Summarising our whole system shift for a new economy

Designing a new economy has major challenges politically. We want two major changes that actually aren't politically realistic in the current world where eight individuals own as much wealth as the poorest 50%. There is too much concentrated power.

If we want monetary reform it is unavailable at national level because there are simply too many bank lobbyists in the world's capitals who are spending far too much for any public interest lobbyists to match. Then again, if we want to replace

Then again, if we want to replace income tax with land tax, forget it. Not a goer either from a practical political viewpoint. No self respecting politician will touch it if taxing land reduces its market value and threatens a politician's votes.

What about getting a Basic Income and replacing the intrusive welfare system? Well that depends on how you would fund it. The problem is most of the current solutions are a drag on the economy. You must not fund it from GST which is regressive or from income tax which is a drag on the economy.You must fund it by sharing the rent on land and other monopolies.

Well where do we go then? You have painted a dismal picture.

Most respond by saying "Oh well bring A or B in gradually". That takes ages and moreover when A is implemented it affects B and C. So the idea of just imposing a 1% land tax and bringing it up gradually is quite impractical. We have to think in terms of whole systems. It is a whole system shift we need. Redesign the political economy from scratch.

The fact of the matter is that we must be politically savvy to come up with a solution. Many economists might agree that land tax is the most logical tax, but unless they are standing for office, they don't have to face the public. It is one thing to be an economist and another to be a politician. Victoria University's 2010 Tax Working Group which was stacked with economists from many government departments as well as consultants and academics, proposed a land tax. Did the government listen? Not that I can recall. I don't remember their recommendations on land tax being discussed in the public arena for more than a day.

What about Positive Money and all its followers saying that money should be spent into existence not lent into existence? They make a very good case, you can't fault it. And yes, the British Parliament took it seriously enough to have a parliamentary debate. But do you believe it will go further? You only have to read Nomi Prins book 'All the Presidents Bankers' to get an idea how close presidents have been to the big bankers for over a century. Hilary Clinton's campaign was funded by investment bankers and Trump has six Goldman Sachs bankers in his cabinet. He has already moved to get rid of the weak regulations they now have.

When considering the political feasibility of putting in the idea of Michael Kumhof and Jaromir Benes' Chicago Plan Revisited, a plan making bank debt illegal, Lietaer, Arnsperger, Goerner and Brunnhuber listed five reasons for not recommending it.[1]
"1.Replacing a monoculture with a monoculture is not the way to generate diversity in exchange media.
2. While it is true that a Chicago Plan reform would eliminate risk of widespread banking crashes and of sovereign debt crises, there would still be monetary crises.
3. If governments were the only ones in charge of creating money there might be a risk of inflation. Such a risk is real and demonstrated in 2009 by the hyperinflation crippling the Zimbabwean dollar after President Mugabe instructed the central bank to print its currency by the trillions.
4. The fourth reason can be summarised as ‘political realism’. Any version of the Chicago Plan will be fought to the death by the banking systems because it threatens both its power base and its business model. Even after the excesses triggering the 2007-8 collapse, or in the middle of the Great Depression of the 1930s, the banking lobby managed to deflect the implementation of any significant changes. In 2010, for every elected official in Washington, there were three high-level lobbyists working full-time for the banking system. The financial services industry including real estate spent $2.3 billion on Federal campaign contributions from 1990 to 2010, which was more than health care, energy, defence, agriculture and transportation industries combined." (In USA, according to Gar Alperovitz, in 2010-11 the FIRE section (finance, insurance, real estate) section spent nearly $1 billion in lobbying against bank regulation.)

"5. The final argument is about risk. Nationalising the money creation process cannot be done on a small pilot scale. It must be implemented on a massive, national scale or, in the case of the euro, a multinational scale. Any change always involves the risk of unintended consequences. Logically, large scale change involves greater risk."

Yes, there is a way to go. The ideas came from the permaculture teachers in our new economics movement. Reform the very structure of governance to give quite substantial powers to  local government, turn governance upside down as well and then we might have a chance. The centralised governance structure must be replaced with distributed governance. Then we need to rethink the powers given to or claimed by local governance. In fact central government is not going to give very local government big powers like money creation, land ownership or revenue raising power, so they have to claim it themselves. This is where rebellion must be focussed. 

So we have proposed spending money into existence at the very lowest level of government (in New Zealand that would be the Community Board). That money will gradually buy up land. The Community Board would then receive land rent from the property holder and pay the rates (local taxes) of that property holder. This process happens gradually, while closely monitoring inflation. If there is a sign of inflation, the rate of decay of money can be adjusted or the money spent at a higher level of governance.

So the Community Board claims the right to issue money, to buy land with that money, to receive public revenue. It could also impose certain resource rents to be determined.

With the growing revenue from land rent the Board would be able to distribute regular Citizens Dividends and build and maintain essential infrastructure.

There would have to be participatory budgeting so that the balance between infrastructure and dividends was maintained and the public was behind the Board.

Now if we are going to reclaim the right to issue money, we might as well design it properly while we have the chance. It is there we look to history and read Bernard Lietaer. He cites a period of 2000 years of a decaying Egyptian currency which had huge social, educational and economic benefits, 200 years of European currencies in the central middle ages that resulted in an age of prosperity, equality, high education and more leisure and finally a period in 1932-3 in a small Austrian town during the Great Depression. Each of these had a decaying currency, much as goods decay.

So the new money would be designed to decay. In practical terms, it would keep its face value but attract a regular payment to keep it valid. The local Board would develop a more equal relationship with its local Council who would inevitably end up accepting the new currency for rates. This would eventually pass on to central government who would have to accept it for taxes.

So what we propose is a new currency that soon is accepted by central government for taxes. This means it is a new national currency. They way this works out is that each local board keeps its currency from inflation so all are on a par. They flow into a stream that flows into a river towards central government.

John Fullerton on the Regenerative Economy

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Occasionally you strike a book or long article that you really want to pay attention to. For me I have discovered John Fullerton's white paper called Regenerative Capitalism How Universal Principles and Patterns will Shape our New Economy. It is 120 pages long and very dense, dated April 2015.

I found Fullerton through watching a large part of After Fossil Fuels The New Economy, a filmed seminar from Oberlin College, Ohio held in early October. (Try 1 hour 5 mins into this particular section, as it is long) I was excited because here was someone saying what we have been saying. I knew that people rarely are the sole inventors of new ideas. He wrote we need to design an economy according to nature's principles. He knows that creativity and regenerative potential happens at the edges, a teaching from permaculture. He even quotes evolutionary biologist Elisabet Sahtouris.

He appeared with Juliet Schorr, a sociologist, former economist, who agreed with him yet reminded him that power and conflict must not be omitted and that one must not be attached too strongly to a metaphor.

When I looked at his acknowledgements I got quite excited. Here was a former JP Morgan banker listing Fritjof Capra, Janine Benyus, Hazel Henderson, David Korten, Thomas Berry, Buckminster Fuller, Jane Jacobs, Dana Meadows, EF Schumacher and Gar Alperovitz. Reading the text over the next few days I found he even knew a little of Bernard Lietaer and Elinor Ostrom and his scientific advisor is engineer Sally Goerner a student of flow and energy network sciences. She taught him about the optimum balance between efficiency and resilience. Goerner was a co-author with Bernard Lietaer in their Club of Rome book on Money and Sustainability.

Reading Charles Eisenstein's book Sacred Economics was punctuated for me with long pauses while I digested one amazing sentence after another. Fullerton had this same effect on me in that he was articulating ideas only half formed in my mind, and doing so with such eloquent language. Then again, because he is qualified in finance and business, I learnt from his perspective. People who have voluntarily opted out of Wall Street to think and read and explore new ideas are very precious to the new economy movement and Fullerton is one of these.

John Fullerton has outlined eight principles for what he calls a Regenerative Economy and has expanded them in his white paper. He says his experiences with regenerative entrepreneurs as well as his exploration of systems theory, biomimicry, ecology and the physics of flow networks has led him to this list. Briefly, an economy must be or must demonstrate:

1. In Right Relationship – realising we are part of an interconnected web of life.
2. Views Wealth Holistically – realising there are multiple forms of capital.
3. Innovative, Adaptive, Responsive. This applies to individuals, businesses, society, governments and is the way for maximum fitness. It means the end of rigid hierarchical systems that control today’s centralised states.
4. Empowered participation. Everyone matters and the health of any human economy is dependent on everyone’s unique contribution to the health of the whole.
5. Honours Community and Place. Diversity and richness are essential to system vitality. Each human community embodies a mosaic of traditions, beliefs and potentialities, each uniquely shaped by long-term pressures of geography, history, culture, environment and changing human needs.
6. Edge Effect Abundance. The most innovation and abundance of life happens at the edges of systems e.g where rivers meet the ocean.
7. Robust Circulatory Flow. "Just as human health depends on robust circulation of oxygen, nutrients etc, so too economic health depends on robust circulatory flows of money, information, waste, resources, goods and services to support exchange, flush toxins, and nourish every participant at every level of our human networks."
8. Seeks Balance. There is a delicate balance between resilience and efficiency. Small, diverse and flexible will lead to stagnation while big, efficient and focused will lead to collapse. There is a window of vitality half way.

He doesn't really address tax reform in a big way, or the need to share the rents though he appears to have read Peter Barnes. He approves of progressive taxation, financial transaction tax and wants aggressive inheritance taxes. So there is  more thinking to be done there. Like many others he probably conflates land with capital. Yes university teaching has been very successful in getting rid of land as a factor of production. Well done neoclassical economists – your strategy worked brilliantly. 

I think he would love to read Silvio Gesell's book The Natural Economic Order to learn about the design of naturally circulating money. That would set him thinking. And perhaps some of Lietaer's books, particularly where he describes how Gesell's ideas were put into practice in Dynastic Egypt, Central Middle Ages and in Great Depression towns in Europe.

Oh, and how he would love to read Reinventing Organisations by Frederic Laloux!

Deirdre Kent

@deirdrekent