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Money for Trekkies 2 – May 2014

Long it has been since the first “Money for Trekkies” was posted. Though the moon has barely waxed and waned through a few cycles since, to the eagerly anticipatory reader it may seem that civilizations have come and gone and that mountains have risen up from the earth and subsequently fallen into the sea in the time it took to get out this second part. Certainly this glaring contingency was not intended.

Please note, dear reader, the first article of the series has been reformatted to enhance visual appeal.

Introduction

In this, the second part of the series “Money for Trekkies,” we will look at the fledgling technology known as cryptocurrency. The larger concept of “open-source,” will be explored so as to put the conversation in its proper context. Finally, we will look at how some people and organizations are attempting to bring about a truly moneyless society or one which uses money but still could create a world of abundance. How these phenomena relate to a Star Trek-like future will be shown.

Cryptocurrency

Perhaps the biggest death-grip on economies world-wide could be the central control of currency. Fiat currency, often mistakenly referred to as money, is a debt-based commodity whose utility is solely as a medium of exchange. Financial magicians at fractional reserve banks are able to create the illusion of money by loaning out currency which did not exist prior to the fabrication of the loan. Unlike real money, like gold and silver, the value of fiat is dubious. With proliferation of computer technology, fiat now exists primarily only as numbers on digital ledgers kept by fractional-reserve banking institutions.

Bored yet? You’re probably supposed to be. The world of finance seems designed to create mind-numbing stupor.

Fortunately for us, someone(s) came up with a way of creating new ledger systems where a finite number of fictional units, known as the cryptocurrency, can be created and accounted for in a decentralized manner without the need of any magical money wizards we know as banks. Now, since the invention of “cryptos,” ordinary (computer nerd) people can now poof exchange units into existence out of thin air without the application of debt.

Shadow Government on Bitcoin

The Internal Revenue Service of the United States corporation has recently ruled, perhaps rightly, that cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin, is not money. They have yet to admit that the US dollar is not money either but this is to be expected. The pervasive belief is that the dollar has value because it is backed by the “full faith and credit” of the United States government. Well what does that mean? It means that the dollar is nothing more than an “IOU.” It is a promise to pay. Interestingly, it isn’t a promise to pay with anything in particular; it is just a promise to pay.

The reader is hereby challenged to find a meaningful definition of “full faith and credit.” Don’t stay up too late. You need your beauty sleep.

Cryptos, on the other hand, don’t claim to be backed by even so much as a meaningless made-up nothing. They are honest in that they make no promises of worth. A cryptocurrency network is a service for transmitting value determined by supply-and-demand forces within the exchange markets.

Oddly, instead of attempting to stomp cryptocurrencies out of existence, the Wall Street establishment seems to be buying in. Cryptos are primarily seen as a means of “money transmittance” which, of course, requires a government issued license. For now, unless you are exchanging cryptos for fiat, which counts as running a money transmittal business, your cryptos are considered “property” even though they don’t, strictly speaking, exist.

Factually, cryptocurrencies are networked ledger systems. Instead of a bank maintaining a ledger for each “customer” (pigeon), the entire ledger tracking each transaction is maintained on the hard drive of every computer or smartphone with an offline wallet. This is significant because it threatens the banking cartel’s monopoly on units of exchange. They can be likened to a digital “wooden nickel” of the Great Depression or the monopoly-money-like “Ithica hour” used in Ithica New York, albeit more sophisticated.

Too Good To Be True?

So why haven’t they been outlawed yet? Some speculate it is because the geriatric criminals who run the banking system don’t know what they are or what they represent. Others may guess that it’s because they would have trouble outlawing things like encrypted digital keys and public ledgers, which is essentially what cryptos are, because of the logical absurdity of such a proposition.

Another possibility is unchecked greed. Cryptocurreny represents another potential opportunity to suck more real wealth out of economies by manipulating yet another speculative market. Cryptos are currently treated as a commodity. A commodity can be anything of value which can be traded through an exchange. In this way, cryptocurrency is not unlike orange juice.

So?

“What the heck does this have to do with Star Trek?” I’m glad you asked. You see: cryptocurrencies are a result of a social dynamic involving free exchange of information nowadays often referred to as “open-source.” Open-source, a term which originated from the computer software community, has far-ranging societal implications due to its wide-range of application. Oftentimes with open-source, people contribute, not for monetary gain, but because they want to contribute for the sake of contribution which is a prevalent theme throughout the Star Trek sub-genre.

Open-Source

The meaning of the previous paragraph may be hazy. To clear the smoke out of the room, we can look at an article from another open-source platform: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_source

Wikipedia, like cryptocurrencies (and the site you are reading this article on), is an open-source project; though perhaps not quite as open as it once was.

Some spirited visionaries believe open-source has applications far beyond the strictly digital realm. It bears repeating that, far from being just a way for organizations and individuals to get people to do work they are too cheap or poor to pay for; open-source may represent the spirit of voluntary contribution central to the values represented in the Star Trek universe.

Here we see one such ambitious vision in an article by one of our (other) talented Devtome writers: http://devtome.com/doku.php?id=open_source_ecology

That’s right, in theory; the open-source mindset can allow an entire village sized economy to be built from scratch. We might be tempted to ask “why?” “What’s in it for them?” One might ask. A better question might be “why not?” With open-source, sometimes people just contribute because contribution is what passionate people do.

Star Trek Utopia

“So that’s it, then? Open-source is the key to realizing the moneyless Utopia of Star Trek?” Nope. Not so fast. Though open-source may be instrumental in ensuring a brighter future, it is unrealistic to assume it will create a perfect one. Many have referred to the United Federation of Planets as a Utopian society and it’s certainly not supposed to involve money but it falls short in these areas. Let’s dismiss the notion that Federation is either Utopian or moneyless.

Utopia That Isn’t

When people refer to the Federation of the Star Trek as Utopian, what do they mean by that? Let’s assume for a moment that they know what the definition of Utopia is, acquaint ourselves with it, and go from there.

Merriam-Webster Online defines the word “Utopia” as “an imaginary place in which the government laws and social conditions are perfect.” Is the Federation perfect? We need to challenge this notion. Throughout the entirety of the Star Trek history, Starship Captains and crew were oftentimes add odds with the admiralty of Starfleet as well as the civilian leadership of the Federation.

Federation Bureaucracy

Imperfection of the Federation government is nowhere so glaringly obvious as with its bulky and oftentimes uncompromising Bureaucracy.

  • In TOS episode “Elaan of Troyius,” Captain Kirk complains that, “Some desk-bound Starfleet bureaucrat cut these cloak-and-dagger orders.”
  • In TOS episode “The Mark of Gideon,” Commander Spock was stonewalled by Federation and Starfleet Bureaucrats. When attempting to receive clearance to conduct a rescue mission Starfleet insisted jurisdiction lay with the Federation Bureau of Planetary Treaties. The Federation, who had no existing treaty with Gideon, referred Spock back to Starfleet. His efforts were also frustrated by the Gideon ambassador prompting the Commander to cynically remark, “Diplomats and bureaucrats may function differently, but they achieve exactly the same results.”
  • In Star Trek IV, The Voyage Home, the crew of the destroyed Starship Enterprise are to be assigned a new ship. Speculating amongst each other about which ship they might get next, Dr. Leonard McCoy pessimistically remarks, “the bureaucratic mentality is the only constant in the universe. We will get a freighter.”
  • In TNG episode “The Wounded,” Captain Benjamin Maxwell claimed that if he went to Starfleet Command with his suspicions Cardassians were preparing for war that he would have to wait six months for “bureaucrats” to make a decision.
  • In DS9 episode “Take Me Out to the Holosuite,” Kasidy Yates, an independently contracted freighter captain, had her cargo runs reassigned. Displeased she asked, “Bureaucrats. Who knows why they do anything?” It turns out that Captain Benjamin Sisko was to blame having “pulled a few strings” because he wanted Captain Yates, his significant other, to be able to play on his impromptu baseball team against his old rival Captain Solok’s team. Nevertheless, Yates’ comment seems to indicate frustration with bureaucracy is commonplace with Starfleet and the Federation.

Federation-Cardassian Treaty

Perhaps the most monumental blunder in Federation history, the Federation-Cardassian Treaty succeeded in bringing about a temporary cessation to war between the two interstellar factions. However, it also ceded many Federation colonies to the Cardassian Union in direct opposition to the wishes of many of the colonists. Disenfranchised, many Federation and Bajoran citizens formed the freedom-fighter/terrorist organization known as the Marquis.

Having created an enemy amongst their own people, the Federation, through their pseudo-military organization known as Starfleet, began hunting down the criminalized Marquis. Doing such not only aided and abetted their once and future enemies of Cardassia, but also created a greater division within the Federation as more and more citizens became sympathetic to the Marquis cause. Starfleet lost some of its best officers and at least one entire cutting-edge Starship, Voyager, as a result.

Section 31

No doubt the most insidious smirch within the Federation was the officially “nonexistent” criminal organization known as Section 31. An obvious metaphor to the very real “intelligence” agencies of today, Section 31 was unaccountable to Starfleet Command and operated under dubious ethical guidelines right out of Machiavelli’s, The Prince. Though Section 31 was supposed to protect the Federation in extreme situations, their “ends justify the means” philosophy undermined the very core principals of the Federation.

As mentioned in the first “Money for Trekkies” article, DS9 episode, “Paradise Lost,” we can see how dangerous this sort of thinking is. The Dominion threat to the Federation generates massive amounts of fear within Starfleet. So much so during Commander Sisko’s time on Earth, he finds a disturbing dystopic trend characterized by troops in the streets and random blood screenings. Though not linked to Section 31 activity, the situation does illustrate the hazards of their modus operandi which is quite similar to Admiral Leyton’s albeit less sloppy. Additional information can be found in another great open-source Wiki known as Memory Alpha which can be found here: http://en.memory-alpha.org/wiki/Paradise_Lost_%28episode%29

To the Federation’s credit, and very much unlike major governments of today, Section 31 is not glamorized or justified officially. Far from it, they are treated, quite rightly, as a dangerous criminal enterprise which must be destroyed whenever they are exposed. So long as they exist, they paint an ugly picture of Starfleet as hypocrites with skin-deep morality and situational ethics. In DS9 episode, “The Dogs of War,” Constable Odo cynically remarks, “Interesting, isn’t it? The Federation claims to abhor Section 31’s tactics, but when they need the dirty work done, they look the other way. It’s a tidy little arrangement, wouldn’t you say?”

However, Section 31 is extraordinarily competent so difficult to eradicate. For more on Section 31, see the Memory Alpha article here: http://en.memory-alpha.org/wiki/Section_31

Not a Utopia

As we have seen from three of many glaring examples, the Federation is not perfect. Because a Utopia is, by definition, an imaginary perfect society, the Federation doesn’t fit the criteria for being a Utopia. It may be better that real-life societies we see now and it is imaginary but it isn’t perfect. In fact, there is no obvious difference between the Federation and the corrupt governments of today save, perhaps, the lack of involvement of money in politics.

Money That Shouldn’t Be

The Federation is supposedly a moneyless society. In theory, resources are managed without profit motive factoring in. It is a “world” of abundance where material scarcity no longer exists. Unfortunately, it is never explained how this works.

Oops! Who Put That There?

For all their incredible talent, the writers of Star Trek are infamous at botching the whole “moneyless” concept. More often than not they just write money and market-economics into the series as if it belongs there. Many writers even reference something known as “credits” which, if that isn’t money, it would have to at least be currency. Exactly what the difference is, only the IRS knows.

There are many examples of Federations citizens “buying stuff” and other currency-based trade activity. So many, in fact, we will just refer to another Memory Alpha article with the attached caveat that this is not a complete list: http://en.memory-alpha.org/wiki/Federation_credit

The Vision

Where did this notion that the Federation of the Star Trek universe was a moneyless (perhaps even marketless) society? Evidently this idea came from the creator Gene Roddenberry himself. According to Ronald D. Moore, from a 1997 AOL chat, “By the time I joined TNG, Gene had decreed that money most emphatically did NOT exist in the Federation, nor did ‘credits’ and that was that. Personally, I’ve always felt this was a bunch of hooey, but it was one of the rules and that was that.”

We can speculate that Roddenberry’s vision was one where, as one Star Trek Answers user/contributor (Username/IP Address 173.17.58.158) commented, “One could imagine that the ‘economics of the future’ are resource based and that the idea of land as a resource is significantly different from our modern era. It could be that land is utilized as needed and that private land ownership has less of an emphasis in everyday life.” The user goes on to speculate that time-banking might also be used but this would contradict the claims made by some of the central characters that individuals are motivated by self-improvement and altruism rather than material gain or survival.

One sad fact about the Star Trek Vision is that it presumes that central control can be anything other than woefully corrupt. This fallacy has been referred to by this author as “Plato’s Greatest Mistake” in another Caprigon Devtome article: http://devtome.com/doku.php?id=greater_good_vs._personal_liberty_april_2014

The belief that those of virtue can be put in and kept in power has been debunked by history itself. Star Trek seems to agree as illustrated by TOS episode, “Plato’s Stepchildren.” Like this author, they also seem to forgive Plato for this catastrophic blunder.

Not Moneyless

We have to conclude that there is in fact money, or at least ration-based currency, in the Federation of Star Trek. There isn’t supposed to be money involved but there is. Whether this is due to an incompleteness of Roddenberry’s vision or a lake of imagination on the part of the writers can be debated. Nevertheless, money, or currency if you prefer, is found all throughout the sub-genre.

It is probable that, in the Star Trek universe, money is not needed because resources are delegated and managed by a benevolent and democratically elected governing body. Perhaps this is what George Orwell (Eric Arthur Blair) had in mind when he referred to himself as a Democratic Socialist. Exactly how this could be possible when centralized control has always gone horribly wrong, remains to be seen.

It could be that it may be possible to create a world of abundance with less reliance on market economics in a decentralized manner. It may be that open-source, or whatever one wishes to call the phenomenon, is the key to realizing this ideal. We will explore how this might be possible and then explore the possibility that a better society might be realized which still uses money-based market economics.

How to Create a Moneyless Society

It may be possible to create a moneyless society, even if the creators of Star Trek seem to have fallen short in explaining how. Many have puzzled about this and a few have come up with theories which could be applied. We will look at some of the most well-known and promising of these.

The Venus Project

The Venus Project (TVP) is a radical approach to resolving some of the world’s biggest problems. It is a call to completely redesign society at its foundations of economics and thought. This ambitious view of the future would, in theory, all but eradicate war, poverty, and starvation if implemented. It is the brain-child of one man.

Jacque Fresco

Often referring to himself as a social engineer, futurist Jacque Fresco is a modern renaissance man. He is a self-taught designer whose contributions include everything from aviation to architecture but has shown remarkable incite in other fields as well including, most notably, psychology and philosophy.

Fresco’s resume can be found here: http://www.thevenusproject.com/about/resume

One of Fresco’s complaints about copyright and patent laws is that if he releases his designs to the public someone will, as apparently has happened in the past, patent the work themselves. He has found that when this happens nobody ends up using the work so it benefits none. Kudos to anyone who gets Fresco to let them publish his work to Devtome. He is quite venerable so probably doesn’t even know about creative commons licensing or the like or he would have done this himself.

Goals of the Venus Project

The primary objectives of the project are listed below with comments added by this author including but not limited to criticisms and recommended rewording. I don’t know who wrote this list but it is listed on the official website. It may be Jacque Fresco’s exact words but during lectures he seems to choose his words better, in my opinion.

  • Realizing the declaration of the world’s resources as being the common heritage of all people. Essentially, the idea here is that the entire planet and all of its resources belong to everyone. Aside from the clever city designs, this may be the most conspicuous characteristic of Jacque’s world view. Part of this realization includes an awareness of interdependent ecosystems.
  • Transcending the artificial boundaries that currently and arbitrarily separate people. This includes, just naming a few, separations based on race, ethnicity, and nationality. It goes much further than that, however.
  • Replacing money-based nationalistic economies with a resource-based world economy. Part of this statement is an acknowledgement that economics doesn’t really have anything to do with money anyway. It’s all about resources with money as an added feature necessary for market-based economies so that every good and service can be assigned a price. With a resource based economy the question asked is not, “do we have the money for that?” but rather, “do we have the resources?” A key word here is “world” because, according to Jacque, resource-based economics can only work if done on a planetary scale although it may be implemented on a smaller scale as part of a transitional phase.
  • Assisting in stabilizing the world’s population through education and voluntary birth control. This one can raise a lot of eyebrows but essentially this has already been done. The modernity of a nation is usually gauged by its percentage of senior citizens. The wealthiest and most financially equitable countries tend to have the lowest birth rate. To illustrate this, here is a video from a travel agency entitled “Do it for Denmark” encouraging citizens to make more babies because their population is actually in a decline: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bf2f31t0O80
  • Reclaiming and restoring the natural environment to the best of our ability. The world “natural” use here is suspect because anything can be but the statement probably means “wild” or “ecologically sound.”
  • Redesigning cities, transportation systems, agricultural industries, and industrial plants so that they are energy efficient, clean, and able to conveniently serve the needs of all people. If this sounds like central planning it’s because it is; more on this later.
  • Gradually outgrowing corporate entities and governments, (local, national, or supra-national) as means of social management. The ideal here is sort of a technological anarchy with rotating teams of volunteers handling most of the problem solving instead of bureaucrats or for-profit institutions.
  • Sharing and applying new technologies for the benefit of all nations. What nations? This is what it says on the Venus Project website but there aren’t supposed to be any nations in the future of the Venus Project. The probably mean “everybody.”
  • Developing and using clean renewable energy sources. The technology for this already exists and has for some time. It’s all about applying what we already know. This, obviously, has yet to be done.
  • Manufacturing the highest quality products for the benefit of the world’s people. As opposed to the cheap crap we are being inundated with currently. People could potentially custom design non-food items on a computer terminal and have them built on-site or sent from a central industrial complex. Food could be produced using innovative sustainable methods using permaculture or similar strategies.
  • Requiring environmental impact studies prior to construction of any mega projects. “Requiring?” This may be a poor choice of words. They probably mean “an understanding that environmental impact studies must be done prior…” The word “requiring” insinuates that a governmental body using threat of force would make sure this is done but that may not be necessary as will be explained in the Zeitgeist Movement section.
  • Encouraging the widest range of creativity and incentive toward constructive endeavor. This is very similar to the ideals of Star Trek where people are motivated not by force or scarcity but rather by the opportunity to contribute and better oneself.
  • Outgrowing nationalism, bigotry, and prejudice through education. This doesn’t mean imposed education like we see today, or at least not by whole and large. There would be learning centers where teachers can practice their craft voluntarily but, much as we are seeing with the internet, there would be enhanced opportunities to self-educate which may be the only real way one can learn anyway.
  • Eliminating elitism, technical or otherwise. There may always be some genetic aberrations who exhibit anti-social behaviors regardless of societal improvements but Fresco seems entrenched in the nurture side of the nature vs. nurture argument so this does not seem to be covered by his material. Perhaps it would be more realistic to say “reducing to the greatest extent possible” instead of “Eliminating.”
  • Arriving at methodologies by careful research rather than random opinions. It seems to me that this point represents, not so much a goal, as a method with which to achieve the goals. Currently, like Fresco often points out, decision making is done by politicians with little or no technical skill in any field related to the decisions they’re making.
  • Enhancing communication in schools so that our language is relevant to the physical conditions of the world. Fresco calls for a whole new language not unlike that used by engineers when working out an problem amongst each other where objectivity dominates eliminating the possibility of miscommunication. For example: when one uses the phrase “tensile strength” there is zero chance of misinterpretation if the definition is known. If one instead uses the word “toughness,” or some such, there is a huge range of possible interpretations which cause confusion about the meaning.
  • Providing not only the necessities of life, but also offering challenges that stimulate the mind while emphasizing individuality rather than uniformity. This would doubtless be the result of a world of abundance which is also characterized by liberty and freedom.
  • Finally, preparing people intellectually and emotionally for the challenges that lie ahead. What challenges? Everything’s perfect right? No. The Venus Project proposal is a vision of a better future but it does not claim to be a Utopia. There will always be problems and this is acknowledged.

Clearly, there are close parallels between the vision of Jacque Fresco and that of Gene Roddenberry, albeit without a centralized human hierarchy. Although Democracy would still exist, it would take on a much different form than the one depicted in Star Trek or that we are currently suffering under today. Specifically, Democracy, and a form of “free market,” would be that of a massive computer networked infrastructure which everyone would help evolve through their interaction. The highly technical aspects of its development would be accomplished through the efforts of rotating teams of volunteers which will be discussed in further detail when we get to the section on the Zeitgeist Movement.

Transition

So how do we get from here to there? The operative word is transitioning. On the Venus Project aims and proposals page it is briefly mentioned that a proto-type circular city could evolve from a semi-cooperative money-oriented society to a resource based economy. Initially one would have to raise revenue to get such a project off the ground but once the resources are within the system it can become self-sustaining. Once the model is shown to be viable it will catch on.

My Reservations

My primary concern about this model is that it seems like it would be too dependent on computers and electronics. I would recommend a minimalist approach employing simplistic non-networked solutions wherever reasonably possible. Like Lieutenant Commander Montgomery Scott once said, “the more complicated the plumbing the easier it is to “gum up the works.”

Additional Information

For more details, the official website can be found here: http://www.thevenusproject.com/ Relevant films about Jacque Fresco and his work include Future by Design and Paradise or Oblivion can currently be found on Netflix. There is also a wealth of videos available on YouTube.

The Zeitgeist Movement

This is a really bizarre phenomenon but one which could have a profound impact. Though based primarily on the world-view of Jacque Fresco, it does not restrict itself to his ideas nor does it always conform to his leadership. Frankly, considering the main inspirations of the founder, “Peter Joseph” it shouldn’t even exist.

Peter Joseph

The founder of the Zeitgeist Movement goes by the name Peter Joseph. He has indicated that these are his first and middle names though perhaps not in that order. According to the Q&A section of the Zeitgeist Film series website, http://www.zeitgeistmovie.com , he has publically withheld his surname citing a desire to protect his family.

Two of Peter Joseph’s greatest heroes include Carl Sagan, and George Carlin as well as Jacque Fresco though he has drawn inspiration from a number of other sources including, but not limited to, the likes of Buckminster Fuller. It may be interesting to note that George Carlin, a huge advocate of individuality, was openly hostile to the very notion of “groups” with “names.”

” I don't like ass kissers, flag wavers or team players. I like people who buck the system. Individualists. I often warn people: “Somewhere along the way, someone is going to tell you, 'There is no “I” in team.' What you should tell them is, 'Maybe not. But there is an “I” in independence, individuality and integrity.'” Avoid teams at all cost. Keep your circle small. Never join a group that has a name. If they say, “We're the So-and-Sos,” take a walk. And if, somehow, you must join, if it's unavoidable, such as a union or a trade association, go ahead and join. But don't participate; it will be your death. And if they tell you you're not a team player, congratulate them on being observant.” –George Carlin

Peter Joseph has proven to be an incredibly talented and insightful film maker, musician, and lecturer. However, he oftentimes crosses the line between open criticism and downright hostility toward religion. During debates he has also, by my estimate, demonstrated unflattering arrogance and resorted to childish provocations. This author sites his encounters with Alex Jones and Stefan Molyneux as examples. These debates are available on YouTube.

The Zeitgeist Film Series

The first Zeitgeist film launched the Zeitgeist Movement founder Peter Joseph into the limelight and was followed up with two other Zeitgeist branded feature length videos. The first film consisted of three parts, the first a comparative religion piece making a case that Jesus of Nazareth was a Gnostic solar deity and characterizing Christianity as a sort of zodiacal cult. The second part exposed evidence of a governmental behind the 2001 World Trade Center attacks. In the third part, which has been since abridged, the topic of the Federal Reserve System is broached as well as other governmental conspiracies. The film was created before the Zeitgeist Movement was founded and is not meant to be used as a recruitment tool.

In the second Zeitgeist film, known as Addendum, there are four parts. The first part could be the best, and is certainly one of the best, exposes of the fractional reserve banking system overseen by the Federal Reserve anyone has produced to date. Part two features John Perkins, author of Confessions of an Economic Hitman, discussing collusion between government and corporations to exploit peoples in third-world countries. Part three introduces Jacque Fresco of the Venus Project who inspired the creation of the Movement which originally referred to itself as the “activist arm of the Venus Project,” before Fresco publically disavowed its legitimacy in that capacity. Part four calls for a boycott of the Federal Reserve, corporate-owned news media, the military, energy corporations, and all political systems.

The third part of the series, Zeitgeist Moving Forward, was the only one created with the original intent to be used as a recruiting tool for the Movement. Also consisting of four parts, includes my personal favorite clip from the whole trilogy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K_GKN1tcwd8 . Part one makes the case that the nurture portion of the nature vs. nurture argument is the most significant. That genetics plays a role in the manifestation of human behavior is admitted but de-emphasized. Part two is a scathing criticism of capitalism. Part three introduces the concept known as resource-based economics based on Jacque Fresco’s definition. Part four illustrates the true horrors of warfare and ecological destruction but ends with a dramatic “feel-good” depiction of an extraordinary peaceful protest of epic proportions centered around Times Square in New York City. A shamelessly optimistic vision, police pitted against the protestors, faced with both overwhelming numbers of people and their own lack of resolve, back down with a smile.

Rotating Interdisciplinary Teams

Perhaps the most intriguing idea Peter Joseph brought from Jacque Fresco’s table was the notion that the infrastructure of a Resource-based Economy could be created and maintained by rotating interdisciplinary teams of volunteers. Theoretically, corruption and incompetence could be managed by rotating through people without the involvement of profit motive.

What struck me, when contemplating the barrage of information I was digesting from TZM early on, was the realization that open-source could help willing everyday people audit the resource allocation software to make sure there wasn’t anything “fishy” going on. Open-source can mean a number of different things but, in this case, I’m referring to code that, although only updated by the rotating teams, could be viewed by anyone so analyzed by any individual or group with the inclination and expertise. This can also ensure everyone is getting their fair chance to participate in the teams who wishes to do so.

Nerd Paradise

When encountering self-identified members of the Zeitgeist Movement on the web, I tend to get the impression it is top-heavy with militantly Atheist and pro-abortion individuals. This is part of the reason this author has personally distanced myself from the group. However, despite my reservations about many of the members, including the founder, I feel compelled to promote the study of the massive conglomeration of information which has been obtained and discussed by the Movement. There is truly a treasure trove of important knowledge and ideas which should absolutely be studied and used. I believe quite firmly that we must not “throw the baby out with the bathwater,” so to speak.

Uncounted thousands of hours of material can be found here: http://www.thezeitgeistmovement.com/. Even more is included in numerous YouTube videos and simple searches.

My Reservations

I totally agree with the overall concept, for the most part, but am highly critical of the pervasive opinions which are so unimportant yet, in my view, damaging to the cause. The religion bashing goes way too far with many members, in my opinion. I find such intolerance divisive and unhelpful. I also abhor the pro-abortion attitudes so prevalent throughout the organization.

Ubuntu Movement

Tribal South Africa has a tradition of voluntary contribution known as Ubuntu. Ubuntu has inspired the open-source Linux based operating system of the same name and, has recently been adopted by South African citizen Michael Tellinger in his creation of what he terms the Ubuntu Movement which is to be explored in this sub-section. Ubuntu is characterized by a lack of any sort of internal market-economic activity. Ubuntu means that anyone can contribute their own time and talents, whatever they might be, without threat of force or coercion.

Michael Tellinger

Not only is Michael Tellinger well acquainted with the other previously mentioned organizations he is also a fan of science fiction particularly Star Trek. That he genuinely believes he is in psychic contact with the ancient Sumerian god Enki may be difficult for some to get passed but it’s definitely worth it. Tellinger can articulate a vision of a society based on voluntary Contributionalism like none other.

The charismatic South African man has not only adopted the tribal concept of Ubuntu as a template for building a better world without money, he is an enthusiastic activist, truth-seeker, and amateur archaeologist. Unlike the other personalities mentioned so far who can be described as Atheistic, Tellinger is a strong advocate for spiritual awakening as a means to free humanity from what he believes is an ancient control system of the mind imposed by extra-terrestrial or perhaps even extra-dimensional beings.

Archaeological Side-note

Whatever one might think about his conclusions, Tellinger’s findings and theories regarding strange and immense pre-ancient ruins all over the South African landscape are worth reviewing. Using satellite images, he studied an uncountable number of ancient ruins cutting a swath across the whole southern region of Africa. The scale and antiquity of these structures is absolutely astounding: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3m2hRIXXo_Y My guess is that the structures do have doors and windows but they are probably buried. Without actually digging there I cannot confirm this but it makes sense to me that, as old as these things might be, we could be looking at the tops of buildings with the roofs long since gone. Here is some footage from a helicopter: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oVSPcROYY7g

To Michael Tellinger, his archaeological work ties into the Ubuntu Movement in that, he believes, that we are the result of a genetic experiment conducted by the Annunaki, called the Elohim in the Bible. He theorizes that money was introduces as a method of controlling the human slave population they created to mine gold for them. I wouldn’t start ingesting large quantities of monatomic gold just yet but do believe his desire to create a just and equitable society free from corporate, big-government, and banking control is sincere.

Transitional Method

How does one create an economy based on voluntary Contributionalism which doesn’t use money on a planet where everything is currently owned and has a price tag? Oftentimes when organizations like Ubuntu ask for money or make money using commercial means they are labeled as hypocrites and pretenders. However, there doesn’t seem to be a way around it at this time. Everything is legally wrapped up in the financial system and protected with threat of violence.

Michael Tellinger has, perhaps, the best theory on how it is possible to make the necessary transition which could ultimately protect the ecosystem and free humanity. Even if it isn’t entirely unique, his way of explaining how this could work is quite articulate. Here is a short but informative video on the subject of Ubuntu: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4sxwXjqawEw

Federation-like Society WITH Money

As was alluded to in the previous Money for Trekkies essay, it is actually principles, attitude, and values which make for a just and equitable society much more so than the specific nature of the political and economic system. Though I would argue that market-based economics is inherently corruptive and conducive of centralized power and control, it is an economic paradigm which seems deeply ingrained in us so difficult to imagine living without even for many Star Trek contributors and fans.

If we are stuck with market-economics, facilitated by money, then we have to try to keep it as honest, harmless, and equitable as possible. I submit that using government to regulate economic activity, when they tend to be controlled by moneyed interests, is limited in efficacy at best; at worst it is extremely foolish. So if government can do little to help and will usually make things worse, how is it possible to create wide-spread prosperity within such a system?

Rising Tides Theory

The prevalent attitude among free-market Capitalism advocates is that the markets will provide a greater level of wealth for everyone if there is little or no government interference. This can be called the “Rising Tides Theory.” The analogy is that, much in the way rising tides raise all ships, increased economic activity in general will raise the standard of living for everyone at every level of economic status.

In theory, if government, controlled by major financial players, stays out of the way of economic freedom, wealthy business and land owners would be more than happy to promote the general welfare because they will understand that this will in turn enhance their own prosperity. Likewise, members of the general populace will be more than happy to work their way to prosperity because there will be little or no impedance from government of their ability to compete and become successful. It seems to me that, if this is possible at all, we have to address the problem of conflict of interest inherent to major corporations.

Major Corporation Problem

What may be the core problem with the corporate system we currently operate under is the obvious conflict of interest. A major corporation doesn’t really have to care about their customers. So long as their public relations (propaganda) and marketing is powerful enough to brainwash people into buying their products, even if they cause mass death like pesticide laden food, they will profit. Likewise the major corporation doesn’t have to care about their employees either. In a global market dominated by major corporations, including banks, they make all the rules and can keep unemployment so high they can treat their employees like rancid dog barf and if they don’t like it they will be replaced by the hundreds or thousands of people waiting in line for their jobs.

The reason this happens is because the Corporation’s number one, and possibly only, purpose is to make profit for their shareholders. Every other concern is, at best, secondary. One may find that the majority shareholders are other major corporations, banks, and wealthy oligarchs. Also disturbing is the fact that they are usually multinational corporate conglomerates who have no loyalty to any one country.

So when you do business with a major bank or any other huge corporation their interest is not your interest. Their interest isn’t even in their employees. The Big Business interest is in their owners who don’t know you, don’t care about you, but just want to suck the life right out of the marrow of your very essence as slowly and painfully as possible. It’s a sick game and you lose.

Employee Ownership

If you and your coworkers own the business you work for, like a bicycle factory for example, you can democratically hold meetings and elect your own leadership. Unlike many organizations who threaten to punish anyone talking about their pay, if you make more than someone else everybody can know and will know why because they were part of the decision process getting you into that position. Obviously, with employee ownership, the interest of the employees comes first but it doesn’t stop there.

People do seem to be generally well intentioned by whole and large. When you get more people involved in the decision making process it is reasonable to assume the statistics of corruption and downright evil should be reduced. There is always the mob mentality which is of a concern, this isn’t a magic bullet, but hypothetically if an employee owned corporation fails to keep in mind their primary purpose of serving their customers they will be outcompeted by other employee owned competitors. One may also guess that, with the employees having a vested interest in the success of the business, that investor owned greed-factories known as corporations won’t have any chance of competing against you without malicious government interference.

There are employee-owned businesses here and there already, oftentimes referred to as cooperatives. An example of an employee owned business includes a bicycle factory in Spain. It has proven to be quite competitive and has grown to become a contender in the global marketplace. See this article here: http://autobus.cyclingnews.com/sponsors/orbea/

Member Ownership

The most obvious example of this may be the Credit Union. Banks are publicly traded corporations with wealthy individuals and families owning the most shares in control of decision making regarding leadership. With a credit union each depositor is a part owner of the institution and receives dividends on all deposits. To belong to a credit union a minimum deposit is required but this is quite minimal: usually between twenty or fifty American dollars. Every member has a vote so can take part in selection of leadership among volunteers. Because of shared branching, coop networks, and the regional grand scale of some credit unions, most people can use a credit union in any circumstance they would normally use a bank and would probably find themselves better served.

Cooperatives can be applied to a wide variety of economic activities. The farmer’s coop is well known and many have heard of housing cooperatives as well. In your community you will likely find at least a few examples of this social phenomenon depending on the size of your city and town.

What isn’t commonly known is that insurance can also be a cooperative member based endeavor. A prime example is Foresters, a fraternal organization started by a group of women, however ironic that might sound. Foresters has been providing life insurance products using a member based system for many years. Unlike some insurance companies who have recently, and quite fraudulently, started referring to their customers as members, Forester members actually have a stake in the company. One big advantage to this arrangement is that the likelihood of the organization being sold to a bigger corporation and subsequently being absorbed or dissolved is negligible.

So what about member based health insurance and/or healthcare cooperatives? It is not unheard of and I would suggest absolutely vital that we create more of these and help them proliferate. More than ever, we need to take control of our healthcare industry. We have seen escalating costs, corruption fueled by Big Pharma involvement, and unnecessary government interference. Nothing is more important that one’s health and the health of one’s family so we the people need to be heard and have our interests be the primary concern.

Application of Open-source to Markets

In the business world, open-source has been used, even among major corporations, because of the benefits it can provide. For those who would like to see a future not unlike Star Trek but are skeptical that dependency on market-economics can ever be broken, open-source may be the key to mediating corruption by putting more control in the hands of consumers. As we have already seen, open source currency networks like Devcoin may help decentralize control of markets enjoyed by financiers.

An application of open-source I recently found out about, reputation systems could represent a check on corruption. This article mentions a black-market style organization which includes such a system: http://www.wired.com/2014/04/darkmarket/ I haven’t yet explored this in depth so have not drawn any conclusions thus far. I am including the example to illustrate the broad range of applications to which open-source concepts may be applied.

Currently, well known open-source alternatives to major software platforms include the Linux operating systems (such as Ubuntu), LibreOffice, and Mozilla’s browser Firefox just to name a few. The potential of open-source seems grand indeed. The full scope has yet to be realized.

So…

So long as we continue to use money-based market economics, we have to mediate the corruption somehow. Employee and member ownership may be key to realizing, not a Utopia, but a better society not unlike that depicted in Star Trek; all the better if we can apply open-source as widely as possible. I am partial to Gene Roddenberry’s vision of a moneyless society but many are skeptical even amongst the most prominent creators of Star Trek.

Whether market-economics will prove to be the means to get us to the next level as a species or something more resource-based will be determined by time. Either way, we will need a human-oriented approach, taking the sophisticated ecology of our habitat into account, in order to see a better world. The will never be a Utopia, nobody is claiming we will, but we can be and perhaps must be confident that we can help create a better society for all.

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