Money. We use it everyday yet our concept of it is limited. When we talk about money, we talk in terms of what it does, not what it is. Despite our ignorance of money it rules most of our lives. I recently finished a great documentary about money that I would like to share with you. “The Money Fix” goes into the detail of money and describes how our system creates money out of thin air, embeds each of us with a “scarcity complex” and incites competition instead of cooperation.
I described in a previous post how money is created by banks out of thin air. We exist in a debt-money system, using bank account ledgers more often than paper money. The way I had previously explained the concept of money creation the banks create money out of thin air through interest on debt. “The Money Fix” describes this differently. The money of the loan is created – all of it, be it $500 or $5 million – while the interest is “earned” money. When the loan is paid back the created money is canceled by the payment on the principle. But where does the interest come from? More debt.
One year ago I started writing out of passion (and some anger). My how things have evolved! This blog has seen 75 posts in the last year, some of them great, some of them alright, some perhaps less so. I have tried my best to write about the issues important to me: a sustainable society, a healthier planet, a ethcial economy, and a more just world.
I have also learned so much about life, happiness, sustainability, and where I want to be in the world. More importantly, I have learned there is quite a large group of people out there feeling the same way, and we are all beginning to see the division between economic growth and true prosperity. What do you think? I would really value your input on ways I could make this blog better, both in function and in form. Please comment on this post or email me!
Since today marks Steady State Revolution‘s one year blogiversary I decided to take a look at the very first post and revise it with some fresh ideas (and hopefully improved writing skill). Here’s the 75th post on the 1-year blogiversary!
Citizen or Consumer?
Yesterday was the start of the “Christmas Shopping Season.” Aside from the typical trampling of an elderly person at a Wal-mart, this day signifies the beginning of the American Consumer’s busiest time of the year. Between today and New Years we Americans will increase our waste by 25%.
Each year we start sooner and sooner with our Christmas consumption, this year marketers started preparing for the season around Halloween. The average consumer spends about $1,100 a year on gifts, over $800 worth of which is holiday-related purchases. This means 73% of all our gift-related buying is done in the holiday season. That’s a lot of consumption.
Consumerism accounts for a large cog in the economy. Consumption drives the sales of goods, which is incentive to produce more goods. Producing goods is the basis our growth model. In order to grow the throughput (GDP) of our economy, we must increase the production and consumption cycle. What better way to do so than to make it your intuitive nature to spend? What if we could find a way to move people from identifying as themselves, or their jobs, but instead as what they buy? From this the American Consumer is born.
The holiday seasons have a strong connection with families, harvests, and merriment through most of human history. However, today’s holidays have been corrupted – turned into marketing spectacles for the merriment of executive paychecks. Holidays in our growth economy are about increasing consumer spending, buying newer and bigger, getting more and more. They are no longer about family, friends, community, love, life, or happiness.
Take our beloved symbol of the holiday season: Santa. Mr. Claus is played off as a symbol of hope for young children by media. Hope for what? Gifts! Hope for toys! Santa is the unofficial Coca-Cola mascot during the Christmas season, for Christ’s sake! (pun intended)
This holiday season take back the holidays from the greedy corporations! Make Santa a man who gives love and quality family time instead of a new plastic toy! Join those who are choosing this Black Friday to show the world what they truly value: their lives, their families, and their freedom.
Free Your Consumer Shackles, Reclaim Your Citizen Title
Adbusters is “calling for a Ramadan – like fast. From sunrise to sunset we’ll abstain en masse, not only from holiday shopping, but from all the temptations of our five-planet lifestyles.” Join this year’s Buy Nothing Day Campaign.
Go to the farmer’s market for your Thanksgiving dinner this year. Stay home on Black Friday and play games with your kids, or snuggle up with your loved one by a fire. Save yourself from being one of the yearly victims trampled to death at a Wal-Mart. Buy Nothing! Stop Consumerism in it’s Tracks! Why? Because you are a citizen, not a consumer!! You have the power, now use it well. In a market economy your actions show policy makers what you want. What do you want more of: plastic toys or life?
We’re already over consuming this world out of the ability to support life. We’ve already altered the face of the planet so much that it will never be the same for our children. Do you really think more purchases, greed-oriented business practices, and consumer-driven holidays are the answer? No? then don’t let them be the answer! Boycott Black Friday!
We’re hosting a showing on Dec 18th at the Greenwood Senior Center at 7pm (one month from today). The 90 min film will be followed by a short discussion period and activity. Snacks and drinks will be provided and we are asking for a donation of $5 or 3 cans of food for the local food bank. All (monetary) proceeds will go to the No Impact Project and with every donation you are entered into a raffle to win one of 2 pre-release DVDs or 2 No Impact Man books!
The fall of the Berlin wall was a monumental event in history. Interestingly enough it acted as the end of a large-scale governance/economic experiment. Here we have two societies, each with similar backgrounds, but each with drastically different views of government and economics. On one side was placed a highly controlled society and on the other was placed a free market society. The prevalence of the capitalism in this instance was taken as proof of its superiority and also acted to secure it in our minds as they way for the future. However, there have not been any others to step up in competition – even if they would have been allowed socially.
So we are still locked in the same debate – capitalistic democracy or communism/socialism. Note how it is one or the other in this debate; no one seems to question that perhaps neither is the correct form for human prosperity. Given that the two extremes are both unsustainable, and the incredibly unlikely (and perhaps socially unwanted) possibility of a green, benign dictator coming to our rescue, we are ultimately left to our own devices to re-envision government So how do we make this change in the bureaucracies we have established and entrenched in unsustainable growth? How do we transition to a truly beneficial and socially just form of governance?
I would suggest we first ignore the initial pessimistic view (however likely it might seem to be) of a collapse of society in favor of an optimistic view of successfully transitioning without collapse. Why bother? Because the latter option gives us a challenge to work towards while the former option encourages laziness (and, in my case, would significantly increase my drinking habits in order to cope).
At a certain point our society’s leaders realized that in order to continue growing the economy we would have to turn consumers to debt. This is simply the next step in a series of events lead by our growth addiction. You see in order to get bigger the economy needs consumers to consume. However, you can only consume so much before you run out of money – even with raises there is an ultimate limit.
Our growth economy eventually demands more than you can afford. The solution was to simple relax the restrictions on credit and encourage consumers to buy more than they could afford now, assuming that could afford it later. (up until recently these low restrictions were mostly ignored, though not much has really changed)
You too can try this experiment in your house with some simple materials! This is a great short and informative video about neoliberalism, the economic thought that has been triumphed for awhile, that encourages more private economic control instead of public. Of course, we might point out that the economic system is not sustainable – neither ecologically or financially. Enjoy this video:
I know I promised my next post would be back on the topic of the Steady State Economy, but I have anotherwordonclimatechange first. Seriously, this is important stuff – survival of life on Earth sort of stuff. Creating a sustainable economy is crucial to stopping runaway climate destabilization. They go hand-in-hand, as you will see in Leo‘s last point about growth in this video…