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Sep 21 2014

Anti-Capitalist Meetup: An Alternative Economic System. Part One by Diomedes77

(2 pm. – promoted by ek hornbeck)

Think outside the box. Way outside it. That’s the key when it comes to the “vision” thing. Most attempts at vision handcuff themselves to the strange idea that everything must work within the frame of the already done, the conventional, the status quo. Which is strange, given that the desire for change must assume that the status quo isn’t working. That being the case, why would we chain ourselves to it and its (arbitrary) rules?

Okay. So the vision thing in this case is primarily about the way we do business, the tools we use and who benefits. At present, we know that business is set up and structured to rain down benefits on a select few at the very top. Any system that creates the kind of inequality we’ve had since its inception isn’t working, and every single aspect of its structure and reason to be should at least be questioned. At least. Offering an alternative vision is common sense, given the horribly unequal results of the capitalist system, and instead of mocking or dismissing those attempts, it’s long past the time when we should be actively seeking those alternatives.

Money. Money is a strange concept, if you think about it. In the capitalist system, it is a store of value, a form of accounting and a means of exchange. But it is also a fiction. It has no inherent value, at least outside societal and international agreements. The key variable is those agreements, which means, logically, that other agreements could be made instead (there have been so many other kinds of agreements in the past). Again, money is a fiction in the capitalist system. It is printed by central banks all over the world, and virtually all of that is done behind closed doors, without any transparency, and without much rhyme or reason. Our Fed, for instance, a few years ago, printed some 16 trillion dollars and handed it out to banks and billionaires all across the globe. They did this in hopes of avoiding yet another world-wide depression, but still clung to the old ways in that the money went to the richest and most powerful, instead of the people who really needed it.

Money is fiction that works especially well in the real lives of the rich. Right now, roughly $1000 trillion in derivatives trading is being conducted worldwide, with a fraction of a fraction in concrete assets backing this. Even after the crash of 2008/2009, when we should have learned that billions in assets backing trillions in trade is never a good idea, things have actually gotten worse along those lines. And why? Because the fiction of money works so well in reality for the financial elite. They make billions on the fiction, while inequality gets more and more severe.

So, what if we made the fiction work for 100% of the people, instead of 1%? What if we agreed to use common sense when it came to funding what we needed, the ownership of that funding and its distribution? What if we made the fictional world fully accessible to everyone, thus making it, finally, a reality?  

To break down the idea into very small parts, one could start with a family unit. We’ll call them the Share family. Two parents, three children, ages 12, 15 and 17. The parents and their children set up a point system for the family in which chores done earn a certain amount, which can later be redeemed for things like movie tickets, music CDs, pizza and so on. Points can be accumulated for more costly items, too. And since the points are just numbers, there is no limit, theoretically. The only limits in the real world are time and energy, basically. (The five family members sat down before launching this system, hashed it all out and voted for it.) Making the bed and cleaning one’s room earns 10 points. Taking out the trash, 10. Mowing the lawn 20, etc.  The parents keep track of all of this on their computers, with spreadsheets, and they do their best to shop locally so they can keep track of the exchange per store, even per store worker.

The idea takes hold within the neighborhood, and neighborhood families gather and hash out standards for the community. They agree, democratically, that a point has a certain value, is awarded for certain chores, and can be redeemed at certain local stores, only. Because of this agreement, the children no longer have to “cash in” their points with their parents. They can go directly to local merchants who accept the point system. Those local merchants then charge the parents per exchange.

It started with one family and was focused on children and their chores, but the idea works so well, increases sales so much, that it spreads to the entire neighborhood and then to adults and their jobs. Local merchants agree to the point system with their own employees. Per hours worked, they receive a certain number of points, and this is standardized throughout the community. Sales increase, standard of living increases, merchants hire more workers, because the funding for the jobs is now no longer tied to the price points of merchandise sold. Prices can even be dropped to match the point system better, because the price does not have to include cost of doing business plus profit. It’s just a number. It’s now just a means of accounting and matching up points redeemed for each item. The neighborhood, which holds/owns the points in common, matches the points handed out by the employers, and employers can exchange those points for anything they need with each other, too.

As long as there is an agreement among the participants, this works seamlessly. As long as everyone is in on it, this “closed” system works just fine as a means of exchange.

The state finds out how successful this new program is, but some merchants and officials outside that original neighborhood balk at the idea and say it’s illegal. In a democratic hearing, it is decided that the state will beta test this new system, and agrees to the same point system used by the original practitioners. After a few months, the state, too, finds sales and standard of living increase so much, it implements the idea in the public sector too, and is able to cut taxes. Teachers, firefighters and librarians are now paid mostly in points, rather than dollars, and they can exchange those for their needs across the state — and merchants receive commensurate points now from the state as well. People in that state benefit because their taxes have gone down, and fewer and fewer things are paid for with dollars.

Points are, at least theoretically, unlimited, and this gives officials the idea that they could build things for communities across the state using this same system, without having to raise taxes or borrow more money. New hospitals are built. New schools, libraries, roads and bridges. Accounting for this is done locally and state-wide, via computer banks, and when it’s a community purchase, all the information is freely accessible to everyone. The keys to making it work are these, especially:

1. Democratic agreement and buy-in.

2. Points held (owned) in common by everyone in the state.

3. Within the closed system of the state, the link is broken between the price of most merchandise and the revenue stream. The revenue stream now comes primarily from the state, from a commonly held and managed pool of points/numbers, not from the customer. This theoretically frees that state from most limitations on funding for projects, goods and services, or the need for most taxation or debt.

If the entire nation implements this system, then taxes can go away entirely and the revenue stream can be completely separated from individual commercial transactions. I will address the issue of how it works internationally in Part Two.

To be continued next week . . .