American Equity – A thought experiment

I’ve been thinking about the state of disunity in the country for years now, but the events of the past few months have really put it in to focus. Between wealth and economic inequalities, racial disparities, political division and you name it really it seems to me that there is very little agreement about what it means to be an American. Outside of the moniker ‘American’ what unifies all of us, what is it that we all share together? Worse yet, it seems there is little agreement about why any one American should care about the benefit of other Americans? Not just the Americans they know, not just the ones that have a similar background to them, but all Americans. So I’ve been thinking; what can we do to improve unity among citizens, and to get us to think collectively about the good of the whole as opposed to each of us myopically focusing on our individual benefit? How can we make Americans all feel like they share something? Like there is something they take part in with their fellow citizens? Is there a way for us to create an incentive system designed to make us think about the collective well-being of all Americans?

Eventually I’ve arrived at the idea of American Equity. So what do I mean by that? Imagine we gave every American 1 share of American Equity, new shares are minted when there are new Americans either by birth or by Naturalization. When an American dies, their share dies with them.

American Equity shares cannot be sold or transferred, you own them as long as you maintain status as an American. The key point holds, every American owns one share of American Equity.

So what would these shares do? They entitle every holder to an equal share of the government’s budget surplus, which we will call the National Dividend.

    • When there is a budget deficit, the National Dividend is 0.
    • When there exists a budget surplus, it gets split evenly to all holders of American Equity, i.e., the government’s surplus is returned to all Americans. We the people are the owners of this country, and we the people should advance when our country advances, all of us collectively, not just some of us. Additionally, as owners, we ought to think like owners. American Equity makes the benefits of being an American tangible and salient such that we all are more cognizant of our shared status as owners of the country.
    • This design may result in Americans collectively thinking about how the government spends its money. When the government spends, all Americans are set to lose a portion of their National Dividend.

There are second order benefits to American Equity beyond the benefits mentioned already. Notably that once American Equity is enabled, the system by which they operate can also be used for a myriad other uses. For instance it may become the most effective payment rail by which the government can send and receive payments from citizens. Additionally it can become an identity layer, at minimum one used for all Government I.D. related attestations. We could think of many other uses, but for brevity’s sake we’ll leave it at those two.

Some of you are probably getting uncomfortable right about now, and I imagine you’re thinking ‘but Jon, some Americans are filthy rich, why should they get one?’ and to that I’ll say because they’re Americans. Remember, our goal is to create a sense of unity among all Americans and to incentivize thinking about the collective of Americans and not just themselves. Restricting who owns these will immediately create division between those who own it and those who don’t, and worse yet it may enable a stigma against those who receive the benefit or depend on it.

Another layer of immediate criticism would be towards the notion that these are only for American citizens. While I understand this may be a hotly contested issue, I find that we have to draw a line on ownership somewhere, and I choose to draw it at citizenship. We use citizenship to determine many other features of our society, and I think this one is no different.

Undoubtedly there are issues with this plan, and any implementation is bound to be more complicated than what I’ve outlined here, but consider this half-baked idea as the starting point for what could eventually become American Equity.

Last thing, we could easily replace ‘American’ in this essay with any country, or better yet, just Human. However, until we have a working form of Global organization/government, we’ll have to settle by managing this at the country level.