An Occupy plan, money and free speech.

I just read this interesting “plan” put forward by the Occupy “Working Group on the 99% Declaration.”

Notice that ten out of twenty-two of the suggested grievances are either directly or indirectly about money.  Hmmm.  Interesting indicator of where the problem is.  It’s fascinating to me how stuck we are with the idea that such grievances about money will be resolved politically.

For example: grievance 1 & 2 call for reversing the supreme court decision that spending money is an act of free speech, because this allows corporations and rich people to control government through the “protected speech” of campaign contributions.  That seems to make sense on the face of it.  But the problem is, I believe that money actually is an expressive capacity, a speech act.  So free speech does apply.  But not quite the way it might at first seems.  It’s not spending money that’s the speech act, it’s issuing it in the first place.  You see, issuing money is making a promise.  It’s make a declaration about value.  Spending money just is passing along that promise or declaration that some other party made, because it’s a token of the value you wish to transact.

If free speech really applies to issuance this has consequence for Occupy. A far better strategy, I believe, is to build on that Supreme Court decision, to take it further and make sure that we trumpet this truth. That real monetary speech comes from issuance, not spending.  But we don’t have to wait for the courts to recognize this truth before we start acting on it. Communities and individuals everywhere can start issuing thousands of new types of currencies as acts of free speech.  Currency issuance is already free because it is speech!

There may be one political fight that comes from this view.  Currently, legal tender laws force us to recognize Federal dollars for settling “all debts public and private”.  This amounts to something akin to the opposite of free speech, the forcing of speech.  I believe that you are free to speak as you please, to make any promises that you want.  But this freedom of also entails, I believe, that I not be required to believe your promises.  But this is what the legal tender laws amount to, citizens being required to believe the promises of government and the financial industry which together issue Federal currency.

So perhaps one political battle worth fighting for is the repeal of the legal tender laws (which can be done on the grounds of freedom of speech), but I think better strategy is just to make it obsolete.

Paul Krafel on Occupy and economic equality

One of my heros is Paul Krafel, author of the book Seeing Nature, and short video, The Upward Spiral.  In his recent newsletter he has this to say about economic equality:

One of the main issues of the Occupy movement is economic inequality. Whenever I think about it, I keep coming back to my watershed work. For me, economic inequality is a vital but secondary issue. The more fundamental issue is how should money ideally flow within an economy? I believe it should be recycled often to fall again and again as rain upon the slopes. What we are seeing is a concentration of wealth low in the watershed and how unproductive it is down there. Trillions of dollars in credit default swaps. What kind of truly human aspiration is that serving? Trillions of dollars being leveraged for what? One can argue that more of that money should be shared more widely in the name of economic justice. But I think there is a more politically powerful perspective of economic effectiveness. How pathetically little is being truly created by all the money that has flowed too far downslope. A failure of imagination is draining our culture of economic vitality. It’s not an issue of rich vs. poor but an issue of how possibilities drain away when wealth accumulates downslope. All of us, rich and poor alike, would be uplifted by a flow that recycled and held the wealth of our species higher in the watershed. I believe it is spiritually important to see this as a long-term issue, not of taxing the rich and giving to the poor, but of adjusting thousands of the ongoing flows within an economy so that the money keeps getting recycled back up to flow over and over again.

— Paul Krafel

In case you don’t know, his “watershed work” is literally work on watersheds.  During rain storms he walks high up into the watershed with a trowel, and makes lots of small changes to redirect water flows from concentrating in gullies.  Paul has some fascinating photos of how this small work makes huge difference over time.


Autodoc is a great tool for automatic documentation generation for your clojure code (the clojure api itself uses it).

If you are using github-pages to publish the docs, here’s a simple little gendocs sh script to dump into your bin folder to do all the work in one go:

if [ -d "autodoc" ]
echo "generating docs..."
lein autodoc
echo "pushing to github..."
cd autodoc
git add -A
git commit -m "Documentation update"
git push origin gh-pages
cd ..
echo "No autodoc dir!  Run this from your project"

Threshing Rye

Last fall I planted rye in the disturbed ground around my house to act as a erosion control.  Just this week my father helped my harvest the rye.  We took it into the basement and, with the kids, danced around on it to thresh the kernels out of the heads.  From about 3 or 4 hours of harvesting and about 2 hours of threshing and then winnowing, all this manual labor produced about half of a 5 gallon bucket’s worth of rye.  That same 20lb of rye purchased from my local Agway would cost around $15.  So clearly, economically there’s an indicator that I should be doing something else with my 6  hours that harvesting and threshing rye, because even if I flip burgers for minimum wage, I’d make more money in that time period that I’d spend on the rye.

That’s economics for you.

It’s so experientially clear to me from this threshing that I did with my dad, that the low price per pound I pay for rye at Agway includes massive unaccounted for externalities, and it’s also clear that the benefits I receive from engaging with the land directly are much higher than can be encoding using only one dollar measuring unit.  But this is in no way saying that I think everyone, or even me, should go “back to the land” and eschew specialization.  I just want to really be able able express all those forms of value, and see those externalities, and stop pretending that they can all be reduced to one price.

I’ll post later about the German “vollkorbrot” I plan to bake with the Rye…

Sanctuary for All Life & land emancipation

I’m re-reading Jim Corbett’s Sanctuary for All Life.  I don’t know how to express how powerfully deep this book is.  For me it both opens doors and provides a foundation for a post-civilized world for humanity.

Here’s are some extended quotes, because I think the book speaks for itself:

I think the integration of humanity into life on earth requires that capitalism’s drive for ecosystem dominance be succeeded by a way of life beyond capitalism, and I see this from the viewpoint of the wildland pastoralist whose way of life has really never been integrated into civilization’s orienting viewpoint (that we must live by a command economy that reconstructs life on earth to fit us).  Here’s how a latter-day Whig Manifesto might put it:

1. The richest, most efficient, dynamically stable, “no-waste” economies evolve naturally, as spontaneous orders unmanaged by human beings (for example, the Amazonian rainforest).

2. A highly developed economy of this kind grows through the emergence of new symbioses that strengthen its ability to support life and harmonize diversity.

3. Founded on the  premise that the earth belongs to humankind, civilized economies are degenerative, growing primarily from the impoverishment of the more inclusive natural economy that the city-centered economy invades, plunders, and relentlessly tries to subjugate.

4. “Sustainability” concerns the stabilization of the human economy’s degenerative relation to the natural economy at a level that the natural economy can support without further degradation.

5. “Symbiotic naturalization” concerns the integration of a human economy into the natural economy in ways that strengthen the natural economy’s ability to support life and harmonize diversity.

6. Unlike sustainability, symbiotic naturalization requires the transformation of civilization, to establish the institutional base for human beings to become good citizens of the land’s whole, untamed community, enabled to live by supporting rather than degrading the life of the land.

7. In our deliberations about right livelihood, the need to transform civilization means that we seek to be superseded, but not by a new humanity of ecosaintly Uebermenschen; rather, by an unviolated land community that includes us, freed to evolve into richer harmonies.

8. The integration of humanity into the natural economy necessarily evolves as a spontaneous order in which our stewardship role is just to clear the way, not to impose a plan.

9. The invisible hand that guides the natural economy’s evolution reveals that our best choices are transitional, our best intentions are disoriented, our personal moralities are peripheral, and the covenant community’s guidelines are inconclusive; but universal liberty is fundamental:  The land’s liberation remains focal.


…the problem with civilized humanity’s exploitation of nature goes beyond our treating it as a commons that is just there for the taking.  The problem is rooted in the managerial delusion that the land belongs to us either inclusively, as a commons, or exclusively, as property, to use, degrade, or destroy however we like.  The land is actually a living community to which we belong.  …  The tragedies of the commons and of appropriation will end only when the land community’s enslavement ends–when the land is given back to the land.


Proponents of state control see the solution to the tragedy of the commons as a relinquishment of individual freedom to the state, which must take command in order to save us from ourselves.  Yet, the local, daily, on-the-land, community practice that weaves earth rights into the social fabric is beneath the reach of the state, while the commons really at issue is the earth ecosystem, which is beyond the reach of any state but within the reach of a border-bridging community movement.  A basic society of friends can join to establish earth rights where the cumulative efforts of individuals are fruitless and action by the state is counterproductive.  Even if the state didn’t give its primary allegiance to Money, it couldn’t do what’s needed to give the land back to the land because what’s needed is the societal cohesion that grows from communion rather than coercion, and the state is firmly founded on organized violence.  Locally as well as globally, land redemption is a task for those who gather as “church” (a voluntary society based on communion) rather than “state” (an involuntary society or organization based on coercion).

At the core of his work, Corbett is trying to open a way-of-life in which we can realize that we belong to the land, rather than pretend that it belongs to us.  He is trying to open doors to world in which rather than the command & control relationship we currently have as the land’s enslavers, that we might move to a co-creative one as a people symbiotically re-naturalized.

This means that Land Emancipation must happen.  That possibility is thrilling.

Studies in atemporality

Just browsing Bruce Sterling’s studies in atemporality flicker stream. It makes me think of Calvin Luther Martin’s “In the Spirit of the Earth: Rethinking History and Time” in which he claims that paleolithic peoples well understood the technologies of agriculture and building ascribed to the move to the neolithic, but didn’t use them because of their world-view.
I think we too are well ready to step back out of time, and lose our enslavement to a historical outlook. Sterling’s images are teasers for us.