~ The Regenerative Agora ~ Counter-Economics For Stewards Of The Future
How can we go about creating the new systems, business models, value systems and infrastructure of a regenerative society when much of that work is arbitrarily outlawed or supressed by the power systems that dominate our current culture?
This post is for those of you interested in creating that world worth inheriting, whether or not “permission” to do so has been granted.
A world in which 7th Generation thinking has become so deeply integrated into daily life that it forms the very basis of culture – one rooted in connection to place and conscious of its role as a steward of the future – where socially- and economically-fulfilling lives are the default yield of that shared lifeway.
This vision represents a very substantive change from the world we currently inhabit. In order to lay a foundation for the ideas presented in this article, we necessarily begin with the following pre-supposition:
Mainstream, state-sponsored and -enforced economic theory and practice has forced humanity as a whole onto a degenerative trajectory with respect to environmental integrity, social cohesion and individual well-being.
We are aware that such a statement can be taken to mean many things depending on any previously held ideological perspectives that you may hold. Please note, this article is not an attempt to change your mind, nor convince you that some of your previously held ideas are wrong, or that “the other side” is out to get you. It is simply our best effort in this moment to illuminate another way. One that is predicated upon peaceful interaction and respect for individual sovereignty in every sense of the word – something that nearly all people are in favor of, no matter what perspective they may currently hold.
This other way cannot be imposed upon others. It cannot be coerced, legislated or regulated into existence. It can only arise through expanded consciousness – first in a single mind, then spreading virally, across broad swathes of human beings, until rooted in a collectively held consciousness – what we will call culture for the purposes of this discussion.
This other way is called Counter-Economics. Counter-Economics is practiced in an ever-changing space called the Agora (more on that below).
Welcome to the Agora of Regeneration.
What Is Counter-Economics?
Counter-Economics can be most easily grasped when compared with what it is not – what we will call Establishment Economics.
Acts of coercion (initiatory violence or threat of violence) and their economic consequences.
All non-coercive and free acts in general.
Counter-Economics exists and can be practiced outside the boundaries of State power (the State being that institution that has a legal monopoly on the use of force within a certain arbitrary geographic border). State power exists at the intersection of three things:
- Scope – laws on the books.
- Reach – boots on the ground.
- Will – in the heart of the state agent.
Counter-Economic activity can be performed in the white, grey or black market, for it is not defined by the legality of a thing or action, but instead the morality of it. Counter-Economic activity encourages people to actively ignore or break laws when it does not involve initiating violence or coercion. It is necessary here to distinguish between legal and moral.
Moral actions are understood to be those that are undertaken voluntarily (without coercion or threat of violence) and that do not harm other people.
Legal actions may or may not be moral, just as moral actions may or may not be legal.
There are countless examples of acts that are illegal yet entirely moral. For example, if one were to grow a certain restricted plant (you know the one) in their home garden , ingest it, and experience the effects of that ingestion in a way one deems appropriate and that brings no harm to anyone else, this would be illegal in many places, and act as grounds for the state to seize one’s property and/or liberty. This action, however, is entirely moral from the perspective that it was undertaken voluntarily (no one was forced to grow the plant or ingest it) and did not harm any other people.
In order to move towards building and living within a regenerative economy, there will necessarily be a fair amount of law-breaking required, as many of the moral actions aligned with the principles of regeneration are currently deemed illegal (i.e. building a natural home with earthen walls, or having a composting toilet, selling home-made food to your neighbors, or even harvesting rainwater in some places etc).
By engaging in Counter-Economics we can begin to live and work in the regenerative economy, without waiting for either the current system to fail or for top-down approval of our chosen regenerative lifeways. Indeed, much of what needs building to help soften our economic landing as we exit a growth-imperative economy and enter energy descent will have to be built in the regenerative counter-economy – for only here can we find a paradigm that is equipped to carry us through the turbulent years ahead and into a truly sustainable future – and the liberty required to make such a paradigm manifest.
What Is The Agora?
The word agora describes a central, public place in Greek city states that was the center of economic, political, spiritual and athletic life in the early city states. People would go there to hear public announcements, perform military service, engage in commerce and exchange ideas through conversation – essentially a city or town square at the heart of a particular urban settlement. The word agora acts as the root for two different verbs, both of which lend additional context to the centrality of the agora in city life at the time; agorázō – “I shop”, and agoreúō – “I speak in public”.
We bring the term Agora forward here as a representation of an “open market” – a place where individuals can engage in voluntary interaction with one another, undiminished by violence or the threat of violence. The Agora in the context of Counter-Economics is a place of consciousness, and represents all activity occurring beyond the limits of State Power, which itself is defined by the amorphous boundaries of Scope, Reach and Will.
The Agora is the only space available to us where we can build many of the elements (physical, social, cultural and spiritual) of a truly sustainable future.
Where Is The Agora Now?
In order to know how to participate in the Agora of today we have to know “where” it is. The edges of the Agora are not static, rather they are constantly shifting in response to the constinual expansion of State power.
The scope of government intervention into private life can be measured by the laws on the books. In our current context, this scope is practically without limit. It is necessary, therefore, to abandon the notion of finding the Agora at the boundary of Scope, because State power is currently expanding rapidly and claims dominion, in one way or another, over the vast majority of the globe and nearly all facets of human life.
There was a time when looking for legal “loopholes” and then trusting the court system to uphold the law and protect individual freedoms was a semi-viable strategy (often depending on how much currency one could devote to the endeavor). This strategy employed today, however, is not likely to turn out well. The power-hungry “virus” of Statism has been and will continue to supercede the law, thus the law likely provides no safe haven.
It used to be that in order to be within reach of State power one literally had to be within arm’s length of a State agent. One needed to be within physical proximity to be arrested. Similarly, one needed to be within such physical proximity to engage in a vibrant Agora.
Physical proximity is far less important today than proximity to one’s bank account when it comes to exercising control over an individual. If the State is able to freeze the funds in your bank account it can effectively prevent participation in the Agora, just as physical detention once did. This is where alternative means of exchange and value transaction that exist outside the boundaries of State power become very important. Enter cryptocurrency, which is both seizure resistant and uncensorable, unlike the U.S. dollar or any other modern fiat currency (much more on this in Regenerative Economics – Part 5).
Will is the X-factor. Will to enforce an unjust law must exist in the heart of the State agent. Fortunately, it is actually very difficult to train a healthy human being to persecute their neighbors. The will of the State agent is an important boundary to State power, yet it is difficult to recognize its limits. It is necessary to know the State agent well enough to get a sense for their level of pragmatism (“there’s a law/regulation against that, but I don’t enforce it”) and/or rule-following because “those are the rules”.
What Makes A Regenerative Agora?
An open market by itself may or may not be regenerative. In the Regenerative Agora, human action taken to meet daily needs and create a high quality of life increases the capacity of an ecosystem’s natural function to allow for greater life expression.
Simply put, the world is made more resilient and abundant by participating in a free and open exchange of ideas, goods and labor that is grounded by the three ethics of permaculture and it’s prime directive. Without this ethically grounded and principled approach to participating in the Agora, while interactions may still be far more peaceful than in an Establishment Economics context, they will not necessarily be regenerative.
Prime Directive Of Permaculture
The only ethical decision is to take responsibility for our own existence and that of our children. Make it now.
1. Care Of The Earth: Provision for all life systems to continue and multiply.
2. Care Of People: Provision for people to access those resources necessary for their own existence.
3. Setting Limits To Population And Consumption: By governing our own needs, we can set resources aside to reinvest towards the first two ethics.
The Regenerative Agora – the liminal space beyond the Scope, Reach and Will of the State in which autonomous, free individuals interact and exchange with one another in a manner aligned with the Prime Directive and three Ethics of permaculture – lies at the heart of a 7th Generation culture, one in which those alive today conduct themselves with the interests of the generations yet unborn at the forefront of their decision making processes. The Regenerative Agora is the 7th Generation Principle (below) made manifest.
7th Generation Principle
A 7th Generation system creates socially and economically fulfilling lives for its inhabitants, whose daily activity patterns regenerate natural ecosystems and increase living capital year over year, such that the economic and social value of natural ecosystems is always increasing, and the value-ing of those systems is transmitted intact across generations.
Indeed every aspect of the 7th Generation Principle can be seen taking place in the Regenerative Agora. A rich ecosystem provides the necessary raw materials, nutrients, climate conditions and space required for its inhabitants to construct lives that are stable and abundant. The activities by which the inhabitants provide for their own existence yield byproducts, primary products or surpluses that increase ecological integrity and capacity for life expression. Furthermore and most importantly, the inhabitants value their way of life and the ecosystem that supports it, and place great importance on transferring this value system to each successive generation.
Walking The Path: Decision-Making For Regenerative Agorists
The Regenerative Agorist (one who participates in the Regenerative Agora) seeks to conduct themselves and their enterprise in ways that constantly move them and their enterprise towards greater levels of regenerative impact, yield abundance and individual liberty.
The following quad chart details two continuums; the Regenerative/Degenerative Process Continuum and the Scarcity/Abundance Mindset Continuum. By overlaying these two continuums atop one another, a simple yet powerful decision map is created, one that the Regenerative Agorist can use to evaluate their current enterprise, lifestyle, or necessary decision with respect to its alignment with regenerative process and abundant mindset.
The 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 aligned along the Regenerative/Degenerative axis stands for the five categories of resources utilized by human beings, as described in the Permaculture Designer’s Manual. This acts as a helpful, though not entirely bulletproof, jumpstart to analyzing an enterprise, design element, lifestyle or impending decision with regards to its degree of regenerative vs. degenerative function.
5 Categories of Resources
- Type 1: Those which increase by modest use.
- Type 2: Those unaffected by use.
- Type 3: Those which disappear or degrade if not used.
- Type 4: Those reduced by use.
- Type 5: Those which pollute or destroy other resources if used. (NOTE: This resource category has no place in a sustainable design).
We can further define the four poles of this chart as follows:
For a process to be regenerative is to cycle energy amongst involved elements and the broader life web in a self-reinforcing pattern of increasing integrity, coherence and function, ultimately increasing life expression.
For a process to be degenerative is to move energy in a linear fashion from integrity, coherence and function to disintegration, incoherence and dysfunction, ultimately diminishing life expression.
An abundant mindset is creative, seeing obstacles as opportunities for growth in knowledge, capability, perception, and connection.
A scarce mindset is fear-based and lacks creativity, seeing obstacles as immovable burdens unfairly dealt out by life’s randomness, imposing disability, misperception and isolation.
For a more in depth exploration of these two continuums and how to use them in system design, we recommend reading Examining The Regenerative/Degenerative Continuum: Nuances Of Ecosystem Establishment.
Exchanging Value In The Agora
Debt-backed fiat currency issued by central banks is the currently dominant form of currency in our world. We can qualitatively examine this crucial ‘element’ of our society and economy using the Regenerative/Degenerative continuum detailed above.
- Every new dollar created ‘steals’ value from all other currently existing dollars due to the fact that it is backed by debt, and quite literally created from nothing.
- This debt is issued by the government as a promise to repay in the future with interest.
- That repayment with interest is why our income is taxed – to pay down previously made promises plus their interest.
- Because every dollar is born as debt plus interest there is never actually enough currency in existence to pay back all outstanding debts – therefore debts must grow exponentially or the system collapses on itself.
- Currency creation is completely monopolized by the Federal Reserve (or whatever a given country’s central bank is called) – i.e. no one else can mint currency (because who wouldn’t love to write checks against an account with nothing in it!). The Federal Reserve (which is a private bank, not a government agency) holds government IOUs (bonds – a.k.a. promises) that are repaid with interest (by our tax dollars), and that interest is paid out annually as a dividend to its owners (the big banks) each year.
(If any of this isn’t already familiar, we highly recommend reading the first post this series, Borrowing Without Intent To Repay: How Modern Fiat Currency Systems Concentrate Wealth By Design, where we illustrate step-by-step exactly how new currency is made and how the system concentrates wealth amongst those who already have the most by design).
From even this brief description, it is obvious that debt-backed fiat currency issued by central banks is profoundly degenerative in its process (concentrates wealth amongst those who already have the most of it i.e. is extractive) and fundamentally based in scarcity (there is never enough to pay back outstanding debt and it is always losing value). The wealth is not cycled throughout the economy, rather it is extracted from the land and those who have the least and moves in one direction towards those who have the most by simple virtue of how the currency is created.
Can we ever have a Regenerative Agora if our medium of exchange is so perversely weighted against regenerative process and abundant mindset?
We don’t think so.
The dollar will collapse at some point, or there will be a great ‘Reset’, or some other crisis (planned or exploited) will bring about currency destruction. For those of us wishing to participate in the Regenerative Agora, we would be wise to move as much of our economic lives as possible into other-than-financial realms to avoid the painful, and potentially catastrophic, effects of currency destruction. If you haven’t already, we recommend taking 6 minutes to read Creating Resilient Wealth With The 8 Forms Of Capital, where we detail the 8 Forms of Capital Model and a paradigm for creating true wealth that underpins everything we cover from this point onward in the Regenerative Economics series.
This is where ‘alternative’ (a.k.a. historically normal) mediums of exchange come into play, what we will call complementary currencies for purposes of discussion. Complementary currencies are not designed to replace national currencies (as there are advantages to having common mediums of exchange at the national and international levels), but to function alongside them to enable local value circulation without huge percentages being siphoned off by large multinational corporations, central banks or governments. This improves local economic conditions by keeping value circulating within a community.
One feature common among many complementary currencies from history is the concept of demurrage – essentially a time-based fee for holding money. These fees would typically be assessed on a regular cycle (annually, once every 7 years etc.) to encourage re-investment in place of accumulation. With a demurrage fee it wouldn’t make good economic sense to hold on to the currency for long periods of time with the idea of amassing a large stockpile of financial capital. Individuals were incentivized to transform any financial surplus into other forms of capital (on which the fee would not be assessed). In order to retain the wealth represented by the financial capital, the money was invested back into productive enterprise and beautiful craftsmanship – things that would produce and retain value over time.
The topic of complementary currencies is a rich and vast field, one well worth exploring given the times in which we live. There are many (thousands) of complementary currency systems already active and thriving around the world from which to garner lessons about what works, what doesn’t and why. An excellent first introduction to complementary currencies and how nature can inform their design to create incentives aligned with regenerative outcomes is the work of Bernard Lietaer (now unfortunately deceased). We will perform a deeper dive into complementary currency design for the Regenerative Agora in a later post in this Regenerative Economics series.
Cryptocurrency: A Means Of Exchange For The Agora
The advent of cryptocurrency with the release of Bitcoin’s source code in 2009 has represented a tremendous leap forward in the complementary currency space. Indeed, the potential exists to completely replace state-issued fiat currencies (which unsurprisingly has governments around the world quite alarmed). Following Bitcoin’s initial price run up in 2011 the number of ‘alternative’ cryptocurrencies began to proliferate rapidly, each offering different features and capabilities in a true agora of financial innovation.
There are a number of features that make cryptocurrency a very appealing means of transacting value for the Regenerative Agorist, and they are especially easy to appreciate when compared side-by-side with debt-backed central bank issued fiat currency. Below is a comparison of one cryptocurrency – Dash (stands for Digital Cash), an early fork of bitcoin with a special focus on privacy and use as a means of exchange – as it compares to a Federal Reserve note (the U.S. dollar).
|U.S. Federal Reserve Note
|DASH – Digital Cash
|Fixed currency supply?
|NO – The Fed creates more dollars whenever it wants by purchasing government-issued debt
|YES – only 18.9 million DASH will ever exist
|Fungible? (every unit is the same as every other unit)
|NO – physical bills are marked, traceable, can be tied to certain individuals, digital U.S. dollars are one of the most monitored currencies in the world
|YES – any unit of Dash is the same as any other unit of DASH (cannot be blacklisted)
|NO – The Federal Reserve is a private bank unbeholden to oversight
|YES – entire financial eco-system is on a public blockchain, anyone can verify transactions occurred as they were meant to
|YES – down to 1/100th of a unit (a penny)
|YES – DASH is divisible out to 1/millionth of a unit, allowing for micro-transactions and access no matter the currency price
|NO – the money in your bank account does not technically belong to you (see Cyprus bail ins), current legislation has paved the way for future bail-ins
|YES – Only you control the private keys to your DASH, far greater security available through cold storage, 2 Factor Authentication, hardware wallets and more.
|NO – it still takes days to transfer from bank to bank, or to wait for a check to clear
|YES – DASH supports InstantSend functionality, block times are 2.5 minutes, avg. transaction time is 1.3 seconds
|Store of Value?
|NOT A GOOD ONE – The dollar is the slowest falling currency currently of all national fiat currencies, therefore it has the appearance of strength, but ultimately the purchasing power of the dollar declines every year – this is by design, it has to function this way or the system collapses
|YES – DASH is capped at 18.9 million DASH that will ever exist. It is a deflationary currency, over time it will appreciate in value instead of depreciate
|PARTIALLY – Only cash-based peer-to-peer transactions are private. Digital dollar transactions are not private, heavily tracked, and rely upon 3rd parties (credit card companies, banks etc) that we are forced to trust.
|YES – DASH is completely peer-to-peer (P2P), and gives the individual user the choice of transacting transparently, privately, or anonymously.
|NO – forced trust of 3rd parties or P2P cash transactions prohibit anonymity
|YES – Transact securely across the globe with anyone in the world, neither individual has to know the other.
|Cost of Use?
|HIGH – transaction fees are high (3% credit cards, up to 10%+ for remittance, every time a dollar moves it is taxed)
|VERY LOW – Send $.10 or $10,000,000 worth of DASH across the planet in seconds for a few pennies.
Cryptocurrencies are still young and very much still in the ‘early adopter’ phase of their evolution. The precedent for peer-to-peer digital transaction has been set however, and the space continues to evolve rapidly, driven by the unceasing efforts of central banks around the world to create cashless societies with purely digital central bank currencies (not cryptocurrencies) that will enhance the Scope, Reach and Will of State power.
Onwards To The Regenerative Economy
The Regenerative Agora is already at work creating new ways to transact value outside the boundaries of State power, in service of Mother Earth, her people and creatures, and future generations.
We hope that you will join us for our next post in the Regenerative Economics series where we will be taking a deep dive into understanding cryptocurrencies as they pertain to the Regenerative Agorist and the Regenerative Agora. We hope you will join us for Crypto-Economics 101: Realigning Money With Natural Rights, Ecology and Peace – coming soon!.