(dana) Mon 3 Aug 09 11:46
A warm welcome to our next author, a returning WELL alumnus. Winner of the first Neil Postman award for Career Achievement in Public Intellectual Activity, Douglas Rushkoff is an author, teacher, and documentarian who focuses on the ways people, cultures, and institutions create, share, and influence each other's values. He teaches media studies at the New School University, serves as technology columnist for The Daily Beast, and lectures around the world. He has just released his most important book to date: an analysis of the corporate spectacle called Life Inc. for Random House, as well as a series of short films called Life Inc Dispatches. Leading the discussion is Jon Lebkowsky. A Social Web Strategies Founding Partner, Jon Lebkowsky is a culture and business strategist and thought leader focused on the Internet, the World Wide Web, and the social uses of digital technologies. An early online community moderator on The Well, and a founder of Fringeware - one of the first Internet businesses - Jon has been a direct participant in the formative conversations that have generated our contemporary global digital society. Writing on digital culture, technology, media, and global sustainability, he was one of the webs first bloggers, having blogged regularly since 2000. He is an acknowledged authority on the social web, online communities, web development, public wireless broadband, and e-democracy. (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jon_Lebkowsky) Thank you for joining us here, gentlemen!
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Tue 4 Aug 09 07:57
Most people, if they were mugged, would file a police report, take a pill, maybe get some therapy, or take a stiff drink and a long nap and chalk it up to experience. You got mugged and wrote an critique of corporatism and its impact on life and community. How did you get from the mugging to the book? What other forces and interests inspired you to write _Life Inc._?
Douglas Rushkoff (rushkoff) Tue 4 Aug 09 10:12
Well, I was writing one book before I got mugged, and decided to change my focus a bit afterwards. Not immediately after the mugging, mind you. It was about an hour or two later, after I had posted what had happened to me on the Park Slope Parents list (the East Coast equivalent of the Berkeley Parents List). The first two emails I received in response were from people angry that I had posted the approximate location of the event. They were concerned about the effect on their property values, and considered it insensitive of me not to have considered this. I suppose it was a teaching moment for me. I had originally set out to write a book about money as a medium, and the way centralized currency and corporate capitalism were accepted as given circumstances of business, rather than inventions of particular people at a particular time. But I realized that my neighbors had internalized these sensibilities so deeply that they were behaving like corporations, themselves. Or banks. They cared more about the short-term asset value of their houses as property than the long term value of their homes as part of a neighborhood. The short-term brand value of Park Slope meant more than the experiential value of their streets. And this is precisely the way and debt-laden corporation looks at its own human and physical assets. It was the dark underbelly of the mortgage boom - before the housing "crisis" began. People needed their property value to go up in order for their refinancing strategies to go up another notch. And anyone who called attention to any of this may have as well been an enemy of the state. The other forces and influences, well, it would take a good five years to tell you all of them. (How long should these responses be? I figure anything over a few thousand words is bad Well ettiquette. At least it used to be in my day.) Anyway, other influences. I was fascinated by the way no one seemed to be talking about the way the dot.com bubble really did destroy the economy. And in ways that no one was taking into account. The beauty of the net is that people can just make stuff - make money, create value - without a huge amount of capital. You can start and run a business without ever borrowing from the bank. So not only did the dot.com boom lead to a whole lot of money getting printed and then wasted, but it funded an industry that no longer required big investment. So the banks had no real customers. That's why they turned on homeowners. Finally, though, the real influence for me was our utter incapacity to see the rules of our economy as the rules of a game, written by people, for very specific reasons. Left and Right perspectives aside, what mattered to me was that people understood our economy is not some part of nature - it's a very specific economic system, invented by very specific people, and defended with guns. I thought if people found this out, they would be more willing to open source economic solutions.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Tue 4 Aug 09 10:37
(Responses in this context could be longer, but we have two asynchronous weeks - which I was thinking would let us cover a lot of ground, though it's not quite five years...) I want to be clear about something you say later in the book: the Fed produces money, and lends it to the banks, and they have to pay it back with interest, which means that multiples of the money must be returned. You make the point that, since more money must be returned than is produced, somebody has to lose - bankruptcies are inherent. Is that completely correct? I'm not an economist or a historian, but I felt you covered so much ground in the book - which is clear and well written - that you can't have addressed the real complexity of the issues you discuss. If you had written the whole book about currency, what complexities might you have addressed that you didn't have room for in a more expansive history of corporatism?
Douglas Rushkoff (rushkoff) Tue 4 Aug 09 11:33
Again, I could easily produce forty or fifty thousand words in response to that. Some of the subjects I'd look at would be: How money and death are related psychologically. The complementary currency systems of Ancient Egypt, the Ottoman Empmire, and Late Middle Ages Europe. The invention of centralized currency - comparing their exploitation by kings in Western Europe with their more appropriate application in Florence. The scarcity-based model of centralized, debt currency. How does the kind of money we use necessitate a certain kind of market? How would our economy cope with a plentiful or renewable energy source? (Hint: it could not.) The growth imperative of central fiat currencies, and how they require more production and consumption. How metrics such as the GNP don't accurately measure societal health. The history of currency-mandated economic expansion, from colonialism through derivative colonialism as practiced by the World Bank and IMF. The influence of currency on investment capital, how investment works, and the demands of shareholders for faster returns. The outsourcing of investment and savings to Wall Street, and why financial firms get money cheaper than others. The possibilities for alternative currency models, who was killed for using them in the past, and whether we will get shut down forcibly for trying to use them again. It just goes on and on. Money is a very big topic. But yes, the gist of it is that there were once a lot of different kinds of money. Monarchs made them illegal, because these currencies allowed people to create and exchange value directly. This was bad for kings, who wanted a total monopoly on value creation. People were getting wealthy. Central currency of the kind we use today is lent into existence. It must be paid back at interest. The additional funds have to come from somewhere. They are either borrowed or won. If money circulates fast enough, this doesn't have to be such a problem. But once it touches the bank, it's as if it is grounded again. It can't get out unless it's loaned. And thus the need for even more. This is why we had the industrial age, it's why we have consumerism, it's why we had NAM (National Association of Marketers) and why we have destroyed the environment and our relationships with the rest of the world. If it were eocnomics, that would be one thing. But it's not. It's a particular game that doesn't work for what we want.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Tue 4 Aug 09 18:05
Isn't it working for some? I.e. why do we perpetuate a system that isn't working for us? Or is this a case of boiling the frog, where we've been sitting in hot water for so long we don't get that it's killing us?
Douglas Rushkoff (rushkoff) Tue 4 Aug 09 18:26
That frog analogy isn't true, you know. The frog jumps out every time. Of course centralized currency works for some. Hammers work for some. They just suck at brain surgery. Centralized currency is not the only kind of currency there could be, and it has certain biases to it. It would work a whole lot better if there were other currencies that promoted circulation over hording, and abundance over scarcity. Yes yes yes. Some things are scarce, and scarce currencies can help orchestrate scarce markets for scarce things. They also help very wealthy people stay wealthy without working - and I make no judgment on that. There are many people who we might want to keep rich, even though they create no value. Or businesses that are just going through a rough century or two and need to be able to stay afloat by investing and growing rather than creating or innovating. And they should be entitled to use whatever they can. But we - people who create value, who work, who innovate - should also be able to work with currencies that reflect the value we have created. Just as people used to get a grain receipt for every pound they brought to the mill - a receipt that could be traded - we, too, should be able to work currency into existence. We shouldn't have to work *for* someone who has borrowed money at interest from the bank in order to pay us; we should be able to use a kind of money that reflects the abundance of our output rather than just the artificial scarcity of the treasury. We've got a currency system that could not support the introduction of a renewable energy source. That should give us pause. We don't have to destroy the Fed. We simply need additional mechanisms for value exchange.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Tue 4 Aug 09 20:27
I'm relieved to hear that those frogs were really okay. I'll feel better about jumping hereafter. Wondering if there are examples of contemporary complementary currencies, legal or illegal, that are effective? If you could prescribe a path to more equitable global currency policy or practice, what would that look like?
Douglas Rushkoff (rushkoff) Wed 5 Aug 09 07:04
Hundreds - and many great books written about them, even though most local currencies are still poo-poo'd by major news reporting as a fringe activity. If you go to something as crude as barter, start with Itex.com, which orchestrates barter between businesses. They only account for a few hundred million dollars of exchanges, but they are only one of the many b2b networks out there, and they are growing at 40% or more per month right now during the crisis. Businesses can't borrow from banks, so they trade with one another. Then they realize it's cheaper to do it in this old-fashioned way, and keep doing it. Ithaca Hours is one of the oldest and best currencies out there, and the time dollars concept has spread from crunchy towns doing it as a way of life, to hard-hit cities doing it as a way to survive. Read Greco, End of Money; Lietaer; The Complementary Currency Manual, and many many others. Go to the Lets system site, TimeBanks.org... Find out about the Japanese healthcare dollar, developed during the long recession. There, people who were unemployed and incapable of finding the funds they needed to care for their elders in distant cities set up a system through which people could earn credits by taking care of people locally, and then spend those credits to get someone else to care for their loved ones far away. The system ended up providing hundreds of millions of dollars worth of healthcare, and the elderly grew to prefer this care over that provided by traditional agencies. In my own town, Hastings on Hudson, a local organic restaurant called Comfort seeks to expand to a new location. But the owner/chef can no longer borrow money from the bank. Instead, he is selling "Comfort Dollars" to local residents. For a hundred dollars of regular cash, the customer gets $120 of Comfort Dollars to spend at the restaurant. The customer gets 20% return on the dollar, and the chef gets the money he needs a lot cheaper than he can get if from the bank. He pays for it in food and labor.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Wed 5 Aug 09 07:46
Here we have the Austin Time Exchange, described in its mission statement as "a local exchange system designed to validate and reward the work of respecting equality and rebuilding community while providing an alternative means for its members to meet their needs." We also have a group that's met to discuss expanded uses of complementary currencies, to the extent they're not limited by law. This may be on the fringes, but so much of our reality mainstreams from the fringes. But as you argue in the book, there's powerful opposition to local currencies. What are people/critics saying about the book so far?
(dana) Wed 5 Aug 09 09:59
(Note: Offsite readers with questions or comments may have them added to this conversation by emailing them to email@example.com -- please include "Life Inc." in the subject line.)
Douglas Rushkoff (rushkoff) Wed 5 Aug 09 10:41
I guess they're divided. The ones who aren't entrenched in corporatist culture - the ones who haven't lost touch with the idea that something may have gone fundamentally wrong with the banking model - are really inspired. They think the book is very optimistic, perhaps too optimistic in its appraisal of real people's ability to learn skills and provide value for one another. But they love the idea of reclaiming the economy a piece at a time, and are glad to see the history explained. Most of them are inspired most by the idea that our economy didn't just happen - that decisions were made by certain people at certain times, and that this is the result. The economy we are born into is just an operating system; it is not a given circumstance. The negative critics see exactly the opposite: they think I'm angry and railing against everything that America and capitalism are based on. They think I'm anti-market, because they have no way to distinguish between commerce and corporatism. They don't understand that corporations were developed not to promote the free market, but to defeat it. They don't understand that centralized currency has certain biases, making it much harder for players on the periphery to create or exchange value. So they don't understand that I'm writing much more in the spirit of Adam Smith. And they get really upset that I'm some sort of communist. Or that I want things to be the way they were in 1100. I am interested in the common misperception - of a market-hypnotized culture - that if I say anything good about the Middle Ages, it means we have to go back to the Middle Ages. It's a bizarre leap that people make. I write about how before the implementation of centralized currency, people were beginning to get rich. They created value and exchanged value directly, so kings took this ability away, and gave it to corporations and banks. Somehow, though, when people read this, they think I am saying we have to abandon all technology and culture that has developed for the past five hundred years. How does that logical, synaptic error happen? Why does re-introducing a monetary mechanism that was made illegal in 1300 mean that we have to go back to the middle ages? It's the main thing right-wing reviewers use to criticize the book, and it makes absolutely no sense.
Steve Bjerklie (stevebj) Wed 5 Aug 09 11:25
>>> They don't understand that corporations were developed not to promote the free market, but to defeat it. <<< I don't know if I agree with this statement. Corporations were developed and grew to take advantage of the free market and to manipulate it to their advantage, I think, not necessarily to defeat it. (Though I wouldn't strongly argue with someone who said manipulating the free market is tantamount to defeating it.)
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Wed 5 Aug 09 11:31
They're just not being rational, or I should say, using a choosing to create a rhetorical fog that will divert reasonable discussion into emotional territory. I was just watching a news report about the right organizing disruptions of town hall meetings, discussions of healthcare reform. No valid logical arguments - just fearful, angry shouting - more fog. Healthcare reform and your ideas have something in common. They both threaten a status quo that works for some who will aggressively defend it. While they're not shouting you down, they misrepresent your points because you're advocating against a reality they've accepted and internalized. They won't, or can't, listen. This also reminds me of my more recent conversations with global warming deniers - in fact they're no longer denying the warming trend because it's undeniable, but they still deny that human action is a source of the problem... therefore denying that we can or should take any action to mitigate, such as cap and trade or emission controls. They don't want to see the problem, because acknowledging the problem subverts their sense of what's real. And at some level, of course, there are powerful interests whose money and power would be undermined by acknowledging the various issues that, to many of us, feel particularly urgent. But I'm not thinking they're mindfully and knowingly protecting their own interests, at least not universally - I think it's way more complex. I think it's being invested in a belief system and way of experiencing reality. Isn't that why they haven't even considered that money can be biased? The real and difficult question, I think, is how to get people to have a conversation and listen? And how do we question our fundamental assumptions? That's a problem for both the left and the right, and I think it's crucial. Who else is thinking along the same lines as you? What else should we be reading? (Note - <stevebj>'s comment was posted while I was writing mine.)
pardon my amygdala (murffy) Wed 5 Aug 09 12:58
>They created value and exchanged value directly, >so kings took this ability away, and gave it to >corporations and banks. This strikes me as very interesting. Is there a reasonably succinct example you can offer here of this happening?
Adam Powell (rocket) Wed 5 Aug 09 13:50
(Great conversation so far!)
(dana) Wed 5 Aug 09 15:23
J Clark writes: Any time people "barter," the IRS wants to know about it so they can determine a taxable value and extract taxes from the transaction. How will any of the alternative currencies fare in this climate? What's the IRS' role, or rather what should it be? The notion of a Japanese healthcare model works in Japan for cultural reasons that don't map in the US. That said, the time is now and people share this need -- politicians are not stepping up to help recreate our broken healthcare system. How do we reorient people who share a common need (e.g., care for our elderly) to share a common good (e.g., the care) without being compelled to game the system? Thanks. Looking forward to your thoughts.
Douglas Rushkoff (rushkoff) Wed 5 Aug 09 17:01
The most succinct example is how trade happened in the late Middle Ages. People brought grain to the grainstore, and got a receipt for however many pounds they had produced. The receipt served as cash. They could break the foil receipt into fractions. A hundred pound receipt could be spent as a series of tens, and so on. So their money was not borrowed. It was literally earned, or grown, into circulation. A currency system based in the abundance of crop. And it lost value over time, because the grain store had to be paid, and some crop was lost to spoilage or rats. This meant that the bias of the currency was towards spending - towards circulation - rather than hording. And so they ended up with great wealth. Extra money, that they invested in huge, long-term projects like cathedrals. Cathedrals were funded by towns as an investment in tourism for future generations. Central currencies were developed by monarchs who were unable to participate in the wealth creation happening locally, in a decentralized fashion. Local currencies were made illegal. Wars were fought, blood was shed. It was a big deal, and people knew it. The other kind of transaction unique to the late Middle Ages was the kind that happened directly between people. Someone could grow a crop and sell it to someone else. Chartered corporations were really chartered monopolies, handed out to the merchants and companies that promised the king a piece of the action in return for exclusive control over an industry or sector. In the American Colonies, it was the British East India Company that had exclusive right to extract value. So now colonists were no longer allowed to grow cotton and sell it to one another. They couldn't make mittens or clothes out of the cotton they grew. They were all in the employ of the Company, and had to deliver the cotton to the Company boats. The cotton was shipped to England where it was made into fabric and clothes by another monopoly, and then shipped back to the colonists who could buy it from the company. So direct commerce between people was replaced with indirect commerce through corporations, who could extract value from the work everyone else was doing. Sometimes, of course, the corporate structure allowed for certain kinds of products to be produced that might not have happened otherwise. Big complicated stuff that required many people. But the bias from then on was towards working as an employee, and consuming from a corporation, rather than trading directly. As far as barter, yes - barter is taxable. So far, in the cases that have come up, complementary currencies are not taxable in this way because people don't actually get anything for what they have given. They get credits in a system, but they don't get legal tender. They get hours credited to their account. It's still a gift economy, in legal terms. So it's not taxable. As far as how to reorient people, well, I think the need to get stuff we need to survive will serve as our motivation. The inability for the restaurant in my town to get money from the bank - and our community need for the restaurant to survive and expand - led to our local investment in the restaurant's micro-currency. We got our restaurant out of debt, and we got 20% return on our investment in restaurant food.
Ed Ward (captward) Thu 6 Aug 09 03:17
Two possibly mildly irrelevant things here. First, I would dispute that cathedrals were investments in tourism. They were only allowed to be built in cities where there were important ecclesiastical authorities, most notably bishops, and were kind of a regional home office for the church. Where the "tourism" comes in is that each city competed to build the most ornate and beautiful cathedral and stuff it with as many relics of the True Cross and suchlike as they could in hopes that pilgrims would come. But their chief function was as a symbol of local power. Second, I'm curious about these grain receipts. Clearly the miller gets to keep some flour from my grain in order to fund his labor and life. Now, I assume I have an account with him, in that maybe I've delivered 1000 lbs. of grain to him and only need 100 back home. Having packed that onto the wagon, do I have 900 lbs. credit with him? If there is a baker in town, can I spend some of my receipts with him so that he can obtain flour and provide me with bread? I'm just curious because I've never heard of this system before, and it interests me from the social end of it all.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Thu 6 Aug 09 05:02
I get from the book that there were all sorts of biases, concessions, propaganda campaigns etc. that empowered corporations, but was this motivated primarily by cynical corporate greed, or by a real belief that the corporate model creates a better world? (Or maybe it was both?) Given that the corporate model is so firmly entrenched, can we dispense with it? Or is the way forward a rethinking of the model?
Douglas Rushkoff (rushkoff) Fri 7 Aug 09 10:50
@18 - Yes, that's basically the idea. These local grain-based currencies were in place for longer than we've had centralized currency, and led to generally more stable growth. You brought your grain, and received a piece of foil with a rather ornate stamp on it. It was called a bracteaten, and it could be torn into smaller segments. Yes, it was just like what we call money today. You give a piece to a person who has something of value, and then they give you the thing of value (chicken, a tuna sandwich, sex) in return for the piece of receipt. The recipient of the receipt can either bring it to the grain store for grain, or spend it just like you did. The big difference between this money (no banker today would understand that receipt as money - it takes most bankers much longer to even understand what we're talking about here than it takes regular people) and our money, is that it does not require anyone to go into debt. That is why it does not necessarily enslave people over time to central authorities. That is why it had to be made illegal. @19 - Was it cynicism? It depends who you mean. The guys founding NAM really did believe that people are stupid. That the masses are horrible, unsophisticated dolts who should not be entrusted with making any real decisions about anything - even for themselves. Bernays was a firm believer in the idea that people should be told what to do - and convinced by higher, smarter authorities that this was good for them. These business leaders who we might call cynical honestly BELIEVED it was best for us, the same way we believe training our pets is good for them. It will make sure they don't get hit by traffic. Of course, we don't question whether traffic is itself a problem that needs to be fixed. FDR BELIEVED that the soldiers returning home from WWII would be likely to cause civil unrest. He also believed that the economy needed to expand, and that the way to do this was to get people to buy more stuff. So he worked with the Levitt brothers to build Levittown and other towns where men could be controlled, and families would buy lots of stuff to fill their homes. FDR did not know this would ultimately make people unhappy, energy-dependent, or racist.
pardon my amygdala (murffy) Fri 7 Aug 09 11:00
>a bracteaten The idea of a local currency is intriguing, but a bracteaten doesn't seem very portable. I might have trouble spending it in Texas or Poland. Isn't there significant advantages to more universal currencies?
Bob (bob) Fri 7 Aug 09 11:44
I also wonder about the practical potential for bartering. The one person I know of who does significant bartering is a Montana "Libertarian" who largely does it to dodge taxes. It's something he's able to do because he's well off, and doing this may (if there is ever again an effective agenda to redistribute wealth via the tax code) largely insulate him and others like him from the kind of systemic reform that once helped bring the US out of the Great Depression. The Cafe-bucks scheme seems smart, and I like that it allows the business to avoid a bank loan, but other than that it seems to rely on universal currency to establish the value of the product; it ends up being little more than pay-in-advance-for-a-discount.
Bob (bob) Fri 7 Aug 09 12:35
More generally: I've been enjoying this book quite a bit. I have to say though, that amid all the fairly straightforward history and reasonable explanations for more recent economic phenomena, I keep thinking to myself, why do I need to read out-of-mainstream books (and see fringe documentaries like "The Corporation") to get straightforward explanations that one would think would be the basics of economic science? Yes, I kind of know the answer, but it's still astonishing. We've got people who are developing a detailed understanding of the changing nature of gravitation during the first fractions of a second after the Big Bang, Geology busies itself testing some pretty esoteric theories, and so on. Information theory has advanced to the point where it starts to get into spirituality's turf. And we also have an academic discipline called "economics", with professionals called "economists" (and I know from reading John Perkins just what being a "cheif economist" entails). Meanwhile we quite recently have this guy pretty much running the world's monetary system largely based on a philosophy he got from Ayn Rand. I guess what I'm wondering is: Is there an actual science of economics that is reality based (and based to some degree on the idea of making things good for people and society), and if so, why aren't the fundamentals of that science at least accessible enough so that the big-business pimps can be more difinitvely countered?
Brian Slesinsky (bslesins) Fri 7 Aug 09 21:10
Here's an interesting paper on what the authors claim is a dual currency system in Bali. (They also compare it to shell money in Indonesia.) http://www.lietaer.com/images/ijse5_postscript.pdf I'd be interested in hearing whether experts in these countries would agree with the paper that this really counts as currency. --- Where can we read more about economics in the Age of Cathedrals? --- As I said earlier in email, I think the claim about bankruptcies being an inherent result of centralized currency is incorrect. Money paid as interest to a bank flows right back out into the economy so long as the bank spends the money for expenses, pays it out as dividends, or loans it out. If banks or their shareholders hoard it then it could be a problem, and that might be part of what happened last year when credit dried up. But that's not an inherent flaw of the system.
Douglas Rushkoff (rushkoff) Sat 8 Aug 09 10:48
@21 - Right. The bractean was really great for the 11th Century, when they didn't even have a printing press. Luckily, we've got new technologies today. Local and complementary currencies could be exchanged securely through cell phones, web sites... And they wouldn't have to be based in grain, either. The best for the last few decades have been based on TIME. So a person works for an hour and has earned credits - hours - for the labor. Some systems value all time equally. Others allow people with particular skills to value their time more highly. This way, brain surgeons and garage sweepers can be in the same system, if the brain surgeon feels the time, cash, and energy that went into his education or skill set merits him a higher rate of pay. But using a currency system other than US dollars doesn't require people to walk around with foil receipts. They worked so well in the Middle Ages because the people living in that period had different technological capabilities than we do. The receipts were a bit more durable than paper, somewhat harder to counterfeit, yet still capable of being broken down. It was quite clever. Long distance, or what became known as "centralized" currencies served a different purpose than local currency. Long distance currencies were better for long distance exchanges, since they didn't only retain their value in the town from which they were issued. This is why the Florin was such a successful coinage: it was minted from what amounted to a port city in the middle of Europe's greatest thoroughfare. People needed a portable currency. Centralized currencies were made out of gold, though, because nobody trusted them otherwise. They didn't *mean* anything, the way local currencies did, so they had to have some proof of value. Gold content, and the imprimature of the King. These currencies did some things really well, and other things really poorly. They helped rich people save and horde, they helped corporations and non-local businesses expand. They simply didn't do everything; that's why it's a shame all the other kinds of currency were made illegal. It sometimes takes more than one tool to do different kinds of jobs. All this is in my own book, as well as the books in my bibliography at http://rushkoff.com/life-inc-resources/ That's also where you can read more about economics in the age of cathedrals. Or read Braudel. I don't think economics is a science. That's part of the problem, and what I'm writing about today for the Edge.org site. If I get to it. It's really game theory. There are some people looking at value exchange, but very few get that they are accepting market principles of renaissance-era kings as underlying assumptions. As far as why this information is relegated to fringe books, it's because people don't want to hear it. My book is RandomHouse, so it's not fringe. It's simply that BN didn't buy a lot. But I got on Colbert. So did Nassim Taleb. I think. He gets on CNBC, anyway. As for the comment about banks, I don't agree. Banks are in the business of debt. The money they get from borrowers is loaned out again. If not, then the bank is losing money. The rate at which the lending expands more than outsizes the amount they pay in dividends. The leverage itself expands asymptotically. It is an inherent flaw of the system. It is why European nations needed to conquer the rest of the world. And when colonialism stopped working, why they met at Bretton Woods to create a World Bank to do the same. They lend out money to debtor nations, now that our own economies don't have enough borrowers. But we have begun to see those debtor nations begin to push back. They understand that the indebtedness is not in their interest. We push back with guns when necessary. This is all quite simple, and I totally get why it seems preposterous that we'd have an economic system that doesn't work on the most basic level. But it DID work - as long as we had a majority of the planet and its peoples to exploit or destroy. It worked, we expanded, we conquered. You are right in that bankruptcies are not required - as long as there are more people to borrow. That's where the money has to come from. It's not a matter of more circulation - it's a matter of more money. That's why the money supply is expressed in two figures - one for actual cash created, and the other for virtual cash leveraged.
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