Saturday 22 October 2022

After Thoughts on Independence

by Murray McGrath

Do you want freedom or security?
You cannot have both.

Security is essential for a child but requires obedience and containment. Growing up is becoming independent.

Independence is freedom to be yourself; to live, love and relate to all life in an individual, constructive and harmonious way.

Genuine democracy in small communities, regions and nations would enable individuals to influence society. Having an influence encourages thinking and acting for the good of self and others. Without it, thinking for one’s self is discouraged and conformity prevails. Freedom is lost.

“Be a good obedient consumer. Keep our economy competitive and growing so that we, the controllers of this fine civilised society, can continue to get richer. Don’t worry, we will look after you. You are entirely free to entertain yourselves as you will and do what you like, as long as it doesn’t interfere with the status quo. Through the media, we will help you to form opinions and advise you what to think. To maintain this healthy, happy situation, keep shopping, enjoy your entertainments and support the establishment with your votes. Trust us; we know what is best for you!”

“No thanks!”

Although there is a long way to go to reach real freedom, it is worth striving for and every opportunity for progress is worth taking. Independence of small countries is a move in the right direction.

A happy healthy society is like a healthy ecology; a wide diversity of creatures living together in balanced complexity, free from power and profit oriented human interference.

This cannot work for large nations. Size results in the temptations of power, the imbalance of the few, and ultimately the killing fields of war.

Small democratic units are more likely to be happy and co-operate peacefully.

Restrain the expression of character, and you get selfishness and negativity. If its diversity is acknowledged and encouraged however, the result is positive and outgoing. It’s a question of identity.

Feeling significant as a person, a family, a community or a country is the basis for health and happiness. And that encourages good relations among all.

Being given power is not what it’s about.

“Oh, thank you London, thank you England, even thank you Britain for the powers you have decided to give us! You are too kind!”

“No thanks!”

“Just set us free to be our self!”

NOTE: Murray McGrath composed this homily on Skyros. towards the end of his life.

Wednesday 19 October 2022

The Good Shepherd Doll's House

There was something magical about yesterday. We were invited to a luncheon for old people at the Good Shepherd Community Centre. There we met a number of ageing acquaintances with whom we have collaborated to put the world right in days gone by. So many have helped others along the way. It was particularly good to see Y, who for many years came on foot with a friend to pick and store fruit, and to process windfalls into juice and wine. They would walk from Keighley town centre up onto the moors to pick boxes of bilberries and bring them to us to share. Their English was ropey, to say the least. Y's friend literally could not speak one word of English, and never did learn any over the decade or so that we knew her. Like so many people who migrated to Keighley from so many parts of the world since the end of World War II, they looked back with longing to their childhoods in peasant farming households. They described all the processes of food production and preservation, as also the production and processing of fabrics for clothing and for furnishing their homes.

Whilst we were at the Good Shepherd Centre yesterday I was delighted to find a sadly battered doll's house containing some oddments of furniture. I bought it and took it home in great delight. Perhaps I'm going completely senile already, as a result of Parkinson's and creeping old age? But as I explore the subject of doll's houses more fully (see blog in this series for 30th September) I find a whole new world opening up. Doll's houses can tell us a great deal about how we lived in the past, how we are organising our households at the moment, enabling us to think our way through to plan how our homes and local communities might look in the future.

Doll's houses are not mere toys for the young child or collectors items set in aspic for the decadent rich. On the contrary, properly organised, they can provide the focus for discussion of the role of the household as the foundation stone of the world-wide social order. What rooms could we have in the future? A lounge for watching big screen TV, for crashing out when we return from 12 hour stints of waged and salaried slavery? A music room? A library? A nursery? A fast food kitchen? A slow food kitchen? An artist's studio? Needlework room? A compost loo? Does the house have a garden? And so on.

Presently, redundant doll's houses are ten a penny, as families think their children have grown out of them. These and their fittings and furnishings can become the focus for community group discussion about households past, present and future. Such discussion is nothing new. In the November 1935 issue of The Catholic Worker, Peter Maurin advocated the establishment of farm-based communities:

It is in fact impossible
for any culture
to be sound and healthy without a proper regard
for the soil,
no matter
how many urban dwellers
think that their food comes from groceries
and delicatessens
or their milk comes from tin cans.

Those words were written way back, before World War II had even started. Like so many present day migrants to Keighley from peasant farming backgrounds, Peter Maurin signposts possible routes to the sustainable household and community of the future. (See blog for 4th October for reference to Peter Maurin's Easy Essays on Catholic Radicalism. and the Catholic Worker movement. The above quote was noted on page 127 of Peter Maurin: Apostle to the World, by Dorothy Day with Francis J. Sicius, Orbis Books, 2004). We cannot put the clock back, but we can learn from the past. 

Wednesday 12 October 2022

Understanding Reviewed in Sustainable Economics


Understanding the Financial System:
Social Credit Rediscovered.

by Frances Hutchinson,
Jon Carpenter, 2010,
ISBN: 978-1906067090

This book was of great interest to me, as I was introduced to its subject matter in my childhood in the 1930s, by my parents, who were active campaigners for Social Credit, and I attended the last few meetings, after WW2, of the Social Credit Party, with its leader, John Hargrave. I read Douglas's main books and those of some other advocates of SC, such as C Marshal Hattersley's This Age of Plenty, in my youth. The post-war corporate wiping from history of the ideas and movement for SC was illustrated to me when, in 1952, I heard on the lunchtime BBC radio news, of the landslide victory for it in British Columbia in the Canadian elections. This was accompanied by a few sentences about the aims of SC; but in that evening, in the 6 o'clock and nine o'clock news, not even the fact of the election result was mentioned!

My parents met as Esperantists, and were advocates of libertarian education, introducing me to the ideas of AS Neil, practised at his Summerhill School. Thus I absorbed in my childhood ideas of the unity of mankind, as well as of the distinction between the real. economy and the financial one, which dominates and shapes the real.

I was aware that conventional economics confuses physical and financial capital, and that the potential abundance due to the application of technology to production was turned to waste by the grossly unequal distribution of the results of the 'common cultural inheritance' and the 'increment of association'. These are the concepts CH Douglas introduced as justifying Social Credit's advocacy of 'National Dividends — or Basic Incomes — lack of which makes wage-slaves and/or debt-slaves of almost everyone.

In all of this time, I found no suggestion that SC, or the wider movement for monetary reform, was in any way anti-Semitic — in fact, some of the closest colleagues of my parents in their campaigning were Jewish!

Thus I am, perhaps, biased in favour of the theme of this book, which is exposing both the history of the widespread and rapidly growing support for SC, despite the hostility to it in the public media, in the period between the World Wars, and the distortion of history to discredit it and to minimize attention to it, since WW2, with virtually complete elimination of its ideas from the teaching of economics — and the use of accusations of anti-semitism to stop any discussion of the issue.

While I had foreknowledge of much of the book's contents, I found this considerably expanded by the detail it contains. It contains many extracts from material both for and against SC, and lengthy

discussion of its origins and related ideas, from Guild Socialism, the writings of Thorstein Veblen, and Rudolph Steiner's conception of the Threefold Commonwealth — the three related spheres of society: cultural, political and economic. In all, it shows how tragic was the failure to introduce reform of the system of money creation and distribution in the 1930s.

Douglas argued that the aims of everlasting economic growth and 'full employment' despite the growing use of machinery to replace human labour, were unrealistic and unsustainable. He predicted as early as 1920 that, if the creation of money remained in the power of private banks and distribution of purchasing power through National Dividends was not instituted, with adequate money issued into existence to end 'poverty in the midst of plenty', then worldwide depression would result, and lead inevitably to WW2. National Dividends would introduce 'economic democracy' and establish the 'sovereignty of the individual'.

Douglas noted that while money was in desperately short supply in peacetime, it was created as freely as required in time of war.

He did not propose any detailed way to change the way money should be created, but argued that it should be for public benefit, not private profit. Subsequent experience amply confirms his

views. 'He who pays the piper calls the tune'. The banks are the 'piper', and they 'call the tune' of all other institutions, including governments.

It was clear to me in the early 1960s, when Prime Minister Harold Macmillan proclaimed that 'we've never had it so good', just how much better we could have 'had it', but for the distortions of the 'economy' due to the dominance of 'debt-money'; we could have had leisure, and far less waste of materials and effort.

Although the most senior economists of the day debated with Douglas, both in print and on public platforms, none found any genuine flaws in Douglas's analysis of the true relationship between the material economy and the financial system. Since the financial system was man-made, Douglas argued it could be studied and reformed to suit the wishes of the people. In his view, if given a choice, the people would prefer a secure sufficiency rather than everlasting growth and uncertainty.

This is a book which should be widely distributed and studied. It carries an extensive bibliography and lists of references for each chapter. It exposes the disastrous domination of the real, productive economy by the financial interests, and their power over the institutions of government, education, commerce, and public media. The recent near-collapse of the financial system under the growing weight of unredeemable debt — which threatens worse to come — should help to open people's eyes to the need for reform, along the lines outlined so long ago. Read the book, and then use the internet to join and spread debate on this vital issue.

Brian Leslie (Editor)
Sustainable Economics

COMMENT: These three reviews (see last two entries on this blog) number among many review of my published works. In my opinion they are readable and highly suitable for group discussion - with or without the books to hand.

Tuesday 11 October 2022

Understanding the Financial System Reviewed

Understanding the Financial System:
Social Credit Rediscovered.

by Frances Hutchinson,
Jon Carpenter, 2010,
ISBN: 978-1906067090

This book is a real treasure house of information about a historical episode in the battle for a just, fair and well ordered society. The central event is the election of a government with a clear majority mandate to establish a fully overhauled financial system in the Canadian Province of Alberta. Until 1935, anybody would have been forgiven for not having heard of such a place.

As the author explains in the preface, the book is the result of seven years of research she undertook in response to 'a curious event' in 2001 in the Green Party where she was an active advocate of its Guaranteed Basic Income policy. The 'event' itself can be viewed as a miniaturised version of the real history around Social Credit which unfolded over four decades starting in the 1930s.

After establishing that Social Credit is a sound economic arrangement, superior to the prevailing one, the author pursues answers to the question why it was not implemented. The book is also the result of a crisis of collaboration on another book, The Politics of Money, that was precipitated by that 'event' in the Green Party.

We, as readers and beneficiaries of Understanding The Financial System, should be glad that Hutchinson had to do this painstaking research to establish the truth behind the writing of Derek Wall's article', Social Credit: The Ecosocialism of Fools, which claimed that Social Credit was a far-right fascist and anti-Semitic doctrine.

The first two chapters set the scene by presenting 'an overview summary of the changes in farming, society and the financial system from the earliest times, through the development of city states into the corporate world economy'.

In the rest of the chapters, and the numerous documents included as appendices, the book describes the contribution of Social Credit economics to a vision of the world that is well prepared to function as a fully industrialized and developed capitalist system. Interleaved in that story is the documented account of persistent and well-financed efforts of the established order to undermine ordinary people's understanding and trust in the soundness of a Social Credit future.

Apart from the clear presentation of Social Credit as a comprehensive economic philosophy and practice, the great value of Hutchinson's work lies in informing us of the length the established system can go to defend itself against the threat of being overtaken by an advanced alternative socio-economic arrangement.

In one area, however, this work misses the mark. The Douglas Thesis, dealing with the pervasive monopoly of finance, is one half of a solution to the ills that beset 21st century global society. Indicated by a mere aside, the author dismisses the work of Henry George as a 'minnow'. She fails to note the worldwide movement that — by exposing the private monopoly over land and all other natural resources — complements the reforms proposed by Douglas. There is a worldwide movement inspired by the rigorous analysis of George into a socio-economic failure that results in continuing poverty amidst increasing plenty. In addition, it is noteworthy that the solution to land monopoly has received the same treatment over the past hundred years from the defenders of the established order as Social Credit. This is revealed in the research presented in The Corruption of Economics.

Mentioning Henry George in the context of this review should not, however, be construed as pointing to a rival theory of economic reform. On the contrary, students of Douglas and George should find encouragement in the knowledge that a fully worked composite solution is available to heal a society wracked by the private exploitation of two fundamental monopolies.

Janos Abel
Green Christian, Issue 70,
Winter 2010/11

COMMENT: Janos Abel is perfectly correct in stressing the value of Henry George's work. See, for example, my article on the origins of Monopoly, "Towards a Threefold Commonwealth", Published in 
New View magazine, issue 98, Winter 2020-21] New View

Country Way Review

Review by Jeremy Martineau of
by Frances Hutchinson
Published by Jon Carpenter, 1998
ISBN: 1-897766-33-5

I wanted to read this book before passing it to anyone else. Now I can truthfully say read it yourself. "What everyone really wants to know about money" raises those questions which have bothered me ever since economics at university failed to answer the deeper questions I felt inside about the self which social science was missing. This book tells me there has been a conspiracy by orthodox economics to avoid the awkward truth that we humans cannot properly be confined to a definition as mere units of economic production or consumption which it suits today's controllers to make us. Yes there is a conspiracy among those who hold the hidden reins of power. 

How else is it that so few make the decisions, whether in so called democracies or even in dictatorships. We know that the world systems are not what humans or the planet really needs to thrive, but we don't know how to correct the injustices and barbarism and despoliation that is an unavoidable consequence of money as the sole measure of value. However gilded the cage, capitalism enslaves the common people. How to get to a better, fairer world from where we are is going to be hard, but first, read this book, if you dare. Did you know that the Roman Catholic catechism calls for a reform of international economic and financial systems so that they will better promote equitable relationships with less advanced countries. I write this a day after the Nationwide Building Society members voted aganst conversion to a bank. That is one sign of hope that not everyone is blindly following the greasy slide into corruption . They keystone to move in the wall of misunderstanding is that labelled financial value. Move it and you can see that it is not real. Money has become God, and we must dethrone it. 

COMMENT: Tidying through my files over recent weeks,I find a number of reviews of my books that seem worth dusting off and reading through. A good review is one that tempts one to read the book itself. With this in mind, I offer the above and one or two more in the following Understanding Life and Debt. blogs.

Saturday 8 October 2022

T' Peggin' Rug

T' Peggin' Rug
by Christine Thistlethwaite

Not another hoil in t"earthrug?! 
Aye! Sithee, worn reight through! 
They don't mek things ter last these days — 
Not like they used ter do. 
Tek 'earthrugs fer an instance 
Wi' ther fancy nylon pile, 
Right posh they look when span kin' new — 
But yer notice in a while 
'ow dull they've gone, and kind o' frayed, 
An' t' pile all worn an' flat, 
I allus sez ther's nowt can beat tow'd fashioned peggin mat! 

When t' winter neets were drawin' in 
(No telly then, tha knows!) 
Me mam 'ud start ter sooart things out — 
Owd coits and worn-out clothes. 
Ther'd be a job fer each of us — 
While some cut t' cloth in strips, 
Another cut aw't buttons off 
An' th'ooks an' eyes an' zips. 
We clipped until we fingers ached 
An' thumbs were near red raw, 
By heck! it wor a stallin' job 
Wi' bits all ower t' floor! 

At last me mam 'ud say "That's it! 
We've getten fairish theer — 
We'll start ter peg termorrer neet 
Whan Dad brings t' frame in here." 
She'd draw a fancy pattern on a piece of harden sacking 
An' nail it in to t' frame ter mek a strong an' sturdy backin'. 
An' then t' best part of all began — all seated in a row 
We'd prod an' poke them clippin's in an' watch the pattern grow. 
On t' day as it were finished, an' down hi' t' fireside 
Me mam 'ud bring all t' neighbours in an' show 'em it wi' pride 
When yer nobbut 'ad linoleum, or a floor o' cow'd stone flags 
They browt a touch o' luxury — yon mats med out o' rags. 
Ah've one upstairs, still goin' strong, outside o' t' bathroom door
'at me dad and me were workin' on in 1944! 
What can yer buy these days as cheap, 'ardwearin', warm an' snug 
As yon owd-fashioned work of art? Aye! t' good owd peggin' rug

From: Times and Seasons,
Rhymes and Reasons

by Christine Thistlethwaite

COMMENT: Making peg rugs was a common activity in working class streets in Yorkshire. With the guidance of my mother-in-law and her sisters, we made rugs here at Willow Bank in the 1990s, when Bradford Industrial Museum hosted workshops on making peg rugs as fashionable wall hangings. The memory gives much pause for thought.

There is no particular reason why the coming of TV should stop home production of rag rugs, or dressmaking, embroidery, or any type of art or craft. After all, the TV does have an 'off' button. Better still, one might consider following the advice of Jerry Mander, and smashing the one-eyed monster to pieces (See his Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television, Harvester Press (1980)

See also his "In the Absence of the Sacred: The Failure of Technology and the Survival of the Indian Nations" Sierra Club Books 1991).

After all, members of households combining with other households on craft projects is one of the joys of life that has not been, and does not have to be, confined to the aristocracy. See Suzanne Fagence Cooper (2022) How We Might Live with Jane and William Morris, Quercus. Such activities have often been combined with telling folk stories, poetry reading and the much neglected art of reading aloud. (See Francesco Dimiti To Read Aloud: A Literary Toolkit for Wellbeing, Head of Zeus, 2017)

Many thanks to Christine Thistlethwaite. .

Tuesday 4 October 2022

Social Workers and Workers

The training of social workers
enables them to help people
to adjust themselves
to the existing environment.
The training of social workers
does not enable them
to help people
to change the environment.
Social workers
must become social-minded
before they can be critics
of the existing environment
and free creative agents of
the new environment. In
Houses of Hospitality social
workers can\acquire that art
of human contacts and that
social-mindedness or
understanding of social
which will make them critical
of the existing environment
and the free creative agents
of a new environment. (p74)

Peter Maurin,

Catholic Radicalism:

Phrased Essays for the Green Revolution

See INTRODUCTION by Dorothy Day,

New York,

Feast of SS. Peter and Paul,

June 29, 1949