When I am working on a problem, I never think about beauty… but when I have finished, if the solution is not beautiful, I know it is wrong.
– Buckminster Fuller (1895–1983)
We face a daunting challenge. While the mechanics of switching to a commonwealth money system are relatively simple and easy to accomplish, the fundamental shift from a greed and profit-based culture to a culture of caring and prosperity for all is profound. It will meet with powerful resistance.
It helps to recognize that there are glimmers of shift that support this cultural maturation. These glimmers give us hope that we can change our money system.
We each have stories about how the world works. Our stories frame how we view problems and solutions. Is our story about man the conqueror - making the natural world serve our goals of economic growth and profits? Or, is our story about man the steward who understands inter-dependence and the importance of renewable resources and sustainable industry?
As we learn and mature our stories change. Recognizing our stories and telling them clearly to others increases learning, understanding and decision-making.
Our common stories about the world are changing. Dog poop is a great example of our capacity to learn and tell a new story. When I was growing up our story about the role of family pets was different. Most people treated pets as outdoor animals and let their dogs out and then let them back in again. Stepping in dog doo was common. Our story said it was the nature of pets to poop outside, and the nature of people to let it be. If you had stopped the average person on the street and said everyone should take responsibility for their dogs and pick up the poop, most people would have said, “It will never happen.” But, it did. We changed our story.
Our stories about money and how it should work are changing too. Happily, there are several shifts happening in our common worldviews that support a new story about how money should work:
E Pluribus Unum
From we are individual, separate and independent TO we are an indi-
vidual, AND we are all interconnected and interdependent.
We are shifting from a story idolizing the independence and self-sufficiency of the pioneers, cowboys and the individual TO one recognizing we’re on this continent – and planet – together. (The pioneers were actually very inter dependent and we are giving that more recognition.)
We named our country, The United States. United means joined together for a common purpose: the general welfare – not just the individual welfare of a few, the general welfare of us all. Our Constitution says we intend to get together to be happy. We just haven’t quite figured out how to do it, yet.
Today, we are aware there are many decisions we must make as a whole nation. Lax regulations in one state pollute another. Poor highway maintenance in one state slows down traffic going to another. Stressed public education in one state means poorly educated and easily manipulated people picking our leaders. There are many decisions about the quality of our lives we must make together if we are going to reach our goals of domestic tranquility and general welfare. The money system is one of them.
Dominator TO partnership
From an authoritarian-dominator model of social organization TO a partnership model.
We’re changing our story about what makes the best governance. Most societies in recorded history have been ruled by a single person – a high priest, a pharaoh, an emperor, a general, a king or queen and their inner circle. Our story has been that a powerful individual or a small group of elites know what is best for everyone else.
While it is across lifetimes and an erratic path, over the past millennia, our story about who rules best has been changing – from a powerful, charismatic leader to a group of powerful and charismatic elites, to the distributed and aggregated wisdom of a whole community.
Our story is shifting from valuing an authoritarian rule to valuing egalitarian rule – aggregating the wisdom of an independent, informed, diverse public in issue-based problem-solving and conflict resolution. Our Constitution is a milestone on this path toward governing of, by and for a people. Our 2016 election may make this seem like a fantasy, but when you consider hundreds of years of history, the shift is appar- ently happening.
This new story is changing our relationship to government. Instead of government by them, our emerging story is about government by us. This new story is not about government as a distinct and oppositional power, “…that forces me to do things, like pay taxes and use the national money.” It is a story saying, “As a responsible citizen I do my part to be informed and to participate in civil discourse and decision-making and I share in the benefits and responsibilities of being a citizen.” This new story reflects an understanding that good governance is a collaborative effort. We have a way to go before we’re good at it, and we could accelerate our learning should we choose.
The speed of this story change is accelerating as it spreads into many areas of life. These changes are happening slowly, gradually, and sometimes it seems like we’re going in reverse, but looking back over a lifetime, they are happening surely.
We’re shifting from a story saying father always knows best and it’s OK to use physical force and verbal abuse to enforce his dictates, TO a parenting model balancing firm limits with respect for parents and the individual child’s needs. In this emerging story it is important that parents help children learn _self-_discipline, compassion for others, and confidence in their ability to make a positive contribution with their lives. We are increasingly interested in developing good human beings instead of just raising obedient wage earners or authoritarian talent.
We’re shifting from saying a pastor, counselor or therapist should tell you what is wrong with you and how to fix it. The emerging story values someone who listens, asks good questions and helps you figure things out for yourself. We increasingly value those who teach us how to understand relationship dynamics and how to make good decisions for ourselves, more than those who tell us what to do.
We’re shifting from a story valuing the teacher who stands at the front of rows of desks lecturing, who tests on regurgitating pre-selected information, TO a story about teachers who guide students to learn how to learn and be a critical thinker. Montessori education has been on the forefront of this shift for more than 100 years, and has helped lead this shift.
We are shifting from intimidating power, my-way or highway, adversarial, winner-take-all, horse-trading, unprincipled favor exchanging, decision-from-on-high methods, TO mutual respect, mediation and negotiation strategies that are issue-based and aim for win-win solutions.
We are shifting from industrial scale factory farming that depletes and poisons the land. These farmers dominate their fields with force feeding and pharmaceuticals to make plants and animals grow faster and bigger. We are shifting back TO organic farming which first builds the quality of its soil, acting in partnership with the natural world. Organic farmers produce safer food of higher nutritional value, and improve the land for future use.
We’re shifting from accepting that some people should be able to exploit others to make profits for a few owners, TO recognizing businesses that give employees a stake in the profits and pay living wages are more successful – even for the owners, and certainly for society as a whole. We’re shifting from trusting that a small elite of very wealthy people, devoted to their own self-interest, will make innovation happen, and create jobs resulting in general prosperity, TO trusting that when a nation, together, focuses on creating, and maintaining a strong, healthy common wealth, a vibrant economy will naturally follow.
We’re shifting from believing a private banking elite will determine the right amount of money and pick the best entry point for new money, TO believing a diverse, independent and informed citizenry will best make these determinations. Conversations about this fundamental change are happening all over the planet. This shift from a dominator model to a partnership model of money creation will improve and protect our common wealth, which will result in a prosperous economy.
No pain-no gain TO pain reduces gains
From a no pain-no gain mindset TO the power of prevention and caring.
There is an old idea that like steel tempered in fire, people who live through difficult circumstances come out stronger. There is some truth to this. We do learn and grow through difficult situations. However, none of us deliberately make life a living hell for our kids in hopes they will be better adults. We nurture them with care and love, the best food, the best home and education we can provide. We don’t send them out to work at the age of five and make them live off their earnings, because we know that would not give them the best start. This doesn’t mean we protect our children from the pain of failure; it means we recognize a healthy and strong foundation makes for a healthy and strong and productive adult. We know, the better the beginning the more likely a child will reach their fullest potential.
So, where do we get the idea this is not true for adults? The evidence says employees are more productive when they are respected, well paid and have some control over their tasks. Evidence says unemployed and homeless people are more likely to get back on their feet when they are given a roof over their heads and a stipend for basic living expenses – even if they are on drugs.2 Evidence says lawbreakers are more likely to become good citizens when they are given an education, drug treatment and healthcare.3
But when it comes to our communities and our economy, there is an old belief that life should be hard for people in poverty or at the beginning of their careers. Poverty and the need to work exceptionally hard to survive will be an incentive to work enough to rise up the economic ladder. Poverty will make them stronger. For some, that may be.
However, we are learning that a public foundation of support does not create dependency; it creates health, well-being and prosperity. Many other nations have proven when people have the security of knowing any health needs will be covered, they are healthier and more productive. When people get the education they want, they learn more and are more productive in the economy. When people have time off to nurture family ties they come back to work refreshed and more produc- tive. When we make sure all our nation’s children have health care from conception to adulthood, and make sure a good education is available to all, there will be less disease, less crime, less mental illness. The nation will prosper and need to spend less on crisis and remediation. It takes a shift in thinking.
Mostly, we recognize that a good foundation makes for greater productivity and happiness. There is plenty of pain and suffering in life without our deliberately adding to it. But we have been trained to accept the idea that poverty, pain and suffering are part of a natural order. This natural order justifies exploiting others and natural resources for personal gain. So, if some people must suffer so we can do well, then so be it. We strive to be one of the lucky ones who come out on top. But, thankfully, this essentially heartless creed is on the wane.
Tough competition TO nurture & collaboration
From competition is the only way to progress TO collaboration has the greatest benefits.
Our old story overvalues competition because that is what our money system requires. Stressful competition is promoted for life’s basics, including money itself – we are driven to grab what we can for ourselves and our loved ones, even at the expense of others. This increases true scarcity for many.
People do extraordinary things under enormous pressure. And, yes, a few rugged individuals rise from rags to riches. Yes, some people stretch to their finest potential when challenged by competition. However, people do their consistent best when in the zone – healthy, rested, primed, and energized. The most successful competitions generally are those between teams of people, because teams of people support and nurture each other and give each other strength to compete.
Adults produce their best work when they are well-rested and in good company. High stress reduces productivity.4 Only a very few people thrive under constant stress. Most of us do our best when we are nurtured. According to a Harvard study, over 600,000 people in the US go bankrupt from medical bills every year.5 Think of the stress and anxiety! In Britain, France, Japan, Germany, the Netherlands, Canada and Switzerland, NO ONE goes broke because of medical bills. Think about that freedom to heal and get on with life after a serious illness. Think about the benefit to society as a whole. How can pill-popping, sleep-deprived America measure up to that?
When we are confident our basic needs will be met, we are more creative and more productive. And, we are less inclined to grab for all we can get. This reduces the number of people who face preventable suffering.
There’s not enough to go around TO there’s enough for everyone
From there’s not enough to go around so some must suffer TO we have enough for everyone.
There is enough for everyone. People think that there isn’t enough, so they get as much as they can. Then many people don’t have enough.
— R. Buckminster Fuller
We have enough for everyone on earth to prosper. It is simply a matter of more equitable distribution. Think of the eight richest people in the world who now have more wealth than the poorest half – 3,500,000, combined. They only wear one pair of pants at a time just like the rest of us. They won’t have to suffer when we distribute earth’s bounty more equitably. Someone making billions of dollars every year can cut their income significantly and still live better than everyone else. Isn’t there a point where wealth becomes excessive and immoral? It is not enough to praise this tiny minority for setting up foundations that do charity work (or pretend to do so). It is wrong for them to be deciding how the world overcomes hunger or provides quality education. We would get better decisions from a much more diverse community of decision-makers.
Some people have been programmed to hear better distribution of wealth as “hating the successful and rich.” It is important to understand this is not the point. Only a very few truly begrudge the wealth of those who work hard, or innovate, or build businesses. People begrudge the wealth accumulated in a rigged system, and gained by causing harm to others.
If we truly want to prosper, we must change our story about money: a money system can let natural abundance prevail. We can have minimum life support for all our citizens, so we can each get on with finding and fulfilling our highest purpose.
Think how great America would be then!