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Resource-based Economy

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[edit] Introduction

The Resource-based Economy (RBE) concepts propose a way to abandon money and the speculation with it; and get back to resources directly without the involvement of money as a regulatory tool. It assumes that with today's technology it would be possible to measure and store the quantity of a certain good, and connect with the demand or requirement side and share the resources, and skip the speculative and profit aspect in the exchange.

The term itself "Resource-based Economy" was adapted from The Antigonish Movement of Canada's Resource Based Communities concept and later reintroduced by Jacques Fresco, who also initiated The Venus Project (TVP), the term was then adapted by other groups, such as The Zeitgeist Movement (TZM), People 4 Social Sustainability (PSS), The Resource Based Economy Foundation, and The Technocracy Movement.

A brief explanation of RBE:

"A Resource-Based Economy is a system in which all goods and services are available without the use of money, credits, barter or any other system of debt or servitude. All resources become the common heritage of all of the inhabitants, not just a select few. The premise upon which this system is based is that the Earth is abundant with plentiful resources; our practice of rationing resources through monetary methods is irrelevant and counter productive to our survival."
--- from The Venus Project (TVP): Resource-based Economy

Another key element:

Abundance, Efficiency and Sustainability are, very simply, the enemies of profit. This scarcity logic also applies to the quality of goods. The idea of creating something that could last, say, a lifetime with little repair, is anathema to the market system, for it reduces consumption rates, which slows growth and creates systemic repercussions (loss of jobs, etc.). The scarcity attribute of the market system is nothing but detrimental for these reasons, not to mention that it doesn't even serve the role of efficient resource preservation, which is often claimed.
--- from The Zeitgeist Movement (TZM): FAQ
Earth (view on North America)

RBE is promoted by various groups and might differ in the details but agree on the following:

  • common holding of land by the people
  • common holding of the means of production
  • common holding of the resources
  • common distribution of consumables / goods / commodities and so on
  • automation of the manufacturing process i.e. resources into semi-consumables and semi-consumables into consumables
  • beyond the use of money, credit, barter, exchange, and all forms of interest bearing debt
  • post-scarcity system of shared social abundance

Resource-based Economy (RBE) emphasizes the availability of the resource itself and proposes to abandon money as a value system, and value the resource directly (how this is done in detail is not explained). It assumes all resource-based needs can be satisfied with the technological achievement we made as humans. It certainly addresses the issue of survival conditions which we as humans developed in early times, and which are now no longer useful; hence, developing an awareness and consciousness of sufficiency or even abundance and away from scarcity.

The shift within the value system is significant - a "Common Goods" approach. The following "Criticism" section below is more detailed and is also written out as a hint to refine the RBE concept further.

[edit] Criticism

[edit] Missing Essential Details

One major critique on RBE is, that it is scarce in details, and skips the very detail of how resources are shared:

"A Resource-Based Economy utilizes existing resources rather than money, and provides an equitable method of distribution in the most humane and efficient manner for the entire population. It is a system in which all natural, man-made, machine-made, and synthetic resources would be available without the use of money, credits, barter or any other form of symbolic exchange."

What is equitable method? What about demand? Demand as such doesn't mean overreach or overuse, the demand or requirement is not equitable: it may be of some resource someone has no use for, or even more, doesn't want. Demand cannot be neglected - sole focus on equitable sharing remains on the surface of the issue.

[edit] Value, Price & Costs

For example, quote from The Venus Project:

"The intents inherent within the monetary system are counterproductive and derive a strategic edge from scarcity. This means that depleted resources are actually a positive thing, as more money can be made from each respective unit. This is known as the basic law of "supply and demand," and hence "value," in economics. This creates a perverse reinforcement to ignore environmental problems, and perpetuates an inherent disregard for human well-being."

Value indeed is derived from supply and demand - the assumption that something with high demand and little supply has high value and therefore more money can be made from it - and that it further creates a reinforcement to ignore environmental problems is an oversimplification, let us look at the two aspects separately:

  • high value and therefore price to be paid (speak "money exchanged") is the logic to weigh or qualify the use of a resource - that as such isn't a problem (see money just as a value or a number, neglecting for a moment manipulation of supply and demand)
  • the problem neglecting environmental impact is the cost (or effect and overhead to resolve) of the pollution, hence, the requirement to make all costs known, so called "True Costs" which, if applied wholesomely, would counter-balance and make some practices impossible due to the high costs of the environmental impact.

In other words, it isn't a problem that we assign price or a value to a resource, but the lack of a complete view of how much some influences cost: neglecting or having others (like the government and at the end the people as whole) pay the price (and this is the overall work required to perform) of cleaning up or re-naturalizing a place which has been (ab-)used - just this small example shows: the layer of money isn't really involved here, but the value we assign to things we require; and how far we observe the impact of our actions, see also Permaculture.

The Zeitgeist Movement FAQ is more thorough:

You will notice the term "strategically best" was used ... This qualification means that goods are created with respect to the state of affairs of the planetary resources, with the quality of materials used based on an equation taking into account all relevant attributes, rates of depletion, negative retro-actions and the like. In other words, we would not blindly use titanium for, say, every single computer enclosure made, just because it might be the "strongest" materials for the job. That narrow practice could lead to depletion. Rather, there would be a gradient of material quality which would be accessed through analysis of relevant attributes - such as comparable resources, rates of natural obsolescence for a given item, statical usage in the community, etc. These properties and relationships could be accessed through programming, with the most strategically viable solution computed and output in real time. It is mere issue of calculation.

Now, that calculation, that formula is the key of the entire concept, and it's not developed and written out. The overall calculation of supply and demand and how the goods are shared, is omitted entirely.

In essence, RBE proposes a computer-based rational replacement of the otherwise tainted ingenuity of human survival instinct, which to some degree we have overcome as some aspect of it no longer serves such immanent purpose in a high resource availability - e.g. realizing there is enough for anyone. Since the detail which decision making aspect is relayed to a machine and a computer-based system (and what calculations/formulas are used), and what aspect remains in the hands of humans (e.g. analysts who suspect or speculate on higher demands based on current developments of a certain technology, something a computer-based system cannot do), one cannot determine how feasible such a proposed RBE actually is.

[edit] Underestimating Complexity

At the surface the sharing of resources looks simple, yet, in reality the resources availability is subject to fluctuations, long and complex supply chain to build products and on the other side the demand for resources and products varies as well. In the videos of the The Zeitgeist Movement (TZM) it is suggested to comprehend all natural resources, and match the demand for those at a central hub or database, but the actual details as pointed out above, are not shared or communicated.

The Venus Project RBE Concept
However, for the sake of overview, it can be stated that the first step is a Full Global Survey of all earthly resources. Then, based on a quantitative analysis of the properties of each material, a strategically defined process of production is constructed from the bottom up, using such variables as negative retro-actions, renew-ability, etc. (More on this can be found in the section called Project Earth in the ZM lecture called "Where Are We Going?") Then consumption statistics are accessed, rates of depletion monitoring, distribution logically formulated, etc. In other words, it is a full Systems Approach to earthly resource management, production and distribution, with the goal of absolute efficiency, conservation and sustainability. Given the mathematically defined attributes, as based on all available information at the time1), along with the state of technology at the time, the parameters for social operation in the industrial complex become self evident, with decisions arrived at by way of computation, not human opinion2). This is where computer intelligence3) becomes an important tool for social governance, for only the computation ability/programming of computers can access and strategically regulate such processes efficiently, and in real time. This technological application is not novel, it is simply 'scaled out' from current methods already known.
--- from The Zeitgeist Movement: FAQ: Technological Unification of Earth via "Systems" Approach

Regarding the enumerated issues:

  1. Available information at the time: the now time, what about forecasts for the next weeks or months or years? e.g. cyclic developments? That is very hard to guess by a computer, but human reason and experience cannot be replaced here by computers and sole mathematical calculations.
  2. This is a very dangerous argumentation, human reason and opinion rated lower than computers - computers can help to calculate complex formulas, but the final decision has to stay with humans.
  3. Computer intelligence, it's rather computational ability, since intelligence has not been implemented in computers, and artificial intelligence (AI) has been announced to be just 10-20 years away, but this has been so for the last 50 years.

That quoted paragraph from the TZM FAQ above reveals a technocratic naivety and technology belief and diminishing the human ability in this context.

What TZM currently calls "System's Approach" is a broad conceptual framework, with little details, whereas Permaculture formulates truly a (w)holistic way to handle resources and the relation with Earth - and, there are existing communities applying those concepts in the real world, and thereby verifying and refining the concepts further.

It is clear, that RBE addresses core issues and the core value system, and The Zeitgeist Movement and The Venus Project, who first worked together but now go separate ways, have stirred up the otherwise dormant discussion about a possible resource-based economy.

[edit] Competition vs Co-operation

RBE suggests to move away from competitive behaviour to a cooperative behaviour - as pointed out in Income, in order to overcome competitive behaviour or also the influence of pure greed, another ideal has to move up the priority list or in the common value system:

  • due proven example, e.g. Open Source has shown its success (Linux, Android, Firefox web-browser to name just three), but also areas of failure (fragmentation and failure of the Open Source Desktop).
  • understanding where competition helps to sort out variants or sorting options, and where cooperation is prefered to succeed.

It has been in the past one major factor why many socio-political concepts and thought-out systems have not worked, as a doctrine was pushed from the top down and it was expected the people would follow, and neglecting old thought patterns in their consideration. E.g. communism never really worked, as the human factor to accumulate power and rule over others counter-acted with the idealism of the idea itself. The best way to introduce a system is by the practice of it by those who believe in it (e.g. Open Source or Permaculture movements), not to push it onto people or a society as such - the resistance will come and the concepts, noble they may be, will fail to be adapted.

[edit] Humanistic RBE

As pointed out above, the TVP and TZM view on RBE is a rather mechanistic and technocratic solution, and lacks some of the humanistic, spiritual and holistic perspectives, fortunately there are also other groups who work on developing RBE further with a large scope, like The Resourcebased Economy.com:

As there is a lot of talk about technology, design, architecture and the like this website (TheResourcebasedEconomy.com) tries to discuss the term ‘resource based economy’ from a human perspective based on existing and possible future values on this planet. When this website was formed, one found almost nothing about a resource based economy online in spite of the websites of The Venus Project and The Zeitgeist Movement. This site was made to remedy that. Still, the term ‘resource based economy’ can be replaced/overlapped by many other terms.
Resource based economy (RBE), Natural Resources Economy, Resource Economy, Moneyless Economy (MLE), Love Eased Economy (LBE), Gift Economy (GE), Priceless Economic System (PES), Trust Economy (TE), Sharing Society, Resource Based Society, Moneyless Society, Love Based Society, etc. etc. It is all the same thing. It doesn’t really matter what we call it, as long as it has the basic notion of an economic system where no money is used, ownership and trade is abandoned and replaced with usership and giving and all resources (both human and planetary) are shared and managed properly. On this site we will mainly use the term Resource Based Economy. We could add ‘Gift’ in the title (Resource Based Gift Economy), to emphasize that on a local micro level, we need to simply give and share our personal resources, while we at the same time, on a global macro level, manage global resources.
--- from The Resource-based Economy.com: About

A simple definition for RBE from the same web-site:

“A resource-based economy is a society without money, barter or trade,
with the awareness that Humanity is One family and where technology, science and spirituality
is used to it’s fullest to develop and manage the planet’s resources
to provide abundance for everyone in the most sustainable way.”

It further addresses the mindset and the consciousness to live in such a RBE system:

RBE is not an ‘establishment of a system’, but rather the emergence of a system, coming from it’s citizens and not from any ‘rulers’, as there are no rulers in RBE. That it is an emergent system is crucial to understand. It is not a top down system, but a bottom up system based on a shift in mindset of the population.
--- from The Global Gift Economy is Here: Comments

And specifically speaks of a continual emergence of a system of self imposed management of human and natural resources both locally and globally where the following happens:

  • money is replaced by gratitude
  • trading is replaced by sharing and
  • ownership is replaced by usership

in a way where everyone’s needs are met.

Currently responsibility and ownership are closely tied together; in other words, you care about things you own; things you don't own you don't usually care, even avoid to get involved because it's considered "none of my business". In a RBE system, where there is no or little individual ownership but owned by the collective, the responsibility and the will to take care of and maintain things would be entirely new: you care for the things you use, but don't personally own. As described in the Gift Economy, a sense of family and intimacy among those who share things to use and not own privately has to emerge.

[edit] Directivist RBE

See Directivism for explanation, essentially affirming the abandonement of the monetary layer to handle resources.

People 4 Social Sustainability (PSS) also has picked up (August 2011) the term from its predecessor "The Promethean Workers Association (PWA)" a movement that drew ideas largely from Robert Anton Wilson's "Prometheus Rising" and on Gnosticism, Discordianism, Metaphysics, and RBE that publically accepted neophytes/ initiates as a movement/ tradition from 2004-2010. PSS adapted PWA's version of RBE and separated it from the more mystical tradition based New Aeon view's of The PWA. The Directivist RBE was then defined beyond its initial purely mystical basis as a more idealistic and philosophical view point with an open and secular spiritual view point:

  • An economic system based on direct-common ownership of land, resources, production, distribution, and allocation, characterized through non-usury (monetary) intelligent management of resources for common consumer social abundance rather than profit-based scarcity (Capitalism) or need-based scarcity (Socialism).
  • A gift economy in which the need for money, barters, or exchange is surpassed by the development of advanced earth-based technologies.
  • A post-scarcity society in which shared social abundance replaces the implied and artificial social notions of resource scarcity.
(In Directivist Theory) An essential third way post-monetary developmental stage achieved through the abolishment of state-property-centered and private-property-centered economic systems.
  • A) An application of alchemy towards the solving of social problems with earth based technology.
  • B) A guaranteed focus on the spiritual transcendence of society towards ascension and greater heights of spiritual understanding.
  • C) Guaranteed direct access by all to the means of all necessary production
  • D) Directly Democratic and technical assisted facilitation of resource management, utilization, and distribution.
  • E) Election of Alchemists to develop ways to relieve society from the burdens of menial labor and allow all members of society to engage in creative, fulfilling social endeavors
  • F) Use of Energy Credits to track renewability of resources and give a share of social abundance to everyone

They also researched the historic origin of the origin of the RBE concept.

[edit] Replacing Money

In order to replace money and trading with gratitude and sharing one has to look closely what happens now: there is no exchange of equal good or representation of thereof but just an acknowledgement of having received: gratitude and the actual act of sharing, handing over the resource. This is only possible, when the exchange is otherwise stored or logged: the party who shares one item has to maintain an inventory, since material resources are finite to one who gives has one less in his inventory, and the one who received has one more.

[edit] Inventory Aspect of Money

Inventory Quality of Money

Why is this important? As pointed out in Abundance, energy cannot be destroyed, only transformed from one form to another; and so also matter, it cannot be destroyed as such. When one good (matter) is handed over, it usually moves from one place to another, let us assume this is food: an apple, that apple is picked from the tree, stored in the RBE supermarket and leaves the facility and is shared (handed-over) to the one who desires the apple. This person eats (consumes) it, part of the food (matter) is transformed as nutrition into energy for the human body to function, another part leaves the body as feces. The feces once transformed into compost can be used as nutrition for plants, e.g. an apple tree again. Is it important to trace the goods? Yes, because as RBE suggests a high degree of efficiency and that we actually are living in abundance as a result of that efficiency: having the things we need, where we are. In order to provide the resources where we are, we need to know where they are, and how big a required transportation vehicle is necessary to move them.

At best, the cycle of energy/matter is so small, that one lives on a farm, where one plants, reaps and consumes the goods, and the feces are transformed into compost and put back on the fields (see Humanure as holistic concept) - a closed cycle, with little transportation and requirement for inventory: the earth or ground is not moved or displaced, and the people consume what they plant, an almost closed system in this regard.

Centralized Database in RBE

The larger the distance between sourcing resources and consumption, the greater the need to maintain an inventory, in order to organize the way back to establish a closed cycle - this leads then also to the abandonment of (the idea or concept of) garbage as such entirely - there is no waste as such to put aside, it is matter/energy which is necessary to stay useful in the cycle and not get lost, for sake of the sustainability.

So, money operates as anonymous inventory or regulatory tool for resources, without money the mechanism of the inventory aspect of money has to put forward to a storage facility, which traces or computes where which resource is; that is the reason why a central computerized database or cybernetic construct is required in a RBE system: the inventory is centralized, no longer anonymously reflected in the use of money.

People 4 Social Sustainability: RBE Transition suggests following as transition:

Establishment of the Energy Economy
Institution and creation of the global Time – Energy Metric or TEM is the first step towards implementing a Resource Based Economy. These energy credits would replace all forms of money and would be nothing like currency, money, gold, silver, trade, exchange or barter. What they will be is an energy unit of distribution a means to distribute shared abundance to everyone who needs it. For some, this idea of energy credits may conjure up images of Star Trek but in all practicality the way they would work is that they would first be backed by energy. The sorts of energy that would back them would be human, earth and the most basic unit of their value would be the calorie. Consumer goods then would be valued by how much energy would go into their production, relating to labor, fuel and the materials which themselves also require energy to produce. Energy can neither be created nor destroyed, it always exists in some form. Our new system of energy would allow the use of former accounting and auditing practices to determine how much energy it would take to replace a resource in use.

See also

[edit] Projective Quality of Money

Money, when it was first introduced, was a replacement for resources, no longer direct barter of resources but an abstraction of a resource or good. It also permitted another aspect: projection, an expectation and trust into the future. Today this is known as credit (the aspect of optional interest is disregarded in this consideration), for example used in mortgage or larger projects which exceed the savings of an average individual. If money would be replaced, how would such projective quality be translated - how would a group agree to give attention, work and resources to something which may take years, or even decades to complete?

RBE could also be viewed as a "common goods" approach (which it actually is), all resources or goods would be common. Assuming a 20-year plan, e.g. to build a settlement on Mars for humans, how would one proceed?

[edit] Resource Allocation

A clearly defined plan for the future use of resources would be required, and, depending on the decision process (e.g. democractic or consensus-oriented) the resources are then allocated for that project. Since the material resources would be common-goods, the decision process would involve the common: everyone.

[edit] Personal Working Commitment

It would be like making an advertising for your time and work contribution (alike Open Source projects), asking for your commitment to work for that goal. What would be the incentive to stay at some work then if there is no payment? The incentive would be: you believe in what you are doing, and the goal does make sense for you to contribute time, effort and work.

How about professions, for which the work and tasks were not yet able to automate with machines, and are also not very popular (insufficient volunteers to perform that task)? See Gift Economy also.

[edit] Business Transparency

Part of the personal work commitment and the common goods approach would also impact what today is known as business secrets becoming open, an Open (Source) Business approach; you would literally see where the project stands, what the milestones are, not just in the group you are in, but the overall plan; and you would know directly what you are doing makes sense here and there to achieve or meet certain milestones, and you would be able to review your involvement almost on a daily-basis. Instead of being survival driven to pay your bills, you would work perhaps enthusiastically for such a project - it would unleash a layer of motivation which otherwise is dormant for many people doing their jobs nowadays.

[edit] Frameworks

Concrete frameworks do not exist, which is the weakest aspect of RBE, yet, there are many attempts to concretize the ideas.

[edit] Computer Science Principles for RBE

Computer Science as Resource Management by Ryan Salisbury, approaching RBE via computer science analogy; an online discussion on the article is available here (via Google Docs), core ideas:

  • combining Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) at producer level
  • abandonment of price, but maintain supply and demand numbers, equal consideration of demands
  • inner currency to compare overheads undefined

[edit] Information Money

Franz Hoermann has formulated an Information Money in which he describes a transitional system, between a money-based system and a resource-based moneyless system like RBE.

[edit] Examples

Concrete implementations and description of such an RBE system aren't available yet.

[edit] Occupy Camps as RBE/Common Goods Experiments

Many of the Occupy camps in 2011/2012 operated partially on RBE/common-goods basis:

  • nobody owned the camp, it was owned by all
  • tasks were assigned by choice: people with good rhetorical skills became communicators for the press/media; people good at building physical facilities joined the builder group, and those with cooking skills cooked, and so on.
  • tasks such as washing dishes were announced, and voluntarily done; if the washing wasn't done, dirty dishes remained, and each one had to clean it: it was realized it was more efficient use of resources (hot water) to wash all dishes in batches, instead individual; in a smaller camp it turned out individual self-reliant washing dishes was more effective.
  • you joined Occupy because you wanted to aid the cause, and so you brought yourself in where your skills were - at no income, as the daily needs were covered: food, shelter and social association.
  • personal tents belonged to the individual, some tents were common-goods (e.g. donated)
  • food (people outside the camp who bought stuff, farmers who harvested the food themselves) and money was donated - yet, no money was shared or used personally, but used to obtain or get something done outside of the perimeter of the camp (e.g. how a small RBE community could operate)
  • the place was considered common-good: occupied

Immaterial resources were created such as community, concepts, ideas (this web-site), activism, yet could not produce immediate material goods, where the actual challenge lies.

[edit] See Also

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