A Handy Guide For The Easily Distracted by Miranda July
As we gather together in solidarity to express a feeling of mass injustice, we must not lose sight of what brought us together. We write so that all people who feel wronged by the corporate forces of the world can know that we are your allies.
As one people, united, we acknowledge the reality: that the future of the human race requires the cooperation of its members; that our system must protect our rights, and upon corruption of that system, it is up to the individuals to protect their own rights, and those of their neighbors; that a democratic government derives its just power from the people, but corporations do not seek consent to extract wealth from the people and the Earth; and that no true democracy is attainable when the process is determined by economic power. We come to you at a time when corporations, which place profit over people, self-interest over justice, and oppression over equality, run our governments. We have peaceably assembled here, as is our right, to let these facts be known.
They have taken our houses through an illegal foreclosure process, despite not having the original mortgage.
They have taken bailouts from taxpayers with impunity, and continue to give Executives exorbitant bonuses.
They have perpetuated inequality and discrimination in the workplace based on age, the color of one’s skin, sex, gender identity and sexual orientation.
They have poisoned the food supply through negligence, and undermined the farming system through monopolization.
They have profited off of the torture, confinement, and cruel treatment of countless animals, and actively hide these practices.
They have continuously sought to strip employees of the right to negotiate for better pay and safer working conditions.
They have held students hostage with tens of thousands of dollars of debt on education, which is itself a human right.
They have consistently outsourced labor and used that outsourcing as leverage to cut workers’ healthcare and pay.
They have influenced the courts to achieve the same rights as people, with none of the culpability or responsibility.
They have spent millions of dollars on legal teams that look for ways to get them out of contracts in regards to health insurance.
They have sold our privacy as a commodity.
They have used the military and police force to prevent freedom of the press. They have deliberately declined to recall faulty products endangering lives in pursuit of profit.
They determine economic policy, despite the catastrophic failures their policies have produced and continue to produce.
They have donated large sums of money to politicians, who are responsible for regulating them.
They continue to block alternate forms of energy to keep us dependent on oil.
They continue to block generic forms of medicine that could save people’s lives or provide relief in order to protect investments that have already turned a substantial profit.
They have purposely covered up oil spills, accidents, faulty bookkeeping, and inactive ingredients in pursuit of profit.
They purposefully keep people misinformed and fearful through their control of the media.
They have accepted private contracts to murder prisoners even when presented with serious doubts about their guilt.
They have perpetuated colonialism at home and abroad. They have participated in the torture and murder of innocent civilians overseas.
They continue to create weapons of mass destruction in order to receive government contracts. *
To the people of the world,
We, the New York City General Assembly occupying Wall Street in Liberty Square, urge you to assert your power.
Exercise your right to peaceably assemble; occupy public space; create a process to address the problems we face, and generate solutions accessible to everyone.
To all communities that take action and form groups in the spirit of direct democracy, we offer support, documentation, and all of the resources at our disposal.
Join us and make your voices heard!
*These grievances are not all-inclusive.
The outcry in the face of such obvious truths is always that if they were implemented they would ruin the economy. The peculiarity of our condition would appear to be that the implementation of any truth would ruin the economy. If the Golden Rule were generally observed among us, the economy would not last a week. We have made our false economy a false god, and it has made blasphemy of the truth. So I have met the economy in the road, and am expected to yield it right of way. But I will not get over. My reason is that I am a man, and have better right to the ground than the economy. The economy is not god for me, for I have had to close a look at its wheels. I have seen it at work in the strip mines and coal camps of Kentucky, and I know that it has no moral limits. It has emptied the country of the independent and the proud, and has crowded the cities with the dependent and the abject. It has always sacrificed the small to the large, the personal to the impersonal, the good to the cheap. It has ridden to its questionable triumphs over the bodies of small farmers and tradesmen and craftsmen. I see it, still, driving my neighbors off their farms into the factories. I see it teaching my students to give themselves a price before they can give themselves a value. Its principle is to waste and destroy the living substance of the world and the birthright of posterity for a monetary profit that is the most flimsy and useless of human artifacts.
Though I can see no way to defend the economy, I recognize the need to be concerned by the suffering that would be produced by its failure. But I ask if it is necessary for it to fail in order to change; I am assuming that if it does not change it must sooner or later fail, and that a great deal that is more valuable will fail with it. As a deity the economy is a sort of egotistical French monarch, for it apparently can see no alternative to itself except chaos, and perhaps that is its chief weakness. For, of course, chaos is not the only alternative to it. A better alternative is a better economy. But we will not conceive the possibility of a better economy, and therefore will not begin to change, until we quit deifying the present one.
A better economy, to my way of thinking, would be one that would place its emphasis not upon the quantity of notions and luxuries but upon the the quality of necessities. Such an economy would, for example, produce an automobile that would last at least as long, and be at least as easy to maintain, as a horse. It would encourage workmanship to be as durable as its materials; thus a piece of furniture would have the durability not of glue but of wood. It would substitute for the pleasure of frivolity a pleasure in the high quality of essential work, in the use of good tools, in a healthful and productive countryside. It would encourage a migration from the cities back to the farms, to ensure a work force that would be sufficient not only to the production of the necessary quantities of food, but to the production of food of the best quality and to the maintenance of the land at the highest fertility — work that would require a great deal more personal attention and care and hand labor than the present technological agriculture that is focused so exclusively upon production. Such a change in the economy would not involve large-scale unemployment, but rather large-scale changes and shifts in employment.
“You are tilting at the windmills,” I will be told. “It is a hard world, hostile to the values that you stand for. You will never enlist enough people to bring about such a change.” People who talk that way are eager to despair, knowing how easy despair is. The change I am talking about appeals to me precisely because it need not wait upon “other people.” Anybody who wants to do so can begin it in himself and in his household as soon as he is ready– by becoming answerable to at least some of his own needs, by refusing the glamorous and the frivolous. When a person learns to act on his best hopes he enfranchises and validates them as no government or public policy ever will. And by his action the possibility that other people will do the same is made a likelihood.
From Discipline and Hope by Wendell Berry, from his book A Continuous Harmony (1972).
There is burgeoning school of economics called Modern Money Theory (MMT) that I really think warrants consideration. Not only is it theoretically quite intriguing, but if accurate, has tremendous political and social implications. One might even say that (perhaps in contrast to the Obama administration), it is actual cause for hope.
So I’d like to bring MMT to your attention. If you have already encountered, and dismissed, MMT, I’d like to encourage you to give it a second look. If you have already encountered, and dismissed, the entire field of Economics, I’d like to propose MMT as the exception to the rule.
This primer is meant to be accessible introduction to someone with no prior understanding of MMT or even Economics. Wray will be adding a chapter every Monday for the next year, and responding to comments every Wednesday. (And for those of you who can’t possibly wait a year, I highly recommend Wray’s textbook Understanding Modern Money)
Okay okay but what is MMT?
Well, Wray and his colleagues will do a much better job than I of explaining, but here’s the gist as I understand it:
- In a fiat economy, public debt = private wealth
- Taxes don’t fund government spending; taxes create demand for fiat currency so that people are willing to sell goods & services to the government in exchange for said currency
- Taxation is a sufficient (though not necessary) means to create demand for fiat currency (& thus prevent against undesirable levels of inflation)
- By serving as an “Employer of Last Resort”, essentially hiring anyone who is willing but unable to find work in the private sector and paying them a living wage, the government can ensure both full employment and price stability.
and finally, perhaps most radically:
If true, this is pretty huge. Calls for “austerity” and the need to “reduce the deficit” become specious; there is an economically-sound mechanism to employ everyone at a living wage; not to mention that the government can suddenly “afford” all kinds of neat social programs, like universal health care, daycare and public transportation.
Zimbabwe! Wiemar Germany!
Nothing you just said made any sense to me!
Rebecca, what the hell makes you, with your film degree, qualified to talk about economics?!
Yes, in many ways MMT runs completely counter to our conventional understanding of money. It sounds insane at first. But I think, if you give Wray a chance, you will see all the above points (except perhaps the last one) thoughtfully addressed.
And unlike most branches of economics, which could be accused of hiding behind intimidating jargon and complicated mathematical models rooted in mythology, the folks at New Economic Perspectives (the group of scholars behind the primer) are actively soliciting comments & critiques from their readers in an effort to make this primer as clear and thorough as possible. So I encourage you to check it out and ask questions and follow along over the next 50 weeks, if that’s your sort of thing.
PS. If you contacted me nearly a year ago about that economics discussion list I wanted to start, apologies for never actually getting around to making it. I’m gonna try and get that started up soon, for real. Perhaps we can work our way through the Modern Money Primer together. Everyone who requested an invite will get one. If you didn’t and want in, let me know!