The Future of Money © Bernard Lietaer March 1999
Chapter 9: A Broader View – the Tao of Money
“We don’t have a mechanistic universe,
We have a learning universe.”
“Only by restoring the broken connections can we be healed.
Connection is healing”
So far, we have remained within a fundamental premise implicitly built into economic thinking: that the economy is a closed system where monetary exchanges determine what is going on. In this chapter, we will start having a peek “outside of the box.”
My basic premise is that no single metaphor can provide us with a full picture for the possibilities offered by revisiting our unconscious assumptions about money. Multiplying the perspectives through different metaphors should therefore help to dispel the illusion that any one of them describes the real world.
Each metaphor gives only an insight from one particular angle. It is a bit as if someone tried to make an inventory of the Louvre Museum by looking through key holes. The more keyholes we can look through, the better the chance to grasp the real picture, although we should never have the illusion that we really have figured it all out. The view from the keyhole of traditional economics will be complemented by eight additional metaphors which each provide an interesting insight, and together allow us to better map the terrain. Through this diversity of viewpoints, I also hope to dispel the notion that any one of them fully describes reality as it is.
Here are nine metaphors:
- Traditional Economics Viewpoint
- Alternative Economics Viewpoint
- Biological Metaphor
- The Brain Metaphor
- Mythological Viewpoint
- A Western Philosophical Viewpoint
- A Humanistic Viewpoint
- A Taoist Viewpoint
- A Whole Systems Viewpoint
If you are in a hurry, you can select only the “keyholes” that communicate best to you. However, in any case read the last three — the Humanistic, the Taoist and the Whole Systems viewpoints — because they introduce concepts that will be used later on.
1. Traditional Economics Viewpoint
“Any position tends to be right on what it affirms,
and wrong in what it denies.”
Stewart Mills, classical economist
The most famous metaphor of traditional economics is now 230 years old, and it still resonates today.
“Every individual …endeavors as much as he can…to direct…industry so that its produce may of the greatest value…neither intending to promote the public interest, nor knowing how much he is promoting it…He intends only his own gain, and he is in this, as in many other cases, led by an invisible hand to promote an end that was no part of his intention… By pursuing his own interest he frequently promotes that of society more effectually than when he really intends to promote it.”3 This invisible hand metaphor comes straight from the way Newton’s laws of gravity were explained at the time. God’s hand was pushing every particle of matter to be attracted to all the others. Every raindrop would seek to reach its own lowest possible level directed by the invisible hand of gravity.. However, almost every chapter of this book has illustrated that it is our money system – not God or human nature – which is really what has been programming that Invisible Hand.
Notice also that the key guiding metaphors embedded in mainstream economics (for instance, general equilibrium or price formation theories), are invariably Newtonian-style mechanic and/or mathematical ones. These have unquestionably proven powerfully effective metaphors, but sometimes we should remember that they are only a map, not the territory. The current chapter will show that the economic territory is wider and more diverse than what traditional economics acknowledges.
The whole systems approach presented later will define “Integral Economics” which includes what traditional economics deals with, but also includes the other dimensions of human activity and exchanges it has tended to deny. I call it “Integral” because it attempts at recovering a broader perception of reality than traditional economic models have dealt with so far.
2. Alternative Economics Viewpoint
The traditional way of defining the economic pie (see Figure 9.1)6, acknowledges three sectors: the Private Sector (the largest piece of the pie), the Public Sector and an Underground Sector (about 15% of the total, representing the ‘black market’ such as drug dealing and other illegal economic activities).
|Figure 9.1 The Traditional GNP Economic ‘Pie’|
In contrast with this flat ‘pie’ Henderson proposes another image: ‘a three layered cake with icing’(see Figure 9.2)
|Figure 9.2 Total Productive System of an Industrial Society7|
This image shows that the GNP-Monetized top half of the cake is basically the only part ever looked at and represented in the traditional GNP pie. However, this official market economy of all the cash transactions rests on top of the Non-Monetized productive half of the cake. This is where the do-it- yourself, the bartering, the internal family gift economy, the unpaid community support systems and the subsistence agriculture reside. The whole human economy finally rests upon the ultimate gifts of Mother Nature: the natural resource base, the place where all ‘external’ costs of the entire economy are buried (absorption of pollution or toxic dumps, recycling of waste if absorption tolerances are not exceeded).
Seen from this perspective, the private sector market economy is only the “icing on the cake.” It can only function with the support of the services provided by the Public Sector (e.g. transport, education, laws, law enforcement). However both the Public and Private Sector together would not even be possible without the free gifts of the social cooperative economy. Bringing up a child, and training her or him to fit in society for a public or private career, is part of what Henderson calls the “Love Economy” which provides a permanent and hidden subsidy to the official economy. The biggest component of that “Love economy” is of course the role that the natural world plays in terms of subsidizing the official economy, which doesn’t even bother to acknowledge its existence.
Another topic Henderson talks about is the “generally sacrosanct goal of ‘full-employment’. What economists and policy-makers actually mean by this term is the full employment of ‘heads of households’ (i.e. only half of the adult population, generally the male)” . The work done by women or children was considered not existing, whether at home or as volunteers in the community. “All this represented a colossal subsidy to the GNP measured sectors. This hidden subsidy eroded as women moved into the paid work force due to wartime mobilization and the lure of cash… Few dared to question whether the industrial economy could actually employ and pay all of its able- bodied adults, or whether this might ‘break the bank’ or simply inflate the currency, denude the rural areas, and erode family and community life while leaving children and the elderly or sick unattended.”8
Suddenly, the boring technical definitions of GNP or employment reveal a host of hidden political and social agendas – some of which may very well have been considered as self-evident when these concepts were defined half a century ago.
In recent years even the World Bank has started to catch up with these facts, and now confirms that what is measured in the traditional GNP is a partial and misleading reality which misses the vast inputs from non-Monetized and natural inputs.
3. Biological Metaphor
Mathematics and physics have been the “model sciences”, the ideal metaphor to which all scientific progress has been striving for the past two centuries. But this has now started to change. “The primacy of mathematical physics as the science of sciences, as the exemplary core of general scientific progress, which it has been since the seventeenth century, is now passing. The new hub is that of the life sciences, of the lines of inquiry that lead outward from biology, molecular chemistry, biochemistry, biogenetics…These lines now seem to radiate and spiral toward every quarter of scientific and philosophical pursuits, as did the physics of Descartes and Newton.”9
The metaphors for economics provided by evolution biologist Elisabet Sahtouris are therefore particularly relevant. “As an evolutionary biologist, I see globalisation as natural, inevitable, and even desirable. It is already well under way and is not a reversible process. We are doing some aspects of it cooperatively and well, to wit our global telephone, postal and air travel systems, but not the most central and important aspect of globalisation – its economics – which is currently being done in a manner that threatens the existence of our whole civilization. […] The evolutionary process never goes well until the individual, communal, ecosystemic, and planetary interests are met simultaneously and reasonably harmoniously. This is an aspect of biological evolution that unfortunately has not gained prominence, and is therefore not part of our meme (social gene) bank. However spiritual we can also be, we humans are inescapably biological creatures and could benefit greatly from the lessons already learned in the four-and-a-half billion-year improvisational dance we call evolution.
What is it that prevents your cells, or your organs, from pursuing their self-interest competitively such that relatively few “win” and most “lose.” The obvious answer is that they are part of a cooperative – a multi-celled creature, a whole entity that began as a single cell, but is more than the sum of all the cells cloned from it. If we were an intelligent species – and I suspect aliens would have to judge us otherwise given our knowing destruction of our own life support system and our ridiculously juvenile antagonisms over what belongs to whom – it would become obvious that human affairs have reached the danger level. Cooperation must restore the imbalances of aggressive competition and hoarding if we are not to go extinct along with the tens of thousands of other species we are knocking out of the game each year.”10
She adds that both communism and capitalism have in common not to pass the test of biological system robustness. The communist model fails when it assumes that all cells or organs are subordinate to the whole, and or not supposed to take any initiatives on their own. The body understands the role of differences and initiative.
For the capitalist side, her argument runs as follows. “Consider world economics and imagine it as the economics of a living entity as your body. Think what would happen in your body if the raw material blood cells in your bones were mined as resources by the ‘northern industrial” lung and heart organs, transported to their production and distribution centers where blood is purified and oxygen added to make it a useful product. Imagine it is then announced that blood will be distributed from the heart center to those organs that can afford it. What is not bought is chucked out as surplus or stored till the market demand rises. How long could your body survive that system? […] Obviously metaphors have their limits and I do not for a moment suggest we slavishly emulate body models. But bodies beat unrealistic mechanical metaphors of perfect societies running like well- oiled machines. They are something we all have in common regardless of our world-views or our political or spiritual persuasions, and they do exemplify the main features and principles of all healthy living systems, be they single cells, bodies, families, communities, ecosystems, nations or the whole world.”11
4. The Brain Metaphor
The following image provides another biological metaphor, the one presented by neuro-specialist Roger Sperry for the human brain. His claim is that the two halves of the brain tend to specialize in their functions (Figure 9.3).
Figure 9.3: The two halves of the human brain and their functions12
In this interpretation, the left brain is operating predominantly in a linear, logical, hierarchical and sequential way. This process is represented as a hierarchical cone in the illustration to the right. In contrast, the right brain operates mostly in an intuitive, imaginal, integrative and holistical way, which is represented by a network of nodes.
Although this view of a specialization of the two halves of the brain should not be driven to extremes, it provides nevertheless an interesting insight into a possible brain “hard-wiring” of different modes of interpretation of the world.
In this view, the prevailing economical systems have been interpreted until now exclusively as relevant for left-brain approaches.
5. Mythological Metaphor
Greek mythology has a marvelous tale illustrating the consequences of the single-minded pursuit of one aspect of reality. It is the story of the “deadly Midas touch.”
King Midas of Lydia had made the wish that everything he touched would change to gold. The God Dionysus accorded him his wish. At first, this looked like a great idea: he was quickly transforming stones and furniture in his palace into an incredible treasure trove. But then his daughter came by, and as he tried to embrace her to share his excitement, she transformed into a golden statue as well. When he tried to eat, everything he tried to swallow turned to gold. So “the richest man in the world” ended up dying alone, and starving.
“Any organism that destroys what it takes to be its other,
not recognizing itself in that other,
lies a firm foundation for its self-destruction”
was the viewpoint of cybernetics specialist Edward E. Sampson13
6. A Western Philosophy Viewpoint
“Male and Female He created them.
From here we learn:
Any image that does not embrace male and female
is not a high and true image.”
Richard Tarnas is credited by several authorities to have written “the best intellectual history of Western thought” covering from 700 BC to today. He sees two levels where a new integration has to happen, one is the level of the “meta-narratives” (the “story behind all the stories”), and the other one at the balance in society between masculine and feminine viewpoints.
According to Richard Tarnas15, there are two core myths that constitute the meta-narrative in the Modern Western world. “Meta-narratives” refer to the “big story” that underlies all the other stories we tell about ourselves and the world.
The first meta-narrative sees human evolution as a Heroic conquest toward “Progress.” It sees history as moving from a “primitive” stage marked by “ignorance, limitations and scarcity,” to a “Modern” future marked by “vastly increased knowledge, freedom and well-being.” In today’s version of this Promethean project, everything is possible through science, technology, and individualistic democracy.
The second story is the underbelly of the first, a description of the same identical process as above, but seen from the perspective of the losing parties. It is a meta-narrative that started about 150 years ago – the idea of “Decline” – born as soon as “Progress” became a buzz-word16. It comes from the metaphor of the “Fall,” which originated when we split off from a “sacred” reality and its values traditionally held as sacred. The current version of this Decline narrative includes the loss of meaning, of soul, and of an imminent ecological collapse.
Both the Heroic narrative and the Decline create each other, they are the two sides of the same reality. They are the same reality looked at from two valid viewpoints. The two visions complement each other. Tarnas claims that “The opposite of a great Truth is another great Truth” Our task is to hold both opposites, which creates the richest vessel for possibilities and insights, “the vessel where the divine manifests.”
There are many different world-views that can be constructed from the available data. One of them is that we are on a race against time between a collective initiation and a species self-destruction. The Time Compacting Machine was one example of such a view (chapter 1). The other narrative is that we are already engaged in the birth canal of another civilization, that our crisis is a birth.
Masculine and Feminine
After 400 pages of inventory of the ideas of almost exclusively “males writing for other males,” Tarnas concludes that an unprecedented shift is happening now between what he calls the “masculine” and the “feminine.” [NB: “masculine” in the following quotes is not identical with male or man, but refers to what Taoists call “Yang.” Similarly “feminine” is equivalent to the Eastern Yin concept. Obviously a typical male tends to identify more with the Yang traits, but all humans have “Yin” and “Yang” traits in varying degrees of balance at different times.]
Tarnas concludes in his Epilogue: “the evolution of the Western mind has been founded on the repression of the feminine – on the repression of undifferentiated unitary consciousness, a progressive denial of the soul of the world, of the community of being, of the all-pervading, of mystery and ambiguity, of imagination, emotion, instinct, body, nature, woman – of all that which the masculine has projectively identified as other.”17
“This is the great challenge of our time, the evolutionary imperative for the masculine to see through and overcome its hubris and one-sidedness, to own its unconscious shadow, to choose to enter into a fundamentally new relationship of mutuality with the feminine in all its forms. The feminine then becomes not that which must be controlled, denied, and exploited, but rather fully acknowledged, respected, and responded to for itself. […] I believe that the West’s restless inner development and incessantly innovative masculine ordering of reality has been gradually leading, in an immensely long dialectical movement, toward a reconciliation with the lost feminine unity, toward a profound and multi-leveled marriage of the masculine and the feminine, a triumphant and healing reunion.
And I consider that much of the conflict and confusion of our own era reflects the fact that this evolutionary drama may now be reaching its climactic stages. For our time is struggling to bring forth something fundamentally new in human history. […] It affirms those indispensable ideals expressed by the supporters of the feminists, ecological, archaic and other countercultural and multicultural perspectives. But I would also wish to affirm those who have valued and sustained the central Western tradition, for I believe that this tradition – the entire trajectory from the Greek epic poets and Hebrew prophets on, the long intellectual and spiritual struggle from Socrates and Plato and Paul and Augustine and Descartes and Kant and Freud – that this stupendous Western project should be seen as a necessary part of a great dialectic, and not simply rejected as an imperialist- chauvinist plot. Not only has this tradition achieved that fundamental differentiation and autonomy of the human which alone could allow the possibility for such a larger synthesis, it has also painstakingly prepared the way for its own self-transcendence. Each perspective, masculine and feminine, is here both affirmed and transcended, recognized as part of a larger whole; for each polarity requires the other for its fulfillment. And their synthesis leads to something beyond itself: it brings an unexpected opening to a larger reality that cannot be grasped before it arrives, because this new reality is itself a creative act.”18
In short, what Tarnas sees happening for the West is the end of Yang domination after at least 27 centuries. What he sees occurring now is not a shift of domination from Yang to Yin, but a new cooperative synthesis where both are honored in their own terms. The vignette about “A World in Balance” described such a society (Chapter 1).
7. A Humanistic View: Money and the Crisis of Meaning
“Nothing Human is foreign to me”
Classical Latin saying
There are many ways to define human beings. One of these, the conventional “Economic Man” — whose characteristics date back to Adam Smith — captures a part, but not all of human activities or motivations. The following table compares two ways of looking at that question.
|Economic Man||Relational Human|
|Humans are beings with needs, they are rational decision makers, and pursue their own self-interests||Humans are beings with desires and fears, they are guided by their emotions and passions, and develop meaning through relationships.|
The “relational human” substantially broadens the definition of what matters in human behavior. Note that meaning is always derived from relationships — it can be with your children, God, your life partner, Nature, your country, your community, etc. It is therefore not surprising that living within a money system that promotes efficiency of exchanges at the cost of reciprocity and community (chapter 6), will also provoke a growing crisis of meaning. That is why Jacob Needleman’s observation that “the only thing that money will not buy is meaning” is so valid.19
The humanistic viewpoint integrates both the Economic and the Relational views as legitimate and concurrently valid descriptions of what humans are and tend to do. A dangerous blindness will result whenever one assumes that either one of these descriptions is the only valid one.
Money issues in particular are a domain where holding both views simultaneously is relevant, because money is the space where needs, desires, fears, rationality and passions tend to intimately intertwine. For instance, when one assumes that purely rational decision makers are active in financial markets it becomes impossible to understand the chronic cycles of financial booms and crashes. All booms and crashes can be shown to be collective money diseases.20
Seen from the humanistic perspective, the role of currencies that empower the human relationship dimension — and are complementary to the competitive drives of personal interest — become clearer.
8. A Taoist Viewpoint: All is About Balance
“Every explicit duality is an implicit unity”
Our Modern culture, our information sources, our values, even our words with which we communicate and think, always tend to polarize things. Whenever we make a distinction, “it rests on an assumption of opposition and a logic of negation.”22 For instance, in any Indo-European language when we think “cold,” we are automatically implying “not warm” . The word “health” means the absence of disease, etc.
The Taoists, in contrast, never dichotomize their contraries the way we do. For instance, their best known polarity is Yin-Yang. We tend to translate this oriental concept as an expression of our familiar opposites. We, therefore, assume Yin-Yang to represent opposites: black or white, cold or warm, night or day, female or male, etc. Our normal interpretation is that black excludes the white, cold excludes warm, night is when it is not day, etc.
Taoists see Yin-Yang as connected to each other, as necessary components to make the whole possible. That is why they never refer to Yin or Yang, but always to Yin-Yang. In this way, they point to the link between them rather than the space that separates them. Yin is black only to the extent that the Yang is white. Yin is cold only to the extent that Yang is warm. The Yin is night only to the extent that Yang is day, etc. This difference in world-view is subtle, but critical. The Taoists look at the whole at the same time as the parts. Each part exists only because of the interface they create in the whole. In contrast, we tend to take one part and oppose it to the other.
The same distinction is made in martial arts, where Eastern traditions talk about the “soft eyes” which enable you to see at the same time your protagonist and the surroundings. Fly fishing requires similar “soft eyes” encompassing both the spot where the line is dropped and the entire river, in contrast with the “hard eyes” used for bait fishing where the focus remains only on the bobber. People who get good at bird or whale watching report exactly the same process. In short, Taoists are fly-fishing, while our very language tends to keep us stuck with bait fishing (see sidebar on Lao-Tzu).
Lao-Tzu for the 21st Century
Taoism was founded by the Chinese scholar Lao-Tzu, about whom very little hard historical facts are known. Tradition describes him as the curator of the emperor’s Imperial Library sometime in the 6th century BC. In his old age, he became disgusted with courtly chicanery, resigned from his respected post and decided to live as a recluse, leaving most of his belongings behind. He mounted a water buffalo to leave town when a gate guardian asked him whether he would please sum up all he had learned from a life spent with the best book collections of the Empire.
Lao-Tzu is said to have written then on the spot the shortest treatise on good living in existence, the Tao Te Ching, counting only 5,000 ideograms. (In fact, even this is now considered legendary, given that research has shown that this text was in fact not written until the 5th century BC.)
It starts with “The Tao that can be spoken is not the real Tao. The Name that can be named is not the Eternal Name.” In other words, he is saying that language is the first barrier that prevents us from knowing the Way. He insists on the importance of living in a balanced flow, on valuing both the feminine and masculine, on equality between men and women. He emphasizes intuition, relationship with Nature and silence.
Lao Tzu was an elderly contemporary of Confucius, then an earnest, ambitious young teacher. Confucius proposed that men should learn to control their desires first, their wives second and their children third. Confucius formalized the patriarchal family control system in China, emphasized hierarchy, intellectual pursuits through reason and scholarly reading of the classics. All this was exactly at the opposite end of Lao Tzu’s worldview.
Chinese history has seen several alternations between Lao Tzu’s and Confucian priorities. Ultimately, 1800 years after both founder’s deaths, under the intellectual influence of the neo-Confucian scholar Chu Shi (1130-1200 BC) Confucianism won decisively during the Sung dynasty. It became the official social system in China until Mao-Tze- Tung’s communist take-over in the 1940s. .
I propose that we now have more to learn from Lao-Tzu than from Confucius, at least period in which we are now engaged.
For example, how many of you have read correctly the title of this section: “All is about balance.” Have you automatically read “it is all about balance,” which has a different meaning? Or have you just decided that it was a typo?
If this text were written in Chinese ideograms, its readers would immediately understand what is referred to: the whole exists only because of the balance between the two parts. “All is about balance” is illustrated by the classical T’ai Chi symbol where the black and white create a single whole through their balanced interaction. Notice that not only does each opposite shape the other, but that at the heart of each polarity, the opposite is also present (the little white dot in the black side of the symbol).(see Figure 9.4).
On a lighter note, a similar point is made in the pun about a Buddhist monk requesting a food vendor: “Make me one with everything.”
Figure 9.4: T’ai Chi Symbol
The point here is to illustrate the subliminal power of our language which automatically makes us read what we expect, rather than what is there. Our very words will automatically make us project and see polarities where, in fact, harmonious interaction may be present as well, or even predominantly present.
The Taoist viewpoint also provides us with some useful economic distinctions concerning the four forms taken by capital. Predictably, traditional economics acknowledges the existence of only the two Yang forms of capital: physical capital (plant, equipment, real-estate) and financial capital (stocks, bonds, cash, and “intellectual property” such as patents and trademarks). It therefore ignores the role of the two forms of Yin capital: natural capital (e.g. clean water or air, biodiversity, etc.) and social capital (e.g. family or group solidarity, peace, quality of life, etc.). This denial is remarkable, given that Yang capital would simply not survive without a continuous input from the Yin capital forms.
|Non-material Level||Financial capital||Social capital|
|Material Level||Physical capital||Natural capital|
Finally, Taoist wisdom would warn us that the tendencies of a dominant Yang to suppress the other will be dangerous to the whole, and ultimately deadly harmful to the Yang itself.23
9. A Whole Systems Viewpoint
A systems approach involves identifying four aspects of a given reality: its structure (i.e. the actors, individual or collective), the processes (interactions between actors), the rules (e.g. laws of nature or human laws governing the system), and the context (interactions of the system with other systems and the broader environment). Ideally, the whole systems approach reduces the context to a minimum by integrating as many relevant aspects as realistically possible.
I will now use the whole systems approach to two types of systems – the relationship between governance and money on the one side, and the Taoist Yin-Yang concepts on the other – and then combine them.
Governance and Money
There has always been a relationship between values, governance, money and economic self- determination. That relationship is best explained by the following graph (Figure 9.5)
Figure 9.5 Relationship between Values, Governance, Economic Self-Determination and Money
World-view and values shape the kind of governance a society develops: the most obvious historical example is the elaboration of the American constitution as a result of debates among the Founding Fathers which the “Federalist Papers” reveal quite consciously imbued with values. To my knowledge, the design of a money system has never had the benefit of such an openly public and conscious debate; but money systems are saturated with mostly unconscious values and priorities as well. In turn, governance and money systems pretty much determine the extent to which a society — or the group who created the governance and money systems — will attain economic self- determination, and thereby perpetuate their socio-economic position.
It can also work the other way around. I have shown earlier that money systems continually reinforce or inhibit certain values. An example of this are our conventional currencies which foster competition (Chapter 2) and contribute to community breakdown (Chapter 6). The reinforcement of these values and the segments of society which benefit from increased economic power will then in turn modify the governance systems. So whenever there is a change in any one of these four domains, it is always useful to check on what happens to the others. It is the convergence of changes in all four fields which determines whether the change will be stable in the long run or not. Let us now apply this framework to two cases of significant historical changes: during the Industrial Revolution and what is happening in the world today.
- In the case of the Industrial Revolution changes in all four domains affected both the previous elites (the landed aristocracy) and the poor (the subsistence farmers). New governance systems came into being in parallel to the economic power shift. Specifically, nation-states replaced kingdoms of divine right; and national central banks became the managers of the currency instead of the sovereign’s mints. There has been and will always be a lot of debate among historians which one of the four variables was the cause of the shift, but what really matters for us here is simply to notice a complex interaction which ended changing all four into a new and stable coherence of the Modern nation-state.
- Today the dominant global economic system is undergoing its biggest mutation since the beginning of the Industrial Age. The current shift toward the Information Age promises to similarly affect at least part of the old elites and of the new poor (the lesser skilled industrial and service workers). New governance systems are again appearing: power is shifting toward institutions such as the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the global corporations which lobbied for it; and fully integrated global currency markets are becoming the real powerhouses of the global currency system.
Governance: Local and Global
However, there is also a whole other level of governance which is only just in its infancy at this point. The astounding rise of the importance of non-government organizations worldwide is a telltale sign. The most significant social innovations and trends over the past decades – from the green movement to human rights – did not originate with governments or political parties, but as self- starting private non-profit initiatives. More revealing still, Carolyn Lukensmeyer (Founder and President of the grass-roots organizations America Speaks and America Discusses Social Security) made a two-year survey of the nature of activism in America in the 1990’s compared to the 1960’s. She made the interesting observation that contrary to generally held opinion, there is in fact more activism now than in the 1960’s but that it is mostly invisible and of a totally different nature. The following table compares the two periods.
|Characteristic||1960’s Activism||1990’s Activism|
|Orientation||Against Something or Someone||In Favor of Solutions|
|Scope of Issues||Single Cause (Racism, Vietnam)||Multi-Cause|
|Visibility||High Media Coverage||Low Media Coverage|
Paradoxically, the trend towards globalisation has sparked off a countervailing trend towards reinforcement of local governance.
Seen from this perspective, the appearance of the local Yin currencies are really just the visible part of a much bigger iceberg: the emergence of a new grass-roots governance system. People have lost confidence that the national governance system can or will provide valid solutions to their problems. They therefore start organizing themselves locally to address some issue of particular urgency, but fairly quickly branch out to include many different problems (from unemployment to care of the elderly, from child tutoring to environmental restoration). Complementary currencies fit in perfectly in such a process as it provides a powerful and flexible tool to mobilize their local resources. This broader perspective shows the depth of the significance of complementary currencies.. These complementary currencies are the key link toward attaining a minimum of economic self- determination for these local communities, something which will become of vital importance as the Yang economy continues to globalize and further reduces the power of the national governments to provide such self-determination at a national level.
The Yin-Yang Coherences
I will now integrate the Taoist vocabulary of Yin – Yang into economic systems. This aims not at exotism, but because I hope this terminology will remind us to think in holistic ways, instead of in the polarities which our Indo-European languages have embedded in our consciousness.
Humans create coherence: they feel, think and perceive realities according to the coherence in which they live.
For instance, the belief in a Transcendent God will tend to increase the perceived need for absolute certainty and central authority. In such a world, hierarchy and competition to “climb up the ladder” is to be expected. Furthermore, a rational, analytical, logical and linear mode of thinking is more likely. The world will be seen as completely explainable by cause and effect, and that Parts explain the Whole. In addition, a “Bigger is Better” and technocratic mentality will tend to prevail.
Stated more generally: a Yang coherence shapes thoughts, actions and emotions ranging from the perception of God and the world to daily minutia.
The following graph elaborates on the Yin – Yang coherences. It can be read up-down to see each internal coherence, or horizontally to grasp what the Taoists would call the connective contrasts between the two world-views.
For probably more than 5,000 years — and certainly over the past 2,700 years covered by Tarnas — Western societies have tended to acknowledge the legitimacy of one of these polarities: the Yang coherence. It has been embodied in a patriarchal social control system in all aspects of life from organized religions to science, from military power and politics to day-to-day jokes. It has been so pervasive that its superiority has long been considered natural law. Even our capacity to observe the world is tainted by such a bias. For example, our ability to observe animal behavior “objectively” is affected (see sidebar).
Animal Behavior and Yin-Yang Coherences
Here are the social behavior patterns of two different species of “social hunters” (animals who hunt in groups). One is very much admired and the other despised in our collective narratives.
The first case is the lion, where the alpha animal is male. The second case fits the description of both the wild dog and the hyena, where the dominant animal is female.24
How come that in Western and African societies there are lots of emblems and stories featuring the lion in a positive light, and none about hyenas or wild dogs?
Integral Economics: Complementary Yin-Yang Economies
The concepts of Yin-Yang coherence (Figure 9.6) can now be overlaid with the competitive and cooperative economic circuits (Figure 5.2). This overlay produces the following combination (Figure 9.7). It illustrates the potential role of a fully developed Yin economic cycle as a necessary complement to the traditional Yang economy. The graph illustrates how each perspective, the Yang or the Yin side of the economy, can be in Tarnas’ words “both affirmed and transcended, recognized as part of a larger whole; for each polarity requires the other for its fulfillment”.25
The human figure facing you at the center of the Figure represents our collective energy, all of our economic activities (Figure 9.7). The circuit on its right hand side (left on the image) is the Yang economy, fueled by the normal national currencies, which automatically generate competition among the participants as we have seen in the “Eleventh Round” (Chapter 2). This is the dominant economy. To most economists, it is the only economic system around. It recognizes physical capital, and aims at generating financial capital.
The circuit on its left side would include either the gift economies of yesteryear, or the emerging cooperative community building currencies of today. It represents what we saw in Hazel Henderson’s figure as the Social Cooperative component and the non-Monetized economy (Figure 9.2). This economy is mostly invisible to economists today, but if it were systematically encouraged instead of destroyed as has occurred almost invariably in the past, it could grow to become a significant part of the full system. It could eventually provide a balance to the weight of the Yang activities. It acknowledges natural capital, and aims at generating social capital.
If it is true that the unemployment process in the Information Age has a structural component, I claim that it is in everybody’s interest , including the participants in the Yang economy, to see a stronger development of the Yin economy through all means at our disposal, including the formal encouragement of complementary currencies; even through tax incentives. Why?
Remember the vicious circle of unemployment (chapter 5)? When a growing number of people are structurally unemployed, they don’t just disappear. They will either become “economically irrelevant,” and therefore a permanent potential source of violence and problems for the rest of society, which can be very expensive indeed (including “pensions for life” in prisons). Or they will, as proposed by Jeremy Rifkin, be supported by taxes on the Yang economy (see Figure 9.8). Either way, the Yang economy is shooting itself in the foot whenever it tries to stifle Yin type initiatives as it historically has tended to do. By blocking a Yin currency and economy, by insisting on a monopoly of Yang economy, the Yang economy also has to transfer resources via taxation to the Yin economy. From a Yin economy viewpoint, these transfers have proven invariably insufficient for the needs at hand. Would it not make more sense from both sides to enable a Yin economy to fully blossom with its own complementary currency in sufficiency?
|New Yorker Cartoon
There is a growing awareness of the need for “social capital” in a healthy society. Cooperative currencies are simply a tool to foster it. Exactly as the Yang cycle is the space where financial capital is taken care of, in the Yin cycle the social capital is being nurtured and developed. It is time to recognize that both types of capital — financial and social — are indispensable for human activity to flourish.
To summarize: The Integral Economy has as purpose to make available Integral Wealth. I therefore define wealth not as an accumulation of money. Integral wealth is developed only when all four types of capital – natural, social, financial and physical – are in appropriate balance. By confusing wealth with only financial capital, we run the risk to believe that we can run down our natural or our social capital indefinitely. Below a certain level of natural or social capital however, it is obvious that financial capital has no relevance anymore: a huge bank account in a wasteland of social disorder or ecological collapse is meaningless. As the bumper sticker claims: “No Planet, No Business”
A Map of Complementary Yin-Yang Currency Types
One useful way to look at all the different currency systems described in this book is to classify them according to their Yin or Yang polarity. Two sets of criteria will be applied:
- Scarce / Competition-inducing, or Sufficient / Cooperation-promoting on the one hand;
- and “fiat” or “backed” currencies on the other.
Just a reminder: “Fiat” currencies are those that require a central Authority to be created and maintained. “Backed” currencies are created by whoever owns the commodity or service used as reference, and its value is guaranteed by that commodity or service.
The following map describes the resulting framework.
Figure 9.9 Map of Yin-Yang Currency Types
Currencies which cumulate the two Yang characteristics of competition-induction and are “fiat” currencies (and therefore need a central authority) will be called “strong Yang” currencies. (Note that I follow here the traditional Taoist terminology, and “strong” does not mean “good”, just as “weak” does not imply “bad”.) Following these criteria, all our traditional national currencies are “strong Yang” currencies. .
In contrast, currencies which remain in short supply but do not need a strong central authority to be created (such as barter credits or the Global Reference Currency) could be called a “weak Yang” currency.
On the Yin side, Ithaca Hours as all “fiat” currencies requires centralized control by the issuer, but otherwise is designed to induce cooperation among its participants (a.o. it is interest free currency).
They will therefore be called a “weak Yin” currencies. The currencies which cumulate the two Yin characteristics of uncentralised issuance and cooperation encouragement would logically become “strong Yin” currencies. This is the case for all forms of mutual credit complementary currencies such as LETS, Time Dollars, or ROCS..
It is worth repeating that the labeling of “strong” or “weak” should not be interpreted as a value judgment, but in the traditional Taoist way. They are simply as an indication of the accumulation of Yang or Yin characteristics that each currency type exhibits.
Each one of these currencies has its own valid niche, and could be the “ideal” currency type for a given circumstance. For instance, social capital is best nurtured by cooperation-inducing Yin currencies, while global industrial trade would be best handled by competition-generating Yang currencies. This graph also illustrates the complementary role that each of these currency systems can play to the others.
Another way of using this map is by becoming aware of the way relationships will be shaped by the different moneys used. Any currency is about relationships. All other things being equal, different kinds of currency will tend to induce different kinds of relationships among its users.
In groups where you want to create a cooperative, egalitarian, Yin type of relationships, use Yin type currencies. In contrast, the trading with Yang currencies will tend to shape competitive, hierarchical relationships, perfectly appropriate for certain contexts like business. Both types of relationship have their appropriate role in one’s life. There is nothing magical about this. When reciprocity is built-in the very process of currency creation, and when the currency is available in sufficiency — both conditions being fulfilled in mutual credit currency systems — the exchanges using this currency will tend to be more compatible with community creation (Chapter 6). The above map just helps avoiding confusing the genres.
This logic is not to be driven to ridiculous extremes, like believing that it would be sufficient to give a Yin currency to a gang of murderers in order for them to transform into lambs. “All other things being equal” is a relevant caveat here. However, how many apparently loving families have been torn apart from the moment when competition and fighting for a scarce currency broke out?
The French author Antoine de Saint-Exupery expressed this dynamic this way:
“If you want people to fight, throw them a bone.
If you want people to cooperate, have them build a tower.”26
Chapter 10: Sustainable Abundance
“History is a race between education and catastrophe”
“Because of the interconnectedness of all minds,
affirming a positive vision may be about the most sophisticated action any
one of us can take”
Willis Harman (1918-1997)
“Let us be of good cheer, remembering that misfortunes hardest to bear
are those that never come.”
James Russell Lowell (1819-1891)
“Let’s be optimistic.
Pessimism is for better times.”
Sustainable Abundance is a scenario, and will follow the same format as the other scenarios described in Chapter 4. It assembles all the pieces of the puzzle identified up to this point. Sustainable Abundance will be explored through “A Visit to the Stanford Campus”. This story highlights the role of three overlapping waves – a Value-Shift Wave, an Information Wave and a Money Wave — in creating Sustainable Abundance. In conclusion, the relationships between Sustainable Abundance and the other scenarios outlined earlier are analyzed.
A Visit to the Stanford Campus
The other day, I was fiddling with some of the unfamiliar handles of the Time Compacting Machine (Chapter One pg ***), and I must have done something wrong. . Suddenly, something quite unexpected happened. I ended up doing some accidental time travel to the campus of Stanford University on the first day of the academic year. Here is a report of what I found.
A Time Travel Report
The site was immediately familiar — I could perceive the emblematic Hoover tower and the surrounding neo-Spanish buildings immersed in the atmosphere of excitement and hesitancy typical of large groups of first-day Freshmen mulling around.
I went into the Economics Department building. A sign in the hallway in front of the first classroom door stopped me dead on my tracks. It read:
Fall Semester 2020
That is when I started to suspect that I had somehow ended up in the future…. In the room, a very attractive mature woman was starting to lecture.
“Once upon a time people actually graduated with degrees such as Economics, Business Administration, Monetary theory, Psychology, or even Sociology and Political Science without having a firm foundation in Ecosophy. It seems that at that time there was no awareness that this would be as dangerous as having a ‘Doctoral Degree in Stomachs’ for example without any understanding about food, blood circulation or the nervous system.
The origin of the word ‘ecosophy’ is similar to the etymology of the words ‘ecology’ and ‘economy’.” She started writing with what looked like a small laser-light pen, and the text appeared simultaneously floating in the air a few feet in front of three walls. I thought “some holographic laser technology: I am definitely in the future…” Three neat columns of words appeared as follows:
“Ecosophy is about how to live wisely on this planet. How our economic, monetary, business, political, sociological, psychological and ecological constructs and activities all interact and affect our collective presence on this planet. It constitutes the indispensable common foundation underlying any one of the fields of knowledge mentioned earlier. It looks at the human species within the context of the broader biosphere with which we are interdependent.
Ecosophy is only one of the signs that our civilization has moved from Modernism to what we now call the Age of Integration. The main seeds for this shift can be traced to changes in interpretations of the physical universe which started over a century ago. Exactly as what happened with previous mutations in world-views — as for instance the Copernican Revolution five centuries ago — it is the interpretation of the physical universe which has provided the leading indicator of a shift in civilization.
For many centuries people had seen Mother Nature as an orderly extrapolation of the human mind. Descartes saw Her as spiritless matter which could be apprehend only by analysis of smaller and smaller parts. Newton saw Her as a well-behaved inert machine set in motion by God and driven by eternal laws, the knowledge of which would deliver Her to our control. All this started to change when the theories of relativity, quantum physics of the first half of the century, and the theories of non- duality and complexity of the second half, became accepted as valid interpretations of reality. They provided the mental framework for our era. The works of Einstein, Heisenberg, Bohr, and later in last century Bohm, Feynman, Prigogine and the dozens of names involved in Chaos and Complexity theories were all key milestones in that process.
The old metaphors of the world as a soul-less machine with humans as separate “objective” observers have been replaced with a living and learning world with whom humans communicate and share part of the responsibility of its evolution. Some say that we have been forced into this new world-view to be able to deal with the global issues such as pollution, deforestation, climate changes or the weakening of the ozone layer.
One key Integration catalyst was also a paradox. It arose when one of the most “Yang” technologies of the entire Industrial Age – the computer – spawned for the first time a perfectly “Yin” space where such an Integration could flourish without constraints. I am referring to the “cybersphere” which succeeded the old Internet. The paradox is even stronger when taking into account that all this was developed initially for the US military at the end of the Cold War. New synergies between the virtual world and the physical world gave rise to the Integral Economy.
[As a reminder, the cybersphere is the virtual space where all earlier communications technologies such as telephone, TV, computers and payment systems converged into a coherent whole (chapter 3 and 4). The concepts of “Yin” and “Yang”, and of the “Integral Economy” will be explained below.]
The Professor continued “To understand the full scope of that process, a framework initially coined by the mid-Twentieth century anthropologist Teilhard de Chardin will prove useful.”
Suddenly a crisp diagram appeared as if floating in vibrant primary colors a few feet in front of all four white walls of the room. The Professor moved in between the front graph and the wall. I also became aware at that point that she seemed to address a larger audience than the students sitting in the class. “Some form of distant learning technology” flashed through my mind.
She moved close to the diagram and commented “Teilhard got inspired by a little known work entitled “The Biosphere” by a Russian biologist of the 1920’s named V.I. Vernadsky. Teilhard generalized that concept by seeing the evolution of our planet in embedded ‘spheres’. First the ‘Lithosphere’ which represents all the inert matter of this planet; then the “Biosphere’ which regroups all life-forms. It looks like a more or less dense ‘biomass-crust’ around the inert matter, represented here in green. It is physically located in a thin layer including a few feet below and a few thousand feet above earth’s surface, including the water and the lower reaches of the atmosphere for birds, airborne insects and micro-organisms. It is only during the 21st century that humans finally shed the illusion that they can disconnect from Nature. Only recently have they truly understood that there is only one life-form on Earth – the biosphere – and that the entire human species plays a role similar to an organ in our own body.
The next layer up, the Noosphere, represented here in blue – she pointed to an almost diaphanous zone in the graph – is more etheric. It is the space where all forms of consciousness interplay, including human consciousness. What Teilhard saw was that – as humanity became more conscious of its interdependence – it would also grow in the awareness of its Unity. He thought that the objective of human evolution would be what he called “Point Omega,” a cosmic consciousness of Unity respectful of all diversity.
However, what Teilhard did not see is how such a mysterious process could occur. Remember, he wrote his major works around the time of World War II and its aftermath. It is amazing that – under these circumstances – he could foresee even the direction of the next evolutionary step. Well, to us now the means by which this consciousness shift would accelerate has become obvious.”
She approached the diagram and touched the diaphanous edge between the Biosphere and the Noosphere circle, and it smoothly transformed into a vibrant violet edge so that the full diagram ended up as follows:
“The cybersphere is simply the link between Teilhard’s Noosphere and its destination, it is the virtual space in which human consciousness toward Integration has been able to manifest. It plays a role similar to the one the lithosphere has been playing for the biosphere. All life forms use inert chemical components of the lithosphere and re-organize them to create their physical life support systems.
When computer technicians in the Twentieth century thought they were just creating a computer network, they were in fact creating an additional dimension and a new type of space.
In retrospect, the last decades of the 20th century play a role similar to what biologist have called the Cambrian explosion. Five hundred fifty million years ago a sudden mutation occurred in the biomass: single-cell life saw a burst of biological diversity and complex multi-cellular organisms proliferated. Hundreds of million years later, the emergence of photosynthesis, and later still the joint appearance of sexual reproduction and individual death were similar milestones. Evolution apparently undergoes such quantum transformations. From this perspective, life has entered digital space using humanity as a surrogate. In the cybersphere life is freed from the confines of slow molecular recombination, can travel at the speed of light, even off this planet as needed…”
I moved to the classroom next door, overhearing what appeared to be an introductory course in Economic History.
“During the early stone age, humans used literally the same tool for many different purposes: a broken stone fragment would be used for everything from killing prey to cleaning one’s nails afterwards.
During the Nineteenth and Twentieth century there seems to have been a similar fixation with trying to use the same monetary tool — national currencies — to do everything from global trade to paying for someone’s education or for elderly care. To use another metaphor, this would be similar to assuming that the nervous system is the only information carrier in the human body, ignoring the role of the blood circuit, the lymphatic system and a wealth of biochemical links.
This idea of “one fits all” in monetary systems finally had to be abandoned when information and nano-production technologies ensured that the majority of the population had no production-related ‘jobs’. Today, less than 30% of the world’s population still has full-time jobs of that type. This has freed the vast majority of the people to dedicate themselves instead to whatever they feel most passionate about – their ‘work’ – mostly in their local or virtual communities. The old scarce national currencies had never been designed to support such an explosion of random creativity.
Of course, many of the Industrial Age economic concepts such as Gross National Product (GNP) or unemployment had to be revised. Both originated as ways to measure military potentials in the earlier decades of the Twentieth century. Among other flaws, GNP measured only those activities which involved exchanges in national currencies. This led to increasingly strange anomalies. For instance, identical activities (e.g. someone taking care of a sick child) would be classified as ‘employed’ and part of the GNP – or not – simply because in one case she was paid for the service in national currency and not in the other. This amounted to a straight denial of the reality of the actual service rendered for free.
The old measures of GNP were still confusing crude growth with smart and wise growth.
The Information Age objective of “Full Potential” has now replaced the Industrial Age idea of “Full Employment.” “Full Potential” refers to the use of someone’s learning capacity and the opportunity to fully develop one’s gifts. Just as was the case with Full Employment, one can never reach 100% of the Full Potential for a population.
In retrospect, it was only by liberating the extraordinary potential of human creativity, of all humans, that there was any hope for planet Earth. Human creativity was something which in past generations was the privilege of only a tiny minority: a few artists, scientists and some other members of the intelligentsia. Even on the basis of the old narrow definition of ‘employment’ at least 700 million adults were routinely ‘jobless’ on the planet in the 1990’s. In terms of evaluating their “Full Potential” at the same time, estimates by our economic historians say that less than one per thousand of humanity reached it. They were considered rare “geniuses.” Add to this the extraordinary fact that only two of the nine forms of intelligence were being recognized, and therefore developed and measured in the education system; i.e. the verbal/linguistic and the logical/mathematical, both with a “Yang” bias. The other seven forms of intelligence used to be simply ignored. So it was very rare that the development of a child took into account these other seven modes of learning : i.e. the musical, spatial, bodily/kinesthetic, intrapersonal, interpersonal, pattern recognition and intuitive/mystical.27 In short, the capacities of the human potential used to be dramatically underestimated, not to speak of developed and used to address our challenges. It is amazing that humanity made it as far as it did back in the Twentieth century. It really looks from today’s perspective, that our species was asked to engage in a race blindfolded with feet and hands bound. A 20th century pioneer, Duane Elgin, claimed that humanity has always been at its best when its capacities are challenged to the maximum. We either radically and consciously changed toward sustainability in all domains, or we just would have to disappear like the great lizards did before us.
The secret of the shift has been a succession of three waves which overlapped in time around the turn of the century. These three waves were:
Together, these three waves have given rise to accelerated change in our economic system, where the cybereconomy has become what it is today: the largest and still the fastest growing economy in the world. That is why the cybersphere is the best place to observe the current status of our monetary system. As you know, our continuously evolving money system operates simultaneously on different levels, ranging from the global to the local. The main advantage of such a multiple level money system is that each type of activity is supported by the kind of currency best adapted to the circumstance. Convertibility among the different currencies is ensured on the Net whenever that is needed. These different systems interact as an organic whole, where each component continually evolves to adapt to the demands and opportunities of the environment in which it operates.
Now let us see the main milestones which got us from last century’s quandaries to what is being hailed as the Age of Sustainable Abundance for humanity.” One of the first landmarks was paradoxically a dorky computer bug, known as the Millennium Bug28…”
Suddenly I saw the scene fading away in front of my eyes, and found myself in a daze back in our own time. Much to my great frustration, I may never know for sure how we got there….
Oh well, I should remain open to life’s many surprises, I suppose…
The balance of this chapter provides the evidence supporting the claims of the Professors of 2020, evidence that is available in 1999.
Defining Sustainable Abundance as a Yin-Yang Synergy
Sustainability: A Synthesis of Views
“Sustainability is a rallying cry for hope. It postulates that there can be a future design of society in which environmental degradation and extremes of social inequity are avoided on an ongoing basis. As an agenda, it implicitly calls for a sense of responsibility and action sincerely aimed at improving or changing our current way of living, and adverting what many feel is a looming social, ecological and economic crisis.”
Global Business Network Report on Sustainability29
Sustainable development is growth in welfare without physical growth. It is a process and not a state, and therefore does not necessarily imply that the population or the economy are static or stagnant.
“Brundtland Report: “Our Common Future”30
Former World Bank Economist Herman Daly31 proposes three conditions for a society to be physically sustainable:
Biologists Paul and Anne Ehrlich32 propose a simple equation showing the role of technology in reducing the overall ecological impact:
Ecological Impact = Population x Affluence x Technology
If population doubles one last time over the next 50 years, and Affluence quadruples, then Technology needs to reduce the impact by at least 1/8 to maintain an impact similar to today.
Sustainable Abundance was defined earlier as the characteristics of a society that satisfies its needs without diminishing the prospects of future generations, while simultaneously providing freedom of choice and creativity to as many people as possible (Chapter 4). Notice that humanity is bound to reach some day willing nilling at least one of the two components — sustainability. One can only argue over how much time that will take, whether it will be achieved by design or after a major breakdown, and whether conscious change can be mobilized for this purpose.
The planet itself is sustainable. The open question is whether it will include us.
What I am proposing here is that humanity reaches sustainability within a time span of one generation, rather than later (sidebar). This could be achieved by following a monetary strategy that would unleash the extraordinary creativity of which humans are capable, and tap the capacities of the technologies of abundance that are now becoming available. The strategy proposed would also avoid the massive suffering that a monetary collapse would entail. Taking some precautionary measures now will be infinitely cheaper than trying to repair damages later. A spare tire may look useless most of the time, until one has a flat in an awkward place…
Notice also that Sustainability is Yin in nature, while Abundance is a Yang concern. Many people/organizations focus on either sustainability (e.g. the ecological movement) or abundance (e.g. the corporate world), but not both. Of course there are many activities where sustainability and abundance are genuinely in conflict. If you want an abundance of timber, you will have to cut more trees; if you have an abundance of cars, expect pollution and traffic jams. However, fortunately such intrinsic conflict is not valid in all domains. Specifically, the three waves described by the Stanford Professor of 2020 happen to be activities where sustainability and abundance are not only compatible but synergistic.
That is why I became so curious to discover what is already visible now of what the Stanford Professor of 2020 credited for the shift towards Sustainable Abundance. Here is a synthesis of the evidence I have found so far.
Toward Sustainable Abundance: Making Waves
Opportunities seem to come in bunches, like grapes or bananas. The three waves are indeed building on each other. The Value-Shift Wave has been until now largely unreported, but underlies the entire process. It provides the fuel for the mutation, while the Information and Money Wave contribute the technological means to unleash the necessary creativity.
Two important studies on Sustainability – Beyond the Limits33 and the Global Business Network’s
Sustainability34 – have shown that both a value-shift and technological shifts will be needed concurrently. After evaluating and modeling in detail the relationships between global resources, population, industrial output and pollution, the authors concluded:
“The potential for technological innovations only buys time – there is still a collapse, but it is delayed until the middle of the twenty-first century. Radical behavioral and attitudinal changes are explored too, but it turns out that these alone are not enough either – there is still a crash in the mid twenty-first century. It is only when both these kinds of changes are applied together that a crash is avoided.”35
It is precisely such a combination which is in fact already happening today.
1. The Value-Shift Wave
“First they ignore you;
Then they ridicule you;
Then they attack you;
Then you win.”
The most detailed data set about changes in values over the past twenty years relates to the US. But there are preliminary indications that this process is in fact going on in the entire Western world, and possibly even globally.
Paul Ray has carried out the largest up-to-date surveys of the changes in values over the past twenty years. These surveys covered scientific samples of 100,000 Americans, and were further refined with over 500 focus groups. This included a benchmark study in December 1994, focusing on emerging new values among a representative national sample of the American population.36 It has provided an invaluable set of hard data about the current state of values in that country. He found that there are in fact three subcultures cohabiting in the US today. Each is a different world of meaning, and has its own worldview. They are respectively the “Traditionalists”, the “Modernists” and the “Cultural Creatives”.
Here is a thumb-nail sketch of each:
The “Traditionalists ” are the religious conservatives, Pre-Modern, about 29% of the population and shrinking in relative importance since World War II, with a slight higher density in the Midwest. According to Ray and Anderson “After listening to numerous discussions in focus groups, it slowly became apparent that there is a Traditionalist cognitive style. Most of them avoid complex situations and ideas if they can, and they are emotionally reactive against change and the modern world…Traditionalism is also a desire for simplification, for traditional certainties, and for less sophistication and secularism, for religious monoculture, and for national and ethnic unity….They believe in recovery of small town, religious America, a nostalgic image of the past… The shadow of Traditionalism includes hate groups and the far right fringe.”37
Until recently they used to share the scene only with the next group: the Modernists.
The “Modernists”: the dominant subculture embodying the official “Western Way of Life”, dropping from a triumphant majority in the 1950’s down today to 47% of the US population (88 million adults). Almost all people in the Western world have been extensively exposed to the “Modernist” world-view. It is the viewpoint that has shaped the Industrial Age. But even as their percentages slowly slack off over time, the Modernist viewpoint remains exclusively the one reflected in mass media.
Historically, Modernism developed during the Renaissance in reaction to the “Traditionalist” societies, as a rejection of the religion-dominated world-view which had been the almost exclusive viewpoint until that time. It therefore considers as “modern” (treated as synonymous with “sophisticated, advanced, urbane and/or inevitable”) the values, technologies, interpretations which oppose themselves to the “backward”, “under-developed” societies which preceded it.
The Modernists kept intact, however, one of the key premises of the previous religion-dominated world-view: the biblical premise that “Man is to be Master over the rest of creation.”
The “Cultural Creatives”: the only group growing in numbers over the past decades. While they were still statistically undetectable twenty years ago (less than 3%), they represent now 23.6% of the population (44 million adults in the US). This is a historically extraordinary shift in values in less than one generation’s time. It is this last subculture that constitutes the Value-Shift Wave referred to by the 2020 Professor. Therefore, more details will be provided about their worldview and current status. It will be shown later that this trend may actually be a global one.
World-view of the Cultural Creative Subculture
Exactly as the Modernist view developed in reaction to what was considered the over-simplifications and excesses of the religion-dominated world-view of the late Middle Ages, the Cultural Creative subculture has emerged in reaction to the blindness and excesses of the Modernist tradition.
At the personal level, their main concern is self-actualization, i.e. inner growth, as opposed to exterior social prestige. Many have given up on having traditional orthodox religions provide support in their spirituality (17% maintain a traditional orthodox practice against 40% for the Moderns, and 47% for the Traditionalists ). They are curious about the world (85% are xenophiles). Quality of personal relationships is critical for them (76% think so, against 49% for the Moderns and 65% for the Traditionalists ). They also tend to be better informed than the society at large.
At the collective level: One of their main concerns is the deterioration of the community and the environment (92% want to rebuild community; 87% believe in ecological sustainability). They are assessed by Ray as more “altruistic” as they are willing to make personal sacrifices (84% are altruistic, compared to 51% among the Moderns and 55% for the Traditionalists ). They are even willing to take personal initiatives in order to achieve a society they believe in (45% want to be “activists”, compared to only 29% of the Moderns and 34% for the Traditionalists ).. Finally, women’s participation in the work place is accepted as a given (69%). They are slightly more optimistic about the future (35% as against 24% for Modernists and 26% for the Traditionalists ).
“There are also some meaningful rejections by the Cultural Creatives: the intolerance of the Religious Right, the thoughtless hedonism of today’s commercial media, the go-go greed of the Modernists in the Eighties, and the mindless destruction of much of the planet’s ecology by big business.”
If you would like to find out to what extent you are a Cultural Creative, please complete the one page self-test of Appendix C.
What is surprising?
The size of the numbers of Cultural Creatives which have appeared out of the woodwork in less than one generation may be surprising to many. It did certainly surprise me. Even people who are part of this subculture consider themselves to be isolated exceptions.
Two reasons converge to create that impression of isolation.
- there is no organization that identifies them;
- there is no media mirror.
One of the main reasons of its relative invisibility is that this subculture has not spawned a mass political party, a mass religious movement, or even a separately identifiable publication market. Cultural Creatives are by definition eclectics who pick and choose as their interests lead them, from mainstream to marginal publications, national as well as foreign. So there is no place or group where they can actually meet and be counted.
Even more important, the mass media, our mirror in society, is still completely immersed in the Modernist subculture, and practically exclusively reflects that viewpoint. Whenever it refers to the subculture of the Cultural Creatives, it tends to present as typical a caricature of the whole group: the marginal fringe of “New Agers”, who represent less than 2% of the population (4 Million adults).
So even when this is reflected, the majority of the 44 Million Cultural Creatives do not recognize themselves in this image either.
This invisibility – even to the members themselves – may be the most unusual feature of this new subculture.
When Modernism came into fashion from the Renaissance onward, the “Modernizers” knew very well that they were a movement. Erasmus of Rotterdam or the French Encyclopedists had the media of their respective times focusing on every one of their doings. They were known as a movement by others, and they also knew each other. All of this was true even as they represented only 1% or 2% of the population in their time, compared to 24% that the Cultural Creative subculture represents today.
So, whenever the socio-political reality of these trends will finally sink in, we can expect a much swifter shift than what happened when Modernism was born.
“Green” and “Integrative” Cultural Creatives
Ray goes on by distinguishing between two types of Cultural Creatives: the “Green” Cultural Creatives and the “Core” ones.
- Green Cultural Creatives (13% or 24 million in the US) are concerned with the environment and social concerns from a secular viewpoint. They tend to be activists in the public arena. They are focusing on solving problems “out there” and are less interested in personal change.
- Core Cultural Creatives (10.6% or 20 million in Ray’s survey) have both personal evolution and green values. They are seriously engaged in psychology, spiritual life, self-actualization, self- expression. They enjoy mastering new ideas, are socially concerned, are involved in “women’s issues” and/or ecological sustainability.
The Cultural Creatives: A Global Shift?
No detailed survey similar to Paul Ray’s has covered the entire globe. However, in September 1997 the secretariat of the European Union used Ray’s values questionnaire identifying Cultural Creatives in their monthly Euro-Barometer survey of all 15 nations (800 interviews per country) and found to their surprise that the percentage of Cultural Creatives are as high in Europe as in the US.
In another study by Duane Elgin, all data available globally further indicate that this shift is in fact a global phenomenon. His conclusion: “considered together, trends do seem to indicate that a global paradigm shift is underway.”38 The global population at large is everywhere ahead in the transition compared to both their official leaders and their media. For instance, a majority worldwide gives priority to protecting the environment over economic growth (see Graph A of Figure 10.1), and are willing to pay higher prices to do so (Graph B). There is also a growing majority – stridently contested by fundamentalists everywhere — that women and men should have equal opportunities, and that having more women involved in political office would improve the general situation (Graph C). What is perhaps most striking is that this trend prevails almost as strongly in developing countries as in developed ones.
Elgin reports also another interesting and under-reported indicator: a shift toward holistic medicine, away from the Modernist conventional medicine. In a 1993 study “Unconventional medicine in the United States” published in the New England Journal of Medicine39 Dr. Eisenberg concluded that unconventional therapy in the U.S. is far higher than previously reported. An estimated one in three persons in the U.S. adult population used unconventional therapy in the year 1990. There were actually more visits to U.S. providers of unconventional therapy than visits to all primary care physicians (425 million visits to 388 million visits). Dr. Eisenberg found that $13.7 billion were spent on alternative medicine in 1990. Another study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) in 1998 found that the trend further accelerated since that time, doubling the out-of-pocket expenses on alternative medicine to between $27 and $34 billion per year. Responding to this shift in consumer demand, now 64% of US medical schools offer courses in what used to be described as alternative medicine. Most significant, these medical practices are now becoming acknowledged as complementary to the conventional Western medicine.
In Europe, the trend for physicians to include complementary medicine is “overwhelming” according to a Time magazine article: “Out of 88,000 practicing acupuncturists in Europe, 62,000 are medical doctors.”40 In Britain, 42% of all physicians routinely make referrals to homeopaths In France, one third of all family physicians prescribe homeopathic remedies, as do 20% of all German physicians. In most European pharmacies, there is now at least as much shelf-space dedicated to herbal medicines than to pharmaceutical drugs. In Asia, scientific and public health interest in acupuncture had already started in the 1950’s. More recently other traditional approaches such as the Ayur-Vedic medicine are growing in popularity, again as complement to Western Modernist techniques.
In short, each one of these trends separately is often dismissed as a “quirk” or an insignificant “fashion” by Modernist opinion leaders. However, when considered together, the pattern reveals a vast paradigm shift towards a re-honoring of Yin values in all aspects of society. It affects all domains. The pattern includes as disparate phenomena as the growing concerns about the environment, holistic health practices; chaos theory in physics, the replacement of hierarchical structures with networks (such as Internet and virtual organizations); the bridging the Cartesian split between matter and spirit, and the women’s emancipation movement.
These shifts can be observed in men and women alike. But again, the most striking of all is that in each of these domains the pattern is repeated, while the meaning of the whole is missed. Thereby the significance, the speed and the scale of this mutation is often missed.
The pattern of the reaction of the dominant Yang paradigm to these Yin innovations is also similar in the different domains. Initially the Yin innovations are ignored. Then they are ridiculed and dismissed as “quakery” or marginal superstitions. As they grow in importance and in popular acceptance, systematic opposition manifests, sometimes extending to more or less violent repressions. However, once a critical mass is achieved, a switch occurs: the complementary nature of the new practices is suddenly acknowledged. Finally, the new practices become integrated into a new synthesis.
Not all domains are at the same level of maturity in this process. In several fields of physics the process is already fairly mature, for instance, quantum physics gets increasingly integrated into new levels of synthesis. As mentioned above, medicine has recently reached the stage of the acceptance of the label of “complementarity”. In contrast, in several fields of biology the phase of systematic opposition is still prevailing41. In money systems, the majority viewpoint is still in the early phases, the attitudes of ignorance and dismissal.
2. The Information Wave
This is the one wave which does not require to look below the radar beams: all mainstream media channels are saturated with news about it. No further explanations about it are therefore necessary, beyond what was already discussed earlier (Chapter 3). Suffice it to remember that the “cybersphere” was defined as the ideal space where the Money Wave will be able to fully develop.
3. The Money Wave
This entire book is about this third wave. This “Money Wave” has been chronicled here as the birth of Yin currency systems which complement the official extreme Yang national currency system. Our money system was shown to be an extreme Yang construct and the monopoly of such currency has locked our societies into an extreme Yang value system. What is proposed here in Taoist medical terminology is “to calm the Yang and activate the Yin”. Pragmatically, the Global Reference Currency is a device that would “calm the Yang”, and the activation of local complementary currencies a means to “activate the Yin”.
The on-going money innovations are more compatible with cooperative, feminine-type, interactions. Far from being anecdotal curiosities, these new money systems turn out to be an integral part of the broad societal Value-Shift Wave described above.
Seen from this perspective, these currency innovations fit in the same pattern as the growing concerns about the environment, holistic health practices; chaos theory in physics, the replacement of hierarchical structures with networks (such as Internet and virtual organizations); the bridging the Cartesian split between matter and spirit, and the women’s emancipation movement.
I claim that if we make available to people stable currencies in sufficiency, they will move toward Sustainable Abundance as predictably as water flows down the hills. From an economic viewpoint, this complementary money is based on the recognition of social wealth. (sidebar).
Complementary Currencies and Wealth Creation
When real-estate was the main form of wealth, banks would issue money almost exclusively on the basis of collateral of land or buildings. Over the past 50 years, new forms of wealth have gradually been recognized and then used as a source of collateral. For instance, one can now borrow money to get a university education, and the increased level of income that the graduate will get in the future is in fact used as collateral for that loan. Note that even from a traditional economic viewpoint additional financial wealth is created in this process. The money issued on the basis of that future collateral enables exchanges to occur (i.e. economic activities) and investments to be made (i.e. an education) than would otherwise not occur. Imagine the shrinking of today’s wealth base if no intellectual property was recognized, if for instance we would return to the idea that money can be created only through loans to people who own already a house.
What complementary currencies make possible is a similar additional wealth creation process: the recognition of another form of capital (social capital) is the implicit basis of mutual credit systems. The money is created by people who recognize each other’s social capital, the “backing” of mutual credit systems. This enables in turn exchanges to occur that otherwise would not happen, which means again that wealth is created, this time both financial wealth and social wealth. Furthermore, well-designed complementary currencies make it possible to engage in this process without creating inflationary pressures on the national currency itself.
Economic development can be defined as the capacity to transform resources into capital. In this sense, complementary currencies could become an important form of development.
Currency stability and availability is certainly a precondition for Sustainable Abundance.
Without monetary stability no society can flourish. Historically, the biggest societal crises – from the fall of Rome to the rise of fascism – are linked to a monetary meltdown — some claim they were even caused by them.
Furthermore, money scarcity has been – and still is – the main cause for blocking creative solutions to our society’s problems. Just think about your own or your community’s ideas and projects that have not been realized because of lack of money. I believe that everybody has a gift to contribute to this world, and that monetary sufficiency could unlock such a flow of human ingenuity that the world would shift into a currently unthinkable state of Sustainable Abundance. Jean Shinoda Bolen’s comment comes to mind
“Before you can do something that you’ve never done before,
you have to be able to imagine it is possible.”42
How the “Money Wave” could pragmatically play itself out in a multiple level currency system will be described in the next section.
A Monetary System for Sustainable Abundance
This section will deal with the details of the monetary system that would best support Sustainable Abundance. To traditional monetary thinking, one currency per country has always appeared adequate. Therefore, a multi-level system would be criticized for its undue complexity and inefficiency. This criticism will be answered first, followed by a portrayal of how the different levels of currencies could fit together in 2020.
Why a Multi-level Currency System?
Yap Islanders in Fort Knox
Milton Friedman noticed an intriguing parallelism between the “primitive” currency system of the Yap Islanders and our contemporary one.
In 1903 an American anthropologist named William Henry Furness III was so fascinated by the money system of the Uap or Yap island – one of the Caroline Islands in Micronesia and at the time a small German colony of about five thousand people – that he entitled his book “The Island of Stone Money” (1910). “Their medium of exchange they call fei, and it consists of large, solid, thick, stone wheels, having at the center a hole varying in size with the diameter of the stone, wherein a pole may be inserted sufficiently large and strong to bear the weight and facilitate transportation. These stone “coins” were made from limestone found on an island some four hundred miles distant. They were originally brought to Yap by some venture-some native navigators, in canoes and on rafts… After concluding a bargain which involves the price of a fei too large to be conveniently moved, the new owner is quite content to accept the bare acknowledgment of ownership and without so much as a mark to indicate the exchange, the coin remains undisturbed on the former owner’s premises.
When the German Government assumed the ownership of the Caroline Islands in 1898, many of the paths were in bad condition, and the indigenous people were told to repair them. Some refused, and it was decided to impose a fine on the disobedient districts. The fine was exacted by sending a man who marked some of the most valuable fei with a cross in black paint to show that the stones were claimed by the government. This worked like a charm; the people, thus dolefully impoverished, turned to and repaired the highways to good effect. Then the government dispatched its agents and erased the crosses. Presto! The fine was paid, the happy islanders resumed possession of their capital stock, and rolled in wealth.”43
In 1932-33 and again in 1971, the Banque de France (the French Central Bank) asked the Federal Reserve to exchange some of its excess dollars into gold. This would mean in practice to simply replace some of the “Federal Reserve” labels at Fort Knox with “Banque de France” labels. This was described in US financial newspapers as “loss of gold,” the markets considered the dollar as weaker, the French Franc as stronger.
Milton Friedman asks: ”Is there really a difference between the Federal Reserve Bank’s believing that it was in a weaker position because of some marks on drawers in its basement and the Yap islanders belief that they were poorer because of some marks on their stone money? The Yap islanders regarded as a concrete manifestation of their wealth stones quarried and shaped on a distant island and brought to their own. For a century and more, the civilized world regarded as a concrete manifestation of wealth a metal dug from deep in the ground, refined at great labor, transported great distances, and buried again in elaborate vaults deep in the ground. Is the one practice really more rational than the other?”44
The criticism of “undue complexity” is valid only if habit makes us overlook the inefficiencies and complexities of the money system of 1999. This system involves some 170 different national currencies, disorganized in 8 different types of monetary systems according to the IMF’s own reports.45 In any case, the record of the post- Bretton Woods monetary modus vivendi is clearly unsatisfactory.
“During the nearly three decades since the demise of the Bretton Woods arrangements, the annual rate of economic growth in developed countries has fallen by a third, and the incidents of international financial crises has increased sharply — to the point where even countries that follow sound economic policies are often stricken along with the profligate. According to figures cited by the World Bank no fewer than sixty-nine countries have endured serious banking crises since the late nineteen-seventies, and eighty-seven nations have seen runs on their currency since 1975.”46
It is also likely that seen from a longer term historical perspective some of the features of our prevailing money system will be seen as strange anomalies. (See sidebar on Yap Islanders in Fort Knox).
The fundamental monetary shift that is needed is an organizational one. The proposal here is that in addition to the command-and-control hierarchical (Yang) national money systems, more flexible, open, adaptive systems (Yin) should be allowed to develop during the post-Industrial transition period we have now entered. The reasons for this is best understood by comparing the characteristics of a mature industrial society with a post-Industrial one, as is done in the next table.
|Old Environment (Mature Industrial Age)||New Environment (Post-Industrial Age)|
|Predictability and Control Assumed||Fundamental Structural Changes Assumed|
|Intelligence and Information Centralized||Intelligence and Information Distributed|
|Expert driven solutions||Many agents experimenting with new patterns|
|Command and Control Structures||Complex Adaptive Structures|
As long as the assumption was valid that we are living in an environment which is both predictable and controllable (both key Yang assumptions), it made sense to centralize information and leave the decisions to “experts.” The most coherent management structure in such circumstances is the traditional command and control hierarchical structure, which is now almost ubiquitous. Such pyramidal organizations were initially invented by the Roman military and even more ancient religious hierarchies thousands of years ago. They are now ubiquitous, they are the norm in practically all government organizations, corporations, labor-unions, political parties, universities and other schools, medical establishments and non-profit organizations. It has become so habitual that we may not even think that other ways of organizing ourselves are possible and could be more effective under our current circumstances.
However, as breakdowns and crises spread to many domains (e.g.: global monetary system, government, education, environment, jobs, etc.)– if the transition toward an information economy becomes indeed an “Age of Uncertainty”47 — then the time is ripe to reconsider the old organizational assumptions. Under such circumstances, holding on to the old expert-driven, hierarchical command and control structures will predictably kill the very innovations that the circumstances require.
Tony Judge, who Alvin Toffler described as “one of our most brilliant organization theorist”, claims that the organizations of the future will take the form of “networks not coordinated by anybody; the participating bodies co-ordinate themselves.”
The first large scale contemporary implementation of such principles was accomplished by Dee Hock, when he founded the VISA credit card system in the 1970s.48 VISA has grown spectacularly to become the largest business organization in the world: it has a sales volume of $1.3 trillion per year and serves 600 million clients. And yet, can you tell where its headquarters are? Or on which stockmarket you can buy its shares? The surprising answer is that it has no headquarters or stock available anywhere. And yet it works efficiently, and has grown to a staff of 3,000 in 21 offices on four continents. It is structured as an alliance among over 20,000 financial institutions in more than 200 countries and territories. It is a structure where all relevant decision-making flows through the entire system rather than only from the top. Dee Hock calls it the first business “chaord” ( a term he coined to describe an organization that is both “chaotic” and “orderly”). “Show me the Chairman of the Board of the forest, show me the chief financial fish in the pond, show me (tapping his head) the Chief Executive neuron of the brain.”49
It is indeed true that all this is not applicable only to monetary or business matters. The work pioneered by the Santa Fe Institute on complex adaptive systems has verified these principles in all systems (physical, biological, social, economic, etc.) which are reaching a certain level of complexity. Complexity theory predicts that contrary to Newtonian logic, complexity does not grow linearly, but occurs in non-linear jumps in episodic stages of “surfing at the edge of chaos.” These “near-chaos” periods are when systems regenerate and restructure at the next level of complexity, according to Nobel laureate Illya Prigogine.
I believe we have now started to “surf at the edge of chaos”, that the current crisis of the dominant institutions of Modern society is the sign that humanity has started to reorganize at the next level of complexity (see sidebar on the Butterfly Metaphor). This is why we are now in the transition period, the period “in between stories” of the Time Compacting Machine of Chapter 1.
The Butterfly Metaphor
The biology of the metamorphosis of a caterpillar into a butterfly has been used by Norie Huddle as a metaphor for our times.50 When the caterpillar starts its metamorphosis, special cells — called imaginal cells — literally dissolve from within the body of the caterpillar into an amorphous-looking liquid. Then these imaginal cells start inter-connecting with each other, building new networks; and they end up restructuring the whole into the miracle of the butterfly.
Modern civilization has now entered the dissolution phase, and the imaginal cells have started interconnecting using the cybersphere to do so outside of the traditional communication channels.
Sustainable Abundance is the butterfly, now available as described in he “Four Seasons of 2020” (chapter 1).
The major danger in the monetary field is that some of the spontaneously emerging new monetary levels will be blocked off (historically the most likely one is the local one, because it is the easiest to stamp out), while others will be left to thrive (e.g. private corporate currencies, because they are beyond the control capacity of individual central banks). Such an outcome would perpetuate the imbalance toward Yang currencies and values in our economic system, just when a Yin influx is needed (Figure 9.9 showing the map of the different Yin and Yang currency systems illustrated this point.) Traditional command and control structures may not be able to avoid the chaos in the existing old order, but one should not underestimate their power to choke off embryonic attempts at a new order.
In the long run — some time after 2020 — I expect that new economic and governance structures will emerge at the next order of complexity, and that a new era of predictable patterns will return Other monetary systems than the ones described in this book will most likely be necessary at that point.
Maybe at some point in the future we will not need money at all. If we have to believe Jean Luc Godard of Star Trek fame, “money does not exist in the twenty-fourth century.” Meanwhile, I think we will need transitional money systems, which can be used as crutches to re-educate atrophied collective behavior patterns.
My purpose in this book has been to focus only on these transitional money systems appropriate for the phase we have already entered. And the main point bears repeating: during the current transition period a lot of violent disruptions and pain can be avoided by encouraging social experimentation, by letting embryonic forms a chance to thrive, by allowing them to reproduce in new patterns which have already proven effective at dealing with structural change in other parts of the world. This is the way nature has been doing it successfully for five billion years. Can we afford not to learn from it?
What follows next is a description of the development of a four-level monetary system. One already exists – the conventional bank-debt national currency system. The development of the three new money systems is synthesized in three timetables, revealing that the emergence of these new systems is in fact an organic development of trends which have been prevailing for decades, each pushed by its own logic. In parallel to these three new levels, it is assumed that the conventional national currency systems will be able to operate roughly as they do today. The only significant difference is that they are not anymore perceived as the only game in town.
The Monetary System of 2020: a Four-Level Gear Box
Let us imagine that we are living in 2020. Almost all corporations and many individuals are dealing routinely in currencies at different levels. For a small transaction fee, it has become very simple to exchange any of these currencies for most others somewhere on the Net. Just like with today’s frequent flyer miles, mixed payments are common (you can buy a ticket in national currency, and pay for an upgrade in frequent flyer miles).
The four levels operational in 2020 would be the following:
- A Global Reference Currency
- Three main Multinational Currencies
- Some National Currencies
- Local Complementary Currencies
1. A Global Reference Currency
Several corporate scrips are competing on the Net, issued by the likes of Amex, Microsoft, and a alliance of European and Asian corporations. Some have created special subsidiaries–with strong and liquid balance sheets–to issue these currencies and provide them with stronger credibility.
One such currency has taken the form of a Global Reference Currency as described in Chapter 8, and arose from a systematization of corporate barter.
Barter – the exchange of goods or services without the use of any currency – has been around since the dawn of mankind.
Because of this old history, barter has often been seen as “inferior” or “primitive” form of exchange, sometimes associated with the underground economy. All this has completely shifted over the past decades, to the point that BarterNews, the leading industry publication, estimates total barter at $650 billion per year. The bulk of this $650 billion is corporate barter, both domestic and international (“countertrade” in the technical parlance). The barter industry has now two major trade organizations, the International Reciprocal Trade Association (IRTA, website www.irta.com) and the Corporate Barter Council (CBC).
What follows is the timetable of the growth of both barter and the cybereconomy, and how their convergence created a corporate-initiated Global Reference Currency (all data until 1999 inclusive is actual, and is projected thereafter).
Emergence of a Global Corporate Scrip (1960-2020)
1960s: Development of large-scale professional barter by Western corporations with the Comecon (“Communist Block”) countries
1970s: Extension of barter to Less Developed Countries whenever “hard currencies” are in scarce supply
1974: In the US, 100 small barter exchanges facilitate trade valued at $45 million, among 17,000 corporations
1980s: Generalization of barter in international exchanges, as consequence of the Latin American debt crisis.
1982: The US Congress recognizes barter as a legitimate domestic commercial process, and sets up reporting requirements. All barter income is treated as normal income by the IRS.
1990s’ Expansion of barter within all developed countries. In parallel, Internet commerce starts taking off.1997: Alan Greenspan, Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board gives implicit OK to corporate currency initiatives: “If we wish to foster financial innovation, we must be careful not to impose rules that inhibit it”51 The cybereconomy is estimated at $35.6 billion per year.
1998: In the US no less than 400,000 businesses are members of 686 barter exchanges, totaling a volume of $8.5 Billion in domestic exchanges.: Annual growth rate is 15%, three times faster than commercial exchanges facilitated by dollars..
1999: Internet traffic doubles every 100 days.
2000: The cybereconomy reaches $200 billion per year, about half of which is between corporations. Barter business starts moving onto the Net, and begins to merge with the cybereconomy..
2001: Standardization of barter contracts by some corporations.
2002: Internet commerce among businesses alone reaches $300 billion.52
2003: Several private corporate scrips compete to establish their brands in cyberspace. 2005: In the US 1.6 million businesses engage in barter transactions totaling $31 Billion53.
2006: A “chaordic ”alliance among international corporations uses a standardized Global Reference Currency called the Terra which includes a demurrage feature.
2007: 20% of all US retail trade has been displaced toward the Net, other cyber-active countries are following the same trend (similar to but much faster than the postwar spread of US-style supermarkets and mall distribution systems around the world).
2015: Global Reference Currency becomes an optional legal accounting standard for multinational corporations.
2020: The cybereconomy has become the largest economy in the world. Private business scrip (including Terra) is involved in 50% of all international trade.
2. Three Multinational Currencies
After the Euro replaced the national currencies in eleven European countries in 1999, the British and other European hold-outs joined in the system a few years later. This build up an irresistible pressure to create an Asian Yuan Currency zone, and finally a NAFTA dollar. It has indeed become obvious that regional economic integration can reach maturity only when a single currency levels the playing field for all economic participants. A single currency is the only way to structurally guarantee a unified information field.
What follows is the history of the creation of the three major multinational currency systems by the year 2020. Note that all these multinational currencies are conventional bank-debt currencies, their only distinction from the previous national currencies is their use over a wider geographical area than one single country.
Emergence of Multinational Integration Currencies (1958-2020)
1958: Treaty of Rome starts the European “Common Market” unification process, creating a free trade zone for six countries (Germany, France, Italy, Belgium the Netherlands and Luxembourg)
1960: Stockholm Convention starts the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), spearheaded by the United Kingdom and including Austria, Denmark, Norway, Portugal, Sweden and Switzerland.
1967: Bangkok Declaration regroups five ASEAN countries (Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand).
1973: The UK and several other EFTA countries join the initial six Treaty of Rome countries.
1978: Announcement by German Chancellor Schmidt and President Giscard d’Estaing of France of the need for a “zone of monetary stability” in Europe
1979: Creation of the European Currency Unit (ECU) as a monetary convergence and integration tool, and as an intra-European accounting and payment unit. Twelve countries are involved.
1984 Brunei joins ASEAN
1992 “Maastricht Treaty” commits Europe to a single currency by the turn of the century in what has now become the “European Union” (EU).
1995: Vietnam joins ASEAN
1996: Formation of the North American Free Trade Association (NAFTA) a free trade zone regrouping the US, Canada and Mexico
1997: Laos and Myanmar join ASEAN. Japan proposes a $100 billion Asian Monetary Fund, separate from the IMF; this proposal is blocked by the US and the UK.
1999: The ECU is replaced formally by the “Euro”, a single European currency with a core group of eleven countries. Mercosur (Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay) starts NAFTA negotiations.
2001: Chile joins NAFTA. Several additional European countries join the “Euro” zone
2003: ASEAN formally announces the intend to create a single Asean Yuan currency zone. Japan and China become associate members of the Yuan currency project.
2004: Post-Castro Cuba and several other Latin American countries join NAFTA
2005: The last European holdout, Britain, joins the Euro after a hotly debated referendum
2007: Taiwan peaceful joins China under a “one country, one currency, several systems” principle.
2010: Single Yuan currency zone operational. Several additional Asian countries join the initial core group.
2012: Formation of the NAFTA dollar zone
2020: Tripartite Treaty of economic cooperation between the three major free trade zones.(European Union, ASEAN and NAFTA).
3. Some National Currencies
In many countries, national currencies will still be used for a long time. They continue to play an important role within any country that has not joined a formal multinational currency integration system. Most exchanges continue to involve national currencies at least in partial payments, if nor no other reason that they remain the official “legal tender” with which national taxes are being paid. The main difference from the past is that national currencies do not maintain their totally monopolistic role as medium of exchange. Many payments are mixed — involving both national currencies, corporate scrips or Internet currencies in a single transaction.
The only places where the national currencies have kept intact their old monopoly are a few underdeveloped countries, such as Albania and a few other backward dictatorships, where the priority given to political control over the Net has kept the cybereconomy completely out.
4. Local Complementary Currencies
This last level, the local one, has been the topic of Chapter 5 and 6. In reaction to economic globalization and running parallel to it, self-organization at the local level has become very popular. The Information Revolution also meant a systematic reduction of production and service related “jobs.” As jobs grew scarcer, communities created their own currencies to facilitate local exchanges among their members.54 Once critical mass was attained, complementary currency clearinghouses on the Net made it possible for members of these communities to participate in the cybereconomy as well.
The following table projects its future growth beyond 1999.
Emergence of Complementary currencies (1934-2020)
1934: Creation of the oldest currently still surviving complementary currency system: “WIR” in Switzerland (By 1997 its membership reaches 80,000 and annual trade volume $2 billion demonstrating the potential scale of mature complementary currency systems.)
1982: Implementation of first postwar LETS (Local Exchange Trading System) in high unemployment areas in Canada.
1987: Creation of Time Dollars by Edgar Cahn in Florida, Chicago and Washington D.C. 1990: IRS gives tax free status to Time Dollar exchanges.
1992: Creation of Ithaca HOURS, first postwar “fiat” complementary currency. Total number of local currency systems of all types reaches 200 worldwide.
1990s: Age of corporate downsizing begins, rapid expansion of number of complementary currency systems particularly in New Zealand, Australia, UK, Germany, France. The New Zealand Central Bank discovers that complementary currencies help in reducing inflation pressures on the national currency 1993: Missouri first US State to use Time Dollars to fund its welfare system.
1995: Complementary currency systems top 1,000 worldwide.
1996: The US Federal welfare programs are decentralized to the State level.
1997: Thirty different US States start over 200 Time Dollar systems to foster “self-help welfare,” Also, by private initiative, another 40 different Ithaca HOUR systems operational in the US.
1998: Minneapolis, Minnesota, experiments with the first dual currency smartcard payment system (dollar and a local complementary currency)
1999: Experimentation with a decentralized smartcard complementary currency system in Vancouver, Canada. More than 2,000 systems operational in a dozen developed countries.
2000: Complementary Currency Clearing House (CCCH) operational on the Net.
2003: European welfare reform, officially incorporating complementary currencies as a community development tool.
2008: Complementary currency systems top 10,000 for the first time worldwide.
2020: Complementary currencies represent 20% of total domestic trade in the most advanced countries.
There are of course countries around the world which have forcefully maintained the monopoly of national currencies, and turned their back to the new possibilities offered by the Money Wave and the cybereconomy. The results of this are similar to what happened to countries – like China – that chose to block the development of railroads during the early Industrial Revolution. They ended up delaying the Industrial Revolution by almost a century, but at great cost to their population and their influence in the world. They became the “Less Developed Countries” (LDCs) of the 20th century.
Today, people are similarly choosing who will become the “Information Deprived Countries” (IDCs) of the 21st century.
Knowing the monetary system which would best support Sustainable Abundance, we can now fully understand what was underlying the vignettes of “The Four Seasons of 2020” (Chapter 1), as well as the four scenarios (Chapter 4). Both will now be briefly revisited.
The Four Seasons of 2020 Revisited
This book started with a description of a Time Compacting Machine and four vignettes which captured the possibilities offered by Sustainable Abundance in people’s lives by the year 2020. They were synthesized as in Figure 10.2.
At that time, I acknowledged that some of these stories may have appeared as “magic”, unreal fairy tales for adults. By now, the monetary technologies which underlie each one of these “magic” stories have been demystified.
Both “Mr. Yamada’s Retirement Plan” and “A World in Balance” are the result of the sufficient availability of stable, Yin currencies.
The “Bechtel Board Resolution” is the result of the use of a demurrage-charged Global Reference Currency as standard accounting and planning tool by major global corporations.
Finally, “Your Grandniece’s China Trip” describes a world in which the Integral Economy, involving both Yin and Yang type currencies in appropriate balance has become taken for granted.
An Integral Economy would see these various currencies operate in complementary ways with each other. It would improve the quality of life even for those who choose to keep strictly to traditional industrial age “jobs”. It would encourage the attitudes that Robert D. Haas, the CEO of Levi Strauss, forecasts: “The most visible differences between the corporation of the future and its present-day counterpart will not be the products they make or the equipment they use, but who will be working, why they will be working, and what work will mean to them.”
The image that comes to mind is that during the Industrial Age we have become accustomed to a monetary toolbox with one single to tool: a screwdriver. Now, screwdrivers are great, even the only way to go, if and only if you are dealing with screws. However, for those of us who want to paint, the screwdriver becomes a rather clumsy tool. It may be possible to paint with a screwdriver, but the results are not going to be too convincing. When we see, for example, non- profit organizations — each trying to bring good things to society — tearing each other apart to get scarce competitive money, they are really trying to paint with a screwdriver. The same image applies when we try to develop social capital such as taking care of children and elderly exclusively with Yang type currency.
Complementary Currencies and Wealth Creation
When real-estate was the main form of wealth, banks would issue money almost exclusively on the basis of collateral of land or buildings. Over the past 50 years, new forms of wealth have gradually been recognized and then used as a source of collateral. For instance, one can now borrow money to get a university education, and the increased level of income that the graduate will get in the future is in fact used as collateral for that loan. Note that even from a traditional economic viewpoint additional financial wealth is created in this process. The money issued on the basis of that future collateral enables exchanges to occur (i.e. economic activities) and investments to be made (i.e. an education) than would otherwise not occur. Similarly the fastest growth component in the stock market has been “knowledge capital” (e.g. Microsoft). Imagine the shrinking of today’s wealth base if no intellectual property was recognized, if for instance we would return to the idea that money can be created only through loans to people who own real -estate.
What complementary currencies make possible is a similar additional wealth creation process: the recognition of another form of capital (social capital) is the implicit basis of mutual credit systems. The money is created by people who recognize each other’s social capital, the “backing” of mutual credit systems. This enables in turn exchanges to occur that otherwise would not happen, which means again that wealth is created, this time both financial wealth and social wealth. Furthermore, well-designed complementary currencies make it possible to engage in this process without creating inflationary pressures on the national currency itself. Economic development can be defined as the capacity to transform resources into capital. In this sense, complementary currencies could contribute an important additional mechanism for development.
The Four Scenarios Revisited
“The business of the future is to be dangerous”
In Chapter 4, four different scenarios were summarized in the following diagram.
We can now better understand how Sustainable Abundance relates to the other three scenarios. The Corporate Millennium is the result of what the Taoists would call an “excess Yang” deviation from Sustainable Abundance, where Yang driven businesses and currencies take over all other aspects of society as the old order dissolves. It would tend to occur if in Sustainable Abundance the benefits of information and money waves were monopolized by the corporate sector. This is most likely to happen if monetary and political authorities were to suppress the small-scale local currencies, while remaining unable or unwilling to tackle the corporate-issued currencies.
In contrast, Careful Communities is an “excess Yin” deviation where concerns about community cohesion have taken over when a monetary meltdown triggers widespread socioeconomic disarray. Finally, Hell on Earth occurs when no faction in society fills in the power vacuum left after a monetary crash.
Alvin Toffler claimed “What appears to be emerging is neither a corporate dominated future nor a global government, but a far more complex system… We are moving toward a world system composed of units densely interrelated like the neurons in a brain rather than organized like the departments of a bureaucracy.”
If Toffler is right, and if a monetary system compatible with this view is allowed to manifest, then Sustainable Abundance is our future.
We are not dealing with a traditional economic, financial or monetary crisis. We are living through a major mutation of the socio-economic fabric of our global civilization. This mutation can lead to several outcomes, and it is not pre-ordained which one we will end up experiencing. The quicker we realize that the traditional solutions will not be appropriate for our current situation, the faster we may create the emotional, political and intellectual framework where appropriate solutions may emerge.
A post-Industrial mutation is upon us in any case, and I believe that the best way we will deal with it is by consciously uncentralizing and empowering human creativity at all levels. The three waves to Sustainable Abundance would enable this to happen.
As Sir Eric Tilgner put it: “Destiny is not a matter of chance. It is a matter of choice.”
Just remember that we are doing the choosing for your children, for your children’s children, and for a significant part of the biosphere as well.
Epilogue and Prelude
“The great challenge of the Modern Age is not to remake our world,
but to remake ourselves.
Be the change you wish to see for the world.”
“A problem cannot be solved
with the same type of thinking that created it”
“We don’t see things as they are.
We see them as we are”
Humanity and Planet Earth are at a cross-road.
The next twenty years will either see an irretrievable loss of biodiversity and a deterioration of the quality of life for vast numbers of people; or we will have moved up to the next evolutionary step. Given the remarkable motivation power of money, by changing the money system we can gently but surely tilt the direction towards which we are moving without needing to either re-educate or regulate the behavior of billions of people. This book sketched a road map of how this can be achieved. It dealt with money in the world outside of us, describing money systems and their social effects.
However, there is still one other dimension to the money issue. To discover it, we need to journey into the imaginal world of money, the one residing inside our own heads. This other road map will provide a grasp of the collective emotions that operate around money. It integrates into our money view the inputs from our “right brain”, the symbols and myths active in our unconscious, where the unrelenting power of attraction of money finds its ultimate source.
It is unusual to connect these “outside” and “inside” world-views on any topic. To my knowledge, it is the first time that this is attempted for the topic of money. But closing the circle between the outside world and our inner worlds is nevertheless the richest route to our goal. This is purpose of the book entitled The Soul of Money: Beyond Greed and Scarcity available from the same publisher.
This book delves into our collective psychology by addressing questions such as:
- What explains in our societies the social taboo around money issues? How are the three main taboos of our society of sex, death and money related to each other? Why is the money you have and where it comes from, an even bigger taboo than your sex life?
- Where our contemporary obsession with money originate?
- Why did the conventional bank-debt national currencies become so exclusively dominant during the Industrial Age, spreading worldwide, independent of cultural or political context?
- Why are specific emotions — greed and fear of scarcity — built into our money system?
- Why is fundamental change in our money system transpiring now, after centuries of unthinking acceptance of the conventional national currencies?
The on-going parallel mutations alluded to in the Value-Change Wave and the Money Wave (described above in Chapter 9) offers today a historically unprecedented opportunity to consciously create Sustainable Abundance. Seizing this opportunity may be our most decisive challenge. To build up the courage to face this challenge, Wayne Dyer’s comment may be relevant:
“No one knows enough to be a pessimist.”55
LINKS TO OTHER CHAPTERS
CHAPTER 9: A BROADER VIEW – THE TAO OF MONEY | CHAPTER 10: SUSTAINABLE ABUNDANCE | EPILOGUE AND PRELUDE
- Edgar Mitchell was an early American Astronaut, currently US Senator.
- Berry, Wendel The Unsettling of America (San Francisco: Sierra Book Club, 1977)
- Smith, Adam The Wealth of Nations pg 423
- Among the many excellent and most recent ones, see Ekins and Max-Neef, Manfred Real Life Economics (New York: Routledge Press, 1992); Ekins, Paul: Green Economics Atlas; Hawken, Paul The Ecology of Commerce ( ); Kelly, Kevin (editor of “Wired”) Out of control: The new biology of Machines, Social Systems, and the Economic World ( ); Rothschild, Michael Bionomics: Economy as Ecosystem (New York: Henry Hold and Co, 1990; Daly, Herman E. And Cobb, John B. For the Common Good: Redirecting the Economy toward Community, the Environment and a Sustainable Future (London: Green Print, 1990)
- Henderson, Hazel Paradigms in Progress: Life beyond Economics (Indianapolis, IN, Knowledge Systems, Inc. 1992)
- Ibid. pg. 28
- Ibid. pg. 30
- ibidem pg. 31
- Steiner, George “Life Lines” The New Yorker March 6, 1971, pg 101.
- Sahtouris, Elisabet “the Biology of Globalisation” World Business Academy Perspectives (Volume 11 number 3, September 1997) pg 27-38.
- Ibidem pg 36 italics in original.
- Illustration from a conference by Ebeling, Ingrid on “Self- organizing structures” (Caracas 1990)
- Sampson, Edward E. “The inversion of Mastery” Cybernetic Volume 2 (1986) pgs 26-39
- The book of Enlightenment, translated and introduced by Matt, Daniel Chanan (New York: Paulist Press, 1983) pg. 55 The Zohar is a thirteenth -century spiritual classic and the major text of the Kaballah, the Jewish mystical tradition.
- Synthesis of a conferency by Richard Tarnas on June 12, 1998, Sausalito CA.
- Herman, Arthur The Idea of Decline in Western History (New York: The Free Press, 1997).
- Tarnas, Richard: The Passion of the Western Mind (New York: Balantine Books, 1993) pg 442.
- Ibid. Pg 444 – 445
- Needleman, Jacob: Money and the Meaning of Life (New York: Doubleday Currency, 1994 ) pg. 239
- An entire chapter of The Mystery of Money is dedicated to clarify the connections between rational and “irrational” emotional behaviours in financial booms and crashes, and how this phenomenon relates to money systems.
- quoted in Flemons, Douglas G. Completing Distinctions (Boston and London: Shambhala, 1991) pg. 112
- Flemons, Douglas G. Completing Distinctions (Boston, London: Shambhala, 1991) pg. 32
- A rigorous treatment of this ideas, expressed in the language of Western systems theory, has been made available by Yongming Tang. Tang, Yongming “Fostering Transformation through Differences: the Synergic Inquiry (SI) framework” Revision Special issue on Transformative Learning (Volume 20, Number 1, Summer 1997) pg 15-19
- For details about the amazing social behavior patterns of wild dogs see McNutt, John and Boggs, Lesley Running Wild: Dispelling the Myths of African Wild Dog (South Africa: Southern Book Publishers, 1996).
- Tarnas, Richard: The Passion of the Western Mind (New York: Balantine Books, 1993) pg 445.
- Saint-Exupery, Antoine Citadelle
- The first seven of the total nine mentioned here were already identified by Howard Gardner in Project Zero at Harvard and documented in his Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences (Tufts Univ. Press, 1993).” Another version of the same thesis is Armstrong’s Seven kinds of Smarts: Identifying and Developing your Multiple Intelligences (Plume Books, 1999).
- see the description of that Millennium Bug in the “Careful Communities” Scenario of Chapter 1.
- Tibbs, Harding, Report for the Global Business Network “Sustainability” Deeper News (Vol. 3, number 1, January 1999) pg. 5.
- World Commission on the Environment and Development Our Common Future (Oxford University Press, 1989) pg 200.
- Daly, Herman E. and Cobb, John B. Rot ehe Common Good (Boston: Beacon Press, 1989).
- Ehrlich P. R. et al Ecoscience: Population, Resources, Environment (San Francisco: W.H. Freeman, 1977).
- Meadows, Donella, et al. Beyond the Limits (Post Mills, Vermont: Chelsea Green Publishing, 1992).
- Tibbs, Hardin “Sustainability” Deeper News (Global Business Network: January 1999).
- Tibbs, Hardin “Sustainability” Deeper News (Global Business Network: January 1999) pg 39. Italics in original text.
- see Ray, Paul and Anderson, Sherry Ruth The Cultural Creatives (New York: Harmony Books, 1999). Also, The Integral Culture Survey: A Study of the Emergence of Transformational Value in America (Research Monograph sponsored by the Fetzer Institute and the Institute of Noetic Sciences, 1996).
- Ray, Paul and Anderson Sherry Ruth “The Cultural Creatives” (New York: Harmony Books, 1999) chapter I pg 11- 12.
- Elgin, Duane and LeDrew, Coleen Global Paradigm Change: Is a Shift Underway? (San Francisco, CA State of the world Forum October 2-6, 1996) pg 20.
- Eisenberg, David M.D. et al. “Unconventional Medicine in the United States” The New England Journal of Medicine 328: 246-252 (January 28. 1993)
- Langone, John “Alternative therapies challenging the mainstream” Time Special Issue Fall 1996 pg 40.
- As demonstrated for instance by the on-going reaction against Rupert Sheldrake’s thesis on morphogenetic fields.
- Interview about The Tao of Psychology in a New Dimensions radio interview.
- Furness , William Henry III The Island of Stone Money (1910) pp 93, 96-100
- Friedman, Milton Mooney Mischief: Episodes in Monetary History (New York, A Harvet book: Harcourt Brace and Co, 19922) pg 6-7
- International Monetary Fund (IMF): International Financial Statistics vol 47/7 (Washington, DC July 1994) p. 8.
- Cassidy, John “The New World Disorder” The New Yorker (October 26 & November 2, 1998) pg 199-200.
- Title of a book by John Kenneth Galbraith about the new society we have moved into.
- Waldrop, Mitchell “The trillion-Dollar vision of Dee Hock” Fast Company (October, November 1996).
- Durrance, Bonnie “The Evolutionary Vision of Dee Hock: from Chaos to Chaords” Training and Development (April 1997) pg 26.
- Huddle, Norie Butterfly: A tiny tale of great transformation (New York: Huddle Books, 1990).
- Greenspan, Alan :Fostering Financial Innovation: The role of government” in The Future of Money in the Information Age (Washington: Cato Institute, 1997) pg 48
- Source: Forrester Research based on interviews with numerous business executives.
- Estimates by the International Reciprocal Trade Association (IRTA).
- Chapters 5 and 6 will provide many examples of this process already operational at the end of the 20th century.
- Interview at New Dimension Radio