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What people are saying.
Life, Money & Illusion
was a finalist in the
2007 Nautilus Book Awards
Life, Money & Illusion
Living on Earth as if we want to stay
by Mike Nickerson
What the book is about.
"Life" refers to the biological processes
by which living things maintain themselves over time, "Money"
to the present economic ideology that says that as long as the volume of
money changing hands increases, all will be well. "Illusion"
refers to the fact that these two perspectives are directly opposed in terms
of how they would solve current problems.
One of them must be mistaken.
1. Without Vision, the People Perish; Collecting the Vision:
2. Vision for the 21st Century
3. Life; How it thrives
4 Problems with Life; Human Impacts on a Full Planet
5. Mutual Provision; Money, Markets and an Orderly World
6. Magnitude and Abstraction; When We Grow Very Large
Problems with our Market Economy
7. Where Value is Neglected
8. Where Value is Overstated
9. Money; Its Creation, Management and Growth
10. The Monopoly End Game
11. First Steps
12. Practical Changes
13. Monetary Reform
14. Cultural Foundations; Working Together as Societies
15. How to Get There from Here: Legitimacy, A Question
16. A Crack in the Road: Motor Culture
17. What Will Become of Us?
Appendix I: Tapping our Collective Potential
Economics is everything people do for each other. Whether actions
are taken for love, barter or money, they contribute to mutual provision.
I use the phrase "mutual provision" synonymously with "economics"
to make it clear that the whole process is, in essence, about people taking
care of each other. This reassuring perspective is often lost in the shadow
of the competitive economic model now in command. To the extent that the
present model no longer serves the common good, it will change as conventional
wisdom recognizes the deviation.
Life, Money & Illusion tracks how economic patterns change
as the communities they serve grow from extended families, through local
populations and nations, to global civilization. While there are advantages
to large-scale production, the potential for participants to be alienated
from each other and from the natural environment grows with the size of
the system. With alienation come opportunities for unfortunate advantages
to be taken.
"Money is the life blood of civilization. Without money
it would be very difficult for any but small communities to work together
in mutual provision. By enabling millions of people to cooperate, money
provides a great service. With this service, however, comes danger. Money
gathers and flows in economic streams. The greater these flows, the greater
the temptation to tap in and drink deeply."
(from Life, Money and Illusion)
The Need for Change:
Another aspect emphasized in the book is the fundamental shift that
is taking place in humanity's relationship with the Earth.
"Throughout history, the amount of fish that people could catch
was limited only by how much time and equipment we invested in fishing.
Today, the amount of fish we catch is limited by the number of fish in the
sea... We face similar limitations with forests, food lands, fresh water,
fossil fuels and the Earth's ability to absorb waste."
(from Life Money and Illusion)
With this fundamental shift, from consuming a fraction of what nature
provides, to being able to consume it all, and more, comes the need to restructure
the economic system. The system we have inherited is designed for expansion
and does not work well when it is not growing. With most of the Earth's
capacity now full with humans, we need an economic system that can be stable
at a size consistent with the carrying capacity of our planet.
There are many practical ways of reorganizing mutual provision to
accommodate our "full" Earth. Many of these are described, including:
well-being measurement, where social and environmental indicators are used
to guide policy formation and help reconnect our large system directly to
its social and environmental impacts; tax-shifting, so that public revenue
is a levy on problem-causing activities, rather than an expense that discourages
employment and enterprise; alternatives to our debt-based monetary system;
and encouraging people to seek fulfillment by enjoying what living offers,
rather than through material accumulation.
Obstacles to Change:
An economy based on sustainability makes sense when people think
about it, but it's not a possibility that gets much exposure through conventional
channels. It will take widespread popular assertion before sustainability
is adopted as society's goal. A major problem is the obstacle of wide-spread
denial. The problems of pollution, resource exhaustion and social disintegration
are big and frightening. People don't want to face them. As a result, most
are inclined to accept the reassuring message that all they need to do is
earn and spend more money and all will be well.
Nurturing Popular Will:
To fortify readers to face the present challenge, I dedicate space
to explaining the psychology of denial. The potential for overcoming barriers
swells when the tendency to block out disturbing thoughts is identified
and cause for hope offered. We humans are extraordinarily gifted with perception,
intelligence, creativity, experience and cooperative ability. There are
creatures with far less potential that have sustained themselves for many
millions of years. We should expect as much, and more. Our current problems
are largely due to success. The present system is powerful. It has succeeded
at doubling and redoubling material production - the result sought by those
in control. No one expects problems to result from their success. We seek
to solve emerging problems through further expansion. Life, Money and
Illusion makes the case that the fundamental shift in our circumstances
is creating new problems, ones that cannot be solved without a fundamental
change in how we manage mutual provision.
The Question of Direction:
Growth based economics are well past their "best before"
date in the developed world. If we are to pass the Earth on to our children's
children, we have to change direction. A popular education campaign is outlined
to introduce the choice between "grow-until-we-drop" economics
and the economics of sustainability. It is a Question of Direction.
I haven't discovered anything new here. A generation of pioneers has
worked out a full spectrum of ways to overcome today's problems. By assembling
their insights into this book, and by following up with the Question
of Direction campaign, I feel we will be able to focus attention on
the pivotal choice we need to make in order to change direction. Through
cooperative networking, those of us concerned about the future can employ
the leverage of democracy to bring this choice to popular attention.
I believe that humans will be living secure, healthy lives seven generations
from now. But to do so we will have to shed the Growth ideology. We know
which way to proceed. Life, Money and Illusion invites you to apply
your will to the lever that will ultimately tip the balance.
2799 McDonald's Corners Rd.
Questions and comments are welcome.
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Last Update: August 11, 2006