Futurists and economists have been predicting the imminent collapse of Capitalism since the start of the 20th century on the premise of its inherent un-sustainability. And this is not about some ideological conflict. It has nothing to do with any competing ‘systems’ like Socialism or Communism. It’s about an inherent problem with Industrial Age economics that has been wished-away for a very long time but keeps slowly creeping up behind us and periodically rearing it’s head with every increasingly quicker and more violent flip of the ‘business cycle’. A problem rooted in the simple fact that money is debt keyed to the deliberately subjective value of labor.
==The Bug In The System==
The essential social ‘deal’ of the Industrial Age is the promise that, by adopting the methods/paradigms of centralized industrial mass production we gain the benefit of a great diversity of goods at radically reduced cost with the modest compromise on choice by virtue of production standardization. (eventually ameliorated through market competition) The result is, presumably, a generally higher standard of living for all. (more-or-less…) And in the western culture this generally did work. In fact, it seemed to work so well that, for a couple of centuries, our culture has been trying to apply these paradigms to just about everything. We have compelled our social systems, governments, and institutions toward an increasingly ‘business-like’ model of organization and operation. We have sought to ‘massify’ and ‘industrialize’ every aspect of our lives.
But there’s a certain bug in all this. Initially, mass production demanded gigantic expensive machines and facilities that cost ridiculous amounts of money to create and very large minimum volumes of production to be cost-effective. So in order to adopt this paradigm we needed to realize a system by which we could collectivize large masses of money to speculatively invest in this. This is how we arrived at those three great competitive ideologies of the Industrial Age; Capitalism, Socialism, and Communism. Essentially, they are different ways to do the exact same thing; extract and collectivize some portion of society’s general productivity so it can be invested en-masse in industrialization. The only effective difference between them is how the collectivization is done and which cabal of elites controls the flow of capital. Strange how we were just about willing to go to global thermonuclear war over that… That’s the hazard of letting economic theory and nationalism turn into a quasi-religion.
But they also all have the same underlying problem. You see, workers and consumers are the same people. So an industrial-based economic system can only be truly sustainable if, collectively, all the workers can afford to buy all their output. There has to be a certain balance between worker earnings and consumer pricing or the factories all stop. And the problem with this is that you can’t really maintain a balance in this as long as someone is trying to extract a profit. Why? Because money is debt and profit is, technically, the proceeds of a loan secured on future productivity. Debt never really goes away. It just gets pushed around until it eventually accumulates to the point of a collapse, the last people to ‘cash out’ get wiped-out (of course, never the elites in control…), and government pushes the ‘reset’ button. And this is basically what we refer to as the ‘business cycle’.
Put simply, money is made-up. It’s value is an abstraction. Even when it was tied to a commodity, like precious metals, the value floated independently of the heavily manipulated availability of such commodities through the use of national reserves and the ‘leveraging’ of fractional reserve banking—but we’re getting a little ahead of ourselves. Basically, the ultimate value of money is keyed to the value of human labor _in_the_future_. When a nation prints a bill of currency it’s creating an IOU that is presumed to be paid back in taxes at some point in the future. Taxation is how we extract some presumably ‘fair’ portion of the day-to-day productivity from the society, creating a base of capital. Under Capitalism, we chose not to use government as a basis of distribution for this collectivized capital because it was decided that a political process was fundamentally incompetent at business. (even though we have been trying for a century to make government as corporation-like as possible…) And so we employ the contrivance of a central bank which creates money secured by government bonds then lends it out, at a cost of interest, to other banks down an elaborate food chain though the Capital Finance market. In the US this is called the Federal Reserve Bank, but it is not operated by the government. It is a private institution, whose actual owners are a long-kept secret…
Things start getting increasingly complicated with the addition of fractional reserve banking. Since time immemorial, bankers have sought to ‘leverage’ their lending power by simply lending out more money than they actually have, betting on the fact that people generally leave most of the money they but in the bank there and so, day-to-day, people’s collective withdrawals of savings will be small, which led to a long history of financial collapses in response to various crisis. We used to hang bankers for doing this. Now we’ve institutionalized the practice, governments imposing limits on the leveraging in the form of a standardized ‘fractional reserve’ on the bank’s holdings while insuring—with taxpayer money—this leveraged imaginary capital against the risk of collapse. So every bank repeatedly recycles the capital it receives from the central bank by loaning out, with interest, one portion of it and keeping another small portion ‘in reserve’ so that, in theory, there’s just enough on-hand to meet people’s day-to-day demands for cash. That loaned money then gets paid to other people for goods and services and comes back into the bank (or the banking system in a general sense) through their deposits, whereupon it gets loaned out again to other people, and so on and so on. So for any one actual unit of currency one has in hand, there’s this vast cloud of virtual money that exists only as records/data in the system as unpaid debt. In fact, most of the original currency isn’t even printed. It’s all just data. And at the top of the pyramid we have these unknown people extracting a cut on the whole productivity of society—every single thing we do that in any way involves money—for doing nothing more than passing the made-up cash from one hand to another. Pretty good work, if you can get it.
So what this boils down to is that there is this initial debt in the creation of money compounded by this long chain of interest on all capital going through the food chain of its distribution from the central bank on down and thus an intrinsic ‘cost of money’ for using money at all on top of what any owner of a factory expects for their own profit. There is always more debt to be paid back than there is actual money. This makes an economic balance between worker/consumer essentially impossible. As long as there are all these hands out expecting a cut, no one can get paid what their labor is actually worth and no one actually gets their money’s worth in anything they buy. The loop can never close. We just try to minimize the gap by ‘externalizing’ costs. For instance, by conning the public to pay for pollution created by production. Or by relying on market growth to hide it in the near-term. Or by making personal credit very easy to get so people have more virtual buying power than actual income.
But what happens when you can’t keep growing? What happens when technology starts to significantly erode the value of labor—starts noticeably eliminating jobs outright? What happens when most of your production goes overseas to exploit cheap labor from workers who aren’t your consumers? How do the workers at home pay for the stuff? What happens when the cloud of accumulated debt keeps getting bigger and bigger and the business cycle starts to flip so fast government can’t hit the reset button fast enough? The gap in the loop just gets wider and eventually there’s no one who can afford the products, or pay the taxes that pay for the up-front cost of money. Factories close. Markets collapse. The economy fails. The state fails.
This is fate of Capitalism people have been anticipating since the start of the 20th century. Though many may have over-estimated the near-term ramifications—expecting too quick an advance in machine intelligence and industrial automation in particular, expecting social/political back-lash to be more coherent than it was, and underestimating the potential for business and finance to keep the wolf at bay by liberalizing personal credit, exploiting class and generational conflicts, and, through Globalization, to push the problem around in a global shell-game—this specter has continued to haunt economics for a century. It’s rather like an economic version of Global Warming in that the pathology is non-intuitive. We’re not getting ‘depressions’. We’re getting an increasingly quick and violent business cycle akin to the increasing incidence of extreme weather on the planet. And the attitude of government and contemporary business and finance culture has been the same as their attitude toward Global Warming. It it doesn’t suit their philosophy, it cannot exist. As Isaac Asimov once said, there are no acts of god…
==The Next Wave==
But many of the futurists who have been warning of this potential total economic collapse have also been anticipating the paradigms that would arise either in the wake of it or enough ahead of it to preclude it. They do not foresee some dystopian eschaton but rather a transition to a new cultural age. A second industrial revolution. A Post-Industrial Age with a very different, more sustainable, economic paradigm. There is an up-side here. The very same technologies that are eroding the paradigms of the Industrial Age from the inside are simultaneously enabling their alternatives.
The general trend in the advance of industrial technology has been toward not only increasing automation but a steady shrinking in scale and cost that is re-writing the rules of production, enabling de-massification, decentralization, and localization of production at progressively shrinking minimum economies of scale, hence reducing the necessity of large scale capital investment. In the year 2000 we reached a very important but largely overlooked milestone in the history of industry. At that time more consumer goods worldwide were produced in ‘job shops’—small flexible contract production factories mostly in Asia—than in traditional factories. Since then, corporations—especially younger and more high tech companies—have been increasingly abandoning ownership of large production facilities (which really is becoming a liability as the pace of tech improvement increases) in favor of distributed contract production, often exploiting overseas labor but also often increasingly closer to their markets. This affords powerful competitive advantages such as radically reduced operating overhead, price competitiveness, and much shorter time-to-market. Today, there is a steadily shrinking number of things which cannot be potentially cost-competitively produced in facilities on the scale of a two car garage. Today, entrepreneurs can commonly start businesses ‘out of pocket’ that once required many millions of dollars of bank money. It used to cost millions to get into book publishing. E-books now have an overhead near zero. People can go into short-run production of a vast assortment of things with investments as little as a few tens of thousands of dollars. Industrial designers, developers, engineers, and other creatives are no longer dependent on corporate industrialists to make their inventions into products. They are themselves becoming manufacturers.
The current emergence of personal fabrication technology—3D printers, laser cutters, CNC machines—as well as the successes of ‘crowdfunding’ programs like Kickstarter are the most visible hallmarks of this evolution in production, but they are, in fact, the tip of an iceberg. There is a general trend of progressively regionalized distribution of production and a passing of an increasing amount of end-stages of production to the consumer themselves. IKEA, with its ‘flat-pak’ furniture concept, built a whole industry on the premise of reducing costs by passing the last stage of product assembly to the consumer. Many people now predict the imminent general localization of durable goods production, things like the on-demand assembly of automobiles in the dealership as a very practical way of reducing the carbon overhead and cost of shipping while affording the customer more choices and options than ever before. With this de-massification of production is coming new shifts in market dynamics, such as the much-touted Long Tail phenomenon. As the adoption of digital recording technology radically reduced the overhead of music publishing encouraging a new expansion in the number of music publishers, an explosive growth in new music options saw the bulk of market value shift toward a ‘long tail’ of previously unrecognized artists. The traditional ‘stars’ of the industry still led in individual popularity but, collectively, slipped to the minority of market share. This phenomenon is emerging everywhere new production technology is affording new potential for competitive small scale entrepreneurship and thus new choices to the consumer. Progressively, we are seeing ‘big industry’ shift toward the bottom of the industrial food chain—toward commodities—while goods production becomes dominated by burgeoning small business.
Along with such de-massification of production is coming a decentralization of infrastructures, such as energy production. Renewable energy development is, at long last, beginning to have impact. Companies now have an option of energy independence that can even extend to transportation. With so many conventional utilities grids becoming increasingly unreliable, store chains like Walmart and Costco now explore independent power systems so that when the power goes out, their stores don’t. Industry is increasingly thinking about whole energy and resource ecologies—about the total logistics of production that can eliminate pollution and waste and the total life-cycle and recycling of products. Industrial design is pursuing trends of increasingly sophisticated products made from increasingly simple and recyclable materials. And in the popular culture, green is a market advantage.
Led by the computer industry, many industries are evolving toward ‘industrial ecologies.’ Networks of industrial interdependency in which products are defined by platforms/architectures that exist as food chains through various levels of commodification; competitive horizontally, cooperative vertically. Market share for an increasing number of things depends on interoperability—on vertical integration—and more information than ever before is routinely being exchanged between manufacturers. Propriety is slowly becoming a dirty word because, in effect, it’s a barrier to commerce, innovation, and industry growth. Led by the example of computer manufacturers, a growing number of companies in an expanding spectrum of industry do not manufacture anything at all anymore but simply evangelize platforms/architectures/designs and mediate the food chains of contract production and networked distribution that coalesce into products produced on-demand at the top of the food chains.
The central paradigm of the Industrial Age—that basic social deal of centralized mass production—is breaking down and in its place is emerging a kind of global production web where goods are increasingly produced on-demand nearer and nearer to the point of their use (even down to the level of production within people’s own homes), means of production are owned by a larger portion of society who don’t necessarily think of each other as cut-throat competitors in a zero-sum game but rather as communities and participants in industrial ecologies, while global trade deals more and more in commodities of very globally-standardized value. Manufactured goods—end-products—have highly variable value because, traditionally, their creation depended on so much subjectively-valued human labor and the consumer perception of value and quality is inherently subjective. Commodities tend to have small and continually shrinking margins of human labor in their production and so their values tend to be much more easily quantified and, with our digitally mediated markets, increasingly standardized. The global commodities market is a very ‘transparent’ one and so profit, which is generally based on the divergence in perceived value between buyer and seller and often dependent on deliberate obfuscation, is harder to come by except by trying to predict (or manipulate…) trends in the general changes of values over time.
It is anticipated that, as global trade is increasingly commodified and the market automated while goods production becomes more local, more automated, and more on-demand, the trend of digital transparency in the market will progress and national currencies and their wildly shifting relativistic values will prove an increasing hinderance to market function, leading to a progressive indexing of commodities values to a scientific quantification of their demand and mathematical methods of rates of exchange, perhaps facilitated by supranational digital currencies. In fact, such new currencies are already cropping-up in the form of things like Bitcoin, aided by progressive popular disillusionment with traditional government and finance and the essential inconvenience and usuriousness of it all. And if we project these trends to their logical conclusion we arrive at the possible emergence of what is called a Resource-Based Economy.
==The Death Of Money==
Let’s clarify a key point. Economics is not about money. It involves various monetary systems and social conventions involving them, but only as mediums of value exchange facilitating a communication of resources and goods. And THAT’s ultimately what economics is really about; the paradigms and conventions we create and adopt to facilitate the presumably more-or-less ‘fair and open’ communication of resources and value exchange. Economics is not a hard science. That’s a simple fact. It may borrow a lot of the terminologies of hard sciences in an attempt to establish some kind of scientific credibility, but ultimately it’s a game. It’s a very complicated form of Fantasy Football. And so there’s no ‘natural order’ to economics. It does not exist in nature. It may have evolved from ancient times, but what it has always been is a series of ad hoc social conventions that struggled for a logical process of ‘fair exchange’. But because the contemporary convention is to pretend economics is a science and in need of a scientific analysis, we have applied intensive methods of mathematics to it, hoping for deeper levels of understanding or, for some people, a sort of ‘edge’ on the competition or a means of gaming the system for the sake of greater profit.
Money was invented to solve the basic logistical problems associated with barter. In this respect it was a remarkable invention. One of the greatest intellectual feats of ancient human history. In effect, money is a kind of space-time machine intended to overcome the necessity of synchronousness in barter by providing a means of standardizing and storing relativistic value in a uniform medium independent of time and place. Barter is generally profitless exchange and only possible where exchange is synchronous. In other words, you can only barter things where the parties involved are in the same place, at the same time, both have things the other wants/needs, and both have a roughly equal perception of the value of what they each have. This is a relatively rare situation in practice unless large numbers of people are concentrated in the same location.
By decoupling value from goods and making it independent of time and space, money enabled a lot of powerful capabilities. It allowed for a conservation of human productivity over seasons. Facilitated specialization of labor that encouraged the progress of craft and technology. Facilitated trade over long distances. Empowered rulers with the ability to collectivize, through taxation, a portion of a society’s productivity independent specific goods or individual skill and ability, facilitating—for better or worse—very grandiose projects and adventures such as great public works and wars on increasingly large scales.
But as time passed the advance of technology—transportation, communication, information, and production in particular—have largely superseded the logistics problems money was originally invented to solve and, as a result, it has evolved to be increasingly abstract and virtual in order to overcome its own increasing inconveniences. In our highly digitally networked civilization, money is becoming a basic hindrance to the smooth efficient operation of commerce. And we are progressively virtualizing it in order to automate the processes involving it. All across the 20th century we’ve been inventing ways to eliminate physically handling money to facilitate its more convenient communication; cheques, money orders, wire transfers, credit/debit cards, virtual wirelessly communicating debit cards hosted by smart phone apps, on-line exchange systems like PayPal, and most recently the invention of fully digital supranational currencies like Bitcoin. And all this is bringing up a basic question of what, exactly, money is doing in our culture and whether or not a lot of those economic conventions of the past have become redundant or dangerously dysfunctional. The transformation of money during the Industrial Age from something presumably keyed to the value of physical commodities into some kind of societal IOU was conducted without the consent or understanding of the majority of society and has arguably produced disastrous results. Just as many futurists have seen Industrial Age production paradigms as unsustainable, so too have they regarded this very bizarre contemporary monetary system.
As the computer has entered our economic systems it has produced a progressive transparency of markets leading to an increasing difficulty for realizing profit. The mathematics of economics—quantitative analysis— coupled to deepening information gathering capability and the tremendous information processing power of computers had increasingly ‘rationalized’ the value of things. In the absence of monopoly/oligopoly profit is largely dependent upon a divergence in the perception value between the parties of an exchange. Where true parity in perceived value as well as choice exists, trade is reduced to barter—to an equivalent exchange. We see this impact in the commodities market where the transparency and open communication have reached a point where price capitulation becomes global and, though wildly fluctuating, global commodities prices are largely standardized. Profit becomes a matter of timing; anticipating—or illicitly orchestrating—value trends in order to make bets on the changes in advance.
The market for manufactured goods is a bit less transparent today because, unlike commodities, human labor has long remained a large portion of production cost. All the ‘hard’ commodities—all the basic materials, foodstuffs, basic mass produced components like ICs—are very well understood, in a scientific sense, by the system. Where they come from, how they’re made, what their cost factors are, what their trends in demand are, is all very clear, largely because human labor is a pretty small factor in that. There aren’t a lot of ‘trade secrets’ underlying corn growing or oil extraction. Human labor is the one commodity we don’t have a very scientific understanding of because its value has remained very subjective and thus wildly variable. And that’s deliberate. There would be no executive class if we had any sort of rational scientific metric for labor.
Service industries have the most wildly variable quantification of labor and the least rational understanding of costs of all. It’s often assumed that there is some kind of individual human talent quotient to the market value. In the absence of competition, or a willingness to compete (as in service industry there is often an upward price capitulation—a sort of ‘gentleman’s agreement’ on acceptable profit margin among a ‘professional community’ as actual competition is seen as mutually detrimental), it’s really tough to employ rational quantitative analysis and often socio-psychological factors of popularity/celebrity come into the mix. One of the key problems with health care in the US is the difficulty in achieving any sort of standardization of procedure costs unless imposed by government because of this presumed talent/celebrity quotient and upward price capitulation. Prices for the same procedure can vary wildly from one place in the country to another, often keyed to the economic class status predominate in the regional demographics.
But even without that rational understanding, long-term the manufactured goods market as well as service industry are going the same way as commodities because, just as with commodities, that human labor quotient is being systematically factored out by progressing automation and, just like commodities, everything other than human labor can be readily quantified. In the electronics industry, for instance, the moment a new product appears on the market you have analysts reverse-engineering its production costs to tell you how much this thing costs its manufacturer to produce, and then predicting the company’s market strategies based on that. The increasingly global, digitally networked, computer mediated market system now understands the value of everything better than we human beings can. And the better this understanding, the harder profit becomes. Today we move ridiculous sums of money ever-faster around the world to chase shrinking margins and shorter-lived spot-market bargains because the system itself is becoming so efficient world-wide it’s factoring profit out. If you’re making a large profit on anything in the world today, you’re probably cheating. You’re probably doing something that goes against the principles of fair and open exchange and fair competition the market is supposed to be based on and you’re harboring a lot of secrets. You’re probably gaming the system. That sort of thing is increasingly difficult to maintain because we live in a digital panopticon now where everyone is always talking to everyone else and there are a million mathematicians with ever-more-powerful computers all trying to work out your tactics.
==The Internet Of Things==
Production today is not merely becoming more automated. It is also becoming more networked, distributed, and dependent on portable digital characterizations of designs and production processes. The idea of centralizing production is obsolete. Any relatively complex product is based on a food chain of subcomponents production and assembly and a process that fans-in through a production network to the point of purchase. The essential value of a product is not in the stuff it is made from. It is in those digital characterizations which are evolving toward what writer Bruce Sterling has dubbed ‘spimes’; semantic knowledge webs associated with a product that embody the ‘genetic’ history of its design cultivated through the feedback from its production process and each unit produced. So we are arriving at what is often referred to as an Internet Of Things where physical products are transitory, low value, recyclable manifestations of digital designs that exist on a global web of networked production that is becoming increasingly generic in nature. Trade is predominately a trade in commodities. Production systems, once very specialized to making specific products (which needed a market lifespan consistent with the term to pay the capital expense of tooling for their production), are now generic and able to switch production between any number of end-products on-demand. Futurists now anticipate a global production web very much like the Internet where production itself is commodified and everything from natural resources extraction, to production, to recycling are all very tightly interconnected and resources more-or-less automatically flow around the world like (and with) data.
And this is changing the way we think about and value products. Little by little, our culture is replacing physical goods with virtual goods while our perception of those physical goods we still need is becoming transitory. We are starting to think of them as ‘applications’ for matter and modular component systems rather than permanent things with a permanent intrinsic value. We are trending toward what might be called the ultimate ’throw away’ culture, thankfully being enabled by the progressive reusability of products and the recycling of their materials. We need to own and store less matter personally when we can very quickly transform that matter on-demand into whatever we need at any time.
So this brings us to the essential question of why we need an artificial medium of exchange when the market understands itself and the nature of the stuff it deals in so well? Why can’t the machines—the math and software—automatically mediate exchange in an anticipatory way? We understand the nature of demand so well that the market functions basically by predicting it with ever-increasing accuracy. Why then can’t projected demand alone be the ultimate metric of all value? What is the point to this market game if it’s ultimate end-game, given sufficient production automation, sufficient quantitative analysis, sufficient interconnectedness, is the elimination of profit? Why not just pursue the total automation of exchange, fulfill all society’s basic needs without the hassle-filled contrivance of monetary exchange, establish a basic income integral to a supply chain infrastructure, and employ another method of meritocratic reward?
This is the eventuality many futurists anticipate as a consequence of the evolution toward a resource-based global economy. The physically closer to the consumer production becomes the more the market deals in commodities. The more it deals in commodities the more transparent to quantitative analysis it becomes. The more transparent the market becomes the more it factors out profit. The more it factors out profit, the greater the compulsion to simply automate the exchange based on the quantitative analysis of global demand. And this is how we arrive at the idea of a ‘moneyless’ future culture so often described in futurist and science fiction literature.
==Life Without Money==
What would it mean to base an economic system on a scientific metric of demand rather than abstraction of mass societal debt? Well, Buckminster Fuller explored this idea in a project called The World Game. The World Game was an economic simulation that sought to model a global network of open reciprocal exchange that could prove the fact that zero-sum economics was fallacy. There really is enough for everyone to live well, to have a high middle-class standard of living, and if you really want to preclude the eventuality of a ‘population bomb’, well, making that happen is how you do it. As scientists now understand, poverty is the cause of overpopulation, not the control for it. Human population growth is slated to plateau before the end of this century—as long as we continue to make an effort to bring as much of the world as possible up to a standard of living, health care, and low enough infant mortality to where people aren’t dependent on children as their only safety net.
In a demand-driven economic system quantitative analysis seeks to work out a comprehensive model of demand down to the use patterns of individual products and, perhaps, even the unique behavior patterns of the individual consumer. This is then integrated into a global production web intended to automate the meeting of that demand. Demand becomes the metric of value and hence the intrinsic currency of exchange. Such knowledge would be facilitated by the technology of Spimes; webs of information cultivated around products and their many design iterations through feedback by various means of ‘tagging’ products or giving them integral digital interconnectivity. Another technology facilitating this is the possible development of Netention social awareness platforms. This is a concept relating to the Semantic Web and would allow social networking systems to develop a kind of passive intelligence cultivating a social knowledge and collective awareness about the needs of people and the state of their lives without having to reveal too much personal information. It’s a way of creating a social network that actually understands you as a person and has a ‘pronoia imperative’. Like a digitally networked conspiracy secretly out to help you and everyone else. Similar semantic web platforms are anticipated for the development of internetworked environmental sensing webs, affording a total global environmental awareness. Integrated to the quantitative analysis that might mediate a global open reciprocal production web, these systems would give us an unprecedented comprehension of human needs and environmental situation, seeking an effective sustainability. Thus its ability to scientifically project demand would be incredibly accurate, incredibly specific, and very deep.
Now, we’re not talking about some computer overlord managing the world. We’re still talking about a very distributed network of systems not very much different from the quantitative analysis and digital trading systems used with markets today—and quite likely evolving from them. It’s still ultimately human beings working out the mathematics, developing rule-based decision systems, and writing the code all at the discretion of the society. We’re crafting an ‘autopilot’ not an AI. All these systems can do is make reasoned suggestions that human beings must choose to accept and carry out of their own volition. People with an affinity for developing production will still be creating and ‘owning’ those systems and plugging them into the production web as a public good. Eventually control of production and distribution will be increasingly automated, these systems given more control as experience proves reliability. (and its limits) It will become the pervasive distributed background intelligence of the production web. Society collectively will set the priorities and standards, work out what they feel is a fair and reasonable base-line for a civilized, ethical, and sustainable minimum standard of living.
In practice a culture with such a robust and automated resource based economic system would realize the long held dream of a ‘leisure culture’ where the dividends of technology and automation are finally returned to the society in the form of a basic guaranteed income ‘integral’ to the systems of production and distribution. Everything people need to meet the common standard of living would be provided free; produced more-or-less locally in diversified automated production facilities and with a lot of potential choice and customization by virtue of on-demand production. There would be virtually no ‘jobs’ in the 20th century sense. Automation would largely eliminate them. Work would be optional, career or community-oriented, and based on personal affinity. The rather ridiculous and bizarre artifacts of extreme luxury seen today would likely hold little interest for people of this culture but those who still feel some need for solid gold toilets and Swarovski crystal covered smart phones would still be free to develop their own means for their production.
This is the culture we anticipate realizing, much ahead of the rest of the world’s curve, in the communities of TMP. The Aquarius development phase is intended to be the petri-dish and showcase for culturing this new Post-Industrial revolution. And we have a very critical reason for pursuing this. Establishing a sustainable branch of civilization is the greatest challenge in human history. We need the full potential productivity of society in our hands to accomplish this. But a great deal of that productivity is being squandered in the primitive economic system dominating the world today. If money is debt, then every dollar, every unit of currency, that exists today is an imposed tax on our future productivity. Is time and energy taken from our lives without our consent. Money is usury. By seeking to deliberately cultivate the culture and systems we anticipate are now evolving we seek to recover this vast lost productivity within our communities in order that we can re-direct it to our common objective of space development. Ultimately, there is no conventional ‘return on investment’ for space settlement in the long-term. That ROI will only ever be realized out there, in the new places people create in space to live. So there is no way for this antiquated Industrial Age economic paradigm to sustain space development. It must be based on a cultural imperative. We must therefore unshackle a sufficiently large portion of society from the hassles, anxiety, parasitism, and simple waste of life-time that has held civilization back for centuries.
Obviously, this itself is not some easy or simple task. Like it or not, our lives today depend heavily on the system as it exists now and as long as we live within existing nation-states we must abide by the laws of those states. We cannot impose a new culture on the world. But we can cultivate it in controlled situations and set examples. This is why, in TMP2, we have proposed the concept of the Community Investment Corporation and other aspects of Louis Kelso’s economics theories as a way of repurposing the conventional institutions and mechanisms of the established economic system to serve as a firewall between our planned communities and the outside economy. In this way we can exploit the system as it is to create safe havens for the experiment with Post-Industrial paradigms. We can thus cultivate, incrementally, with independent means of production, transportation, and communication, with planned community architecture, the Post-industrial lifestyle we anticipate. What might our people, in even modest numbers, thus be capable of freed of the shackles that hold back so much of the rest of society?
Initially, we will use the CIC simply as a convenient mechanism for developing early planned communities in a way that insures fair equity for all those living in them. It would then expand its spectrum of interests to support the entrepreneurial activities of its residents and develop a broad base of commercial real estate, industry, and other commerce operating mostly within its communities. TMP has a singularly powerful economic capability. We know how to, literally, manufacture new real estate anywhere with its own independent means of power and intercontinental transportation which we can commercially and industrially develop in any way. With this we can develop two infrastructures of production and commerce; one intended to operate on, and exploit, the global market, with its old fashioned conventions, and the other, subsidized by that, an internal Post-Industrial-style economy based on an open reciprocal production web infrastructure. Long-term, we intended to create with these systems the means to provide our community of shareholder-residents and offspring the equivalent of a basic guaranteed income, initially based on their shareholdings but ultimately integral to the infrastructures of our communities. It will take time, but this is how we will unshackle our society from the failing Industrial Age, setting an example for the world, and free our full potential productivity for the intentional advance of technology, science, and the pursuit of space development.