Social Security is Serious Stuff

If you think that social security is the generous expression of care for others in a civilized society, think again.

This may come as a surprise to many Americans, even a few Europeans: a functional social security system is a vital underpinning for a capitalist economy. Without functioning social security, there is insufficient society to support a vibrant economy; social security systems actually catalyze economic activity, and the prosperity it generates.

There are other vital reasons for maintaining a functioning social security system (a basic social “safety net”): maintaining social peace, elevating confidence, satisfying our natural empathy and improving sustainability. But even without those reasons, our economy simply cannot prosper without social security. It’s serious business – social security is really important. It isn’t a policy “option”, social security is the imperative at the root of all the things we cherish about our peaceful and prosperous life.

In the face of massive debts and monetary instability, our “Total Economic Awareness” (TEA) delusion jumps up and we make the kind of mistake that everyone makes in a panic: we grasp for simplistic, obvious solutions. No money left: OK, stop spending it. That’s the kind of reaction you get to apologize for later, in your personal life (so long as you didn’t destroy something or do something unforgivable) but when you’re a sophisticated, modern society, that kind of reaction just won’t do. We didn’t come this far, or get to this point, without a lot of careful attention and wisdom gained from many experiences – we need to remember that, and cultivate the poise that allows us to make sensible decisions about serious matters at important moments.

The current fashion for degrading the social security of our societies, as a means of supporting huge debt burdens, is extremely dangerous and very short sighted. And this is happening just as we enter the times when climate instability is likely to test us all.

The reasons why social security is an absolutely essential foundation of our society include:

  1. Our social cohesion is fundamentally dependent on the maintenance of basic life services for everyone
  2. The health of our economy is dependent on broad economic participation, both as producers and as consumers
  3. Innovation requires risk taking, and social security encourages risk taking
  4. Situations and circumstances change: our societies and their economies need to transition as smoothly and quickly as possible
  5. The rule of law and the control of crime are dependent on broad participation by all
  6. The quality of our democracy is dependent on an educated, informed and involved citizenry
  7. Our ability to withstand shocks and natural disasters is heavily dependent on our social cohesion

Social security is not an optional, luxury expression of generosity, that we can afford to do away with when money is short. Social security provision is an absolutely essential, basic building block of a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable society – without it, peace, prosperity and our survival are all endangered.

How do we square that essential nature of social security, with the budget dilemmas and economic weakness of these times? To resolve this conundrum we must revisit what it is that makes up the essential nature of “social security”: it is the provision of personal security from the elements, hunger, sickness and depravation to each and every member of our society. This is not a monetary transaction, it is a social intention. We will not make our way out of this until we fully grasp the proper nature of social security.

In the Standards of LIFE we have modeled the impact of delivering social security as a set of universal services, and found that this not only fulfills the essential nature of social security, but has positive knock-on effects across the economy and budgetary process that address the concerns of fiscal responsibility and fosters sustainable prosperity.  We must solve our budget problems, resolve the monetary dilemma and build sustainable societies, all at the same time – and the only way to do that is with the parallel adoption of universal services and micro-economics.

Read more and find out how to fix our problems without breaking our societies at www.standardsoflife.org.

The Path to a Future: Prosperity

Part 6 in the serialization of the The Path to A Future. Real prosperity.

A new section will be posted every 2 weeks during 2011. Enjoy!
If you want to get a free PDF of the book go to http://www.standardsoflife.org/thepathtoafuture.

This brings us to the third premise of The Path: prosperity. Prosperity is a mixture of wealth, peace and freedom that delivers a high standard of life. It is a natural human ambition to aspire to increased prosperity; a natural outcome of the combination of our instinct for survival, and our desire for relief from hardship.

The challenge is to reconcile this natural inclination, with the sustainability of our actions to attain it. Prosperity for the minority, at great cost to the planet, is plainly possible for a short time. We have already achieved that, but sustainable it is not. Not only is our current path to minority prosperity environmentally unsustainable, it is also socially unsustainable.

We need a new economic vision for our future. The prosperity we create going forward must be environmentally and socially sustainable, and to do that it must be resilient to the cycles of monetary systems and resistant to the vagaries of climate change. That requires us to move beyond mastering the crude art of industrial-scale extraction, to develop the finer skills of production with reduction, recycling, renewables and, above all, sustainable resilience.

Many thanks to Amory Lovins, Rocky Mountain Institute, for the following definition of resilience, as it so well describes the economy and prosperity we must build:

“An inherently resilient system should include many relatively small, fine-grained elements, dispersed in space, each having a low cost of failure. These substitutable components should be richly interconnected by short, redundant links. Failed components or links should be promptly detected, isolated, and repaired.

Components need to be so organized that each element can interconnect with the rest at will but stand alone at need, and that each successive level of function is little affected by failures or substitutions at a subordinate level. Systems should be designed so that any failures are slow and graceful.

Components, finally, should be understandable, maintainable, reproducible at a variety of scales, capable of rapid evolution, and societally compatible.”

A finely grained, richly inter-connected economy made of many small parts that are understandable, maintainable and societally compatible. Such a micro-economy can satisfy the desires of prosperity and sustainability concurrently.

There is enormous prosperity potential latent in our societies today. The time has come to extend the opportunity to contribute at our highest capacity to the entirety of our populations. The development of communications technologies in particular, but also transport, engineering, miniaturization and alternative energy technologies, have opened the way to pluralistic economic development on a scale that was not possible before now.

These advances in technologies allow us to leverage the unique skills, interests and capabilities of people everywhere to create a rich fabric of micro enterprise that compliments and balances our industrial enterprises. There are as many unfilled needs in a day as there are people on the planet, and somewhere there is someone ready and willing to produce the product or service that will fill each one of those needs. This is the prosperity potential of our planet. If we can unleash even a fraction of that potential, we will easily generate the wealth necessary to power our societies along the Path to sustainable prosperity for all.

The two keys to unlocking this latent potential are:

  • development of micro market places
  • free availability of human resources

Marketplaces are essential to the development of prosperity, and modern communications technology creates the possibility for markets in which every person can offer their unique contributions to meet the needs of others. The reason that the congregation of people in cities has been a hallmark of our historical prosperity development, is because cities enabled marketplaces. Now we have the capability to create location-independent marketplaces in the virtual world, for products and services in the real world. We need systems that can connect the billions of needs with the billions of producers, locally and transnationally, through fluid marketplaces that allow the natural ingenuity and innovation of the human spirit to flourish.

To a certain extent, this has already started with the advent of the Internet and the appearance of market services such as eBay and craigslist. What is needed now is a set of trans-global marketplace standards that will enable different markets all over the world to interact. This flourishing of micro- economic activity will be intensely local, but it is vital that each local market can exchange with its neighbours. The barriers of language and culture are not going to go away anytime soon, and the cost of transport is only likely to rise in the future, but trade will remain a vital aspect of our economies. So a rich fabric of geographically specific local marketplaces need to be the hubs around which networks of regional and transterritorial marketplaces rotate.

Small businesses have always been the largest employers in our economies, and the backbone of our social fabrics. Now we have the opportunity to extend the chance to be self-employed to everyone, because we can provide the marketing, technical and social support necessary.

Removing barriers to micro-enterprise is also necessary. Many tax regimes and social support systems today create “poverty traps” that actually discourage people from using their skills and capacity to build their own livelihoods. That will be completely resolved by implementing super-security.

In addition to the marketplace mechanisms, people need to be free to participate in them. That freedom is a function of the peace and security of the society, and requires that we build the structures and services that support them. We all need to be delivering our maximum individual contribution to the greatest extent possible, and that means having the super-security that allows us to live above the level of survival or subsistence.

Prosperity is the fruit of the tree, and it springs naturally from the branches of well nourished and protected populations. Lots of people using their unique and personal talents to create products and services that can be sold and bought through micro-enterprise markets. That is the engine of sustainable prosperity! That is a super-economy.

The diverse and diffuse nature of micro-economic activity makes it vastly more resilient to the ebb and flow of particular markets and economic cycles. It also has the potential to generate significant wealth, because the growth of wealth is largely driven by the volume of value-generating transactions in an economy. The liberation of micro-economic potential has an explosive capacity to exponentially increase transaction volumes.

This is the “super-economy” of our future, and it needs the personal security that will enable us to contribute at our highest capacity, as well as the marketplaces in which to find the needs for our contributions. If we provide these, our individual and collective prosperity will flourish gloriously.

New Economics

Along with the newly emerging democracies of the world, a new economics is desperately needed. The current economic model is at the end of its road and that is readily apparent to many savvy observers.

There are two factors driving the need for a new economic model:

  1. The desperate need for social and physical infrastructure investment
  2. The crisis of monetary management

We can see a new economic model by reconnecting with the truth of our existence: individual humans, born in relationship and seeking purpose – in that order. Understanding that sequence and priority, we can place our economy in its appropriate context: our economy is a client of our society. In so doing we can shed the delusion of “total economic valuation” (in which everything has a price tag), and clearly see that there is much activity that is not, and cannot be, valued in monetary terms.

In the new economics, social value is not accounted for with money. Demonetizing social value immediately transforms our economics; it makes investments affordable, protects the value of money and creates sustainable social structures.

Investments

We need to make some massive investments. The demographics of the developed world demands social infrastructure to manage the changing ratios of contributors and dependents. The demographics of the developing world requires economic infrastructure to support the burgeoning youth population. And the demographics of the entire world requires physical infrastructure for transitioning to a sustainable energy supply.

Among the recognized investments that we all need to make are:

  • education – life long, civic and skills
  • energy – replacing stored & extracted with renewable & sustainable
  • transport – leveraging the new energy infrastructure
  • water, food and health
  • shelter and sanitation
  • information, democratic accountability and transparency
  • investment in research, innovation and development

These investments are not only large, they are essential! We have to find a way to make these investments, and no one in the current economic modus has got a clue, let alone a practical path to their accomplishment. The most significant reason why none of the current practitioners has advanced any concrete ideas is because they are mired in the current morass that is modern monetary policy.

Monetary Mess

The worldwide crises in monetary management of fiat currencies has exposed the fundamental flaw of attempting to visualize all human activity as economic activity: the debt burden is unreasonable and unsustainable. This is resulting in the need to bankrupt national societies just to try and maintain a delusion of currency rectitude.

The economists and economic policy makers of today are stuck between what seem to them to be unreconcilable problems:

  • massive public debt
  • unbalanced budgets
  • unaffordable social security systems
  • currency credibility issues
  • inflationary pressures
  • massive investment deficits

Central bankers across the world, in the vacuum created by political inaction, are trying to balance the credibility of their currencies and budgets with massive debts and the need for growth and investment. In a world where prosperity is seen as a gift to the people from the bounty of commercial enterprise, these problems cannot be resolved. But they can, if we just pause for a moment and observe the reality.

New Economics is the only option

Into this world of monetary and investment crises arrive the newly emerging democracies of North Africa and the Middle East. The need to replace decrepit, crony economies with sustainable economies is a parallel requirement of the arrival of freedom and dignity. The demands of the protests are overtly political, but they are subliminally economic as well. What do they see when they look around the existing economies for inspiration for their new world?

None of today’s dominant economic models are providing a sustainable path to a future for their current adherents, nor would they for any new arrivals. Read this collection of essays from some of the preeminent economic experts of the day, and you will see that no one has a solution to the debt v. investment conundrum we are facing. The Western capitalist models cannot balance their books without forever pushing their debts out to the next generation. The Eastern capitalist models are mired in inefficiencies, corruption and environmental degredation that do not deliver sustainability, while also being dependent on the suppression of freedom and dignity.  Neither of these offers a model worthy of adoption.

The new, sustainable economics seats the economy firmly within the context of society and generates growth out of untapped micro-economic capacity. The new economics provides the wellfair necessary to support aging populations, enables affordable infrastructure to create a new energy platform and delivers vibrant growth for coming generations.

New Economics is the result of a three step process that yields sustainable prosperity, affordable investment and sound monetary management:

  1. Understand the economy as a client of human society
  2. Take responsibility for society by delivering social value through Universal Services instead of welfare
  3. Unleash the total potential for growth using modern communications to enable micro-enterprise

To preserve the peace we have, and move forward to sustainable prosperity, we all have to take the first step. Ask yourself: “Am I a human being, or an economic asset, first and foremost?”. I think you will agree that you are a human first; and so it follows that your economic value and activity is a subset of your humanity. That too is the valid order and construction for human society. The economy is a subset of our humanity and it is an illogical and impossible task to try and value all human activity in monetary terms. When we assimilate this understanding and stop trying to “pay” for our social needs, we can liberate our economy to fill its natural role in the firmament of human existence.

The structure of New Economics is laid out at www.standardsoflife.org in full. The principles that reconcile the seemingly intractable problems of today’s economic systems are also discussed extensively in this blog – select the Economics category to see a full list of articles.

Option 2 : Everyone is right

We need to cut our debts down to size. We need to invest in our infrastructure. Taxes reduce incentives, and need to be held to a minimum. Without education and research we cannot build a peaceful and prosperous society. The political system is unresponsive and corrupt, and needs fundamental reform. The financial industry is overweight, and needs to be regulated. Without enterprise we cannot afford our lifestyles, so we must support and encourage businesses. There are bad people in the world, and we need to defend against them. There is oppression in the world, and we need to support the rights of the oppressed. We must balance our budgets. We need alternative energy sources. We are too selfish, ignorant and introverted. We are empathic, loving creatures who all share common ancestors and a common planet.

All of that is true.

And there are the truths we dare not speak aloud because no one has their answers:

  • Capitalist economics is fundamentally dependent on a social safety net for its survival.
  • Humans have never before inhabited this planet with today’s atmospheric configuration.
  • Human-scale is not an option, for humans it is the only option.

In the face of all these seemingly conflicting truths many of us are dazed and confused. How do you lower taxes and spend on infrastructure? How do you regulate banking and enable commercial enterprise? How do you survive in a world of differences without a massive army? How do we get from the mess we’re in, to sustainable prosperity? Confused?

Confusion is only a very short term option. When you are walking in tall grass and you hear a rustle, you have a moment to decide whether you will change direction or speed; after a short time you have made your decision, even if you have not acted. Confusion is not a valid state, it does not appear anywhere in Nature except in the human mind. Confusion is the nexus of choice and contemplation, and it exists within the unyielding contexts of time and consequence. It is the curse on the flip-side of the luxury of choice. We cannot remain confused in our thinking and about our options for long.

It’s time to stop taking sides and start deciding.

Option 2

The choices we face are simple:

  • Option 0 : There’s nothing wrong and nothing needs to change (Ignorance)
  • Option 1 : Things need to change, and I don’t know what to do, but I am ready to support someone else changing them (Confusion)
  • Option 2 : Things need to change and I am changing them now (Action)

Which option are you taking?

In order to take “Option 2” you have to move past describing all the things you know to be true, and decide what to do about them. Everything in the first paragraph of this article is true, there is no sense in splitting one set of truths from another. Identifying with one set of truths might provide you with identity, but it does not move us closer to resolution.

It’s time to start talking seriously about what we’re going to do differently, about what we are actually going to implement in the next few years. We need to engage with solutions: real, practical changes we are going to make in our social, political economic structures now that will actually lead to a sustainable existence.

That’s what we are doing at Standards of LIFE – and we need you to join in. Take Option 2!

Vegetarian lions?

What kind of insanity have we fallen so easily into? When did we become so abstracted from what we know about ourselves that we started to swallow whole such counter-intuitive nonsense? Corporations with social “responsibility”, and public services that make a “profit”? How about vegetarian lions and wooden clothing? Or perhaps we should put sails on cars and wheels on boats?

Corporations that have awareness of the society that holds them, and public services that are accountable for their efficiency are both wonderful things; but let’s not let confusion permeate the proper roles for these different entities in our human sociosystem. Commercial enterprises competing in the market for the right to use limited resources, and public services striving to deliver the highest quality services on limited budgets, are both valid and vital components of a sustainable society and economy. It is important that both attend to their primary roles with due diligence, in order for them to contribute their unique qualities to the greater good.

The reason why the word “socialist” is such an ill fitting description of the modern sustainability movement is because it does not convey the fundamental adherence to the “natural order” of things that is at the heart of new political thinking. We are looking out on the world, and inside ourselves, to determine the natural flows that we can harness to fashion sustainable structures for societies and economies. Objective retrospection of the last 2000 years, and especially the last century, has to lead to a recognition of the natural human capacity for competitive enterprise and the benefits that commercial innovation can deliver. Competitive commercial enterprises are a great thing, we can and must acknowledge that. Bludgeoning those enterprises with responsibility for things that are not their natural role, is a rude fig leaf for lacking the moral courage to take responsibility for what is ours to own.

When we paint commercial enterprise with responsibility for our crumbling social fabric, for the desolation of natural resources or for the poverty of the many, we are absolving ourselves of our own responsibility for those undesirable facets of our modern world. The facts of life are that commercial enterprises are clients of our societies, and it is we, the public citizens of those societies, that must take personal responsibility for describing the environment within which commerce is transacted. We must expect that businesses are driven by their profits, and create a framework within which they can operate in that manner without destroying our social fabric, our natural world or our political supremacy.

Similarly with public services, funded by tax payers to deliver efficient services to the citizenry – these are not (typically) operating in environments where competition is desirable, possible or necessary. The profit motive is a reward system that induces risk taking in a competition to reach the most effective result, a competition that is necessary destructive of the less successful alternatives, and in so being it is inefficient. To the extent that the efficiency and quality of public services benefit from innovation and development, these can be achieved most naturally by opening up their management and direction to wider input from the public, non-profits and academia. Rewarding excellence in the performance of public services, by allowing incentive pay for those that work in their delivery, should not be confused with the services themselves having to adhere to a profit motive – they are separate and independent processes (as corporate experience has proved).

Give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, and give to your neighbour what is ours. This is the natural order of things: don’t expect businesses not to be profit driven, and don’t force altruistic services to be profit driven. When we accept what we know is the natural order, we are left holding our own responsibility for defining the intended outcomes, and the frameworks within which we wish those natural forces to operate. And when we assume our responsibility we will find it much easier to have clarity and to be effective in reaching the goals we intend. What happens in the world happens with your permission, unless you are actively doing something to change it; when we all own that fact, we can come into the power that has always been ours.

Money Flows

Hot money flows will not save the bankrupt status quo.

This week two news stories pointed to an issue that, wish it were otherwise, demonstrate the need for fundamental system change. The first story regards the fortune amassed by the Mubarak family during their rule of Egypt and the second concerns the massive scale of the corruption afflicting Indian society. Read the comments after the Indian article to get a real grasp of how this kind of corruption affects the core of a society down to the smallest neighbourhood, and this story that reveals the extent of the theft of public property in Egypt.

Where do these trillions of ‘hot’ currency go? They go into banks in the Western industrialized nations and their lackey tax havens – these three components form a coherent whole, interdependent on each other. This is colonialism by corruption, and the citizens of the beneficiary societies are as guilty of complicity today as they were 100 years ago. If you live in the West, don’t feel bad about it: you’re as much a victim as the citizens of the new ‘colonies’, because the same institutionalized theft is robbing your neighbourhood of resources just as much, through tax avoidance.

Why is this tolerated? Well it’s not tolerated by those who can’t do anything about it, in Egypt and India; they are just in a state of powerless despair. It is tolerated by those of us who can do something about it, because we have been unwitting clients of the system. The availability and use of debt to finance our distracted acquiescence has been the magician’s move that has drawn our attention away from the true play that is being made. In this trick there is a fine balance that the magician must strike, wherein the audience feels like it is getting more than it deserves, without actually getting real benefits. Like any sidewalk hussler, when the opportunity comes along to really cream a willing punter, the escape requires all parties to feel sufficiently guilty that no one feels entitled to recompense. This where the citizenry of the West is: asleep at the table, engorged on the fake food served up by the chefs in the kitchen while they resell the real food out of the back door of the restaurant to their buddies on the black market.

What can be done about it? The complete reorganization of the banking system. Preferably a coordinated reorganization encompassing the US, the EU, the UK and Japan; but even a principled stand by one of those financial centers would put the cat amongst the pigeons enough to disrupt the system and lead to change over the medium term.

What are the consequences? Without the hot, secret money Western banks will not be able to generate the profits they do today, nor would they be able to support the same level of employment. The fall off in tax revenues and employment in the client states would have to be offset, requiring a fundamental reorganization of commercial and social infrastructure. The net effect on tax revenues to Western states might even be positive, as banks pay a smaller percentage of their profits in taxes than the individuals and corporations who use the banks to avoid tax would have to pay on their incomes if they were properly declared. Potential benefits to non-haven states would be massive improvements in social wellfair, but would only accrue if accompanied by a significant democratization of their political systems – that democratization would be much easier to achieve without banking system support for corruption.

When will this happen? When the balance of benefits to the citizens of the haven states falls below even. The citizens of those haven states have already assumed the burden of the 2008 bank bailouts, but they have accounted for that with debt, so the full reality of those costs have not yet been bourn. The “plan” is to meet those debts over the coming decade by leveraging the same financial colonialism and conjuring (the failures of which created the debts in the first place) so that the massive increase in the money supply (aka ‘printing money’) that was used to account for the debts can be matched to grown wealth. This plan relies on the perpetuation of the existing banking system, complete with inflows of hot, corrupt money from all over the world. This is why today’s Western leaders will connive, lie and obstruct as much as they think they need to to protect the status quo, because they do not know how to plan for or adjust to a fundamentally reorganized society – they are not evil, they are just clueless.

The troubles with the “plan” are already becoming obvious. First is that the wealth that is being created is being confined to very small slither of the populations of the haven states, and, in a superb irony, they are using the same financial corruption to avoid adding to the wealth of states they inhabit. Second is that the debts cannot be satisfied with the growth that is available, and must be supplemented by sucking more wealth out of compliant tax payers through ‘austerity measures’. Third, none of the first two plans is happening fast enough to stop the excess money causing inflation, further exacerbated by real increases in the costs of raw materials. These problems mean that the haven states will start, this year, to raise interest rates to combat inflation, and in so doing push the balance of benefits for their average citizen firmly into negative territory. 20% youth unemployment, rising basic living costs and a kleptocratic ruling elite are the perfect ingredients for a revolution – witness North Africa, January 2011.

In the next few years, as real social disruption develops in Western states, a serious debate will emerge around whether completely reorganizing our economic and social frameworks is actually any less disruptive that attempting to maintain the old status quo. If we desire a constructive process of change we need to start thinking now about how that reorganization can manifest positively – that’s the reason to read and contribute to alternative thinking like the Standards of LIFE.

Our Story

A proposal for a new, progressive, common narrative.

In response to Amitai Etzioni’s call in action in The Nation magazine for progressives to find a common narrative that tells the story behind our intentions, we offer the following as a starting point.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~~ ~ ~~ ~ ~~ ~ ~~ ~ ~~ ~ ~~ ~ ~~ ~

The combination of science and enterprise over the last century has created a potent force for good, but which has lost its context within human society.

This has resulted in an unbalanced relationship, a disintegrated society, in which the engine of growth has become disconnected from the passenger cabin that it is supposed to transport.

Reintegrating our economy with our society will allow us to improve our standard of life and balance our relationships with each other and the planet we live on.

An Analogy
The engine belongs in the body of the car, controlled by the pedals at the drivers’ feet and steered by the wheel in their hands. The car cannot move forward without the engine, so the driver and the passengers must take care of the engine, ensure it has fuel and vital lubricants, as well undertaking any necessary maintenance to keep it running smoothly, cleanly and efficiently. The passengers decide who amongst them will drive and steer, and the drivers have responsibility for keeping the passengers free of unnecessary dangers.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~~ ~ ~~ ~ ~~ ~ ~~ ~ ~~ ~ ~~ ~ ~~ ~

Through the fusion of science and enterprise, we have created the most powerful force in the history of the planet: the force of business and commercial enterprise. This force has the power to destroy the planet and human society, to obliterate species and make vast swathes of the planet uninhabitable for humans and others. The same force has the power to deliver a higher standard of life for every human, an achievement not even conceived of as possible a century ago.
At this time the pros and cons are pretty much equal. The damage done thus far has been in proportion to the benefits delivered; but to reap greater benefits using the current construct, we would have to damage our societies and our planet even further, and that ways lies self-destruction.
To bring the force of enterprise into service we have to reorientate our relationship with it, so that we care for it and nurture it in harmony and in balance with ourselves, and the pursuit of a decent standard of life for all on this planet. Unifying our individual liberty, our collective societies, our knowledge of science and our entrepreneurial drive will allow us to reap the rewards of life on this beautiful planet.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~~ ~ ~~ ~ ~~ ~ ~~ ~ ~~ ~ ~~ ~ ~~ ~ ~

Integrating the force of enterprise into our societies means respecting it for what it delivers by taking responsibility for our social needs independently. To do this we must deliver basic universal services, paid for exclusively out of income taxes – this removes the constraints of minimum wages and makes taxation of enterprise a discretionary activity. In so doing we liberate the tremendous force of micro economics and instantly “green” our economy.
In order to achieve this reorientation and integration we need to devolve power down through a fabric of communities, regions and states so that decisions can be taken at the most appropriate level, because delivering basic universal services requires local delivery systems, managed and staffed by local providers, and controlled by local democracy.

Whatever happened to the European social model?

“Can the debt and deficit laden European welfare states . . . rescue their public finances and reform their social market economies?” asks Timothy Garton-Ash in a column in the Guardian this week. Can any of the Western democracies work their way out of their sovereign debt while maintaining their social fabric? Including the U.S.!?

Even before the bank debt crisis was transferred to the public purse in 2008, gaping holes had started to open in the public accounts of every developed society that was unable to exploit fortuitously local natural resources. The full development of the “social market economy” had not actually been possible until the latter half of the 20th century, and then only the most industrialized societies were able to give it a try. And give it a try they did, without employing the same cold, hard analytical skills that they used to develop their burgeoning, ravenous and muscular economies.

The reality in those countries that did look like social market economies was that they had split into two internal realities. Cold, clear market economies on the one side and warm, fuzzy political fantasies on the other. So long as the political reality didn’t infringe on the operations of the market reality, each could live in their own space, peering occasionally with bemusement into the other reality. The deal centered around the political reality being able to sustain itself without imposing too great a burden on the market reality.
You could ask anyone on the market side and they’d tell you that the politicians weren’t living in reality, that their math skills stunk, and that that “it” would never work – but heck, so long as vast swathes of society were happy to be deluded, and those delusions didn’t interfere too much with the “natural” market forces that really made the world tick… who were they to try and correct the fallacies, right the wrongs or destroy the fantasy?
On the other side, in the political reality, everyone was agreed, with great frustration, that the inhabitants of the market reality were just one enlightenment short of recognizing the inevitable self-destruction inherent in a market economy model that failed to recognize that it was supposed to serve the needs of the political reality.

The disconnect was pretty universal and early in life most people picked or found themselves in one reality or the other, which then shaped and framed their worldview thence forward. The actual reality, the real shared universe, got little attention and virtually no recognition.
What allowed these two realities to persist for a century, and what has now virtually collapsed in 2010, was the subtly corrupted accounting on which the market economies were based, and which sustained the illusion of self-funding welfare societies.

At the beginning, the social welfare provided was very meagre and was available to only a few. For instance, pensions were only subsistence and only a few lived long enough to collect them. In the middle, the economies that supported (funded) the slightly better welfare programs of their age were unconsciously over-muscular, leveraging unbalanced trade, resource exploitation, uncosted environmental pollution and unfair competition to generate unnatural wealth (profits) that made the welfare states that relied on them look affordable. In fact, they weren’t.
The collapse of the Soviet communist system mid-way through this period just “proved” to everyone that asserting the political reality over the market reality was a road to doom. In actual fact it proved the necessity of allowing natural markets to operate and the fundamental role of freedom in human society, but it did not help to frame the proper and useful placement of market economies – it just proved that we need them.
The the later stages, as social welfare developed more fully and costs rose significantly, the market economies of the West started to run out of resources and face greater competition from the rest of the world. In response to those pressures a complex system of debt was used to replace real wealth. The political reality encouraged the markets to manufacture a debt delusion that was bound to crash when it ran out of bubbles to inflate. This happened in 2008 and the real reality, that the political reality is dependent on the market reality, came home to roost. The first response, the understandable reaction to the shock, was denial; and the remedy was to repair the debt damage in the market reality by transferring it to the political reality, by bailing out the banks.

Now we must face the fusion of our political and market realities, if we are to forge a path forward for cohesive human societies. We must face the reality that we cannot account for our social needs with the same mechanisms that are appropriate for our market economies. If we are to build sustainable market societies we must recognize the social rewards of social work alongside monetary rewards for market success. The reality is that the market economy is a smaller realm of activity than the social services realm, and the market economy simply cannot produce sufficient monetary wealth to pay for the the necessary social activity with money.
Transitioning to this fused reality is not hard, or far away. The future of the “social market economy” is the “market economy society“. A subtle but profound transition of emphasis accomplished by an equally subtle and profound change of our priorities. The market economy remains but the political reality is profoundly altered by accepting responsibility for itself and transitioning from dependent to independent.
The market economy society establishes a framework within which the market can operate without responsibility for society, because society has assumed responsibility for itself and the market operates within a space created and nurtured for it by the society. The mechanisms that create this reality are simple and universal as well as being accessible and immediately effective.
In a market economy society the monetary cost of labor is only its commercial value adding quotient. This is true because the society provides the basic services necessary to sustain a reasonable life (shelter, sustenance, transport, education, healthcare, information and the protection of the law) for free – the majority of the cost of these services is absorbed by the citizens of the society in return for the reward of living in a peaceful, free, market economy society.

This is the only desirable and feasible human society. The debt bubble has burst, the industrial growth train has run out track and steam and the elevation of social awareness is irreversible.
The looming “age of austerity” being offered up by the old disconnected realities is neither necessary nor acceptable, as we shall see. The measure of our skill as a product of Nature will be our ability to reimagein our actual reality, with clarity of practice and intention.

You Get What You Ask For

You cannot create jobs. You can make work, but not create jobs. Jobs exist. You either do them or you don’t.

A job is the satisfaction of a need. There are plenty of real needs in the world that remain unsatisfied, and there is plenty to be done satisfying them. These are real jobs and do not need to be created, the conversion of intention into action simply needs to be allowed.

Unless you see yourself as being in the business of creating needs, you cannot create jobs. Maybe that’s why governments everywhere, and the principleless politicians who staff them, have been so easily bedded by corporate capitalism for the last century. The corporate capitalists offered to “create the jobs” that the politicians had promised, by manufacturing needs. Those manufactured jobs take effort away from the task of satisfying real needs and so they need political cover and support in order to keep on diverting resources on the inexorable march to satisfying needs manufactured to create profits, as more and more real needs are left unsatisfied.

Demand the creation of jobs if you want, but understand what you’re really asking for.

G20: coordinate, stimulate, regulate?

Leaders of 20 nations meet this weekend in Washington, united in their discomfort with their position in the world, their victim status and their common sense that something else is possible.

Together they represent:

  • 100% of the responsibility
  • 90% of world industry
  • 80% of world economic output
  • 70% of the world’s population
  • 60% of the world’s land mass
  • 50% of the world’s resources
  • 40% of the world’s ethno-bio-diversity
  • 30% of the world’s AIDS population
  • 20% of the world’s good intentions
  • 10% of the world’s good ideas

Together, they will produce 0% of the answers and actions capable of leading us all to a sustainable, peaceful prosperity.

On the surface their desires are simple, they want to live long and prosper. They understand in their guts that it would be fair if they could just chop wood and carry water to make ends meet, and have a decent chance at pursuing happiness. Underneath, their goals and ambitions are complicated by a vision tinted by separateness, hearing muffled by unholistic understanding and feeling anesthetized by their knowledge of their own unrepresentativeness.

The features of a group that could deliver solutions would be

  • wholesome representation (integration)
  • common purpose, process and practice (intention)
  • holistic world view (inspiration)

This is a good test run because it represents exactly the kind of coordinated decision-making and action planning that is going to be necessary if we are going to change course from the fate looming over the world in the coming decades, towards our destiny of sustainable peace and prosperity. Achieving the challenging changes that will be required to avert environmental and social degradation, will require inspiration integrated with intention, that stimulates action across the world.

What the G20 leaders could do to start in the right direction:

  • agree to form trans territorial alliances that will allow representatives at the next meeting to represent 100% of the worlds population
  • recognize that national currencies are no longer useful in a globalized economy and yet we are not ready to adopt a global currency, so there must be consolidation towards trans territorial currency units, each managed by an independent central bank
  • define the role of a central bank as an apolitical organization charged with responsibility for management of the money supply, and therefore banking regulation, interest rates and value stability
  • resolve to prioritize their own humanitarian support systems so that coordinated action in the future is about moving forward, not rescuing from past miss steps
  • stimulate microeconomic activity by reforming their tax systems, establishing micro marketplaces, deploying information access networks and implementing basic social security systems
  • advance the Doha round of trade talks by focusing on these two factors:
    • establish the right to food sovereignty
      • remove international recognition of biogenetic patents
      • promote sustainable self-sufficiency
      • ban the export of subsidized agricultural products to stop rich subsidizing blocks contorting the real market for food; if the need is humantarian then give it away
    • establish a carbon tax framework
      • establish unified rates of taxation
      • agree standards governing the use of funds raised from carbon taxes
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