2020 May Newsletter

In this issue

  • What could be nicer than this?
  • Planet of the Humans
  • The Need to GROW
  • Trade Exchanges and Credit clearing are No Longer Experiments, They’re Mainstream Business

There is so much going on these days, and so much I want to share with you that I hardly know where to stop. Yet, I do not wish to overwhelm my readers, so I’m choosing to keep my newsletters short. Whether they also become more frequent will depend on my own state of overwhelm and how the spirit moves me in the weeks ahead. In this edition I’m starting off on a lighter note with an amusing presentation by one of my longtime favorite authors. Oh, and by the way, there’s nothing in here about Covid-19. That’s not for lack of serious concerns or important sources to share, but I think we all need to take a break from it, so I’ll leave that for next time when we’ll get into it big time.
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What could be nicer than this?

Take a few minutes to relax and be amused. Whether or not you’ve ever been a fan of Kurt Vonnegut, as I have, I’m sure you’ll enjoy this lecture he gave in 2004 on the Shape of Stories.
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Planet of the Humans

This new and controversial documentary by Jeff Gibbs and Michael Moore lays out the hard, cold facts about our energy intensive way of living and the implausibility of renewable energy sources ever being able to replace fossil fuels. The inevitable conclusions are that we humans need to reduce our energy consumption, stop the growth of our population, and start making better public policy choices regarding infrastructure and technologies.

But vested interests have refused to believe the obvious facts and are intent of continuing on the present path in order to protect their material fortunes. In Tucson, where I live, tens of millions of dollars are being wasted on road widening projects just to deliver traffic more quickly to the downtown bottlenecks, a policy that in the process has been killing off more pedestrians and bicyclists and raising noise pollution to maddening levels.

The film has been controversial because it argues that the much vaunted shift to renewable sources of energy is an illusory savior, and the mainstream environmental organizations have been largely co-opted by corporate interests.  The movie is freely available for viewing at https://planetofthehumans.com/.

Among those featured in the film is energy and climate expert, Richard Heinberg of the Postcarbon Institute. Heinberg’s review of the film provides a more nuanced picture of our energy future and I encourage everyone to read it. The bottom line for me is my long held belief that there is no techno-fix maintain that will allow us to maintain the profligate ways of our current civilization, and that is a good thing because we are presently face with a multi-dimensional mega-crisis that is forcing us to transition to a different way of living that does not promote endless economic growth. I’ve also been arguing for a long time that we need to get off this perpetual growth spiral and shift our efforts away from ever increasing consumption and toward a Butterfly Economy that is in harmony with nature. If we do not make the necessary changes in the way we live, nature will do it for us.
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The Need to GROW

Speaking of living in harmony with nature, one of the most important things that we can do is to change the way we grow our food. This award winning documentary shows that it is possible. There are viable alternatives to industrial agriculture that are not only capable of producing an abundance of more nutritious food, but of saving the planet in the process. Get it here.
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Trade Exchanges and Credit clearing are No Longer Experiments, They’re Mainstream Business

This opinion piece by Paul Brandus appeared recently on the MarketWatch website: How small businesses can stay afloat during the pandemic without government help.

While still often referred to as “barter exchanges,” the scores of commercial trade exchanges operating around the world enable their business members to transact billions of dollars worth of purchases and sales annually without using conventional money. How do they do that? As I’ve been explaining for many years, established business members are given an internal line of credit in proportion to their sales volume, thus creating a new form of liquidity within the exchange that is independent of bank borrowing and conventional money.

The proliferation of trade exchange networks is a fundamental necessity in rebuilding the economy to be more resilient, fair, and democratic, and preserving the small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that are the backbone of every community economy and political democracy.
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Monday, May 25 was Memorial Day in the United States. It is a day when we remember and honor all those who have fought and died in our many wars. Let us also remember the horror and utter waste that is the essence of war, and resolve to put an end to it forever.

Thomas

7 responses to “2020 May Newsletter

  1. The reason why any current cryptocurrency like Bitcoin cannot solve our problem is that the common man cannot easily obtain it without going through centralized channels. In fact, he has only two options to getting it. First is to somehow obtain or produce sophisticated mining equipment and an abundant source of electricity. The second is to use centralized currency on a centralized exchange. What we need is a currency that people can obtain without having to interact with any centralized system.

    This could be done by creating a proof-of-work process that is organic, rather than electronic. It involves 3 parties: a beneficiary, a worker and a validator. Currency is created and put into circulation when both the beneficiary and another member of the “distinct society” (whatever its name might be) sign off on the amount of time the worker put in for the benefit of the beneficiary. The validation process is done through a smartphone app and the worker gets credit for his/her labor immediately, up to 500 minutes per day, measured in minutes.

    It doesn’t matter what type of work is done by the worker, so long as the beneficiary and a thrid-party validator agree that the work was indeed performed to the satisfaction of the benficiary.

    Like Bitcoin, a minute would be worth whatever the market decides it is worth, but considering that anyone in the world can earn these credits at any time for the same basic unit of exchange, their time and effort, it should become universally valued rather quickly at at least minimum wage-like amounts.

    Once created, the currency functions similarly to a private crypto like Monero and exchanges are made using the apps on people’s phones for goods and services wherever the currency is accepted.

    • As an example of where the crypto technology has evolved, consider the work currently being done by Status (https://status.im/). It would be a simple thing for a team like theirs to create (or even incorporate) a grass-roots currency like we’ve been discussing to their suite of technologies.

  2. Thomas,
    I purchased and read your book, The End of Money and the Future of Civilization as an avid proponent of local currencies. I have also been keeping a close eye on the progress and development of digital crypto currencies like Bitcoin. I believe that the ultimate “local” currency and the ultimate crypto currency is a special blend of both technologies. Please email me if you would be interested in discussing this potential combination and its possibilities.

    • Andrew,
      You say, “I believe that the ultimate “local” currency and the ultimate crypto currency is a special blend of both technologies.”
      Maybe, maybe not.
      I’ve been discussing this with a number of people over the past several years and I’ve yet to be persuaded.
      This needs to be examined in regard to functions.
      What additional functionality is provided by the technologies you have in mind?

      My thought on that is, “how can a decentralized mutual credit clearing network be protected from outside interference or disruption by governments or malicious hackers while building on a foundation of person to person trust?”

      • Thanks for your response. I’m happy to elaborate.
        In your book, you mention in Chapter 8 that money needs to be depoliticized by being separated from the state. I agree wholeheartedly. This de-coupling will require local-currency-style solutions that rely on cooperative human effort.

        But at the same time, we need a solution that is broader-based than what a typical local currency can provide. In fact, I would recommend that what we need is, in fact, a worldwide “local” currency which is now possible thanks to the internet and modern shipping. We need this because in the face of an impending worldwide global, centralized currency (a global currency which may appear to have many regional faces) we need a currency to compete which allows for a momentum event to make it competitive, and it must gain that momentum prior to the rollout of the centralized version. I would compare the momentum we need to the adoption of social media sites like FaceBook, reaching over a billion people worldwide within a handful of years.

        Cryptocurrency technology allows us to create a currency that bakes-in the trust normally provided by a centralized authority as well as the privacy required to prevent the governments from co-opting it. The computer-controlled, decentralized nature of 3rd and 4th generation cryptos also allows for smart contracts which would permit control of the amount of currency in circulation based on approved algorithms, rather than political will.

      • OK, we seem to agree about what is needed. As I put it in many presentations and articles, we need an exchange system in which credit is locally controlled but globally useful for making payments anywhere. I’m calling this a “worldwide web of exchange.”

        You say “Cryptocurrency technology allows us to create a currency that bakes-in the trust normally provided by a centralized authority as well as the privacy required to prevent the governments from co-opting it.” I hope you are right about that, but all of the proposals I’ve seen simply revert to creating a primitive commodity money, albeit a virtual one, like Bitcoin, rather than a credit money based on the value of goods and services available for sale.

      • Your “worldwide web of exchange” is aptly named and is indeed what I am also referring to. As to the technology, while I am not a programmer myself, I have been following the advances in the crypto space closely for nearly a decade now and I am very confident that we have the technology to create this with the tools we have today. It would, however, require a “back to Bitcoin 2009” approach in that there would be no immediate payoff for the development of such a product/service. Any remuneration for services rendered would have to be raised through a Go Fund Me or similar campaign. Of course, doing so would expose our hand entirely to the centralists/globalists of our plan, but it may be the only way unless people are willing to work for free to accomplish this.

        If explained well and pitched to the right people, I believe we could find those willing to work on this project pro bono.

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