Newsletter No. 14 - February 2008
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1. The Sane Alternative: A Choice
2. The Germane Society: Ethical Volunteering -
and the Future of Work
3. Business in Society
(1) Social Business
(2) Education for Responsible Business Management
(3) A Postscript on Social Entrepreneurs
4. The Money System
(1) Northern Rock and the Current Financial Crisis
(2) A Proposed Popular Movement for Reform
(3) Land Value Taxation - Two initiatives
1. THE SANE ALTERNATIVE: A Choice of Futures
The text of the revised (1983) edition of this book is now
on the website, including a new five-page 2008 Preface.
To download it, click here.
The new Preface looks back 25 years - indeed
30 years to the 1978 first edition. It is humbling to
reflect how slowly the world has moved toward
the "SHE" (Sane, Humane, Ecological) path into the
future, and how fast we have gone down the path toward "Disaster".
But, looking forward, it is still possible to hope. The case
for changing the direction of world development which the book
put forward is now much more obviously urgent. The need to switch
from the present path leading toward "combined system
collapse" to a new SHE path of "combined
system renewal" has at least begun to reshape some
parts of the mainstream agenda. Based on the principle
of enable and conserve and pursued comprehensively,
that switch could still offer our human species a chance to avoid
the ultimate calamity and take a new step up the ladder of evolution.
This website will, I hope, continue to encourage readers to apply
that principle to many aspects of worldwide human activity
and society, such as work, wellbeing, health, education,
politics, money, economics, and so on.
2. THE GERMANE SOCIETY: Ethical Volunteering - and
the Future of Work
In a three-page letter on Ethical
Volunteering – job
losses and the use of volunteer labour, circulated
in October 2007, the Germane Society has raised a question
which is significant for the future of work.
(Attached to it were lists of nine people and organisations
who had responded to their enquiry the previous March and another
of twenty-eight who had not.) To contact the Germane Society
"The signatories of the letter
are or have been self-employed and actively involved in volunteering.
All of us have (now grown up) children who were educated
out of school and encouraged to be resourceful and autonomous
in their learning and work. Our shared
belief in family, mutuality and community as essentials to
the health of the individual and the planet was a
catalyst to The Germane Society.
We are interested in questioning the policies
that create conditions that push people into paid work as
well as the inconsistent values attached
to different types of work; for example - looking after
your own child v looking after someone else's;
playing the money and commodities market v caring for a
woodland. We are compelled to ask what effect these policies
have on the humanity of people and their relationship to
I would add that this conflict of values is one key factor
that could discredit the prevailing view that work means finding
an employer to give your work to you. It will also soon be recognised
that the total environmental costs of so many people's daily
commute combined with the duplication of premises and facilities
(heat, light water, etc) for their homes and workplaces is too
high to be sustained.
3. BUSINESS IN SOCIETY AND ENVIRONMENT
"Social and environmental business responsibility" is
a broad concept. It covers a number of different subjects. They
include enterprises specifically set up to achieve
social and environmental benefits. They also include the need
for conventional businesses to meet the growing
social and environmental demands upon them, even if their primary
aim continues to be to maximise profits for their shareholders.
The first of the two following reports refers to enterprises
of the first kind. The second is about a pioneering university
management course on responsible business, which directs
more attention to businesspeople's attitude to the environment
than most management schools yet do.
(1) Social Business. Nobel Prize winner Mohammed
Yunus, founder of the Grameen
Bank in Bangladesh, envisages a
new wave of social businesses in his book Creating a World
Without Poverty published last month. He describes a social
business as a sort of hybrid between a charity and a
A social business aims to maximise community benefit while
earning enough to sustain the enterprise and perhaps making a
little extra to plough back into further benefit to the community.
social businesses in Britain would include community
businesses - see, for example, Community
Business Scotland - and types of enterprise supported
by ethical banks like Triodos.
(2) Education for Responsible Business
Reason is a Professor in the School of Management
at Bath University. He initiated the MSc
course in Responsibility & Business Practice there
I warmly recommend his recent paper on "Transforming
Education" given at the "Earth is
Community" celebration of the vision and path of Thomas
Berry in London in September 2007. It discusses four
perspectives on the environmental challenge which
we now face:
(1) The prosaic and reformist perspective sees
the challenge within the current economic and social worldview
and focuses on the proper application of markets and technology
to meet it.
(2) The prosaic and radical perspective argues
that there are real ecological limits to growth; we must cut
back economic activity to limit the damage.
(3) The reformist and imaginative perspective holds
that we need to be much more creative about how we attain our
economic and social goals.
(4) The imaginative and radical perspective seeks
to change the way we experience ourselves and the planet. This
is the Deep Green perspective that all life
on earth has intrinsic value, not just value as a resource to
As I have mentioned to Peter, I detect a difference
of category between the first three perspectives and
the fourth. While the former are orientated towards doing (acting
on the world), Deep Green is more orientated towards feeling (experiencing
the world). The normal academic mode is, of course, orientated
towards knowing (analysing the world); and
all three - doing, feeling and knowing - are necessary components
of our response to the present crisis.
Interesting passages in the paper describe the out-of-doors "deep
ecology exercises" in the MSc course: imagining how the
world we sense is also sensing us; guiding each other in pairs
on a blindfolded experience of the trees, rock, and mud; identifying
with beings in the natural world and exploring through imaginative
meditation how we are part of Gaia’s cycles. Very refreshing
to find these exercises in the curriculum of an established programme
in a leading business school.
(3) A Postscript on Social Entrepreneurs. The
term "social entrepreneur", as I first used it in the
first 1978 edition of The Sane Alternative and (see
Item 1 above) the 1983 edition (page 98), did not necessarily
imply someone in a formally constituted social business. It included
people who might be in one. But it referred more generally to
people who combined social resources or ideas together with others
to create new social well-being, in contrast to the aim of financial
entrepreneurs which was to combine economic resources or ideas
with others to make money.
4. THE MONEY SYSTEM
For many years the arguments for developing alternative, regional,
local, community, social and other such currencies, to complement
national and international ones have seemed convincing. But,
if alternative currencies are to achieve widespread
coverage and get accepted as a necessary element in the mainstream
worldwide money system, changes in the existing money system
are needed to allow it to happen.
One result of existing national and international money systems
now being so dominant, and producing such perverse outcomes,
is that they make it difficult for people to escape from
using national or international currencies on any significant
scale for normal purposes. For example it is difficult for most
people now to escape dependency either on employers for job incomes
(Item 2 above) or on the state for benefits, which are paid in
bank-account money in national currencies.
As many items on this website show, switching taxation on to
the money value of using common resources and
distributing a citizen's income from the proceeds
would help to liberate us from that dependency, and encourage
us to make greater use of alternative currencies in our daily
That is a strong argument for mainstream money system reform,
in addition to the more obvious arguments for removing the economic
inefficiencies, social injustices and financial instabilities
which it now encourages. At least for the time being, it makes
good sense to give priority to mainstream reform.
(1) Northern Rock and the Current Financial Crisis
Although my article in The
Quarterly Review , Vol 1, No 4, Winter 2007
on EXPLORING NORTHERN ROCK:
The Stone That Must Not Be Left Unturned was
written on 28 October and much has happened since then, it
has not lost relevance. The stone still needs to be turned.
Still to be established is whether the banks' profitable privilege
of creating new money to lend to their customers, including other
banks, contributed to the financial turbulence and accompanying
credit crunch which scuppered Northern Rock. And did it subsequently
make it impossible for the authorities to disentangle the scale
of interbank indebtedness and the possible extent of the resulting
Unless that question is looked into as thoroughly as other
less fundamental causes - for example see the Treasury Select
Run on the Rock report of 24 January 2008 -
the authorities still won't be able to prevent or respond effectively
to the similar future crises that will inevitably arise.
We are still no wiser about where the money comes from and
goes to in matters of this kind. Where did the billions of dollars
and pounds lost by banks come from and where they have gone to?
Who has benefited from them? and who has actually lost them?
Where did the money come from that the Bank of England has lent
to Northern Rock? The Bank has explained that the money neither
came out of taxes nor was created by the Bank as an addition
to the money supply but was "a form of central bank money".
It doesn't seem to add up.
(2) A Proposed Popular Movement for Reform
In a new section in his website on New
Writings, Bruce Nixon proposes a movement of popular
pressure for reform. Following the model which led to the House
of Commons passing the recent new Sustainable Communities Act,
it would work with enlightened Members of Parliament to change
the economic system and bring about monetary reform, sustainable
taxation and a citizens income.
(3) Land Value Taxation
Two initiatives for 2009 are linked to the centenary
of Lloyd George's 1909 Liberal Budget, of which Land
Value Taxation was the key feature. We will no doubt hear more
of them in the next year or two.
One is the 1909 Group.
The other is ALTER (Liberal
Democrats Action for Land Taxation and Economic Reform) which
has widened its focus on Land Taxation to include related reforms.
8th February 2008
The Old Bakehouse, Cholsey
Oxon OX10 9NU, UK
Tel: +44 (0)1491 652346
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