Sunday, 25 August 2013

I have a dream or two or three...

I have a dream, well more than one dream but I am conscious that other dreamers haven't seen their dreams come to full fruition. I am thinking particularly of Martin Luther King Jr. whose dream included full employment in the pursuit of peace. Yes, his 'I have a dream' speech was delivered 50 years ago and he lead the civil rights movement. Yes, there have been changes but if you read his full speech and those of other civil rights leaders, you will realise that not everything has been achieved.

My biggest dream is similar to that of the Hebrew Scripture's Daniel or the writer of Revelations. This vision is to do with God's kingdom being put in place on earth. It is easy to say that but what does it mean? My perspective is that it is about establishing shalom (well-being, justice, and integrity) in all relationships. This includes living in harmony with each other and the planet. It isn't about exploiting the planet and others for personal gain nor forcing people into meaningless work simply to earn money so they can live.

Our world has been screwed up by humanity and we have our prioritises completely wrong. When resources are available to do what really needs to be done but we refuse to allow it to be done because the money isn't available then we have things fundamentally wrong. Part of the foundation for my dreams is that money no longer be the driving force for decision making. A starting point for achieving this part of the dream are the proposals of Positive Money. Positive Money advocate a change to the way that money is created and initially spent into the economy. Although they make statements about what they believe could be achieved by this change, they endeavour not to say how the government should use this newly created money. So although I support their vision, I am more vocal about how I believe the money should be used.

This assumes of course that money or some means of accounting value in transactions is required but the problem with accounting in monetary terms is that we begin to value some things higher in monetary terms than others. The planet cannot argue for itself and unfortunately many low paid workers doing essential work are also devalued and in our system have no voice.

Looking at it again from a monetary perspective. Robert Kiyosaki (2011) in his book “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” promotes clear financial management and investment. The clear message is that in order to get rich you need to own the company and not to be just a worker in the company. Your savings and investment plan should be about becoming a share holder or owner. There is a problem though. Companies need workers. If everyone was to become a share holder or owner and retire then there would be no workers. Without workers, there can be no profits. This philosophy pushes toward a non-productive financial economy such as the financial derivatives markets. These are not concerned about the environment or the welfare of society.

The system and our planet cannot be treated as unconnected entities. Systems need to be treated as whole and not parts. Wealth generation depends on owners, managers, and workers. Our reward system does not reward those who enabled the profits to be made, it rewards those who can invest and sit back and watch others work.

My dream is that we change focus to the meeting of needs and away from seeking the fulfilling of personal wants or greed. This means a change of focus away from a perspective of scarcity to a view of plenty and away from exploitation of resource to managed sustainability.

To achieve this goal, I believe that we need to look at sustainable local communities. Transitions towns, possibly regional currencies, and citizen's income may be part of the way to get such communities. Although I see some positives in these approaches, the fundamental change has to come in our individual attitudes and whether we are prepared to trust each other to work for the needs of others.. Cooperation has to be more prominent than competition.

It is at this point, that my dream turns from theory to practical dreams. What I am thinking about are an economics reading group, and economic games. There are other things that I dram of achieving designed to improve learning and change but these are not directed specifically at economic reform.

The goal of an economics reading group is to expand the understanding of how economics works and the changes that could be made to improve the way it operates. We are looking at using a number of different resources depending on the interests of the group. The first is Econo . . . What?. This includes a number of reading resources aimed at understanding the crash and how economics works. The second is the Positive Money resources including their books. My personal interest in the reading group is to encourage reform and to look at local actions that we can carry out.

The goal of economic games is to explore the development of economic games that encourage understanding alternatives approaches to economic thinking. There are many games designed to encourage people to develop ways of surviving in the current economic system but few that actually explore alternatives or show how alternatives might work.