Friday, 24 December 2010

"Ultimate Capitalist Weapon" inventor dies

The obituary I read of Samuel T Cohen, who invented the neutron bomb, quotes his perverted relativism in calling his invention "the most sane and moral weapon ever devised",  He claimed it would have saved 50,000 US lives by shortening the Vietnam War. He worked on the atom bomb in the 1940s and the devastation it wrought led him to conceive this weapon that kills people but leaves property intact.

700 warheads were built but never deployed. The move convinced Cohen that politicians were beneath contempt. They night be, but they saved him from being an accessory to yet more "murders", using his "sane weapon".

We know arms companies like wars, because they sell weapons for them, paid for by tax payers, to both sides. We know construction companies like buildings being destroyed, because they can make money rebuilding them, but the neutron bomb would be no good for that.

There's nothing 'sane' or 'moral' about any of this.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Simpsons dig at corporate corruption

An episode of The Simpsons - You Kent Always say what you want - aired recently mocked big corporations for changing news coverage to suit themselves. TV anchorman Kent Brockman was forced to interview Homer Simpson, who had bought the millionth ice cream cone from a local shop, mockingly saying that an item on the Arab-Israeli conflict is what you will not hear. The ice cream company is owned by the same corporation that owns the TV channel

Brockman swears on air (because Homer spills a hot drink on him) and is sacked. With Lisa's help he starts making videos for the web in which he makes comments against the military industrial complex, in which there are corporations that own weapons manufacturing companies and TV channels.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Christmas appeal for cyclic consumption

In today's Evening Standard (London), some pundit was arguing for the VAT increase (due in the New Year) to be postponed to help retailers sell more stuff. He also wants to have a traffic free period as more stuff gets sold then. (Interesting - retailers usually argue for less restriction on cars).

Of course if the VAT increase is postponed, the government could lose tax revenue, but this could be offset by people buying more stuff. Deep sigh. What is it that we in fact need? Basics - food, shelter, clean water, medical care, a source of information and communication; and possibly some things to give us a quality life, rather than an existence - the means to express ourselves or to enjoy seeing others express themselves, let's say. I do  not suggest this is a comprehensive list. But buying more stuff to keep people in work making more stuff for us to buy - cyclic consumption - is just silly.

Yet another example of the wrongness of our current system

Musing with my hands under a hot air hand drier the other day, I considered whether they are better overall than paper towels or roller towels. Of course replacing towels is work for someone, and so the objection to "electric towels" could include doing people out of work. My thoughts went to the problem of optimising a subsystem (getting an electric towel) yet sub-optimising the system - depriving someone of work. But of course, depriving someone of work should not be sub-optimal in any sane system. This is a simple example of where automation reduces human labour - so why is this not good?

Monday, 20 December 2010


I've been watching internet films about 9-11 and the 7 July 2005 London Bombings. I'm not going to try to sell any conspiracy theories, but:

  • We know there are 'false flag' attacks because information about various ones have been de-classified.
  • There are so many anomalies in the official version of 7/7 that it would seem to be a strong candidate for being 'not what it seems' and therefore possibly a false flag attack.
  • The government / secret services will not of course admit to this, as it would render the FFA useless. All the while enough people believe the official version, the FFA will achieve its ends, to some extent. An enquiry will never go far enough to satisfy the most ardent seekers of truth, for exactly the same reason.
  • A FFA could theoretically be used for good, but most critics suspect that 7/7 was not. This is where conspiracy theories step in.

Friday, 17 December 2010

Social Return on Investment

To be honest, I'm not sure exactly what this is. It sounds like a Good Thing, but from a quick skim it's rather arcane in that way that policy wonks tend to write and think. I think/guess it may be to do with measuring RoI by things other than money. Good. I guess the want a standardised way of doing this, in the way that GDP/GNP are standard, because standardisation makes comparison easier. Some people have tried to put a price on the ecosystem, so that it is included within capitalism and doesn't break its rules (liquidising assets and calling it income, ignoring externalities and others.) If I ever get around to looking into it more I'll blog further.

What is a valid contribution to society?

In the current system, the distinction seems largely to be whether you are in paid work or not. Although some paid work is taboo - drug dealing, say,  pretty much any paid work is seen as contributing to society - even selling cigarettes / tobacco.

This is a bit of an exaggeration, as there are people of course who give of their time voluntarily and do things that are socially necessary and/or socially constructive. These will tend to be people who have the money and therefore the time to do something socially constructive without being paid specifically for doing so. Even as I write, I see the true logic of how society should be operated arising from what I am writing, even though I'm not writing exactly what I originally intended.

No-one should be doing anything that is not socially constructive. We put people in prison for some socially destructive things, but for others we pay them a salary. Lunacy. Let's go back to the volunteers. They're doing something socially constructive, because it is socially constructive and for no other reason. Does it not seem likely that the vast majority of people, freed from waged slavery, would do the same?

Under the current system, consuming is contributing to society, because of cyclic consumption:  I have to work to get money to spend to keep you in work so that you can consume and keep the next person in work, and so on. Lest we should see the foolishness of all this, advertising/marketing steps in to keep us thinking we must consume more. What is this system (or those that operate it) trying to achieve? Are they genuinely trying to use up resources as quickly as possible? Do they just not care that the system is consuming the resources ever more rapidly?

Paid incompetence and inefficiency

Those of us who work in the public sector often have it put to us that public sector staff are incompetent and the public sector is inefficient.

Never mind which sector - the current system requires people to work at a job to get money to access the necessities of life. It doesn't directly match people's skills to what needs doing and must be done by people - at least for the time being (really needs doing to sustain life on this planet)  and thus incompetent people (or more politely people with poorly matched skills) are in jobs working for organisations that are less efficient than they might be.

I'm not suggesting that the private sector is efficient and staffed entirely by competent people. The sector distinction is a false or irrelevant one in my view. It's just that I work in the public sector.

Efficiency and employment are diametrically opposed. Efficiency rises drastically where automation is introduced, but people are put out of work and this is seen as a bad thing. Similarly, if organisations use the best people for the task required, they will need fewer people to do it - more efficient, but less employment.

A Resource Based Economy aims to be sustainable and efficient  first and foremost. It does not aim to create work for the sake of it, but it "pulls in" what work it needs. Each person has access to the necessities of life as a birth right and not because they carry out a job that may be unnecessary (either because a machine an do it or because it doesn't need doing) or even counter productive (working to destroy rather than preserve and enhance life or the ecosystem).

Films, Music, Education, Food. Not war

"Cultures of Resistance (CoR) is an activist network that encompasses a family of initiatives. These include an outreach web site, a feature documentary, a media production company, and a private foundation." I saw footage they supplied in John Pilger's film The war you don't see, broadcast on ITV earlier this week.

Pilger's film showed how media organisatios are at best complicit with war propaganda, and at best taken in by it. One point repeatedly made was that if a politician says something that is not true, and a media organisation reports what s/he said, the media organisation is being truthful, whilst managing to convey an untruth. The film featured several journalists expressing their regret that they'd been taken in and had passed on propaganda (lies) as news/truth.

Getting at the truth of war is hard. Journalists that report what the war machine wants them to report are given protection ("embedding") and access to sources. Journalists who try to live up to their high calling of objectivity and impartiality seem to be fewer. The film featured a memorial to journalists killed in war at St Bride's Church Fleet Street - 'the journalists' church'.

The idea that journalists should trade their objectivity for their lives / personal safety is particularly galling.

Peer reviewing is not necessarily as serious as it sounds.

"Science Correspondent Tom Feilden describes some of the cheerful comments made by scientific papers reviewers. Chief editor of Nature Protocols Chris Surridge and neuroscience professor Colin Blakemore discuss the witty side of peer reviews."

This was an item on Radio 4's today programme on Thursday 16 December. Headed on the website "The scientific sense of humour", the item was presented as a bit of a laugh, but towards the end a key point emerged that was rather a concern. There was reference to scientists being rivals, and later, towards jobs being on the line. The idea that someone's scientific opinion should in any way be influenced by their need to keep their job is really quite a concern. I'm not blaming the individual scientists - I'm blaming the monetary system. What we want from our scientists is pure, objective science. Money distorts objectivity.

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Shape Memory Polymers

Researches at the Arizona State University have developed a material that can detect and heal damage to itself. It is made using Shape Memory polymers.

In an RBE, things would be built to last, rather than built to fail so that others could be sold. Self repairing materials would obviously help things to last even longer, thereby being even more economical with the planet's finite resources.

Plane ticket price madness

"Code sharing" is the selling of one airline company's flights by another airline. The price for the same seat on the same flight can vary drastically. I read about this in Metro (London, 8/12/10). In the article one airline's spokesman said "We always advise customers to shop around for the best fares to suit their needs". Setting aside the odd concept of "needing" to spend more money to get exactly the same thing, this point is also odd as we have an airline effectively marketing other airlines' tickets. Let's not forget in all this oddness that there are of course companies that exist to find the cheapest fares for you. Yes, special websites that uncover information that is already known, but that has been covered, or not shared. Thus a market and competition and jobs are created to achieve nothing.

McLaren MP4-12C

No - I haven't turned into a petrol head. What's interesting about the design of this supercar is the moulded carbon fibre body shell weighing only 78kg. The Book Natural Capitalism which chimes in well with the idea of a resource based economy mentions this technology in its Hypercar chapter. It makes the point that while carbon fibre is expensive per unit weight, it is the cost of it per car that is relevant. The carbon fibre can be coloured in mould and can be very light per car as this McLaren shows (though its hardly a practical car). By keeping the weight down the need for motive and stopping power is reduced, hence lighter motors and brakes. The carbon fibre monocoque is very crash-worthy, not only because of the design but also because of the low weight.

In Natural Capitalism the idea is that the need for private cars can be minimised by sharing them (leasing / hiring) and by planning our town and cities to reduce the need to travel. This fits very closely with the RBE ideas.

Monday, 6 December 2010

You what?

In the current "The Week" magazine, there's an item on the chaos that's breaking out in the Eurozone, and it mentions this about Italy:

"Italy's finances are basically sound: it has a high level of debt ... but that debt is largely funded from within Italy and is well managed by the country's respected finance ministry."

I admit I am no economist or financier, but let's look at this. What does a debt being "funded" mean? Surely whoever "funded" a debt lent the money? So Italy has lent money to itself? The people of Italy have lent money to their own government? How is the government going to pay them back?

And what does a debt being "managed" mean? Does it mean it is being paid back? If not, what?

Christmas is coming

I'm not a puritan and have nothing against people enjoying Christmas or anything else - in fact I'm in favour of it, but the commercialism of Christmas seems particularly trenchant this year, my first "run up to Christmas" blogging on the idea of a resource based economy.

All the shops and businesses want more money and we're cajoled into buying and consuming more so that the economy can grow, but this is nonsense. Growing in fact is going faster; the money must circulate faster for there to be growth in the sense meant here, but obviously - ? - it can't just keep getting faster indefinitely.

As the money moves faster it sucks in more stuff, but one thing we can't get for Christmas is a new planet earth. When we've used up this one, that's it.

Efficiency vs cutbacks

Really efficiency is desirable. Anything we pay for we want to be efficient, so that we get the most benefit possible for each £1 we pay. Where we work, though, it's different. We have to keep our jobs and while we will agree that we should be efficient, if efficient means doing the same with fewer people, we're not so keen as we may be one of those looking for a new job.

The current public sector cutbacks are clearly an attempt to force public sector bodies to look for efficiency savings, hence for instance plans to share services with neighbouring boroughs, but all the while there are people thinking "be efficient, but keep me on", separating efficiency gains (doing the same for less) from cuts in services (doing less to save money) is going to be an issue.

In a culture where we think it is OK for people to be in any old paid employment, irrespective of whether it is socially constructive, and even if it is socially destructive, we will never get true efficiency. True efficiency can only come from focussing human effort on those things that technology cannot do and more to the point directing that human effort so that skills are matched to the work that needs doing. How can this happen with people grimly holding on to jobs for survival purposes?

Unless everybody can have free access to the necessities of life without being bonded to an employer, we will never free up creativity and motivation.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Hi tech prefabs

Today's Metro free newspaper (London) features an article about a new hotel in China built in under 6 days from pre-fabricated parts.

Jacque Fresco's ideas for pre fabricated buildings can be seen on the Venus Project website amongst other places - and he envisages that the construction will be almost entirely automated. I admit this is one of the elements of TVP I find least plausible, but I have no knowledge of construction and not enough knowledge of robotics by a long chalk to know how far from reality Fresco's visions are.

The metro article did strike home though. A 16 storey building in under 6 days bodes well for future building if there is no need for human involvement just to create jobs and automation can be used as fully as possible.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Motivation in an RBE - again

Once we have stopped doing work for its own sake, even if we have automated much of the remaining and truly necessary work, there will be the need for human input. Even Jacque Fresco and Peter Joseph accept that there will always be a residual need for human input even in the ultra-automated - 'cybernated' world they imagine when arguing for an RBE.

We seem to have the assumption that people are only motivated by money, but this flies in the face of many facts or apparent facts:

  • There are many people working philanthropically who are plainly motivated by doing good rather than by money. Some do good in their professional capacity, some in their own time. If the latter could be freed up from doing whatever they have to do to get paid, to doing what they want to do, there would be step change in doing good.
  • People drop out of the rat race - including from highly paid jobs - and not all go off to 'find themseleves' - many take up careers that they believe are more worthwhile.
  • Money in itself cannot be an incentive, because it is useless until you buy something with it. Being motivated by making money (over and above what is necessary) is in effect being motivated by having more, or a prior, call on goods and services than other people. Is this really the motivation we want for our society?
  • The studies explained by Daniel Pink in his TED talk (which can be seen on internet video sites), and other work.
If we were to have a money-free world, and some problem with motivation were perceived, would we bring back money as an incentive, or would we try to find other motivational means?

Friday, 26 November 2010

Save now to waste later

The budget cuts that face government at all levels mean very strict controls on money leaving the council's coffers. It barely seems to matter (with honourable exceptions) whether or not the money spent would have accrued genuine benefits - or even saved money - in the future. With some expenditure it may be straightforward to estimate the future benefits and confidently make the investment, but not all expenditure is so lucky.

An example springs to mind which may seem trivial, but it is illustrative. Staff in many organisations complain of lack of communication both up and down and across organisations, and so one way this is tackled is away-days, and in the public sector they are being banned - even just the cup of tea and power point ones. It makes it appear that it is accepted that these were a waste of money if we scrap them to save money - and the problem is the benefits are not too easy to quantity, even if the increased morale that comes from being included and from "bonding" is noticeable and intuitively oils the wheels and yields greater efficiency / effectiveness. It is more trenchant to point out that money/profit is no respecter of human values, but in the public sector, even a financial return on investment doesn't seem to be enough.

How money distracts our focus

In today's Metro (London), Oxfam expressed concerns at the decline in Christmas card sending because of the money that is raised through selling them.

I'm not having a go at Oxfam, or Christmas, but if Oxfam need money to feed the hungry, etc, we can actually just give them money without buying anything.

As I argue here often, what people want / need is a full belly, a roof over their head, and a source of information and communication (that's not an exhaustive list, but indicates life's necessities simply). As things stand they need money to get these, but it doesn't have to be like that, and by extension, we shouldn't need to buy Christmas Cards to make it happen.

Economic growth

The new series of In Business on BBC Radio 4 started this week with an analysis of Economic growth, entitled "Growing Pains. I found it balanced, and was pleased that even those who defended it said that it wasn't an end in itself - something our politicians need to learn.

I think it is plausible that human ingenuity will grow infinitely, but some commentators doubt that it can grow quickly enough to tackle our planet's imminent problems by itself. it is plainly true that we have a finite limit on our physical resources - we are in a resource based economy in the general sense even if past economists have wrongly predicted when we would reach them. I think we need to start preparing for the inevitability now.

Economic growth sounds OK, or even good. That's part of the problem. It is technically an increase in Gross Domestic Product (or maybe Gross National Product - the difference isn't important in this context), yet it can include the productive value of clearing up after environmental disasters, or dealing with disease break outs. (Obviously dealing with them is a good thing to do in individual cases, but we don't want any more, just to get economic growth. What we in fact want is growth in healthiness, amongst other things).
And it's all very well scoffing at at attempts to measure happiness, but we do actually want to be happier, so why not try?

Some proponents of economic growth on the radio programme claimed that life expectancy has improved because of economic growth. Whether or not that is true, or whether its a cum ergo ergo propter hoc argument is not really the point. The increase in life expectancy is the thing being aimed for and what we should keep our sights on.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Student finance

I was near the student protests (or riots if you prefer Sky's epithet to the BBC's) in Whitehall today, briefly. There were loads of police and reporters around, so the controversy is certainly making work for them.

The issue of whether education should be funded by the general public or by the individual direct recipient of the education is a false dichotomy. A lot of the cost of education is the cost of tuition, because we have to keep tutors in work in the current system, and we have to withhold education to keep the price of it up so people can make money out of it - because they have to because of the system.

The internet is already bursting with tons of educational materials. There's a lot of rubbish there too, which is a problem, but it should not outweigh the powerful advantage of the good material.

In a resource based economy, all education would be distributed freely and widely. Lectures would be streamed live round the world and recorded for future use. And because people would not be doing pointless, empty work (or socially destructive work) they'd have more time to absorb education, and share their own knowledge and skills. Technology would be fully exploited to help achieve this.

Take money out of the equation conceptually, just for a moment, and it is easy to see how the goal of education is personal growth, the promulgation of knowledge and understanding - that kind of thing. But acquiring money becomes an end in itself, just as it does in every field. In the current system if the true aims of education can be delivered while money is being made that's fine - an exact parallel of the role of money in many other  elements of life - but making money comes first, because of its position as the economic life blood on which everything else depends.

Self replicating machines

The BBC World Service Technology programme, Digital Planet, ran an item on 3D printing, featuring

This is not simulating 3D like an image, but using lasers to actually 'sculpt' an object. One of the particularly intriguing applications was using the 3D printer to print the parts to make another 3D printer. Currently they can only make it print 50% of the parts as electric motors and circuit boards are beyond their reach.

I also liked the idea of shoes that can be put back into the machine, with bit of waste plastic, and then "reprinted" in the same design but a larger size. Brilliant for children.

It appears that freedom of creation want to spread these machines around quickly, which is good. In a resource based economy, technological breakthroughs would always be shared, so that their advantages can quickly accrue to as many people as possible, and so that improvements and refinements can start. There would be no secrecy to safeguard monetary profits - the only profit would be to humanity, thorough improving our lot sustainably and reducing the need to work.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Food waste; the value of work

There's an article in today's Metro (London) about Foodcycle, a charity that uses food destined for the bin to cook meals that it then sells at budget prices in its cafes, one of which is near Crouch Hill Station, not all that far from where I work.

At the moment, the cafe at The Station House only opens on Friday lunch times and at the moment they're only using food from two supermarkets and a Marks & Spencers. Don't get me wrong, this is a brilliant enterprise, but let's just take a step back and look at it critically.

  • Food shops throw edible food in the bin. Read it again. Food shops throw edible food in the bin. (Individuals also waste food, I know).
  • This charity - heavily reliant on volunteers - is stopping this on a small scale, and this is referred to as shops 'donating' food.
  • There are people/families in this country who cannot afford the time and/or the money (and or do not have the skills) to source, cook, and eat sufficient healthy food .
One of the ideas of an RBE mentioned by Peter Joseph in a recent talk, is that eating out uses, or can use, food more efficiently. There is, or should be, less waste. Of course, without money, people would go to a restaurant / cafe and eat what they wanted (no more than they needed) and wouldn't feel constrained to gorge to get value for money. It seems likely that eating would be primarily through communal eating places. But it's surely fundamental to any sane economy that edible food should not be thrown away. This admirable charity is saving some, but where is the national effort to conserve this vital resource.

The Metro article also speaks well of the enterprise because it provides work for people to do. Again and again this casual assumption arises. There is no value in work in and of itself. It is only what the work achieves that can be valuable. Think about it, suppose there were some organised system for collecting unwanted but still edible food. Suppose it was a robot of some sort and no human labour were needed to operate it. Wouldn't that be profoundly sensible, even though it didn't create jobs?

This casual, wrong assumption is revealed in the call out section of the article, where one key point is "young people lack the skills that are needed to find gainful employment and affect their community positively". This is ambiguous - it could mean that they lack the skills to find gainful employment and they also lack the skills to affect their community positively, but I think the point being made might be that finding gainful employment is how you they will affect the community positively. I can expose the wrongness of the casual assumption by deleting part of the sentence, and rendering it:

"young people lack the skills that are needed to affect their community positively". This speaks of the need for training and education, and not of the spurious merits of work in and of itself. If people devise a way to make it so less human labour is needed to achieve the same outputs, that is a good thing, even though it is the opposite of creating jobs.

There is a sentence in the article that would suggest, if it weren't for the rest of the article, that they do get it. "Volunteers collect the unwanted[!] produce and turn it into nutritious meals in unused professional kitchen spaces. Meals are then served to those in need in the community, thereby helping to address issues of food poverty and poor nutrition while furnishing young volunteers with valuable skills."

  • Edible food cannot be described as 'unwanted' while there is malnutrition and starvation anywhere. They mean 'unsold'. The shops can't get money for it. Good old money, eh?
  • The food (a physical thing) is nutritious, not the meal (an abstraction), but I'm probably just being picky, here.
  • Unused kitchens - yes a wasted resource is being used validly in this project. More please!
  • There shouldn't be any food poverty and poor nutrition. A rich country like the UK is well placed to eradicate this easily, but it is true of the planet.
  • Yes - upskilling (forgive me) people by having them do something constructive is exactly right. But I'm not talking about future employment, because there is no value in work in and of itself. It is only what the work achieves that can be valuable.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Keep Britain [un] tidy

I think I'll take up dropping litter. It will make work for road sweepers, and Civil Enforcement Officers to catch me and issue me with a fixed penalty notice and people to process the FPNs. We'll need more anti litter campaigners and the professional organisation that supports and encourages them will be able to take on more staff.

Well - people must have jobs, right? Fair enough, this is reductio ad absurdam (as they say in Germany) bad it's not far off subsidising car factories to keep people in work making cars that no-one wants (which is why the factory needs closing.)

People don't need jobs - they need a full belly, a roof over their head, and access to information and communication. (That's a rough and ready list, but it will do to make the point),

People must have jobs - ?

This is a councillor being quoted on a council's website:

"Breaking the cycle of unemployment where generations have not known work or wages can be very difficult. Apart from job availability, the barriers may be the lack of skills, fear of starting a job in a new environment, a need for childcare, clothing and perhaps social skills.

"If a suitable job is available, we want to help identify factors that would prevent a jobseeker from getting and keeping that work.

"It's important the cycle of worklessness is broken, particularly where children are concerned, so they can learn to embrace the world of work and aspire to a more varied future."

 Apart from the "aspire to a more varied future", this gets a big thumbs down from me. Let's not indoctrinate children to 'embrace the world of work' - at least not with our current understanding.

TVP/TZM approach (as I express it).

  • What needs doing? (Only things that are socially constructive, and preserve and improve us and our planet for our continued existence as a species should be done.)
  • Can it be done efficiently and sustainably by machine(s) / technology now, or in the future? If so deploy/develop the technology as soon as possible.
  • What is left has to be done by humans, at least until the technology can take over. 
TVP/TZM thinks there will be very little need for human work in a technologically advanced resource based economy

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Public/Private false dichotomy

A colleague was telling me of someone he knew who works in the software industry, and has been to sporting events with drinks receptions by taxi with invited guests all on expenses. One of the events was sponsored by Microsoft. Is this supposed to be OK because it's private sector? Alond with private individuals and organisations, public sector organisations buy Microsoft software and therefore some taxpayers' money is going into champagne for well-paid and well entertained software geeks. I'm not asking why the public sector shold have beanos as well, just that the idea of the public sector doing anything like this would be anathema, but it's the same people paying and the same money - the attributes 'private' and 'public' sector are minor differences.

I'm not dmgling out Microsoft for criticism - it just so happens they were the company in this case. I don't know how much they spend on such things compared to other organisations.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Planetary list of things to do

Jeremy Hardy, with whom I often agree, scoffed (on the News Quiz, I think) at the idea of comparing economies to households (despite the Greek oikonomos, meaning rules/laws of the house) presumably because of Mrs Thatcher's predilection for it. I still think it's illustrative.

The excellent Brandy Hume of the Zeitgeist Movement, in her series of videos called "Take the venus project challenge" compares a planet that lets 1 billion of its 7 billion population starve, with a household that lets one of its seven members starve. Not OK.

In a household, do you (say) deliberately use more crockery than necessary to create work washing it up? Sounds ridiculous, doesn't it? In fact, you might even get a dishwasher as it will save labour and free up your time for something more rewarding than the drudge of washing up. Sounds sensible?

Severn Suzuki in her ?1992 speech to the UN (as a child) pointed out that adults teach children to share and co-operate and not to fight, yet she saw adults competing and fighting.

So is there a fault with the household model as a model for the planet, or are we living wrongly as a planet? TVP/TZM would say the latter.

If we were a giant household / family on this planet (as I argue we are), what might our household list of things to do include?

Make sure everyone has enough to eat, make sure everyone is well, settle the dispute between X and Y, Make sure the 'house' is well maintained, make sure the 'house' is efficiently run (ie best outcomes for least effort). I don't need an exhaustive list to make the point

Britain's Trillion Pound Horror Story

The Guardian (link above) has a discussion about this TV programmed and an article about it in the guise of a TV review.

Presenter Martin Durkin set up the private sector good, public sector bad dichotomy early on, and said more than once that the public sector is now BIGGER [his emphasis] than the private sector, as if that was inherently bad/wrong/stupid. He made repeated reference to 'the productive economy', giving me the impression that it was identical with the private sector, but later in the programme he visited the NE for a nostalgic look at how it was an industrial powerhouse in the 19C. He was appealing for a manufacturing led recovery.

He didn't address the point that the technological advancements of the 19C and since have increased productivity wildly, reducing the need for work. We can't possibly as a planet keep consuming more and more to generate enough work for people to do so they can get money to spend on consumption. This isn't a moral imperative - there is a physical upper limit to the planet's resources.

The documentary's cartoon, parodied civil servant was seen taking money out of a restaurant's till to pay his wages, and then using the same money to buy himself food in the restaurant. Thus taxation was demonstrated as being 'theft' - one of the refrains of the programme is that government is spending OUR money. But this is just money circulating. It has to do that to work. In the private sector you may go into a coffee shop (these seem to be held up as the pinnacle of private sector achievement) and pay for your coffee. Some of the money will go to workers in the shop and some to the owners. The people who receive that money will go to other shops to spend it by the same process and so on. Why no shouts of "they're spending MY money" here?

I think we're supposed to be quite happy handing over money in the private sector as we do it willingly and have a choice, but this is disingenuous. You might have a choice of where to buy your food, but you have no choice but to buy food. You'd rather not have to pay it - free would be better - but you accept (grudgingly perhaps) that you have to. Rather like taxation, in fact.

I'm not saying tax couldn't be simpler, fairer, or lower, but paying for goods and services is part of the system we live in.

Durkin's point that pretty much everyone should have a job in the "productive economy" is standard fare, but let's examine it. You need to have a job to earn money so that you can buy things to keep companies in business so they can employ people. This is the cycle of consumption and it's one of the big problems of the monetary system.

Another key problem Durkin didn't really touch on is where "our" money comes from. The answer is that it is created by banks, and as you know they don't give it away, they want it back with interest - ie more money - but as they are the sole purveyors of money (ultimately) you can only ultimately get the money to pay the interest from them - at more interest. It is of course impossible to pay this back.

The programme's contributors mention "creating wealth", without really explaining what wealth is. We might understand it as making money, but  as the programme commented, creating money ("printing money") is pointless and wrong if there are no goods and services behind it. Exactly. This applies to all money in both sectors, not just the public sector.

Wealth is not money. Wealth is the beneficial resources we have available to us.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Military Industrial Complex

Maybe there is such a thing as a just war and maybe some of the war aims of conflicts in recent years were valid. The fact that just war might be possible should not cloud our views of the military industrial complex. This posting was provoked by the film "Why we fight" one of 57 videos recommended by v-radio, an internet radio station dedicated to spreading the word about TVP/TZM. The film is a bit plodding (IMHO) at the start, but persevere, because the intensity builds towards the end.

It features the nauseating collaboration between arms manufacturers and government, but in a profit driven world people must have jobs, making weapons is a job and weapons must be sold to get money to pay the workers. The  companies must make a profit and war - frankly - brings profit as it consumes weapons.

Another pericope in the film was about an articulate, intelligent 23 year old man who was joining the army as he couldn't get a job elsewhere. He also admired the tech. Middle aged women arms factory workers were also featured, torn between their need to have a job and their distaste at making weapons to kill people.

Part of the lie we are told is that the technology is super accurate and gets its targets without killing innocents nearby. The tech plainly is technically impressive and we should lament that the skill and resources that go into building this stuff is not be diverted to constructive end. It isn't surprising that manufacturers over egg the capability of what they are selling, and this is no different. The fact that we see the exaggerated claims as news is a feature of how the military-industrial complex pervades. But these weapons aren't as accurate as is made out, as we know from the pain wracked faces or corpses of "non combatants" on our screens.

As public sector cuts bite deep, many people look to military spending and argue that resources should be diverted. The arguments against are either along the "protecting freedom" lines - no-one can disagree with protecting freedom, or along the lines of just war, and removing nasty rulers from power. So we might feel a bit guilty as if we didn't really want freedom or a world free of nasty dictators. I'm also a bit conflicted around poppy day. Were those who fought / died freedom fighters fending off fascism, or were they suckers in the military industrial complex, or both. I'm moved by the ceremonies at the Menin Gate and by the last post and reveille on Remembrance Sunday, but I wonder if this is all part of the enormous commercial (advert) for the military industrial complex. Death or injury working for a company should merit compensation from that company, rather than a few quid in a poppy sellers tin. I accept that people think they are fighting for their country or a just cause, and (perhaps) that to some extent they actually are, but the profit motive is what has turned the whole thing into an industry. If the industry can get the country on board, why wouldn't it?

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Planet cf household

It can be trite to compare the planet to a household. Margaret Thatcher used to compare the UK to a household and critics found it simplistic, amongst other things, but:

In your household, I suspect you are all trying to work together towards a common aim (or someone's trying to make that happen). Everyone's share of the work is (theoretically) part of achieving the household's aim. No-one's creating work just so someone can do it. In fact you're trying to minimise household work and share it out evenly.

Apart from scale, why is the planet any different?

G20 gets it all wrong

'At a G20 press conference, Brazil's finance minister Guido Mantega criticised the US central bank's latest QE programme. "The trouble with putting an extra $600bn into the US economy is that this money will not go into production, will not create jobs and neither will it boost domestic consumption.'


1) Why should it go into production? Production of what? It matters what we produce.
2) So what if it will not create jobs? As a planet we need to prioritise our list of things to do, not just put more things on it.
3) "Nor will it boost domestic consumption.". Good. Apart from people that are malnourished, starving, or in abject poverty, we don't want more consumption. We don't want consumption for it's own sake. We've goyt a finite planet. We need to conserve and be efficient.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Manual Scavengers

The work of manual scavengers in India was featured of BBC Radio 4's Today programme this morning. The next time someone mentions the importance of work to you, here's an example to counter them. This job entails taking away human waste from customers' toilets. The only equipment provided is baskets for the waste, and these often leak. The work is so disgusting and demeaning that the woman interviewed said that if she had daughters she would rather they died of hunger than do this work. The woman is supposed to be paid by individual customers, but some days she gets no pay at all and her and her seven sons go to bed hungry. Sons are not expected to work in this "job" - in this case their job is cleaning out sewage tanks. That counts as a better job.

The demeaning nature of the job is reinforced by the caste system. The woman is only allowed to point at the vegetables she wants in the market, and the trader will put them on the floor for her. If she touches any vegetables no-one will use the stall at all.

The interviewer asked the woman about politicians and elections. Her answer is something we can all relate to - there is no way of making them keep their promises.

Of course human waste needs to be dealt with, but it is hard to think of a problem that merits a better solution more than this one - and one that involves humans as little as possible. To make people do this to get money is utterly disgraceful, but the argument that any human should do a job that could be done by a machine just to get money does not stack up. This job is just an extreme example.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Motivation, profit, big pharma

The big pharmaceutical companies are trying to make profits for their shareholders. That's part of the profit system. Have a look at "Big Pharma Big Bucks" on YouTube - US based, with more direct advertising than UK, but you'll get the idea. They can effectively relaunch drugs under a new name, and we all know how generic drugs can often be much cheaper than branded ones. They also 'invent' lifestyle diseases - "disorders" that don't really have any pathology, but play on people's desire to be/feel better, in an effort to sell more drugs. The companies can't really get out of this. If company A starts marketing a new product, company B has to compete.

These companies are selling powerful chemicals, whose unwanted side effects they will want to play down, and the more they sell (ie we take) the higher their profits. Which is supposed to be better. This provoked a thought about motivation. Critics of TVP/TZM claim that without money there would be no motivation. But do you really want pharmaceutical manufacturers / sellers / pharmacists / GPs that are motivated by money if money comes from selling more pills and potions? Plainly we ideally want people motivated by making people better, and it we can't have that we must harness the motivation that money provides to that goal, and not the goal of selling more drugs.

Of course people aren't actually motivated by money - only by the goods and services that they can use it to obtain. Even the power money brings can only be used to obtain goods and services in the end. Because of the monetary system, we have an advertising industry that tries to make people want goods and services, so that they buy them and keep the profits coming in. That's the system - we have to keep that money on the move.

If we step back and look at what we actually want for ourselves, our fellow humans and our planet, a different picture will emerge. What we want from our pharmaceutical industry is good health, for example.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Monetary reform, interest

Some critics of the current system see monetary reform as a key way forward. TVP/TZM advocates (or at least some) think it may be a help in the transition to an RBE.

Interest is a problem in the current system. If you've got money, you can lend it at interest. If you haven't, you have to borrow it at interest. Thus it is a mechanism for making the rich richer. Also, the money to pay the interest has to come into the system. In effect it is simply created and lent - at interest. Thus more money is owed than actually exists, and there must be default on debts by definition.

But if someone has a bit of money to spare, it does make sense for them to lend it to someone who needs it. This leads to us asking why they should lend it without interest. Of course the money is no good to them  stuffed under the proverbial mattress- the only real use of money is to pay for goods and services. It has no intrinsic value. For this reason, an increase in the amount of money that exists should correspond to an increase in the amount of goods and services available, but that is hard if not impossible to quantity - hence prices (the trade off between supply and demand) are set by markets.

I am still looking around / trying to understand how the true advantages of money (or apparent advantages) can be gained without the disadvantages.

Barter and profit

One criticism levelled at TVP/TZM ideas (by people not familiar enough with the ideas) is that without money we would have to return to barter. They have apparently missed the point that if there is abundance, there won't be any need for trade, nor will it be possible. If there's more than enough tomatoes (say) for everyone's need, why would anyone need to trade anything for them? It is only in scarcity that the profit system can operate, so it creates it where it does not exist.

Can we have abundance in all necessities? TZM/TVP says we can. Obviously, we could stop creating artificial scarcity so that we can monetize things, but to do that we'd have to stop putting profit at the top of our list of priorities.


My previous post was prompted/inspired by the film Psychwar, which documents amongst other things how Psychops operations developed in war are deployed to manipulate public opinion. It's well worth a watch.

Profit; Democracy

A key point made by Jacque Fresco and others is that companies/corporations have a legal duty to maximise profit. In the 1920s productivity had become so high that it would have been possible to increase wages and reduce working hours and thus have a higher standard of living, but this would have been at the expense of profit. To 'solve' this problem, consumerism was developed, using advertising to persuade us to buy the stuff that was being produced, so that profit could be maintained.

Early advertising was product centred - it was informative about the product, but as it developed, it started more and more to tap into actual human desires, by depicting healthy, happy, leisured people using the product being sold, or depicted alongside the product at advertisement level. Thus the psychology is that the product the viewer sees depicted will bring, or help bring, the health and contentment that is portrayed by the people in the advert.

If companies and corporations were legally bound to maximise the fulfillment of human need, things would look very different - not to say better, so why did profit win out - it seems illogical?

Well, those in positions of power did not want ordinary people to have more leisure time as a benefit of increased productivity, as this would give them time to think, become better educated, and potentially threaten the positions of the rich/powerful. This would lead towards true democracy, instead of the limited, circumscribed democracy that we have now, which works on the basis that ordinary people should not directly participate in decision making as they are insufficiently intelligent/educated to do so meaningfully. Many critics of the current system would of course point out that the best education is reserved for those with wealth to pay for it and therefore the people in power are creating the problem that the limitation on democracy is apparently aimed at solving.

TVP/TZM does not take such a high view of democracy as some critics of our current system do. They do see education as extremely important, and done properly, education would help people to make informed decisions, thus removing one of the objections to untrammelled democracy. But as Peter Joseph points out, nature is not a democracy: there is no point voting against an earthquake. TVP/TZM argues that opinion is pretty much meaningless in the face of scientifically acquired knowledge. Expansion of that idea is for another posting.

Monday, 1 November 2010

Zeitgeist: Moving Forward

Message from Peter Joseph of the Zeitgeist Movement

"Zeitgeist: Moving Forward", which is explicitly about a Resource-Based Economy, to going to be opening theatrically through independent (Chapter) groups starting Jan. 15th 2011. As most know this arrangement is non-commercial and I am not requiring any monetary return. Any proceeds that are obtained from these screenings will be applied to each respective ZM Chapter's work, specifically for ZDAY 2011 - which we hope to be larger than ever.

If you are not in a Chapter but would like to host a screening, special arrangements can be made depending on your circumstance. Ideally, you would need to start a Chapter or join one in your area to qualify but there is some flexibility. Please email if you have any questions.

*The Official Press Kit is now available for download:

*Also, please view/re-view and spread (embed/email) the ZMF YouTube Trailer far and wide. A viral recognition is important. [It is also now in 30+ languages.]

Thanks for your help. Again, this work is a tool to create public awareness/response which will reverberate across the world, as the current system continues to deteriorate. People are looking for change and I suspect by Jan. 2011, the western decline will be at a new low due to the ongoing/inevitable global debt collapses; the mass unemployment paradigm emerging."

Friday, 29 October 2010

Autonomous Vans

Right on cue for my post yesterday about Google's autonomous car, I read in today's (London) Metro that 4 electric vans arrived in China yesterday having driven 13,000 km from Italy without human drivers.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Autonomous Auto

Google, whose mission is "to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful" have created a car that is autonomous, using satnav, cameras, sensors etc to operate the car in a real world driving situation. The aim of this project is to reduce collisions.

The idea that machines can do things more reliably and safely than humans is a hard one to accept, as witnessed by Ben McLeish's story about the woman who was terrified in a Docklands Light Railway train in London (trains which have been computer driven since 1987) and was only consoled when a human "driver" was put in place (he just pretended).

In an RBE, we would extend our capabilities as much as possible using technology. If this saved us doing work, we would welcome it. Why do we want to do something a machine can do. And if tech can produce cars that don't crash, can't crash, then safety laws become irrelevant.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Jobs and money circulation

If the job that someone is doing is not directly contributing to the sum total of the planet's and humanity's health and happiness, the only point of them doing it is to get money and it doesn't make sense to make someone do something that we don't really want done just so they can get money. We should preferably pay people to NOT do what we don't want done.

We could pay someone to build a wall and someone else to knock it down again. That's work for two people, so good, right? Yet obviously utterly pointless. In real life the contradictions aren't so obvious, but why pay someone to sell cigarettes and someone else to stop people smoking and another person to try to cure the ilness that smoking causes? Why make someone give up caring for their children to go and work in a fast food shop that sells unhealthy food to other children to earn money to pay the childminder they need because they're at work?

These loops are everywhere you look. Perhaps you go to work to earn money to pay for the car you need to go to work in. Perhaps you work in a shop. You need people to come in and spend money in your shop so that you can get money to spend in another shop. There's a finite number of shops, so eventually the money comes back to where it started.

You only need to hold on to the money that you need to survive long enough to purchase what you need to survive, then the money becomes someone else's and they use it for exactly the same purpose. But of course in this system not everyone has all the money they need and some have more than they need. If you don't have enough money to buy a house outright (as most people don't) you have to borrow it. You could borrow it off people who have money to spare, or you could borrow it off a bank, but either will want interest. This way the lender finishes up with more spare money and the borrower less money than he/she started with.

Don't think that the bank lends you money that people with spare money have lent to them. No, for the most part, the money that yo borrow from the bank is created specially for you out of thin air. This is how savers can have instant access to their savings whilst people can still borrow. For each loan that is made, there's more money in total, and because every loan has interest on it, the total amount of money owed is more than actually exists.

People aren't going to give their money to someone who needs it (generally speaking). They might lend it (at interest) or they might buy something. Therefore people have to go to work to make stuff for people to buy, so they can get money to buy necessities and pay back their loans. This leads to there being people whose job it is to convince people to buy things (advertisers), all just to keep the money moving.

Most of us have to work to survive and pay off our loans, but does money motivate us? It can't because it's useless unless you buy something with it. You can't buy happiness (which is what you really want) so someone tries to persuade you that you will be happy if you have the thing they want you to buy. They have to do that to get your money, but your money is useless if you don't spend it.

How does this make any sense?

The market as a system for distribution and supply/demand balancing

Following my rather rambling and unsatisfactory spiel on this subject recently, I listened in to a Zeitgeist Movement Chapter meeting on Monday Night, where similar subjects came up.

It did occur to me that money as a means of exchange works quite well, but when we weigh up that possible advantage of money against all the disadvantages, we see how important it is to devise systems that have the flexibility of money without the many disadvantages of the monetary system.

The advantages of money simply do not outweigh the fact that people are starving in this world, and dying of starvation in some cases, not for lack of food, but for lack of money to buy food, whereas in the same world people throw food away and/or eat so much food it makes them ill. Does that not badly need fixing? And the idea of people working to get money to survive even if their job is not socially constructive is bonkers too. We take a moral position on drug dealing (say) though economically it is just a job, but warmongering is socially acceptable to many.
We need to look as a planet at what work needs doing and how we can effectively and sustainably do it, not adhere to an arbitrary ruke that it doesn't really matter what you do as long as you work and you must work to survive.

Monday, 4 October 2010


Trade is seen as a Good Thing in our current monetary system, but this bears some analysis. Once a farmer (say) is able to produce a surplus of (say) wheat, he needs a way of distributing that excess wheat to those who want to eat it (as bread, say). Also, the farmer wants other goods and services for his survival and quality of life, which he can't practically pay for in wheat.

We quickly see the means of exchange function of money emerging - the value of every good and service is expressed as an amount of money. We couldn't, of course, actually work out the value of wheat by how much wheat exists, so the 'market' sets the price - what will someone pay for the wheat?

But the other function of the 'market' is a place where the farmer can take his wheat to meet people who want to buy it and while he is there he can buy some of the things he needs/wants with the money he gets from the wheat he sells. Thus originally the value of the wheat stayed with the wheat. (I'm over simplifying, but inly to make my point). The market was not only the place to buy and sell, but a distribution mechanism.

With current technology it is fairly easy to know where (say) food is wanted and where it is grown/raised. The function of our distribution system ought to be to get the food efficiently from where it is raised/grown to where it is needed for nutrition, but in fact it is following money around. Starving people do not have enough money to buy the food they need to survive and cannot take part in the trade that is supposed to make the market distribute goods and services.

Do we want to, and can we, fix this problem? The market doesn't seem to be fixing it and things like charity and fair trade, though well meant, are only scratching the surface of the problem.

The "do we want to fix this problem" question is essentially an ethical one. Is it OK that people starve to death every day? If our answer to this is "no" then we have to address whether the market and trade can ever put this right  but all the while having money enables you to get more money, there would seem to be technical flaw in the system.

If our answer is "yes", we seem to be so certain that the market/trade system is right that it becomes an end in itself, without any purpose other than perpetuating itself. Unless, that is, its purpose is more sinister - to choose who lives and who dies.

If we can (as I believe we can) abstract and solve the distribution element from trade and at a world level see where the food is and where it needs to be, we can start to apply solutions involving growing/raising the food nearer where it needs to be, and we can look at efficiency measured by how much food we can sustainably produce, rather than how much money can we make from selling it. The money that should have been the means for distributing resources has become the end - almost a resource in itself.

Growing/raising food more efficiently will mean using machines and technology, with the downside that people will be put out of work, not earn any money, and starve. So convinced are we that people's incentive to work is money, that we make it impossible for people to survive without working, and the economy creates things for people to do for wages. To a large extent we uphold the idea that it doesn't particularly matter what work people do - the point is they are working - that's what's important. But it doesn't make sense. If someone actively works in a way that wastes resources and brings inefficiency, why do we support that? It would be better to pay them NOT to do it.

Zeitgeist Movement Newsletter

Issue 2 of the Zeitheist Movement's newsletter is out, and you can download it here:

There's some very engaging writing in the articles and it's hard to cherry-pick, but one particular passage stand out more than others:

"‘the basic economic problem’ causes 34,000 people to die every day because of poverty, and forces around 3.4 billion people (half of all people on earth) to survive on less than $2 per day. How anyone can be aware of these statistics and still refuse to seek alternatives is nothing short of a disgusting and unsane [sic] disregard for human life."

The 'basic economic problem' is the theory that resources are limited (true) whilst human need/want is infinite (premise questioned by the article).

Saturday, 25 September 2010

The story of Stuff

I have been reading Annie Leonard's book of this title and I have also seen the Youtube films that pick holes in the film of the same name. Some of the points the critics make are completely valid, but compared to the welter of information in the book, they are not (IMHO) terribly significant. Anyway, the critic resorts to the puerile technique of labelling the film./book 'communist' - expressed by playing the Soviet National Anthem over footage / stills from the film, thereby undermining his own cedibility.

There is much striking material in the book, but one particular piece has stood out for me. This is the approach of over using fire-retardant to support the industry that makes it, rather than because it's necessary to retard fire. This would be simply wasteful if the chemical was otherwise harmless, but it is in fact pathogenic.

In a monetary system it is necessary to set up opposition between jobs (ie access to the necessities of life) and sustainability, because sustainability costs money that cannot be spent twice. This is why the RBE makes so much sense. Step outside the mad monetary system, and examine how silly it is to use people to make and flog excess fire-retardant just so they can live ("earn a living"). Lunacy.I'd personally be very happy to pay people not to produce excessive pathogens (or any pathogens if possible), but the monetary system says I'm wrong.

Another way of putting it

We definitely live within the limits of the earth's resources. That's a fact and not up for debate. I would suggest that it's not controversial to suggest that we should not squander those resources, but conserve them, even if not for altruistic reasons. If The Earth is analogous to a space ship or submarine, with a finite water / air supply, then contaminating or wasting those resources is bad for each individual.

What's debatable is whether we attempt to share the planet's resources to the general benefit, or whether we continue to fight over them as if they were scarce - paradoxically making them scarcer as we do it, to make them have a price [that increases].

I would suggest that the basic goals of humanity  should be that each person on the planet has adequate nutrition and shelter and means to maintain his/her health. That's not intended to be comprehensive, but it gives an idea. There are things we might want to achieve beyond these basics, but the principle holds.

To achieve what we want for humanity as a whole, it follows that there is work to do and it seems only fair that each person does their fair share of it. This is not all that easy as people have different abilities individually and over time. No work should be done by anyone or anything unless it furthers humanity's goal of being a successful species in the long term.

If we agree that we should share the work out fairly (even if it's not clear what 'fairly' entails), it makes perfect sense for us to automate / eradicate as much work as possible. Why do it if it's not helping us achieve our goals? Why have futile, or worse, destructive jobs just to get money? Why do the work ourselves if machines can do it quicker, more accurately, and without the need for rest and recreation? Why don't we just do the work that machines can't do.

There's a great deal of intellect being deployed in playing what are really games with money, albeit in increasingly abstract forms. "Options" to buy shares at a certain price at  certain time are just one example of an abstraction from money, which is an abstraction in itself in that its only actual use is to procure resources. Those intellects need to be deployed directly towards  the survival and true prosperity of our species. The games they play are not frivolous as - say - computer games could be seen to be, because money is viewed as a resource in itself, even though it is actually a proxy, or an attempt at a proxy, for all other resources. If those resourced aren't scarce, money doesn't fit in, so the monetary system seeks to make them scarce to fit its world view.

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Anarchy, Marxism, RBE

I've been debating with an anarchist blogger who says that TVP/RBE is Marxism - you can see the exchange through the above link.

I'm only interested in whether the aims of TVP/RBE are desirable and achievable. Labels don't really help. The writer has a tendency to claim that the RBE has certain attributes that s/he finds undesirable, and claims that proponents of RBE actually welcome those attributes. The other possibilities are that our system does not have those attributes, or that it does but we don't find them desirable (in which case we would seek to remove them). And of course there could be a straightforward disagreement over the desirability of the attribute.

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Motivation in an RBE

Daniel Pink talks about motivation in this 18 video given in Oxford (England). He shows from scientific research that motivation comes from Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose - being able to work under your own authority, building your expertise and working for something bigger than yourself. It is well worth watching. He cites global concerns like Wikipedia and Google in his presentation.

Smoking is good for you

Smoking is good for you. It creates jobs on tobacco farms, in cigarette factories, and in advertising and retail. The illnesses it causes need treating in hospitals and this creates work for doctors and nurses, ancillary staff in the hospital, and the people who design and build hospitals. It makes work for the people who make anti-cancer treatments. It even makes work for road sweepers and others dealing with smoking litter, and of course the people who work in industries that make lighters, matches, ash trays etc. Paradoxically, it also benefits the people who work in the 'stop smoking' industry: Those who give advice and hypnosis counselling, those involved in the manufacture of nicotine patches and gum, and those pretend cigarettes that help you give up the real thing. it's all economic growth.

The government, realising the cost to businesses of progressively banning cigarettes, has postponed the enactment of the Tobacco Act passed by the outgoing Labour Government which would see further restriction. (This is not a party political statement - the same paradoxes apply in a monetary economy whoever runs it).

Lunacy. In a sane world, if people really wanted to smoke, provided they knew the risks, no-one would absolutely want to stop them, but if people didn't have to have jobs to get money to access the essentials of life, who would work in an industry that both wants you to smoke and wants you to stop smoking. In a sane world, where only work that has a social return is done, there would be less work to do, and less stress - and less smoking to palliate the stress. (Whilst tobacco can hardly be seen as one of life's essentials, and thus the nutrients to grow it would be prioritised to food, there would be no moral reason for preventing its use.)

In a world without money people wouldn't have to be bonded in slavery paying back loan with interest. No-one would need to sell anything, including tobacco, and therefore no-one would need to push anything through advertising. The only 'advertising' would simply give information about the product/service.

Turkeys voting for Christmas

Andrew Gilligan, writing in The Sunday Telegraph, opined that Civil Servants ("Sir Humphreys") will not co-operate with moves to make the Civil Service more efficient by sacking civil servants. This is so obvious it hardly needs saying, but of course journalists get paid for writing so they write.

Peter Joseph says in 'The Zeitgeist Addendum' (possibly quoting someone else) "Human employment is in direct competition with technical development". May be technical development isn't quite the issue here, but why would Civil Servants or anyone else deprive themselves of a living by cutting out their own jobs in the name of efficiency? We need to decide what things need doing for our race/planet to thrive, and set about getting them done in the most efficient way possible - ie with the least human effort, which means machines and automation. Being deliberately inefficient so as to create work so that people can get money and thereby food is plainly diametrically opposed to being more efficient. We don't need Mr Gilligan to tell us this, but he has to eat too.

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Even the crash makes work - pointless work - for people to do

Prof Niall Ferguson's TV programme, The Ascent of Money is being shown again on TV at the moment. In the first episode, he shows how the poor people of Memphis are loaned money to buy a car, but they can't afford to pay back the loan so the loan is 'restructured' and the car repossessed and put back on sale possibly in the same dealership that sold it to the first hapless customer.

The people restructuring their loans go to see lawyers, who are in effect paid to change a subprime loan that should never have been made by the bankers, into a loan that has some prospect of being paid back. There's also work for auction houses selling the same cars over and over again as they cycle round from individual to bank to auctioneer, to car dealer, to individual ...

Nothing productive, nothing worthwhile, all just games with money, moving cars around physically, nd admin as the 'title' to the car changes hands.

Public vs Private Sector

An article in The Week (10 July 2010) which was presumably quoting from a newspaper columnist - it may be Eamonn Butler in The Guardian - it's unclear - said of the 600,000 people public sector employees forecast to lose their jobs - "with nearly half a million jobs now being advertised, even in these uncertain times, there's plenty of scope for committed people to find work."

The forecast is for 1.3 million jobs to go in both sectors, but the article also quotes the Office of Budget Responsibility's forecast of 2.5 million new private sector jobs by 2014. The article doesn't attempt to decide whether these 2.5 million jobs are new additional - ie whether we are to deduct the 700,000 (1.3 million less 600,000) or it has been deducted.

It's a fat lot of good callibrating all this in "jobs" as if any one job is equal to any other job, and here we have the tacit assumption that private sector jobs are better than public sector ones. "Committed" people in the public sector will of course go out and get a new job in the private sector. What it is they were doing in the public sector or will be doing in the private sector is entirely irrelevant, it would seem.

If a job is pointless - having no social return - and is just there to give someone something to do so they can earn money and thereby access to the necessities of life, the 'sector' that it is in is entirely irrelevant. The point is that we should arrange to have done the things that are necessary for our survival and prosperity as a species by the most efficient means possible, and this means de-coupling work from access to the necessities of life.

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Controlling the resource that is human labour

If you've got more than enough money you can lend the excess out to others and get interest. If you're the big four (Rockefeller, Morgan, Baring, Rothschild), then you've got pretty much all the money between you and everyone else's money is on loan from you.

Even for the hyper rich, controlling money is useless - what you want to control is resources, and that is why resources are accessed through the medium of money rather than by birthright or for free. For most people, the main way to get money is by working and thus the resource that is human labour is controlled - helped along by the fact that the money has to be paid back with interest and the interest can only come from the same place the capital did - ie the big 4, basically.

But by the same mechanism, human labour is working against technological efficiency. Technological efficiency is good on the face of it, but if it deprives you of a job then it deprives you of money and therefore of access to resources, therefore you don't want it, even though it's a good idea on paper.

When this problem is spelt out this simply, the stupidity of it is clear.

If money truly represented actual wealth (ie the resources we have to sustain human life on this planet) as many people think it does, then it would make some kind of sense. But it doesn't. It simply represents debt that most people are working to pay back but which in total can't be paid back because of interest. The amount of money in existence is growing independently of the true growth in the economy - ie increasingly efficiently deriving the resources we need to sustain our lives

Th control of true resources

In "The Zeitgeist Addendum" John Perkins, author of 'Confessions of an economic hitman', speaks of his involvement in destabilising (or attempting to) various countries of the world whilst contracted to the CIA and IMF (ie the USA).

The common scenario as he describes it is that the president of the country wants to keep a resource (say oil) for the benefit of that country - often the poorer inhabitants. The USA of course wanted control of these assets, and sent in people like Perkins to achieve it by attempting to corrupt the president.

In a resource based economy as defined by Jacque Fresco/Peter Joseph, the world's resources would be available to all equally/fairly - this is (at least partly) why it is described as Marxist - so how does a country claiming the oil as its own fit in with this?

Well, it doesn't really, but the point is who or what institution is controlling (true) resources and for whose benefit. In an RBE there would be no institutions and the world's resources would be intelligently managed for everyone's benefit by computers. In the absence of that set up, any institution controlling resources for the benefit of poor(er) people seems to me to be a step in the right direction.

Sunday, 11 July 2010

Let's get good at killing people and good at stopping ourselves too

BBC TV's technology programme 'Click' admiringly showed a new gadget that can detect the newer type of land mine that's made of plastic to avoid detection by metal detectors. Admittedly this is clever gadge, but here we have human ingenuity (and technological ingenuity, very possibly) working against itself - one working out how to kill people and the other working out how to stop them. Still, this all makes work and money and counts as GDP, so that's OK, I suppose? I wonder whether the same company manages to make and sell both the mines and the detectors

No - it's complete lunacy. It makes discussing public sector back-office staff look like a waste of energy. Let's take a serious look at ourselves as a race here. We put our finest minds and engineers to work perfecting the art of killing their fellow human beings, and call it 'economic growth' when they sell more of their pernicious weapons.

Decouple work from the need to access the necessities of life and people can immediately stop working both on weapons and the means of neutralising or countering weapons, and do something socially constructive or if not nothing.

Cut the backroom staff

Lib Dem Councillor Chris Naylor wrote to The Independent that the Chancellor should "apply his 80-20 rule to these [public sector] cuts too: 80% from Overheads and backroom, 20% from front line". This is purely arbitrary.

Later in his letter he adds "but ask these staff where the cuts should fall and they will of course say cut the cntracts [that they monitor] - not the payroll." How many people are going to suggest cuts that detrimentally affect them personally? Most people are going to defend their own jobs.

Once again we need to decouple work from access to the necessities of life. That way people don't have to defend their employment in lieu of access to life's necessities. Then we can truly concentrate on doing (or having done) only what needs to be done to improve humanity's lot, and have it done as efficiently and sustainably as we can manage.

Friday, 9 July 2010

Inequality causes ill health - Why Equality is Better for Everyone

From the BBC:

'A report from the National Audit Office indicates that the gap in life expectancy between the poorest and wealthiest parts of the population in England as a whole is continuing to widen, despite a target set by the Labour government in 2000 to narrow the gap.

Speaking on the [Today] programme, Dr Sam Everington, GP in Tower Hamlets in London, said that the government needed to address the fundamental cause of ill health. "What I would argue is what you need is a much bigger and wider role for GPs, so in our centre we provide a hundred different projects which includes a job advisor," he told Today presenter John Humphrys.

"The evidence is absolutely clear, that if you get somebody into work or if you get them trained almost in anything you will improve their health."

BMA President Sir Michael Marmot, who recently published a wider independent review into health inequalites, said he was not surprised by the new findings and that there were "persistent inequalities" in areas including income and health.

He added that the scale of the problem in London could be seen by taking a journey on the capital's Underground system. For each Tube stop east from Westminster, he said, "you lose a year of life expectancy".

The NAO looked at 70 of the most deprived parts of England. It found that people are living longer in all areas but life expectancy is increasing more slowly in poorer districts.' is the sister website to the book The Spirit Level: Why Equality is Better for Everyone (Richard Wilkinson & Kate Pickett). The overwhelming conclusion of the authors' study is, as the subtitle says, that equality is better for everyone - rich and poor alike.