A Practical Navigator for the Internet Economy


Occupy, the Public Interest and Future of Democracy


This issue is dedicated to the Networked dissidents of the Arab spring, Take the Square in Europe and Occupy in North America. As long as we are able to gain uncensored access to networks, people, economic information, policy studies and financial and government documents, it is still possible to examine an alternative future for the development of a democracy that is not under the feet of oligarchs. I've compiled this issue as the results of my first-hand experience with occupying in New York, Seattle Washington, and Trenton New Jersey in the fall and winter of 2011- 2012.

I've come to understand driving urge, indeed the necessity, felt by so many of us who see life in this country is very different from what we grew up believing in. And by the example of my younger peers, the present necessity to build an alternative future. This issue plays out in part from my own experience but also in part from getting to know better to friends that I met almost 20 years ago who have provided very sharp analysis of where things went wrong and what should be done.

This is a collection of my own efforts to understand what is happening and to draw together material that I hope can be useful to others who are saying “enough”. Obama has betrayed those who elected him and made it very clear that all of us are on our own. In Washington the ruling elites in their circle the wagons  and set upon maintaining their own privileges and are quite willing to continue on the current path of overturning the Bill of Rights as well as many of the fundamental principles of our Constitution that gave the United States government consent of the governed. We have been asleep for far too long

But last September, linked by the Internet, we began to find our like-minded brothers and sisters. Through Occupy we now have a sense that there may be something that we can do other than cower in our homes awaiting the so-called protection of homeland security.  It may be that we can say “enough” to the 20th century mores of compound growth, global capitalism more and more tightly coupled with technology that, if all is well works, but is also predatory.  This same technology -- subject to strain and so tightly stretched in search of ever larger “profits” -- is also subject to collapse in unforeseen ways.

There are black swans out there. But amazingly going into the 4th year after the collapse of 2008 we have been fundamentally unable to seriously alter the course of our governments in the United States and in the European Union. It is extremely clear the vast majority then assumed that major for reforms would be undertaken but after four years, they have not been. This is a shocking and staggering fact recognized by Chris Hedges and Larry Lessig. Lessig is had said earlier in January 2012 that this inability of our government to make the necessary reforms is evidence of the total corruption of our society as it has been utterly captured by the tiny elite that intends, no matter what, to maintain their privilege and looting until the very end.

There are things to be done; that some reasonable degree of rationality and sanity would seem to dictate should be done; but we see that doing them increasingly is subject to the willpower of a small number of determined dissidents who have not yet lost all shreds of idealism and are feverishly working at the edges of society with the conviction that they do have a better way, a sustainable way, a way where empathy towards one's fellow human is still possible and where the race to the bottom by an unfettered global system that has become so unbalanced and is now oscillating more toward collapse into equilibrium is a necessary end for which to strive.

I intend that sections in this issue form a loose anthology of examples of ideas, and people, and thought-in-progress to point toward a sustainable rather than a purely extractive, exploitive economy that may give human beings the possibilities of a better future. If that is, we could somehow shake the current direction that from the top seems to want to push all of us toward the reestablishment of a medieval feudalism with the feudal lords dictating to the rest of the indebted peasantry what they can and cannot do. If this is what is at stake, we must nurture ideas about how to reestablish connections in neighborhoods that we have lost as we have allowed ourselves to be entrapped by a half-century of post-World War II acquisition of material goods at the expense of spiritual poverty.

Patrick Soon Shiong and Too Big to Know

I set the scene with an introduction and review of David Weinberger's new book Too Big to Know wherein he suggests that one of the most significant changes brought by the Internet and by the continued rise of ICT technology is that knowledge is in the network.  That growth of information and awareness of what is happening tends to be beyond the conception and grasp of single individuals and that some kind of synthesis can be achieved only by using the network to piece together what is happening. The experience that I have just had in telling the story of Dr. Patrick Soon Shiong and his acquisition of National Lambda Rail has confirmed this in my mind and I use the review of the book and this introduction to explain how I used the network to approach a situation where the new private owner of what used to be a national resource was not interested in talking about what he was doing beyond the depth to be found in a series of press releases.

Consequently, I've chosen to make my own description from the point of view that maintenance of any kind of reasonable democracy depends on some degree of citizen’s knowledge of what private entities are doing and that it is a reasonable exercise of citizenship to lobby for transparency of the projects and goals of any group of people who are trying for example to completely revision the system of healthcare.  This is a re-visioning that certainly is needed, but one that I maintain urgently needs to be done as much in public as possible. But the lesson learned is when we abandon all public-interest to the private sector, that private sector can choose how transparent it will be. The outcome we are left with is the interaction of the accumulation of wealth at the very pinnacle of our society and its impact on what used to be referred to as the “public good” or the “national interest.”

So what is going on? What should we be thinking?  In an interview with Jeff Sterling and Jeff Michka, we discuss some alternatives of organization that could focus on the  99% organizing along the lines of cooperatives or mutual benefit societies or things like the Grange that we had in the United States at the end of the 19th century. Then, in a long discussion with Jeff Michka a community activist north of Seattle Washington whom we met almost 20 years ago, we present Jeff's analysis of what the last 30 or so years of business friendly, free market, Republicanism has done to Americans and their ability, if they are not in the 1%, to form and maintain stable communities and stable neighborhoods.

If you are in the 1%, you hire your servants.  If you don't like them, you get rid of them and find other people who will work for low wages. If you're not in this elite group and are interested in stable survival, all signs are that you'd better begin to look to localized resilient, and sustainable communities. We trace the picture of how all of this selling of the independent “cowboy” ideal of entrepreneurial business life, with the simultaneous selling of debt in the midst of an economy where free trade and globalization as well as many other aspects of the newly reorganized political system, has kept wages flat. Under such conditions people more interested in keeping up with the Joneses and in keeping up with their neighbors in the collection of things they brought largely on credit and then disposed off have now crashed into a brick wall that was there unacknowledged all the while.

Gambling in the midst of a destructive economic system powered by the Federal Reserve’s manipulation of the economy to, on the one hand, move the manufacture of products outside of the US and to a lesser extent outside of Europe, while, at the same time encouraging the so-called FIRE sector (finance insurance and real estate) to gamble on speculation in serial asset bubbles: real estate in the 80s, Internet technology in the 90s, and then real estate round 2 in the “oughts.”  These asset bubbles have since exploded and left the story of the middle class devastated.

Hedges:  A Corporate Coup d’Etat

We been sold a bill of goods that our financial system, following the inexorable dictates of the so-called free market produced a wealthy and prosperous society.  But it was a society founded on a house of cards where instead of the financial system involved in building and in sound infrastructural investments that would employ new people and make new industries, employment was shipped out of the country and for the wealthy financial capitalism was elevated to a new pinnacle where participants were lured into gambling their futures casino style and ultimately now many of us are rather shocked to find that the banking system has along with its corporate handmaidens has executed what Chris Hedges properly labeled in his January 2012 talk with Lori Larry Lessig a coup d'état.

One of the most troubling points is the lack of understanding among people at large of the dynamics of the changes brought about by the transition from the industrial capitalism of World War II undergirded by the safety net of Franklin Roosevelt to the globalized casino style capitalism of the 90s.  This was under the guise of what has come to be known as so-called neoclassical economics enshrined the “invisible hand” of the free market explaining that à la Adam Smith of 2 centuries ago this was the way the vision of the world of labor into specialized skills that not only made the Industrial Revolution possible along with an upsurge in prosperity for a large part of the population of those countries in the lead of these changes–that this these events were somehow rational, to be expected, and inevitable.

But some of us are beginning to see this as a Bill of Goods sold to us by so-called magnates that acquired ever greater wealth through the liberalization of markets and the tearing down the financial barriers that at the same time allow them to take their winnings and capture not only the regulatory system but also the legislative system especially in Washington in Europe.

But as with any field of learning or intellectual endeavor and especially the field of such complexity as one of how to make the kind of economic policy that enables a prosperous and stable society, we now find ourselves in the struggle of old versus new paradigms as elaborated by Thomas Kuhn in his classic book the Structure of Scientific Revolutions. We now have a revolution going on in economic theory.

Rethinking Economics


I have included a very long and detailed collection of material with which I've tried to explain how I have evolved my own understanding of the current economic mess both as empowered by those who are profiting from and as criticized by those who are horrified by seeing the edge of the of this to which the inexplicable lack of reform is driving us.

Basically I tried to explain that there are a body of economic ideas growing up independently of the neoclassical view that is still in the driver seats. These views are those of Steven Keen the Australian economist and author of Debunking Economics the Naked Emperor of the Social Sciences Dethroned. That is being funded by George Soros's Institute for New Economic Thinking. And a collection of economists known as followers of a post-Keynesian view would the world known as Modern Monetary Theory.  Many of these folk Bill Black for example, Michael Hudson, and others are at the University of Missouri Kansas City campus and are urging new looks at the role of debt within government fiscal policy as opposed to the race of lemmings over the cliffs of austerity.

I have essentially reprinted a very recent lengthy Michael Hudson article entitled Banks Were not Meant to Be Like This that offers a very enlightening to work through the merchant banking of Holland, England, and the US compared to the theory of more government controlled on behalf of of investments in national economies taken during the 19th century in France and Germany and lasting with considerable influence throughout the 20th century. This offers a very different view of the world and its possible future than those coming out of Pres. Obama's Treasury Department which continue absolute fealty to what by now should be utterly discredited neoclassical economics.

Under these contrarian points of view, civil government must have a role if civil democracies are to survive and they must take very different approaches to the role of debt in the development of their economic policy in contrast to the Anglo-American neoclassical dominance that rather amazingly tends to discount the role of debt and leads to a situation where, according to these critics, policy being advocated cannot do anything other than slowly work off the debt even though fraudulently created over a period of perhaps 20 to 30 years.

For those involved in occupy, influencing the outcome of things on this “ethereal level” will not be immediately terribly likely.  On the other hand, it surely will do no harm to increase the knowledge amongst as many people as possible that there are reasonable alternatives to what the moneyed classes are using their political power to impose upon us.

And I also maintain that there is a critical issue arising from the question of where occupiers are going to go, and that one of the most important issues for the movement during the remainder of this winter hibernation is to adopt a focus that will not betray the goals of not negotiating with the current system, but will establish goals that are positive and reasonable and understandable to the less than fully committed communities in which occupy is taking root. Occupy has changed the tenor of the national conversation to one of sharp focus of the inequality of both wealth and opportunity. This is extremely good. But many people are reasonably asking what next?

I would suggest that a very inspiring example has just bloomed in Milwaukee Wisconsin. There occupied Milwaukee has identified and taken possession of an abandoned bank building that they are beginning to rebuild and renovate into an operational headquarters for the movement in Wisconsin to be called the “Milwaukee Center for Occupation.” They will build there what can become a showcase of the kind of life and future that those in the occupy movement say is one that can be decent, democratic, sustainable and something that we could be proud of having down to our children. Given a situation in which the alternative could well be continued economic collapse, violence and decent into a state-controlled by means of the military corporate fascism -- the legal groundwork for which is already being shockingly made by the Obama administration during the winter.

It is time for the varied occupy camps to think globally. It is time for the General Assembly’s to identify a positive action involving the renovation of the building or buildings or property and action that would be a step by each community in the direction of self sustainability and action that like Milwaukee would give to groups an opportunity to demonstrate that they are in this for the long haul that they can show their local community they can do and achieve positive change. This is something to work for in each community and must be used to achieve credibility.

It is also something that I believe is exceptionally important in the context of the United States in an election year in which Obama, in conjunction with his minions at the Department of Homeland Security, will be looking for the opportunity for confrontation with local groups and the chance to paint Occupy as the enemy. Not the enemy of Wall Street but the enemy of the so-called American way of life.  It will use the well-installed Bush tactic of fear, a tactic that Obama has continued to develop.  They will develop excuses to demand the dismantling of everything Occupied. I suggest that it is extremely important for occupied groups to shift not away from their criticism, but toward the identification of specific accomplishments in each community.  To move toward something that would give neighborhoods and communities reasons to organize. After all, wasn’t our President once upon a time a community organizer?

And if communities can manage to do this, their homeland security militarized police forces will be much more likely to side with their community’s occupy groups which at a local level can and must begin the process of rebuilding and citizen in control and trust that Washington is incapable of achieving.

As we go to press
The material on page 88 originates with the National Commonwealth Group a new organization centered on things that groups can do locally (including local banks) to fight Wall Street dominance.  It is encouraging.  But something discouraging is happening with increasing speed.

Drones -
By Kevin Carson on P2P an excellent summary of the two edged sword.  And John Robb has been  recently  writing on almost nothing else.   This quad rooter swarm video has been on youtube and for less than 72 hours and has more than 1.5 million views.

 

Contents

Executive Summary                                p.5

 

Introduction to the March April 2012 Cook Report

“Failure of Reform is the biggest signal that this system is totally corrupt.” - Lawrence Lessig                              p. 11

Strategy and Too Big to Know                                p. 13

A Review of Too Big to Know                                p. 15

My Personal Example:  How I Found Dr. Patrick Soon Shiong          p. 18

 

Chapter 1 A Peer-to-Peer Economy Approach

Thoughts about where we are now & where we should go from here       p. 23

How to Enable Communities to Help Each Other Horizontally        p. 24

The Social Contract – Re-envisioning What Insurance Means        p. 24

What Do the Corporations Do When They Can Sell Nothing More?          P. 27


The proposed name for the location is the:

Milwaukee Center for Occupation                       p. 30

Chapter 2  How did we get into this mess?              p. 34

The theme is “you are on your own”                            p. 36

Nine Eleven – Politics of Fear and More Isolation                    p. 37

Occupy as an “American Awakening”                            p. 43

Another Occupy Issue:  Reform The Telecom Act of 1996?            p. 47

Neighborhoods                                            p. 49

The Tipping Point of another Economic Technology Based Transition      p. 52

The Neighborhood as Ground Zero                            p. 54

 

Chapter 3 Intentional Communities

The Clearwater School                                    p. 58


The Occupations in winter

By Lambert Strether. Cross-posted from Corrente                         p. 70


Chapter 4  Understanding the Economics of

the Post Crash, Hollowed-Out, Nation State          p.75

What Could Replace the Discredited Neoclassical Free-market?     p.76


Understanding the Role of Banks in

Non-speculative Investment                    p.79


The Present Debt Quandary                                p. 81

How Classical Economists Hoped to Modernize Banks as Agents

of Industrial Capitalism                                    p. 82

Germany Develops an Industrial Banking System                p. 82

The Regression Toward Burdensome Unproductive Debts After World War I p. 84

How Debt Creation Has Fueled Asset-Price Inflation Since The 1980s    p. 85

EU Rejects Central Bank Money Creation, Leaving Deficit Financing to Banks  p. 86

Conclusion                                            p. 86

Stopping Foreclosures  - Local Action Plans                    p. 88


The McKinsey Study on the Circular Economy      p. 89


Steve Keen Debunking Economics the

Naked Emperor Dethroned                                    p.92

George Monbiot on Steve Keen                               p.92

Steve Keen – Taking Debt into Account in Economic Policy Making         p.94


Part 1 Steve Keen: INET Videos on

The Naked Emperor Dethroned p. 96

Minsky Offers a Realistic Framework--  Interview Part 2              p. 97

Credit Creation Interview Part 3                              p. 99

Predicting a Crash Can Make you Lonesome -- Interview Part 4          p. 99

We Must Cancel the Debt   Interview Part 5                      p.100

Europe UK, Japan China and Brazil Interview Part 6                   p.101

Urging Economists to Put Money into Their Models   Interview Part 7     p.103

Behavioral Finance Lecture 09: Modeling Endogenous Money          p.104


Part 2 From the

Debtwatch Manifesto                               p.107


Integrating Minsky with biophysical data                          p.110

Credit-aware Economic Indicators                          p. 111

Taming the Finance Sector                              p. 118

Full Reserve Banking                                    p. 125

 

Part Two TECHNOLOGY

Peer to Peer User Owned Communications

Infrastructure The Free Network Foundation and Building

an inter-occupy Network  (placeholder see separate pdf)        p. 128

 

netBlazr and Free Network are quite different in approach                                                 p. 130

Let's build a decentralized mesh Wi-Fi.                      p. 131


Technology Open Source Ecology                p.132

Introduction                                        p. 133

Foundations  and OSE Mission                              p. 134

Ecology and design for durability and reuse                 p. 135

Brief history and first successes                        p. 135

Global Village Construction Set                          p. 137

Cost reduction                                        p. 138

A prototype of the PowerCube                             p. 138

A prototype of the LifeTrac Tractor                          p. 139

A prototype of the SoilPulverizer                        p. 139

A prototype of the Compressed Earth Brick Press            p. 139

The remainder of the 50 GVCS tools                        p. 139

Localization levels: step-by-step substitution                   p. 140

Economic Aspects                                      p. 141

Replication                                           p. 143

Roadmap                                            p. 144

Comparison to other communities                           p. 144

Lessons and challenges                                p. 145

Conclusions                                         p. 147