Alternatives to Political Systems, Bio-regional Organisations, Consumerism, Eco-Villages, Economics, Ethical Investment, Financial Management, People Systems, Society, Village Development — by Thomas Fischbacher January 21, 2010
"Money" is nothing but a social construct that comes with a number of "rules of the game". In one way, "money" has much in common with computer operating systems: most users are completely unaware of the degree to which these rules are flexible, malleable, and allow very different designs. So, before we ask ourselves: in what way could a different design of rules lead to a different role of money, it is worthwhile taking a look at what sort of phenomena the present arrangement gives rise to. A telling passage can be found in Bill Mollison’s autobiography:Comments (9)
Eco-Villages, Economics, Financial Management, Village Development — by Craig Mackintosh PRI Editor January 17, 2010Comments (0)
Alternatives to Political Systems, Economics, Financial Management, People Systems — by Thomas Fischbacher January 15, 2010
Patterns are amazing things. Maybe, their fascination comes from the human mind being very good at spotting them, while at the same time also being very bad at spotting them. It is sometimes claimed that "a genius is someone who sees something that is patently obvious for the first time" and, very often, patterns are fascinatingly obvious – in hindsight.
By what process precisely does a culture lose its indigenous money as it gets connected to a more powerful economy? One might of course guess that "bait" is an important factor: Look at all these shiny new gadgets that the new money can buy. There’s even television screens! Still, some may not be that easily seduced, and as, unfortunately, we all feel better about major life decisions if we can avoid permanent confrontation with observations that force us to re-evaluate whether they might have been a major mistake, the question arises how to "connect" those to the new money economy who value their independence of it very highly.Comments (1)
Alternatives to Political Systems, Economics, Financial Management, People Systems, Village Development — by Thomas Fischbacher January 13, 2010
A small economy joins the big economy
In the last part of this series, we saw that linking a big economy to a small economy is by no means an innocent act: naively, this might be regarded as just ‘giving everybody more choice’, i.e. more options for trade, hence more ‘freedom’. But everything works in two ways: one cannot link a big economy to a small economy without linking the small economy to the big economy. So, this will simultaneously give the big economy a strong handle on the small economy. What would in principle prevent a small population of economically powerful participants in the big economy from using their sheer weight to e.g. buy up key resources such as land in the small economy? This is not a purely theoretical issue – we see such processes all around us. Note that this is practically bound to happen if the big economy keeps on generating major internal pressure to "grow". And, as one cannot separate a culture from its economy, this effectively means that the largest aggressive-expansive economy, that of the culture called "western civilization", keeps on re-programming other cultures’ economies, and eventually these cultures themselves. Might that even be called ethnocide?Comments (4)
Alternatives to Political Systems, Economics, Financial Management, People Systems — by Thomas Fischbacher January 10, 2010
Editor’s Note: This Part II of a series. Before continuing, please read Part I, if you haven’t already.
Any society practices division of labour to some extent, and hence, needs some way to keep track of who is pulling their weight, and who is not. The fundamental idea is, of course, that someone who contributes to society’s well-being acquires some form of credit that gives him permission to ask society to do him some favour in turn. It is entirely conceivable that in some small societies – such as some close-knit families, or maybe some abbeys, all this bookkeeping on who owes whom how big a favour is done only mentally, without any form of written record or specific token. Usually, however, this keeping track of favours easily gets out of hand and becomes so confusing that societies soon start to rely on some sort of additional device – not for all processes, but at least for a considerable share of them. Let us for now call any such socially agreed upon way of keeping track "a currency". It is perfectly normal in any society to see multiple quite different currencies being in circulation simultaneously, from bank notes to invitations to a barbeque. This is important to note, for we normally associate only one concept with the term "currency": some sort of "formal money" (where we usually think of coins, or bank notes, etc.). Hence, it is sometimes necessary to remind ourselves that this might be overly narrow-minded.Comments (5)
Alternatives to Political Systems, Financial Management, People Systems — by Thomas Fischbacher January 8, 2010
The 20th century was strongly dominated by two schools of thought on how to design a system that guides human effort towards the improvement of living conditions and the advancement of human society: On the one hand, we have "capitalism", on the other hand "communism". While both are often regarded as irreconcilably opposing philosophies, the one proposing a de-centralized market mechanism, the other one a centralized planned economy to allocate "scarce resources", it is important to notice that, in the past century, both gave disturbingly similar results in one important respect: Back then, they both amounted to increasingly damaging vital life support system resources in order to meddle through the problems of the day. One might try to capture this thought in a succinct provocative phrase: The one thing communism and capitalism could not agree on is whether the process of destroying the current best available remaining resources should proceed in a centralized or de-centralized way. Mindless bickering over this – essentially minor – detail brought the world insanely close to the brink of instant nuclear annihilation at least thrice in the 20th century, in October 1962 , in October 1969 , and in September 1983 : we should perhaps count ourselves lucky we even made it so far.Comments (23)
Alternatives to Political Systems, Bio-regional Organisations, Consumerism, Eco-Villages, Economics, Ethical Investment, Financial Management, People Systems, Society, Village Development — by Craig Mackintosh PRI Editor January 2, 2010
I want to wish all our readers a very happy new year. May the next year, the next decade, become a major step forward for all of us in finding ways to build a better future. I personally see the next decade as being rife with problems that need addressing at their most root levels. Challenges are afoot, but we live in exciting times, to be sure.
The last decade was quite an eye opener to the world. Multiple converging events collided to shake many awake out of their apathy, and the proliferation of the internet helped spread the word like never before. Environmentalism went from a concept that was scoffed at to being the overriding concern of the majority. Today you’ll find sandal wearing tree huggers side by side with briefcase wielding wannabes. The tanked economy woke people up, worldwide, with the startling realisation that free market capitalism has completely failed them. Celebrations for the fall of the Berlin Wall and communism were half-hearted and filled with cynicism, with the realisation that the greed that forms the basis of capitalism brings very real consequences. We watched in horror, while the ‘invisible hand‘ (see also) went AWOL when we needed it most and governments worldwide took trillions of taxpayer dollars and spent us all into the next century to salvage the largest industries from their own stupidity and lack of foresight. By now we were so punch drunk we could only stare as the Wall Street bankers who orchestrated the collapse made off with golden parachutes and bonuses that defied belief. And, although the economic slowback reduced oil prices from the through-the-roof highs of 2008, thus muting alarm over this for too many with short attention spans, we now have millions more people the world over conscious of the outright vulnerability of our present situation as we ride the crest of peak oil. The unjust wars fought with a veiled but obvious motive disgusted and infuriated all but the most callous or ignorant, and the decade was peppered with annual, high level international talks about climate change that were doomed to fail from the outset.
With these thoughts in mind, I share the video clip below. Despite only being uploaded onto YouTube three days ago (Dec 29), it’s already been watched 173,000 times.Comments (15)
Alternatives to Political Systems, Bio-regional Organisations, Consumerism, Eco-Villages, Economics, Ethical Investment, Financial Management, People Systems, Society, Village Development — by Craig Mackintosh PRI Editor December 6, 2009
Fishing boats rest on the shores of a lake in Sri Lanka
Photos © Craig Mackintosh
Anniversary celebrations for the fall of the Berlin Wall have just recently ended. It was twenty years ago that the most symbolic, and literal, barrier between two economic ideologies was pulled down by restive, festive spirits. But, the celebrations of November 2009 were tempered with a heightened sense of objectivity – in a way perhaps never seen before in modern history, and certainly not seen in 1989.
A recent BBC poll indicates widespread discontent with the now all-pervasive capitalist system. Global economic meltdown tends to dampen party spirits, and this is especially true when what you’re celebrating is a major milestone for the very system responsible for the collapse.Comments (4)
Alternatives to Political Systems, Consumerism, Economics, Ethical Investment, Financial Management, Society — by Craig Mackintosh PRI Editor July 13, 2009
“The American Frankenstein”
I could very much relate to an article I read today, albeit with some reservations:
WOULD ANY SANE PERSON think dumpster diving would have stopped Hitler, or that composting would have ended slavery or brought about the eight-hour workday, or that chopping wood and carrying water would have gotten people out of Tsarist prisons, or that dancing naked around a fire would have helped put in place the Voting Rights Act of 1957 or the Civil Rights Act of 1964? Then why now, with all the world at stake, do so many people retreat into these entirely personal “solutions”?
Part of the problem is that we’ve been victims of a campaign of systematic misdirection. Consumer culture and the capitalist mindset have taught us to substitute acts of personal consumption (or enlightenment) for organized political resistance. An Inconvenient Truth helped raise consciousness about global warming. But did you notice that all of the solutions presented had to do with personal consumption—changing light bulbs, inflating tires, driving half as much—and had nothing to do with shifting power away from corporations, or stopping the growth economy that is destroying the planet? Even if every person in the United States did everything the movie suggested, U.S. carbon emissions would fall by only 22 percent. Scientific consensus is that emissions must be reduced by at least 75 percent worldwide. – Orion Magazine
I have heard so many people tell me that the way to change the world is for us each to change our own lifestyles. It’s all "in the simple things we do every day" they say. Take shorter showers, change your lightbulbs, keep a garden. While many pass responsibility for our present condition on politicians and faceless corporations, these lay the blame squarely at our own feet as individuals.
What is the average concerned consumer meant to do (after determining, once and for all, to stop calling himself a consumer!) – should he concentrate on only his own actions, or should he concentrate on changing the system, or both?Comments (14)
Consumerism, Economics, Financial Management — by George Monbiot March 11, 2009
by George Monbiot – journalist, author, academic and environmental and political activist
Pay drivers to scrap their cars? We might as well burn ten-pound notes in power stations.
The magic numbers spin before our eyes. No one can grasp the scale of the hand-outs, or understand how public money which didn’t exist – could never exist – for hospitals or schools or public toilets begins to flow as soon as the bankers fall to their knees. We are punch drunk, reeling, uniquely vulnerable – because none of it makes sense any more – to new demands from every species of scrounger.
So prepare yourselves, ladies and gentlemen, for the worst scam of all. It’s another reward for failure, but this one offers no prospect of rescuing the economy. Thanks to its cunning disguise as an environmental measure, we seem willing to be conned. I want to show you why we should resist it.Comments (2)
Alternatives to Political Systems, Bio-regional Organisations, Economics, Financial Management, People Systems, Society, Village Development — by Marcin Gerwin February 6, 2009
Editor’s note: Marcin’s post is very relevant as the world seeks an alternative to the current disaster of globalisation.
Tiger’s nest in Bhutan
Photo: Thomas Wanhoff
In 1994 the government of Haiti lifted tariffs and allowed imports of cheap, subsidized rice and other crops from abroad. This policy was recommended by the International Monetary Fund and urged by the U.S. government (1). Over the years this tiny change in policy led to an estimated 830,000 job losses, it damaged food security and rural livelihoods, and eventually led to food riots and hunger in 2008 (2). If people in Haiti were to decide by themselves on their country policy, would they choose the recommendations of the IMF that brought them into starvation? Would people of Ecuador allow toxic pollution in the Amazon for the sake of Chevron Texaco profits? Would people in India accept genetically modified seeds of cotton that caused crop failures, spiral of debt and hundreds of farmer suicides? And would people in the USA support bailing out banks with their own money in a way that is not transparent and does not lead to the recovery of the financial system? They wouldn’t. These things happen around the world because we still don’t have true democracy, where people set the rules for themselves.Comments (5)
Alternatives to Political Systems, Economics, Financial Management, People Systems, Society — by George Monbiot February 3, 2009
A new mobilisation could revitalise politics in the UK – but only if you get involved.
by George Monbiot – journalist, author, academic and environmental and political activist
For the first time in my life I resent paying my taxes. Until now I have seen this annual amputation as a civic duty – like giving blood – necessary to sustain the life of a fair society. Suddenly I see it as an imposition. Its purpose has reverted to that of the middle ages: subsidising the excesses of a parasitic class. A high proportion of the taxes I pay will be used to bail out companies which, as the Guardian’s current investigation shows, have used every imaginable ruse to avoid paying any themselves.
I think that for many people this is the final blow: the insult which seals their alienation from the political process. The small Welsh town where I live, many of whose inhabitants are among the very poor, was once a haven of progressive politics, built from nonconformist religious sects and a long tradition of social solidarity. People from these valleys were transported to Van Diemen’s Land for demanding the vote.Comments (1)
Alternatives to Political Systems, Economics, Financial Management — by George Monbiot January 23, 2009
Here’s how we could solve the credit crunch without giving anything to the banks.
by George Monbiot – journalist, author, academic and environmental and political activist
In Russell Hoban’s novel Riddley Walker, the descendents of nuclear holocaust survivors seek amid the rubble the key to recovering their lost civilisation. They end up believing that the answer is to re-invent the atom bomb. I was reminded of this when I read the government’s new plans to save us from the credit crunch. It intends – at gob-smacking public expense – to persuade the banks to start lending again, at levels similar to those of 2007. Isn’t this what caused the problem in the first place? Is insane levels of lending really the solution to a crisis caused by insane levels of lending?
Yes, I know that without money there’s no business, and without business there are no jobs. I also know that most of the money in circulation is issued, through fractional reserve banking, in the form of debt. This means that you can’t solve one problem (a lack of money) without causing another (a mountain of debt). There must be a better way than this.Comments (5)
Alternatives to Political Systems, Consumerism, Economics, Financial Management, Nuclear, Population, Society, peak oil — by Craig Mackintosh PRI Editor January 14, 2009
I’ve referenced Chris Martenson’s excellent ‘Crash Course’ a couple of times, but now I’ve discovered Chris has also uploaded it to YouTube, so can embed here for your convenience and viewing pleasure.
For those not familiar, this twenty chapter presentation is arguably the best effort I’ve seen to help people understand our current world predicament, with an emphasis on economics. It’s a must watch (in addition to ‘Money as Debt‘). Do share the link with your contacts.
Chapter 1 – Three Beliefs & Chapter 2 – The Three E’sComments (5)
Alternatives to Political Systems, Consumerism, Economics, Financial Management, People Systems, Society — by Craig Mackintosh PRI Editor January 11, 2009
Many of us are watching the current economic crisis with great interest (albeit with a lot of concern). A lot of us could also see it coming. Our modern economic systems are ultimately inviable, based on ever increasing debt and ever enlarging boom and bust cycles. Systemic economic collapse is inevitable, and painful (indeed, disastrous) though it may be, in many ways the sooner it happens the better it will be for the world. Our ecologies are running out of time, the rate of species loss is becoming exponential, the depletion of critical resources is moving ahead apace, and our human population continues to balloon year by year. We have formerly democratic nations heading towards fascism, and a massive consolidation of power giving money-motivated corporations the controlling influence over governments and media. Creating a whole new society will be excruciatingly difficult – but it will be impossible if we’re trying to do so without decent resources left to work with.
Watching the mortgage crisis in the U.S. is frustrating to say the least. We have thousands of defaulters becoming homeless, and yet, as you shall see in the clips below, the money they’ve borrowed to purchase their house was not even the banks – indeed, it didn’t even exist, but is essentially created out of thin air. The bank ‘loans’ money it doesn’t have, then when the borrower defaults, his home becomes the property of the bank – and yet the banks subsequently manage to secure massive bailouts from this same taxpayer.Comments (7)