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Archive for October, 2011

My goal is get people to think about what  would engender financial health (at least) in society as a whole.

Today:

What does the economy of a healthy neighborhood look like? What projects are appropriate and essential/desired at that scale?

Food

Shelter

Home heating

Small household needs

Household services

Transportation

Health

Education

Electricity

Communications

Clothing

Insurance

Entertainment

Exercise

Charity

Governance/law

Spirituality

Friendship

Deaths

A wide range of concerns. Its obvious to me that unless I intentionally meet my neighbors and form arrangements about each of these issues, they won’t form by magic. Its also obvious to me that much that needs to happen in the world, must happen at the neighborhood scale.

Some neighborhoods have actual associations to facilitate these needs. Lets also talk about how to start them.

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I’ve noted that there are eight economic scales that I am a part of. Each of the economic scales have economic activity that is natural to that scale, and constitutes its health At each economic scale there are three modes of economic interaction: compulsory contribution, exchange/market, commonwealth.

Individual

My individual health is measured by my physical condition, free from disease, ability to function physically, clarity of mind. Economically, I require minmum necessities, some entertainment, some spiritual life, access to transportation and communications, interaction with family and friends, interaction with those I contract with and colleagues, sleep, leisure, good work to do.

Family (Witty’s)

My family’s health is measured by the composite of the individuals within my family (self, wife, children, mother). Within my family, there are some chores and contributions that are compulsory for each individual to contribute. I and my wife are responsible to contribute a minimum monthly amount towards minimum necessities. I and my wife must contribute some household maintenance effort, cleaning, paying bills, errands, shopping. There is an element of exchange in which compulsory efforts we will each do. We each have some self-assigned regular tasks.

Neighborhood (East of High Street, below the Rocky Mount ridge in
Greenfield, MA)

My neighborhood’s health is also measured by the composite of the individuals within the neighborhood. Our neighborhood really doesn’t have a coherent economy or society. I know my neighbors and look out for them a little, but we don’t have any property in common, nor really any exchange, nor any compulsory work.

The neighborhood though is the most intimate social network that is outside of one’s home. It is the area that MANY cooperative ownership efforts should occur. (Cars, leisure, food buying clubs, cooking groups, energy generation, community gardening, etc.)

Community (Greenfield, MA)

Once at the community level, 20,000 people in the case of Greenfield, we are passed the intimate scale, and into the mass, the statistical. Its really impossible to care for every individual (like it is possible to care for every individual within a neighborhood.) The community is still close, and most retailers will know their customers individually.

It is the scope for most retail, groceries, clothes, etc. The town government comprises the extent of actual commonwealth. There are a couple cooperatives, but they are mostly retail businesses, more than shared wealth. We pay compulsory taxes, and realize the collective benefits of schools, police, library, etc.

Micro-Region (Pioneer Valley – Northampton, MA to Brattleboro, VT including Amherst)

The Pioneer Valley microregion is the site of many intentional community linking norms. Years ago, we had a local currency that suggested serving the Valley micro-region. It could be revived or started anew. There is no formal micro-regional governmental entity (now that counties have been dismantled in Massachusetts), and there is no really micro-regional scale commonwealth (except what is under the state umbrella).

There is much more inter-regional trade occurring relative to the Valley, particularly in education, but also in manufacturing. Employees serve the institutions micro-regionally, via 20 or so town residences comprising bedroom communities. The majority of the region’s economy is constructed of these micro-regional inter-regional exchange.

Macro-Region (New England)

According to the best of regional economy theory, New England should be the scale size that serves the majority (literally) of the industrial needs of its residents. Cars, refrigerators, food, building materials, should be regionally supplied, resulting in functional regional economic independence. But that is a ruralist economic model, not the urban.

It is possible in New England. We have excellent farmland, suitable industrial building lots, well-educated populace.

Again, there is really no New England scale commonwealth, though the states may provide that macro-regional function.

Continent (North America)

Some needs can only be met at a continental scale. While the siting of manufacturing plants can be local, the siting of some industry must be continental, or maybe bi-continental (west coast and east coast). The national scale serves what would otherwise be continental in scope. It provides a globe-like marketplace. That the federal scale marketplace swamped regional even before globalism draws a parallel to continental great cities whether American or global.

As conservative as it may sound, we need protection from the mass national marketplaces, as much as we need protection from the mass global marketplaces. States don’t do it well. Federal law regarding interstate commerce, has stripped the ability of states to regulate. And, the giant scale of federal legislation and institutions, corrupt the processes that could otherwise result in universal regional health.

The continental scale say for agriculture should be a secondary insurance against local draught or blite, not the other way around. Similarly for manufacturing or materials availability.

Globe

Its too big for things, great for ideas. Lets leave it at that.

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I haven’t been following the “Occupy Wall Street” movement very closely.

Nor have I been following the anti-occupy Wall Street denunciations at all. I saw some acknowledgment of the movement on the Sunday news shows this weekend, and the concensus of denunciation and/or dismissal by the talking heads.

I enjoyed the glee that Christiane Amanpour expressed in her sympathetic laughter at the occupy Wall Street’s representative’s comment that he was the only member of the actual working class to have historically appeared on her show.

The rational criticism that I have heard of the demonstrations is that they are only a beginning identification that something is wrong, but with limited credible framing of analysis and with limited framing of proposal for improvement.

I personally believe that the remedy for our long and short-term social ills rest in the discussion of social scales, that comprise an ecology of social scales with varying roles, possibility, importance.

Each social scale constitutes a setting for BOTH individual initiative AND for shared commonwealth.

There is sufficient commonwealth between all of the social scales (if given enough attention to be a healthy) to ensure that no individual is any irreconcilable fundamental risk (except perhaps personal health) and has a path for commerce and for principled contribution to the greater good.

The current framing of an individual’s economic and work like, is primarily, individual entity relative to “the economy”. “The economy” is global, and requires participation in the scope of institutions that can compete in the global economy. The global economy includes niches that are not of international/global scope, but over time the niches diminish, incorporated into the market of global institutions.

Globalism in that sense destroys the ecology of scales that comprise a healthy portfolio of solutions. If all of the regional solutions to food problems say are non-existent, that only the global specialized supply chain is in effect, dependent on fossil fuels in particular for transit, fertilizer and chemicals, then if there is a disruption to a primary commodity, there is then NO resilient response.

If our agricultural land is consumed by sprawl tract homes, if there is a real crisis in fossil fuel supply, if there is a new blight in mono-cropped corn fields, then we don’t have the flexibility to respond to external challenges.

If however, there is a viable and functional regional food distribution system, alongside a healthy global food distribution system, then an obstacle in one sector just diverts the supply path through a different channel. A blip rather than a catastrophe.

So, what is that we are, what is that we are part of? (to quote an Incredible String Band song from 1969).

We are part of:

Families (say the Witty’s)- With economies within families, comprising BOTH a market exchange system AND a commonwealth that all members are shareholders

Neighborhoods (say precinct 5 in Greenfield, MA under Poet’s Seat)- With economies within neighborhoods, comprising BOTH a market exchange system AND a commonwealth that all members are shareholders

Towns (say Greenfield, MA) – With economies within towns, comprising BOTH a market exchange system AND a commonwealth that all members are shareholders

Micro-regions (say Franklin County or larger the Connecticut River Valley between Springfield and Northfield)- With economies within micro-regions, comprising BOTH a market exchange system AND a commonwealth that all members are shareholders

Macro-regions (say New England) – With economies within macro-regions, comprising BOTH a market exchange system AND a commonwealth that all members are shareholders

Continental (say North America) – With economies within North America, comprising BOTH a market exchange system AND a commonwealth that all members are shareholders

Globe (say earth) – With economies within the globe, comprising BOTH a market exchange system AND a commonwealth that all members are shareholders

Right now some families function dually as both individual exchange systems and commonwealth. Some emphasize one over the other, even to the point of exclusion.

Fewer neighborhoods have really ANY organization or commonwealth or even exchange economy.

Towns have some markets, and some commonwealth in the form of municipalities, but MANY of the them are economically weak to the point of dysfunctionality, and don’t conceive of themselves as a commonwealth, but only limited constitutional obligations.

Micro-regions have some markets, but very very limited commonwealth that anyone can truly participate in. (In Massachusetts, the Boston-centric legislature determined that counties are archaic, unnecessary, an additional bureaucracy with fixed costs. That is well and good for Boston for which the suburban counties should be unified in a planning system with the Boston counties themselves. But, it does not serve Western Massachusetts well at all, for which counties are coherent governing and market scale entities.)

States are our current macro-regions, but they are residual of pre-constitutional literal states, 18th century British colonial residue.

A better form would be macro-regions. In any case, there is commonwealth and some distinct markets within states, but again, states are horridly stressed financially, and don’t often constitute a confident commonwealth, providing a safety net.

Similarly at the continental and global scale. There is some market function and some sense of commonwealth, whether distributed to individuals or universally providing capital in various forms to needed regions, communities, families.

There is a valid republican/ conservative criticism of national only setting of commonwealth and safety net. But, the criticism is only a only a partisan griping currently, and NOT a constructive proposal for an ecology of  universally healthy functioning families, communities, towns, micro-regions, macro-regions, globe.

Markets AND commonwealth at each scale.

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