Charles Eisenstein is a breath of fresh air. He has the big picture about the dangers we face -- from ecosystem collapse to economic oppression to creeping fascism. He also has a vision that the system that permits 1% of the populace to assert power over the other 99% is not working for anyone. The 1% will defend their turf with violence if necessary, but there is no fulfillment or satisfaction for them in the current state of affairs, nor is there even any real security.
Economists speak of high unemployment rates as unavoidable hazards of managing a large, rapidly-changing economy. It's a deep truth -- rarely stated -- that we have millions of people who just want an opportunity to give their talents and crafts and ideas to their communities, and we have crying needs for those very talents and crafts -- but those in need are not finding those with gifts to offer, and those with gifts are not finding settings in which they can work. Facilitating those matches is supposed to be the basic purpose of the money economy. The money economy is not doing its job.
On a very conventional level, there is misallocation of money caused by displacements in the economy, so that the people who want to buy don't have money to buy and the people who want to expand their businesses to serve their needs don't have customers to support their expansion.
On a higher level of analysis, the scarcity is man-made, created by a Federal Reserve system. The problem is that the economy needs more and more money as it expands, but the only mechanism we have for putting money into circulation creates more than a dollar of debt for each dollar in circulation. The process of creating new debt in order to pay off the old debt is a pyramid scheme which has progressed to the point where it is threatening to topple.
Eisenstein takes the analysis to a higher level yet: The philosophical foundation of the money economy is flawed. It is premised on the idea that work is unpleasant, and that people need to be prodded into working by the carrot of security and the stick of scarcity. But in fact, to work for one another, to offer our gifts to the community is a fundamental human need. A rational money system would channel us all into the most satisfying opportunities for offering our gifts; what we have instead is a dysfunctional system that threatens us with ostracism and physical hardship if we don't work in noxious ways to produce goods that are not really what people want.
A great part of the Internet embodies a world of gifts that can serve as a model for us. There is a wealth of useful content, epitomized by Wikipedia, that was created entirely by volunteers. The Open Office word processor with which I write these words was created by thousands of cooperating, unpaid programmers. The Linux operating system that runs the OpEdNews server (and underlies the Macintosh OS as well) was programmed by that same open-source community. OpEdNews itself is administered and edited almost entirely by volunteers, and no one is paid for submitting articles.
Eisenstein has been speaking around the country, offering deep wisdom and a simple, engaging presence. He has ideas about what we can do that make sense for us as individuals, and also work for us as a movement.
Here is an audio recording of a recent speech offered in Vancouver.
Here is a short video on the deep meaning and future direction of OWS.
Here is his new book, called Sacred Economics, which you can
read free on-line.
Selected quotes from the introduction:
Today we associate money with the profane, and for good reason. If anything is sacred in this world, it is surely not money. Money seems to be the enemy of our better instincts, as is clear every time the thought "I can't afford to" blocks an impulse toward kindness or generosity. Money seems to be the enemy of beauty, as the disparaging term "a sellout" demonstrates. Money seems to be the enemy of every worthy social and political reform, as corporate power steers legislation toward the aggrandizement of its own profits. Money seems to be destroying the earth, as we pillage the oceans, the forests, the soil, and every species to feed a greed that knows no end."
Within every institution of our civilization, no matter how ugly or corrupt, there is the germ of something beautiful: the same note at a higher octave. Money is no exception. Its original purpose is simply to connect human gifts with human needs, so that we might all live in greater abundance. How instead money has come to generate scarcity rather than abundance, separation rather than connection, is one of the threads of this book. Yet despite what it has become, in that original ideal of money as an agent of the gift we can catch a glimpse of what will one day make it sacred again. We recognize the exchange of gifts as a sacred occasion, which is why we instinctively make a ceremony out of gift giving. Sacred money, then, will be a medium of giving, a means to imbue the global economy with the spirit of the gift that governed tribal and village cultures, and still does today wherever people do things for each other outside the money economy.
I dedicate all of my work to the more beautiful world our hearts tell us is possible. I say our "hearts," because our minds sometimes tell us it is not possible. Our minds doubt that things will ever be much different from what experience has taught us. You may have felt a wave of cynicism, contempt, or despair as you read my description of a sacred economy. You might have felt an urge to dismiss my words as hopelessly idealistic. Indeed, I myself was tempted to tone down my description, to make it more plausible, more responsible, more in line with our low expectations for what life and the world can be. But such an attenuation would not have been the truth. I will, using the tools of the mind, speak what is in my heart.