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

 

 

 


The Awakening of Humanity

“How can we get a resource based moneyless economy without a global totalitarian dictatorial regime? Wouldn’t we have to kill off populations to preserve resources for others?” Someone asked this recently.

It’s a very good question, and one I’ve been asking myself several times. The only answer I can come up with to this is this:

  1. The global population in general has to have a ‘spiritual awakening’ where we see all people as One, as we see our close family and friends, wanting to share equally with them.
  2. In addition, the ‘no money’ paradigm has to be seen as more beneficial for everyone than the money paradigm we’re in now. People have to share more and more without money, and this praxis has to ‘take over’ from the trading praxis we have today with money.

I can see many evidences for both of these directions today. There is a huge global rising awareness about ‘who we are’, about consciousness, about how our thoughts influence the world, etc., both within and outside science, and there are more and more people doing things ‘for free’ all over the planet. I am thinking about everything from volunteers in, which you find millions of, in all kinds of projects and organizations, free software (like Linux, WordPress, etc. etc.), free information (Wikipedia, + + + + + + ), and free efforts in all kinds of places.

Throughout history, there has been several ‘paradigm shifts’, like when the earth turned from flat to round, or when the earth was not longer the center point of the universe, but actually circled around the sun.

We’ve been living in a ‘money paradigm’ for millennia, and I think we are on the tipping point today. On one hand, money has a bigger stronghold on the planet than ever before, with millions of people in need of money, not knowing about anything else. On the other hand, there’s a strong rising of people wanting to simply share and stop this whole ‘money charade’ and create a moneyless society.

In any case, most people on the earth are fed up today with the situation we are in, and something has to happen. Which way we will fall depends on the totality of the people on this planet. But the more people wake up and become aware of the ‘no money’ possibility, the bigger is the chance that we will get there.

So, I can not see any ‘totalitarian world regime’ controlled by machines. Far from it. What I see, IF we get a no-money-paradigm, is something completely different.

What we have to try to picture is HOW WILL PEOPLE ACT WHEN WE SIMPLY SHARE, RATHER THAN TRADE.

How will people act? And what will the world look like?

Of course, most greed has to be gone, most ego has to be gone. We have to realize that what we do for others we actually do for ourselves. And this can be illustrated well when one person makes an invention that will benefit both her AND society. When someone comes up with an idea to a betterment of something, one usually does that because it is something that one wants oneself. So, to realize this invention through the joint effort of others will of course a very exiting thing. It has got nothing to do with money. The same goes for art, or food, or basically everything you can imagine. Creating and sharing something and taking part in this is what it is all about. Not hoarding, competing and trading. This is a game we have played for so long. Now it is time to change.

People think that ‘we need money’. They live in this mindset and that is why everything is the way it is on this planet right now. The so-called ‘scarcity’ is money based. There is no real scarcity, and there definitely is no need to ‘kill off’ parts of our population to ‘save resources’. All of these thoughts are based in the old money mindset. There’s more than enough land, water, food and resources on this planet for everyone and then some. I have to say it again; ALL scarcity is money based. All scarcity is PERCEIVED. The system NEEDS us to feel this scarcity for the system to stay alive. If we were to wake up and realize that there’s abundance all around us, and that with our own minds, we can create more of this abundance, the system would simple cease to exist. And of course, the system doesn’t want that.

‘Famine’ is economically based, not environmentally. Today, we have the ability to change, design and help nature give us it’s best, and at the same time create sustainability. We can produce food for everyone, there’s no doubt about that. 50% of all food is thrown away today. And this is because of our economic system, the monetary based market system. It is because food needs to be sold to those who have money. If is was simply given away instead, based on who needed it, one could streamline the distribution 100% without waste. This is but one example of the wasteful system we have today.

The capitalistic system produces more waste than any other system on this planet. Which means that without this system, but RBE instead, the resources we HAVE will go a whole lot longer. That’s the point of RBE. It is resource based, not money based. There IS enough resources for everyone WHEN they are managed properly.

Instead of hundreds of TV and computer producers competing with each other, releasing hundreds of new models each year, each model doing almost exactly the same, and depleting resourced needed to produce these models, a resource based economy would never let that happen. In RBE, we would rather produce ONE model, the best. Or maybe 5 models, of say different sizes, to cater for some different needs. But we don’t need one model WITH USB, and one model without. ALL models would have USB, if you see what I mean. There are minuscule differences on different models of products today, only to give the manufacturers more to sell, and the consumers (it’s a shame we are called ‘consumers’) a so-called ‘choice’. In RBE, we would focus on producing the best, most efficient solutions for everything. We would focus on not producing any waste, and make lasting products for all people of the planet to enjoy for a much much longer time than today.

So, what will society be like when people wake up from this mindset? If people woke up, say, tomorrow, what would happen…?

Well, that is many things. With a ‘no money’, ‘no property’, mindset based on sharing, accessibility, compassion and real resources instead of trading, competition, ownership and fake money, we would:

  1. Close down all banks and other so-called ‘financial institutions’.
  2. Get rid of the so-called ‘government’ and develop a direct computer aided democracy instead, to take care of real needs, rather than fake ‘money needs’.
  3. Start to survey what we actually have in terms of resources on this planet. Both human, animalistic, plants and minerals. Both locally and globally.
  4. Start to make sure everyone has what they need in terms of food, housing, clothing, medicine, etc.
  5. Start to develop new more efficient and automated distribution systems.
  6. Start to develop and use new sustainable energy and materials.
  7. Start to respect each other more and more.
  8. See this planet as ONE HOME for everyone, and think in terms of all people on this planet, rather than ‘this country’ and ‘that country’.
  9. Get rid of all artificial borderlines.
  10. Get rid of all military.
  11. Start to organize ourselves based on need, want, skills and abilities, rather that ‘heritage, race, money and greed’.
  12. Educate everyone about real and important aspects of life.
  13. Not get too many children, knowing that we have to stay within the caring capacity of the planet.
  14. Not need to punish each other, but rather help each other reach our full potential and get well of any disease.
  15. Work together to develop the best technology for the planet and everyone.
  16. Still have ‘jobs’, some more desirable than others, which of course depends on your interests, but be able to change ‘job’ more often, and do tasks that are really fulfilling, because you will know that what you do is actually needed here on the planet.
  17. Utilize this planet and this world to work for everyone in every way, everywhere.

When we truly get out of our money mindset, this is all feasible. Not only feasible, but desirable and the best we can all experience. ‘When we all share, we all get more’. Instead of being limited to ‘one car each’, we could have automated cars (Google have developed that already) that we can simply order when we need it. Much fewer cars would be needed, and we would all have access to a whole lot more cars!

Access, rather than ownership would be the new value, when people really open their eyes. Instead of ‘owning land’, we could use land where and when we need it. We could travel anywhere we want. We could move to anywhere we want and live anywhere we want. We could basically DO anything we want, as long as we all live in this NEW MINDSET. As long as MOST PEOPLE live in this ego-, money- and propertyless mindset, this mindset of giving, sharing and collaboration, this world will change automagically based on this mindset.

This whole blog is about ‘what it will be like’ and ‘how society will work’. This blog is about visualizing this new society, keeping a steady focus on this until we get there, and then keep focussing and creating. Not focussing on what we don’t want. We have to constantly imagine, visualize and focus on what we want in order to get there.

These new times is not about ‘grabbing positions’, ‘running in the rat race’ or ‘competing for resources’. No, these new times is about realizing that every little thing I do, I do not only for myself, but for everyone. For everyone to benefit. Even if it is me making myself a better person in any way, this will also benefit others and the whole. When everyone benefits from what I do, I will benefit too. In a much much higher degree than ever before, because it will all be free. For everyone. Even the richest of today will be freer, since they too will benefit from this new society. A society where true collaboration and sharing is possible and where everyone can travel freely everywhere and contribute anywhere it is needed.

It is about doing things for the joy of doing them. Just like I do now. I write this because I enjoy using my mind to visualize this new world. Not for money. Not for any egotistical reasons. Not even to be credited, as I even do this anonymously. I write this because I believe this world will be a better world to live in. Both for me, and for everyone else. And everything written here I share freely for anyone to copy.

So, in answer to the question I would say that this new world will not work through any dictatorship of any kind. No, it will be created through the awakening of Humanity, and work through self governance, with people deciding over their own lives wherever they might live, or want to live. And it has to be based on the notion that ‘it is better to share and collaborate than to trade and compete’. This notion has to be the NEW BASIC VALUE, like money and trading is the basic value today.

It has to be like this: Instead of the majority of people thinking ‘what’s in it for me’, the majority has to start thinking ‘what’s in it for all of us, both locally and globally’. This mindset has to WIN, somehow.

Many people think this way already today, working ‘for free’ on projects, but they haven’t realized that it might be possible to build a world totally with this mindset. Even those people; volunteers, developers of free software, artists, doctors that work for free, etc. etc. think that ‘yes, I suppose we need money to build roads, hospitals and schools and to pay for resources, teachers, doctors and nurses’ and so on. Actually, most people don’t even think this. Most people think of money and ownership as AIR: It is something that’s always been here, that always will be here, and that we can’t live without. Most people doesn’t really think about the possibility that we can live without money. It doesn’t occur to them. It didn’t occur to me either, until I heard about TVP and TZM a couple of years ago.

Now I see these ideas are spreading like an unstoppable wildfire. Projects are popping up everywhere. New thoughts are emerging. More resources are shared. More people are collaborating.

As you can see, the new ‘no money’ mindset will change this world so drastically in itself, that it is difficult to imagine exactly what it will look like in praxis. But if you imagine a world where the emphasis lies on global cooperation, rather than competition, global sharing, rather than hoarding, free travel, rather than restricted, a focus on fast development of new efficient technology, rather than sticking with old outdated models, global and local direct democracy, rather than fake politics, and compassion rather than cynicism, well, then you’ve come a long way in picturing this world.

And if you’ve read this far, you’ll probably be interested in seeing this:

YouTube Preview Image

 


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

 

 


What would YOU do in a Resource Based Economy? Share your thoughts!

What would YOU do in a Resource Based Economy?

Please share your thoughts about this in the comments field below.

Trying to imagine a moneyless society from the mindset of the monetary system is difficult. Still, it seems that more and more people are able to do just that. And, it is imagining this what we need. We need visions and visionaries. And we need to share those visions with each other in an open and honest way. Hopefully this website can contribute to that.

The term ‘resource based economy’ has been largely connected with The Venus Project. The way it is described there requires a drastic change in infrastructure, technology, transportation and more to be realized. I am not saying that this will never come to pass. If our mindsets changes enough we WILL necessarily also change the world around us into a more efficient and sustainable world. Not necessarily exactly like TVP envisions it, but still.

But this is why I would like you to imagine what a moneyless society would be like TODAY. We don’t need to wait for society to break down before we can live in a resource based economy.

If we simply dropped money and ownership, and everybody started doing what they do to contribute to society we can have RBE right away. And all the people in the ‘money only’ jobs, like bankers and insurance agents plus many many more, would be available for real work that contributes. Thus, we would have a workforce unparalleled to help build this new sustainable world. There wouldn’t be any lack of people to do anything.

There would be much LESS to do, though, since most of the things we do today, we only do to serve the monetary system and not because we really enjoy doing it. Even without extra technology, we would have much more leisure time than we have today.

So, let’s imagine that money vanished TODAY, but that all the things and technology we have was still there to use, and all the people wanted this change.

What would you do with your life? What would happen with your profession? What would come instead?

Would you go on a holiday?

Would you contribute to society in some way?

Would you enjoy yourself?

What would you do?

How will it work?

I am looking forward to all the comments on this post. Together they will be a small proof that RBE will work. And the more proof we get, the closer we get to RBE.

SHARE this article with as many as you can and invite them to write a comment. You can use the share box below for that if you want, to share on FaceBook and the like.

Don’t be afraid to write your heart out.


Living Without Money – A New Documentary

The documentary Living Without Money portraits the life of 68 year old Heidemarie Schwermer, a German woman who made a deliberate choice to stop using money 14 years ago. She cancelled her apartment, gave away all of her belongings and kept nothing but a suitcase full of clothes. This was a decision that changed the entire outlook on her life dramatically.

Today, after 14 years, she is still living almost without money and claims she is feeling more free and independent than ever.  The film follows Heidemarie in her day to day life and shows the challenges she meets by living an alternative lifestyle. Check out the trailer here:

The film is due in april 2011 where the film makers offer free screening rights if you want to show the movie in your hometown. Check out their homepage for more info: livingwithoutmoney.org

I am really looking forward to see this movie. It isn’t directly about a resource based economy, but more about the possibility of having a ‘moneyless mindset’, even in the midst of the ‘money jungle’ this society is. When Heidemarie can do this today, everyone should be able to do this as soon as it gets more common. And it should be part of a proof that RBE can work. That money isn’t necessary, and that we’re all much better off without it.

You can also read an article about Heidemarie in The Sunday Times.


Money For Free – Money In a Resource Based Economy

The title of this article implies that we all want money for nothing. Money for free. Is this what a resource based economy will be like? Money for free? Yes, RBE implies a moneyless society, where everything is given freely. But, will this not only create laziness among it’s people? many ask. And rightfully so. If one look at today’s socialistic societies that pay out unemployment benefits to the unemployed, many of the unemployed get lazy and say ‘no thanks’ to jobs that foreigners take gladly.

So, the question is, ‘can we have money in a resource based society’? This might sound contrary to what a resource based economy is about, but in my opinion, the answer is ‘yes’. Because it is not moony itself that has led us into the trouble the planet is in today. I wouldn’t say it is human greed, either, although it plays it’s part. The reason we are in this mess is a war on the human race put together by a very few number of people. A war with the attempt to control the whole of humanity. Since most humans were not prepared for this, they have been easy to lead by the people who wanted to control them. But, more about this in another article.

Money is possible, and probably even needed, in a resource based economy. The reason is because we need an incentive system. We need something that can measure the amount of labor and energy used in an endeavor. Even though we will develop technology to do most of today’s labor tasks, humans still want to DO stuff. Most people don’t like to be idle every day. Creativity and curiosity will not die, and when someone produces something, be it a painting, good tasting carrots or a dance performance, it is only natural to get something back for it.

When this is said, it has to be emphasized that the money in RBE can not be ANYTHING like the money system we have today. What we CAN have, is a money system without banks, loans, interest, debt or the like, but with a currency that can be exchanged for products. In RBE we can have ‘most things for free’, but for anything ‘extra’ we would have to pay from the money we have earned through the contributions we have made to society. When I say ‘most things’, I mean all the basic things that a person need, like housing, clothing, food, transportation, communication, energy and health care. And these things doesn’t have to be of any low quality, no, they can, and will, be of the best quality possible, because this will be in every ones interest.

This can still be called ‘a resource based economy’, because money is not what makes us take care of our resources or not, humans is the ones taking care of the resources. With or without money, resources can still be depleted, or, they can be managed well. So, in a resource based economy with money, the emphasis is still on the resources, rather than the money. It is still about taking care of this planet and all it’s inhabitants, sharing resources equally.

The money in RBE will be used as an incentive system, giving ‘points’ to people who contribute extra, and to make it possible to get more of one particular thing one might want. A resource based economy is a concept difficult to imagine compared to the world we have today, where many are struggling to make ends meet, while others are bathing in money. A radical shift of values and awareness is needed in any case, and picturing RBE with money might be easier for the moment than picturing it without.


Money and property in a resource based economy

It seems like Peter Joseph (the founder of the Zeitgeist Movement) thinks that machines will do all the work for all people and that no one will own anything in a resource based society. I think he is wrong about this. For one, people like to work and share their work, secondly, everyone like to have something they can call ‘their own’. I know that in RBE everyone will have access to everything, and that machines and technology will be so developed that we really don’t have to do anything. But this is not the point. The point is that people want to do stuff, and they want to be proud over their creation. Just look at Jacque Fresco. He, along with his partner, Roxanne Meadows, is trademarking the term “Resource Based Economy”. Why? Because it’s something (according to them) they have worked on their whole life, and that they have ‘the right to’, since it’s “their creation”. Why on earth doesn’t Fresco and Meadows, of ALL people, not give their creation out freely?  Of course, because they feel they deserve something back for all their work.

So will people in RBE. But this is where my analogy stops looking like the world we have today. I’m not saying that we need money in RBE, or property, like we have today. No. But if someone creates a painting, a unique painting, this is one persons creation and it’s up to that person what should be done with it. And this goes for all creations made by us humans. So, what would be the reward?

Answer: The reward in creating anything is: 1. The joy of creating it. 2. The joy of sharing it.

But, it is still the creators choice whether he/she want’s to share it or not. Of course, it can’t be sold, like it is today, and there will be no other reward than the mentioned joy, but still, it is and will always be the property of the creator until she/he chooses to give it away.

So, I don’t think people will be happy letting machines do absolutely everything for them. Being of service to other people will always be something that will bring joy and meaning to our lives. Be it being an artist creating art, a composer creating music, a dancer dancing, a chef cooking, a massager massaging, a doctor healing, a nurse nursing, a designer designing or a photographer photographing.

When it comes to property, it will be nothing like today. Yes, accessibility will be there for everything needed. Still, if one want’s a plot of land to grow one’s own fruit and vegetables, that should be able to be called ones own.


Transformation through eco-communities and gift economies

I first want to remind the readers of the question: What is relevant?

What is relevant is what we really need. And what we really need is food, water, sunlight, joy, happiness, and meaningful lives. Nature itself can provide all that.

Now, to overcome both the problems of the transition to RBE and problems within RBE, I suggest the following:

There’s a growing eco movement on the planet. Many people are establishing their ‘family domains’ on a hectare of land (especially in Russia) where they can grow their own crops and provide for themselves and their community. There seem to be a low knowledge about what Nature actually can do for you if you let it, and nurture it the right way. With the right attitude and methods, even wasteland can be turned into oases. All that is needed are some small seeds, that grow, and multiply, and multiply, and multiply, abundantly.

We must understand that an increased closeness to Nature is VITAL for peoples happiness. Nature provides in ABUNDANCE for people who cultivate it, nurture it and gives it their love. Plants, fruit and vegetables grown naturally is not just much more tasteful, but healing also. And living and breathing in ones own ‘garden of Eden’ brimming with fruit and vegetables gives an abundance of joy. One hectare of land can feed a whole community and more, and also cure ills and make the people who live there very happy and give them meaningful lives. Digging in the dirt and make plants grow doesn’t have to be something for farmers (or machines) only. It takes much less work than what you should think, and it gives both food, fulfillment and happiness back! After the seeds are planted, one only have to give them the right amount of water, and the rest takes care of itself, and gives back in abundance. So much in fact, that if one family have a few hundred square meters of land with vegetables, for instance, they will not be able to eat it all by themselves. Actually, in Russia, 80% of all farming products (potatoes, tomatoes, etc.) come from so called ‘dachas’, little 600m2 plots of land that people own and cultivate by hand. Of course, hydroponics can also be used, one thing doesn’t rule out the other. But hydroponics doesn’t give the family a garden paradise to live in.

The solution for transition:

So, my suggestion is that we can start to create our family garden paradises where we grow our own food, produce our own electricity and become as independent of the ‘outside world’ as possible. Within the communities there will be a gift economy. In other words, no money is used inside the community and everything is given to each other for free. Excess produce can be sold on the outside market, and the money can be invested inside the city to upgrade the city with better energy technology, infrastructure, transportation, etc.

You see where this leads?

Money is ‘taken out of circulation’ in the world and put into the city/community where MONEY IS NOT USED. Because inside the city everything is GIVEN. Any service needed is given of the people themselves. The only things money are used for in the city is to provide building materials and tools, and these are one time investments. Everything else, like food, water and energy is provided within the city. The city dwellers don’t use any money inside the city, and not much money in the outside world as everything they need is provided within the city. The optimal arrangement would be to get land provided for free somewhere, and without taxation to what is produced there or the land itself.

When more and more people start to establish these communities, since they realize the value in this kind of living, more and more money will be taken out of circulation and less and less money is used in the outside society. As we all know, the monetary system depends on constant consumption and constant use of money to survive. When enough families have transferred their lives to eco communities with gift economies the total use of money in the world will have decreased so much that the monetary system will collapse. Hopefully enough eco cities will have been created, so that people will not suffer from hunger or anything else.

I know this doesn’t sound like the high tech future RBE cities that are talked about in The Venus Project, but these elements can be included in the eco city eventually. The point is that with eco cities we can start the transition TODAY, and we can include as much technological aids as we want to when the time comes. Jacque Fresco describes his cities as ‘garden cities’ anyway, so to start with a garden shouldn’t be to far off.

The eco cities/communities will be designed without any ‘property or ownership’, but with ‘designated plots’ to each family. Wasteland, or land that is not considered ‘arable’ can be used, as long as it has access to enough water. With the love from humans and the right cultivation methods it can be made into paradise. Each designated plot should be quite large, about 1 hectare, and it should be in the use of the family and it’s heirs for as long as they want to use it. If it is unused for a period of say, 3 years, someone else can take it.

Of course, there are many different ways to arrange the living in these eco communities. Some might argue that it’s better to designate someone (or -thing, if it’s a machine) to take care of growing crops, and someone else to do other things. The point here, is that being close to nature and growing ones own food is extremely rewarding, both materially and spiritually. We can use high tech technology also, to help us with stuff, but we can’t let technology take away what gives us the most basic feelings of happiness, which closeness to nature does. For people to keep their sanity in this world and in a resource-based economy we have to interact with nature. Nature is there for us, and has always been. The notion that ‘we shall conquer nature’ is something born out of the minds of economists. Of course, if everyone know that nature can provide everything you’ll ever need, there wouldn’t be any monetary system at all. With what’s going on with the weather today, we should realize that we have to live in harmony with nature, or not live at all.

Ecological cities with gift economy is something we can start NOW, we don’t have to wait until the whole world collapses. This way the resource-based economy is just around the corner, not generations away.


New Technology from Volkswagen

Jacque Fresco with The Venus Project has a lot of visions about the future. Pollution free cars that run themselves, takes themselves to service and that can change color and interior design to your pleasing. Volkswagen has gotten quite far in their research. They have a video on the following link, suggesting all of this, in the year 2028. Of course, they are promoting themselves as a brand, but still, in the video the boy says “So what did you do with the car when you didn’t drive it?”, whereby the father answers “It was just parked”. Just before, their portable holographic interactive data terminal had just reminded them that they wanted to be picked up at 3pm, and says “please select the car you want to be picked up with”.

Does VW have a secret resource-based economy wish…? These lines imply that when they don’t use the car, someone else will use it. Since they can select between several cars, that also implies that the car is not theirs per se, but rather society’s. They do have total access to cars, though. I think RBE can have a breakthrough in the world eventually. This way we can all have fun developing cars and technology to the best for everyone. Unfortunately, VW has taken down the film now, but here’s the link it was on.

www.volkswagen2028.com