Fifty US billionaires, no, multi-billionaires, launched into one of the 50 American states each, matched by random selection, and each with a simple mission: compete with the others to earn the most points and profits by investing a billion dollars in the people and communities most in need of support there, while the public watches on TV and votes weekly for the winners in a smorgasbord of categories.
It will be a great American experiment in custom-crafted experimental capitalism. It will foster innovation, improvement, preservation, conservation, development and wise governance. A project with the potential to prove true the popular mythology and historical claim to an American exceptionalism, setting an example the entire world can admire and emulate. Once successful, it would herald and usher in a new, humanistic era of enlightened enterprise for the sake of the long-term survival of humankind.
How will it possibly be made to work? Here are some suggestions. From the pool of eligible billionaires, those with a net worth of two or more billions, select 50 names by a public drawing. Approval need not be sought from the participants, because nobody is trying to force them to do anything. The idea is to give them an opportunity to demonstrate and teach the skills that got them where they are today, and to earn more millions as they go about the hard work of becoming genuine American heroes of capitalism.
Winners in the drawing may opt out by vacating their win in any of several ways. They can sell out to another eligible competitor. If they can’t sell, they can give it away. If there is not an American billionaire with the courage and imagination and energy to compete, a foreign player may join the game, once approved by a council selected for the purpose of settling such matters.
Once the roster of contestants is set, things can be expected to move forward with determined speed. Each player must place one billion dollars in escrow, earmarked to retire all costs and expenses of the players’ chosen projects. This would include human resources, research and development, rentals and equipment, insurance, licenses and fees, and additional overhead.
Who runs the game? Our economic lives are shaped by the activities of three institutional types: government agencies, non-governmental organizations, and private enterprises. Each state of the US would form a local council to monitor and facilitate as needed the efforts of their allotted mogul. State council performance would be guided by a grand national council made up of non-participant entrepreneurs, government officials, NGO representatives and a few ordinary citizens drawn from a pool of applicants. Membership in the council should rotate and shift, to minimize the possibility of defeating internal dynamics in the programs set up.
How long will this go on? A person with a billion dollars of working capital should be able to get a lot of balls rolling quickly, which is not to say there is any particular reason to set up projects to be open for business within a matter of weeks or even months. Success in the competition depends at least as much on the mogul’s ability to amass points as to pile up profits in the early going. Careful planning, staffing, research and groundwork-laying will be the key to success in the first year of the project. By the end of that time, the players, and the watching world, should have a fair idea of what to expect as each state(s) project(s) go forward. The first year will be a time of learning and listening and teaching for the moguls. They’ll be meeting people, making friends, interviewing prospective hirees, brainstorming and getting a solid idea of the resources and talents most likely to combine in point-scoring projects with a future.
How are points awarded? The philosophy that has produced the basic design of this project assigns greater importance to people and communities, than to properties and private ownership. The point system reflects that basic fact. Therefore, projects collect more points going forward that display obvious qualities of innovation, problem solving, enhancing public education, improving governance (cutting costs and/or increasing revenues), make use of environment-friendly technologies, make infrastructure improvements, provide stay-at-home manufacturing jobs, enhance eco-diversity, foster youth/elderly/ infirm-oriented programs, bring reduced energy usage, promote the arts in public, enhance public safety without encroaching on citizens’ constitutional rights and freedoms, conservation-oriented, healthy lifestyle promoting,small and medium-sized business support, customer-owned financial services niche agricultural, manufacturing, marketing, and alternative sustainable lifestyle, et.al.
Fewer points are awarded for approaches that smack strongly of old ways that have been discredited in all but their profit-producing dimensions: high value-added retail, costly advertising and marketing components, sports and entertainment, celebrity exploitation, extractive industries such as mining, logging, factory fishing, whaling, or Big Corporate anything that operates in ways known to be polluting, destructive or sending the profits out of the neighborhoods and communities that produce them. In short, old ways garner fewer points than new ways.
So the first steps are to ascertain who the players are to be, based on the escrow deposits. As soon as those deposits are made, an administrative fee of one million dollars will be collected by the administrative entity. The game concept is considered the property of that entity, and all proceeds from the sales of media rights, after costs are retired, will be remunerated to moguls as a gesture of good faith and appreciation for playing.
Finally, it is to be expected that the contest will evolve, as the people engaged in it become familiar with all its elements, opportunities and challenges. The funds in escrow remain the property of the moguls, with the understanding that penalties may be taken for failure to participate vigorously and sincerely. The competition should be considered fully matured after five years time, when the escrow funds will be released, and everyone who participates will have established whatever role and position the future may hold for them. In that five years time, everyone should hope that a new public spirit of civic interdependence will have grown out of it, with a better-educated and less ideology driven public its proud guardians.