“Anyone who believes in indefinite growth in anything physical, on a physically finite planet, is either mad – or an economist”, Kenneth Boulder. The problem is that the civilised world is systemically addicted to physical growth, as evidenced by the simple fact that economic recessions and depressions are destructive 1 . This site examines how deep in our civilisational DNA this folly lies, and considers some of the radical changes that would result from properly addressing it 2 .
Change is the only constant. Nothing lasts forever, not the economic orthodoxy that sees perpetual growth as natural and good, nor the Newtonian/mechanical paradigm that is its soil. And yet even though it is now abundantly clear that we do not inhabit a deterministic, mechanical universe in which distinct objects somehow appeared from an unknowable void only to be predictably reincorporated upon expiry, we continue to act at political, economic, educational, financial and almost all other levels as if we do. Consumerism – in which shiny goods appear magically on shop shelves to be thrown ‘away’ later – is one of the more infamous manifestations of this worldview.
Systems structure perception, from biological to ideological. The mechanical paradigm crystallised a few centuries ago as part of humanity’s continuing endeavour to understand reality. It can be crudely characterised as the identification of distinct boundaries and thus of equally distinct objects (and forces) in which properties are discerned. These properties are seen as intrinsic and thus define the object that houses them3. This paradigm has countless advantages. It also pins evolving patterns to a board like so many dead bugs, objectifies them, strips them of their fundamental livingness, their interwoven embeddedness, their continually emergent nature. Somewhat ironically, the boundaries and categories we use first to perceive-into-existence then pin objects to the backdrop of reality are themselves changing patterns rooted in slowly evolving myths we seldom identify or examine. These deeper myths carry us as an ocean carries fish. As they change, so too does the way we perceive reality. And as our perceptions change, it is as if new phenomena heave into view like strange ships crossing the horizon of the familiar. I believe we are undergoing a profound paradigm shift from the mechanical to something fundamentally different that none of our institutions will survive in their current form. The question is how disruptive this shift will be.
In this work, I take a deep systems- /complexity-theory view to money, civilisation, the state and the market in the belief that such an approach generates new perspectives that can contribute positively to humanity’s continuing evolution and thus to evolution more broadly. If money is an idea that evolves and not an immutable Newtonian object with fixed properties, should we not be asking how our relationship with and understanding of it structure our perceptions of the state, the market and even civilisation itself, seeing as money is fundamental to all institutional decision making? How is it we know the price of everything and the value of nothing? And why are so few of our media outlets asking these questions, and others that arise from them?
Contemporary awareness of fundamental processes and concepts like money creation and destruction, jobs, punishment, reward, normativity, work and productivity is closely and unimaginatively aligned to prevailing orthodoxy, an orthodoxy whose efficacy is, in my view, wearing dangerously thin. Civilisation’s ability to address – with wisdom, flexibility and imagination – issues such as environmental degradation, perpetual growth, scarcity, war and over-population is severely limited by our collective reluctance to look at them through new eyes. This work is my contribution to our ability to understand the challenges we face, greet them as opportunities, and go on to evolve compassionately, intelligently, and with deep humility.
Before embarking in earnest on the journey this site represents, try to step out of and look back at your matrix. There’s always a matrix, so it helps to know its design and how it structures your perception. Read Chapter Zero to get an initial sense of how to decode yours and learn its dimensions, purpose and mythology. In the end, the only way to walk this path – the path that you are always becoming – is your way.
“As a rule, interest on borrowing is financed with additional production and income [i.e. economic growth]. Financing with new debts, on the other hand, would indeed lead to over-indebtedness and – practiced across the board – to a collapse of the financial system.” (My translation, comment and emphases.) This revealing quote comes from the German government’s response to a citizen’s petition to change to a full-reserve money system. A full-reserve money system is one in which new money is not exclusively created as interest-bearing debt. In our global money system – fractional-reserve banking –, all money is created as interest-bearing debt. Hence “new debts” – new money –, when not financed by economic growth, can only be financed with further “new debts” as a systemic requirement. It follows, therefore, that the planet’s current money system can only “lead to over-indebtedness [... and ...] collapse” in the absence of continuing economic growth. We are currently systemically addicted to economic growth. Some government economists now appear to be willing to (tacitly) admit this, but reject calls to change the system to something less foolhardy. This design property of fractional-reserve banking is one of the main reasons why recessions and depressions are so destructive: things start breaking apart in the economy when growth falters. More pithily: if it isn’t growing, it’s collapsing. As witnessed historically, only war and its great destruction can free up suffient economic opportunity from which new growth can kick start the fractional-reserve system. ↩
Google searches on quoted strings such as “countries not committed to economic growth” or “countries not pursuing economic growth” yield zero hits. It is fair to say that systemic addiction to growth is now a global phenomenon. That so few institutions are openly discussing why it is that economic growth is seen as an a priori and unquestionable good and functionally superior to non-economic development – such that the latter must always be financed by the former – is cause for serious concern. A simple question should suffice to expose the system’s idiocy: Why must economic activity always grow? ↩
By contrast, emergentism is a philosophical belief in emergence that is materialistic, such that consciousness is an emergent property of matter, given sufficiently complex material systems (see Wikipedia entry). My approach is emergentism's inverse: consciousness (whatever that is) is fundamental or primal. Matter, in whatever form and whatever it is, is an emergent property of consciousness. I address my approach in detail in Chapter 1. ↩