February 18, 2007
Economics is the study of our optimization (creation, management, allocation and destruction) of our resources. To optimize something is to make the most of it. Our spiritual and intellectual resources are infinite. That means there is more of it than we could ever use up. Our resources in the material world ---such as air, water and land---- are finite. Most of us believe that we have a responsibility to take care of the land, to take care of each other, and to take care of ourselves. Economics is a body of knowledge that helps us do that.
Catherine Austin Fitts, "Economics 101: A Curriculum" (which may be read at her Solari website)
All-too frequently I encounter activists who don’t like to talk about money. While they crusade loudly for "economic justice", they resist talking about their own relationship with money as if it were somehow an X-rated topic on par with sexuality or bathroom habits. In other words, these well-meaning individuals have little or no financial literacy. For this reason I wrote a 2005 article "Activists And Accountants: Absolute Allies" in which I emphasized that economic IN-justice only happens when people sacrifice sustainability for profit and that whenever we attend to our own sustainability and that of our community, we are practicing economic justice, but we cannot do so without acquiring financial literacy.
My experience has confirmed this for me so profoundly in recent years that I have come to agree wholeheartedly with Catherine Austin Fitts that until we change the way money works in our personal lives, our communities, and our world, we will change nothing. I know of no one else on earth who has so clearly articulated the way sustainable and unsustainable economic systems work as Catherine has. For this reason, I place little emphasis on the role of presidents as I teach history to college students or in my thinking and discourse on the government of the United States and how it functions.
"Tapeworm" is the name Fitts applies to the economic system of the U.S. which seeks to feed upon both its inhabitants and its neighbors, near and far, and at the same time, ingest them with toxins which cause them to crave the very elements which feed the Tapeworm, thereby establishing a perpetual search-and-destroy economic system. Inherent in Tapeworm economics is the primacy of centralized financial systems such as the Federal Reserve, national and worldwide banking networks, a complex global economic apparatus, reliance on agribusiness for food supply and distribution, and the privatization of resources—all without financial transparency or accountability.
Conversely, a sustainable economy is de-centralized and locally-focused, relying on small, well-managed local banks; food supplies which are grown, financed, and distributed locally; community ownership of land and resources; local commerce and industry; and above all, financial transparency.
Among the myriad advantages of categorizing economic systems in this way is the immediate exposure of federal election campaigns as unequivocally by, for, and about centralized financial systems which offer the illusions of "choice" and "change". No sincere proponent of a sustainable economy has the slightest possibility of emerging victorious in a country where centralized financial systems furnish, finance, and in the current milieu, manage electoral outcomes. Or as Aaron Russo’s documentary "America From Freedom To Fascism" underscored, voting in a national election is essentially making a choice between two crime families who are ostensibly at war with each other but will always join forces when their mutual interests are threatened. The current "debate" on the Iraq War is one of countless examples, as the majority of "dissenters" in Congress are unwilling to illumine the fundamental travesty of the war, namely, that the United States should have never invaded and occupied the country, and instead are focused on how the war is being "mis-managed."
For those residing in the belly of the beast, particularly when the overwhelming majority of those citizens is unaware of the Tapeworm and their role as its host, mass revolt or widespread dissent is unlikely, at least as long as the illusion of benefitting from the Tapeworm economy can be maintained. Only when citizens become as abjectly impoverished and desperate as our Latin American neighbors have become in recent years, will the neoliberal Tapeworm be rejected and sustainable economies replace it. What will insure the protracted success of these movements, however, is not top-down policymaking, but grassroots, place-based, local solutions. How countries such as Venezuela, Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador, and Nicaragua each uniquely implement sustainable economies, remains to be seen, but in the meantime, I have not and will not lose any sleep over how they should be named. Call them socialist or Solari, the Tapeworm is being rejected and shriveled; to obsess on how to label the process is to lose sight of the economic transformation that must take place in the United States in order for humankind and the ecosystems to survive.
And what is that transformation?
- It first begins with a commitment to financial literacy in concert with sustainable economics.
- Next, one must increase one’s learning curve regarding the reality of corruption in the United States. American "exceptionalism", the puerile illusion that other countries are corrupt, but the U.S. is not, must be shattered, and we must stop pointing our fingers, for example, at Mexico for being a blatant poster-child for corruption and recognize that the United States is merely Mexico with make up.
- As a result of this recognition, it then becomes crucial to illuminate corruption and Tapeworm economics in one’s own community, i.e., narcotics trafficking, fraud, entities such as universities, foundations, churches, non-profit agencies, and media that accept contributions from the Tapeworm and serve its interests. Every town has "K" street, and we cannot liberate ourselves effectively from the Tapeworm until we shine light on its presence in our place. Likewise, we need to support media and government leaders who promote transparency and accountability.
- Therefore, as activists, we have no business depositing our money in Tapeworm banks or using credit cards from those institutions. It is our responsibility to transact with institutions that keep the money in our communities, rather than drain it out.
- Understand that personal debt finances the Tapeworm and ensures its continued success. Get out of debt, and if you must use credit cards at all, pay them off in full monthly. In teaching college students I am frequently and painfully reminded that most of them will graduate from their institutions in a state of debt servitude for decades of their adult lives and will not snag those illusory "dream jobs" their colleges and career counselors promise them because those jobs have been outsourced or eliminated. Investigate people-to-people lending arrangements such as those found at www.prosper.com.
- Become involved with other activists in your community to block the privatization of land and resources and demand public ownership of them.
- Recognize that "socially responsible investing" usually isn’t. Consult the Solari website for investment opportunities that genuinely promote sustainability while bringing an optimum return.
- Consider investing in precious metals—silver or gold, and consult the Solari site for ways to begin doing so with small, affordable amounts. If you deposit money in a savings account, why not invest some of it in precious metals instead?
If we attentively read United States history, we learn that particularly in recent times, financial systems, not presidents, dictate policy and that "Chief Executives" are themselves at the mercy of those systems--before, during, and after their term of office. Electing presidents changes little, but changing how money works changes everything.