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

 

 

 


Some New Videos On The Zeitgeist Movement, The Venus Project and From Peter Joseph On Democracy


The Venus Project, The Zeitgeist Movement and a Resource Based Economy is constantly gaining more and more momentum, resulting in a constant flow of new creations of cultural expressions like these videos.

The two guys from the London based website and YouTube channel ‘London Real’ contacted me (or rather, their ‘Public Relations Coordinator’ did) with a new video interview they had done with Jacque Fresco, asking me if I wanted to post it on the blog. I found the interview not really bringing up anything new but the old anecdotes Mr. Fresco is always using, but I found an interview with Ben McLeish of The Zeitgeist Movement UK that was slightly more interesting. I post this here for you:

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And for those of you who haven’t heard all of Mr. Frescos anecdotes, I do recommend listening through this interview. He is definitely quite funny and has a lot of good points:

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And if you want some more in depth dope, take a look at Peter Joseph’s latest venture, Culture in Decline, this time on our so-called Democracy:

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Peter Joseph turns out to be a first class entertainer!


A Conversation About The Venus Project with Jacque Fresco and Roxanne Meadows


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In this interview, Jacque Fresco and Roxanne Meadows of The Venus Project answers some inquisitive questions about everything from design to decision making, with the interviewer playing ‘devils advocate’. The interview aims to get answers to questions not answered before by The Venus Project.

All images and designs in the video is attributed to The Venus Project and Jacque Fresco.

“The Venus Project advocates an alternative vision for a sustainable new world civilization unlike any socio-economic system that has gone before. It calls for a straightforward redesign of a culture, in which the age-old inadequacies of war, poverty, hunger, debt, and unnecessary human suffering are viewed not only as avoidable, but totally unacceptable.” – The Venus Project

You might also want to see this recording from their lecture in Stockholm 2010: http://www.theresourcebasedeconomy.com/2011/03/the-venus-project-stockholm-lecture-july-2010/

Experience more on their website: www.thevenusproject.com


The Best Resource Based Gift Economy Transition Presentation I’ve Ever Seen


How can the transition happen, what would a possible transition look like, and is the transition we are talking about even unique in Earth’s history? And what can we do today?

Sebastian Chedal presents the connection between current world changes and past evolutionary patterns. We look at evolutionary cycles, energy curves, growing cycles of innovation and adaptation.

Concepts from Spiral Dynamics, Ken Wilber, Integral Philosophy, Venus Project, Permaculture and Gift Economics.

The final part of this presentation analyses global initiatives related to the Venus Project and the Zeitgeist Movement so that people who are interested in making a change today have options regarding where they can get involved. Finally local Portland chapter initiatives are also mentioned. For more information, and links to the resources mentioned, please visit zeitgeistpdx.org/zday2011

Now that The Venus Project and The Zeitgeist Movement have split up, it is appropriate to say that instead of ‘The Venus Project’ as and overlying structure, it should be a ‘resource based economy’ as the overlaying structure.


The Venus Project and The Zeitgeist Movement splitting up


The Venus Project and The Zeitgeist Movement is ‘splitting up’.

Personally, I think this is a good thing. Ever since I heard about The Venus Project (TVP), The Zeitgeist Movement (TZM) and a Resource Based Economy (RBE), I thought that TZM should not be “the activist arm” of TVP. Rather, TZM  should be “the activist arm” of a Resource Based Economy.

A resource based economy can be many things, and The Venus Project holds but one of these solutions. The notion of RBE can not be defined by a single organization alone, like TVP or TZM. RBE has to be an ‘open system’, where all the people of this planet has to contribute. And as far as I am concerned, RBE is still a concept that has to be developed and take root deep in the mind of Humanity. Just like the notion of money and ownership is rooted in the mind of humanity now, the notion of a money- and propertyless society has to replace the old notion and become even deeper rooted. And this has to happen through the spreading of information through all possible channels.

TVP has a lot of good drawings and suggestions for new design and technology, but I feel they are lacking somewhat in understanding humans. I agree with many things that Mr. Jacque Fresco says, but I also disagree with a few.

RBE is a concept that has to take root in the mind of humanity, and the main aspect of it is not TVP and its drawings, it is the notion of a money- and propertyless society where we share and give instead of trade, buy and sell. This is the core of RBE. Sharing and giving. No matter how much we automate things or how many machines we have, this has to be and is the core of a resource based economy. Actually, it has nothing to do with technology, but everything to do with our mindset and values, and how we see the world. Any technological development and how we use technology will come as a result of this mindset. Actually, I do think that TVP have the same view. It is only that it tends to get a focus on machines and technology instead of humans and values.

The Venus Project has undoubtedly added valuable designs and thoughts to the pool of the knowledge of Mankind. Knowledge that shall and will be utilized in all ways possible. There is no doubt about that. But Jacque Fresco says outright that ‘we can’t create this new world without TVP’, which is a huge mistake. To rely on one person’s thoughts and designs for the whole planet is not only foolish, but impossible. There are too many creative and intelligent beings on this planet for this to happen. Not to speak of too many different preferences and cultures.

I think it is good that The Zeitgeist Movement is now on it’s own, and realizes that it is a ‘resource based economy’ that is the ‘umbrella term’, not ‘The Venus Project’. RBE can come in many different shapes and forms, not only TVP’s form. We can even have RBE without any new technology, with old wooden houses and horses and carts, which is what we actually had. In old times, there were many societies based on sharing and giving in stead of trading with each other. And the land was not owned by anyone. As said, RBE is not really about technology, but our mindset. Yes, technology will evolve, and we will use it, but technology is not the main point. Sharing, giving and collaborating freely is the point. A money- and propertyless economy is the point. A caring and compassionate society is the point.

TVP think that ‘everything has a technical solution’, and many things do, but then they tend to forget that Humans are not ‘technical solutions’. Well, our bodies are somewhat ‘technical’, but Humans also have feelings, thoughts and aspirations of their own. Humans has to realize for themselves this new world. Humans can not be told ‘this is the way things are, no go and do it!’. No, humans has to get their own experiences, and the mindset they are in has to change gradually. Unless the total mindset of Humanity changes away from trading, ownership and individual power towards sharing, collaboration and common strength, we will not get a resource based economy or anything like it on this planet. No matter how technologically developed we are.

One thing that seem totally absent in TVP is the understanding of consciousness.  How everything is connected, where the Life Force comes from, what thoughts really are, what mind is, what the soul is, why we are here and what our purpose really is. They seem to believe that absolutely everything we do is based on ‘conditioning by society’. Of course we get conditioned by society, but that doesn’t explain everything. One can ask ‘what conditions society’? Where does it all start?

Why does Mr. Fresco do what he does? Is it only conditioning? Then why didn’t his brother, or someone with similar ‘conditioning’ do what Fresco does? He clearly tells us that he went against the current in his young days. He didn’t want to stand up and sing the american national anthem because he believed in the whole world as our common land, not only USA. Now, if everyone around him was conditioned to one thing, why did he go the other way?

So, where did it come from, if not his conditioning? His DNA? It is now shown that also the DNA is not constant, but does change in regards to, yes, conditioning. But still, conditioning doesn’t explain all behavior. Personally, I believe that this ‘third element’, the element that is is not heritage (DNA), and not conditioning, is the element that comes with us when we are born. It is a personality and aspirations we bring with our consciousness from life to life.

Personally, I believe that we are consciousness, that everything is consciousness, that this world is created out of our thoughts, that the fear and the EGO is the basic things that are stopping us from reaching our goals, and that Love, Joy, Bliss and positive feelings will create positive results in this world. And that the search for Fulfillment is what is driving us to do the things we do. And this fulfillment is based on something invisible. Something that is inherent in us when we are born.

To me these questions are CRUCIAL to a Resource Based Economy. Because if we don’t have money or trade or barter, we would have to think totally different in terms of motivation. TVP’s motivation seems to be to eradicate war, pollution, natural disasters, etc. etc., which is all good, of course. But then what? What would be the meaning of life when we have eradicated all of that? TVP doesn’t seem to have an answer for this other than that ‘there will always be new problems to solve’. This might be well and good for TVP, but not all the world’s people, and certainly not me. I need deeper answers and reasons to live.

The struggle we have on this planet today, is not technological or scientific, it is a struggle of the EGO. We have to leave our egos behind to get this new world, RBE or whatever you want to call the ‘system’. In any case, a new ‘system’ alone can not save us, we have to bring with us the realization that ‘we are all one’. I am not saying that we can get rid of our egos completely. No, we only have to be aware of them, understand them and not let our words and actions be guided by them. Being guided by the ego is being guided by fear. Instead we have to look to Love and Peace in our guidance. Sounds like cliche’s, and they are. But there’s a reason why things become cliche’s, and that’s because cliches tend to be true.

I’ve criticized TVP more than TZM here for a reason. TZM was rightly enough initiated by Peter Joseph, but now TZM consists of a conglomerate of chapters and groups all over the planet, with many working diligently to spread awareness about RBE. This is not only the way it should be, but the only way it can be if this information is to reach any significant proportion of the population of this globe. Remember that not many people had heard about TVP before PJ made his films and TZM was started.

TVP, it seems to me, still consists basically of two persons holding the reins tight, not to let anyone interpret any of their information in their own way. They obviously also want the information to be spread across the globe, but seem to be so protective about their work that they won’t let anyone one else touch it without their approval. I understand that when someone has spent their life on designing so much houses, buildings, transportation, cities and more, credit is wanted, and a say in the building as well. But they need to let go of some control if they want their creations to see the light of day. The blueprints can be licensed out to contractors and countries around the world right now, and I am sure many would be interested in TVPs designs if they only let them out. There are many ways to do things, not only one.

I believe that the people of TVP are most sympathetic, intelligent and creative people, and that what they have done is nothing but incredible. And I believe they mean only well. I owe TVP all credit for putting me on the track of a resource based economy. I would like nothing better than to see this world become reality, but I hope and believe that all of us will create it together. That there will be room for many people’s designs and plans, and that we can and will have an open and fruitful communication and collaboration in creating this new society, where The Zeitgeist Movement still works to raise awareness about RBE, get people to think, inform and educate, while The Venus Project does the same, each in their own way, but towards our common goal.

Here are some links about what I think TVP is lacking in their thoughts about this new world:

The Moneyless Manifesto

Peerconomy

The Wealth of Networks

The Commoner

 

 


The Resource Based GIFT Economy


Resource based economy

A resource based economy is a system based on the assessment of available resources and the development and distribution of those resources. A ‘resource’ can be a natural resource, like wind, oil, sun, water, plants and minerals. It can also be a human resource in the form of human ingenuity, human labour and human compassion. Lastly, it can be a technological resource defined by the level of technological advancement Humanity finds itself at any given time. The technological resource can play a huge role in the development and management of all the other resources, keeping in mind that the technological resource comes from the human resource of ingenuity. A resource based economy is a system where all the planet’s (and non-planetary, such as the sun’s) resources are taken into account in building and maintaining a sustainable and functional world for everyone.

Gift economy

A gift economy is a ‘system’, if one can call it that, where, instead of exchanging goods and services, those are given to each other. There is no ‘transaction’ taking place. The gift economy is alive and well in the institution closest to most people’s hearts, the family, and have been the traditional social system of man since time immemorial. In a family, goods and services are largely given, without any explicit agreement for immediate or future rewards. There is also a huge gift economy in the world today, in the form of voluntarism, with millions of people doing work for free for a host of good causes.

In a sense, the universe is a ‘gift economy’. At birth we are given all of what this universe and planet has to offer. Nature gives in abundance if we let it and don’t destroy it. Mothers gives in abundance their love to their children. Dad’s do out of love whatever it takes to take care of their families. Brothers and sisters help each other the world over to learn and love. Friends help friends, especially in times of need, but also bring them over for dinner. Birds give their song for free to sweeten a spring or summer’s day.

The internet is filled with free services. Software producers give the results of their work as freeware and shareware. And there are thousands of organizations that provide free goods and services all over the world. We see that there is a widespread praxis of the gift economy, where goods and services are provided for free for each other, helping people in need, or simply giving something for free, without any hidden agenda. I think we can safely say that without the gift economy the world would not go ’round.

A combination

Today, though, above the gift economy, is the market economy, trying in vain (if it is even trying) to develop, manage and distribute the planet’s resources in the best way. As we have seen during the last 100 years, the market economy is in no position to handle the planet’s resources in the best interest of everyone. The economy that works on the level of countries and in international affairs we call the ‘macro economy’. The economy between individuals and businesses we call ‘micro economy’.

So, what would be the winning combination in the ‘new world’? Well, I think the answer would be this:

Our ‘micro economy’ would be the Gift Economy. This would determine the economy between individuals and groups.

Our ‘macro economy’ would be the Resource Based Economy. This would determine the global resource based economic decisions.

Resource Based Economy and Gift Economy goes hand in hand. In a money-, barter- and trade-less society a Gift Economy has to be the basis for human interaction. The main value norms has to reflect the benefits of simply giving to each other, rather than trading or bartering. In a Gift Economy, trust plays a major role. Not just in each other, but also in Life itself, trusting that whatever need you have will be met. By all means, trust plays a big role in today’s economy also.

So, with the basic norms and values in place, we can truly start to build this planet to it’s optimum state. Optimum, that is, from today’s possibilities. It will of course always develop when we find new and better solutions. There’s no end to this. But, as said, with the norms and values of the Gift Economy as the foundation, we utilize the Resource Based Economy to develop, manage and allocate resources in accordance to the needs of Humanity, including all peoples, animals and plants and the whole biosystem of this planet and it’s surroundings.

I hereby announce the birth of THE RESOURCE BASED GIFT ECONOMY, with the word ‘gift’ emphasizing the importance of the value system and the mindset in this new economy. That we all have to work together in this, giving our time and knowledge freely to build this new world. To me, this was what was lacking in the concept of the resource based economy with the strong emphasis on technology.

Now, we have the human aspect in the Gift Economy, and the technological aspect in the Resource Based Economy. When we put the two together we get the ultimate solution to the dilemma we face today.


The Venus Project – Stockholm Lecture July 2010


I was so fortunate as to meet Jacque Fresco and Roxanne Meadows in Stockholm and was able to film their lecture. So, here is the recording of their lecture in Stockholm July 24. 2010. In this lecture they explain The Venus Project and a resource based economy.

Total time: About 2 hours.

First hour is lecture. Second hour is Q & A.

The lecture is about how our mind set and the monetary system is the source of the problems in the world today, and how a resource based economy, a society without money or trade, an updating of our values and mind set, and relevant use of technology and knowledge can develop our civilization to become a truly sustainable society with abundance for everyone.

Filmed by Harald Sandø and Vesa Rahkola.
Edited by Harald Sandø

The lecture was arranged by The European Organisation for Sustainability (EOS) and The Zeitgeist Movement Sweden.

 
thevenusproject.com
thezeitgeistmovement.com
eoslife.eu
thezeitgeistmovement.se
haraldsando.com

 

 


Zeitgeist – Moving Forward review


Peter Joseph’s latest documentary is setting world record in simultaneous worldwide screenings on the same day. 15th of January 2011 the film was showed in over 60 countries on over 300 locations, something that has not happened with any other documentary to date, as I am told.

This has been a highly awaited film, in other words. Two days ago, the YouTube version was released, and it has already over 340.000 views. In TWO days! Not to speak of the comments, which just passed 12.000 as I write this. The film has almost 12.000 likes and only about 300 dislikes.

It seems like the world has truly been waiting for, not only this movie, but a change on the planet. Even though there seems to be ‘business as usual’ around the world, there is a growing movement going on. Not just the Zeitgeist Movement, but in general. People want change all over the world.

So, to the film. It is a 2 hour 40 minutes long movie with lot’s of info. For me personally a lot of it was not news, but I guess for most people it is. I missed more transitional descriptions and more direct info on what a resource based economy really will be like. The film started out with a rather long winded talk about genetics and how we are not really bound by our genes, but rather more shaped by society. This is a discussion that has been going on for years among scientist.

Speaking about scientist and science. The film seems to advocate ‘the scientific method’ as the answer to most problems. It forgets to take scientists into consideration. The scientific method is well and good and is definitely the best method one can use to determine whether something is a good solution or not. The problem, though, is that scientists are just as often as ‘common people’ run by emotions and peer pressure rather than intellectual reason. There are continuous examples of this throughout history, and the ‘genes versus society’ is one field where this has been rampant.

Another thing about the movie, as with the Zeitgeist Movement in general, is the utter worshipping of The Venus Project, as along with science is the answer to everything. The truth is that TVP is not thought through thoroughly by far. It lacks both social descriptions and possible transition alternatives.

In such a long movie I would have expected more detailed descriptions on how to get there and how a resource based economy will work in praxis. Still, for all of the worlds people who still doesn’t know about what the worlds problems stem from and haven’t heard about a resource based economy, it serves it’s purpose. Except I am afraid it will suffer many shattering comments when put under scrutiny in classrooms around the world.


Jacque Fresco and Peter Joseph on TED


As a response to TED’s FaceBook discussion ‘who would YOU like to see on TED?‘ I replied with the following:

“At least ONE person has already mentioned Jacque Fresco, the founder of The Venus Project. Not that I should speak about him, but HE should speak on TED. If not him, then Peter Joseph, the founder of the Zeitgeist Movement.

There is ONE big problem in the world today that everyone seems to miss. Like the elephant in the room. The problem is MONEY.

Everyone just takes for granted that we need money, that the money system we have is the only possibility for humanity and that if only everyone had enough money, everything would be ok.

Please wake up, sunshine.

There is no lack of money in the world. Banks create it everyday in the millions and billions. Yes, the worlds money system is based on a ‘fractional reserve banking system’ where banks can create money out of nothing. Google it. It’s not just something I make up. It has been shrouded for years though, in fancy financial terms. This ‘air money’ is lent out to private persons, corporations, other banks and even countries, and is demanded paid back with interest (which, by the way, is NOT created by the system. Thus MORE money have to constantly be created to pay the interest, and defaults are a part of the system). Even countries are going bankrupt in this insane world of money and debt.

The Monetary System we have today plays a big, if not the biggest, part in all the problems we have in the world today: Corruption, crime, wars, diseases, prostitution, pollution, poverty, and not to speak of the ‘financial crisis’, which is no crisis to the ones who create the money. Money, who largely is digital. 97% of all of the worlds money today only exists as ones and zeros in computers.

A world without money is difficult for many to imagine. No wonder, since we’re all brainwashed into believing that money is as necessary as air. But there is no money in nature. Nothing. Zip. Still, it runs like clockwork.

So, my suggestions are:

JACQUE FRESCO for suggesting a resource based economy replacing the monetary system, and founding The Venus Project.

PETER JOSEPH for starting The Zeitgeist Movement, spreading the idea of a resource based economy.

One of these persons should be SELF EVIDENT on TED. Why they haven’t been on TED already, I don’t know. I can only speculate that it has something to do with TEDs sponsors, not wanting info about something that threatens the monetary system and their operations out there.”

If you want to help spread more awareness about TZM, TVP and a moneyless society in general, you can suggest to TED as well. Follow the link on the top in this article.