Saturday, January 21, 2012

Franz Hörmann on the Future of Money and Politics

It’s been a while since I translated any Hörmann output, so I thought I’d raise his profile a little once again, not because his profile or anyone else’s is important, but rather because the idea-domain he represents is gathering focus, generating momentum—at least, it strongly seems that way to me. It’s not that this or that person is totally correct, it’s that we all contribute, bring ourselves to the game, learn, teach, change, compromise. This takes time, discussion and effort. What Hörmann does particularly well is get across fresh perspectives quickly and incisively. He commands a broad landscape too, does not just speak from the position of an economist or sociologist, but rather as a human fascinated with all of reality, imparting what he has learned in as open, fresh and engaging a way as he is able.

There’s also though—in direct contradiction to my above assertion that the idea-domain Franz Hörmann, Charles Eisenstein, Peter Joseph, Jacque Fresco and others represent is coalescing, finding form—an apparent period of retrenchment, stability, business as normal, now taking place, which, somewhat eerily in my view, has been emanating from the mainstream these last few weeks. This is probably just me, but the world feels strangely fragile, on tenterhooks, as if it daren’t breathe too loudly for fear of waking the now slumbering monster under the bed. The markets are happy enough, with the Dow having achieved close to it’s highs of pre-August, prior to the 20% mini-crash that began in mid-summer. Europe limps on, bowed but not defeated, Japan floats above its floor somehow, UK markets vibrate robustly enough between US and European crises, while China continues to defy every doom-laden prediction hurled its way. Brazil, India, Russia and Argentina are also keeping up appearances pretty well. And Iran has not yet been attacked. At least not with bombs. Good stuff, I suppose. But it all feels very staged, troubled, fake, and hollow. The vital juice has run dry. Everything and everyone is a nervous paper tiger, wondering when the first rip will show.

Hörmann boldly predicted the end of the money system last year. It did not happen. At least, it did not happen in a way we can all agree on. My feeling is that the entire financial system is indeed broken beyond repair, that TPTB’s ability to lend it the mechanical appearance of life is itself evidence of this breakdown. Enormous amounts of money have been poured into the markets’ cup, given to the speculators to keep their game going, so the bewitching lights of the casino can twinkle on. Yet we know money is not air, not water, not food, that so-called ‘efficient markets’ do not deliver as advertised. We are in a twilight zone, an unreality, a post-dream fog we dare not disturb. Of those tasked with keeping this system ‘functional’ a while longer, then a bit longer than that, then just another minute or two, not one wants out of bed and into the work of building the new. In this lull, this eery hush before the storm, Hörmann is quietly putting together a political party, in Austria, with various scientists, to try and create a platform for introducing their ideas to a wider public. Part of that process is conducting interviews then posted on YouTube. What follows is excerpts from one of the most recent (recorded in Vienna on 19th December 2011).

Interviewer (I): You predicted a great crash which—and I don’t know whether to say ‘shame’ or ‘thank goodness’—has not happened yet. Your thoughts on this?

Franz Hörmann (FH): Well, that’s a good question. Did it really happen? It’s a question of how we define what we mean by ‘crash.’ The Euro, for example, still exists in its current form today only because the German Constitution and the Treaty of Lisbon and other agreements have been transgressed. The rules have simply been ignored. When we say ‘currency,’ we’re talking about a set of rules, with a particular priority which gets ranked one way or the other. Then there’s constitutional rules, and international rules, which have their own ranking. Then the question is, which is more important? Do we see the Treaty of Lisbon as more important than the Euro? Or, do we say the continuation of the illusion of the Euro, as a set of rules, is more important to us than some treaty that represents the people, then transgress there? Had we upheld the German Constitution and the Treaty of Lisbon there would be no more Euro in its current form, and we would have had a ‘crash.’ So it’s a question of how we define ‘crash.’ Politicians, and those who control—or think they control—the money system, take ever more ridiculous measures—for example falsifying national economic data and similar tricks—just to keep the illusion, the facade of a functioning money system going, for the people, or a tiny group of the people who benefit particularly well from it. But it’s as plain as day that this will lead to ever more absurd outcomes, and that this can’t be kept going much longer. The next question is how the broader public will take all this. The longer we draw this game out, the more absurd, the more grotesque the ‘crash’ will be.


I: Aren’t you worried that a [political] party of scientists will be inaccessible to the broader public, a public which has not studied to the same level?

FH: Not at all. We’re pulling representatives from all social classes on board with us. One fundamental aim we have is creating a new form of language whose ‘job’ it is to help bring together the now divided classes. [Earlier in the interview Hörmann singles out the different way in which the different classes communicate as a fundamental societal problem, citing ‘information asymmetry’ as an ‘economic good’ generating profit, a term other members of society think of negatively as ‘deception’ and ‘fraud.’] This is a key goal of our political movement. One part of that will be psychological rehabilitation, healing our wounds. Regardless of which social class we come from, we come with wounds and a fixed sense of who the Enemy Other is. This has to be healed, transformed, and this has to happen with the help of specialist psychologists, who can help us heal our sense of injury and forgive those we see as our enemies. Only thereafter will it be possible for society to work cooperatively. We already know a deep level of cooperation is possible, as Open Source is showing us the way here.


I: How can you prevent corruption and cynical manipulation of the new system, seeing as such an enormous network will have to be computer-controlled to a large degree?

FH: In the new system, money has a different function, and cannot be anonymously exchanged between people, or companies, or institutions, etc. Such will no longer be possible. All exchanges will consist of a plan, a contract and a process. And plan, contract and process are parts of the same data structure. Each person is connected to this data structure via a unique identifier, and a person can only complete a process if the corresponding contract authorizes them to do so, and contracts can only arise if they mirror the [mumbled]. The whole thing is self-organizing, tightly interconnected, so it’s simply impossible, on a whim, to exchange some enormous money amount, anonymously transfer money somewhere... That just doesn’t make sense any more. [This is a very quickly spoken section, and, as the interview was conducted in a bar, there is plenty of loudly recorded background noise interfering too.] And for the daily needs of the people, we’ll set up, as quickly as possible, a comprehensive guaranteed provision, not income, since an income means we’d be furnishing people with purchasing power. Guaranteed income would be injections of purchasing power into an economy which might not be able to back it [i.e. it would be inflationary]. Obviously we want to avoid a consequent raising of prices by companies. We must, therefore, ensure price stability with regulated prices, by democratically deciding, within this system, to increase the production of required goods and services, and not raise prices, where demand is higher than supply. And in this rather careful manner, we can protect the people, then, in the next step, we can attempt to allocate resources optimally. Today we don’t have this at all. We have sub-optimal resource allocation, because the finance sector—which, in truth, contributes the least to society—is able to assign to itself ownership of the majority of the resources, and not, for example, to workers.

I: Isn’t there a danger that we’ll just be creating some monstrous Big Brother state, monitoring our every transaction and economic move?

FH: If we monitor everything, we have to be careful about who is doing the monitoring. When ‘democracy’ monitors itself, in a social network, monitoring then makes sense, because it prevents abuse. That should be our goal. It prevents abuse and, by extension, exploitation. Just think about the children forced into slave labour in Asia. That sort of thing would be flat out impossible in such a social network. We can only produce on the basis of democratically reached decisions. [I just want to point out at this stage that Hörmann realizes there is a danger of the tyranny of the majority over the minority; a deep revolution in education is the most important aspect of his project. Without the correct educational soil, everything he proposes is impossible.] Democratic decisions aren’t set in stone, are not laws made permanent because they are written down in hundreds of pages, they exist electronically as a database, a ‘rulebase,’ from which the contracts are generated. Thus it is impossible for the contracts to transgress the principles giving rise to them. This security concept is absolutely vital to the project. That is, rules will be decided in electronic form, with everyone’s contribution involved, small groups (areas) at a time [very mumbled section, and a machine makes a loud noise at this point], [guessed: in pyramid-like form, decisions pulled upwards…], or you can cede your decision to an expert you trust, as in the ‘liquid democracy’ concept… There are so many possibilities in this area we must experiment with, develop, to find out what works best. But this is an exciting new area. For the first time in history, we have the opportunity to make all laws transparent and simple to understand, to ensure that contracts cannot be transgressed. We actually have the requisite technology for this today, so we must take this opportunity to bring it about. This kind of opportunity doesn’t come around very often!

To transcend the foreseeable need of the people, we propose founding a democratic national bank, which would create money out of thin air, against its capital; a legal tender money with purchasing power for particular purposes democratically decided. That is, only on a scale and for purposes which are democratically legitimated. Because the bank’s capital will be distributed to the people, the bank furnishes the people with their purchasing power. Then, of course, the amounts in circulation must accord with the amount of goods and services available, so as to prevent inflation and deflation. This implies the price mechanism must be included [in the design]. If we want to take care of everyone, we take care too of businesses and business owners, who are no longer to be driven by the profit motive of today’s paradigm. On top of this we have the guaranteed basic provision, and we’ll also be able to, if necessary, distribute luxury goods in other ways, albeit with cooperative principles, not competitive. With cooperative practices, we can more rapidly render disliked work superfluous. [I suspect he’s talking about automation here.] We'll have first to apply ourselves most to those jobs no one wants to do, make ourselves redundant, as it were, for which successes we can reward the ‘guilty’ parties, and free many more to pursue other, more enjoyable careers in which they want to work harder, contribute more, thus benefiting society more.

Long-term, we could build a system in which a backend manages the resources, and only at the front end, at the user interface, would money be used (though it wouldn’t look like today's money). One day, perhaps there’d be no more money at all. Even in today’s system, money is, seen in a certain light, a user interface between person and society. When I do something for society, I earn money. When I want something from society, I pay money. Money is thus a user interface, and a user interface can be personalized! In our proposed system, we will, with the help of trained psychological assistants, be able to create, for everyone, an individual money system which corresponds to that person’s psychological development and stage of life. Whether he or she wants to [mumbled] and doesn’t need to buy that much, or if he or she selects some super qualification to take, they’ll be protected and financed by society, since society knows it is benefited by those it usefully supports.

And that’s enough from me (Toby). The interview, as I said, was conducted in a bar. It’s been very arduous trying to make sense of the various mumbled parts. My brain hurts. Obviously these are fragments of a much larger and very comprehensive programme of ideas, but I think there’s a benefit from such a fragmented presentation to the non-German speaker, in that we are forced to do more of our own thinking when there are gaps to fill in. Asking questions, trying to answer them via discussion and argument, is far more educational and constructive than being asked to follow, with 100% loyalty, some pre-written formula handed down to us by some Great One. As I argued in my recent post, we get the system we deserve. To deserve a better system, we have to build it. Obviously. And want to. And know how to (at least, have a good idea of how to). Hence, Hörmann’s ideas, even in bits and pieces, should (hopefully) encourage thought and debate, not blind loyalty, and, for those interested, inspire further learning and research.


Игры рынка said...

I do not know whether you know about this blog but recently it hosted a very interesting discussion about some of the points raised in the interview. There is no particular post to go to and the whole discussed was scattered among a number post but this one might be a starting point

From my side I would add that direct democracy as well as subordination of economic activity and motivation is definitely possible with the current level of technology. The whole blogging environment and web2.0, if extrapolated, can give a slight feeling of what future might look like. I however have serious concerns that direct democracy is scalable enough for our current state structure. This means that we might have to seriously downsize our countries (say 1-2 mn population max) to achieve the most benefits. And this will be the major hurdle to implement any reform.

Toby said...

Hi Игры рынка, and thanks for commenting. I've no idea how to pronounce your name, nor am I sure which language it hails from. I'd be grateful if you'd educate me on that point!

I've visited heteconomist a couple of times, and respect the writing and commenting there, but have yet to find the time to participate. I'll have a look at that link. Thanks for it.

Scalability is key, and I agree that current state structures cannot live with direct democracy. But reform isn't enough; a deep change in consciousness is required. I genuinely don't know how such a thing can happen, but it has in the past (albeit over hundreds of years) (cf. "The Origins of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind" by Julian Jaynes). And yes, the Internet gives us a foretaste of how society might organise itself, but, as I say, for humanity to accomplish that kind of transformation—cultural, psychological, socioeconomic and sociopolitical—we're really going to have to pull our socks up, and soon.

As to downsizing, I believe a kind of relocalisation is necessary, not depopulation. How that works out, though, is hardly up to me, only, I'm sure that until we start to take care of ourselves, socially and politically, as grown ups, in our local communities, to quite some depth of 'independence,' we cannot begin to develop the social skills we will all need to make something like direct democracy work. We are at the earliest foothills of this process, with an enormous debt in ignorance, repression, suppression and narcissism to pay. It is NOT going to be easy.

Игры рынка said...

lol. In no way I meant to kill most of the world's population :)

I think we should be careful when lumping society and country together. While the latter has a clear meaning which avoids any confusion between individual assumptions the former is prone to all possible "miscommunication" issues.

However whatever the (spatial) definition of society is it in some way and in many people's mind overlaps with country. This overlap I can read in you comment as well and I think it is overassumed. This assumption pushes any reform, whatever it is, into a pretty much unobservable future because it implies, as some old politically biased song says, that we destroy the world to the ground and then build a new one. I am not even sure it is possible to achieve a harmony between the definitions society and country given that the first one is a dynamic, evolving and layered concept.

However, instead of trying to reconcile the complex definition of society with the simple definition of country, we might try to massage the definition of the country itself. It is this definition which seems to be outdated since it did not change for millenniums. And to make the story short I would give an example of country called Lazy-Facebookers. Or Gold-Bugs country. Or Vegetarians country. Or even Freaks-who-love-to-overcomplicate-the-world country.

But once you naturally align the definition of country with interest of its people then the problems of democracy, politics, education, corruption, self-organisation, efficiency and so on get to large extent solved automatically. It was the case how USA was established. Or pretty much the case of Australia. (though noone bothered asking local population).

Yes, it leaves the question of access to land and natural resources open. But this sounds to me like a very technocratic problem. Probably a difficult one but nevertheless solvable.

ps. It is not my name. It is the title of my blog (and means "market games") which I write in Russian. However, like you blog in English from Berlin it does not mean that I am Russian or live in Russia :)

Toby said...

I like to blur boundaries. Indeed, I go out of my way to do so. Society is a bitch to define. I'd say it is something vague like humanized-nature (to invent a word on the spot), but that includes nature, or rather, nature includes it. Countries are fictions; borders don't really 'exist.' Hence 'society' in all its vagueness interests me more. The subgroups or subsystems of it (i.e. Lazy-Facebookers) are endlessly complex, infinitely interconnected, embedded in nature, and way beyond my ability to relay. And that's cool. I do not hope or pretend to explain everything clearly, with neat distinctions all separated out and perfectly analyzed. No one will ever be able to do that. Universe is that, 'on-goingly,' ever-changingly. Universe is not something we 'control' of course, it's something we are part of, caught up in. Attempts to control stuff 'out there' are part of Universe, alter Universe, are thus always one move ahead of us, as it were.

So, I see my writings and musings here as soundings plumbing the dark, hoping for echoes such as yours. They are not, strictly speaking, my hopes for the future, or my prescription for a far off Utopia. They are my contribution to the discussion, the debate. That said, we are living through interesting times. What I do here is certainly not idle chat. There is a direction, shaped by what I read and what others say to me.

Thanks for the juice on your interesting looking moniker. Although your English is excellent, I suspect, from its construction here, that you are Russian. I'm English, by the way. Born in London. Reborn in Berlin. I suspect I shall be reborn in some other part of the planet some time soon.

Debra said...

Hi Toby,
Thanks for taking all the time to relay this interview.
Oddly enough... just this week, I picked up the newest book by my favorite anarchists, Pièces et Main d'Oeuvre, called... "The Green Hell", which offers a concise, thus simplified history of the Green Party(ies), in France, along with an excellent piece of investigative journalism (whatever happened to that, haven't you noticed that it is not easy to find THAT on the Internet these days, or maybe I'm not going to the right spots ??) on Lille's MASSIVE public transportation system.
"The Green Hell' has many points in common with Franz Hörmann's well intentioned project, it would seem.
One of the points that the journalist makes is how impossible the State ? the corporate State ? the DEMOCRATIC corporate State ? is making it to REMAIN ANONYMOUS. In the free, happy, paradise on earth that most utopists who retain their links with secularized Christianity promote (and Hörmann retains his links with secularized Christianity in the interview you just posted here), it is impossible to remain anonymous.
The idea being that we MUST stamp out fraud, and dishonesty. (in other words.. PUNISH SIN)
Many, many years ago, I fell in love with "Der Rosenkavalier", and Hoffmenstahl's libretto, where he has the Marschallin say to her earnest, young, (Protestant ??) lover, "leicht will ich's machen".
Keep it.. LIGHT.
I am still trying, by Jesus, to keep it light.
But... Hörmann will not help me...
Nor will most of the other economic bloggers.

Toby said...

Anonymity is a central issue. What does anonymity within society actually mean? In hunter-gatherer societies it was impossible. In medieval villages ditto. Families lived together in one-roomed houses with their livestock. Everything was done together. Hence the desire for 'anonymity' is a very modern phenomenon. Why did it emerge?

Of course I understand what you're saying, and Hörmann would agree with you, as I do. But there is a public sphere, and there where one interfaces with that public sphere, does things that draw on and affect the public sphere, why should there be anonymity? But, the only way we get to a situation where what Hörmann proposes is remotely possible, is via a change of consciousness, which is always happening anyway. The steps he suggests do not begin with the highly personalized money type of the last part of the quotes, it 'starts' with a tweak to the current money system. We're not ready for that. I put "starts" in single speech marks because education is more important still. And besides, there is no starting point. We are always in transition. Only the speed of change varies.

I don't think it's possible to atomize society. I don't think we're 'individuals.' I'm unconvinced what we think of as 'public' and 'private' make any sense (despite me using them above as if they represent a dichotomy). What is unfolding and being discussed is the 'beginning' of some emergent 'outcome' we can't really understand. We can't really understand the 'primitive' mind either, though I at times may unintentionally imply I do. As you know, I'm with Eisenstein. Separation is an illusion, albeit one with utility (I know you hate that word). That is, this 'individual' the anarchist protects, what is it? If there's no separation, what is an individual?

I don't seek Utopia, I seek to understand the implications of change that we bring about and are affected by. The momentum of history is, in my opinion, towards more 'unity' while generating more appreciation and love of diversity. They are not opposites, just as public and private are not opposites. This is very difficult to discuss because we are all enmeshed in a process which has 'nasty' historical precedent in the form of aggressive, paranoid state structures forcing their citizens into unthinking obedience to The Machine. My urging is away from unthinking obedience towards mature acceptance of obligations and mature acceptance of pleasure. We are so far from that. It's a difficult story to sell, because telling it affects everything seemingly adversely, or challenges everything. One always says too much, and always too little.

Some questions for you. Is it OK to engage in activities that harm others, such as robbery or physical assault? Can humans learn to not care about such things, like cats don't? Can we cease to generate society and morality? Should we try?

Debra said...

When I say that Hörmann is perpetuating secular humanism, I specifically identify his glorification of autonomy, responsibility, mature consciousness, the adult mentality.
Because to what extent can we "ascend" towards this adult, mature ideal ?
To what extent is it possible to achieve this transformation of consciousness, and to what extent should we attempt to do so ?
The IMMATURE nature of the human animal is what allows him to continuously learn and change. IF... he were "mature", etc, would he be able to change and learn so easily ? Not sure.
Hörmann leans toward the hive mentality, Toby, and I don't want that, even if we are not really individuals anyway.
January 20, a UMP deputy introduced a provision of law in Parliament to forbid the treatment of autism by psychoanalysis, on the grounds that the scientific community has determined that psychoanalysis is ineffective in treating autism. It is thus necessary to PROTECT THE CITIZENS against charlatanism.
When all is said and done, we come back to the FUNDAMENTALS.
I am not sure that our society values it very much these days, in the hurry to protect AND... PUNISH.
Funnily enough, that makes it all the more valuable TO ME.
Should we allow people to be able to cheat, lie and steal ?
How much SOCIAL CONTROL will we tolerate before... we suddenly understand how much personal ? private ? liberty we have sacrificed to the cause ? I am opposing, yes. Social and personal. Because these oppositions have value to me, and I see them at work in my life. I COULD say that there is no real need to OPPOSE social and individual. I COULD SAY... that a society that gives a voice to the individual, that enables individuals to feel as they THEY MATTER is a society that discourages opposition. But at this time, our society is into.. POLARIZATION in almost every sphere.
Suffering and evil are not neat.
But total social control to stamp them out ??
No comment...

Toby said...

I wrote a bunch of stuff but I'm just repeating myself, and I'm tired of it. It comes down to this: We are talking past each other and I can't understand why. I no longer have any idea how to respond to this sort of attack from you, because it's attacking something I am not for, I do not support, do not want, yet the attach is hurled directly at me. You've totally lost me.

Debra said...

Why do you feel that I am attacking YOU, Toby ??
I am not attacking YOU in my book.
You stuck down an article on Franz Hörmann ; I read it, and am commenting on it here.
If you don't want me to comment anymore, I won't.

Toby said...

I take it as an attack because of the many all caps (far more than usual), because you address me by name repeatedly, and because of the strident tone. The overall effect is as if you think you're talking to a child. I find it patronizing. Addressing me by name to form a criticism I agree with you on already (generally), and which is not true to the post's contents anyway, comes across as an (off target) attack. Not a personal attack, but an angry energy hurled my way. It stings. And we've been over this ground so often, going nowhere apparently. You've already sensitized me to the creeping dangers of totalitarianism, I've got that. Besides, there's not enough material here from Hörmann to give you the strong (it seems strong) conviction, that what he wants is to end all evil, all 'liberty.' I don't love the guy, but I do know enough of his thinking to know you are barking up the wrong tree on that point.

I see nothing in your comment that actually addresses Hörmann's very rich position. He is not a totalitarian. I wouldn't put up his ideas for discussion if he were. About three posts ago we had a similar exchange, where I could not connect your criticisms to what I had written. Same again here. It feels aggressive, as if you're spoiling for a fight. Not that fighting is evil, or to be avoided at all costs, but it's misplaced, r poorly aimed perhaps, here, as in that other post.

I don't want you not to comment. But I'm beginning to wonder as to the efficacy of blogging this kind of material. It's too complex and interconnected for short, disjointed blogs, and I don't have enough time to dedicate to the blog to do proper justice to the subtlety of my own position, let alone Hörmann's, or Eisenstein's, or anyone else's. I see this as a failure, on my part, but also that blogging isn't right for my ambitions.

We are failing to communicate with one another, Debbie, and it saddens me. It may be the format, it may be our online chemistry (to coin a phrase). That you feel it necessary to deliver that set of information in that style suggests to me that I am failing miserably to communicate with you. It follows that I am failing miserably to communicate with others.

Timbo614 said...

What does anonymity within society actually mean?
My answer to that would be "avoidance of responsibility". I could change my moniker here to "anon" just for this one post - and I would have to take no responsibility when I next posted as "Timbo" for what I said. None. That is what anonymity is about in society too.

How to get across what you are alluding to in the future or trying to imagine in the present?
You are trying to communicate a concept and a particularly complex concept too ( and I know you know that). It's hard for me, who gets the gist or the imaginings of what you are saying, (without any macro-economic or psychological training whatsoever) to understand but at least I read these type of blogs in my exploration (initiation) of/to the subject, but I do get your gist but sometimes only just :).

Trying to explain or discuss any of these concepts with my contemporaries (mostly aged 50+) is absolutely impossible and whenever I start on it as a subject, I doom myself to being called "(mad) professor Tim" for the remainder of an evening".

Trying to explain to them the feeling/direction behind your essays or asking them to read your essays or blog would probably be social suicide for at least a month. It took 2 weeks for them to believe that they can't divide anything by zero!

On your discussions with Debra I wouldn't worry to much, as she? has upset a few others (ask Attempter). I don't think its deliberately aggressive but it does come across that way some times (and I understand Debra's references/anchors less than I do yours).

Oh and don't you dare even contemplate giving this blog up! You are definitely communicating with me. I can't get this depth of musing, for I know that's what it is, anywhere else I read.

Toby said...

Thank you, Mad Prof Tim.

Anonymity is a weird one. Humans seem to have begun desiring it only recently. The idea of being able to slip away from the too invasive eye of Big Brother appeals to me, so concerns with an all controlling state are justified and healthy. And I think one of the needs a very large and complex, rat-race society gives rise to, is to 'get away from it all,' enjoy some quiet time, that sort of thing. We've created a monster, an enormous, meat-grinding system we owe weird and seemingly total allegiance too, even though it seems to owe us very little. In short, I know very well where Debbie is coming from.

But, I myself, for whatever reasons, cannot not want to fight and work towards something better than The Machine, and part of that, at least looking at the longterm, will be far more transparency at the group level. However, the machine itself needs to be far smaller, nimbler, more humane, and 'fairer'— as hard a word to really define as 'fair' is—before such transparency can work for us, not against us.

And I think it is precisely your experiences with your friends and associates, or whomever, that underscores this. All that complexity, that rich variety of opinion, interest and motivation, means a uniform way of building a Good Society is impossible. And yet, we have to come together somehow, if we don't want to go the way of the Dodo.

I'm kind of addicted to blogging, partly because it does win me some interaction, but also because there isn't really another format. I'd have to put in enormous amounts of time creating another website which somehow did this differently, or stop my interaction with the broader world entirely. I don't want the latter, so blogging makes most sense right now, warts and all.

Игры рынка said...

If I may chime in...

I find it next to impossible to argue with hard-core libertarians. And anarchists are even worse. They simply refuse to listen to any logic and are not interested in a conceptual or constructive discussion. Whatever the argument is they simply jump up and scream that they baby is being killed. I do not even try to argue with them. But since it started to look here like a resemblance of a discussion I feel like saying something. If I may …

I believe that whole argument about anonymity is seriously overblown. If I can judge from uber-popularity of facebook and other social networks, then lots of people demand less anonymity, not more. Also looking at history when society was much smaller than today, there hardly was any anonymity at all. Any personal action or event was immediately known to the whole “village”. And people behaved accordingly.

I also believe that what people assume under “anonymity” is not actually what they mean. This is a classical mis-communication/mis-definition/anchoring issue that plagues 90%+ of all human interactions.

Or rather people mix up two independent concepts into the layman notion of anonymity. These concepts are: i) the fear of abuse of private information for third party gains; ii) need for privacy.

Problem 1 has a clear legal definition in finance. It is called insider trading. If we redefine the problem of “anonymity” in such way we can try to rely on existing legal, practical and theoretical framework and look for solutions. However difficult it is to charge an individual or group with insider trading, it is nevertheless possible to at least limit it.

Problem 2 has biological roots and is therefore inherently unsolvable. Or hardly solvable at our current knowledge of biology. It is not just a problem of humans. It is a problem of any biological organism with a nervous system the way we know it.

The functioning of nervous system relies on things called mediators which transmit signals from brain to muscles and back and make our body work. These mediators “get tired”, i.e. if they are overused then the person “suffers” from emotional and/or physical exhaustion which forces the activity down. This is a built it stabilizer which we are all familiar with. The exhaustion can also get onto an unstable level when body starts “eating” itself and small kids are quite exposed to it.

With regards to physical activity noone has any questions. We need to sleep x hours per day and that is it. Our “understanding” of the problem is very natural.

However forcing the *emotional* activity down does not mean sleep. It means rest away from other humans. For instance, if you take a family of a plus and a minus, i.e. one emotionally hyper-active and another emotionally slow person (a much more common combination than not), then a lot of conflicts could be literally avoided if a slow person said something like this: “my dear wife/husband, look, it am tired from your level of emotions and need a half an hour break from all people to recover my mediators”.

It is important recognize that our emotional activity goes on all the time, i.e. 24/7 and also during sleep. But our capacity to sustain the flow of emotional shocks is limited. And this capacity is very individual.

Once we recognize the problem and we recognize that different people have different emotional needs/capacity, then with this understanding and desire for individual liberty we can try to get to a collective solution of “anonymity” problem. Like x hours of sleep time per day is considered as an indisputable individual right and an abuse of this right has a definition of torture, the problem of “anonymity” shall be treated on the same grounds. It is like a super-oversized family in the story above.

We, human beings, will never be able to solve problems of society with guns. This is a pipe-dream.

Timbo614 said...

@ Our Russian language Friend:)

Biological/Emotional has a good feel to it. :) My considering that side has brought me to:

Maybe it's fundamental (as you say) and wrapped up with "fight or flight"? In the new, shiny connected western "civilisation" neither of these options really exist unless you take extreme actions (pretending you are dead for instance or moving 1000s of miles to a less advanced country. Take Toby as an example he wants to "drop out" to the largest degree possible, but he is not permitted to, he MUST pay his Health insurance, or face possible imprisonment.

We can't physically fight "The Vast Machine", the petty officials, the "jobsworths" or the the system. If people do, this leads to a worse situation & possibly imprisonment. Neither can we run away from them, because this also leads to a worse situation and again possible imprisonment. Is this "civilisation"? I'm not sure it is.

It's certainly does not give most people options on the way they they live. It's control. There are no options. My associates/drinking buddies just can't imagine that there could be a different way - when I make heated points (possibly in a confused manner, because like Toby, I can't explain it all in three sentences), they think they "win" the discussion because I can't lay it out as 1,2 therefore 3.

To return to the subject, they do not need anonymity, they are cosy where they are, (in my view) haplessly meandering along not considering that at any moment their cosy bubble could pop. They don't see that its currently closer to popping that at any time in their lives (we were all born after WW2).

Another example from my buddies (sort of related if I may) one of them had the money and the opportunity to have his roof covered in solar panels and to claim the FIT(feed in tariff). But in the end did not go ahead. His final reasoning?: "How stupid are they going to look on my roof in 10-20 years time when everyone else's roof has a new shinier (possibly much smaller) installation and I have the "old originals"! I fruitlessly pointed out that they would still be producing power, that in times of possible trouble(maybe not too far in the future) he could buy batteries and hook them up to those, making him partially independent of whatever trouble has caused power losses or interruptions... Which of course led to "and what troubles are going to cause that to happen then Professor Tim" and so on - complacency rules here.

They don't think much of my "victory garden" either - even though I point out that the £1,000+ a year of veg would currently need to be replaced by £60,000-100,000 of pension pot AND the government/financiers can't steal it! They almost see now what inflation does to your savings after last year I very carefully explained that 1% - 5% was -4% :(

Bugger, I'm wibbling! But these are the practicalities of trying to get people to see things a "different way". They can't, don't want to, or deliberately choose not to, I'm not sure which one it is. This is the level I am at with the "revolution" I just want one person to consider joining up, to partially understand what I am trying to say, so far I have failed miserably!

I'll try them on anonymity / localism / responsibly, If I can get the courage together :)


Toby said...

Well said my only Russian commentator (give us some name we can use, calling you market games feels weird). You've laid out clearly what I was getting at. Privacy in the sense of quiet time is one thing, honest transparency in dealings with the broader public another, though they do bleed into each other. Transparency does not demand we are perpetually open in everything we do, only there where what we do draws goods and services from society's efforts.

Tim, might I suggest Perpetual Growth as the in point? When the media hails more growth, or bemoans the lack of it, what is it they are talking about? Growth of the economic sphere, or GDP, which means ever growing numbers of money transactions. For money transactions to grow forever, more and more of what we now do without money has to be sucked into the economic domain. This story I wrote is about that mad slide:

For example, when you discuss ideas with your mates, no money changes hands. No one keeps count of number of words used, how good each argument was, presenting a bill at the end of proceedings. But if the economy must grow forever, this absurd idea is one logical end point. Anyway, read the story, it's better explained there.

And thank you for fighting the good fight. We get bruised when we fight, but if we feel the call, we have to act to stay honourable (that's how I feel about it anyway). That said, I choose my fights (potential confrontations really) very carefully, because energy can be wasted. Some people just aren't ready. In the end, humanity has no special claim on surviving forever. We are allowed to go extinct, and are no more important to Universe than the dodo or the dinosaur.

Frank Powers said...

Some new developments in regard to Franz Hörmann, found in the Austrian newspaper "Der Standard" (link to article): Hörmann seems to hold some rather peculiar opinions in regard to Nazism and the Holocaust.
This doesn't mean his money-related work and ideas are wrong or fruitless, but it makes him a lot more... well, less likable, or dubious even.
Related question: Why have most of those people who question everyday wisdom always have to go to the extreme and question everything, things like the established knowledge about the Holocaust etc. included? :-/

Anyway, I'd be interested to see the interview transcription mentioned in the article with my own eyes, because, on the other hand, allegations like these (being sympathetic to Nazism, denying the Holocaust) are also those standard clubs brought forward to deal with those who reject the existing order...

Well, whatever. Strange, all of it.

Toby said...

Hi Frank,

I call bullshit. Even Bernd Senf was accused of antisemitism. And there's a recent interview with Hörmann (actually answering direct questions on the matter) which explains his position far better than a hatchet job in some mainstream rag:

I detect nothing in Hörmann's position even remotely related to Nazsim. As you say, it's the easiest trick in the book to accuse someone who seems 'anti bank' of antisemitism. Sadly, it's an accusation which sticks, like pedophilia, even after it has been disproved. And this is why a leaderless change is no important. We all have to become well versed in the material, the for- and against arguments, to have any hope of changing course, away from Perpetual Growth and towards steady state.

Next up Andreas Popp and Rico Albrecht will be similarly accused (if it hasn't happened already.

Thanks for bringing this to my attention though. Important stuff, as obvious and expected as it is.

Игры рынка said...

I am not a radio listener or TV watcher but today while driving I was listening to the state radio and heard "the Voice of the Austrian economy" (no kidding; it was real) which told me that Austria is sitting on the mountain of debt, etc. I immediately switched to some Radio Energy which has a kind of hip-hop music leaning or whatever.

Given all this brain-washing and given the fact that the state owns a legitimized monopoly on violence, it is clear that noone is allowed to challenge the status-quo of money. And it is also clear that there is a strong force in the background which defends this status quo.

ps. Sorry if I abuse the space of this blog with my spamming comments :)


Toby said...

Thanks for that, Sergei. Not in any way a spam.

You're right, or, put in a more modest way, I agree with you. It is very easy to forget that the MSM is the propaganda arm of the state. The state uses the money system as it's—I'd say primary—means of control (though money is a messages, is a medium, too). If someone eloquent and believable effectively questions that system, he or she will be accused of anything and everything needed to make him or her look ridiculous, or suspect. Again, this is why we need a leaderless revolution. That, or we slide into fascism/feudalism. The latter, sadly, is the far more likely outcome.

Debra said...

Toby, we have been living in fascist societies for a long time now.
That should have been evident in the fact that Adolf Hitler was a great admirer of Henry Ford...
I like to say that fascism is not really a political system, it is primarily a SOCIAL system, a way of looking at the world.
Maybe we could say that fascism is what happens when people become essentially things for other people ?
Or invisible ?
Or numbers ?
When people become something other than people.
Under that definition, fascism is really latent in all societies, because of the nature of language, and its capacity to objectify us through substantivation.

Toby said...

Good thoughts, Debbie, I've been wrestling with ideas like that for a while now. Freedom is an illusion, a kind of teenage addiction. Society demands our obedience, or it would not longer be society. Fascism is a constant element of what society must be, by definition. But then so is reality, since were we solitary creatures, we would have to 'obey' other constraints. 'Freedom' is our ongoing 'escape' from the limitations or restrictions or laws of nature, civilisation is our 'escape's' trajectory. Illusions everywhere you look. And hence the Venus Project makes most sense at the theoretical or analytical level, because it accepts these limitations, one of which, as I say, is that we are social animals.

And because of all that, we should reserve the word fascism for brutal oppression of diversity, which is indeed now happening, but perhaps not to the extent of the 1930s, though I could be wrong on that. The areas of oppression have been moved to other lands, where corporations oppress with slave labour so that the 'free' west can carry on consuming...

Debra said...

You know, Toby, it has become very difficult for us to perceive just how ORGANIC our societies are, even if we do not perceive this natural organicity.
As I like to say.... what we do unto others, we also do unto ourselves..
There is no way of escaping the alienation that our brutality produces, even if we delocalize the factories, and make other people slave for us, IN PLACES THAT WE CAN'T SEE.
An old saying that testifies to this... "what goes around comes around".
That is our most ancient wisdom. The chickens come home to roost.
I was reading the other day that the Greek philosophers (Heraclitus ?) considered the straight line to be an IMPERFECT aspect of infinity, while.. THE SPHERE, Toby... that was more in line with perfection.
The chickens always come.. HOME to roost. ;-)