I’m starting to wrap up my own life and legacy as a 71-year old grassroots activist, concerned citizen, and practical philosopher. Over the years, working on a wide variety of issues, especially in my cronehood, I’ve stumbled across a variety of missing links, gaps in our knowledge, obscure resources, and unknown activists. Taken all together, they’ve helped me develop a more holistic picture of a healthy political economy and a truly participatory democracy. My current version can be viewed on my webpage, Real Democracy.
More specifically, I’m being moved to craft a list of nine high-impact truths, terms, and frameworks that shed light on our current existential crises but that are (a) not taught in U.S. schools or (b) discussed in our mainstream public conversations (or even in our alternative media). I’m hoping that this list might be helpful to everyday journalists who write for everyday U.S. people, especially journalists in early- and mid-career. Hence, the title of this blog, Dear Annie Lowrey.
People who follow Annie Lowrey’s writing on economic policy probably agree that she has crafted a terrific career trying to make sense of the U.S. political economy that affects us all on a daily basis. On a weekly basis, she seems to have a knack for finding just the right issue to tackle in the moment, in plain words that articulate meaty and sophisticated observations.
Lowrey’s Wikipedia page doesn’t give any clues as to why she chose to write on the economy and politics (currently for The Atlantic). Nor does Wikipedia identify any particular expertise in economic policy. Maybe it’s that lack of topical indoctrination combined with her stellar writing, thinking, and feeling skills as an engaged adult that’s made her one of the most practical researchers and most accessible writers in that arena.
For all these reasons, I wish to thank Annie Lowrey for being the symbolic stand-in for journalists who might make use of my legacy list. Your careers and lives will unfold just as our 21st century political and economic crises continue to unfold and just as our confusion increase about language, reality, money, U.S. ideals, etc. I’m hoping that something in my list might help you connect even more dots, fill in even more blanks, and help you continue to help readers survive the great composting and rebuild. All of these items are in the public domain but don’t seem to be widely known.
The complete list is below, organized as follows:
Introduction: Our dead constitution
A. Political economy removed from U.S. high schools (1892)
B. Give People Money: Funded Sovereignty — the most logical version of Universal Basic Income
C. Follow the money? Better to follow the LACK of money! The money supply, The Money Question, the science of money, democratizing money
D. Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI): Alternative to GDP
E. Parity agriculture, par economy, steady state economics, stable purchasing power
F. Women’s Public Authority
G. Worsening interlocking crises in 2022: What’s really going on?
H. Connection between LIBERTY and RENEWABILITY OF LIFE
Without knowing how much longer I will be active, I do know that my website is paid up through Oct/Nov 2022, should anyone care to access this information before then.
INTRODUCTION: Our dead constitution
Reminder: No one alive in 2022 has ever ratified the U.S. Constitution, which was adopted in 1789 — 233 years (7.5 generations) ago.
—no woman has ever ratified the U.S. Constitution
—no Native American has ever ratified the U.S. Constitution
—no African-American has ever ratified the U.S. Constitution
For comparison, it’s worth noting that the constitution of the Haudenosaunee League — the model for the U.S.A. — had a 5-year sunset clause. In other words, every five years the Great Law of Peace was (may still be?) re-ratified. This created a living document, refreshed in real time as living conditions changed, with young adults seamlessly engaged in their nation’s political process and older adults regularly re-engaged.
With these truths in mind, I commend the following sub-truths to re-enliven our own political processes and, eventually, the U.S. Constitution, on behalf of all life. An alternative would be to just start over and rewrite the Constitution completely.
A. POLITICAL ECONOMY removed from U.S. high schools (1892)
Americans may be interested to learn that a youngish Woodrow Wilson (36-year old professor of history) had a great deal to do with removing critical thinking from American schools.
Per Prof. Lucille Eckrich, in 1892, Wilson proposed to a conference on U.S. school curriculum that “scientific history, involving criticism and examination of evidence, had no place in the schools, for it tended to confuse young people. Scientific history, he declared was college work and not school work” (King, 1964, p. 54). This proposition failed to pass, but another Wilson proposal passed unanimously: to exclude “formal instruction in political economy from school programs” (King).
According to Prof. Eckrich, “This explains why public high schools in the United States raised generations of students who know and think nothing about money and monetary systems. That this resolution was proposed by someone who not only went on to become president of Princeton University and then president of the United States but who signed the Federal Reserve Act into law [in 1913] is indicative of the well-paved road to internalized oppression (Freire, 2000) and ‘schooling in capitalist America’ (Bowles & Gintis, 1976) that the vast majority of Americans have trod for more than a century now.”
Details and more context in:
“Monetary Transformation and Education”
by Lucille Eckrich, Assoc. Professor of Education, Illinois State University (retired)
in The Neoliberal Agenda and the Student Debt Crisis in U.S. Higher Education
ed. by Nicholas D. Hartlep, Lucille L.T. Eckrich, Brandon O. Hensley (Routledge, 2017)
B. GIVE PEOPLE MONEY
Funded Sovereignty — the most logical version of UBI
Give People Money is the title of Annie Lowrey’s 2018 book, subtitled How a Universal Basic Income would End Poverty, Revolutionize Work, and Remake the World.
“Funded sovereignty” is my term for Universal Basic Income (UBI) for U.S. voters, which would subsidize regular civic engagement which, in turn might “end poverty, revolutionize work, and remake the world”. Thanks to Native American scholar Barbara Alice Mann for the original term “unfunded sovereignty” as quoted in my short blog, FUNDED SOVEREIGNTY: Universal basic income for participatory democracies.
C. FOLLOW THE MONEY? Better to follow the lack of money!
The money supply, The Money Question, the science of money, democratizing money
As our country and world becomes increasingly financialized, it’s harder and harder to make an honest living (e.g., mothers, farmers, teachers, small businesses). In addition to being forced to work at 2-3 jobs, more and more people are being forced to make money any way they can — i.e., to prostitute themselves in a variety of ways. Following the LACK of money might be a productive use of journalists’ time because it leads to the history of money and banking policy, the big black box at the core of our economy.
It turns out that, from colonial days to the 21st century, the U.S. has been a “laboratory” for the science of money, as described by the late Stephen Zarlenga in his 2002 book, The Lost Science of Money: The Mythology of Money, the Story of Power. Most of us have been guinea pigs as the idea of popular democracy — public sovereignty — fought with private bankers and the rich, white men who wanted to stay that way (and increase their power).
Most enlightening to me has been the understanding that U.S. history can be divided into two eras vis-a-vis The Money Question — who creates new U.S. money, how does it enter the economy, according to what rules? During the first era, colonial times through 1890s, The Money Question was the subject of regular civic discussion. In my lifetime (1951- present), The Money Question is only just now being resurrected. It was the Federal Reserve Act of 1913 that seemed to put the clamps on the public conversation for 100+ years, creating the big black box that we’re now trying to open and unpack.
Starting with Woodrow Wilson, the Federal Reserve Act (which gave the U.S. money power to private banks), and the absence of women’s public authority, this esoteric knowledge has enabled increasing income equality, ponzi schemes, bank bailouts, exponential corporate greed, tax cuts for the rich (the “one-way ratchet in favor of the top 1 percent”, David Dayen’s recent description of the Democrats’ tax policy), economic gobbledygook, etc. Most journalists, voters, and officials would do well to spend some time thinking about the money supply, etc.
1. Active Proposals
a. U.S. American Monetary Reform Act
—Nationalizes the Federal Reserve System
—Outlaws money creation by private entities (commercial banks, cryptocurrencies)
—Creates new U.S. Money Authority & U.S. Money (replacing Federal Reserve notes)
— Update of the 2012 NEED Act (D. Kucinich, J. Conyers)
— Being updated by Alliance For Just Money (Bloomington, IL)
— Being considered by League of Women Voters
Athens County, OH chapter made presentation and proposal to national convention (Denver 2022):
b. International coalition
Human rights complaint re money supply obstacles to implementation of ICESCR (International Covenant for Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights)
Thesis by Edgar Wortmann, for International Movement for Monetary Reform working group:
The present money system subjects people’s right of self-determination to limitations, and hampers free pursuit of their economic, social and cultural development. By supporting this money system, States do not enable the peoples to flourish to their full potential. They fail to sufficiently provide and maintain circulation of “State issued debt- and interest-free money” (hereafter: “sovereign money”). To the detriment of peoples they actively promote general use of “commercial debt money” (hereafter: “bank money”) instead.
2. Historical Resources
a. Sovereign of the Market: The Money Question in Early America (2017 book)
by Jeffrey Sklansky, history professor at U. of Illinois-Chicago
U. of Chicago Press
What should serve as money, who should control its creation and circulation, and according to what rules? For more than two hundred years, the “money question” shaped American social thought, becoming a central subject of political debate and class conflict. Sovereign of the Market reveals how and why this happened.
b. Monetary History Calendar
Weekly compendium of milestones, personalities, quotes, etc. relating to money creation
Compiled by Greg Coleridge, co-director, Move to Amend; board member, Alliance For Just Money
3. Blogs (2017-22) in reverse chronological order
THE MONEY QUESTION: Old and New
A CONUNDRUM: Transition to a Gift Economy — Who gifts to the mothers?
U.S. MONEY SUPPLY: Why the numbers ($$ + time) don’t add up — American Monetary Institute conference (Nov. 5-7, 2021)
THE MONEY QUESTION: When “friends, family, colleagues” pile on — AKA dignity is another word for justice
BLOOMBERG EDITOR: ’The Money Question’ is “nonsense” — my musings & Tweets after listening to a podcast on Bitcoin
PUBLIC BANKING: Testimony to Illinois General Assembly Committee
BANKING POLITICS & THE MONEY QUESTION: Recent resources for democracy activists
A COOK COUNTY PUBLIC BANK FOR CHICAGO + 130 SUBURBS — best practical option for 2021?
COVID CASH Part 2: “Evanston, IL Helicopter Money” — pilot project cover letter
Is Economics a Science? Not without Core Courses in “Money Mechanics” & “Public Money”
Monetary science and healing for white supremacists, Jews, and other confused Americans
D. GENUINE PROGRESS INDICATOR (GPI)
Alternative to GDP
Blog: GPI compared to GDP: A more honest, inclusive, & healthier economic metric
— U.S. bill: Rep. Ilhan Omar (MN)
— States adopted: VT, WA, HI, MD
— State bills: MN, OR
E. PARITY AGRICULTURE:
par economy, steady state economics, stable purchasing power
So far as I can tell, there are not many activists talking about a par economy, which would likely include price controls and other ways to stabilize purchasing power of money. But current U.S. law still promotes parity agriculture (though unenforced since the 1960s ?) and many farmers are still seeking new enforcement.
My own journey into the study of money began with a question about pricing when I was 10 (in 1961). The first discount store in our neighborhood was opening, creating tremendous buzz. I could not understand how there could be different kinds of pricing in a society of good faith, goodwill, and good sense. Sixty-one years later I still can’t. My 23-page autobiography provides details.
NORM National Organization of Raw Materials
Randy Cook, President (fruit farmer, Michigan)
Clarity on Parity
George & Patti Naylor (Iowa farmers)
CASSE Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy
2. Resources on my website
a. My autobiography
The Money Question, the Democracy Answer
Counting pennies, votes, and soil particles: Learning and Liberation
b. Parity Agriculture
National Food & Farm Resources
F. WOMEN’S PUBLIC AUTHORITY
The most obvious missing link in our U.S. policy-making institutions is the absence of adult human female authority. Thanks to indigenous North American women for pointing this out, e.g., Prof. Barbara Alice Mann (Bear Clan, Seneca; U. of Toledo) and Jeanette Armstrong (Okanagan; British Columbia), and to the indigenous nations for providing models of this authority that is central to any healthy and thriving human group.
1. Blog: My latest version
Women’s Public Authority: The only equality worth fighting for (the only separatism that’s sustainable)
Most of my blogs on this topic (2018-21) are included in Section D.
2. Blog in process
Women’s Public Authority: The Rights and Authority of Mother Earth/Mother Nature
a. Legacy of Mothers: Matriarchies and the Gift Economy as a Post-Capitalist Alternative
2021 international anthology
b. Maternal Gift Economy Movement
bi-weekly salons with international scholars, activists
G. WORSENING INTERLOCKING CRISES IN 2022:
What’s really going on?
I find these terms useful to convey awareness of the historical inevitability and seriousness of our current existential crises — climate chaos, growing inequality (economic, political, social), loss of biodiversity, chronic personal and community trauma.
—The Great Composting:
My term for the necessary collapse of our current confused institutions (misogyny, capitalism, violence)
Term used by shamans, e.g., Sandra Ingerman
—The Majesty of Decay
Term by Martin Prechtel indicating the sacredness of decay and decomposition (as part of renewing life)
—The Time of the Vulture
Term by Kay Cordell Whitaker describing our era: cleaning up the carrion, garbage, etc.
H. CONNECTION BETWEEN LIBERTY and the renewability of life
Of all the aha! moments I’ve had about the universe, I think this articulation is the most profound and amazing. Not surprisingly, it was made by some indigenous people, the Mohawks of North America, in a 2005 book, Basic Call to Consciousness (p. 123):
“The renewable quality—the sacredness of every living thing, that which connects human beings to the place they inhabit—that quality is the single most liberating aspect of our environment. Life is renewable and all the things that support life are renewable, and they are renewed by a force greater than any government’s, greater than any living thing or historical thing. A consciousness of the web that holds all things together, the spiritual element that connects us to reality and the manifestation of that power to renew that is present in the existence of an eagle or a mountain snow fall, that consciousness was the first thing that was destroyed by the colonizers.”
Many of us talk and write about the web of life, but we don’t talk about the apparent “automaticity” with which the web operates — as long as the components and interconnections exist and function. I call this the reality of all realities.
To get the full impact of this reality — the connection between our freedom and the automatic way in which life renews itself — imagine how unfree astronauts in space are: 100% dependent on human technology for air, water, food, warmth, and waste management and theoretically dependent on an impossibility — the human ability to stay awake indefinitely to keep things running and respond to technological breakdowns.
So far as I can see, the question of ownership in an egalitarian, democratic society is not being effectively addressed in all of its nuances. I myself have not had the opportunity to grapple with it at length. Whenever the issue comes up in my work, I fall back on two resources that keep me grounded, even as I can’t make further progress in terms of a practical solution to ownership of the commons, concentrated ownership, foreign ownership, etc.
Fund for Democratic Communities: Whitfield uses his “water holes and fishin’ poles” metaphor to discuss how the current economic system we operate within is fundamentally designed to prevent communities from developing their own wealth and directing their own future.
2. Haudenosaunee League: Women “own” the land and the soil
From “Slow Runners” by Barbara Alice Mann, pp. 96-97
One of four essays in Make a Beautiful Way: The Wisdom of Native American Women
Edited by Barbara Alice Mann (Univ. of Nebraska Press, 2008)
Barbara Alice Mann is professor of humanities at University of Toledo
Bear clan, Seneca
Traditionally speaking, in the East [east of the Mississippi], Our Mother, the Earth, is emphatically female. Among the Iroquois, for instance, Mother Earth is the Daughter of Sky Woman, for whom the female Turtle Island (North America) was made in the first place. The female descendants of that First Daughter continue to “own” the land, even as her male descendants “own” the Sky. It is recorded in the Iroquois Constitution [Great Law of Peace] that “Women shall be considered the progenitors of the Nation. They shall own the land and the soil.” Furthermore, the women alone, control identity among both born and adopted citizens. These same laws are followed by all Eastern nations. Consequently, in the East, anyhow, Native women are the sole, appropriate arbiters of land and identity, for it is women’s feet that always remain planted firmly on Mother Earth, whereas men’s fly up to Brother Sky.
3. “The earth belongs to labor”
I just came across this quote from an interview with Prof. Mike Davis. The interviewer (Mohsen Abdelmoumen) asked Davis: “You call yourself ‘an old socialist’. Can you tell us why?”
Davis’s first of three claims is: “First, socialism — the belief that the earth belongs to labor — is my moral being. In fact it is my religion, the values that anchor the commitments that define my life.”
I don’t really know what Prof. Davis means by this statement, but I sense there’s something meaningful and practical in it — and not just vis-a-vis the means of production. Here’s the June 26, 2022 Tweet with the entire quote.