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.