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Ben McLeish - Common Objections, Observations, Responses (Repository)

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Alright, I’m Ben McLeish and as Harvey Milk would say, "I'm here to change your mind." Who here... hands up whoever, at this point, can understand and agrees with what our movement is about and who would describe themselves as on board? It's the guys who came a long way, isn't it? Who would say that maybe in principle they understand the ideas, they understand the logic behind it, but maybe they have some questions and they are not quite sure... There's a kind of a nagging feeling. They're not quite there yet. That's good; that's healthy. And who here thinks it's an Utopianist cult with plans for world domination? We kind of covered that one already, but yeah, it's not that. Here are some common objections and responses to a Resource-Based Economy. First off, it’s not a Utopia, as Tom said. There's no such things as Utopia. We aren’t under the illusion that we can create a perfect world. There is no such thing as “perfect” in a practical world. What we are proposing, however, is a whole lot better than what we have now. There will always be problems, but a global, emergent system where innovation, change and development is put center-stage, rather than being hamstrung by the profit mechanisms and interests of established power structures of any kind, is going to be more able to meet and solve these problems than our current so-called “established” societies. This is not communism, or socialism or any of the "isms" out there. Quite apart from the fact that no two people here will agree what "communism" is, since it is a high order abstraction with no real life referents, and with multiple, varied, real-world “versions,” even the most boiled-down version of Karl Marx's philosophy was still based on money, differential advantage, profit, earnings, various degrees of qualities of life and thus, social stratification was built into its foundations. Communism also pre-supposes property. Property, if you remember, is an outgrowth of scarcity. Because there may not be enough to go round, you need to “own” things to deter their use by others, to reserve, essentially, or guarantee the things you need and are now conditioned to want. Communism also didn’t have access to the technologies to create abundance, or certainly didn't envision or strive for a world of deliberate abundance, and didn’t imagine a world where all labor was automated, all necessities were supplied free of charge, and where the structure of society is a global, integrated system. Marx never considered a global economy based on resources. It's just a monetary system with slightly more or less government control coupled with varying degrees of romanticism of labor or the labor class, which ironically, they then want to get rid of. The fundamentals are the same as any other monetary system. What we propose and advocate lies outside the logical referent of this box of monetary-ism. The box itself, we feel, is structurally unsound. "Well, if it’s not communism, it sounds like a commune!" Well, again, a commune is defined by the deliberate artificial separation that we are trying to get past. We cannot simply separate ourselves from society and build a Resource-Based Economy. The logic of living according to planetary resources and total efficiency cannot be anything other than a global, all-encompassing operation: one system. The logic of efficiency demands it; multiple societies attempting to operate separately would require duplication of effort, resources and waste, as we see in the current system. It would also create competition, which would ultimately create war, as we fight for resources, space and so on. And you know what else? Everything that divides us whether be race, religion, or national identity, political affiliations, social classes, are false divisions invented or promoted by our respective societies to get you to buy in and not defect from that country or society you happen to be in. Why? It's about maintaining a group economy. Stability in the face of scarcity, real or artificial. Even geographic boundaries, which are at least based in spatial reality, are fading fast as we improve transport technologies. We are, and always have been, one global human race. We must live as such to ensure our survival at the maximum quality of life possible. Climbing into a forest, shedding all the benefits of technology and its advances, and reviving esoteric English witchcraft religions isn't going to do anything except devolve us, and only temporarily, before necessity forces that separatist society back into long-term contact with other human civilizations. There really isn’t anywhere left in the world for people to be able to do that anyway. Life on this planet tends towards complexity and sophistication. Communes are artificial, isolated, unsustainable and achieve nothing but to stave off large-scale social interactions for brief periods, mostly due to protest or divisionary beliefs based on inherited notions. Perhaps you think that competition would be a better ideology to base society on... That competition somehow speeds up innovation, makes pricing fair provides choice and so on, and it's generally a good thing. But the concept of the Resource-Based Economy is based on the same logic as the human body, as Jacque said on that video. Were your brain to decide tomorrow that it is the most important organ in the body, and demanded more of the resources, oxygen than the liver, or the left lung is more important than the right and demanded most of the resources itself, you'd rot away in a month. Animals live in harmony with their surroundings, not in competition with them. Nature has examples of competition within it, but in areas where food and resources are abundant for animals, you find they don’t fight over food. Nature is symbiotic. We must become symbiotic too. To be in competition with each other and attempting to “dominate” nature or each other, is to ensure our own demise. Nature, however, will carry on just fine without us. One I hear quite a lot of the time, and it's a fair question, is "What would I do in a Resource-Based Economy?" Where there's no traditional work or money, what would I do? It's a valid question, as we can only presume to imagine a massive void of inertia where once a 9 to 5 stood in its place. Oddly, I am actually asked this by friends of mine who work in the arts, or who have expensive, time-consuming or unusual hobbies. Or cab drivers who are amateur scientists. Why do you work in the arts? Why do you have hobbies? Why do you do favors for others? Why do you give to charity? Why did you come here tonight? Why do you do all of these things? You did all of these things absent the desire to make money, especially if you work in the arts. How much more could you do without the monetary restrictions you have now, and which you work in spite of? In low-power countries where people walk for hours to get water, one could imagine them thinking, "Well if I could just turn on a tap and get the water instantly and not spend 4 or 5 hours a day getting the water, what would I do with the spare time?" That's the same kind of logic that people can't seem to make that jump. It’s a little bit like being in a cell all of your life, a 5 by 5 foot cell. Offering a prisoner a way out of his cell, they then turn to you and say, “Well, what do I do now?” A related point: what about motivation to do anything if you aren’t essentially forced by economic pressures, as we are now? What will motivate us? Your motivation to recycle is not profit driven, in fact, it's quite the opposite; it costs you money and time, when you only factor in the drive to the bottle bank. Or Nikola Tesla... His motivation to create free energy the world over was certainly not profit-driven. In fact, JP Morgan, his backer, had to shut it down because of the impact it would have on the ability to profit from this. And what about this? The world has written a continually growing, emergent encyclopedia of 15 million articles in 272 languages in 9 years. Money has nothing to do with it, except for when they run out of it, periodically, and have to ask you for more, by those wonderful banner ads that we're subjected to. Imagine what Wikipedia would look like if they didn't have monetary restrictions to deal with; if money were literally no object. Imagine what the world would look like if money were no object. We already have the motivation, and it's more than money. What we are suggesting is a world where this is placed center-stage. Let's stick with the Wikipedia example. Who runs the societal infrastructure in a Resource-Based Economy? And could they take it over? Two big ones I get a lot, and they're valid questions as well, because people are worried about being dominated, although is quite ironic we live in this system now where we clearly are dominated, and we're kind of worried that we would be. I find that really bizarre, but it's okay. It feels a little cynical today to think that might be true. At its core, a Resource-Based Economy's systems, very much like Wikipedia, would need very few people to service any parts of the system that are not already self-repairing. Essentially, systems-maintenance. Are those people more powerful than those who live and thrive on the system without a direct linking to those kind of interfaces? Could they take it over? Well, are the individuals who run Wikipedia powerful? Could they "take over" Wikipedia? There's nothing to gain by attempting to own or control Wikipedia. It's a social system, run in spite of the profit mechanisms and power. What benefits us all, including those who maintain aspects of the infrastructure, would only hinder everyone, including those maintainers, were it compromised. The question of people “taking over” a society seems rather a moot point. Right now we live in the kind of society that can be taken over, and is regularly taken over by corporate interests, political powers and groups of wealthy people. It is this precise mechanism of dominance that is absent from a Resource-Based Economy in the same way it is absent from Wikipedia or any similar non-monetary resource. Here's a good one. Who makes the decisions in a Resource-Based Economy? This question actually needs to be rephrased. It’s not: "who makes the decisions", but “How are the decisions arrived at?” The running of society is a technical process. There are very few things that need to be “decided” by human opinion. Technical processes aren’t even decided by you now. Did you vote on the structural attributes of a bridge? Do you vote on which materials are used to construct houses? Do you vote on the internal mechanisms or designs of an MRI machine? No, because most of us, certainly me, don’t have the knowledge necessary to make large decisions like this. We already arrive at these decisions based on the best available information we have at the time. So what about, you know, lazy people? If I am busy in a contributory role, or not over-consuming, won’t others simply sit around, live off the fat of the land that the economy is now producing at no cost to the individual? First off, why is it that when people talk to me about lazy people, lazy people are always other people? I find that quite interesting. And if you do know a lazy person, when did they become lazy? Was it on their 20th birthday? Were they lazy as a child? Who here has toddlers who have chronic laziness? Who here remembers the day they became lazy? No, it happened over time, didn’t it? Slow, creeping laziness set in. You get home tired from work, you crack open a beer, you slam on the box and sink into the couch. Laziness is an effectual by-product of our society. Either we are spent from our jobs, demotivated by the treadmill lives so many of us are made to lead, conditioned by advertising to sit and consume, or by social inflexibility to be able to go out and do the things you want to do. In a world of far greater personal freedom, these tendencies towards laziness would drop off hugely. Even if they did not, a system of technologically-enabled abundance would not suffer from lazy behaviours the way it does presently. The Pixar film "WALL*E" imagined a world in which all the jobs had been replaced, but people were still hapless, over-indulgent consumers. Note that in the film they actually left the Earth to be massively inefficient and non-productive in space. The people had not changed in themselves, the society behavioral mechanisms had not changed. As technology does take over more and more of our jobs, so we must adapt to new tasks, and not simply to replace the old tasks with a complete void. It's a change that we are advocating. Coupled with the updating of technology is the updating of our behaviour; the abandoning of the over-consumptive, passive behaviors so excellently satirized by "WALL*E." So, if it's not lazy people, what about dangerous people? Bad people? Well, here's something you may not have heard before: there is no such thing as a bad or evil person, per se. Quite apart from the fact those two terms, bad and evil, are thoroughly empty terms that could mean anything. We are the products of our surroundings. People who commit crimes against the rest of humanity, whether it’s violence, theft corporate crime, are the products of a sick society whose mechanisms either encourage, necessitate or reward those actions. If you don’t believe this, why is it that some countries have much higher crime rates than others? Are there more “bad people” on that landmass? Surely if it's human nature were to blame, we’d have identical crime figures all across the world. We don’t because the situations, the environmental influences, are different in each location. Everything from the wealth gap, pollution levels positive or negative media influences right through to the weather, influences our behavior. It is the ultimate litmus test of society’s soundness. Higher crime rates are symptoms of the flaws of the system. Yet, right now we react to crime, not by looking at the aberrant behavior as a symptom of our social mechanisms, but by blaming the individual and locking them up, creating more laws and ultimately creating a less flexible and more oppressive society, which then, in turn, feeds the crime rate. In turn, the oppressive illiberal society produces more crime and a higher prison population. Criminals and ex-cons are precluded from successful lives after jail. No-one wants to employ a criminal. They also seem most likely not to have been given a decent education to begin with, or be able to get one afterwards. Violent crimes are more prevalent in societies with greater inequality. This slide comes from the Equality Trust who are just south of the river. It shows the clear correlation between inequality and homicides. Remove the underlying cause, inequality and the incidences of crime decrease as well. Stressed family environments, relationship breakdown, school shootings, gang violence, bank robberies, fraud; which of these cannot be traced back to social stratification based on income, greed or spending power, or the ability to gain differential advantage over others? If you remove the mechanisms that essentially encourage aberrant behavior and reward aberrant human interactions, the behaviors themselves will go away. As yet, we have not implemented a system which ever does this. Mental health issues, for the most part, stem from monetary issues as well. Mental illness can almost always be stemmed back to the environmental and economical societal inequality. This slide shows the correlation of mental illness with income inequality. It illustrates this point more than amply. Greater inequality facilitated by the narrow self-interest, the internal logic of a monetary system and the differential advantage and competition, directly negatively affects everyone in the population, including rich people. Based on 30 years of research by the Equality trust, if the UK were more equal, we'd be better off as a population. For example, the evidence suggests that if we halved inequality there would be: half the murder rates, mental illness would reduce by two thirds, obesity would halve, imprisonment would reduce by 80%, teen births would reduce by 80%, levels of trust would increase by 85%. Imagine how little crime there would be if we put true equality into practice in this country. And were there a global equality and partnership, can you imagine how quickly war would disappear? So what about the law? Legal restrictions are present in our society to limit problems that we've not been able to solve through technological means. We have drink-driving laws because our cars will crash if we’re drunk behind the wheel. But if we build cars that can’t crash into each other via GPS guidance systems, and with pendulums built into the base that correct a swerving motion, drink driving laws become irrelevant. You can get really hammered go out and drive. It is technologically more than possible. We already fly to the moon by remote control. But we don't do it because it is “too expensive.” A society structured around resources, equality and efficiency will mean the automatic redundancy of laws pertaining to finance and money, property, crime and socially offensive behaviors. Having a lot of laws is not the sign of a well-adjusted society. It is a demonstration of the flaws that society has. Laws attempt to patch up the inabilities to function correctly within that society. Perhaps... And you're not going to like this one. Perhaps you think that we can solve our problems with politics. We are not a political movement. We will not stand for election in both senses of that, I'm afraid. Why is that? Michael Ruppert said it best when he said that politics is economics by other means. Politics is simply another power outgrowth. To be elected, or even run for election, requires a large amount of money to canvas support. Once you are beholden to large corporate donors, it is literally impossible to fulfill real change in a society, since the wishes of your backers need to be fulfilled first. Those wishes are always to produce favorable laws and fiscal policies that will benefit those very donors and corporations, the promise of which was their sole reason for backing your party in the first place. Why do politicians break promises? Is it because they are “bad people”? No they aren't. Politicians are not here to change things. How could they be? They are raised, conditioned, promoted and admitted by the current established societal notions. They are not technical experts. How could they solve society's problems, which are technical? Most of them come from a legal background, which is semantic manipulation and nothing else. They aren't qualified to make changes. This man is an economist by trade. Given that he is absolutely indoctrinated into a monetary system, how is he going to bring about the change that he promises? The same is with every other politician. We cannot achieve lasting, real and meaningful change through politics. We need to move beyond politics. The simple fact is that politicians are not there to enact real change to the underlying root causes of society. Constrained by relatively short voting cycles and financial pressures, even the best, the most worthy and honest "leaders" have to operate within the system. It's time to take the next step in our social evolution. It is time to evolve along the only path that is relevant, one rooted in the real world, one that is truly possible. We have outgrown the needs for the mechanisms to manage scarcity. We have outgrown scarcity, itself. We have outgrown the need for war, poverty and profit at all cost. It's time to ditch the false divisionary notions based on belief, opinion, hearsay, surmise, and any and all inherited assumptions. Human beings are amazing. On this tiny pale blue dot we have come from the simplest of organic life, against all odds, to our present state of sophistication and consciousness. We have put to task our ingenuity and our creativity to produce astonishing results. It's only money now that is holding us back. We must not let our own failings to continue our evolution destroy the most valuable thing we have: ourselves. You don’t join us by voting for us. You don’t join us by canvassing for support. You don’t join us by signing up for a mailing list. And you don’t join us by buying a book, or a T-shirt, or a DVD. As mentioned before, any and all information we disseminate is offered completely free of charge. And you certainly don’t join us by giving us donations. We won’t accept them. You join us up here, in your head. You join us by realizing the logical limitations of our current lifestyle and calling for a new global model. We all join by breaking down the barriers we have imposed on ourselves or have imposed on us, to rejoin the other members of the human race waiting on every other side. Thank you. [applause]

Video Details

Duration: 20 minutes and 53 seconds
Country: United States
Language: English
Producer: Ben McLeish
Views: 351
Posted by: ltiofficial on Apr 17, 2010

Recorded live at the Quaker's Friends House on April 8th 2010 at the "Alternate Ways of Governing Society" event, which also featured talks by the Green Party, Simpol, and A World To Win.

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