As any three-year-old anywhere on the surface of this beautiful, wounded planet can tell you, the economic principles of our societies can be summed up in two simple words: Caring and Sharing. The values you learned at home and in Kindergarten will be the motors of adult activity as well. As you may have discovered in your studies, the words “economy” and “ecology” are derived from the ancient Greek word for “home” ecos. As adults, our “home” is our natural environment and the human societies that nurture us. And as you already know by your own experience, our job is to take good care of our home while sharing cooperating with each other.
You have already, from childhood, participated in forest reclamation projects (and enjoyed partying late into the night in the open air!) and you have no doubt also helped looking after little kids and showing off in front of elders to get them to laugh and tell you stories. Now you are old enough to travel on your own and are probably dreaming of exploring the planet, of sailing across the oceans by crewing abord one of today’s great, non-polluting sailing ships, of flying over the continents in giant, helium-filled, solar-powered dirigibles, of meeting other peoples, seeing how they live, and of falling in love (and of being bored and lonely: bring a book).
So you will not be surprised to enter societies whose economic systems may be very different from those you are used to. Some will use a form of money, others not; some will have colorful markets, some will choose to live austerely, others to relish physical pleasures. All, however, will respect the Planetary Charter banning capitalistic exploitation of land and labor and banning the Inequality that was the major characteristic of capitalism.
Equality is the foundation of our society, but as you have already observed equality does not mean sameness or uniformity. What equality means to us is that humans are no longer starving or living on the hungry edge of starvation as they did by the billions under capitalism. What equality means is that every child, every adult has adequate shelter instead of living in the streets or crammed into shacks with no running water or hygenic facilities as they did by the billions under capitalism. What equality means is that sick children, elders, adults have access to health care and no one dies of curable diseases as they did by the billions under capitalism. What equality means is that humans are no longer face with the choice of starving or selling themselves and their children to others as a wage-slaves to be humiliated, abused and exploited as they were by the billions under capitalism.
As you will see in your travels, equality is preserved in a variety of ways by different societies with different historical cultures. For example, for the indigenous peoples of Latin America, with the devotion to Mother Earth and their concept of buen vivir (living well without accumulating piles of commodities) this kind of equality derived directly from their native traditions to the extent that the indigenous were in the vanguard of that revolution in Planetary Consciousness that led to the Global Emergence of our New world from the shell of the Old.
Starting with Latin America, “Reclaiming the Commons” which capitalism had been privatizing since Columbus began enclosing and enslaving the indigenous in 1492, became a world-wide movement as the sense of the planetary Commons extended to the air, the water, the forest and all the other values that 21st century capitalism in its death-throes was enclosing for profit and the dispossessed joined hands around the planet.
Yet it was among the prosperous Swiss known for their austere morality and stern work-ethic, that the idea of the Guaranteed Annual Income was first legislated into existence. Rather than encouraging only sloth and dissipation, it gave most people the sense of security against risk and the confidence to undertake long-term studies and projects, rather than accepting deadening jobs out of fear of poverty. The same security is achieved in other societies where the cumulative effects of free schooling, free transportation, free healthcare, free public dining halls and hostels where people can stay in exchange for a few hours of helping with maintenance.
We live in a society whose economy is measured by the ERG. This currency was designed for an non-exploitative money economy where work is measured by hours of effort. Here, economic equality is maintained by regulating the maximum hourly wage at three times the minimum. The currency there is called the ERG, a natural measure of effort expended. An hour of strenuous, dangerous, outdoor labor by construction worker is worth 300 ERGs. So is an hour of open-heart surgery. Pleasant work in pleasant circumsances requires less effort, it is assumed, and earns you only 100 ERG an hour. In any case, with a guaranteed basic income no one is obliged to work at all, and many chose to work short hours. On the other hand, energetic, ambitious people who work long and hard can exchange their ERGs for nice furniture, fancy clothes, foods, wines, and other luxuries, which are sold by their producers (individuals, coops, etc) at their cost of production measured in ERGs. So money, here, reduced to the role of a means of exchange – more convenient than finding a tailor who needs open-heart surgery when you need a new suit.
Capitalism was about money breeding money through lending at interest and speculation in commodities. Conscious of this, the lands that have adopted the ERG as currency (either internally or in foreign exchange) have explicitly ruled out this possibility by decreeing that the ERG is subject to negative interest. So after a grace period of a year, your ERGs begin losing their value month after month if they are not exchanged for some use-value or other (a good or service provided by another). Use it or lose it! You earned it, enjoy it while you may! Here you have more fun as a jolly grasshopper than a stingy ant. I think you all know that already!
Of course in many of our advanced societies, much of production is not of goods for immediate consumption by individuals, but of goods destined to be consumed in further productive processes, for example raw materials, partly finished goods, and machine-parts. Here again, the ERG provides a transparent, universal measure for negotiating an exchange. The relative value of these goods (use-values) and the costs of transportation and such can thus all be calculated on the basis of the actual human effort that went into them. To prevent possible commodity speculation in the value materials like corn, or cotton, or copper, the collectives that buy them are carefully controlled to see that their accumulated stock are used up in the productive process.
Capitalism was also about money forcing people without money to work as slaves under people with money in order to survive. This capitalistic function of money for the exploitation of labor is also banned in the ERG economies, where all are rewarded for their efforts and none can profit from the efforts of others subject to his/her will. Clear legislation regulates apprenticeships, partnerships and cooperative enterprises so that no one gets exploited. Some folks prefer working on their own, offering a service or an artisanal product. Others gravitate to cooperatives or large collective enterprises.
You, with your lives ahead of you, will have plenty of time to explore and chose what suits you best and then chose again, without every having to worry about unemployment (that other characteristic unique to capitalist society) and dire poverty. You may also find your niche in some of the communist and collectivist societies that have been set up in other lands. But wherever you travel and sejourn on our grandiose and still-suffering globe, I know you will remember that Caring and Sharing are “what makes the world go round.”
Now go out and have a good time (applause and hoots).
[NOTE: I realize there is something missing in this vision. There needs to be a 'Community Chest'or Credit Union to which all contribute in order to provide for health, education, support and for providing for cooperative enterprises to get started and provide raw materials etc.]
(from our 11/5/17 session)
Fred: I see live musicians on every street corner as I walk around the city!
Dan: The world is stable and safe, although a lil damp :)
Dickey: We have rescued public education from corporate overlords and put it back into hands of people.
Anna: I am a member of a child caring collective based in a neighborhood, we take care of all kids on the block on a rotating basis.
Richard: Children are learning on their own nowadays, they work part time, apprentice and participate in all kinds of projects - choices of what they would like to engage in are left to them.
Alexey: We, the historians, are preparing for a celebration of the jubilee of the first revolution of 1917 and the second revolution of the 21st century, discussing how it became possible.
Lola: In my society, we don’t need to have money as an incentive to do socially useful work, people just like to contribute to their society, they have changed their attitudes.
Barry: People have learned how to respect each other, particularly those with whom they disagree.
Anna: I am a part of a small indigenous community who owns collectively its land and each family or individual has her own parcel to cultivate.
Dicky : Cooperative are the only alternative in my society. Dan: There are smaller communities, like those in the Caribbean - remarkably homogenous, where there is a much better chance to pull off a communist community and bring people to a consensus. Like Montpelier in Vermont, for example!
Lola: As I envisioned in my book, today’s society is without money. People participate just because they want to genuinely contribute and we rely on the fact that we all need each other. I know that i contribute to everyone else’s well being while everyone else contributes to mine. In terms of money as payment for work, as in Richard’s society, I disagree with that model. Effort can be a too subjective criteria for evaluating the appropriate activity. The same task would be of a different degree of difficulty for different people. Our society has prefered to eliminate money entirely. Young people go to school to learn different topics, but they alternate between studying and working and contributing to their society. As for the jobs that no one wants to do - we do them on a rotating basis.
Anna: And my community decided to get rid of “shitty jobs” by producing robots who do them.
Richard: My society has decided to follow William Morris in resolving the issue of shitty jobs. As he envisioned in News from Nowhere, our dustmen wear fancy Renaissance and Middle Ages costumes and they are honored by everybody. A community nearby has adopted a different approach by following the utopian socialist Fourrier. When he said once in a debate that everybody should be able to do whatever they want, he was challenged that that way there would be no one to pick up garbage. His answer was: “Little boys will do that - they love garbage.’ And it turned out a highly effective method of dealing with garbage and annoying kids indeed.
So as we can see NOW, there is room for all kinds of society. All elements that fought capitalism and succeeded in building their own visions of a better world are engaged into the picture.
The old commercial shopping centers, now accessible by the network of public transport, were transformed into bazaars and surrounded by public parks in the place of the old parking lots. A great variety of local and regional businesses were installed in the centers in the place of all those faceless and lifeless stores from multinational chains like MacDonalds, Etam, Jennifer, Zara, Calvin Klein, and Benneton. Artisans could be seen there chatting with their friends and potential customers while working at the same time. Cuisine was both regional and multi-ethnic, and not expensive. Two or three times a week, the old parking lots were transformed into peasant markets where producers sold produce directly from their farms and gardens.
Sundays, there were the flea markets, where people resold their clothes, their books, their furniture when they wanted to change it. Theaters, circuses and traveling shows set up their tents there. And as in urban centers, you could see on the screens films from all over the world. I saw these stations and centers bubbling over with life and conviviality. Vendors, like customers, were generally in good spirits and rarely in a hurry.
On national and global levels, the Internet facilitated wholesale trade in minerals, metals, production tools. At any moment, by going online, you could locate offers and searches, in cotton, sugar, steel, cocoa, of a certain quality and quantity. Each type of production had its site, and you could see exchanges being made in real time. Fascinated, I watched the scene while a chocolate cooperative in Berne in search of 1000 kilos of a certain type of cocoa got in touch with several producer co-ops in Africa, and ended up reaching an accord with peasants in Djambala in the Congo.
While I was looking, a thousand other deals of the kind were in the course of being negotiated, apparently to the mutual satisfaction of all. To save on freight, you generally chose producers closest geographically, but sometimes trade took place across oceans (by sailing ships) and mountains (via solar-powered dirigibles). Astonished, I asked my hosts: “Comrades, I have always fought against Globalization, and I’ve always believed that the market was a deadly instrument of capitalism that transformed all into merchandise and commodities!”
They answered that as there was no more capitalism, there was no more problem. But seeing me at the same time perplexed and sceptical, my friends took me to the Institute of Prehistory, where I found working precisely the scholar who could answer me in the most rigorous terms.
If these explanations don’t interest you, skip up to Monopolies.