Online text

The entire text of Sacred Economics will be on line by the end of 2011. One chapter a week is being posted on Reality Sandwich. I will put the links on this page as they become available.

Introduction
Chapter 1: The Gift World

Chapter 2: Greed and the Illusion of Scarcity
Chapter 3: Money and the Mind
Chapter 4: The Trouble with Property
Chapter 5: The Corpse of the Commons

Chapter 6: The Economics of Usury
Chapter 7: The Crisis of Civilization
Chapter 8: The Turning of the Age

Chapter 9: The Story of Value
Chapter 10: The Law of Return
Chapter 11: Currencies of the Commons
Chapter 12: Negative-interest Economics
Chapter 13: Steady-state and Degrowth Economics
Chapter 14: The Social Dividend
Chapter 15: Local and Complementary Currencies
Chapter 16: Transition to Gift Economy
Chapter 17: Summary and Roadmap
Chapter 18: Relearning Gift Culture
Chapter 19: Non-Accumulation
Chapter 20: Right Livelihood and Sacred Investing
Chapter 21: Working in the Gift
Chapter 22: Community and the Unquantifiable

24 Responses to Online text

  1. awake says:

    Good Stuff!

  2. Pingback: On hermit community and gift culture « The Black Stone Hermitage

  3. Kevin Cox says:

    I have just read Sacred Economics on my Kindle. It is a ripping yarn and it puts the “blame” where it belongs on the system – not on people.
    I would recommend the following books as ways to better understand systems based on gift giving. Super Cooperators (Altruism, Evolution and why we need each other to succeed) by Nowak and HighField. The Complexity of Cooperation by Robert Alexrod. Complexity a Guided Tour by Melanie Mitchell.
    While compounding of interest on debt is unfair and the creation of interest bearing money tokens leads to exploitation, the idea of interest on savings does not necessarily lead to a dysfunctional monetary system nor does renting money for a fee (interest) necessarily cause problems.
    The problems arise when we get rent on rent and when we create new interest bearing money tokens through loans. We can adjust the existing system to overcome these problems as described for houses at http://cscoxk.wordpress.com/2011/09/14/rent-and-buy/
    To create new money tokens it is recommended that a community creates them through interest free loans given to citizens where the loans must be invested to increase the utilisation of a commons or reduce the consumption of a commons. The size of the loans to each citizen should be inversely related to the citizen’s commons consumption. http://cscoxk.wordpress.com/2008/09/23/financing-renewables-and-solving-the-financial-crisis/
    These two relatively simple system constructs fit into the existing systems without major disruption and because they cost less will – over time – displace the existing loan based fractional reserve system of money creation.

    • Thanks for the comment. The proposals you mention above are closely aligned with the commons-based currency I describe in, what was it, Chapter 11? “Currencies of the Commons.” It does basically the same as you describe, making wealth dependent on conserving or even enriching the commons. But I think it is even simpler than the schemes above, although on the local level it might make sense to do it that way.

      I must disagree with the statement, “the idea of interest on savings does not necessarily lead to a dysfunctional monetary system nor does renting money for a fee (interest) necessarily cause problems.” That is only true in a high-growth environment. The problems with interest began well before the advent of fractional reserve banking. They were first observed in ancient Greece, within a couple generations of money’s introduction to the society. In Athens in the 6th century BCE, a few families got extremely wealthy while everyone else lost their land and freedom, prompting the reforms of Solon. Recognizing the problems with interest, many places forbid it or had various kinds of jubilee laws protecting debtors.

  4. Kevin Cox says:

    In the Buy and Rent proposal for dwellings the capital is paid back first and then the rent is paid. The same can be done with money. Loans of money can be made with rent (interest) attached. When a payment is made this comes off the capital and the rent on the money accumulates to be paid after the capital is repaid. The rent on the money should not accumulate rent. In other words it is not the rent on money (interest) that is the problem it is the rules by which the repayments are made. The issue with paying the rent first is that it means we pay rent on rent which is a positive feedback mechanism which causes the instability.

    Instabilities in systems are recognisable and possible solutions can be designed (even if hard to implement) by changing positive feedback mechanisms to negative feedback mechanisms. For example we know that stock markets have a positive feedback mechanism because share prices follow a random walk. The positive feedback in stock markets comes from the tendency for supply of stock to drop as price increases and so the price tends to increase because number of shares for sale decreases. The reverse applies on the way down. A possible solution is that a company knows best what its stock price should be. When a stock price goes up more than it is worth a company could increase the supply of stock by selling new shares and similarly on the way down the company could decrease the supply of stock by purchasing shares once the price gets below fair value. The same applies to foreign exchange markets.

    It is important to get the details for adjusting the money supply right. The current system where we create new money and loan to people who already have money is guaranteed to lead to an unstable system. We could give new money to people who have less but in a way that leads to stability. By giving new money to those who consume less of a commons (who tend to be the poor) and requiring them to invest to better utilise the commons leads to a system where the commons use will become sustainable and stable and the poor will become wealthier without a reduction in existing wealth.

  5. Recently I find myself obsessed with the idea of of money as the place to look for a solution to our world’s immediate problems. So this conversation is very relevant. I am not sure if money can be done away with, but in the meantime, if it were made less important, that would go a long way. Desperation makes money all important. If we create a society in which the basic needs for human dignity are met (nice neighborhood parks, community centers, healthcare, education, and a few other such basic needs, then the desperation would evaporate and with it many ills that we spend huge resources “fighting!” Of course there are interests and forces that resist and work against such a society because in their world of scarcity they need desperate people. To them it is a world of masters and slaves (Abraham Maslow’s nail and hammer), but if we build this model inside the existing society (if that is doable!) then maybe it can be copied and become the norm and a new world is on its way. Joe Sumekh http://www.AWorldRelated.com

  6. Dear Mr. Einstein,

    If I had the ability to write a book during this period of history, this is the book I would have written. Whilst I don’t have the capability to write such a book, fortunately you do.

    In commentary on the other site some people have remarked that the book hasn’t received the attention it should. This is to be expected. If I and a few other people I know are anything to go by, there is a journey of awareness that one has to take to get to the point where your ideas and insights within the book begin to make concrete sense.

    Even in these difficult economic times the vast majority of people are waiting for the next growth spurt to appear. The narrative of growth is strong and appealing. If Ireland is anything to go by, the appearance of wealth alone is almost enough to keep people embedded in the current system. A country doesn’t require a majority to do well, it only needs to prove it can produce the circumstances for a proportion of its population to succeed in the current system. The emerging narrative is that everyone else isn’t up to the game. If they don’t succeed, they are personal failures. (The benchmark is, of course, the ability to accumulate stuff – usually through the use of debt.)

    I think a book or site dedicated to individuals who can tell how they arrived at the point where they see the poverty of existence in the midst of apparent plenty might be a worthwhile endeavour. (I would note, however, that the book as it stands by itself should jolt many, if not most, into a profound awareness how money, both in its circulative and symbolic affects, is not working in theirs or the earth’s favour. I never recommend books to my dear ones. Doing such can be construed as interfering in someone’s personal narrative. This is a book, however, that I intend to recommend at any and every opportunity; though in I hope a diplomatic/sympathetic manner.)

    Anyhow.

    I’ve just ordered the book. I’ve been reading the chapters on the other site up to chap 8. I think I’ll wait until the book is delivered to read the rest. I get to anticipate the good bits, lol. It’s a bit like christmas, except one isn’t waiting so much for the physical book but the gift of ideas.

    Very best, from: Make do and Mend

    PS – why not gift (donation) button on this site?

    • Thank you for your generous words.
      I especially like your insight, “A country doesn’t require a majority to do well, it only needs to prove it can produce the circumstances for a proportion of its population to succeed in the current system.” That is especially true in the presence of a narrative that says it is possible for everyone who works hard enough. Yet, the money system is set up in such a way as to guarantee more losers than winners (except in times of very rapid growth, and not necessarily even then).
      A gift button… hmm. I’ve got on one The Ascent of Humanity. i’ll consider that. The gift I want most is for people to spread these ideas far and wide.
      Charles

  7. Hi Charles,

    You’ve done a pretty convincing job crafting this new model. I come from the “100% moneyless society” standpoint but I can see your reasoning why there should be something called money: to deliver the story. And on the other hand: to feed information into the system.

    But since I haven’t been able to read till the end of the book I don’t have the full picture of the model. I already posted (nick: astikain) some suggestions and questions in http://www.realitysandwich.com/sacred_economics_chapter_12

    I guess what doesn’t convince me yet is that you aim to preserve the old institutions (FED, governments etc) and try to impose the idea of negative interest on a model that might be able to do without it. What if the commons-backed free-money would go straight to every citizen of the world as monthly basic income? What if it would just disappear at the end of the month if they don’t use it? Wouldn’t this address the issues in a simpler way?

    I’ve played around with the idea: new money = new democracy. What if people were truly free and could use their free-money to really “vote” every day? Let people suggest initiatives for improvement. Let people see (e.g. on one website) what’s out there to participate in. Let people decide, with their money, what societal developments should take place.

    Complex issues call for simple solutions.

    Love,

    Tomi Astikainen :)
    “the moneyless traveler”

    • Thanks for your comment, Tom. as you keep reading you’ll find hat part of the vision is indeed a social dividend similar to what you describe. For most people, who don’t save money, it would be exactly as you describe.

      The question you raise is basically why money should be able to act as a store of value at all. I could answer on an economics level, but let’s keep it in the realm of the gift, because really what I want to help create is a world where money and economy is suffused with the spirit of the gift, and where, therefore, institutions like the Fed (or any other institution — I’m not attached to having a Fed) are agents to facilitate the flow of gifts. OK, so in a small-scale community, those who are generous and contribute to the welfare of others are appreciated. They generate goodwill and gratitude that might be acted upon right away, or perhaps years later. Beyond the scale of a community of a few hundred, however, we need some way to represent the gratitude of society when the contributions of a given citizen are not visible to those who benefit from them. Money serves as a token of gratitude.

      Secondly, savings that you put in a bank can be seen from a gift perspective as well. The bank isn’t where you store money for yourself so that no one else can use it. A bank (in its sacred incarnation) is an institution that helps you find someone to use your money. You say, “Here, bank, here is a million dollars I don’t need to use right now. Can you please find someone else who needs it or can put it to beautiful use/” That is what I call “sacred investing” — finding a beautiful use for money. To create large-scale projects, we need to coordinate the efforts of thousands of people or even millions. Money is a means to do this. The pernicious thing about saving money today is the idea, “I’ll let someone else use my money — but only if they give me even more in return.” A zero-interest loan is a gift of the use of money. An interest-bearing loan is the sale of the use of money. It’s a huge difference in thinking, and when money and banking embody gift thinking, those institutions will become nearly the opposite of what they are today.

      Charles

  8. Hey Charles,

    Thanks for the timely response. That’s actually what I meant. That people could do “sacred investing” on their own – to larger scale projects other people have suggested. Likewise, they could use this “crowdsourcing” to get funding for their own ideas. I still don’t see why there should be a bank as a middle man.

    Anyways, let the discussion continue.

    -Tomi

  9. Toby says:

    I agree with Tomi, and wonder if saving is necessary at all, should the money system be such–the broader paradigm too–that it’s clear money is just a measure of value and facilitator of exchange, and that there is a decent social dividend. In such an environment, banking might very well dissolve into the famous Cloud. Projects could be okayed and organized via internet-like or social-networking-like software. Because it is clear that money is not a limited resource, is not wealth itself, all that really matters is its moment-to-moment distribution, the way it gets from person to person. Saving for a rainy day is pointless in such a context, especially if large items like houses and cars are no longer private property. All that would be necessary for large scale projects is an agreement from sufficient numbers of people that the project is worth undertaking, and available skills and resources. (Linux is a very complicated project that needs money only because the contributors need money to live, not because organizing millions of people takes money.) Money could be created (if needed) ‘on the spot’, need not come from savings at all. If the project produces further goods or services for sale, the money created to bring it to completion would not be inflationary. If the project had some non-market function, like building a road, a different type of money could be used, one that expires far more quickly, for example.

    The thing is, we’re nowhere near ready to implement such a system across the planet, or even in one single nation. The change of mind needed to bring billions over to such a world view is enormous. For this reason alone it is imperative we have a transition methodology that is comprehensible to as many as possible and can use existing infrastructure without being too disruptive. Charles’ plan does this, and yet I experience enormous resistance when I promote it. However, should the train start rolling along the Eisenstein Track, and gain momentum too, what happens thereafter might be very quick. Who knows. I love to hope!

  10. Pingback: The Gift Economy (part I) « SHIKIGAMI

  11. to says:

    How come the second chapter is inaccessible? I would love to read that before moving onto the third. Also: thank you so much for holding the vision of a gift economy, and also for embodying it by making this information available for free. I am truly grateful for your work and support it wholeheartedly. God bless you!

  12. Sunny Soleil says:

    Charles, I salute you from the depths of my soul. My friend Cassa Von Kundra introduced me to your book which I read out loud to my husband who is brilliant but dyslexic. We both felt that here is someone like to a modern day prophet, and I know you might blush at that because it is obvious that you are not an egoic person. But I just wanted to say thank you for expressing with credible information the whole notion of the Gift Economy.

    We live in the back hollers of Northern GA on the edge of the forest, renting for money a house with 10 acres. We love it here. We came into a community of holler folk, most of whom have been here for generations. They are caught up in the money game as much as we are.. BUT deep down is an encultured way of caring for each other. Gifts of food, loans of equipment, and manual labor are not uncommon.

    Last winter my husband, who is not working at any ‘job’ went down to our farmer neighbor saying ‘it’s cold, he’s bent up and he’s got cows to tend and I’m gonna help him’. My husband subsequently went every day, getting up really early in the freezing snow. even rising at 4am to go massage the bent feet of a calf he’d helped birth. He calls this PAYING INTO THE BANK OF KINDNESS’. I understand now how this works. He has done it with other people..and as a result was recommended for a job cutting down trees.

    Of course we cannot get out of this economy just like that, but I see this generation of people alive on earth and of age now as the pioneers sowing the seeds of a massive change through our own rapid shift in consciousness. We may not see it all happen, but I feel it is paramount that we all try our best to let go of needing stuff, live more simply and practIce giving.

    It is not easy, being poor, having to pay rent. I gave up a life and career as a city girl from across the ocean to come here and go into the woods with my husband. We exhausted all our money, and now, living on the edge, we have been the beneficiaries of many gifts, often just enough.. We were given a deer a month ago and my husband went straight to another guy who’d given us half a hog with some of the deer meat..he in turn gave my husband a solenoid for his truck.. and so it flows…..

    We foresee a time in the near future when someone might let us move our RV onto their land in return for helping them cultivate, growing food forests, doing labor, generally giving our gifts… This is what we pray for..You have given us hope and a great foundation for sharing how this works… dare I say a veritable ‘bible’ for how to live on this earth. THANK YOU and I know that God, The Force, Gaia, All that is, is blessing you and keeping you on the path – calling others to their adventure.

    Joseph Campbell said that if we are not doing what we love then we are not living the life we were meant to… I see his ‘follow your bliss’ as the perfect underlying philosophy for creating a gift economy.. communities where everyone has something special to offer and where the gifted gardener can also hold a box of nails for the gifted carpenter as the gifted child carer can peel veggies for the gifted cook at the same time as teaching the children a wide variety of skills so they can find and follow their gift!

    • Sunny, I love this story about your husband “paying into the bank of kindness”. Such people send ripples out into society that change the world. Rationally, one cannot explain how his actions will change the world, but in our hearts we know that they are significant. That’s what we have to start listening to, and to live accordingly to the extent of near-foolishness.

      Wishing you and your husband every blessing,

      Charles

    • p.s. You know, my other book, The Ascent of Humanity, is availabe in an audio version (free of charge). You two could listen to that as well if you like.

  13. Pingback: Ian MacKenzie | Charles Eisenstein, author of ‘Sacred Economics’, coming to Vancouver

  14. Haydar says:

    I have just read your articel about gift society and I did not know where to put my comments.

    Yes you would create a bit more feeling of a community on a street, or even in a small town between certain group of people. But why dream and aim so low, when you have the opportunity to create a global community of all people of this world. Obviously you cannot do it with gift exchanges. You really have to go for the throat if you really want to kill the beast and create a completely new society.

    The main reason as you say is the monetised system we have that is destroying the community. How is it doing it? That is the question, and once we find the answer, then you will know what to do.
    The answer is at how we produce for our needs. We do not produce for common goods. We sell our labour (physical or mental) in exchange for money so that we can buy someone elses produce. We do not own what we produce, it is owned by the capitalist and sold back to us. This alienation from our product as Marx calls alienation, it is the main cause for the destruction of the community. We are connected through our products.

    What would happen if we produce and no capitalist own the production, but is for use for everyone who needs the product. A communal society, where everyone contributes to the society and everybody gets back what he/she needs from the society. In a society like this as the productivity goes up everybody works less to produce for the needs, this will be a completely different society than what we are handed down all through the history as the production was always owned by someone, we have not produced for common ownership since the initial communal society is disintegrated hundreds of years ago when they hunted and shared the hunt
    .
    I think you should be more critical of the society instead of looking at ways to improve it.
    When you say “we do not need anyone” is wrong as we all need eachother and everyone else . We need someone producing the grain, someone to grind it, someone to make it bread etc. Problem is we are producing them all to exchange as a commodity, what if we produced them all for distribution for anyone who needs it. We will only truly connect to each other in a society that produces for each other. If we suppose we had such a society tomorrow, i suppose we would all work maybe 4-5 hours a day to produce what is needed and any improvement of the productivity will effect us directly and we would work less and less for the actual needs but “work” to improve our lives. We would not need a lot of the professions, like bankers, financiers, lawyers, bureaucrats, governments to govern us, there will be no money, no markets, no armies to defend the wealth of the 1% etc. This kind of society will not need a representative society. Representative society is reflection of the class society where one class sells his/her labour (physical or mental) and the other class buys it to increase its wealth.

    Productivity is increased hundreds fold over the years but 99% of us now ends up working long hours, working longer. There is something wrong here.

    My criticism of you is that you are not going for the root of the problem but trying to find ways of improving it.

    On another note I think it is important to say that Karl Marx was not an economist, although he wrote the most important critique of capitalism.

    • It is true that the gift circle article you refer to does not offer a thorough critique of capitalism. Many if not all the issues you raise are addressed in the book this site is devoted to (Sacred Economics).

    • I think that if you read the book you will see that the critique it offers is quite fundamental. It isn’t about improving what we’ve got; it is about a transformation that goes all the way to the bottom.

  15. Pingback: Why the Occupy Movement Matters | Stoke My Fire

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