellular networks comprise an excellent example of private innovation in a common infrastructure. While largely a reapplication of federally developed military technology, the impetus to create a system of wireless cellular networks came from the private oligopoly communications industry. In Europe and elsewhere these communications advances came from the publicly held communications industry and many other countries enjoyed a much more rapid deployment of cellular technology (Finland and Israel to name two examples). While the entire cellular wireless network should be under public control, in our federalist system, much of it should be under county and municipal control. However, the federal government should serve as the proprietor and steward of the wireless cellular networks along our interstate roadway and interstate railway networks. Like the acquisition of railway infrastructure, the acquisition of the the cellular networks will require some substantial federal investment. However, we will be acquiring a depreciated infrastructure and so it will involve lower expenditures than building an entirely new system from scratch. Once acquired, we can begin to make the rates more equitable and fair and more in the service of the general welfare (estimated: $20 billion investment).

  9. Satellite Television, Satellite Radio, and Satellite Phone: These resources are quite limited compared to the demand to use these services. These are not only natural monopoly sectors of our economy, but they are largely contended networks as well, meaning that there exists significant contention over their use at an given time. For television and satellite this contention is addressed by granting exclusive use over particular channels. So the allocation of dozens or even hundreds of those exclusive channels constitutes a channel lineup. For satellite phone, the federal government already subsidized private acquisition of the iridium telephone satellite global constellation and we should consider what might be done to refocus this on civilian uses as we reclaim it for public stewardship. (not yet estimated, but around a few billion).

  10. Interstate and international fuel pipelines: A continental network of pipelines to transport oil and natural gas. (not yet estimated, but around a few billion).

  11. Interstate and international electrical transmission: This is a new category of infrastructure which is central to my proposed energy strategy. Little is needed to acquire existing infrastructure, but the expenditure on new construction will provide the systems needed to support a new green and renewable energy economy. While long-distance electrical transmission does involve a loss in energy proportional to the distance transmitted, we often neglect to compare this appropriately to the cost of transporting coal, for example, which makes tremendous use of petroleum fuels simply to move coal fuel around the country (all new; no acquisition).

All together this amounts to about $80 billion in acquisition. As a complement to my proposed $1.3 trillion seven year Marshall Plan for North America, this is s small investment. Essentially we are simply using $80 billion to buy the portion of our common infrastructure already produced by private for-profit ignoble corporations and returning those commons back to public control. We do not need to acquire the actual corporations involved, but only to use eminent domain to acquire the assets and real estate comprising our common infrastructure. Once this is done, we end the hidden tax of price gouging and revenues which once got reported as profits become government revenues and defray income taxes as they should have all along.

State and Local Commons

I propose we also provide federal aid to state and local governments to acquire their own natural monopoly resources and make those all into public commons. I propose the federal government provide low-interest loans to states and municipalities to facilitate this acquisition. While many of these natural monopolies already enjoy the stewardship of local governments, others have been wrestled from public control to defraud and fleece the public. This would involve acquiring any privately held common infrastructure such as:

  1. Aqueducts
  2. Wastewater sewer systems (toilet waste and greywater)
  3. Storm water runoff systems
  4. Electrical transmission
  5. State and local railways
  6. State and local roadways and bicycle, pedestrian and other auxiliary pathways
  7. Wireless networks serving state and local roadways, parkways, pathways and railways
  8. Broadcast airwaves
  9. Wired municipal and county networks including: traditional telephone service lines, cable television networks, DSL networks, etc.
  10. State and local natural gas distribution systems

Content scheduling over routinely contended networks

For all content delivery systems whether wireless, digital broadcast over traditional UHF and VHF frequencies, satellite lineups dedicated to local service, cable television lineups, stewardship over content delivery schedules, feeds, and lineups must be thoroughly vested in county and municipal governments. In some cases some portion of contended network lineups can even be vested in local communities and neighborhoods of a few square blocks. For these routinely contended networks, some portion of capacity should be reserved for federal public service content, some portion for state public service content, some portion for local public service content and the rest allocated to community subscription, individual subscription, commercial, fee-for-service, and other independent content creation mechanisms.

In any event, the communities must be situated in control of their own public common in content scheduling and video, audio, and data service delivery networks with tight democratic oversight and thorough public participation. A community might decide to arrange for a subscription service at a discount to make the service free for everyone in the community. Or a community might decide to allocate minimal bandwidth for cable subscription services, or basic cable leaving more available for on-demand services and other bandwidth uses. The revenues currently enjoyed by private ignoble corporations who serve as the gatekeeper for these commons which should remain public – that revenue will instead go to the local communities and defray local taxes.

I propose that the federal government acquire, develop and otherwise make available free license software to allow communities to schedule content delivery. Such software would largely fulfill the administrative role to implement the scheduling decision of the various democratic bodies within each local community. While private for-profit cable television and other content delivery companies already have proprietary software for such purposes, providing open source software tailored to the needs of a scheduling process with tight democratic oversight prevents each and every community from reinventing the wheel in developing such software.

Private innovation and subsequent socialization

Innovation in common infrastructure arises both through governmental enterprise and private enterprise. For example, the monetary innovation of general ledger money arose with the invention of the telegraph and its widespread use in the private banking sector (though the telegraph joined the railroads in receiving unconstitutional grants of powers of eminent domain). On the other hand, the internet arose from largely government innovations. While we can and should expect innovation by government in the various public commons, and always seek to tailor all common infrastructure to the needs and desires of the electorate, we can also facilitate private innovation in common infrastructure at times. Many components of the commons have existed for decades, centuries, even millennia. Aqueducts and roadways date back to ancient times. Railways and copper cable communication networks arose in the middle of the nineteenth century. The Internet rose to prominence in just the last few decades. Further innovations in and additions to our commons will undoubtedly occur. We should expect government to continue to play a central role in such innovation. However, we should also make space for private enterprise to add to the commons in innovative ways. Just as we grant patents which are essentially a temporary monopoly over the intellectual products which form the common of our knowledge and ingenuity, we should likewise grant temporary monopolies in any new economic common when created by through thoroughly private initiative.