Money is not the “central resource”, is not “all that one needs”. In an autarky-centered economic approach, money is just the means to obtain what one cannot (yet) create oneself. But still, it has to come from some source.

And because of that, here is a concept developed around my experiences on how to get money: there are wells for every type of resource in the world (oil, food, technology, waste, water), but here we cannot use any of these but wells of money. You need to attach yourself to a well of money, to obtain money. At other places it can be found also, but only like crumbs lying on the floor, while a well provides continuous and rich supply. Or perhaps better than the well metaphor is the “pipe” metaphor: money flows through pipes in the social system of society, and you need to attach yourself to a pipe to get your share. Because where money flows in abundance, it is comparatively easy to obtain ones share by economic means; while it is really difficult in any economic area where money is scarce (free services like web portals; economies in developing nations; own inventions, products and other ideas; new NPOs that are not attached to government’s money flow etc.).

Of course, there are different money pipe sizes in the world. The bigger the pipe (the more money flows through it), the better the chance to attach ones own pipe and get a share. Good pipes are: government (like being a teacher or social worker), academia, self-employment in trade (ideally the new, not yet overcrowded areas). We do not include normal employment in capitalist industries, as these want to keep ideally all in their money pipe to themselves: they are quite harsh, demaning a lot and allowing only a small pipe … and the temp work industry is the worst here.

And then, when you have the minimal amount of indispensable money, move on towards autarchy; don’t rest on money, it cannot grant any kind of long-lasting security.

It is not yet clear however what exactly are the best money wells to attach to: Super rich people (owners or large companies) because they are willing to spend unreasonable amonts for luxury, way beyond its worth? Or perhaps rather well-working small companies that themselves are attached to an even larger money well (such as doctor’s offices, connected to health insurance companies)? Or perhaps the automated attaching to all the capillar money pipes of end customers, meaning what is left of the products after they have been bought (e.g. operating an electronics remanufacturing company; because remanufacturing is a not yet overcrowded area)?

Employment is a supra-individual state of an economic system: in a society, people depend on each other, and on infrastructure, to be able to do economic activity. So without other peoples economic activity, and without infrastructure, there is a deadlock: all people wait on other people (the customers) and on infrastructure to be able to start with economic activity. (The fact that modern market economies use counter-cyclical economic politics, investing both in salaries and infrastructure during times of economic crisis, seems to prove this “bad economy by deadlocks” thesis right.)

This does not only relate to total unemployment, but especially to inefficient (subsidizing) employment that only helps to survive, but not to a decent standard of living. Because: survivors need infrastructure to do more efficient economic activity, but for infrastructure to be built it needs money from a flourishing economy, and hence there is again the deadlock situation.

The way around this deadlock would be that government uses taxes to centralize money that can be invested into infrastructure, first in a limited area to get it “running”, and from the outcome of that area the infrastructure in other areas can be built. This is like the re-starting of cells in the electric grid after a total power failure: one cell helps to start its neighbour, and so on.

Government also has the option to build infrastructure by organizing people (like putting them in “labour armies”, as was done in the US during the Great Depression, which also did employ people). And it has the option to gain humanitarian help funds and invest them to build infrastructure. The problem in nations that never emerged out of this economic deadlock (like many African economies) is that government failed in all three points. It wasted its chances to start the economy, and major contributors to this are corruption, fraud and fraudulent conversion of aid funds for private purposes. That way, the “excess resources” that are present even in the poorest economies and could be used to improve the economy by building infrastructure are simply wasted.

Unemployment is also a problem of governments in highly industrialized countries. Here, governments try to force employment by the forced creation of new infrastructure that nobody needs (like environment protection projects of some sorts, esp. climate related). But this just distributes the existing economic resources to more people, so the standard of living falls. Also, large amounts of people in such countries still stay unemployed, as nobody has any interest or vision to create infrastructure for them (the underclass). They are just fed to keep them calm.

Infrastructure that enables economic activity (and hence, employment) includes:

  • Education. This is probably the most important thing: it is the “brain infrastructure”.
    • language
    • trade culture (you need to know what to expect to do trade)
    • collaboration
    • math, physics, sciences of all sorts (as they help to utilize natural resources)
  • grid supply systems
    • electric grid
    • water supply pipelines
    • phone network
    • data connectivity, Internet
    • roads
    • parcel shipment network
    • public security (as criminality hinders economic activity)
  • education system
  • trustable monetary system as the infrastructure to make payments
  • money supply systems to make investments (banks, …)
  • waste management systems
  • necessary supra-individual systems like mining etc.

So we saw that unemployment is never (!) a problem of natural resources, because their lack does not necessarily prohibit the economic development of a region. There are Russian scientific centers in deepest Siberia. Unemployment is always a social problem, a problem of organization of people.

And because it is a social problem, a problem about people on a systemic, supra-individual level, one individual alone cannot solve its own problem of unemployment. The question is now, in light of the government failures outlined above, what is the minimum amount of people, and what are the requirements for their organization, so that they can relief themselves of the unemployment problem? Such a group is called here an “autarkic community with respect to employment”, or simply, an “autarkic community”. Such a community would be able to start other like communities by “divide and multiply”; the hardest job would be, of course, starting the first one, as this starts from zero. Starting from zero is the task of crushing the deadlock situation described above, with the scarce resources one does not need for immediate survival; but this is possible, as it has been performed for example by the “Trümmerfrauen” after WW II: they did the upfront investment of building infrastructure, without getting a direct repayment for this hardest part of all work.

Because all communities would govern themselves, no mismanagement of centralized power can emerge that could damage this economic system again, as it does in mismanaged states. The worst thing would be for individual communities to fail and disband, allowing people to regroup into fresh start-up communities.

A quick outline of on such autarkic community as envisioned here:

  • Approx. 50-100 “economically desparate” people, with 15 being the minimum for such a community to work.
  • At least 15-20% of the members have to be already educated people (“bringing in the brain infrastructure”), but apart from this, no other infrastructure or resources are needed. The education mainly needs to be about organizing people efficiently to do collaborative tasks (e.g. in XC style), and some technical knowledge to make best use of natural resources.
  • The community can start with what they find, even if this is trash, and sleeping outdoors. All of human civilization was built from what lies around (and grows naturally), orchestrated by the power of the brain.
  • To be effective as a self-help for employment (which is the ability to work for improving ones own living conditions), the community has to be independent of government activities like building (or not building, or not maintaining) infrastructure. That is, it has to provide its own infrastructure: own schools, own roads (in the sense of cars that need no roads), own tools, own internal markets, own health system, own security, own electricity, … .
  • To not mess with the government any more than necessary (because corrupt governments tend to hinder the communities economic activity by corruption, high taxes and all sorts of mismanagement, as they do with all the other people): the community should be in a remote, scarcely inhabited area. See inspirations from the post “The monastery as a revived society model“.
  • As with monasteries, long (multi-generation) periods of calm, politically and socially stable conditions really help such communities to build up their infrastructure. Permanent need to re-orient in an ever-changing society structure (like in Western countries) is as adversive here as is war and the like.
  • A system that “all time is worth (and paid) equally” can be established here: it allows people who create infrastructure to accumulate time that can be later exchanged in goods produced with the help of this infrastructure.

This idea is mature if it is possible to jump-start such a community with 15 “organizers” and 85 economically desparate people.

Now this idea might sound much like libertarian economic theory  that advocates a no-regulation area as the best thing for economic activity. But this post is not about libertarian economy, not exactly. Because it acknowledges the organizing role of a government as necessary for people to be able to achieve a good standard of living. But because governments are not fulfilling this task for the unemployed, this is about self-help.

I would even go as far as to say that even the most highly “developed” nations live way belong their potential. Where the potential is the most intelligent, most orchestrated, most efficient, most sustainable solution to the problem of “getting from nature what mankind needs to live”. So that such communities could even be an alternative to economic activity for employed people in such highly developed nations.

A good part of this idea was inspired by me taking part in the foundation of a new company for electronics remanufacturing. It will eventually provide employment (and income to pay for life’s expenses) to all contributors, but it was a really hard task, nearly impossible, to set it up from zero. If this task of setting up the company infrastructure had been just a little harder, we would have been totally locked up in the “no infrastructure deadlock”. So in effect, the communities proposed here are little command economies, those of the smallest possible autarkic size. Where autarkic means that the employment of people does not depend on external parties; while the supply with raw materials may depend on them, as this is regulated by market forces well enough. Command economies have to be small, as the large ones die from the mismanagement present in large governments … .

I should add that the ultimate trigger for this post was an article about economic refugees from Africa: “Attacking Europe’s border fences” from BBC News. And also the first two parts of that story: “Billy’s journey: Crossing the Sahara“. And very especially, the comments from African people to these stories, commenting that Africa’s poverty is mainly because of greed and selfishness of the African leaders. So that I thought again how to help these people in place. But this topic of understanding the reason behind the “lack of work” kept recurring in my thoughts for approx. 2-3 years now, and also the topic of autarkic communities. But up to this post, I never really understood why people are unemployed, and did not have a clue as for the solution.

Now it is no new thing to propose to “build ones country” and “serve ones country” instead of fleeing for economic reasons. But what all these proposals miss is practicability. Because they all focus on individual self-help (which is impossible because the state of economy is a supra-individual problem, as stated above). Somehow these proposals believe, individual self-help would become a “movement” of many individuals, and by that society and economy would be transformed. But exactly in how to become a movement these proposals are silent. Surely not by starting with individual activity. And the idea of the autarkic community presented in this post is exactly about filling this gap of “how”. The autarkic community is large enough to be a “movement” on its own, on the supra-individual level where economy improves; and it is small enough to be feasible (in terms of organizing it bottom-up) and stable (in terms of being robust against the danger of mismanagement and exploitation, which endangers current large and centralized structures like states). It is the working hypothesis of this post that such a medium “size of society” exists which will make a society both economically feasible (and flourishing) and robust. If such a size cannot be found, there would be no hope for human economy in the long term.

The idea in this post can also be put otherwise: the autarkic community is a self-sustaining company (indeed, a micro-economy itself) that does not depend on centralized infrastructure and does not have gain maximization as its goal, but instead an equally well standard of living for all its contributors. Because, gain maximization in capitalist companies is the analogy to exploitation by corrupt regimes: some people get the money, and the others get not what their work is worth. The capitalists that get the money claim that this is their right because they set up all the infrastructure as investors (while their workers get only as much as they could produce without any infrastructure, so keep lacking a good standard of living).

Many people quarreled about that. Here is my contribution: money is a right, or better, a system of rights. As with all rights, tolerated abuse of rights endangers the system: money for example stops to work where a state prints money in large amounts to pay for state expenses. The special thing about “money right” is that this right can be aggregated. Money is no universal right: there are multiple currencies (but “conversion of rights” is possible here) and there are things that you cannot get though you have “money right”. But money is quite universal and therefore quite useful. As with every system of rights, it only works when people trust it. Because the right to something is not the actual thing, so you need to trust that you can get the thing (things to buy, here) later if you accept just the right now.

So here is the reason why people want to be rich: being rich means to have “many rights”, that is, to be mighty (influential, important, …). The quest for money and for might are essentially the same.

And here is the definition of corruption: if somebody allows to convert “money right” into a right that ought not be convertible to money, this is called corruption. There are multiple right systems, and they must be kept strictly separated for a society to work. Because, parallel right systems make it possible that the concentration of aggregable “money right” does not mean to gain “absolute rights” over other people. In parallel rights systems it is possible for poor people to “get their right” in court (but corruption endangers this). And, in parallel rights systems it is possible for poor and criminal people still to have their basic “human rights”.

By the way, lobbyism has the same dangers as corruption for a society.

Money as a rights system is a self-defined, artificial “universal interface” between people.

To extend the above idea of “multiple rights systems”: why not introduce different kinds of non-interchangeable money? One for basic goods like food and clothing and shelter, one for luxury items and for “investment games”. This should make it possible to guarantee the basic supply of a society even in the harshest economic crisis. It would demand from everybody (or better: from every micro-society like a family) to invest a part of the time for working in the area of basic supply, to get “basic supply money”. Thus it ensures the economic health of a society, because it will always include a strong sector that deals with the basic supply for life.

Just yesterday I found an interesting idea that could help to stabilize the ever self-destabilizing financial system, as is apparent in the current financial / economic crisis. The concept is called “Freiwirtschaft” (literally, “free economy”):

Now I’m not a liberalist (any more): people cannot deal with too much freedom as long as they are not responsible enough (“good enough”) to do so. Therefore I don’t propose to introduce Freiwirtschaft as it is, but to take the good ideas from it and combine it with others and have some limited experiments run with approx. 10,000 participants, before introducing it in a whole society. More concretely, I’d propose to combine Freigeld (“free money”) and Freihandel (“free trade”); but instead of “Freiland”, the society should be divided into autarchic communities that are owners of some land each and will provide food for themselves.

Which is of course an Utopia when it comes to introduce something like that in Western societies. It would mean a forceful change of culture, which is impossible to do. Most people in Western societies will never want to dedicate a part of their time to agriculture and other dirty work just to be “autarchic”. Not until they have to starve, but then it’s too late to implement that system …

I am on track of an interesting phenomenon that’s important when working self-employed: you have to protect yourself from economic self-exploitation.

When being employed at another company, you might see your job as slavery. The thing however is, it is highly probably that your boss has learned that he’s got to treat his workforce not too bad, or their productivity will suffer and they will eventually flee and get another boss. And if he did not yet learn that, there is the state that will ensure that your work conditions are not too bad.

If you start to work self-employed, however, you still gotta learn exactly that lesson. You will have times where you’re quite stressed, by project deadlines and financial constraints, and then you’re going to load yourself with ever higher workload just to get through. You will work Saturdays and Sundays also, in the evening and night, not meet friends, not take time for eating as you was used to, nor for buying food if you start to miss something. If you have an IT job, you might be 9-13 hours at the computer a day, and will probably not do sports to compensate this; and after some weeks doing so you will feel your body getting badly off. In the end, you’re through with your project and perceive that it was not at all worth that sort of stress.

That’s my experience currently, and I do not want to repeat. In the future, I’m gonna keep projects apart with a big gap in between, so they will never manage to overlap and create stress … and if they do, I know that I’m not going to do both. The same with project deadlines. Make sure what are the really hard deadlines before starting a project, and simply do not accept if they are too constrained … keep in mind that miscalculations of plus 150% are not unusual in IT projects.

Currently, the state seeks only money from his citizens to perform its tasks. Which means that people who cannot pay money are a burden for the state. This would change radically if people are also able to pay their taxes by their work time. Or even better, if this is the default case. For example, one would contribute ones amount to the state (ones “community”) by doing a four weeks project in the summer that includes re-building and repairing highways. And IT people, for example, could pay their taxes by a dedicated amount of time they invest in open source software that will be used by the state. Ultimately, state would consists fully of people’s contributed work time, that is, would be indeed made out of its citizens.

Being jobless means being unable to care for ones own needs because one lives in a society where one depends on others (the “market” and the “employers”) to care for ones own needs.

It seems that joblessness is an inherent phenomenon of highly civilized societies: due to the technology used, there simply is not enough work to do for everybody to work full-time. So politicians and manufacturers try to increase the amount of work by inventing new needs, but this also fells: people on average do not have that many needs, because they do not want the stress implied in fulfilling and managing even more needs. So the only real way to cure joblessness would be a better distribution of work; which will not happen, because in a market based economy, everybody will compete for the “better” jobs, with the bad jobs (joblessness) being assigned to the inferior.

In agricultural societies however, there is no joblessness: in times where there is no better option, people always can work as farmers to get what they need. Therefore, joblessness can be seen as a symptom of “overcivilization”, that is, decadence.
This can be used as a solution to joblessness even in highly civilized societies (but probably not where the state pays the jobless, as they have no motivation to work hard just for their basic needs).

The basis thesis is that every group of people, if coordinated, can provide for all or nearly all of their needs. So, jobless people would join as communities, each about 100 people from the same area, and start mastering their life together. By pooling the tools, facilities and knowledge they have, or have access to, a synergy arises that makes successfully caring for ones needs feasible, while it is very hard when totally living on ones own.

In practice: there would be smartphones, or big boards at a central place, or any other coordination device. People can request resources from each other. The principle is to value all contributed time equally, with regards to distributing the results. The community can care for their needs in these areas: housing (using tents, squattering, or being assigned empty houses officially until they are torn down); food (agriculture, gardening, Guerilla gardening, containering); furniture (own carpentery); clothing (refurbishing trashed clothes; sewing own clothes); basic health care (skilled people in the community; using the web to research information).

Also, the cooperative work style of a community allows to found ones own business easily: it is large enough right from the start to profit from synergy and therefore get a good market position; but there is no risk included, as employed people are not paid as employees, but work in a cooperative, and their basic needs are backed by the work of the rest of the community. The business will only be used to get the “foreign exchange” to buy what the community cannot create itself; applied to a whole society, this would therefore not lead to too much companies, so there would be no competition that would drive companies out of business.

Using money is always an indicator that the coupling is high (needing others to fulfill ones needs, rather than working in a collaborative autarchic community). Also, competition is always an indicator that there is oversupply in one area.

In such autarchic communities, there can also be the motivation to get more efficient. Because then, the average daily work time can be lowered, which is the time every member has to contribute to get his basic needs provided for by the community, that is, to survive. In an efficient community, this value should be as low as 3 hours average daily work time (means 4.2 hours daily work time for people who choose 5 days a week). People would be free to use the remaining time just as they want: free time (travelling, sports etc.), working to increase the efficiency in the community, working for personal “luxury needs” (like travelling), helping others free of charge.

These communities would be purely economic communities, not forcing the members to live together etc.. But of course, people who became friends and want to live together as a group may do so.

Perhaps, such a system could be set up in cooperation with the government’s job agency of a country?