Letters to LIFE
reprinted with permission
by Sharon Lee Robertson - April 2005
I accessed your site through a link on the BIEN newsletter site. I am a non-academic living on an Age Pension in a small rural hamlet in Australia.
For the past year or so I have been working on a book with the working title of "FailSafe Humanity". The basic assumption of the book is that 1st & 2nd world nations may well be facing a future characterised by severe economic and therefore social dislocation resulting from any one of several 'causes' or combination of 'causes'.
These 'causes' include: climate change and effects on agriculture and water supplies; problems with oil supply, financial chaos, war and the political environment that supports it.
One basic historical reference is the Great Depression in the United States following the stockmarket crash and the withdrawal of 'cashflow' from society. I use it as an example as it is one in which all the human misery that resulted from 'the crash' derived from the simple lack of 'cashflow' within the society. All the factories, all the raw resources, all the human skills were intact.
So, logically, the misery was occasioned by nothing more than hubris and stupidity on the part of a small section of the elites - the misery was not the result of some 'act of God' like flood or the potato famine in Ireland - no - it was the product of social organisation including it's 'organising narrative'.
It is my feeling and judgement that something similar to the Great Depression may well confront us within the next 10-30 years. As a 'failsafe provision', I suggest in my book that it be written into Law that if certain 'trigger' events take place, that there should be an immediate creation and distribution of what is essentially a 'basic income' to every person living within the domestic territory governed by a national government.
In effect, it shifts the 'value base' of the currency in circulation from a 'capital goods' basis to a 'social capital' basis so that it is, in effect, a 'free money' - at least from the point of view of 'the worker'! The purpose of such a distribution would be to conserve as much of the basic social organisation of production and distribution of essential goods and services as might be possible.
Sometimes some people say things like welfare payments being like 'money down the toilet' - but nothing could be further from the truth! Welfare payments where they are made are, in effect, 'transfer' payments. Governments make the payments to individuals out of tax revenue (received from businesses and the workers), but the individuals then 'transfer' that money back to the larger community: rents, food, power, schools, transport, etc. which then forms part of the 'income' of the recipient and helps pay for the provision of the service, whatever it might be.
A fair proportion of that 'transfer' income also goes to the banks in the form of 'interest'. If the financial institutions collapse for whatever reason, then in effect the whole system is at risk of collapse UNNECESSARILY! Maintenance of society wide 'cashflow' sufficient to sustain the lives of individuals has to be a key 'failsafe provision'.
It is not 'money' that creates anything real - it is the investment of the time and energy of the people that 'creates' everything real. We have all been 'conditioned' to the value of money, psychologically. That has to change. Most Basic Income groups seem - still - to assume that any 'basic income' has to be derived from some form of re-distribution of taxation revenues. But should those revenues diminish significantly...? Doomed to failure, sooner or later. Best bite the revolutionary bullet of 'overturning the tables of the moneychangers'.
"FailSafe" is sort of a 'backdoor' approach such a revolutionary 'overturning' - by posing the possibility in a hypothetical way in an 'if/the' context. Except, of course, the context isn't all that 'hypothetical'.
If 'Point A' is the present, and 'Point B' is some future point in time, with transit between being rather difficult, it seems to me that the kind of 'basic income' I suggest might - at least- 'buy some time', that is - maintain the continuity of life(time) through the difficult times.
I'd be interested in 'talking' to anyone who thinks along the same lines?. So far, I'm the only one I know who thinks as I do.
Email Sharon Lee Robertson or write to her PO Box 36, Koolunga SA 5464,