The principle behind “the dividend”

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Alaskans have debated it for years, but even more so since the Permanent Fund dividend was politicized by Gov. Bill Walker in 2016, when he unceremoniously cut it in half, and put the unspent half into the Earnings Reserve Account for future government purposes.

  • What was the purpose of the dividend itself?
  • Why did Alaskans create a dividend, rather than just pour all of the oil money into the principal of the Permanent Fund?

It’s a debate that has all sides quoting the late Gov. Jay Hammond, who proposed that 50 percent of all mineral leases, bonuses, royalties, and severance taxes be deposited into an investment account. Then, each year one-half of the account’s earnings would be dispersed among Alaska residents, each of whom would receive one share of dividend-earning stock. The other half of the earnings could be used for essential government services.

Hammond’s rationale? He wrote about that in “Diapering the Devil: How Alaska Helped Staunch Befouling by Mismanaged Oil Wealth: A Lesson for Other Oil Rich Nations”:

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