[P2P-F] Fwd: Money for the People (GTN Discussion)
michelsub2004 at gmail.com
Wed Jul 12 08:55:11 CEST 2017
another contribution to the Great Transition Debates
---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Michel Bauwens <michelsub2004 at gmail.com>
Date: Wed, Jul 12, 2017 at 1:51 PM
Subject: Re: Money for the People (GTN Discussion)
To: Great Transition Network <gtnetwork at greattransition.org>, PATRICK
CONATY <pat.commonfutures at phonecoop.coop>
I very much appreciate Al Hammond insights into the new market dynamics of
digital capitalism, and on the likely perenniality of the market function
within a broader plurality of resource allocation methods.
One key for me is to distinguish capitalism from markets, and to realize
that markets can be transformed. Markets can rule with a market state at
their disposition , but market can also serve other more dominant systems
of allocation as it did when it was an emergent force under feudalism.
Today, with the exponential growth of new digital and urban commons, most
of which are subsumed under capital but by no means all of them, we have a
new opportunity to transform markets so that they can serve the commons.
Capitalism is, as Kojin Karatani has argued in The Structure of World
History, a three-in-one system: capital - state - nation.
Crucial in this current conjucture, is that the classic strategy of change
'within capitalism', the famous Polanyan double movement, in which the
mobilized people (aka the 'nation') forced the state to periodically
rebalance run-away capitalist logics, seems to no longer function. The most
likely reason is that capital has become transnational, and that
nation-states simply no longer have the clout and the will to rebalance
through inter-state efforts.
This means that though the system is in deep crisis, it's alternatives are
in a bind too, which is a great opportunity for a more systematic
One of the potential strategies is to work with the commoners and their
commons-based entrepreneurial coalitions, and to work, from the commons
outward, to transform the market forms that depend on the commons. This is
crucial , as capitalism in the advanced sectors and places, is moving from
commodity-labor forms, to 'netarchical forms', i.e. the direct exploitation
of human cooperation, whether in commons-production or in distributed
In my last contribution, I mentioned briefly protocol cooperativism. Here
is the rationale for it.
In the last few years , we have seen the emergence of a
cooperative/solidarity-based alternative to the netarchical platforms
(GAFA), i.e. the platform cooperative movement. Signs of change are the two
successfull conferences in NYC, evidence of union-coop funded platforms
for nurses and cleaners, and more and more cooperative digital platforms
that are listed in the Internet of Ownership directory. I am personally
involved in the shift from the cooperative and ESS movement in France,
towards a convergence of cooperative and commons forms; and the same
evolution is underway in cooperative federations in other countries and
Platform coops are worker or multi-stakeholder owned and governed
platforms, that are at the service of a commons or distributed market based
community, in which the platform itself is considered a commons; and the
'cooperative' legal form is considered to be a management model for such
But they can easily slip back into competitive cooperativismand become mere
collective modalities of capitalism. This is why platform coops need to be
'open coops', i.e. they must make their contribution to the commons a
strategic and legal priority. They must move from a position of capital
accumulation, to a position of commons accumulation, and from a position of
redistribution, to one of predistribution. The way to do this is by
adopting protocol cooperativism.
This means there should not be 40 different ride-hailing coops competing
with the one Uber, each with their own software (there are 13 ordering
software packages for ordering food from CSA's, only in the italian
solidarity economy, as Jason Nardi of RIPESS told me once).
There should be one open source ride-hailing applications, which can be
used by all the different open/platform cooperatives.
Given the fragmentation of the commons economy, who can be the 'agents' of
such transformation, of such 'commonification' of market dynamics?
Today, we already have 2 such agents, but we need a third
The two first agents which have emerged in the last 15 years are the global
open source communities in the world of free software and open design, who
have successfully created for-benefit associations (such as the FLOSS
Foundations) as 'commons infrastructure organisations'.
The second agent are the global generative and entre-donneurial coalitions
who have created market activities and incomes for the commons sector. This
second sector is still very emergent and weak, but is exists and is growing.
But global transnational civic institiutions, and global post-capitalist
ethical market coalitions may not be enough, we may need a transnational
political institutions, i.e. the 'state form' of the commons economy.
My intuition is that, in a age of increasingly fragmented sovereignty,
coalitions of cities may play this role. The exponential rise of urban
commons, (I identified 500 projects in a 300k populated city of Ghent,
covering all provisioning systems), the rise of 'rebel cities', 'fearless
cities', climate change coalized cities, commons-oriented progressive
coalitions in spanish cities (look at the amazing Impetus Plan for the
growth and support of the cooperative, solidarity and commons economy in
Barcelona), give me hope that in time, coalitions of cities may emerge who
can collective support the infrastructures of protocol cooperativism. In
other words, networked cities today are a potential form of transnational
governance that may also be an important agent for the commons transition.
The role of progressive coalitions at the nation-state level, is to support
the emergence , consolidation, and trans-nationalization of the commons
infrastructure, so that it becomes maximally resilient and able to
withstand the pressures of global capital.
An all-out assault of a single progressive nation-state against capital
today is doomed, but the nation-state arena can be an area for
consolidation of a transnationally organized commons sector.
On Wed, Jul 12, 2017 at 4:44 AM, Great Transition Network <
gtnetwork at greattransition.org> wrote:
> From Al Hammond <al.hammond at gmail.com>
> I confess to being both attracted and dismayed by Mellor’s essay, and
> think the comments of Hallsmith (especially about the potential of
> blockchains to create new vehicles and currencies for exchange) and
> Hornberg (about the use of non-general currencies to support a basic
> income) improve it. My dismay comes from the apparent lack of understanding
> of the fundamental role that markets play in both shaping and enabling
> personal and corporate and state behavior. Markets can be regulated and
> transformed, but they are not going away, and with the increase in access
> to information and choice, they are arguably more responsive to consumers
> than ever before. If consumers desire a Great Transition, or a more
> sustainable economy, markets will respond (that’s where Whole Foods and the
> rise of organic and locally-sourced produce came from).
> The important point about blockchains (there are now hundreds under
> development) is that they, like the internet, are not under the control of
> any single entity—corporate or governmental. I think it likely they
> represent a disruptive new force—and novel forms of money—that can
> potentially become harnessed in service to a Great Transition. But the time
> to engage with those developing these new entities is now.
> Markets, too, are changing in a fundamental way, with the rise of
> cloud-based or platform businesses like ebay or Amazon for retail, Uber and
> Lyft for local transport, Google for search, Facebook for social
> connections, Apple for mobile phone apps, etc. These types of businesses do
> not manufacture anything (except data); rather, they connect buyers and
> sellers of goods and services or developers and users of apps or networks
> of friends, creating new (on-line) business ecosystems and the tools to
> navigate them. Increasingly, those tools include artificial intelligence to
> optimize and improve the consumer experience (and to sell targeted
> advertising). Platform businesses are winning out, and already constitute
> an increasingly large share of markets, because they are more efficient
> (and generally have far lower environmental impact) than the business
> models they are replacing. This may well represent an essential part of the
> Great Transition. For example, if India and Africa largely
> skip building malls and go straight to e-commerce, and to a major extent
> skip buying personal cars and rent self-driving electric vehicles from
> Uber-like entities, the forgone environmental impact will be enormous.
> Indeed, China is well along in this transition—800 million people shop,
> chat, and do their banking on the WeChat app—despite still buying lots of
> personal cars and building lots of malls.
> Of course, technological change is socially disruptive—and this one may
> hasten the need for a guaranteed minimum income. But consider another
> platform business—Discovery Education, a subsidiary of the Discovery
> Channel, whose digital content (personalized to the reading level or math
> achievement of each individual student) is already used in 50% of the
> classrooms in the US and is spreading overseas (they are big in the UK and
> in Egypt, for example). School systems converting to this and related
> digital platforms typically give students a Chromebook in 1st grade, teach
> coding starting in primary school, use artifical reality videos instead of
> textbooks to demonstrate how hearts beat or galaxies form, and include
> proficiency in teamwork as a major educational objective. Hundreds of new
> Ed-tech companies are formed every year in the US alone, proliferating the
> toolset. Perhaps as this kind of education reaches global scale (in local
> languages), it will create workforces that are at
> home in the digital world and can create their own employments—and perhaps
> the kind of aware consumers and citizens that a Great Transition will need.
> My broader point is that the discussion of elements of a GT need to deal
> with the world as it is, including how the world is rapidly changing.
> --Al Hammond
> Tuesday, July 11, 2017
> From Alf Hornborg <alf.hornborg at hek.lu.se>
> Comment on Mary Mellor’s essay “Money for the People”
> Mary Mellor is absolutely right that we need to understand that money is
> both a social construct and an active force, which means that it can be
> redesigned so as to promote quite different social and ecological processes
> than those generated by the current money system. She is justified in
> proposing that the creation of money should be democratically controlled
> through the state, and that this would make it possible not only to
> liberate us from the exigencies of debt and the compulsion to achieve
> economic growth, but also, for instance, to provide all the inhabitants of
> a nation with a basic income. Beyond the conceptual constraints of
> conventional economics, this perspective allows us to see that the rules of
> the economic game are as arbitrary and potentially mutable as the rules of
> any other game designed by humans.
> Nevertheless, I would like to complement Mellor’s crucial insights and
> proposals in a few ways. First, her assertion that it is not “money itself”
> that fuels exploitation and environmental destruction needs to be modified.
> As long as we are referring to what in economic anthropology is called
> “general-purpose money” (money that can be used to purchase virtually
> anything), money *itself* does indeed fuel exploitation and environmental
> destruction. If there are no constraints on what we can buy with our money,
> we shall naturally be looking for the best deals, which usually means the
> lowest-paid labor and the lowest-priced resources. The globalized
> capitalist market is an expression of the inherent logic of general-purpose
> money. This logic is the same regardless of whether such money is created
> by banks or states, and even regardless of the existence of interest.
> Mellor writes that “some form of money has been around in almost all human
> societies.” Yes, but not the particular form of money that developed in
> colonial Europe. The destructive implications of general-purpose money were
> evident to critics of market economies from Marx to Polanyi.  The logic
> of such money is distinctly different from the “special-purpose money” that
> was identified, for example, among the Tiv people of Nigeria. Precolonial
> Tiv, like most traditional cultures, recognized more than one sphere of
> value.  Whatever kind of money that existed, it could not readily buy
> *everything*. When Mellor writes that it is difficult to envisage societies
> without “some mechanism to facilitate comparisons of value,” she does not
> reckon with the possibility of recognizing such cultural limitations of
> Mellor’s point that money is a social construct means that it is
> potentially possible to democratically design a money system that
> recognizes limits to commensurability. To take a couple of drastic
> examples, it would be possible to decide that rainforests are not
> exchangeable on the same market as Coca-Cola, or that food in the global
> South is not purchased with the same kind of money as is used for financial
> speculation on Wall Street. A system of separate currencies for basic needs
> versus global markets would insulate values pertaining to sustainability
> and survival from the abstract capital flows of the world-system. It could
> thus serve to check exploitation and environmental destruction.
> Second, I find it problematic to speak, as Mellor does, of things with
> “use value,” “social value,” or “little or no value.” Value is always in
> the eye of the beholder. We need to clearly distinguish between the
> biophysical properties of a given item, on the one hand, and its value for
> specific humans, on the other. There is no universal standard for judging
> whether a particular item has “use value,” “social value,” or no value at
> all. Value is a thoroughly cultural phenomenon. This means that we need to
> think about economy and ecology as analytically separate, even though we
> know that they interact in practice. In doing so, for example, we can see
> that we tend to value things higher the less of the original energy that is
> left in a set of resources transformed in production. 
> Mellor is definitely on the right track. The planet will not be saved by
> trying to get the colonial outlook of mainstream economics to somehow
> accommodate the Second Law of Thermodynamics.  Nor will it be saved by a
> socialist revolution that collectivizes ownership but continues to think in
> terms of money and exchange value. Money is not just a reflection of the
> relations of production but an artifact that operates as an active force in
> organizing such relations. To change the logic of the global economic game,
> we must change money itself.
> My third point, then, is that the basic income to which all of should have
> a right should not be paid in general-purpose money, because that would
> simply keep us buying the products of the lowest-paid labor and the most
> degraded landscapes.  It should be paid in a special-purpose,
> complementary currency that can only be used to buy products and services
> produced within a specified radius of the point of purchase. This is not
> “local money” in the sense of geographically restricted currencies, but one
> single, national currency – issued by the state – that is only for local
> use. There is no space here for listing the many social and ecological
> benefits of such a reform, but it would be quite in line with Mellor’s
> general understanding of money as our main – perhaps only – chance of
> achieving sustainability, justice, and resilience. 
>  In his book “The Great Transformation” (1944), Karl Polanyi argued
> that the idea of the self-regulating market, unless checked by society,
> would logically lead to increasing exploitation, environmental degradation,
> and economic instability.
>  The economic anthropologist Paul Bohannan in the 1950s showed that the
> Tiv economy was organized around three separate “spheres of exchange,” and
> that some conversions between separate spheres of value were morally
>  This was pointed out by Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen in his 1971 book
> “The Entropy Law and the Economic Process.”
>  The Second Law of Thermodynamics, also called the Entropy Law, states
> that the energy and matter of an isolated system will become more
> disordered over time. As Georgescu-Roegen showed, this implies that an
> economic production process will simultaneously increase economic value and
> physical disorder.
>  In choosing the least expensive products, consumers inadvertently
> encourage production processes that show the least concern for the
> environment, which often means the most lax environmental legislation.
>  I have elaborated this proposal in an article called “How to Turn an
> Ocean Liner,” in volume 24 of the Journal of Political Ecology (2017).
> Professor Alf Hornborg
> Human Ecology Division, Lund University
> +46 222 3113
> +46 708 122433
> Från: Great Transition Network
> Skickat: den 11 juli 2017 01:03
> Till: Alf Hornborg
> Ämne: Money for the People (GTN Discussion)
> From Gwendolyn Hallsmith
> Report from the Front Lines of Monetary Democracy
> Thank you for the opportunity to comment on Mary Mellor’s thoughtful essay
> about Money for the People. Her call for public money and robust,
> democratic, transparent money issuance can be seen as what Star Trek refers
> to as “the final frontier” in our efforts to create a resilient,
> sustainable world. I wholeheartedly agree with her public money solution,
> yet sadly lack her confidence in centralized, party-driven, representative
> global governance. I imagine she might be a Star Trek fan, with a secret
> hope that the Federation can save the day.
> I have to confess that I was immediately on guard with her abstract’s
> first sentence, which relegated “local initiatives” to the sidelines,
> claiming that they can only lead to modest gains, not large-scale
> transformation. Why are we so enamored with large scale in the first place?
> I have begun to see anything larger than human scale as part of the
> problem, not part of the solution. Particularly when it comes to democracy.
> (I am writing from the U.S., where we are suffering from extreme
> inequality’s impact on large-scale democracy – and the best government our
> corrupt and debt based money can buy).
> Beyond the initial assumption about local initiatives, she actually
> doesn’t talk at all about why large scale is needed, even in the quest for
> public money – she seems to conflate “public” with large, central states.
> Public comes in many flavors, after all, and the Sparkasse public banks in
> Germany have demonstrated that some level of public money is possible at a
> small scale – there is no town too small in Germany to host one of these
> independent, networked public banks. Here in bucolic Vermont, we have been
> working with some success to get a Vermont State Bank, which would wrest a
> portion of the money issuance authority from the large, private banks.
> My experience here, however, has shown me that the large powers – the
> globalized corporations, their partners in globalized banks, and their
> hapless cronies in neoliberal academia – have set numerous obstacles on the
> road to Money for the People, and these obstacles need to either be
> overcome or rendered obsolete before a large-scale transformation is
> possible. Overcoming them is nearly impossible – they control the media,
> the money supply, the armies, navies, courts, and legislatures. The rewards
> they offer their adherents – unlimited wealth, power, and privilege - is
> too strong a potion, even if it is only a pipe dream.
> Three years ago, 20 towns and cities in Vermont voted to direct the state
> legislature to establish a Vermont State Bank. Our towns and cities make
> decisions using the closest thing to direct democracy, where every
> registered voter has a right to vote on budgets, laws, and other
> propositions. Did the legislature take this democratic input and act? Not
> really. We still do not have a state bank, even though they threw us a bone
> where 10% of the money in the big banks is now loaned directly into the
> Vermont economy. This year, when we went to the legislature with the
> successful (and profitable) experience of that program as the wind at our
> backs, we ran into a stone wall.
> This is precisely because in addition to the growth imperative and
> inequality machine the current monetary system imposes, as Mellor very
> carefully and accurately documents, the artificial scarcity and hoarding
> the system requires pits the “haves” against the “have-nots” and the people
> in power – the elite – know on which side of the toast their bread is
> buttered, and do not lift a finger to help us, even when their political
> party has public banking as a plank in their platform. My faith in parties
> has died with my faith in large-scale democracy, I’m afraid. They are not
> public, they are not democratic, and they need to die a rapid and final
> Lest you imagine that my despair at the progress on the road to Money for
> the People has left me bereft, take heart. I believe we are on the cusp of
> the old system being rendered obsolete, much, much easier on some levels
> than overcoming the powers by fighting them directly through democratic
> organizing and legislative action. I am not giving up on that; just saying
> it is necessary but not sufficient.
> I have seen the future, and it is block chaining its way into the heart of
> the human value system, where things with true meaning and value can thrive
> again. The advent of new value-embedding technologies is something that
> Mellor does not even mention. While they are encrypted now in the
> labyrinthine interwebs, their principles and practices can apply
> universally, and I would argue even without the complex and sometimes
> impenetrable technology.
> My prediction: these systems will restore sovereignty to human-scale
> communities once again, and we will be free from large-scale totalitarian
> domination and impoverishment. They can be at once both private and public
> – the new transparency makes it possible to keep watch on their
> “amplification” and development. The distributed ledger is at once both
> local and global. Local iterations can spring into existence using highly
> democratic and time-tested issuance and conflict management practices.
> Their identity certification and transaction transparency can pave the way
> for direct, not party, democracy at all scales. The UN has just issued
> payments in a refugee camp in Ehters, for example, demonstrating that
> global and local can work together directly and effectively for the common
> Public, private, global, local, large and small – all of these demand
> definition and rethinking if we are to transcend the bitter and outdated
> paradigm that is driving the planet toward rapid human extinction.
> Neoliberal economics and their elitist partner in representative democracy
> are well past their shelf life – let’s bring on the new day already. Beam
> me up, Scotty.
> Gwen Hallsmith
> On Sat, Jul 1, 2017 at 9:31 AM, Great Transition Network wrote:
> From Paul Raskin
> Dear GTN,
> The old proverb—money is the root of all evil—may overstate the case, but
> money is, indeed, implicated in the iniquitous debt/growth spiral now
> degrading Earthland.
> Mary Mellor explains in her new GTI essay, “Money for the People,” that it
> needn’t be so. The modern money system is a social construct that evolved
> to spur capital accumulation, but lingers on in an era needing, instead, to
> throttle consumerism, debt, and the economic growth machine. Rather than
> creating money privately through bank lending, as the current system does,
> an alternative approach—public money—can undergird an economy oriented
> toward people and use value, not profit and exchange value.
> I think you’ll find Mary’s vision of a critical institutional pillar of a
> Great Transition economy illuminating, intriguing, and inspiring. Please
> read it at www.greattransition.org/publication/money-for-the-people, and
> let the comments and questions begin! How would public money work in
> practice? How would it interface with the market? How might its pursuit
> contribute to strategies for system change?
> Comments are welcome through JULY 31.
> Looking forward,
> Paul Raskin
> GTI Director
> HOW WE WORK
> Odd-numbered months are for internal GT Network discussions; even-numbered
> months are for public dissemination. You will receive all comments via
> email, and can review the entire thread online at
> www.greattransition.org/forum/gti-forum. The essay will be published
> alongside a “Roundtable,” comprised of selected comments from the GTN
> discussion and a response from the author.
> Hit reply to post a message
> Or see thread and reply online at
> Need help? Email jcohn at tellus.org
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