Posted by steve on February 19, 2013
The original board
I am utterly astonished. We have heard of the DaVinci code, but there is a MONOPOLY code. The secret rules of the game from the early 1900s show how, by changing the rules, everyone can live in prosperity.
Back in the early 1900s a woman called Elizabeth J. Magie patented the Landlord’s game to be a “practical demonstration of the present system of land-grabbing with all its usual outcomes and consequences.” Elizabeth was not against capitalism, rather defeating monopoly in all its forms (but, particularly, monopoly of nature). Lizzie continued to work on the design of The Landlord’s Game as a way to explain how the political economy system of Henry George would work in real life. Henry George was against all forms of taxation except from those who owned land.
Parker Brothers purchased Elizabeth’s patent in 1932 for $500, on condition that Parker Brothers would continue to publish The Landlord’s Game as well as Monopoly. In the third edition, published in 1939, and consistent with the agreement with Elizabeth, the game came with two sets of rules. However, only the rules copyrighted by Parker Brothers were actually sold with the game. Purchases were required to contact Elizabeth Magie Phillips to obtain the alternative rules. Remarkably, Elizabeth’s rules were made available by Hasbro on the company’s website.
If you download the alternative rules ( I am going to try this as soon as I get my hands on conventional monopoly) and play, do let me know how you get on. The comments are open for you :).
The article explaining the history is here
This is the link to the secret rules. They are at the end of the conventional rules. Look for “THE MONARCH OF THE WORLD” and the SINGLE TAX.
Thomas Forsyth is one of the most knowledgeable collectors of the original game boards and pieces related to The Landlord’s Game. He has compiled a detailed history of the game, which can be examined at The Landlord’s Game.
Posted by steve on February 10, 2013
This is a translation and adaptation of the leader column I submitted – in my capacity as JAK board member – to JAK’s alternative economy magazine, Grus och Guld. JAK is a member- owned cooperative bank offering interest-free loans.
Like many JAK members I am driven by the desire to change society for the better. Not only to counteract the negative impact of interest on our economy, but the whole system’s negative effects on people. It is sad how money has penetrated our culture so deeply that it is determining the very fundamentals of our way of life. Soon, we won’t be able to “ afford” to be those wonderful, generous, creative, spiritual, loving, appreciative beings that we are in our true nature.
Still, it is not only the monetary system itself that shapes our culture, but the attitudes this money culture carries. It is attitudes not system that mean a farmer can hardly live on producing healthy food while a heart surgeon, who fixes the effects of poor diet, lives in luxury.
As an immigrant to Sweden in the 80’s I see how the hard side of Swedish culture continues to evolve. Despite priding itself on being a socialist nation, they accept domination of state, oligopolies and other strong forces, they accept individuals competing themselves into burn-out and they accept exclusion, even to the extent that people go homeless, toothless and hungry. This development is self-perpetuating. Companies encourage their executives to take risks, cut costs and act on the edge of what is legal in order to achieve profit. This in turn fosters a social psychopathic work ethic that recently had a private old-age care company badly mistreating the old people in their care just to squeeze a few more percentage points.
There are alternatives and possibilities, not least in the Transition movement. Last summer I had the privilege to meet with representatives of alternatives currencies in England. We did a membership count. (It went something like this I don’t remember exact numbers.) Totnes: 2000, Brixton:1000, Bristol: 3000, JAK: 37.000. A silence fell in the room where I can just imagine the thoughts the others were having – what THEY could achieve with 30 000 + members!
Although I do not have money to put into my JAK account, and even if I cannot borrow to put into a community project, there are things I can do, preferably together with other members of JAK. We can get together locally, talk to each other, discuss how we can become creators and bearers of a new, human, Swedish folk culture.
We can do small acts of kindness to our neighbours. And just inviting them for coffee, forming groups that do things together helps create the feeling that as long as we can form trusting relationships with each other there is enough for all – even an abundance – of what we need to live well. And it is just that – good feelings and good relationships – that form the heart of a healthy culture.
No corporation or government is going to contribute to this development. We must create it ourselves. We can start by looking at the real capital we have in our communities – social, human, natural as well as the infrastructure built by the toil of our forefathers. Respect and trust are absolutely the most solid currencies available. It befalls those of us who recognise what’s going on – and you know if you are one of them – to do what we can to grow this kind of capital. Everything else is just numbers that we were enticed into putting our faith in by those who had the most to gain from perpetuating the illusion.
Posted by steve on November 14, 2012
As populations grow, and less and less oil is being found, the fossil fuel-dependent global supply chains and the banking system that supports them are becoming less functional. Relocalizing production and sales of daily needs reduces fuel dependence, waste, and increases local employment and community resilience. However, today’s financial system is more geared to large national and global corporations.
The lack of sustainability in the system is worrying. A sustainable solution would mean that sale and provision of basic goods and services would keep ecosystem and mineral resources intact, would reduce reliance on fossil fuel and create an investment that could be enjoyed by coming generations.
New thinking is required to make capital available to smaller, local businesses for this to be realized. One proposal is a savings bank scheme called Units of Trust (UOT). The scheme makes it possible for consumers to invest in local businesses and to receive goods and services at reduced price whilst their money is with the firm.
To create simplicity, transparency and stability, a support and coordination organization called UOTMC or UOT marketing company, could be set up, along with a fund scheme in a local bank. Unitization allows consumers to invest in a wide range of companies and spread their risk.
Other benefits include: providing local business with affordable capital and long term customers at the same time. Consumers get local produce and a long term secure supply of basic needs whilst investing in a green supply system that will withstand fossil energy shortfalls.
See our video on YouTube, the NEWSLETTER FROM THE FUTURE or read the white paper.
Posted by steve on August 7, 2012
Just suppose we all decided – and I mean all of us, politicians, corporates, national economic policy experts, universities, bus drivers, dog owners .. you get the idea… to demand that, apart from everyone doing their level best to live sustainably, that a monetary system would be put in place to drive development in that direction.
Just suppose…. Humour me, this is a post on my new hobby – capitalism. It’s quite a fun hobby, I have been posting for several months and still haven’t come to the core of defining capitalism. Maybe, as some say, there is no definition. In which case it’s better to get on with the job in hand and look at how this money system could be set up.
One theme is in the diagram below. Quite simply, the aim of policy would be to drive development into the top left-hand corner. From people not having enough to eat to having sufficient. From environmental services being degraded to eco-systems maturing.
Alternative outcomes for economic policy
Now it might seen like nation economy policy makers have a lot of tools at their disposal. Forgive me if I have this wrong, but I can only count three: economic laws, interest rates and taxes.
That is not a lot to play with, but given the idea of introducing flexible fees to provide a mechanism to control engineer the economy, it might be possible.
Let’s look at each square of the matrix in turn. As the bottom left, worst case, is a combination of the other two we can analyse community challenge and eco-challenge.
Eco-challenge is where the needs of the community are being met, but at a price. Ecosystem services are depleting and so are minerals.
Here flexible fees kick in. Basically it works like this: A point where eco-system services are being degraded is identified. This is done by looking at the supply chain of essential goods and services. The substances that are the main cause are identified and traced back to where they are either imported or extracted. The extraction or import of these substances is subjected to a fee. The fee is raised or lowered at regular intervals at sufficiently large intervals until market behaviour changes.
At the same time, a large part of the fee collected goes back to the population via general tax rebates, for example. The effect is that substances, or practices with these substances, become relatively more expensive. Non-polluting things become cheaper. Investment flows to these now more competitive alternatives.
Read more in the white paper http://avbp.net/wordpress/wp-content/uploads//whitepaperFE_V2.pdf
But it need not stop there, there is plenty more that can be done. Take for example taxes. Every item for sale has a VAT – Value added tax or Sales tax levied on it even if it can be zero. And every item is coded in international systems for classifying what kind of item it is.
However, even though these systems distinguish between books and luxury items, food and alcoholic beverages, they do not distinguish between products and raw materials that are guaranteed organic. A simple twist of accounting could produce this – well maybe not simple but it is not rocket science.
Again, putting, say 25% VAT on industrially grown lettuce and 6% on certified organically grown would increase the competitiveness of the organic products.
The next blog will tackle how the monetary system can tackle the community challenge.
And maybe the next next I will consider what is stopping the simple development of accounting and taxation that could create the saying “money is making the world go green”.
Posted by steve on July 24, 2012
The modern economy has undoubtedly given better lives to millions.
However, despite years of experience and development of macroeconomic theory, despite decades of Nobel prizes in Economics, there still doesn’t appear to be a way to run an economy without putting severe hardship on a large percentage of the population.
And this state of affairs is generally accepted.
Especially women, wives and mothers, it is women who end up suffering take from this hardship.
The other thing that I know that women particularly care about is the environment. Again, it is also generally accepted that pollution is unavoidable and depletion of natural resources the unavoidable price for economic stability. The costs of pollution and depletion are not paid for directly by the producers or consumer, but by society as a whole. They are called externalities. Externalities, it seems, are unavoidable if we want a stable economy. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »
Posted by steve on June 20, 2012
Many inventors’ eyes glaze over in wonder at the thought of having the opportunity to invent clean, more efficient, technology.
If only there were a market for it, the most wondrous machines could be manufactured and sold at a huge profit, they reason. And pollution would stop.
But more effective solutions actually, according to the famous Jevon’s paradox, encourage more consumption. Famously, refrigerators are far more efficient that they were 40 years ago. On the other hand, the total energy used by refrigerators is still increasing, as more people are buying larger refrigerators – because they are relatively cheaper.
Read a general account of the paradox on wikipedia here.
So the challenge that Jevons lays down is to find a way to encourage more efficient uses of resources in a way that will, at the same time, reduce demand for them. As illustrated in the refrigerator example above, making things more energy efficient merely increases their use and energy use goes up.
Extremely efficient cars would make them cheaper to run and encourage more people to buy them and to use them more thus pushing energy consumption up.
One researcher may have just found a way to bust the paradox. Anders Höglund, an engine efficiency expert who turned to exploring ways to apply advance control engineering to the economy, proposes a fee placed upstream of the energy source. For example, oil could be taxed when imported to the country, or when it leaves the refineries as petrol or diesel. The tax woudl be raised at regular intervals until the market responded by reducing demand.
If we are to understand Jevons, this would mean that more and more efficient uses would appear and a cat and mouse game with raised levies could go on for a long time: inventors would find ways to increase efficiency, demand would fall, the levy would fall, but then demand would rise again as the use of the fuel would be cheaper. Levies would be raised, demand would fall off, but innovators would be back on track for more efficiency gains. And so on.
But this cycle of increases efficiency then fee, then demand and efficiency again can be broken. Enter the next part of Höglund’s proposal: paying money collected back into tax payer’s accounts as a tax rebate.
Höglunds ideas have been explored in a report by the Nordic Council of Ministers. The report focused on putting a price on pollution. It reasoned that a flexible fee, levied high upstream (in the case of oil, at the harbor) could be made progressively higher until the market behaved to introduce renewable – based alternatives.
This progressive increase of fee acts like a price discovery mechanism: the price of pollution is the cost to not pollute.
– “But would this not just encourage more effective uses which would encourage the same or more consumption ,“ argued detractors.
“It would”, replied the inventor, Anders Höglund, “if it were not for the return of the fee income back into the economy”.
The mechanism investigated includes a general return of collected fees, possibly as a tax rebate.
Says Höglund “the more fossil fuel that is introduced into a country, and the longer it is used, the higher the fees and the more money collected”.
This money goes into the economy for consumers to spend. But fossil-fuel based solutions will be more expensive. So there will be an incentive for consumers to choose the alternatives. In this way we beat the Jevons paradox.
Read the full report here.
Posted by steve on June 6, 2012
Article updated June 6 after consideration of all the recent comments
We are stuck. On the one hand you have people who talk about economic growth as being the objective of policy – necessary to be able to pay back debts and achieve prosperity. On the other hand, you have the sustainable camp that claims infinite growth is impossible and therefore the whole economic system is bound to fail as it relies on it. You have people who claim we need GOOD growth as opposed to BAD growth. Bad growth would be the increased economic activity due to storms, break-ins and failures of products. Either way, the term capitalism comes up as if it were a system. Perhaps if we explored the idea of developing our thinking about capital we might find some ways forward.
My aim here is to clarify the idea of using capital as a central social planning approach, using the idea of settlement maturity. This is the idea that settlements, and the societies in them, like an eco-system, can mature. If society can mature, then maybe its capital profile will mature too.To be able to take this analytical line we need to understand first what ecological maturity is.
Let us look, then, at how nature grows and see if we can find some insights into how capital can grow, and what economic growth would look like through the eyes of sustainability.
Growth =net increase in mass
Growth (rapid increase in biomass)is a stage the ecosystems go through on their way to ecological maturity
There is still growth in mature eco-systems. Trees still grow, albeit slower. However, for the system as a whole there is little net increase in biomass.
Ecologists describe how all eco-systems strive to become mature. You probably have the idea somewhere in the back of your mind, how smaller animals give way to large predators, small plants become forests, rushing water becomes a swamp, etc.
One well-known description of maturity comes from the ecologist Odum,(ref 1) (table below)
Let’s take it bit by bit:
- Gross production. This means the total amount of biomass that accumulates in the system. Note that as a system matures, the slower biomass increases. For example, young trees grow very fast, older trees grow much slower.
- Biomass supported. As the system matures, more biomass is in the system – more trees grow, more animals and plants more in, and they are larger.
- Total organic matter. As above, the more mature the system, the more in the eco-system.
- Size of organism. In immature systems, the organisms are small. As the system matures, and there is more for predators to eat, for example, the more and larger the organisms become.
- Niche specialism. As the system matures so does diversity. More specialized organisms move in.Mineral cycles. Eco systems need minerals to cycle in them in order to function, so to have more biomass they must retain nutrients.
- Nutrient exchange rate organisms <> environment . Immature systems “leak” both heat and nutrients to other eco-systems.Role of detritus in nutrient cycling. As the system matures, detritus is more and more important as a source of minerals and energy for the organisms in it.Nutrient conservation. Mature systems conserve minerals and do not leak them to other systems.
We now need to explore the idea of capital.
The diagram below breaks down the categories of capital often used.
The categories should be be self evident. But from the point of view of accounting, human capital and social capital are not normally put on the books.
Financial capital is divided into that owned by the organisation and that borrowed. In English the terms foreign capital is used for money lent and equity is the money put into the company by its owners.
Now let us apply the idea of maturity using the idea of the built environment; a settlement.
An immature settlement might be a few tents that settlers might bring with them. They have no agriculture, there is no infrastructure, but they are surrounded by the bounty of nature and can begin to convert, for example, trees to buildings.We can envision an immature settlement, but can we envision a mature one? Surely our cities act like immature settlements: nutrients are lost to surrounding environment, metals and minerals end up in tips, and even our building reflect heat rather than gather the energy from the sun. The list below is an attempt to bring together ideas of what a more eco-mimicking city or settlement might look like.
GROSS PRODUCTION. Here we would see the production of buildings and transport infrastructure as complete, only repair and upgrade would be needed. Most production activity would be turned to food and heating and lighting.
BIOMASS SUPPORTED. The mature settlement would have a high level of biomass supported in the form of tree, and food -producing facilities.
TOTAL ORGANIC MATTER Total organic matter would be higher, to provide eco-system services like shade, energy capturing, building and clothing materials etc. A field does not represent this vision, we would expect more organic matter intensive methods, like forest agriculture, food forestry, would be used.
SIZE OF ORGANISM. It can be imagined that in this case, for a society organism means body, like an organization. As society matures, more specialized and larger organizations can provide efficiency of scale and specialization.
NICHE SPECIALIZATION. People could have more specialized jobs as society matures. Early settlers might need to master a broad range of tasks without being able to go too deeply. In the specialized society everyone could master subjects deeper.
MINERAL CYCLES. It makes sense that an immature society digs up iron and other materials to get started. But after a while, the extraction of these substances can become polluting and maybe lead to scarcity. In this case, minerals already extracted should be recycled ad not released in to the biosphere. This approach is being pioneered by the natural step and Cradle to Cradle. The mature settlement is a mineral recycling society
NUTRIENT EXCHANGE RATE WITH ENVIRONMENT. The same here as for minerals. The mature society will retain nutrients for recycling, and do the surrounding environment a favour by not putting this burden onto it, as well as minimizing the work needed to obtain nutrients. These building blocks of life can stay within the settlement. More are only needed for growth.
ROLE OF DETRITUS Early settlers could make waste without it creating a problem or being seen as a loss of valuable resources as there probably were not much of them. Not so for the mature settlement, where the amount of biomass is high. Detritus is a resource and in the mature society there may be much of it. It can also accumulate and be a pollutant. So it needs recycling. This will mean a soil to soil perceptive for food systems – from soil to plate back to soil.
NUTRIENT CONSERVATION. Gathering nutrients requires a lot of work in an immature settlement. Mature settlements recognize the energy and effort needed in obtaining nutrients is far greater than the effort and work required to cycle them.
What we are describing, then, is that the concept of economic growth is not an end in itself but the process by which economic maturity is reached. At this point, capital is accumulated, analogous to the build up of bio-mass in the mature eco-system.
The effect on capital.The diagram below illustrates how capital is converted and increased in the maturing society.
Natural capital to man-made capital (A) : For example, minerals and nutrients would be used to create housing and machines. At the same time, man-made capital should be in place to promote development of natural capital(B). Man-made capital cannot increase at the expense of natural capital, the two must grow together. Otherwise, the services that natural systems provide (like building materials, food, clean water, etc) will be unavailable.
Conversion of human capital to man-made and natural capital(C): human capital conversion works uniquely. Taking knowledge and applying it to solve the problem of creating man-made capital and natural capital can, if applied right, increase human capital through learning.This knowledge could be institutionalized in social capital in organizations and information systems.
Social capital, the development of organizations (D), would in turn be needed to run, organize, and develop the man-made capital (E) and natural capital(B).
The role of Financial Capital. In this diagram, money represents an accounting system that has significance in that the value of the whole increases over time. (If all forms of capital can be valued using the same system of measurements.) As the system matures it will accumulate biomass and minerals for recycling and organizations that accumulate knowledge. An accounting system could be developed that calculated in this way. Growth would slow down as the settlements matured- I leave it to later articles to explore how such an accounting system might work.
1) Odum, E. P. 1969. The strategy of ecosystem development. Science, 104:262-270.
Posted by steve on May 18, 2012
The price mechanism does not provide perfect information and does not necessarily lead to a perfectly efficient distribution of resources. Many argue that the low cost of externalizing pollution to the community is leading us to create a fossil-dependent infrastructure that will be obsolete before it has paid for itself.
This briefing from the Swedish Sustainable economy Foundation explores the arguments for and against the price mechanism and looks into the scientific underpinnings of sustainable development, ecological maturity and eco-system services.
Download it here breifiing-eco-system-services
Posted by steve on April 17, 2012
A recent report from The Nordic Council of Ministers ( title: Flexible emission fees
An incentive for driving sustainable production and consumption) is optimistic that growth and environmental goals can be reconciled. If the conclusions of the report can be implemented, it could set a new direction towards sustainable development.
The starting point for the investigation that forms the basis of the report is an economic innovation from Swedish engine innovator, Anders Höglund, from the Swedish Sustainable Economy Foundation.
Höglund postulated that the principles of control engineering that he had applied to make diesel engines burn clean could be applied to the economy.
Control technology is the application of control devices to a process to ensure it performs to requirements. In the case of the engine, advanced micro-processor and sensing technology is applied to a rather “dirty” invention like the diesel engine. Fast feedback, computer control and some final stage cleaning ensure that the combustion in the engine is controlled precisely.
The height of control technology is possibly the modern fighter jet that is unstable without the help of the advanced computer control.
In the old days, the economy was paper-controlled; it could take a long time to obtain an accurate picture of the state of the economy as reports needed collecting and summing by hand.
This is not the case today. Stock prices, oil prices and sales figures are available almost in real-time. Höglund saw that this fast feedback of the economy could form the backbone of a system that forces the economy to “run clean”.
Especially the old criticism that emission fees hold economic growth back is negated when the money from fees is channeled back into the economy as a general tax rebate. And no physical money changes hands. The fees can be distributed electronically to tax payer’s accounts as a credit at digital speed.
The other bugbear of emissions fees is that they are not effective: polluters continue to pollute and producers are slow to introduce clean-tech. Höglund’s innovation solves this by raising the fee at regular intervals until market behavior complies with requirements. Höglund says that market behavior will change as the fees become sufficiently high. As the fees are channeled back into the economy there is an equivalent amount of money available to either purchase the “dirty” service at higher prices or alternatives at relatively lower prices.
The Nordic Council investigation engaged a researcher to review economic literature. The idea of flexible control fees seems to have been sparsely investigated. A workshop involving some of Sweden’s leading sustainability experts and authorities focused on finding ways to drive sustainability into the economy utilizing market forces. The workshop looked at two emission problem areas: carbon dioxide and phosphorous. Most participants were positive to the idea of testing flexible fees in a limited area.
Karl-Henrik Robért, founder of the Natural Step, said:
– Hence, flexible fees offers an elegant pragmatic means for policy-making to support strategic sustainable development.
To download the report visit the Nordic Council’s website.
For more information on the workshop see the Swedish Sustainable Economy Foundation’s website.
Posted by steve on April 4, 2012
We need to change the way we account for things as we hit the resource wall. We cannot continue to regard, from an accounting point of view, resources as infinate.
Her’s an attempt to form a sustainable approach:
Technology is a collection of inventions and capabilities to solve a problem or need.
Work is the application of technology to deliver a solution to the problem or need.
Sustainable technology is a collection of inventions and capabilities to solve problems in a way that preserves financial, natural and mineral capital. Sustainable work applies sustainable technology to delivering the services required to live.
Let us take a group of people and for sake of argument let us take a village of 100 houses with 300 residents, some under age. High up on the list of required services would be – not in any order – access to 1) housing 2) food 3) security, 4) clothing.