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  1. Brian
    Brian August 14, 2008 at 6:00 pm |

    Thanks so much for sharing. I’m glad that it’s headline is a critique of the (Red) campaign. I read your comments in response to the previous post, and I’ve got to say – spot on. It’s definitely a complex issue, though, and I feel odd weighing in when I’m coming from an extremely privileged perspective.

    It’s also cool that “enough” is participatory. This seems not only like a really cool website but also a great tool and resource. Is there anything more around like it? Or in the same field>

  2. jessilikewhoa
    jessilikewhoa August 14, 2008 at 6:56 pm |

    i was wondering, and this seemed like a good place to ask, what you think of community based bartering and the exchange of goods and services for other goods and services instead of money. i think that it probably wouldnt work on a wide scale, but i could see it being fantastic to implement in a way similar to a farmers market or a food not bombs food giveaway or maybe a better description would be a great big anyone is invited to attend potluck/clothing/book/etc exchange. it seems to work out ok on craigslist, and ive even seen offers of minor medical treatment in exchange for household repairs/cleaning.

    i think freeganism is fantastic too, but living in rural nowheresville the police are often bored and ive had friends almost get arrested when stopped for trespassing while dumpstering.

    basically, im asking you to write a post about what alternatives you use or support instead of our current exploitative economy. i feel like alot of people react negativly to attacks on capitalism becos a. were raised to think its the greatest thing ever but also b. they dont necessarily understand what grassroots alternatives are already available. are you always law abiding, or do you sometimes support forms of civil disobedience for the greater good?

    i dont see how it can be possible to have gender equality in a culture built on a system of inequality, call it cognitive dissonance or whatever, but i just cant grasp how that could even be possible.

  3. jess
    jess August 14, 2008 at 7:00 pm |

    Hey, Brian.

    Thanks for writing.

    “Enough” is pretty unique in lots of ways (which is part of why it’s so exciting that it exists! I think a lot of people having been craving that sort of project for a while now). But there is a lot of amazing work being done in many forms and spaces around class, capitalism, and more — are you looking for that kind of stuff, or specifically a participatory, multi-voiced, cross-class conversation around living politics of wealth redistribution? If the former, I can recommend some other things; if the latter, yeah, “Enough” is really the only organized project I’m aware of right now.

    Also, I’ve mentioned this elsewhere, so forgive me if I sound repetitive, but if you’re looking for spaces to talk about these issues from a privileged perspective, you may want to check out http://www.resourcegeneration.org, which is (among other things) sort of a caucus space for class-privileged people to do work around class, wealth redistribution, and more.

  4. jess
    jess August 14, 2008 at 7:02 pm |

    jessilikewhoa:

    i’ll try to post more later on your great questions about alternatives, but quickly, i am smiling and cracking up and just loving this:

    i dont see how it can be possible to have gender equality in a culture built on a system of inequality, call it cognitive dissonance or whatever, but i just cant grasp how that could even be possible.

    indeed.

    (gotta get out of here to make a delivery deadline, but more later.)

  5. Margalis
    Margalis August 14, 2008 at 7:27 pm |

    i was wondering, and this seemed like a good place to ask, what you think of community based bartering and the exchange of goods and services for other goods and services instead of money.

    Isn’t this just obfuscated capitalism? You’re still assessing the value of items and trading them for items of equalish value. The people who don’t produce items of much value are still screwed.

    If you have a shoe I need and I have a loaf of bread you want and we trade that’s capitalism. The fact that it doesn’t rely on currency doesn’t really change that, currency is just a shorthand expression of value.

  6. nosam
    nosam August 14, 2008 at 7:28 pm |

    Jesslikewhoa said
    basically, im asking you to write a post about what alternatives you use or support instead of our current exploitative economy. i feel like alot of people react negativly to attacks on capitalism becos a. were raised to think its the greatest thing ever but also b. they dont necessarily understand what grassroots alternatives are already available. are you always law abiding, or do you sometimes support forms of civil disobedience for the greater good?

    The thing is…any “grassroots” alternative is in fact fully compatible with free market theory, assuming it is cooperative. It is not an attack on “the system” because, at a basic level, under a free market there is no “system” in the sense of an overarching order you must adhere to. That’s why free markets tick off both ultra right and ultra left wingers – it is clearly not in line with either of their agendas. If you want to organize a voluntary group of people to have your own little exchange society on a farm? Fine. Free marketers do not oppose this. The sin qua non of free markets are voluntary interactions, period (“voluntary” in the sense of allowing one to do what one prefers in the circumstances, not freedom from any feelings of necessity or lack at all, which is part of human nature and nothing can eliminate).

    The other things is….any deviation from capitalism seems one step closer to slavery in the most basic sense. “Ah! That is wingnut hyperbole” you say to yourself. Clearly there are shades of gray in between, but any formal, legalistic communitarianism is slavery, because your labor is not yours, and the fruits of your labor is distributed according to another’s whim. Obviously some taxation is a necessary evil, but you get the idea.

    That’s why many believe that free markets are the only ethical system for allocating wealth…it is based on autonomous, free exchanges. Of course the reality strays from this, but no system meets the ideal.

    That’s just my 2 cents.

  7. Ashley
    Ashley August 14, 2008 at 7:29 pm |

    Hey Jess,

    Just wanted to say I’ve really been enjoying your posts. Thanks for this!

  8. exholt
    exholt August 14, 2008 at 7:48 pm |

    It can feel taboo to share details about things like income, inheritance, class background, debt, and spending. Silence and secrecy about money make it difficult for us to challenge ourselves and each other when classist dynamics arise.

    It is not only a taboo thing in American society, but also a conversation that has a lot of baggage for those who emigrated from Marxist/Maoist regimes. One’s socio-economic class background(s) was often used and manipulated by the state to met out good jobs, benefits, and awards to those favored and harassment, beatings, persecution, and even death for those who were not.

    It is probably one reason why two of my aunts avoid any discussion about “class backgrounds” in this context unless it is to recount their experiences at being “struggled” by Red Guards during the Cultural Revolution for being daughters of academics. Growing up hearing such stories of persecution in Maoist China during the 50’s and 60’s, the first thing I thought when I read that quoted passage above was their experiences of being persecuted for being “capitalist roaders” solely because they happened to be science professors.

  9. jessilikewhoa
    jessilikewhoa August 14, 2008 at 10:45 pm |

    Isn’t this just obfuscated capitalism? You’re still assessing the value of items and trading them for items of equalish value. The people who don’t produce items of much value are still screwed.

    but i think it could cause a much more truthful estimate of value, as you cant so much place a false value on something when its a direct trade with another person dictated by what you both feel your services or item is worth. who is more important, the person who grows your food or the person who formulates your medicine? with the way things are set up now, somehow the person in the lab making the medicine is paid far more than the person harvesting your food. that seems fucked. obviously one required more education, at least formal education, but what use is medicine if you have no food to eat? i think its bullshit that our entire society is built on the backs of the poor who are invisible to everyone who benefits from their labor. im guilty too, as up until this very moment i never thought of what it might be like to be the person who built this computer, but i imagine its dangerous to their health and primarily done by the poor in other countries, yet to me its just a happy plastic convienence item. even if bartering isnt perfect, which again, i totally see no way barter could work in any non-exploitative way if it were tried on some mass scale outside of closeknit communities, as it already is when one woman bakes bread as a thank you to the neighbor who helps watch her children for free. i think interacting with the person who actually labored to make a product or provide a service would render them no longer invisible, in which case their labor would finally be fairly compensated.

  10. debbie rasmussen
    debbie rasmussen August 14, 2008 at 10:47 pm |

    thanks, jess, for being a voice of dissent and reason.

  11. jessilikewhoa
    jessilikewhoa August 14, 2008 at 11:03 pm |

    i walked away to dish up my spaghetti and more thoughts spewed forth in my head, so i continue:

    i dont even think money is the enemy. i think the death of local economy in favor of sameness and big box and mega-corporations is the problem. when you shop at the mega-store the product is just there, you dont have to think about where it came from or how it got there or who made it possible for you to get that product with their labor. only a tiny portion of your money actually returns to the workers in the mega-store, the rest of it leaves your community for good, instead heading into the pockets of the top 1% who dont care if your kid is sucking on lead painted toys or if the local school cant afford basic repairs. ive yet to hear of a recall of beef from a independent butcher, and when i shop at mom and pop stores they remember me and remember what i like. when i buy produce from the farmer who sets up a roadside stand i kno that my money is going to them and their adorable son with the buckteeth. when i buy local eggs, the farmers name and phone number are on the carton, if i somehow got sick from those eggs, i could call the actual person who gathered them, who could in turn actually check on the health of the chickens hirself. local economies allow for people to be financially independent business owners, and as those businesses get gobbled up by wal*mart or safeway or whatever the local economy suffers which means the people in your community suffer and we all end up trapped in jobs that suck our souls.

    i dont pretend to have the answer, i just kno there has to be a better way. i also wont pretend that i never ever shop big box stores, im poor, theyre often the best option, but it doesnt mean i feel good about it.

  12. jessilikewhoa
    jessilikewhoa August 14, 2008 at 11:12 pm |

    ok, swear to g-d/dess that ill stfu after this, but i just noticed this The people who don’t produce items of much value are still screwed. and im curious as to what would be something of little value? if someone needs it it automatically has value. and like i said, services could be exchanged too, like maybe i cant make anything, and you make amazing food, so in exchange for a great meal, i could help you clean up your kitchen. or maybe i cant even do any physical work, say im differently abled to the degree that that would be impossible, but maybe i am fantastic at US history and your kid needs tutoring in US history, so i tutor your kid and in exchange you run an errand for me that i struggle to do myself.

  13. A male
    A male August 15, 2008 at 3:33 am |

    “i dont even think money is the enemy. i think the death of local economy in favor of sameness and big box and mega-corporations is the problem.”

    Precisely. I don’t care if there are rich people, or even a privileged class like royalty. But how do they treat others?

    “im curious as to what would be something of little value? if someone needs it it automatically has value.”

    Precisely. I am a nurse in long term care. I have a license to perform certain procedures, and to assess the effects of medications I dispense under the orders of a physician. But unless something goes wrong, quite frankly, it is akin to babysitting, and something that people traditionally used to do for free for their ailing or aging loved ones. Yes, I know the burden falls mainly upon women, but I cannot see the logic of paying an institution $12-14,000 PER MONTH, PER PERSON for this service, and there being such a great demand for it, with lists of people waiting in the wings to snatch up a bed or room if someone is off the floor for as little as three days, if someone e.g., gets taken to the ICU for more intensive care. All some people need is company or supervision so they don’t disappear from home, forget to turn off the stove, or fall unattended. There’s no reason that people in a neighborhood could not pool their resources to provide each other this sort of care (or childcare) for free, juggling loads to allow people to work or have outside lives.

  14. Money Fan
    Money Fan August 15, 2008 at 6:58 am |

    The reason money exists is because of specialization. If you make amazing food, and I want your food, but nothing I’m any good at is of any particular use to you, I can do the things I’m good at for somebody else in exchange for something that would be of use to you. Because we’re both doing the things we’re good at, we’re maximizing our own output, without having to worry about whether it’s directly useful to the people who make the things we need. More and better stuff gets made (and services performed) and much less time is spent seeking out the market for the things we make or do, since the pool of available customers isn’t limited to people who do or make things we need. It also makes transactions easier, especially for big ticket items. Buying a car (leaving aside building one to sell) would be nearly impossible by barter. Would I get the car up front, and then wash and fold your clothes for ten years after, or do your laundry for ten years up front? Either way, the chances the either you or I (whoever goes first) is going to get screwed are enormous.

  15. Farhat
    Farhat August 15, 2008 at 10:32 am |

    Once people work out the kinks in the system, you basically get back to what we already have. How do you enforce that vulnerable people aren’t taken advantage of? What about things like minimum safety standards? Barter was the original way of doing things. There’s a reason why we went beyond that. I understand that learning is uncool and all but sometimes a little reading can help.

  16. Holly
    Holly August 15, 2008 at 10:59 am |

    Money is too useful for doing things like storing value and facilitating exchanges to ever not exist. If it disappeared somehow, somebody would just re-invent it. You could prohibit it, as many prison systems have attempted to do, in which case people still figure out how to create some form of currency (like cigarettes) and engage in black market trade. I don’t even think it would be possible to erase the idea of money from humanity, it’s too simple, obvious, and necessary for trade over time and distance. So all of that aside, I think barter is still an interesting alternative for local economies that highlights an equitable trade of labor, and so forth. I like to barter, and I think barter can be encouraged without looking at it solely as something that’s supposed to “replace money.” Both can exist.

  17. Ron O.
    Ron O. August 15, 2008 at 11:33 am |

    Money Fan & Holly – Yes, but just because money, and markets are useful doesn’t mean they have to exist in a capitalist system. A feature (not a bug IMO) of capitalism is the control over vast amounts capital by a very small percentage of the population. I’d like to keep some of the good things, but spread the wealth around more, more of a market-driven socialism. For example, one thing I like about my company is that it is 100% employee-owned. Our factory workers all the way up to the CEO benefits when we do well. Also the top management makes less than 20x what the lowest workers make. No CEO are walking away with 10s or 100s of millions of dollars. That profit is spread around much more equitably. We still compete with others in a market, but internally we are all in this for the common good.

    Another thing that I think need to change from the capitalist system is a way for big companies to die gracefully, without causing too much suffering for those employed. Perhaps a system of incentives can be worked out to keep companies under say 1000 or 5000 employee-owners. When they get too big, they split in two or three; perhaps keeping some level of cooperation. This graceful death to big companies is something I just started thinking about, so this isn’t really well thought out yet, but I thought it was worth bringing up.

  18. jeffliveshere
    jeffliveshere August 15, 2008 at 12:16 pm |

    Thanks for the link to Enough. What a great resource. Myriad voices, with lots of intelligent dissent, even, which is often a welcome relief.

    Also, I’d like to chime in on noting that I’m really enjoying your posts in general. Your tone resonates with me…something like strong-and-kind, which is hard to find on blogs sometimes.

  19. jess
    jess August 15, 2008 at 1:23 pm |

    Thanks, everyone, for your thoughts here!

    jessilikewhoa: I have not forgotten about your request for more on alternatives to capitalism, especially ones we can each begin engaging in in our daily lives. I’m out of town this weekend for a cousin’s wedding (playing bridesmaid, even, of all incongruous things!), so I may not have much online time, but quickly, some resources and activities that have been exciting/useful/challenging/inspiring/thought-provoking to me lately:

    * participating in a local produce co-op (the one I’m involved with — info here:http://urbansoil.net/wiki.cgi/LAEV_Food_Coop — isn’t exactly a CSA [community supported agriculture], but kinda like that)
    * LETs — local economic trading systems (not a full-on barter system, but localized skill- and time-sharing for a piece of community members’ overall economic/resource puzzle); these exist already in lots of places, and are being formed right now in many more
    * Deep Economy by Bill McKibben — quite a few interesting small-scale, community-based-econ projects profiled in this book
    * Vandana Shiva — she is writing all kinds of amazing stuff about alternatives to global capitalism (mostly focused on local, nonindustrial, biodiverse, democratic structures); keep an eye out for a great new title from South End Press called _Soil Not Oil_
    * Transition Culture — found this blog via Vandana Shiva’s writing, and it offers some inspiring ideas: http://transitionculture.org/
    * Toolbox for Sustainable City Living — haven’t finished reading this yet, but I’m excited about it (and I got my copy via South End Press’s community-supported publishing program, which is itself an exciting example of grassroots/community-based economics and of which I’m a proud member) :http://www.southendpress.org/2007/items/87804

    (Obviously I’m convinced that economic and environmental issues are very much linked, and can’t see how to have a conversation about alternatives to global capitalism that is not also a conversation about sustainability and environmental justice, and vice versa.)

    More as I find time.

    Love,

    Jess

  20. jess
    jess August 15, 2008 at 1:26 pm |

    Plus, a little advance promo:

    Issue 4 of make/shift, due out in September, features a multi-article spread on economics, focusing on just, community-based models and people/projects who are engaged in creative resistance and creating something new …

  21. Renee
    Renee August 15, 2008 at 1:39 pm |

    As I said in the other thread Capitalism is the cult of I instead of we. Moving to a subsistence economy is going to be our only way forward the state of the environment will allow no other. When we produce for need instead of profit certain commodities will cease to exist. This will facilitate a barter type system of exchange based on equal worth because each commodity will be a needed and essential commodity.

  22. jess
    jess August 15, 2008 at 1:48 pm |

    Also: All the incredible childcare and cooking co-ops cropping up all over the place!

  23. shah8
    shah8 August 15, 2008 at 2:22 pm |

    This is pretty darn wierd discussion.

    Capitalism is about stored, assigned, and commoditized value. The flaws that flows from it usually has something to do with that. People starving other people by their control of grain silos. People making sure that others do not have ready access to liquid cash, similar to Jim Crow era banking for minorities or the Gold Standard during the latter part of the 19th century. People who socially manipulate a value to certain items like oil, water, status markers like lifestyle and homes, etc, etc…

    To a certain degree, all of these things will happen under any economic regimen that grants certain people the control of the fountain–whether that be of gold, land, grain, or labor. There aren’t many systems that avoid that, namely because a proportional number of people are highly, highly motivated to set up a system that affords them this sort of control. Pretty much only in a Post Singularity (cheap nano as well) revolution as described by Ken Macleod or Karl Schroeder will that change, namely because largely disinterested outsiders control the spigot (Macleod’s books are more about a disembodied dynamics, but still…).

    So a thread like this, and I’m well…”I’d like a pink pony too!”

  24. Joe Clement
    Joe Clement August 15, 2008 at 2:55 pm |

    “…how a commitment to wealth redistribution plays out in our lives…”

    I hope this project does not repeat the 20th Century mistake of reducing “resisting Capitalism,” the political struggle par excellance of the last 150 years, to a matter of wealth distribution. Capitalism is not merely a structure of resource distribution, but a way in which we reproduce our material and social existence. In other words, if I may be unashamedly Marxist about it, it’s a mode of production, and changing it will take more than, as it were, putting a human face on it all (making it “fair”) and calling it good.

  25. Joe Clement
    Joe Clement August 15, 2008 at 3:09 pm |

    People interested in this thread might also check out David Harvey’s university-course closely reading Marx’s first volume of Capital, made available online for free at http://www.davidharvey.org.

  26. L-K
    L-K August 17, 2008 at 4:56 am |

    When we produce for need instead of profit certain commodities will cease to exist. This will facilitate a barter type system of exchange based on equal worth because each commodity will be a needed and essential commodity.

    OK, I’m having a difficult time understanding. I see many problems arising out of this. First, what criteria would be use to determine what is a “need/essential” vs. what is a “want”? Second, who would be determining this criteria? Third, how would this be implemented?

    I think too many commodities have the fluidity of being able to move between both categories, and some individuals would classify a commodity as a want, others a need. I think it would be a great error to assume that a “need” is always going to be a “need,” and a “want” is always going to be a “want” (as time has demonstrated repeatedly). It would be erroneous to assume the general population is homogeneous in regards to it needs. It sets problematic issues, as it implies that people are going to be limited to what they produce (particular if they have in their hearts to produce something that might not be viewed as needed or essential). I also think that it would be patronizing, as well as paternalistic, if we were to cease the production of commodities that are viewed as “wants,” just because some people view them as unnecessary or as a negative. It convenes somewhat a “I Know/We Know What’s Best for You” vibe.

    To expand, I am also viewing a commodity not only as a physical/material object, but talents and skills as well, (such as for example, instruction in the arts or in music). Attempting to label those commodities as something that is either or put in danger of extinction many of those particular skills.

    Wow, there sure are a lot of “needs” and “wants” in those paragraphs. Sorry if it seems spacey, but as people can see it’s almost 5am.

  27. Feministe » Toward a Liberationist Feminism (Or, I Hope Pro-Capitalist Feminism Is an Oxymoron)

    […] and otherwise absurd. But, after reading the comments in several threads here about capitalism and individualism over the past week or so, I do want to spend some words on what […]

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