What if you could walk into a store, pick up any and every item that you needed, and walk out without being charged a cent — all above-board, legal, fair, and the socially accepted norm?
What if you had the leisure and security to use your time doing things that you enjoy or even that you love, knowing that you’ll be compensated and your work will benefit others?
What if, when you wanted to treat yourself or your loved ones or friends to something extra special, there were an easy way to gather the means to afford it by doing work that benefits your community?
What if you had limited but affordable access to life’s luxuries that were formerly the exclusive domain of the uber-rich?
And what if you had coverage for accidents and misfortunes that didn’t cost you a cent and whose drain on society was negligible compared to the profiteering scam we now know as “insurance”?
Would life be a less stressful, happier experience then?
There’s a way… It just requires some imagination and willingness to rethink assumptions that in fact have very little basis in fact.
The experiment: True growth as the un-economy of abundance
This experiment in creative economics explores what happens if we reverse many of our anti-human assumptions.
Reversing basic assumptions tends to trigger initially incredulous reactions. Before we’ve explored an idea, our “but that can’t work” reactions are obviously uninformed and should be deferred until after we’ve thoroughly considered the idea’s implications and at least tried it out on small scales.
All we need for this experiment is a willingness to consider an un-economy on the basis of reversed assumptions and enough imagination to envision, hypothesize, and explore what it would be like to live in one.
So, here are the assumptions on which my vision of a true growth un-economy of abundance rests:
- Community of cooperative culture
- Voluntary participation — not necessitated, obligatory, or coerced
- Reliance on transparency, not threat
- Competition avoided as a non-value-added cost (being an ironically sterile attempt to control further cooperation)
- Decentralization of transaction system for: development/improvement (open source); system management (mesh networked, consensus administration); and system rules/agreements (consensus decision) — i.e., organic, self-organizing, self-governing, not authoritarian
- Emphasis on solving problems as they actually occur rather than on preventing the possibility of symptoms so that problems get repressed
- Treat transaction problems as symptoms of social problems and solve root causes instead of mitigating or retaliating against symptoms
This un-economy leverages our psychology in ways that conventional economies fail to do due to their anti-human assumptions and scarcity orientations. People engage in exchange differently under conditions of safety and abundance than they do under conditions of threat and scarcity, such as those under which most of us currently operate.
Unless we design an economy to be conducive to human behavior that creates abundance, and especially if we design disincentives to abundance into it, as we do in our conventional approaches to economics, hoping for abundance to result from our economies is patently ridiculous.
True growth rather than monetary profit
True growth simply means increase of valuable, real assets, both tangible and intangible, leading to increasing abundance.
A true growth un-economy is one whose structure and inherent dynamism leads to increasing abundance even despite nominal resistance.
Participation being voluntary, a true growth un-economy can operate on any scale, from small communities of interest as little as just several people to full-scale regional un-economies and beyond. (Hopefully we’ll have gotten past the bogus notion of “nations” by then.) This allows for incremental implementation over time — something that Jacque Fresco’s resource-based economy (RBE), as admirable and forward-thinking as it truly is, fails to accommodate. Since RBE presumes centralized development of the economy, it entails monolithic implementation.
A true growth un-economy as I envision it will eventually achieve the goal of RBE — an economy in a given locale in balance with the resources available to it — but instead by cooperative, decentralized, consensus-driven, granular, from-the-ground-up, self-organizing means and methods — an incremental, organic development rather than an orchestrated development. This allows for gradual implementation, local idiosyncracies, and divergent progress that we commonly refer to as “evolution”.
You can’t get to Atlantis by heading for Albuquerque
My rationale for a true growth un-economy is: If we want abundance, we need to design and plan for it. Instead, we’ve designed and planned for scarcity. Better stated, we’ve accepted one after another designs-for-scarcity created by economic “authorities” that led us to our current situation.
What’s more, we’ve actually designed (or accepted) a two-tier economy: oriented around scarcity for the vast majority, but oriented around presumption of abundance for the elite and privileged. Well, if we’d like to experience life more like the elite and privileged do, we ought to approach economics similarly: as a matter of abundance in relative security like they enjoy.
The obvious indication that our scarcity economies do not achieve what we want is that, when we look honestly at the global situation, we resort to the victim’s justification for tolerating injustice and abuse: It’s better than it used to be. This implies two beliefs, neither of which has been seriously challenged:
- Abundance is an ideal rather than a norm we fall woefully short of — as evidenced by how alien and incredible to us visions of life in abundance seem, and by how immediately and eagerly we disparage them as “Utopian”.(This is a profound difference, not a trivial or merely semantic one — the difference between abundance as an end goal vs. abundance as a baseline norm. Just to rub it in, see how difficult it is to answer the question, “Once we’ve achieved consistent, stable economic abundance, where will we go from there?” I’ll bet you have never really thought about it.)
- Inhibitors of abundance are necessary, natural, or at least unavoidable.
Clearly, working under these assumptions has not been conducive to achieving abundance, but rather conducive to avoiding it for the overwhelming majority of people. To achieve the apparently extraordinary — I and many others maintain that abundance is not extraordinary but would be the norm if it were not deliberately inhibited — will require apparently extraordinary measures, such as operating on reversed assumptions.
The surprise is: Once you have actually tried life under these supposedly extraordinary assumptions, you realize how natural and familiar they are, as well as how detrimental and foreign to our innate psychology their opposites are — the very ones on the basis of which our social systems currently operate.
You can’t realize dreams when you expect no more than met needs
A true growth un-economy stimulates abundance, not just of exchangeable valuables but of motivation to create value. Scarcity economies not only fail to do this, they actually disincentivize and demotivate value creation — which is precisely why so much deliberate attention and work must be invested in keeping workers motivated or at least trapped without alternative.
Our systems that feed economic production, from education to innovation to institutionalization to management, are designed as gauntlets rather than incubators. Only those who survive the gauntlets get the opportunity to contribute, and only those who survive additional gauntlets get recognized as contributors and their work as contributions to the economy, if they do at all. Very little of the great thinking that we recognize and rely on today was given its proper due during the lifetimes of its progenitors, and even fewer of those geniuses were appropriately compensated for the wealth of expertise and wisdom they gave us. Many, many more remain unknown and their work undiscovered, having fallen casualties to the grueling regimens by which scarcity mentalities drastically reduce fields of play and players before their contributions get fair hearings.
That in turn indicates that most of the creativity and genius of humanity gets filtered out and discarded, not by open market processes, but by vetting systems that restrict access to markets, controlled (and of course manipulated) by elites then in power. These deprivation systems represent both huge net drains on the economy, being quite expensive to create, operate, and maintain, and huge avoided opportunity costs in terms of the benefits humankind will never see, since the possibility of realizing those benefits was essentially rejected out of hand. (I can’t call them “missed opportunity” costs when they are inherent to scarcity economics.)
Even big fish swim in the water of trust
Most non-elistists make a crucial mistake when they think about how economies work on the elitist level of abundance and security. We picture legions of staff, accountants, lawyers and the like working out deals so complicated only the likes of the Queen of Sheba could figure it all out. But there is no Queen of Sheba, and the elitists themselves don’t really know what the hell all the ins and outs of their transactions are. This is precisely the reason they have legions of staff, accountants, lawyers and the like working out their complicated deals.
So that drags the dreaded “t” word into the mix: trust. CEOs and other wheeler-dealers trust their legions to figure things out for them. It would all fall apart without highly motivated, coordinated cooperation between elitists (yes — sometimes they partner up instead of duke it out) and the experts they rely on, cooperation in which trust is crucial. And long before those resources get brought to bear, transactions in the rarefied atmosphere of the upper crust happen in just the same way that they do between average Joes as peers, whether acquaintances, neighbors, or friends: a conversation and a verbal agreement. Again, they engage in cooperation and trust beyond demonstrable reason to warrant them at that point and prior to demonstrable reason to believe that risks will be tolerable. This is faith in action — not blindly committed cooperation or blind trust, but intelligent cooperation and intelligent trust, followed by plenty of due diligence that also critically depends on further trust and cooperation. This is why “good faith” is crucial to business dealings.
It all comes out in the wash, but the water makes all the difference
Any economic system is just a grandiose version of a very simple kind of event: exchange of goods and/or services between parties.
The overriding characteristic of transactions in scarcity-oriented economies is presumptive distrust. This is expressed in what amounts to a kidnap for ransom (KFR) approach to exchanging goods and services:
- Assume rights over resources (in this case, people treated as property)
- Kidnap said resources (e.g., put them into captive situations with no alternative)
- Hold resources hostage
- Demand ransom
- Release resources upon payment
You’ll recognize the capitalistic counterparts as:
- Acquisition/procurement (and production if manufacturing is involved)
- Pricing (whatever the market can bear)
Each of these steps involve costs that are unique to them.
Distrust-presumptive approaches to exchange invariably involve competition for control of the transaction process. In 21st Century Western systems, this has expanded to control of the transaction systems in which transactions are processed, i.e., control of entire economies. In the United States, this control is exerted primarily by the Federal Reserve Board through the banking system propped by legislation, regulatory agencies, Executive Branch policies (Treasury), and upheld by the courts. This control, too, entails costs that add no value either to the transaction or to the goods or services being exchanged — so these costs are purely value depreciators.
Desire for control is motivated by desire to avoid potential loss, not manage actual loss. So, by its nature, loss-avoidance costs are speculative, which speculation is precisely what risk management, security, actuarial science, and like disciplines are concerned with; and it’s also the exact reason that they by nature cannot demonstrate measurable benefit, since that would require quantifying events that these disciplines deliberately prevent, at least if they are successful. Ironically, it also means we don’t really know if they are actually successful instead of just expensive window dressing, siphoning resources under the guise of compensation for outcomes that would have occurred regardless.
In contrast, the trust-presumptive alternative in abundance un-economies is:
Trust-presumptive exchange as a whole is far simpler and therefore far less costly as a system than distrust-presumptive exchange. In addition, each transaction in a trust-presumptive exchange is far less costly than those in distrust-presumptive approaches, simply because the additional costs entailed by control measures to establish ownership of and acquire, create, store, and exchange valuables are far less. Systemic, transactional, and per-unit cost disparities between distrust-presumptive and trust-presumptive exchange are never accounted for in scarcity economics, because basic distrust is presumed as a given without possible alternative. Since no alternative is recognized, no attempt is made to quantify the disparities. So, the rosiness of conventional economic growth always appears far rosier than it actually is, and the blackness of economic failure always seems less dark than it actually is, since the entire basis for measuring them is shifted optimistically.
This is ironically comical because, inside the circles of control we call “companies”, most transactions do occur on a trust basis, explicitly so, and at this level the very losses that distrust-presumptive approaches try to avoid are simply quantified and considered as “costs of doing business.” So why aren’t error, waste, fraud, and theft likewise quantified and managed in the larger economy, rather than cast as evils which must be prevented virtually at all costs? I’ll discuss this under “More sanity, less hysteria,” below.
A true growth un-economy extends the efficiencies of trust-based transactions that are routine within circles of control to transcend those circles, in effect replacing competition between parties in the economy with cooperation. This also avoids the costs involved in distrust-based exchange, which savings serve to strengthen and further invigorate the economy. These are two sources that feed increasing abundance in a true growth economy. This might seem like folly from the conventional scarcity/distrust perspective; but there are good reasons for it from an abundance/trust perspective. And the proof will be in the pudding — as soon as we gather the moxie to actually make some trust-based pudding and compare it to the foul mess we’re currently trying to gag down.
More sanity, less hysteria — sweetness in the smell of loss even if by another name
When operating in an un-economy of abundance, a certain amount of losses due to error, waste, fraud, and theft is expected as a cost of doing business and is tolerable within the limits of its surplus. When operating in economies of scarcity, error, waste, fraud, and theft can be devastating because there is no surplus to absorb losses. This is why scarcity economies invest so much in precluding losses rather than allowing and managing them.
A true growth un-economy of abundance addresses a question that most economists don’t entertain: What is the cost of allowing error, waste, fraud, and theft compared to the cost of preventing them? The fact that this question is quite foreign to the economic thinking we’re used to is a clue that the thinking is biased. If the cost of preventing losses is double or triple the cost of allowing them, only a fool would waste time and resources avoiding the loss of pennies when they could be devoted to creating dollars of value — in a single move saving unnecessary and costly prevention efforts while creating additional valuable assets.
One other question that no one considers in economies of scarcity: What is the value of allowing error, waste, fraud, and theft? To us who think exclusively in terms of scarcity, the idea that losses carry any value at all probably sounds absurd, but it’s not.
In exactly the same way that there is value in pain and uncomfortable symptoms of disease, there is value in allowing free exchange — including potential losses — and learning from what it shows you. When symptoms occur, just like pain and other symptoms of health problems do, they let you know that there’s something wrong and give you clues about what is wrong and where to find it.
On this point scarcity economics is downright irrational, because deliberately preventing losses without determining root causes and solving the problems that give rise to the losses only ensures the perpetuation of problems, guaranteeing ongoing future losses. But thanks to the fragmentation implicit in our culture, we resolve that incoherence by means of socialized denial: Since the problems originated elsewhere, all we need do is insulate ourselves from them and lay responsibility for them on others.
From a holistic, empathetic, systemic, and far-sighted perspective, this denial and scapegoating are folly, even madness.
So the astute comparison would be the net result of prevention of loss vs. the net result of allowing loss:
Net of prevention = (benefit of preventing losses) – (cost of preventing losses)
Net of allowing = (benefit of allowing losses) – (cost of allowing losses)
I predict that the net of allowing loss in a true growth un-economy will be positive, not only exceeding the net of prevention, but exceeding it by at least 200% – 300%. This is just one more way in which trust-presumptive exchange not only fosters abundance, but can hardly fail to foster it.
A true growth un-economy operates on the basis of this comparison and adjusts according to actual, measured benefits and costs rather than presumption and speculation which are conjectures that, especially when combined with reluctance to challenge, explore, and test them, are indistinguishable from superstition.
But what about our favorite bloodsucker: Ownership?
Fully considering the chimera we call “ownership” is too involved for this article. I’ve hit the high points in other articles:
The high points here in brief:
Ownership is the right to deprive, not access and utilize
Borrowers and renters access and utilize without ownership, so ownership involves something else. Thieves access and utilize, too. Ownership entitles the owner to take steps to prevent access and use of property and to retaliate if unwanted access and use occur. A renter can sublet or loan a rented property without being an owner, granting access and use. An owner can choose not to deprive others, allowing access and use of property, and in some places such permission in fact over a long enough period of time eventually implies a grant that limits the owner’s rights, e.g., an easement through or grazing rights on a property. So access and use can eventually constitute ownership that restricts access and use by an existing owner, and this de facto ownership involves precisely the deprivation of access and use of the property by the existing owner.
At its root, ownership has little to nothing to do with access and use of property, although desire to access and use property is the ostensible motivation for obtaining ownership. Ownership essentially is the guarantee that authorities will not retaliate against an owner, neither for taking measures to deprive others of access and use of property nor for taking retaliatory steps in response to unwanted access and use that defeated the owner’s deprivation measures. Ownership is a conventional substitute for agreed sharing that solves the problems of sharing by precluding sharing.
Ownership rests on the most selfish and fear-ridden aspects of human psychology
Human psychology arose due to the success of cooperative, communal behavior. We have survived on the basis of collective, not individual, ingenuity and strength. Ownership is a seizure of the collective energy, resources, and work of the vast majority for the purposes of individuals or elites despite its impact on fellow people and other living beings.
Ownership is fundamentally reactive, a response to fear of perceived risks of sharing.
Ownership creates three profound disincentives to abundance:
First, as a refusal to share or a claim of right to prevent sharing, ownership is motivationally opposed to general abundance, but rather conducive to hoarding.
Second, ownership is a response to perceived risk of loss without assessing actual costs of unmitigated losses. Without such assessment, the true value (benefits – costs) of ownership cannot be determined, and so ownership can in this way be considered irrational.
Third, ownership presupposes competition, not cooperation. It is absurd to expect that cooperative societies in which sharing and abundance are norms could arise when one of their primary building blocks is unsuited for cooperation and embodies belief in the opposite.
Ownership ensures gross disuse and waste of resources
More than half the cost of producing property (goods and services) under an ownership-dominated economic model is incurred by measures taken to preserve the integrity of ownership, inflating a property’s cost basis without adding any value to the property — consuming resources to enable control that is extraneous from a sharing, cooperative economic standpoint, amounting to utter wastage.
Prohibiting access and use of property prior to exchange of ownership for payment ensures that the vast majority of property will lie disused the vast majority of the time. This represents a colossal missed opportunities cost by preventing actual benefit of access and use in order to preserve the right to deprive that benefit. We have a term for this in scarcity economies: inventory. There is also a term for goods and services available for use in true growth un-economies of abundance: surplus. Every good and service not being utilized is surplus. The difference between inventory and surplus is access. Access to inventory is tightly restricted. Access to surplus, just like Thanksgiving leftovers after everyone is sated, are virtually up for grabs.
The more successful ownership acquisition becomes, the more it motivates hoarding, exacerbating disuse and waste. In that the wastage of hoarding becomes a means of social status and tends to accelerate with success, it constitutes a profound kind of irrationality tantamount to a mental illness. People with millions or billions in assets who stand by while their fellow humans suffer and starve are not well people. As an indication of just how gravely ill they are, consider Oxfam’s report Annual income of richest 100 people enough to end global poverty four times over on how much a dent would be made in their portfolios if they chose to eradicate extreme poverty globally. The 100 richest refuse to do without the equivalent of three months’ income. They would rather let millions suffer, starve, and die.
Ownership is wholly predicated on past events, regardless how irrelevant
Whereas intelligent planning is done on the basis of available resources with an eye to future benefit, ownership arises wholly from past events without the slightest regard to benefit. In fact, ownership represents a break from any obligation to consider benefit. Ownership is the right to refuse possible benefit at the owner’s whim. This makes any thought of achieving “greater good” by means of an ownership-based system oxymoronically absurd. Ownership is precisely the right to disregard the greater good if the owner so chooses.
Those are just the highlights, remember. There’s much more to the idiocy we call “ownership”. Please check out the articles mentioned above for more.
True Growth un-economy transactional operation: Scenario under a full-blown system
On Monday through Friday, you go to work. Depending on your type of work, your time spent working or your work product or a mix of these are recorded as contribution to the un-economy. The materials and equipment you acquired to do your work and create your work product were recorded as consumption from the un-economy when you or your company acquired them, and they were accounted for as debits to the appropriate accounts. The value of these acquisitions plus the value of your work commensurate with your expertise determine the value of your contributed work product now available for further consumption. Your part of these contributions to the un-economy are recorded as credits to your account.
The difference between your credits and your debits represents your net contribution of value to or consumption from the un-economy. This is real wealth, in contrast to currency-based economies based on detached instruments that represent wealth and which, thanks to what amounts to logical fallaciousness coupled with cognitive foibles, can become the illusory form of false value around which the Ponzi schemes comprising financial commerce revolve.
Now it’s Saturday. You decide to do your weekly shopping. You go to the grocery store and fill your basket with all you need for the week’s meals and sundry needs. You go to the checkout line. The checker scans everything through and bags it for you. This records your consumption from the un-economy. No “payment” is made, but a debit is posted to your account. You walk out with your goods. You go to the department store. You pick up a pair of shoes, some clothing items, and some toiletries. You go to the checkout line. The checker scans everything through, recording your consumption and debiting your account. You walk out with your goods. You go to the rental center to get a tiller to start your garden. The clerk records your consumption, but the debit puts your account in the red (negative balance — known to you but unknown to the clerk). This is not a problem, because your work next week will offset it. You load up the tiller and head home.
On the way home, you unfortunately get into a collision with another car. Your consumption for medical expenses and vehicle repairs will bring your account so deeply negative that, even if you reduced your consumption, it would take you several years to make up for the shortfall. This is not a problem, because the un-economy’s surplus (contributed goods and services – consumed goods and services) is able to absorb the shortfall, effectively self-insuring without the drain of the profiteering we now call “insurance”. Notice that within these limits, no one else in the un-economy experiences the impact of your loss. Everyone’s contributions and consumption remain what they were prior to your accident. Eventually you will catch up, or you can take steps to increase the amount or value of your contributions to the un-economy, thus increasing the rate of credits to your account.
If a person or a class (demographic, geographic, cultural) demonstrates a pattern of consistent losses that increases their negative account balance over time, there are three levels of remedy.
First, community service is always available to contribute work to the un-economy and supplement one’s account. The work is always available, contributions are immediately credited, and consumption is either apportioned to everyone that benefits from the work or to the un-economy itself, which in essence means apportioned to all participants in the un-economy according to an agreed distribution algorithm. This differs from insurance in that only actual costs are covered, not predicted costs determined by actuarial formulas, and no one profits from brokering the coverage.
Second, the person or class can improve its capacity to contribute to the un-economy by innovation, education, new ventures, etc.
Third, the loss pattern is treated as a symptom of social problems, triggering social remedies and/or interventions. Only after exhausting these do coercive measures come into play, and these are not punitive, but corrective: forcing the person(s) we now have good reason to believe are recalcitrant (since no other explanation is left, having explored all other options) to contribute to the un-economy, training them with the skills to do so if necessary. Their contributions are credited at fair value, not slave rates like we currently impose on our penal populations, and the coercion is gradually relaxed as they demonstrate that they no longer need it.
True growth un-economy transactional system features
- Based on a transparency system that records transactions, crediting for contributions to the new un-economy and tracking consumption.
- Transactions are voluntary and voluntarily recorded.
- Contribution of assets (goods or service/labor) can precede consumption (i.e., investment counted as credit).
- Consumption can precede contribution (i.e., depletion counted as debit).
- Net of credits/debits constitutes account which can be net asset (positive balance) or liability (negative balance). Within limits, liabilities are not regulated or prevented. If liabilities exceed allowed limits (graduated scale) they trigger social intervention in order to solve root problems (e.g., lack of understanding/education, exigent circumstances, fraud, etc.) Coercive measures are reserved as last resorts, keeping them (being the most costly kinds of response) to a bare minimum.
- Goodwill contributions (tips by consumer, discounts by contributor) and increased contribution activity are rewarded.
- Transactions are valued at real cost basis for labor and materials plus demand-based modifier. (I.e., value rises and falls with demand, but within preset limits and never less than real cost.) Exceptionally, transaction value can be altered, with “tips” always accepted (and reflected as excess contribution + reward) and reductions possible when agreed, either automatically within limits or negotiated (process similar to micro-credit, with discount reward to contributor and shortfall retained as credit.)
- Overconsumption and under-contribution are apparent. Visibility can be restricted but not completely hidden (degrees of transparency corresponding to graduated circles of trust). Activity, contribution, consumption, and reputation ratings of all participants in a transaction are available to each other. Overconsumption, and under-contribution trigger social involvement within appropriate circle of trust to solve the root problems. Circles of trust cannot become cabals because on reasonable cause their activities can be reviewed by disinterested peer review boards.
- Intellectual property is public domain after initial 3-6 month period during which like ideas are synergized and shares in the synthesized idea (now more valuable than any of the contributing ideas alone) apportioned to contributors. Once released, initial contributors automatically have lifetime royalties that grow and deflate depending on eventual use in other contributions.
- Competition will arise between contributors, especially when new ideas and/or products mean the obsolescence of old ideas and/or products. The cost of loss of the obsoleted contributions will be split by the obsoleted contributors, the superseding contributors, and the community, in proportions pre-agreed to stimulate or slow innovation/development and/or provide security to at-risk contributors as agreed by market participants.
- Cost of constructed/manufactured contributions is tracked and included as the cost basis right from initial acquisition of rights and raw materials, including labor and materials of all players. This is granular ownership of fruits of labor/investment from the moment of contribution through to eventual consumption/use and reward.
- If a contribution’s eventual consumption/use fails to meet its costs, the shortfall is born by both the contributors and the community in some agreed proportion, probably 33/67 (if the community wants to encourage innovation) or 50/50 or 67/33.
- Contributors receive a contribution bonus merely for contributing, regardless whether their contribution gets consumed/used. This means that there will be some wastage. Frivolous contributions are identified by algorithm, flagged, and handled as social problems like overconsumption/under-contribution.
- No “profit” arises, since everything is at real-value basis. Instead surplus accrues, which is real-world profit in contrast to false on-paper, money profit.
- Every person (including animals) gets a healthy recurring basic living stipend funded from the market surplus based on participation (contribution and conservation). In addition, rewards for contribution and conservation goals are given out of surplus.
- Needs in excess of basic living stipend can be met by contributions of community service if necessary, in addition to or in lieu of contributions of market consumables. This will be as close to an old-system “job” as it gets. Otherwise, no obligation to contribute is expected. In this case some community sector consumes the community service, contributing either by its own regular contribution products/services, or by allocating consumption to community members as pre-agreed. Work done to manage and improve the un-economy as well as work done to solve transactional problems are credited as community service contributions.
Many of the questions, issues, and objections to the concept of a true growth un-economy will revolve around moving from our current economy to the new one: How do we get there from here? In large part, any answers to these questions will be speculative until we get some experience with how a true growth un-economy works. Conclusions drawn before that would to that degree be uninformed and, therefore, premature. The following is just an initial broad brush of some of the possible topics for further exploration. (Please forgive roughness and terseness.)
Since true growth un-economies can be as small as several individuals, groups or clubs, neighborhoods, or communities — for example, coops and sharing services — they can be instituted without withdrawing from the existing scarcity and currency-based economy. This enables parallel operation. It also suggests the possibility of eventually competing and even assimilating the existing scarcity economy.
Until true growth un-economies become sufficiently large and arise in sufficient numbers in different locales, they will operate as stand-alone markets. At this stage, “market” is identical to “un-economy”, since an un-economy consists of a single market. When different true growth markets begin interacting and exchanging goods and services or their participants start cooperating on joint projects, un-economies including multiple markets will emerge.
Until a local market becomes robust enough to absorb shortfalls while loss root problems are solved, liability consumption (consuming while one’s account is negative) will be limited and regulated in much the same way as loans are now. An initial amount of free liability will be allowed, followed by short-term liability (credit) and long-term (loan). Once the market reaches a certain size and fluidity, it will become self-managing — covering losses, mitigating shortfalls, and solving loss root problems as described above.
Some method of profiling and fact-checking loss behavior/collusion/fraud will be needed. This will be a cooperative, person-supportive replacement for our punitive, stigmatizing punishment systems. It will enable detection of detrimental practices early in life and drastically reduce the psychology of crime by constructive education and training during childhood/adolescent development. Between lack of stigmatization, lack of scarcity, and relative freedom to operate in the un-economy, much or most of the impetuses that drive criminal activity simply won’t make sense. In addition, the positive aspects of conditions under true growth abundance will serve as positive deterrents — “If I do wrong I’ll certainly forgo something much more valuable,” instead of, “If I do wrong I might be punished.” To a large degree, true growth, trust-presumptive un-economies of abundance make not contributing and therefore not getting credited for value make no sense.
Initially, markets need only several products to become viable. During transition, both existing distrust-based/currency/profit and new trust-based/growth un-economies will operate in parallel. To start with, individuals will manage the interface. At a certain point the new un-economy will have enough surplus to institute a cooperative commodity/currency exchange with the old economy benefiting new un-economy members. Those running the inter-economy exchange contribute by their labor and consume from the new un-economy surplus, to which resulting contributions to the new un-economy will be made directly. Eventually, the new un-economy itself will become a competitive player in the old economy, and as the new un-economy grows it can begin to monopolize sectors of the old economy. Expert converts from the old economy can represent the new un-economy as an old economy competitor with the goal of overcoming the competition in the old economy, eventually overcoming and assimilating old economy assets into the new un-economy.
For the duration, new un-economy participants will face the choice of which economy to participate in: either contribute to the new un-economy or put up goods/services for sale in the old economy. Several things will incentivize new un-economy participation:
- Ease of transaction: In effect, simply making a contribution is to make a “sale”, since assets are instantly credited and credits immediately available towards consumption of other assets.
- Contribution bonus: In effect, every contribution receives an automatic “profit”, a kind of participation reward. There could also be conservation rewards for minimizing consumption.
- Commitment to creating a new un-economy: Presumably, early adopters will have more than purely fiscal motivations for participating. On this point, the new un-economy represents the ultimate cooperatively owned company, and every participant has a vested interest in seeing it grow and succeed.
- Community: While patronizing old economy establishments supports corporations and strangers, new un-economy patronage supports family, friends, neighbors, community, and local region.
It is very difficult to draw conclusions about something we’ve not yet tried. It is downright premature and disingenuous to claim what outcomes of trying it will be on the basis of information obtained from systems that were designed according to antithetical principles. It would be no more rational than predicting what will happen if we kick Joe given what we experienced by tickling Jane.
It is utterly baseless to claim beforehand that designing and trying a true growth un-economy isn’t worth the effort, cost, and risk. No one knows enough to claim that yet. There is no evidence to support it. On the other hand, there is a rapidly growing body of evidence — from microloans to coops to sharing marketplaces to what happens 99% of the time when you loan a trustworthy friend a tool — that puts the lie to the assumptions on which economies of scarcity rest on.
My conclusion is: Let’s think this through as best we can with the intent of trying it, and then let’s try it. Only then will we be able to speak intelligently about it. Prior to that, argumentation amounts to little more than uninformed, presumptuous tempests in imaginary teapots.