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It is never too late to give up our prejudices.Henry David Thoreau
Let’s rewind a couple decades.
At 22 I was working at a discount shoe store in Southglenn Mall, in Colorado. It was the year 2000 and the old mall was still there, Tilt Arcade, Orange Julius and all. I had a lot of free time on shift, often working solo through the afternoon and evening because there wasn’t that much traffic. So I’d kick back on the floor behind the register, knees up to the lower shelf of plastic bags and rolls of paper, back against the wall with a good book, where I couldn’t be seen but at the ready for when a customer tripped the sensor for the entry bell.
That’s where I read Walden, by Thoreau, and as a young man my world was never the same. In today’s climate of Tea Partiers and Libertarians, it may be hard to understand how his minimalist look at life had nothing to do with selfishness. Thoreau had as little reverence for the free market as he did for government, and generally viewed the common people of his time with understanding, not looking down like a guru but patiently observing – like a visitor to an asylum.
That is the book that framed my view of Economy – not a beast of price balances and consumer chains, but a way to conceptualize the wants, needs and goals of humanity – for many years. Published in 1854, only 80 years after Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations, it may be hard for the uninitiated reader to understand that it came well ahead of the modern discipline of economics. It would, for instance, be another 60 years thereafter before the concept of inflation was formalized, and 20 more before the first GDP calculations were made. So when Thoreau settled on the name “Economy” for one of the large sections of Walden, he was doing so with a different concept of the word than we have today. For him it was a reference to the Greek for “household management,” and so it was basically synonymous with principles of simplicity, health and conservation.
Last year, when I set out to formalize my Organomic Theory, I knew it was radical. A lifelong student, devouring books now for about three decades, my education runs the gauntlet of sciences from cosmology to programming, of thinkers from Steinbeck to Jung, great minds from Einstein to, well, Thoreau.
The internet hasn’t merely leveled the playing field regarding indie music lovers and self-published authors, after all. The dangers of the Flat Earth Society notwithstanding, Wikipedia and its like have changed the world. If you don’t want to hear my theory on economy because I didn’t take on $70K worth of student debt in trade for a curriculum that is available for the price of a monthly broadband connection – or Amazon addiction – maybe we’re coming from irreconcilable definitions of the word after all.
Formal education has revolutionized nothing less than the planet. Yet disparaging the collegiate field of economics is well within my rights as a pissed-off, well-educated voter, given their results. As the ecology our lives depend on falls to pieces around us, our leaders are denying basic science at every turn. Favoring dollars over resources, and greed over sustainability, we are falling out of balance in potentially apocalyptic ways. Basing our practice on Adam Smith’s theories today is like performing sports medicine in the NFL with leeches, or training Tesla mechanics in the art of equine husbandry . . . and yet that is exactly what we continue to do.
So, seeing the obvious need for a new, scientifically sound theory going unaddressed somehow still by the bulk of the established field, I sat down and began the Organomic Thesis from a layman’s perspective, with little more than Google, 43 years of life experience, and Thoreau’s Walden.
You may not be surprised then to hear how a few friends and colleagues responded with recommended reading. Eager to learn, in preparation for the more difficult and technical sections of the thesis, I snatched up a new reading list from Amazon Prime, not hesitating to use a little bit of the 2020 stimulus cash still lingering in my account.
Agenda for a New Economy
From Phantom Wealth to Real Wealth
by David C. Korten
David Korten is a long-time Harvard Business professor, expert economics author, co-founder of Yes! magazine, and he’s twice as old as I am. The provocative title of his 2010 book spoke to me at a glance, resonating with ideas similar to things my dad often said, as I was growing up, about the make-work we use to justify our existence (when he wasn’t quoting Brando: “I coulda been a contender!”). I dove into it on a Saturday a few months back. Working weekends currently, I have reliable downtime to plow through books like this, fast. I don’t have to hide them behind the counter these days.
Boldly across the cover here reads “A Declaration of Independence from Wall Street,” and the book follows through with nothing less. Exactly how a Harvard Business professor came to such radical views, and yet was ignored for decades by the mainstream, is no doubt a story of its own. Yet Korten foregoes autobiography here, focusing on pure theory, references and world history. His case for a Living Economy is educated and convincing. This is a rare portrayal of the lies inherent in modern investment capitalism and economic imperialism. It’s hard not to agree by the end with Korten’s vision, and want to read further into the community of Ecological Economics it resides within.
Analyzing the crash of 2008 in substantial depth, he explains the course of events in clear terms, to differentiate for the student real vs phantom wealth. This is likely a new term for many readers at that point. How can wealth be a ghost? What would that even mean?
Well, here we’re talking about speculation on investments and banking, mostly, but at a scale (think ‘hall of mirrors’) that reveals an entire class of wealthy do-nothings – the majority of the financial sector – “making” more money than the rest of us combined, via a diverse bag of tricks and institutionalized cons, the questionable ethics of which Korten unflinchingly calls out. Rattling through one historical account after another, conversing with varied experts along the way, he weaves for us a tale of the origins of the corporate world that borrows much from literal pirates and plunderers, drawing an unbroken line from slave traders to lobbyists. His civility is commendable, when you realize he is calling out real crimes that have impoverished entire nations – resulting in epidemic death and poverty. The corrupt class of Wall Street execs and hedge fund managers, according to Korten, is no less than a direct heir to Nero or Caligula riding into the apocalypse with a gilded, orgiastic chariot, drawn by horses on fire (not an exact quote).
This tendency to vilify the rich will not go unrequited, no doubt. I’m sure they taste better with more salt, and I’ve been known to pass around a guillotine meme now and then, myself. Yet I find our economic enemy to be systemic much more than personal, so for me this eventually became a tiresome point.
If you are above the poverty line in the US, you are in the top 14% of world wealth. What is this, if not a phantom? Who is making the case for the 50% of the world living on $5/day or less? If economics is a game of “us and them,” surely, like it or not, “we” are “them.” Economic reform is not about vilifying the rich, to me, in the end. It is about actualizing real wealth around the world, on a scale that makes the rich of today look like greedy, ignorant little kids.
Also a little frustrating is Korten’s inability to produce a concrete alternative, looking at government spending priorities in black and white, zero-sum math. Speaking directly to the notion of real wealth vs imaginary – fake – phantom wealth – the lies of the investor class, he spends the book eviscerating the latter, which is great, without ever quite finding footing to name the former – the Real Wealth – in anything but the broadest terms. In passing we see it, hazy and monumental on the horizon, but there is nothing there to seize, to just quite lay our hands upon.
As a mortal accusation of the Wall Street class, for their economic games and literal stranglehold on the levers of power in our world today, Korten’s Agenda For A New Economy is remarkably understated and easy to read, authoritative and annotated. Highly recommended.
The Deficit Myth
Modern Monetary Theory and the Birth of the People’s Economy
by Stephanie Kelton
Another Doctor of Economics from the Northeast US, Stephanie Kelton is founder of the New Economic Perspectives blog and former adviser to presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. She is also the foremost name today in popularizing the school of thought known as Modern Monetary Theory, or MMT.
Calling MMT “new” isn’t exactly a misnomer, coming as it does in present form from Warren Mosler’s work in the 1990s, but the ideas underpinning it have a lineage going back at least to the concept known as Chartalism in 1905. Now, while many MMTers will readily rattle off that bit of information, what often slips through unseen is that Chartalism really is MMT, in most important ways, and in fact even this theory has roots as far back in history as 1st century Rome.
Augustus, Kennedy and Nixon have been among the numerous proponents of fiat mechanics and resource-based spending, well ahead of Mosler’s revelation. Not to say the new school isn’t adding a thing – specifically we talk about government deficits in modern terms, and their positive effects – but it may help the reader to have a little more background on these theories, which are far from untested. Believe it or not, the concept that governments and banks are just making it all up (I simplify, but yes) goes back a long way, essentially to the origins of organized banking itself.
What MMT does, and it is valuable, is give this body of thought a 21st century marketing makeover – putting the temporal moniker right out front no less – because, let’s agree, Chartalism is a terrible name.
With that understood, it’s clear that Kelton’s 2020 opus is the single most important work under the new acronym to date. Sure, she pays dues to Mosler, but Kelton is the champion bringing these ideas, in these terms, to the forefront of both the public and governmental hiveminds, at an important crossroads in our time. She’s been fighting the good fight in this same deaf and dumb world – along with many other progressive economists – for decades, there’s no doubt, but she alone gets credit for recently crashing through that glass ceiling to expose some of the larger illusions of modern economic theory to a mass audience. Do we really need to pretend she owes all that much to any man?
Before we go further, let’s clarify. What exactly is MMT, in layman’s terms? It’s easy, once you take a look. Monetarily sovereign nations – that is any nation that issues their own currency – are not limited in any real way by cashflow itself. There is no traditional budget to balance for these governments. They can print more money to satisfy any societal need, so long as the real resources are there to back it up. This power is limited in MMT only by inflation and unemployment.
That’s right, the government does not have a budget to balance, in terms of the money it spends or taxes it levies, and if that idea is new to you, your feelings of disbelief or even anger are perfectly natural, as with the following question, “Exactly how much time have we been wasting then?”
A lot. Not only does this mean that every political budgetary argument – since Nixon ended Bretton Woods and disconnected the gold standard – has been an absolute pile of nonsense, but as Kelton points out so distinctly, every governmental deficit has in fact been the inverse, the mathematical mirror, of a public surplus – we had it completely backward. Deficits are good. Bigger deficits are better. So long as the resources exist and the economy can handle the inflation, that is.
The power of this insight should not be understated, though that’s exactly the next step most MMTers will take. Kelton is quick to insist this is no blank check, invoking a Job Guarantee and preventative taxation.
It’s at this point where the theory makes a hard right turn, the roots of which extend back through Chartalist thought, giving the power of the currency entirely to an overstated faith in people’s need to pay taxes.
Meeting Austrian thought in the middle, with inflationary collapse always right around the corner, among the flaws in The Deficit Myth is its unanalyzed propagation of these two faulty axioms. Like Korten before her, she envisions an outline of a shadowy – if beautiful – People’s Economy, just over the hills ahead, to whet our appetite for what may become possible in this brave new frontier. Calling out a fork between Descriptive and Prescriptive MMT – theory vs practice, so to speak – Kelton spends nearly the whole book on the former. One can only hope there is a sequel in the works.
The Deficit Myth is essential reading for anyone interested in where current economic theory is headed. While nearly any theory can claim to be “fact, not conjecture, just a description of how things work” as MMTers online love to push, Kelton’s work has the rare privilege of evidence. Decades of deficit spending correlated invariably with economic rise – shining right through the broadening cracks in classical economic thought. Time is rapidly proving Dr. Kelton right.
The Real Wealth of Nations
Creating a Caring Economics
by Riane Eisler
Riane Eisler, professor of women’s studies and law at UCLA, presenter to the UN, systems scientist and social historian, in 2008 brought us The Real Wealth of Nations. Like the first two books on this list, the name here is no mistake. Eisler follows through with a rigorous tour of a body of evidence spanning centuries, invoking experts, studies and analysis to illustrate that the full scale of the Real Wealth of Nations does in fact include a wide spectrum beyond GDP – being far from a useful measure itself, including many destructive expenses. Mapping her theory includes accounting for natural resources, unpaid community work and even what is stolen or criminally produced in the illegal economy.
This alone, by Austrian or Keynesian standards, is quite the revelation, but it’s only the stepping-off point for Eisler here, as she proceeds to dedicate the bulk of the tome to what she names the Caring Economy, the domain of partnership productivity which historically has been the realm of “women’s work,” subjugated notoriously and absolutely, by divine right of the patriarchy, to zero wages and less economic recognition than slavery itself (not an exact quote).
If her math holds up and the evidence stands firm, Eisler’s Caring Economy could potentially double GDP, marking an economic revolution without peer in the history of the science. Imagine if a world-renowned law professor came out with a book claiming to have found tens of trillions of dollars, annually, unaccounted for by professional economists . . . in 2008.
If she hoped to be taken seriously, she would need to be methodical in her examination. Naming study after peer-reviewed study, she would need to isolate variables in logical, easy-to-follow analysis, draw up diagrams, compile footnotes and build out a new scientifically sound picture resulting from all of this. This would appeal to the common sense and real world experience of the average lay reader, communicating in clear, consistent language.
It may even be necessary to reframe the general thrust of human history to grapple with a divergence of this sort. Perhaps it is in part due to her understated approach to the whole matter, where a more ‘shouted from the rooftops’ tone would easily be warranted, but somehow Eisler did all of this, over a decade ago, and was met with a professional and cultural silence the likes of which might otherwise be found exclusively in homes for the deaf.
Money loaned = production. Repaid with interest this assumptive equation breeds the growth of civilization. Production = wages, or so carries GDP theory, introduced in more or less modern form by a man named Kuznets in 1937. When cashflow > production, inflation follows. More money chasing fewer goods causes prices to rise.
Without straight forwardly subverting any of these economic sacraments, Eisler like a patient tutor points out that production is only positive when it serves human purpose. In this, the entire volunteer, homemaking and caregiving sectors are directly relevant to any estimate of a nation’s production, as with the relationship of these numbers to actual resource stocks, sustainability measures, and black market production.
Internationally published study after recognized study has measured the size of homemakers’ output at around 70% of GDP. As Eisler deftly removes destructive products (like bombs) and ecological devastation from valid GDP, the adjusted measure of this relation may edge past 100%. There is no end but the last page, to the non-exhaustive list of sources she draws on to accurately delineate the sexist dichotomy of subservience under which womankind has evolved for thousands of years on Earth (not an exact quote).
Eisler gracefully sidesteps any caricature of the angry feminist, laying blame in a remarkable act of ego-sublimation at the feet of a historical phenomenon she calls the Dominator Society. Contrasted with societies built on partnership, dominators are warlike and often patriarchal, based on strict top-down hierarchies of authority.
Partnerships, by comparison, form hierarchies of actualization with bidirectional accountability. Assuring the reader throughout that caring work is done by men, and has been throughout history to varying degrees, it is distinctly along gender lines still whereby western civilization has evolved these two kinds of general organization. Where domination hierarchies have come to rule, and to be obsessed with profit, partnership and caring has been socially downgraded, associated with the weak and feminine half of humanity. With rare exception, it has been awarded either zero or minimum pay.
There’s no disputing those facts as she lays them out. If production = wages, we’re missing a massive amount of wages, because we’ve been miscounting a massive amount of production. Enough to tip the whole boat, no less.
The indoctrinated reader is likely to pull back with a gut reaction to the fact that for much of our homemaking we’re not producing anything that is tradeable . . . unless you count what is traded to our husbands, or children, for free. But of course we don’t get paid for making beds and making breakfast, we do that because . . . we love our husbands, and children. Removing the sexist domination inherent in trade, we may even expose the key to what makes markets, well, markets. In servitude to our families and society, women have been giving measurably as much as men since long before the civil rights movement and their appearance in the modern workforce for .70 on the dollar.
Eisler has the footnotes and accreditation sorted for us, and her revelation of this partnership-based Caring Economy – the homemaking and charity economies – Is by itself large enough to save us from the apparent deficits of our modern crises. Let’s all take a moment to thank our mothers.
We’re certainly not going to pay them.
I only wish her vision here had sharper teeth. Eisler stops short of a call for subsidizing homemakers, caregivers, and those who raise our children, the revelation of a sector mathematically comparable to total GDP be damned. Like Korten and Kelton, Eisler names a new Caring Economy, and any reader will agree the good doctor can see it there, large and almost coming into focus with her depth of description. She builds a map of what she sees this future to look like, naming sectors of natural economics, illegal production and household economics, and we get a real outline of the differences between dominator and partnership systems, but somehow she stops short of “Show me the money!” each time. Caring Economics does not hesitate to call out the wealth-destroyers of war, military and environmental degradation, but stops short of naming just how large a hole this mines in our concept of GDP, where we count everything bought and sold at market value, regardless of its resource costs – or that in human lives.
Those interested in knowing more are hastened to grab a copy of Women, Men and the Global Quality of Life as it was presented to the UN in 1995, the UN World and Social Situation Report from 2005, the United Nations Human Development Reports, check out the Calvert Henderson Quality of Life Indicators, read the 1995 Center for Partnership Studies Statistical Survey, the 2000 World Values Survey . . . or you could order a copy of Riane Eisler’s The Real Wealth of Nations, gathering all of these results in the entirely appropriate light of feminine productive power, with a verified authority to lead you.
You will be hard challenged not to come out of this read with a new view of the landscape of our lives.
I, for one, am ready to say it’s time mom gets what’s hers.
Utopia for Realists
How We Can Build the Ideal World
by Rutger Bregman
“On December 1, 1930, as the Great Depression was raging, the cornflake magnate W.K. Kellogg decided to introduce a six-hour workday at his factory in Battle Creek, Michigan. It was an unmitigated success: Kellogg was able to hire an additional 300 employees and slashed the accident rate by 41%. Moreover, his employees became noticeably more productive. ‘This isn’t just a theory with us,’ Kellogg proudly told a local newspaper. ‘The unit cost of production is so lowered that we can afford to pay as much for six hours as we formerly paid for eight.’nFor the residents of Battle Creek, it was much more than that. For the first time ever, a local paper reported, they had ‘real leisure.’ Parents had time to spare for their children. They had more time to read, garden, and play sports. Suddenly, churches and community centers were bursting at the seams with citizens who now had time to spend on civic life.”
“On January 1, 1974, (British Prime Minister Edward Heath) imposed a three-day workweek. Employers were not permitted to use more than three days’ electricity until energy reserves had recovered (a miners’ strike was causing short supply). Steel magnates predicted that industrial production would plunge 50%. Government ministers feared catastrophe. When the five-day workweek was reinstated in March 1974, officials set about calculating the total extent of production losses. They had trouble believing their eyes: the grand total was 6%.”
“Scholars at Oxford University estimate that no less than 47% of all American jobs and 54% of all those in Europe are at a high risk of being usurped by machines. And not in a hundred years or so, but in the next twenty . . . If you look at the year 1800, some 74% of all Americans were farmers, whereas by 1900 this figure was down to 31%, and by 2000 a mere 3%.”
“The US financial sector is seven times as large as its agricultural sector.” [Italics mine.]
“The larger the supply, the lower the price. And there’s the rub. Over the last few decades, the supply of food has skyrocketed. In 2010, American cows produced twice as much milk as they did in 1970. Over that same period, the productivity of wheat has also doubled, and that of tomatoes has tripled. The better agriculture has become, the less we’re willing to pay for it . . . This is what economic progress is all about.”
The youngest of our experts today, at 10 years my junior, Rutger Bregman is by a large margin the boldest, but no less studious in compiling a steady flow of sources, studies and historical artifacts. An award winning author, TED Talks presenter in their Top Ten of 2017, Dutch historian and philosopher, Bregman pulls out all the stops in this 2014 dissertation. Making the case for a 15-hour workweek, Universal Basic Income and open borders, Bregman is a radical’s radical, a liberator of liberals – scarcely even touching on Marx, he conjures up the Utopia of the Proletariat using the free market itself to prove both the viability and benefit of these revolutionary ideas.
Methodical, guiding the reader through centuries of results, Bregman weaves a tale of shortening workweeks and practical UBI that is not merely persuasive, but in the end unavoidable and already upon us. The rise of automation did not begin in our lifetimes, stretching back to the steam engine and beyond, pushing and pulling with the many forces of labor economics and societal evolution. Our workweek may not have contracted much since the first unions negotiated it to 40 hours and gave the small kids evenings off, but its content sure has changed. Art, sports, science, care, philanthropy – things that used to be categorized as leisure across the spectrum are now simply classed as productive labor. Working out the costs of poverty – of job search, mental health and prison services, among others – he makes clear as day that UBI, experimentally, has proven to be a money saver time and time again, around the world. It turns out that the best way to help the poor is to give them money, not just anecdotally but according to a mass lineage of peer reviewed science.
Everything is justified according to free market terms, but make no mistake that Bregman, like the elder Korten, sees the bloated financial and predatory banking sectors as, to be polite, a touch overstated in their societal and economic importance. Like Eisler, he sees the current measure of GDP as an at best flawed, at worst completely backward, instrument of progress. Speaking in what could just as well be a quote from The Real Wealth of Nations, he informs us how “Italy started including its black market (in GDP) in 1987, which swelled its economy by 20% overnight . . . Adding all this unpaid work would expand the economy by anywhere from 37% (in Hungary) to 74% (in the UK).”
Which is to say that, socially, we are leaving trillions of dollars on the table, right now and every year, because of bad math and outdated theory. Bregman is bold, but come on now. Use the megaphone, man, this is big. Not only are we richer than we realize, but proper implementation of programs as large as UBI, along with shortened workweeks of less than 50% their current size, will actually save us money anyway. Bregman presents no less brazen a revolution than this, with wave after wave of substantial, foundational evidence, translated across 32 languages . . . in 2014. So there must be something missing, right? Why was this not front page news?
“From an international perspective, the inhabitants of the Land of Plenty aren’t merely rich, but filthy rich. A person living at the poverty line in the US belongs to the richest 14% of the world population; someone earning a median wage belongs to the richest 4%. At the very top, the comparisons get more skewed. In 2009, as the credit crunch was gathering momentum, the employee bonuses paid out by investment bank Goldman Sachs were equal to the combined earnings of the world’s 224 million poorest people. And just eight people – the richest people on Earth – own the same as the poorest half of the whole world.”
We’ve been comfy. We’re all familiar with the idea of the 1%, and there’s plenty of reason to talk about it. But read that again, I beg you. “Someone earning a median wage [in the US] belongs to the richest 4% [of the world].” This is not hyperbole.
The truth is that wealth equality, for the average person in the 1st world, would be a massive downgrade. Maybe there’s a significant percentage of us that know this, deep down, who understand that capitalism is, and has always been, a self-preservation machine played by and for the rich, at the expense of everyone else. When the bankers loan you money to start that business, it’s just keystrokes in a database to them, and poof, you have what it takes to join the class of property owners. Time to invest, and build that wealth. Too bad there’s just not enough to go around.
So we might even be understood, if the instinct for self-preservation prevented us from acknowledging quite so fast when the scales tipped, and supply outraced demand by exponents that nobody saw coming. When automation set the autoworkers free, we could be forgiven for temporarily passing their wages to the owner, in case he didn’t have enough for emergencies. When accredited professor after award winning professor put together detailed reports about the changing landscape of production and the potential of social programs to eradicate hunger, homelessness and poverty overnight, we ought to be excused from listening right away, these things going against everything we were taught to expect about markets, inflation and scarcity.
Except that no less then John Maynard Keynes himself wrote in the 1930s about the “new disease of technological unemployment.” Did you know that a real, honest to goodness UBI actually passed the House, only to stall in the Senate . . . under Nixon, in 1969?
“Around the year 2000, (we had) what two MIT economists called ‘the great decoupling.’ Productivity is at record levels, innovation has never been faster, and yet at the same time, we have a falling median income and we have fewer jobs.” [Italics mine.]
Yet for all its policy courage and depth of research, Utopia for Realists somehow has never heard of MMT, Eisler’s Caring Economics and Partnership system with its cartological detail, or even Korten’s validated theories of Phantom Wealth and Privateer Imperialist Capitalism. It’s not for a lack of publicity work. Korten founded a successful magazine (Yes!) dedicated to New Economic ideas. Eisler founded the Center for Partnership Studies, and MMT sure didn’t begin with Kelton. Somehow it’s as if each of these visionaries (and I’d be foolish to assume I found them all by some unlikely whim of fate) exists in their own little wormhole of progressive thought, crossing neither with each other or with mainstream ideas, in ideological black holes where the media could never be expected to probe, there being hardly enough time to cover presidential and celebrity wardrobe malfunctions with adequate care each morning.
All that said, Bregman’s biggest challenge to acceptance may be his strongest revelation, the absolute economic benefit of open borders. I’ll leave this most controversial point largely for those whose interest brings them to his pages themselves, but suffice to say that with every bit the research rigor of the rest, he posits national borders as the final source of global class struggle, and follows through with the math to show it. This may be harder for some readers to comprehend than others, deconstructing national pride into a rigging of the world economic game, but Bregman does it skillfully, without ever leaving the playing field of capitalist ideology.
Despite its unreadiness to unify so much theory and propose a new system, propagating the sanctity of money and wage labor straight through the finish line, Bregman’s Utopia for Realists is yet an uncompromising tour de force of progressive economic theory, at the opening of the new millennia. Essential reading, and in a world of any justice whatsoever, it may become one of the influential books of our time.
And when the farmer has got his house, he may not be the richer but the poorer for it, and it be the house that has got him.Henry David Thoreau
Those students of the Organomic Thesis who find themselves here may anticipate a certain wonder at the way these particular treatments, in their accidental order, flow in the midst of that narrative. I’ve been emboldened even further with this supportive family to the body of Organomics.
Among the many things I’ve learned on this journey, however, is that Wikipedia is unquestionably worth many thousands of dollars, to each individual. Because it is given away – which arguably increases its worth to society exponentially – it is recognized according to current GDP calculations only by way of the industries it has replaced. Driving them out of business entirely, thus reducing dollar bill transactions around the world by at least the count of all encyclopedias, it’s like if you got a payday, and the bank misfiled it as a debt. That is how current economic theory sees not just Wikipedia, but also Google Search (unless you buy something), and way more than tech alone: the health of our natural resources, the black market, domestic work, raising children, all volunteer work and nearly anything done in charity. And it is wrong.
I would ask Stephanie Kelton to take a second look at that blank check, because to me, it all adds up to a sum that could sustain civilization on something like a 10% labor force, NOW, where the abundance of wealth all around us is a clear lever against inflationary danger.
I’d refer her to Riane Eisler, for the understanding that the whole damn charade is only worth as much as our human actualization, and the only costs that are really going to matter in the long run are those hacking to pieces our very life-sustaining ecology. This is not feel-good, or feminism, it is fact – the wakeup call of our time.
When Bregman gets to the party, we can all take some assurance that there are scientific processes at work here and the shortening of our workweeks has been predicted by many of the more brilliant minds of the previous century. So maybe we shouldn’t act so surprised. Korten is just going to be thrilled when Eisler and Bregman finish filling him in on the size of the reserves we’re all leaving unaccounted for, because he’s been really stressed about the degree to which the wolves of Wall Street have over-leveraged their accounts with the fraudulent and imaginary bets they keep placing against the world, winning at their own game.
When Kelton tells him that all their money is actually just a fiat, and we can double it with a keystroke, he’ll no doubt have a nervous laugh with the rest of us to get a glimpse at just how inane our struggle is becoming.
Let’s ask the rich not for their money – we can print that. Let’s ask them for their sweat, sure, their advice, maybe – or just to step the hell aside already. It doesn’t matter like we thought, how much we spend – how “much” they’ve hoarded. It only matters what we do. We must help this world thrive.
Because it’s time to change the way we’re looking at all of this, if we don’t want to be thought complete fools by our children.
On the immediate verge of environmental crisis, presented with all of this research, are we really going to hold onto those dollars so tight – like a poor child in Bangladesh? With the breadth of information now at our fingertips, will we continue to ignore these children, and worry about rent instead of infrastructure?
When will we decide to feed the world?
In the continuing pandemic of 2022, it’s becoming ever more clear, as we refuse to lock down societally in meaningful ways – rushing out our medicine with unprecedented speed – that we’re intent to grip those dollars like lifeblood, not just comfortable in our illusions but dependent on them like a lifeline to an addict.
Maybe, like Bregman thinks, gainful work is essential for the mental wellbeing of humanity, but whether or not this is so, we’re in love with profits like coke with a spoon, and not only failing to imagine an alternative, but willing to choke on our excess before we would ever consider any such broadening of these mental horizons. Or perhaps there is a progressive upwelling in the works, more than I can see from here, and the precipice of our real future is much nearer at hand.
For what it’s worth, this year I’ve been studying investments for the first time in my life, with any seriousness. I’ve been working two days a week on average, which has allowed me additional time for activism, self-growth, household improvements, and most importantly writing. I produced a Kickstarter board game, learning about production and distribution in that sector. It’s been a blast. Then I decided to formalize my theories of economics for the first time. I haven’t in my life been so productive as while on this “vacation.”
My dogs have never been happier, and we’re talking about starting a family. The fiance is working from home and we’ve got a small amount of stimulus cash in the bank. Amazing what a little time can do.
Oh, but about those investments. If you’re like me, and you’ve been living paycheck to paycheck since you were sixteen like your parents, you might not actually know it, but when people talk about “growing their money” in stocks, that’s not at all an exaggeration. Did you know there is a whole class of people who have spent their entire professional lives doing nothing but moving money from one place to another, and watching it grow?
Sure, it takes a little skill, I’m not discounting that, but really, this is fun. And the more you have, the easier it gets. If I can predict industry trends, or Big Money’s next move, I can literally just sit back and watch my money grow, and try to figure out what to do with my time.
Is this cheating?
What year is it again?
I think it’s time we feed the world.
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