29. Thrifty economics

Ch 29

A new economics of thrift

There is an increasing effort being put into shifting from “black gold” to “green” technologies.  But underlying these is still the idea that “growth is good” – it’s just that we want “green” growth – whatever that is.

This has been one of the ways the wealthy and the corporations have seized control of the environmental agenda.  And there will undoubtedly be some useful innovations coming out of the “green” initiatives.  The shift from fossil fuels to “renewables” is an obvious example.

The underlying premise is, however, that resources are, and will remain, abundant – it is called the “Cornucopian” view.  The rhetoric suggests that we can shift to new technologies that will minimise our footprint on the planet, and sustain growth indefinitely.

The reality remains one of extractivism, pillaging, and exploitation of poor countries and populations.

But, what if they’re right?  That there can be technologies that will “minimise” our footprint.  Does this mean that growth will become permanently sustainable on our Earth?  How?  In which surreal alternate universe?

The underlying economic model assumes INFINITE resources.  Which our planet does not have.

A new economics

We need a different economics, one that assumes limits on our capacity to consume.  It needs to be grounded in the planet’s CURRENT capacity to sustain us, not some theoretical future capacity (more on this later, under the precautionary principle).

At the crudest level, it might, for example, start from what I call the “PC-curve” – a plotting of average Consumption per person against Population for any fixed level of resource availability:

20171218_145143                    (higher quality graph to come)

This curve, based on current world GDP of $78 trillion shows that, if this represented genuine income, then at our current population of 7 billion, it would represent about $11,100 per person on the planet.  And this reduces to about $8,700 when the population reaches 9 billion.

If we took the 2015 absolute poverty line of $1.90 per day and multiplied it by a factor of 5, to say create a minimum income consistent with human dignity, we would come to the princely income of $3,500 per year.  Assuming that say 2 billion people were stuck at or near that level, this would leave the rest of the planet at $14,200 per person.  With obviously plenty of room for relative inequality of income.  And, as previously noted, studies suggest that (outside the United States at least), an income of $12,000 buys happiness, so there is enough to go round![i]

Those above the average should be pushing back towards it, and those below should be helped to get closer to it.

This in an example, with illustrative numbers, of what we need to do.  GDP is not a true depiction of income, but it helps give us a sense of scale.  And that sense of scale suggests that everybody has a possibility of at least a moderate life style consistent with human dignity and happiness.

Looking at this from another viewpoint, if we consumed at the level that the affluent world did in the 1960s, we could stay within the capacity of the Earth to sustain us, even allowing for future population increases, based on the Global Footprint Network’s calculations[ii].   The 1960s were the time in affluent countries when the post-Depression and post-World War II pressures had started to ease, universal education and fairly full employment were available, consumption was starting to include some luxuries for many – and advertising was just starting to help us move down the road to hyperconsumption.

According to the Network, our current consumption levels meant that, in 2017, we reached “Earth Overshoot Day” – the day when we used up the year’s share of the Earth’s natural resources – on 2 August.   In other words, we were degrading the planet’s capacity to renew itself for the last 40% of the year.  And the main part of our footprint is the carbon we are emitting from fossil fuels, as graphically illustrated below.

20171218_145123Global Footprint Network’s analysis of growth 1961-2012 (higher quality graph to come)

E.F. Schumacher talked of an “economics of permanence” which foreshadowed concepts such as “sustainable economic development”.  He wrote that,

“Nothing makes economic sense unless its continuance for a long time can be projected without running into absurdities.  There can be ‘growth’ towards a limited objective, but there cannot be unlimited, generalised growth.  It is more than likely, as Gandhi said, that ‘Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s need, but not for every man’s greed’.

I will mention some of Schumacher’s more specific ideas in the section on “Thrifty production” below.  But Schumacher’s idea of an “economics of permanence” sets the scene for an economics based on limits, such as suggested by Kate Raworth.

“Doughnut economics” is an extremely interesting idea she developed that may help us set up the new economic models we need[iii].  In doughnut economics, the outer limits for consumption are set under the “Planetary Boundaries” framework.  The inner limits were set by collating the eleven top social priorities identified by the world’s governments in the run-up to Rio+20 – more or less equating to the requirements of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  The space between the two is the doughnut – what we can afford to consume, as a species, as in the green space in the diagram below:

Ch 29 illus 3

Kate Raworth’s model of “doughnut economics”

As Raworth says, this is simply an idea towards a new conception of economics, based on a “social foundation” and an “environmental ceiling”.  Many issues would need to be addressed in developing it, but it is one that has great potential, as it draws together the social, environmental and economic spheres within a framework of limits.

The issues that would need to be addressed include those which neoclassical economics has shown itself unable to handle:

  • All aspects of production, distribution (and consumption), not just monetised and market transactions.
  • The real (life cycle) costs of commodities and services, including the costs of extraction, transformation, consumption, disposal, and the downstream costs of all of these.
  • The question of “value” in the production and distribution functions, as determined not just by “what the buyer will pay”, but by a richer theory of value.
  • The questions of information and power imbalances between participants in market and other exchange transactions.
  • How non-monetary values (mainly societal and environmental values) can be assessed against monetary values and, at best, ranked or reconciled.
  • The dynamic behaviour of societies, markets, and other elements of the economic sphere.
  • How money actually works, and how it interacts with the real economy (more on this in the section below, “A new financial system”).
  • How ownership and wealth affect production, distribution and consumption.

For anyone who still has doubts, I hope the list above puts into clearer perspective just how far neoclassical economics falls short of being useful as a theory of behaviour in the economic sphere.

But the deep underlying principle we need to adopt in the affluent world is one of thrift, or satisficing – minimising our use of resources for any given purpose, to maximise our chances of staying within limits.  The only areas where we needn’t be thrifty are where there clearly is abundance – and the only two areas I can think of here are human ingenuity, which we should foster (subject to the guidance problem outlined in chapter 24), and direct solar energy, which we should accelerate our efforts to harvest and store in a suitably economic manner.

Thrifty consumption

Thrift is a mindset which says use no more that you need, consume no more than you need, eke out, repair, and otherwise minimise your overall consumption.  It says think before you produce, use or consume, and ask, “Do I really need to do this?”  It says make luxuries the exception rather than the rule – and believe me, you appreciate them far more when you do this!

Thrifty consumption characterised the two generations before mine in the affluent world, who had to live through the Great Depression and the Second World War, and their aftermath.  They accepted rationing (by and large), and were able to “make do”.  Certainly, they welcomed the relaxation and greater apparent wealth that followed.

But we are now back in a similar situation to then.  Our consumption in the affluent world has increased to the point where it threatens the existence of our entire species – it is, in some senses, a Third World War.  Which we will win not with guns, but with parsimony, and with generosity with the resultant savings.

Because the thrift has three purposes – first, to reduce our own footprint on the planet.  Second, to make it easier, both psychologically and in fact, to share any consequent savings with the poorer world.  And third, to set the consumption bar lower for the future.  As previously stated, this planet could not sustain the current 7 billion people living at North American standards.  When we get to 9 billion, at Footprint level we would be consuming 5-6 times the Earth’s capacity to sustain us, and at GDP level, about 6 times the world’s current GDP.

Our initial aim needs to be to get the very poor up to an adequate level by reducing our own consumption in the affluent world – we can’t totally equalise income and consumption, nor should we try to in the short run, but we need to work towards it.

Thrifty production and distribution

The need for thrift applies to production and distribution processes as well as to consumption.  For example, we need to look at full, real, life-cycle costs for all of our goods beyond perishable foods, and then work out which approach is better in which circumstances – the low-cost, throw away approach currently prevailing, and probably quite useful when technologies are in transition; or a higher-cost, higher-quality, lower obsolescence approach, which seems sensible for both more stable technologies and also more resource-intensive goods (such as household whiteware and vehicles).

This could be done after we get past the currently prevalent “planned obsolescence” and poor construction of goods, often with “gee whizz” new features with short life expectancies – all aiming to maximise future sales[iv].

Paradoxically, we also need to question the levels of automation and mass production that are now predominating in industry, and reconsider the value of small-scale and boutique production.  Schumacher says:

“What is it that we really require from the scientists and technologists? I should answer: We need methods and equipment which are – cheap enough so that they are accessible to virtually everyone; – suitable for small-scale application; and – compatible with man’s need for creativity.”[v]

I said “paradoxically”, because automation in modern industry is all about cutting costs – isn’t this being thrifty?  Well yes, partly.  Some automation undoubtedly takes the dirty and unpleasant work, the kleggich, from humans.  And automation also tends to reproduce more accurately than humans (who remembers the famous need to avoid buying a car produced on Monday morning or Friday afternoon, as they were much more likely to be defective?).

But, to the extent that automation displaces people from employment, or the potential for employment, it has high social costs.  In a strange sense, one of our abundant resources these days is humanity itself, so more employment is definitely a good thing.  And Schumacher’s plea is for production systems which are designed to support humans in their creativity at work.  Back to smaller scale and boutique production, in other words.  What we automate, and how we automate it, needs to be driven by considerations such as these, not by the pursuit of profit.

Thrift needs to be more carefully applied to wastage in production and distribution processes as well.  The figures for wastage are staggering – apparently 30-50% of all food ends up as wastage[vi], for reasons ranging from not being pretty enough[vii], to being “acceptable” wastage for profitable enterprises.  This is the so-called efficiency created by the development of competitive markets!  And even so, we still produce enough food to feed the world.

Some of the waste in perishables is undoubtedly caused by the distances, and length of time, between harvesting/production and availability to consumers.  As Bill McKibben says, “the average bite of American food has travelled more than 1,500 miles before it reaches [your] lips, changing hands an average of six times on the way”[viii].

Part of the solution to this is to go without.  What possible benefit is gained by the movement of perishable foods across or between continents so that they can be eaten out of growing season?

The incredible growth in the scale of transportation for trade over the last thirty years has largely been financed by hidden subsidies and externalisation of costs (for example, the carbon costs of international transport are not reflected in any country’s carbon accounts[ix]).   This has allowed affluent countries to import unnecessary food and goods at absurdly cheap prices from the poorer world, as well as from its own underpaid producers.

Rather than continuing this unthinking expansion of exploitative trade, we should be reconsidering and rebuilding localism.  Local production, markets and farmers’ markets all avoid the hidden costs of long distance trade, and rebuild local economic and social resilience.  They are embodiments of true thrift.

There is also significant wastage in other production and distribution, despite all the efforts of corporations and others to reduce costs.  A recent report[x] in New Zealand said that 13% of building costs were in wastage, 2/3 of this labour idle time (oh well, at least they were getting paid – I hope).

One of my favourite potential sources of thrift is commoditisation of packaging.  In our supermarkets, we are besieged by an amazing variety of shapes, sizes and materials of packaging, all with the express aim of catching our eye better than their competitors do.  This might be replaced by relatively standard and featureless packaging (like cigarettes in many countries, for example).  Made, of course, from biodegradable sources such as cloth and paper, not from plastic.

And perhaps all the advertising nonsense could be replaced by external and verified measurement of quality and quality/cost trade-offs by, for example, consumer protection organisations.  This could easily be financed by the elimination of the advertising industry.

Many might object, with some justification, that this is dreary.  But let us not forget that these bright and shiny objects are just pretending to be exciting and better than each other.  They are trying to make consumption more exciting by glorifying the purchase of routine items.  I prefer to get my excitement and glory from the beauty of human interaction, landscapes, seascapes, and cityscapes, not from soap packaging.

As a last and worst example, the world’s energy industry needs to be reconstructed so that true thrift is rewarded.  Throughout affluent societies, incentives and pricing are all set to maximise energy use, not minimise it.  And, because dirty coal and diesel are (apparently) cheapest, if the consumer gets thrifty, then the “expensive” power generators such as wind turbines might be switched off[xi].  If we had “real cost” pricing, which costed diesel and coal at their true cost to the planet, then we might get better behaviour by the producers.  In the meantime, the absurd subsidies provided to the fossil fuel industry need to be abandoned, and their overall incentive structures re-aligned.

As a final note in this section, thrift is not “austerity”.  “Austerity” is the label for macro-economic programmes designed to weaken countries such as Greece by reducing government spending and depressing their economies.  Thrift is about personal and organisational behaviour which values true economy – the minimisation of waste, and reduced consumption of luxuries.

A brief note about “incentives”

One possible objection to the thrift-based economy is that it appears to offer few “incentives” to people.  They’re being asked to minimise their consumption, and to re-organise production and distribution on less “efficient” lines.  What’s in this for the consumer or producer?

Well, personal and species survival, for a start.  If we do not abandon the growth economy for a thrift economy, we are dooming ourselves and much life on the Earth as well.

And beyond this, “what’s in it” is an economic system which is built on creating room for our virtues, not on appealing to our vices.  To paraphrase Joseph Heath[xii], modern economics is based on “consequentialism” (the idea that people’s actions are governed by the future), and hence creating incentives for specific actions is central to it.  In other words, how do we persuade people to do what we think is best for them?  And in the current economy, what’s best for them is consuming more of [our] product.  In the current economy, the word “incentives” boils down to “how can we appeal to people’s selfish instincts?”.

Even John Maynard Keynes accepted this as a necessary basis for the economy.  In 1930 he wrote that he believed that we would be better behaved once we were all wealthy – in a couple of generations, say.  We would then “once more value ends above means and prefer the good to the useful”.  He continued:

“But beware! The time for all this is not yet.  For at least another hundred years we must pretend to ourselves and to everyone that fair is foul and foul is fair; for foul is useful and fair is not.  Avarice and usury and precaution must be our gods for a little longer still.  For only they can lead us out of the tunnel of economic necessity into daylight.”[xiii]

Well Mr Keynes, it’s been 85 years now, and our growth in material wealth has been phenomenal (albeit at the cost of our future).  And we don’t seem any closer to the enlightenment and selflessness that this wealth was meant to buy us.  Quite the opposite, in fact – the greed and growth economy has taken stronger hold, and its strongest hold is in the halls of wealth and power.

The civilised society is one whose incentive structures are built not on “avarice and usury” but on the question, “How can we help each other determine what‘s best for ourselves and others?”.

It starts from a fundamentally different mindset, not of production and consumption, but of citizenship.  The incentives of the market society are personal gain and savings; the “incentives” created by the civilised society are mutual benefit and regard, and will often express themselves in community recognition and good feeling.

A new financial system

All attempts to create a thrift economy would be in vain if the world’s financial system remains as it is.  As substantial savings were made, the giant debt bubbles that have been created would collapse, and throw most of the world’s economies into depression.

In the short term, the way to deal with this is to build alternative money systems which can increase local financial resilience.  What happens in these systems is that the community shares its debt money or other resources among its members, rather than with the banks.  The result is that money circulates faster, and more locally, stimulating activity and supporting the local businesses and people.

Many examples of this have been at least briefly successful over the last century or so.  Systems such as time-banks (where people offer their skills, and bank and trade their time one hour for one hour) and loyalty schemes (such as airline, credit card, and retail schemes) are current examples.  Bitcoin, the first decentralised (ie non-bank) digital currency, is another very current example.

The most enduring appears to be the “WIR Bank” in Switzerland, which is a business-to-business system of mutual credit[xiv].  As the economy slows down, the WIR system speeds up, and acts as a counter-cyclical force.  It is one of the reasons for Switzerland’s seeming near invulnerability to serious economic slumps.

The main problem with these systems is that they are treated as threats by the mainstream financial system.  If they grow large enough or successful enough, they are likely to be shut down, one way or another.  The saddest example of this is the “Wörgl” currency introduced in the Austrian town of the same name in 1932[xv].  Introduced by the town’s Mayor, it brought the town more or less straight out of the Great Depression and was so successful it spread rapidly, until shut down by the Austrian central banking authority within two years, as a threat to the mainstream banking system.

If Hitler’s home country had allowed this experiment to flourish, who knows what effect its spread across Europe might have had on the development of Nazism, which built its early strength from the alienation and poverty caused by the Depression.  And, of course, in an ironic twist, many in Austria welcomed Hitler as a saviour in 1938 because they were in such dire economic straits.

The Wörgl experiment had one critical concept underlying it that is probably essential to any world–wide reform of the financial system.  It applied “demurrage” to the local money issued, in the form of a 1% reduction in value per month.  This encouraged rapid circulation of the money, for whatever reason up to and including paying local taxes, to avoid losing value.  The website cited says it is estimated that this created 12-14 times as much employment as the centrally produced Austrian schilling.

Demurrage is an approach that seems counter-intuitive at first sight.  Surely, if you’ve got money, you should earn interest on it, rather than lose interest on it?  Well, not necessarily.  The main reason money exists is to facilitate exchange (my cow for your rifle) and the faster it facilitates exchange, the more economic activity.  The best use of money is as a medium of exchange, and the best way to encourage this is to provide an incentive to keep it circulating – demurrage, for example.

Inflation is the unplanned version of demurrage in our current money economy.  If you are worried about inflation, you are motivated to either spend your money now (when your money’s value is at its highest), or to find ways to store it that will protect it against inflation (eg in high interest deposits, or stocks and share, or real assets).

But when we use money as a store of value as well as a medium of exchange, things become complicated, as discussed in chapter 19.  Most money has now been created at the click of the button, as a debt rather than in exchange for something of value, and so the “value” it stores is problematic.  Unless exchanged for something, it is simply a promise of future exchange.   Money does no work, it creates no value.  It is simply redistributed – yet bankers encourage us to “make our money work for us”.

A future financial system will have to find a way to ensure that people can store value they have created over time, in savings which are not eroded unreasonably.  For example, demurrage might be applied at varying rates from the Wörgl 1% for money spent on consumables (rapid circulation required, rapid regeneration) to 0.5-0.1% for money spent on investment goods, for example infrastructure (longer term payback) to zero for savings made available for investment (no loss as long as others have use of the money)[xvi].

Such a system would have to be accompanied by controls over the speculative purchase of private long term stores of value, in particular land, which is the single certain store of long term value.  Advocates of financial system reform usually also promote the reversion of land to common ownership, to be leased out, thus avoiding the speculation in land value which is a particularly unpleasant feature of our current system.  And it is worth pointing out that public assets are in general an excellent form of storage of long term value for the community as a whole.

However radical any reforms of the systems for storage of long term value might be, they should not leave such systems at the mercy of either the banks’ or the governments’ current ability to create and consequently to devalue money.

You might very well ask how a demurrage based monetary system, which aims to accelerate economic activity, fits within an economy based on and targeted at thrift?  The short answer is that acceleration is needed (so new money supplied) when activity is too low.  When a suitable level of activity is reached, the money supply can be adjusted (ie reduced) to support a more-or-less stable state – a temporary equilibrium.  And there need not be very sophisticated fine-tuning.  In an economy where the imperative is not “growth”, but “enough”,  money which is not needed for immediate consumption could be turned either to savings for investment, or simply allowed to wither, as unnecessary.

What I have just described, by the way, is more or less how natural systems work.  New material enters the system to stimulate growth and life, it circulates and is converted in numerous ways, and eventually decays and is added back to the compost-heap of regeneration.  Although money, unlike real goods, neither comes from nor decays back into the endless cycle of regeneration, our ability to create or destroy it at the click of a button makes this fact unimportant.

There are two key barriers to successful introduction of such systems.  I have mentioned the first already – the resistance of banks, who will see their capacity to issue debt and earn interest on it eroded.  The good news is that trust in banks has eroded since the Global Financial Crisis, and ideas such as breaking up the biggest banks and reducing their power (advocated for example by US presidential candidate Bernie Sanders[xvii]), and stripping them of their money-making powers[xviii], are starting to enter the mainstream.

The second barrier is how the systems relate to the world outside the specific community.  For both external purchases and also requirements such as national taxes, there need to be other currencies, or an acceptable conversion regime.

Designs of potential new financial systems usually assume they will be multi-dimensional, with local, regional and global currencies operating to service the different needs at each level.

For example, in his book “Oeconomy”[xix], Pierre Calame introduces the idea of “vector currencies”, made up of four elements: local labour (more or less like time-banks); external labour (which needs to be based on an internationally accepted standard); fossil energy (based on a quota system – because the potential use of fossil fuels for energy is now so limited); and other material resources (which would take over the main tax burden from labour).  This seems complex, but at heart looks like a monetised variation on Marx’s theory of value, separating out the elements of cost or value-added so that they can be treated and settled separately.

Our current financial system is, if not the engine of our runaway hyperconsumption, at least the fuel for it.  We must replace it with something more sustainable.  Local communities can take the first steps towards this by introducing and supporting local mutual credit and currencies, based on models already available round the world.

This will increase their resilience while the wider financial systems are redesigned.  But redesigned they must be.

From a thrift economy to a gift economy?

Once an economics of thrift is established, and supported by financial systems which service it effectively, the possibility arises of even more radical reform and development.

The thrift economy takes us away from the current consumption economy to a conservation economy (hyperconsumption is replaced by satisficing).  It accepts that luxuries are just that – occasional treats which are valued as much for their scarcity as for the direct pleasure they give us.  And it builds mutuality.

The real long run value of local mutual credit systems is that they help build mutual trust and self-sufficiency in communities.  The mutual trust comes from being part of a successful cooperative system of credit.  The self-sufficiency comes from the incentives the system will normally create to “buy local” – ie from within the specific money community you are part of.

Perhaps if we build the mutual trust and self-sufficiency far enough, we might be prepared to take the final step, into the economy that actually already underpins most of our social cohesion – the gift economy.  (Many of the ideas in this and the previous section have their origin in Charles Eisenstein’s excellent and uplifting book, “Sacred Economy: Money, Gift and Society in the Age of Transition“[xx]).

A gift economy operates without money.  It is based on mutual obligation, created by gifting – of goods, time, effort, expertise, support – whatever it is that humans can offer each other.  People’s social status is defined by their giving, and they do not need tangible wealth to develop high status by giving – time, advice and support are high value gifts.

The gift economy does not rely on the charity of the superwealthy “trickling down” (if they can overcome their selfishness and their desperate need for more and more).  It relies on our individual generosity, and the sense of mutual obligation that this generates.  It relies on the best human drivers and impulses, not the worst.

We came from a gift economy only recently in our human history, and there are many elements of it still in existence.  We can thank our lucky stars that the profiteers have not been able to monetise everything.  Mutual support among families, friends and acquaintances, charitable giving, and voluntary work, are the main examples of the gift economy.  The Mediterranean and Pacific traditions of open and generous hospitality are also examples.

Under pressure, the gift economy re-emerges.  Christchurch New Zealand experienced a series of devastating earthquakes in 2010 and 2011, with the major quake in February 2011 killing over 150 people.  The people of Christchurch also had to live through over 30,000 aftershocks, many of them substantial.

The immediate responses were of mutual support and giving, over a sustained period.  Class, race and age divisions disappeared; people helped each other and gave whatever was needed; homes and the contents of shops were opened free of charge to those who needed them; the young formed brigades to clean up and help out.  The banking system was closed for some time, and the response of the people was to give, not to lend.  An existing time-banking system in Christchurch’s port, Lyttelton, became a critical factor in that area’s incredibly positive response to the tragedy.

While the Government focussed on putting red stickers on houses which were to be condemned, the people of Christchurch were held together by these acts of mutual support.  Many left for good, but those who remained were sustained by the sense of community which had been created in the immediate aftermath.

The world will experience many more Christchurch-like tragedies over the next few decades – not necessarily from earthquakes or tsunamis, but from extreme weather events, scarcity of food, and unexpected conflicts or wars.  If the communities affected retain any social cohesion in and after these events, it will be because the people operate gift economies, not because of the work of governments or aid agencies.

There are also elements of the gift economy beginning to emerge inside the money economy, particularly on the Internet.  The zero- or very low cost nature of electronic information has allowed many people to offer their creations up at whatever price the purchaser thinks fit, from $0 up.  They might do this for a range of reasons, but they are offering the purchaser the chance to choose the value they put on a purchase.  Crowd funding also has some aspects of the gift economy, in that it is based on voluntary giving to support a specific cause or project.

But usually, money breaks the social bonds that the gift economy nourishes.  It allows us to depersonalise the act of exchange, to remove ourselves from the human and social aspects of our consumption.  It is an atomiser of society.  The gift economy does without money, and rebuilds the social bonds.

It also does what a universal living wage might do.  It frees us as individuals to work at what we do and love best, so that we can achieve both personal and social fulfilment. It must always be accompanied by social obligations of one sort or another (someone has to do the dirty work, the kleggich, and it’s easiest – albeit inefficient – if we all share in it), but it represents a huge step towards true personal freedom and self-actualisation.

And, not much further down the track, we could even do away with ownership.  The gift economy is based on the use and redistribution of personal wealth for the social good.  It is only a short step from this to acknowledging that all material goods and wealth are communal.  What we bring to the party as individuals is our ability to wield those tools, to use the common wealth to build new wealth, whether as basic human necessities (food, shelter, infrastructure, education and so on) or as cultural and spiritual contributions (arts, literature, music and so on).

This may be a step too far for many readers (if the step to the gift economy wasn’t a step too far already).  But I made it to illustrate that we are in fact not very far from the “no money, no ownership” ideal that I myself hold.

We must move to a thrift-based economy, at least.  The mutual trust and sense of community that such an economy would build would make it possible to move to a (no money) gift economy across all ranges of our activities, not just the existing ones.  And once in a gift economy, ownership becomes a transitory thing anyway – in the long run, all our goods are part of the commons.

But for now, let’s be content with abandoning the economy of hyperconsumption, which will destroy us as a species if we continue with it, and replacing it with an economy of thrift, which creates space to address the fundamental issues of poverty and starvation, while operating within the limits the planet places on us.

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[i] See “End Game, Tipping Point for Planet Earth?”, Loc 939

[ii]  See for example “This Changes Everything”, loc 1679ff, or the Global Footprint Network http://www.footprintnetwork.org/content/images/uploads/WME_Creating_a_Global_Ecological_Currency.pdf

[iii] http://www.kateraworth.com/

[iv] See for example “Obsolescence – the Other Side of CES”, on LinkedIn.com’s “Pulse”, 13 Jan 2016

[v] “Small is Beautiful”, page 21, Loc 417


[vii] See for example “Wonky vegetables go to waste”, New Zealand Sunday Star Times, 21 Feb 2016

[viii]  “Deep Economy: Economics as if the World Mattered”, Bill McKibben, One World, 2007, Loc 1045

[ix] “This Changes Everything”, p79ff, loc 1454ff

[x]  New Zealand National Radio 11/07/15

[xi] I have only seen one example of this (21 May 2014, Trustpower’s Tararua Wind Farm was turned off “because the price of electricity was too low”), but am confident more could be found

[xii] “Filthy Lucre”, Joseph Heath, Scribe, 2009, chapter 2

[xiii] Quoted in “Small is Beautiful”, page 12, Loc 269

[xiv] See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WIR_Bank

[xv] See http://www.lietaer.com/2010/03/the-worgl-experiment/

[xvi] See for example Margrit Kennedy, “Occupy Money: Creating an Economy Where Everyone Wins”, New Society Publishers 2012

[xvii] See https://berniesanders.com/issues/reforming-wall-street/

[xviii] See “The banking system faces an existential threat”, Australian Business Spectator, 6 Jan 2016

[xix] “Essay on Oeconomy”, Pierre Calame, 2009

[xx] “Sacred Economics: Money, Gift and Society in the Age of Transition“, Charles Eisenstein, Evolver Editions, 2011