If you built it, will they come?


small tree growing in crack2

Julie Glasscock and Vladimir Alzamora
Kadagaya (www.kadagaya.org)

There is an increasingly large global community promoting, advocating and discussing a resource-based economy and many working on designing what such a future might look like. We can be sure that if such a wonderful society existed there would be no shortage of volunteers willing to try it out. However, the path from here to there, the so-called “transition” is much less clear. An RBE by definition is not a fixed-point utopia with a clear operation manual, but rather uses the scientific method to evaluate concepts and technologies to continuously upgrade and improve. Therefore, the transition period is not a clearly defined route that we implement when we have the time/money/resources, but rather should be a time of vast experimentation to test out all these ideas and see what works and what doesn´t.

So why does there seem to be much more interest in promoting the concepts than developing and living in RBE communities to test the theory in the real world? We speak from the experience of building such a community and finding it very difficult to attract people to help grow the community with us. In early 2014 we founded Kadagaya (www.kadagaya.org) after becoming disillusioned and unsatisfied with life in the system and inspired by the opportunities provided by an RBE-type society. We began a pilot project in Peru to evaluate the enabling concepts and technologies that have the potential to take us steps closer to an RBE. In the early stages of such a project, while the basic infrastructure is being constructed and daily life is not as comfortable as that in the system, it is easy to understand why joining the community is not so attractive. We have no shortage of volunteers (mainly travelers) excited to spend a few weeks or months in the jungles of Peru helping us build the community, but finding long-term/permanent residents is much more difficult.

In the transition period emerging RBE communities look a lot like self-sufficient communities or eco-villages and have some overlap with hippie communes and alternative/spiritualist groups. Even some of the groups that consider and label themselves as RBE communities incorporate spiritualistic, religious and other beliefs which are not consistent with RBE concepts. This can be problematic in differentiating ourselves and attracting people who are interested in growing as a community and working towards an RBE rather than a personal spiritual journey.

In general small “intentional communities” have a very high rate of failure. Community living can be difficult and these days it is something that is quite foreign to many of us. Although a lot of these communities are trying to be self-sufficient and escape the system, there are inevitably problems created by money, politics of management/ownership and ego. Therefore it is very important to focus on educating the community about human behavior, psychology and social interactions in order to understand ourselves and the original of these potential conflicts. We feel it is important for the community to grow together over time, which is why it is advantageous to have long-term/permanent members from the beginning, rather than joining an established community.

Of course there are numerous reasons why people prefer to join a mature community. Most of us are trapped in the system in one way or another (with mortgages, debt, family commitments etc.) and leaving that life for an alternative has financial, emotional and social risks. As we are highly social animals there a large element of discomfort in breaking social conformity and challenging the homeostasis of “normal life” (even when we recognize the negative effects of such a life). The current system (and in particular the media) very effectively uses fear to maintain the status-quo and hence most of us have a well-established fear of the unknown and tend to worry about what we have to lose. Even though there are big opportunities for improving our lives by living in alternate systems, very few want to be the guinea pigs. Despite the growing awareness and dissatisfaction with the system, perhaps life is still too good and things need to get really bad (e.g. another huge recession) before the risks of trying something new don´t seem so bad.

In the meantime, we and other like-minded communities, are working towards self-sufficiency, increasing our knowledge and consciousness, and testing enabling technologies. By interacting with the wider community of RBE supporters we hope to share our knowledge and experiences, helping others to make the transition and be ready to support those wishing to leave the system when they are ready.

We recognize that such a life of experimentation, exploration and relative isolation from the system is not for everyone. Explorers in the past ventured off into the unknown, some fearing they would fall of the edge of the Earth, motivated either by an adventurous spirit, or a life of necessity. While the process of building an alternate society seems like hard work, those who have realized that there is no other option for their life prefer this “hard work” (outside their comfort zone) to maintaining a life within the monetary system.

 “A ship is safe in harbor, but that’s not what ships are for.”

William G.T. Shedd

Recommended watching/reading


Overpopulation – Is It a Myth?


The hype of ‘overpopulation’ has been going on for years in the media. And even some ‘philanthropists’ like Bill Gates is promoting de-population through vaccines and more to lower the population of this ‘overpopulated’ world.

Now, is the planet really overpopulated? Or will it be, if we continue multiplying? Obviously, it will be if we exponentially increase ourselves indefinitely, but there are many factors that works against that.

Overpopulation is most definitely a myth, and I’ll prove why.

I am talking about global overpopulation. For sure, there are many areas on the planet that are overpopulated, and all of them are what we call ‘cities’. But globally, we have more than enough room.

The reason for overpopulation in cities is blatant; The Monetary System itself. Money, trading and ownership has permeated so to say every nook and cranny of this planet, replacing real resources, like food, with the artificial resource of money, which is most abundant in cities. Thus, in need of this artificial ‘resource’, people flock to cities to get ‘jobs’ that will give them this ‘resource’. Had they stayed on the countryside, they would have had access to the abundance of nature, without much need for money.

Abundance of Space

According to Wikipedia, the definition of overpopulation is:

a function of the number of individuals compared to the relevant resources, such as the water and essential nutrients they need to survive.

Let’s also include ‘space’ as a resource needed to survive. Clearly, we need a certain amount of space around us for our physical and mental wellbeing.

There are vast amounts of land on this planet without a human soul living there. The abundance of land on this planet is so vast that it is unimaginable to most people. The image below illustrates this perfectly. Here we can see that the whole planet’s population would fit in the state of Texas with about one person per 100 m2. That is actually not too bad in itself. Except that we have so much more land available than only Texas. If we divide all the world’s 6,9 billion people on the available land mass of the planet, everyone would have about 22,000 m2 each.

the-worlds-population-concentratedWe have an abundance of space, that’s for sure. More than enough for all the world’s people to live upon. Considering that most people like to live in some form of community with others in the form of towns or larger cities (not because of ‘job needs’, but because of the social aspects, not ‘overpopulating’ any particular place), makes the space we have available even more abundant for settlements.

There’s no need for people to bundle up in huge overcrowded mega cities. If we use the whole planet, we easily have room for all with lot’s of space to spare. And then we haven’t even included the oceans, which also can be populated. Not that that is needed from a purely space perspective, nor a food perspective, as we will see.

Abundance of Food

Let’s repeat the Wikipedia definition:

Overpopulation is a function of the number of individuals compared to the relevant resources, such as the water and essential nutrients they need to survive.

‘Essential nutrients’ can be translated as ‘food’. Thus, for the planet to be overpopulated, or become overpopulated in any relevant future, there has to be too little food for everyone on this planet. The people who seriously talk about overpopulation must thus be seriously ignorant or misinformed.

Food Waste

Today we are wasting half of all food that is produced.  Clearly, we have a huge abundance of food on this planet, out of which half is wasted. According to Tristram Stuart

All the world’s nearly one billion hungry people could be lifted out of malnourishment on less than a quarter of the food that is wasted in the US, UK and Europe.

Thus, we have no food shortage. Do we? This number alone should be enough to debunk the ‘overpopulation’ myth. But wait, there’s more. Let’s take a short look on how much land we actually need to produce the food we need.

Biointensive Agriculture

With Biointensive Agriculture, less than 200m2 is necessary to feed one person an abundance of vegetables per year, including lots of protein rich vegetables like beans and spinach, even in colder climates. And this is without using any chemical fertilisers or pesticides. Check out this video for an example of how much food can be grown on a small space:

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A quick calculation shows me that here they produce about 3,6 kilos of food/day/200m2. Thus, the one person we talked about above would get 2-4 times as much food as necessary from this little plot of land, which is in a city, by the way!

Arable Land

The amount of so-called ‘arable land’ on the planet is according to Wikipedia about 14 million km2. If we only use this amount of arable land, we would have about 20 times the land we need (or 40 times if we use the last calculation above) to feed all of us on the planet. If we include permanent pastures, which amount to about 33 million km2 and is used for live stock, and grow vegetables there instead, we end up with more than 60-100 times of what we actually need. That is if we only eat veggies. But of course, we don’t need all that land, so there would be plenty of room for some grass fed beef or chicken with happy free ranging animals that can be managed holistically.

Increasing Agricultural Land

If we include some our deserts  in our alculations, we would have even more potentially productive land. According to Allan Savory we can re-green deserts through the use of live stock, as this TED presentation shows, thus fight both climate change and desertification, while at the same time increase our amount of agricultural land. Not that we need that for food production, though, but just saying to further debunk the overpopulation myth.

But, there’s more.

Hydroponics and Aquaponics

We already have more than enough food through the land that we have, but if we for some reason would want more, we can include Hydroponics and Aquaponics in our food plan. If we do, we would have such an abundance of food that we could feed a 100 more planets full of people, easily.

Hydroponics is growing plants directly in nutritious water. The nutrition comes from rotting unused plant matter.

Aquaponics is hydroponics with fish, where the nutrition comes from the fish excrements, while the plants clean the water for the fish.

Take a look at this video to see what I am talking about:

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According to this link, hydroponics (and thus aquaponics) can be up to 100 times (!) more efficient than growing in soil.

One – hundred – times…!

Thus, if we pop up a few aquaponic plants here and there, we wouldn’t even need soil.

Abundance of Water

There’s also a lot of talk about ‘water scarcity’, and that the available fresh water on the planet is rapidly shrinking. We are using up aquifers on wasteful agricultural practices, while soft drink companies are bottling free water and selling it. Both as a result of profit maximisation stemming from the monetary mindset and system.

But even if we use up the aquifers, we will still have rain water. Oh, it rains less as well, you say? Well, that will be amended with the re-greening we mentioned above, combined with lots of new microclimates created when we start to farm naturally, and not to speak of re-planting of forests, that all help create rain.

If this isn’t enough after the aquifers are empty, there’s a sun up there that gladly evaporates sea water for free trough Solar Desalination. In addition there’s also discovered some huge amounts of fresh water deep in the oceans.

As if this is not enough, we can get fresh water directly from the air through inexpensive water towers by harvesting atmospheric water vapor.

After all, we can’t really use up the water on planet earth. It has always been here and will always be here. The fresh water we have we have as a result of evaporation of salt water on the planet, and it raining down over land, in addition to aquifer, fresh water trapped under ground. It can’t really disappear. As long as we have an atmosphere, which the water we have plays a big part in creating and maintaining by the way, we will have water on the planet. And as long as we have the sun, we will have fresh water.

It is only our ignorance and monetary practices that creates scarcity of water, just like it creates scarcities of everything else.

Abundance of Resources

What is ‘resources’? Well, of course, food is a huge resource that we see we have and can produce in abundance. Other resources are ‘natural resources’; such as minerals like steel or aluminium.

Well, do we have an abundance of them? Yes and no.

It all depends on our consumption, technology and recycling. With today’s consumption and recycling patterns, and specific technology, we clearly have too little.

But, with an other type of economy that would maximise the resources we have through new inventions, technology, reuse and recycling, combined with new consumption patterns, we have an abundance of resources as well.

Consumption is created from the monetary system. We need to constantly consume to keep the system running. Since the monetary system is dependent on continual growth in consumption, if everyone cut consumption with only 10%, the whole system would collapse.

Paradoxically, the monetary system is creating both scarcity and a huge abundance of products through planned obsolescence and overproduction. Planned obsolescence is making sure products break or become obsolete due to out-of-date technology or fashion, thus creating a scarcity and need of a constant supply of new products. A perceived scarcity is created through giving the impression that you need the new products combined with the old ones starting to malfunction.

This cycle in the monetary system is the most wasteful cycle of all on the planet, wasting all the resources we possess, only to maximise profit for shareholders. We certainly do have an abundance of resources if they were only managed properly, which can only be done in a resource based economy.

Money

But the most scarcity is produced from the most elusive ‘resource’ we have; Money.

Money is and will always be, scarce, to about 90% of the population on this planet. Why? Because that is the nature and design of the monetary system. Money is not designed to reach the lower parts of the pyramid in any great amounts per person, thus creating not only a scarcity of money for that family, but also a scarcity of the needed resources.

Through interest and ownership money is naturally flowing upwards. The ‘trickle down’ economics advocated by the rich do exactly that with money; trickle. Just enough, barely, to keep the workers work ‘down there’, day in and day out. Just enough money is ‘trickled’ down in the form of small salaries for hours upon hours of work, thus, keeping money and most other resources scarce for 90% of all of us. Because too much of it would cause inflation, as we all know. Or would it?

The discussion of a basic income is getting higher and higher up on government agendas around the world. The long lasting results of a basic income in the western world is yet to be known. But tests in Africa and India are very promising, with the communities flourishing and people doing more work than before. The difference being that now they do what they love, providing a needed service to the community, instead of slaving away at something for a corporation, if they could ‘get a job’ at all. With a basic income more people could create their own jobs, minimising the for corporations and governments to create the jobs for them.

Money could easily be abundant for all the world’s people, and it would probably not create inflation, but rather more collaboration, inventiveness and community. It might also increase consumption and boost the ‘economy’ even more, which in our monetary system would be good of course, but not necessary for the wellbeing of the planet.

This topic is an article in itself. All I will say about it here is I think a basic income could be used as a stepping stone towards a global resource based economy as it promotes a decentralisation of resources and an empowering of people, which is exactly what a resource based economy is all about.

Conclusion

There is no overpopulation on planet earth. We can easily provide in abundance for everyone here, and even double, triple or quadruple that if we really like. All we need to do that is to create a resource based economy, making sure food and resources is created where people need them, and empower people to create their own lives wherever they live.

To keep the population manageable, though, and prevent any unnecessary population increase, education and living standard are the best methods for that. Statistics show clearly a decrease in birth rate in several developed countries where the population is educated and have a relatively high standard of living.

A resource based economy can easily provide all of the above, when we stop relying on measuring everything in money, hoard through private ownership and trade for profit, but instead maximise and share our resources, use custodianship and usership, and create a truly free world for all.


Six Philosophies Which Enable a Resource-Based Economy


The resource-based economy has become a popular topic of discussion, and this paper is the author’s inaugural foray into the field. Far from being an easy convert to social movements, I am inherently distrustful of them. However, a hard-won ally is a hard-lost one. Perhaps it is time for me to endorse the movement and attempt to illuminate some vital needs such a movement may need to embrace in order to succeed in implementing its views. This paper is intended to be an initial exploration of concepts for further definition. 

Discussion of the idea of a resource-based economy (RBE) is becoming increasingly popular, yet the exact technical specifications of such a society have remained somewhat elusive. This paper attempts to address certain fundamental concepts which may allow the idea of the RBE to solidify into a working piece of social technology. Six core philosophies are presented in no particular order to be explored, compared to existing social behaviors and evaluated for usefulness.

Transparency

On the way towards a resource based economy, the philosophy of transparency calls for all economic transactions to be recorded and made public instantly. Thereby, the wealth and resource holdings of each individual and each company becomes completely visible to each other member of the society at all times. In this case, the philosophy of transparency applies to economic interactions exclusively. However, broader social implications are present in the philosophy.

Clearly, this transparency is a radical departure from the economic structure we are accustomed to using on this planet at this time. The idea of discussing one’s monetary holdings is considered rude by both the haves and the have-nots–for different reasons, of course. The poor would rather not discuss a sensitive topic which can create worry, while the rich don’t want the poor to realize just how much economic power they weld, for fear of losing it. The lack of transparency allows for untoward hoarding of resources. It allows companies to purchase less-than-ideal components for manufacture and it allows politicians to surreptitiously receive payment by lobbying councils.

In contrast, the benefits of applying the philosophy of transparency in a society are manifold. Theft of all types will become increasingly obsolete. Unusual hoarders of resources can be immediately identified (such as the gargantuan wealth of certain royal families or industrialists), and it is unlikely that such massive hoarding will be allowed to continue in the face of universal and exacting public scrutiny. In the RBE, transparency serves the further purpose of allowing an accurate accounting of which resources are available, and resolves concerns over an usurping force seizing the reigns of the society by undue accumulation.

The philosophy of transparency further answers the plaguing question of “who will decide who gets what” in the RBE. Based on limited research, it appears that most RBE supporters will say that “some kind of supercomputer” will make the calculations. However, as pointed out by Stefan Moleneux, computers merely run programs as defined by the programmer. Therefore, the question becomes “who will program the computer” and is equivalent to the first question–no answer has been presented. By applying transparency, the correct answer to our questions becomes “everybody”, which is a simplified way of saying that open-source communities can present calculations on which resources exist and how they can be utilized, and these calculations will be available for immediate scrutiny by all members of the RBE.

Custodianship

The philosophy of custodianship replaces the philosophy of ownership in the RBE. The difference is subtle, yet profound. Custodianship assures individual rights over items one has accumulated, yet impedes misuse or wanton destruction of those items. The underlying theme is that in order for most resources to have value, there is a transactional nature inherent in their use. Given that an item has entered one’s sphere of influence from elsewhere, and that that same item will eventually leave one’s sphere of influence, it becomes apparent that a person is, at best, temporarily in command of the item. Thus, the philosophy of custodianship recognizes the transient nature of “owning” a thing and prepares the individual adherent for that thing’s continued functioning after it has left the individual user’s sphere of influence.

This philosophy differs from our contemporary mode of thinking in that it does not respect the right of an individual to wantonly destroy that which he finds himself in command of. Thus, if one were custodian of a plot of land, that individual would be prevented from dumping toxic waste on the land on the simple authority that the land was “owned” by the individual; on the contrary, the individual would be required to understand that he is, at most, transient force upon a plot of land that has existed, and will continue to exist, for spans of time generally inconceivable to an individual. It becomes the duty of the transient custodian to prepare for the graceful transition of custodianship to the next user–a thought that seems to be lacking in a ownership based society.

The benefits of custodianship include an increased attention to preservation of land and resources, a reduction in waste of perishable products and provides a further impetus for the elimination of undue hoarding. Consider, for example, the story of the grocery store that went out of business. The previous owners wanted to simply give away the food that remained inside; however, the new owners saw no profit in doing that and instead ordered all the food to be disposed of by transporting it to a landfill. The new owners were enabled to undertake this incredible act of wastefulness because the food became “owned by them”, and therefore they were free to do whatever they wished with it, including simply destroying it. Under the philosophy of custodianship, the “new owners” would be aware that the food had only temporarily entered their sphere of influence, and their primary concern would be to facilitate the proper dispersal of it, not the wanton disposal of it. Only by streamlining the use of resources can the RBE become feasible, and by applying transparency this streamlining will be assured by an open-source accounting by multiple parties.

Renewability

The philosophy of renewability addresses the continued survival and success of the RBE. Since resources are one of the definitions of wealth in the RBE (joy, fulfilment, happiness and creativity, for instance, are others), renewing, preserving, optimising and expanding those resources is the only way to achieve (resource based) economic stability or growth of abundance in society.

In comparison, the modern economic practice of creating “fiat currency”–a mathematical construct which has little, if any, relation to actually existing resources–does not require renewability. The illusion of stability or growth can be artificially introduced into the economy by simply adding numbers which, when not linked to actual resources, have no value yet give the illusion of value. The result is that practices which are inherently destructive to the actual wealth of a society, its resources, are routinely praised as valuable and continued even to the final depletion of a once abundant resource. Furthermore, re-use or recycling of useful resources is often ignored, allowing valuable resources to be discarded in favor of maximizing fiat currency holdings. Holdings which, as resources diminish, have an inherently decreasing value.

The benefits of renewability to the RBE are apparent on the surface: it allows the resource-wealth of a society to be preserved and expanded upon. Furthermore, the philosophy of renewability promotes creation of complex resource abundance over that of simplistic consumption or outright destruction. It does this by valuing the retention of available resources above all else in economic practice.

Local Production

The philosophy of local production has two main purposes. One is economic: to reduce the amount of resource-use during transportation. The other is social: to decentralise the method of resource-production to the maximum extent. While the economic purpose is straightforward, the social purpose is more complex. Taken generally, the social purpose of local production is a safeguard against various problems such as natural disasters, infrastructure disturbances or resource-domination by certain groups. At it’s most basic level, the idea that anyone can provide themselves with all of life’s necessities personally, unilaterally and sustainably will serve to free each individual to pursue more lofty ideals and complex undertakings.

Comparisons between the philosophy of local production and philosophy employed in contemporary modes of production are telling. Our planet currently discards millions of pounds of food yearly while at the same time allowing millions of people to starve daily. As with all famine, the problem is not with production but distribution. Quite simply, the food is too far away from the hungry people. There is further complication due to current economic system which considers the destruction of real resources to preserve the fictitious resource of fiat currency as reasonable. A parallel can be drawn between most, if not all, situations of human lack faced by modern society, and these situations are highly likely to be reduced substantially by the philosophy of local production.

Thus, the benefit to the philosophy of local production is first and foremost the elimination of lack of access to basic needs. However, the economic advantage to the RBE is unmistakable: it allows the conservation of resources and thus a decreased load upon producers, eventually leading to resource based economic growth.

Technological Advancement

The philosophy of technological advancement anticipates and celebrates the invention and implementation of new technology as rapidly as is safe and logical. The purpose of technological advancement is to increase both the economic production of the RBE as well as fostering social development.

While it may seem that contemporary society embraces the philosophy of technological advancement, in truth it does exactly the opposite. Take for example the historical evidence which was Nikola Tesla’s project to provide free wireless energy to the world. Although the technology was superior to that being used at the time and the technical application of the technology was well within the limits of human ability, the project was forced to be shut down. The reason was overtly stated: it would be impossible to meter out this energy for fiat currency and the technology was, for this reason alone, abandoned. It becomes obvious to even the casual observer that the failing and outmoded technology which IS fiat currency has become the only technology which truly is freely expanded, at the expense of all others. Furthermore, potentially dangerous technology, such as GMO crops or nuclear weaponry are quickly developed and deployed beyond the limits of what is safe–assuming, of course, that they are likely to advance the accumulation of fiat currency. Thus, according to the philosophy of technological advancement, fiat currency technology (along with other outdated technologies) should be abandoned in favor of a more advanced one.

Technological advancement offers a vast array of potential benefits. Advances in energy production, food production, communication and transportation are only the beginning of what is possible when the philosophy of technological advancement is applied.

Voluntary Participation 

The philosophy of voluntary participation respects the right of the individual to choose among varying forms of ‘work’ and social interaction. It announces that the only social structure that is appropriate for the thinking human is one in which all members have voluntarily agreed to the interaction. It rejects the outright annexation of huge masses of land and the idea of force-based compliance to subjective rules.

It is simple to see the fundamental contradictions between modern society and the philosophy of voluntary participation. In all countries, there is no option given to reject the benefits of the State, and therefore it’s requirements. All land on the continent is annexed by a government, including areas of land which have not been given any attention at all–no people are living thereupon and no resource management has been effectively introduced. By annexing all land, these governments seek to impose an involuntary participation in their social technology. The philosophy of voluntary participation respects the right of each individual to migrate away from the forms and structures of a certain society and encourages a free space for new social technologies to be experimented with.

The philosophy of voluntary interaction is vital to the birth of the RBE and to its continued development. Clearly, without a free space in which to design and experiment with the RBE, it is impossible to implement it. Yet even further, the continued success of the RBE will defined by its ability to metamorphose to suit different climates and social expectations. The philosophy of voluntary participation will streamline the social-evolutionary process by which the RBE will become useful and robust.

Conclusion

What has preceded has been an initial foray into concepts which may prove vital to the actual implementation of the RBE. The subjects discussed are by no means an exhaustive compilation. However, with further development it may be possible to come up with a “social platform” which is sufficiently robust to be applied yet flexible enough to meet the needs of the great majority of people. In this time of great social unrest, great solutions are emerging. It will be up to each of us, individually, to define where we would like to take our society.


Economic Calculation in a Resource Based Economy – A Defence


INTRODUCTION AND DISCLAIMER [1]

The ideas of Ludwig von Mises, an economist of the Austrian School, have been resurrected by critics of a RBE in an attempt to show that a moneyless economy is impossible. Despite numerous attempts to disprove the criticism, the spectre of von Mises still hangs over the social movements that support a RBE. But my defence here is not merely yet another attempt at disproving von Mises, but emerges also from the frequency of misunderstandings and misuse of his critique, and some issues regarding the proposed solutions from RBE supporters. I wish to set the record straight on what the true challenge of von Mises’s ‘calculation problem’ is, but also offer internal critique against some rebuttals against von Mises by RBE, such as the idea that computation solves the calculation problem.

It must first of all be pointed out that the general idea of a moneyless economy is not new, and that versions of it have been presented and criticised before, most often in connection to some version socialism. This is an unfortunate consequence of the constrained way in which the debate on the issue has been held since the 1920’s. The Venus Project and Zeitgeist Movement in fact, to my knowledge, represent the first attempts to have the discussion outside of that particular box. Yet the situation creates the potential for misunderstandings, and since the last thing I wish to do is add to the accusations of ‘secret socialism’ against the organisations, there is a need to clarify a few things.

The main opponents of my article, von Mises and to an extent von Hayek, where critics of the idea of a moneyless economy and involved in what was to become known as the ‘Socialist Calculations Debates’, after von Mises’s main book on the subject, ‘Economic Calculation in the Socialist Commonwealth‘ which he wrote with the USSR in mind. Getting rid of money and markets was, at the time that the Debates began, the avowed goal of many who called themselves socialists. History has of course shown us that no serious effort to do so was ever attempted, and that no iteration of ‘actually existing socialism’ ever came even close to ridding itself of the need of money[2].

Nonetheless, I wish to make it very clear that my use of such sources is in no way an implication that the Zeitgeist movement, or Venus Project for that matter, is any kind of socialist endeavour – and most certainly not something reminiscent of the USSR! It just so happens that some of the points raised by von Mises and von Hayek, and their opponents, can in general be directed at any society that wishes to rid itself of markets and money. This is precisely what has been done by critics of the RBE. Rather than ignoring the challenge due to its roots, I intend to re-deploy it in an updated way such that it is relevant to the RBE.

My intent is to show that von Mises’s challenge is surmountable and his criticism ultimately futile – that a moneyless society can indeed become a reality. What stands in our way is no ‘real and true and literal impossibility’ of the sort that von Mises and his ilk imagined (Salerno, in von Mises, 1990:49), but merely politics and ideology, and the inability of some minds to think outside the box.

THE CALCULATION PROBLEM & VON MISES’S PROPOSED SOLUTION

The way that von Mises presents the calculation problem in his classical text on the matter is as one of choices in production. It is not, as is sometimes misunderstood, a problem of distribution of that which is produced, or deciding exactly what to produce. Even scholars who are positive to the idea of a moneyless or non-market economy sometimes misunderstand this. David McNally (1993, 2010), for example, attempts to argue against von Mises by pointing out how there is no difficulty in the absence of market prices to determine how many schools or hospitals a society needs. While McNally in entirely right about this, that fact does not contradict von Mises. Even von Mises acknowledges that a moneyless economy could estimate the approximate needs of the population (1990:5), such as “whether it desires 1,000 hectolitres of wine rather than 500 of oil” (1990:16). Nor is it challenging to conclude “that 1,000 hectolitres of wine are better than 800” (ibid.).

Rather, von Mises’s critique deals with the possibility of rational decision-making regarding the allocation of resources in the production process, when faced with limited resources. This limitation of resources should not be confused with the artificial scarcity and misuse of resources under the current economic paradigm, and is thus not solved by the concept of “abundance” that is sometimes referred to by supporters of a RBE. Instead it is the practical fact that we do not have an infinite amount of resources, space or time – and likewise face other constraints such as not wanting to damage the environment or waste resources for future generations. We simply have not world enough to realise all potential goods we can possibly imagine, and therefore we are forced to make choices and prioritise. As has been covered, the issue is not insurmountable in the realm of deciding what to produce, even according to von Mises – the choice can be made based on need, and need can be determined by simply asking or observing people. Yet in the realm of production, the hurdle becomes more challenging. It can be illustrated by the following example:

Let us say that we are manufacturing a product, and that we can produce it in three different ways, all of which require differing amounts of the particular resources x, y, z. We assume in this case that the result is otherwise the same, i.e. that the outcome of production has the same qualities regardless of what resources are used or in what combination.


Method 1: Method 2: Method 3: Method 4:
5x 10x 10x 4x
10y 5y 10y 4y
3z 3z 5z 2z

As stated before, even von Mises admits that a moneyless economy can conclude that Method 4 is superior. Let us therefore discard it, as it cannot illustrate the issue at hand, and assume that we only have the methods 1, 2 and 3 available to us. Again, even von Mises admits that a moneyless economy can clearly see that Method 3 is inferior and should not be used. The problem von Mises wanted to show is in the choice between Methods 1 and 2. How does one choose which one is better, without a way to compare the value of x and y? Of determining how many x each y is worth, and vice versa, so that their total cost can be expressed as a single number? In a market economy we can easily make a decision, because we can compare the price of x and y. The price is determined by supply and demand, and thus the cheaper of the two will be the one that there is the most supply of, or least demand for. Nor does the individual person or firm need to have any other information than the price; by selecting the cheapest method they will choose the best allocation of resources, and this without doing anything other than just trying to maximise their own profits – this is known as economising on information (see Hayek, 1945: 6).

In other words, von Mises argues firstly that rational decision-making requires commensurability; a single unit of value by which different options can be compared. Choice must be reduced to a matter of calculation in order to be exact, and is otherwise just an estimation (von Mises, 1990:22). Secondly, he argues that market prices are the best such unit, since they contain in a sense all the information needed by being the result of the aggregation of many individual decisions, and hence carry objective information on resource availability.

THE FLAWS OF THE “SOLUTION”

Concerning the first point of von Mises’s assertions, political economist John O’Neill follows von Mises’s old opponent Otto Neurath in rejecting the above position, and calls it pseudo-rationalism. “Our knowledge”, O’Neill argues, “that informs our decision making is uncertain and the rules of rationality rarely determine a single answer given what is known. A rationalist who believes in reason must recognize the boundaries to the power of reason in arriving at decisions” (1998:115). To believe that there exist a single rule or procedure, such as the price mechanism, that determines the answers to all decisions, is for him the clear mark of pseudo-rationalism. Instead, x and y in our example would have to be compared directly, taking all of their properties and weighing the pros and cons against each-other on a multi-dimensional grid of criteria. This is because their different properties are incommensurable – they cannot be reduced to one another so that we can express the quantity of x, n(x) as n(y), or vice versa. Environmental impacts cannot be expressed in the same terms as product safety or ease of recycling or repair. Even the category ‘environmental impacts’ is internally incommensurable, since CO2 emissions do not have the same consequences as soil erosion or release of lead. To reduce the entirety of two different things to a single, one-dimensional value by necessity means that other aspects of the things are being ignored. In focusing on price, we must by definition ignore everything else. von Mises’s first point hence rests on his second; the belief that price, unlike other properties such as weight or volume, is a conglomeration of all relevant knowledge, and can thus carry all the information need to make rational decisions. There are three reasons that this assumption is incorrect.

Firstly, money is actually a very poor carrier of information. Market prices do not measure externalities, and companies can actually gain competitive advantages by externalising costs and passing them on to society in the form of pollution, increased job insecurity, potentially harmful products, etc. The real cost, not in money, but in the effect on individuals, society and the environment, is hidden by the market price. Resource cost is also greatly shaped by the monetary cost of extraction, and not the environmental or health costs involved. Even if one assumes that such externalisation is balanced out by penalisation, such as the Pigouvian tax[3] suggested by reformists who hope to “fix” the market, issues remain. Price can be influenced by the market power of individual actors, and competition itself can be another hurdle; there is an inherent incentive to keep information from competitors, as not to lose competitive advantages. The most relevant example is information concerning plans and strategies for the future, which are most often kept secret. Patents and trade-secrets can also hide scientific and technological knowledge from the public, which could be relevant to decision-making.

The only information that the market relays to each actor is, potentially, the relation between supply and demand at the time the plan is made; each actor is blind to how their competitors plan and react to the same information. Therefore, no actor has adequate information to construct a plan that suites future levels of demand, even though every actor can be said to act rationally given the information they possess. Individual actors whom are not in deliberation, all behaving rationally, can produce an overall sub-optimal result; this is a central understanding of game theory (see also O’Neill, 1998:99, 134-138).

Secondly, only the subjective willingness to pay of those with purchasing power has any effect on the market. Nor does the market care from where purchasing power originates; any given sum of money has the same power, regardless of whether it comes from a single billionaire or a million of the most impoverished. Thus the poor are not only unable to participate, but the frivolous fancies of the wealthy will often weigh much higher than their most basic needs (Mujezinovic, 2013).

Moreover, by marginalising and excluding actors lacking purchasing power the market does the same to the knowledge they posses. Only the market value, i.e. profitability, of knowledge matters on the market; but such knowledge is far from the only knowledge relevant to rational decision-making (Ibid.). The obvious example is the scientific knowledge concerning human caused global warming and other environmental issues, which is continuously ignored by capitalists who opt to continue ‘business as usual’.

Reformists have argued that a more fair distribution of wealth can be achieved through changes in policy, which would alleviate this problem and allow everyone to participate in market exchanges. That, however, ignores the fact that the incentive structure is not altered by redistribution. It is not for a lack of money or the inability to participate on the market that the knowledge concerning environmental limits is ignored. It is ignored because it is not profitable, and because if taken into account it would actually act as a hurdle to both profit in general, and to the dominant paradigm of constant economic growth[4]. Additionally, there are people and entities that lack, by their very nature, the ability to participate on the market; such as future generations, non-human animals and Nature herself. If we acknowledge these things to possess any form value or meaning beyond just what those able are willing to pay for them, the market is insufficient to our ends (O’Neill, 1998: 112-129)(O’Neill, 1993: 161-171).

Thirdly, a market-based system also assume that the outcome of all production is things which are to be consumed by individuals, rather than things to be enjoyed by the entire human family, such as clean air or drinkable water. To quote Iain McKay: “[i]f the market measures only preferences amongst things that can be monopolized and sold to individuals, as distinguished from values that are enjoyed collectively, then it follows that information necessary for rational decision-making in production is not provided by the market (2008:2130)”. That which may be rational for an isolated individual given a competitive, or even antagonistic, relation to other individuals, may not be rational for a group given a cooperative relationship between its members. The chief premise of the famous Prisoner’s Dilemma is after all that the prisoners in question are sequestered from each-other and make their decisions individually. Where they to collaborate and arrive at a joint decision there wouldn’t be a dilemma!

Conclusively, not only is rational economic decision-making possible without money, a rational and above all sustainable economy practically demands decision-making based on something other than market price. Only then can we take into account all the facts needed for truly rational outcomes to become possible. The truth is that von Mises’s so called ‘solution’ is no more a solution than sweeping dirt under the rug is ‘cleaning’; it simply conceals the problem. The environmental, social, ethical, etc. consequences of decisions do not cease to exist because one decides to ignore them – all that does is exacerbate the problem since the main system of decision-making is unable to take into account the vast majority of negative consequences. As long as there is a profit, the system appears to be working fine by its own standards.

PROBLEMS AND SOLUTIONS WITHIN A RBE & THE ISSUE OF COMPLEXITY

Although von Mises’s proposed solution has been shown to be futile, his arguments still present us with one final problem: that of complexity. Let us return to the example given with the four methods. When dealing with such a simply example, it is not difficult to image non-monetary ways of comparing x and y – perhaps their environmental impact or total availability could be the basis. It would, for example, be conceivable that a cannery that makes their cans out of one of two potential metals could easily explore which one would be most suitable.

But for von Mises, it is above all when it comes to so-called ‘intermediate products’ that the real problem reveals itself; i.e. goods that are themselves components of other goods. Goods such as computers, which have potentially hundreds or even many thousands of intermediates. “The human mind” von Mises claims, “cannot orient itself properly among the bewildering mass of intermediate products and potentialities […]. It would simply stand perplexed before the problems of management and location (1990:17).” The essay I, Pencil by Leonard Read, although stemming from a pro-free market ideological basis, remains a good illustration on how even such a simple product as a pencil might have a very complex production chain. How do we solve this problem of complexity, given that we now know that von Mises’s proposition merely ignores most of what is actually relevant for truly rational decision-making?

Could not a potential solution lie in simply relieving the human mind? To merely detail all the properties of all the intermediates involved and use a computer to find the optimal method? Computer aid in decision-making is certainly an integral part of helping us ‘orient ourselves’, but we mustn’t assume that computers can simply resolve the entire issue for us through straight-forward calculation. That would be to repeat von Mises’s own mistake and assume commensurability between different values. It would be to assume that all problems have a solution in the form of Method 4 in the example given; one that is clearly superior in every way. Yet we may very well encounter situations where one method is better in the sense of using less resources, but another is more sustainable; where one uses less energy but the other is safer, and so on; i.e. methods 1 and 2. This is illustrated more clearly in table 2, showing an example of how resource costs could potentially be presented in a RBE.


 

Method 1 Method 2 Method 3
Resources used Copper, tin Aluminium Iron, Platinum
Environ. impact of resource retrieval[6] 3, 2 1 2, 4
Resource scarcities[7] 20%, 15% 5% 10%, 60%*
*resource very rare!
Energy use 1000 kWh 3000 kWh 1500 kWh
Environ. impact of energy use 2 3 2
CO2 equivalent    emissions 500 m3 700 m3 600 m3
Other pollutants SO2, 1 ppb Pb, 0.002 µg/m3 NO2, 2 ppb
Est. product lifespan 4 years 7 years 5 years
Environ. impact of total production process[8] 3 2.5 2
Recyclable % 85% 95% 70%
Energy requirement for recycling (total) 3500 kWh 2000 kWh 1000 kWh
Environ. impact of recycling 1 3 2
Potential alternative uses[9] 22 16 19

Table 2: Example of a resource cost array detailing some aspects of three methods of manufacturing an equivalent product. It is not an extensive list but an example of what might potentially be taken into account in a RBE. Note that the table only details a one time cost; ‘products’ such as hospitals or machines would have to have a year-by-year account of their cost through-out their estimated lifespan. As this table is meant as an example only, the numbers are just invented and no attempt has been made to reflect real world conditions.

 Note that no straight-forward calculation can be made that finds the optimal method, and the different properties and aspect of each method are not all reducible to each-other or to any single unit. Numerical expressions and mathematical tools are indispensable aids in giving us a proper overview of the issue, and computation is necessary to help us orient ourselves among the many options (some of which are not shown here). Yet, in the end, an informed judgement must be made on which method is the most suitable in this case.


An ordinal scale is a possible solution, where we simply arrange aims from the most to the least important and prioritise aims of a higher order, so that any given aim is only worked toward once the one above it has been satisfied. For example, we could decide that environmental sustainability is always the most important goal, and that only when sustainability has been assured will other matters come into play. The current proposed solution of Peter Joseph and the Zeitgeist Movement utilises such an ordinal scale (2013). Yet even this solution has a small problem attached to it. Even when we find one method that is valid in a given context and scenario, there is no reason to assume it is a universal solution that is equally validity for every context and scenario, and can be applied across the globe[5]. To prioritise sustainability could be a good general rule, but in some cases one would have to make exceptions – what if one faced a scenario where trading away a tiny bit of suitability would immensely improve product safety, or use a resource that is far more abundant? No universal procedure can be applied here, no rule where x amount of sustainability trades for y amount of abundance in every situation, because the two are incommensurable both with respect to each-other and internally. That is, environmental impact cannot be expressed in terms of resources saved; just as different forms of environmental impact are qualitatively different and cannot necessarily be expressed in terms of one another, and different resources differ qualitatively and cannot be expressed in terms of one another.

How we go about applying our reason to achieve the best possible solution must change depending on the given setting. Unlike a capitalist society, a RBE cannot give an answer that is always applicable, such as “maximise profit”. We regard the various possibilities and use the scientific method to assist us; every scenario must be considered on its own and what we do in one case may not be what is done in another case. Value becomes dynamic, and based on current information so as to realistically and rationally find the best possible solution for whatever problem is faced. A part of this is the development of rules of thumb, standard procedures, overall aims, etc., but these are guidelines and not straitjackets. The process also includes making use of computers, which both assist us by giving us overview and sometimes ‘make the decisions on their own’ – there is no need to reinvent the wheel every time, after all. If we’ve arrived at a decision it would be a waste of time and resources to repeat the process of decision-making over and over. It is better if it be handed over to computers until such a time that the need arises to change something in a way that is beyond their abilities. Using computer aid in decision-making frees up our time so that we can focus on deliberation and debate where it is really necessary.

A further clarification of what I mean can be found in an exchange between von Mises and one of his main opponents, Otto Neurath[10]. von Mises asserts that when we “choose whether we shall use a waterfall to produce electricity or extend coal-mining and better utilize the energy contained in coal […] the processes of production are so many and so long, the conditions necessary to the success of the undertaking so multitudinous, that we can never be content with vague ideas. To decide whether an undertaking is sound we must calculate carefully” (1981:89). And, he finishes, “computation demands units” (Ibid.) Neurath, however, responds (quoted in O’Neill, 1998:116):

“The question might arise, should one protect coal mines or put greater strain on men? The answer depends for example on whether one thinks that hydraulic power may be sufficiently may be sufficiently developed or that solar heat might come to be better used, etc. If one believes the latter, one may ‘spend’ more coal more freely and will hardly waste human effort where coal can be used. If however one is afraid that when one generation uses too much coal thousands will freeze to death in the future, one might use more human power and save coal. Such and many other non-technical matters determine the choice of a technically calculable plan… we can see no possibility of reducing the production plan to some kind of unit and then to compare the various plans in terms of such units.”

What this means is simply that comparability need not assume commensurability; we can and must compare different options directly, taking into account all their complex properties. Nor is there one rule that can be mechanically adapted to produce a determinable decision regarding which plan to adopt, in part because uncertainties always exist and our beliefs and expectations form a part of our reasoning. There is thus an ineliminable role for non-technical judgement even in technical decisions.

Nor does von Mises’s complexity problem pose an issue: in a RBE, the complexity of production in an industrially advanced society is laid bare. Complexity is shown to be something constant in any technologically advanced society where manufacturing is done via convoluted chains and networks of production forming a global grid, that alters and is altered by our society and environment. This is the whole point – to reveal the actual, real, tough choices that prices hides. To allow scientific knowledge, academic debate, evidence-based reasoning and ethical concerns a place in decision-making. We need not solve the ‘problem’ of complexity because complexity is not the problem; the concealment of it is the real problem!

The same is true of the difficult choices and trade-offs in production; it is a constant companion of decision-making in any society. In any situation where you do not have access to an infinite amount of resources, time and possibilities, a trade-off will be necessary when faced with several valid, yet mutually exclusive, options. As long as you can’t have everything, choices need to be made – these will always involve ‘opportunity costs’ and forgone alternatives in some form. In a moneyless society the ‘calculation problem’ becomes transformed into the continuous challenge of what the most rational and beneficent method of making trade-offs is, and what needs to be prioritised in any given situation. In other words, the lack of a price mechanism does not mean an inability to make rational choices, it means that for once we get to make actually rational choices! We get to disregard what The Market says and use our reason and judgement to try to find the best possible way to do whatever we want done – selecting the highest quality, greatest sustainability and overall biggest benefit to everyone that we can; and not the cheapest or most profitable way.

Tools such as multiple-criteria decision analysis, natural capital accounting, material balance planning and input-output modelling are all potential sources of aid, that can help us in that endeavour. Yet they are all in various ways flawed and burdened by the politics and ideology of currently existing or dead economic systems. The same can be said of the methods of post-normal science, cybernetics and systems theory; there is a potential in each one, if only it was developed further in a way that is relevant to a RBE. Unfortunately, the efforts to do so have been hampered by the nearly century-old arguments of von Mises. Recognising them as incorrect is the first step towards building actual alternatives and, as O’Neill (1998:128) puts it, “entails a need to rethink the ways we make decisions without a single measure.” The possibility of a RBE has been shown. The real work remains to be done.

 



 

1 Note that this particular piece does not go into the epistemological arguments concerning centralised or decentralised forms of economic planning. For more details on that issue, see O’Neill, 1998:129-159, where the scientific community itself is held up as an example of decentralised, non-market, multi-dimensional global coordination. See also Mujezinovic, 2013 for a briefer overview.

2 The use of ‘need’ is intentional, as for instance the bloody regime of the Khmer Rouge did attempt to simply ban the use of money without overcoming the need for it, with disastrous consequences.

3 See Baumol 1972:307–322 for more information.

4 Exposing and arguing against this paradigm is a crucial element in the school of economics known as Ecological Economics. See the work of Herman Daly, Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen or Joan Martinez-Alier, among many others, for examples.

5 The ecological disasters caused by large-scale factory farming, both of the capitalist and USSR-style command economy varieties, serve as a real world example of the consequences of neglecting local conditions and attempting to apply the same approach globally.

6 Assume that a qualitative judgement based on ecological research is expressed on a 1-10 scale for easy overview.

7 One presumes that such a thing would be measured as the total world need / know total world availability. Thus a number of 10% means that the total world need is 10% of the total known world availability.

8 This would be an approximation, expressed numerically on a 1-10 scale, based on the inclusion of intermediate products. Other tables would detail all such intermediates and their respective Resource Costs. This value could thus be altered for each method by altering the choice of intermediate products; and the same value for each intermediate product could be altered by a different choice of its constituent products, and so on.

9 Resource tables for the alternative uses, alternative means of producing them, and all the urgencies of need for each would also have to be taken into account.

10 Caveats must be made regarding the context, and that the technological references are outdated in respect  to what the Zeitgeist Movement (or the Venus Project) wishes to accomplish. It is rather the principle of the matter that I wish to illustrate through these citations.

 


 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Baumol W J 1972, ‘On Taxation and the Control of Externalities’, American Economic Review, 62(3)

McNally D 1993, Against the Market, Verso

McNally D 2010 Against the Market, talk held in Fall of 2010
audio file available through the Havens Center for the Study of Social Justice:
www.havenscenter.org

McKay I 2008, An Anarchist FAQ: Volume 1, AK Press

Mujezinovic D 2013, ‘A brief analysis of Hayek’s Epistemological Critique Against Central Planning and in Support of Markets’, unpublished
avaliable at lancaster.academia.edu/DavorMujezinovic

O’Neill J 1993, Ecology, Policy and Politics, Routledge

O’Neill J 1998, The Market: Ethics, Knowledge And Politics, Routledge

Peter Joseph 2013, Economic Calculation in a Natural Law / RBE, talk held on November 12 of 2013 in Berlin
video available at www.youtube.com/watch?v=K9FDIne7M9o

Read L 1958, ‘I, Pencil: My Family Tree as told to Leonard E. Read’, the Freeman December Issue

von Hayek F 1945, ‘The Use of Knowledge in Society’, The American Economic Review, Vol. 35, No. 4

von Mises L 1981, Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis, Liberty Fund

von Mises L 1990, Economic Calculation in the Socialist Commonwealth, Mises Institute

 

 

 


Starting a Gift Economy


By Maja Borg
www.futuremylove.com

It took us over five years to complete the film FUTURE MY LOVE.
In those years, awareness of economy changed dramatically.

In 2007, ‘economy’ was not really a hot topic and was mostly left aside for those who ‘knew what they were doing’. This surprised me because I feel so passionate about the subject. As if the economy – the way in which we arrange our physical existence together – didn’t have much to do with our daily lives! I had started to understand how much our economy affects us, not just in our day-to-day affairs, but also in how we think and feel, and even how we deal with the way we love each other.

Then things started to fall apart. The economy crashed, my relationships crackled, and the film I set out make was no longer the one I could finish. The economic crisis became a crisis for the film, but as these things go, it also became an opportunity to discuss ‘economy’ for what it fundamentally is – a human relationship, not just a banking system.

Making this film, it was soon clear that the problem is not lack of solutions. There are many brilliant thinkers proposing transitional models on how we could ease ourselves out of these destructive cycles towards an economy that stands in balance to our modern reality. The real problem, I believe, lies in us and in our fear of the unknown. The structures we have created have also shaped us, and the destructive mechanisms we see in the monetary-based system are reflected in our very own psychology. To challenge economy is to challenge ourselves, which is far harder than to complain about the banking system.

FUTURE MY LOVE
FUTURE MY LOVE

I often hear the argument that humans are inherently greedy.

This is used as a way to express that a different kind of economy would never work. Such grand assumptions of what ‘we are’ and what ‘we are not’ should perhaps be made more carefully. Instead of viewing the existence of capitalism as proof of the egotistical, competitive nature of human beings – could it be so that capitalism makes us that way?

Capitalism does not offer any grand moral statements (more than perhaps the protection of an illusive freedom which gives us the right to choose between the same salad dressings in every restaurant all over the world). It’s not a preaching philosophy but, however unspoken, it has direct consequences if you try to challenge it. Serve capitalism right and you are rewarded, serve it wrong and you will be punished. The ‘right’ thing to do in capitalism can mean making war planes or speculating with someone else’s savings – anything that makes money. The ‘wrong’ thing can be buying fair trade produce or taking care of your elderly mother – anything that costs you more or earns you less.

In order to change such a system, we have to understand the system as a part of ourselves. There is no fight for good or evil at the top – we are all part of this system. We have to recognise the way economy shapes our own psychology and make the silent ways in which capitalism shapes our morals loud and clear.

Should we give the film away for free?

The film explores the possibility of a world without money or barter, so instinctively the ‘right’ thing to do would be to give it away for free. However this is not how the film industry works, and if we want to reach an audience who are not active pirates on the web, or who are already interested in the topic (which has always been the hope with the film), we had to find some middle ground, or better still, a third option.

Even if we kept working on the film for free, we would still have rents to pay. We are as trapped in the system as the rest of the 99% of the world’s population who are not completely economically independent.

People have different opinions about pirating, and I have to say I agree with multiple sides of this argument: it is ‘just’ and ‘right’ to pirate and share important films for free, and it is ‘just’ and ‘right’ to respect copyright, because this will allow the creators to keep working and enable the film to reach out to people who would otherwise not get a chance to see it.

There are three known forms of economic transactions: exchange, gift and theft. So these basics are what we suggest to those who might want to see FUTURE MY LOVE.

  1. Exchange: If you believe in paying for a product you can simply buy a VOD stream, or a DVD, or a screening license. We give you the film we’ve been working on, and you give us money.
  2. Gift: We give the film for free to an initial number of people and then give them the option to give it, or pay it forward, to someone else. You can find out here how it works (www.futuremylove.com/forward):  YouTube Preview Image
  3. Theft: You may choose to disregard what I have just said and ‘steal’ the film in one way or another. But that would of course not be great for our plan, as we would rather see whether gifting could make a difference to people’s perception about economy. However, we decided not to protect the film through digital rights management since we trust you to make your own decisions and don’t believe in restricting its usage across different platforms.

The philosophy of the film is to think about things from different perspectives; to relate things that are not usually put together, creating new thoughts. Because we need new thoughts, in fact we need a whole new way of thinking to get out of this bad spiral of our physical existence – before it gets rid of us like any other virus.

So we ask for your help to spread these thoughts and provoke debate about real change wherever you can! Let us know if there is anything we can do to help.


Jobs in a Resource-Based Economy


I would like to offer my suggestions for how the concept of employment could be addressed, defined, and/or enacted in a resource-based economy (RBE).  I work in healthcare, and I see a wholly viable paradigm available for emulation in the medical community’s path of what I will refer to as “Rotation-and-Specialization” (RAS).  I will refer to the occupation itself as a service performed by an individual to serve shared needs.  Calling a job in a RBE a service makes much more sense to me, because individuals would need to serve in a role (ostensibly several) in order to maintain necessary services.

There would be two broad categories of service: armed and unarmed.  If the entire population of the world is not adopting a RBE, then an armed service is a necessary reality.  The machinery that would make a RBE thrive however, is the unarmed service.

The best way to illustrate my point is with examples:

1. John Q. Public is a senior in high school.  One of his classes each day is a one or two hour block called “service rotation.”  He spends about 4-6 weeks on each rotation, performing/assisting with a service.  His current rotation is Janitorial service.  He leaves his campus and shadows a person who has specialized in Janitorial Services to see what it is like.  He and his friends all joke about how much they hate “trash duty,” but they would invariably develop a shared experience, and a deep respect for how difficult the service is (and hopefully be less likely to litter as a result).

John finishes his Janitorial Services rotation, and moves on to his Food Services rotation.  He is shadowing citizens specialized in Food Services, and his duties include harvesting food resources from community farms or ‘urban farm skyscrapers,’ transporting and organizing resources for ease of access, handling citizen complaints about food quality, etc.  He used to always wonder how the bananas ‘got on the shelf,’ and now he recognizes why his parents & neighbors don’t take more than they need.  They’ve all had to serve in food services, and they know that it makes an unnecessary amount of work for their fellow citizens.

Six weeks later, John moves on to his Peace Officer rotation.  He rides along with specialized Peace Officers, and learns about what their daily service consists of.  He enjoys this service so much, that he decides that after high school, instead of going to college, he wants to specialize in this service, thus completing the RAS model.

2. Sally, John’s friend, rotated with him on all of the same services.  However, Sally didn’t find Peace Officer service palatable, so at the end of the year, after she’d been through all of the rotations that didn’t require a Bachelor’s degree, she was sure she wanted to go to college.  In college, just like high school, she had a course devoted to experiencing other specialties, which also gave the “specialists” in each of those specialties some much needed help.  She enjoyed her research rotation, where she helped people specialized in certain areas of science to carry out research.  She completed her Legal rotation effortlessly, but didn’t want to be a lawyer.  She really liked her medicine rotation, where she followed around a Family Practice physician who made house calls.  If she wants to specialize in medicine, she’ll have to finish her degree, and then apply to medical school.

Under this RAS model, inherent problems exist that certainly warrant addressing.  For example, what would happen if everyone wanted to specialize in the arts, and just sit around and make music all day?  My first argument to this question would be that this doesn’t happen now, and people’s interests are so diverse and talents are so varied, that it seems highly unlikely that a majority of people would settle on any one service.  However, since it would be possible, it requires addressing.

The solution would (as most do) rely on majority rule.  A simple vote would allow citizens to decide what’s fair.  The nature of an application process tends to suffice at weeding out a majority of unqualified candidates.  Because, even though no one receives monetary compensation, you’d still want the most qualified person serving as a lawyer, or physician.  One suggestion could be requiring persons specialized in the ‘soft’ services (music, literature, etc.) to spend a certain amount of time each year performing services with the lowest census.  In that case, it might make more sense to require all individuals to spend a small portion of time (2-3 weeks per year) rotating through those services with consistently low censuses.  If no one wants to be a janitor, then everyone must equally support the burden.  This allocation of human resources seems most appropriate in an economic model with the same goal of allocating natural resources.

What if someone wants to change specialties?  Have at it.  As long as there is space in the census available for an extra teacher, or an extra lawyer, diversification would be welcomed.

What if someone wants to try multiple specialties?  Certain specialties (and the demands within each subspecialty would come into play) would allow for citizens to have multiple specialties.  A Peace Officer could retain his specialization in that public service whilst also serving as a professional sports player.  The particulars of how “specialist” status would be retained would obviously vary from service to service (tests, performance reviews, etc.)

What if someone gets fired?  Time to pick a new specialty.  Maybe you shouldn’t get to access resources unless you’re serving (in some capacity).

Who would decide who gets to do research?  That’s a tricky question.  Under the RBE model, it may not be fruitful to perform any available research study that we can imagine (but this sounds like fodder for a completely separate article).  However, a problem-based research approach keeps in line perfectly with a needs-based model, such as RBE.  For example, [x] amount of people die in a year from disease [y], therefore individuals specialized in pertinent areas request that someone perform the research service to discover a cure.  This isn’t dissimilar from how things work today, and more than likely an imaginative individual would recognize the need for research before the problem gets to be a large problem in the first place.  But under a RBE, studying the varying colors of bat droppings doesn’t provide a useful service (unless perhaps there’s such a surplus of staffed specialties that the endeavor doesn’t detract from maintaining economic utilities).

Requiring individuals to rotate through all available services would create a shared experience that fostered empathy among citizens.  The added benefit is that all services would receive support staffing, and the needs of the collective are maintained.


Human Nature


I think the argument I get the most against a resource based economy is the ‘human nature’ argument.

“A resource based economy won’t work because of our innate human nature”.

Implied is that our so-called human nature is greedy and competitive, thus a system based on sharing and collaboration won’t work.

Now, IS our human nature only greedy and competitive? Of course not. I think we can safely say that it is just as much generous and collaborative as it is greedy and competitive. If it were only greedy and competitive our society would have crumbled a long time ago. Human nature is not ‘this’ or ‘that’. If anything, human nature is changeable and adaptable.

Sure, we  have competitiveness in us by nature, BUT, we are also just as much collaborative. Maybe even more so on a global scale. Every day all across the planet people are collaborating to get things done and to make society work. If it was only fierce competition all the time, society would grind to a halt pretty quick. We have to work together to build houses, roads and hospitals. We have to collaborate to develop new technology, fly to the moon or run a farm. We have to play together in harmony to make a rock band rock or a symphonic orchestra sound good.

Inborn Qualities

We are without doubt born with certain qualities, like different talents and personalities. Some become good singers or piano players, while others have a hard time achieving that and become maybe good doctors or farmers instead. Some have a few talents, while some have many. Of course, what we become good at also have to do with our environment and the possibilities we are given. Still, even if you are stimulated even from a fetus to become a piano player, that might not lie for you and you might end up a mathematician instead. If this is from the genes or through your souls experiences as previous incarnations (if you believe in that stuff), I don’t know. It doesn’t matter though, as my point is to show that certain things are inborn, while other things are learned. And our totality as persons consists of a combination of these two elements.

The Ego

All of us are also born with an ego, but we also have a just as big non-ego, altruistic part within us. If we were ALL ego, the kids in a kindergarden would do nothing but fight all the time. I have worked in a kindergarden and, sure, sometimes there is fighting, while most of the time there is harmonious play. This varies of course, but I think we can say that kids are just as much, if not more, collaborative and altruistic, than competitive and egoistic.

So, how is our human nature made up? Are we all ingrained selfish egotistical competitive bastards that think of non but ourselves? No. Absolutely not. Then, are we all generous unselfish sharing and compassionate beings? No. Absolutely not. Then, what are we?

We are both

We are both egotistical and altruistic, compassionate and indifferent, collaborative and competitive. We are not one or the other. I would argue, though, that in general we are more compassionate than indifferent, more collaborative than competitive, and more altruistic than egotistical. We have in total more peace and collaboration than war at any given time on the planet (even though the media constantly try to show a different picture). Think about it, for the world to work, we have to collaborate. Even in a war, there’s a huge element of collaboration on both sides to win the war, paradoxically enough.

Now, since we are both egotistical and altruistic, how come we have a predatory monetary system like the one we have?

This is due to one more thing about the human nature:

Malleability

The human nature is not set. We are not greedy from birth, just as much as we are not altruistic. Sure, just like we are born with a tendency to different talents, we are born with a tendency to more egoism or more altruism, but in general, we are not one or the other. We are malleable. Formable. Changeable. We can go one way or the other, and which way we go is largely determined by our environment.

If you grow up in a materialistic and selfish environment, you will most likely be materialistic and selfish too since your selfish part will be boosted. If, on the other hand, you grow up in a compassionate and altruistic environment, you will most likely be compassionate and altruistic too since your altruistic part will be boosted. Of course, sometimes this can have an opposite effect. You can take a stand against your parents and become the opposite of them. But that period usually only last a short time before you fall back on your upbringing.

Values and Norms

But our malleability doesn’t only effect our egotistical and altruistic side. It’s not only black or white. There is a large specter of norms and values that shape our minds, and thus, our society. How we dress, how we drive, our music, our food, how we share or how we hoard. All of these norms and values and more are what make up our cultures. And money and property is nothing more, but one of these cultures.

The notion of money and private property 1 is a norm, a mindset so ingrained in our minds that we don’t even think about it or know it’s there. You could say that it is a norm produced out of our egotistical and selfish side. The ego is the force of separation and fear, while our altruistic side is one of unity and trust. And money is in a large degree a symbol of mistrust and segregation produced by the fear of the ego.

These forces are definitely produced from a part of our human nature. Still, since there is more peace on the planet than war, and more collaboration than competition, how come all of us succumb to the devastating use of money? And why do we let a few people on the planet own most of the planet?

Environment

The answer is influences and habit. When we are born we have both egoism and altruism in us, and we are shaped by our surroundings. And of course, when our surroundings are constantly focussed on money and property, so will we be. Even though all we want to be is a piano player, we grow up learning that we have to pay the rent, have to earn money, have to pay for groceries, have to pay for kindergarden, school, books, PCs, fuel, travel and of course, the piano, not to speak of piano lessons. We learn that money is necessary. We learn that trading is the norm. And since our human nature is malleable, we pick up on these norms and internalize them.

Now, if we grew up in an environment where everything was given, and everyone contributed to society with no servitude, but from free will, did what they wanted and what was necessary, shared their skills, time, personal and planetary natural resources, wouldn’t you think that this is what you would do to if you grew up in a society like that?

If you grew up in a society where the prevailing norm is to give and receive freely, with no money or private property, but with full trust in that you would get what you need, you would follow those norms, you would play your part and you would follow the values of that society. Just like you today are following the norms of money, ownership and trading and the other norms and values that goes with the society we have today.

The Prevailing Norm

Our human nature is not fixed in a place where we have to constantly sell each other stuff, trade for everything or constantly hoard. It is not fixed in a place where we have to use money to divide resources. This is only a prevailing norm in our society. We DO have the norms of altruism, giving, sharing and compassion as well. This is obvious when you look at our world wich actually is filled with much giving and sharing. Take Wikipedia, for example.

The problem is that even the most ‘spiritual’ of us, the most compassionate and the most sharing and caring, does not see the elephant in the room, the forest for the trees, the glass ceiling keeping all of us from soaring and truly prosper. They don’t see the norm that money is. Even they see money as something necessary. Something that we can’t live without, like air or water. Even the founders of Wikipedia has never advocated (at least not openly) a moneyless world.

Still, there are more and more people who see money for what it is: A norm. A culture.

Cultures

In some societies, more southern than northern in my experience, the norm is to be generous and hospitable rather than stingy and hostile. The norm is to give rather than to get. I have met many people whom, if they have the money or resources, go out of their way to give to me almost to the point of embarrassment. ‘No, no, I don’t want money for gas’. Or they buy beer or drinks to everyone without question.

Why do they do that? Of course, it is a norm with them. You are supposed to do that when you are out with friends. But it also have the social function of bonding and showing the others that you are a nice person. Of course, these examples include money.

We could just as well say that helping cook dinner, help someone move, or paint their apartment, also are examples of altruistic behavior with social functions. You do it for several reasons. To be liked. That it feels good to do something with others. That you might get help when you need it. Because they are friends. Or maybe even strangers. Or maybe you simply do it completely altruistically.

I have helped strangers, and friends, move or with others things. I bet you who read this have too. Whether it is helping an old lady with her groceries or over the street or to work as a volunteer on a project in Uganda, write code in Linux, an article for Wikipedia or improving on a design for the Open Source Ecology.

Money as a Culture

Money is a culture. It is nothing but a global norm that constitutes a culture controlling the minds and lives of the people on this planet. It is nothing that is necessary because of our human nature. Money, trading, ownership and property are nothing but norms that can be changed. They constitute nothing more than a mindset, a way of thinking. They are like the constant buzz of the refrigerator that you don’t notice before it is gone.

They are the manifestation of the egotistical half of us. Or maybe it’s not even half. How much of us is ego, and how much is ‘oneness’, anyway? In general, I would argue that the ego part is far less than half. Maybe not even 10%. Maybe only 1%…. And paradoxically, it is that 1% that is controlling the world at the moment. Still, 1%, 10%, 50%. It doesn’t really matter. In any case, we have an at least an equal chance of an altruistic society as an egoistic one.

Money perpetuates selfish and egoistical thinking, there is no doubt about that. Still, it is only a norm, not ‘human nature’. How to get out of it is another question which I will not try to answer in this article. I will only say that there are tendencies towards more altruism in the world and a larger understanding of money as a changeable norm. Of course, mainstream media doesn’t reflect that as they are controlled by the huge ego that want to preserve itself for eternity.

Conclusion

Our human nature is not fixed. We are not born greedy and egoistic any more than generous and altruistic. Human nature is malleable and adaptable and is changing according to its environment. That is our human nature.

We do have inborn qualities, like different personalities and talents, but how these are developed is largely dependent on the environment. Thus, if we change the conditions that people live under, people will also change.

Human nature is largely defined by the culture we live in, and the norms of trading and hoarding is a culture that could just as well be replaced by the culture of giving and sharing.

When more and more people really get their eyes up for the extreme possibilities that lies in improved lives for everyone without money, but with free sharing instead, it will be like Victor Hugo says:

“There is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come.”

 

  1. With ‘Private Property’ I mean, as defined by Wikipedia, ‘property owned by legal persons or business entities’, distinguishable from ‘Personal Property’ defined by Wikipedia as ‘physical possessions belonging to a person’, thus clarifying that we will have possessions, as in ‘Personal Property’, in RBE. I will discuss the general notion of property and ownership in a later post.

The Past and the Future


Imagine that the time is somewhere in the 12th or 13th century in feudal Europe. You are a traveler from the future, coming into that time. Your base is, perhaps, the late 19th century. You are meeting with people of different social locations, and your task is to introduce them to the absolutely revolutionary and radical idea that the world could be organized on the principle of competition and merit.

In case you are not familiar with medieval history, the people you would be talking with in this imaginary scenario knew a different sort of arrangement. In their world, whatever your station in life was when you were born determined to an extremely high degree what your life would look like. The idea that one could end up in different social locations would have been unimaginable to them. They could likely imagine that for a few rare and exceptional situations, not as an organizing principle.

In response to your proposal they would pooh pooh you, they would tell you that you were naïve or dangerous or both. They would tell you that no one would ever do anything if they weren’t compelled to do it based on the strong coercive structures that existed at the time on all levels. Chaos would ensue, nothing would get done, and expertise would get lost. They would dismiss you and ignore you.

And yet that exact transformation happened. The industrial revolution and the political revolutions that arose in tandem with it created an entirely different social order which would have been impossible for our ancestors to fathom.

I truly invite you to stretch and imagine what it would be like to live in that world and have someone come and tell you that something else is possible.

This is exactly what happens these days when I attempt to invite people into my vivid picture of a fully collaborative world order based on need satisfaction and willingness, without external incentives, without money, without exchange, and without coercion.

I am told, repeatedly, that my vision goes against human nature. That no one would do anything without external incentives in the form of money. That competition is what drives excellence and that generosity and kindness are not sufficient to run the world.

A fully collaborative society is just as unthinkable in a world based on competition as competition was for an authority-based society.

Perhaps it is, after all, possible to create a collaborative future?

Let’s imagine it for a moment, even if you think it’s impossible. Let’s imagine that we can create social structures and institutions organized around caring for everyone’s needs through willing collaboration. To be able to imagine this would require some understanding of human needs and how they differ from the almost infinite range of wishes, strategies, whims, objects, relationships, and anything else we have devised to satisfy those needs. Quite simply, needs are anything required for a human being to have a truly satisfying life. This includes physical needs, emotional/psychological needs, relational needs, social/communal needs, and spiritual needs. This understanding of needs follows the trailblazing work of Marshall Rosenberg, who came forth with the radical proposal of putting human needs at the center, more so than any other aspect of human life.[1]

With this understanding of human needs, imagine putting human needs at the center, and organizing life around them. Feel your way into what it would be like to have an economy in which the needs of all were the driving force. No longer would we be focused on profit. Instead, we would be, collectively, prioritizing attending to everyone’s needs, including the natural world. What if, for example, instead of investing in technologies of destruction we would invest in figuring out how to feed all of us without destroying the biosphere?

If we focus on need satisfaction then leaders would act as servants, and decision-making would be based on dialogue, full willingness, and participation. Can you imagine how much more joy and willingness everyone would have to get up in the morning and go to work if everyone knew that their needs mattered, that their voice and opinions counted, and that their concerns would be taken seriously? What would it be like if leaders saw themselves as guiding a decision-making process rather than the ones making the decisions?

If we truly embraced human needs as the primary organizing principle, then we would radically change the way we treat each other and our children. No one would be controlled, manipulated, coerced, shamed, or guilt tripped. We would trust that nurturing all of our needs and supporting each other in fulfilling our dreams would lead to peaceful sharing of resources and to productive use of conflicts. All our human relationships would be based on autonomy and interdependence.

Under such conditions, human beings can grow up to be people who are able to balance their well-being with that of others and of the planet spontaneously and gracefully. Imagine what that would be like. If it were possible, wouldn’t you love to live in a world where all of us embrace giving without receiving and receiving without giving? Can you imagine what it would be like to trust that there is sufficiency of resources and that we have enough collaborative and imaginative problem-solving to allow us to let go of attachment to outcome? Or how much less stress we would have if we can all celebrate and mourn the mysterious and unpredictable flow of life with birth, growth, death, and decay?

Yes, I know we have been told that such a life is impossible; that our human nature is to hoard, to be suspicious, to only look out for ourselves and perhaps our immediate family and friends; that we can only be motivated through reward and punishment; that our needs are ultimately insatiable; and that war is inevitable.

This grim picture, resting on a fundamental despair about who we are and what life is about, has been the dominant thread for millennia in the Western world. It isn’t the only picture possible. We try to protect children from reality for as many years as we can, because we know that their picture of life is not so grim and we want them to hold on to it even as we think of them as naïve. Are they? Is it possible that our children know better than adults?

My mother still remembers her utter astonishment when I asked her, at five: “Why is it that we have to pay money to get our groceries? Why can’t we just go into the store, get what we need, and go home? Why can’t everyone just get what they need? Why do we need money?” My mother had no response that satisfied me, and neither has anyone since. I grew up bewildered by the discipline of economics. Something never computed for me, not even after I read Samuelson’s infamous Macroeconomics – the classic textbook still used in universities – and passed an advanced placement exam with flying colors in my early 30s. I understood the equations. I could manipulate the numbers and produce the desired results. None of that presented any challenge to me. It just never made sense.

I was 40 when the lightning bolt struck and I got it. It was so simple and so painful: the field of economics as we know it is defined by scarcity. So much so, that many sources define economics as the study of the allocation of scarce resources. Scarcity is built into the field: whatever is not scarce is not included. Since I didn’t share in the assumption of scarcity, everything that followed from it was puzzling to me.

The dream of a moneyless society I have carried since being a child has never left me. I still trust that there can be enough resources for everyone’s basic needs; that there can be enough willingness to do all that needs doing without coercion; that there can be enough love and understanding to resolve all conflicts; and that there can be enough creativity and goodwill to work out a global system of resource allocation and coordination that is neither market-based nor centrally planned, and is instead based on voluntary participation.

I am, indeed, called naïve, idealistic, utopian.

Still, I ask: regardless of how likely you believe a collaborative future is, or how impossible you think that such a vision is, wouldn’t you rather live in such a world than the one we have?

 


[1] A similar approach, from a different perspective, has been proposed by economist Manfred Max-Neef.

 

This article is a passage from the book “Reweaving Our Human Fabric: Transforming the Legacy of Separation into a Future of Collaboration” by Miki Kashtan (Editors note). 


The Trust Economy


Summary:

Something big is coming. It can be really good or it can be really bad. This is a detailed outline of the good. The Trust Economy offers:

• A simple, elegant, fast, and peaceful solution to the world wide financial crises.

A workable answer to the demands of the 99% that can be implemented by the 99%

• Leverages existing models and available tools to manage and distribute resources in a fair and equitable manner.

• Easy to understand and implement.

• Creates a system that can not be stolen from or manipulated by a few at the expense of everyone else.

• Automatically aligns itself with the whole, without diminishing personal property or responsibility.


Background:

In the nineteen sixties and seventies, when technology was growing up, it was often said that technology would solve the worlds ills by making more abundance, shorter work weeks, and less toil and struggle. Robotics and computers were supposed to make life better for everyone.

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