Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Consciousness and quantum theory

For those who don't competely subscribe to the idea of equality for moral reasons, the idea of interconnectedness could be important, but it can be a bit wishy-washy. Playing sugary music over pastoral scenes and saying that we are all connected might lift the spirits, but is not all that likely to convimce on an analytical level.

This two hour long lecture starts (well almost) from the two slits experiment, where light is shown to exhibit the properties of either waves or particles depending on what observations, and goes on to explain how this idea that observing something is what makes it real must apply at all levels, not just light particles/waves.

The speaker posits that we're all little bits of a universal consciousness as if we were part of a cosmic computer. The model is not radically deterministic - it has free will - and it also explains positive thinking, prayer, sychronicity and coincidences.

I'm not sure about the first part of the lecture, where the experiments with human subjects are explained. The speaker claims scientific rigour in these experimnets, and I have no reason to doubt it, but it's not clear to me how he gets from the results of those experiments to his theory. I'm going to watch it again to see if I understand more at the second pass.

Saturday, 24 December 2011

meta currencies, and all that

Someone sent me a link (no 3 above) to a prezi presentation about new wealth in our post industrial information age. The prezi platform is in itself interesting. When I went to the website, I saw a link (4th one above) to a presentation about metacurrency, which itself led to link (2) and thence to link (1).

I haven't grasped all this yet, but the various contributors say that money is just one type of currency showing on our map of the social world. Other currencies incluse trust, reputation, attention and intimacy, but we don't map these or see them as currencies.

This fits in with colloaborative consumption and alternative trading systems (LETS and the like) but bestrides them (hence the meta) and posits that there can be a network of these currencies (ways of measuring the flow of value).

Have a look and see if you grasp it better than I do. It is very thought provoking.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Future ICT is the website of the UK hub of this "proposal"

'The FuturICT flagship proposal intends to unify hundreds of the best scientists in Europe in a 10 year 1 billion EUR program to explore social life on earth and everything it relates to. The FuturICT flagship proposal will produce historic breakthroughs and provide powerful new ways to manage challenges that make the modern world so difficult to predict, including the financial crisis.'

Some of its ideas/plans are similar to those of The Venus Project.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Mary Portas goes shopping

I have just read Mary Portas' report on high streets. It's truly a lightweight document. It's especially patchy on what it is Portas thinks we want high streets for. Reading it as a transport campaigner, I was shocked by her repeated assertion that one way forward is to have cheaper car parking - ie compete with edge / out of town shopping centres to attract car borne shoppers. Portas brushes aside environmental concerns about increased car use. OK this report is not a transport report, but if Portas thinks that the great car economy will come and save us she is way behind the curve. She should Google peak oil and learn how oil production is falling year on year, as are discoveries.

The report is light on sources, and it would also appear that Portas has not considered the work of Sustrans showing that non car-borne shoppers represent a greater proportion of spend than most people think.

But for an RBE blog I need to dig deeper, and ask what human need do high streets uniquely address. Portas rightly says they should be social spaces, but constantly seems to have one eye on the perceived need for more shopping to be done, both overall and in high streets. The real main message of the report seems to be that if people don't go shopping retail will decline and then people won't be able to go shopping so much. A circular argument.

In the days when people had to go shopping, probably daily, in their local shops, the social function was a corollary. Now it has to be the high street's main offering. The constant references to having a cup of coffee in the discussion of local economies is because we usually link socialising with eating/drinking. People are doing an  increasing proportion of their socialising in cyberspace, where it can readily be blended with entertainment.

Portas doesn't really get at why we would want to save high streets, because she doesn't examine what human need would not be fulfilled if we didn't have them. Where we need to start when examining how we organise society is with how to sustainably meet human need. That is how an RBE approaches societal change and development.

Sunday, 11 December 2011


This documentary shows the history of several cancer treatments that have allegedly been supressed because they couldn't be sold, either because the intellectual property owner insisted that the formulation be in the public domain or because the substances used are food based and cannot be patented.

Plinly I am not qualified to comment on the efficacy of the these treatments, but if just oine of them is effective, then the corrupting influence of profit on human health is demonstrated and a powerful argument against the profit system is shown.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Retail vitality

A website of  history of the town I live in had a section on shops, with particular reference to the to time when I was growing up. The writer and some commenters seemed to lament the bygone age that seemed to be a heyday. OK, a bit of nostalgia is common, but it did lead me to a train of thought about what town centres are for.

TZM and TVP are about using science and technology to sustainably fulfil human needs. Town centres, just like anything else, need to be assessed on whether they directly (ie not through jobs and money) address human need sustainably.

The internet/www provides more and more people with direct access to the goods and services they need and therefore the town centre doesn't need to do this; and it can't compete with the convenience of on-line life. Technology is not going to stop making our lives easier in this way. So what, if anything, are town centres for. What human needs can they fulfil given that technology has taken over much of their role in this.

I don't think that techology has, as yet at least, succeeded in providing the means to convivium that public places provide. For all the ability to communicate instantly with people all round the world, there is no substitute for being with people, other than those you live with, even strangers - people watching. And I don't think eating and drinking will ever become separated from this convivium, so things like pubs, cafes, and restuarants will continue in some guise.

I also don't think live artistic performance will ever completely die out.

Anima (2011) This new film is a montage of inspirational talks from dozens of people including Stephen Fry, Jacque Fresco, David Icke, Peter Joseph, George Carlin, Sir Ken Robinson and very many others. The opening film didn't make me think that Anima was somethink I wanted to watch, but I persevered and found much to support the way of thinking that would be possible and hopefully normal in an RBE.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

War on our world

Quite a long documentary a nearly 2:40, but I'm sure you'll find the opinion thought-provoking even if you disagree with it, and the fact and information equally compelling.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Thrive movie

This film in 9 parts on Youtube starts of as what seems a rather schmaltzy pastoral as if it were going to be a "what an amazing world we live in" type document. It then ventures into a theory about the torus (ring doughnut shape) and its significance along with other shapes compunded from it, at all scales throughout the universe and time. Hidden code stuff. I wasn't sure about the significance or validity of it, but I'm no expert. The film culminates in standard theory about how the rich banking families are in ultimate control of society, via money, and suggests ways of breaking out of the control of this so-called new world order.

There's an interesting section about so-called free energy, which as far as I understand is inducing energy rom the earth's magnetic field.

In his what the world could be like conjecture at the end, the author posits monetary/financial reform - so less radical than TVP/TZM in that respect. Also he is influenced positively by Ludwig von Mises, which came as bit of a surprise as I was expecting the author to be more aligned with TZM/TVP in his position on that Austrian Economist, but my knowledge of von Mises is very scant, so I won't comment much further. The author accepts that we're all connected, but also agrees with von Mises that individual freedom is the way to a better society, and acting at a societal level has not worked / will not work.

The author says that the movie's statements are well-sourced, presumably on the website but I haven't followed this up.

More 9-11: Loose change (2nd edition)

I don't really see how after watching even just this film anyone can continue to believe the official story of what happened on 9-11 in the USA. The vast bulk of the film is evidence against the official story - no alternative explanation is pressed throughout most of the film, though at the end, not unexpectedly, the filmmaker claims that the 9-11 events were an inside job. Given that the the official account is so obviously untrue in very many significant detailks the 'inside job' theory at least deserves closer examination as does any plausible theory; it can't be dismissed just for not being the official story.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Behavioural economics: Not just making up the numbers

This refers to an article in London's Metro free newspaper, by Rory Sutherland -
"Those wedded to a neo-classical economic view of the world are liable to assume that the world's population consists entirely of independent actors making decisions on the basis of rational, calculating self-interest. ... "Homo economicus" - a beast created to conceive elegant mathematical models of behaviour but with no regard for how people behave in reality. ... Opponents of this view, ... such as George Soros and Charlie Munger have long been enthusiasts for behavioural economics. ... A recession, combined growing concerns over the environment , are increasingly leading people to believe that the way to solve the many human problems is not with 'more stuff' but by using less stuf in a more humman centred way.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Relative wealth

Well, 'The Week' 5/11/11 is proving (ahem) a rich source of material for this topic! This blog entry is a response to "Viewpoint: Relative wealth".

1) "I know we're all meant to hate fat cats". I know this is hyperbole, but it's use at the head of this article could be a subtle way of parodying a righteous anger at inequality as being 'hatred'.

2) "I don't see why people who put up with footballers earning zillions resent chief executives for doing the same." Yes - but by this logic we should equally 'resent' both as the neither that it seems to imply.

3) "If you earn, say, £30,000 a year, you are among the richest 0.5% of the world's population. ... Would someone on £30,000 give up some of their relatively vast salary? I think not." Ah yes, divert attention away from fat cat salaries like £1m a month by focussing on something like the average UK salary. I think this is the slippery slope argument/fallacy. Once we've claimed that someone's £60m bonus or 50% pay rise is excessive, it is inevitable that we will finish up cutting in to more modest (in first world terms) incomes. Therefore (the inference is) we should leave the fat cats alone.

4) "All wealth is relative". By this I assume they mean something like the poorest person in a developed country is richer than most people in an undeveloped one. Whilst this is true (or true enough) what does it add? 'Proposition: It isn't right that x earns 500 times what y earns.' 'Response: Ah, but all wealth is relative.' It just doesn't make any contribution, even if it's a fact. It's just a rhetorical device - throw in a seemingly related factoid and see what happens - a kind of logical smoke bomb.

In an RBE, of course, we would create a world where human needs were met, and where jealously guarding one's current status relative to those further down the heap than you (the 99.5% on less than £30K in this example) would not make any sense.

Fat cats: do they deserve their pay?

In 'The Week' 5/11/11, the article "Fat cats: do they deserve their pay?" quotes Philip Hensher, writing in 'The Independent': "Do I care if their salaries are 60 times greater than mine? I do not". Thanks for that Philip. I do care that you don't care, though. You should read 'The spirit level' (see, and maybe you would start caring!

Hensher continues "paying them less wouldn't make anyone else better off." This is a rhetorical and obviously true point. We know that paying people more makes them better off (to be equally obvious) and if The Equality Trust is right, more equal income leads to fewer social problems.

Hensher works out that reducing former Tesco top man Terry Leahy's salary from £1m a month to more like £10K a week (how would he have coped?) would only save enough to pay all the other 260,000 Tesco employees a further £3.68 a month. I agree it's not much, but as Tesco's say, "every litle helps".

I don't know what a typical Tesco salary is, but let's say it's £20K pa. This means that even with Hensher's putative reduction, Leahy would have been paid for 2 weeks what the typical employee gets in a year - the order of 25 times as much. At £1m a month, Leahy was getting the equivalent of 50 years' typical salary in just one month. Was he really as effective as 600 typical employees?

We don't know from 'The Week' (nor I asume from 'The Independent' about the other high earners at Tesco, who would logically have to take a pay cut to ensure that they weren't out earning their boss.

Lies, damned lies and ...

In a letter to 'The Times' (reprinted in 'The Week' 5/11/11), professor of economics J R Shackleton (University of Buckingham) wrote: "the top 1% of all earners pay a quarter of all income tax. Cutting executive pay would mean the rest of us paying more tax."

I can only say it's a good job that Shackleton is not a professor of logic or arithmetic. Cutting the pay of the top 1% of earners would indeed mean that they would pay less income tax at current rates - a key caveat he (or at least the letter) omits, but there is nothing to stop the top 1% of earners continuing to pay this proportion of the total income tax rake even on reduced pay. Also, if the executive pay excised from those heap topping executives were distributed amongst the earners of less money, they would pay more income tax (at current rates) simply because they earned more.

To get a little more sophisticated: I don't know if Prof Shackleton has read 'The spirit level' and/or the associated materials from If he has, he would know that the research finds that there are far fewer social problems in more income-equal societies . The fewer social problems there are, the less tax would need to be taken to pay for ways of containing those problems.

Shackleton trots out the standard argument that "the smartest of them [ie executives] will leave to earn unregulated income elsewhere". Part of me wants to say 'OK then, bye', but if the thesis of  'The spirit level' is correct and these executives transplan themselves to another unequal society (or make it more unequal by their transfer into it), they will live have to live among social problems there, too.

Shackleton also comes up with the astounding "once we politicise top company pay it will never be opportune to raise it." What?- Oh no, we can't have that, can we!

Food and population

The announcement recently that the human population of the planet has reached 7 billion has prompted much discussion on how many mouths the planet can feed. Most lay people who say there are too many people are basing this on our current system, but may need pressing a little to check this.

I was prompted to blog in this subject by  a letter to The Daily Telegraph that I have just read, re-printed in 'The Week' (29/10/11). The writer had collected 42lbs (19 kg) of reject potatoes from a 125 sq yd (105 sq m) area in Suffolk, England. These potatoes are too small or too large or too something to meet supermarket standards and are ploughed back into the fields. This is just one example of our appalling attitude to food; it is, apparently, better to discard it than lose money on it. All the while have the deliberate destruction of food, along with set-aside, and other aberrant behaviour, we cannot argue that we are over populated.

And even if we didn't waste the food that we grow, we are not growing all we can. A sane person would think that increasing the nutritional yield of our food production system was something well-worth looking into, and so hydroponic and aeroponic cultivation techniques would be the focus of scientific investigation and the nutrient content of our food would not be falling. But in the mad world we live in, if someone can't make money out of it, they won't do it.

Those who argue that our population level is already or soon will be unsustainable seem to ignore food waste and under use of food production capability, but to argue that people will be born into starvation. Yes, but people are starving in one part of the world whilst in another food is wasted at all stages of production, and over consumed causing obesity. The arguent that poor people shouldn't have children because they can't afford them makes my blood run cold. The success of any species must surely be indicated by its ability to reproduce and sustain itself, yet we have people dying for both too much and not enough food, whilst arguing that some humans should be denied existence because of this eminently solvable problem.

Who knows what brilliant potential these never-to-be-born victims of social engineering may have had?

In an RBE, the human need for nutrition would be the driving force in food production, not the need for monetary profit. Starting from how much and what nutrition  (proteins, carbs, vitamins, minerals and so on) a human needs to survive and thrive, by science we can work out how best to derive these nutrients sustainably from among the planet's resources, and distribute them to the people on the planet. We would develop and harness technology to help feed our fellow humans, not argue that they should never have been born because (in effect) our monetary system has only destined them to a life of poverty and disease and a premature death.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Natural Capitalism

I have been discussing, on Facebook, with fellow advocates of an RBE whether the ideas presented in the book Natural Capitalism are valid and helpful in the transition to an RBE which most people, if not everyone, agree cannot happen overnight. One of the principles that NatCap and an RBE share is that what we need are services, and not goods in themselves. One example used is the chauffagiste, who provides the service of keeping your home warm, for which you pay him. In our current economic system, it will clearly make sense for him to do this cost efficiently, as any £ he saves can be kept as profits and/or passed on as cost savings to the end user.

From an environmental poin of view, one would hope that this would lead to reduced waste / pollution and use of non-renewable resources, but it might be the case that your chauffagiste buys energy from a producer who is polluting like billy-ho but producing energy at low unit cost to the end user. In NatCap terms this is because the right to pollute is under-priced. If it wasn't, and all the externalities of producing energy were costed into the unit price, the rising price itself would itself provide the disincentive to use the energy inefficiently.

Once every natural resource has a price on it, maybe NatCap will arrive at an RBE through its own method and logic.

NatCap would see everything given a price so that Capitalism obeyed its own rule of not liquidating capital (natural capital here) and calling it income. So, if the price of physical resources included all externalities, the factory gate price of the good (energy in my example) would not vary in those terms. It would still vary by the efficiency of the corporation - ie how much it was paying out in wages. Capitalism seeks out the cheapest labour and cheap ways to replace human labour, but in doing so reduces the spending power of the consumers it needs to keep spending to keep cyclic consumption going. This is how capitalism destroys itself.

Debt unsustainable says Daily Telegraph

Jeff Randall writing in the Telegraph (what could be more mainstream?) points out that the people of Britain owe £1.5 trillion in mortgages, loans and credit card debts. He says if the Bank of England was not holding down the base rate at 0.5% "borrowers would be going to the wall in droves" but also that the BofE can't hold rates down for ever. "So why aren't politicians raising the alarm? Because the Chancellor wants people to keep spending to boost the stalling economy." "Consumers should be in no doubt though: a 'day of reckoning' is coming." [Derived from an article in The Week, 5 November 2011].

Clearly a lower interest rate is better than a high one when you're in debt, but the money to pay back interest has to be borrowed and can only be borrowed at interest. So debt can never be paid back by everyone - some have to go bust - it's just arithmetic.

And how are we going to keep spending without eventually consuming all the resources that the planet has available? To some extent consuming services will help, if those services are trying to be more materials efficient (more service for less stuff - especially waste and pollution).

But because £ has been put beween real resources and the meeting of human need, meaning that we have to meet human need indirectly by the acquiring of money, which bears interest, we have to work to get £, and then spend the £ so that others can be in work. Cyclic consumption it's called. We need to be meeting human need directly from real resources, sustainably. If £ facilitates this, so be it, but money must be the means, not the end.

Dr Giles Fraser, who resigned as Canon Chancellor of St Paul's Cathedral because of his concerns over the way the Cathedral was treating Occupy the London Stock Exchange protesters, said on Thought for the day on BBC Radio 4 this morming that markets produce wealth and jobs. This depends on what you mean by markets and wealth. If you mean financial markets, ie gambling institutions, well yes people, though not everyone, can make £ by such gambling. Wealth - if it is to be truly relevant - has surely to be gauged as the means to meet human need, a means that money cannot be as it cannot be eaten, drunk, breathed, lived in, or used to move things.

Markets first evolved as a means of distributing goods. The true wealth creators would take their produce to a place where they could sell it and money fulfilled its classic role as a means exchange, a store of value and a unit of accounting. A farmer doesn't want to swap the sheep (say) that he has raised for physical goods, especially not persishables, so he takes tokens which he can use later to acquire the means to meet his human need.

So because £ can be used to acquire goods and services as and when required, it takes on the semblamce of actually being a commodity, rather than just tokens. Money markets logically follow,  but people quietly forget that just because there is more £ there is not more actual directly useful stuff. Only science and technology can take the credit for actually increasing yields of directly useful stuff.

Nowadays, the advocates of an RBE hold that science and technology can sustainably help the planet yield enough directly useful stuff to meet our human needs, and with moderm communications, there is no need (or less need) to take physical things to a physical space for the exchange/transfer to take place. (The farmer just puts his sheep on e-bay, so to speak, and whoever wants them buys them.)

So if we were organising our planet today from scratch, using what we know and can do today, the pull of money on our economy (lit. household management) wouldn't be the driving force. If there isn't scarcity there's no need to use money as a store of value, means of exchange or store of value. If we use human need as the driving force, we immediately see that we don't need to do any more work than is necessary to facilitate our human needs being met and that if we can reduce that work by technology and mechanisation, that would be good, not bad (as we already accept at household level).

So there, again, is the train of thought that leads to an RBE. The use of the scientific method via technology, to sustainably meet human need.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Collaborative consumption

Further to my previous post, I'd like to put forward CC as a possible component of an RBE or the transition to it. It shares with Natural Capitalism the concept of people needing services rather than goods in most of not all cases. There are oodles of ideas and applications here that need participants and possibly establishment in your area. They are all based on hiring, sharing, swapping, collaborating and the like.

Making markets work

This is the heading of chapter 13 of "Natural Capitalism" (Lovins, Lovins and Hawker) that influenced me years ago. One of my favourite bits is where the authors directly expose tthe assumptions of the free market as, if not being invalid, having obvious exceptions. The authors say that "it's only because markets are so imperfect that there are exceptional business opportunities left."

I'm blogging this material here as to get to an RBE we need some transitional steps - and making the free market do what it theoretically should, or showing that it can't, may be one such step.

 It's a US focussed book, published in 1999, but the ideas hold up pretty well. Anyway, here are the 18 assumptions (in italics), interspersed with the "hang on though" exceptions (in the book you turn the page). All credit is due to the authors of the book.

1. All participants have perfect information about the future. If anyone had it, he or she’d be barred from elections and stock markets — and probably not given any credence by the rest of us.

2. There is perfect competition. Competition is so imperfect that exceptional profits are commonly earned by exploiting either one’s own oligopolistic power or others’ oversights, omissions, and mistakes.

3. Prices are absolutely accurate and up-to-date. Markets know everything about prices and nothing about costs.

4. Price signals completely reflect every cost to society: There are no externalities. Most harm to natural capital isn’t priced, and the best things in life are priceless.

5. There is no monopoly (sole seller). Microsoft, airlines’ fortress hubs, and your managed health-care provider come close.

6. There is no monopsony (sole buyer). Consider your utility, the Peanut Marketing Board, and the Federal Aviation Administration.

7. No individual transaction can move the market, affecting wider price patterns. What about Warren Buffet and the Hunt Brothers?

8. No resource is unemployed or underemployed. Thirty percent of the world’s people have no work or too little work. (Economists justify this by calling them “unemployable” — at least at the wages they seek.)

9. There’s absolutely nothing that can’t be readily bought and sold (no unmarketed assets) — not even, as science-fiction author Robert Heinlein put it, “a Senator’s robes with the Senator inside.” Most of the natural capital on which all life depends can be destroyed but neither bought nor sold; many drugs are bought and sold in a pretty effective free market, but doing either can jail you for life.

10. Any deal can be done without “friction” (no transaction costs). The hassle factor is the main reason that many things worth doing don’t happen.

11. All deals are instantaneous (no transaction lags). Does your insurance company always reimburse your medical bills promptly? Does your credit-card company credit your payments immediately?

12. No subsidies or other distortions exist. Worldwide subsidies exceed $1.5 trillion annually — for example, America’s 1872 Mining Act sells mineral-bearing public land for as little as $2.50 an acre and charges no royalties.

13. No barriers to market entry or exit exist. It’s hard to start up the next Microsoft, Boeing, or GM — or to get out of the tobacco business

14. There is no regulation. The world’s regulations, put on a bookshelf, would extend for miles.

15. There is no taxation (or if there is, it does not distort resource allocations in any way). The Internal Revenue Code exists.

16. All investments are completely divisible and fungible — they can be traded and exchanged in sufficiently uniform and standardized chunks. You can’t buy a single grape at the supermarket, nor an old-fashioned front porch in most housing developments.

17. At the appropriate risk-adjusted interest rate, unlimited capital is available to everyone. Many people are redlined, must resort to loan sharks, or have no access to capital at any price.

18. Everyone is motivated solely by maximizing personal “utility,” often measured by wealth or income. So why does anyone fall in love, do good, or have kids, and why do three-fifths of Americans attend weekly worship services?

Saturday, 22 October 2011

The Fear Index

Robert Harris's new novel of this title is based on the truth that brilliant physicists now work in the financial worls, in which phenomenally powerful computers trade (though it isn't really trading) with each other. To judge the speed, consider that 19.4 billion shared were traded on 6 May 2010 - more than were traded in he whole of the 1960s. We have the most powerful computers and human minds creating a  kind of cyber chaos-theory model, which has taken on a life of its own to all intents and purposes - it is out of human control, Harris argues.

In Harris's own words: "This then is the financial world in which we now live: ... A world in which thousands of the most brilliant minds on the planet are paid not to pursue scientific progress [many of the physicists were made redundant from the USA's particle accelerator], but to devise financial strategies that are mostly non-productive and sometimes highly dangerous." I think he may mean financially non productive, but I prefer the plain meaning of what I have quoted. He must mean financially dangerous. This trading cannot directly hurt us - only indirectly as all the £ is sucked towards the rich and powerful while millions lack the very basics of survival.

Growth error

Jolyon Connell, founder and editorial director of The Week magazine writes in the 8 October 2011 edition that Matt Ridley, wrote in The Times that "the West has been running a vast financial pyramid scheme, but the world itself is not in debt." Correct. We haven't tried borrowing money from other planets yet and the world is of course a closed system: This applies as much to finances as anything else and importantly physical resources. But Ridley continues: "the world economy actually grew by 5% last year according to the IMF." This is factually correct, I assume, but we are talking about growth in GDP/GNP (which are identical at world level). We can't have a pyramid scheme with real resources, because they are finite. If we "liquidate our natural capital and call it income" as the authors of Natural Capitalism term what we are doing, no restructuring, bailing out, quantative easing or any other financial tinkering will save us.

Koko ok: Motivation

Koko is a 40 year old gorilla with a sign language vocabulary of 2000 words, the intelligence to invent new compound terms from her existing vocabulary (eg "eye hat" for mask) and many qualities that humans can relate to. In an article about his visit to Koko, Alex Hannaford mentions that "Some sceptics have argued that Kok does not understand the meaning behind what she is doing and simply learns to sign because she'll be rewarded. Dr Patterson [President and scientific director of The Gorilla Foundation] admits that in the beginning she, too, thought [this] ... but the gorilla started stringing words together to describe objects that she didn't know the signs for." Hannaford adds that Koko "signed to achieve goals, but these goals weren't treats: They were to get me to follow her around the room, to get me to lie down, to get me to play with her - to interact."

Gorillas, I suspect, have no concept of money, and so it cannot take the place of  the actual needs it in fact helps us to satisfy (at least in part). Koko enables us to see what gorillas are motivated by. In seeing how 'human' she is, we might learn about what really motivates people.


Betrand Russell wrote that "a great deal of harm is being done in the modern world by belief in the virtuousness of work." I hven't read this maxim  context, so don't know precisely what point Russell was making, but I found the quote in a page torn out of a magazine. I found it not long after I had watched a video on the web of 'Occupy' protesters in Los Angeles, including one young woman who listed what "we want" from society. I don't disagree with her wish list, except that she included 'a job for everyone'.

This idea of a job as a basic need really is something of a blind-spot. Maybe Russell realised.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Is democracy sustainable?

Democracy is such a high ideal, but unfortunately it produces, at least in many systems, people who want to be elected. One way they try to get, or remain, elected is to keep talking about jobs and more jobs. People hear the words 'more jobs' and they broadly think that's good, but no-one every really says they want to meet human needs better. That could and should involve there being less work to go round.

More jobs means, in the face of more mechanisation and automation, more consumption, and we're using up the planet's resources unsustainably. Following through this line of argument with a friend the other day, he opined that loss of democracy now is too big a price to pay and the despoilation of our planet is a regrettable but unavoidable consequence. If this is correct, it is rather despairing.

Why aren't there politicians saying that they want society organised so as to meet human needs as best they can. What's not to like? Are people scared that there won't be enough to go round, so we'll have to compete somehow, or is something more sinister afoot? The motives of the rich are pretty blatant. The government says "we're all in this together", while the media portrays people who get more for this year's bonus than some people will earn in a lifetime. "Together" usually has connotations of co-operation and a sense of fairness, but in this context we're all in the same heap - its just that some are on the top and plan on staying there.

If we want to reassure people that there is enough to go round, we need to know how much there is in total. Maybe this needs to be the first step towards a resource based economy.

Cyclic consumption

Trying to get people to consume, or more exactly buy more things in order to keep people in work so that they can carry on consuming doesn't make any sense even if resources aren't finite. Even from infinite resources our aim should be to satisfy human needs for the minimum work possible and the minimum human work possible.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

The Osama Myth

A well and clearly argued thesis about the secret neocon government within the US government that planned the 9-11 attacks. In one slide the speaker shows the three types of player in this game:

The patsies - eg OBL. These people do not have the technical ability to carry out the physical events. They are not necessarily innocents, but they did not carry out the attacks.

The moles - these are charged with protecting the patsies from being exposed / arrested while the events are being set up. After the event they expose the patsies as much as possible to reonforce their guilt.

The technical people. These actuaall y set up and carry out the events. They are backroom boys probably motivated by money, not ideology.


This film doesn't accept the official story of what happened to the twin towers in New York on 11 September 2001. It can't accept the official story of the collapse of Building 7 because there isn't one (correct me if I'm wrong).

The film does not subsribe to any particular theory of who planned and executed the attacks, but it shows how the official story cannot be true.


It is a weak but unfortunately common argument technique to play down or ignore the advantages of something you are against, play up the disdadvantges of it, and do the opposite of the thing you are in favour of.

This is seen a lot by critics of TZM/TVP especially when they light on money, because of course in an RBE there would be no need for money, and some proponents see actively getting rid of money as a transitional step in bringing in an RBE.

Undeniably money was introduced for practical reasons - a means of exchange, a store of value, a unit of accounting - the classical purposes of money - and it is counter intuitive to claim to be able to do without these functions. [In an RBE we would account for every resource. Difficult, maybe, but look at all the intellect and technology that goes into finance and weaponry. Imagine if that was diverted towards fulfilling human need and measuring sustainability].

To balance the claim of the usefulness and inevitability of momey we can look at corruption as one example of something an RBE would eradicate. I saw a TV programme about black South Africans in shanty towns. Some of them were bribing officials to get what we would call a coucikl house. One family fetaured had applied for and been allocated a council house, only to find that the house was already occupied bu someone (equally desperate) who had 'bought' the house - ie bribed an official.

In an RBE there would be no money to bribe people with, and with resources shared fairly no desire to be bribed. With human needs put first there would be no-one living in a slum. Opponents of an RBE need to put their cards on the table. Do they actually want a world where human needs are met and corruption is designed out? If so, they need to fit it into the monetary system, where scarcity (in this example of decent homes) brings an opportunity to make money.

Free market capitalists often argue that their favoured system will eventually benefit all, but this promise of jam tomorrow doesn't seem likely to be fulfilled based on experience so far. And given that human need is not being well enough fulfilled the while the limited resources of the planet are being squandered as if they were limitless, I say we try something else. Maybe no system has so far been beter than capitalism, bt this doesn't mean no better system is possible.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

New film about the 7 July 2005 bombings

This filmmaker does not espouse any particular conspiracy theories, but he does not accept the official story of these events, asking dozens of pertinent questions and presenting facts that expose the fact thAT the official account is not true / accurate.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Is this just fantasy?

It's fascinating to read people saying that an RBE is just fantasy. It's an interesting word. Clearly in the sense that the RBE is a theory, it is a fantasy - something imagined, but 'fantasy' has the overtone of unachievable and unrealistic. Maybe that's right, but many who make the point also have a 'fantasy' about free market capitalism, which they constantly claim works for just about everybody. But not everybody, though?

Some critics raise the spectre of a centrally planned economy, and one I have just read illustrates the power of our current system by use of a loaf of bread. How does s/he actually think a loaf of bread comes to be on a supermarket shelf? Is some computer not counting how many loaves are sold, and where? Is some bakery not trying to bake the bread just in time, and deliver it just in time, using economies of scale (if they exist)? What is this but central planning? The fact that money changes hands at each stage does not make production and distribution more efficient. If anything it adds friction to the flow of bread from farm to belly.

Is the bakery trying to cut down on waste? Yes of course - as an RBE would do. Does the distributor try to find the mist efficient way of transporting the bread? Yes of course - as an RBE would do. A lot of the mechanisms are there and the RBE would use them as they are, improving them where possible.

What's different in an RBE, continuing with this analogy? Well (1) if you want / need a loaf of bread, but haven't got the money to pay for it, forget it. Resources are allocated by ability to pay, not human need. (2) Part of what you pay at the till is for advertising and marketing. Yes, someone trying to persuade you to eat more bread, or bread 'a' instead of bread 'b'. What is the right amount of bread to eat - and the best kind - for human health and happiness? No matter - this is about making a profit.

Opponents of an RBE scoff at computer control of distribution, whilst completely ignoring the fact that the big suprmarkets do exactly that. They also ask "who programmes the computers?" to suggest doubt about the motivation. Well first, who programs them now? Their motivation is profit. Second, as already explained, computers collect information about where things are sold (as a proxy for where they are needed). Technically there's no important difference. Imagine online shopping as it is now, but without the bit where you pay.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Capitalism on trial

I've just listened to the first eposode of 2 of this BBC Radio 4 programme, presented by former UK Conservative Government Minister, Michael Portillo.

A lot of nonsense was repeated. Capitalism has presided over technical advances, for one. Straightforward cum hoc ergo propter hoc (, even if they didn't spot that it is scientists and engineers that make these breakthroughs.

The pre-capitalist idea that the fulfilment of people's needs should be balanced with the resources available was scoffed at, as if we could use all the resources available, plus a bit and the mantra that capitalism produces wealth was much repeated. Again this phrase doesn't really bear any analysis. The only true wealth is having human needs met. Money is no good if it doesn't fulfil human needs (it can't buy you love). And however we're measuring wealth, it matters who it is being produced for. That is omitted from this statement. We infer "for all" but this is not true. Millions on this planet starve.

There wasn't any significant mention of the actual resources that directly sustain life on this planet. People can't take their eye of money and jobs for a ninute, it seems. They said there is no better alternative to capitalism, but they didn't mention a Resource Based Economy.

Looking for work

"There are jobs out there for those looking hard enough". We hear this kind of nonsense spouted fairly often, as if jobs were hidden away to make it harder for people to 'find' them. If they are, why? If something needs doing for the fulfilment of human needs and society, we (society) want to find the most efficient, sustainable way of doing it. Therefore we need maximum information about what technology and if necessary human ability is available to do it. In a connected world, these needs and resources must be desperately easy to match. Maybe getting on one's bike and looking for work made sense years ago, but not now.

"Noone's going to come knoocking at your door offering you a job." If there's no job that needs doing that you can do then this is quite true, but if there is a job that needs doing that you can do, them why on earth are you not matched with it?

Sound bite brings no nutrition

David Cameron (UK Prime Minister) has said that social housing should be allocated to those who work hard. It the kind of superficial comment we're used to from politicians of all persuasions. It doesn't really bear close examination.

First, how would someone determine how hard anyone is working, and second, there's a vector here. How hard anyone is working doing what? It does actually matter what they're doing. It needs to be socially constructive and in support of human needs - as well as being sustainable within the resources available. Do we want people working hard against these goals?

Cancer stage of capitalism diagnosed by a trader

'The cancer stage of capitalism' is a book by John McMurtry, but this trader likens the recession to cancer. He opines that "anyone" can make money in a recession. I didn't note his terminology, but the essence is you bet on stock markets falling.

Of course "anyone" can probably do this, but not everyone can. There have to be losers for there to be winners.

Friday, 23 September 2011

Monetary reform

The monetary reform movements and groups I have encountered all call for an end to the ability of commercial banks to create money out of thin air with no realistic limits on how much they create and no constraint on the purpose they create it for, other than their own profit.

The reform groups call for the money supply to be regulated by a government appointed or constituted body rather like the Monetary Policy Committe that sets the base interest rate.

A change to this system may remove some of the worst mechanisms for boom and bust, but still seems to me to leave the problem of the basis on which money supply will be increased or decreased. In some reformed models, banks will still be in offering loans and interest on deposits. How will the banking system as a whole ensure that it meets human need and does not ignore the oversall constraint of our finite ecosystem.

Will the banking system look to create jobs that the system will require people to have n order to access the resources they need? If so, it will have failed to address that key element of a resource based economy.

'Bank to the Future' seeks to combine social networking and peer-to-peer lending. Nice, but if a project is making money by liquidating natural capital, it doesn't make it better becuse the £ raised to start up the project was raised by crowd funding rather than fractional reserve lending. The CEO of BttF speaks engagingly about projects that interest or excite potential investors, but if these are not sustainable projects that benefit human need then they should not be done, however eciting they are.

Apart from ensuring that the reformed baming system meets the sustainability and human neeed focussed criteria, would it not be better to step over this development and use the technology and ingenuity we have available to solve problems directly and account for the resourcces we actually have available at a planetary level. No committee can decide how much of a natural resource the eco system should have, but scientists can measure how much it actaully does have, and work out ways of using resources efficiently so as not to deplete them, and find alternatives to resources in short supply. In a monetary system, resources in short supply have a high price, and the money will follow such resources. The monetary system likes shortages, even needs them, which is why we see  set aside in agriculture and food being thrown away while people go hungry for lack of money.

A conversation with Jacque Fresco

This is a god interview with Jacque Fresco of The Venus Project from 2004. He doesn't digress to much and in one case where he does, the interviewer  calmly aks him the same question again. It's  a good intro to TVP

Michael Ruppert gave a very compelling speech on the tenth anniversary of "911". I agree with a great deal of what he says. Do watch and listen. His stuff on Fukushima is quite cchilling but outside my remit here.

I don't think it is necessary to regard the earth as a deity (as he does) in order to give it due respect. The earth does set the bounds of our physical existence and therefore we should look after it, but I don't think this requires any transcendent beliefs (pantheism and panentheism).His premise that money is a deity is very informative; he points out that US notes say "in God we trust" and says that as money is god this means we should trust money. People who said "money is thre root of all evil" when the proverb is "love of money is the root of all evil" used to be corrected, but perhaps they were accidentally right.

I don't think he is right about man's dominion over the earth as posited in the book of Genesis. This is not domination, but dominion, and for me it implies good management and stewardship rather than exploitation. It may sound rather feudal, but feudalism isn't necessarily environmentally unsustainable, even if it is socially undesirable.

Ruppert advocates monetary reform. Fairly radical: The abolotion of fractional reserve banking and compound interest and the cancellation of all debt that has interest applied. TZM would go further and abolish money. I think Ruppert may go this far in theory, but he's likely to argue that we should be pragmatic and stick to his key reforms as priority and see where  we go from there.

Ruppert is extremely hard line about growth. Anyone who refers to it in the economic sense is a liar and your enemy. I take his point. I also like "things break down, not up". These simple expessions and rules of thumb are very practical ways to get at the problems that face this planet and humanity. If they are unsubtle, the subtilty can wait until disaster is averted.

Work that needs doing

A discussion with a friend covered the point that it may usually be better for someone to be doing paid work, however menial, and how ever ineffectively/inefficiently than not working at all. Well, never say never, but ... no, never.

The tests should be:

Is there a direct social benefit from the work involved being done? That is, is a real human need being met. (Just giving someone a job is not meeting a real human need.)

Is doing this work sustainable - does it account for our finite planet?

Can it it be automated (completely or partly). If so, automate it in whole or part.

We are left therefore, with work that only humans can do, that is truly necessary and environmentally sustainable. That work needs to be fairly shared out between those who are capable of doing it.

Those who are not capable of contributing to this work should not be penalised. There is nothing they can do and we cannot morally penalise people for existing.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Child Labour in Bolivia

Jonathan Dimbleby's currently showing TV travelogue featured chilldren working in Bolivia. One was a boy who worked as a bus conductor after school. and JD interviewed a young girl who was the leader of the union for the child workers. So this isn't child exploitation - well not at its worst - but it did show how ingrained the idea of the "need" to work is, with an ?11 year old girl repeating it.

It's indoctrination, really, to tell children they need tyo work, when a  moment's thought reveals that work is not a basic human need. It only seems like one becuse society witholds access to the resources that fulfil basic human needs from those that don't work, but could.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Non mainstream media

Here's a selection of websites with a take on things that's not mainstream. I've mainly come across them from TZM people, especially Peter Joseph.

I'm not condoning them or agreeing with everything they say, but they are thought-provoking and eye opening (or just useful resources)

Waste and technology

It's a bit trivial in a way, but this road sign, telling people to ignore their satnav, annoyed me. In an RBE, the mapping data would be in the public domain and open source, and not locked in to various competing mapping systems. Such corrections as were necessary would only beed to be made in one place, and would be downloaded to devices as appropriate to keeo them up-to-date.

This sign is ugly and installing it was wastefuk in that it should not technically be necessary.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Magic words

Simon Nixon, writing in the Wall Street Jourmal about Banking reform, says "George Osborne's [UK Chancellor of the Exchequer = Finance Minister] priority must be the recovery." Sounds right, doesn't it - the recovery? Someone's ill - let's hope they recover.

But the rcovery being talked about here is purely a financial one. Wall Street is just a great big casino and bankers gamblers, who when they lose their bets tap their friends in government for a sub. This is all disguised in code and jargon, as we know.

In the article in 'The Week' magazine that I'm basing this post on, I read that "UK bamks trade on lower multiples than many of their eurozone peers." I think this means that they lend proportionately less money that they have created out of thin air. We also learn that the "ring-fence [of retail banking from investment bamking] could cost banks some £14bn a year." This means that banks will be able to create £14bn less money per year out of thin air with which to gamble or with which to create interest bearing loans that have to be paid back with money also created by and lent by the same banks.

This argument is basically "please don't stop me gambling as then I won't be able to gamble." There is no physical referent in what the banks do, and no life ground. It is a big, destructive, game. We can and should destroy our own eco system in order that this game can continue and expand, according to the lunatics that run this world.

In fact it is obvious that if we damage and destroy our eco system(s), it/they will damage and destroy us. Therefore, obviously (to the sane person) we should strive not to damage or destroy our eco system. What is the test or output of this? Well, the survival and flourishing of the human species. How can we meet human need sustainably (ie withnin the limits of eco system resources). That is the question facing us, not how we can get more money for bankers.

Obama's sick decision

"Under intense pressure from ... Republicans", "Obama has shelved plans to tighten rules on air pollution - on the grounds that increased regulation might hinder America's economic recovery. ... The retreat is an embarassment for Obama."

Let's get this straight; the actual life system that sustains us - our planet with its atmosphere and incoming solar radiation - is not as important in the eyes of these psychopaths as 'economic recovery' which is code for getting people to consume more and therefore spend more money.

Should we destroy our ecosystem in pursuit of money? A sane person would answer, "no of course not", yet politicians answer "yes, if it means me staying in power".

Terufying and depressing in one go.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Get shopping Libyans

With the revolution in Libya coming to its denouement, apparently, I heard a commentator today opine that Libyans need to get shopping. Oh yes, that's what we want - more consumption. That's the solution. From dicatorship with shopping trip. From Gadaffi culture to cafe culture.

Spare me.

The Pope says we need an RBE

“The economy doesn’t function with market self-regulation but needs an ethical reason to work for mankind,” the Pope told reporters aboard the papal plane.

“Man must be at the center of the economy, and the economy cannot be measured only by maximization of profit but rather according to the common good.”

Pope Benedict drew upon his 2009 encyclical “Caritas in Veritate” or “Charity in Truth” in which he asserted that the dignity of the person must be central to all economic decisions.

He told reporters that the current economic crisis afflicting many young people in countries like Spain again shows that a moral dimension isn’t “exterior” but “interior and fundamental” to the formulation of economic policy.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Materialism and well being

"Constraints on the material level have only a minor influence on well being, as long as a certain level of subsistence is assured via access to the necessities of life".

I believe this is a quote from the New Economics Foundation, but I haven't found it at source.

Saturday, 13 August 2011

The fundamental human needs test

It occurs that using one of the lists of fundamental human needs I've featured here, or a better one if you can find it, anything in society can be tested. The recent troubles in England's cities, for example.

In the jargon, 'satisfiers' are the means by which human needs are met. In our consumerist society, advertisers seek to persuade you that your human needs cannot be met unless you buy their product. this enables the spiral of consumption to keep going and maintain the false goal of economic growth.

In the recent troubles, what satisfiers were the various looters and rioters getting? Obviously a flat screen TV is a 'satisfier' in that we're taught to want such things. Maybe setting fire to a building gives a sense of enjoyment.

We need, though, to satisfy human needs in a way that is socially constructive and sustainable. The theory says that satisfiers have to be chosen to really work, but this does not mean that society cannot inform the choices. Classically education and the family are expected to instil society's values, but it's pointless if children are taught to share and not fight, when at national level we see countries grabbing what they can for themselves, using military force if necessary, and in daily life we are indoctrinated that consumer products are satisfiers, to the exclusion of all else.

If society can be arranged so that human needs are satisfied sustainably, it is hard to see how people would want more. And if human needs are being satisfied, we would presumably not see civil unrest.

I see that my argument may be circular. If society is dysfunctional, then human needs are not being met by definition, as a functional society is a human need. Even so, I hold that directly (or as directly as possible) satisfying human needs sustainably should be society's goal, not money, not profit, not economic growth, not competition.

Fundamental human needs

This alternative list of FHNs appeared on Bandy Hume's RBE 101 video (part 3), though I have alphabetised it. Not sure what 'Earth' is getting at.

Air, Earth, Education, Family, Food, Friends, Health, Life, Love, Peace, Shelter, Water

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Fundamental human needs

I have just followed up the mention of Manfred Max-Neef in the RBE 101 vvideo (see previous post). The term used in his thinking is Fundamental human needs. Hee has nine classes of needs, including subsistence, and he breaks these categories each down further into four existential categories: being, having, doing and interacting.

Astoundingly, against subsistence, under both having and doing, he includes "work". This makes no sense to me, for reasons explained, but it's still useful analysis.

Irreducible human need

It seem a no-brainer that society/the economy/the planet needs to be organised to fulfil human need, and it's easy to sustain an argument that human need isn't being fulfilled, and therefore it could logically follow that society is not structured to fulfil it. Some problems are identified when we look at what people say they need. In part 3 of Brandy Hume's excellent RBE 101 videos on the web, she includes some footage from a video about Amartya Sen's Capability Approach - something I want to look into in more depth at some point.

An example used in the video segment is people saying they need a car. The presenter goes on to show quite simply that this is not (to use my term) an irreducible need. When pressed on why they needed a car, common answers revealed more irreducible needs, such as freedom, special identity, and affection (in that the car enabled visits to frends and family). It can easily be seen that these needs could be fulfilled (in part if not in full) by other means than car ownership or even car use.

We can apply the same approach to jobs. Now a job may provide opportunies for autonomy, mastery and purpose (Daniel Pink's components of motivation), but these could conceivably be provided by hobbies and voluntary work, but the obvious "need" is for money, but this is not an irreducible need. A better candidate is nutrition (probably via food). [OK we could all scientific and reduce nutrition to a biochemical level, but I think nutrition is sufficiently irreducible to make the point].

Because money has stood as a proxy for all the goods and services provided by the planet, such as nutrition and labour, it is hard to get away from the idea of a "need for jobs". We historically had to work to produce the food we needed for nutrition, but as productivity rocketed, much less work was needed for the same production and we are increasingly faced with the fact that money is no longer a good proxy for necessary work, yet it is the key to acquiring the means to fulfilling many of our needs. Instead of facing up to this flaw, we try to generate work for its own sake, in direct opposition to the efficiency we know makes more sense.

Given that our social system is so obvioulsy failing alongside the monetary system that is suppose to underpin and facilitate it, don't we need to re-examine how we organise society to fulfil irreducible human need? A good starting point would be the basic one of nutrition, or we might say subsistence.

Friday, 5 August 2011

Motivation; abundance

So a critcism of TVP/RBE is that people won't work without the motivation of money. Well we know this is not true of everyone at all times -  we know that people do voluntary work, give to charity, and undertake all kinds of recreational activities in their own time and often at their own expense. But there remains a logical possibility that there will be those who if given their fair share of the plantet's resources for nothing, will input nothing from their own resources to the maintenance of an environmentally sustainable, socially just and peaceful planet for the benefit of humanity.

To overcome this problem, basically everyone has to work. Access to resoures is tied to money and money to work. Therefore, it is in the workers' interests that there is work for them to do. Police need crime, doctors and nurses need people to be ill, firefighters need fires, and so on ad infinitum.

This artificially created need to work is supposed to capture those people who would not contribute without being rewarded, but how many of those people are doing work that is actually productive for society and the planet now? Some, like many people, may be doing a job because they have to, and some may be doing jobs that involve clearing up the mess created by the system - to quote my favourite example, they may be employed mitigating or solving the effects of smoking to counterbalance the cigarette promotion industry in which people are paid more the more people smoke. Or they may be doing "jobs" that are unequivocally anti-social, even by current standards - acquistive crime, drug dealing, or whatever.

So, the naysayers' claim is that we can't risk a moneyless society just in case there are enough people who currently do something socially productive but will stop if no longer paid to mean that the required human work in an RBE - work that is increasingly encroached upon by automation -  won't get done.

Well look. If we in fact found it to be a problem that the human work  needed to have a successful RBE was not being done because people felt there was nothing in it for them and were not motivated (even though they would benefit from the successful RBE), we could re-introduce money. We would see it though for what it is -  a claim on the planet's resources over and above one's fair share.

If there truly is abundance, this wouldn't make sense. It would surely be a rare person who would seek to deprive someone else of something of which there is plenty for all, just because s/he could.

So these are the  issues: Will there be motivation to do the human work that needs doing, and will there be abundance so that people will not try to reserve resources for themselves to the exclusion of other? Maybe this is a risky experiment, but I don't think it is. We can easily switch back to our current system if the RBE doesn't work, but if anyone can stand up and say that the financial collapse, war, starvation and servitude that the planet currently faces is clearly better, then I would like to hear their arguments.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Pulling in manual labour

In an environmentally sustainable, just and peaceful world, the world system would only pull in the human work it needed to remain sustainable just and peaceful. If it could reduce human work through automation it would do it gladly. But for this to work the link from survival to work via money must be broken.

People are sceptical that people would work for no reward other than the satisfaction of it. I share the scepticism, but I'm prepared to give it a go. The world is so dysfunctional now, as we destroy each other and our environment, that I'm prepared to risk this motivational problem. And anyway, if we really needed money we coulkd re-introduce it easily in the twinkling of an eye. It's just numbers in computers.


The Daily Mail has reported that since 1977 the share of national income going to those on the bottom half of the earnings ladder [sic] has fallen by a quarter, while the slice going to the top 1% has increased by half.

In a resource based economy, with no money, there would be no possibility of the rich lending out their surplus money to the poor, with interest, so that those who have the most constantly get more.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Monetary reform

From my limited knowledge of particular monetary reform proposals, I would say they are a stepping stone to an RBE. The reforms proposed by Positive Money are very inviting. The obvious one is its proposal to eradicate the fractional reserve system, and I'm going to agree and set that to one side.

One of my rerservations centres around the control of money supply. They propose to wrest this from the hands of bankers and politicians - yay - and give it to n independent body. OK, but how is this independent body going to decide by how much to increase money supply, and in whose interest will they do so? Their own, presumably. And will they be inccorruptible?

My other observatiion is that most ordinary people will still have to work to get hold of money, and therefore there will be pressure to create work so that people can do it, which leads us straight into the idea that problems (say  disease and disorder) are s good because they create work/jobs for people to solve them. This does seem to be a weakness of money that these reforms have not addressed, unless I'm mistaken.

Under Positive Money you would enter into a bond, actively allowing the bank to use your money for an agreed period during which you would not be able to take it back. You also get to decide which projects your capital will be spent on. Logically fine, and on the second point you can already choose ethical investments.

The problem as I see it, though, is that some people will still want the maximum return on their investment, so even if the projects invested in aren't sociilly constructive, and/or if they liquidate natural capital and call it income (to quote Natural Capitalism), they will still attract investement because they give a high return on the money put forward.

As I understand it, posiive money is itelf undecided on how it will quantify money supply.  And he point is that even if we willingly put a brake on money supply, the limiting factor is still real resources and not money.

Nevertheless, we cannot ignore this stepping stone. The looming finacial crisesmay be alleviated by a system which uses positive money.

Saturday, 23 July 2011

A cult and a fetish

Critics of environmental sustainability often seem to portray it (negtively) as some kind of religious belief . I recently heard about something - economic growth probably - being "sacrificed on the altar of sustainability".

An article in The Week gives a precis of newspaper articles on energy reform, and most notably Matt Ridley in The Times refers to a 'carbon fetish'. He argues not only that the increased cost of using non renewable energy will destroy jobs, but that (as paraphrased by The Week I take it), 'energy is the elixir of economic growth'.

It is economic growth that is the cult and fetish here. We need energy and we need to conserve the energy we have, not use as much as possible to maintain 'economic growth'. And if we don't stop putting carbon into our atmosphere we are heading for climate catastrophe. Are we not prepared to "sacrifice" economic growth on the "altar" of our own survival as a species?

Let's set out the lie that continued economic growth is here again. We have limited, not unlimited resources. As we have limited resources, we need to conserve them if we wish to survive and prosper as a species. If we don't wish to survive as a species, we can carry on using resources as quickly as possible and lying to ourselves that they will never run out, or not caring on the basis that they won't run out in our lifetime. We can carry on competing for and fighting over the resources, making them more scarce and thereby getting more 'economic growth'.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

It won't work

Critics of the RBE often produce "it won't work" type arguments, as if everything's fine now and there was no finacial meltdown, impending environmental disaster(s), starvation, war, etc. I sometimes wonder if they accept that these things are problems, and that we should look for solutions to them.

If everything was going pretty well, and we came along advocating tweaks, and people said that a tweak wouldn't work, and showed why, the objections migh make some sense, but at the moment it is like going to the doctor with a disease, and whatever the doctor suggests, opining "it won't work".

Perhaps people don't care about wars and starvation that don't directly affect them, but the enviromental catastrophes are eventually going to affect us all either directly, or when people start to move from affected areas. So people need a strategy for at least that.

On natural disaters, Brandy Hume (Take TVP challenge) points out that when individuals and goivernments collaborate to deal with the aftermath of a naural disaster, it is widely seen as good. TZM proposes coming together to face planetary problems before they occur (as far as possible). We're told it won't work, we're a cult, etc.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Jobs for the boys

Sherard Cowper-Coles (former British Ambassador in Afghanistan), in his new book Cables from Kabul, claims that "the top brass were keen to commit troops to keep the army fully employed: 'It's use them or lose them', one top general apparrently told him." [The Week, 2/7/11].

Should this surprise or shock us? I don't see why. Once again, these are jobs, and it is currently socially desirable to have a job - it doesn't especially matter what the job is. And if more troop deployment is antagonising our opponents, they will retaliate more, and so appears a vicious circle. But this is good - more jobs and more economic growth.


The International Programme on the State of the Ocean (IPSO) reports that 'Our oceans have reached such a critical state that we may see a mass extinction of marine species unparallelled in human history.' 'Overfishing, pollution, run-off fertilisers from farming and the acidification of the seas caused by CO2 emissions are combining to make oceans uninhabitable to marine creatures'. 'Previous mass extinctions ... have been linked to problems similar to those now facing the oceans - on which all life on the planet ultimately depends. But the oceans are now absorbing far higher levels of CO2 than they did during the wipeout of marine species that happened 55 million years ago.'

So there we are - we face mass extinction. Is this not more pressing than economic growth? Even if economic growth is really important, it can't be as important as facing mass extinction, can it?

The above quotations are from  an article in  The Week (2/7/11) which itself is based in an article in the Independent, which must have been based on the IPSO report.

Friday, 1 July 2011

Population control

Somewhere on the internet some twit commented that TZM/TVP "boils down to ... population control". The vast majority of comments on discussion forums don't merit any response, and this glib and ill-thought out (un thought out) one doesn't either, but it's another in to explaining the tenets of TZM/TVP.

TZM/TVP point out the undisputable scientific fact that the earth has a carrying capacity. Undeniably, this is the limiting factor on the human population. We might not be able to enumerate this, but it is certainly there. We can keep using resources faster and faster, but we will reach this absolute limit.

TZM/TVP say that the only sensible response to this is to use the resources efficiently, to give us the maximum chance of true prosperity as a species.

As to population control, what do you call starvation in the third world while in the first world people die of lifestyle diseases such as those related to obesity? What do you call sending young men (mainly) to death in wars? What do you call leaving curable diseases uncured to preserve financial profit? TZM/TVP calls to an end to all population control, but accepts that there are natural limits.

Monday, 27 June 2011

Episode 2 of BBC TV's Made in Britain focussed on the value chain - basically invention/innovation, manufacture, marketing and branding.

Value is a euphemism for price or money. The real value to you of a GSK pharmaceutical is whether it makes you well. The "value" to them is the money they get from selling the product. A direct conflict of interest. I'm not saying they want you to be ill, only that ot pays them if you buy their drugs.

Presenter Evan Davies was also in a supermarket (probably Tesco) and he pointed out his "favourite" bottled water. He claimed that people who are drawn to branding are 'sophisticated' (his show was really a meta commercial). What is sophisticated about branding water and selling it at a high proce, where elsewhere in the world people are walking miles to get hold of the stuff, or dying because they can't get any potable water?

Evan also featured Silicon Fen, where Cambridge braniacs work on high tech designs. He featured ARM, who design chips for all kinds of devices - especially mobile phones. They don't make them, they just design them and sell the right to make them. Clever and impressive, but this clustering of cleverness done at regional or even national level needs to be taken up to world level. Why is it good to collaborate in Cambridge, but to compete at national level?

The rest of value should be how well something adds to human well being, not just to the bank balance. If you can make a lower energy use, small, powerful chip, logic dictates you tell everyone how to do it, so that the planet can benefit, not that you keep it to yourself so you can make money. A more potent example would be an invention that halted global warming. It would be imperative to scale it up and implement it world wide, not to patent it and keep it to yourself to make money while the world fries.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Prison works?

Check out the work of James Gilligan. I watched a few minutes of his videos on line, and was struck by the point that several studies have shown that education is the most effective antidote to re-offending yet discovered. There wasn't a modest difference - somethinh like 2% after 30 years (by those educated to Bachelor's level or above) compared to 60% after 3 years.

And education can be delivered cheaply, using on line videos, or DVDs, or even conveivably interactive teaching over the internet. In an RBE, of course, education wouldn't be withheld from people so that educators can make money out if it. All educational material would be open source.

Structurally purposeless jobs

Another epithet I heard from The Zeitgeist Movement's founder Peter Joseph, in his lecture in California recently - it can still be seen on (Some of the excerpts are annoyingly short, and there are annoying random interjections of adverts).

Anyway there's much good material from PJ, the USA TZM coordinator, the California coordinator and the City coordinator (sorry forgot which city!).

PJ referred to  "structurally purposeless jobs" solely for the sake of monetary circulation. In the current system you have to have a job to get money to survive, but also to consumme more and more to ensure economic growth. It doesn't matter if the work you dop is futile, or even counter-productive to society, as long as you get paid for it.

In an RBE, "structurally purposeless jobs" would simply not be done. If what someone is doing is not environmentally sustainable and socially productive, they should not be doing it, not even for money.


Let's not kid ourselves. What humanity is competing with is powerful forces of nature. Why are we wasting effort and despoiing the planet by creating nation states to compete with each other, when what we so clearly need to do is to defend ourselves as a species from natural events such as earthquakes, severe weather, global warming (a natural reaction to our activities, at least in part), diseases affecting us directly and affecting the food we need to survive, and possibly other things.

Is this not enough or us to be going on with? Why are we competing with each other, and not collaborating to face these very real threats?

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Just a quotation

"When I feed the poor, they call me a saint, but when I ask why the poor are hungry, they call me a Communist"
- Dom Helder Camara


I've just wached the first episode of "Made in Britain", presented by Evan Davies. It was an interesting and well presented programme. It was hard not to ne impressed by the technology on display (from BAe, and McLaren), or to be endeared to Brompton, Britain's biggest bicycle manufacturer

However, I have some issues:

Evan opined that we should all save more, so that £ can be invested in hi tech machinery to maintain  and improve our exports. Our exports do not pay for our imports. What other economies are saying that? The word total exports must equal imports. Which countries are going to step forward and import more than they export?

Evan euphemistically called the BAe fighter jet "controversial". Quite. This is a killing machine. We need to sell more of these to boost our economy? For what reason would people buy more of them?

The McLaren sports car costs (I think) £160,000, so is only available to rich people. It is not a practical piece of transport equipment in any sense, and aptly represents exactly what conspicuous consumption is. How do people get rich enough town one of these  badges of wealth?

At keast the Brompton bicycle is a rather more benign example of a high end product, but as it is so useful and well designed and made, the obvious thing to do in a sane world is share the knowledge needed to make it. Evan explained at one point in the programme how Britain made a technological leap to become more efficient in a certain area of manufacturing, but all manufacturing on the planet needs to be efficient. As a planet, we shouldn't be inefficient just so that we can have competition. Competition is supposed to create efficiency, but not for its own preservation.

If we are not efficient as a planet then we are using the planet's resources more quickly than we are able to, and bringing forward our own demise as a species. I would like to see Evan devoyte his considerable skills as a writer / presenter to that issue, which supersedes any economic recovery.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011


By profit we usually mean financial gain, but it's more general meaning is just a gain or a benefit. If financial gain is a motivator, wouldn't it make sense to harness it to things that 'profit', that is benefit humanity, rather than seeing financial gain as unconditionally good, ecept for the restraints we have put on it (illegal drugs, for example)?

The obvious example of where we've got it wrong is harnessing it to work - human labour. With one habd we're trying to be mor efficient - achieve more with less human labour, but with the other we lock work to income. Makes no sense.

Another example. Would it not make sense to incentivise people remaining healthy, or being restored to health from illness? How does this fit in with people making money from pharmaceuticals? You're ill? Good - I'l sell more drugs, employ more doctors and nurses, build more hospitals.

I don't know if money can be used to incentivise only those things which are truly socially desirable, but if it isn't, what are we doing with it.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Do you want me to have a job or not?

The public sector faces strikes, basically over jobs, terms and conditions. Thousands of people are losing their jobs, and will join the band of people who are told "you must get a job", yet when they tried to keep the job they already had (perhaps through strike action) are told they can't: Money must be saved, efficiency must be gained.

Again, there's nothing wrong with efficiency. Do what needs doing (and only that) as efficiemtly as possible, using machines / technology to [help] achieve it. Interlocking survival with work drives in ineficiency by forcing people to get a job that doesn't need doing, or could be eradicated, or could be done by a machine.

Friday, 17 June 2011

Political ping pong

Ed Balls says we should reduce VAT to stimulate the economy. This means the government will take in less tax per purchase,  but as the price at the till will be lower, the idea is that the increase in purchases will compensate for, and presumably overtake that shortfall.

The government of course says no. That's what they do. One side says 'tinker like this' and the other side steps up and points out the disadvantages. It's all nonsense.

Step away and up from this political ping pong. The more stuff we buy the sooner we'll run out. Don't pretend we can't run out. We are running towards a precipice and all we can think of is going faster. Face up now to the reality that we havn't got an unending anount of stuff, so therefore we have to be wise stewards. Creating jobs on the basis of nore consumption not only consumes stuff, but people's lives, as they spend their time trying to get you to consume more  so that they can consume more.

Change the record. Consue less, work less, become more efiicient, conserve and share what we've got.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Just listen to yourself

On the Today programme this morning, a woman was interviewed about people in this country who didn't have enough food, and were being given it by charity. A disgraceful state of affairs. But she said the people didn't have enough money to buy food and didn't have enough money because they didn't have a [well enough paid] job. (That may just be the gist of what she said). What is this long chain for? You can't have food without money, you can't have money without a job, you can't have a job without work being found or created for you. Rewind.

Why aren't we growing as much food as we sustainably can on this planet and feeding everybody at least enough for their healthy survival. Why not - what's our excuse? Why are we allowing our fellow humans to starve and die? It isn't good enough. The work we do should be for the benefit of the planet and especially humanity. If it isn't, we should be doing it. In your house you don't find work for people to do, you keep it to a minimum and share it out. And you don't let anyone in your house starve while the others waste food, either. Well not if you're sane.

We're so used to this job/money paradigm that we take it as read, but it's silly. Bo it's not silly, it's criminal. We have to stop.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Ecosystems - vital minimum

The problem with ecosystems is that they conjour up ideas of rare species of  - I don't know - wasps, or something in the Amazon Rain Forest, and it's probably hard for many of us to feel much for any wasps, and we wonder if the ecosystem can do without them. Even larger organisms - say polar bears - though of tremendous aesthetic value don't seem to many of us to have much connection with our survival as a species. Species have become extinct, and we're still here.

None of this changes the fact that the biosphere - the overall ecosystem, I suppose, sustains human life. Even if scientists don't know which organisms are vital to this task and which are irrelevant, it is ceratinly the case that we will die if we don't conserve what sustains us. Never mind what looks pretty, or what seems pointless; we know that there is a vital minimum.

National Ecosystem Assessment

Commentators have called this "an attempt to put a hard economic value on Britain's nature". Natural Capitalism that putting a mometary value on ecosystems makes semse because we put a monetary value on "everything" else, but use ecosystems as if they are infinite.

George Monbiot is sceptical: "When you turn nature into an accounting exercise, its destruction can be justified as soon as the business case comes out right." And "it almost always comes out right." Charles Clover in The Sunday Times observes that 'the agricultural losses incurred by setting aside land to promote a "diverse, flowery landscape" are more than made up for in gains from tourism and recreation; that building on green belt would have a disastrous effect on property values."

Where to start. "Property values" is a euphemism for property prices, which as we know fluctuate widely, whereas the value (utility) of a property doesn't. Then there's use of aesthetic values. We lose agricultural land but we gain tourism and recreation. Sorry, but this is not a sensible comparison. Agricutural land is where we grow food. Food is to eat, to sustain life. Yes you can sell it, but you still have to have food. Tourism may bring in money, but you still need to have food. Recreation is good and helps make us fully human, but you can't eat it.

Quantifying all the natural resources we have is a gargantuan task, and having a single unit to measure their utility - ie money - has appeal. But this must still lead to conserving our natural resources, and not be a device for more financial jiggery-pokery, which adds nothing to the physical world and humanity as a whole.

"The need for the UK NEA arose from findings of the 2005 global Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA), which not only demonstrated the importance of ecosystem services to human well-being, but also showed that at global scales, many key services are being degraded and lost. As a result, in 2007 the House of Commons Environmental Audit recommended that the Government should conduct a full MA-type assessment for the UK to enable the identification and development of effective policy responses to ecosystem service degradation"

"The UK NEA will help people to make better decisions that impact on the UK’s ecosystems to ensure the long-term sustainable delivery of ecosystem services for the benefit of current and future populations in the UK".

Nothing to do with money. We need ecosystems to live, and we can't buy them.


I suppose TVP/TZM advocates might find themselves saying that we shouldn't squander our natural resources in pursuit of [financial] profit. (In Natural Capitalism terms, liquidate our natural capital and call it income). Thinking about it, I'm quite happy with "we shouldn't squander our natural resources".  That's it, full stop. Profit? Maybe, maybe not, competition? Maybe maybe not. But if competition and financial profit are not being harnessed to the end of environmental sustainabilty, or at least not against it, then they have to be sacrificed. This is nothing to do with social justice - even that is contingent on sustainability.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

What do you want?

The next time someone asks you what you want, you might like to quote Jon Perkins: 'an environmentally sustainable, socially just and peaceful planet.' Pretty good.

John Perkins was a contractor for the CIA who was sent in to various South / Central American Countries to destabilise them for not being favourable to the US way of looking at things. He has learnt the error of his ways.

"Socially just" is in some ways the trickiest of the tenets in Perkins' refrain. I don't know exactly how he envisages it coming about, but TZM/TVP is labelled as 'communist' for advocating social justice. It's a feeble technique just to label something and let it be thought that the bad attributes from the label impute to the labelled. Is social justice wrong? If communism wants social justice, and social justice is right and good, it means communism is not entirely wrong.

TZM/TVP conceives of a world of abundance where people are not deprived of what they need because of financial constraints. Thus it side steps communism, which is theoretically the equal sharing of resources, whether or not they are abundant.

The limiting factor is sustainability. We can't use more resources than we have, and we shouldn't squander them. Whether we can or even should share them equally is another matter, but putting them out of use without benefitting the planet / humanity is plainly stupid. Isn't it?

Cancer, Burzynski, antineoplastons and how profit has to come before life

Polish doctor Burzynski pioneered cancer treatments using antineoplastons see The film 'Burzynski: Cancer Is Serious Business' shows the concerted efforts of various bodies in Texas and the USA to undermine him, whilst his patients and/or their parents movingly witness how they have lived way beyond the expecatations of the prognoses of oncologists.

Underlying all this is the vested interest of big pharma in continuing to use existing treatments, from which they are making big money, along with the natural conservatism of the medical establishment.

The powers that be don't want important medicines to be in the hands of an individual through patents - tey want institutions to have the rights to them - this usually means big pharma.

Given that Burzynski invented/discovered antineoplastons, and first patented them, we might resonably argue that he should benefit from the money made from them. In fact he has has to spend $millions defending hiself against accusations including of being a fraud a quack.

How much better is it, though, for Burzynski to benefit from ANPs than big pharma? For money to be made out of medicine, people have to be ill. The cancer sufferers in the film make emotional pleas in courts and hearings for Burzynski to be allowed to treat people unhindered by government/industry to stop him, but even if Burzynski had always held the rights to the drugs unfettered, this would still be a problem, as he would still be making money from people being ill, and could conceivably want to protect his patent. If someone came out with a better or cheaper treatment, they would then make all the money. How would he feel about that?

If your livelihood depends on things going wrong that you have to fix, you face the same paradox. In an RBE, the patient would come before the patent. In fact there would be no patent. Discoveries / inventions would be open source, and used to benefit humanity as much as possible, within the overall limits of the earth's resources. Money would not be a limiting factor.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

A Resorce Limited Economy - fear

I have written before, and it is undeniable that we live in a finite world. We cannot use more resources than we have. That's a fact, not an opinion.

Given that limit, we have the choice to co-operate and conserve, or compete and deplete. I think the big problem is that if we don't know that we've got enough resources to share, the logical position is to get what one can for oneself - ie compete. Yes, there will be those who trust enough to share / co-operate on the grounds that it is fair, but there will be others, starting from a fear of scarcity, who will seek to reserve / own / hoard what they think they need plus a buffer or store against shortages.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Growth cannot continue for ever

"Anyone who believes in indefinite growth in anything physical, on a physically finite planet, is either mad - or an economist". Kenneth Boulding, JFK's environmental adviser.

Yes money can grow indefinitely, but it is not a physical thing. The amount of money that exists continues to grow, as it must because of interest, but the amount of actual useable resources does not. Therefore our priority must be to make the best  - sustainable - use of them.

Don't be sidetracked by talk of deficit reduction. Reducing the deficit is only reucing the amount of money that's added to the National Debt in a year.

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Ubuntu crashes PC big time

I wish to relate my dreadful experience of Ubuntu. I downloaded the 64 bit AMD version and put it onto a CD. I ran the CD, and chose the option to install the system alongside another OS (I have a 1TB hdd partitioned into two equal parts.) The installer installed Ubuntu over my whole HDD and destroyed my Windows 7 installation, and all my data. Today I have been out and bought a  new HDD for a clean install of Windows, and all day the PC has been running a utility to recover the Windows data. I don't know yer how successful that will be.There was no going back with the installer, no warning. This has been one of the worst weekends of my life. If you have any contacts in the world of Ubuntu, I would be grateful if you could tell them this and also warn people that you are recommend the package to.

I regret having to say this, as I appreciate open source and free software, but this is very bad.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Circular contribution

It's often said that people need to contribute to society and that's why they should have a paid job. Not having a paid job means you're not contributing to society (unless you're retired). In the extreme, jobs are even created for people to do so that they can contribute by doing them. Some "jobs" are, by being made illegal, shown to be not contributing to society, though. Let's say a mugger. It's work - it takes skill and nerve, and it could be quite good money, but it isn't socially acceptable/constructive. Therefore any job that demands skill and nerve is not necessarily socially acceptable/constructive and there must be some other attribute of the job that makes it so.

I submit that the attribute should be whether what is being done directly helps the sustainable survival and thriving of humanity on this planet.