The invention of money was undoubtedly one of the most influential in human history. Born from a necessity to make sure each person is doing their fair share of the community workload, currency has taken several thousand forms over the lifetime of ourcivilization. As it’s evolved, we’ve seen it spawn economic theories and experimental systems which have literally shaped the world around us.
What does that leave us with today? Hang out for a little while, and we’ll talk about some fun things like the battle between capitalism vs. socialism, other economic models, the fundamental value of money, and feasibility of a universal basic income. Then we’ll take a look at how Cascadia could fit into the picture and help form the economy of the future! Won’t that be fun?!*
Socialism & Capitalism
Let’s get this out of the way first. Capitalists and Socialists have a long history of disagreements (if you haven’t noticed). It cuts between two fundamental moral foundations that also broadly correlate with conservative vs. liberal values. Put simply: the rights of the individual vs. the rights of the community. A more capitalistic mindset is one of being able to work hard and reap the benefits from that work. Socialistic viewpoints tend to think that more of the work of the individual should directly benefit others. Again, we’re going with broad strokes here. There are thousands of books filled with specific differentiating details that we don’t really have room for here.
Both of these schools of thought have their pros and cons. Both of them sound really great on paper, and then often wind up screwing over large segments of their populations in practice. Through capitalism, we’ve seen unprecedented growth and an abundance of competitive innovation. We’ve also seen unprecedented exploitation of working people and natural resources. Through socialism, we’ve seen greater equality and access to social benefits. On the flip side, much greater taxes and less incentives for entrepreneurs.
Although neither system actually exists in the real world as originally envisioned, there are elements of both in every country. Modern-day “socialist” countries incorporate plenty of free-market capitalist practices on the world economic stage. Conversely, people who are afraid of socialism coming to the USA often fail to recognize it’s been here almost all along. In essence, that’s sort of what taxes are. You might even say that the spectrum between these two ideologies are primarily a matter of how high the tax rate is, and what sorts of things are funded by them. Sure, there’s some philosophical differences on the nature of ownership as well, but otherwise they’re two sides of the same coin.
Ironically, both of these economic visions have the same ideal utopian outcome: prosperity and equal opportunity for all. These theoretical roadmaps have never been followed as intended though. The common missing element? Democracy. Things were a lot more equalized in the originally conceived ideal capitalist system, and the people would have had enough democratic control to prevent companies and wealthy folks from exploiting of workers and the environment. There wouldn’t have been any political advantages to being rich. This is clearly not the case with American “capitalism.” Of course, a serious lack of democracy is also why so many Americans are so terrified of the idea of socialism. Many countries that tried to implement socialism were leaning pretty heavily toward the dictatorship end of the spectrum, which is of course the exact opposite of the core idea. With a real democracy, we could avoid the pitfalls of both, and organically find better and better ways to handle our business.
Your Cascadian Economy
Our vision for the YourCascadia economy is squarely in the middle of the road. We want to take all the best qualities from both systems, and merge them to help us make something better. Something that we can all improve over time, together. Something that doesn’t ignore your right to make a name for yourself, but still provides adequate basic community needs.
We want to take the cooperative spirit of socialism, and blend it with the competitive spirit of capitalism. In other words, we want people to compete to be as cooperative as possible. We think the world needs it right now, more than anything. Like a huge contest to see who can do the most good, where the prize is a better personal life for ourselves, a better place for all of us to share, and real hope for future generations.
We think each person deserves to be recognized and rewarded properly for the hard work they do, and also that their effort should directly help to make their communities better. We hope that this is a sentiment you can get behind, regardless of which ideology you lean toward. If it isn’t, you are encouraged to tell us why, and propose alternative solutions for people to debate and try out instead. That’s how we all can learn and grow together. Having an economy that actually is run democratically could achieve the best of both worlds.
Recently there’s been a worldwide push for a new sharing economy. We’ve already seen a swarm of disruptive apps come in to fundamentally uproot traditional industries. For better or for worse, that’s what’s going on. We have Lyft, AirBnB, TaskRabbit, Turo, Rooster, and several other examples already showing the trend toward sharing thingswe have already, instead of needlessly buying everything brand new at a higher cost. Assuming this trend continues, wouldn’t you prefer to have equal say over these types of systems that we live by, instead of letting some company make all these decisions for us?
Of the applications listed above, Rooster is the most similar to our vision in terms of allowing full hyperlocal sharing of everything. Imagine having full access to whatever you need within walking distance. Contained within the average 5-block radius, there’s garages filled with tools, fridges full of extra food, and working professionals with all types of skills. Just sitting there, collecting dust and going to waste.
Meanwhile we burn through our precious time, money, carbon, and other limited natural resources trying to mass-produce and transport as many redundant widgets as possible. Then we throw them in a landfill when they break. They are made to break quickly by design, to cut manufacturing costs and force consumers to buy cheap replacement products more frequently. Often, these things are intentionally non-serviceable, or flatly unnecessary. This is otherwise known as the disposable economy. It’s sheer madness. We’re wasting so much human potential and limited natural resources just to maintain a growing GDP.
We’re at a bit of an impasse here, though. Production of new consumer goods is the bread and butter of tons of people. Without keeping up the demand, many could lose their jobs. Even though many people absolutely hate their work,they would be unable to support themselves and their families without them. Switching careers is difficult, and new jobs are scarce. So keeping what you have and being grateful is necessary for survival, even if not for feeling truly alive.
What if you didn’t have to worry about to worry about those “transition periods?” What if you could take whatever career path you wanted, right from wherever you are? What if you could maintain a comfortable standard of living regardless? These things are possible. All we need to do is update our operating system to be more efficient.
Think about all the superfluous jobs out there that accomplish little more than giving someone a paycheck. All the repetitive work that could easily be automated and free people of the boredom. Automation is already well under way, and is expected to accelerate exponentially in our lifetimes. We need something for people to fall back on, and fast. This is one of the main reasons why many top economists believe that we are faced with little other choice than to transition people to a Universal Basic Income (UBI).
Universal Basic Income
This idea has been picking up a lot of steam lately. The premise behind a UBI is essentially giving each household the money they need for basic survival. To many, it sounded like an idealist’s wet dream that would never work in reality. It was assumed that people would just quit their jobs and sit around all day, mooching off the system. Then, variations started being tested in lots of communities around the world. Finland, Kenya, Ontario, and the Netherlands were some of the first nations to try out some form, with mixed success. Surprisingly, the experiments seemed to show that people actually encouraged people to work more with a UBI, reversing the expectations people had assumed true.
This is amazing news, because it means we can potentially eradicate poverty completely, if we could somehow scale this worldwide! Along with that would come the inevitable massive reduction in crime, and boosted general welfare of the people. Criminal behavior is motivated mostly by financial necessity rather thana lack of personal morality. People still want to contribute, improve their lot in life, and keep themselves busy. Life is difficult enough for people even with the basics covered, and having the means to take care of necessities should be a fundamental right. That means food, water, shelter, education, and medical care at minimum coverage.
In addition to helping struggling individuals, a UBI would also greatly improve our overall economic sustainability. The poor often want to buy more responsibly, but are trapped in going with the cheaper and generally less socially responsible options. Having a basic income to supplement what they already make could elevate them to actually have the ability to buy things that they support ethically, and donate to causes they care about. It would allow people to “vote” for the best practices, not necessarily just the best prices.
Not to mention the current predatory economy that makes simply being poor more expensive, and being rich inherently profitable. There’s a reason the middle class has been shrinking, which is the same reason the wealth gap has been increasing steadily: It takes money to make money. The whole dang system is rigged to funnel money from the bottom of the pyramid to the top. Bank fees, interest, inflation, and Wall Street are all mechanisms that essentially only benefit you if you already have an excess of extra money to play around and gamble with (and you can win big if you make the right bets).
Fiat money & Blockchain
At the end of the day, money is just a fancy IOU. It’s like having the ability to quantify how much a favor is worth to you. If everyone did the same amount, quality, and difficulty of work, then perhaps they wouldn’t feel indebted to others, and money wouldn’t be necessary. But that’s just not how real work is. It’s meritocratic, and some skills are higher in demand and rarity. So money was an obvious choice for tracking and rewarding the value our contributions to each other. It just makes things easier, but that doesn’t stop it from being completely imaginary.
Sure, once upon a time you could go and exchange your dollars for golden nuggets down at the bank. This is one of the reasons why the dollar was adopted as a the world reserve currency. That began changing in 1933 though, and it’s been nothing more than ink and paper since 1971 (yet still underpins the world economy). As you may know, the Federal Reserve that issues US dollars isn’t even part of the government. Reserve banks are privately-owned corporations that fabricate debt certificates for us to trade among ourselves, artificially increasing the supply through fractional lending.
All that is to say that currency is simply the value we believe that we give to each other. Therefore, it can just as easily be represented by anything you want. Dollars, Pesos, Credits, Tokens, Bitcoin, Ether… It doesn’t matter what you call it. It still exists as a construct of value in the mind, first and foremost. What do we owe to each other? What does each person deserve for their efforts?
What’s to stop us from making an overlay to our current economy? Or several? We already do, in many forms. Airline miles, store credit, and countless community currencies. All we need is a platform of exchange, and we can trade whatever kinds of value we wish.
Blockchain marks a whole new era of accounting technology, as well as many of its offspring. It blows modern banking security out of the water, and carries the potential to eventually render banks obsolete. That’s a big and technical topic of its own, but for now let’s just suffice it to say that we now have the necessary tools to securely vote and trade with each other. For the first time, with unhackable record-keeping! This is more substantial than our traditional fiat money, created from thin air out of fractional reserve lending. It’s backed by math, and verified independently by unbiased and decentralized nodes instead of a single banking company. After the repeated scandal and manipulation of markets by these banks which have profited from crashing our economy, it’s clear we cannot trust them to have our best interests at heart. Blockchain technologies enable you to be your own bank, without having to trust anyone else to keep it functioning correctly. Kind of a big deal.
No matter what your beliefs are, it’s important that you agree we need to come together to work out a plan without any real strong objections. If there’s anything I’ve said that you don’t agree with, good. We need your voice to tell us ways to improve, and make our system more and more bulletproof from criticism. In asense, there’s no logical way to oppose something like this. As a meta-idea, YourCascadia encompasses all arguments, including the ones against itself. Communities can vote to decide how their systems evolve, branch out with different experimental systems, and discover which of them work the best.The more people that realize we’re all on the same side and can improve each others’ outlooks, the morewe can drop this silly divide and conquer mentality and unite to become unstoppable.
A Universal Basic Income raises all ships to the height where they can avoid crashing on any rocks, while still allowing people to work harder if they want better ships for themselves. It gives people a truly level playing field. Not necessarily equal pay, but actual equal opportunity (as opposed to the fake kind we pretend we have already). It’s right there in the sweet spot between the extremes of capitalism and socialism.Blockchain is a potential mechanism we could use to provide a UBI to everyone, with more technically legitimate debt accounting. We could even use it for decision making and participatory budgeting to fund all the community services we need, and create more and more jobs in the process.
YourCascadia is an ambitious project that intends to provide a web application to organize all these things neutrally in the most logical and intuitive way. It’s meant to make it easy to help ourselves be the best people we can be, and in turn make the best changes to the world that we desire. All we have to do is get it built and enough people interested, and then there’s no limit to what we can achieve together.
*Disclaimer: This post was written by Elliott, who is spearheading this project. The views are his, and do not necessarily represent those of YourCascadia as a whole. YourCascadia is just a tool, and has no views. It will be controlled entirely by its members via a direct democracy once it is built and running. Want to write a post here? Let us know!
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