An Interview With James Quilligan
Sharing Commons -- Humanity's Collective Heritage
Sharing resources and building cooperatives and worker owned businesses could help sustain living standards after a monetary collapse. What about raising standards? What about sharing common wealth? James Quilligan has consulted 26 nations. This 2012 excerpt is from Share International.
by Jason FrancisCo-operatives are generally focused on co-ownership. Co-ownership is still ownership. Under co-ownership, there may be more owners who are making mutual decisions, but there is nearly always an elite group that has the final word.
Trusteeship is a bottom-up structure that emphasizes subsidiarity, pluralism, checks and balances and participatory decision-making. Trusteeship creates a much more democratic environment than ownership or co-ownership.
Ownership structures are less efficient, less productive, and more expensive than people have been willing to admit. Commons trusts are a different way to use the spontaneous, self-regulating freedom of the marketplace and the rule-based equality enforced by government.
Common users of resources are becoming directly involved in the process of production. When this happens, new ideas, learning, imagination and self-corrective action become embodied directly in people's collaborative activities. The popular social media that is emerging through technology is a good example of this.
The trusteeship model distributes the means of production and decision-making much more widely than the hierarchical systems of modern ownership. This is far more equitable in its implications than traditional co-operatives and co-ownership models.
People will demand the creation of a popular trust for each resource to ensure a greater distribution of wealth and power in the public interest.
Bank reserves -- the assets which banks now claim to have on reserve -- do not exist on anywhere near the scale that the banks are publicly reporting. The degree of leveraging is very high and bank transparency is quite opaque.
With the Libor [London Interbank Offered Rate] scandal in Great Britain, we are now seeing that banks have been fiddling with interest rates for a long time. Interest rates are not the market-driven value they are claimed to be. As they are now formulated, interest rates are the expression of central banks.
Rather than one or a few nations creating a new monetary system which utilizes a single resource like gold or oil as a reserve base, many recognize that the value of currency is a cultural expression and should be in the hands of the people.
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JJS: While the world that the speakers want might be more humane than the one that big bankers impose on the rest of us, their vision is still limited by their blind spots. What’s not obvious to them? Like most people, the speakers are:
* more concerned with control than with attaining a system that operates on its own,
* more concerned with work and production than with leisure and distribution, and
* more concerned with money, the symbol of wealth, than with actual wealth or land, the ultimate source of all wealth.
Donning my armchair shrink hat, I speculate that the reason so many people have those blind spots -- can not see a self-contained organic system, are shielded from leisure, and land is invisible -- is that, like everyone but the rich, they can not see themselves as meriting an income apart from their labor but must work for everything they get, whether for a corporation or a co-op or a trust.
So, if we’re all to ever have something more than a workers’ paradise of ceaseless, useless toil but have a players’ paradise of self-actualization in every way, then it’s crucial to do things like replace GDP with leisure, show how economies follow the same self-regulating feedback loops that keep balance in nature, and to put rents -- society’s spending for land and resources -- front and center.
Presently, because we don’t share rents fairly, we disadvantage workers, so they can’t negotiate fair wages nor a say in management, we misdirect investment from educating labor and improving capital to winning favors from the state, so progress is slow and normalcy biased, and we enrich speculators, lenders, and extractors while depriving government, so that insiders get to call the shots.
Having gone on so long, the problem has gotten complicated, but the solution is rather straightforward. 1, cut subsidies; 2, cut taxes; 3, recover all rents (via fees, dues, taxes, whatever); and 4, share the surplus public revenue. It’s called geonomics, it would deliver what the self-limiting reformers want automatically, and it has worked wherever tried.
Such a big reform might seem lightyears away, but actually it does seem to be creeping up on us, judging by the coverage that part of it gets in the British press. A land value tax would prompt property firms to action . "The OECD is in favor, the IMF is in favor. The Institute for Fiscal Studies is in favor. A report for the Treasury on tax reform, the Mirrlees report, said it couldn't see any fundamental problems, and that the benefits of the reform would justify significant adjustment costs, and therefore that 'the case for a thorough official effort to design a workable system seems to us to be overwhelming'." What are we waiting for?
Editor Jeffery J. Smith runs the Forum on Geonomics and helped prepare a course for the UN on geonomics. To take the “Land Rights” course, click here .
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