Tuesday, June 17, 2003

Please don't read these as 'finished thoughts'.

I have spent years thinking about some of these things, and the weblog often just contains notes to myself.

I have spent a lot of time thinking about 'money' and 'wealth'.

As an old hippie, living in an affluent (effluent) UK whose wealth came from exploiting the planet through Empire-building, I already despised what had happened before I was born, but was only really interested in what I could DO about it. The first thing was to resign from the System. I didn't claim benefits through the Welfare State, and didn't pay taxes for many years (except for those indirect ones 'they' cunningly placed, like VAT, the tax on alcohol and tobacco, etc.)

After a long period of wondering how to survive, I ended up as a street performer - my 'pitch' being that if you were amused, and wanted to see me there again the next day, you would have to contribute enough for me to eat and find somewhere to sleep. Enough people gave me cash in those years that I got through this phase. Essentially, these was 'gifts', freely given from one individual to another. No interest, no promises.

Nowadays, street performers have to get public liability insurance, pay self-employed National Insurance stamps, etc. It doesn't take long for the 'System' to integrate you.

Still, I enjoyed the period in which I earned and spent 'cash'. It's a precarious way to live, in a society which uses long-term planning and commitment of resources. If houses were all to be bought by people working the way I did then they would cost about ?£10,000 (a just about feasible amount to 'save' up'). Because you can promise your life earnings away to a mortgage, you can multiply your current earnings (and future earnings plus speculative promotions) to come up with a sum you can 'afford to borrow'. That's what the house costs you - everything you may ever earn.

I guess the illusion of stability allows this sort of gamble. The two generations before me had a couple of wars, The Great Depression, and other reminders that promises might be hard to keep in a changing world.

Still, voluntary 'wage slavery' has its benefits. The huge card castle of debt that the UK and the USA are now living on (far higher than any Third World Debt - which is a parallel debt we hope will pay off our own extravagance) does worry me slightly.

partt of the reason is that, having reached the age of 52, more or less standing back from this system, I joined the library service, and now get low wages which encourage the tendency to borrow against theoretical (speculative) earnings in the future. I haven't gone far into debt, but enough to worry me...I got a credit card to be able to shop on the Internet, and that alone has started eating up my earnings in paying 'Interest'.

Now, charging 'Interest' is the root of the problem. Usury, they call it in the Bible. In systems theory this is a positive feedback loop (in simple terms, the HOWL you get from speakers when a microphone is put in front of them - and you know how excruciating that is!)

Ecological and balanced systems use negative feedback loops to stabilise themselves. The simple model for this is the thermostat in central heating systems - TOO HOT? Turn it off. TOO COLD? Turn it on again.

Of course, someone has to decide on the parameters of the settings. Set them too close together and the system goes into oscillations OFF?ON?OFF?ON?OFF?ON?

Notes to self, like I say. I am reading an excellent book on Money, and Local Currencies, called "Money, Understanding and Creating Alternatives to Legal Tender" by Thomas H Greco, Jr.

The Introduction is by Vicki Robin, author of 'Your Money or Your Life'.
Why not visit her site, and look at the 9 Step program?

and look at the Simple Living website

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