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The Other Golden Rule: He who has the gold makes the rules!

This IDEO challenge brief begins: “In the wake of a global economic crisis…”

Photo of Steve Kube

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Your challenge brief begins: “In the wake of a global economic crisis…”  and so we see right off that unemployment is a symptom of an economic crisis. 

Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and others, warned that economic booms and busts would be the result of allowing private interests to control our money supply. They warned us that giant banks and giant corporations would be the inevitable outcome and they would cause wild swings in our economy through inflation and deflation. We have surely arrived at the future they predicted over 200 years ago.  

Can we be clear headed and honest enough to treat the cause, not the symptoms?  Cold compresses on a fevered forehead may feel good but they won’t cure an infection in the gut. 

Private interests impinging on our money supply are like parasites or tumors in the body that interfere with the flow of blood in our system. Private banks, giant corporations, and massive governments have become the overindulgent, dominating agents in our society, continually concentrating wealth and power in the hands of those at the top. 

So how do we get off this roller-coaster of wild economic swings that cause unemployment and a host of other societal ills? By Finding ways to circumvent, and re-invent our monetary system. Look for ways to recreate the global economy based on a different set of principles, using a different kind of currency. Can we create open source money? Can we create a parallel monetary system that would be insulated from the booms and busts of the present system? 

My response to the challenge is to invite people of all ages, not just young people, to find out how our current monetary system works, or rather how it doesn’t work, and start discussing ideas on how to fix it. Awareness is the first step.  

Here’s a thought: If we are going to have central banks, shouldn’t they be public institutions and shouldn’t the employees be paid like civil servants?  (The Federal Reserve is no more Federal than Federal Express, and they have no reserves at all.)   

Our current debt based monetary system is the driving force behind the profligate misuse of our natural, and our human resources. It’s like crystal meth destroying the addict.   

It may seem off-topic to start talking about how our system is trashing the planet in a discussion about building better employment opportunities and pathways for young people, but when you get down to the nitty-gritty of the failing global economic system you find money being created out of thin air and loaned out at interest. This puts a hyper demand on people and resources. The loans are stimulating, and the after-effects are devastating. 

Better employment opportunities and pathways would lead to the creation of a better global economic system. One that doesn’t inherently abuse people or the planet. Individuals will probably continue to do those things, but our system should not induce it or make it unavoidable.

The problem has been with us so long that we don’t even question it. I wonder if one in a hundred people even know what the term ‘debt based money’ means. When digging into the subject we commonly find extremes of irritating diatribe on one hand and coma inducing intellectualizing on the other, both of which can make it very difficult to understand the core issues. 

On a positive note there are level headed discussions on the topic going on in the world. One in particular is Positive Money  www.positivemoney.org. I believe their efforts are worth contributing to.

Our system is literally an unbelievable nightmare and we need to gently wake ourselves up to what is going on. Otherwise we’ll find ourselves overwhelmed and boggled by the situation, refusing to believe it could possibly be true, and remain in denial.   

Becoming aware of the situation is the first step. Denial and anger may follow, but that’s the way it sometimes goes with this sort of thing. I believe people around the world will find a way to sort all this out and set us up for our next stage in human evolution, whatever that may be. 

I like to imagine living on a civilized planet. I’m not sure what the monetary system looks like on such a planet, but I’m quite certain it’s nothing like what we have here on our planet. 

~ S

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Spam
Photo of Clarice

This is interesting. So, you're saying that someone should be teaching - or research should be done - on how the monetary system was created? This idea has a lot of merit, since as far as I can tell business classes always focused on making a profitable business and surviving in today's economy, not thoroughly looking at economy's pitfalls. If this is what you're proposing, how exactly should people be educated? A website? A class?

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Photo of Steve Kube

Information on how the monetary system was created and currently operates is available. Google it, YouTube, etc. Understanding it can be challenging, but we have to understand what's going on before we can fix it.

It'd be interesting to see high school students around the world discussing the topic. Maybe doing up computer models that illustrate the problems with various aspects of our monetary system, who wins, who loses...

I see the challenge as reducing the complexity of the subject, increasing transparency of the systems, and keeping a conversation going. I like what www.positivemoney.org is doing.

Dovetail all this with the emerging sharing economy (which maximizes use of our resources, lowering our impact on the environment) and other decentralized change agents and we may be able to pull our bacon out of the fire so to speak.

~ S

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Photo of Meena Kadri

Great provocations, Steve. It might be good to add initiatives like Positive Money + trends like the sharing economy directly to your post to inspire others here (or even better – create fresh Research posts on them! Looking forward to seeing more of you across this challenge.

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Photo of Meena Kadri

PS. If you're keen to update your post at any time, you can hit the Update Entry button up there on the right.

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Photo of Steve Kube

Thanks for the input, Meena. I've updated my post.

It could be easy to get distracted from the core of what needs to be addressed, which is a dysfunctional monetary system resistant to change.

I've come to realize that evolution held back eventually leads to revolution, which always results in the transfer of power from the hands of a few to the hands of many more. Although inevitable, revolution does not need to be overly traumatic. However, it does require that power be transferred from a few to many more and that's usually where the resistance shows up.

Hopefully this IDEO challenge will elicit solutions that will help us shift to a sustainable system that can support us well into the future without undo drama.

The sharing economy of collaborative consumption is evolving rapidly and will continue to grow. It's inevitable. There's a great TED talk on this topic here:

https://www.ted.com/talks/rachel_botsman_the_case_for_collaborative_consumption

This change in behavior will help reduce over-use and misuse of our natural resources, and increase sustainability of the human race on Earth. However, it assumes you have something to share, and the topic of employment opportunities and pathways for young people implies they don't. It's back to the have's and the have nots.

A shift away from unsustainable hyper consumption requires modifying our monetary system such that it no longer induces such hyperactivity. Our current monetary system holds financial gain, power and control above all other considerations. Like the addict driven to get a fix, everything else is secondary. Have you seen the movie "The Wolf of Wall Street"?

What if our banking and monetary system held sustainability of the human race here on Earth above all other considerations?

Living with our current banking and monetary system is like having a really bad addict in the family. Like a drunk, abusive father we are dependent on, and everyone in the family has become co-dependent and dysfunctional to one degree or another. We've been polluted by it for so long we regard it as normal.

It's tempting to suggest the young may fare better if they run away from home, but we're all alone in this together, and together we can, and must bring about the necessary change.

~ S

Spam
Photo of Steve Kube

I just saw this and had to add it to the conversation.

http://www.theselc.org/gov_brown_approves_alternative_currencies_act

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Photo of Ashwin Goutham Gopi

I love this thought, Steve. The ultimate form of humanism can arise from a social movement that helps individuals break free from all institutions, including the one that began the process. A social movement with no social identity.

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Photo of Steve Kube

Thanks, Ashwin. I think we can find evidence of a social movement with no particular social identity. Actually a movement made up of uncounted small, decentralized movements with socially beneficial goals in mind.

One very interesting group, not a small one, but interesting to me is the Mondragon Cooperative Corporation in Spain. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mondragón

Noted poverty expert and sociology professor Barbara J. Peters (Southampton College, Long Island University) has studied the incorporated and entirely resident-owned Basque town of Mondragón, Spain. "In Mondragón, I saw no signs of poverty. I saw no signs of extreme wealth," Peters said. "I saw people looking out for each other…..It's a caring form of capitalism.”[1]

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Photo of Steve Kube

Here's another pointer to a better system. One that doesn't promulgate extreme income disparity and other resource abuses.

Worker cooperatives, more common in other countries, are now becoming popular in the US.

http://www.shareable.net/blog/it-takes-an-ecosystem-the-rise-of-worker-cooperatives-in-the-us?utm_content=2014-05-14%2022%3A31%3A12&utm_source=VerticalResponse&utm_medium=Email&utm_term=It%20Takes%20a%20Village%3A%20Rise%20of%20Worker%20Coops%20in%20the%20US&utm_campaign=Open%20Food%20Network%2C%20Rise%20of%20Worker%20Coops%20%26%20Birth%20of%20the%20SCNcontent

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Photo of Em Havens

Steve, I love where you're going with this. You've taken us three steps closer to the root of the issue by continuing to ask why? Why are our youth unemployed? Why does this challenge even exist in the first place?

From here we can better explore more sustainable solutions to this challenge, like the development and propagation of worker's cooperatives, as you mentioned. There is a great documentary highlighting a series of successful cooporatives (including Mondragon) called ShiftChange (http://shiftchange.org/about/). Arizmendi bakery & Equal Exchange Coffee are two other really fascinating models profiled in the documentary as well.

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Photo of Steve Kube

Thanks, Emily! Loved the trailer for ShiftChange. I think that's more like the way it's done on a civilized planet! I have a tendency to overcomplicate things, like wondering about making an online game that would teach the principles of banking, etc. but when you look at the success of cooperatives like Mondragon, man-O-man! It says it all. (An online game might be fun though! I'd like to see a really good illustration of what usury does to a monetary system.)

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Photo of Tim Okazaki

Wondering if this research is being applied to any Idea/Solution.

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Photo of Steve Kube

Hi, Tim. I don't know if anyone is applying any of these concepts in this IDEO challenge, but they are being applied to solutions in other realms. There are many successful co-ops out there, and more starting. The sharing, or collaborative consumption economy is well under way e.g. shareable. The worlds' monetary systems are being honestly and openly questioned, see www.positivemoney.org, and new forms of currency are being tested, e.g. bitcoin. Another very interesting development is the tech being developed at ethereum.org which could decentralize all manner of our dealings.

I have faith that new, more sustainable, more egalitarian systems will emerge one way or another. Life will find a way to flow forward. The current gatekeepers may need to die off, much like the old guard in the former USSR had to die off for that system to give way.

We live in interesting times.

~ S