Why do we resist change? Even when our very lives depend upon it, we find ourselves refusing to absorb the full truth of our present human situation. Is it too much for us? Do we really understand what change can be?
Here is what I believe is going on: We have been taught, often with ulterior motives, to understand change as something that happens to us, as something beyond our control. In this framework, you and I logically avoid change. If we can’t do anything about change, why waste our time?
But what if change is something that happens from us, something we choose, initiate, and develop? What if refusing to initiate and participate in constructive, personal and collaborative change is tantamount to signing a death warrant for future generations?
We live in just such an unprecedented time, where our past decisions now threaten the very life of the planet we live on— global warming, polluted rivers, unsustainable economies, bought and paid-for politicians, obsolete education have consolidated into an undeniable reality: Things cannot go on as before. We know we will change.
The only issues are whether change will be done to us or proceed from us. We can be swept up by change as with a raging flood, or we can choose change and “learn to transform.”
This book and its associated website, Citizen Zeus (http://citizenzeus.com), operate on a premise of democratic, creative change, that we can learn the craft of conscious transformation in order to meet the exciting and daunting challenges of our times.
In order to do this effectively this book will help you:
· Awaken to the present condition. Understand what is going on economically.
· Unleash possibilities for the future. Discuss how to move forward.
· Connect to a growing, healthy body of change, and understand why.
We humans are built for change. We may be the most adaptable organisms on the planet. It’s time we embrace, rather than resist, our greatest ability.
Reading and using this book with an eye toward transformation
This book shares new thinking and practices to transform obsolete economic commitments and beliefs. The writing is meant to be compelling, informative, and interesting, but even more it intends to help you apply new economic understanding to how you make family and community choices and how you live our individual life.
It is more important for me, as an author and activist, for you to maximize your use of the book and your time, so I will lay out a map and leave it up to you to pick the materials that will allow you to get the most out of this book.
Transforming Economy is divided up into three basic parts, “Corrupted Capitalism,” “Transforming Economy,” and “Connected Communities.” If you are deeply interested in economic intrigue, I suggest you start at the beginning. If you are more interested in what is going on now so you can manage your choices and investments, you may want to start in the second section. If you are a person interested in future change and your time is limited, feel free to skip to Part III. Part III has a good summary and review of previous parts, and it goes right to the “juice” of what alternatives we can pursue on a personal, community, and international level.
My hope is that, no matter where you start, you will find a reason to come back and delve further into the book and the troubled but fascinating system it describes.
We can have a bright future if we get real with the current nature of our economic system, if we make sound, courageous choices, and if we invent our way forward.
I. Corrupted Capitalism: Learning from the Past-- This is a no-holds-barred exposé of the rampant, unapologetic fraud of our global financial system. This section gives notions like “debts are assets” an analytical thrashing. It is a readable, but sometimes detailed, examination of the “way things work now” as the culmination of a series of ill-fated past choices. It explores the irrationality of our present system, but also offers practical policy directions to help mitigate the effects of that irrationality, and it points to a way out of our present predicament. If you are more interested in the policy alternatives, and less in the current economic specifics please feel free to skim over the more detailed explanation and spend more time with the personal and policy alternatives at the end of each chapter.
Chapter 1: Imaginary Worth, Empire of Debt: How Modern Finance Created Its Own Downfall.
Chapter 2: Unhinged: When Concrete Reality No Longer Matters to the Market (and What to Do About It)
Chapter 3: Fighting and Winning When The Market has Cancer: How Unregulated Profit Cannibalizes the Economic Body and How Democratic Citizens Can Effectively Respond
II. Transforming Economy: Understanding the Present Challenges and Opportunities-- This is the fulcrum section of the book. This section describes where we are now, caught as we are in that uncomfortable place between old economic momentum and new realities. In this transition, knowledge is power, if we can emotionally face what knowledge reveals. What is happening socially and economically? What are the effects and investment implications likely to be? How will the current trends play out? This middle stage can look depressing, so it requires a certain degree of tough-mindedness. Fraud has spread, created real suffering, and appears to have the upper hand, but, as I describe, fraud will break down amid the reality of math and the choices of world citizens to resist, withdraw support, and organize proactively.
Chapter 4: The Big Squeeze: Predicting the Effects of Savings Extortion and Abuse of the Middle Class
Chapter 5: Endgame: When Debt is Fraud, Debt Forgiveness is the Last and Only Remedy
Chapter 6: Money from Nothing: A Primer on Fake Wealth Creation and its Implications
Chapter 7: The First Dominoes: Greece, Reality, and Cascading Default
III. Connected Communities: Embracing the Future of Democratic Capitalism-- This section addresses the strong, pragmatic, and hopeful alternatives to our present system. The most important quotes and elements of the previous sections are combined with a discussion of emerging technological and social innovation in order to create a new way forward. This section is how the story can turn out if we apply human creativity, integrity, and productivity. This is how the story can turn out if we respect, develop, and link each other’s deeper contributions.
Chapter 8: Making a Living vs. Making a Killing: Creating a Healthy Democratic Foundation for Economies
Chapter 9: Unleashing the Future: Advancing Prosperity Through Debt Forgiveness
Chapter 10: “I Give A Damn”: A Capitalist Manifesto for the Productive Class
Chapter 11: Youth of the World Unite!: How Younger Generations Can Lead the Way To a New Frontier
The greatest mistake
“The dollar is something like an inch (not wealth but a measure of wealth)… People think money has to come from somewhere like hydroelectric power or lumber or iron, and it doesn’t. Money is something we invent.” – Alan Watts (http://karmajello.com/universe/knowledge/alan-watts-money-nonsense.html )
Perhaps the greatest human error we make is mistaking measurement of value (i.e. money) for value itself. Almost every economic sin, every fraud, can be traced to this critical point. Measurement can be invented out of thin air, but value must be produced either by blood, sweat, and tears or by some other means.
Money has no inherent value. It is a measurement of value. If money does not represent substantial value, it is worthless. Our current global monetary system is a “fiat” system, where measurement-money, backed by nothing is applied to things, i.e. debt, that are simply more valueless measurement. There is no “there” there.
In the big picture, money’s real asset power lies in its ability to facilitate exchange and circulation of human effort, productivity, and creativity. A mere printed dollar has no real asset value.
Empty money +greed = corrupted economy
Our tough choices now mean that we are coming to terms with our worship of empty money, which cannibalizes value rather than adds value and which enables exploitation rather than production.
If we allow this to go on, if we continue worshipping money without value, we will possess no value. We will have surrendered ourselves to a phantom. Combine this with rampant greed and you have a corrupted economy. Greed, as I define it, is worship of valueless money combined with a desire for wealth without effort.
When the Bible says, “The love of money (greed) is the root of all evil (1 Timothy 6:10), it is not making primarily a moral statement. It is making a practical statement. Our own economic system has proven the disastrous working consequences of greed, especially when combined with the effort to make mere measurement-money equate with value.
The only thing that keeps an economy afloat is the value and effort we bring to it. If everyone in the economy starts to simply extract from the earth and exploit the efforts of others through empty money, economy hollows out and collapses.
No amount of reform will help a system that rewards taking (squandering wealth) over giving (creating wealth). Such a system is fundamentally unsustainable. It will go bankrupt, despite all efforts to “extend and pretend.” Transformation is required.
Let’s look at some examples of corrupted, “taking” economy:
· High-frequency traders have used high-powered computers to shift huge amounts of ones and zeroes in microseconds, guaranteeing a profit, and skewing the market.
· The huge private mortgage system, MERS, has claimed the right to digitize ownership of real estate and allow itself to be used to transfer titles without filing legally required and authorized paperwork. As a result, clear ownership and title chains have been cast into doubt.
· Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the supposed lifeblood of the nation, is calculated by total spending (a form of taking). There is no distinction between healthy and unhealthy spending. Forms of giving, like donating and responsible saving either do not figure into GDP calculations or suppress level of GDP.
· Most current definitions of “standard of living” (higher material spending and use) are equated with “quality of life,” ignoring environmental limits and research showing happiness does not correlate with material wealth.
· Solutions offered by both liberal and conservative economists emphasize increased consumer spending and jobs. Neither party acknowledges the irreversible disappearance of jobs due to outsourcing, automation, and productivity increase, nor admits the environmental lunacy of increasing consumption.
· Government programs for older generations like Medicare and Social Security have far outstripped the ability of younger generations to pay for them. Under current trends, older participants will receive more in benefits than they paid in. The difference is simply being made up in borrowing.
· Private banks are being rewarded with taxpayer bailouts for spectacular failure, for taking down the global financial system, and for being “too big to fail.”
“Conventional wisdom” does not have the answers. This book will challenge these delusions and provide workable alternatives.
Applied effort in community + real value = transformed economy
I take no classic political side. Liberal welfare states and neo-conservative privatized state policies are both obsolete. They both operate by taking more than they give.
My orientation is one of community, where 1) people and organizations learn to prefer and derive greater fulfillment from giving, producing, and sharing and 2) greed is considered warped behavior. These communities, if linked and strong, can band together to coordinate resistance to corrupt larger-level practices and develop alternatives.
Why community? Community is where people can actually see and feel the worth of their applied effort, and thus feel drawn to give. Community is where real value is produced, exchanged, and felt. Community is also small enough to develop respectful intimacy, communication, and collaboration with neighbors.
“Connected communities” are those that develop internal opportunities for individual achievement and shared success and external opportunities for collaboration with other communities over larger-level issues. The “individual” is too disconnected by him or herself without community, and “society” is too abstract without community.
So how does “community” help people learn to give, solve the “taking” problems identified above, and promote contributing and developing? (These will be elaborated further in this book). By…
· Encouraging community cooperative exchanges, like farmer’s markets and tool libraries, which support more effective and efficient ways to share know-how and available social resources.
· Developing circle lending and crowd funding, which help cut out middlemen, by allowing people to pool their money to directly fund everything from home purchases to worthy creative projects.
· Expanding the notion of “profit” beyond finance to include people and planet. What are the best relationships between finance, community, and environment to maximize overall quality of life and prioritize human worth over net worth? This is reinforced by a notion of “optimum” life profit rather than “maximum” financial profit.
· Recognizing non-material assets (creativity, community, entrepreneurialism, etc.) over material assets as the primary driver of quality of life. Connected economy under this principle would seek to provide people with material opportunities and resources to maximize their non-material well-being.
· Increasing sharing and decreasing consumption. Car share, bike share, and cooperative living arrangements are just some of the ways people are realizing that they not only can save money, maintenance costs, time, and hassle, but can expand available opportunity to leave the “rat race” and pursue deeper talents.
· Linking and meeting human needs directly, rather than waiting for some private or governmental agency. Many emerging needs can be solved just by connecting them. For instance if unemployed youth assisted in elder care and were compensated in food about to go past its due date, we could solve three problems in one stroke: need for care, need for work, and need to reduce waste. There are many other examples.
· Emphasizing local and small business over huge unaccountable corporations. If you have to look someone in the face day after day, you are much less likely to try to exploit them. Local labors of love require hard work, relationship-building, and ingenuity. Benefits directly reach people, provide work, and build good will.
Basically connected communities are about embracing the power of choice and exchange to co-create our lives.
The future is connected and collaborative
Armageddon talk will get us nowhere: “It’s beyond repair. What is there to learn? It just needs to be torn down!” “We’re screwed. The world is toast. Grab what you can, and protect yourself and your family. Buy guns, buy silver, buy gold, stock up on canned goods…”
Like it or not, we are bound to each other in an unprecedented way. There are no long-lasting purely individual solutions. Lasting solutions from here on out are inextricably collaborative solutions. Should you prudently protect yourself from abuse? Yes, by all means. However, this is only part of the equation. Mere individual and family survival in the present will not ensure the future of your children’s children.
Finding a vital, interactive, smart way to share is what will allow us to prosper long into the future. We are in a global world where our fates link. Neither toxic chemicals nor toxic financial practices respect boundaries. They have already found their way into practically every public space.
If the problem is public, the solution will have to be public. This is the hope of connected communities.
This leaves us with one important question before we embark on our exploration: Can there be such a thing as democratic capitalism? Isn’t capitalism inherently about taking and maximizing individual financial profit at the expense of others? “Aren’t you really talking about some jazzed up form of communism or socialism?”
No, quite the opposite. Upon close examination democratic capitalism may be the only real capitalism out there and the most viable alternative to corrupted capitalism. Democratic capitalism in simple terms is “having money serve people.” Corrupted capitalism is “having people serve money.”
In other words, capitalist systems that personify money and objectify people are corrupted. (You see this in terms like “human capital.”) Capitalist systems that respect people and objectify money (i.e. use currency as units of exchange to optimize well-being) have at least a chance of being connected and healthy.
Democratic capitalism is of, by, and for the people. Who else is the economy supposed to serve? The rich (plutocracy)? The state (socialism)? The ruling bureaucracy (communism)? The self-appointed elite (oligarchy)? Kings (monarchy)? Corporations (corporatocracy)? No. It is meant to serve you and me together.
We have never fully enacted democratic capitalism, and it is about high time we started.
From trillion dollar government welfare checks to crooked banks, to billion dollar subsidies of Big Oil (even when they were making record profits), to pork barrel goodies for a whole range of constituencies, the message up to now has been clear: “Get yours. Extract from everyone else.”
No functioning system, much less capitalism, can run on that premise forever.
The fact the healthy democratic capitalism has never been enacted should not be a discouragement. We do not have the luxury of despair. We need to learn our historical lessons, take the best of current capitalism, and create what is essential for the future.
This the purpose of Transforming Economy: From Corrupted Capitalism to Connected Communities .