Monthly Archives: January 2013

How did Iceland recover? Report from Davos

In this three-minute interview, Iceland’s President Olafur Ragnar Grimson explains that their recovery from the economic crisis was based on actions that went against the orthodox prescriptions–Let the banks fail, introduce currency controls, provide support for the poor, don’t push austerity measures. Why are banks the “holy churches of the economy?”

The Rev. Billy and his Church of Stop Shopping–a Terrorist Organization?

According to the Mud Report, the FBI has declared that The Church of Stop Shopping to be a terrorist network. Of course, as their sources of money and credit dry up, the majority of people will have no choice about it, but to advocate that they stop shopping prematurely could upset the plans of the global elite. We cannot allow that can we?

How does mutual credit clearing enable moneyless exchange?

Here’s and excellent, short and sweet description of how mutual credit clearing works to provide interest-free liquidity. From Bartercard New Zealand…

Organizational design for life: Can Corporations be Reformed?

Important insights from Marjorie Kelly

I first met Marjorie Kelly more than 15 years ago when we were both privileged to be participants in a series of colloquia organized by the late Willis Harman (then Executive Director of the Institute of Noetic Sciences) and Avon Mattison of Pathways to Peace. I was, from that first meeting, quite impressed with Marjorie’s intelligence and passion for positive change. She founded, and for 20 years published, Business Ethics magazine. She is the author of The Divine Right of Capital and recently, Owning Our Future: The Emerging Ownership Revolution.

Her recent article, Living Enterprise as the Foundation of a Generative Economy, raises fundamental questions about the economy, corporations, and generative ownership designs. It is one of the most insightful and important articles I’ve ever read on the topic of organizing for sustainability. Here are a few excerpts. –t.h.g.

“What kind of economy is consistent with living inside a living being?” .

You don’t start with the corporation and ask how to redesign it. You start with life, with human life and the life of the planet, and ask, how do we generate the conditions for life’s flourishing?

If you stand inside a large corporation and ask how to make our economy more sustainable, the answers are about incremental change from the existing model. The only way to start that conversation is to fit your concerns inside the frame of profit maximization. (“Here’s how you can make more money through sustainability practices.”) Asking corporations to change their fundamental frame is like asking a bear to change its DNA and become a swan. ……

Can we sustain a low-growth or no-growth economy indefinitely without changing dominant ownership designs?

That seems unlikely. Probably impossible. How, then, do we make the turn? How can we design economic architectures that are self-organized not around profit maximization, but around serving the needs of life? ……

In ownership design, there are five essential patterns that work together to create either extractive or generative design: purpose, membership, governance, capital, and networks. Extractive ownership has a Financial Purpose: maximizing profits. Generative ownership has a Living Purpose: creating the conditions for life. While corporations today have Absentee Membership, with owners disconnected from the life of enterprise, generative ownership has Rooted Membership, with ownership held in human hands. While extractive ownership involves Governance by Markets, with control by capital markets on autopilot, generative designs have Mission-Controlled Governance, with control by those focused on social mission. While extractive investments involve Casino Finance, alternative approaches involve Stakeholder Finance, where capital becomes a friend rather than a master. Instead of Commodity Networks, where goods are traded based solely on price, generative economic relations are supported by Ethical Networks, which offer collective support for social and ecological norms.

Ownership is the gravitational field that holds an economy in its orbit. Today, dominant ownership designs lock us into behaviors that lead to financial excess and ecological overshoot. But emerging, alternative ownership patterns – when properly designed – can have a tendency to lead to beneficial outcomes. It may be that these designs are the elements needed to form the foundation for a generative economy, a living economy – an economy that might at last be consistent with living inside a living being.

Read the complete article here.

Albert Schweitzer, a life that inspires

If you ever wonder what your purpose in life might be, consider this…

It’s the birthday of Albert Schweitzer, born in Kaysersberg, in the province of Alsace-Lorraine (1875). He was a theologian, a musical prodigy, an author, and a philosopher, an expert on Bach, Goethe, and Kant. When he was 21, he made a plan: for the next nine years, he would devote himself to science, art, and religion. But once he turned 30, he would spend the rest of his life serving humanity. And so, on his 30th birthday, he decided to become a medical missionary to Africa.

Although Schweitzer had a good career as a professor of theology and a Bach scholar, he entered medical school when he was 30 years old. His wife, Hélène, trained as a nurse at the same time, so that she could help him with his work. On Good Friday, 1913, they set sail for French Equatorial Africa to set up a hospital in Lambaréné, Gabon. He designed the hospital, helped to build it, and paid for it himself out of money he had earned giving concerts. In the early days, the building was little more than a chicken coop, and it was hard work clearing the thick jungle. They had only just gotten started when World War I broke out, and the Schweitzers — who were German citizens — spent four months as prisoners of war. They were sent back to a French prison in 1917, and when the war ended, Schweitzer took up his old life — teaching, preaching, and giving organ recitals — until he could return to Africa again in 1925. After eight years, the jungle had taken over the grounds, so Schweitzer moved the hospital site a couple of miles away, on a better plot of land.

The hospital was rustic, even dirty, by Western standards. Most of the work was done by the light of kerosene lamps because there was no electricity except in the operating rooms. There were no phones and no radios. Patients were encouraged to bring in family members to cook and care for them. Schweitzer extended his reverence to animal and insect life as well; he was a vegetarian and wouldn’t even kill ants or mosquitoes. Animals were allowed to roam about freely, and a hippo once invaded the vegetable garden.

In 1952, Schweitzer was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. He used the prize money to expand his hospital, adding a treatment center and housing for lepers. His Nobel lecture, called “The Problem of Peace,” remains one of the best speeches ever given. In it, he said: “What really matters is that we should all of us realize that we are guilty of inhumanity. The horror of this realization should shake us out of our lethargy so that we can direct our hopes and our intentions to the coming of an era in which war will have no place.” He campaigned against nuclear weapons for the rest of his life.

At his 90th birthday celebration, he told co-workers at his Lambaréné hospital, “I belong to you until my dying breath.” He died eight months later, in the hospital he built, and he was buried next to his wife near the banks of the Ogooue River. Hospital workers and patients attended his funeral, and his grave was marked by a cross Schweitzer had carved himself. As it approaches its 100th birthday, the hospital that Schweitzer started in a chicken coop now treats more than 35,000 people a year.

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Toward true Democracy

Here’s the latest from Tom Atlee about government by the people….

Ancient Athens didn’t have politicians. Is there a lesson for us?

Few people realize that in ancient Athens – the original democracy from which modern democracies supposedly grew – no one was elected to be a representative.  There were no public offices elected by the people.  They just didn’t have politicians.*

They had voting, of course, because it was a democracy.  But they voted for proposed laws, not for candidates.

And they had a Council of 500 (the “boule”) who proposed laws for all the citizens to vote up or down in Athens’ participatory Assembly.  Ah!  So that’s a powerful role, being able to create the proposals that the people voted on!  So how were those 500 councilmembers chosen?

Well, believe it or not, those powerful people were ordinary citizens who had been chosen by lot – by random selection.  And Athens’ democracy didn’t stop there.  No way!  Nearly EVERYONE holding public office or serving on a governing board was an ordinary person who had been chosen by lot.  (The only exceptions were top military and financial posts, which constituted about 100 of the nearly 1000 government positions to be filled.)

In other words, Athens – that ancient city-state we consider “the birthplace of democracy” – was governed by randomly selected ordinary citizens. (For more detail, see or web search for Athens random selection)

This random selection approach – technically called “sortition” or “allotment” – was THE method for selecting people in government positions and, especially, in the Council of 500.  Here’s how it worked:  Each of Athens’ ten tribes (which were themselves defined to contain people from diverse territories and clans) picked 50 of its members at random to be on Athens’ Council of 500.  No citizen could serve on the Council more than twice, but most citizens served at least once in their lifetimes.  Within the Council, one of the ten tribal groups was chosen – by lot – to serve as presidents for the Council’s various sub-activities for about a month.  Furthermore, within that group of 50 presidents a chairman was chosen – again by lot – to preside over the other presidents for just one day.  Why only one day?  The chairman of the Council’s presidents was the most powerful office in Athens, holding the state seal and the keys to the state’s treasury and archives.

So we find that ordinary Athenian citizens – like ordinary Americans or other citizens of modern democracies – could EACH aspire to preside over their ENTIRE government.  However, those ordinary Athenians – UNLIKE most ordinary modern citizens – ACTUALLY had an excellent chance of serving in that lofty office.  It is estimated that “approximately one half of all Athenian citizens would, at some point during their lives, have the privilege and responsibility of holding this office, arguably the closest equivalent to a Chief Executive in the Athenian democracy.” (ref: the link given above)

The Athenians were obsessed with the necessity of random selection for a democracy.  They believed – quite rightly, it seems to me – that random selection not only made corruption very difficult but also involved the entire citizenry very directly in the challenges and powers of government.  In other words, random selection made Athens a true government of, by, and for its citizens.  For them, what made a democracy a democracy was random selection with few, if any, officials being elected.  Thus no politicians.  (We might also note that although they also supported voting, they were wary of mob rule and gave it a name: ochlocracy.**)

As the Wikipedia article on Athenian democracy says, “elections would favor those who were rich, noble, eloquent and well-known, while allotment spread the work of administration throughout the whole citizen body, engaging them in the crucial democratic experience of, to use Aristotle’s words, ‘ruling and being ruled in turn'”.

Compare that with our electoral system.  Electing people to office actually makes us a republic like the Roman Empire more than a democracy like ancient Athens.  We elect representatives… but who is this “we” and how representative are these “representatives”?