TED Conversations

Jah Sun
  • Jah Sun
  • Los Angeles, CA
  • United States

CEO, Water Charity

This conversation is closed.

What alternatives are there to the current economic system? Should global capitalism fail, what would be the best model to replace it?

There are a ton of people who are dissatisfied with how our current system operates. Quite a few people are coming to the conclusion that this system is endemically flawed.

The Occupy movement is merely the most obvious and vocal outgrowth of a sentiment that many feel very strongly... namely that our Capitalist model of resource and labor management is unfair, environmentally unsound, inefficient, and unsustainable.

The fact that the people who profit the most in our system are often people who do little or no actual work is fairly self-evident. The hardest work, like toilet cleaning, often garners the most minimal of recompense, while investing in abstract economic instruments like the S&P Index can net one millions of dollars in a 10 second phone call placed from a poolside lounge chair in a 5-star resort.

Given that any system, no matter how well designed, can be improved... this debate is an attempt to spark a rational conversation on what we could do to make the exchange of goods and services more just, more effective, and more healthy for the biosphere.

There are scant few models out there that even propose any clear alternative. Most of the writing on the subject amounts to either pure critique of the current system, or pie-in-the-sky Utopian idealism with no clear path to get from here to there.

So, brilliant TED lovers... anyone got any good ideas?

We can discuss the pros and cons of such extant alternative models as The Venus Project, the "Basic Income" (ala B.I.E.N.), some of the ideas presented in Pinchbeck's latest Evolver essay compendium "What Comes After Money?" or any other relevant topic that tickles your fancy. Feel free to defend global capitalism if that is how you feel.

Let's keep it civil and worthy of this esteemed venue. Logic, clarity, rationality, and respect are paramount.

It is worth pointing out that what is better or best, in this case, will be considered in light of all people and the biosphere we share.

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Closing Statement from Jah Sun

It has been quite an interesting exploration.

Inspiring , frustrating, informative... but most of all, it has brought certain things into sharp focus.

The basic question of "what alternatives to the global economic system are there?" has been only cursorily addressed, because the answer is that there really AREN'T any that are ready for prime time. We've seen plenty of good fixes, adjustments & modifications... some quite striking & comprehensive... but nobody has been able to put forth a clear model of what we could actually do INSTEAD of the current status quo, should this model fail.

And, fail it could... make no mistake about that.

Also, I don't think the focus should be on what is best for US Citizens (or any single nation state or group of nations). The problem is already trans-national. National solutions to trans-national problems tend to prove disastrous. Unilateral actions & heavy handed moves in one nation's interest should become a thing of the past as people wake up & realize that we all share this one Earth, that national boundaries are imaginary lines drawn by people who often never even visited the place in question, and that humanity is going to have to work together if we want to solve the major issues of our time.

As far as short term fixes go, fractional reserve banking & debt based currency need to go. Lara posted this link: http://issuu.com/margritkennedy/docs/bue_eng_interest to an e-book which does a good job showing how this monetary system is crippling us.

The data that Richard Wilkinson put forth in his TED talk (linked in the intro) argues for us to recognize that economic inequality hurts everyone... even the ones at the top. The most equal societies are clearly the healthiest & most successful.

I think the Basic Income Guarantee is a good place to start in addressing the remorseless & uncivilized blight of abject poverty.

It is clear that we need to redress our priorities as a society.

Another conversation will follow.

:-)

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    Nov 28 2011: Krisztian - I'm going to try to explain this simple concept one last time.

    Each time a loan is taken out there is an increased demand for money in circulation to repay the interest on the loan. Before the loan was taken out this interest was not due, after the loan is taken out the interest is then due. Thus there is must be an increase in the supply of money now required to repay interest.

    This means that someone else somewhere else in the system must take out another loan if this demand for money to repay interest is to be met.

    Thus more debt = more interest = more demand for money = more debt.

    Interest is repaid at a % rate this is why our economic system requires growth at a % rate. The amount of money in supply and our economic activity must grow at a % rate.

    As our economy grows at a % rate the amount of resources we use also grows at a % rate. Take a look at Al Bartlett's talk on exponential growth which I have linked to earlier. The amount of oil we are using has been growing at an exponential rate.

    Our population also has been growing at an exponential rate. Our demand for food and water is growing at an exponential rate, because of population growth.

    Earth is finite and our resources are finite. Even renewable resources have a limit to how much we can use at any one time, they require time for renewal. There is a limit to growth.

    This is not an opinion, it is a mathematical fact. You can disagree with maths all you like, it doesn't make the math wrong.
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      Nov 28 2011: basically you reiterated your earlier claims. but i've addressed these points already.

      you got it backwards. if everyone were taking a loan from the bank, it would require increasing the amount of money. but this is like saying if everyone took double amount of chocolate, the chocolate stocks would have to be doubled. in fact, it just means that it is not possible for everyone to double chocolate consumption right away. similarly, interest makes it impossible to finance everything with loans, or at least some of them will default. that is unless something increases the money supply. so as you can see, debt is not the cause of the increase. as i have illustrated, interest existed back then, when money was gold and silver. and those things don't increase as we desire.

      and second, i also explained how technology can reduce the ecological footprint of an individual. exponential growth in gdp or in any other measure of wellbeing does not imply exponential growth of any material parameters. for example it does not have to increase fossil usage if we manage develop solar, wind, nuclear or any other kind of energy source. granted, one day exponential function outgrows even the sun's energy production. but i don't think that we need to worry about it now. i'm much more worried about children not getting enough food in some parts of the world.

      this time i'm going to ignore your rude remarks. but it is not wise to take such an arrogant position. especially if you don't do better than tell fall back to something i refuted already.
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        Nov 29 2011: Hey Krisztian, I applaud you ignoring rude remarks... but being the last to reply to a comment does not mean to refute an argument ;-)
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        Nov 29 2011: Krisztián, Disagreeing in not the same thing as refuting. And the fact you believe in a particular economic model does not confer infallibility upon it (this does seem to be the foundation of much of your argument - If you believe it; it is true. If others do not; they are wrong.)

        Your model seems rather simplistic: essentiality remove all regulation and let the market sort out the wheat from the chaff.

        Your model might work - if everyone was "like you."

        I honestly cannot think of a model that would work globally and trying to come up with a system that works universally ignores the fact that we, as a group, do not lend ourselves to conformity - it does not matter if we are talking about religion, politics, or economics.

        So your idea your model will work ignores one of the fundamental principles of any functional model - it must work in conditions as they exist. That is, a model - yours or anyone else's - would have to not only be "logical" to Mr Pintér, it would also have to be logical to Mr Sun, Mr Zhang, and Mr Gebbedi.

        It isn't.

        No model can achieve universal acceptance - not in the foreseeable future - so a heterogeneous approach seems to be the only viable option.

        That you assume your model is "true" whether others understand it or not, smacks of a dogmatic, almost religious adherence to a utopian worldview that is, qualitatively, not much different than a Muslim saying, "Islam is true, whether you agree with me or not, and the world will be a better place when we are all good Muslims" (or anarcho-capitalists, vegans or whatever.)

        That you have such "faith in the markets" is not something that most economists would even agree on (and I assume they are more knowledgable than you.)

        For example, Charles Wheelan makes a point invoking Friedman when he says, "Even Milton Friedman, a nobel laureate in economics and the most articulate spokesman for free markets, would concede that unfettered markets can lead to deeply flawed outcomes."
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          Nov 29 2011: it is not my idea. i'm not that smart to come up with such concepts. the idea of free market capitalism, and how does it work, is a complete field of study. it is more than a hundred years old, and it is discussed and explained by dozens of geniuses. it is in no means a faith or an empty claim. it is a system of arguments that can be understood and evaluated.

          i don't want anyone to believe me. i want people to follow my reasoning. and if they want to understand this point of view in greater detail, they can look it up. as a starter, i recommend henry hazlitt's book, economy in one lesson.
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        Nov 29 2011: Hi Krisztián,

        Yes, Hazlitt's book is a good one. I have read it. Another good one is "Naked Economics / Undressing The Dismal Science" by Charles Wheelan (whom I quoted earlier.)

        You say you are not smart enough to come up with these ideas ... that may be true. But here's what I've noticed about "geniuses" - they are not as smart as we think they are. So while you may be enamoured of the thinking of a few really bright guys, there are a bunch of other, equally bright guys, who disagree with you and with them.

        If you are not smart enough to come up with these ideas you are also not smart enough to evaluate them. I would recommend that you give "the other side" just as must latitude as you give your "favourites."

        And in keeping with your wish: I do not agree with you when you say you do not want people to agree with you.

        It seems that is very much what you do want. You really, really like the internal coherence of the free market capitalistic model (as presented by "dozens of geniuses.")

        You do not like any of the other models that other "geniuses" have come up with.

        And you want us to agree with you. When we do not you get, to quote another, "bellicose."

        As I said, those "geniuses" might not have been as smart as we think they were (they probably weren't.) For one thing, their models only work if the rest of us "obey the rules" of the model.

        For the models to "work," it is expected that reality (that would be us and what we do) have to bend to conform to a model of reality.

        It will not work.

        So assume, for a minute, your favourite - "anarcho-capitalism" - is off the menu (and it is) - what do you think might work as a second choice?

        As I have said, I do not know what will work. But I assume, whatever we come up with, it will evolve through a process of trial and error.

        Now, if you do not think there is a viable alternative to anarcho-capitalism, you have made your point and likely have nothing more to contribute.
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          Nov 29 2011: this is getting nowhere. my last advice: stop counting how many people believes this or that. stop pretending that because people have differing opinions, all opinions are equally valid. i pointed out numerous times that good theories can be separated from wrong theories with reasoning and testing. you don't have a right to be correct. whether you are correct or not is a factual question. it is unknown in the beginning, and can be found out by logical reasoning. i put forward a lot of logical reasoning. but alas, i rarely get replies addressing those. many times the reply is just a reiteration of the opposing opinion. it is not interesting. conversation and voting are two different things. and now you tell me that since i have casted my vote, i need to shut up already. i'm not here to vote, or listen to other people's votes.
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      Nov 30 2011: Krisztián,

      Your view seems a little skewed. You seem to think your opinion constitutes reasoning and proof whereas other people's opinions are simply opinions.

      By your own admission there is no evidence that, for example, anarcho-capitalism will work because it has never been practiced. So any assertion you make regarding it (or even regarding capitalism) is simply an opinion.

      That you choose to read into what others say such negative intent probably explains why you do get so bellicose at times. I did not tell you to shut up - I said if your position is that the only viable alternative is anarcho-capitalism then you likely have nothing more to contribute to this discussion. If that is your point - you have made it. We have the option of agreeing with you, or not, (most of us don't) so unless you have more to add that's about it.

      I think we get it: You assert anarcho-capitalism works or would work; it is the only viable economic system. We need to get governments out of the picture, let the market sort things out, and all will be well in the world. And any other system will yield sub-optimal utility.

      The whole "vote" thing rests on the assumption that what you say is quite simply "right" - not a matter of opinion.

      You apparently operate out of a "right/wrong" paradigm. This is not the most conducive stance to take for fruitful conversation.

      So if you think you are right and anyone who disagrees with you is wrong, again, you have made your point.

      You are not going to "convince us" by becoming belligerent.

      I'm pretty sure we all know we are not going to convince you that there might be some flaws in your worldview.

      However, if you think there might be something to this whole collaboration idea, and want to contribute, it is a public forum and the invitation has been extended to think of a model to replace capitalism.

      You might be smarter than you think ... you might actually be able to think of something better than Adam Smith or Frederic Bastiat did.
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    Nov 25 2011: I think I have a simple elegant solution to the global debt crisis and the gap between rich and poor. They have the same cause.

    The cause is structural, and it requires a structural solution.

    Most people think that money lent by banks is depositors money and the bank's profits are in the difference between the loan interest rates it receives and the savings interest rate it pays out. This is not so.

    Banks operate on a fractional reserve system. They loan out 9 times more than they have. This means that when you go to the bank to take out a loan 90% of that money is new money. It is created by private banks as interest bearing debt.

    If new money is created in the system it requires interest to be paid to the bank on it. The borrower must work to earn this interest. This means that there is a demand for more money in the system. The only way our system creates new money is as interest bearing debt. Thus more debt = more interest to be repaid = more debt needs to be created. It is a vicious circle.

    When the population is saturated with debt, just like a sponge soaked with water it cannot take on anymore, then we have defaults and bankruptcies. The system crashes. This is why we have a debt crisis.

    If all the debt owed were paid off tomorrow (never mind that this is mathematically impossible) there would not be enough money in circulation for the needs of business.

    Interest is the cause of the wealth gap. Those who have more get more, those who must borrow get less.

    We need to change to an interest free money system with demurrage. We need to allow only the peoples banks, publicly owned government banks, the ability to create new money for productive purposes, not as debt.

    Demurrage is a fee for holding onto money. This brings money back to the means not the end, encourages circulation, encourages economic activity, controls inflation and reinstates the incentive to loan.

    http://issuu.com/margritkennedy/docs/bue_eng_interest

    This eBook outlines the solution.
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      Nov 25 2011: Excellent comment Lara!

      I have tried earlier on in this thread to explain and provoke some discussion of fractional reserve banking and debt-based currency, but your post and excellent link have really done a bang up job of it.

      As I said previously, if people understood this system, there is no way they would stand for it. It makes ponzi schemes look quaint and socially productive.

      Clearly any rational society would not operate this way.

      So, people... let's give this concept some serious discussion now. I feel that of all the alternatives and modifications to the current global economic system we have discussed, this ranks at or near the top, because it is doable in relatively short order, and doesn't presuppose a drastic change in the way people live. We may get around to building a resource based economy, but we could eliminate debt based money and fractional reserve banking nearly overnight.

      Huzzah Lara! Thanks for participating and keenly elevating the discourse on this conversation.
      • Nov 27 2011: I do not see how this proposition takes care off unequal opportunities. It may in 1000 years as did it take in creating banking system.
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          Nov 27 2011: I don't think anyone imagines that doing away with fractional reserve and the basic debt behind money would be a complete solution in and of itself.

          What it would do is defuse the notion that we have to grow the economy at all costs in order to keep from collapsing under mountains of illusory debt... as we see in many countries at this very moment.

          The innate irrationality of the monetary system is a key factor in causing global capitalism to be so rapacious, and contributes equally to the rat-race, hamster wheel existence of those without capital.

          Even more than the move from gold backed money to fiat currency, this element has caused a devaluing of basic monetary value. In some countries this factor alone has caused devaluations of 1,000,000 to 1... as well as the complete abandonment of various currencies that were worth less than the paper they were printed on.

          This idea may not correct the playing field or address other serious concerns, but it does defang some troubling aspects of the current global economy.

          There is no reason we couldn't go on to adopt other measures as well. Have you had a chance to check out Mordechay's 3 part proposal?
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      Nov 26 2011: i still haven't seen a single argument why inequality is a problem. everyone just takes it for granted, and does not try to prove that large income differences cause harm how?

      also, i don't think there is a gap between the rich and the poor. i believe there is a continuum from below one dollar per day up to tens of thousands with no gap anywhere.

      i agree though that lot of the largest incomes today are stolen public money, and this should of course be stopped..
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        Nov 26 2011: Global capitalism will indeed fail if it drives a wedge between the haves and the have-nots. It will fail if it cannot figure out how to distribute the wealth in a way that satisfies the masses and their basic wants and needs. Not equal disribution - fair and balanced distribution

        The purpose of regulating capitalism is to prevent those things from happening. Without regulation capitalism is just another form of dictatorship.
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          Nov 26 2011: define your terms. what is fair distribution? what is balanced distribution? how do you define the haves and the havenots? 10000 dollar per year is have not or have? what is a basic need? air conditioning is a basic need? a car? a cellphone?
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        Nov 27 2011: Hi Krisztian,

        Here is my argument: Poverty and income inequality are intrinsically linked. If you think laissez-faire capitalism can sustain increasing income inequality while at the same time reducing poverty I would love to hear your ideas. If poverty could be reduced regardless of inequality, i could care less about how much money the top earners make.

        But so far I've never found data that supports these two as separate (Rahman Khan has researched the topic extensively over decades) So yes if income inequality is intrinsically linked to poverty, then i think income inequality is a problem.

        You seem to like to play with ambiguities. When people talk about a gap between the rich and the poor, i doubt they mean that the income distribution curve has gaps. It is easy to take the top 10% earners and the lowest 10% earners and use those slices to compare the difference. This is closer to what i mean when i use the term income gap.

        Lastly, I could not agree more. A lot of public money is stolen and this is something that should be stopped. A lot of public money is also re-distributed back to top earners (i.e. TARP) and that is something that should be stopped too.
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          Nov 28 2011: that is not really and argument, rather, a claim that needs backup. the data is clear: the life standard of the bottom percentages in any advanced society goes up. it went up very fast during the industrial revolution. the very age that produced the rockefellers. the logic behind it is also clear. salaries are confined from both sides. the maximum is set by profitability (productivity of a certain worker). the minimum is set by competition between employers. as technology advances, both goes up. the productivity of a worker goes up because capital accumulation (machines, tools, know-how). the competition goes up because there is more money to pay.

          i believe you are using ambiguities. if you mean difference, say difference. gap means ... well gap. some deeper, more profound difference. something that separates the two groups. the term is used to separate the "rich" from the "poor". but people rarely think about we are all rich in the eyes of a rice farmer in nepal, or in the eyes of an average guy in 1800. any line drawn to separate income groups into we and them is simply false.
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        Nov 29 2011: Krisztian, you said:

        "i still haven't seen a single argument why inequality is a problem. everyone just takes it for granted, and does not try to prove that large income differences cause harm how?

        also, i don't think there is a gap between the rich and the poor. i believe there is a continuum from below one dollar per day up to tens of thousands with no gap anywhere."

        before I comment I really do want to ask something? do you really not see a problem? If you really do not I will gladly like to point it out to you being that I have first hand experience with seeing such a problem (as perhaps everyone else) but I do not want to comment on that unless you are being serious about such a statement because most of the time I discuss with you, I have mentioned such an issue.
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          Nov 29 2011: it is not a good policy to question the seriousness of your opponents. i understand why it is easier to call me a troll, but sorry, i'm serious.

          and yes, i have heard many arguments, but they were false. i don't count false arguments.
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      Nov 26 2011: Lara - Good points!

      Kirsztian - "i don't think there is a gap between the rich and the poor. i believe there is a continuum from below one dollar per day up to tens of thousands with no gap anywhere."

      This statement is meaningless. It's also profoundly erroneous.

      You go on to say, "i agree though that lot of the largest incomes today are stolen public money, and this should of course be stopped.."

      Give us some ideas as to how we might stop this from happening, whether or not greed has anything to do with it, and whether putting regulations on the "free market" would help.
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        Nov 26 2011: jim, meaningless and erroneous is self contradiction. but you didn't really show any of these. can you please show me the gap? can you please define the position of the gap in income terms?
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          Nov 26 2011: Meaningless because it contributes nothing to this conversation and erroneous because it's not true.

          Now before firing back at me with questions of your own, answer the question I asked:

          Give us some ideas as to how we might stop this from happening, whether or not greed has anything to do with it, and whether putting regulations on the "free market" would help.
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        Nov 26 2011: it is funny that you people keep asking me that. i explain that two times a day. the best way to stop people stealing public money is not to give the state that money in the first place.
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          Nov 26 2011: That answer is useless. It really has I worth in this conversation. Think harder.
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        Nov 26 2011: wut?
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          Nov 26 2011: That answer ("the best way to stop people stealing public money is not to give the state that money in the first place.") is useless. It really adds no value to this conversation. Think harder.
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        Nov 27 2011: jim, either you account is stolen, or it is some joke i don't get. which one?
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          Nov 27 2011: Neither.

          Your answer (don't give the state money in the first place) is useless. I won't even give you the pleasure of explaining why it's useless because if you want to argue that it is a viable solution then you're out of the conversation. Anarchy is not an option.

          You've asked earlier in the conversation, "I still haven't heard a single argument why inequality is a problem".

          The answer is being demonstrated around the globe for a variety of reasons. Whether it be Syria or Yemen or Libya or Egypt or USA or Europe. When the masses realize that their lives are being dramatically, adversely affected by those in power they then begin the process of change to bring things more into balance/fairness/equality - call it whatever you'd like. Don't waste time trying to define it for the sake of argument. Inequality breeds discontent. The answer is not anarchy. The answer is democratic change. That is in essence what is happening in so many ways around the world.

          And people say Obama was wrong when he ran on a platform of "hope and change". The fact is, since his election I see nothing but hope (it's dim and far away but it's there) and change. Change is in the air.
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        Nov 27 2011: now, that's a useless reply. "because it is true" is not an argument. quite usual, though, because we, humans, don't like doubt. it is emotionally more luring not to have another option. if we simply don't have to think about something, since it is "not an option", it makes our lives easier. not better though, because we might exclude viable options. however, in fact i was not talk about anarchy. i am an anarchist, though they were reject me as capitalist. but this time i was talking about state interventions in the economy. if we would have had a free market economy with no bailouts and no special laws to protect friends, all this financial mess would not have happened. ending other state functions like law enforcement is another question.

        i didn't understand a word from that rant about inequality. do you mean that it is wrong because people don't like it? and people don't like it because it is wrong?

        it is rather funny that you believe democracy is the solution for a problem that originated in the oldest democracies, the USA and europe. it seems to me that democracy could not prevent it from happening. and now, people being disappointed in democracy, they declare it as "not true" democracy, and demand "true" democracy. yes, good luck with it. you can tweak it all day long, central planning or "fixing" the economy will lead to further demise of our civilization. the more "good" people come together to decide for us and pave the road to welfare, the faster the decline will be. the more regulations you put forward, the bigger the purses of some men will become. and at the end, our lives will be controlled and we will be shepherded by our wise leaders into total destruction.
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          Nov 27 2011: Virtually all of your response ignores what the masses are reacting to and instead makes a twisted and simplistic case for....... for.......... what????? Your scenario of what will happen if we attempt to address the problems of greed, inequality and unbridaled capitalism is almost biblical in proportion and smacks of financial Armageddon. It's anarchy. That makes it irrelevant.
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        Jah Sun

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        Nov 27 2011: Re: The whole "what is wrong with income inequality" debate...

        It would be useful if everyone took a few minutes to watch Richard Wilkinson's talk "How income inequality harms society" here: http://www.ted.com/talks/richard_wilkinson.html The link is also in the intro.

        Rather than try and explain the points he makes, it is easier to just give him a listen. He makes a number of very pertinent arguments with a decent statistical back-up. There are plenty of other issues, some have been raised here, some not, which also speak to this issue... but the stats speak for themselves. Societies with more equal wealth distribution do better on basically EVERY benchmark regardless of the actual amounts involved.

        Comments or thoughts on this subject?
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          Nov 27 2011: i have comments, and i have posted in the discussion section below that talk. it was longer, so i include only two parts here:

          "if we know a causal relationship, it is superior to statistical analysis. if they do have the actual link, why do we need to watch a 17 minute talk about the correlation?? show us the link!"

          "the body of the talk does not support the conclusion. if inequality has a negative effect, does it mean we need to reduce it? if we can show correlation between wearing a mini skirt and rape, it is wise to discourage women wearing mini skirts? if displaying wealth causes increase shoplifting, should we penalize displaying wealth?"

          full comment here: http://www.ted.com/talks/richard_wilkinson.html?c=344129
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          Nov 28 2011: Thanks Jah - I haven't watched Wilkinson's talk, so I'll do that and re-join the conversation.
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      Dec 1 2011: Hey there Lara,

      Finally managed to read through that e-book you put up. It reminded me basically of the "Freigeld" (free money in German) concept. I believe it was a part of the Freiwirtschaft concept from Silvio Gesell.

      I think such monetary policies have been attempted to greater or lesser effect on limited, local scale in various communities. I think we should continue to explore these ideas on a small scale until they are perfected, and then see what would happen if we took it to a national level. There are plenty of countries with such poor performing currencies, so perhaps one of them might feel they have nothing to lose in trying something new.

      I don't really have any criticisms, and agree basically with all of what you have said on this conversation. The jury (for me at least) has been in on the whole debt-based money scheme for a loooong time now. People who defend it astound me. It is basically indefensible as far as I am concerned. Fractional reserve has to go, and money must be returned to its original function of simplifying the exchange of goods and services.

      Thanks for participating.
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    Nov 8 2011: First off, as many comments here allude to, we need to differentiate between capitalism and free markets, since capitalism, big time capitalism is associated with who owns the capital, or means or production. It is possible to maintain free markets without big time capitalism. A farmers market is a free market, but it isn't big time capitalism.

    That being said it isn't necessary to destroy capitalism as it will fall of its own weight. The reason that wealth is concentrated in the hands of a few is that there is a glut of labor in the world, labor has no bargaining position when it is in surplus, and so no ability to demand a greater share of corporate profits, thus wealth concentrates at the top. The reason that there is a labor glut isn't because of globalization it is because of the productivity levels which are achievable by modern production techniques, opening new markets masks this problem by creating new demand, and so growth, but the amount of jobs created for the amount of growth created continues to lag.

    So the big problem with modern capitalism is that in its pursuit of profits it has relied on methods which continually reduce labor inputs, this means fewer jobs at lower wages, and we are reaching the point where the wages paid aren't sufficient to fuel demand for the products it is possible to produce.

    The answer to this is to de-centralize production. This may already have to occur as increased fuel costs make the shipping of goods more expensive. By de-centralizing production one can increase the need for labor and so reduce the surplus of labor, having a beneficial impact on wages. There may also be associated inflation, but we shouldn't be scared by this since by both reducing transportation costs and spreading profits we do have room to increase wages without increasing prices.

    There also needs to be a greater focus on community initiatives outside the normal work paradigm, to increase quality of life, and maintain meaning in peoples lives.
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      Nov 9 2011: Your argument makes sense in theory Eric. Do you think markets should not be regulated?
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        Nov 9 2011: Joanne,

        I think free markets do some things extraordinarily well, the typical economic virtues, indicate shortages, set prices, allocate resources, etc. But they can perform these jobs too well, accomplishing their goals at the expense of environmental concerns, the ethical treatment of labor, or other areas that cause cost without monetary gain. So yes I do believe they should be regulated. Free markets are a very usefull beast that need to kept on a short leash.

        There are also things that every society needs which free markets will not do at all, this is especially true of things which offer little or no profit motive, let's take supplying municipal water as an example. Even if there is a potential profit motive in supplying municipal water the profit potential is likely to be so small that the 'good' money, the best resources labor or otherwise, are likely to move to more profitable areas of the economy, and this certainly isn't the kind of process one wishes to encourage when dealing with things that have a major impact on the wellfare of a society.

        It is very easy to see these issues in a very black and white manner, but free markets benefit from sound regulation, and the government benefits from adopting some aspects how free markets work.
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          Nov 9 2011: Thanks Eric. I do agree the terms 'socialism', 'capitalism', 'free market' are over-used and sometimes misinterpreted. Civilisation itself has been a highly complex experiment with many failures over the human timeline. We are in a position today where we can look to the past and evaluate with the wisdom of hindsight, which systems work well and which do not. I agree that the best path is one that strikes a balance between the forces of enterprise and the general needs of societies. I myself speak against, not capitalism per se, but against too much deregulation and the wide poverty gap that produces. I agree with your comment regarding the 'short leash' . Capitalism as like a bullock. A big and powerful animal if left unrestrained, but highly useful with a ring through its nose. I enjoyed reading your clear analysis. Thanks.
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      Nov 9 2011: ah, so we are now inventing new terms? big time capitalism, not bad.

      in fact, freedom and capitalism are the same thing. you cannot get rid of capitalism but by limiting freedom.

      and what you call big time capitalism, and use capitalism as a short version, is actually called corporatism and interventionism.
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        Nov 9 2011: You are very correct as regards the issue of freedom, in planned economies it is still very common to have active black markets, which are essentially free markets. If one wants to construct an economic model which people will follow easily one should use their most natural impulses, and free markets represent one of those impulses.
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          Nov 9 2011: yes we do have black markets. Look at what capacity they operate, underwhat conditions and moderate to limit them or eradicate them depending on the damage they do to the collective. A drug trade for example is a black market economy. So is the illegal immigrant labour force. One is viewed with slightly more hostility/police suppression than the other because of who benefits from it. My point is these are only variables in a system which is beneficial or not beneficial to the people using it, depending on the regulations it has been designed with. We must, in my opinion, measure the success of the system by the success of each individual within it. I guess Kristian might disagree with me there. That is the crux of why we are having this talk and the reason why it always comes down to the same knarly point. 'Why should I' says the capitalist 'Because you are part of the human community' replies the socialist.
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        Jah Sun

        • +2
        Nov 9 2011: Uhmm...

        Freedom & Capitalism are the same thing?

        In what Universe?

        I suppose that Yanamamo Indians in the Amazon are in slavery, or some kind of bar-less prison? Indigenous people the world over didn't even have a concept of private property or land ownership, and yet were far freer than we are today in our pseudo-free markets.

        Capitalism, in case you forgot, is the same system that gave us company towns, union busters, mercenary armies enforcing US drug laws on people who never voted for them... and sweatshops.

        Perhaps you have a different definition of freedom.

        Even if you did, your statement still makes no sense in purely in logical terms. It is a direct violation of at least 10 logical fallacies. It is something that might pass in a Keynesian or Austrian model economics workshop... but in a Logic 101 class it would garner you a fail.

        It is totally conceivable (regardless of being rather unlikely) to get rid of Capitalism while increasing Freedom. You might have to stretch your mind a bit.
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          Nov 9 2011: i'm pretty sure that you can't judge capitalism based on history. why? because we never had pure capitalism. and if we have a mixed system, the question naturally arises: capitalism or something else is responsible for the troubles.

          what is capitalism? capitalism is a system with the means of production in private hands. obviously, private ownership implies free use of those means, otherwise what is the purpose of owning things?

          it is very clear from the definition that government is not part of capitalism. government limits the use of property, thus limits capitalism. bear in mind, i didn't say here that it is good or bad. i just said that government is a limit to capitalism. government is a non-capitalist element in a given system.

          with that in mind, can you give me, say, three of those ten logical fallacies i have made?
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          Nov 9 2011: In terms of indigenous peoples, or small tribes, you really need to look at their interactions with the tribes which they border as opposed to the dynamics of the tribe itself. The dynamics of small close groups does not translate to interaction of larger groups, otherwise one could build an economic systme on how ones family interacts. At some point the trust people invest in each other changes, and so the rules by which they exchange.
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          Nov 16 2011: Jah Sun wrote "Freedom & Capitalism are the same thing?

          In what Universe?"


          Excellent point! Capitalists who talk so elegantly of freedom never consider “freedom for whom?” One of the essential problems with capitalism is that it reinforces and promotes the freedom of owners at the expense of others.

          The pronouncement “Don’t tread on me” needs an addendum which states “and I won’t tread on you.”
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        Nov 9 2011: What is wrong with inventing new terms? Anyway that is not my point, perhaps it is someone elses. I agree with Jah Sun 'Freedom & Capitalism are the same thing? In what Universe?'. Now who is inventing?
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          Nov 9 2011: I think this delusion comes from juxtaposing capitalism against past systems like communism or something similar.
          Ergo, "look at our capitalist society and how much freedom we have - compared to Stallins soviet block or some other similar dictatorship". Where the other part of the sentence is left out.
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          Nov 9 2011: As far as the freedom equates to capitalism, or free markets idea goes the question really breaks down to what degree does one feel free operating to achieve the goals of a group? This may be simply a case of to what degree do the goals of the group coincide with the goals of the individual.

          Yet no matter what system one lives in one will have to submit ones life to certain rules which have been found by the group to be acceptable, capitalism imposes certain retsrictions on how one may pursue ones life, the degree to which it may enslave people is controllable through policy, (that leash again). Still capitalism or free markets may offer more raw choices, or freedom, for how one chooses to spend ones time. It is certainly more user friendly for those less interested in group dynamics while at the same time allowing room for people to operate within groups.
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          Nov 10 2011: I agree, it is a delusion. We can talk about free market capitalism all we want but there is no freedom in capitalism (I looked in vain looking for any notion of freedom from many sources. As a matter of fact, capitalism is not predicated on freedom. But instead of talking about theories and concepts I am going to go on a more practical level.

          Ask the millions of individuals in the working class how free their lives are within a capitalistic society? Many peoples lives are really determined given that they constantly have to go to work everyday just to put food on the table for their families. They are going to school because they are told that they'll make more money later in life. There is nothing free about their lives if they are constantly in shackles. This is what I like to call wage slavery and to be truly free one must not be restrained by external forces. I'm going to borrow a passage from a quote from Emma Goldman and state that to be free (in the conversation we are talking about) one must "[liberate] the human body from the dominion of property" and have "Liberation from the shackles and restraint of government" (for those interested this quote relates to what she believed anarchism stood for but since we are not talking about anarchism I thought I'd leave those parts out and I just wanted to show what really constituted as economic and political freedom in which I capitalism fails to do)

          Here is are definitions of freedom: (Dictionary.com)
          1.
          the state of being free or at liberty rather than in confinement or under physical restraint:
          2.
          exemption from external control, interference, regulation, etc.
          3.
          the power to determine action without restraint.
          4.
          political or national independence.
          5.
          personal liberty, as opposed to bondage or slavery (can't say this for those who work)

          Most may not be servants to a single individual but we certainly are to corporations (which in the U.S. are now defined as individuals) and money.
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        Jah Sun

        • +2
        Nov 10 2011: You have softened your statement now to avoid the most egregious of the fallacies.

        The idea that government limits Capitalism is not in debate. When it ceases to do so, or shirks this duty, we have major problems. There is a reason no major populations have had pure Capitalism for any length of time... it is a horrible mess.

        Examples of pure Capitalism include drug cartels, slavery rings, prostitution networks, and various mafias.

        When you were still saying that "in fact, freedom and capitalism are the same thing." the fallacies THERE run the gamut. How about:

        Reification
        Both the Sweeping & Hasty Generalization fallacies.
        The Fallacy Of Misplaced Concreteness
        The Fallacy Of Composition
        The Etymological Fallacy
        The Association Fallacy

        etc. etc.

        Your logic seems to be that:
        Private Ownership = Free Use
        Capitalism = Private Ownership
        Capitalism = Free Use = Freedom

        Need I demonstrate the fallacies?

        I will merely state that free use of means of production by a private owner is not Freedom. In fact, the very act of private ownership implies the lack of freedom for everyone else but the owner to use those means. If a man owns the local saw mill, the community is not free to use the saw mill as they please.

        Freedom is a much broader concept and is not limited to the scope of economics (see Orlando's post above). The idea that they could be the same thing is simply not conceivable.
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          Nov 10 2011: let me start with this question:

          "Need I demonstrate the fallacies?"

          yes. that was your task. that is the only thing you had to do. indeed, you have listed a number of fallacies, but without the slightest attempt to show how do they apply. but instead, you did a whole array of other things instead. for example you threw in a bunch of logical fallacies and false statements.

          no, i didn't "soften" my statement, i explained it. what i said earlier, holds. whether government causes the problem or capitalism, is the subject of our debate. simply stating that capitalism is the problem does not help. argue! no, freedom does not work that way. i don't have the right to kill someone for fun, but it is not a limitation for freedom. let's say, it is a natural limitation on freedom that exists outside our decisions, unless we develop a method to kill someone, yet that person lives unharmed. same for the sawmill, as long as one object can be used by one person at a time, there is a natural limit on its ownership, and we have to comply. the free answer is of course: whoever built the sawmill, has it. there was no sawmill earlier, now i hired workers, bought materials, and built a sawmill. it is mine. nobody is worse off, as their situation is not changed, they still don't have a mill. that is the unregulated, natural way. that is freedom. no, in real life you can not separate the economy and life in general. in a free society, capitalism is the economic system. without capitalism, there is no freedom. without freedom, there can be no capitalism.
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        Nov 10 2011: Again, the limits of this 3 deep replying model here are getting tedious. Conversations must get broken up, and the flow is lost.

        Anyway, as far as your most recent reply...

        It is NOT my job to do anything vis a vis your fairly obvious logical faux pas. If you can not see how by saying something so inherently impossible in the absolute (Capitalism = Freedom), a number of well known fallacies are violated, it is not my job to give a class on logic. You are not the arbiter of "tasks."

        Besides, you ONLY asked me to give you 3 fallacies not explain.

        You DID soften your statement by explaining it.

        I do not even disagree with your more fully explicated statement... at least not entirely. But, you certainly did back away from your original simile. It is not worth debating that point further though, as these posts are editable & history is capable of being retroactively written here.

        Regardless, the intent of this debate, which is clearly stated in its title... is to come up with alternatives to Capitalism (specifically the global, corporatist, debt-based system that is strangling the life out of dozens of national economies as we speak). Where you got the idea that this debate was about government's role in the problem is beyond me.

        Many people would rather make this about apologizing for the current system. That is considerably easier than imagining new alternatives. After all, there is a good reason why the number of economic systems that have been tried in the modern era are so few. This conversation I instigated is an attempt to spur some creative thought... to discuss what we could do better. And, everything that can be done, can be done better.

        I will not deny that I opened up the debate to defenses of Capitalism. Perhaps I should change that, as it is a tired and somewhat passé endeavor. But it is clear that this was not the goal or thrust of the debate.

        As for your sawmill, who owned the river to start with? How did the first private owner pay for it
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          Nov 10 2011: not willing to reiterate points that were already discussed, here are my three observations:

          1. you didn't just ask for alternatives, but gave a rationale why do we need alternatives. you can not escape from discussing that rationale.

          2. how governments came up: you blame many things on capitalism that are done by the state. that's how.

          3. theories on original appropriation are numerous, but not anymore relevant, since there is no more things on earth to appropriate. you can buy though. in theory, we can trace back every piece of property to unowned natural resources ... some thousand years ago.
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        Jah Sun

        • +1
        Nov 10 2011: Exactly.

        Every piece of land started out as stolen property. Possession of stolen property is a crime no matter how many times it has changed hands since, even if you are unaware of the larceny. If this is true of an automobile, how much more so an entire continent?

        For crimes that are heinous or international, there is no statute of limitations. Thus, for instance, the genocide of the Native Americans for purpose of stealing their land renders nearly all of the New World felonious possession. No one likes to hear this, and I am not suggesting that it can be rectified in a legal manner. However, it is another point that shows the inherent injustice of our economic system whereby the descendants of criminals (mass murderers, slave traders, pirates and practitioners of genocide) get to profit in an uneven playing field with the descendants of those they wronged.

        People inherit wealth, and have advantages for starting businesses and buying property, means of production and whatnot. This is something that needs to be considered despite the reluctance of the privileged to even contemplate it.

        Back to your points.

        1) I never tried to escape this, and admitted that I opened this door. I just find it less interesting than the innovation implied in the two questions asked. My introduction does not strike me as being unclear in the actual thrust of this debate.

        2) I don't blame anyone or anything, but merely state that many people are unhappy and unsatisfied with the current model. This is a matter of record.

        3) See above.
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          Nov 10 2011: that much about fallacies. stealing implies ownership. one can not steal something that is unowned. so please forgive me for not reading the rest of your comment.
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        Nov 11 2011: I forgive you.

        No one is required to participate here. Reading is not mandatory. There are no demerits or marks for cooperation or whatever.

        But being the thorough SOB that I am, I will just add that:

        People can steal from public trusts, communities, and even entire societies. Thievery does not necessarily imply personal ownership.

        Perhaps you are just being willful. Most people recognize that what happened to the indigenous populations of the world was a crime. Colonization, despite being a church-sanctioned activity, was certainly not ethical, moral, or any kind of free-market transaction.
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        Nov 11 2011: Well, there are a number of ways you could phrase it.

        How about we put it like this:

        "Manifest Destiny" type colonialization and appropriation is stealing from the ecosystem and its native stewards.

        It might be possible to look at genocide and appropriation of land and resources as a kind of parasitic infection.
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          Nov 11 2011: the ecosystem can not own things, so we cannot steal from it. the "native stewards of the ecosystem" is a nonexistent thing. genocide of the land and resources is also a nonexistent thing. if you base your world view on such "theories", you are in trouble.
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          Nov 12 2011: Hi Krisztian, I think, when an argument descends into syntax, someone might be grasping at straws, anyway lets try this:

          Definition of ownership: the legal right to possession of a thing, the right to tansfer possession to another.

          Definition of theft; The act of DISHONEST appropriation.

          Given that in the cases of appropriation of something between two parties who have different definitions of the concepts of what is 'legal' and what is 'possession' it would be a given that some 'dishonesty' would be an inevitable component of the transaction and therefore would constitute a theft as Jah Sun has determined.
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          Nov 14 2011: Krisztian,

          you stated "the ecosystem can not own things, so we cannot steal from it. the "native stewards of the ecosystem" is a nonexistent thing. genocide of the land and resources is also a nonexistent thing. if you base your world view on such "theories", you are in trouble."

          Please tell me your not being serious? The ecosystem is something that cannot own or be owned. It simply "Is" and with the continued destruction of it, your precious capitalism will no longer be, being that capitalistic societies are dependent on such resources. As a matter of fact humanity may no longer be depending on how long things continue the way they are.

          How is genocide of the land and resources a non existing thing? The fact that the depletion of natural resources have many devastating effects on the world. The fact that the biosphere, the ecosystem, populations, different organism, chemical cycling, poverty, etc are all influenced by unsustainable resource use, goes to show how false your claim about "genocide of the land and resources are also non existing".

          You also mentioned that "if [we] base our worldview on such 'theories', [we] are in trouble". It is the fact that peoples worldviews are based on such theories that humanity is more environmentally conscious than it was 50 years ago. If it was not for such worldviews, things would be much worse in terms of the environment.

          From talking to you other times, I understand your position about capitalism. But sometimes ethics and morals are much more important than profit over people.
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        Jah Sun

        • +1
        Nov 15 2011: Orlando, I think you are wasting your time trying to reason with Krisztian. He is obviously enamored with the current system & unwilling to even entertain any criticism of it, regardless of how rational.

        His statements that those things are not real... excuse me, "nonexistent"... are clearly delusional.

        He quotes me as saying "the genocide of land and resources" when I said genocide AND the APPROPRIATION of land and resources. This is a common ploy in debate, & yet another logical fallacy. Fallacy of quoting out of context (contextomy)... as well as a "straw man" ploy. There is no point in arguing with someone who refuses to honor logic and reality.

        If he doesn't think that crimes against humanity are real... he can take it up with the world court in Den Haag. (The Hague in the Kingdom of the Netherlands)

        Anyway, these things are all matters of perception & phrasing. If you view the Earth & its biospheres as a living thing (which science increasingly recognizes) ala the Gaia Theory or other variants... then these concepts are a no-brainer. Even if you can only go as far as recognizing the complex systems that form a holistic balance, then you can still recognize that certain behaviors will knock these systems out of balance.

        However small minded you want to be, though, you can understand that the policy of purposefully killing all the buffalo, not even for meat or skins, but simply to destroy the plains Indians who relied on them... for instance... was a crime against both humanity and biodiversity. The Indians may not have thought about the buffalo as their property, but robbing them of the resource was still a heinous & immoral act.

        Trust fund managers don't own the wealth they steward, but stealing from them is a crime.

        Ownership of life might be called a "nonexistent thing" by the closed minded... but stealing someone's life is still a crime everywhere on earth.

        People like Krisztian are apologists & shills for the status quo. Ignore them.
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          Nov 15 2011: it is marvelous that you try to discredit me as "enamored" and "apologist for the status quo", while i tirelessly advocate a completely *different* approach than we have today. in fact, i argue for a radical change here, and you together with orlando, advocate a complete trust of todays systems with a little tweak to them. how could you possible get that reversed? it is beyond me.
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          Nov 16 2011: Lets hear it Krisztian. I am interested in your radical change, and I mean it. So long as it doesn't involve the mythological 'invisible hand'.
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          Nov 17 2011: I agree,

          He states "i argue for a radical change here, and you together with orlando, advocate a complete trust of todays systems with a little tweak to them"

          From my understanding there is nothing that we have stated that would imply that we have a complete trust in today's system. My conversations w/you and Joanne talks of how we can come up with different ways of creating change. If anything I think the three of us have consistently been the most critical of the current global economic system in regards to this particular thread

          A few months back I created a post asking why people do not seek to understand anarcho-syndicalism and how this can be an alternative way of living as opposed to living in a capitalistic democracy,. Our good pal Krisztian asserted that not only is there a false dichotomy between anarchism and capitalism but that there is nothing wrong with capitalism. He also did not hesitate to try to point out my ignorance in political economies as well as history.

          I do not think the burden is on us to have to say anything in response to Krisztian's claims. If Krisztian or anyone doubts what I just said they can go over and read the post for themselves.
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        Nov 16 2011: I'm glad you find it marvelous Krisztián. While I am able to marvel at your ability to continue arguing long after you have stopped actually saying anything... as well as your incredible debate technique of willfully not even reading what the other person has written, yet continuing to engage in tit-for-tat absent any semblance of referencing the question or theme up for being discussed... I would stop well short of calling it marvelous.

        I don't begrudge you your fun. Perhaps you are bored.

        It is serious revisionism, though for you to say you are advocating a different approach when you have done no such thing on this thread. A thread, mind you, that is all about exploring ALTERNATIVES to the current system, and which you responded to by asserting that Capitalism and Freedom are the same thing... mind boggling.

        Unless you resort to going back and editing your posts here, you have no leg to stand on.

        If you are seriously touting yourself as a champion of an alternate... "completely *different* approach than we have today," then please, by all means, lay it on us. Please start a new thread, though, as this one is ridiculously long and I tire of having to reply to a post from a week ago.

        If you do not post such a different approach, then I must respectfully bow out of this tête-à-tête.
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          Nov 16 2011: i would not react to all your baseless claims and non-sequiturs.

          i would like to point out a little thing though. this conversation is NOT only about how to change the current system. this conversation is about how to change capitalism. it is in the title. it is in the opening statement. so it is very much on topic to point out that our system is NOT capitalistic. our system is at most 50% capitalistic, but probably much less.

          thus i can not express my view otherwise in that conversation, as it is ambiguous and self contradictory. instead, i'm trying to battle all the misconceptions. i find that a good thing to do, although somewhat hopeless, as it seems.

          i have no idea where you get that "editing post" thing from. i have never edited any of my posts except typos and grammar. are you implying something here?
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        Nov 17 2011: The title of this conversation asks 2 questions. One is alternatives to the current economic system... the other is what would be the best model to replace global capitalism should it fail.

        As I can tell, you have not attempted to answer either.

        Misconceptions, baseless-ness and such judgments are subjective. Expressing your opinions is your right, but you are not the final arbiter of these things. Plenty of other posters here seem to get what we are discussing.

        Your idea that pure capitalism has never been tried is also merely an opinion. We have already given you enough examples of it and how wretchedly it tends to turn out. If you are still in doubt, you can go to Africa and witness blood diamond trade, arms dealers, human trafficking and the rest in the lawless, government-less encampments of warlords from Sierra Leone to Somalia.

        While I don't find such diversions to be completely off-topic, or even unentertaining to a degree... it certainly falls to do what you have claimed. Namely, laying out your "completely different alternative to the current system."

        Most people agree that the global economic system is capitalist. Whether you believe in global capitalism or not, you can still post your alternative. We would all love to hear it.

        Please refrain from replying again and post a new comment, though. This is rather difficult to follow, and the system of only allowing 3 deep replies makes this thread an arduous read.

        As for editing posts, I said that only by editing your posts could you can not claim to have put forth any sort of completely different approach than we have today. Pointing out that we are not practicing purely unadulterated capitalism is not the same thing as proffering an alternative.
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          Nov 18 2011: as i said before, this is not the right topic to discuss my views, since we need to first clear up the confusion presented in the title and the opening statement.

          but if you want to hear more about my take on how we should organize our societies, you can find a good quality debate in my old conversation here:

          http://www.ted.com/conversations/697/the_role_of_government.html

          it is now closed, so you can't comment. but as i read it now, it is even more shocking to see what ted forums have become since. a billboard of half cooked anti-capitalist propaganda.
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        Nov 20 2011: Sorry freedom and capitalism are not the same thing Nazi germany was capitalist without freedom!
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          Nov 20 2011: nazi germany was not capitalist. the term for what it was is corporatism, and later, pure dictatorship. where did you get that information from?
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    Jah Sun

    • +3
    Dec 4 2011: To conclude my thoughts on this debate...

    Capitalism in its basic ideal is not inherently bad, and as it serves to simplify the exchange of goods & services, or encourage progress, it is rather elegant at times.

    However, what we have is not this. There is no such thing as real "free market."

    What we have is a dangerous amalgamation of corporatism, resource domination & appropriation, closed-door collusion, subversion of democracy, and assault on our ecosystems. It is irrational, unsustainable, unfair, and the fact that so many people who are victims of it step up to defend it... shows just how effective the propaganda and control of popular perception actually is.

    If anyone had any doubts about the corrupt and irredeemable nature of the beast... the recent revelation that the Federal Reserve (basically a privately owned central bank) gave 7.77 TRILLION dollars in 0.01% interest loans to the banks (their board members), and lied about it, hid the fact, and even withheld this info from the US Senate... should erase them. http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/business/2011/11/fed-gave-banks-trillions-in-bailout-bloomberg-reports/

    The fact that we have no clear alternative to compare this current system to, makes it seem as basic & unalterable as the weather for most, but I guarantee you that humans will NOT be doing this in 500 years... if we want to survive on this planet.

    I feel, even more than ever, that it behooves us as thoughtful & concerned human beings, to think long & hard on what we can really do to improve the quality of our lives, safeguard & improve our environment, and ensure that future generations are not handed a giant train wreck or some nightmarish post-apocalypse.

    As a tease to the next conversation (and the title to the essay I have written about all of this)... WE CAN DO BETTER!

    I want to extend a sincere gratitude and respect to everyone who participated here... even those I disagreed with. (You know who you are. ;-)

    With abundant love,
    JahSun
  • Nov 27 2011: Part3.
    Update the progressive Tax system.
    Differentiated and increase VAT taxation and updated scheme of direct taxation.
    --
    1: Introduce a progressive VAT tax system.
    Divide products and services in 5 groups.
    --
    Examples:
    1:1Group 1 will pay 0% VAT.
    Basic living products, babies and school utilities, materials and services, public transportation, bicycles.
    1.2-Group 2 will pay 2-6% VAT.
    A group of defined products and services and Electricity, Gas, Water per cap allocation. apartments up 3 living rooms, low fuel consumption cars.
    1.3-Group 3 will pay 7-12%VAT
    A group of defined products and Electricity, Gas, Water over per cap allocation, apartments up 5 living rooms, medium fuel consumption cars/
    1.4-Group 4 will pay 17-22%
    Luxury products and services ,Energy consuming cars-air conditioning systems, Luxury houses and cars, 5 star hotels, Yachts.
    ** 1.5: Addition 5% VAT if within 3 years the car, apartment owner and other commodities defined in this category will either buy or change his commodity to another product within the same or higher VAT group.
    ---
    2: Update the scheme of direct taxation.
    Young people are played less however they have initial high expenses to build a family.
    Combine the progressive tax system with an age depending tax system.
    ---
    2.1; A married couple will be entitled to 20 to 50% salary tax reduction for 5 years after marriage, pending income.
    2.2: A tax reduction of 5 to 10% per child for 13 years pending income.
    2.3: Change the progressive income tax system.
    For incomes up 7 times the average income use the current system.
    Increase the incoming tax by 5 to 20% per income increase step.
    Example: average income*7=x tax
    Income above average income of 7 to 8= x+5% tax.
    Income above average income of 8 to 9 = X+10% tax.
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      Nov 27 2011: Thank you Mordechay for you well thought out, specific & detailed contribution to this conversation. In 3 parts no less.

      I am hoping some of our other contributors will give your proposals some serious thought and discuss the minutia and fine points here. I myself have a number of comments and questions that I will get around to posting when I am not quite so busy with other demands on my time.

      I really appreciate your emphasis on social justice and opportunity for all. There are some elements that I might quibble with once I clarify exactly how you imagine this to be carried out, but I applaud you for your ability to do what many progressives and idealists forget to... namely lay out a clear alternative.

      Kudos.
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      Nov 29 2011: For purposes of this conversation, I would take a different tact in outlining a strategy for the harnessing of capitalism/free market economy. (Yes, I am pro-capitalism/free market - but not the brand I see here in the USA. I call that brand "Lethal" capitalism).

      I have learned a lot from the ideas shared here by Jah, Mordechay, Thomas, Lara, Orlando, Frans, Christophe and others. Although "detailed" thoughts such as Mordechay's are useful, I think the first step is to broadly outline principles and objectives for creating an economic system that is fair(er) and provides a better pathway for all people to gain personal happiness. If we can agree on those things broadly and philosophically, then we can dive into the details. In other words, collectively author a "declaration" of sorts. (Personally that's what I think the Occupy moverment is missing - along with leadership)

      Like Jah, I, too have a day job I must get back to, but will make every effort in the next day or so to continue with my thoughts on constructing a platform/declaration that we can all stand on/behind :)
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        Dec 3 2011: Well Jim... it appears that what started with a bang is going out with a whimper.

        The conversation ends in a bit over a day, and everyone has kind of jumped ship. I am still quite curious as to what you were going to say, though. So feel free to come back and post whatever you want.

        I will go through this forum and assimilate all of the good ideas and comments for the future. It is likely I will start a similarly themed conversation in the coming weeks to start where this one left off, and discuss the various ideas that got tossed around here and on a few other forums as well.
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      Dec 1 2011: Your updated tax system.

      Obviously, the tax system could use an update and an overhaul. However, I don't think that VAT and consumption taxes are the way to go. The problem with this is that is shifts the burden to those with the least amount of money to afford it. Such taxes are inherently anti-progressive and amount to wealth redistribution upward. They always seem to reduce the amount of taxes paid by the wealthy, and make the cost of living for the poor higher. (see another discussion on this subject here in this very debate)

      Your system is more compassionate than most. I like the idea of a 0% bracket for basic living expenses. And the idea of rather steep taxes on luxury goods is probably appropriate... At first glance, this might even seem to be a way around the anti-progressive assumptions of consumption taxes.

      However, in practice, if you are not talking about shrinking government and expect to keep revenues the same, the new system must be able to raise the same amount of money as the old. The question then becomes only, who will pay more and who will pay less (assuming you change the demographic division of burden).

      When looked at objectively, consumption taxes (no matter how high or weighted) always favor the rich. This is because rich people only spend a tiny portion of their wealth in any given year. The bulk of their money is invested, saved, or otherwise taken out of liquid circulation. Whereas, poor people spend every last cent they have every single month, and are often in the red. Therefore, even if the only expenditures that poor people make are in the 0% and the 2-6% brackets, all of their wealth will be subject to one or the other and ANY taxation of the poor will be paid for by the state in the form of welfare in the long run.
      • Dec 3 2011: Ms Jah Sun
        Following my comments to some of your points related to VAT-Tax
        You said:
        1:'If you are not talking about shrinking government and expect to keep revenues the same, the new system must be able to raise the same amount of money as the old"
        2:" consumption taxes (no matter how high or weighted) always favor the rich. This is because rich people only spend a tiny portion of their wealth in any given year"
        --
        I agree that government activity should be balanced. The money raised should support government activities. The proposal is independent of government's efficiency.

        The proposed change of Tax is a combination of both the total direct income from all types of incomes and not only salaries (including deposit interests, share gains, house rentals and so on) and the VAT indirect taxation.
        I believe that this proposal will contribute to decrease the income inequality.

        The rich will pay more, the middle class less.
        People consuming more resources (Example energy) will pay more for their usage.

        Overall taxation should:
        From one hands the keep inequality to a point acceptable by the middle class.
        From second hand it should encourage and reward people for initiatives, good performances, risk taking
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      Jah Sun

      • +1
      Dec 1 2011: The portion of the wealth that profits the most from the stability of any state, and is the least needed for actual living expenses... is also paradoxically the area subject to the lowest taxes currently

      I am speaking, of course, of Capital Gains. (US capital gains tax stands at a record low of 15%)

      I linked earlier to a Forbes article showing that 0.1% of the population makes 50% of the capital gains. If anyone thinks this is fair or justified in a supposed democracy... please explain this to me.

      All the best Mordechay. Thanks for your contribution.
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    Nov 12 2011: From where I am standing there are 2 sides to this problem, the financial sector and the common consumer

    The first is the large institutional issues. The financial system is stretched thin, and precariously intertwined. There is too much centralization within most parts of the private sector. Richard Wilkinsons talk about the consequences of inequality is very relevant to this thread. The other problem with centralization is the people who are making key decisions are becoming more and more detached from the reality of the consequences of their decisions.

    Unfortunately, it is very hard to force the hand of a billionaire. Banks may be rich, but often they are stuck between a rock and a hard place when trying to make decisions.

    The other side of the problem is the consumer. People are addicted to credit. This is a serious problem. Most people don't even make moderate purchases without credit. We build up credit ratings so we can have more borrowing power and feel "rich" when we are in fact more able to be in debt. Our dependence on credit empowers and enriches the financial sector.

    We have to rediscover how to accomplish what we need without credit. Obviously there are limitations to reducing our need of credit (mortgages for example), but the amount of everyday lending going on is not healthy.

    There are strong community efforts to build local economies that aren't so strongly tied to the financial sector. The local food movement is key to at least surviving and adequately coping with a decline in the global economy. People can connect with each other through the internet to trade services, barter or just work together cope with hard times. There are many websites that facilitate this. Thats where the seeds of a better system can grow. We have to sidestep the financial sector. If you step out of bounds, ask for forgiveness instead of permission.
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      Nov 13 2011: Hi Scott, your comments regarding credit and billionaires; credit is nothing more than a type of enslavement to a bank. So is a mortgage, but by advancing credit through a wider range of systems, banks have secured a greater stranglehold over the economy. I would suggest that it is the same story with the extremely wealthy. In otherwords a small minority control the economy and have spread their networks of control through government. The last time in European history things got that top heavy, there was a bloody revolution.

      I do not mean to sound melodramatic but I wish to point out the current situation is untenable and likely to become increasingly so. I do not thing some protests are going to make the barons of the Oligarchy unwind their power structures to return to an earlier period of greater equity.

      Unfortunately history teaches us again and again, that it usually takes a massive catastrophe to redress any balance of power, for the better or for the worst.

      Of course in our epoch we have the internet, and warp speed information exchange. I cling to the hope that this will make some difference and encourage us to actively seek change through whatever channels remain open to us.
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        Nov 14 2011: I like this comment Joanne, very well said.

        Your right about the internet being a valuable resource in terms of connecting everyone together. This is indeed going to be vital because as you mentioned, the U.S. is not the only country affected by its economic downfall but in fact the entire economic world.

        You mentioned one particular point that I wanted to touch on. You said "I do not thing some protests are going to make the barons of the Oligarchy unwind their power structures to return to an earlier period of greater equity". I think this is entirely true which is why I do not even protest as much anymore. Someone told me that I do not have faith in the power of numbers and that I"m being too pessimistic. If you honestly ask me, at least in the U.S., protesting is at times phantasmagorical. I'm not saying that all protest do not lead to any sort of modification but for the most part, if the protest is about economics the outcome is already determined (when people protest due to budget cuts they do not realize that despite their efforts, what it all comes down to is how much money is left in the piggy bank).

        Here is my question and perhaps you have a better alternative than I do. If our current methods of protest are not working or are not going to work, what can be done? Are we protesting just for the sake of protesting and if so should we protest to reform the entire system? The latter seems so but the only problem is getting people on the same page.
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          Nov 14 2011: I am not sure protest is a waste of time, I just think it cannot accomplish anything on its own. It has to be part of a wider campaign of a focussed iniative. We do not even fully understand the depth and breadth of the enemy yet, so how can we formulate a way to struggle against it?

          I think the successful takeover of the business Oligarchs, has happened largely because of spin, in other words, covert actions. They say one thing openly and do another thing behind the scenes. That is what the doco 'What's Wrong with Kansas' was about.

          Could this go on unimpeded if we had some transparency? I think, freedom through internet media, wiki leaks, Youtube, TED, cannot be bought and controlled so easily (at least at the present time) by media conglomorates so remain an open conduit for information which must lead to change. Now all we need to do is add some organisation to the mix and we might have something.

          Paul Watson said in an interview a few days ago on a Radio Live broadcast in Auckland, that he owes the growth of his campaign to protect whales in the Ross sea whale sanctuary to the success of the reality series 'Whale Wars'. Again, information and awareness brought the issues into the open.

          I look at people like Paul Watson and Nelson Mandela for inspiration. Small, limited to zero resources yet, they struggled with conviction and focus and created change. when I think of the enormous tidal wave of culture that follows the belief that exponential economic growth can last forever, when in fact we have so little time left to change, it helps to remember that as Jah Sun said, the Berlin wall came down in only a few hours. Apartheid was gone in a matter of days, once the decision was made.
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          Nov 15 2011: I'm with Joanne on this. (big surprise)

          Protest alone can be like shouting into the wind. It often feels like banging your head against a wall. I know very well how futile it can seem, and how omnipotent the powers-that-be can appear.

          However, it is worth remembering that public perception, the current memes, and the common "consensus view" on a subject, in effect, create the circumstances of that subject to a very large degree. This is why the power brokers are obsessed with spin and propaganda.

          Protest, no matter how pathetically ineffective it may seem in the short term, can and does have a profound effect on the consciousness of the masses.

          At first, it can arouse the reactionary attempts to shut it down. If the protest movement can weather that, then people recognize that there are a significant amount of people with this supposedly "minority" opinion, and begin to accept it as an "alternative" view. If the ideas of the protest can disseminate far and wide enough, it can begin to challenge the mainstream view... and even replace it in time.

          Civil rights, the peace movement, perestroika, gay rights... you name it... they all took a LOT of courageous people making a lot of waves for a long time to break down their respective walls. But look... we don't have "white's only" water fountains anymore.

          One has to look at the long haul, and dig in for a trench war of ideas. It is not the physical reality on the streets that matters as much as the battle for the minds of the hoi polloi.
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      Nov 14 2011: Scott,

      I like you analysis. It is very true, especially your comments about credit. Your statements sort of remind me of a conversation Joanne and I were having with another person from TED about how ones environment influences their behavior. I think certain ways of living becomes habituated to the point to where one thinks that they way they are action is just another product of human nature.

      You stated that the consumer is addicted to credit and that is very true. I think the problem is when we are growing up we see commercials that talk about ones credit score. We are told that we cannot buy a house without establishing credit and the only way of doing this is by consumption of materials. We start to develop the habit of spending and spending (or at least watch our parents do so). By the time we are old enough, we have credit cards flying our way and most of us, would gladly use these credit cards. Of course there are those individuals who are moderate and responsible with their spending but for the most part this is really not the case. As you mentioned before, this is disastrous in the long run.

      I guess my question is, if this reliance on credit is indeed an addiction, how do we break this habit?
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        Nov 15 2011: Willpower.

        The same way we break all habits and addictions.

        Recognize that an activity is wrong and harmful. Stop doing that activity. Remain steadfast in your conviction long enough for the urge to restart said action to subside. Replace the negative behavior with a more positive activity.
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          Nov 16 2011: Very true,

          easier said than done of course but that does not mean its impossible.

          I also agree with you about what you said about protesting and how we should think about the long term. I agree, I just think that too many protest that occur nowadays are really just for the short term (jobs, budget cuts to education, etc)...No on really talks about the long term (at least from my experience).
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      Jah Sun

      • +1
      Nov 15 2011: People often neglect to recognize the basic facts of debt-based currency. When countries and their central banks print money, they immediately create debt. In some ludicrous scheme that miraculously few people even seem to notice, let alone complain about, in the US, the Federal Reserve (a private bank) prints money and then sells it to the government on credit... charging interest. Thus, by the time a freshly minted bill goes into circulation, the people already owe the Fed more than it is worth.

      If we turned around and gave every dollar printed right back to the Fed, we would still be in debt. And, the only way to pay the debt is with more debt-based currency.

      The situation is so ridiculous, that if people actually understood it... they would never stand for it.

      Personal lines of credit are indeed a type of indentured servitude, and weak people fall for it out of short-sighted covetousness. They are further lulled into the trap by the fact that everyone else is doing it, and the average person acts like a sheep. (no offense to anyone in debt... just calling it like I see it)

      However, personal debt is not as great an issue for the population as the basic debt inherent in the money itself. IMO. You can choose not to play the personal credit game... the debt-based currency is nearly unavoidable unless you live in a really progressive community specifically designed to avoid it.
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        Nov 16 2011: I am going to make it my business to study these things more. I start to see, how we are tricked and duped because most of us are very ignorant about how these systems actually work.
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          Jah Sun

          • +1
          Nov 20 2011: I think the finance people like to cultivate the image that these things are far more complicated than they actually are. As long as people see financial instruments and the basics of monetary policy to be obtuse and unintelligible, then the financial sector can continue to loot, pillage and plunder willy nilly.

          The fact is, this stuff is not all that complicated. It is surely not Quantum Mechanics or O-Chem. It doesn't need a background in stochastics or differential equations... it is rather straightforward actually.

          They obfuscate and hide this reality with a lot of terminology and impressive looking charts, but the fact is that you could explain this stuff in simple terms to elementary school children without very many furrowed brows.

          The patronizing attitude of economists who love to imagine that they are practicing something truly occult and esoteric... as if they were Qabbalists and Alchemists who actually turned lead into gold... is shameful. What the financial industry is, by and large, is a nest of gamblers and usurers who make money without actually doing anything. People who prey upon the ignorance and stupidity of others and laugh about it over their 3 martini lunches. The very sort of people who JC threw out of the temple on their ear... and they manage to convince everyone that they are good Christian Americans who are as fundamental to our society as democracy. (while they do everything in their power to circumvent that instution)

          Leeches and parasites. Hypocrites, the lot of them.
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        Nov 24 2011: Yes Jah Sun, the whole so called 'science' is a like the emporer's new clothes, in my opinion. As I said in one of my posts, it's designed and commissioned by the people who benefit by it. They theories which are expressly designed to baffle, (derivatives?) designed to justify, and designed to create fear. Its all a ruse, all of it, made to give those who commissioned the design, carte blanche. Economic 'theories' are often I find, a lot of words to explain very simple ideas.

        Still, they gave Friedman a Nobel Prize for goodness sake, so I feel it is important to understand the mechanism that has been used to harness entire economies to the will of a few. What has galvanised me to this view more recently? Driving in my car and listening to the BBC world service only three weeks after we saw the global 'house of cards' ecomomy tumble before our very eyes. In the midst of this terrible aftermath, an economist was interviewed who extolled the healing powers of the 'invisible hand'. It will save us, he said. Just wait. That interview in that particular context, brought home to me the level of delusion of some, and how much the rest of us, even the most educated, are truly ignorant of the machinations that effect our lives so dramatically. We have been blinkered and duped.

        You have no idea how much I loved to read your post (and I like almost everything you say) because this is something I have felt and believed for a long time, but do not know enough about the subject to feel I can speak with conviction.
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          Nov 24 2011: Amen sister.

          And, thanks for the ego boost! I'm not normally one who seeks or enjoys a lot of praise... but some days you get up, and can really use a little pat on the back.

          I have enjoyed your posts on many a thread as well. I find your earnest, caring, and well-intentioned contributions to be a breath of fresh air among a lot of skepticism, pessimism, heartlessness, and outright dickishness.

          Stay strong, and keep waking people up.
  • Nov 11 2011: I'm not sure that it is essential to solve the problem at this point; however, it is essential to recognize the problem of the terrible effect that economic inequality has on societies. Japan has better control of salaries, although I don't know how they achieve that, and Sweden uses taxes. The point is we have to do something because as the wealth get centralized, so does all the power, and then in our system those are the interests that get served. The goal should be to have the American people acknowledge the problem, and then work can begin.
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      Nov 15 2011: True.

      Have you seen the Wilkinson TED talk? It basically expands upon what you are saying.

      (the link is in the intro)
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    Nov 8 2011: I am not convinced that the problem is actually capitalism per se. I think that the problem lies in the fact that the natural system of checks and balances has been eliminated. I think unions and cooperatives of workers within the capitalistic system might be a natural check to the power of corporations that has been allowed to be enshrined in law. Since when in anyone's conceptualization of a corporation should they have the same rights as an individual person? That is just nuts in my worldview. Why should they not be held retroactively responsible for harm that they have done to our planet when it can be established? Why should corporations have the right to influence elections? Why is 'union' a dirty word in our lifetime when it was not in the past. The answer to this last question is that PR machines of corporations have influenced workers against their own best interests with the dangling promise that everyone has a shot at being management. When I was in my first business admin class many moons ago, one of the first tactics they taught was to assimulate the best union reps into company management.

    I like Gisela's point about unethical people breaking good things and organizations. This is where i am a believer in at least the potential of good government (yes, I acknowledge that corruption dwells there too). At least government has the potential to rebalance things for the common good. It is where I still harbour my hopes.
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      Nov 8 2011: I'm with you. Oversight is necessary.

      For me, the function of government would effectively be the Keepers of the Contracts, at least for services that make sense to be outsourced. Sort of a "government as Groupon" model, wherein there are enough of us (citizens) that economies of scale should factor in when outsourcing services - as opposed to pure privatization.

      (And contracts should never purely be about the price.)

      Privatizing does not allow for rescinding when what replaces the service at hand is sub-par. Companies should get a contract to provide services for no more than 2-3 years, less than the term of government. The only way to prevent corruption in the handling of these contracts is the threat of tossing the government out.

      It's also a good way of ensuring that the workers can influence their situation as well, even if it is indirect.
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        Nov 9 2011: Unfortunately, the services that have arisen from privatizing HAVE been sub-par, by and large.

        As someone who has spent a lot of time in Europe over the last 3 or 4 decades, I can tell you first hand that the privatization (even when only partial) of the national rail & transportation, telecommunication industries, postal services, and more, has been uniformly terrible for the people. Quality of service falls through the floor, prices go sky high, and the people never even profited from the sales to begin with.

        What you have is people's taxes paying for the creation of a costly infrastructure (microwave towers, rail lines, train stations, fiber optics, subways etc.) and then handing all this investment over to private companies who proceed to charge the people premium rates on everything while slashing service to a minimum.

        40c a minute to call a cell phone? A short train ride costing more than a plane ride across Europe? Slower mail delivery which costs 3x as much as it used to... and the postman no longer wants to deliver to out of the way locales.

        As for your first point, Oversight all the way... but it isn't enough.

        As long as things like Citizens United are allowed to stand, and the personhood of corporations in general... capitalists will continue to own the government, and do their best to strip every vestige of social welfare that they can. They only have one motivation... and it isn't the well-being of society.

        They want to pay for the deficit (including trillions in corporate welfare) by refusing heating oil and school lunches to poor families! Anyone who thinks they care about you or your children need only examine the publications of their think tanks over the last 25 years.
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          Nov 9 2011: Did I not just say privatization doesn't work? With pure privatization once they are in control, good effing luck at getting things fixed.

          If they have a temporary contract that they can LOSE, then they have motivation to provide better service.
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        Jah Sun

        • +1
        Nov 10 2011: Temporary contracts may be somewhat better, but I have seen a number of those that still are far worse than the government agencies they replaced.

        The problem is not just competition, but motivation and goals. Privatizing inevitably leads to these services being run like a business. This is NOT a good thing in the case of social services. Personally, I don't want the Post Office trying to make a profit.

        We pay taxes for these services, why should we have to pay again for them? Imagine if you had to hire some firemen to put out your house? Or the policeman handed you a bill after saving you from a mugger?

        I think mercenary armies like the former Blackwater shouldn't be allowed. Private prisons either. These things are too sensitive to let greed dictate how they are handled. Perhaps if no one made money on prisons, the US (at 5% of the world's population) wouldn't have 25% of the prisoners worldwide.
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          Nov 10 2011: I too do not want the Post Office to be profit driven, or the prisons or healthcare. In my country, New Zealand, a right wing govt privatised Tertiery education just after I got my degree. As an employer I have noticed a dramatic decline in the standard of graduates, even in basic literacy. Now that tertiary education has been privatised, institutions harvest prospects from anywhere, especially people who may only be interested in enrolling because they seek to immigrate. Numerous plagiarism and immigration scams have sprung up not to mention a general decline in funded research and the quality of graduate courses.
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          Nov 10 2011: I think you are so stuck on the concept of privatization that you cannot actually read what I have written. The whole point is that we have paid for the service out of our taxes, and as a large buying group should be getting preferential treatment.

          The service, whatever it is, is paid for via the exchequer/treasury. Bids are not solely selected on the cheapest rate offered, or obviously, crap will ensue. Gov't functions as project manager, but the citizens are the clients. Timed correctly, governments who display corruption in re-selecting inadequate companies to provide said services, get ousted in the election.

          And no, not all services warrant being handled in this manner. Education would not work this way, for instance, as there needs to be a longer-term vision in place. Then again, we already have issues with new governments overturning perfectly good plans as they are just coming to fruition, solely to "make their mark".
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          Nov 10 2011: That is so True. If anything, these things are only enablers of greed.

          Jah Sun's comment about prisons is indeed true. There is a state prison in Chino, CA and what I found out is that GM (General Motors) actually has an investment with the prison there (I think they manufacture the beds there or something). For another reason it reminded me of how Regan built 9 Prisons in California between the years 1981-1984 and many companies had investments with these prisons as well (there are other reasons that have to do with drugs, C.I.A. and Compton but I'll leave that out).

          Your right, privatization is indeed worse if you do not draw a line
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        Nov 10 2011: This system of 3 levels of reply makes it difficult to answer or keep conversations going, but I guess you will figure out what I am replying to.

        I am perfectly capable of reading what you have written. That kind of personal semi-insulting statement can be interpreted as snide or provocative. Forum posting is without any indication of tone, facial expression, or body language, so I am not sure how you mean these things when you have said them in a number of these threads. I choose to take you as playful and sarcastic for the nonce... as people tend to talk a lot of sh*t in jest where I am from.

        Anyway, I was making a tangential point that impacts on yours. It is basically that ALL privatization of social services winds up costing the taxpayer. Limiting it and applying standards for renewal of contracts might improve it... but the underlying reality is that business is NOT suited to do everything we need done. The motivation of corporations will never be making society a better place.

        I am not saying that your ideas wouldn't improve upon what is the case at the moment (read: Haliburton getting no-bid contracts for billions in profit while their former head was VP)... I just think we might want to more drastically overhaul the entire structure with a completely different benchmark.

        The small Buddhist nation of Bhutan, for example, uses the index Gross National Happiness. We could learn something from that kingdom.
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          Nov 10 2011: You know, when people answer things tangentially, they should identify that's what they are doing, otherwise it just looks like you've been taking lessons from Robert McNamara (you know, Mr. "Answer the Question You Want to Answer, Not the Question You Were Asked").

          There is a huge difference between "not suited to do everything" and "suited to do nothing". I did not suggest that business should replace every function of government. In fact, I out and out said precisely that it shouldn't.

          I have now grown thoroughly tired of people who cannot distinguish between what was said and what would enable them to rant about their own personal favourite issue, so you and Orlando can feel free to chatter among yourselves. I am off to participate in threads with people with better reading comprehension skills.

          And yes, that is disdain. It's a match for your own transparent and dogmatic need to funnel things off into your own area of interest. It's your thread and you can direct it any way you want. I, on the other hand, don't have to play along.
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        Nov 11 2011: Oh well. That's too bad...

        I am sure we could have found something interesting to discuss that tickled both our fancies.

        I can see that you haven't enjoyed your time on this conversation, and I sincerely apologize if it was due to something I said, didn't say, implied, didn't imply or whatever the case may be. Really.

        You certainly seem like a bright and interesting person.

        If speculations on the future of resource, labor, and service management isn't really your thing, maybe we will cross foils on another topic somewhere down the road.

        My regards.

        Adieu and be well Gisela.
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      Nov 14 2011: Hi Debra,

      In regards to why corporations have the same rights as individuals I think the answer is simple: We live in a system in which we choose profit over people. Or shall I say profit over everything else (people, animals, nature, etc)..

      If the system was to change, this mindset would diminish (not cease to exist but at least decrease) and wont happen at such a scope and scale that would embarrass even the most ambitious individual who wants to create injustice.

      So many unjust/unethical acts and laws are broken by the U.S. government. The only difference is that these acts are "legally justified". Its all a language game
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    Nov 8 2011: QUOTE: "Three Swiss experts on complex network analysis have recently examined the architecture of international ownership, analyzing a large database of transnational corporations. They concluded that a large portion of control resides with a relatively small core of financial institutions, with about 147 tightly knit companies controlling about 40 percent of the total wealth in the network."

    From:

    http://ca.finance.yahoo.com/news/Who-Rules-the-Global-nytimes-3711216697.html?x=0
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      Nov 8 2011: Yeah, I saw that study.

      Funny how the numbers internationally are identical to the US numbers. 1% controlling 40% of the wealth.

      The Swiss study stopped short of calling this a conspiracy, but did say that the tightly knit nature of these 147 companies isn't likely to be accidental. It could be a function of the system rather than collusion.

      Whatever the case, the major owners of the world's wealth could fit into a mid sized venue like the House Of Blues comfortably.
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      Nov 8 2011: Thank you Thomas, This is an important piece of evidence and it clarifies something about the entire puzzle. I appreciate you bringing it to our attention.
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      Nov 9 2011: Yes Thomas thanks

      That really validates what I've believe all along. I'll pass this around to others in hopes that they spread this knowledge as well.
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    Nov 6 2011: Like Communism that outlived its utilty some 30 years ago, capitalism is fading due to structural weaknesses of a concept that was designed 100 years ago. Things are radically different today due to the fact that 1) There are no real shortages for the humungous global population of 7 billion. Inequality remains but in a surplus world. 2) Technology has made everything easily accessable and easily distributable.
    Governance and a system that works today must be both transparent and accountable, and communism and capitalism fails on both counts. It is just that communism had far more shortcomings and took the hit earlier.
    The biggest problem that haunts the world of capitalism today is poor efficiency because global capitalism still preaches maximization not optimization.
    The solution is in creating a new world order that is based on high effeciency, better resource utilization, far reaching distribution, that spreads the global wealth and helps optimization of expenditure that is sustainable not merely for humans, but for animal and plant life too which share the planet earth.
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      Nov 7 2011: I am very curious as to workable ideas for the solution you suggest.

      Recognizing problems and envisioning general improvements is a first step, I suppose... but the real heavy lifting is coming up with practical actions we can take.

      Thanks for you comment Sandip.
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        Nov 7 2011: Workable ideas for the solution I am suggesting can be put into practice only once the decisionmakers have the will to optimize not maximize.The key roadblocks that lie in implementing the changes is in the decisionmaking process. If you have the right people to take decisions, they will take the right actions. Unfortunately decisionmaking is increasingly done by the banks be it in issues related to energy, education or development. In a UN subcomittee on energy the principal advisor is a BOA executive. Why is it not a GE employee ? Supposedly because bankers are fund raisers and have access to funds.I am new to the TED format which I find extremely engaging and educative . I have raised a new topic for debate today that raises this basic question of change in decision making. About who must lead the economic decision making process . I hope you give valuable insights from your experience Who will dominate economic decision making? Bankers or the People: http://www.ted.com/conversations/edit/6948
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    Nov 5 2011: Do you really think there is a system that cannot be crushed under the weight of corruption and self-interest?

    The problem is the people - and that is going to be the same problem with any system.
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      Nov 5 2011: I can only hope.

      There are plenty of wonderful, intelligent progressive people in this world.

      It is possible that a truly egalitarian and holistic system might only work in a small local scale to start.

      However, people tend to recognize the successes of such small scale experiments and want the results they see.
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        Nov 5 2011: Any locality has to deal with the rest of the world.

        We have two parties of the kind you have in mind. Most people don't understand it and don't vote for them. Parties that can put their ideas in a oneliner get most votes, if you have to explain your thoughts nobody listens.
        So politics and economics are linked. To change one you have to change the other as well.
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          Nov 5 2011: True.

          But some small corners of the world are already doing better than others.

          Scandinavians, for example, have to deal with the rest of the world, but still manage to care for their people and institute progressive policies. And that even while being part of the relatively undemocratic EU.

          Imagine what could happen in a truly progressive city state...
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        Nov 6 2011: But the wonderful progressive people were there all along and still the unethical ones broke things.

        Unless there is some way of ridding ourselves of them, they're going to do the same thing regardless of the environment they are in.
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          Nov 6 2011: Well, perhaps people could consider living in communities of like minded individuals.

          Why should people simply live wherever they happened to be born?

          It is conceivable that progressive people could choose to live together in an egalitarian society...
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      Nov 7 2011: I agree 100% with that. We get caught up with the language behind things, though that is mostly superficial. Any institution, whether it is the Church, Company, or Government is comprised of people - who given time will inevitably manipulate those organizations and systems to their own end.

      What is the solution? Gosh, I'm not that smart, otherwise I'd probably be giving a TED talk. Sorry if I'm not adding to the discussion.
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        Nov 7 2011: In regards to capitalism, the solution, I think, does not have to be that complicated and intellectually designed. During the Spanish civil many parts of Spain were taken over by anarchist (some socialist were involved as well). This was not a violent movement. It actually generated more peace amongst everyone. There were many societies that were established (some societies did not even have monetary systems). This lasted for three years before the movement was destroyed by a violent massacre. What did all these people have in common? They were working class individuals who went through the same struggles, had something to fight for and knew what they wanted out of life. They were all on the same page in regards to how they wanted change to come about and they were so mentally attached to being liberated that no incremental, political process was going to destroy that. They did not even have to use violence to established their communities. They just had enough of government.

        In other words, as long as there are people on here that are willing to defend capitalism and as long as we are protesting from different perspectives and intentions and as long as we continue to have movements that is not going to galvanize the masses in which they can relate to, sad to say, things are going to stay this way.

        but like you, I'm not that smart and if I did know what I was talking about I would have my own TED talk as well.
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          Jah Sun

          • +1
          Nov 8 2011: I think you both are selling yourselves short on the smarts department.

          And besides, you still have the rest of your lives to get your own TED talk. ;)
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      Nov 7 2011: I do not think we can blame human for this:This really is an issue of how values and environment influences the physiology of the human brain. It really is disturbing when someone mentions people being the problem as if we are all born as savages. Just how we can be hateful and do bad things, we can also be loving and compassionate (for some odd reason this virtue is looked down upon). I do not think it is people but two factors: 1) the environment that people are in. 2) how the values, principles, norms,etc that people decide to adopt and believe in are influenced by the environment that one is in.

      A lot of people state that greed is a product of human nature. This is partly true being that humans have the capacity to be greedy. Now look at the values that capitalism embraces: greed, consumption, materialism, competition, individualism (just to name a few). What do all these have in common? excessive self-interest. Capitalism is the enabler of greed (or all of these things) in which it allows excessive self-indulgence to manifest itself in very destructive and damaging ways. It is no wonder why so many people that live in capitalistic systems would criticize the homeless individual down the street as oppose to helping him (I understand some people have gotten themselves into that situation and there is really no helping them). Besides, what is so brilliant about living in a system in which a few greedy people and many misinformed individuals can ruin the livelihood of millions? This is not a surprise being that capitalism embraces this sort of behavior.

      So once again I do not think people are bad. People are people who have emotions and there will always be human conflict but there is a difference between war and murder and talking to the individual human to human. There is a difference between a culture that embraces compassion and environmental sustainability and culture that embraces competition and excessive self interest.
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        Nov 8 2011: Notice, I didn't say ALL PEOPLE.

        Why doesn't everyone embezzle? Or, if the answer is they don't have the access, why doesn't everyone in a position of trust behave badly? Some people have a more developed sense of the bigger picture and their role in it, as opposed to just thinking about how they can personally benefit.

        This lack of ethics is not hardwired into humanity as a whole. Hell even in certain circumstances - Jérôme Kerviel for instance - the perpetrators aren't even personally benefiting from what they are doing.
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          Nov 8 2011: I wasn't refuting that individuals do bad things and of course everyone is not the same, I was simply pointing out that people are people and the circumstances they are put in will result in good or bad behaviors (which I do not think is a relative as people may suppose). You didnt have to mention that all people but it was still a general statement since it corresponds to human nature. I'm not offend or anything I'm just pointing out that its pretty much a matter of circumstance.

          I'll be honest, if most people had the chance they would embezzle and I'm sure it happens a lot behind close doors. The only difference is these individuals have not been caught but as with anything in a capitalistic democracy someone is going to find out. As I mentioned before, humans are humans and while you, I and perhaps everyone on TED would not engage in such actions, more often than not, people, if given the chance to make or obtain more money, will take that chance and for a variety of reasons (greed, family, new car, home, food, etc). I think such actions are motivated due to being used to living in a society that values money and consumption.

          There is much compelling evidence and theories to suggest that ethics have a biological construct as well as being influenced by society, family, culture, etc. (in laymans terms all this can be realized with the vicissitudes of the human brain). You are correct that not everyone who engaged in such greedy actions are benefiting from their actions(this is a small minority) but for the most part the real people that are suffering are the individuals who lost their jobs and homes and money. Not the billionaires who can still feed their families, although they have lost millions. Once again, I'm not surprised this happened being that the core values capitalism is built upon allows such things to happen.
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          Nov 8 2011: I think Orlando has a point; circumstance encourages a certain kind of behaviour and the people develop behaviour according to the social system they live under. In general terms, highly deregulated capitalist societes polarise the rich and poor, thereby creating an environment where some people may feel intense dissatisfaction, distrust for others, and disenfranchisement. More equal societies create an environment where people feel more safe and secure and therefore less driven to commit crime. I disagree though that 'most people..(given) the chance ...would embezzle' because again, I believe it is social circumstance that turns people into criminal opportunists. When people live in a dog-eat-dog world, they look for every chance to 'eat the dog' next to them in case they are next. This has been shown to be the case whether the person is rich or poor. On the other hand, in more equal societies, there is a higher degree of trust between people and so it follows that they are less likely to want to stiff the next guy.
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        Nov 8 2011: How many unethical people do you really think it takes (on a percentage basis) to screw things up?

        I'm not even sure you are arguing with me, actually. Nothing you say actually refutes the fact that regardless of the system, unethical people can - and will - screw it up unless we figure out how to solve that issue first.

        It's not like communist societies are corruption-free.
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          Nov 8 2011: If you have a bucket a quarter full of sewage and you fill the rest of the bucket up with pure spring water, would you drink it?

          [Can you see where this is going?]

          If you have a bucket of pure spring water and you put one drop of sewage in it, would you drink it?

          ---

          It doesn't take much to screw things up!
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          Nov 8 2011: So far I think the number is around 1%?
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          Nov 8 2011: Heheheh. Let's carry your analogy a step further Thomas...

          Most water supplies have more than a drop of sewage in them.

          We simply add chlorine (which has its own set of issues)... and do our best to filter out the microbes and pathogens.
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          Nov 8 2011: Actually my intent was not to argue but to get closer to the truth of things. I do not like to refute people but I like to discuss matters and formulate ideas because in doing so people can be on the same page and this brings us closer to creating social change. If you saw this as a polemic discourse my apologies.

          But to answer your question, in capitalism it does not take much at all to for people to screw things up. there may be a huge gap between the rich and the poor but somehow we are all interconnected and if the poor decided to not work anymore the rich will lose money (loss of production, resources, etc). If the rich decides to be greedy they can, as we have seen, disrupt or destroy the livelihood of the poor.

          So in capitalism it does not take much unethical individuals to disrupt an entire nation. If you can prove to me otherwise then I would gladly change my mind.
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        Nov 8 2011: Re: "circumstance encourages a certain kind of behaviour and the people develop behaviour according to the social system they live under."

        Bull. If that were the case, all poor people in one neighbourhood would act a specific way (let's pick drug dealing for the sake of drama) rather than just the percentage that do. It's much more complex than simply a formula of circumstance + influences/guidance.

        Make no mistake, I am not interested in being Hobbes to Orlando's Locke. I don't think that the life of man is by any stretch of the imagination necessarily "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short." I don't think all people are inherently bad - or even that they would be if no one is looking.

        I am simply advocating not mistaking the outcome for the system. One system will not be superior to another as long as the same players are involved.
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          Jah Sun

          • +1
          Nov 8 2011: Ahhh... the old nature vs. nurture debate.

          I could debate both sides of that issue, and believe myself both times. Yet, like most polemics, I am of the opinion that it is both, neither, and a host of things we are not even contemplating.

          Personally, I think that stress (especially the kind associated with self-preservation) is a major factor that overrides whatever innate morality or ingrained ethics we may have. When your back is against the wall, there is no telling how low you might stoop.

          This could be due to elevated stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. Perhaps, in keeping with a currently popular TED talk on Oxytocin, these survival hormones might mitigate our "morality molecule." Testosterone has shown to do this.

          I don't believe in a purely chemical model of morality, and Oxytocin has been shown to be more of an "empathy" molecule anyway. But, still. It does seem like people are more apt to make selfish and uncaring choices when they are hopped up on hormones.

          There is little doubt that societies with more inherent stress are more dog eat dog. This may be due to lack of a safety net combined with urban environments... agrarian poor are usually less worried about food and shelter. But the fact that much of the amorality in the world comes from people who have more than they can use and are under no threat of starvation or homelessness, leans me towards the idea that it is performance stress and pace of life that are major factors.

          At any rate, my speculations aside, I imagine that it could be possible to create small scale systems that are exclusive and only allow people who are say empathetic and progressive to join. A truly elitist liberal haven. Hehehe... would love to hear what Faux News would make of that.
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          Nov 8 2011: This is the classic nature v.s. nurture debate, one in which I did not choose either/or.

          The funny thing is, I actually mentioned that it was both. I never once claimed that all unethical actions are purely environmental. I actually stated that "here is much compelling evidence and theories to suggest that ethics have a biological construct as well as being influenced by society, family, culture, etc. (in laymans terms all this can be realized with the vicissitudes of the human brain)". Those are my exact words.

          You have really misconstrued the point that Joanne and I were making. People are individuals. I'm really not sure what point your trying to make here. All we said is that people are influenced by their environment but I also stated that there are other factors (family, friends, school, work, etc). Your right, it is very intricate but it is also true that people are constantly influenced by their environment, even at the level of the brain (they found that children who were orphans did not have a normal amount of Oxytocin and Vasopressin, when they were in a environment with a adoptive parent). Also our emotions, social interactions, moral values all influence one another. Our cultures and societies only serve to cultivate our social, moral/values and emotional development. All these things lead back to the development of the human brain.

          I like your last point. That is true, if G.W. Bush has grown accustomed to having power and money and we placed him in Denmark, odds are he would do the same. All I asserted was if he was born in Denmark, his values would be much more different than those values he grew up with in America.

          Your mentioned something very interesting though about the same individuals in power: One of my favorite social activist Micheal Foucault said something similar to what you sai8. I'll give you this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kawGakdNoT0

          his point is at the end. Hope you enjoy
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          Nov 8 2011: The key word here Gisela, is 'encourages'. For example we all have a moral compass and I think I am a very honest person. Yet there was a time in my life when I was travelling and due to circumstance I spent a few months going hungry. It surprised me how quickly my view of 'theft' and 'thieves' changed. I knew if I had a child to protect, it would have been different again. It showed me how circumstance, as Orlando has described, shapes us.

          Do you think you are not a product of your wonderful privilege? I have travelled a lot and I know I am extremely privileged. Shockingly so if you take the entire spectrum of human history into account. I do not feel guilty about this, instead I am grateful and wish to try to share. That is why I still tutor the kids in my neighbourhood.

          We need, and I say 'need' because it will soon become clear that it is absolutely necessary, so again I wish to emphasise the word 'need', to make more equal more sustainable societies. We need to use the north European economic models as a starting point. When these are in place, we will have lower crime, a higher standard of education, more even distribution of wealth and health across society. When we get to this place we MAY be in a position where we can tackle the big problems that are soon coming our way.
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        Nov 8 2011: I'm not "missing" the point. It's irrelevant to the premise, which was strictly that the system is not independent of the participants.

        I don't actually care why they are corrupt. Unless your premise is that somehow those same individuals would be better-behaved had they grown up in a Communist or Socialist society - AND that no others would have taken their place in gaming the system - then I am still left wondering "what does this have to do with the price of tea in China?"

        If you wanted to explore a tangent that doesn't actually impact the initial statement, maybe it should be posted as something other than a reply. "Reply" implies it has something to do with the topic at hand.
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          Nov 8 2011: I'm not sure of your prospective on political issues but if you had a deep understanding of it, you would realize that the conversation that we are having is indeed very important. Once again you do not need to be defensive, no one is criticizing you. What you, myself and Joanne are discussing are ethics and this is indeed very important when talking about politics (Aristotle Nicomachean Ethics is basically the ethical approach to establishing the best regime and in his "Politics" he tries to establish which regime would best maximize the virtues he has laid out for us). Understanding human nature, understanding ethics and understanding ones environment is very important to figuring out "Alternatives" to our current capitalistic, democratic issues

          Being apathetic to why individuals are corrupt is indeed frighting. I would also say that individuals are actually happier when they live in communist and socialist societies. This has been proven and is one of the reasons as to why Denmark is one of the best places to live. I also understand that some of these leaders do have power trips and can be corrupt and there are reasons for this. I would rather live in a communist or socialist society as opposed to a capitalistic one (too bad I do not have the money or resources to do so at the moment). The price of tea in china is actually vital to many world governments. On a geopolitical scale, it is important since most of these more developed countries trade with one another. Since they come up with policies that would influence other world powers. You can choose to ignore trivial matters in other countries but the truth of the matter is we are all interconnected one way or another. Instead of debating, we should try to come up with ways of how to establish the best sustainable system and I think Joanne had a great point when she referenced N. Europe.

          Joanne and my argument on not non-sequiturs. We just understand the correlation between politics, ethics and environment.
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          Nov 8 2011: I believe the answer to your question 'Unless your premise is that somehow those same individuals would be better-behaved had they grown up in a Communist or Socialist society - AND that no others would have taken their place in gaming the system', Gisela, is 'yes', (I cannot speak for Orlando, of course) I do agree with that. I suggest to you that in a system that encourages equality (and I do not use China as an example of such a system) people are less likely to feel the need to 'game the system' as you describe it. Not only is this true, but in such a system there are regulations and laws to prevent them from doing so.
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        Nov 8 2011: OK, Joanne. Name one.

        Seriously, if you think that somehow there is a system that would prevent corruption, name it.

        Also, feel free to explain white collar crime among those who have grown up in (extreme) privilege. Describe this magical set of circumstances in which NO ONE will grow up to breach the trust of others.

        Looking forward to hearing about how you are going to prevent the entire spectrum of sociopathy.
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          Nov 8 2011: Gisela,

          I do not think the burden of proof is on Joanne to prove anything. We are really going in circles here. We've stated our point many times and Joanne and I never stated that things are purely environmental. Your making it seem like we are stating that these other countries are paradise. They are not. Joanne has just told you that "there are regulations and laws preventing them from doing so". But since you asked for one in which a corrupted official gotten caught I'll give you one:

          Look up Yulia Tymoshenko from Ukraine and the incident with her embezzling money and abuse of power (I could be wrong about that but I know it had to do with money). I believe she received 7 years in prison).

          Once again the entire country of Ukraine was not affected by this greed and it did not take them long to crack down on actions. The fact that she is arrested proves that such actions are not valued. Although their economy is almost like that of the U.S. they still have rules to try to prevent such actions.

          Also, we all know that there are higher rates of crime in poor neighborhoods than rich ones, which goes to show the link between poverty and cirme (I'm not saying every poor person is "bad" or "evil' but that violent crimes happen a lot in places like Compton (I used to live there) than in Beverly Hills.

          the burden is not on us to really prove anything. We've said enough
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          Nov 8 2011: Hi Gisela, I think there might be a misunderstanding here. I use the word 'more' and 'less' to qualify my statements. As you quite rightly point out, it should be technically impossible to generate a society that 'would prevent corruption' entirely.

          Yet the idea that the kind of society people live in affects the way they behave is undeniable. Richard Wilkinson shows in his TED talk 'How economic inequality harms societies' plenty of statistics that demonstrate that in MORE equal societies, crime is less (not non existant) and in MORE equal societies, people feel more safe and better cared for.

          I can confirm this from my own experience too. I have lived in both kinds of societies and can report to you the truth of it. People are kinder to each other, it is safer on the underground at 2am, the towns are cleaner and well run, in countries where wealth, healthcare, and good education are MORE evenly spread across society.
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          Nov 9 2011: Hi Gisela,

          Let me try to bring my two cents to this thread hoping not to cause more confusion. I think that your point is that we should not be so quick to blame the system, since what makes a system fail is the impossibility of getting rid of corrupt individuals. And from what I have read, Orlando and Joanne are trying to explain that individuals also pick up from the environment in which they grow, and their level of corruption might indeed be determined by the interactions with this environment. I don't think that they are trying to put all the blame on the system for producing corrupted individuals.

          I think we are all aware that both nature and nurture contribute to our behavior. Certain human traits (borrowing Carl Sagan's words: propensities for aggression and ritual, submission to leaders, hostility to outsiders) have their origin in our nature, while sometimes their outward expression can be clearly determined and shaped by nurture (as shown in studies like the Milgram experiment on "obedience to authority" or the Robber's cave experiment).

          My own take on the matter is that understanding the specifics of what we mean by corrupt, both their origin in our nature and the phenomena that exacerbate it, is something we should pursue. Michou Kaku mentions something he calls the "caveman principle": our genetic baggage was shaped millions of years ago, and we cannot get rid of it in the near future. So changes in our nature are not going to come easily; understanding it is the best we can do to control it. On the other hand, our social interactions give us a space where we can actively promote changes that will reduce the expression of these "corrupt" behaviors. For example, by aligning people who used to consider each other enemies to act towards a common goal, they usually start lowering their initial barriers and begin to consider themselves part of a new common group that includes both.
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        Nov 8 2011: And Orlando, you may be mistaking irritation with having my comment hijacked for your own agenda with defensiveness.

        I am a firm believer that you can choose to pay for social programs or you can choose to pay for police - either way you are going to pay, and one is certainly the more pleasant environment than the other.

        So Denmark (or New Zealand, or any other nation that has in the past decade been declared a contender for the least corrupt nation in the world - which, for the record, is on the Corruption PERCEPTIONS Index), would you expect that without corruption in the government would be weathering the financial storms well? Why don't we do a quick search!

        NO. They aren't. "Outlook for Danish banks 'negative'", "Danish Government Signals Banks Won’t See More Aid Packages". Problematic behaviour in the financial sector is not the same as "the people think our governing officials are reasonably honest".

        Two different topics.

        Feel free to go start a thread on your happy sunshine anarchist universe. I am going out now, and I don't know that I will be bothered with this when I return.
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          Nov 8 2011: Thank Zeus I was starting to get frustrated of saying the same thing

          You really did jump off the bridge on this one being that you went way off topic.

          You can say all you want about Denmark and nitpick at every little flaw about it but it still ranks up there with being the happiest place to stay so go right ahead and believe what you want to believe.

          and yes, I'll happily stay in touch with my anarchist thinking being that it keeps me informed and allows me to realize how far apart and how ignorant people are about political issues.
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          Nov 8 2011: How weird, I feel like you are quarrelling with me and agreeing with me at the same time Gisela. Hmmmm. Lets remember that we are in a discussion, where we share our ideas. It is always enjoyable and informative, is it not, even when we disagree? Peace to you both and thank you.
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      Nov 9 2011: Replying to Gisela on her "show me the system without corruption" argument.

      The trick of it is that thats really not important. It should not even be attempted.

      What you really need to do is design a system that improves on and over the current ones - not some "perfect infallible system" at all.

      Just design a system where it would be much harder to "cheat".

      One example or suggestion i can give right now is designing a system where one of the core (constitutional laws) rules would be:

      1. That the financial records and state of every elected official (regardless of what kind of system it is otherwise) would be completely open to the public as long as that official is serving.
      (additional check ups after that time seem prudent too)

      2. That government spending is completely transparent and accessible to everyone all the time.
      (make a website with all the data updated as it changes, make it so that any citizen can request any of the relevant data at any time too)

      3. No immunities of any kind or any other privileges for any of the elected. (everyone literally equal under the law)
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        Nov 9 2011: Yes. Perfection is ever elusive. Even if we could achieve it, we would soon enough realize that there are new changes we could make to improve on it.

        If something is improvable, it can not be perfect. Since every system is improvable, there can be no truly perfect system. At least not one designed by humans anyway.

        I like where you are going with this. Gisela's argument sounds defeatist to my ears. I'm sure that isn't what she means, but it certainly can be misread that she is saying if we can't get rid of graft, corruption and greed from human nature, why even bother trying to fix anything. (classic Nirvana Fallacy)

        I feel that if we can improve the economic & socio-political reality we live under by even 5%, we should do it. Besides, it is likely that after it improves, we will recognize ways to further improve it.

        Thanks for your input.
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          Nov 9 2011: Its actually quite a common response to any proposition about some kind of new system, be it political or economic.

          On the surface it seems as a strong argument but that only lasts until someone (namely me) shows you that your basic assumption has got nothing to do with anything :)

          Anyway, to be a bit more serious, there was never, ever a system built or suggested on the grounds of its supposed "perfection".

          All we do all the time is iterate and improve.
          We rebel because each system brings inequality and causes large numbers of people to suffer one way or the other.
          When we design a new system we try to get rid of the biggest negative features of the past one, keep whats working and improve on what we can.
          Thats it.
          Thats the whole shebang.

          And the next one will follow suit.
          And the next one after that.

          What we should do now, right now, is look at whats really wrong with the system we have and strive to change that.

          The two biggest and quite fundamental problems current system has are:

          1. it creates a caste that is factually above the law, enjoying special super legislative and economic circumstances the rest of the people do not have.
          (one thing that is in common with all the systems we ever had in all of our history)

          2. it creates a situation where profit is more important than human lives, family, love, or anything else we like to usually idealize.

          Furthermore I think that Jacques Fresco is very right in saying that a lot of very negative things we humans exhibit in this sense are the results of living in and environment like this.
          Not something that is really a monolithic part of our nature.

          After all, if i choose to become really, really nice and good guy right now and just go around helping and giving what would happen to me in this environment?

          Thats why i dont. Not because im an evil, selfish, greedy psychopath.
          Which of course many are, but i hope you all see my point anyway.
  • Nov 27 2011: Part2
    2:**** Create a new company's values evaluations standard and report****.
    It will replace the current method of quarter and a year companies reports based only on income and revenues..
    It will be used by investors.
    The values of companies with high scores on the followings will be higher and they will get priority on government and public bids.
    Include factors such as:
    * Equality level of employs salaries and bonus.
    *Percentage of employs with personal limited capabilities.
    *Bonuses played on 4 years delay- valued on the company achievement during this long period and not quarter income.
    3: Differentiation between the higher and lower Salary and bonus of government and public companies should be limited to the scale of 1 to 7.
    4: Create a new type of companies- social companies –that will be rewarded by governments and public sector.
    Creativity and investment on human being life improvement should be encouraged.
    Not only direct money making.
    Example:
    A company that find and implement a idea that reduced the crime rate in a area by 20% should get 50% of the governmental savings from the budget
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      Dec 1 2011: #2

      I like this. It will be difficult to enforce, and will never voluntarily replace the current fiscal quarter bottom line. I don't see how shareholders can be convinced to accept such valuation over actual profits. They will simply move their money over to companies that don't bother with social conscience or other bleeding heart concerns.

      #3

      This seems like an arbitrary number. But I suppose it as good a place as any to start. It could simply cause an exodus of talent to private companies who will easily be able to out-pay the hamstrung public endeavors. The brain drain could be extreme and even more detrimental than it already is.

      Nice in theory, but it would have to be part of a much larger overhaul of the economic system to stand any chance of working.

      # 4

      Social companies already exist... we are called non-profits.

      Sadly, many of them are ineffective and inefficient. Such setups often attract unscrupulous sorts who want to take advantage of some loophole or another. We have seen too much abuse here, and whether Wyclef is personally responsible or not... this debacle with his Haiti charity is only the latest shameful example. (say it isn't so)

      My 501 c3 does amazing work, is 100% transparent, and has never paid anyone a single dime in salary or benefits, but we also are somewhat small and have troubles raising funds. Nearly 750 water projects under our belts and not one failed project in 70 nations.

      But I think you mean something a bit more business oriented than a purely charity organization?

      I dig the idea that we could reward businesses for their societal benefits... perhaps some extra incentives for environmental stewardship as well.

      Sadly, though, if a company can profit more from polluting and paying off any fees they accrue thereby, the chances of them behaving responsibly are slim.
      • Dec 3 2011: Ms Jah Sun
        Pls find my comments relative to your points.

        #2
        " It will be difficult to enforce, and will never voluntarily replace the current fiscal quarter bottom line. They will simply move their money over to companies that don't bother with social conscience or other bleeding heart concerns."
        ---
        It should be a governmental requirement enforced by law, applicable to all companies and not voluntarily.

        #3
        " It could simply cause an exodus of talent to private companies who will easily be able to out-pay the hamstrung public endeavors. The brain drain could be extreme and even more detrimental than it already is"
        ---
        The new combine progressive Tax scheme will be applicable to all citizens.
        The net income above a define point will be marginal.
        Imagine an exponential income line.

        # 4
        "Social companies already exist... we are called non-profits."
        --
        The proposed social companies are not non-profit.
        They are profit companies and their revenues will be based on the budged savings to the government and public sector.
        However their products will not be in creating new products or services.
        They will create money measurable social products.
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          Dec 3 2011: My comments to a few of your points address the reality that corporations are trans-national and will not be bound by any single nation's laws.

          Even if you can get a lot of major nations to sign on to this model... there will still be many nations that won't adopt these ideas (however good they are). Thus, given a choice of conforming to these strictures, many corporations will simply choose to move their operations to looser climes.

          This is already the case, even when the countries are fairly well pro-business and anti-social justice as it is. This isn't so much a critique of your concept as it is a recognition that companies already prefer to set up shop in places like the Philipines where they can better exploit the workforce.

          Thanks again for participating Mordechay. Your input is very much appreciated.
  • Nov 27 2011: Part1
    Alternative economic system or alternative life style?
    The question of life philosophy is the leading question.
    Economy systems are a part of a life philosophy.
    Unfortunately I cannot question the proper life philosophy suitable for 21 century people in a comment>
    that for I limit myself to some points related to the Alternative Economy question>
    --
    From all the systems – Capitalism, Socialism, Communism, Theocracy I favor Capitalism. is closed to human being nature and not an ideal that isforced on people against human nature
    However the classic Capitalism needs changes.
    ____
    1:** Compete by creating values on initiative, creativity, efficiency, quality but not labor without social rights***
    Globalization is a good idea however it is badly implemented.
    Competition and work transfer should be limited by international conventions to countries and enterprises providing the same social benefits to the works.
    It should be enforce by lows in the attending countries.
    ---
    Only few people benefit economically from the technological revolution.
    They get richer only because they are in the junctions of decision making without contributing to create real prosperity.
    (Banks and corporation managers,high level officials-unlike the few start up entrepreneurs.
    All the others are losing.
    The people in the free world have straggled for over 100 years for 8 working hours,illness insurance,vacation, retirement benefits,right of employed.
    The last 3 decades they are losing social rights.
    People on the developing world lucky to get jobs don’t get western social benefits.
    Worldwide competition has a huge potential of distributing wealth across the globe.
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      Nov 29 2011: interesting but I have a question. Is it human nature to indulge in more than we really need or could ones environment and how concepts influence and transform the human mind have a role in this as well?

      I tend to think things like consumption, imperialism, competition, materialism, affluenza, etc are social constructs as opposed to being part of our biology.
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        Jah Sun

        • +1
        Nov 29 2011: Orlando...

        You asked on another comment thread if we have gotten any real proposals going since you've been away, and I see you have found Mordechay's 3 part-er.

        I agree that we should focus the last 5 days on discussing this, Lara's idea (which mirrors my own admonishments against fractional reserve banking & debt based currency), and the other interesting proposals that have cropped up like reconomy.

        You will have noticed that since you left, a number of us have stopped responding to the poster in question. Sadly, though, he manages to suck others in to these endless and unproductive arguments while steadfastly refusing to even consider addressing the question of the conversation... even as a pure hypothetical. I suppose he feels it is his duty to correct the errors in everyone's thought processes ad nauseum.

        :-) Anyway, welcome back.
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        Dec 4 2011: No surprise, I agree Orlando, they are social contructs. Good to see you two again.
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          Jah Sun

          • +1
          Dec 4 2011: Nice to see you too Joanne.

          Sadly this conversation is at an end... last thoughts time and all.

          But, I am sure we will see each other on another conversation relatively soon. I have a new one in mind to pick up where this one left off and be even more specific about what we can do.

          Be well...
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      Dec 1 2011: Okay, I realize that the time left for this debate is rapidly ticking out, but here goes:

      "Alternative economic system or alternative life style?"

      Both. Obviously they are not completely independent.

      Life styles are not things that are dictated from above, though. While they may be socially engineered to some degree (lifestyle taxes and whatnot), they are not the starting point for any meaningful change on a societal level. They ARE the main starting point for any personal change, however.

      A change in economic system and policy will effect a change in lifestyle to some degree, and it will open the door for members of society to begin the contemplation of how they actually want to live on this blue orb. IMHO.

      "From all the systems – Capitalism, Socialism, Communism, Theocracy I favor Capitalism."

      I don't believe that these 4 systems enumerate the sum total of possible ways that humans can organize their affairs. It is my conjecture that none of those systems will be in operation in 500 years. (You forgot Feudalism and Anarchy among others.)

      Basically, I am absolutely sure that the system of the future has yet to be invented. Thus, this conversation was an attempt to get people thinking about the alternatives. It may have been co-opted and derailed to a large degree, but in doing this exercise, I realized that this is actually not an efficient forum for such in depth discussions. Places like this, can only amount to sounding boards and allow for some superficial sharing of basic concepts and links, while being prone to divisive tangents and a lack of overall coherence.

      As for your changes to Capitalism, my comments will proceed in the next reply. (2000 character limit)
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      Dec 1 2011: "Compete by creating values on initiative, creativity, efficiency, quality but not labor without social rights"

      I agree with this in principle. I'm curious as to how it would actually play out, but something along these lines should be factored into the economic system. Otherwise, there is no impetus for businesses to behave ethically. As it stands, there is no rational reason for them to care what happens to the citizens of any nation-state... or to the biosphere at large.

      "Globalization is a good idea however it is badly implemented."

      Absolutely.

      And whether it is a good idea or not, it is a reality and will never not be so. The cat will never go back into the bag so to speak. Nor should it IMO. Globalization is oft maligned, but the society of the future (should we be able to avoid destroying ourselves) will certainly be global. Nation states are already fairly well obsolete.

      The choice is not globalization or something else, but globalization as envisioned and manipulated by the current crop of multi national corporations, an even more totalitarian "New World Order," or something sane and somewhat democratic dreamed up and implemented by the people of the world, rather than imposed by the powerful.

      I think your idea of restricted trade to ethical nations is interesting, but somewhat unenforceable. It is like sanctions or prohibition... it just creates an incentive for Black Markets.

      Righteo... now on to pts. 2 & 3.
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        Dec 4 2011: I think the word 'globalisation' is a mis-nomer. We should express the term, 'global exploitation' to differenciate between trade systems which are sustainable and respectful of human and environmental needs and those that are not. Of course we would have to use the second term in most cases.

        I think this brings us to the heart of what we have been discussing. The very word 'capitalism', i.e. the accumulation of capital or labour, means exploitation. We must cease to glorify exploitation, to see it as a sign of 'success', 'progress' and 'development'. We must develop a way to continue to trade and work for survival , in a new way without exploitation. Similarily, we must also develop a new way to transact with the planet, if we are to stay within its natural limits and avoid our own exctinction.

        We are the 'god species' and we think we will continue forever. Our big fatty brain has led us to dominate and control nature for so long, that we think our clever inventions will beat all the planetry limits. We do not yet realise we can't drink Armani, we can't breathe an ipod.

        Like so many, I am good at pointing at the problem, but designing solutions is not so easy. Through this discussion, I have thought hard not only about solutions, but also what I can do personally to begin a process toward them. I have found your comments and links regarding the Anarchistic movement particularily helpful Orlando, likewise, Lara's and Jah Sun's contributions regarding alternative economic systems.

        I too have found many contributions inspiring, and the opportunity to link up with like-minded change seekers an enriching experience.
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          Dec 4 2011: I agree wholeheartedly. Whoever designated what the trans-national capitalists are doing "globalization" should win an award for misleading branding. It is an awesome job of a reverse euphemism.

          Global Exploitation is accurate... but hard to sell.

          ;)
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    Nov 25 2011: Thank you.

    I have been lightly involved in the Occupy movement here in New Zealand, trying to explain these concepts clearly and concisely enough to germinate the seed of the idea.

    If the Occupy movements were to protest clearly FOR a structural change to our monetary system we might have a positive change.

    They are protesting the gap between rich and poor and corporate greed but they have little to zero analysis of WHY these problems occur and are not offering a solution.

    Interest is the biggest reason for the gap between rich and poor. Those who have loads of capital gain more in interest payments than they pay out (as part of the cost of stuff they buy). This concept works also between businesses and corporations. The biggest corporates have investments which earn them more interest than they pay out. Small and medium sized businesses pay more in interest than they receive from investing. Thus the big get bigger while the small get less.

    Scandinavian countries with lower gaps between rich and poor reduce the gap by income redistribution via tax. However, even with this mechanism there is constant tension between interest pulling groups apart and tax trying to reduce the gap.

    Wouldn't it be better to just fix the structural problem?

    Furthermore, it is interest which creates the requirement for perpetual growth in a finite space.

    Anything which grows at any % is exponential. Even a very low %, still exponential. Earth is finite. Thus we must change our system eventually to one which can cope with zero growth, or nature will force our societies to collapse.

    This is an excellent talk from a Physics professor, Al Bartlett, on the exponential equation:

    http://www.albartlett.org/presentations/arithmetic_population_energy.html

    If you want to see a relatively easy to understand cartoon on how money works here is a link:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vVkFb26u9g8

    If you are pressed for time check out this 4 minute video:

    http://www.positivemoney.org.uk/
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      Nov 26 2011: some problems with these arguments:

      exponential growth in any physical is not possible, that is true. but money or GDP or welfare or wealth is not material. you can live a much better quality life, use higher quality products, have higher quality services without actually using more physical materials. so economic growth is not limited by any physical factors. another question is how soon we "grow out" our box. energy usage can grow in the same pace for thousands of years.

      this "debt based money" concept does not really help understanding. it does not make too much sense, it is not a good explanation. the source of our money is not debt, but money multiplication via the fractional reserve system. interest rate is not a problem at all, and it does not create requirement for growth. the reason behind growth is that we simply want it. we want better stuff. we want to live better.

      what we actually want is freedom of money. stop the governments forcing their own money on us, and let people choose for themselves. we, the people, can find what works for us. let it be gold or bitcoin or bank issued notes or whatever. free competition solves the problem.
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        Nov 27 2011: Growth in economies involves growth in the amount of resources we use. This is not a difficult concept to understand! Yes, we can create an infinite amount of digital money because it does not use physical resources (much) but this money is circulated in an economy to purchases goods and services. More money = more goods = more resources used.

        You need to watch the excellent YouTube video "money as debt".

        The fractional reserve system means the banks only require a fraction of the total sum loaned out in reserve, the ratio is 9:1. Thus they loan 9 X more than they have. This 90% is created as debt.

        Interest is required to be paid on this debt creating a requirement for more money in the system. Thus someone else somewhere within the system must take on more debt because this is how new money is created in the fractional reserve system. More debt = more interest is required to be paid = more debt. It is a vicious circle.

        If interest is charged at a % rate then the growth of money in the system must grow at a % rate to keep up. This why we require constant growth and it is at a % rate, it is not linear. We want growth because we must keep trying to find the money to repay the interest due to banks on our debt.

        You have stated various "does not" or "is not"' in your comment. If you think that this is NOT how the fractional reserve system works than it would be more constructive if you could state how you think it works.
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          Nov 27 2011: our economy grows exponentially for thousands of years. yet, you can not name a whole lot of products that are produced in exponentially growing amount. the economy develops in a way that old products and services go out of use, and new ones come in. we don!t use more, we use different. you can not translate personal joy or a money unit to a certain amount of carbon or lithium. as an example, in the last 50 years, we have tripled the agricultural yield of one acre of land.

          be mindful that i didn!t say our money is not created out of nothing. i!m pointing out that its creation "as debt" is not really important. the important part is the multiplication. if new money creation happens with other methods, it is just as bad. also note that if zero interest was charged on the multiplicated money, it would have the same negative effect on the economy. again, the multiplication is the problem.

          also, you suggest that debt is inherently evil, as it adds more money to the system. no, it is not, and it is the fallacy of composition. if we have fixed amount of money, and people charge interest on loans, it means only very profitable businesses will get a loan, and they will pay it back using the money they get for their services. it is a perfectly reasonable scenario, and no new money is created. bear in mind that interest rate is an old concept, and money creation was not possible when it was specie. (for nitpickers: it is possible, but much harder and quite limited.)

          i also would like to call your attention to the fact that my comment contained buts and actually's as well as does nots. maybe you should read more carefully.
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          Nov 27 2011: Thanks again for your insightful input Lara.

          For me, the problems lie primarily in the fractional-reserve method of money creation, which as you have said quite succinctly creates debt by its very nature.

          The second issue of fiat currencies is also troubling, but could conceivably be dealt with if the central banks like the Fed had full transparency and were truly governed by democratic means... rather than by a private cabal of secretive bankers (as is currently the case.).

          As for interest and usury, it is distasteful, and was forbidden for Christians and Muslims for centuries due to admonishments against it in the respective holy books... but, usury alone never crashed the world economy or caused the kind of ravenous, resource gobbling business practices we see today.

          The interest charged on money creation is simply criminal, but private credit and interest (minus the fractional reserve) would not be too big a deal IMHO. One does not need to borrow money from private lenders if one doesn't want to. It is the basic monetary system that saddles nations and people with inescapable debt and indentured servitude.

          I'd love to hear more alternatives and thoughts about debt-based currency. This is a lynch pin in the irrational and unstable economic kraftwerks as far as I can tell.
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      Nov 29 2011: Forgive the ignorance but are the occupy movements in New Zealand just as big as those in the U.S.? and Egpty. I did not even know one was in New Zealand but that is great to hear that these protest are going around across the globe. They just stopped the on in Los Angeles which is sad because I really had a chance to go this week. I had planned out to go for the last two weeks but it is no longer going on.

      Hopefully the one in N.Z. does not lose its passion
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    Nov 18 2011: Thinking in terms of an ideal economic system opens up our thinking and leads us to evaluate the essential values and principles that we want to live by.

    An issue to consider that has far reaching implications in the development of an alternative economic system is the concept of stewardship versus ownership where one has responsibility for taking care of a resource and using it wisely rather than allowing the freedom to do whatever one wants with whatever one has enough money to purchase. Many of the problems of the current system result from the accumulation of wealth and resources at the expense of other people and the environment.

    Stewardship shifts the emphasis toward responsibility and would require new systems of cooperation and transparency. This concept would support an open-source economics where one is rewarded for sharing and improving ideas and innovations that serve the common good. Ownership rewards greed, ego, and exclusivity. Stewardship would reinforce responsibility, cooperation and communication.
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      Jah Sun

      • +1
      Nov 18 2011: My thoughts exactly.

      Native people the world over had already grokked this concept. And, perhaps it is the future of humanity to return to some of these more holistic models of resource stewardship.

      I have always loved the North American Indian concept of thinking and making decisions for the 7th generation. If we could insinuate such profound respect for the future humans into our discourses and visions for the potentiality of this lovely biosphere... we might actually be getting somewhere.
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      Jah Sun

      • +1
      Nov 20 2011: Perhaps we need to imagineer a new kind of stewardship model for the 3rd millennium.

      The idea that we are on the verge of over-fishing the oceans, continuing to clearcut the rainforests and old growth, fracking the earth for natural gas, and blasting off the tops of mountains to get at the coal underneath... these are symptomatic of a kind of global, self-destructive pathology.

      Do you have any thoughts on what we could do to propagate a stewardship model of resource management?
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        Nov 21 2011: I wrote an essay on this a number of years ago and have been thinking about this issue for some time. I will try to put together an outline before this thread expires.
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    Nov 17 2011: Thank you Jah Sun, for bringing up what I believe to be a question of critical importance.

    It might be helpful to think in terms of a process to develop and adapt a model rather than proposing something that has been developed from one perspective. I believe economics needs to be an inclusive, adaptive, evolving process rather than a fixed “science.”

    A good beginning for this process is to discern the basic values and principles that would underlie an economic system that promoted sustainable activity that served the common good.

    I facilitated an empowerment program run by people in poverty (Hard Times Café) from 1991 to 1999. They developed an alternative economy that worked quite well. Patrons approved four basic values to serve as a screen for all decisions and activities of the program. After much discussion, they came up with a set of 12 principles that served as guidelines for participation. Any problems that arose were effectively dealt with using the values and principles that were part of the discussion at each weekly meeting.

    I believe it would be fairly easy to get agreement on a set of basic values that would underlie an economic system that could work for everyone. The principles would take a lot more discussion (we spent 3 months on them at the Hard Times Café) but I believe people of good faith could come to agreement.

    Developing and adapting a process for intelligent and respectful discussion for the development of an economic system that works for the benefit of all could be applied to other systems that need reform (health care, politics, education...) We now have the technology to change the nature of the debate on a wide range of issues.
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      Nov 17 2011: Excellent contribution Bob.

      I am of a like mind.

      I also think that establishing a methodology and some benchmarks that enshrine a sustainable and humanitarian value system into a workable pragmatic decision making formula is the most logical first step.

      It is apparent from perusing this thread alone that the amount of ready made alternatives to the current rapacious form of economics practiced in most lands hovers around 0. There are a number of good ideas, and some decent short term fixes as well. Plenty of agreement as far as recognizing the flaws in our current amoral corporatism.... but nothing amounting to a model that could be implemented as is.

      Scour the net for weeks and you are unlikely to find anything more workable either.

      (this is not to put down the brilliance of such things as the Basic Income Guarantee or the various elements of the Venus Project's concept)

      I have already been contemplating just such an adaptive and participatory model for quite some time. Perhaps as this conversation draws to a close, I will get around to proposing it directly. I am still quite curious as to what the wonderful TED membership comes up with, though, and do not want this particular conversation to devolve into a discussion of my concepts just yet. It is possible I will break out my model on another thread, or on my own blog, and keep this debate focused on the proposals of TED posters... as well as the models they have stumbled across thus far.

      Thanks for chiming in here Bob. I find your contribution very salient.
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        Nov 17 2011: Thank you Jah Sun,

        Could you describe the values and principles that underlie your model?
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          Nov 17 2011: I will get around to explaining it in better detail, but a taste of it is as follows:

          Sustainability
          Pragmatism
          Ecology
          Realism & Rationality
          Constructivism
          Health & Well-being
          Individual Liberty
          Enjoyment & Satisfaction
          Justice & Equality

          Personally, I like Nic Marks' Happy Planet Index idea (his TED Talk link is in the intro), as well as the Kingdom of Bhutan's Gross National Happiness.

          Robert F. Kennedy said "Gross National Product measures everything except that which makes life worthwhile."

          We should listen to him.

          The best parts are yet to come...
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    Nov 12 2011: As long as the world's economic systems view our environment and subsequent ecosystem services as a subset of our economy and society, we will continue down the road toward human extinction.

    If by some remote chance we begin to understand that we got it wrong! Our economy and society is a subset of the environment, them perhaps we can turn the economic engines world wide around. However there is NO evidence that this will or can happen. Until we begin to understand the critical mistakes we have made, collectively, future generations will face increasing pressures toward extinction.

    What is instructive is that we call our economic growth, progress, when a strong case can be made to the contrary.
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      Nov 14 2011: I had a friend of mines tell me that "the people who actually understand the principles of sustainability and the depletion of environmental resources are the C.E.O's and all the politicians that support them". The reason for this is because if a Corporation is using the environment for their own production, they will know exactly how much of it is left.

      Eventually these resources will no longer be and these corporate leaders and politicians realize that in order to continue to make their money they have to come up with new innovations or otherwise, as you were implying, we'll be in huge trouble.

      I guess where at the point where there is a fork in the road and one path will lead to pretty much the destruction of humanity and all the biotic communities in the eco-system and or new innovations will be created to help sustain the environment...either way both of these are imperatives (one that needs to be avoided and one that needs to be met).
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        Nov 15 2011: Orlando, If you believe that CEO's and corporations really understand the implications of their greed, then perhaps you also believe that pigs can grow wings and fly.

        Given evidence that supports your misguided contention and I will refute it a thousand fold.

        And remember what the greatest poet of our generation once said, " If your not a part of the solution, your part of the Problem". Mr Zimmerman.

        Good day
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          Nov 15 2011: First things first, your incorrect about the corporations and the knowledge they have about what they are doing to the ecosystem.

          If the corporations are reliant on these resources from the ecosystem then they would know that nonrenewable energy sources like petroleum, coal, natural gas, etc. would eventually run out. I'm not a scientist, politician or C.E.O. and I'm aware of this information. Its really obvious when you consider the term "nonrenewable".

          Here comes the facts(have fun refuting this): In regards to Coal (in which the U.S. has aprox 28% of the worlds coal reserves) a study done by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences in 2007 states that coal would start to run out about 100 years or so. The first Estimate was 250 years but with the rapid use of coal, that number went down.

          So your telling me that a Corporate Juggernaut who is invested in coal business, is not aware that the resource he is using, such as coal, will eventually run out?

          Secondly, C.E.O.'s know the implications of their greed. The evidence? Lobbying:
          In 2008 former Goldman Sach's C.E.O. Henry Paulson lobbied to the House about getting bailout money for Goldman Sach's. After the senate listened to the protester and rejected the bailout, Paulson within hours went to the House of Rep and got the House to approve on the bailout plan (He use to be G.W. Bush's Secretary of Treasury).

          Also research Massey Industries. The C.E.O. of this corporation mentioned that "capitalism is the survival of the most productive" and he was well aware of the fact that his mining company caused many environmental and health factors but did not care.

          It becomes obvious: Profit over people. Profit over the environment, profit over everything. That is the mindset they have. Some C.E.O's may think they are doing a service for themselves, but for the most part you would have to be a fool to not understand the ramifications of your actions..
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        Nov 16 2011: I think your comment; 'a Corporate Juggernaut who is invested in coal business, is not aware that the resource he is using, such as coal, will eventually run out?' is quite pertinent. It comes back to a point I am making re 'the invisible hand' the profit motive as a guiding light, in another conversation;
        http://www.ted.com/conversations/7118/does_capitalism_continue_to_se.html

        The cycles attributed to the (mythical) invisible hand, simply do not correlate to the lifespan of a single unit of profit motive, which it follows, would be about forty years or around the time a single human desires to make money. In other words, he or she has little or no incentive to concern themselves if their business remains profitable after they are finished with it.
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          Nov 17 2011: I would love to respond to what you stated here but to be quite honest I am actually out of words on this one being that I agree with everything you just said.

          I will say, I like your connection in regards to the invisible hand. I honestly cannot see how some people fail to see such connections.
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      Jah Sun

      • +1
      Nov 15 2011: Right on.

      The underlying concepts of our current economic models are inherently immoral and anti-biosphere (read anti-life). The obsession with profits at any cost, and the conceiving of the fundamental systems and elements of our existence as mere resources and commodities, causes business-people to act like this is all a big game. High stakes Monopoly or something equally banal.

      As you have eloquently stated, if we don't change the root perception of our relationship to the ecosystem, we are acting like a cancer upon our host. We must stop caring about quarterly yields and the gross profit in a given fiscal year... and begin designing the future as rational and pragmatic realists.

      The hard core Capitalists like to paint futurists and progressives as "out of touch" or dreamers. However, it is very clearly THEY who are out to lunch and overtly psychotic.
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        Nov 15 2011: couldn't agree with you more. I mentioned this as well, in regards to the environment and as I stated eventually these resources are going to run out and they will have to come up with new innovations or otherwise things will look very grim. I hope it does not come to this but I think learning the hard way is what things are going to come down to, unless we can change things within the next 50 yrs

        But you don't think that they are, as Craig proclaims, unaware of the ramifications of their actions?
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          Nov 16 2011: I think that you make a good point, that people often are aware of exactly what they are doing and do it anyway. I have noticed though, an inordinate amount of delusional thinking, circular arguments, and a dominionist approach from some advocates of right economics. To me it all looks like shallow justification in order to condone the atrocities that result.

          If you look at the kinds of things white South Africans said about Apartheid before it fell, the types of justifications are strikingly similar ' Racial order is a Natural law' for example. 'Natural' can also mean divine if you believe in god, which many republicans and white south africans do. Many right economists try to suggest that 'the invisible hand' is a natural law too. 'Apartheid, has built a successful society', compared with 'The capitalist way has built roads, schools, an affluent society etc'. 'Without Apartheid, the world will fall apart' compared with 'Without Capitalism, the world would look like an Orwellian prison cell' "Without capitalism, we will have no technology, no innovation, no business. The world will stagnate." I think this type of talk represents a guilt/justification pattern, and is clearly defensive. It shows that people do understand very well that the system they advocate is horribly wrong, or they would feel the need to justify it.
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          Jah Sun

          • +2
          Nov 16 2011: Oh no. They are surely aware.

          How on Earth could they not be?

          Either they don't care... they ARE, by and large, fairly old and won't live to see the worst of the byproducts of their greed... or perhaps they know some things WE DO NOT.

          The latter is often the case. Much information has been either classified, kept purposefully obscure, or held in reserve. There are many reasons for such secrecy. Fraternal organizations and mystic sects have been doing it forever. Sometimes, as in the case of national (or international) security, it may even be warranted. But as the Wiki Leaks debacle has shown us... often it is just to save face or cover their asses.

          People who allow ecosystems to fall apart, species to go extinct, and people to suffer in abject misery are dubious sorts of people... people who do those things needlessly, only to save their own skin from some jail time or public ridicule, have the lowest rung of hell reserved for them.

          Mabye they are compassion-less misanthropes who imagine a future where they bring their little clique into vast underground bunkers to continue living large while the rest of us die out or devolve into neo-neolithic, post-apocalyptic Mad Max hell.
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        Nov 17 2011: Jonanne and Jah

        Now that I think about it, especially based on the post you two put, it really is all language game and they use a sort of language to generate fear or failure and would do anything to make sure that people continue to think that it is an imperative for them to maintain power. I like how Joanne mentioned how the world will be more "Orwellian without capitalism". I have heard such statements and to be quite honest its actually the other way around.

        And Jah has made a great point, especially in reference to the wiki leaks debacle. Another thing I would like to point out is how the law enforcement is geared up to the point where it looks like they are going to war and the weapons that they have. I have heard that ever since the Seattle, WA protest in 99 (I've only heard of that protest being that I was only about 9 or 10 when it occurred) the police have been "prepared to stop the protest from getting out of hand" in which we know is complete B.S.


        It really is a shame how money will make people behave.
  • Nov 11 2011: The question posed by this column is very interesting and relevant. However, before leaping to proposals, it is worth the effort to define what the required changes are. If a new system were established, what would need to be different and what would need to be the same? Without answering these questions in advance, it is very difficult to judge the merit of any proposal.

    I suggest, as a fundamental requirement: Economic growth should cede to economic sustainability as a measure of success. A new system should make it much more difficult for policy makers, companies and consumers to abuse the biosphere for short term gains.
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      Nov 11 2011: Okay!

      Let's say that we take your requirement. Where would we start tweaking to institute your new benchmark?

      Or, are you proposing a complete overhaul?

      How would we measure sustainability?
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    Nov 4 2011: i still haven't seen any logical relationship between the problems of our time and capitalism. though many seems to simply accept that as a fact. we have many distortions to capitalism today. it is just as logical to address problems to distortions. it is not enough to claim. we need analysis.

    the notion that cleaning toilets would be the hardest work is wrong. granted, it is a work with great discomfort. however, virtually every person on the globe can clean a toilet. however, writing computer programs, like i do, is a work that requires constant, brain tiring thinking, and needs 10+ years of learning. and to be a world class mathematician requires 20+ years of learning and exceptional talent. one can not judge the hardship of a work by the physical.

    not that this matters much. it is not the discomfort that determines what you get. rather, the value of your contribution. surely, a man who grows apples provide much less than a man who heals the sick. if you can provide something that is greatly demanded, you can ask for more in return. if you can offer something that is relatively abundant, you can not ask for too much. this is fair. why would you get more than you gave?

    another problem with your reasoning is too much abstraction. you want to find the value of investing in a financial derivative for 10 seconds. it is not your job to find that. it is not your money they took. they engaged in voluntary exchange with other people. what is the benefit for society? what is the benefit for society if you buy an apple in the store? it does not have to. it has benefit for you and the store owner. story ends. nobody else is involved. we can find social function though, apple is healthy, food is required, etc. but we can also find the social function of derivatives: they determine the value of firms, bonds, etc. the derivative market distributes capital, which is a very important role.
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      Jah Sun

      • +4
      Nov 4 2011: Unfortunately, the value of one's contribution to society is completely unrelated to one's income. It is your value to a capitalist.

      Toilet washing may or may not be as valuable to society as computer programming, but it certainly requires more effort than e-trading. It also doesn't cause families to live under bridges when done unethically.

      Investing in commodities & stocks is a kind of gambling that can be justified perhaps in setting the value of actual things... namely corporate shares and physical items like gold and frozen concentrated orange juice. The farther away from this you get (futures, options on futures, options on the indexes of futures and so on) the more it becomes just gambling.

      And while nearly every state in the union sees fit to limit your right to play craps or bet on sports games, the betting of people's pension money and retirement funds on abstractions that can be easily manipulated is fairly well unregulated.

      I am not calling for regulation. Merely recognizing that derivatives & the poolside gambling of millionaires nearly collapsed our economic system. We are still reeling from the greed of the financial sector. Europe still teeters on the brink of collapse, and people are still living in tent cities.

      Capitalism started out as a reaction to the unfairness of the Feudal system. It provided upward mobility, and enabled people to simplify the trading of goods and services. Investment banking today, however, has very little to do with this. Many people in the financial sector make their money by siphoning it out of the economy, playing middlemen, and gambling with other people's money.

      If you see no logical relationship between the problems of our time and global capitalism, I urge you to visit an Asian sweatshop, one of the many sprawling tent cities, a metropolitan landfill in Guatemala, a factory town where the factory was moved south of the border, or a clearcut in the Amazon Rainforest and its displaced indigenous population
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        Nov 4 2011: to be even more precise, one's income is not dependent on his contributions to "society", but to those who employ him. it is of course possible that they judge it incorrectly, but it is their fault and their loss. if a broker earns a million, it meas that someone considered it a worthy payment for some services of him. you don't have to worry though, it is not your million.

        the farther away you get in derivatives, the less you understand it, but it does not lose its reality. futures actually came from farmers, not money markets. futures were invented for seasonal products like wheat and corn. all these financial tools were invented to fulfill real needs, they serve real demands. they pave the road for capital to move around easier.

        capitalism did not start as a reaction to unfairness. capitalism is a stage in the constant struggle for freedom. also a step in technological progress.

        the notion that middleman is unnecessary is rather unfair to wholesalers. middlemen do work.

        suppose i visit such places, but still don't understand how capitalism caused it. can you tell me?
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          Jah Sun

          • +2
          Nov 5 2011: It is not your million? Are you serious?

          The economic catastrophe we are all suffering from was a direct result of the actions of bankers, investors, and trans-national corporations. Their negligence and greed has cost all of us huge sums of money. Debt based money & fractional reserve banking cost all of us.

          Our currency has dropped, our national credit rating has been lowered, the values of our houses have diminished, pension plans have been gutted, and now they want to strip away vital elements in the safety net to pay for the handouts and bailouts we already gave to these capitalists...

          I humbly suggest that your concept of Capitalism is somewhat short sighted. If you are unable to understand how our economic system is responsible for vast problems that the mass of the 7 billion human beings on the planet face, I suppose I could help you to see it... only I am guessing the 2000 characters per post rule here would not be sufficient.

          You say Capitalism did not start as a reaction to unfairness, and then you say it is a stage in the constant struggle for freedom... which is it? Capitalism is not a step in technological progress.

          Middlemen do work... for themselves.

          Personally, I understand derivatives just fine. I have even designed neural networks to trade them back in the 90's. What you fail to recognize is that the value of the currencies, commodities, and indexes have nothing to do with their actual worth anymore, but rather the emotional (and heavily manipulated) perception of their worth.

          Large money holders can create runs, manufacture bubbles, sell short and then tank the market on purpose... Futures are not necessarily bad, options on futures and indexes, either, But what we have is packaged debt, falsely valued and sold as if it was something real. We have people gambling with other people's future.

          I am sure there is a tent city near to where you live or work. Go check it out and think about what you are saying.
        • Nov 5 2011: That's not a good argument. The reason the economy at large suffered is because finance is the blood of the economic organs. The shock to the financial industry was like an economic heart attack, so the whole body went into shock and money immediately flowed to mainly the most 'vital' parts as determined by some ingrained idea that has evolved over time; in this case everyone kept their own money in their own pocket, because this Randian deregulation that allowed the crisis was driven by that value system in the first place.

          Additionally, the "tent cities" are, at least in the U.S., an entirely contrived media spectacle. Many people may have lost homes, but they are not the people showing up in the tent cities. Since OWS is predominantly anarchist, I'll use their term: those tent cities are a "simulacrum" of truth. They do not deserve the name given to the tent cities of the great depression, which were predominantly homeless people gathering together so they could be seen by society, because we are talking about ideological warriors masquerading as "the 99%". No matter how 'right' they might be, acting is still just acting.
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          Jah Sun

          • +2
          Nov 5 2011: Danny...

          For the record, homelessness is not a contrived media spectacle. There are REAL people, really suffering in the streets, alleys, and out of the way places of most major metropolitan areas worldwide.

          It is rather cavalier of you to dismiss the undeniable reality of poverty and destitution that exists.
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          Nov 6 2011: Krisztian, if you visit a sweatshop in china and still do not understand how capitalism creates it, then it shows how little understanding you really have of real capitalism. The theoretical Austrian school 100% unregulated does not exist
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        Nov 5 2011: there are many theories about the financial meltdown and its causes. if you start to dig it up, indeed, the first layer will be financial corporations, mainly american, trading derivatives. however, it is advisable to dig deeper, and ask, how could that happen? why nobody saw it? why now, and not decades earlier, or a hundred years earlier. so far, the only coherent and believable explanation i've found is the austrian business cycle theory. it nails misguided government policies as the cause.

        also please bear in mind that neither money nor the public debt is a capitalist thing. they are both managed by the state.

        freedom's opposite is control, slavery, dictatorship, etc. not unfairness. capitalists never wanted fair system. they wanted freedom to act on their own behalf, as they can, undisturbed.

        to maintain civility, clarity and logic, i would rather skip reflecting the rest of your reply.
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          Nov 5 2011: I suppose I am most interested in hearing about ways to improve our situation.

          New ideas about how we could deal with resources, labor, goods, services etc.

          I am not anti-capitalist per se.

          It just seems prudent to imagine what OTHER ways we could organize our species, biosphere, and local solar system... given the fact that the current system is teetering on the edge of an abyss.

          Think of it as a brain teaser.
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          Nov 6 2011: I've heard a lot of people blaming the government instead of the private sector for the recession, but I only agree in a limited fashion. Its true, certain mortgage lending practices and derivative practices should have been illegal under sound financial regulation. However, the government did not FORCE mortgage brokers to lend irresponsibly. The government did not FORCE financial institutions to bundle those debts into derivatives, raise their credit rating and sell them around the globe. The people that did those deeds are still responsible for those actions.

          Furthermore, it takes a certain degree of double think to say it is the governments fault the recession happened in one breath and call for deregulation in another. Calling for the government to take responsibility and prevent such things from happening is essentially a call for stronger regulation. The recession happened due to lack of sound regulation.

          In Canada, where I live, we had strong financial regulation. We have stricter requirements for mortgages, and the banks more are limited in how much they are allowed to lend compared to how much liquid assets they must keep on hand. It is our regulations that insulated us and resulted in not needing to bail out any Canadian banks.

          As was mentioned earlier, the 100% pure austrian school capitalism doesn't exist, and probably never will. Furthermore, if it did exist, it would most likely fail miserably. Regulations we have on capitalism exist out of necessity.

          The problem with the austrian school of economics is the rationalist approach. In reality, economics is too complicated to be understood by "arm chair reasoning". Only empirical observation of businesses in action and in history can develop a realistic understanding of economics.
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        Nov 6 2011: Jah Sun; responding to your comment; 'Unfortunately, the value of one's contribution to society is completely unrelated to one's income. It is your value to a capitalist.'. The teacher is a very good example of this. Traditionally teachers have been highly valued in human society, but since education is only useful within certain elite spheres of capitalist monopolistic structures and an educated workforce could even be considered detrimental to the capitalist greed machine, we see that teachers continue to fall behind other professions annually.

        Was not feudalism just another example of a monopolistic, aka capitalist, economic structure? Sure back then, people used the simple idea of birthright (which could be bought) to hold the reins of economic power, whereas today's free marketeer has to tap dance around democracy and a constitution in order to hold power. The outcome, polarisation of wealth, wide gaps between rich and poor, exploitation and devaluing or of human rights, seem to me, to be the same.
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        Nov 6 2011: Hi Danny...were the bodies floating down the streets after Katrina also actors? Honestly. There comes a point where trying account for the financial collapse in the U.S. and the consequential human suffering with arguments like 'The reason the economy at large suffered is because finance is the blood of the economic organs. The shock to the financial industry was like an economic heart attack,' is delusional. Reuters did a story in September 2011 that 45000 people, one every twelve minutes, die each year due to not having access to healthcare in the U.S. How much further evidence would it take to convince you that free market capitalism is extraodinarily destructive, and inhumane?
  • Dec 4 2011: We should re-appreciate labor saving technology. Wasn't the idea, when I was a kid, 50 or so years ago, that technology was going to do the work so we wouldn't have to work as hard? But instead of laying people off the idea a was everyone would just work fewer hours? That was supposed to be the 'social good' accomplished by technology. Unfortunately its control has been totally usurped by finance - and they - an unelected, unaccountable elite has determined how it is applied and how it's benefits are distributed.

    The only solution is getting economic power into some system of gov't and the only gov't that is legitimate is that with the consent of the governed - i.e., democracy. A hint of what is needed is provided by companies that are owned and run exclusively by the employees. Some are quite successful - in many ways. Many, many ways.

    Humans evolved in hunter gather societies, essentially tribes, 150 +/- consisting mainly of family members (with some 'in-laws'). The operating principle was sharing. We all inherently understand concepts of fairness. We teach it to our children.

    Corporations and governments are human inventions to deal with larger societies. Many economic and government arrangements or sustainably have been tried in the 10,000 or so years since the "Ur Compromise". If what's in-place now is not working 'fairly' we have not only the right, obviously, but much more importantly the obligation to change it. If poverty and lack of health care are increasing year by year and there is significant evidence of long-term, if not irreversible, damage to the planet is piling up all around us - we have an obligation to improve things - or die trying.

    Who knows what is the best way to go? We have to practice the arts of self-government again. We need to have some direct face-to-face direct democracy. From that and only that can come the energy and the will to change. It will take time. Hopefully we have enough. But we must hang together!
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      Dec 4 2011: My thoughts exactly.

      The next conversation I start will be based on this very concept. Keep an eye for it in the coming weeks.

      I too wonder how they managed to tell us all that we would work less and accomplish more as technology took us into a golden age of leisure and progress (ala the Jetsons) and then bait & switched us with this world where the middle class is disappearing faster than the glaciers.

      We went from a society where a single wage earner could support a family, buy a house and a car, send the kids to a good school, and still have plenty to retire on. Now, we have both parents working (often multiple jobs) just to barely get by.

      People think they are middle class because no one likes to admit they are poor... but if you are renting an apartment, in debt, have no hope of sending your kids to an ivy league school, and haven't been able to afford a real 2 week (or longer) vacation in recent memory... you are NOT middle class.
  • Dec 4 2011: Capitalism can be made to perform quite well provided that it is properly regulated and taxed. Corporate cultures must be made to evolve such that the welfare of employees, customers, and the planet as a whole is seen as essential for the corporation to survive and thrive. Wages, in the U.S. at least, need to be radically adjusted upward to make up for decades of stagnation. Corporate lobbying, a big part of the problem for the U.S., shouldn't be declared illegal, but only with the proviso that ALL lobbying efforts are recorded and made part of the public record. Americans should probably begin the process of forbidding Lawyers from holding elected positions in government where they are tasked with passing laws. It seems to me to be a glaring conflict of interest to have the Lawyers making the laws.
    There would need to be strengthening of many laws already on the books as well as many new laws and regulations that would, hopefully, serve to prevent another financial catastrophe caused by blatant greed. Another example of new law would be the rapid shift away from private health insurance to the single payer model. This alone would save many billions of dollars in wasted money paid out as insurance premiums. Some laws should be eliminated. The criminalization of cannabis has resulted in an unconscionable loss of life in Mexico and elsewhere, a shameful incarceration rate for non-violent crime, and a phenomenal waste of tax dollars. All this because the Republicans and other right wing extremists operate under the delusion that they are somehow morally superior to everyone else in the population to the point that they have the right to force their way of living upon us. Another requirement for capitalism to succeed is the existence of a large pool of well educated potential employees. We should therefore de-corporatize higher education and provide a college education free to all that seek it. In the K-12 grades classroom sizes need to be cut by 50% to 75%. And more.
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      Dec 4 2011: While I agree with most of what you say in principle, I think there are a few important things you are not factoring in to your analysis.

      1) Corporations are already jumping ship and setting up in China, Indonesia, India and anywhere they can get people to work for pennies on the dollar. Raising wages without a fundamental change in the corporatism that underlies our system will only result in even more jobs being sent overseas.

      Also, I don't think the focus should be on what is best for US Citizens (or any single nation state or group of nations). The problem is already trans-national. National solutions to trans-national problems tends to prove disastrous. Unilateral actions and heavy handed moves in one nation's interest should become a thing of the past as people wake up and realize that we all share this one Earth, that national boundaries are imaginary lines drawn by people who often never even visited the place in question, and that humanity is going to have to work together if we want to solve the major issues of our time.

      2) Corporate lobbying is more of a blight and causes more problems than simply letting people who have studied law become lawmakers. There is nothing inherently wrong with being a lawyer. Being a shill for a rapacious corporation results in incidents like the Deep Water Horizon poisoning the entire Gulf.

      3) Single payer is fine... as long as we get rid of the insurance companies, any system will be better. Middle men always raise prices, and the value they add is often negative. (watering down the commodity)

      4) Cannabis prohibition is a form of criminal insanity. We have spent more money and time fighting that plant than we have fighting terrorism, or even Communism. And, it is a blatant lie that it was illegalized to protect people from themselves or enforce some ridiculous morality. The reason it was made illegal in 1938 is the same reason they had to re-legalize it in WWII... its amazing industrial properties.

      cont.
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      Dec 4 2011: Marijuana (Hemp) was gotten rid of by a consortium of interests in the corporate world. The timber (and nascent tree paper) industry as headed by the richest man in the world at the time, William Randolph Hearst, got together with the petro-chemical industry (typified by his drinking buddies Dow & DuPont), and managed to convince other interested parties in the cotton, tobacco, and pharmaceutical industries to perpetrate what may be one of the greatest cons ever conceived.

      They used the racism and fear of black jazzmen and Mexicans who used reefer to push the law through, but they were all about getting rid of the single largest competition for their new wave of industrial products. Nylon was going to be the new linen (most linens at the time were hemp, as well as all waterproof canvas), hempseed oil (which was the hydrocarbon source of choice for the first plastics and the fuel for the first internal combustion engine) was going to be replaced by fossil fuels. Kimberly Clarke Co. had just patented the process of making paper from trees (owned by Hearst), and this new paper was being used for Hearst's epic newspaper empire because he had bought much of the forested land of the northwest.

      The only group to speak on behalf of cannabis in the hearings was the AMA, because no one told the doctors that the plant which comprised nearly 2/3ds of the patent medicines used at the time was going to be shanghaied. They made out like bandits in the end with the introduction of patented drugs and chemicals rather than the old patented formulas of natural plants and extracts.

      So you see, our modern corporate economic system (including many of the largest corporations in the world) built this current system (at great cost to the biosphere) on the back of cannabis prohibition.

      Personally, I think prohibition of any kind is foolhardy. It only creates a dangerous and uncontrollable black market. Alcohol prohibition should have taught us all we need to know about this.
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    Nov 29 2011: Okay, here is my recipe for an economic model: Do what works.

    Now, what "works" would have to be clearly defined: moderate wealth for all, sustainable growth, ecological responsibility, quality health care and education, no one going to sleep hungry for lack of available food, etc.

    How could we bring that about?

    I have no idea.

    But I suspect trial and error will have something to do with it.

    I also suspect that we will have to look at things that are distinctly "uneconomic" in their nature; things like the human brain - both neurologically and psychologically - human values and desires, "deeper truths" that most economists treat somewhat dismissively (not surprisingly given the state of "the dismal science") and who know what else.

    I do not think we can engineer a system that we can graft onto present day planet earth nor do I think we can "move towards" a preconceived economic system (a la Mr Pintér's anarco-capitalism or what you, Mr Sun, propose here - coming up with a model to replace capitalism.)

    First of all no one is actually practicing capitalism (or socialism) we are muddling along with hybrids of various kinds here and there. Adherents present that fact as confirmation of the efficacy of their models - if we actually "did" communism properly it would work (which is true.) And if we actually did capitalism right, it would work too (which is also true.)

    But we don't. We don't "do them right" for reasons that seem obvious.

    An idealized economic system no matter how perfect and pristine in its conception will not (can not) be flawlessly executed by humans who are less pristine than the model they are operating within.

    So what will work?

    Really, I do not know but I suspect it will come down to each one of us living up to our highest values regardless of the system we find ourselves in.

    And we can (eventually) evolve a system that reflects those values.
  • Nov 27 2011: The price forming mechanism should be the main concern here.

    The field of available politics is another sphere, a topic of it´s own.

    How can we promote growth in a controlled economy? Is the only answer through people´s own morality? Do we need an economy based on greed to achieve that? What would be the calculus for a better version?
  • Nov 27 2011: What about somehow trying to invent a better way to calculate prices than in market economy, just like venus project tried?

    Anyhow, Lara´s proposal is most agreeable, in the transition period between the current one and the next.

    Of course you all realise a revolution takes but one law. Not more, not less... and as you all have realized steps to any such law takes casualties.

    I would be most interested in any other mechanism proposed for handling the prices than market economy.
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      Nov 29 2011: Mordechay's 3 part proposal addresses some of what you are speaking of vis a vis the handling of prices and valuation.

      I think it would be worthwhile to spend a bit of time giving some feedback on what he has posted. I am interested in your thoughts on this as well as the reconomy concept linked to above by Kevin.

      As for Lara's proposal, I can't imagine that anyone who understands the current monetary system, and is not personally profiting from it, could mount a serious defense of fractional reserve or the basic debt of money.
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    Nov 27 2011: Check out http://reconomy.net to learn about an open source network that pays people with the money of the future to build the communities of the future. The key is starting with creating community power stations that discount energy when purchased with that money, which creates a demand for the local currency that builds genuine local marketplaces that control all local resources. Consequently, the communities gain control of all the resources, which they are impelled to stewad , and control the energy and the money, and so reclaim control of their destinies as they enjoy sustainable prosperity.
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      Nov 27 2011: Will check out the website and get back to you with some thoughts.

      There are a number of these local currency initiatives going around. Some of them have interested me for quite some time. I'm curious as to how this one stacks up.
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        Nov 27 2011: Thanks Jah Sun. I see that you created this thread, so I'd like to let you know that I'll post link at OccupyCafe on Econ thread there. http://www.occupycafe.org/forum/topics/a-new-economy-exploring-the-heart-of-sustainability?id=6451976%3ATopic%3A2956&page=1#comments. #Occupy has intrinsic challenge of how to harmonize many voices shouting at once. Wikipedia does it by giving each contributor an equal part in a whole that is built out of unlimited number of people-sized parts, with a reward of being heard. Reconomy is taking much the same tack, with a reward of authority empowered by capital/stock in the creation and thus a voice. Occupy's voices are competing for control of the design of a new global system. Perhaps Reconomy or some other open-source collaboration is a timely solution, but it is not your father's global system but a decentralized model and ironically that is perhaps too unfamiliar for group concensus. We've designed pilots with one almost ready to launch, but are just now beginning to create the platform for an open-source collaboration. The greatest rewards will go to the earliest adopters. Please join us at http://groups.google.com/group/occupy-reconom
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          Dec 1 2011: I checked out your website as well as the thread on OccupyCafe.

          Very interesting stuff.

          Since this thread is winding down, perhaps I will chime in over there when I have some free time.

          Thanks for your links Kevin.

          Be well.
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    Nov 24 2011: Jah Sun,
    OK, there have been a few (very few) fronts of progress. Civil rights has come a long way since Mississippi Summer and the voting rights drives. Perhaps drug epidemics in our inner cities has retreated ( I have no direct knowledge here) perhaps income inequality has advanced for some groups ( women and minorities) however one has to look at the dominate trends across all groups to clear see what is happening here.

    Income disparity has never been greater across the globe. Those big banks and corporations have accepted their bailouts yet don't extent the same to us citizens. How many who have applied for mortgage notifications have actually gotten them opposed to those who have lost their homes? Lets get real about what is actually happening here. Are you a CEO of a corporation? Have you seen your wages and bonuses go up to where the difference between the rank and file and management can be a factor of hundreds of times difference?

    Or take education. Follow the increase costs of tuition and now with an imploded economy those graduating often can;'t find jobs to pay back their massive debts. Recently the University of Oregon's president gave huge increases to his top management when everyone else was asked to take reductions in pay. Finally the board of higher education found the courage to fire the President, and you should see those who benefited standing up for him while all the rest say, its past time.

    Regarding National or environmental security, it has gotten substantially worse over the last 30 years. Yes we use to hide under our desks, but now many rogue countries have nukes? Terrorism was very infrequent back then, and now is off the charts. Who knows what lurks inside that shipping container or what illegal or legal chemicals have been laced through our food?

    This is not a time to be complacent in any way. Yes, often the darkest hour is just before the dawn. However on balance, things are far worse today than 30 years ago. I wish it wasn't
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      Jah Sun

      • +1
      Nov 24 2011: I do not dispute your positions Craig... I am with you all down the line.

      I am just of the opinion that we need to give it our all and do our best not to succumb to defeatism.

      Progressive, pragmatic optimism is not naïveté IME.

      A lot of causes seemed even more hopeless in their day. And yet, MLK, Ghandi, Mandela and more have all had their dreams accomplished. This situation is not more drastic than others in the past.

      There is no denying that things are bad for a large number of people. But, if it wasn't for the hard times and the economic collapse, I doubt you would see an Occupy movement at all... let alone spreading around the world like wildfire. Sometimes things need to get real for people before they throw off their despondency and quit their slacking.

      The facts of economic inequality are indisputable, but it is also true that the average standards of living across the globe have risen tremendously and continually over the last century. Pre WWII Europe had a standard of living along the lines of modern day Ghana... and Africa was like the medieval serfdoms of the pre-Renaissance age. It is easy to see all of this from the lens of middle-class, baby-boomer America. But the world is a bigger place than that demographic.

      Standard of living is actually rising the fastest in Latin America, of all places. Brazil & Costa Rica have not only avoided the recession, but continue to flourish. In fact, on the Happy Planet Index, Costa Rica scored #1 last year.

      Anyway, I am not saying that it doesn't seem like we are going to hell in a handbasket sometimes... just that now is not the time to give up. We need to keep spreading awareness and pushing the masses to wake up. This system is unsustainable, and there is no way we will be practicing it in 200 years.

      So, we need to lay the groundwork for the Utopian future we all hope for. We need to sow the seeds of the future, and not just piss and moan like a lot of my friends do.
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      Nov 24 2011: Oh, and to answer your question:

      Yes, I am a CEO... but of a non-profit for which I have taken no salary or recompense whatsoever.

      We are all-volunteer actually, and still manage to accomplish miraculous things around the world. With over 750 completed projects in over 70 countries... and starting an average of one new one a day, we have helped a huge number of people in a time when I still live basically hand to mouth.

      I am also the President of an indie record label, but I make so little money doing that, that at this point it might as well also be a charity. ;)

      Money is not my priority, but I do hope that all of my endeavors grow and spread out. I measure success in the number of people I can help make happy.

      To this end, we might wind up hiring a publicist or PR firm to help us reach more people and raise more money... at the moment we have no PR budget whatsoever. When this happens we might cease being truly ALL volunteer.

      But with both of my businesses, the core of people involved are all altruists and could all be making a lot more money with their time than they are.

      There you have it. Feel free to check out the website if you have the interest, all our projects are online somewhere and we have 100% transparency.
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        Nov 24 2011: Jah Sun,
        And I agree totally with you. I'm just sensitive to any form of Pollyanna ness, that sometimes I detect from those who say things are getting better. Remember over half the people on the planet live on under 2 dollars a day, hardly a sustainable amount. However I do agree with you that we must move beyond the negative and depressing realities and attempt to create new visions, institutions and models of what constitutes "success". I to haven't been motivated by personal monetary advancement but working on the issues and transitions that will benefit future generations. My fields of work include sustainable forestry, affordable housing and conservation and renewable energy. I would love to look at your website, just let me know how to find it. I applaud your efforts and perhaps one day we might find a way to collaborate and spread the wisdom that money isn't the most important measure of success. Thank you for all you do...
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          Nov 24 2011: The links are in my profile, but for convenience http://watercharity.org and our Appropriate Projects Initiative (small immediate need projects) http://appropriateprojects.com

          I am also interested in your fields of work... feel free to share information or links as you see fit. These things can also be considered part of any real alternative to the current global economic system to some degree.

          Be well Craig.
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    Nov 20 2011: Jah Sun,
    Very well said, I couldn't agree more with your observations. What will it take for critical mass to change the status quo? I wish I knew. I also wish that enlightened self knowledge could become the basis of that transition, but I fear it won't. Those with wealth, power and domination often have the least enlightened self awareness which generally means the transitions will be violent. Gandhi said that poverty is the worse form of violence. While I continue to hope for and attempt to influence a non-violent evolution, I fear we are heading for many violent revolutions. The occupy movement so far have been predominately non violent. However who knows what spark could cause that to change overnight. If only the world could focus on the wisdom of Gandhi when he said, "there is enough for every man's need, but not for every man's GREED'. While greed remains off the charts. I believe we are at a cross road regarding this human experiment on earth. The next 3 - 5 years will determine whether we survive as a species, or not. I'm not saying all will die off, but the trajectory of human population may take a radical turn. Those who live closer to the ground will have less of a fall. Think about it as we surround ourselves with smart phones, smart meters and smart bombs.
    • Nov 21 2011: Maybe the people of the world need to stand up and make it clear that they want enlightened self knowledge to be our focus? Maybe we need to be louder and more constant when we speak against greed?
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      Nov 23 2011: Perhaps we will see a Hundredth Monkey effect...

      I can not quite adopt as pessimistic a view as what you have posted. I recognize that the situation is dire and the odds are seemingly against any rational and progressive solutions... but I have a lot of confidence in the creativity and intelligence of the brightest minds.

      Julia's points above are worth considering as well.

      Before we give up or adopt defeatist attitudes, we should at least try giving it 150%.
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        Nov 23 2011: Jah Sun,
        Perhaps its a function of time involved in these issues. For those of us who have been working for over 3 decades, the pessimism. is well warranted. Particularly when things continue to get worse on all fronts, with little evidence that real solutions are anywhere to be found. Sorry to be a bummer. However an honest accounting has to be the first step.
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          Nov 24 2011: Hey Craig,

          I'm with you on the three decades... but I don't think pessimism is well warranted.

          Things have not continued to get worse on ALL fronts. I've seen a tremendous amount of progress in this time. There are far more people today who are aware of the issues. This awareness has gone up substantially even in the last five years.

          Three decades ago we saw the crack epidemic ravage the inner cities to the point where being black and living in a ghetto gave one a 1% per year chance of being killed violently with almost no hope of ever making it out of the ghetto. [Soldiers on duty in Iraq only have a 0.5% per year chance]

          Three decades ago, the West was still playing a dangerous game of mutually assured destruction with the Soviet bloc, and children were taught to huddle under their desks.

          Three decades ago income inequality was far higher than it is today for women and minorities. The younger generations today are nearly post-racist... especially in the more cosmopolitan multicultural areas of the world. (current right-wing anti-Islam government of the Netherlands aside)

          Look... I'm not going to pretend that things are perfect, or even all that good. On many fronts things are, in fact, worse. But in respect to my "hundredth monkey" comment, we are closer than ever before. The debacles of the economic crash and the subsequent behavior of the corporation and banks has opened a lot of eyes. People who refused to see the slimy workings of our system before, are now coming up to me in droves, wide eyed and mind blown... repeating back to me things I told them many times over the last decades when they refused to see what I was on about.

          Sometimes, not always, the darkest hour Is just before the dawn. Just keep doing your best to spread the information and raise the consciousness.
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    Nov 15 2011: Orlando, My contention is that our so called Institutions of higher learning, corporations and government all for the most part don't have a clue about the causes and effects of their collective actions. My evidence? Show me where anyone has effectively connected 'cause with effects' relative to environmental damage? In forestry a field I'm most involved with, everyone seems to be on board with "restoration' but its totally disconnected from the causes that created the need for restoration in the first place. When I have attempted to suggest that we need to hold monies in escrow for the litany of damages (restoration needs from soil loss threw invasive species, changing dynamics of birds and insects and carbon sequestration that never attains the values it had as an intact old growth forest etc... ) that follow the clear cutting paradigm I'm laughed at. In part because it would hold them ACCOUNTABLE. However if we did hold monies in escrow for all the externalizations and unintended consequences that follow, we could begin to understand the significance of cause and effect. Without it, cause and effect are effectively DISCONNECTED. This is an example of how corporations complicit with education and with research obscure the real effects of our 'management'. Do show me where any corporations who plunder for profit are willing or doing meaningful whole systems thinking and cost analysis? I'd be most interested.
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      Nov 16 2011: Craig,

      Correct me if I'm wrong but I think there are two different things that are being talked about here: (1) the knowledge of ones actions (cause and effect). (2) taking responsibility for these actions (being held accountable).

      I think your wrong in regards to their ignorance of cause and effect. I've already provided evidence for you about that (the depletion of natural resources, profit over everything, etc) and if you want more evidence I'll be happy to give you more evidence without a problem.

      Now, in terms of accountability I think I can agree with you on that one being that laws are created to justify such actions but this has nothing to do with their ignorance of cause and effect.

      So your basic assertion is that if corporate leaders knew the cause and effects of their actions, they would then be compelled to take accountability for their actions? We would hope so but the fact that their actions are protected by laws and the fact that their excessive self-interest is justified by living in a system in which we must continually strive to make money and obtain as much power as necessary really does not support your claim that they are unaware.

      You mentioned "This is an example of how corporations complicit with education and with research obscure the real effects of our 'management'".

      Of course they would. What these corporations and educational systems are doing is fudging the facts to support their own agenda. It has nothing to do with the fact they they are unaware of cause and effect. What is going on with that is that they realize that the public opinion is actually far different than the opinion of the opulent. They have to find a way to satisfy and control the public mind. So by using words like "managing" and "conserving", they are creating an image that would show that they are to a degree "environmentally conscious". This is classic public manipulation.

      BTW: There are many laws that prevent clear cutting in "endangered areas"
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        Nov 16 2011: This is a prescient distinction.

        I too see that the disconnect seems to lie after the knowledge and before the responsibility. Meaning that these businessmen are often aware of the information vis a vis their destructive behavior, but simply unwilling to allow themselves to be held accountable for those actions.

        It is the time honored game of "pass the buck." Like the juvenile version of the game (hot potato), no one wants to get caught holding the bag of sh*t.

        So in the banking crisis, everyone was happy to let Lehman Brothers go down... point accusative fingers at Fannie and Freddie... even blame AIG... anything to avoid taking their share of responsibility.

        This is not ignorance, but rather conscious damage control and attempting to "get away with murder." In Craig's example of the timber industry, I refuse to believe that the executives or the brains they keep in their employ are not smart enough to connect clear-cutting to restoration, soil erosion, desertification, loss of biodiversity and the rest. They would have to be clinically brain damaged. (Actually, that would be insulting the mentally challenged...)

        It is the same old song and dance. Remember the Big Tobacco guys going before the committees swearing up and down they had no idea that cigarettes are bad for people. That wasn't ignorance... that was bald-faced lying. After all, they only took a poisonous deadly nightshade, and then 600 ingredients (most of them even worse for you), and created a product that has over 4000 distinct chemicals in its smoke... all carefully designed to hook people into addiction.

        They put fiberglass in the filters (to replace the old cotton ones) to cut your lungs and allow for greater absorbtion of the poisons... this is an accident? They are poor morons who don't know any better? They just HAPPEN to get ridiculously wealthy off of the slow suicide of their customers...
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      Nov 16 2011: Hi Craig;

      'When I have attempted to suggest that we need to hold monies in escrow for the litany of damages (restoration needs from soil loss threw invasive species, changing dynamics of birds and insects and carbon sequestration that never attains the values it had as an intact old growth forest etc... ) that follow the clear cutting paradigm I'm laughed at.'

      Many permaculture practices are not taken seriously, but people are beginning to understand how vitally important this is if we are to achieve sustainable development. You are clearly ahead of your time, as is everyone who is at the forefront of change. One day you might be surprised, you might hear people repeating back to you the lessons you have been teaching for years, as if it is their own idea! Then you will know, nothing was in vain.

      I think one of the best thing I have read along these talks came from Jah Sun who reminded me that the Berlin wall came down in a day, and Apartheid fell in a matter of days, when I begun to think I would never see either thing happen.
      • Nov 24 2011: Are you really sure the Berlin wall as well as a revolution in 1917 in Russia happen over night? That is right if you watch it from a side probably, I have never seen that from a side. People awaked in another country, even did not by a ticket to. It seemed to be so easy: one big boom and change regime. But do not forget what happen before and after that night. That is years and ages, lives and deaths of our friends (even in Berlin case). TV makes us deaf to all this "small" problems. Everything is possible but it is not a case for trial-and-error method.
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          Nov 24 2011: Hi Serg, of course you are right, the perception that these changes occurred overnight is only a perception. In reality that they are always the result of a long and bitter fight. I think the comment relates more to the idea that although we sometimes think change comes as the long slow process, the turning point, the flash point, can happen quickly.
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          Nov 25 2011: As Joanne has said, no one is denying that a lot of blood, sweat, and tears go into laying the foundation for change, and that the Kodak moment we see on TV is the result of many many years of struggle... the point is more that seemingly impossible struggles have often come to a head and been resolved much faster than anyone could have imagined.

          Even the inner circle of the Kremlin, it seems, were taken by surprise at how fast the Soviet bloc came undone. For those of us who were unaware of the economic situation there, it certainly did seem like an overnight phenomena. But even those in the know would not have bet on a reunified Germany coming so quickly.

          There was very little sign that the South African government was even willing to consider abandoning apartheid before it fell apart. I am pretty sure that Nelson Mandela himself would not have wagered that he would go from prison to president as fast as he did.

          The analogy is that what seems insurmountable and often inconceivable, may be right around the corner. And even those deep in the trenches are often dumbfounded when change finally does occur.

          If you would have asked Martin Luther King on his deathbed if he would even dream that America would have a black president 40 short years later, I'm willing to bet he would've laughed... hard. Shit, I could barely believe it was happening myself in the vastly improved racial climate of 2007.
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      Nov 20 2011: Obviously Craig, the current situation allows for corporations to nearly completely dissociate themselves from the effects of their actions, as well as ignore the communal and ecological aspects of the resources they utilize. Corporations, as they are currently structured, have only a single overriding motivation. They must make profits for their shareholders at all costs. If their earnings charts dip for a quarter or two, heads begin to roll.

      In such a setup, the idea that corporations could be counted on to "do the right thing," or put the needs of the people ahead of their net earnings... is ludicrous. The free hand of the market is used to pick the pockets of those who can't afford to defend themselves. Plants and animals can simply forget about being anything other than assets or obstacles to the almighty profit.

      When humans had a much smaller footprint on this planet, and the resources seemed inexhaustible, this behavior might have been merely greedy and rapacious. In today's climate of 7 billion humans, dwindling natural resources, and collapsing ecosystems... this behavior is downright heinous and psychotic.

      It is in recognition of the obviously suicidal nature of the current global economic (as well as political systems) that this conversation is asking for alternatives. Anything to improve the situation is welcome, but it seems clear that complete overhauls of how we look at wealth & resources are in order... hopefully sooner rather than later.

      The present state of affairs is that of monstrous beasts roaming the land, feeding on everything in sight, and when they step on your house or knock down your place of work... they never even consider picking up a broom and helping with the cleanup. BP is still making profits while the dolphins continue to die and the Gulf is still poisoned.
  • Nov 11 2011: Thanks for your encouragement, Jah Sun.

    Perhaps the big push back to the requirement I'm suggesting for the hypothetical new system would emerge from investors. Few investors are interested in putting their money into a non-growing company. And if sustainability is the goal, where does that put a fledgling company that has yet to fulfill market potential? The requirement I'm suggesting is very coarse and needs significant refinement.

    My sense is that a science based accounting of all earth resources would be necessary to build a framework to make this concept work. Linking monetary currencies to the world's finite resources might be an additional requirement. If one company grows, another must shrink. If one person is paid more, another person is paid less. Our current system suggests this but fiat currencies allow governments to create and destroy money at will. Money today is more of an intermediate abstraction than a tangible reality.

    As consumers it's beginning to dawn on us that there may not be fresh fish at the grocery store in the future because the seas are being over fished. So why should our intermediate, the money, be any different? I am suggesting that by making money infinite in the face of finite resources, it creates an illusion that leads to unproductive behavior.
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      Nov 11 2011: I concur with your observations.

      The accounting of resources idea is part & parcel to the Venus Project's resource based economy. It is logical and intelligent, but the kind of thing that would be easier to do on a small island than on the Earth as a whole.

      Getting all of the world's population (or even a majority of it) to agree to a global resource based system would be beyond a herculean task. I like to think that the humans from 3011 will have evolved to that level, or beyond... but considering how short sighted and myopic most people can, we might just do a global version of Easter Island and not even be here.

      I think some intermediate transitional steps are necessary.

      As you have said, corporations have no motive to play along with such proposals... regardless of how well intentioned they are.
  • Nov 10 2011: improve the quality of life for all of citizens. New mothers will be given the opportunity to raise their children instead of a daycare, the youth of the nation can spend more time attending school, etc....
    On the cost of college tuition that is a result of bad government intereferance by allowing almost all potential students receive a loan. Easy credit is the reason that tuition fees are so high, it was also a huge cause of the housing bubble. If the government made it impossible to get a student loan, and only offered grants to students at community colleges, then most would go to a 2 year college, and soon the private schools and state schools would have to lower their prices or shut down. Since they currently have no competition and since their demographic has has access to nearly unlimited funds ($1 trillion in debt now) why wouldn't these institution charge ridiculous amounts of money?

    Through the measures I mentioned before we would have a truly free market, and we can get there through better taxation and a better usage of the money collected through the taxes.

    Also putting an end to career politicians would help immensely, members of congress do not deserve to be paid $180k a year, nor does the president deserve $400k. Career politicians are probably the worst thing to ever happen to this country.
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      Nov 10 2011: Why not give free education to those who can utilize it?

      Perhaps students could agree that in return for their free education they will spend X amount of years putting their education to work in the economy that funded them... and not simply pull up shop and move to another country.