Monday, December 31, 2012

The alternative to capitalism

You can find a very good summary of a non-market socialist vision and strategies in The Alternative to Capitalism by Adam Buick and John Crump out now as a Kindle eBook (originally published in 1986/1987). Extracts follow.
Capitalism is an exchange economy in which most wealth, from ordinary consumer goods to vast industrial plants and other producer goods, takes the form of commodities, or items of wealth that have been produced with a view to sale on a market. Although states have intervened in capitalism ever since it came into existence, in so far as the aim was merely to interfere with the operation of world market forces, their intervention was only at the level of the division, not the production, of surplus value. However, over the past 100 or so years, there has been a definite trend in capitalism for states to go beyond merely trying to distort the world market, and to involve themselves in the actual production of wealth by establishing and operating state enterprises.
If state capitalism is not socialism, what is? In other words, if state ownership and management of production does not amount to the abolition of capitalism but only to a change in the institutional framework within which it operates, what would be the essential features of a society in which capitalism had been abolished?
To find a coherent set of ideas which are subversive of capitalism, and which do offer an alternative to production for the world market, one must turn to the 'thin red line' represented by … anarcho-communism; impos­sibilism; council communism; Bordigism; situationism …

[T]here is a basic set of socialist principles which these currents share. Initially, four such principles can be identified. The currents of non-market socialism are all committed to establishing a new society where:
1) Production will be for use, and not for sale on the market.
2) Distribution will be according to need, and not by means of buying and selling.
3) Labour will be voluntary, and not imposed on workers by means of a coercive wages system.
4) A human community will exist, and social divisions based on class, nationality, sex or race will have disappeared.

Let us clarify these four principles for those readers who may not immediately grasp all their ramifications...
Published by Theory and Practice, a paperback will be released if demand proves high.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Non-market Land Trust

Austrian Andreas Exner — in the Demonetise It discussion list — asked us to promote a call for contributions to a a land trust (Bodenfreikauf) with non-market aims. He writes the following.
We have set up now our weblog to gather three more contributions of 8.000 EUR each to buy arable land of about 1 ha in Styria with the following aims:

1. to permanently decouple it from the market
2. to increase crisis resilience of participants through subsistence agriculture
3. to foster commons instead of the market
4. to contribute free food to society

The project is part of a larger range of initiatives, with the common aim to build a pool of surfaces dedicated to collective and egalitarian production.

This call for contributions explains our motivations and the current state of the project:

Please distribute widely!
We wish them the best of luck and look forward to providing updates of their progress.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Wellbeing versus wealth

Kirk Huffman was interviewed by Sean Dorney recently on ABC Radio National about the Alternative Indicators of Wellbeing in Melanesia Report, which attempts to convince 'economists that wellbeing, contentment, security of traditional land tenure, community relations are actually more important than money'.

Dorney asked Huffman about some of the findings and impact of the report that came out a few months ago — when we had a post announcing the publication. Here are some more key quotes from the audio-interview and transcript available from the link above:
Traditional lifestyles or modified traditional lifestyles actually give an awful lot of security and contentment. They are not poor! This is the mistake that economists make. They think, 'Oh, they've got no money so they're poor.' That's wrong. The province in Vanuatu that's got the highest levels of contentment and satisfaction and everything is Torba Province right up in the far north which is the area of Vanuatu that receives the least of various glitterati things or the bling things from the modern world. And that's where the levels of contentment and happiness are actually the highest. It turns out that some of the most important things of course is land. Something like 92 per cent of people surveyed have access, traditional access to land in Vanuatu ...

... The Alternative Indicators of Wellbeing in Melanesia Report is already available online in the French speaking world. The French economists - it's very interesting - French economists and French philosophers and thinkers picked up on it immediately. Absolutely immediately. And even though the report at the moment is only out in English it's available on French websites that deal with important philosophical questions. The French speaking world is living in the Age of Enlightenment sort of period where there's intense debate on philosophical questions of great importance. The English speaking world has lost that! The English speaking world is, sort of, unfortunately, become more concerned with just business, jobs and, you know, bling and various things like that.
This news item, with its singular message about the weaknesses of a monetary framing of our future, can be contrasted with one from the Guardian (1 December), 'Gross national happiness in Bhutan: The big idea from a tiny state that could change the world', by Annie Kelly Thimphu, which reveals the contradictory and undermining forces of upholding 'happiness' without withdrawing support for production for trade and money, and monetary evaluations:
Despite its focus on national wellbeing, Bhutan faces huge challenges. It remains one of the poorest nations on the planet. A quarter of its 800,000 people survive on less than $1.25 a day, and 70% live without electricity. It is struggling with a rise in violent crime, a growing gang culture and the pressures of rises in both population and global food prices.

It also faces an increasingly uncertain future. Bhutan's representatives at the Doha climate talks are warning that its gross national happiness model could crumble in the face of increasing environmental and social pressures and climatic change.

'The aim of staying below a global two-degree temperature increase being discussed here this week is not sufficient for us. We are a small nation, we have big challenges and we are trying our best, but we can't save our environment on our own,' says Thinley Namgyel, who heads Bhutan's climate change division. 'Bhutan is a mountainous country, highly vulnerable to extreme weather conditions. We have a population that is highly dependent on the agricultural sector. We are banking on hydropower as the engine that will finance our development.'

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Swapping and sharing

The Faulconbridge Crop and Swap in the lower Blue Mountains of NSW runs every second Saturday in the local community hall. Everyone arrives at 10 am and sets up what they have to swap. At 10.30 am exchanging starts and ends around noon. People take all kinds of things to swap, including:
  • vegetables, fruits and nuts that they've grown
  • foods that they've cooked, such as baked goods and jam
  • foods they've made, such as cheese
  • fresh eggs from local chooks.
There are three principles determining what you can offer and how you conduct the exchange, which must be: home grown or hand made; quality produce; swapped 'in good spirit'. No money changes hands, except if you offer to donate a gold coin to cover costs for insurance and hall hire.

Sometimes similar events are held on an ad hoc basis in community gardens, our fruit and nut tree network promotes swaps theough an e-list and you can always leave garden produce to sell or give away at our 10/7 food coop in the upper mountains.

If you want to replicate the idea, may be start here. Or leave a comment about similar opportunities to swap.

In the upper Blue Mountains you will find book swaps in cafes and one at a local railway station, Leura (see photos).

A much larger version of the 'book club' exists in a central mall of Victoria's capital, Melbourne Central Station, amongst the glare of icons of over-consumption and the boppy music market researchers can prove make people buy more are massive old bookshelves where people leave and take books.

Also check out this inspiring video:

Friday, November 23, 2012

News items

Three items of news follow.

Vivir Bien has been developed to map resources for solidarity economies worldwide. 'Solidarity economies' include a wide range of non-monetary and monetary non-profit activities. The site seeks to map all kinds of commons, radical and change-directed initiatives — from experimental non-monetary activities through to sharing ideas — and threats to these kinds of resources. The idea is to inform the development of links and so contribute to achieve non-capitalist modes of living and producing.

A new video advocating a world without money — in French — can be seen here.
A transcription (also in French) is available here.

Mark Boyle — author of The Moneyless Man — has just put out The Moneyless Manifesto selling in a print edition and free online. The approach taken by Mark is very much individualistic voluntary simplicity, which non-market socialists regard as a secondary — insufficient — strategy for achieving a money-free world. Non-market socialists stress collective action and change stretching deep into the productive forces and dynamics of the ways we all live, i.e. both necessary and sufficient ways to achieve sustainable and fair economies where environmental and social values are the operating principles of production and exchange in society. At the same time there is much that Boyle advocates that we agree or sympathise with. See more details about both versions of The Moneyless Manifesto here.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

What we must do

For many years before we started the Life Without Money book site and this blog, we had a MoneyFreeZone site, which was taken down last month. However, 'What we must do', a short summary of ideas discussed on the MoneyFreeZone site and in our book, can be found on the Demonetize It! site here.

A German translation, by Andreas Exner, of 'What we must do', also appears on the Social Innovation Network site. The German version is 'Geldfreie Ökonomien global und lokal: Der einzige Weg zu weltweiter Nachhaltigkeit?' and can be found here.

This is a short extract from 'What we must do':

The transition to a world without money — which is only to say that the conditions are laid for humans to establish communities based on social justice and environmental sustainability — would be created by, on the one hand, diminishing production and exchange based on a monetary, capitalist rationale and, on the other hand, progressively taking over production and exchange using non-monetary compacts. Collectively, our actions would weaken a reliance on capitalist practices and strengthen networks of compacts as alternative forms of governance, production and exchange.
How to synthesise tactics within mainstream structures and strategies pursued outside them and create a bridge, a continuum, between reforms and revolution is the greatest challenge. It will only be possible by adopting a common strategy of instituting non-monetary forms of political, social and cultural relations within a vision of a money-free society to enable people to produce and exchange transparently on the basis of use-values, i.e. directly expressing principles related to social justice, and enabling the establishment of environmentally sustainable practices. Thus we must decide on compromises regarding the best possible way forward to achieve the ultimate vision as quickly and as permanently as possible. 

Friday, November 9, 2012

Another World is Possible (Possibly)

The Greens NSW GreenVoice (Autumn 2102, p. 6) broadsheet had a review of Life Without Money. We reprint 'Another World is Possible (Possibly)' with permission of the author, Hall Greenland (who retains copyright):

In 2003 the cultural critic Fredric Jameson famously observed that it was easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism. The bad news is that the first part of that observation is now even truer: the degradation of our ecosystem has accelerated in some important respects.
The better news is that the second part is no longer as true as it was. People are again imagining the end of capitalism. The book under review is part of a growing genre of post-capitalist imaginings. Clearly the recent and continuing failures of capitalism are feeding this search for alternatives. But another and more compelling reason is that people are making the link between planetary eco-disasters and consumer capitalism. All ten contributors to this remarkable book insist on the link between the current economic system — with its money, markets and insatiable growth — and the exhausting of the planet. While other books spell this out more persuasively, the purpose of this collection is to begin to tease out the possibilities of a different economy and a sustainable relationship between society and nature.
All their prescriptions emphasise more democracy, local and regional self-sufficiency, more exchanges not dependant on money, and global equality and sharing. The contributors do this from a variety of starting points. While Ariel Salleh, for instance, draws inspiration from earlier and indigenous societies, John O’Neill (Professor of Political Economy at Manchester University) takes us back to the key economic debates of a century ago when Otto Neurath argued with Friedrich Hayek about whether non-market socialism or gung-ho market capitalism offered the best road to human happiness. Over the past 30 years Hayek’s neo-liberal ideas have been given a burl with the currently observable disastrous results; now might be Neurath’s turn. Other contributors draw inspiration from the cooperative ideas of Kropotkin, the scattered remarks of Marx on the future society and experiments like Spanish anarchist collectives, Yugoslav self-management and ‘intentional’ communities.
Even when sketching out the most utopian scenarios, there is an exciting can-do optimism in Life Without Money. But it does underplay the challenges that face those of us who see the need for a great transformation if we are able to arrive at a just and sustainable world. One of these is to convince people in countries like Australia to accept a materially simpler lifestyle. If we are going to save the planet, the over-consumption of rich societies must end to allow development of poorer ones.
This idea (known as ‘contract and converge’ and widely supported by ecologists) is a big ask and involves tackling consumerism. The buying of stuff now appears to be the way many people establish their identity and status, give meaning to their lives and express themselves. It also satisfies our addiction to novelty. The authors seem to assume that a rational realisation of ecological limits will lead people to give up incessant shopping and throw themselves into free time, cooperation, art, spirituality, family life, a sense of community and equality. That’s a huge assumption.
But if you thought that this search for a more sustaining life was something that only preoccupies Greens, Buddhists, radical Christians, anarchists and eco-socialists, you’d be wrong. The Sydney Morning Herald is now touting a ‘national wellbeing index’ to measure Australia’s progress (or lack of it). Gross Domestic Product is only one element in the index – others being equality, education, health and the state of the environment.
When a mildly liberal newspaper is looking beyond how much stuff is sold to gauge human progress, then a book like Life Without Money may be the canary in the mine, signalling it’s time to come up for some fresh air and new thinking.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

2012 Nobel Prize for Economics

Here's a reprint of the post that Adam Buick, contributor to Life Without Money, wrote for the Socialism of Your Money Back blog (16 October 2012):
Sometimes the Nobel Prize for Economics is awarded to someone who has made a useful contribution rather than providing ideological justification for some government policy within capitalism.

For instance, in 1998 it went to Amartya Sen whose work had shown that famines are not caused by an absolute shortage of food but by a collapse in the ability of some people to buy or exchange something for food. In 2009 it went to Elinor Ostrom, whose research exposed the myth of “the tragedy of the commons” by showing that in practice where commons existed they had been managed by the community and did not break down through the self-defeating selfish behaviour of those have access to them.

This year this prize has between awarded to two people, one of whom denies that he is an economist, for the study of transactions “where price is not an issue”. Something that could be socially useful as socialism will be a society where price won’t be an issue

According today's the Times:

“Their studies helped to improve efficiency in markets where price was not an issue, matching doctors to hospitals, students to dorm rooms and organs to transplant patients.
It led ultimately to the creation of kidney exchanges, where donors could save a relative even where there was no biological match. In essence, a husband wanting to save his wife by donating a kidney but whose blood is not compatible instead donates to a stranger, whose own relative donates back to the man's wife.
Such matching arrangements are essential in most Western countries where organ-selling is illegal, and the free market cannot do the normal work of resource allocation.”


“Professor Shapley, who is 89, began the theoretical spade-work in the 1950s and 1960s, using game theory to analyse different matching methods. In the 1990s, Professor Roth, now 60, working independently, applied similar theories to more practical matters, helping to allocate student doctors to particular hospitals and later providing the theoretical underpinning to streamline organ donation. Professor Roth is regarded as an authority on a field known colloquially as ‘repugnance economics’ — in essence, the study of transactions where the application of the price mechanism is regarded as morally repugnant, such as the sale of body parts, sperm and eggs, prostitution and even dwarf-throwing.”

''Repugnance economics", is that the socialist answer to the "Economic Calculation Argument"?
Adam refers us to the Economist's View blog too, where Arindrajit Dube has a post, 'A Nobel for planning'?, which explores how, confusingly, 'exchange' has come to mean both market and non-market activities.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Of food, talks and forums

Lots has been happening — including our Blue Mountains region gearing up for lots of projects and energy into constructing a peak everything alternative — and I've neglected this blog for a couple of weeks so this post makes a few different points.

Firstly, have you caught up with the great article 'Treating food like stocks and shares is a recipe for disaster', on how financial sector transactions are impacting on food prices? It's by Heather Stewart and appeared in the 14 October issue of The Observer. It provides leads to other useful articles and links.

Secondly, take a look at our U-Tube video of extracts from the 30 May forum on Life Without Money in LondonDerek Wall (Green Party councillor, former Principal Speaker for the Green Party and author of Babylon and Beyond and The Rise of the Green Left) was in conversation with me and Life Without Money contributor Adam Buick (regularly published in the Socialist Standard) at Bolivar Hall, 54 Grafton Way, London. That night around 40 people participated in a stimulating discussion on why we, as a society, need to go money-free and how we might do it. We'd already posted a transcript of Adam's talk here (below).

Thirdly, each year the Postgrowth Institute leads a Free Money Day in mid-September, which seems to be more of a consciousness-raising event than anything else. This report again leads and links to further material on this year's activities.

Fourthly, just to report that at least 20 people turned out to chat about themes in Life Without Money on Thursday 11 October at 6.30 pm when Anitra talked with Clair Woods to over 20 people at one of the In Conversations series held regularly at Travellers Bookstore in Collingwood, Victoria, Australia. The main focus was experiences of daily life in two remarkable North American intentional communities, Twin Oaks (Virginia) and Ganas (NYC), and in Spain exploring squats (such as Can Masdeu, Barcelona) and a 'post-industrial village', Ca La Fou. The event was For more details email Claire Woods at or phone (03) 9417 4179.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Kirk Huffman's take on Vanuatu

Veteran ABC (Australian Broadcasting Commission) journalist Sean Dorney recently interviewed Kirk Huffman on his 'Making land work' article in Explore magazine — Radio Australia, 28 September, here. Some excerpts follow.
DORNEY: Kirk Huffman argues that the drive to try to make land in Melanesia economically productive under the "Making Land Work" policy is misguided — that it will simply lead to land alienation, ongoing disputation and probably poverty.
HUFFMAN: ... land has been working for Melanesians, and working well for Melanesians for thousands of years. It's just that, I guess, any sort of project that economists, development economists are involved in — because they only think about money — they think that land is not working for someone unless it's making money. That's a bit ridiculous in Melanesia where you've got the world's highest percentage of people who are still basically self sufficient and still living on their own traditional land. The land is actually the biggest employer in the whole of Melanesia! It doesn't just sort of hand out shillings at the end of every week like in the White Man's World. In the White Man's World money has become the God. Everything is focused around this thing called money. If you look at money, modern money, from a Melanesian point of view the closest comparison you can make is that it's rather like an addictive drug. It's useful and beneficial in small quantities but if you over-do it it can become addictive and very socially divisive. And you get what we call in Vanuatu: 'Sick belong money!' Money sickness.

... It does seem to me a little bit strange that something that is promoted as development is something that essentially means that traditional land custodians essentially lose control over their land. There must be a better way around all this. There must be a better way around all this. OK, if you want development — right, one needs this, one needs that — we all know that. But let's have the kind of development that is relevant for us. You know, we don't need outdated and faulty economic theory forced onto, essentially, almost self-sufficient island nations and cultures. Because if you pull them into, fully into the modern, highly unstable financial situation a little glitch or a hiccup or a collapse on the far side, the isolated side of the world like, for example, the United States or wherever, you could actually affect people in Melanesia. And it's not fair! You'd think economists would actually learn something. It needs economists to respect the fact that there may be parts of the world that their type of economic theory does not fit. It's actually a clash of cultures between a Western, money obsessed, capitalistic, individualistic system against Melanesian systems which are actually much, much older, a lot more sophisticated, a lot more communally-orientated, a lot more geared to self-sufficiency and profound thinking about ways of looking at the environment where you're actually part of the land. The land is actually part of you ...

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Gifting economies and climate change timeline

Arena, an Australian magazine of left political, social and cultural commentary has just published a great review article of Life Without Money: 'Gifting economies: Modelling alternative economies at the grass roots'.

Patrick Jones, who has practiced self-sufficiency and collective sufficiency for a long time in Central Victoria, has written a cogent article ranging over recent international literature and developments to contextualise our collection. He explains how at one time he would have considered life without money as 'a flaky ideal' and 'utopian wishfulness' but now, having lived a simple lifestyle and striving to achieve sustainable practices, he regards the scenario as:
manageable, achievable and critically necessary in preparing for the unavoidable and ensuing crises: economic contraction, climate change, energy descent, greater social division and aggregating ecological 'overshoot' and estrangement: in short, the results of hypertechnocivility, or progress-capitalism, peaking.
In this vein, I suggest following — and contributing to — the World Resources Institute's timeline of 'natural' disasters, i.e. extreme weather and climate events, for 2012.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Natural capital

There are few phrases that trigger more irritation in me than 'natural capital'. From a Marxist point of view, 'social capital' is simply absurd; all capital is materially made from social work (work for money) and nature. On the one hand, we are part of nature, so you might reduce all capital to nature. On the other hand, capital is wholly social so we get back to relationships, meaning and power.

The point is 'natural capital' is shorthand for a strategy of capitalisation of more and more of our planet. The most disappointing aspect of the rise of the natural capital concept is that many environmentalists have supported its growth, say, in the form of carbon trading and carbon credits. The Corner House, however, is one the research centres that continues to reveal the dangers of this trend — well worth a browse and read.

The Corner House crew also provide useful analyses of the global financial crisis, its 'management' and consequences. And in the Power Point, 'What news on the Rialto with notes', Nicholas Hildyard shows the fallacy of treating the difficulties in the financial sphere as simply technical in the all-too-common 'finance-as-car-' perspective.

The analysis ends like this: 
I like to contrast the 'finance-as-car' approach to that of the hero of Richmal Compton’s Just William tales. For those who do not know the books, William is a 1930s school boy growing up in a suburban English village. His sole object in life is to enjoy as much time with his gang as possible, without the interference of grown ups.
William is daily preoccupied with resisting his parent’s well meaning, but deeply intrusive, plans for him. He does not organise his resistance around tactics but around strategic goals.
He knows what he wants. And he does not compromise his overarching aim to achieve short term gains. His actions always serve his longer-term strategy. If he plucks low hanging fruit, it is from the right tree.
He knows adults have different and conflicting interest to his. They are there to be circumvented. He never confuses sympathy from adults for his cause with a convergence of goals.
He knows that simply confronting adults is always likely to end in defeat. So he organises to undermine their power, to erode and discredit it. And then to act.
William knows his own powers and their limitations. And he acts to expand those powers by looking for small openings, which he can exploit to his own ends. He is forever on the lookout for the vulnerabilities of the adult world.
Were William to be confronted by the new Rialto that is financialised capitalism, I suspect his first instincts would be to seek allies that shared the same political outlook and analysis, not just discontented fellow travellers; to probe for vulnerabilities; and to search out sites of resistance where campaigns can best be used to promote longer term strategic ends rather than achieve short term but easily reversed gains.

Go William!

BTW, 'Richmal Compton' was a woman ...

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Alternative Indicators for Well-being for Melanesia: Vanuatu pilot study

Alternative Indicators for Well-being for Melanesia: A Vanuatu Pilot Study has revealed that: 79 per cent of Vanuatu citizens (ni-Vanuatu), including 92 per cent for rural dwellers, can access their customary lands; 90 per cent of ni-Vanuatu have knowledge of the boundaries of their customary land; 88 per cent believe that this land is sufficient to meet their needs; 95 per cent of those with access grow their own food to eat and build their own homes.

How many of us in the rest of the world can point to the sources of our livelihood with such a direct and profound sense of right and responsibility?

Jamie Tanguay co-ordinated the study seeking indicators for well-being in Melanesia. While Vanuatu is a Least Developed Country (LDC) according to the World Bank, which focuses on the potential labour force, training, and vulnerability to natural disasters, it has little of the environmental, social and political problems endemic to many LDCs.
This study was released by the Malvatumauri National Council of Chiefs, Vanuatu National Statistics Office, and Vanuatu Kaljarol Senta (VKS) supported by the Christensen Fund and Secretariat of the Pacific Community and endorsed by leaders of the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG). It sought to follow the lead of the New Economics Foundation and Lonely Planet definitions of Vanuatu as the ‘Happiest Country in the World’ to produce non-monetary indicators of well-being. In a recent press release drawn on for an article by Bob Makin, 5 September 2012, in the Vanuatu Daily Post — which informed this post — Tanguay said:
Vanuatu still has a vibrant traditional economy that has served it well for thousands of years. It has supported a population several times larger than the present one with enough healthy organic food for all men, women, and children, and continues to do so for most ni-Vanuatu today. It supported living conditions for extended family units — with housing, cooking and sanitation facilities — supported community organizations by providing places for congregation and interaction, and continues to do so for most ni-Vanuatu today. The traditional economy is culture. It is how society organizes itself to provide for the livelihoods of its members.

Perhaps the most intriguing finding from this study on ni-Vanuatu well-being is that of TORBA Province, the northern most province in the country with the lowest GDP per capita and least access to markets ... in effect the most 'economically handicapped' and, coincidentally, the Province with the highest subjective well-being (or, happiness) of any other province by a significant amount. It is also the province with the highest perceived equality, highest levels of trust in neighbors, most positive assessment of traditional leaders, highest rates of community interaction, and the list goes on.
I have coupled this item with a photo (below) of a talk I gave last weekend (Saturday 8 September) at the sustainability Footlight Festival at North Katoomba Primary School in the Blue Mountains NSW (Australia). The talk was about the non-monetary and food-focused Blue Mountains Fruit and Nut Tree Network. Living as we do in the disadvantaged group of Western, so-called developed, nations we have a long way to catch up with our neighbours in Vanuatu, but our network promotes local fruit and nut plant growing, local simple processing and sharing of the surplus. Earlier this year, after some years coordinating the network, I handed on the task to Kat Szuminska. All the real work is done by the over 200 local community members who share their skills and knowledge through the network's sharing economy activities.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Neo-environmentalism, money and growth

Last month there was a great article by Paul Kingsnorth in The Guardian: 'The New environmentalism'. Here are some extracts to encourage you to read the whole piece (it's not long):
Neo-environmentalism is a progressive, business-friendly, postmodern take on the environmental dilemma. It dismisses traditional green thinking, with its emphasis on limits and transforming societal values, as naive. New technologies, global capitalism and western-style development are not the problem but the solution...

According to the neogreens, growth has no limits ... Wilderness does not exist, "nature" is a human construct, and everything that matters can be measured by science and priced by markets. Only "romantics" think otherwise.

... The neo-environmentalists are growing in numbers at present not because their ideas are new, but because they offer a business-friendly worldview which, unlike the tiresome old green message, is designed to make people feel comfortable ... Optimism is permitted again. Indeed, it is almost mandatory.

But maybe the green movement was asking for it. For some time, mainstream environmentalism has demonstrated a single-minded obsession with climate change and technological solutions to it, to the exclusion of other concerns. Its language and its focus have grown increasingly technocratic and scientistic...

Global campaigning for an abstract "environment" does not appear to work. What does work is engaging with nature on a human scale. Perhaps the best rejoinder to those who believe the world is a giant spreadsheet is an engagement with its messy, everyday complexity. A kind of vernacular environmentalism; an engagement not with "the environment", but with environments as we experience them in lived reality. Perhaps it's time to go back to basics.

So we might learn what grows wild in our local area and whether we can eat it. We might build up a bank of practical skills, from horticulture to land management. We might go out at night and plant seeds in vacant flowerbeds near where we live. We might work on small-scale engineering projects, from water purification technologies to micro-solar panels. We might work to save bees or butterflies or water meadows or woodlands or playing fields that we know and have a relationship with. We might walk in the hills, or on the canal bank, or in the local waste ground; get to know our place and how it works...

Friday, August 24, 2012

Beyond Money

With the permission of the editor, we reprint the following post from the New. Clear. Vision. blog.

The Foundation of the System’s Replacement  by Robert C. Koehler 

“Everyone loved him.”

The hole was too deep; these words couldn’t fill it. But there they remain, floating on the regret, vibrant with the possibility of a different kind of world. We’ve always been in the process of building that world, but the process has lacked a central cohesion . . . a god, if you will, to bless it and keep it.

Antonis Perris, an unemployed musician from Athens, found himself at age 60 living in a world where the love of his community didn’t matter and probably wasn’t even noticeable: He had lost his means to earn a living. Until Europe’s economic crisis hit, he had sustained himself and his elderly mother performing at local taverns. He had done well. Then business dried up. Finally, he reached a point where he saw no way to keep on living. The brief story of his death last May — one more “economic suicide” — was reported recently in the Washington Post:
The next morning, Perris took the hand of his ailing 90-year-old mother. They climbed to the roof of their apartment building and leapt to their death.
Europe has had thousands of economic suicides in the last few years. They always shock the community. In Greece, which has been reeling in economic crisis for five years now, “The suicide notes left in coat pockets or on desks,” the Post writes, “. . . are being passed around on the Internet and studied like the final treatises of revered scholars.”

“Everyone loved him,” a local café owner said. People would have helped him out, and helped his mother, who suffered from Alzheimer’s. But they didn’t know how badly the two were doing. Now their deaths are a gash across the community, across the country and perhaps all of Europe — and perhaps large parts of the so-called First World, where the middle class is crumbling. The poverty and despoliation — the dark side of capitalism — are no longer contained, relegated to the Third World and the Third World pockets of the First.

The situation has gotten so bad that the idea of debt forgiveness is gaining mainstream cachet. Erik Kain, writing last October in Forbes, brought up “the old biblical idea of a jubilee — a national cancellation of private debts. . . .

“In many ways,” he observed, “rather than creating a sustainable economy built around steadily rising middle and working class wages, we’ve built an unsustainable economy built on consumer debt. That debt has propelled the growth we’ve seen in recent years, acting as a sort of perpetual Keynesian injection into the economy. Now we’re paying the price.”

While I see debt forgiveness as a move in the right direction — an acknowledgment that debt isn’t simply a moral failing, and that the wealth of creditors, who have in so many ways rigged the game in their favor, isn’t all the matters — I wince at the provincialism of those who limit their concern to the American middle class, or would do no more to fix the system than increase wages for the working and professional classes.

Better wages that are the result of devastated environmental regulations, or that come at the expense of the Third World or future generations? The economic crisis is global in nature and the flaws of the system are deep and profound.

“The economy’s only valid purpose is to serve life,” David Korten wrote this month in Yes! Magazine.

The economy should not be an end in itself, an irresistible force that we fail to serve at our peril — yet that’s the conventional attitude. The economic suicides of Europe and, indeed, of every country on the planet, are testimony to the prevalence of this belief. We serve money as though it were God. When it disappears from our life, the most honorable alternative, as we stare into the abyss, is suicide.

We live within an economic system that is cruel and impersonal, divorced from gratitude, empathy, compassion, love and nurturance. (Money, whatever else it is, is the root of all cynicism.) This system is also voracious. It’s eating the planet: eating, i.e., privatizing and selling back to us, what was once the human and environmental commons, the context of all life.

“Real capital assets,” writes Korten in his excellent essay, “have productive value in their own right and cannot be created with a computer key stroke. The most essential forms of real capital are social capital (the bonds of trust and caring essential to healthy community function) and biosystem capital (the living systems essential to Earth’s capacity to support life). We are depleting both with reckless abandon.”

Trapped within the present economic system, so many people have limited patience for what they value most deeply, e.g., the happiness and loving growth of children, the glorious fecundity of the earth, the peace that passes all understanding. Who has time? We all loved him, but . . .

As the system crashes, we have the opportunity to look beyond it. Let’s dig deeply to establish the foundation of its replacement.

Robert C. Koehler is an award-winning journalist, nationally syndicated writer, and Contributing Author for New Clear Vision. This post originally appeared on New. Clear. Vision. blog 22 August.

Friday, August 17, 2012


Recently Pablo Salon posted a great piece on the so-called green economy on his blog: 'At the crossroads between green economy and rights of nature'. In it he castigates the rise of 'Natural Capital' as a way of defining and ruling nature for the narrow and damaging interests of capitalism. He uses the REDD scheme of carbon credits to highlight the dangers and absurdity of evolving capitalist practices for the natural functioning of forests, which benefits humans in the general rather than capitalists in particular. He asks us to '[i]magine what will happen when and if this same logic is applied to biodiversity, water, soil, agriculture, oceans, fishery and so on', concluding that:
The "green economy" will be absolutely destructive because it is premised on the principle that transfusion of the rules of the market will save nature...
We need to overthrow capitalism and develop a system that is based on the Community of the Earth.
 I urge you to read the whole post.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Guest blog by Terry Leahy

Terry Leahy, author of Chapter 6 of Life Without Money comments on a recent book.

Daniel Miller’s recent book Consumption and its Consequences (Polity Press, Cambridge, 2012) continues his ethnographic work on the reasons why people consume, but also looks at these issues in relation to the environmental problems of consumption. The middle part contains the heart of Miller’s argument that no amount of green consumerism is likely to restrain consumption in ways that sufficiently protect the environment. This argument he summarizes here:

At one level most consumption is about basic household provisioning, as in food or clothing. More deeply, it is also about the intensity of relationships with the people you care most about or live with, about status and local symbolic systems. (158)

One study, which informs this, followed shoppers on their trips to the shops in the UK. Miller was mainly looking at housewives. What he found was far from a glorious indulgence in ‘materialist’ consumerism. Housewives were concerned to save the money of their family and careful not to splurge on their own fancies. In another of his studies, he looks at the way the people of Trinidad express themselves in showy purchases of clothing or refitting their cars with flash upholstery. He traces this to a situation in which money and dignity is in short supply and local people establish their status through display and a personal expression of their own style.

But what does he then propose to deal with the environmental crisis we are now facing? It is pointless to try to urge people to make different consumer choices; this is the wrong end of the problem to be tackling. We should tackle the production end. The way to do this is to engage scientific advice on what production needs to be curtailed for the sake of the environment. For example, we could ban gas guzzlers, restricting engines to 1.6 litres.

What Miller does not really take into account here are the vested interests of a capitalist economy that make this solution difficult. Such a regulation might well be scientifically rational but the impact would be massive on the economy, wages and jobs, a political hurdle preventing the well-meaning solutions Miller suggests from implementation already. People voting as consumers makes effective environmental regulation very difficult politically. Miller is certainly right in thinking that the current situation makes it difficult to reign in environmental damage through moral campaigns directed at consumer habits but this same situation makes it equally difficult to adopt the solution he recommends.

Miller does not believe any major change away from capitalism is possible or desirable. He writes of himself as a Norwegian social democrat. Miller does not highlight the key importance of people expressing themselves in consumption because they are alienated in their work, a central aspect of consumer pressures in every country that relies on wage labour. They seek expression and social connection through their consumption because they get little of either at work. Whether goods are provided by the market or by the state, the provision of goods has to be impersonal and bureaucratic.

This is where the idea of the gift economy comes in. It is a third alternative for modernity — not capitalism and not a centralized state based socialism. It is really a package of ideas for organizing production and consumption that gets beyond the impasse Miller describes. The model of ethical behaviour normalized in a gift economy is for people to look after the well being of others and to ensure an equality of outcomes.

How would a gift economy avoid the problems that modern economies now experience with consumption? The daily experience of work in a gift economy is engaging and meaningful. Working harder does not produce an increase in your own personal consumption and working is not necessary to survive. There is less motivation to consume because the pleasures of social connection and self-expression are also a strong feature of work. There is less motivation to produce because you are not required to produce to gain an income and consume and you cannot consume simply more by producing more, mechanisms which prevent over-consumption.

In a gift economy there is no government, so no possibility for environmental regulation by government. Producers control the methods of production and are concerned about their own health and the environmental wellbeing of their own community. Production is not for the market, but for use. Decisions about what to produce and for whom are made by a vast and complex set of decision makers. The aim of producers is to produce and allocate goods that are most needed and likely to give pleasure. Doing this they will be most rewarded with status and maintain support for the gift economy. Such a structure for making decisions would certainly do a lot better than the market in terms of redistribution and environmental outcomes and just as well in efficient production and allocation of goods and resources.

To make a final comment, let us return to the Green shopper characterized as a cold-hearted fish who puts abstract environmental goals in front of the interests of their family. How does the gift economy deal with the trade-off between altruism and localism? In the gift economy the producer looks after their community and family by making sure that their production is not damaging their community and environment. Control at the point of production reconciles the supposedly abstract environmental issues with the local and family issues. What about the needs of people outside of their immediate community? People do not just work to provide for their own community but provide gifts for those to whom they are not personally connected by locality. The intention of this work is to bring other people closer and to extend the arena of intimacy to concrete others, rather than to perform a sacrifice in relation to impersonal ideals. They are making friends and extending the affluence of all parties at the same time.

Monday, July 23, 2012

I had some really great discussions with people in my last week in Barcelona where monetary fragmentation and striving for a sustainable livelihood are present issues.

On Sunday 8 July I visited the Can Masdeu squat again and talked about Life Without Money in English, with a translator, with 40 to 50 people at the Degrowth Bike Tour Open Day. We gave the bike tour a fond farewell. So many people turned up there was barely enough food to go round, quite the fishes and loaves story. Both the photos, on the left and right, below, were taken at Can Masdeu, one during the talk and the other when I was looking after the cafe earlier in the day. This is in their social centre, at one end of the building they call home.

The next day Carolina Zerpa arranged a workshop about our book and acted as translator for Trade School Barcelona at AureoSocial in Carrer de Sardenya near the Sagrada Familia with about ten people. Trade School Barcelona is just starting and there were competing events so we were pleased with the turnout.

Again there was a great discussion about the possibilities and problems with extricating our livelihoods from monetary structures.
The photos below were taken by Carolina, who is a photographer as well as a driving force behind Trade School Barcelona. We met when she was in New York City, where Trade School started.

On the Wednesday, 11 July, I talked at the ICTA UAB 3rd Summer School and Workshop on Environmental Conflicts and Justice. I had participated on the first day and the 5–6 July workshop at Gaudi's La Pedrera. Do you like the students' sense of humour about our democracy in the photo below? — you can just read it: VOTE HERE.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Ostrom and common property

Elinor Ostrom and common property
Posted by ajohnstone at 1:20 PM
On the 3rd July the Times of London carried an obituary for Elinor Ostrom who died on 12 June. She was the first (and so far only) woman to have been awarded a Nobel Prize for economics, not that this is necessarily an honour given the long line of capitalist apologists who have been awarded it in the past. Ostrom, however, was a little different in that she carried out research which refuted one capitalist argument as to why socialism would not work, the so-called "tragedy of the commons". Here's how the Times obituary-writer described her research:

"She put to rest a fallacy that suggested that, left to their own devices, people were incapable of properly managing commonly held property. The widely held belief in the 'tragedy of the commons' stemmed from the bitter experience of selfish herdsmen over-grazing shared common pasture-land, rendering it barren and useless.

By studying first the sharing of common drinking-water supplies in Southern California, then the management of forests in South America, irrigation in Nepal, and fishing off the Maine coast, Ostrom turned conventional wisdom on its head. The traditional response to the 'tragedy of the commons' was for such scarce resources, including common land, public forests, drinking-water stocks, oil fields, and fish in rivers and seas, to be either strictly regulated by government or leased to private interests.

Ostrom showed, using the first-hand tools of the anthropologist rather than the big-canvas theories of politics and economics, that smaller units invariably work better than larger ones and that community management is better than state regulation or private ownership in distributing goods fairly and sustaining scarce resources."

For this, she merits a favorable mention on the Socialism Or Your Money Back blog.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Upcoming Barcelona activity

Please drop by for this if you are in Barcelona...

9 July, Monday 7 pm
Trade School Barcelona at AureoSocial, Carrer de Sardenya 261–63, Barcelona 08013
A short talk — in English but translated into Castellano/Catalan — then participate in a bi/tri-lingual discussion on key themes in Life Without Money presented by the book's co-editor, Anitra Nelson, interpreted by Carolina Zerpa. The book's ten contributors argue that non-monetary systems of mutuality are essential to create socially just and environmentally-friendly practices. The book presents practical and strategic ways to construct a world without money. The workshop explores these ideas.
In exchange, participants side of the barter is to come along with 4 lists of:
1. 5 things you have available or services you can offer
2. 5 things or services you would like in return
3. 3 questions you have about a world without money
4. 3 to 5 examples of things you have done within the last week for free, but other people get paid for when they do them.
For more details, see Trade School Barcelona or contact 935 535 715
a o llama al 935535715

Jul 9, 2012 Monday
7:00pm to 8:30pm
Aurea Social
Calle Sardenya 261-263, Barcelona
Una breve charla y debate abierto alrededor de los puntos claves del libro Life Without Money: Building Fair and Sustainable Economies (La vida sin dinero: construyendo economías justas y sustentables), presentado por Anitra Nelson, coeditora. Los diez colaboradores del libro explican a través de la teoría y de sus propias experiencias, como los sistemas no monetarios basados en la reciprocidad son esenciales para crear prácticas socialmente justas y ambientalmente sostenibles. El libro presenta ejemplos prácticos y estratégicos para la construcción de un mundo sin dinero. Este taller pretende explorar estas ideas a través de la participación y el debate abierto.
About the teacher, Anitra Nelson
Me dedico, entre otras cosas, al activismo medioambiental, prácticas creativas, la investigación académica y la enseñanza, la permacultura. Intento vivir de formas alternativas y trato de aprender, escuchar y observar lo más posible a través de mi vida. Trabajo a tiempo parcial, por dinero, en la Universidad RMIT (Australia). Actualmente estoy en el extranjero por unos meses realizando un trabajo de investigación de los sistemas de intercambio no basados en la economía de mercado.

Friday, June 22, 2012


Matthew Switzer of the Planet Drum Foundation in San Francisco (Shasta Bioregion) made contact to engage over our bioregional strategy for achieving sustainability in a world without money (outlined in Chapter 11 of Life Without Money). He writes:
Ever since I debated my economics-major college roommate about the paradox of value (aka the diamond-water paradox), and whether someone would ever trade a car for an apple (e.g. when the car owner is starving to death), it hit me that money — exchange value — is nothing more than an abstraction backed by “credit” that fuels the drive to produce, invest, extract and consume, inevitably drawing on the planet's ecologies as resources for this kind of development.
Beyond that, I was always intrigued by the more “anarchist” economic theories that called for the abolition of the wage-system, mutualism and mutual aid, etc. to free us from the wage-slavery in which we commit all sorts of atrocities in the name of a paycheck. Anyway, for the longest time I felt like no one really recognized this as a legitimate concern and even had a book in my head all lined up: "The Declaration of the Free Society for the Abolition of Money." But thanks to your book I can put that off for a while!
A while back Planet Drum Foundation put together a Bioregional Association of North America (BANA) to bring together bioregional groups and restore natural systems, develop sustainable practices, and create a cultural identity based on the nature of one's place. It was dissolved before I began working here, but I believe something like it is critical, and perhaps if it was organized as a moneyless economy, it could really open up volunteer opportunities for restoration projects and growing sustainable trade networks that could shift the economy away from material consumption of cheap plastics to a more healthy culture, eliminating detrimental work for money to survive and move instead towards more self-fulfilling life-styles. Such is the dream I guess, and I think Planet Drum would like to resurrect that project in some way.
Personally, I'd like to incorporate the idea of gift circles and non-monetary transactions as a primary method to halt the flows of capital and destructive practices of industry, and thought it would be a good idea to talk. The founding director of Planet Drum Foundation, Peter Berg, who did much to popularize the bioregional movement, was also part of the Diggers movement in the 60s counterculture in the San Francisco Bay Area that called for what they termed “The inevitable gift economy,” also outlined in “A Modest Proposal,”  so I thought it would be a great idea to start putting something together as part of our 40th anniversary next year.
We'd like to offer the opportunity for those willing to get together and discuss the possibility for a new endeavor to these ends. It’s not against the rules of bioregionalism to help other bioregions, so what kinds of activities or communications are important to include in a global bioregional network? Who knows, maybe we set up a “Federation for the Reinhabitation of Earth’s Ecologies” (FREE), and do everything we can to live up to the name… :)

If interested, please don't hesitate to send a message.

From one bioregion to another,
Matt —

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Un Mundo Sin Dinero: El Communismo

In Adam Buick’s chapter in Life Without Money — and in his talk at Bolivar Hall (see post below) — he referred to a pamphlet Un Monde Sans Argent: Le Communisme (A World Without Money: Communism) published in France in 1975 by Les Amis de 4 Millions de Jeunes Travailleurs (The Friends of the 4 Million Young Workers), who had been influenced by situationists and the Italian communist Amadeo Bordiga, who Buick discusses in his chapter.

The group, who describe themselves as ‘a small collective of libertarian communists based mainly in and around London and Brighton UK’, have reproduced some quotes translated into English here. These translations were originally printed in the Socialist Standard (July 1979), a publication of the Socialist Party of Great Britain (SPGB), of which Adam is a member.

The quotes show The Friends of the 4 Million Young Workers following a classic Marxist line, that ‘Communism is the negation of capitalism … a world where human activity will never again take the form of wage labour and where the products of such activity will no longer be objects of commerce.’

They envisage a world which operates on a ‘logic of sharing’, democratically planned to share responsibilities for, and results of, production (rather than barter, which they refer to as ‘primitive exchange’).

The publication appeared in Spanish too.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

El Dinero No Se Puede Comer

This poster features the well-known quote pointing out that 'money cannot be eaten' — here in Spanish, 'el dinero no se puede comer'. It has been created by Santiago Armengod and can be viewed at the Just Seeds Artists' Cooperative website.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Adam Buick on a life without money

Adam Buick's script from our panel discussion on Life Without Money at Bolivar Hall (London) on 30 May 2012 follows. Well over half of the discussion involved the around 40 participants who attended and it was quite lively.

I spoke about why and how we came to write the book and Derek Wall talked more generally about the power of money and contemplating radical social change while the first question that Adam addressed was: What might a 'life without money' mean?

It’s an ambiguous idea. It can mean trying to survive without using money within or at the margins of existing money-dominated society. Or it can mean a change of society to one in which money would be redundant. Both points of view are represented in this book.

Then there is the question of what is meant by “money”. There are those who want to replace notes and coins, cheques and electronic transfers by labour credits or consumption vouchers. They too are represented in this book, even though some might regard them as only wanting a different form of money. But then, Karl Marx, a famous critic and opponent of money, envisaged using “labour-time vouchers” instead of money in the early stages of socialism pending it becoming possible to go over to full free distribution and full free access.

None of the contributors argue that all that needs to be done is to abolish money and leave everything else unchanged. That would be madness and would lead to a breakdown of production and distribution. If you’ve got a system based on producing goods and services for sale on a market with a view to profit, you’ve got to have money. So, no, we don’t want to go back to barter.

As a Socialist, I’m one of the contributors who wants to replace the present capitalist system with a new system based on common ownership instead of ownership by the few and with production directly to meet people’s needs instead of production for sale on a market with a view to profits. In such a socialist (or communist) society – the two words mean the same – money would be redundant. So I don’t want to “abolish money”. I want a change to a society with a system of production and distribution in which money would be redundant and so would disappear.

For me, the case against money is the case against capitalism.

Capitalism is the system which now dominates the world. No country escapes or can escape from its influence and effects. It is essentially an economic system where the means for producing useful goods and services take the form of “capital”, or wealth used to produce more wealth with a view to profit, and where the goods and services produced take the form of “exchange value”, they all have a price and have to be exchanged for money.

The farms, factories, offices and other places where wealth is produced are owned and controlled by rich individuals, capitalist corporations and states. Under the pressure of competition, those in charge of these “units of capital” are driven to seek as much profit as they can, not so much for the personal benefit of the owners (though this does come into it) as to get funds to reinvest in cost-cutting innovations so as to be able to compete with, and outcompete, their rivals. One consequence of this is that more and more capital is accumulated. This in fact is what capitalism is all about: the accumulation of more and more capital out of profits.

So, over time the means of production and their productive power have built up and society has now become able, in theory, to produce enough useful goods and services to meet people’s needs. But the economic mechanism of capitalism does not let this happen. Making profits and re-investing them as more capital always comes first.

It’s an irrational system of “production for production’s sake”, of “growth for growth’s sake”. There are other anti-social results of capitalism. Such as the recurring economic crises and slumps like the one we’re in now. Such as the wars and preparation for war that occur as capitalist states compete over sources of raw material, trade routes, markets and investment outlets. Such as putting short-term cost and profit considerations before protecting the environment and respecting a balance of nature. But the one I want to concentrate on is that it does not allow production to be geared to meeting the needs of people for food, clothes, housing, healthcare, education an the other amenities for an enjoyable life.

People’s needs are met but only to an extent – to the extent that they have money to pay for them. There are various ways an individual can get money. They can inherit it (be born with it). They can steal it. They can beg for it. Or they can work for it – which is what most people do.

I don’t criticise those who try to avoid this by establishing rural communes or by living off what they find in skips. That’s a lifestyle choice but not an attractive one for most people. I don’t even criticise those who chose to steal money, at least not as long as they steal from the rich.

But what sort of society is it where most people have to fend for themselves to get money so they can access what they need to live – and where, even in a developed country like Britain, 10-15 percent can’t keep up and are forced to rely on more or less meagre handouts from the state? This, when, from the point of view of technology, society could produce enough for all, especially if we get rid of capitalism’s artificial scarcity (the need to make a profit holds back producing enough to meet people’s needs) and its organised scarcity (not just of wars and preparation for war, but also all of the resources devoted to the counting and transfer of money).

As a Socialist, I say capitalism must go if we’re going to be able to provide a decent living for every man, woman and child on the planet.

What is needed in place of capitalism is for the Earth’s resources to become the common heritage of all. Then, they could be geared to satisfying people’s needs. If productive resources were commonly owned, then so would what they produced. The issue to be dealt with would be, not how to sell to people what had been produced (how could you when they’re already the joint owners of it?) It’s how to share-out/distribute what’s been produced. In other words, exchange (buying and selling) is replaced by distribution (sharing-out and taking). For this, money is not needed.

It’s possible – right at the beginning or as a result of some major natural disaster – that some useful things might be temporarily unavailable in sufficient quantities. In which case there would have to be a temporary rationing of them till supplies were increased or restored. But, given modern technology and capacity to produce, the general rule (and certainly the aim to be reached as rapidly as possible) would be free distribution and free access, the implementation of the old communist principle of “from each according to their abilities, to each according to their needs”. With free public transport, healthcare, education, gas, water, electricity, telephone, internet access, and other public services and amenities. And people free to take from the stores and distribution centres according to their needs. As I said, there would be no need for money. It would be redundant. The notes and coins we now use would find their proper place in museums.

Why not? Would it work? And how would  – or, rather, could – it work?

The main objection is a popular version of the basic dogma of modern conventional economics: that resources are scarce because people’s wants are infinite. Or, in its popular (populist) form, because people are greedy, so they would take too much and the whole system would collapse in chaos.

But are people’s wants really infinite? “Infinite” is the word they actually use in the textbooks. If literally interpreted, it would mean that everybody desires to obtain the whole universe. Which is absurd. People’s needs are not infinite. But are people “greedy”? In today’s society, where you can’t be sure of the future, it makes sense to make hay or gather nuts while you can in case things go wrong and your future money income is reduced (if, for instance, you lose your job or your employer or the government freezes your pay).

But even today within capitalism, when some things are free at the time of use and people know they will continue to be freely available they only take what they need. I’ve got a Freedom Pass that allows me to travel free on public transport in London. So have hundreds of thousands  of others. Do we spend all our time going from one end of the line to another or round and round the Circle Line? Of course not. We only travel when we need to. Maybe more than we would if we had to pay, but there’s nothing wrong with that. It only shows how having to pay means that some needs have to go unmet.

So, overconsumption is not going to be a problem. The problem will be organising so that the stores and distribution centres are always stocked with what people are likely to need. Here we can go again to the textbooks of conventional economics. They say that production is geared to meeting paying consumer demand. This isn’t the case, but let’s assume that it is. The theory is that consumers determine what is produced by the way they spend their money. What they buy over a given period is a signal as to what to produce. If stocks run short, that’s a signal to produce more. If stocks build up, that’s a signal to produce les.

This system of signals via stock levels can work just as easily irrespective of whether the stocks run short or build up as a result of what people buy or as a result of what they take freely. So the sort of central planning involving planners deciding in advance all that’s needed – which some people see as the only way to organise the production and distribution of useful things without money – is not necessary. In a moneyless society too, production and distribution could be largely self-regulating.

Anyway, this is not a blueprint, just an illustration of how organising the production and distribution of wealth without money is feasible.
The session was taped and will be posted on You Tube in about month's time.