Citizen's dividends

Royalties for citizens


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US United States


About the project Edit

Citizen's dividend or citizen's income is a proposed state policy based upon the principle that the natural world is the common property of all persons. It is proposed that all citizens receive regular payments (dividends) from revenue raised by the state through leasing or selling natural resources for private use. In the United States, the idea can be traced back to Thomas Paine's essay, Agrarian Justice. Thomas Paine best summarized his view by stating that "Men did not make the earth. It is the value of the improvements only, and not the earth itself, that is individual property. Every proprietor owes to the community a ground rent for the land which he holds." This concept is a form of basic income, where the Citizen's Dividend depends upon the value of natural resources or what could be titled as "common goods" like seignorage, the electro-magnetic spectrum, the industrial use of air (CO2 production), etc.

One application of citizen’s dividend can be found in Alaska. The Alaska state constitution claims common heritage rights of ownership of oil and other minerals for the people of the state as a whole. Citizen dividend checks are distributed every year in Alaska out of the interest payments to an oil royalties deposit account called the Alaska Permanent Fund (APF) created in 1976 after oil was discovered on the North Slope. The APF is a public trust fund - a diversified stock, bond and real estate portfolio - into which are deposited the oil royalties received from the corporations which extract the oil from the lands of Alaska. The first citizen dividend check from the interest of the APF was issued in 1982 and was for $1000 per every person for everyone in Alaska who had resided in the state for at least one year. Annual citizen dividends have been issued every year since then, for a total of more than $23,000 per person.


In what ways is this project unique and creative? Edit

The concept of citizen’s dividend opens up discussions on the use of natural resources and the subsequent wealth distribution.

What is the social value of this project? Edit

In Alaska, the citizen dividends from the APF are an important and significant source of income, especially for rural families maintaining more land based subsistence lifestyles. However, some environmentalists raise the concern that citizen dividends and social services based on petroleum and other nonrenewable resources rents makes it that much more difficult to shift to renewable sources of energy. Alaskan representatives frequently have voted to open up the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge and other areas for more oil drilling.

What is the potential of this project to expand and develop? Edit

A similar type of citizen’s dividend project also exists in Brazil, in Norway and in Nigeria. In the province of Alberta (Canada), in 2006, each residents received a 400$ check financed by the oil licenses attributed by the province.

What was the triggering factor of this project? Edit

What is the business model of this project? Edit


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