Volatility

September 15, 2010

Some Ideas – What We Need To Do

 

How to get the message out there? We’ve discussed the refinement of online activity – a new website, web TV. (There are already sites out there which seem to some extent aligned with the basic goal, and people have suggested that we try to systematically post to those.)
 
Then there’s also the offline front – getting out into the community. Forming sustainability groups, community gardens, local economy intitatives, other community volunteering and activism, becoming involved in local politics on a sustainability and anti-system basis. Again, there are templates out there. I’ll compile and post a list when I get the time.
 
Little by little this process has been organizing itself from the bottom up, from people everywhere taking the initiative on their own. Then recognizable organizations like Transition Towns and Slow Food start to form, which provide some of those templates and perhaps an organizational umbrella. I don’t think people need to start seeking umbrellas yet (if ever), since the vitality of this movement is grounded in its indigenous spontaneity. When I talk about unified campaigns, I’m presupposing a critical mass of existing groups who can then coordinate according to ideas which have meanwhile been promulgated. I suppose I see myself as trying to help with the task of formulating and propagating the ideas.
 
Here’s one possibility for idea coordination, which could also have many other benefits. Are readers familiar with Toastmasters? It’s an organization for the practice of public speaking. I’ve never been to a meeting myself (the times I checked there was no chapter within a convenient distance), but I’ve read about it. I guess the members are mostly careerists looking to hone their business and backslapping skills. But we could use these skills as well.
 
So my idea was that people who share a dedication to a political cause could form their own such groups. Nominally it would be a public speaking/book discussion group. But it could also serve as the vehicle for coordination of ideas and messaging, including people taking on particular tasks.
 
The way I just described that involves meeting in real life, wherever there were enough people within driving distance of one another. But something similar (of course without the public speaking component) could be done online as well. FireDogLake has its regular book salons, to give one example.
 
So that’s one idea.
 
The overall strategy: Affirmatively, relocalization and direct democracy. Negatively, in terms of resistance, passive resistance, coordinated toward mass civil disobedience. For example, we should start to come up with a game plan for how to resist paying the health racket extortion mandate. (I operate taking for granted that the “regulations” and “subsidies” in the bill will never manifest, and wouldn’t suffice even if they did, so the paper we’re forced to buy will be worthless. This should be obvious from the entire trend of bogus regulation and the fact that the same criminals who are trying to gut Social Security as we speak are not telling the truth when they promise to add a new public expenditure. There are more specific proofs as well. But I should prove it just for the record, so I’ll soon dedicate a few posts to that.)
 
We should look at how an idea like MMT is spreading in the blogosphere, how eager and thirsty people are for new ideas, new ways of looking at things, new prescriptions for how to break out of the trap. (Unfortunately the first wave MMTers are implicitly or explicitly reformist and not radical. So the second wave will have to adapt this tool for use as part of a radical prescription. I haven’t yet written posts on MMT, but that’s upcoming as well. Anyone looking for a good historical treatment of the idea’s potential should consult Lawrence Goodwyn’s The Populist Moment for its discussion of greenbacker advocacy among the radical farmers. I also recommend it as a great book on movement-building, period.)  
 
We also need to encourage the debt jubilee. Since the prevailing idea can be summed up as:
 
1. The banks rightfully own the land;
 
2. The housedebtor has an obligation to pay the mortgage;
 
we need to start by counteracting these. I have many posts on this, under the category Land Recourse and the tags Strategic default (a bogus term I’ve since retired; I should change the name to “walking away”) and Fannie and Freddie.
 
Here’s a few:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
The truth is:
 
1. The banks never legitimately owned the land, we the people own it.
 
2. Even if they had, and however we look at it, since the Bailout we the people own the banks. So all their “property” including the land reverts to us anyway.
 
3. Even according to their own rigged “legality”, with the MERS system having dissolved unified ownership and in many cases lost the physical note, the banks have abdicated this ownership, inadvertently dissolved it.
 
4. As for the mortgage contract, if it’s non-recourse then walking away is a perfectly sound, by-the-book provision of the contract.
 
5. Since the banks stole everything they have to begin with, since they intentionally plunged the economy into this incipient Depression and used the crash they intentionally caused to loot even more trillions, we also have the moral right to stop paying but stay in the house as long as we want. This is an example of bottom-up direct restitution.
 
6. Such squatting is actually positive for the community. In many regions the banks simply let the foreclosed or abandoned property rot, to everyone’s detriment.
 
So there’s a basic outline of the argument for debt jubilation.
 
Those are a few ideas I have, pieces of the overall picture. I’ll try to get it all out there as best I can. So do people reading this agree with some or all of it? Reject any of it? I think it’s all on the same wavelength, headed in one direction on one trajectory. I’ve tried to weed out ideological inconsistencies and principle-tactic mismatches. It’s not complete yet, but I think it’s getting usably close.
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30 Comments

  1. Like where you are going. I made a move 22 years back, and relocated my family and myself to Australia, Melbourne in fact, and live on the edge of a city of 4 million, kind of out in the areas where there is still a lot of farming. We plan to move out further to a rural community soon. The problem is international, but you guys in the US are going to have it a little harder in some areas than I will.

    Attack corporate governance, and mold future directions there. Japan should be the model. Employees and and customers and the state all rate equally with shareholder profits. We could work with that.

    http://finance.wharton.upenn.edu/~allenf/download/Vita/Japan-Corporate-Governance.pdf

    Get file here!

    Comment by kcbill13 — September 15, 2010 @ 9:42 am

    • Thanks for the idea, kcbill. By now when I hear the word “stakeholder” I reach for my revolver since I know I’m dealing with a robber.

      The model of broader responsibility sounds like it might work elsewhere, though I doubt anything can be reformed here.

      Sounds like you’re doing well out there.

      Comment by Russ — September 15, 2010 @ 10:50 am

  2. Chris Hedges is advocating the same thing. In his latest column he mentioned some Scandinavian company Kraft&Kultur:

    “It is anti-corporate movements as exemplified by the Scandinavian energy firm Kraft&Kultur that we must emulate. Kraft&Kultur sells electricity exclusively from solar and water power. It has begun to merge clean energy with cultural events, bookstores and a political consciousness that actively defies corporate hegemony.”

    I think that’s the way to go. We really need to stop being the costumers of those big corporations that are destroying us. We need to create a viable parallel economy.

    http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/do_not_pity_the_democrats_20100913/

    Comment by EmilianoZ — September 15, 2010 @ 10:43 am

    • I just read that piece yesterday, and that detail caught my eye as well. I read some interesting stuff a few years ago about self-contained (so in theory off-grid) municipal renewable energy systems in Sweden. I don’t remember what the ratio of public to private sector involvement was.

      I always associate that concept with John Wesley Powell’s idea that the American West should have been organized as watershed districts rather than states defined by political boundaries bearing no relation to the earth and its resources.

      I picture a watershed district as a federated political unit, with a renewable energy system based on the hydropower of that district plus whatever wind and solar can be maintained (in all that I’m assuming a post-fossil fuel infrastructure), the energy council being a delegated (and of course recallable-on-demand) executive body carrying out the will of the community councils within the district. That’s a basic outline.

      Comment by Russ — September 15, 2010 @ 10:58 am

  3. I’m just dropping in to say, I hope you keep this post up for a few more days before the next installment arrives as I need more time to digest it and respond.

    In the meantime, this.

    http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2010/09/digital-miranda-rights/

    Comment by Edwardo — September 15, 2010 @ 11:11 am

    • I probably won’t have anything for a day or two, although all the recent posts are still up. If anybody wants to comment on them those threads are still live.

      Thanks for the link, I’ll check it out later.

      Comment by Russ — September 15, 2010 @ 12:03 pm

  4. I like this post a lot.
    I’m trying to do my bit, but I think I am possibly… more anarchist than you (you won’t believe me, but…)
    I’m rather allergic to grouping LOTS of people together, but try to do my bit in the ONE ON ONE occasion, like.. hitching a ride into town, and talking with the driver about stuff like this.
    Not from a political slant. From an existential one.
    Most people are really intrigued.
    It is… what JESUS was doing, many many years ago before his ideas got caught up into the inevitable institutional trap. (But.. WOULD we know anything about him and his ideas without the Church ?… this is debatable.)
    On the toastmasters idea, there is a real thirst for doing THEATRE in France.
    It has the added advantage of.. getting people to speak in public, and overcome their fear of it AND getting people into creative activities where they also discover community in new ways that are political without being mainstream political.
    And… it gives water to the thirsty soul, too…
    On the Internet community, it sounds like what my loony forum is doing.
    WE are… the unemployed, the unemployable (most of us…) and trying not to overdose on the voluntary servitude trip. (Like… there is no reason to hit yourself over the head for not being productive when THERE ARE SO MANY PEOPLE OUT THERE WILLING TO DO IT FOR YOU…)
    This RHETORIC is one I particularly like…

    Comment by Debra — September 15, 2010 @ 11:52 am

    • Community theater is another possibility, for both political communication and just the joy of participation and entertainment.

      Comment by Russ — September 15, 2010 @ 12:06 pm

  5. A year ago the Transition Town Network launched a local currency in Brixton, a London neighborhood made famous by The Clash (“guns of Brixton”).

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/sep/16/will-brixton-pound-work

    Anybody knows if it has been a success?

    Comment by EmilianoZ — September 15, 2010 @ 4:52 pm

  6. “Anybody knows if it is a success?”

    It is nothing more than a neighborhood currency peg…to The Pound.

    “Our notes are as safe as the Bank of England’s”

    Those should not be comforting words to holders of “Brixton Notes.”

    Comment by Edwardo — September 15, 2010 @ 6:05 pm

    • Yes, although the point of a local currency isn’t to “hold” it, but for it to keep circulating locally.

      Although I don’t usually see it phrased this way, any worthwhile alternative currency project has to be dedicated to purging the false “store of value” concept. Money has moral validity and practical purpose only when in motion.

      Comment by Russ — September 16, 2010 @ 4:51 am

  7. “A structural adjustment in the global monetary system in the spirit of jubilee is clearly the only moral solution at this point. Every major religion and every sane philosophy demands it and compels us to implement it. Anything else is morally deranged and will result in a class-based world war where the capital holders turn violent governments against the masses”.

    http://csper.wordpress.com/2010/09/13/humanitys-defining-moment-jump-on-board-mish/

    Comment by rene — September 16, 2010 @ 8:31 am

    • Thanks, rene. Jubiliating the debt is the only way out.

      Comment by Russ — September 16, 2010 @ 2:19 pm

  8. Russ, could you break down for me (your most thick-headed reader) what exactly you mean by, “Money has moral validity and practical purpose only when in motion.” As usual – not looking to argue – looking to gain knowledge.

    Thank you, sir.

    Comment by Bloodgrove — September 16, 2010 @ 8:31 am

    • Hi JD. I mean that hoarded wealth is both useless and pathological. Since all wealth is produced by people working together, even if we agreed on channeling more of it through some hands than others that could still be fair only if it was to give them greater opportunity to enjoy the wealth and at the same time recirculate it by spending the money.

      But for someone so blessed to just hoard it is a double-cross. It’s breaking the deal which distributed that wealth in the first place.

      (As for the “investment” justification, economic history has proven empirically that beyond a modicum, concentrated wealth is not productively invested but used for unproductive, destructive speculation and gambling.)

      So that’s why I say sitting on wealth, relegating it to unproductivity, is useless in any practical sense, and has no moral validity because it abrogates the social contract under which it was distributed that way in the first place. (And like I said, the wealth was co-operatively generated in the first place. Even the greatest idea man still stands on the shoulders of his predecessors, on the education society provided him, and then depends upon the work of many others to bring his ideas to fruition.)

      In all this I’m referring to large wealth concentrations. I’m not referring to attempts at saving on the part of the non-rich under this system, where people need to do what they can to survive.

      But in a human community there would never be any need or justification for unproductive hoarding. Useful possession is the measure of legitimate possession.

      I hope that’s convincing for a short statement, though if you want to argue, feel free to argue away.

      Comment by Russ — September 16, 2010 @ 2:18 pm

      • Argue? Nah. I come here to learn, Russ. And I always leave satisfied. Thanks for the fine answer. I get it, and see nothing to disagree with.

        Comment by Bloodgroove — September 16, 2010 @ 7:54 pm

  9. Currency innovation in Libya and local communities in action:

    Not only are Libyans using cell phone minutes as currency, but because of electrical shortages, the local facility for cell phone recharging is the equivalent of the water cooler where communities of users congregate and socialize.

    the next currency

    Something will have to be done to protect the currency if it is to be made safe for expansion.

    It would be worthwhile to track the process; document the propaganda, user response, government entities, bankers, and corporations, particularly big comm and telephony, while they get involved to save, expand, and exploit the currency application.

    A blog for that purpose could work, especially since the Libyans themselves can easily participate.

    Grassroots posts from the village -WOW!

    Comment by LeeAnne — September 16, 2010 @ 1:01 pm

    • Thanks, LeeAnne. I hadn’t heard of that. There’s going to be thousands of new ideas.

      I agree, it would be great if we had a blog dedicated to just local currencies, and another for off-grid energy, and so on, all of them federated by the same cause of citizen activism, relocalization, and anti-corporatism..

      Blogs doing some of this work probably already exist.

      Comment by Russ — September 16, 2010 @ 2:24 pm

      • Yes, you’re right. I’ve been looking and found a very nice one for anyone who would like an intro to the subject.

        M-Pesa is the name of the Libyan currency. here is a good site for more documentaries and videos.

        And some good news from India: serious push back on multinational corporation abuse:

        Indian court upholds Vodafone’s $2.6 billion tax bill in sweeping precedent for foreign deals 2010-09-14

        Vodaphone thought it was a done deal:
        The Times of India2010-09-08
        MUMBAI: Vodafone is confident that there is no tax to pay on the India transaction, it said on Wednesday, after the Bombay High Court dismissed the company’s petition in the tax case. India’s tax department has jurisdiction over tax bills in cross-border mergers, a court ruled, dismissing a petition by Vodafone and setting a precedent for overseas firms looking to buy into Indian companies. “Vodafone remains confident that there is no tax to pay on the transaction,” the company said in a…

        Comment by LeeAnne — September 16, 2010 @ 4:24 pm

  10. In the past I have come down hard on you (I come down hard on Edwardo too, he can corroborate…)
    I only come down hard on people who are talented, and YOU are particularly talented, as I have already said.
    That’s why I have challenged you to be doing MORE pieces like this, and LESS “ranting”. (But maybe I don’t read you often enough, that’s possible…)
    A quick look at blogdom will show you ten million places where people rant.
    Ah… the good old tradition of the Old Testament prophets..
    I am not particularly keen on them.
    I happen to feel that it takes much less talent to rant than to do the kind of piece you just did HERE.
    These days.. it takes GREAT MORAL FORTITUDE TO KEEP HOPE UP.
    I have a great admiration for Jesus Christ. Someone who kept ranting at a strict minimum (but.. let’s face it.. NOBODY’S PERFECT 😉 Even HE could have done better on this count…)
    I have found that only.. LOVE gives people hope, and that it is hope that brings about EXPONENTIAL CHANGE FOR THE BETTER.
    We NEED exponential change right now.
    What we really need.. is for many, many of us to assume the charge and the responsibility.. of working LIKE Jesus Christ worked, showing love, and HOPE to a mankind which is really mired in despair these days.
    So… remember that I don’t always practice what i preach (Jesus didn’t either…) and nobody can, but.. LOVE and HOPE are such neglected values these days that ANYBODY who holds out for them..
    Well, look at the tone of the comments you got there…

    Comment by Debra — September 16, 2010 @ 1:06 pm

    • I’m glad you liked this piece, and like I said I’ve often written about stuff like this, though I’m trying to become more systematic about it.

      Comment by Russ — September 16, 2010 @ 2:26 pm

  11. “Yes, although the point of a local currency isn’t to “hold” it, but for it to keep circulating locally.”

    You are playing a game of semantics with my brief post.

    What one desires in a currency is stability, even if the currency is not intended to function as a store of value, which, in a monetary system that is designed to work properly, it needn’t, and shouldn’t do.

    As for the intended purpose of this currency, namely “local use” which is something of a misnomer, it is already compromised by its being nothing more than a proxy for the larger, official “local” currency BOE notes.

    Although I don’t usually see it phrased this way, any worthwhile alternative currency project has to be dedicated to purging the false “store of value” concept.

    Money has moral validity and practical purpose only when in motion.

    There is nothing false about the concept. Rather the opposite is the case.

    Perhaps I don’t quite understand what you have in mind with the term motion-though I think I do, but what, for example, moral value did the dizzying motion of Weimar Republic bank notes have in 1923?

    The list is very long in this regard.

    Money systems ultimately break down unless a store of value underpins the exchange value currency. What occurs with fiat, unerringly, and is about to become critically sundered in the West, is that the two key elements, the store of value, and the exchange value are fused. The store of value, namely gold, is removed from the money system, and then attacked as a scourge, when in fact the scourge is the very idea that a store of value, especially in the form of gold, was ever the problem.

    Comment by Edwardo — September 16, 2010 @ 5:22 pm

    • I wasn’t trying to play at semantics, Edwardo. All I meant was that anyone who looked at alternative currencies from the point of view of trying to find a more stable “investment” than mainstream legal tender would be kind of missing the point.

      I do think the store of value is false by any measure other than might makes right. That is, hoarded concentrated wealth enforces its own illegitimate prerogative to exist and to dominate the polity and distort the real economy. (By “false” I don’t mean that it literally never exists; I mean that it never should exist.)

      In case this is a misunderstanding over the terms, it seems to me that useful possession and “store of value” are mutually exclusive. Otherwise why is this “function” of money differentiated from the unit of account and medium of exchange functions?

      Perhaps I don’t quite understand what you have in mind with the term motion-though I think I do, but what, for example, moral value did the dizzying motion of Weimar Republic bank notes have in 1923?

      I said it’s not valid if it’s not in motion. I didn’t say motion is necessarily valid. IOW motion is necessary but not sufficient. As we see with hyperinflation episodes, the printing press can distort motion to destroy its legitimacy.

      Comment by Russ — September 17, 2010 @ 3:14 am

  12. I realize that my comments could easily be understood to advocate the return of a gold backed monetary system, which was not my intention. I was trying to make a deeper point about money, monetary functioning, and how perceptions of both are perceived, often in my view, quite incorrectly.

    I urge anyone interested in this discussion to read the following blog to get a better understanding of what I have in mind.

    http://fofoa.blogspot.com/

    Comment by Edwardo — September 16, 2010 @ 8:45 pm

  13. make that:

    ..perceptions of both are, often, in my view, incorrect.

    Comment by Edwardo — September 16, 2010 @ 8:47 pm

  14. “For example, we should start to come up with a game plan for how to resist paying the health racket extortion mandate.”

    There are probably numerous ways to attack this issue. Here’s one: Whatever efforts come from “What We Need To Do”, I suggest coming at this one through the courts. Do we have any lawyers in the house? Let’s face it, Adams, Jefferson, and many of their founding ilk were attorney, and we would do well, no pun intended, to court them when and where it seems fitting.

    Comment by Edwardo — September 16, 2010 @ 8:54 pm

    • Since the so-called “progressives” surrendered without a fight (or more often were traitors), it’s turning out that the first line of defense is already these legal challenges (mostly coming from the cynical “right”, although the basic principle is universal).

      It’s very simple – if they can constitutionally force us to buy an arbitrary thing from this private vendor (by which I mean if the rogue courts rule that; it’s of course not constitutional as we all know), simply as the price of our existence as residents, then they can force us to buy anything from anyone.

      By what logic can they force us to buy a worthless piece of paper called an “insurance policy” but not force us to have a bank account, or a cable TV subscription, or to buy a car?

      Those are examples of powerful interests which could in theory lobby to have this kind of extortion law passed.

      I’m waiting to see how these tea partiers, who said they hated the Obama health bill so much, will put pressure on any new Republican majority in Congress to repeal it. If they really oppose the bill that much, and if they’re really their own grass roots agents and not astroturfed sheep, then they’ll demand immediately:

      “If you Republicans don’t repeal this monstrosity, then it’ll no longer be just the Democrats’ health bill, it’ll be the bipartisan health bill.”

      Unfortunately my expectations aren’t high. We’ll just see how rebellious they are once the Reps are taking power again.

      I’d love to see the mandate destroyed by one of these conventional measures. But I fear that in the end we’ll have to resist it from the bottom up.

      Comment by Russ — September 17, 2010 @ 3:37 am

  15. […] political skills of polemical writing, public speaking, debate, etc. Last year I offered a suggestion for how to organize this.   Here’s one possibility for idea coordination, which could also have many other benefits. Are […]

    Pingback by Basic Movement Strategy « Volatility — May 23, 2011 @ 5:57 am

  16. […] banks rightfully own the land.   2. A housedebtor has an obligation to pay the mortgage.   But here’s the truth:   1. The banks never legitimately owned the land, we the people own […]

    Pingback by Occupy and Land Redemption « Volatility — February 17, 2012 @ 5:11 am


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