Monday, 20 June 2022

Radio Play The Machine Stops

E.M.Forster wrote The Machine Stops as a counterblast to Mr. H.G. Wells, who tells us that the future will be heaven, that science will lead us to a miraculous Promised Land. Forster was not so sure. So he wrote the story.

Released On: 19 Jun 2022 Available for 29 days

Tamsin Greig stars in EM Forster's prescient vision of a world population living in isolated underground rooms, utterly dependent on technology. Philip Franks adapts this 1909 story into an eerie 'steampunk' journey through a world of fractured people, reliant on The Machine.

It still feels like a warning of things to come.

Existing in bunkers and communicating only through screens, the population has become neurotic and compliant, unaware that The Machine has taken complete control from its human inventors. Communication is via screen only and daily activity is largely confined to gossip, the sharing of ideas and a form of 'knowledge', itself electronically controlled and manipulated by The Machine. Then it begins to break down.

Tamsin Greig plays Vashti, a lecturer in the history of music, specialising in the Late Australian Period (Forster does retain a sense of humour). Her world is turned on its head by her son Kuno (played by Tok Stephen) when he says he has visited the surface and met people living up there. Vashti worships The Machine, her son wants to escape its grip. Their journey, as the all embracing structure collapses, brings them closer together, and eventually to the realisation that mankind's only future is in shared humanity and a connection to nature - then and only then perhaps a ruined planet can be rebuilt.

In 1909, EM Forster took a break from linen suits, big hats and unrequited love among the upper classes, and wrote a story which predicts - among other things - globalisation, the Internet, zoom, algorithms, social isolation and climate crisis.

Cast: Tamsin Greig, Sarah Lawrie, Alana Ramsey, Veronica Roberts, Wilf Scolding, Tok Stephen, John Wark

Adapted/ Directed by Philip Franks Produced by David Morley A Perfectly Normal production for BBC Radio 4 ... ???

NOTE: Excellent discussion material about 'The Mess We're In'. Comments please? Notes to follow.

SEE ALSO: The Machine Stops article in New View, Issue 88, Autumn 2018










https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m0018fs6




Friday, 27 May 2022

The Henderson Cake

Extract from Understanding the Financial System is published as a tribute to Hazel Henderson ((27 March 1933-22 May 22) who passed away recently. She is thanked for her support and advice in the Acknowledgements to my book, and she endorsed my earlier book, What Everybody Really Wants to Know about Money.

* * * *

The Henderson Cake

Extract from Understanding the Financial System (p41-4)

The corporate world is concerned with the securing of ownership and control so that power can be exercised without responsibility. It is not particularly interested in the needs of the poor, the concerns of women or the state of the environment. The whole range of skills associated with what it is to be a mature human being, the skills Veblen termed ‘workmanlike’, are considered surplus to requirements by the formal money economy. Nevertheless the corporate world, and the political and economic institutions which give it body, remain utterly dependent upon the land and its people for their very existence. During the twentieth century a number of women have written perceptively on the problems caused by irresponsible profiteering, most notably Rachel Carson, Silent Spring.

The whole picture has been comprehensively summarised by Hazel Henderson, who likened the twentieth century economy to a layered cake. The top half of the cake consists of the monetised, officially measured forms of national production which generate all economic statistics, plus an estimated 15% of monetised but illegal ‘underground’ forms of tax dodging. The bottom half of the cake consists of the non-monetised altruistic ‘Counter-Economy’ of social co-operation, which itself is founded upon the real wealth of the natural world. The two bottom layers subsidise the monetised layers, providing essential unpaid labour and natural resources, with environmental costs being absorbed if possible. Henderson terms the ‘Counter-Economy’ ‘Sweat-Equity’: it includes ‘Do-it-yourself, bartering, familial, community structures, unpaid household and parenting, volunteering, sharing, mutual aid, caring for old and sick, home-based production for use, subsistence agriculture’. (See: The Politics of the Solar Age: The Alternative to Economism (1988) and Building a Win-Win World: Life beyond Global Economic Warfare (1996) The top monetised half of the ‘cake’ consists of all activities for which money changes hands. ‘Official’ market transactions are divided into private and public sectors, with the former taking precedence. Private sector transactions are concerned with production for market exchange, employment, consumption, investment and savings. Public sector transactions are concerned with the infrastructure, including roads, bridges, sewers, schools, defence, and municipal, local and state government.

It is possible to take issue with Henderson’s portrayal of the private sector of the cash economy as the top level of the ‘cake’, suggesting that, like the icing, it is the most desirable yet least sustainable part of the whole. To the simplistic controllers of the corporate world, acquiring more of the monetised ‘icing’ may well appear to be the only game worth playing. However, it is infants who tend to desire the icing, while rejecting the nourishing richness of the body of the cake. Feminist economist Susan Feiner has perceptively portrayed ‘Rational’ Economic Man, the key actor in the corporate world economy, as an infant, displaying a set of behaviour patterns associated with siblings vying for the favours of Mother Market. (See Susan Feiner,(1999) “A portrait of Homo Economicus as a Young Man”, in Martha Woodmansee and Mark Osteen (eds) The New Economic Criticism, Routledge.) As any parent knows, it is very difficult to reason with an incorrigible infant. So far as the dominant males holding positions of power within the key institutions of corporate capitalism are concerned, there is no earthly reason for them to hold in check their self-centred desires.

* * *

Hazel Henderson (27 March 1933 – 22 May 2022)

was a British American futurist and an economic iconoclast. In her later career, she worked in television. She authored several books including Building a Win-Win World, Beyond Globalization, Planetary Citizenship (with Daisaku Ikeda), and Ethical Markets: Growing the Green Economy.

Henderson was a television producer for the public television series Ethical Markets. She was Regent's Lecturer at the University of California (Santa Barbara) and held the Horace Albright Chair in Conservation at the University of California (Berkeley), and worked as a travelling lecturer and panelist. In her later career, she has served on the boards of such publications as Futures Research Quarterly, The State of the Future Report, and E/The Environmental Magazine (US), Resurgence, Foresight and Futures (UK). She advised the US Office of Technology Assessment and the National Science Foundation from 1974 to 1980. She was listed in Who's Who in the World, Who's Who in Science and Technology, and in Who's Who in Business and Finance.

Fritjof Capra credits Henderson with being a major influence on his thinking on ecological issues.

In 2005, Henderson started Ethical Markets Media, LLC, to disseminate information on green investing, socially responsible investing, green business, green energy, business ethics news, environmentally friendly technology, good corporate citizenship and sustainable development by making available reports, articles, newsletters and video gathered from around the world. In 2007, Henderson started EthicalMarkets.TV to showcase video of people and organizations around the world with socially responsible endeavors. Henderson was awarded Honorary Doctor of Science degrees from the University of San Francisco, Soka University, and Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

(Taken from Wikipedia 27 May 22).

Wednesday, 18 May 2022

Cashlessness

 

Over the two decades when I was editing the mini-journal The Social Artist (incorporating The Social Crediter) we published a wealth of highly discussable material on the state of the world. What was lacking was a forum for discussion that would lead to practical reform of the world political economy as a whole. The material, which came from a wide variety of sources, remains available electronically on the Publications page of https://www.douglassocialcredit.com/ and on several other websites across the world. Moreover, it has dated very little with the passage of time.

The Spring 2019 Issue of The Social Artist carries lengthy extracts from German financial journalist Norbert Haering's "Who is behind the campaign to rid the world of cash?" As Haering explains "the seller and the person who manages your money are merging. This is there we are headed, not just in Amazon Go stores. In the future of payments, all convenience will be on our side, all the power will be with the other side." Amazon intends to make this convenience-cum-surveillance way of shopping the norm.

Haering spells out in detail ten advantages of retaining cash, not least of which is the retention of civil liberties.

"In a democracy, this judgement should be made after public discussion by lawmakers in a transparent procedure. Instead, ... , the far reaching removal of privacy in financial affairs has been decided far away from parliaments in a diffuse transnational nowhereland, through the mechanism of standard setting groups expert in evading democratic control."

Meanwhile, the general public and parliaments hardly even notice that this is going on. There are heated discussions about new data preservation rules in telecommunications, but the much more intrusive, very long-term storing and even active surveillance of our financial accounts and transactions go almost unnoticed. Nevertheless, control over a national currency has for a long time been an important factor underpinning the power of any national government. "If this authority should move to the Silicon Valley, a big part of traditional power of governments could move with it."

Haering reaches the following conclusion.

"Instead of hoping in vain for technological fixes, we need to go the way of pushing for political and societal changes. We have to pull parliamentarians out of their deep sleep. We have to tell them and the citizens at large which game is being played. They have to know that the decline in the use of cash is not a development that is unfolding naturally but something that a powerful alliance is pushing ahead by and coercion in the background. Ministers and central bankers have to be put under pressure to justify working in a partnership with companies like MasterCard and Visa against cash, despite all their public assurances that they want to do cash no harm. If this partnership is widely exposed dissolved, we will see that cash is anything but doomed. If allowed to thrive, cash will see a renaissance, because in a world in which more and more aspects of our lives are under surveillance and recorded, cash offers a refuge that will become more valuable for privacy and more valued by the people...."

Much food for thought here.

Article originally published in Real-world Economics Review, http://www.paecon.net/PAEReview/issue86/whole86.pdf

Monday, 16 May 2022

Threefold Commonwealth Research

COMMENT: This blog assumes that the reader is familiar with the anthroposophical journal New View. The suggestion is that anybody, as an individual or in a local group, can participate in the emerging Threefold Commonwealth Research Network.


In October 2006 I came across one of a series of pamphlets published by the Threefold Commonwealth Research Group in the 1930s. The pamphlet entitled "Law, Association and the Trade Union Movement", by Owen Barfield, carried the following introduction:

"The threefold commonwealth was first set before the world by Dr. Rudolf Steiner in the year 1919, in books and articles published, and lectures given, in Germany and Central Europe. His main book on this subject, "Die Kernpunkte der Sozialen Frage," was translated into English in 1920, and re-translated in 1923 for publication as The Threefold Commonwealth.

"The Threefold Commonwealth Research Group is a group of people, variously employed, who first came together in 1933 in a spirit of service to the threefold commonwealth of Rudolf Steiner, having been students of his work for some years. They desire to extend the understanding of its principles in the English-speaking world and, so far as may be, to hasten its application in practice. To this end they study to deepen their knowledge of these principles and to understand the actual events and institutions of the society in which they live in the light of the threefold idea. They will welcome the foundation of similar associations, and consider it a principal object to assist such other groups."

The group negotiated with the Anthroposophical Society in Great Britain for permission to use Rudolf Steiner House on Park Row, London, as a forwarding address. Their hope was to provide the stimulus necessary for ordinary people to initiate "a different model of a future society" through research and study based on the social threefolding ideas of Rudolf Steiner. The ideas had failed to take root at the end of the First World War, and Steiner predicted "it would have to wait another hundred years for another opportunity until the time was again propitious for it. .. Now, the time for it is not only propitious but critical." So writes Terry Boardman in the Spring 2022 Issue of New View.

There are already signs that a "great awakening is occurring on many levels today and a search is underway to understand the meaning of life". Lockdown regulations have spurred many people to widen their studies, research more deeply and read many more books. Our consumerist and materialistic approach to life must change. "Not only do our limited planetary resources demand a change but our inner health too. The quest for truth in the face of the falsehoods and half-truths we are all being fed is growing ... There are also many who recognise that we can no longer rely on or demand that the state provides what we need. Whether it is the education of our children, health care or even the wider social security system, the time has come to take back control of our own lives" So writes Bernard Jarman in the current issue of New View.

As is only too apparent in today's world, looking for leaders to provide us with ready-made answers can only lead us into some form of brave new dystopia along the lines of Brave New World, Nineteen Eighty-four, and Animal Farm all rolled into one. Predictions of "a future collapse of the entire global banking system followed by the installation of the cashless digital currencies" of The Great Reset must be taken seriously across the entire social spectrum if humanity is to survive. See Gavin Tang's article "Imagining and alternative to the banking system of the Great Reset" in New View, Spring 2022.

Taking back "control of our own lives" necessitates a steep learning curve on the part of individual members of every local community the world over. And that means research into the political, cultural and economic institutions that supply us with a roof over our head, clothes on our backs and our daily bread.

So - where do we start? How do we move beyond individual reading to group study of the existing threefold social order at local level? I would suggest we might take a leaf out of the book of the Quaker followers of the American economist Henry George (1839-97) and create study aids to explore our local economies wherever they happen to be. See my article entitled "Towards a Threefold Commonwealth" in the Winter 20-21 issue of New View. Note especially Footnote 13 which directs the reader to a free copy of the study material.





Wednesday, 4 May 2022

Local Finance

In the late 1990s members of the UK Bromsgrove Group came across a Scottish version of the Landlords Game entitled Brer Fox and Brer Rabbit. It appears to have been drawn up as an aid to exploring the political economy of a local municipality in Scotland. Members of the Bromsgrove Group assembled copies of the board and rules, and used it as the basis for wide-ranging discussion. Evidently the Scottish version was designed to pursue issues of local finance of local production and an end to waged slavery. Note, it was the latter point on which Marx took issue with Henry George (see previous blog). The Georgist reforms assume the continued centralisation of finance in the hands of a powerful elite.

The Brer Fox 'n Brer Rabbit game is available to be printed out free on the Douglas Social Credit website, at the very base of the SOCIAL ART page https://www.douglassocialcredit.com/resources/social-art . A tour round the sites of the Brer Fox 'game' offers a view of the local economy and its relationship with the national economy at the point when the board was drawn up (1913). We can assume that there were small farms, fisheries and common land to be seen locally. Equally, each city, town or village might feature a Poorhouse, a jail, newspaper offices and railway station. But Westminster Abbey, the House of Lords, and even a branch of Selfridges, an early supermarket would not be found in a Scottish urban settlement of 1913. What might have been in the minds of the creators of this game provides much food for thought.

The two financial institutions, the BANK and the PUBLIC TREASURY are centre stage, in the middle of the Board. The Game was devised in the second decade of the 20th century. At this time, in the UK, Fabians, Guild Socialists, members of the Cooperative movement, Trade Unionists and a wide variety of socialists and social reformers, including some anthroposophists, were in close collaboration. All puzzled about the role of finance in determining policy in throughout the political economy as a whole. But it was not until after the First World War that Clifford Hugh Douglas was in a position to make his analysis of the financial system available for study. He looked at the financial causes of war.

The First World War broke out a year after the Brer Fox game came onto the market. The trauma of the war led Clifford Hugh Douglas and prominent members of the UK Guild Socialist movement to study the financial causes of the war. Those studies gave rise to a massive literature that was discussed and debated through the worldwide movement for economic democracy known as Douglas Social Credit.

In 1900 the local social order could still be understood by the ordinary householder, whose home belonged in a specific place on the local map. Known individuals owned or rented property in the town, and provided services to the local community. Over the course of the 20th century global finance came to dominate the political, economic and cultural spheres of every local municipality, so that now, as explained in the Spring 2022 edition of New View, the Bank for International Settlements (BIS), the central banker to the world's central banks, has the potential to handle a global currency that would dominate the political economy of the entire world. As Gavin Tang explains:

"[A] number of wealthy banking families control the world's economy indirectly via the BIS control of the world's central banks. They also control the world's corporations via a system of ownership and cross-ownership that has at its apex of power in the non-publicly owned Vanguard investment entity."

The situation we face today is complex and precarious. As Tang further explains, in his lengthy article entitled "Imagining an alternative to the banking system of the Great Resent", the necessity is for development of a "commons banking system that can be put in place when the inevitable total collapse of the capitalist banking system occurs. It may well be that discussion of local threefolding ideas through study of the Brer Fox and Brer Rabbit Game facilitates development of commons banking as suggested by Tang.

NOTE: Understanding Life and Debt Blogs for April and May provide sketchy thoughts possible routes out of the financial quagmire currently facing humanity. See the Sheffield Collection for useful study material. See Frances Hutchinson (2010) Understanding the Financial System for references to relevant literature on the subject.


Tuesday, 3 May 2022

Landlords Games

The history of Western 'Civilisation' can be viewed in two ways. For many it is the story of scientific, technological and economic progress, as humanity progressed from pre-industrial times when life was 'nasty, brutish and short' into the golden era of plenty. For others, it is a story of war, of the brutal oppression of the colonial era, the slave trade and the Highland Clearances that took families off their lands and into dependence upon waged slavery. Whichever way you look at it, the past has shaped the political, economic and cultural framework that currently supplies us with food, shelter, clothing and the everyday necessities of life.

Over the course of history many groups have protested against injustice. These include the Diggers and Levellers, the Chartists, the Tolpuddle Martyrs, the Luddites and so on. And various historians took it upon themselves to write about the political economy as they saw it. For Adam Smith (1723-90) the economy was all about Rational Economic Man pursuing his own self-interest wholeheartedly, so that the Invisible Hand can ensure that all become better off. For William Cobbett (1762-1835) the Protestant Revolution took power from church and community, and placed the control of political and economic affairs in the hands of a few powerful financiers and landowners. For Karl Marx (1818-83), it was up to the wage slaves to set about studying their history and planning the revolution. Less well known, perhaps is the American economist Henry George (1839-97 ). In the very late 19th century he drew a massive following in the USA and elsewhere. His Poverty and Progress ( 1879) was a popular read, and George attracted massive crowds wherever he went. At some point a group of Quakers set about devising a game to help them understand how George's Land Tax reforms might serve to create a more just and fair political economy. The first 'Landlords Game' was so popular that the idea caught on, and games were devised across the English-speaking world. Some four decades later, one version of the games was as a teaching aid for self-interested, Rational Economic Man and marketed as Monopoly in 1935.

The Landlords Games were played in three stages. The first showed the current state of affairs where landlords owning prime sites could benefit from the general economic progress by charging high rents simply through ownership of prime sites. Real wealth is created by the community as a whole. Individuals can benefit unfairly from the hard work of the community as a whole and the cultural heritage handed on from generation to generation. The second and third stages of the games show how, according to Georgist thinking, the defects of the capitalist system could be put right. Marx, the astute observer of human society, was scathing about George's analysis of the political economy. Nevertheless, the Georgist games provided an excellent opening for discussion of the political economy of any local municipality. The games were not devised as mere academic exercises. During the 20th century, in Denmark and several American states, Georgist reforms were introduced at local government level.

With so many issues crowding in around us, visual representations of the local geography, politics, infrastructure and institutional provisions, including business, health and education, could provide neutral ground for discussion about where we might go in the future. Group or individual study of the board and rules of Monopoly provides plenty of food for thought. How does it relate to the global corporate political economy of the 2020s?


Friday, 29 April 2022

What Are People For?

Today, economic growth rides roughshod over the earth, devastating the natural environment and sustainable rural economies in the third world and Eastern Europe. Local power over local resources is increasingly swept aside by money power exercised from a distance. Farmers lured into accepting loans, for machinery, fertilisers and ‘improved’ seeds, face falling financial returns from the sale of cash crops grown for export. Centralisation of financial control is not, however, inevitable. As Wendell Berry indicated three decades ago, for practical change to occur it is necessary for ordinary people in their individual localities to take stock of their resources, both in terms of materials and skills, so that we, each and every one of us, cease to participate in the war against nature and society.

"The economics of our communities and households are wrong. We have failed to produce new examples of good home and community economies, and we have nearly completed the destruction of the examples we once had. ...

"My small community in Kentucky has lived and dwindled for at least a century under the influence of four kinds of organisations: governments, corporations, schools, and churches, all of which are controlled from a distance, centralised, and consequently abstract in their concerns. Governments and corporations (except for employees) have no presence in our community at all, which is perhaps fortunate for us, but we nevertheless feel the indifference or the contempt of governments or corporations for communities such as ours. [Here Berry fails to take account of the crucial fact that the global financial system is a constant presence in every community without exception.]

"We have had no school of our own for nearly thirty years. The school system takes our young people, prepares them for 'the world of tomorrow' — which it does not expect to take place in any rural area — and gives back 'expert' (that is, extremely generalised) ideas. We have two churches. But both have been used by their denominations, for almost a century, to provide training and income for student ministers, who do not stay long enough to become disillusioned.

"For a long time, then, the minds that have most influenced our town have not been of the town so have not tried even to perceive, much less to honour, the good possibilities that there are. They have not wondered on what terms a good and conserving life might be lived there. in this my community is not unique but is like almost every other neighbourhood in our country and in the 'developed' world.

"The question that must be addressed, therefore, is not how to care for the planet, but how to care for each of the planet's millions of human and natural neighbourhoods, each of its millions of small pieces and parcels of land, each one which is in some precious way different from all others. Our understandable wish to preserve the planet must somehow be reduced to the scale of our competence — that is, to the wish to preserve all of its humble households and neighbourhoods.

"We must have the sense and the courage, for example, to see that the ability to transport food for hundreds or thousands of miles does not necessarily mean that we are well off. It means that the food supply is more vulnerable and more costly than a local food supply would be. It means that consumers do not control or influence the healthfulness of their food supply and that they are at the mercy of people who have control and influence. It means that, in eating, people are using large quantities of petroleum that other people in another time are almost certain to need.

"We have an economy that depends not on the quality and quantity of necessary goods and services, but on the moods of a few stockbrokers. We believe that democratic freedom can be preserved by people ignorant of the history of democracy and indifferent to the responsibilities of freedom."

So wrote Wendell Berry, legendary farmer poet, in his 1990 book entitled "What Are People For". Very little has changed since he made those observations about the central importance of locality and community wherever we live on the planet. Nevertheless, questions are being raised about the relationship between the Real and the Financial economies. See Blog for 28th April in this series.


Thursday, 28 April 2022

The Real and Financial Economies

A century ago saw the aftermath of the WAR-TO-END-ALL-WARS which did nothing of the sort. The First World War merely paved the way for a century of senseless manufacture of armaments for profitable export to potential and actual war zones. Equally, it led to the growth of Big Pharm, agribusiness, ecological devastation and general malaise across the spectrum of politics, economics and education. The question now is - if this is 'progress' - scientific, economic or technical - do we really want it? And if not, what are we going to do about it?

Fortunately, in the quest for sanity, we already have a great deal of expertise to draw upon. At a series of international conferences in the first decade of the 21st century women economists drew up pictures of the practical realities of the human economy. They drew attention to the fact that human survival is not dependent upon the financial system. On the contrary, it depends on the Household and the Cultivation economies. Yet these lie outside the accounting systems of neoclassical economics. When academics, politicians and journalists debate the state of the economy, they merely add up what is being produced for profitable sale by the arms manufacturers, Big Pharm and the infrastructures that supply the labour, raw materials and expertise necessary to operate global corporate capitalism.

In our daily lives we work for, invest in, and are utterly dependent upon, the industrial/financial economy. We may be employed by the arms and Big Pharm companies directly, or as employees of suppliers. We may be educating the workers, or supplying them with health care. Or we may be working within the vast infrastructures that supply foods, fuels, clothing, transport, packaging and the other necessities of life. Now that the system is, by all accounts, on the brink of collapse, a fundamental re-think is essential if humanity is to survive.

In 2002 a paper entitled Basic Elements of Human Economy was presented to the International Household and Family Research Conference in Helsinki, Finland, by Hilkka Pietila. It contained the following passage:

"The major blind spots in the prevailing economic thinking seem to be:

- the household economy, which is used here for the non-market, unpaid work and production by a family or a group of people having a household together for the management of their daily life, irrespective of whether they are kindred or not; or even a group of small households living close enough to create a joint economic unit, and

- the cultivation economy, i.e. the production based on the living potential of nature, which is the interface between economy and ecology, human culture facing the ecological laws.

"These constituents of human economy are either misconceived or ignored. The doctrines of economics seem to be derived from physics and mathematics, the sciences dealing with non-living objects and material in the universe (refs). Thus, economics does not take account of biology, the science of living creatures and processes in nature; and that explains why economists seem to be blind to the logic of living nature.

"Both of these economies are very basic from the point of view of a sustainable way of living, and thus for human survival and people's ability to control their own lives. A particular feature of the households is the extent and significance of non-market labour of people without pay for direct production of welfare, and thus as an essential contribution for human livelihood. A particularity of the cultivation economy is its profoundly unique nature by being based on living potential of nature.

"Human beings are not considered in this paper merely as part of living nature - as many ecologists do - but as the only rational and responsible species in the universe, which is accountable for its behaviour and its management of the only planet suitable for its existence and welfare. Neither does this paper take a human being as mere "Homo Economicus", whose only motivation is the pursuit of self-interest and maximized satisfaction of needs on lowest possible costs and efforts."

That is, we have two economies: the real economy of Households and Cultivation on the one hand, and the Industrial/Financial Economy on the other. Since the latter is operating like a wild, untrained horse, the task ahead is to bring it under the control of humanity.


Tuesday, 26 April 2022

From Monopoly to Triopoly

The zero -sum game of Monopoly represents the world economy as-we-know-it today. Players participate in the game for what they can get out of it, regardless of the costs to others and the planet. The game has an interesting history.

In the late 19th century Quaker followers of the American alternative economist Henry George devised a series of board games to facilitate discussion of practical ways to bring about system-wide reform of the entire political economy. The boards represented key institutions and landmarks of their local municipalities, and the debate sought to engineer practical alternatives to the centralisation of control of the political economy by elite players.

The games were drawn up in a wide variety of locations throughout the English-speaking world, over a period of several decades. They were played in three stages. Phase One showed the zero-sum game as it was emerging in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Phases Two and Three demonstrated how the rules could be adapted to create a win-win political economy, a just and fair society for all. In 1935 Phase One of the Landlords Game was adapted and marketed as Monopoly.

In the late 1990s, members of the Bromsgrove Group came across Brer Fox and Brer Rabbit, a Scottish version of the Landlords Games. Several versions of the game were drawn up, played and discussed around the UK in the early years of this century. One version has been available for some years at the very bottom of the SOCIAL ART page of https://www.douglassocialcredit.com/ .

Wherever in the world we happen to be living at the moment, it would seem to be a good plan to explore the local land and institutions through which we are supplied with the everyday necessities of life. Three phases of group discussion suggested are:

Compare and contrast Monopoly and Brer Fox and Brer Rabbit. Note especially that the banker is not present on the Monopoly board. Yet he holds all the money and the property cards - quite literally. He hands out the money, and creates more when it runs short. Note on the Brer Fox board squares representing Mother Earth, the Bank, the Poorhouse and the moors, common land and farmland. Nothing lives on the Monopoly board.

How did your local political economy look in 1913? Using local histories and maps, draw up a board reflecting the politics, economics and culture of the local town or municipality where you currently live.

How does your local political economy relate to the corporate world of monopoly capitalism?

The plan is not to provide a ready-made blueprint for the future, but to stimulate discussion leading to consolidation of practical action towards 'triopoly', a Threefold Social Order as envisaged by Rudolf Steiner.

NOTE: See previous Understanding Life and Debt Blogs, and the Douglas Social Credit website https://www.douglassocialcredit.com/ .

Saturday, 9 April 2022

The Midas Touch

COMMUNITY life has, since the industrial revolution, been dominated in Great Britain by the demands of the economic system to the virtual exclusion of other social considerations. Child rearing, home and family care have continued to play an essential part in meeting the needs of individuals. But the economic system has registered only the costs of breakdown and remedial actions. In the same way as economists have only recently, and marginally, come to account the destruction of the environment and the exhaustion of the earth's scarce resources, the development of affective and social skills through traditional forms of home and family care has been taken for granted and subtly devalued.

Males and feminists alike have, for their different reasons, combined to underplay and undermine the significance of family care in introducing new members to the social community of human beings. The strength of the backlash against this erosion of family life can be seen in the vigour of the growth in support for fundamentalist religions. Beyond those narrow confines, home care, child care and the traditional skills of mothering have been denigrated and debased. Parenting and child care have been demoted to a spare time activity outside working hours, to be delegated wherever possible to low paid substitutes. In this way, traditionally male concern with production of statistically verifiable material wealth has been accepted as the sole significant form of human activity. The need for love, care and affection is appreciated only at the point of personal breakdown, when expensive specialists are consulted.

Traditionally feminine concerns have so far eluded the androcentric comprehension which dominates all forms of academic and educational structures in society. The psychologists — and there have been many of them, and of both sexes — who record the infant's ambivalence towards its mother could, perhaps, with more accuracy be said to be recording the results of the untypical mother's ambivalence towards her child. Mothering in human beings is a socially sensitive activity, and Western society has, since the onset of the industrial revolution, placed the rearing of children under peculiar constraints.

Taking the lead from classical economists, backed up by cynical psychologists, we in the West have come to doubt the sincerity of those who offer love and affection. The ideal role model of the tender and caring mother — or father — has been replaced by the young, fit, healthy, role-playing, 25 year old male, in economic employment and without ties or responsibilities. By contrast, the woman who cares, be it for an elderly relative, a child — her own, or that of another who has suffered mental or physical abuse,— or her sick or disabled husband, child or parent, is designated a person of low status, her needs ignored in terms of community support, and her economic independence removed from any guarantees. Following the industrial revolution, family life has come to be curiously dependent upon wage earning, that is, upon the economic rewards to labour as a factor of production.

The reward given to labour bears no relationship whatsoever to the economic needs of the family. Further, it takes no account of the work involved in household tasks, work which recent International Labour Office estimates show consumes at least as many working hours as are spent in paid employment. This supportive work is acknowledged to be essential in servicing the workers, that is, in attending to their essential needs for food, clothing, shelter and leisure. The very existence of labour, an essential factor of production in economic terms, is dependent upon the satisfaction of those needs. Housework is, however, excluded from economic calculations in the same way as nature's gifts are assumed to be free, simply because they do not occur as a result of financial considerations. A mother does not — normally — wait to be paid to look after her baby. Yet it is this very absence of economic motivation which demotes an activity in Western eyes. 'If a job is worth doing, it is worth being paid to do it', is the current rule of thumb. As a result, mothering and caring generally are classed as menial tasks, to be delegated to others wherever possible for a financial consideration.

It is, however, becoming clear [in 1988] that child-rearing practices based on the economic needs of the parents are giving grounds for concern. Parents return from work to tackle household and child care responsibilities in their 'spare' time, often many miles away from otherwise supportive grandparents. In attempting to side-step the demands of children for attention and affection, busy parents offer the passive and undemanding viewing of television rather than embark upon traditional forms of interactive play, talking and reading together. The significance of the incalculable numbers of hours of shared activity of children and adults spent in the recounting of nursery rhymes, tales and games combined with routine household tasks, has been seriously undervalued. These activities, essential in the formation of self-esteem and self awareness, have fallen into disuse in many families. So, too, have forms of children's free peer group play in streets and open spaces near to home. Traffic and other modern dangers have eroded ancient childhood rights, restricting in an unprecedented way children's freedom to develop a sense of personal awareness, place and community. The middle-aged and elderly of today [1988], from even the most inner city areas, can recall childhood excursions to open countryside and areas of woodland in the company of siblings and friends, and an ease of access to shops and houses of relatives in nearby streets which is rarely possible today. The resultant frustration and alienation demonstrated in adolescent behaviour stems directly from this absence of an early sense of belonging to family and to community.

Human beings are more than mere units of labour, cogs in the economic production machine. Material wealth is very limited as a means for satisfying human wants. Labour saving devices have not, according to recent studies, cut down the number of hours devoted to housework. They have, in fact, increased the total number of hours of work in the home, as expectations have been raised and the machines themselves require attention. Further, the time spent earning money to pay for the machines has increased, as have other associated expenses. Rudolph Bahro, the West German 'Green', has presented a vivid image in commenting that 'today we spend ten times as much energy for a worker to be able to sit in front of the TV in the evenings with his bottle of beer as we needed in the eighteenth century for Schiller to create his life's work'.

The ability of the earth to tolerate the ever expanding demands of human beings for continued economic growth is being seriously brought into question in terms of the exhaustion of the finite resources of the earth, and the as yet only partially understood effects of the pollution of the land, seas and atmosphere. It may be time to look more seriously at the development of the human intellect and the human community, as a substitute for the continued demand for material wealth. In reality, consumer commodities have never been more than a means to an end, as King Midas found out so long ago.

Despite the wisdom of the ancients, material wealth remains the predominant pre-occupation of our time. Few would fail to wince at the idea of handing a highly priced Ming vase to a person with no conception of its value, who might well drop it, or throw it in the dustbin. Yet many a human infant's life chances are far less well protected than those of a Ming vase. Attempts are made to patch up some of the most disastrous mistakes in child care, and the expensive services of highly-trained specialists may be lavished upon children whose lives have been shattered by parental neglect, physical, mental or sexual abuse. But beyond this largely futile gesture, society on the whole places a low value on child care and spends few resources in the preparation of, and support for, adults in their responsibilities as parents. If anything, the economic system has quietly encroached upon and undermined the status and skills of those who do attempt to care.

Some would, however, accept that each human infant is indeed more precious than the most expensive vase on earth. When one considers that fifty per cent of a child's intellectual potential is developed before the age of five years, and that the foundations are laid in those early years for his or her artistic and emotional life, the lack of training and support in parenthood is astonishing. This deprivation applies not only in inner city areas, where temporary accommodation and a background of unsettled family life has been inherited by successive generations of parents since the early days of the industrial revolution. Parents in the affluent professional classes enter parenthood in a haze of equal ignorance, ignorance which they themselves would consider horrific in a fellow professional embarking upon a professional task. With smaller families, and geographic mobility which has split the extended family, it is not at all uncommon for a couple's own baby to be the very first they have ever held in their hands, and for their knowledge of the needs of a toddler or young child to be virtually non-existent.

So bemused have we become with the significance of economic growth that we fail even to consider the allocation of resources to the care and nurture of infants and young children. In a haphazard way families have little option but to choose between a series of unsatisfactory strategies in deciding their child care methods. Where both parents wish to remain in economic employment, the parents may decide to pay for the child to be cared for by a non-family member during working hours. The primary duty of this stranger, brought into the child's life on a temporary basis, is to oversee the physical welfare of the child. The relationship between the family and the stranger will cease when their services are no longer required, even where a strong bond may have developed between the child and the carer.

If, on the other hand, parents decide that their child needs continuity of care and affection, and that home and family should weigh more heavily than purely financial considerations, the family faces a further series of unexpected hurdles.

There is considerable pressure upon women in particular to consider that child care is no more than a matter of providing for the physical comfort of an infant up to the age of five years. Beyond that age it is considered that children are off the parents' hands, as they enter formal schooling, and embark on the processes of training to themselves become units of labour in the economic machine. With the trend towards smaller families, women are encouraged to think that parenting is no more than a minor hiccup in the working life of an adult, taking up a mere 3% of a normal working life. Nothing could be further from the truth. A child is a lifetime's commitment, altering the relationships between the parents, grandparents, siblings, not to mention the child itself, within the family and the community. A child forms a unique link between present and future generations. Further, a child requires a sense of place and personal identity if it is to develop into a mature and responsible adult, willing and able to work with others for the good of the community, and capable of actions beyond the narrowest pursuit of adolescent self-interest.

Perhaps it is time to look again at the fragmentation of family and community life which has resulted from the pursuit of pure materialism, and to consider forms of training for child care and design of communities based on more truly human, as opposed to economic, values. Women who have remained in the home and in the community may well prove to be a most valuable, and hitherto undervalued, source of knowledge and associated with child care and homemaking. There is, however, increasing economic pressure militating against the dissemination of these traditional skills. It may be necessary to mount a new conservation campaign to prevent the total extinction of human values in Western society.

"The Midas Touch" by Frances Hutchinson was first published in Contemporary Review, Vol. 253 No. 1471. August 1988, pp80-83.


Wednesday, 6 April 2022

War, Money and Power

Over the past century and a half countless fundamental questions about the social order of industrial capitalism have been asked far and wide. Why are we waging wars against each other and the life support systems of the planet? How is it that scientific and technological 'progress' give rise to poverty amidst plenty, ugliness and waste on an unprecedented scale? As individuals we may ponder on these questions for a while, perhaps making minor adjustments to our lifestyle, but never seeking to understand, still less challenge, the basic premises upon which the system operates. Unless and until we take the time out with others in our own locality to discuss the fundamental issues of our times, we will continue to be the cause of the world-wide malaise that threatens to destroy humanity.

The plain fact of the matter is that we are absolutely dependent upon a system that is rotten to the core. Failing to recognise this fundamental truth, we have allowed our time, our talents, our lives and our possibilities to become the property of others. "We are the tools and vassals of rich men behind the scenes. We are jumping jacks. They pull the strings and we dance. ... We are intellectual prostitutes." Since those words were spoken by a prominent New York journalist in the 19th century, we have continued to play the roles assigned to us, and we have brought up succeeding generations to do likewise. As a result, as consumers, depositors, investors we support the private banking and corporate interests that dominate our governments. It is time to recognise that it does not have to be that way. All we have to do is to start asking some challenging questions about the social order of the 2020s. As Eric Fromm noted in The Forgotten Language:

"If it is true that the ability to be puzzled is the beginning of wisdom, then this truth is a sad commentary on the wisdom of modern man. Whatever the merits of our high degree of literacy and universal education, we have lost the gift for being puzzled. Everything is supposed to be known – if not to ourselves then to some specialist whose business it is to know what we do not know. In fact, to be puzzled is embarrassing, a sign of intellectual inferiority. Even children are rarely surprised, or at least they try not to show that they are; and as we grow older we generally lose the ability to be surprised. To have the right answers seems all important; to ask the right questions is considered insignificant by comparison."

In creating the Brer Fox version of the Landlord's Game just before World War I, a group of people in Scotland raised the fundamental question of the role of finance in the political economy of their day. Since then a host of waged and salaried workers have continued to be on the payrolls of state and private bodies promoting war, poverty and environmental degradation. Across the board politicians, scientists, health care professionals, accountants, academics, educationalists, truck drivers, employees in supermarkets, chain stores and packaging companies, defence, military and police, i.e., all paid workers, have continued to sell their labour-time to a financial system founded on organised crime. The system is fatally flawed, beyond repair or reform. In these circumstances, a complete re-think of the culture, politics and economics of the social order is essential.

NOTE: See The Social Crediter, Spring 2008), Down to Earth, and March 2022 Blogs for more information on the text outlined in this Blog.

Sunday, 3 April 2022

Question Time

Some fundamental questions about the causes of war, poverty amidst plenty and environmental degradation are currently being raised by mainstream and alternative news media. This is nothing new. During the 19th century a host of talented writers were asking the identical questions, giving rise to a vast literature on the politics and economics of the social order. That is available for study today, on the shelves of university libraries and in a range of specialist library collections. Many practical schemes for securing the common good arose from group discussion of the literature, leading to good practice in the three spheres of politics, education/culture and economics. Nevertheless, commerce was allowed to dominate all forms of production, so that scientific and technological 'progress' has landed humanity in its present sorry plight. At the heart of the matter lies the crucial fact that without mothers and farmers there would be no humanity, yet motherhood and cultivation of the land are subjects almost totally left out of the educational curriculum.

The 19th century writings of Robert Owen, William Cobbett, Marx and Engels, John Ruskin, William Morris, Kropotkin and a host of others informed the various socialist and cooperative movements and the welfare, health and educational reforms of the welfare state of the mid-20th century. Yet the forces of self-interested materialism predominated, so that poverty and warfare escalated on an unprecedented scale worldwide. Mothers have been turning out more soldiers, arms manufacturers and researchers in the pay of Big Pharm than they have farmers and artists.

At the root of the problem lies the acceptance of waged and salaried slavery as a necessary fact of centralised global corporatism. He who does not work shall not eat is the motto of present times. And by 'work' is meant working for money. Since mothering and sustainable farming cannot be subjected to market forces, they are left out of the universal accounting system. What is necessary now is a fundamental change in the systems of working together, taking account of Rudolf Steiner's Fundamental Social Law and Threefold Commonwealth. This is not the space to explore Steiner's teachings. All that can be said is that every individual living today draws upon the common provision of food and the necessities of life. Hence they have a bounden duty to explore the duties and responsibilities that flow from their rights as citizens.

In the early decades of the 20th century, groups of people seeking to understand the economy of urban industrialism drew up versions of the Landlord's Games. They explored their local political economy in order to find new ways of setting about things. However, the playing of board games became such a popular pastime that their original purpose was diverted into Monopoly, which taught the values of corporate capitalism. (See previous Blogs)

As individuals, we can all make marginal changes in our purchasing policies and lifestyles. We can support good causes and make gestures of protest. But such measures assume that, with a little tacking and weaving, all will be well. This is not the case: the system is beyond reform. It needs to be changed fundamentally, root and branch, and that cannot be done by individuals acting in isolation. It will only happen when groups come together, take a leaf out of the original inventors of the Georgist Landlord's Games, study the political economy of global corporatism, and set about devising alternatives to the dictatorship of finance. A formidable task? Yes! An impossible one? No! The Tintagel House Sheffield Book Collection is available for study.

Thursday, 31 March 2022

The Landlords Games

When Charles Darrow first offered Monopoly to the Parker Brothers in the early 1930s (see Blog for 30 March) it was turned down because of its 56 "design faults". However, the game was never intended as a teaching aid for the development of global corporatism. On the contrary, it was one of a large number of games created by local communities exploring the problems that arose from private monopoly control of land. The games were handmade, circulating among members of the Society of Friends (Quakers) in Atlanta City and elsewhere. They were devised to stimulate discussion of the evils of private monopoly landholding. The idea was to move beyond protest towards practical alternatives based upon social responsibility. The Single Land Tax was based upon the teachings of the popular American economist, Henry George (1839-1897).

A powerful speaker, Henry George was moved by the evidence of dire poverty amidst affluence in the New York of the 1860s and 1870s. His observations caused him to turn his journalistic talents to the relationship between private property in land and the necessity for labourers to subsist on wages offering no more than a basic living. Poverty and Progress (1879), his major publication, was translated into many languages and was debated far and wide. His proposals to replace taxation of labour with taxation of privately held land still attract the attention of reforming legislators in the US, Denmark, and elsewhere.

The Georgist system of land taxation was designed to be introduced gradually, in stages, following informed public debate. The idea was that local economies run by the people and for the people would be placed on a firm footing politically, economically and culturally. In an address delivered in 1889 at Toombridge, County Derry, Ireland, George drew a distinction between production and creation. People may hew coal from the rocks, catch fish in the seas, bring together timber, stone and iron to shape a house, produce cloth from the wool of sheep or the fibre of plants, and produce crops by tilling the soil. Labour on the land brings forth the necessities of life. It does not, however, create. For George, God as Creator of all, gives equal use of the land to all. No individual or powerful organisation can justly commandeer the reservoirs of nature, or the property of others created by their own labours.

Incomes derived from the ownership of property in land were, according to George, unearned incomes derive from social change such as occurs when a city expands. Economic growth causes a many-fold rise in the value of city-centre sites and nearby land. In these circumstances speculation for private gain prevents the land from being used for the benefit of the community as a whole. Yet it is from the community as a whole that the rising value of land occurs. A tax on land at or near its full rental value would, George argued, reduce the price of land. The tax would rise as the value of land rose, and fall as it fell, eliminating the motivation to speculate in land. Land would be held for its use value, not for speculation in its scarcity value.

Under the Georgist system, owners of homes and properties who make improvements would not have to pay higher taxes on rents based on improvements because they are presumed to be benefiting the community as a whole. Hence farmers who improve their land would benefit, while commercial speculation in land would be discouraged, opening up the possibility for creating agricultural zones near cities. Under the present system it pays farmers to sell their lands to developers for huge profits.

The Landlord's Games remain an intriguing starting point for discussion of practical economic alternatives to corporate capitalism. Their creators had a profound faith in the human capacity for action based upon reasoned argument. Designed to be played cooperatively, the games provided a focus for discussion. The three phases of the games suggested the potential for communities to regain access to the land. Monopoly was developed from the first two phases of the original games. By eliminating the 'design faults', the original 'win-win' game was turned into a 'zero-sum' game where there are winners and losers. The games still offer much food for thought. Nevertheless, in the 21st century players must let go of the desire to win, in order to settle to thoughtful discussion.

In the next Blog we look at Brer Fox and Brer Rabbit, an intriguing Guild Socialist variation on the original Georgist theme.

Wednesday, 30 March 2022

Monopoly as Zero Sum Game

Once upon a time children played by the roadside, chanting traditional rhymes in a long-established pattern. Games flowed in a natural progression, one following another as the mood took the group. The question of who had 'won' and who had 'lost' in the playing of the games was of little interest. Play was a social occasion, a chance to test out one's personality as an individual and to learn the roles and rules of operating as a social being. The fun was in the playing, in the process, not the end result. Through games children learned to work together, developing the social skills they would need to participate in the adult community. By contrast, modern games foster the desire to win at the expense of the other players, preparing children to operate in a very different world. Monopoly is one such `zero-sum' game. The Penguin Dictionary of Economics describes a 'zero-sum 'game as "...a game in which one player 's gain is equal to another players losses, whatever strategy is chosen. The players can only compete for slices of a fixed cake: there are no opportunities of overall gain through collusion. The sum of gains will always equal the sum of losses, the whole summing to zero.

Monopoly is an excellent teaching aid for the development of the mass mind of global competitive capitalism, where individuals maximise their own benefits and minimise their own costs. Community, kin, friends, family and locality are eradicated from this 'real' world of competitive fantasy. Like the internet, Monopoly enables people to be everywhere and nowhere at the same time, ignoring social and environmental reality. All that counts is staying in the game, playing to win and forcing opponents (other people) off the board. The 'selfish game' of Monopoly is a best seller. Since its reproduction by Parker Brothers in 1935 the game has sold over two million copies and is available in 80 countries. Five billion little green houses have been built, and a person who has never heard of the game is regarded as a curiosity.

Although the game is translated to portray the familiar street names of the capital cities of different countries, there ends the concession to locality. Players buy and sell the land and buildings with no respect for the local culture of the region where they operate. Players compete as 'rational' individuals seeking personal gain, free from any restraints of tradition that might balance rights with responsibilities. Geography, ecology, flora, fauna, folkways, everything relating to place and community is eradicated. The game is played in a timeless continuum, where people are neither sick nor old, there are no young to care for and questions of food, fodder, fuel and fertility of the land do not arise. As a teaching aid for the 'real world' of the global capitalist economy, Monopoly is excellent. As a blueprint for operating in the non-fantasy real world of the natural economy and the real-life community it is terrifying.

Like an old-fashioned fairy story, Monopoly presents a scenario which encourages 'right' moves while discouraging 'wrong' actions. It is all the more effective for being played rather than merely listened to. The question is, how did Monopoly originate? Was it the brainchild of a single individual inventor, or the product of teamwork? Was it snapped up at once by a toy manufacturer, or was it repeatedly rejected? Monopoly has a fascinating story of its own.

Charles Darrow has been credited with its invention. He took the game to Parker Brothers in the early 1930s, but they turned it down because of 56 design faults. In 1933/4 Darrow went ahead and produced 500 handmade copies of the game selling them through a chain store. The game was immediately popular. Unable to keep up with the demand, Darrow approached Parker Brothers again, and the rest is history.

Less well known is the start of the story. The 'design faults' were scarcely surprising, since the game was never intended to illustrate the smooth working of the capitalist economy. On the contrary, it was initially designed to demonstrate the inherent flaws in monopoly control of the land. The game taken to Parker Brothers was one of a large number of versions circulating in the States, the UK and elsewhere under a range of different names. The 'Darrow' game was painted on an oilcloth used for covering a table, and is reputed to have been stolen from a Mrs Elizabeth Magee Phillips in the late 1920s.

The games were devised as teaching aids to portray the evils of the selfish system of monopoly land holding and financial exploitation. The idea was to move beyond mere protest towards practical alternatives. The socially responsible view of land holding, and proposals for a Single Tax based on land ownership originated in the work of Henry George.

The early 'win-win Georgist games circulated in the USA and the UK around the turn of the 19th century. Their creators held a profound faith in the human capacity for action based upon reasoned argument. The games were designed to be played cooperatively, providing a focus for discussion and following a common pattern. Monopoly was developed from the first phase of the game which demonstrates the effects of a greedy, selfish pattern of monopoly land-holding. The later two phases, which form games in themselves, demonstrate the potential for communities to regain access to land. It is ironic that a game first devised to move away from monopoly land holding should have come to serve continued exploitation and degradation of the land.

In 2006 a group operating under the name of Planetwatch Communications, re-drew an early version, which had circulated in the UK as "Brer Fox an' Brer Rabbit" just before the First World War. Despite the title, this is not a children's game. However, a major obstacle to the thoughtful playing of this original version is familiarity with the selfish, zero-sum game of Monopoly.

Monopoly

Monopoly has been played by families in every corner of the world since it was first marketed by Parker Brothers in 1935. It is a board game that teaches the values of global corporatism as if there was no other show in town. It teaches children to value money above all else, to win, to think of self first, to be the winner. In short, "the object of the game is to become the wealthiest player through the buying, selling and renting of property" and, in doing so, to drive all other players off the board and into the ditch of destitution. A close study of this familiar board game reveals many curious features that have come to be taken for granted, and hence have passed unremarked by generations of players of this game. Over the decades of its existence, Monopoly has changed very little. Although Monopoly boards using place names of a variety of towns and cities across the globe have been marketed, the basic rules and board reflect an anonymous no-man's land outside the real-life economy of the living world. An early version of the game describes it as follows:

"THE IDEA OF THE GAME is to BUY and RENT or SELL properties so profitably that one becomes the wealthiest player and eventual MONOPOLIST. Starting from "GO" move tokens around the Board according to throw of Dice. When a Player's Token lands on a space NOT already owned, he may Buy it from the BANK: otherwise it is Auctioned off to the Highest Bidder. The OBJECT of owning property is to Collect Rents from Opponents stopping there. Rentals are greatly increased by the erection of Houses and Hotels, so it is wise to build them on some of your Building Sites. To raise more money Building Sites may be mortgaged to the Bank. Community Chest and Chance spaces give the draw of a Card, instructions on which must be followed. Sometimes players land in Jail! The game is one of shrewd and amusing trading and excitement, often contributed to by the Banker-Auctioneer."

In a later version of the rules, the object of the exercise is stated simply as "to become the wealthiest player through buying, selling and renting property". But there is no indication of where the money comes from to enable players to take part in the game. Looking at the familiar board we see properties of all sorts, including railways and other infrastructure sites, even "INCOME TAX". But no BANK. According to the rules, the Banker is appointed before the game commences, and he keeps the . The Bank is described as follows:

"Besides the Bank's money the Bank holds the Title Deeds, and the Houses and Hotels prior to purchase by the players. The bank pays salaries and bonuses. It sells and auctions properties and hands out the proper Title Deed cards when purchased by a player. It also sells Houses and Hotels to the players and loans money when required on mortgages.

"The bank collects all taxes, fines, loans and interest, and the price of all properties which it sells and auctions. The bank 'never goes broke.' If the Bank runs out of money, the Banker may issue as much as needed by writing on any ordinary paper."

That last sentence is particularly interesting to the student of political economy. Note also that it is recommended that the person selected to be Banker should be one who would make "a good Auctioneer". Furthermore, it is the Banker who starts play.

On the Monopoly Board itself, there are houses, hotels, public utilities and a jail, but no farms, factories, shops, offices, schools, hospitals or places of work. Players collect a £200 "salary", doled out by the Banker, as they pass GO.

Virtually everybody I know has played the game at some point in their lives. Yet few - myself included - have paused to consider how the game was constructed. A close examination of the rules raises many questions, in addition to those already mentioned. What assumptions were made in drawing up the Community Chest and Chance cards? The rules relating to payment of Tax give pause for thought, as do the rules relating to getting in and out of Jail. Does the game give an accurate reflection of the finance-driven global economy of present times? Do banks conjure money out of thin air when it runs short?


Sunday, 27 March 2022

On the Council

In the early decades of the 20th century guild socialist notions of giving service to the community could be taken for granted. In all walks of life, people set about doing the things that needed to be done in the household, on the farm, in the small and medium-sized business, in schools, medical practices, churches and faith communities of all persuasions, on magistrate's benches and within the council chambers of local government. Outside the mills and mines of the waged slave-driven mass production economy, there was no sharp distinction between paid and unpaid labour. Traditional notions of giving service to the community at large continued to permeate local provision of goods and services. In the Spring 1946 edition of The Countryman, for example, the following thoughts appeared under the title "After One is on the Council":

IT may interest those who have received invitations to stand for their rural district council, and think that the duties of a councilor begin and end with attending the monthly (or fortnightly) meeting, to consider the diary of a man who is by no means the most active member of a council of twenty-four. First, meetings; council (from home from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m.), general purposes committee (9 a.m. to 3.30 p.m.), sub-committees (11.30 a.m. to 6 p.m. and 12.30 p.m. to 6 p.m.). Meeting in village 7 p.m. to 9.30 p.m. Then callers and letters, not including routine correspondence from council officials: man complaining that his small boy had been unmercifully beaten at school; woman complaining that her child, sent to school clean, came home with lice every night; man complaining that children taking school meals were not supervised and that his own little girl had forgotten her table manners. Man, newly demobilized, with trouble over a housing site. (Action, telephone conversation with surveyor, appointment made with town planning officer, and notice given of a question to be asked at the next meeting.) Member of Men's Guild asking for a date for a talk on local government. Two villagers with a demand for larger council houses. One of them also demanded transport for school children. The other, having been told that a certain orchard was once common land, demanded that it should be taken over by the council and made into a playing-field. Woman with a long and involved history of family troubles asking for help in obtaining an allowance for a grandchild living with her. (Action, report written.) Local builder (six times) with appeals for help in remedying injustices. Almost daily questions and reports on requisitioned houses. Caravan-dweller wishes a complaint made that the coalman with whom he has registered has failed to deliver 'even a spoonful of coals'. Star turn: A young soldier, home after four years in a German prison camp complaining that our council houses still have bucket lavatories and saying: "Even in the old Stalag we had flushes". This is a rough record of three weeks. Letters and telephone calls on routine matters have not been included. Extract from The Countryman, Vol XXXIII No 1 1946, p 99-100.

We cannot put the clock back. But we can certainly study our local history with a view to putting economic and technological 'progress' into perspective. That will make it possible to lay the foundations for a realistically sane and sustainable social order of the future. Presently, the Nanny State provides the waged and salaried worker slaves necessary to run the global corporations world. We may have more money that we had when the councilor wrote of his experiences way back in 1946. But are we better off in any others sense?

The 1940s, 50s and 60s were a period of local community building. Education, welfare, transport, health and public libraries, museums, art galleries, parks and allotments were provided by the local people for the local people. Springing from nowhere, the Local Government Act of 1974 set about taking financial powers clean out of the hands of locally elected councilors, placing it instead with central government. As a result, we now have a National Health Service, a National educational curriculum and national welfare services administered by faceless bureaucrats in the pay of centralised administration. The system leaves many families powerless, destitute and confused, incapable of both receiving or giving help to others. Fortunately, a host of questions are being asked by well-informed 'ethical individuals'. (See Maria Lyons, "Living With Intention", The Social Artist, Spring 2015 on the https://www.douglassocialcredit.com/ website at Spring 2015.


Thursday, 17 March 2022

Local Parliaments

Over the past two years the Coronavirus crisis has given rise to a great deal of reflection on the spectacular ability of the corporate 'powers-that-be' to erode civil rights in democratic countries. A world-wide precedent has been set for: the tracking of people’s movements at all times; the suspension of freedom of assembly; the military policing of civilians; extrajudicial, indefinite detention; the banning of cash; dumbing down of the news media; censorship of the Internet; compulsory vaccination and other medical treatment; and the classification of all activities and destinations into the expressly permitted and the expressly forbidden. We have seen the closure of all theatres, places of worship, community centres, schools and colleges, accompanied by the replacement of journalism with false propaganda. These measures have established the state's sovereignty over our minds and bodies, creating a brave new dystopia.

In Village Democracy John Papworth (1921-2020) makes a powerful plea for local people of all walks of life, wherever they happen to be, to prepare the ground for local democracy so that they can effectively counter the dystopian forces presently at large in the world.

"This is the backdrop of our plea for village democracy, for assemblies consisting of local people who will devise their own means of taking local decisions on local matters. Any attempt to establish them will no doubt be strongly resisted by those in whose hands power is now held: it is resistance which will be deployed in a variety of ways. But first, what is it they will be resisting?

"These new forms of authority will need to be what are in effect new parliaments, local parliaments, peoples parliaments, nothing less. As a kick-off there is nothing at all to stop any group in any community setting up its own local assembly and distributing offices among themselves. In the nature of things at present much of such activity will seem unreal and involve an element of role-playing, but it would be role-playing with a difference.

"Such changes cannot be expected to be implemented overnight; ideas travel at their own pace, time is needed for them to gain acceptance and for people to establish local structures which can cope with the consequence of the breakdown of central authorities' functions. It was the authoritarian Fabians who coined the phrase 'the inevitability of gradualness' and some such element will surely be operative here. But let us not ignore that human affairs are in crisis and that crisis elements are likely to impel some major adjustments very swiftly indeed. A breakdown of food supplies, for example, will necessitate its own emergency measures as a matter of course. Any local governmental role-playing will have as its long term aim to assume for the village assembly real power to make decisions, with proper elections and other procedures that ensure the supremacy of local democracy. The role-playing would involve a powerful element of radical education as members sought to discharge their duties.

"It is not difficult to conceive an elected local education officer tackling the present school authorities on what is being taught and how money is being spent. Or on why there is so much emphasis on teaching computer skills but none on how to grow food. On why there is no instruction on the dangers of junk foods and why they are dangerous to good health. On the lack of instruction in hand skills such as carpentry, tailoring, leatherwork and so on.

"Another elected member for finance might be making it his/her business to question local banks about the quality of their services, their profit margins and their loan policies; he/she would also be to the forefront in promoting local credit schemes, local pensions and savings banks, and a local currency; whilst a Member for Positive Health would be campaigning local doctors to promote fresh, organic food, and sound dietary practice. The embryo assembly would be constantly concerned to educate by example as well as precept how a new order of local control of local power would operate and in what ways local power could be established and entrenched. Not least it would become a beacon of light and hope against a backdrop of ever deepening crisis, where the likelihood of a collapse of centralised controls is not just a remote possibility, but an event already beginning to unfold."

Like so many socially committed individuals over the course of the past century, John Papworth predicts total breakdowns in finance, food supplies and civil liberties. Like the Guild Socialists before him (See What Everybody Really Wants to Know About Money), he argues passionately for radical decentralisation of power as the only answer to the emerging crises in politics, trade, ecology, and international affairs. Over his lifetime, unnoticed and almost entirely unremarked, fundamental changes in local government have been steered through the same centralising forces (See February Blogs, e.g. The Bradford Revolution). The above paragraphs are full of highly quotable quotes that cry out for informed debate by ordinary people everywhere, especially those entrusted with the care of children.



Wednesday, 16 March 2022

Barking Up the Wrong Tree?

 A sleepless night found me musing over my three decades-long exploration of the political economy of corporate capitalism, and the books and people I have worked with over that time. It left me wondering what it is all about. What on earth is going on? The covid lockdowns worldwide, with the imposition of rules and regulations by unaccountable authorities in the name of health and safety, seem to defy logic. As the financial and economic implications of such policy upheavals come into focus, the time is ripe for ask what is driving political and economic policy? Is it possible that we have evolved a social order that is rendering human beings superfluous? Now is the time to reflect on a series of seemingly unconnected policy decisions that have occurred over the past half century, and to ask some fundamental questions.

In The Struggle for a Human Future: 5G, Augmented Reality and the Internet of Things (Temple Lodge 2020) Jeremy Naydler provides detailed documentation of the course of the digital revolution and the developments that are bringing ever closer union between humans and machines, whilst distancing humans from the natural and spiritual worlds. Naydler draws our attention to developments that have been a long time in the pipeline. His work follows that of a host of scientific and technological whistle-blowers, not to mention writers of dystopian fiction. As Mae-Wan Ho explains:

"Gene technology is fundamentally flawed. It is driven bv a mindset that recognises no moral values, is contrary to scientific evidence, doesn't work the way it claims, and is oblivious of the grave dangers posed by the technology. That is bad science. This bad science, working hand-in-hand with big business corporations under the banner of free trade and free choice, will effectively, take control of every aspect of our lives. In the process, it may well ruin our food supply, destroy biodiversity and unleash pandemics of drug and antibiotic resistant infectious diseases."

Mae-Wan Ho's Genetic Engineering - Dream or Nightmare? The brave new world of bad science and big business, was published by Gateway Books 1998. It followed a whole raft of publications raising questions about the connections between human embryo research and cross-species genetic engineering. From the the early 1970s it was becoming apparent that IVF (In Vitro Fertilisation), and the new reproductive technologies in general were going to be used on women. Ethicists, scientists, doctors, theologians, lawyers, policy-makers, social scientists, psychologists and politicians debated the medical, legal and moral questions raised. Old and new moral concerns were raised, including 'egg donation', the taking of eggs from women's bodies. Committees were set up by hospitals, private foundations and governments. At issue were such matters as the status of the embryo, interference in marriage, fears the scientists might "disrupt the ties that bind society such as the meaning of paternity and motherhood". As Pat Spallone explains, in Beyond Conception: The New Politics of Reproduction (Macmillan Education 1989), the scientists who argued that it would be wrong to hold up scientific progress won the day hands down. The repercussions of the new reproductive technologies reverberate across the whole field of household, family, domestic science, and early years care to the present day.

In the decades immediately following World War II, state education in working class urban centres provided a high standard of domestic science, home economics and practical arts and craft skills. These included woodworking, metal-working, DIY and rural studies for the boys, alongside cookery, health care, child care, household management, needlework, dress design and dressmaking. From the 1970s onwards these provisions were abandoned, to the distress of boys and girls alike, their parents and their dedicated teachers who appreciate the urgent necessity for such skills to be taught, especially in very deprived areas. Increasingly, girls and boys were encourage to focus upon acquiring the professional qualifications necessary to pursue a well-paid career in the service of the corporate world. Time spent on domestic duties was considered wasted, time, unnecessary in a world of mass production of food, clothing and labour-saving machines. Increasingly, over the coming decades, many mothers found themselves pregnant and floundering as it became apparent that the demands of motherhood, and the need to care for the chronically sick and elderly, could not be comfortably accommodated alongside professional career commitments.

At the same time, changes were taking place in the relationship between mothers on the one hand, and the medical establishment on the other. It became increasingly difficult for mothers and midwives to arrange for a home birth. In some cases midwives have been threatened with dismissal or even prosecution, for seeking to help mothers to give birth at home. It is increasingly difficult to understand what is happening, as birth ceases to be regarded as a normal part of human life, becoming instead a medical procedure fraught with danger. Abortions are offered as a matter of course, elective Caesarian births become routine, and the numbers of emergency Caesarian births has rocketed. Meanwhile, children are vaccinated as a matter of routine, with little attempt being made by the medical profession to explain the the ros and cons of the various vaccinations so that parents can give informed consent. In some cases GPs have been brought before the General Medical Council for suggesting to parents that they might do their own research before bringing their children in for vaccination.

As the restrictions on civil liberties continue to grow, one cannot but ask some fundamental questions. What is going on? Who needs 5G, augmented reality and transhumanism? Who benefits?