The political right in the U.S. is dominated by libertarian-minded champions of the “free market” and highly limited government – not the most natural ally of progressives who like the commons. Yet that doesn’t mean that there aren’t some interesting possibilities to explore. Consider this remarkable video clip of Bill O’Reilly talking with Lou Dobbs on Fox News about rising oil prices. (A tip of the hat to Peter Barnes for bringing this to my attention.)
O’Reilly starts off the segment by noting that oil companies are exporting U.S. oil to foreign countries, which in turn has caused U.S. gas prices to rise. “It is my contention,” O’Reilly says, “that we the people own the gas and oil discovered in America. It’s our land and the government administers it our name...Land and water are the domain of we the people. That’s why oil companies have to get permits. They can’t just go around drilling anywhere! That’s why there are environmental laws – to protect the domain of we the people.” (Wow -- O'Reilly defends environmental laws!)
Bill then asks Lou Dobbs, a former CNN business news anchor, Tea Party supporter, and now a Fox commentator, what he thinks. Dobbs says that he agrees with O’Reilly -- we the people own the oil, coal and other energy resources in the U.S. Then he adds, “In Alaska, there is a perfect model for what we should do as a nation.” He then proposes that the federal government create an American Trust Fund modeled on the Alaska Permanent Fund, a state-charted trust fund that collects a percentage of revenues from all oil drilled on state land. The trust then invests the money and distributes annual dividend checks to every citizen in the state. In 2010, every Alaskan resident received $1,281 kicked from a trust fund worth more than $40 billion. None of the trust fund money goes to the government.