Economy – Change towards Human Rights

This post, like my last one, was also written in response to many detailed thoughts on Positive Money.

I believe we want, and need, a systemic structural change towards Human Rights.

Possibly you do too. Let’s start with that horrible accusatory saying “Get a Life”, not saying it to you who are making contributions, but to ask you what it implies about the way people function, doing whatever it is that they do. How is ‘get a life’ relevant to all the detailed discussion about savings, taxes, hoarding, circulating, interest, etc.?

What is meant by telling someone to ‘get a life’ is often something like “what are you spending your time and energy on that for? Is it actually what you need to be doing? Even though it is important, even though we all know that attention here has to be spent, sometime”.

The thread here on Positive Money is referring to “people” the public, the bankers, the great unwashed, government, [name your group here], AS IF they made their decisions about savings and interest and which bank to use ON RATIONAL GROUNDS. AS IF they even attended to this sort of thing when they make their decisions, instead of just taking a bit of notice temporarily, and doing what a friend suggests. As well as there being differing aspects to the detail, I think this is one underlying reason why we can’t ever agree. The focus is neither on what really happens, nor on what needs to be done. Our viewpoints are too various.

Do not get me wrong, “rational” is very important in the proper place, a definite part of creating change. It is needed if someone wants to design a better structural system within which all those people and groups end up functioning in whatever rational/irrational way they will function whether you like it or not. I do not think Positive Money contributions are thinking enough about the kind of structural system that allows the variety to work in the same direction, including those who are not convinced at all, the people elected to create changes. Here in the Positive Money forum the intention is to debate ways forward. It seems that first we should be accurate about where we are, and then see what is most likely to come next. My point is that hardly anyone (except the posters on this thread and the financial industry and media) pays any attention to the detail of these financial matters, not because they are inattentive, nor because they are unaware, but because their attention is on other things – they are living a life.

Real life:

Thirty years ago I needed a new bank as I had moved to a different job, different city. Picked the branch of a High Street bank in walking distance from the new job. Paid attention, did the transfer etc. Now, same bank account, most of my financial matters go via that, the bank is a subsidiary of someone else, the branch doesn’t exist, I wouldn’t want it anyway as I am not in that job any more, but whether I like their policies, overdraft charges, online systems (that I happen to use more than any other of their functions) savings accounts, credit cards, I am at the moment not going to change. I did have savings and credit cards at a different institution but they became the same, so I got another place I can funnel stuff towards (Ha Ha this is not the tale of large quantities of stuff) No real change. Even if I knew how, the effort, the trouble, the numbers of entities that would have to be informed… the small %increase in my £££ dosh is not how I want to spend my time, so I don’t. None of this is foolish, It just doesn’t deserve my detailed attention. IMO any other “High Street bank” would have been similar, and would have morphed forward with my needs in similar ways.

Don’t others also function like this? Am I odd?

Savings accounts – people pay some attention at different times for different “necessities” from needing to think ahead for the school fees, to the holiday, to greater or lesser quantities, for more or less desperate needs. I have never met anyone who even spends more than a very small proportion of their time assessing the best way to amass/keep/increase the savings. Their view of ‘best’ is personally variable, but more to my point is that once the decision is made, their attention goes off to somewhere else entirely. How they will judge the school? Where they will go for the holiday? What to get for Mum’s birthday?… the amount of money saved can be a constraint, but the how it was saved is no longer what is attended to.

Same story re someone I knew who belonged to a “shares and investment club”. None of them paid more attention to the movement of shares than they felt it warranted, they were more interested in what they were doing it for, thinking of their children, their life styles, the next golf game, whatever.

Now, corporations and banks KNOW this about how people pay attention only sporadically, and they know they are more often irrational than rational in making decisions. Why else in the past twenty years would the ‘fashion’ for great offers for new accounts have developed? Why do current adverts e.g. for ‘apps’ say “more you-time”? Were the offers and apps there to create jobs for media finance editors, who play the field as if it were the racing pages? No, they exist because people will NOT be paying attention, they exist to appeal to a feel-good factor. Even where individuals are finance savvy, there will be a time lag between when the offer runs out, and when the money is moved, even a charge for moving. Similarly “great new offers” from corporations e.g. Virgin Media, etc. before the regular rate kicks in. Many people, like me, simply can’t be bothered, though I am glad when an organization like ”Which” pays attention to this time lag practice/get the consumers in, rather than acting as the finance pages do to give ‘best account for this week’ comparisons.

Hence if we accept that ‘get a life’ implies that most of the time we use our money in a tacit knowledge space, seldom in an attention space, how can Positive Money contribute its perspective effectively?

  • First we agree that the present international money system is abysmally failing.
  • Second, although there are places in which proposals for the creation of a different money system are put forward (here and elsewhere), local communities where something such as ‘scrip’ has started fail when they interact with the wider system, as they must do from time to time, for some kinds of commodities.
  • Third, not only can we in Positive Money not agree which proposal is best, others, including quite well informed politicians, say we can’t create change that way, that practicality in the present is the only option.
  • Fourth, the international community can’t even get together effectively to deal with environmental destruction, climate change, or devastating wars, displaced civilians. What hope that they will ever reach agreement about that thing that is their currency … money?

Oops. Round in another circle. Negative. Ooops.

Think laterally, out of the box.

The world has dealt with structural change before. We do not need detail …yet… we need the reason for changing the structure, world-wide.

“Therefore THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY proclaims THIS UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction.”

“Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law”

Yes – from the United Nations – http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/index.shtml#atop

Whether or not countries have managed to fulfil their obligations, they have frequently managed to put some of the changes needed into their statute books. I am thinking of the Civil Rights laws, the Gender Equality Laws, and the antiracism, anti-discriminatory practice laws. These exist under different names in different countries, cultural practice may well have a long way to go, but where the law exists, so too does redress, however limited its teeth. [If you should be thinking West – good, other – not so good, google recent reports from Ferguson, Missouri, or closer to home, Yarl’s Wood detention Centre, or Women’s Rights Legislation in Pakistan.]

Sometimes, legislation follows cultural change, but often it may be the other way round.

It is salutary to realize that the UN declaration does not directly consider any monetary system. There is no “right” to an economics that would outlaw financial exploitation or usury. The nearest I could find were open to interpretation:

Article 22.

  • Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled to realization, through national effort and international co-operation and in accordance with the organization and resources of each State, of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality.

Article 25.

  • (1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.
  • (2) Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.

Article 28.

  • Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized.

[I could, maybe will, write another post on Article 25 (1 and 2). This is where “dependence”, an essential of human experience, is rooted.]

That Human Rights are protected by the Rule of Law is a structural change.

Could we start by campaigning strongly for the principles in Article 25, A Rights Economics Act. What about the following?

  • Law that capped the cost of an adequate home in relation to average salary, hence would limit the rise in house price or rent (Switzerland example)
  • Law that entitled all to minimum allowance – without means testing
  • Law against exploitation (offends dignity) that could be against Usury: the lending, or practice of lending, money at an exorbitant amount or rate of interest, especially in excess of the legal rate. That would mean setting a legal rate.
  • Law against making money from money – there are economists who can express this properly – the use of return on investment to make further, secondary even tertiary investment in money rather than return it to the productive economy of infrastructure, goods and services (drains the organization and resources of each State).

What laws can you suggest that make Article 25 a reality within which no-one need pay (much) attention?

What economic practices at the moment mean that Article 25 can only be adhered to by continual offsetting adjustments being required, to the detriment of all?

At the moment our Laws and practice concerning economy are akin to saying we will not have a law against slavery, or we will not have a law against corporal punishment of children, but oh yes, we deplore nasty bad treatment of individuals and every time that happens we will see if the individual complains enough for us to pay attention. Or maybe they died.

Back to the beginning of this long post:

Most of the time, living a life, we do not want to have to pay attention. We want the STRUCTURE of our society to be the kind of framework that allows us to do that.

Examine every regulation on banking, taxes, property, social security, etc. to see how it stands up for or against Article 25.

Campaign for Law in Economy that furthers Human Rights.

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