Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Banking system is not the economy..painting a new picture

Here’s a reality—if every piece of paper called money disappeared tomorrow, the economy would still be here. That’s because the economy represents the activities necessary to live life—and these activities are going to happen whether there’s money or not. Yes, money is a tool that can help us facilitate the activities of life…but it isn’t a situation of money first, economy/activities of life second.

However, part of the reason we’re in such chaos right now is that we have created a world that put money/credit first and economy/necessary activities to sustain life second.

You can see this happening right now as we are bailing out the banks. We have this delusion that this is necessary so the economy can run. But if every bank collapsed and vaporized into outer space tomorrow, people would still get up, find a way to feed themselves, put a roof over their head, clothes on their backs, teach their children how to read, write and create. We would create barter systems, local ‘currency’ options and other ways to get our basic needs met. And it is because of this that it is necessary that we confront this reality—and put the focus on strengthening the economy instead of strengthening banks and enslaving ourselves to the mistaken belief that it is because of money that we have an economy.

Money is a tool that can assist an economy but we’ve somehow let those who control the money convince us that without money we wouldn’t get up every morning and live. I’ve got to eat whether there’s money or not. I can grow my own. I can join a CSA (community supported farm) and trade my time/effort in the field for food, etc. Money isn’t the key for me to have food—it’s the ‘activity to produce’ that’s key—and that’s the economy. I don’t have to sit around and wait for a piece of green paper to tell me to do this!

This current banking/credit crisis is a fantastic opportunity for us to examine how out of whack our world has become in relation to money and the economy. Then we can take the steps necessary to build an economy based on real life and not on the delusion that money is more valuable than real life.

At the same time, there’s another major factor that’s going to force us to transform the economy/money issue. Yes, the credit/banking crisis is one impetus but global warming is the other. Global warming and a consumer economy are running straight into each other—and the outcome isn’t going to be pretty. Maintaining our current consumption levels throughout the world will result in environmental collapse. So, let’s stop trying to maintain status quo and create a real wealth economy instead.

An economy is all the activities that we engage in order to live life. We currently limit the definition of our economy because of how we have connected the economy to money. As a result, we measure and value only a small portion of the activities that are needed to live life—just the one’s we’ve attached a monetary value to. And there in lays the opportunity---to expand the definition of the economy by expanding the activities that we measure and attach a monetary value to include what’s now overlooked. Welcome to a full spectrum economy! Currently we measure the market, government and illegal activities—but to this we will begin adding the household, volunteer and natural/environmental sectors—areas of life where the grand majority of activities of life take place but we exclude in our measurements and have attached no monetary value to at this time. But here’s the interesting thing--the UN estimates the value of the household and unpaid volunteer work at over $11 trillion a year and economists have valued the natural sector at over $33 trillion! Now, that’s a thriving economy.

Beyond fear:
Right now, because 70% of our measured economy is based in consumption, a lot of people are sitting in fear. They can see that their jobs and livelihood would be under threat if we begin to transition away from a consumer economy. But if we begin to build a full spectrum economy and add in these new sectors—it can be done with the conscious understanding that this means a large number of people will need to be making a transition into these new sectors. Because we know we’re doing this—it means it doesn’t have to be a ‘crash the old system/create chaos’, but could instead be a proactive, supportive process of transition—acknowledging that this supportive transition makes sense for us all!

The current banking system thrives/depends on a consumer, credit/debt driven economy. We can already see that as the banking system shrinks, it chokes off the capacity for unlimited consumption. So the transition has begun. What’s missing though is that we have yet to bring forth the new sectors into the system and that’s the discussion that needs to be on the table now. We need leadership and world-wide awareness. As this happens we can put our attention instead to building up new sectors of the economy and assisting people who currently work in the consumer system to transition over to this new full spectrum economy that depends less on consumption and more on real life necessities.
This is a conscious act that a world wide global forum could facilitate.

New ways of thinking: Real life economy.

Yes, consumption is still going to happen—but it doesn’t have to be 70% of the economy. In a full spectrum economy, the new sectors of household, volunteer actions and the natural sector all become measured and monetarily attached.

For example—volunteer work comprises massive quantities of time and energy of people throughout the country and the world. That activity can be measured and monetized on a local economy level. So a person who volunteers at schools or nursing centers or in the city parks would ‘bank’ these hours in a Community Credit system that would be tradable within the community she lives in. Community Credits would be accepted at all local restaurants for say, half the bill. Or Community credits could be traded for a massage, a counseling session or a “flex car” hour so she can drive to visit a friend. In this way a full spectrum, local economy can thrive.

Another example: as the car industry goes into a tailspin, we assist people working in those industries to move over into the new, environmentally driven mass transit industry. There will be thousands of good paying jobs that can be created as we build the rail lines for light rail, ferry boats along rivers, more bikes, bike paths, Flex-car systems, and tech systems that not only to make efficiency of the system at the ground level, but enable people to interact/use the system to their best value too.

Or the construction industry—while we’re sitting on a glut of houses there are thousands of jobs that could be created for retrofitting our houses to become energy independent. Windows using the latest technology to ensure that they are as warm in the winter but cool in the summer and need as little extra energy for warming/cooling as possible. Solar and wind retrofitting of the 200+ million houses and apartments in the US would employ thousands more—not to mention the solar and wind industries exploding to make the materials necessary.

Or the food industry. Right now we have a highly concentrated food industry that enables a small system to feed large populations—but it also requires tons of energy. A great economic driver for every region of this country would be the development of a regional food system. This would employ thousands in small farms, farmers’ markets and food production facilities. Restaurants could thrive in this system. Communities with thriving local food systems also end up increasing connections among the people who live there—an especially wonderful event for our children to see and participate in too.

Or Education—not the current education system which is designed for the 20th century but a 21st century education system that is based in optimal human development. Right now, our system teaches a lot about subjects we rarely use, but very little about how to build healthy, whole and dynamic lives. A big example of this is that most high school or college graduates have no idea how the money system works! How could we spend 12-16+ years in school and yet be so ignorant? But we are and that is one major factor as to why this financial crisis could happen with very few people even realizing or understanding it! Building a 21st century education system would employ thousands of people because we could create schools that are full spectrum community centers where education will become a life-long learning process. Within this 21st century education system will be a huge connection to technology, travel industries, film and television and all sorts of other businesses that will participate and support a life-long education system.

Medical: our current system is a mess. Millions of people live in fear of becoming ill and ending up bankrupt! The move to a Universal Health care system that employs thousands of people would enable us to shift our system into prevention—something that currently doesn’t happen because the profit driven medical system (profits mainly to the insurance companies) makes more money by us being sick than well. That’s a failed system and it can change. A Universal health care system would link with the education system and provide health care/prevention education within the system to enable people to choose this career path without going into massive debt. In exchange for this education, they work in a system that manages costs and pays them a sufficient income—but also enables them to build a prevention/whole health medical system. Universal health care doesn’t preclude anyone from going into private practice—but they would then pay back the system for their medical education while others in the system would not.

I could go on and on but here’s the bottom line—there’s plenty of work to be done to create a world where humans thrive and achieve optimal development and we are all needed to play a part in it. A full spectrum economy is possible.

It’s about life—not money.
At the same time that we’re moving away from the consumer/credit/debt driven economy, we also need to give ourselves permission to address the issue of our work/life schedules. In the new economy, instead of the intensive work schedules from ages 20-65 and then a full stop into retirement, it is time to appreciate that this current schedule works against us, our children, our families, our communities and the world. We’re in such a rat race pace while raising our children that we barely get to know them! We’re all so exhausted, having little time to foster good marriage relations and community involvement. It’s time to recognize this and change it. Let’s abolish retirement while instituting the 4 day/28 hour work week throughout our lives—thus enabling us to have the time to live life throughout our entire lives! As we move into our 70’s, we might trim these hours a little more still—but we stay engaged in the economy until or unless we are so impaired that we can’t work. Then, as we look at ‘saving’ for our elder years, it isn’t something we’re rushing to do and worrying about throughout our younger years—we realize that we’ll be fine into our older years because we will still be working.

From the Rule of Gold…to the Golden Rule.
Somehow along the way, we’ve created a world where we believe that ‘making money on making money’ is the center piece of our economy. But the present financial meltdown shows the fallacy of this system. It’s left us bankrupt on the financial level—its done so on the moral and spiritual level too. As we moved into this money driven system intensively over the last 50 years, we got separated from life and let our economy become run by the money instead of life. The Rule of Gold has taken over—he who has the gold makes the rules. So, we all started chasing the gold and it has become the primary value system that has left us without life. We convinced ourselves that two cars, big houses and tons of stuff were worth the exchange for money to buy this stuff—even at the expense of knowing our children, our neighbors, our community. This scenario is reflected is what could be termed M3P. Money, Property, Possessions and Power—that represent what we think we need in a world that operates with a dominator value system attached to money.

The Golden Rule—do unto others as you would have done unto you—is the one tenant that is present in every spiritual denomination and provides the foundation for a value system that we’ve always understood—caring for ourselves and each other. As we begin this transition from a consumer economy, the new value system could be termed M3C: Material needs, Conscious living, Creativity and Caring where the primary value is caring for humans and the planet. Building a real wealth, full spectrum economy based on this value system ensures a healthy economy that works, enables us to design vibrant lives and live with respect to the earth and all its inhabitants.

How do we fund it? Well, there’s an available tool, called money that would help us facilitate this process. Only, instead of using the old banking system (which is in collapse due to their own excesses), it is time to employ the backing of the ‘full faith of the American people’ and enable the government to issue money directly into these transition industries and new systems. This would interrupt the current credit/debt system that the private banking system has strangled us with and enable us to issue funds to businesses with the interest payment returning to the government and the American taxpayer. In this way, instead of taxing ourselves individually, we would generate income through all these “Public Utility Enterprises’ (PUE) paying back interest on these investments by the government/us. Taxes would go down across the board and possibly eliminated all together. (And if you think this is crazy, there are already several small countries where this public banking system has been utilized for years. Citizens have never had to pay taxes out of their own income—it is sourced through the economy—people working in activities that enable life to occur!)

So for example, the US gov’t invested $700 billion into the solar, wind and retrofit industries for our houses. This would fund the start up and/or expansion of thousands of small local businesses who would work in these fields, being paid for their services. They would pay interest on these loans and that interest would return to the public coffers. The government would have a small stake in each of these PUEs with the caveat that over time—say 3 years, if the PUE is successful in repaying its loans, the employees would have the option to ‘buy out’ this government stake and become owners of this enterprise. At the same time, these companies would maintain a 1-7 balance between new entry employees and highest management in order to prevent the excessive executive pay scales that have lately become the norm whereby even when they fail, executives receive massive bonuses!

We also have the option to create local currency which is traded within a local region. This is legal and is already being done throughout the world. To this can be added the Community Credit system, The Community Credit system enables a local economy to support the volunteer/non-profit sector through a business, volunteer, individual linked system that ensures a strong thriving local economy around real life needs.

We can do this!

Many will say, “But the government doesn’t know how to run anything—it has to be private business.” But let me remind you that the brightest minds in the private system have brought the world banking system to its knees and sparked a world-wide depression. The argument that the government/people of the US could do any worse would be hard to sustain. In fact, there’s a great argument for doing this because it is connected to a plan based on supporting real life. We all gain as we build this new economy based around enterprises that will provide for optimal human development—life! We’ve handed over $700 billion to a system that is dedicated to maintaining the status quo. Now, let’s walk away from that and invest $700 billion into regional food systems, Universal health care, energy efficient/oil independent industries, dynamic schools and communities, transportation systems that let us all move around while protecting the environment, etc. We can have a thriving, full spectrum economy that works for us all—instead of a banking system that works for a few.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Be proactive during these changing times

The old Chinese saying "May you live in interesting times" is certainly a blessing we can all say we've received this year! The elections have sparked lots of dialogue about racism, sexism and a future of change beyond the 'white-male dominated' politics; global warming and the "WE" campaign's call for the US to become oil independent in the next 10 years forces us to recognize that oil has an involvement in every aspect of our lives and with oil is running out change will be necessary; and the financial meltdown on Wall Street coupled with fears of a looming recession all can be pointed as evidence that 2008 will go down as one of those turning point years that just might change the world forever.

Isn't that wonderful? Others may review that list with great angst and trepidation, but a Life Puzzle-maker would know that these challenges offer great opportunities for expanding one's life and view of the possibilities of the world we can create. And that's the key here--change is normal and welcomed!

Stop and think about it--change is all we've ever experienced on this planet. Humans in their current 'modern' stage have been on this planet for at least 35,000 years--and if you accept Neanderthals as an even earlier form of humans--we're looking at 200,000 years. We have changed physically, intellectually, and culturally throughout this time line. So, why would we resist a new wave of change?

Here's the good news.....while an oil dependent, consumer economy, and white male dominated politics have had a solid 250 year run, it's clear that this system has about run through its value to the human species. Which means there's an opportunity for us to transform these old systems into a new system. What's incredible though is that due to education, technology and consciousness--this time we can be proactive, responsible and create a world that enables humans and the planet to be respected and reach their "optimal" whole.

And that's what I would recommend you focus on--solution vs. the problem. Yes, it is easy in these highly chaotic, changing times to see all the negative--but as a Life Puzzle-maker, it behooves you to focus on the new--this vision will enable you to lead the way forward. There has never been a more necessary time to be a proactive, conscious, self-responsible, empowered person focused on creating a whole life!