Wednesday, May 16, 2012

'Financing' Guaranteed Income


Fixed-field grain agriculture has been promoted by the state and has been, historically, the foundation of its power. In turn, sedentary agriculture leads to property rights in land, the patriarchal family enterprise, and an emphasis, also encouraged by the state, on large families. Grain farming is, in this respect, inherently expansionary, generating, when not checked by disease or famine, a surplus population, which is obliged to move and colonize new lands. By any long-run perspective, then, it is grain agriculture that is “nomadic” and aggressive, constantly reproducing copies of itself, while, as Hugh Brody notes, foragers and hunters, relying on a single area and demographically far more stable, seem by comparison “profoundly settled."
James C Scott
My last three (full) posts looked closely at Ralph Boes’ efforts in the twinned battlefields of Hartz IV (unemployment benefit in Germany) and guaranteed income. The third tackled the surprisingly subtle question of what it is to work, concluding there is nothing which is not work. This is a controversial position, since it implies ‘Money For Nothing’ would be a social good, if set up wisely. However, despite my best efforts, mainstream culture appears still to be many leagues from wanting to implement such a system. Resolutely ignoring the mainstream’s resolute refusal to be imaginative, this post looks briefly at how guaranteed income (GI) might be ‘financed’.

As our cultural, ‘spiritual’ and scientific relationships with and understandings of the nature of Universe change at the fringes and begin to penetrate the core, we are simultaneously presented with systemic and resource-related challenges we seem doomed to respond to inappropriately. Our great machinery cannot respond flexibly enough. We necessarily lack the institutional wisdom required to produce ‘solutions’ to these challenges. The wisdom contained in existing institutions and habits of thought is itself generating the breakdown. As R. H. Tawney put it, “Systems prepare their own overthrow by a preliminary period of petrification.” We are stiffening towards collapse.

We face profound and widespread difficulties today because of the seemingly unstoppable, machine-like momentum of our broader system, a system which evolved, as naturally as any other, in response to a set of circumstances which no longer applies. Because of their make-up, our governing institutions, as well as our almost worldwide cultural attitudes to value, dessert, earning and money, are now in open breakdown. They can never again be as helpful or pragmatically constructive as they once were, unless they are revolutionised. Scarcity is a foundational cornerstone of our system, but it is crumbling (not only because of digital technologies); as are our notions of “red in tooth and claw” or “selfish gene” competition; as is dualism in its now creaking manifestations as nature-nurture, mind-body, heaven-earth, good-evil, and so on. Multiple core beliefs are breaking down simultaneously, can no longer provide the solid ground on which a culture can thrive, but are the foundational beliefs of the institutions tasked with guiding civilisation through these stormy seas. And while the mainstream surely accepts Eisntein’s maxim, that a problem cannot be solved with the thinking which created it, it is ‘congenitally’ and constitutionally incapable of radical thinking. Yet it is exactly radical thinking we need to be able to see that GI income is financeable, indeed, that “financeable” isn’t really the right word.

Happily, we also seem compelled to transcend the old wisdom (not completely, but significantly) and fumble forwards towards the slow creation of new systems. But new ideas will of course produce errors and tragedies, new visions will be greeted with suspicion and fear. It must be so, since we will remain profoundly invested on multiple levels in the old for any number of reasons. ‘Twas ever thus. There can be no clean cut either, no Day 1 of the New, no Final Sunset for the old. Life is seamless; the ‘new’ emerges from and is sustained by the soil of the ‘old’. And two opposites are true, depending on your perspective; nothing new under the sun, and, change is the only constant.

A long aside on scarcity before we begin in earnest: Scarcity is not a Bad Thing, just as abundance is not a Good Thing. Different circumstances and attitudes can turn either state of affairs into a disaster or a blessing. What I see happening now is a quickening (and very challenging) switch from supply-side to demand-side scarcity. More exactly, there is a scarcity of attention emerging (which happens to be exposing our immaturity and narcissism, but that’s another topic) in the face of an oceanic over-abundance of digital produce to be consumed (as well as an overabundance of material goods such as houses and cars). Practically speaking, we need each other economically ever less, humanly ever more. We’re very out of practice with the latter, far too reliant on the former.

Money – a technology evolved (in part and in its later history) for dealing with the challenges of supply-side scarcity – has been our master and guide for too long. I assert it is out of date in its current form, and that we don’t yet know how to move on. The problem is that we have been using economic activity to grease society’s wheels for millennia, and it’s a hard habit to break. Economic exchange (market activity) apportions societal value, distributes the scarce fruits of society’s economic efforts. So for a very long time, possessing and earning money (we can think of money as value commoditised) has been our most visible and readily understandable proof of positive economic contribution (value) to society, while money has also been almost the sole embodiment of purchasing power. Money is thus a very powerful and deeply embedded cultural technology, and GI flies in its face.

Nevertheless, two things must hold for money in its current form (commoditized and quantified value possessing purchasing power) to be an on-going social good:

  1. The economy must require a sufficient proportion of human labour relative to population for the production of goods and services, such that labour can be the primary mechanism for distributing purchasing power and a sense of self-worth (value); and
  2.  Supply-side scarcity, which means demand must predominantly exceed supply over time.

When there’s more than enough stuff to go around, as Consumerism’s grip on cultural imagination fades, when automation becomes so sophisticated there are “lights-out” factories which need no humans at all on the factory floor, as population growth slows and the earth’s carrying capacity is stressed to breaking point by human greed and productive might, and when people look to become writers or painters or photographers or editors or film makers or musicians (what’s left for humans economically are creative pursuits) at a time when the product of these efforts is increasingly digitisable and thus endlessly reproducible at almost no cost, money loses its utility. Not completely – this is a transition period – but sufficiently to produce the crises we see around us. If what producers of stories, songs, film, art etc., need is an audience, and the audience is scarce while the product is abundant, what cannot square that circle of scarcity is money. I don’t see how paying someone to consume your product can work. Attention paid for cannot be satisfying, replenishing, or inspiring; if attention comes with a price tag, it is not genuine. And the math of buying consumers does not suggest a functioning exchange-based economy.

On the one hand, at least we can say it is clear where new growth is coming from! What is not clear is how to build an old-fashioned market around that growth; the growth of the scarcity of meaningful consumers. In the meantime, buying and selling remains essential, hence purchasing power remains a vital quality sellers require of their potential customers. This is of course a perennial problem of capitalism, but This Time It’s Different. This time, the growth area cannot be sufficiently monetized on a waged-labour basis to equip sufficient numbers of people with sufficient purchasing power to keep society together in its current form. Put crudely, we are suffering societal breakdown for want of a new mechanism for furnishing people with sufficient purchasing power.

Hence guaranteed income (“GI”) is essential, not as a silver bullet, not as a permanent solution, not as the introduction of nirvana, but rather for buying us some cultural breathing space, as a period of relatively safe experimentation in which we teach ourselves new relationships with money and value. But, however and wherever GI first emerges, it needs to be financed.

Before I look at numbers, I must point out that when we talk of financing GI, money must come second in our consideration to goods and services. We are not asking if there is enough money (which is in fact a stupid question; it implies you can eat or drink money, or grow food out of it, etc.), we are asking if there are enough goods and services to go around. Money is a mere agreement which happens to have the very demanding job of both measuring and storing value (being both measure and store is impossible; think of meters or grams), while functioning as society’s primary ‘medium’ of exchange (as a commodity, money cannot be a medium, but that’s the topic of other posts). GI necessarily demotes money’s societal importance, moves human dignity to the centre of societal concern where it belongs, and demands a very different state apparatus; a far simpler and more elegant state, should GI be implemented properly. In short, imagining GI working, tossing around possible mechanisms for bringing it to sustained working life, demands we think outside the box. Remember, money is not now, nor can it ever be wealth. The fable of King Midas is a powerful reminder of this simple truth.

Finally, and despite the above paragraph, money remains the key. We need the correct money system and a more mature and relaxed relationship with the utility value of monetary ‘wealth’ for GI to function, to be welcomed, to be wanted. For such a systemic cultural transformation to emerge, we need the right institutions in place, an evolution which further requires the right political (I don’t mean party political) and business will, a well-informed public, a revolution in education, and so on. Again, this is not an easy task, just an extremely important one. 

And that was the longest introduction to a blog post I have ever written.

On now to some scene-setting numbers I’ve drawn from German sources. Germany has around 80,000,000 souls. I’m going to use Götz Werner’s proposed monthly GI amounts of 1,000€ for adults, and 500€ for children (say to 18 yrs). Something like 18,000,000 Germans are under 18, so we have a very rough annual ‘bill’ of 852€bn. To put that into perspective, Wolfgang Schäuble said in a recent interview (German) that the yearly cost of Germany’s many social systems is a little over 1tn€, or over 12,000€ per year per head. Thus, even within today’s money system and money-centric notions of financing and value, there appears to be ‘enough’ money to finance GI. There’s far more subtlety to it than this crude representation allows, but such numbers at least give us a sense of the scale of the monetary task, that GI is not idle fantasy – it is the cultural, I would say visceral objection to ‘Money for Nothing’ which is our main problem, as is our cultural conviction that money is wealth.

The general challenge we explore here, regardless of numbers, is to withdraw sufficient money from the system, smoothly and fairly, then pump it back in without causing inflation, in a dynamic loop. The amount pumped back to each citizen must ensure a decent shot at dignity (dignity cannot be guaranteed), and also enshrine the right to ‘laziness’; the financial security from which to say "No" to poorly paid work in poor working conditions.

The first of the three options we look at is financing GI via one tax, a flat sales tax set at the current equivalent of all taxes in Germany (Götz Werner’s proposed solution). The single sales tax would be close to 50% and inescapable when buying and selling. Gone would be all other taxation.

To most non-Europeans, 50% must seem brutal, but the point is not that the state is too costly or interfering, rather that money itself is not our focus; I repeat, money is not wealth, cannot store value, should not be hoarded at the cost of all else. Dignity in a social system encouraging cooperation and trust is our goal, a focus which should do a far better job of ‘storing’ value than fearfully or greedily hoarding money is supposed to do. An elegantly financed GI would actually mean far less Big Brother, less Nanny State, and encourage (even require) more trust in our fellow human beings. And no more accountants, no tax loopholes, no monolithic and labyrinthine state apparatus no one understands. I suspect also that education and health would become increasingly ‘privatised’, with a renaissance in both towards openness and excellence, away from dogma, subterfuge, and compulsion. This applies generally to all GI models (at least potentially), but I make the point here to emphasise that despite what might appear like an eye-wateringly high sales tax, this is not about growing the state. It would shrink the state and demote money. Those two processes go hand in hand.

A GI income would grow into, not on top of existing salary levels. For those earning less than 1,000€/month, new deals would have to be drawn up, better working conditions offered, fewer hours, etc. For those earning more, their employer would be paying them 1,000€ less a month, but their overall income would remain the same. Some will be tempted to other careers, or to a period of re-education, and thereby open up their positions to others. I suspect such jostling and settling in would initiate a revolution in employment law, employment contracts, working conditions, office politics, hierarchical structures, the way freelancing works, etc. And the base security GI provides would revolutionise insurance, particularly health insurance and pensions. This would likely take a lot of the charisma out of the stock markets too!

‘Financing’ GI through a flat sales tax has one distinct advantage; it would require no adjustments to the money system. This advantage is why I don’t support it. I fear GI financed this way would fail (it relies on economic activity for its funding and does not cure us of our systemic addiction to growth), and thus risk jeopardising the deeper reforms society so dearly needs. On the other hand, this solution presents less change for the public to swallow in one mouthful, and that is not something to dismiss lightly. If there were to be a multiphase easing into The New along a path of successive and interrelated reforms, this first proposal might be the way to get the ball rolling, gently introduce the mainstream to the radical new. Implemented in isolation, without any concrete action taken in other critical areas, I fear this could do more harm than good.

The second financing option is via negative interest. Conceptually, negative interest is not as offensive a proposal as its moniker at first suggests. Because we all Just Know money should grow, should ‘work’ for us, should not lie idle, the idea of it shrinking by design, see it rotting like so many uneaten apples, seems like theft. Money offers us security against all sorts of things; apples rotting in a bowl do not. If money rots, what is there that can ensure the security we reflexively hunger for? Well, nothing (property, land and other ‘stores’ of value would have to be taxed or rented to individuals from the commons, since they come from the commons and cannot rightly belong to an individual  – a topic for other posts). But so what? There never has been certain security, only the short term illusion of it, brought about (in recent decades) by cheap energy, massive improvements in hygiene and our ballooning productive might. Far better than money (other things properly in place) at helping to deliver security are: healthy soil well-tended and treated, clean air, clean water, and a society in which trust can thrive. It is likely negative interest money would encourage us to invest in such things, help shift our focus from the false security of money and private property, to the truer security of investing in nourishing and maintaining those networked systems we emerge from and are sustained by.

Imagine negative interest as a constant shrinkage of the money supply. GI is then that shrinkage pumped back in. Money out (negative interest), money in (guaranteed income); the economy as lungs breathing automatically. Financed thus, it is not a sales tax dependent on economic activity which keeps the system working, but the functioning of the money system itself. The GI amount pumped back in would likely be half as much as in the flat sales tax proposal, but this is not a problem. Rico Albrecht of Wissensmanufaktur and co-architect of Plan B has calculated that the amount of money transferred yearly in Germany as a direct consequence of interest is 450€bn; a little more than half the amount mentioned above.  But goods and services would be roughly half as expensive, since usury is a hidden tax in all prices which would disappear in a negative interest money system. There would also be no sales tax, and no income tax, and this would deflate prices too. Only things like environmentally damaging activity and private property need be taxed, and this ‘income’ would be added to the GI pot.

I’ve favoured the negative interest solution for some time now, but am beginning to see flaws in it. The first is credit creation, and funding small and large scale business ideas. We don’t want to have a system which stifles the entrepreneurial spirit, so need market suppleness at the local and international level. In “Sacred Economics”, Charles Eisenstein, a keen proponent of negative interest, suggests commercial banks would loan out (and thus create new) money as they do now, only at e.g. -1% or 0% interest, with the base rate at something like -5%. The differential generates their profits. However, wouldn’t this create the exact same systemic addiction to growth we have now? For it is the difference between the amount owed and the amount available which generates the systemic shortage in the money supply, not the + or – sign in front of the interest rate. If banks accrue interest-based profits by extending credit-money more expensive than non-credit money, we have the growth problem, the rat race, the game of musical chairs, all over again, since the amount of debt owed is necessarily more than the amount of money in existence (P < P+I). But, having institutions or businesses with wisdom in the area of funding new ideas is an important societal function we ought not to lose. If we have negative interest money and wanted to enable a steady-state economy, we would need a credit-extension mechanism in which banks could not create new money for interest-based profit. I will not make any detailed suggestions here (this post is already too long), but simply leave this issue out there. 100% reserve banking is one idea that could be coupled with negative interest, or some variant of Islamic banking. The ideas are there, I’m just not sure which would be best.

The third and last financing option we look at is that proposed by Franz Hörmann. Hörmann’s is the most revolutionary, and thus the idea least likely to meet with a sympathetic mainstream ear. This does not bother him, however, since he is now investing his energies in building on-the-ground social networks capable of introducing the required changes without the permission of the state or major corporations. If he gets his (and his compatriots’) ideas up and running, the proof will be in the pudding, so to speak, and people can join in as they choose, iron out the kinks, and generally get the ball rolling. Democracy in action.

As background to Hörmann’s proposal, I should point out that he envisions separate monetary circuits for each distinct economic process, i.e. raw material extraction would require its own accountancy records, processing and production its own, then retail, then GI, and perhaps others depending on what works best. Hörmann also proposes money creation by individuals directly for the purposes of buying and selling services (a little like time dollars or LETS), but this as a separate and supplemental monetary circuit to GI and the others.

In Hörmann’s proposal, GI would flow from a democratic and fully transparent ‘central bank’ directly to people’s ‘accounts’ (uniquely identified ‘repositories’ which stay with people from birth to death), whereupon the ‘money’ subsequently used to buy basics such as food, clothes, local travel etc., returns directly to the ‘central bank’ whence it came, and promptly disappears. ‘Money’ earned by those working some number of hours to provide services (such as selling food or clothing or local transport) is generated on top of the GI and likewise issues from the ‘central bank’ whither it returns once spent, again to disappear. No interest rates, no debt to be repaid, no storing of value; money becomes a pure function, a temporary voucher created automatically for enabling economic transactions, and cannot itself be a commodity anyone can profit from. What such a system would foster, inescapably, is a totally new relationship with money and value. Services would become the focus of human-to-human economic exchange, not property and commodity ownership and profiting therefrom, and could be conducted in an almost endless variety of ways, with all sorts of money-types enabling all sorts of economic activity as required, or people could do things for each other 'for free', as mood and desire determined.

Common to the latter two proposals is the demotion of money as a store of value. I see this as essential to a new money system, and hope our reflexive need to protect ourselves from the vagaries of life with non-rotting, perpetually growing money can be transcended. For it is decay cooperating with growth which generates cycles which enable life and therefore wealth. Without sufficiently deep and integral decay and recycling woven into the fabric of our money system, we have a cancerous situation tending powerfully to gross imbalances over time, which then cause unnecessarily violent re-balancing upheavals. The current system of credit-creation at interest does include the destruction of money, as does the issuance of government debt, does include economic cycles (though the systemic emphasis is absolutely on perpetual growth), but cannot be as robust or adaptive as now required to avoid catastrophe this century. While money strains but must fail to be both measure and store of value, falsely claims to be a medium of exchange while also being a commodity which can self-multiply ‘magically’ to produce ever-expanding ‘wealth’ for those possessing enough of it, it cannot support and foster a society with human dignity and environmental concern as its focus.

In conclusion, I turn to the quote which opens this post. I suspect many will not have discerned its relevance. It is this: the state is a growth machine whose core dynamic is the exploitation of the ruled in favour of the rulers. Its cultural momentum, its myth-based sense of itself (e.g. as golden vessel of the glorious arc of human progress) infuses everything we state-citizens do, from economics to religion to science to parenthood etc. GI and the required attendant changes to the money system end the state project in its current form. This does not mean the end of hierarchy and the joyous rebirth of egalitarianism or anarchy, but rather, in my opinion, a new fusion of the two, with an emphasis on the latter due to the open nature of information access and the demotion of money as a store of wealth. Money storing wealth cements hierarchical class divisions in place, enables dynasties, corporations in their current form, and all other multigenerational transmissions of power. Putting an end to that puts an end to the state. But my position is not that ‘primitivism’ is better (or worse) than 'cultured' civilisation, but that new circumstances demand adaption, that today’s circumstances are pushing us, perhaps inexorably, towards open society, open money, open education, a far broader distribution of power and wealth than before, as well as a new sense of what wealth is and what generates it. The state – either as a living system or self-sustaining dynamic – must resist the changes I believe are unstoppable. Resisting as mightily as the state can, it causes much destruction and suffering. As a direct consequence of this, we are living through very difficult and precarious times, so I close with one of my favourite Charles Eisenstein quotes:
The more beautiful world our heart tells us is possible is inevitable. It is going to happen. 100% sure. And it will only happen through the exertion of our full efforts and the application of all of our gifts. If you don’t apply all of your gifts to this, then it’s not going to happen. Yet it is inevitable that it will happen.

11 comments:

Debra said...

Very interesting post, Toby.
You continue to think long and hard about the money problem, and it is stimulating to read your reflexions.
A few musings...
Yesterday I was weeding my garden.
It is absolutely amazing how... rabid some plants can be. The way they... colonize all available space, to the apparent detriment of vegetal pluralism. Morning glory, liseron, here, for example. It has developed an ingenious way of letting its roots break so that when you weed, even with great delicacy, you will never manage to pull out all of it. It just keeps... growing back.
Morning glory will never have any form of conscious self discipline (I think... although I could be wrong on this one)... it needs to be controlled from another place, and by another agent, I think.
I wonder if we, as a species, can ever have the SELF CONTROL necessary to implement the reforms you are talking about.
And if we did manage to have that self control, how much it would cost us.. in other domains, to have it.
I wonder if our addiction to growth could not be a confused... biological imperative somewhere.
If we are not little atoms of a wild impulse to multiply that plays out in our societies in an abstract form that we can no longer recognize ?
And if, as you often say here, I think, our démesure at this time, our cancerous infiltration of our world is not already generating a form of... control that will be exercised... against us ?
Hubert Reeves has said, apparently, that the "consciousness experiment" has been a failure.. I don't like the word "failure" but, shall we say, consciousness has not been a process that has revealed itself to be an absolute value with no disadvantages ?
On sedentary and nomadic... I happen to be an extremely sedentary person at this time.
There is a subtle difference, perhaps, between the feeling that you are entrusted with the care of land that will continue after your death, and exclusively OWNING something which you submit to your absolute and authoritarian domination.
But nomadism ? There is a world of difference between the sheep grazers who let their animals mow the land until it is starving before moving on to another plot, and the hunger/gatherers.
Maybe what it comes down to, Toby, is the ideas we have about our relationship to the land/the Earth.
If we have the sense of being entrusted with something, and BEING DEPENDANT ON IT, then we will want to protect it more ?

Debra said...

Another reflexion.
It has come to me that a great part of our difficulties with the nature of money comes from our religious heritage, which we are just not able to CONSCIOUSLY set aside, the way some people would like to believe that just because THEY personally and individually don't believe in God, that (in an extraordinarily obtuse and self centered mindset...), the God problem has no effect on our society.
The Gospels are written in such a way to show Jesus never handling money. While Jesus talks up a storm about money, he doesn't touch it, and in all of the Gospels, you will find almost ? no mention of how that joyous band of.. nomads with no personal property were putting... meat and potatoes on the table.
Jesus is constantly harping on values... that are beyond monetary ones. In numerous incidents.
So.. what does this mean for US, now ?
The Gospels make it a point of labeling Judas for betraying Jesus FOR MONEY. Thirty pieces of silver.
Judas was paid with money to betray Jesus.
(Money which he also returned to the authorities as events escalted, by the way... a psychologically significant gesture, in my eyes.)
Etymologically, "Judas" resembles the word, which for Christians, will be associated with... the Jews (judaism).
Historically, the Roman Catholic Church's attitudes about money bear the mark of Jesus's ? the Gospels' ? extreme ambivalence about it. (This is still evident in France, by the way, where people until very recently, (and under the onslaught of American PROTESTANT COLONIZATION), did NOT talk about how much money they made. It was a PRIVATE issue.)
And the Church will manage to transfer... the handling of money as a financial instrument (anathema)... to the Jews... (Judas in the long standing antipathy between Christianity and Judaism ?)
We are still paying for that transfer.
And there is still enormous ambivalence about money in our secularized Christian society...
Perhaps more than "money" itself... it is our longstanding ambivalence towards it that is STILL making us suffer ?
Our... Christian heritage, still playing itself out ?

Toby said...

Thanks Debbie, for comments and compliments alike.

I think this answers your musings:

"Maybe what it comes down to, Toby, is the ideas we have about our relationship to the land/the Earth."

What are weeds and why are they enemies? Is there a way of turning them into friends, or are there other plants/insects/animals that prevent this or that weed from speading? This is the permaculture way of thinking about 'gardening' or 'farming'. Leave dualism behind and work with nature, in observance of its 'everythingness', and burden yourself with as little battle and opposition as possible. Of course tension and challenge are essential components of creativity, but permaculture is working miracles out there. You might find it interesting to look into it.

As to self-control, that assumes a sovereign self. I think there are only reactions, not actions, so the identification of the problem of too little self-control is I think on the wrong track at the outset. This is where faith comes into it; are we 'good' or are we 'bad'? Do we need a mighty Hobbesian state policing our inherent and insoluble badness (aka the 'chaos' of nature, of decay, of entropy) or can we trust ourselves to self-organize and behave wisely/appropriately when let loose (as it were) within an open system which fundamentally trusts its people and natural processes generally? The challenge is how to learn to want to begin to build a truly trusting and open system. For we grow within and up into the cultural and socioeconomic systems present, which makes wanting radical change highly unlikely (only misfits want it and cannot appeal to mainstreamers). Transitioning on purpose to something radically different has never happened (as far as I know).

As for the badness of money, I suspect that is intimately interwoven with our fear of want and decay as projected onto the supposed permanence of monetary wealth. It is not money which is bad, but our dualist blindspot preventing us from seeing where true wealth lies, and our understandable reluctance to accept not only our immmortailty, but dicrepit and inevitable old age. We are oh so slowly being forced into a new relationship with money (with the self and decay and nature by extension), but the change is very disruptive, and the systems evolved to uphold the status quo are compelled by their nature to prevent that unstoppable change.

Debra said...

On weeds...
I try to do as little weeding in the garden as possible, because of natural laziness, among other things.
Too many weeds... will choke out your plantations, by giving THEM too little room to develop.
But, in the summer, for example, weeds afford greenery that keeps moisture in the ground, and some give shade to your plantations that would suffer from too much sun, for example.
If you let them totally take over, (as they will tend to do, because they have a lot of energy and vitality that other plants do not have), that means mucho WORK for you to try to check them to plant again.
I agree with the mortality point.
Is that a lapsus in your comment ?
Did you mean.. mortality or immortality ?
Personally, I have no problem with being mortal. Disappearing after my life.
But it would seem that many, if not most people are obsessed with the idea of leaving something behind them that will ensure their.. immortality.
I still don't believe that we are "good" or "bad".
I think that what ? who ? we are depends on the context we find ourselves in.
I happen to feel that this belief gives much more weight to "organic" than our Renaissance beliefs do.
On doing and self control... for two thousand years now, Christianity (and Judaism...) have given tremendous value to work and activity. Transforming our world.
And consciousness, too, has arisen largely within this context. Consciousness, as consciousness of separateness, as Eisenstein says.
There are very very few people indeed who are poised to attempt going beyond ? that ideological framework...

Toby said...

Couldn't agree more, and yes that was a typo; I meant mortality. Was that a Freudian slip? We'll never know.

Up until recently I'd have said I want to immortal. Now, I think one of the things I am most happy about is my mortality. And yet even typing that I feel a familiar hubristic flame flicker; something in me wants to battle the inevitable still. Oh foolish me! But without foolishness, life would be drab indeed.

Игры рынка said...

Great post!

One of the things that bothers me is the simultaneity of the required changes. I mean it is not enough for just Germany to change. The unresolved and unanswered problem of GI is the international trade. GI shall NOT be the goal in its own but rather a means to resolve existing DOMESTIC imbalances (sorry for caps). There is nothing better than capitalism and evolution requires both supply and demand. Creating just demand through GI is not enough. We need to ensure supply. This is the progress happens. And this is where international trade comes in. International trade is generally barter-based and barter is generally very painful if you have nothing to sell but want to buy a lot. I am afraid GI is about the latter way more than about the former. I am afraid the current system works in such a way as to "ensure" you buy rather than sell.

And yes I am sure our problems come mostly from our religious heritage. Christianity is probably one of the worst religions ever existed. Worst in terms of internal sustainability. It is essentially self-destructing if we assume that human beings are SOCIAL being. There is nothing in Christianity which admits this thesis. Well, actually we need it as a driving force and as just a thesis. Ten commandments is just a wishful thinking.

This brings me to the conclusion that the European civilization and its heritage are doomed regardless of the GI. And then it leaves the question whether other civilizations are open enough and capable of the change required despite all the destruction that we, Europeans, have brought into this world. I do not know. But then I also do not see any disaster coming with it. Who out there cares about humans?! Noone. Religion is just a tool to shape the morality. Not a tool of progress and survival.

Игры рынка said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Toby said...

Hi Sergei,

an unusually (for you) passionate comment, which I'm afraid I can't quite piece together.

On capitalism: It doesn't exist as a pure and clearly defined social arrangement which socialism or fascism (which also do not exist as clearly defined social arrangements) can be better or worse than. Forget isms, they are projections from human ignorance out onto reality.

The human being is indeed a social being. Were that not the case language would not exist. That some are asocial humans is besides the point.

But yes, the way in which needed radical changes are introduced is a mighty problem. But where you see economic trade continuing in perpetuity between nation states (which are fictions), I see that entire enterprise in a state of accelerating collapse. Why trade forever if Perpetual Growth is impossible, if having more than your 'competitor' is structurally damaging, and if nation states are being increasingly ignored by the internet anyway? Imagining the future as the present except with shinier (perhaps flying) cars is not thinking far enough outside the box. The entire premise that money can measure or store value, that waged labour can be a constructive way of distributing purchasing power forever more, is false. That requires of us radically new thinking, whether we like it or not. So though simultanaeity is indeed a huge problem, it is not insurmountable, not do I expect a beautifully smooth transition. On the contrary, I expect enormous turbulence.

As for Christianity being the worst religion ever, I would have to have studied all religions closely to be able to agree or disagree. What interests me far more than comparing religions is the effect ignorance (which is always inescapable) has on social systems. The internet gives us, for the first time in history, open access to all human knowledge. We cannot know what this will do to society across the globe, but we can be sure society is being revolutionised, and we are in the very early stages of this revolution.

All bets are off, Sergei. This is not about 'capitalism versus socialism'. This is something so new the only wise intellectual posture to adopt is one of total openness. Again, forget isms, they're like so yesterday. ;-)

Игры рынка said...

Toby, sorry for so many typos and missed words. It must have been an effort piecing it all together :)

The reason I mentioned capitalism is not that I am a strong believer in it or that socialism was a failure. It is because capitalism, for good or bad, proved to be an efficient and self-sustaining force of motivation which socialism was not able to provide. Guaranteed income leaves the question of motivation wide open and is something we can only speculate about. I do not believe that internal motivation is all we need to make the system stable. We are talking about very gentle things with a natural tendency to collapse under any sign of stress. However “force majeure” happens all the time and is beyond the control of individual beings.

Yes, all bets are off and I think I am revolutionary enough to forget all isms. If I could I would probably give GI a try. But as I said above I do not see such system as self-balancing in the world with 7bn people and counting. People are nice and some are nicer. But some are also a-social and such behavior can be much more genetically pre-coded via random mutations than be a result of up-bringing. So a random mutation can be powerful enough to kill the whole thing if there is no built-in mechanism to filter it out.

Toby said...

There can never be an absence of 'external' pressure, motivation, etc., nor of internal. There are only reactions, no actions. We cannot help but react, adjust to our environment, appropriately or inappropriately. That is unstoppable, GI or not.

If, planet wide, we have all material needs taken care of (technically possible today), there will continue to be pressures--social and 'individual'--which arise from new concepts of what it means to be successful. What we cannot sustain is the current model. The new model will necessarily be very different, while including flavours of the old. However, as we begin to tread that path which includes (for a while) a GI, social orientation will change (is changing) from competition to cooperation, not utterly, but there will be a significant shift. Abundance is the new reality, not scarcity, and this is a deep game-changer. Asocial people (and yes there appears to be evidence that such is strongly influenced by genes) will operate within that different system. Their avenues for manipulation will not be on the level of material needs (monetary exploitation), but in another domain, emotional, psychological, spiritual, whatever. This is not better or worse per se, just different (while repeating a pattern).

We do not seek the end of all suffering, difficulties and challenges, just the intelligent adjustment to current realities, which include technological unemployment, the end of economic growth, the demise of the nation state, a revolution in education, the money system, and so on.

Debra said...

Interesting comments.
I think that, at their extremes, the capitalist AND the socialist ideologies.. MEET, and their foundation remains the totalitarian Paulinian ideal (on which, apparently, Protestant Christianism is founded) of "in Christ there is no east or west, in him no north nor south, but one great fellowship of love throughout the whole wide earth".
It is pretty amazing, but typical, that we don't recognize the identity between the capitalist/socialist/communist framework.
In a peculiar logic that Freud and his followers saw, opposites have a COMMON identity : that's why there is so much hostility involved, probably, in the attempts of followers to differentiate that which MUTUALLY defines them.
This state of affairs has a linguistic foundation, too.
On asocial personalities...
I do not think that man, or shall we say... all men are social animals. What about the trappers in the U.S., on the frontier ? What about hermits ?
Isn't the sociability TRAP one more example of our Christian heritage playing itself out in a disguised form ?
I am not an UNCONDITIONAL BELIEVER in the ideal of cooperation. (vs... competition, in the way that we tend to frame our ideas in our civilization)
And I definitely believe that overpopulation in cities, our apparent belief that all men and women MUST live TOGETHER (but in small individual, indifferentiated apartments, i.e. in France) in cities, is wreaking havoc on our sociability.
Individual men and women have different degrees of dependance on others, and sociability.
Once again, our ONE SIZE FITS ALL MODEL does not allow people with very different capacities for being with others to find satisfaction.
Our new... socialist president is running around... evangelizing in international places for "croissance", translate.. growth.
Sigh...
As one gets older, one begins to suspect the... folly of the democratic experience, and why it is just not.. sustainable ?
There is no way to educate ? enlighten ? THE PEOPLE.
A contradiction in terms...