Friday, March 30, 2012

Ralph Boes, My New Hero (Part I)

[16.12.2012, corrected first sentence, which stated that Ralph Boes is a member of Die Piraten.]

Ralph Boes is a philosopher, author, was briefly a member of the Pirate Party (Die Piraten), and currently lives in Berlin. He has recently dedicated his life to bringing The System down. This he is doing by touring Germany and lecturing wherever people want to hear what he has to say. He charges nothing for this, but does it full time. The money he needs to financially sustain his chosen path he draws from the state under the Hartz IV programme. This programme does not permit you to work as you choose, but rather forces any type of work, often for €1 an hour, on those in need of its ‘largesse’. If you don’t work, you don’t eat, and the state gets to define, tightly, what is work, and what is not.

Some background on Hartz IV. Peter Hartz is an ex-chief human resources officer for Volkswagen, and a member of the political party the SPD. The SPD introduced the Hartz unemployment reforms in the mid 2000s under Chancellor Schroeder. Hartz IV is the lowest level thereof, Hartz I the highest. And though the idea of helping people back into work is noble enough, Hartz IV is so draconian it actually contravenes the German constitution, the first line of which reads, “Human dignity is inviolable; it is the obligation of all state authority to respect and protect it.” Hartz IV cannot respect human dignity, since it proceeds from the highly dubious premise that any work at all, no matter how poorly paid, meaningless or socially harmful, is better than ‘lazing around doing nothing.’ Working as a sweeper at a sweet factory is work, raising your children is not. Hence, a person who signs on the dotted line of the “Eingliederungsvereinbarung” (“incorporation agreement”—actually, it’s not an agreement at all; refusal to sign incurs sanctioning, whereupon the contract is forced into effect anyway, just as a prisoner is forced to comply with prison rules he has not freely consented to) must take whatever work is given, or be sanctioned (which begins with a 30% reduction of income). Signing this ‘agreement’ also means you forgo your constitutional right to dignity (and other rights) set out in the constitution. Being sanctioned three times typically means becoming homeless and penniless, yet still you must adhere to the ‘agreement’ you may not even have signed. The numbers of homeless are rising in Germany, while, just as in the Great Depression, the stores are full.

Sarkozy and other European countries are impressed with Hartz IV, and want to implement it at home. It appears to keep employment up, gives the oiks something to do at very low wages, and thus keeps one competitive.What’s not to like?

Ralph Boes ‘works’ as a self-employed, full time volunteer, telling any who will listen, all over Germany, that Hartz IV contravenes the German constitution, and that a guaranteed income of €1,000 for adults and €500 for children should be introduced immediately. Hartz IV forbids work as a self-employed, full time volunteer, and also forbids leaving the city in which you are domiciled. As such, Mr Boes is breaking every Hartz IV law, and should be sanctioned. Indeed, it is this he is inviting, but his eloquence—combined with the spirit of the constitution, perhaps—is producing interesting effects. He is (for now) silencing the state, and beginning to generate a following.

Boes’ focus on the German constitution’s foundational principle—that the state’s force must be deployed above all to protect and respect the dignity of each and every individual—is key, and, in my opinion, historically vital at this juncture. The state, thus far, has been an elitist system which operates for its own ends, which have been those of the elite, logically enough. The German constitution can therefore be seen as an anti-state and pro-democracy framework, since it places the individual right at the heart of state concern (not ‘The People’, but the dignity of each individual; no racism possible). That is the core value of democracy, and, as the state need not be democratic, indeed has yet to be democratic (for want of a democratic money system), the German constitution is in fact a threat to the state form as we know it. That Germany is becoming, as Boes says, the China of Europe, tells us very clearly what the money elites think of Germany’s constitution.

(As a side note, on 28 February of this year, the German constitutional court ruled the European Stability Mechanism “in large part” unconstitutional (source), and yet only a fool would bet against the mighty forces of state and money. The ESM grants a single entity financial power which would shame Hitler.)

Boes officially began his attack on June 7, 2011, by delivering an open letter (“Brandbrief”; literally “burning letter”) to: Chancellor Angela Merkel, then President Christian Wulff, Secretary of Labour Ursula von der Leyen, the Director of the Employment Agency F. J. Weise, and the manager of his local job centre, Thomas Schneider (you can read it in English here). The following paragraphs give a good flavour of Boes’ style and thinking:
At first glance, Hartz IV is nothing more than a well-intentioned attempt by the state to help those who have fallen out of employment to both survive and find their way back to work. The attempt is respectable and fully corresponds with the constitution. One could just leave them on the streets.

No less respectable—and at first glance understandable—is the goal of providing just enough support to enable self-help, in accordance with therapeutic principles. And it inspires high regard in an observer to see how much money has been dedicated, not only to ensuring a basic standard of living, but also to financially assist ‘reactivation’ and ‘re-qualification’ for those in need of such help.

But no matter how titanic the efforts, the results therefrom can only be a disappointment. The attempt to encourage self-help is wrong at its base. Our problem is not the unemployed, but rather the changed circumstances of production.

In the 1970s, perhaps even in the early 80s, the sources of the problem of unemployment may well have been different. They were to be found in the individual, since in the old Federal Republic, employees were sought desperately in all work areas.

Had we, at that time, given the unemployed the chance to change or advance their careers, as we offer them today, they would have been helped by such support to get involved in life again, instead of merely stagnating in that stable welfare system. Likely such measures would have delivered much. Then, the step out of unemployment would have been a step into a vibrant, meaningful—and as a rule well paid—working life.

How different it is today. The employment market is more than saturated. Today’s unemployed are not generally problem cases, on the edge of life because they themselves are somehow damaged and in need of therapy. The great majority of them are unemployed due to the enormous productivity of machines. The shelves are full of a great variety of goods, in amounts beyond anything humanity has hitherto witnessed, without need of human labour: that is the problem.
My questions on this last point are these: Why should we demand human labour remain the only way a population may acquire money, and, by logical extension, push on with perpetually growing economic consumption, when neither are necessary, and both are harmful? What good is it to adhere to obviously outdated concepts of work and reward when doing so threatens our existence? Whom does this blind insistence serve?

Ladies and gentlemen, we are stuck in a rut. On the one hand, we have sociopathic beneficiaries of this rut seeking to drive it ever on, come hell or high water. On the other, we have those incapable of imagining human dignity might be found in what they think of as laziness, or in motherhood, or in travel, or conversation, friendship, poetry, music, etc. On this second group history has much to say; multiple human cultures have wrestled with the problem of work and free riders enjoying the fruits of others’ labour. This time it’s different. Instead of slaves, we have machines. We can neither pay machines, nor could they go shopping if we did pay them. We should be demanding more ‘leisure’, not because we are ‘lazy bums’ (we aren’t), but because the circumstances demand it. Boes again:
We are reacting to the wrong time, treating yesterday’s sickness (which we didn’t even treat yesterday), while not seeing today’s. Like a doctor certain a patient has a lung disease whereas in truth there is insufficient air, we treat the unemployed with instruments long outdated, and through their misuse, turn them into instruments of torture.
The crux of the open letter is found in the following paragraphs, which read to me like a declaration of war:
From today, I openly resist every imposition on me by the state to accept any work I consider meaningless, and refuse to obey any absurd rule presented to me by any governmental agency. I reject too the fixation with “gainful employment”, long since proven illusory by reality.

I demand an unconditional right to a free, self-determined life, which I shall dedicate to any activity I myself decide is meaningful, not one exogenously prescribed for me — even if I am forced by economic and political realities to claim Hartz IV support.

I call all work, which arises out of an inner and sincere human wish, holy,
  • regardless of whether it is carried out externally or internally,
  • and regardless of whether it enables “earning”.
This is his declaration of intent, which I find part Paine, part Schiller. Indeed, after I listened to him interviewed, I said to my wife, “In this man, Germany has her second Schiller”; highly educated, fearless, unprejudiced and blessed with the common touch. Schiller, of course, had no Internet. Here’s hoping Ralph Boes can reach more people more effectively and immediately than Schiller managed, as he was hounded from safe house to safe house during his last ailing years.

Anyway, it is obvious, both from the letter and, e.g., his giving unannounced lectures on guaranteed income to staff at various Berlin job centres, that Herr Boes is unafraid of the sanctions he seeks. Not only that, he is also a patiently passionate man determined to take this fight as far as it can humanly be taken. He has buckets of courage backed up with deep training in philosophy and equally deep familiarity with the details of the relevant aspects of German constitutional law.

The state reacted with caution to the letter. Boes had to wait an additional six weeks for his (at that time) imminent interview at the job centre. He arrived to be directed to a pretty and highly competent Hartz IV advisor, whom he had never seen before. She informed him that whatever he writes in the outside world has no relevance in the job centre. A normal interview was to be conducted.

They went through the motions. Boes refused, once again, to sign the “Eingliederungsvereinbarung”. He insisted he was a self-employed, full time volunteer in the services of guaranteed income, booked to give lectures right across Germany to audiences who could not afford to pay him. This status (self-employed, full time volunteer) cannot even be entered into the Hartz IV database, since it breaks all their laws. As the Germans love to say, “So geht’s nicht!” Impossible to translate without losing its stubborn tone, its palpably threadbare imagination, but it means, roughly, “That can’t work!” Boes was then offered the obligatory five jobs, which he summarily rejected. By rights he should have been sanctioned.

Herr Boes and Frau X thus reached the expected impasse. Boes resolved it by offering to draw up his own, more meaningful contract. She accepted, and off he went, unsanctioned.

It took him a while, and he only managed to draw it up with the help of lawyers and others who all drafted and edited the document over the Internet over a period of weeks late last year, but complete the contract he did. It, and the so-far conclusion of this story, will be the subject matter of my next post. Stay tuned!

(Part II)

13 comments:

Debra said...

One of your most interesting post, Toby.
Posts like these are what I hoped the Internet would allow : a comparison between the extremely different practical organizations of daily life within our respective European (or not...) countries, so that we could use our pertinent observations of the terrain in order to see just how many differences there still are between each other that globalization has managed to... rub out in the illusion of a virtual common situation which is just that, an illusion.
Needless to say, I have found very few posts like this one over the Internet, over time now.
Very very very interesting, that status as full time, self employed volunteer.
That's my stance, Toby, my position, and I rationalize it ? under the word "grace", as part of our religious heritage, which you already know.
Some practical questions... are the lawyers helping Ralph doing it pro bono ? I hope so, and assume this is the case.
A point of comparison : I have a friend who is caught in the stranglehold of the psychiatric system over here. The hospital insists that she is not fit for work, and that working would actually make her less available for all those "therapeutic" activities which are supposed to make her well, even though the head honcho doctor recently acknowledged that she really probably wasn't mentally ill, and accused her of impertinence when she asked why she was still being shot up in the ass with antipsychotic drugs when he didn't think she was psychotic...
I talk with her about once a week, and my position is very ambiguous, I admit, as right now from my point of view, the evil effects of the nanny state (are all of our modern "democracies" nanny states, regardless of what continent they are on ? Maybe.) have removed people's desire to work PERIOD. You heard me. An absence of physical and mental energy leading to generalized apathy in individuals who have lost contact with what physical effort generates in our bodies. Which leads to idiot situations like imagining that you can plunk your fingers down on the piano and illico presto play Chopin's fourth ballade without batting an eye. And if you can't, well... it's somebody else's fault, not yours, for not rolling up your sleeves, and GETTING TO WORK, putting in some effort.
Enmeshed in all this mess is an enormous prejudice that hard physical labor is degrading, and demeaning, and that in order to be creators like HIM, we need to be spouting out the Logos, 24h/24.
At this point I believe that too much spouting out the Logos is what got us into this mess in the first place, as you know already.
Which is not to say that if I were in Ralph's place... I would not resent the German state's extremely punitive and.. PROTESTANT ?? attitude towards its revolutionary members...
Indeed I would.
You may be interested to know that I trace a good part of our dismal environmental and spiritual record as a civilization back to Jesus's incapacity to control HIS desire to spout the Logos 24h/24, to anybody and everybody who would listen, in true DEMOCRATIC fashion..
When we should still be cultivating our gardens, or gathering our berries, or whatever..

Toby said...

Well said, Debbie. I think you hit the nail on the head. Hard work is part of what accomplishment is, and there's no getting around that. But we need this debated, particularly as it relates to wages and utility, and as it relates to consumerism and perpetual 'economic' growth.

As to pro bono, I would imagine (I don't know for sure) that his lawyerly friends are helping him for free, since he has no money. And I'm not sure there will be money-settlements at the other end of this, but instead a stab at a very different system, with a much smaller nanny state. Boes wants a far smaller state.

There will be more on where this fight is headed in the next post...

Игры рынка said...

We are all by definition full time, self employed volunteers as long as we reach minimum subsistence level and have no debt. Any formal contract does not change this fact.

Interestingly, what such people (not floor sweepers) normally do for salary is to come to the office and stay there. Unfortunately Marx was right and most people are kind of floor sweepers.

The twist of modern times is that financial capitalism of today is much more inhuman and dangerous than an industrial one of yesterday. Old industrialists at least understood that workers have to be paid enough to be able to buy the cars they produce. "Bankers" would not care less. The banking nirvana is reached only when full income of the economy is absorbed by the interest payments.

Toby said...

Hi Sergei,

we are all in bondage to the fact of our biology and its ongoing needs. I suspect, as you know, that one part of our basic biological need is to belong, to contribute, and this leads to social work (though all work is social in the end, even brushing your teeth). These combined have meant the waged-labour model was more or less ok, but technological unemployment presents us with a very new challenge, one large part of which is wrapped up in how we culturally decide what is valuable and what is not. Hence, it is not financial capitalism that is at fault, but that industrial capitalism cannot employ sufficient numbers of people, cannot furnish enough of us with purchasing power. Humans no longer need humans to produce the basics, but we did need each other in that way for thousands of years, and built 'civilisation' atop that need. This new circumstance requires profound change—which has been underway for decades now—, but profound change is profoundly difficult to bring about.

I like your phrase "banking nirvana". Kind of like perfect competition, in that both utopias negate themselves upon realisation. There can be neither trade nor competition in perfect competition (which is impossible anyway), and banking nirvana would destroy itself in an almighty blast of champagne and cocaine. I think that's what's happening now. The markets are powered by champagne, cocaine and bubble money. Bubbly times we live in.

Debra said...

Toby, one of the things I learned five years ago was to not accept any precept unchallenged.
Just what... is the determinism of our biology, and more importantly, WHO is going to tell us that, and what is the legitimacy of the person who is telling us that ?
I happen to believe at this point that the incredible plasticity of our.. minds ? nervous systems ? is such that it is more than difficult trying to find any kind of biological.. CERTITUDE that we can refer to for our species.
The most frightening thing at this time, Toby, is our incredible.. LIBERTY.
WHO ARE WE ?
Who... are you going to believe when THEY tell you who we are ?
Just how strong is that need to belong ? How much will you.. sacrifice ? in order to belong ?
I see an incredible tension between the hive mentality, and another mentality/social organization that I won't name.
We are fast moving towards the hive mentality, but... this tremendous push is creating great resistance in a growing number of people who are looking for a way to be ? remain ? outside of the hive.
The Enlightenment has been a continuing push towards the hive mentality, but we are in the middle of a revolution right now...
The more the hive becomes manifest, the more the forces working against it are reacting, in my opinion.
We need to start rethinking our assumptions about slavery, too, and go back to our religious traditions, and our philosophers for guidance.
You may be interested to learn, if you don't already know, that the core foundation of Jewish identity revolves around the slavery question...
It figures...

Toby said...

Debbie, maybe I'm misreading you, but you seem to be strongly opposed both to freedom (liberty, and you know my thoughts on that) and bondage (the hive mind). This is binary, and therefore suspect, but you do seem to be presenting the choices in that way (forgive me I am am misreading your position).

I see bondage and freedom as the more or less same 'things', or rather that neither mode (?) can exist in pure form, that each bleeds into the other. But while there is tension, and though it is reaching its zenith right now in our lifetimes as you observe, I see no reason to fear the "hive mind" when our minds are already the consequence of a 'hive' of billions of cells cooperating with each other 'selflessly' in constant reaction to ever-changing environmental conditions. Each of us is already a 'hive' which took billions of years to evolve, and we can't stop evolution, 'good' or 'bad'. Nor can we stop resistance to and fear of change.

As to slavery, in Roman Law a slave master had right of disposal over his slaves; execution, sexual or other abuse, torture, whatever. Slaves were mere property. Dignity can indeed emerge from the struggle to assert one's 'rights' and fight for 'equality' (you know my thoughts on those) in the face of such oppression, but the institution of slavery itself is wrong and to be resisted. I'm not a great believer in rights, but am a believer in dignity. I suspect, though, that both meld into one. Much work for me to do on that front.

If, on the other hand, we shift our perspective, and assert we are all 'slaves' to our needs, that we need air, water, food, and other things, then we are talking about biological bondage, so to speak. If, on yet another hand, we say nothing is fixed for ever, that we cannot be finely certain about the last details of biological needs, I would agree, and say this is, in a way, the ever-present 'wriggle room' in which creativity and change can occur. Freedom within bondage, bondage within freedom. They intertwine, yield each other.

So I suspect I agree with you, but we have to be very careful when we define our terms.

Timbo614 said...

Hi Toby,

Nice post and great respect to Ralf. I wish him the best and wish also that more people (including me) had his courage.

He is using his "freedom" to set up a classic stand-off "Are you (the government) going to starve me to death in full public view? Or, are you going to respect the primacy of the constitution, admit the errors in these laws, and change them?

It's direct action, clever, but not subtle. "The state can prevaricate longer than you can stop eating for" (to plagiarise another saying) would be another likely outcome. As I was discussing earlier it is time for people(politicians especially) when the see a crock of shit, that they/we stand up and say "LOOK HERE! - THIS IS A CROCK OF SHIT"

I am also in full agreement with Ralf and your assertions that the "era" of the current economic model of work-tax-money-work is fundamentally over.

People, the general population, need re-educating, perhaps even re-training (although I don't like that term) re-enabled might be better, for the purpose of being here and being part of a community. Re-enabled to have some meaningful input that actually has a result (the Internet can do this).

The guilt trip for the non-working/unemployed must be huge and I feel, in many cases actually debilitating, so much so that it stops them doing any good work or voluntary work that they may consider. This is a total waste of lives. The Guilt trip is brought on by those "Earning" saying "those are MY TAXES you are spending, and if you can volunteer go out and get a proper job that pays taxes too".

I can't get others to understand that this is SO wrong headed, that there is no money except government fiat money or "sovereign money". None. It originates at the government and that is where it goes back to. That money itself (used properly by governments) is simply a means to an end. The end aim being 1) Food, 2) Energy 3)"infrastructure" these are solely to enable, support and maintain the health and well-being of the people. That is what money does, it gets people to (ultimately) work for the government which produces as a direct consequence our standard of living, our "wealth" as a nation. And why do we work for the government(always)? - to pay taxes which are actually irrelevant, they are NOT the means by which we make a country good to live in. WORK is and only physical work at that, this physical work may produce bridges and motor cars, but it also produces paintings and dramas or laser light shows, philosophy, books - another feature of a wealthy & healthy community.
Moving numbers around (while necessary to keep account) is not wealth producing work. This is where we have currently as a society gone wrong, banks not governments, control 95% of our money so therefore it is NOT being used for its intended purpose of creating wealth for our country but creating wealth for a few individuals - mountains and mountains of it! So I say to them again - Your taxes are meaningless and unnecessary if we only all agreed (or were properly informed) about WHY money exists and WHY taxes exist we could then move on to a modernised system - one NOT based on fear and and fear of imprisonment for not paying out what was never ours to keep and therefore should not have been given to us in the first place.

As to "defining freedom itself" is that not an oxymoron? To define it would be to limit it to that definition...

Another timbo ramble!

Timbo614 said...

ooops! I Anglicised Ralph's name. Sorry.

Игры рынка said...

Toby, I can not agree with you though I understand what you mean and agree with your position. Industrial capitalism has been over for quite some time already. You do not make much money there. It is a commodity. Especially given that there have been no major inventions in the last 30-40 years. This branch of economy is squeezing everything it can from the past but its effect on the rest of economy is relatively minor. And that is not what we want to get back, right?

We live in the post-industrial world. 70%+ of developed economies are about services. And this is where *financial* services play a big role. What is the major cost component of living in the developed world? It is NOT food, it is NOT health, it is NOT security and so on. It is HOUSING. If you forget the dot-com bubble, which was rather an exception than a rule, then all bubbles in the recent history were ... real estate bubbles. And there banks played a role of enabler. Real estate bubbles mean larger loans and therefore larger interest rate payments to banks. And nothing has changed after the biggest real estate bubble in the world has burst. If you listen to speeches of central bankers you will see that they look at housing market as the indicator of health of the economy. That is how they see THE transmission mechanism of their policies. We are on a one way street. House prices can not fall because banks will blow up. But house prices also can not grow because people can no longer afford it any more even at zero interest rates. We could also add tax policies whereby interest rate expenses are tax deductible for (real estate) companies but private persons have to pay from net income and so on. Effectively feudalism never went away.

Lets imagine now that we really break the link between housing, taxes, banks and monetary policy as a macro-tool. House prices will drop and free up lots of income reducing the cost of labour and cost of living. If you wish you can even call it guaranteed income :) It will be just a redistribution from house-lords to ... people. Instead of paying 1100 euros from my apartment in Vienna I might be paying half. And I might even start playing golf :)

Overall I do not think that we, as a society, are facing a wall and need to break all down and start from scratch. I think we can do a couple of changes which will be quite transparent (invisible) to most but which can nevertheless have a tremendous impact on the way our economies function. It might not do THE trick we need, but it will certain be a step in the right direction.

Debra said...

Sergei, I do not at all agree with you about living in a post industrial world : industrial production has been delocalized to developing countries, largely through the results of the recent educational boom which has pushed more and more people into services, as a result of deep seated prejudices against any form of manual work, perceived as undignified, and unworthy of a wealthy, ambitious, and upwardly mobile middle class.
When I look at the pharaonesque building and housing projects which are currently scarring my neighboring megapolis, I see NO evidence whatsoever that industrialisation is a thing of the past : on the contrary, I think it is being pushed, officially, as our only choice for the future.
On another note, in a sudden inspiration, I picked up "Heidi" last week.
You know, the famous "children's" book.
I am learning a lot from "Heidi" about at least one of the most recent chapters in how we got to where we are now : idolizing the urban experience, formal schooling, etc.
As for binary thinking... to me the best guarantee against it remains the capacity to understand, and perceive.. the advantages that come with the disadvantages, and vice versa.
It is one thing to understand.
But as Hamlet learned in the game, sometimes you are called upon to do more than understand, and, in my opinion, you have to make choices.
Each choice opens up new freedoms, at the same time as it closes... others.
We have great liberty, as I like to say, but it is circumscribed, and not absolute liberty, because of the nature of the world we live in.
Toby, I believe at this point in time that the social body can only perceive binary oppositions, but the individual human being, in certain circumstances, is capable of reason.
As I wrote on another blog recently, the current.. infatuation with cooperation is an example to me of the flip flop between two opposites, because the social body can only perceive opposites. From one.. reaction to the next, all through history.
On the slavery question... although I am far from an expert on such questions, my children and husband tell me that Roman custom, at least, frowned seriously on mistreating one's slaves...
Just as an exercise, Toby, which would you rather be ? a slave in a Roman household, housed, fed, and treated civilly, with respect, or... a factory worker in a developing country ? Who is more.. free ?
The clincher in your analysis hinges on property...
I have some OBJECTS that I CHERISH, Toby. They are very, very important to me, and I try to take as good care of them as I can.
That means that I have a significant emotional investment in them, we might say. I look at them with love in my eyes. Often because they bring back important memories, or because they are very beautiful, or both, and more.
Would you find it.. shocking ? if I told you that one or two of those objects are.. DEARER to me than many people I know ?
Why ? Why not ?
Just.. curious...

Toby said...

Hi guys and fair lady,

sorry about my absence just as the debate is getting interesting. I was on the road on Sunday for 7 hours, and am now with my in-laws, where my laptop cannot connect with the Internet. They have an old laptop on which I am now working, but it was in need of much maintenance, which took up most of yesterday. Anyway, over the next two weeks I'll have very little time for my blog. Sad but true.

Well said Tim, though money is really a commercial bank affair, with the government forced to play along as the money/market dictates. The moniker "fiat" gives the impression modern money is created by the gov't, but really it is controlled by private interests, though this is a very tangled web. Ellen Brown writes well on this. And I agree that the hardest part of transcending our out of date system is transcending our out of date habits of thought. It's up to mugs like us to spread a message most don't even want to start listening to.

Sergei, your instinct seems financial to me, which is fair enough, but I don't believe money, as we have it, has much longer to live. Our money system is growth-backed (Perpetual Growth is modern money's gold standard), and growth is not coming back. Hence the industrial age/information age progress thang is something of a red herring. I don't agree, therefore, that letting house prices fall, without structural change, would prove lastingly helpful, though, initially perhaps, a temporary economic upsurge, after the panic and chaos had abated, might be 'enjoyed'. But any attempts to bring back 'normal' growth are doomed to failure.

Debbie, in ignornace of the devillish details, I would choose to be a slave to nice humans over being a slave to a machine. However, this is a narrow decision, and life does not work that way, not really. As to property, we have to draw a distinction between private property as codified law on the one hand, and attachment as generated by emotional associations on the other. Look into the foundations of Roman Law and the right to disposal, and compare perhaps with Irish/Celtic attitudes to property; very interesting. In Gaelic (so an Irish friend tells me) you can't say "That's my hat." They use an expression more along the lines of "This hat is now an extension of me." Thus, Ireland did not produce Descartes! (A little joke, sure, but an important point nonetheless.) What we 'know' of property and ownership is language- and culture-based, as you know, which means it is not genetic or hard-wired, though it is nevertheless very hard to change. But it is changing, and I think the Internet is part of that, but there's much more involved of course.

Anyway, I've just agreed to a chunk of translation work, so must turn my attention to that now. The beast must be fed, or else my children won't be!

Roger Lewis said...

Really interesting Post Toby. I have been catching up on a few of your others too. I am also wondering where the much vaunted leisure age of my youth got too.
I regularly comment at the Economists Linked in group where a lot of old thinking gets regurgitated and swallowed whole like so many mac donalds cheesburgers. I have linked a discussion back to your blog which I hope some folks will follow to open up some different perspectives.

http://www.linkedin.com/groupItem?view=&gid=3056216&type=member&item=107238520&commentID=78205436&qid=5b23c65f-a1b8-4990-94d3-8d78bee3000e&trk=group_most_popular-0-b-cmn&goback=%2Egmp_3056216#commentID_78205436

Heres another on Why the world needs America?

http://www.linkedin.com/groupItem?view=&gid=3056216&type=member&item=95918404&commentID=78104936&qid=ccc40c32-6720-483b-8839-e7fd773004db&goback=%2Egmp_3056216#commentID_78104936


I think of you often and its good to see your still getting to the heart of the matter I hope all is well.
Rog

Toby said...

Hi Roger, good of you to stop by again.

All's well my end, apart from an intense period of what I guess are mid-life emotional swings inspired by the leap into the unknown I took back in November. However, I'm very busy translating, so have no time at the moment for my blog or other peoples'. I checked out the debate at those linkedin articles (thanks for the mention) but was reminded just how many people there are with conflicting views and messed up understandings of history and nature. Edith talking about technology as something exclusively human that humans "chase" in vain was frustrating to read, but it does represeent the dualist view that still has the majority in its grip. There's a lot of work to be done, that's for sure. Now the challenge is to work out the best way of communicating what needs to be communicated. I'm looking for less writing and more action. Blogs can only do so much. In the meantime, making sure I can put food on the table is prio 1.

I hope all is well with you too. Keep up your good work!