Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Practical Revolutionary Economics - Part II

(Following on from the previous post The Economics of Revolution, we now have the concluding part II, with acknowledgements to Royce Christian for his assistance).

Undergound currency or counter economics is a non-violent means to undermine capitalism. The term was originally coined by Samuel Edward Konkin, who defined it as

"the the study and/or practice of all peaceful human action which is forbidden by the State".

The main reasons I suggested we encorporate counter economics in our daily lives was for the following;

  • Reduces demand on currency by providing an alternative (reduces inflation, consumption)
  • Ensures a social infrastructure capable of autonomous function with redundancy protection from State failure.

  • Companies
    While not a true anarchist example, I personally believe that a simple way to give back to employees is to engage them in the business through shares. Instead of privatising the company where shares are sold on the market, employees are given shares in the company. Unlike normal shares these cannot be privately sold and are retained only while the person is in employment with the company. Call them an employee bonus scheme or something, where the business profits go back into those who worked hard for the business profits in the first place.

    This method has two functions. Firstly, it redistributes the earnings of the business (not neccisarily in a socialist manner, rather contribution means tested). Secondly, the employees feel better about themselves and their jobs knowing that they are working not just for a nameless facless company, but also their own livelihood. I think it makes people more proud of their work. Finally, instead of there being a direct contradiction between an employee and the shareholders (people being laid off because of reduced profits), there is no contradiction between the two. The shareholders are the employees who retain stocks only while they are in employment with the company, and are returned to the company on the employees departure. It's private ownership, so it's not anarchist per se, but it's not capitalist either.

    Barter or Trade
    I rememer years ago family and friends decided to clean out their wardrobe of their old clothes and shoes. I don't generally like giving to charity because of the lack of control once you hand over your money or your items to their final location. Instead we put all the clothes in a bag and they went around the group. When the bag eventually came back to you, anything of yours still in there was removed and given to charity or thrown out. Instead of doing this with just clothes, why not do it with all sorts of items? If you don't want to setup your own group, you can use Freecycle instead.

    I have also heard cases of tradesmen swapping their trades for mutual benefit. This is especially true in country towns. Generally alcohol is used a counter currency, otherwise, straight out bater is done, where a plumber will do a bathroom in exchange for electrical re-wiring. The funny thing is about these sorts of trades is people place more emphasis on quality and professionalism because instead of trading money, they trade their name and reputation.

    Alternative Currency
    I remember when I was younger my mother belonged to this baby-sitting group. They didn't pay each other, instead they had these cut up pieces of laminate flooring (weired I know). The would exchange one piece of this laminate flooring for every hour that they baby-sat. No money exchanged, and no tit for tat with a large group involved. If you only have one or two people, the onus is that if you do 5 hours of babysitting, you expect the other person to do 5 hours. With the laminate flooring system, you didn't have to do baby-sitting for the person who did it for you. It was a great system, unusual, but it worked.

    Alternative currencies available on the market include liberty dollars, Pheonix dollars, Ithaca Hours and digital gold currency like e-gold. These alternative currencies are denominated by weight and backed by a commodity (unlike the U.S or AUS $). Thus, these currencies are designed to be absolutely free of any financial risk. (I.e. assume something happens to the Australian economy and it goes bust, having your money backed by gold means you have little to worry about). There is also no debt or contingent liabilities associated with these systems. However, "the use of these gold and silver NORFED "Liberty Dollar" medallions as circulating money is a Federal crime in the US". Oh well, you've been warned.

    Before anyone decides to swap all their cash for e-gold, just remember "Caveat Emptor" Buyer Beware as it has been suggested that some of these guys only say they have gold backed dollars, in reality it could just be a virtual currency.

    Establishing the Neighbourhood
    Growing your own fruits or vegetables can be a great way to get to know the neighbours. We've all seen the lemon tree in the font yard, and we've all gone and asked nicely for a few lemons. I read in the paper a while back about a Reverend who grew tomatoes next to his picket fence that people would help themselves to. He said he didn't mind because that was the whole idea. While probably not cost effective monetarily speaking, there is no value on the forging of relationships with those around you. This is social infrastructure.

    Another thing you have to remember about counter economics, is that not everyone has to be an anarchist to participate, you will find people are likely to participate because it benefits them, unwittingly contributing to the free-market, making it stronger. So go out there and get involved, and if you have any ideas to add to this, or any feedback send us an email at anarchistalex@yahoo.com


    Healthy Matters said...

    Here is a balanced post in response to written concern about Liberty Dollars not being legal. The short answer is they are not "legal tender" since they are a "legally negotiable" for of secondary currency:



    Kevin Goodrich

    Kevin said...

    The Liberty Dollar is "backed" by the precious-metal commodity contained within, which could be extremely pure silver, gold, or copper as is clearly indicated on the coin itself.

    Alex said...

    Was it something I said?

    FBI Raid on the Liberty Dollar -

    Friday, November 16, 2007: Make no mistake, the FBI and Secret Service raid on the Liberty Dollar at 8:00 AM on Wednesday, was a direct assault against the US Constitution and your right to own and use gold and silver in any way you chose.....

    to read more

    Royce Christian said...

    I think you're idea of Company shares being provided solely to employees has great potential. I don't see why it isn't an Anarchist example, could you possibly see it being introduced in our state-sponsored Capitalist System?

    I think this is an excellent post, except you could have expanded more on creating neighbourhood blackmarkets, but that is only a relatively minor critique. Excellent work!

    Louanna said...

    People should read this.