Tag Archives: Politics

Our story: 21. Foundation money

“Global annual military spending tops $1.2 trillion.” There are 8,000,000,000 of us. UN estimates 7.5 billion humans.  We are increasing every year by about 50 million, with about half the deaths than births.  (There are over 100 million born every year.)

So, that’s at least $1500 per person per year that could be used, if nations did not exist.  Military is only for defence against other nations; once they are gone, there is no need for them.  Is $1500 per year enough to feed the world? Given that nearly a third of humans live on less than $2 per day, that would be more than enough in developing countries.  In New Zealand, I can’t get a cauliflower for less than $3, so it may be more of a challenge.  But I think even at New Zealand prices one could get a healthy diet for close to that price, especially if we changed the market.

Why is food so much more expensive in industrialised countries, and especially in NZ.? The easy answer is that it is the price of labour. But is the work any different in growing the food and getting it to market? Probably harder in developing countries. They have less tools, infrastructure, and resources in general. Only labour is cheap. And that drives the price of everything.

If much of the food supply that the State provides is grown locally; and this is bought at a fair price, would that fairness not include equal pay for equal work, wherever it was done.  But if you did that, then the same money would be worth much more in a poor country than a rich one.

There is a simple answer to that: change the unit of money to person-time. A basic unit can be multiplied for quality and training of the person. Or we could leave it unadjusted. Either way, we are doing what Adam Smith writes about when we exchange goods: we exchange our labour for that of another’s.  His labour theory of value.

People would be supported to grow their food, on roof-tops, balconies and indoors, by being provided the resources to do so, and the sell to the State for the produce based on their labour. The produce would the supply the local or community.  Commercial or State food production would be needed to supplement the local product for most communities.

The State would supply each person or family, either with food or with meals at community centres. The food ordered would still have a price (in hours of basic person-time), but the State would supply and charge the electronic account of the individual. This is the functional equivalent of money, but is an abstract electronic credit that is given at birth to each baby.

Citizens earn credit by doing work; those who are not in paid employment get paid (in person-hours) for the work they do in caring for their family, friends, or community. Those who are unable to work are in the same category as those who are unable to manage their credits: they need State support.

Citizens use their person-hour credits for all their needs, from the private and State markets. Each individual is given credits by the State, and earns more from work, art or new ventures.  One way that is not possible for an individual to make credits from is investment.  The State provides investment to entrepreneurs, based on community support and track record.

If all transactions are in credit instead of money, and credit ledgers are public it becomes much harder for corruption to stay hidden, and crime is easily tracked. Blockchain technology offers secure and transparent transactions.

But, where does the State get the money to do all this? The money has to come from its citizens. The money we currently spend on the military could be used to feed the world. By providing healthy food, we can also expect to reduce the State’s cost for health services.  But the State can also create money, especially when money is just digital credit.

But let’s ignore that aspect and make the case that  food provided by the State could be more efficient (or cheaper) than when provide by the market. There is no longer the need for marketing, and we have the technology for global management for scale efficiencies.

State planning did not work well for production or distribution of food in the Soviet Union. The difference is that through the use of smartphones and computers, we can have a system that is driven by community needs; not directed by bureaucrats. A system that encourages local food growing, by rewarding productivity.  A system run using science and technology to efficiently.  Such a system can provide food cheaper than the market, while meeting individual preferences, and improving health. So, it makes sense to pay more taxes and get free food.  We do that for health and education; why not the other human needs?  If we can do this more efficiently through the State than the market.

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Our story: 19. Step to the vision

Here is one possible path to the future vision that I outlined in #17. The vision is of a new world, new laws, a new social contract between people and government.  I tended to anarchy until I read Tom Paine’s Common Sense. Published in 1776, its first page explains that “Society in every state is a blessing, but Government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil”. Necessary because there are always a few cheats and rogues who need to be controlled for the common good.  Government is made necessary “by the inability of moral virtue to govern the world.”

The problem, as Paine explains is tyranny; when government no longer serves the common good, but specific interests. His pamphlet inspired the US Declaration of Independence, and the effort to establish new form of government: democracy.

Updated, the declaration might state: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all life is created equal, that the power we have as humans comes with responsibilities and duties. That government is established only to guarantee all peoples their Rights. Chief among these Rights are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

So, how do we establish a new form of Government, a new social contract between individuals and Government? If you believe in democracy, you will think it is up to the people to decide. But democracy offers limited options; all you get is a vote every few years.  And all you can vote for is who will represent you in government, not the nature of government itself.

Can we, the People, decide that we want a new social contract? If we can reach a collective agreement, why not?  For one, there are many powerful interests who do not want change, that means possibly or definitely losing power. Even those who are just ‘doing well’ are afraid of change; and those at the bottom of society have to spend all their efforts on survival, and cannot invest in change.

So, how do we get change.  Actually, change is inevitable. Human society, just as all animals, are constantly evolving. It usually happens on a different time scale, with rapid change once a threshold is reached. Like the French Revolution in 1789, or the Russian one in 1917, or the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Or the world wars; did you know that we just started the fourth world war? The third was the cold war that ended with the end of the Soviet Union.  The fourth is a cyber-war, implemented by fixing elections and drones, but with traditional aims of control and power.

I think that the new world order will emerge more peacefully; at least I hope it will. It requires the death of nations, just as we needed the death of God for science to progress. We now have a global infrastructure that connects every person in the world to every other.  We just need to decide on the new social order.

I am sceptical if that is the first step or the last step.  Or if we will take that path, and not continue on the path of self-destruction.  But this is a key step in my mind: global democracy.  A global infrastructure that provides health, education and other services to every child born into this world, as well as a system of global governance, while enabling local community decisions on how to use public resources.  Join me…

NZ votes for stability or progress?

On Saturday  23 September, we vote.  After a disappointing result three years ago, I am hopeful for a government that can deliver on equity and protecting our beautiful country, and the planet.

You will hear it said, it does not matter what we do for climate change, or other aspects of planetary despoil. We are a tiny nation, not yet 5 million, less than 0.5% of global emissions, they say.  But, I think it does matter.   It’s called leadership.

Now we have the possibility of Jacinda for NZ, and perhaps the world.

One simple thing a new government could do would be to set up a financial transaction system that removes  cash (and hence corruption) and banking function.  A State infrastructure of distributed databases is at the heart of artificial intelligence; it also provides a distributed ledger that is used in blockchain, the technology behind BitCoin. Blockchain is now old technology, so this could be set up practically overnight with a few smart engineers.  The hardware – computers in every home, are already there and in most pockets.

You might not see how this would benefit the planet, but I hope it’s obvious how such a system would not only prevent corruption from being hidden, but also tax avoidance.  I do not believe in the need for income tax; it can be replaced with a much fairer and more efficient  financial transaction that is progressive, and can be used to prevent gaming on markets, when that is not adding to economic welfare.

It would be virtually costless to implement in this new State money system.   Yes, there are the costs of running large servers; but there is also the benefit of scale; and remember the ledger is distributed, not centralised.  The costs are in data processing, and while substantial are so highly scalable, and is tiny compared to the size of the economy.

As the only legal tender in the country, all transactions would need to be processed through the common ledgers that create security without the need for a third party.  In other words, banks no longer serve a useful function.  Banks also provide credit; but it would be simpler for the State to directly provide credit to citizens and enterprises, without the need to mediate through banks.  This allocation of credit to any member of the community who could persuade their local community, would remove a barrier to creating new businesses.  Perhaps loans are progressively larger, as individuals or companies show their ability to repay.

In designing the system for providing credit, we must listen to the calls for equity, fairness in how each individual can access community resources.  At present, those in most need, have least access to services and  resources.

Now, you may have notice that the financial sector, and especially banks have the most control of our society’s resources.  What I propose would remove the Emperor’s Clothes: bankers would no longer exist.  The bankers create/maintain a system that makes them indispensable, rather than actually being indispensable.  Technology is not the necessary solution to this problem, but it helps.  Computers and community decision making can replace banks.

So, where would all the money that goes to bankers go to instead?  And remember, we could make bankers redundant overnight, as the technology is already here.  It just requires a democratic decision.

This is where we can start to invest in a green infrastructure and advanced technologies, building on our global leadership in setting up a new global currency.  Look at the crazy value of bitcoin; now dropping but still worth a few thousand dollars, when once it was less than one!

We desperately need a new world, if humanity is to survive on this planet.  We don’t need a stability that is leading to global destruction and potential human extinction. We need progress to a sustainable future for our grand-children.

A world where mad-men do not control nuclear bombs; and even small arms no longer exist.  Hunting is traditional; so is gathering and the food we eat.  Not the highly processed and very tasty foods that science has developed for us, for profit – and damn the health consequences.  (Should I apologise for swearing in a world where most do not believe in damnation?)

Here’s dreaming and a reminder to my fellow NZers: let’s go for progress and live our manifest destiny in our journey to God-hood.  Vote Labour electorate and Green Party, to get the best mix of policies – including a financial transaction tax and a new NZ order that can lead the world.

And Grant Robertson, love you.  But you don’t need to win the electorate.  Please step aside for James Shaw; thanks!

Our story: 15. Half-way there

Now is half-way between past and future.  In the last chapter we ran through human history from single-celled life through hunter gatherers to advanced capitalist economies.  Science and capitalism transformed the world.  Many have been left behind, but luxurious living conditions for the masses, and an ever more years of expected life are some of the positive results of capitalism.  Science continues to offer new technologies, and now the replacement of human mind, in the same was as muscle was replaced by the steam engine.

We started to get fat when we used machines instead of our muscles; and then invented gyms so that our muscles would be used to no purpose.  What will happen when machines think better than people; what will we do with our minds?  Do they not already cause more trouble, more worry that joy?

How to get to Utopia?   Utopia is based on two Greek words:  ou ‘not’ + topos ‘place’; it does not exist!  The word was first used in the book Utopia (1516) by Sir Thomas More.  Plato described a Utopian state nearly two thousand years earlier, in The Republic, ruled by Philosopher Kings.  For Marx, it is the classless state, the end of exploitation.

Marx described history as the struggle between classes, those who produce and those live off their work.  If the promised era of machine produced everything becomes reality, technology could deliver a classless state. In feudal times, the nobles lived off the work of the peasants.  Capitalism has been through many changes since the time of Marx.  It has progressed to provide better conditions for workers. The role of the state has expanded, to include provision of health, education and welfare as well as security.

In future, the what will be the role of the State, when all produce is made by machines.

Our story: 14. Where are we?

I got lost.  Or so it may seem. The criss-cross of different threads do not yet build a  story.  Our story, starts from the Big Bang and then goes in so many different direction.  Covering a tale that is complex, and already told many times before.   You may get lost again, but here goes.

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Our story: 11. How much do we know?

Only a few generations ago, the germ theory of disease was a new idea.  Understanding the root cause of illness, as being caused by a micro-organism, too small to be seen.  But made visible by microscope, culture, and now nucleic acid amplification.  The last now providing a new window into the bugs that live in and on us.  We discover that a human being is made up of more non-human cells than human; the countless organisms that call us home.  Have you heard of the face mite?

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Our story: 10. President Ignoramus

Ignoramus_Et_Ignorabimus

Ignoramus,  a 1612 farce by George Ruggle (1575-1622), introduced this Latin word into English.  It  means “we do not know”.  In the play, Ignoramus is the name of a lawyer who fancies himself to be quite shrewd but is actually foolish and ignorant.  Remind you of anybody?

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