KEY ISSUES OF THE ANTI-GLOBALISATION MOVEMENT
A spiritual scientific perspective. Part 3 of a 3 part article
As a brief recapitulation, the diagram below sums up the relationship between a number of threefold issues that were studied in the earlier articles.
Factor of production
Rent, Natural Resources
Share owned corporations
In the effort to reverse the anti-social tendencies that have been developing as the worldwide phenomenon called globalisation, groups and communities often try something that is small and manageable in order that the process can be replicated in other places. We may call this the bottom up or grass roots process of change where something is effected in the local community in order to affect the global community at a later stage. The other process is the top down or executive one where changes at the top (UN or federal government) permeates down.
Democracy in the ideal sense equates one vote to one person and caters for changes through individuals or groups persuading others that their point of view is best. Capitalism works on the share ownership principle which means one share = one vote, which inherently means that the wealthy have more votes. (50% of the US stock market is owned by the richest 1%). Invariably, those who hold more votes will try to rearrange the rules – or vote for policies – that advantages them most. The subjugation of governments or political parties to economic power is quite thorough (through debt amongst other things) which means that effecting changes – via the political process – that fundamentally challenges the power of the very wealthy class is all but impossible. For example, the recent negotiation of a free trade agreement between Australia and the US is in effect a negotiation with US corporations because through various mechanisms, they virtually run the US government. Voting for parties is tantamount to voting in different sets of corporate sponsors. To a lesser extent the same is true for Australia. Thus I see very little prospect of really meaningful changes being effected through party politics.
I invite the reader to follow some thoughts on how we can – in the real world – initiate things that will turn around capital, labour and land so that they are no longer privately owned. The approach here is a bottom up/grass roots one and the idea is not to change people’s ideas by persuasion but rather by example.1
To begin with, we need to retain in the background all that I have related about the nature of money – credit creation, the power of debt, money existing in time and not in space, and so on. Now imagine we start what may be called a ‘community bank’. Basically such a ‘bank’ needs only be a financial institution with which one makes deposits and withdrawals; make loans (credit creation) and issue cheques. A credit union suffices for such a ‘bank’. To be a ‘community bank’ it must specify in its charter that every member has one and only one vote and that there are no financial dividends paid to its shareholders. Again, I think that all credit unions fulfil this requirement. But we need to do a lot more than present credit unions.
The bank will henceforth be referred to as the Community Bank and its membership collectively = the Community. When members pay for services from non-members, we can for the moment visualise this as money ‘going out of the Community’ much like money ‘going out of the country’ to pay for imports. (No money goes out of any country for imports or for any other reason when it is on a floating exchange mechanism – but we’ll stick to the simplistic picture for now.) Likewise money earned by Community members from non-members = ‘exports payments’. In effect we have a non-spatial community in contrast to say a county or nation-state which is a spatial community. The demarcation or ‘border’ for the Community is its membership. 2, 3
Thus far we have a Community Bank which thereby prevents interest repayments becoming labourless income for private wealth (shareholders). Many credit unions and ‘ethical banks’ such as the Grameen Bank flounder at this point because they don’t have a strong reliable source of income other than charging interest on loans. So we want a fair, equitable way of raising community revenue – lots of it, if possible.
We have to translate what happens in nation-states (spatial communities) to our non-spatial community. I already showed the equivalent of imports/exports. The Bank’s corporate charter with all its by-laws stands in for the national constitution and the membership votes in much the same way as citizens of a nation-state. Now, within the Community, we implement something common to the nation-state – a tax. For reasons too varied and long in the explanation for me to explore, I will get straight to the point and say that I believe the simplest, fairest and most effective tax is similar to the GST (goods and services tax), i.e. we tax every transaction of funds between members of the Community only. Such a tax will be found to be:
a) Very cheap. It is almost as simple as inserting a single step in the bank’s software. There are ways that I have worked out in which even notes and coins transactions can be tracked and taxed.
b) Very effective. Let’s say the tax rate is 5%. 5% on a $100 transaction is much faster than 5% on a $100 loan. The large amounts of revenue should be spent in ways that I will indicate later.
c) Very acceptable. A lot of people stop at this. Recall that shops pay credit cards companies 3% (or more a short while ago) for every purchases made with a credit card. Yet they still offer the credit card facility. Their thinking is that they would rather make the sale with a small percentage loss than risk not making a sale (on account of not offering credit card sales). Likewise members of the Community will willingly forsake 3-5% of a sale rather than lose out (because many members will actively try to buy preferentially from fellow members). Besides, people will more readily contribute towards the revenue of a community organisation than a financial multinational.
The third major principle of such a bank needs to be something like this: No one or group is discriminated against in a loan application because they are poor (i.e. have no collateral). Alternatively, one could phrase it like this: No collateral will be required on loans.
This principle is not unfeasible. The Community Bank’s financial status is already secured by the above tax which shall be called a transaction tax. Thus, the Bank can already cover bad/failed loans. Moreover, capitalist lending which requires collateral favours the rich so that we have the situation of ‘money making money’ again. As Bob Hope quipped, “A bank is a place that can lend you money if you can prove that you don’t need it”. A new principle has to be implemented and I call it social credibility. Here a loan applicant is not tested on her collateral but on her social credibility amongst other members. ‘Is she generally trustworthy’, ‘Is her loan for a reasonable or good cause?’, ‘Has she got the talent or character to fulfil the stipulated aim of the (commercial) loan?’ will be some of the questions asked. The people who support or approve the loan I call the social guarantors. As opposed to financial guarantors, they only affirm that they know the loan applicant well enough to support her and will do what may be necessary (and it need not always be so) to address or mediate any default on loans. ‘Credit’ comes from the Latin credere – to believe. Credit must be linked with human credibility, not accumulated wealth.
The fourth major principle involves the use of the Bank’s funds. Drawing on the earlier parallel with the nation-state, we can say in a general way that it should be used for funding community based or non-profit organisations in a similar way to government funding – charities, schools (or any not-for-profit educational institution), environmental organisations, churches (as in parishes), NGO’s (non-government organisations), music or arts festivals etc. The way it works best, I think, is something like this. The recipient of such funding must be members of the Community so that the Bank gives away the money but it still stays within the Community (much as governments give out money but it still ‘stays in the country’). Members (persons only) of the Community vote on how the funds are to be divided – a kind of direct democracy as opposed to our representative democracy where a political party spends the money on our behalf.4 This means that a Community organisation which has more members that are also Bank members will get more funding (if their members vote to do so). The Community organisations will therefore encourage its members to also be Community Bank members which will increase the profile of the Community Bank and the range of goods and services that its members offer.
Community organisations form the backbone of our civic life. Without support, society is left with only the thinnest shell to weather the onslaught of narcissistic materialism. By giving money away, the Community Bank reinforces all that which sustains its membership in a soulful and spiritual way.
A bit of summary may be useful here in case one can’t see the woods for the trees.
1) Start a Community Bank with no shareholder dividends and the principle of one person, one vote.
2) Initiate a transaction tax for all member-to-member transactions. This tax should generate a lot of community revenue and be easily accepted.
3) Implement the policy of social credibility when making loans rather than approving loans on the basis of an applicant’s collateral.
4) Give profits away to community based or non-profit organisations.
A few more things should be commented on at this point.
a) Interest may or may not be charged on loans. Interest payments becoming a source of community revenue has a very different meaning (and repercussion) that that which becomes shareholders’ revenue. In the former case, interest becomes a kind of subsidiary tax in much the same way that governments employ different taxes.
b) Direct democracy eliminates much of the pettiness of party politics because members vote directly on issues where practical. It also eliminates the possibility of a party over-riding the wishes of the majority such as John Howard’s determination to go into the war in Iraq.
c) Loans are made on the condition that they are used for purchasing goods and services from members of the Community. (Recall that there are no property loans so that in effect there are no loans for buying non-commodities or ‘non-services’.) The idea is that loan money does not ‘leak’ out of the Community – at least not immediately.
d) The way I described loan making above prevents such a Community Bank from being ‘communised’ or ‘centralised’ in Bolshevik fashion. There is no distant bureaucracy that makes a decision on loans based on the paperwork in front of it. A small house-building loan for example is granted within the local branch and no other.
So far we have dealt with the transformation of Capital but not of Labour and Land. The next task of the Bank is hold back some of the profits and either start up or buy out existing companies and convert them to the arrangements I described earlier (in Article 2) and which I will call profit sharing – for obvious reasons. As mentioned earlier, such a company can be as small as a four person concern or as large as a car manufacturing plant (assuming the Bank has the capital).
The reader has to see things in symbiosis or as a whole. The productivity of such a company will be far greater than a comparably sized capitalist company where workers sabotage their companies by stealing, working without interest and therefore not thinking about their work, etc. Greater productivity translates to better services and prices. On top of this, the wider community will be buying preferentially from a company where the profits ends up with the workers (i.e. their neighbours and relatives) instead of a multinational. The profit sharing companies will in turn be buying preferentially from other profit sharing companies (or persuading their suppliers to become profit sharing) – which means that more money is spent within the Community and that more Community revenue is generated. Other people will be wanting to become co-workers in companies where the income is better, work conditions are better and where they have a say in how things work. Even capitalist owners of businesses will try to sell their business to the Bank to relieve themselves of the stresses of owning a business. All this means that the practice of profit sharing should snowball and that the Community Bank will not be lacking in funds to finance it.
The share owned corporations are not the efficient organisations they profess to be. Their ‘efficiency’ in making profits come more from manipulations or evasion of political laws, taxation laws, financial regulations, environmental regulations etc. rather than from true efficiency in utilising the best of the people who work in the company. Once the proper foundations have been laid, profit sharing will systematically and rapidly – I believe – displace share ownership. As the Community Bank will challenge all private banks, profit sharing will ultimately challenge the WTO.
We come now to tackling the practice of private ownership of land and natural resources – the will sphere. This requires even more capital than starting profit sharing companies. The process is however quite easy from a conceptual point of view. Rather than lending money for land purchases, the Bank now buys land and rents it out. If say someone wanted to buy a house, he would approach the Bank and – if they came to an acceptable agreement on price and rent – the Bank would buy the land and he would buy the house (or borrow money from the Bank to buy it). Land is thus gradually taken off the freehold market and it becomes not only affordable (to rent) but the land remains a source of rental revenue for the community. As land with sizeable natural resources come up for sale, the Bank buys it out on behalf of the wider community (i.e. for non-Bank members as well) and only harvests/mines it when and how the general community deems it wise to. At present, governments sell off natural resources either because they have to ‘balance the books’ or because they are too closely connected to corporate power. The Community Bank should suffer none of these.
As I suggested earlier, the transformation of capital, labour and land will be necessary to stop the awesome steamrollers of the IMF, WB, WTO and the Pentagon (whose interests by and large are represented in the Bush administration). The arch-capitalist John D. Rockerfeller, when asked “How much money is enough?” replied “Always a little bit more”. At its spiritual core, capitalism is an addiction to power (for economic growth read ‘always a little bit more’). All addictions mean that the ego is enslaved by one or more of the ‘lower’ bodies – the astral, etheric or physical body. It therefore follows that – contrary to its rhetoric – capitalism can never be compatible with freedom because the ego is not in charge. A materialistic conception of the world fosters as a whole this ‘will to power’ (Nietzsche’s term). Nietzsche understood instinctively that such a will to power will lead to the appearance of the ‘blond beast’ who is identical to Ahriman. Beneath our polite behaviour, scientific objectivity and surface altruism runs an unconscious ‘will to power’ – unless we catch it. The institutions mentioned above (IMF and co.) only gain their power because an element in our soul life supports them (e.g. the desire to live off investments and not have to work; the projection of outsiders as evil in order to make one feel better; learning for the sake of power). ‘This thing of darkness I acknowledge mine’ said Prospero of his double (Caliban) at the end of The Tempest. The more we truly know ourselves the more we can say ‘I AM’ or ‘Christ in I’ – and the more we can repair the world by willing the good.
1. Leadership in the sentient soul epoch was by decree – pharaohs and caesars; in the intellectual soul epoch by persuasion – philosophy and politics; in the consciousness soul age by example whence the freedom of individuals is fully respected.
2. There are historically three types of communities. The first is the tribal or blood community. The second is the geographical or political community. The third is a community in consciousness. Inasmuch as consciousness is related to the time spirits, the third kind of community is a ‘community in time’. I’d like to think that the Community I’m describing here is the one for our Spirit of the Age, Michael.
3. One could even call the money in the Community (Bank) by a new name and hence have a new currency. For example, if the Bank started in Australia where the mother currency is called dollars, the money used by Community members may be called COD (community dollars). CODs are pegged at 1:1 to the dollar and are interchangeable. The only reason for giving the money a new name is for marketing reasons – raising consciousness about where money goes or comes from. It is not necessary to have a new note printed for CODs. CODs can be a pure ledger money. In other words, establishing currencies is not the monopoly of nation-states. Recall from article 1 that the US dollar is printed by a private bank – the Federal Reserve.
4. I won’t go into the details of the voting system here but I believe it can be made a very fair method which accurately reflects community sentiments.
© Gavin Tang
To find out more about actually starting a Community Bank , the author can be contacted at [email protected] or at 12 Prince George St, Blackheath, NSW, 2785. (Stamped SAE if you want a reply)