Resource-Based Economy

Posted: January 19, 2011 in Thoughts
Tags: , , , ,

note: if you haven’t watched the Zeitgeist documentaries or aren’t aware of the conundrums it addresses, you should watch at least ‘Zeitgeist Addendum‘ before reading on.

Ideas, suggestions and opinions presented in this article aren’t necessarily the views of the Zeitgeist movement. The article isn’t meant to attack anyone, nor does it mean to offend anyone. It simply reflects the thoughts of the author, as to how a resource-based economy could be introduced — inevitably, this does require some strategic action, that could be understood as conspiracy or the likes, which it is not.

As an avid member of the Zeitgeist movement, I have been pondering possible solutions. What would make an ideal first step toward a resource-based economy (RBE)? I’ll put forth some suggestions, but no definite solution, and I’d love to hear your opinion and suggestions as well.

We are all dependent on the established monetary system, so we cannot simply deny participating in it. It seems almost impossible to fight a system which you are a part of and dependent on. You can of course raise your hand and state your case, but the only ones that can actually make changes to the system doesn’t feel the effects of its flaws, so they have no reason to do so — some may even see it as absurd and will disregard the issue, simply because they already have what they need.

Are we just going to give up then?
Certainly not, we just need to devise an approach which introduces the concept to people unaware of the issue it attempts to resolve, in such a way that it appeals to them. It would be a long hard road, if we are to convince all governments, companies, etc. that we need to make a move into resource-based economy — I’m sure the banks and wealthy people would object to this. So let’s focus on a more strategic method. As a programmer, I like solving problems, it’s pretty much what programming is all about. Programmers design and build systems from the ground up, but some also do the opposite of that — hacking. Hackers take systems apart, learn how it works and make it do things it isn’t supposed to do. What I am getting at is that a hacker’s approach would be the most efficient way of tackling the problem — break the system where it is most vulnerable and exploit it.

Alright, so how do we do that?
Let’s say we were to analyze the monetary-system, and we are looking for vulnerabilities. We need to make sure of a few things when choosing the vulnerability and exploit;

  1. Nobody should suffer financially from the ‘attack’ — you cannot change the system suddenly like that.

Taking these things into account, we look at the most vulnerable part of the monetary-system, the consumption cycle. This is the three-part wheel that makes the whole system work; the consumer, employee and employer. We know that we cannot have one of these fail completely, but we can weaken its life-blood, money. Money and resources are exchanged in this cycle, and if money were to be slowly phased out of the equation, you’d be left with resource exchange only — this is the ultimate goal, right? Right. What we need now is, citing The Godfather; “an offer you can’t refuse”.

Employers will be the tool of the exploit and the consumer will be the target. The concept needs to be derived from something they are familiar and comfortable with, and that presents a good deal for any person looking to acquire something. This is very familiar ground for most consumers; whether you are buying groceries in the mall or looking to buy a laptop computer, you are looking for the best deal available.

We have the best deal, for anyone — ever!
Since the consumer is always looking for the best deal, supporters of a move toward a resource-based economy would be able to take advantage of the system in a way that not only cripples it, but also exposes how irrelevant money really is — thus if followed through, not only introduces the idea to the public, but proves its function and allow for comparison with the monetary-system. The general purpose of this is to gain trust in the proposed RBE-system by way of example, and make it difficult for monetary-based companies to compete.

The following would require a group of creative individuals, developers, and the likes — people who enjoy creating something out of nothing, not needing to charge money for what they do. Just to clarify, I would volunteer to this group myself. This group will “sell” its products with a set conditions, which allows for both systems to operate on, but promotes the RBE-system. Of course, the exact declaration and definition these conditions would have to be discussed among those who are in favor of taking action on this approach, but this is a rough outline of what I’m thinking it could sound like;

Products are given free of charge if;

  1. You are RBE-supporting company — this means you offer some or all of your product resources with this same license.
  2. You need it for any reason other than commercial (eg. study, research, etc.) — this means you do not seek monetary gain from usage of this product.

Should you not meet any of the above, you are subject to pay for the service or product. — Any payments under this license goes mainly to sustain the product and its vendor as long as the monetary-system is in effect and to help RBE develop further.

What good does this do?
Marketing with this ‘licence’ would effectively pull money out of the supply from those who seek monetary  gain from their products, and makes the RBE model compete directly with the monetary-system. Granted, the idea is a bit sketchy at this point, and a whole concept on this idea would be a very long article, so has of course been made quite a bit simpler.

Your move!
If you are like me, creating stuff all the time anyway, why not jump in and let’s have a go at it? Although I am studying at this time, and may not have a whole lot of time to develop products, I do want to see any idea through if the community agrees that it could yield results. Have your say, I leave the word up to you!

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Comments
  1. Njal says:

    Hi Casper.

    First of all I want to thank you for your inspiring enthusiam about the project. You are on the right track. Your concerns are very valid and the idea is good. However, I don’t see why a company should have any incentives to just give out their products for free. Having said that I do believe we could start creating a brand like some of the other humanitarian organizations have done. (recycling, Organic ect.) Creating a brand awareness of that kind, would obviously require a great deal of time and energy but we have to start somewhere right?. How can we make this happen as efficiently and effective as possible? I would suggest you post a thread on the international forum site and start organising a team that would work on this project.

    Cordially

    Njal Laursen Würtz

    • Indeed, we have to start somewhere, and since some people already offer their makings for free (linux, apache, etc. — software is a good market to enter with this strategy), why not use that to create a ‘business-model’ on which we promote RBE. As stated, if only a small group of creative people would follow through on this, we would effectively introduce a competitor to the monetary-system, and that is essentially the point I am trying to make with this article. Competitively, this means you are “punishing” proponents of the monetary system and rewarding those who are helping.

      I have posted the article link on the Danish Zeitgeist community, I’m awaiting an acknowledgement from them that this article is in accordance with their view — if it is, and they find the article relevant, I’ll post it on the international forum.

  2. Seth Rosen says:

    This is a great start I wish to be in contact with you about further fleshing these ideas out I have a rough outline already I started a while ago.

    Seth

    • That’s great, I’d love to hear your input on the matter!

      If you have something to contribute to the idea, or have an alternate approach, please share publicly here, either as a comment or link. I’ll either update the my article or write a follow-up on it, so that everyone interested can reflect on your ideas and possibly derive more solutions to off of it.

  3. Robert McKibben says:

    1 idea) I would like to see people in academia making grant proposals to study RBE applying latest technologies, architecture, etc.. If successful. I would like to see scholarship that encourage 2yrs. of hands on internship after academic portion of education. Then I would like for the individuals to have the option of living within the RBE.

    2 idea) We set up our own sustainable ecovillages and produce products Like (not limited to) free energy systems that undercut all monetary motivated corporate entities. I think this sounds similar to Casper’s original idea.

    3 idea) Put people that support RBE into positions of power.

    4 idea) Promote and celebrate the evidence that overwhelmingly exists to promote a non-violent social shift to RBE.

    [removed]

    • It is unlikely to assert that a study can be implemented, Ph.D. studies in economy could choose this, but very unlikely — remember that such an individual has devoted a large part of his or her life studying the mechanics of current methods in economy. Setting up ‘eco-villages’ requires funding, but yes, I agree that a partial separation would be an efficient introduction of an RBE. Putting people that support some notion into power is not constructive, you cannot simply put people in power — even though that is probably exactly what is needed. I don’t see how any transition into RBE would be the cause of violence, maybe I misunderstood that point? I’ve removed your last point, because some people are associating Zeitgeist and RBE with their conspiracy theories, and I do not wish to fuel that.

  4. Wh33tabix says:

    I volunteer to write LAMP code if you require it.

    • I don’t require anything of anyone, I think you have misunderstood the proposition I put forth.

      It is not an effort in which we gather a group that will make something together. Rather it has to do with taking existing creative people who make things on their own already and utilizing their non-monetary incentive to promote RBE – and the means to so could be this hypothetical license.

      I hope that this was clear in the article, but I appreciate your generous offer 🙂

  5. stevenkeen says:

    While I suport the underlying idea, there are some very real obstacles to consider.

    1. Within the current market structure, it is virtually impossible to “trade” anything without money coming onto the equation at some point. This is dependent on the set of governing laws in a given country or region. In Denmark, for instance, this system would be considered illegal, because any transaction is subject to both VAT and Tax rules, even if there is no monetary exchange. You can give something away, sure, but you cannot receive something in return without having to pay taxes of the transaction. This would mean that any transaction would require you to pay either VAT or Tax, hence destroying the “economic model” (I assume no one is ready to actually PAY for offering free services?). Exactly this happened with the TimeBank idea, where our Supreme Court ruled it out as being equal to Tax-fraud.

    2. There is no guarantee the products offered would be preferred by enough people, which IMO would be required if the idea is to gain any real momentum. How would you go about convincing people that the products on offer are “the best” in any given field?

    Not to mention the amount of R&D and methods of sustainability needed, and the cost of using, say, a titanium unibody for a laptop would certainly not be cheap for any company. This of course is less relevant with regards to software products, but in my experience, there is no such thing as e.g. the “best” operating system. An “end-all be-all” OS seems virtually impossible to create without a vast and fast network of people and knowledge-sharing and -updating. Linux is doing ok, but how many computer users actually use it? 2%? (guessing, don’t know the number).

    As I say, I like the train of thought, and there may be some way of introducing this way of attacking the market, but without a much more substantial plan I really can’t see how to. That of course does not mean it can’t be done. Only that I can’t see how 😉

    • I’m going to have to read into this TimeBank court case in order to fully understand this. If there is a law against resource exchange we are going to have to make an effort to push for a change in politics and/or law. As I see it, this is no wall, but a mere obstacle, which can be fought off — maybe there are some grey areas we can exploit?

      With regard to interest, if you have the choice of buying something or getting it for free, I’d like to think you’d see people rush to get the free item, rather than spend their precious coin on it elsewhere — maybe that is naive?

      Keep in mind that this is just a very sketchy business model which could serve as a foundation for further development, not an exact solution per se. Sure, I agree any product will never have a 100% success-rate — but Linux in server environment and business of that kind is among the very best solutions and most used ones, the 2% you are talking about are the client-side, regular people that is.

      I am happy you like the thought, but as I state, this is just that at this time; a thought. An actual model based on this would take a group discussion to realize, and that is essentially what I wanted to push for — the goal of the article was not to present a plan, but to put forth a possible foundation for a discussion on how we could enter the market with the intent of being somewhat disruptive.

  6. andyraytaylor says:

    Casper I haven’t seen any description better than yours of what the resource-based economy would look like at ground level. Thanks!

    Your idea for getting started sounds doable …..

    ….. and I know people and organisations living and working in something like this way in West England, Findhorn (Scotland) and Brazil (Dominic Barter, who is a trainer in the Nonviolent Communication network). Creative Commons offers specific license options very much like this.

    Some companies, social enterprises and NGOs already DO give out their products and patents for free. See:

    * http://www.restorativecircles.org

    * http://www.bayNVC.org

    * Intermediate Technology / Practical Action

    * CatholicWorker

    * the Thai Forest Monasteries

    and everyone who has ever opensourced something without expecting to make money on manuals or services.

    There’s a slight danger of a “them-and-us” effect, with your proposal, but I would like to see you and others working out the detail of your proposal, so that we can tell a clear story / paint an attractive picture (both of the transition stages and the desired end result) ……. and then maybe we can avoid that problem.

    Maybe one solution would be to make the choice about whether some qualifies or not left to themselves “e.g. Today, my friend, and with this item we are discussing, are you operating in the money economy or the resource-based economy?”

    • I’m all for discussing the proposal, but it will take an experienced in the field of business/marketing before we can make that discussion lead to possible entries on the market with the goal of competing directly with the monetary economy. There are a lot of laws we need to consider; patents, business competition law, etc.

      We need one that can give us a heads up on these things —and how to evade them— before deploying anything, otherwise we’ll be sued or dragged to court for breaking a law in no time.

      The intention is good, but the means to get it going are difficult to work out – and I have enough work as it is with school at this time to research these things.

  7. mercadeo says:

    The US monetary system — and by extension, that of much of the developed world — may very well be on the verge of collapse. Falling back on metaphor, while the world’s many financial experts and economists sit around arguing about the direction of the ship of state, most are missing the point that the ship has already hit an iceberg and is taking on water fast.

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