Chapter 1. investigates some aspects of the political Price System... and the consequences of using that system of government, as contrasted to the system of government proposed in the Technocracy Study Course. Further chapters are available in links on this page.
Open source information, published Oct. 2008
For further information: S.R. Serv@gmail.com
The first chapter of Beyond The Price System... Politics, Religion & Economics In The Price System by Skip Sievert
Chapter 1. Sumeria/Mesopotamia, the creation of civilization & the current economic situation.
Major conflicts have developed in the operation of our social system (Oct. 2008). Attempts to add bad corporate debt in the U. S., to the general debt of the American people, is currently the object of much contention. An effort to preserve this bad debt is being made.
This method of debt preservation is historically typical of how a political Price System method maintains its mainstream economic principles.
The assumptions of the political Price System hearken back thousands of years to an epoch of low energy conversion and class/caste control.
What are some reasons this method of debt preservation is used?
Number one ... all new debt creation is based on old debt, and the Price System as employed must grow... or it collapses. That which ceases to function, ceases to exist.
A problem arises when the ecological limits of growth are reached in relation to the sustainable resources of a closed system like the earth. A money based system values only profit, an abstract concept. That fails to protect the natural world, since debt tokens are not a real measurement of anything.
Since the limits of what the environment can tolerate, is not reflected, or considered, in monetary economics, as practiced in the early 21st century, the political Price System eventually either reforms into something else, or it destroys its self through lack of understanding of its dynamics by the general population and also lack of understanding of the power possessors who run it. Those leaders also do not grasp the dynamic and historical context of how our system operates as it does, and why it will not work in the soon to be future, unless in a collapsed and even more feudalistic context.
Basic lack of education can partly explain this dynamic, as the current political Price System poorly educates its citizens... and can also be viewed as providing information that is akin to propaganda, thus the Price System brand of abstract concepts is negatively reinforced... instead of providing good or neutral objective information.
This is due to the influence of special interest groups that have power in the realm of corporate control of mainstream media. In other words... brainwashing information as opposed to educating people, is the norm of public relations, based on the notion of propaganda or deception, whether on television or in the classroom.
Special interest faction control of media and education is the norm, and money/debt tokens can be tracked also as the arbiter of decision making in a Price System... control of money, increasing sources of money and power to special interest groups is the main focus.
As a society we currently employ a folkway tradition that comes to us from the classical world of debt preservation economics.
What is the historic backdrop to understand the current events in the Price System context of dysfunctional governance and archaic methods of social control?
How does this relate to the concept of debt now, as many people think of debt, and the periodic cancellation of debt that was practiced in the Sumerian concept of usury... which differed with our current approach to debt?
How does all that relate then to energy conversion... in a high technology civilization as we presently have, where the amount of energy converted to afford the modern lifestyle is astronomical compared to previous time periods stretching from the advent of civil society and advancing technology in Sumer to the discovery of thermodynamics and the early twentieth century with the introduction of multiple energy appliances that have replaced humans for the most part in the concept of doing work?
In attempting to keep the political Price System patched up and working, debt cancellation was not discussed, and is not going to be used unless society gets into an extreme emergency, if it is used at all, because that method goes against modern ideas of money based economics.
Debt cancellation, even if used in our present time period would still not address a transition to viable change, an economic structure based on a functional system would not use money, but would use an energy metric. Only in that way will ecological sustainability concerns be addressed.
The Sumerians understood exponential math and money. They knew that fairness or a partial attempt of it in a Price System is not possible... and periodic debt cancellation was one method in a Price System that could help maintain civil order, partially prevent debt servitude or limit its effects, and also somewhat limit the piling up of money or property into the hands of so called upper class groups. To this purpose they invented the first written law codes that dealt with economic issues, behavior issues (thou shall not type things, legislated morality), and contract law that specified some do's and do nots in their original incarnation of the political Price System invention of civilization.
Building periodic debt forgiveness into the basis of the invention of the original money economic civilization of early Mesopotamia was one of that systems critical features.
That system was dependent on human labor which we no longer use in the same way in our high energy conversion system now. Productivity and labor are differently framed now as issues compared to the past, due again to energy conversion, energy appliances etc.
Price System economics in use now from the pre-industrial-revolution age... with its Adam Smith definitions, from a time of handcraft production, dominated by low energy conversion and scarcity, is an antique system.
A combination of no debt cancellation in the current system... loss of purchasing power from job loss due to energy conversion replacing human labor... destruction of the resource base of the natural world bringing a lack of sustainability... and modern political/money control, not scientific control... brings the period we are living in now, to a crashing end in chaos at some point, unless it is transformed into a different entity.
In other words our current social control system barely works, in our high energy civilization, and can not be made to work functionally, as it values nothing real in terms of the natural world and depends on propaganda to inculcate its values. Propaganda has no real value when dealing with real problems.
Debt, politics and history
One of these early models sometimes labeled as democracy, is bandied about and the term democracy in contemporary society means practically nothing in real terms. Probably the most noted feature of so called democracies currently is the control of their structures by special interest groups.
These generally act to deprive opposing special interest groups or attempt to, of one thing or another and gain as much for their own special interest group faction as is possible.
Modern democracies are controlled almost exclusively by corporate business special interest faction groups that provide the media platform for so called political elections... and determine issues and how they are discussed (media control).
This is not an illuminating process for any one involved... and this process revolves around future profits or powers... garnered or attempted by these special interest groups, with their usage of public relations or propaganda.
The main thesis of Beyond the Price System
Society is using classical debt based/profit based economics, developed after the original debt cancellation economies of Sumer. The Sumerian understanding of exponential usury and its effects exceeded our contemporary understanding of our current Price System, debt system.
Since modern economics is built primarily on the profit motive, and preserving debt, modern economics dooms itself, by destroying its subjects, as it gives environmental and sustainability issues no meaningful consideration, money or debt tokens only, are used as the #1 arbiter of perceived choice.
Purchasing power to consumers is also eliminated more and more because of the conversion of energy and mechanization replacing what in the past was considered work. Productivity is measured in machine power and energy, no longer human labor, of which very few jobs now depend, and even the remaining ones that do... depend on high tech appliances of one kind or another that further eliminate jobs that had to formerly be done by many workers.
The labor theory of value, the basis of capitalism and communism... and all the former isms no longer works. Job elimination by high technology eliminates so called jobs... many of which do not actually do any thing important or real anyway (banking, insurance, etc.) but actually just maintain a money/debt class system.
A succession of poor choices have accumulated and the survival of human kind is now an issue.
For this reason... an economy based on energy accounting... as envisioned by the Technical Alliance, in the Technocracy Study Course, is advocated as a replacement for the current type of political Price System control of the North American economy which at present controls much of the worlds economy with its elaborate debt schemes supported in actuality by its large resource base (real wealth which is non monetary).
The resource base, installed technology, and trained personnel of North America can allow a change into a scientific functional social design which protects the natural world. The land area of (North America) can convert to a technate system.
At that point, a North American technate may provide an example to the world of a creative, sustainable, secular and humanitarian, science based social design.
Interest charges for commercial and agrarian debts appear to have originated in Sumer’s temples and palaces in the third millennium BC. It is thought that the least documented form is likely to have been the original one: Interest was charged on advances of workshop handicrafts to traveling merchants associated with these large institutions as officials or holders of damgar status (a merchant class group). Other lenders adopted the practices pioneered by their institutions. In addition to placing their own money with merchants (who often were their own relatives), they made distress loans to cultivators who lacked the money to pay the fees owed to the palace or temples, or who needed food and other resources in times of crop failure or military devastation of the land, or as a result of illness, incapacity or other hardship. However, most agrarian debts stemmed from sharecropping arrangements with the large institutions, whose anticipated crop share was recorded as a debt owed by the cultivators.
Advances of barley, seed, water, and money to pay the various types of fees owed to the palace were charged at the same rate of interest as the rate at which land was advanced. This meant that the higher rates for agrarian interest than commercial interest reflected sharecropping rates that were applied across the board to agricultural debts in general. Impoverished cultivators were obliged to pay the same rate for advances of barley or food for their own consumption or other emergency needs as they paid for the advance of productive assets. Once they fell behind in their payments, their debts tended to mount up at arrears at exorbitant rates.
In this phenomenon we find the origin of classical usury. The stipulated interest charges had to be paid by the cultivator out of other revenue (and often there was none) or by relinquishing his assets. Living near the margin of subsistence, he often was obliged to pledge the labor services of his family members (his daughters, wife, sons or house-slaves) as collateral to work off the interest and debt charges.
These family assets typically were pledged to royal collectors acting in their personal capacity, using interest-bearing debt as a means to obtain income and, ultimately even more important, the land’s usufruct from strapped debtors. By the time three years had elapsed, these interest charges typically had grown as large as the original debt. (§88 of Hammurabi's laws limited the barley-interest rate to the commercial rate of 20 percent, in modern terms. But this ruling seems not to have been followed in practice.) This doubling seems to have underlain §117 of these laws, wiping out the barley obligation once the antichretic interest supplied by the debtor’s family members had “worked off” the debt.
This kind of agrarian usury, along with commercial lending by well-to-do private individuals acting increasingly on their own, represented an adoption of originally public institutional practices. The interest rate was set formerly not by the profitability of commercial advances to merchant-debtors, but by the need for simplicity of calculation, i.e., more by mathematical than by “economic” considerations.
The line of diffusion ran from Mesopotamia’s initially temple-and palace-centered practices to the population at large. Geographically, these practices diffused from Mesopotamia up along the Euphrates to the northeast, eastward to the Mediterranean and to the Assyrian trade colonies in central Turkey (Cappadocia). But it apparently took until the 8th century BC for the practice of charging interest to pass to the Aegean, the Greek mainland and to Italy. As late as the 13th century BC there is little trace of interest charges in Ugarit, the Hittite lands, Crete or Mycenaean Greece.
The problem of how the earliest interest rates were determined is important for a number of reasons. A modern economic analysis would explain why interest rates could afford to be paid. If interest indeed could normally be paid, there would have been little need for debt cancellations. A related consequence is whether the apparent decline in interest rates over the course of antiquity resulted from economic causes such as profit rates, soil and capital productivity, the spread of money exchange, greater security of investment and so forth, or from non-economic considerations.
The key to tracing the historical origin and spread of interest-bearing debt lies in a careful economic definition of just what interest was. What makes the formal charging of interest different from, say, the informal web of ''anthropological'' obligations is that it is specified as to its amount as precisely the unit-fraction, 1/60th per month. The time of repayment or accrual of interest is specified in advance (first written contract laws). Thus, rather than being open-ended as in gift exchange, it is closed-ended as far as the timing of the payment is concerned. (For Assyrian commercial loans, this time period was five years, when 60 months had passed and the original loan had fully reproduced itself, and compound interest could begin. For shorter-term loans, It is suspected that the key calendrical date was the new moon, as it was in classical Greece.) Failure to repay does not result simply in losing face and status; it permits the creditor to proceed with formal foreclosure proceedings, leading to debt-bondage and forfeiture of land-rights, and hence of the most essential means of self-support for community members.
Economic institutions mutate in the process of being transplanted from one context to another, from centralized to decentralized economies, from large-scale to small-scale economic institutions. With regard to the idea of diffusion, it should be borne in mind that there are no pristine tribal societies in today’s world. Nearly all appear to reflect culture contact, borrowings and adaptations. By the 19th century, there were scarcely any pristine relations to be discovered, except by consulting the historical and prehistoric records. In any case, the idea of taking a ''primitive tribe'' as an analogue for Sumer rests on the assumption that there is a single, linear, genetic pattern based on ''stages of development.''
There has been some attempt to search throughout the world's tribally based societies to find the kind of relationships that might ''logically'' have been developed under similar material conditions similar to those of Sumer. The working assumption is that similar economic challenges produce similar solutions. Thus, early in the 20th century, Marcel Mauss interpreted tribal gift-exchange as an analogue for interest-bearing debt, and imagined this to have provided the prototypical origin of what, in time, became a regular periodic payment, stipulated in advance. He then described the rather curious gift exchange practices of the Kwakiutl of the northwest American Pacific coast as an example.
It can be asserted that this conflates two quite different phenomena. What occurred in Sumer was above all an economic/political/religious revolution going beyond ''anthropological'' relationships. We therefore could inquire how Sumerian developments shaped Babylonia and the rest of the Near East, and how these regions shaped classical antiquity’s development, which in turn shaped subsequent European practice and current corporate globalism methods.
Ancient civilization only happened once, and it occurred in a particular way. Its economic dynamics, above all the dynamics of interest-bearing debt, can be traced from Mesopotamia via classical antiquity, up the coast of Europe, to North America and also to Asia. There may well have been a broad range of ways in which the world economy could have developed. Our civilization was not destined inevitably to have evolved in just the way it did. A wide variety of possible mutations and combinations offered itself.
This book explores the past and advocates for a different economic approach based on the metrics of energy rather than money (debt tokens)... in a secular humanitarian non political system originally proposed by the Technical Alliance in the book published by Technocracy Incorporated, the Technocracy Study Course.
Forming a creative scientific social design based on human equality and sustainability, a technate design method may be by default, the only viable method to change into a society which does not destroy itself for the desultory purpose of money making.
While a money system arguably had some benefits in the past... and provided some stability to a degree in the past... in the modern high technology and high energy conversion system of a place such as North America... a money system fails, because of the changed dynamic of energy conversion and machine productivity, rather than human labor being critical. Technology destroys the Price System as purchasing power in a Price System is based on so called working.
Getting something for nothing: Excerpted from Prescription For Survival M. King Hubbert geoscientist & advocate of the technocracy technate design.
In the distribution to the public of the products of industry, the failure of the present system is the direct result of the faulty premise upon which it is based. This is: that somehow a man is able by his personal services to render to society the equivalent of what he receives, from which it follows that the distribution to each shall be in accordance with the services rendered and that those who do not work must not eat. This is what our propagandists call 'the impossibility of getting something for nothing.'
Aside from the fact that only by means of the sophistries of lawyers and economists can it be explained how, on this basis, those who do nothing at all frequently receive the largest shares of the national income, the simple fact is that it is impossible for any man to contribute to the social system the physical equivalent of what it costs the system to maintain him from birth till death--and the higher the physical standard of living the greater is this discrepancy. This is because man is an engine operating under the limitations of the same physical laws as any other engine. The energy that it takes to operate him is several times as much as any amount of work he can possibly perform. If, in addition to his food, he receives also the products of modern industry, this is due to the fact that material and energy resources happen to be available and, as compared with any contribution he can make, constitute a free gift from heaven.
Stated more specifically, it costs the social system on the North American Continent the energy equivalent to nearly 10 tons of coal per year to maintain one man at the average present standard of living, and no contribution he can possibly make in terms of the energy conversion of his individual effort will ever repay the social system the cost of his social maintenance. Is it not to be wondered at, therefore, that a distributive mechanism based upon so rank a fallacy should fail to distribute; the marvel is that it has worked as well as it has.
Since any human being, regardless of his personal contribution, is a social dependent with respect to the energy resources upon which society operates, and since every operation within a given society is effected at the cost of a degradation of an available supply of energy, this energy degradation, measured in appropriate physical units such as kilowatt-hours, constitutes the common physical cost of all social operations. Since also the energy-cost of maintaining a human being exceeds by a large amount his ability to repay, we can abandon the fiction that what one is to receive is in payment for what one has done, and recognize that what we are really doing is utilizing the bounty that nature has provided us.
Under these circumstances we recognize that we all are getting something for nothing, and the simplest way of effecting distribution is on a basis of equality, especially so when it is considered that production can be set equal to the limit of our capacity to consume, commensurate with adequate conservation of our physical resources.
On this basis our distribution then becomes foolproof and incredibly simple. We keep our records of the physical costs of production in terms of the amount of extraneous energy degraded. We set industrial production arbitrarily at a rate equal to the saturation of the physical capacity of our public to consume. We distribute purchasing power in the form of energy certificates to the public, the amount issued to each being equivalent to his pro rata share of the energy-cost of the consumer goods and services to be produced during the balanced-load period for which the certificates are issued. These certificates bear the identification of the person to whom issued and are non negotiable. They resemble a bank check in that they bear no face denomination, this being entered at the time of spending. They are surrendered upon the purchase of goods or services at any center of distribution and are permanently canceled, becoming entries in a uniform accounting system. Being nonnegotiable they cannot be lost, stolen, gambled, or given away because they are invalid in the hands of any person other than the one to whom issued. If lost, like a bank checkbook, new ones may be had for the asking. Neither can they be saved because they become void at the termination of the two-year period for which they are issued. They can only be spent.
Contrary to the Price System rules, the purchasing power of an individual is no longer based upon the fallacious premise that a man is being paid in proportion to the so-called 'value' of his work (since it is a physical fact that what he receives is greatly in excess of his individual effort) but upon the equal pro rata division of the net energy degraded in the production of consumer goods and services. In this manner the income of an individual is in nowise dependent upon the nature of his work, and we are then left free to reduce the working hours of our population to as low a level as technological advancement will allow, without in any manner jeopardizing the national or individual income, and without the slightest unemployment problem or poverty.'' M. King Hubbert... contributor to the Technocracy Study Course.
Links of interest in relation to the early development of culture & viable future social change
A comparative history of ancient cultural origins, Understanding Early Civilizations Bruce G. Trigger 9780521822459ws.pdf (application/pdf Object)
For further chapters of Beyond the Price System : Internet Archive: Details: Beyond the Price System - Politics, Religion & Economics in the Price System