The real economy need not suffer in the downfall of the speculative economy

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Douglas Rushkoff tells it like it is in the economy:

the money is itself crap. It’s based on a centralized lending scheme and has no intrinsic value. The Fed no longer even releases the metric telling us how much money is out there.

All this means is that you can’t count on capitalism anymore. Your wealth is not how many paper assets you have. It’s not even how much land you have (or think you have). It’s what you can do. It’s your value to other people.

The real economy need not suffer in the downfall of the speculative economy. If anything, the real economy has been repressed by the speculative economy. Real farmers have been crushed by Big Agra, real druggists have been crushed by Wal-Mart and real transportation alternatives have been crushed by Big Oil and Big Auto.

The opportunity here, while the big boys are down, is to rebuild the genuine, local commercial infrastructure. To make shoes, clothes, food, education, healthcare and everything else we can in a bottom-up fashion.

So if you think I've been generous with money in the past few years, I have been nowhere near generous enough given where I think money is headed. If you think I've spent some time trying to help people working on ways for us all to communicate, I have not spent nearly enough time. If you don't think building web sites will be a useful skill when all the professions for counting and moving and protecting rich people's wealth are also hit, and people have a healthy emphasis on survival, well, damn. Because better communication tools is my ticket out of this for everyone.

Money is just a way to organize people. It's a very useful and sometimes relatively low-friction way. But it's always worked badly when most of it, and control of it, is monopolized by a few. That's how you get lots of people who need things to live better, and lots of people who want to work on things that benefit others, without the capability to meet anyone's needs. We can, and must, organize ourselves differently. Local currencies can be an important part of this. Direct democratic control of key aspects of our infrastructure (water, electricity, internet) will also be necessary.

To paraphrase John McCain, the fundamentals of human survival are strong. Despite the frittering away of vast amounts of scientific and technological research on plastic surgery and vanity toys only a very wealthy few can afford and, for that matter, less-than-productive military destruction, the technical capabilities of our species, and an amazingly strong sense of good will toward one another, means a real possibility for a functioning economy and society based on justice and liberty.

We need ways to coordinate on the smaller scales Rushkoff suggests but also on larger scales. For a portion of this coordination and for coming up with ways to coordinate, we need democratically-moderated horizontal communication. The crucial bottleneck of how much attention we can give to any particular other person or group cannot remain controlled by a selfish few. That's what People Who Give a Damn can and must offer to everyone, to every last one of us people who give a damn.

I've been expecting an economic crash since the 1990s, but other people have written about it a lot more. I had hoped Gore would get in office and stave it off for 8 years while I made PWGD into a real network, and well, the crash didn't come but I didn't get my act together either.

PWGD will arrive. I'm slow, but I don't quit.

Regardless, we will all need to work very hard to put the current crisis in the context of the human story, a story that has meant crisis for most people most of the time, as inequality has robbed the majority of our rightful opportunity to contribute to the public welfare and our own well-being.

Economic crisis tends to show people in dramatic fashion that they share more interests with the lower 98 percent on the wealth scale than the richest two percent. But it also means increased pain and fear that can be directed to scapegoats and any people successfully demonized as "the other." The existing powers that be will tend to favor hatred and fascism, because it is more likely to leave their undeserved and outsized power and privilege intact. We can only communicate in every way we can, above all by example, that co-operation, fair sharing, and respect for each other's freedom is the only way out of this worth taking.

Comments

Tools so the real economy need not fail with the speculative?

Please suggest any resources for real community organization, or simply e-mail if you want me to follow up at some point with what others suggest.

Naomi Klein

covers the macro political situation pretty well:

Free market ideology has always been a servant to the interests of capital, and its presence ebbs and flows depending on its usefulness to those interests.

During boom times, it's profitable to preach laissez faire, because an absentee government allows speculative bubbles to inflate. When those bubbles burst, the ideology becomes a hindrance, and it goes dormant while big government rides to the rescue. But rest assured: the ideology will come roaring back when the bailouts are done. The massive debts the public is accumulating to bail out the speculators will then become part of a global budget crisis that will be the rationalisation for deep cuts to social programmes, and for a renewed push to privatise what is left of the public sector. We will also be told that our hopes for a green future are, sadly, too costly.

Here's a meme that has to spread:

And now that nationalisation is not a dirty word, the oil and gas companies should watch out: someone needs to pay for the shift to a greener future, and it makes most sense for the bulk of the funds to come from the highly profitable sector that is most responsible for our climate crisis. It certainly makes more sense than creating another dangerous bubble in carbon trading.