Posts Tagged ‘barter’
by stuartbramhall in The Global Economic Crisis
An interesting BBC feature about a flourishing Greek town. They have plenty of money because they have their own local currency – the TEMS.
If video fails to play go to free link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9y9R0v96K48&feature=youtu.be
A Video About Greek Time Banks
A second BBC video about Greek time banks, where services are exchanged without money:
From the Wall Street Journal
Also check out a fascinating article (from the Wall Street Journal Market Watch, no less) about all the countries (including the US) that are setting up barter systems and local currencies in their determination to alleviate the human misery causes by the global economic crisis:
“China, France, Ireland and other countries are seriously examining the feasibility of launching their own government sponsored barter systems. On December 8, 2011, The City of London released a report titled ‘Capacity Trade and Credit: Emerging Architectures for Commerce and Money’ with the goal of creating a barter hub of sorts for Europe in London. In the U.S. more than twelve states have legislation pending to create State currencies to serve as an alternative to the currency distributed by the Federal Reserve and commercial banking system.” Link to Full Article
Re-introducing the Drachma as a Complementary Currency
And James Skinner’s A dual-currency solution to the Greek debt crisis, with a a proposal to address Greece’s money shortage by keeping the euro and re-introducing the drachma as a complementary currency:
According to Skinner:
“Like water, money is the magic liquid that enables humans to create prosperity out of natural resources. Without water, fertile soil and the plants that grow in it can only dry up and die. Without money, humans sit idle and watch their economy wither and die. Equally, too much money or too much water will cause devastation instead of prosperity. Greece is suffering from a lack of money because the only source, the single currency, has dried up. But there is no law that states that there has to be only one currency.”
by stuartbramhall in End of Capitalism, Sustainability, The Global Economic Crisis
This is the third of a series of posts discussing the likelihood that capitalism is on the verge of collapse and what a post-capitalistic world might look like.
Marx predicts that the collapse of capitalism will be followed by either socialism, characterized by full political and economic equality, or “barbarism,” his term for brutal totalitarian feudalism. Richard Heinberg of the Post Carbon Institute offers three possible scenarios for post-capitalistic society (see “How Climate Change and Resource Scarcity Threaten Democracy” at http://stuartbramhall.aegauthorblogs.com/2010/10/27/how-resource-scarcity-threatens-democracy/). The first is totalitarianism; the second a somewhat more liberal “Green New Deal” that preserves class society; and the third the break-up of large nation states into small, democratically-run regional units. However unlike Marx, Heinberg predicts that any totalitarian governments that form will be short lived. He believes that global resource depletion will make it impossible to maintain the large centralized police and intelligence networks required to maintain totalitarian control over large populations. Thus the collapse of the global capitalist economy will cause large empires and national-states like the US, Russia and China to break up into smaller regional units, as occurred during the Middle Ages following the collapse of the Roman Empire.
As a passionate advocate of participatory democracy, I strongly believe that the people living in post capitalistic communities will determine for themselves how they will operate. Nevertheless I believe we can predict some features of the post-capitalist world – namely the ones forced on us by resource scarcity and catastrophic climate change. As a psychiatrist, what I’ve always hated most about capitalism is the way it destroys human potential. It has always seemed brutally unfair to deny certain population groups access to adequate nutrition, education, and health care and then arbitrarily write them off as inferior human beings. Thus I’m most interested in the ability of these small regional communities to reclaim “the Commons” – an expression referring to communally shared access to the basic necessities of life, as well as more intangible human needs, such as education.
Will Capitalism Degenerate into Feudalism?
Following the collapse of the Roman Empire, Europe broke up into small regional units (city-states). These were eventually seized as personal property by aggressive feudal lords, who enslaved the other occupants to work their land for them. Yet history suggests that regional feudalism is a very impermanent social structure. Peasant revolts against feudal lords were incredibly common and could only be suppressed by merging city-states merged into nation-states, run by kings who formed large national armies to enforce stability. As Heinberg suggests, maintaining large nation-states and empires requires guaranteed access to resources (food, energy, metals and other raw materials for weapons and telecommunications systems) that are rapidly being depleted.
Unlike the Bolshevik Revolution, which had the immense resources of the Tsarist empire at its disposal, most of the small, regional units that emerge following the collapse of global capitalism will be forced to rebuild themselves from the ground-up. They all have the potential to be built according to democratic and egalitarian principles, though this is by no means guaranteed.
A study of early New England efforts to govern via “town hall” direct democracy reveals that self-governance is always more effective in small groups and communities. Early colonists found that once authority shifted from the town to state and eventually federal government, ordinary people lost the ability to have input into decision making. They could only elect representatives, without any ability to ensure the individuals they chose would actually represent their interests.
Reclaiming the Commons
“The Commons” is a historical concept present in all cultures that views certain property, material goods and intangibles (such as the air people breathe and the public airwaves used to transmit radio and TV) as belonging to the community as a whole to be managed in a way benefiting the public interest, rather than that of a particular individual group. The eighteenth century (British) Enclosure Act is considered the watershed event enabling individual and corporate interests to take precedence over the pubic good. Under the Enclosure Act, the landed gentry banned peasant farmers from raising crops or grazing on the “village commons,” which now became “enclosed” as the gentry’s private property. Subsequent enclosure laws enabled early capitalists to drive even more farmers off communal land to build factories.
Many communities around the world have already made a good start in reclaiming “the Commons” from the corporate elite. In some American towns and cities, this entails taking over functions state and local government have ceased to perform, owing to major budget difficulties. Examples include local citizens groups who have successfully fought corporate infringement on their communities (for example, protecting their water supply against bottled water companies seeking to drain their aquifers or giant agricultural conglomerates who threaten to pollute their ground water by building massive factory farms – see http://www.landstewardshipproject.org/programs_factoryfarms.html and http://www.thealliancefordemocracy.org/water/). Other examples include citizen groups who have opted out of the corporate banking and food production system by taking responsibility for these services themselves – by creating community and state banks, local currencies and bartering systems, as well as community gardens and orchards, farmers markets and community supported agriculture schemes.
Communities that have created these bottom-up community networks via Transition Towns and similar sustainability initiatives already have a well-functioning democratic, egalitarian infrastructure in place when the corporate infrastructure collapses.
To be continued.
by stuartbramhall in Going Non-Corporate, Sustainability, The Global Economic Crisis
Much of the work that went into the Voluntary Simplicity and Y2K movements (see prior blogs) has been incorporated into Transition Towns and other sustainability-related movements. There are now literally millions of groups worldwide focused on some aspect of bioregional sustainability. The most visible evidence of their success are the blossoming of home veggie gardens, urban community gardens and orchards and farmers’ markets; the 1,040 cities and towns (nearly 1/3 of the US population) which have signed onto the Kyoto accord; and the 125 communities voting to place citizens’ above corporate rights (see http://www.tikkun.org/article.php/jan2011kanner).
One of the most important factors in this success is the ability of the sustainability movement to address apathy and alienation head-on, by reengaging people in neighborhood and community life. For many people, local civic engagement leads on to re-engagement in the political process. I would never argue that progressives should focus on local community building to the exclusion of critically needed government reforms. Corporate lobbies still have the ability to overturn local and state laws in the courts by claiming that they violate alleged constitutional rights. Thus organizing to end so-called constitutional protections for corporations (which clearly run contrary to the intent of the founding fathers) – either through federal legislation or constitutional amendment (www.movetoamed.org) must be an extremely high priority. At the same time, I see the neighborhood and community sustainability networks playing a pivotal role in building strong grassroots lobbies to tackle banking reform, restoring of civil liberties or ending the wars in the Middle East.
The Basics of Sustainability Organizing
Sustainability-related work can be broken down into concrete, achievable steps, which also lends to its appeal. In preparing for the End of the World as We Know it, Y2K activists predicted local communities would need to prepare for breakdowns in the following services:
- Global commerce (food imports being the most crucial)
- Water and energy utilities
- Waste removal systems
- Telecommunications, Internet and mass media
- Financial institutions
- Transportation systems
- Governance and government services
- Health Care
- Institutions and agencies responsible for education, justice, manufacturing and security
In most places, organizers have found it easiest to begin with food, water and energy security – in part because they are most critical to human survival. However the bioregional economic network established as a first step in addressing food, water and energy security can also be used to prepare for breakdowns in other systems. For 99.9% of human existence people have relied on a bioregional economic model in which they have sourced the vast majority of their food and other essentials for life within a 100 mile radius. The process of re-creating this network is very helpful in learning to shift our thinking away from relying on national and multinational corporations to meet our needs.
Although the sustainability movement receives little attention in the mainstream media, it has it has been quietly building for nearly two decades – often with the support of state and local government (it receives the most state support in California). In Europe it receives national and EU support. The following is just a small snapshot of local accomplishments around energy, food and water security.
FOOD AND WATER SECURITY
- Increased local expertise in permaculture and biointensive agriculture techniques, as industrial fertilizers and insecticides (manufactured from fossil fuels) become unavailable and/or prohibitively expensive.
- De-paving – digging up private and public driveways and parking lots and replacing them with backyard veggie gardens and community orchards and gardens. In addition to improving food security, this restores watersheds by reducing run-off, a major threat to water security in the industrial world.
- Lawn liberation – replacing lawns and ornamental trees and shrubs with fruit and nut trees and veggie gardens.
- Support of local farmers through farmers markets and Community Supported Agriculture Schemes (in which residents “subscribe” to weekly deliveries of fresh veggies and fruit).
- Neighborhood and municipal systems of rainwater collection and purification and gray water collection
- Adoption of active run-off management plans, in which lost groundwater is measured and minimized in development planning – and replaced, for example via the Blue Alternative (in which groundwater is replaced by digging small catchment pools in open spaces).
- Reduced fossil fuel dependence in transportation:
o Beginning work to create local consumer-farmer/consumer-retailer networks, including state and locally owned banks, credit unions and cooperatives. Given that local businesses struggle to compete (their costs and prices tend to be higher) with national and multinational corporations, this can be facilitated via the creation of local barter systems (example from Greece at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-12223068) and/or local currencies, such as Ithaca hours, that can only be spent locally.
o Community and municipal initiatives to increase public and active transport (cycling and walking) through urban planning that incorporates growth management and sprawl reduction, creation of urban villages where residents live closer to essential services, and restricted permiting of malls and big box retailers (Portland and Vancouver, British Columbia are excellent examples).
o Community and neighborhood street reclaiming initiatives to make streets safer for people to use cars less and walk and cycle more.
o Increased uptake of car sharing schemes, employing efficient electric or hybrid vehicles or those run on regionally produced biomass fuels.
- Reduced home/business fossil fuel dependence:
o State, local and power company subsidies for home insulation schemes and solar water heaters.
o Subsidies and reduced permit fees for Green Building (buildings purpose-built to be energy/water/waste self-sufficient).
o State and local regulations and subsidies (as per German model) to increase distributed energy systems based on alternate energy sources (solar, wind, tidal, etc).
o Active promotion of Open Source computer and information technology.