Economic Decentralization

Welcome.

Here we turn our complete attention to the task of our generation:

the work of ensuring a living earth and a viable, sustainable, positive future

for human civilization.

The evidence is in. The only way that humanity could still turn from sure and imminent destruction is by the radical decentralization of political and economic power.

The survival of human civilization, and indeed the flourishing of human civilization, can only be accomplished by place-based communities self-organizing both the grassroots democratization of  society and the ecologically-sound transition of their local economy.

Here we are exploring the Earth Holocracy Proposal’s advocated approach for accomplishing Economic Decentralization – as presented in the proposal’s fifth volume:

Volume Five: Economic Decentralization

Explore volume five’s 24 articles individually:

1. Relocalizing for the Transition to a Sustainable, Ethical and genuinely Democratic Civilization

2. The End of Over-Consuming and Start of Truly Living

3. Production for Human Needs and Sustainable Maximum Utilization

4. Rational Distribution: Guaranteed Minimum Necessities and Maximum Amenities

5. Economic Democracy

6. Economic Decentralization and Socio-Economic Units

7. Five Guiding Principles for Economic Decentralization

8. Trade in a Decentralized Economic Democracy

9. Balanced Economy

10. Three-Tiered Ownership, Planning and Development

11. Three-Tiered Regional Economy

12. Cooperatives

13. Quadri-Dimensional Economics

14. Agriculture, Industry and Services

15. Tools for the Transition to a Life-Sustaining Civilization

16. Only One Earth by Barbara Ward and Rene Dubos

17. Local Currency: Key to Regional Prosperity

18. Sustainability, Economic Security and Community Well-Being Index

19. Democratization of Education and Learning

20. The Business Alliance for Local Living Economies

21. Freiburg – A Green City

22. Earthships – Sustainable, Off-the-Grid, Affordable Eco-Housing

23. The BioInitiative Report – and a Call to Civil Society

24. Key Design Principles for the Sustainable and Equitable Management of the Commons

25. Sustainable Agriculture vs Corporate Greed

26. The City That Ended Hunger – The Success Story of Belo Horizonte

Getting on with the Great Work

Former volumes of the Earth Holocracy Proposal series presented strategies and tools for the democratic empowerment and self-organization of Local Communities to direct their own affairs and self-manage their own natural environment. To say that “volume five is about getting on with the work” is not to say that implementation of all the strategies advocated in former volumes don’t represent a lot of work: of course, they do. Establishing People’s Assemblies (for civil society’s self-organization), forming PA Working Groups in all priority areas; gaining proficiency in running inclusive and satisfying mass People’s Assemblies; transparently gathering relevant information for accurately informed community decision-making; formulating proposals for the Assembly’s consideration; supporting and being part of the global spread of the proposed ‘Global Solidarity for Local Self Determination’, establishing mechanisms for operational transparency; learning and using the advocated holocratic organizational model for ethics-based, egalitarian, transparent and effective collaboration – and, goodness!, starting to build the new, decentralized politico-economic system from the Local Community Level: in short, a lot of work. But it’s the basis for the “tangible work” of rebuilding our local communities, our local economies, our local and global natural environments.

So, Volume Five is about getting back on track, it’s about making the shift to a sustainable, humanly rewarding civilization, it’s about “the ecologic-industrial revolution”, it’s about the stories we’ll all tell our grandchildren about how we helped to save the world.

Here we address, for example, the imperative for actually implementing sustainability principles, and what this actually means in terms of the necessary whole-scale economic re-structuring and out-fitting of human industry. The task of the current generation is the 21st century’s “ecologic-industrial revolution” – eliminating fossil fuels, nuclear energy and all polluting industries, and – as a matter of urgent priority – reducing electromagnetic field (EMF) pollution (installing wired, rather than wireless, technologies, particularly in environments where children, who are more vulnerable to negative health impacts from EMF pollution, would be exposed). As the Spanish Real Democracy Movement’s 2012 Charter declares: “If it’s not ecological, it should not be” – echoing the “precautionary principle” of sustainable practice which is basically: “If in doubt, don’t”.

We look at working solutions supporting the shift to the sustainable, clean-and-green, re-localized, thriving world of regional stewardship and planet-wide regeneration. Solutions like the off-the-grid, self-sufficient, eco-home design of renegade architect Michael Reynold’s “Earth Ship”; the fantastic Business Alliance for Local Living Economies; the Dictionary of Sustainable Management, an open online dictionary for sustainability: “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”, presenting “the new lexicon of sustainability concepts so integral to the reorientation of human understanding and activity in the worlds of business, government, and society”; the Global Reporting Index for certifying the environmental and social standards of triple-bottom-line businesses; the major contributions of Permaculture to humanity’s win-win alliance with nature for meeting our basic requirements for life; the famed “Green City” of Freiburg, Germany – setting new standards for sustainable, democratic, people-centered urban development in the areas of resident participation, transport, renewable energy, water conservation, local and resilient economy, recycling, responsible consumerism, and in green commons.

Volume Five presents a basic blueprint for economic decentralization. The advocated blueprint – which translates common aspirations into direct and practical strategies – is derived from the socio-politico-economic theory developed by P.R. Sarkar: the Progressive Utilization Theory, widely known by its acronym, PROUT. Volume Five reproduces many of the economic articles contained in “The Progressive Utilization Theory: A Comprehensive Guide to the Study of PROUT” by the Proutist Writers Group of New York Sector.

The economic vision of PROUT is advocated as a vital feature of the Earth Holocracy Proposal because of the simple clarity and practicality of PROUT’s strategy for achieving the proposed 1) decentralization of the economy, 2) devolution of decision-making power to the people in their regional communities, and 3) re-orientation of economic activity away from profit-making and towards the meeting of human needs within the carrying capacity of the earth. PROUT’s blueprint for economic decentralization is in alignment with “best practice” approaches to the genuine democratization of society – as explored in the proposal’s Volume Three (which presents living working examples and effective tactics for achieving the decentralized, participatory, environmentally responsible, peaceful and cooperative global civilization of humanity’s long-cherished aspiration).

The articles in Volume Five that present PROUT’s strategy for achieving economic decentralization are articles three to fourteen:

Production for Human Needs and Sustainable Maximum Utilization

Rational Distribution: Guaranteed Minimum Necessities and Maximum Amenities

Economic Democracy

Economic Decentralization and Socio-Economic Units

Five Guiding Principles for Economic Decentralization

Trade in a Decentralized Economic Democracy

Balanced Economy

Three-Tiered Ownership, Planning and Development

Three-Tiered Regional Economy

Cooperatives

Quadri-Dimensional Economics

Agriculture, Industry and Services

The sixteenth article in Volume Five introduces a classic of enduring relevance: Only One Earth: The Care and Maintenance of a Small Planet – by Barbara Ward and Rene Dubos (1972):

Only One Earth by Barbara Ward and Rene Dubos

This article builds upon previous entries (in articles four and five) which introduce Barbara Ward – a woman described by Time magazine as “one of the most influential visionaries of the 20th century”: a being who refused to see the world’s biggest problems (“pollution, destruction of the natural environment, over-consumption of the world’s finite resources by the affluent, and the growing tensions between rich and poor as a third of humanity continues to live and die in desperate poverty”) as inevitable processes. Rather, as noted by Kirkus Reviews, “Barbara Ward offers a program for environmentally sound, humanly rewarding economic development. That it can be done is her basic argument – and she specifies methods and cites examples” – advocating the use of renewable resources, waste-conversion processes, a “more conserving agriculture”, smaller enterprises, “co-determination” in the workplace, “villagization”, local control, and “a wider and more balanced distribution of the gains from the whole process of modernization”.

Regarding Only One Earth, the New Internationalist’s 1980 review notes: “As a kind of pocket ‘integrated studies’ course, the book is a prodigious achievement. To the authors’ own encyclopaedic knowledge was added that of some 150 other experts from 58 countries participating in the UN Conference on the Human Environment at Stockholm in 1972. Barbara Ward and Rene Dubos… outline strategies for developing both rich and poor worlds that will make life more bearable for its inhabitants while restoring the earth to the ‘health, beauty, and variety’ that Dr Schumacher later called for in Small is Beautiful.”

In her 2012 Barbara Ward Lecture, Christiana Figueres notes: “Already in the 1970s, Barbara knew that we have to combine our immediate commitment to meeting human needs with our longer term need to protect the Earth as a place suitable for human life now and in the future. Barbara laid the basis for the Brundtland Commissions eventual definition of sustainable development. She gave us a firm foundation 50 years ago. The question for us is, what have we built on this foundation? With business-as-usual making the ground under our feet shake now more than ever before, with billions of people still in abject poverty and with environmental depletion and greenhouse emissions at an all time high, one cannot help but conclude that this was not what Barbara Ward had in mind.”

Indeed. In the 1970s, the formidable powers behind Milton Friedman’s Chicago School succeeded in ensuring that “business-as-usual” would prevail over the well-developed, ethical, fundamentally decentralized “program for environmentally sound, humanly rewarding economic development” and that instead, the so-called “Washington Consensus” – the antithetical, imperial, neoliberal agenda – would control and direct human endeavor on an ever-accelerating path of self-destruction. In 2017, the good news is that, if we act now – as in now – we can still choose the sustainable, humanly rewarding path.

Local Currency: Key to Regional Prosperity

The seventeenth article in this volume is titled “Local Currency – Key to Regional Prosperity”. Here we explore how the use of local currencies enhances local prosperity – how it positively and dramatically impacts the key determinant of collective prosperity: the people’s purchasing power. As this article well illustrates, local currency use is a central driver and essential component of a thriving local economy – where people are buying (because they can afford to), currency is swiftly circulating, and businesses (producers and service-providers) are flourishing:

CENTER FOR NEW ECONOMICS – ON LOCAL CURRENCY:

Centralized currency issue serves centralized production whereas regional currencies represent a democratization of currency issue, supporting local businesses and educating consumers about how their money circulates in the local economy.

In Robert Swann’s 1984 essay, The Role of Local Currency in Regional Economic Development, he explains that: “Much of this tendency for money to leave the rural areas and be sucked into urban financial centers results from the centralization of banking, which took place in the early part of this century under the Federal Reserve Act of 1913 and the pressure of World War I. Previous to 1913, local banks created their own funds based on their gold reserves. They were not dependent on the Federal Reserve Board to control reserve requirements – the amount of credit or money available within local regions. During the early part of the nineteenth century, this fact played a very important role in the rapid development of the U.S.”

Commonplace during the early 1900s, local currencies are once again being recognized as a tool for sustainable economic development.

Center for New Economics
http://www.centerforneweconomics.org/content/local-currencies

We look at the Wikipedia entry on Local Currency which details “the common characteristics and major benefits of local currencies”, as evidenced by the Wörgl experiment – illustrating how the use of local currency furthers thriving local economies:

WIKIPEDIA – THE FREE ENCYCLOPEDIA – ON LOCAL CURRENCY:

1. Local currencies with negative interest rate or demurrage tend to circulate much more rapidly than national currencies. The same amount of currency in circulation is employed more times and results in far greater overall economic activity. It produces greater benefit per unit. The higher velocity of money is a result of the negative interest rate which encourages people to spend the money more quickly.

2. Local currencies enable the community to more fully utilize its existing productive resources, especially unemployed labor, which has a catalytic effect on the rest of the local economy. They are based on the premise that the community is not fully utilizing its productive capacities, because of a lack of local purchasing power. The alternative currency is utilized to increase demand, resulting in a greater exploitation of productive resources. So long as the local economy is functioning at less than full capacity, the introduction of local currency need not be inflationary, even when it results in a significant increase in total money supply and total economic activity.

3. Since local currencies are only accepted within the community, their usage encourages the purchase of locally produced and locally-available goods and services. Thus, for any level of economic activity, more of the benefit accrues to the local community and less drains out to other parts of the country or the world. For instance, construction work undertaken with local currencies employs local labor and utilizes as far as possible local materials. The enhanced local effect becomes an incentive for the local population to accept and utilize the scrips.

Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia – on Local Currency
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Local_currency

We celebrate the mission of the Schumacher Society: “To promote the building of strong local economies that link people, land, and community” and the society’s practical strategies: “To accomplish this we develop model programs, including local currencies, community land trusts, and micro-lending; host lectures and other educational events; publish papers; and maintain a library to engage scholars and inspire citizen-activists.”
www.smallisbeautiful.org/about.html

For extra encouragement, we survey the vast array of resources regarding the benefits, development and use of local currency made available by the Center for New Economics: see Center for New Economics – Local Currency Resources.

Democratization of Education and Learning

It is the fundamental premise of the Earth Holocracy Proposal that where the world’s nation-states have demonstratively failed, the people will succeed. It is to the people – to the members of civil society, working collaboratively in all the world’s place-based communities – that this proposal looks for hope of realizing the pledges made by the nation-states of the United Nations, including those concerning the principles of free “scientific research and creative activity”; free “opinion and expression”, and education purposed to equip all citizens “to participate effectively in a free society, promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations and all racial, ethnic or religious groups, and further… the maintenance of peace”.

Negotiating the Sharp Learning Curve towards a Sustainable, Democratic World

The key importance of “whole community learning” is highlighted in an intensively and responsibly researched plan for achieving the long-term sustainability and prosperity of the region in which the developer of the Earth Holocracy Proposal (Katharine Dawn, myself) lives.

The plan identifies seven priority areas according to seven key determinants of long-term regional economic growth – as follows: (1) connected communities; (2) a learning region; (3) natural infrastructure; (4) sustainable industry; (5) inclusive communities; (6) regional identity; and (7) a collaborative region.

The Plan focuses upon initiatives, activities and projects that would “enable” – that is, would provide “the services, infrastructure and support mechanisms required” – in order to further development in each priority area.

Regarding the key priority area of developing the region’s sustainable industries, the Plan proposes initiatives which would:

  • “Promote R&D and investment in technologies which support the generation and delivery of renewable energy.
  • “Encourage collaborative approaches to innovation, R&D and investment in the region’s existing and emerging industry clusters.
  • Support the development of programs to increase micro-business capacity building and innovation.
Regional Development Australia – Northern Rivers, 2013, Northern Rivers Regional Plan 2013-2016

With the proposed democratization of society, and humanity’s liberation from the over-arching control of centralized corporate and financial powers, human culture could rapidly advance – in a new, ethical, responsible, sustainable and humanly-rewarding direction.

Given the complete over-haul of human industry required to accomplish “the sustainability revolution” in time, and the demanding work of democratizing all sectors of human industry and culture, humanity is collectively positioned at the start of a major learning curve. Best Practice and Innovation are the buzz words. The egalitarian, transparent and efficient model for horizontal self-organization advocated within the Earth Holocracy Proposal is perfectly tailored for the successful negotiation of this learning curve. The proposal’s “Holocratic Circle” is an evolution of the “Sociocratic Circle” or “Integrated Learning Circle”. A key feature of the Circle is that it develops itself, acquiring and integrating new knowledge and experience, both individually and collectively, as Circle members:

  • Search for and apply optimal, locally-tuned ways to achieve the desired results
  • Evaluate the performance of the implemented technique – this process is furthered by the practice of keeping a log book (or other appropriate form of memory system)
  • Seek to refine working techniques
  • Share ‘best practice’ working solutions
  • Make relevant information available to others
  • Integrate learning through teaching
  • Contribute to an ever-evolving compendium of relevant knowledge and ‘best practice’ working solutions

The BioInitiative Report – and a Call to Civil Society

The penultimate article of Volume Five is titled The BioInitiative Report – A Call to Civil Society. This article swiftly presents the alarming science, and addresses the very serious issue, of electromagnetic pollution. It clearly highlights the urgency for 1) immediately raising public awareness, 2) rolling back wireless technologies and devices, and 3) reducing both ELF and RFR exposures. The “call to civil society” comes from the Earth Holocracy Proposal – in recognition of the obvious fact that governments that are bound to the sociopathic policies of the neoliberal hegemony have not, and will not, address the issue – nor any of “the big issues” of our time. The responsibility for immediately dealing with the challenges we face has devolved to the people.

Elinor Ostroms 8 Design Principles for Managing the Commons Sustainably and Equitably
https://www.dropbox.com/s/blmw4gmfo9qoj5k/24-Elinor-Ostroms-8-Design-Principles-for-Managing-the-Commons-Sustainably%20-and-Equitably.pdf?dl=0

Key Design Principles for the Sustainable and Equitable Management of the Commons

The volume’s 24th article presents the significant contribution of the 2009 Nobel Laureate in Economics, Elinor Ostrom, towards humanity meeting “the sustainability challenge”: “Elinor Ostrom’s 8 Design Principles for Managing the Commons Sustainably and Equitably”. In an editorial for the International Journal of the Commons, Erling Berge and Frank van Laerhoven acknowledge the validity of Ostrom’s design principles, and deepen the debate – exploring the shifting concept of “the commons” and various significant modern issues concerning the sustainable and equitable management of the global commons. The authors add to “Elinor Ostrom’s 8 design principles” (which focus upon the local community level), Stern’s “seven design principles for global commons”.

Significantly, Berge and van Laerhoven point to “the logic of using broad design principles and localized creative adaptation and customization for the sustainable and equitable management of complex systems”. The opportunity to affirm that this core logic fundamentally informs the Earth Holocracy Proposal – that “broad design principles and localized creative adaptation” are the essence of the proposal’s vision and strategies: for example, the “movement of movement” it advocates based upon Global Solidarity for Local Self Determination; its advocated organizational model, The Holocratic Circle; the Proutist blueprint for economic decentralization advocated in the proposal’s Volume Five; the “8 strategies” of the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies’ Local Economy Framework – all of which strategies, notes BALLE, “are critical and all of which come to life uniquely in each community” (and are implicitly advocated by virtue of their inclusion herein).

Sustainable Agriculture vs Corporate Greed

The 25th and penultimate article, titled “Sustainable Agriculture vs Corporate Greed – Small farmers, food security and big business”, reproduces an April 2017 Green Left Weekly book review by Lalitha Chelliah which explores co-authors Alan Broughton’s and Elena Garcia’s analysis of how corporate power is destroying agriculture — and how it can be changed. Chelliah lauds the book as “vital to understand[ing] the desperate state of farming in Australia and the world… [and] the foolish thinking behind the way world leaders propose to manage sustainable food production”, writing:

“Broughton [the co-author] says that, contrary to widespread claims, there is not actually a crisis in food production. The problem lies with food distribution and accessibility. Food insecurity is unnecessary, given that the world already produces enough calories to feed 12-14 billion people. He exposes the huge network of large corporations that influence global organisations. He says four corporations control 90% of the grain trade. Broughton covers agricultural research and technology… including who controls these areas and who benefits. He points out how science is usually used to sustain vested interests.

“He explains the value of small farmers, showing how small farmers are more efficient than large agribusiness. To this end, he points to “La Via Campesina”, an international group involving 200 million small farmers. It has radical policies for solving the issues facing farmers, including: abolishing the WTO and free trade agreements; increasing farmers’ input into research and new technology; implementing ecological farming systems; and dispensing with large corporations.

“This book is a weapon to argue against farming policies designed with the help of large corporations. It allows activists and interested people to understand that there is no dichotomy between workers, farmers and environmentalists… we all eat and food is a common and important issue.”

Lalitha Chelliah. April 24, 2017, Sustainable Agriculture vs Corporate Greed: Small farmers, food security & big business by Alan Broughton and Elena Garcia

The City That Ended Hunger – The Success Story of Belo Horizonte

In order to showcase an example of the ease with which such seemingly insurmountable issues – like poverty, hunger and malnutrition – can be resolved, we present Frances Moore Lappe’s account of “The City that Ended Hunger: Belo Horizonte’s Success Story”. In this article, we see how simple, cost-effective strategies and initiatives, effected through citizen-government partnerships, can significantly increase local food security and local self reliance, improve the people’s health standard, and economically advantage consumers and producers.