“The miracle is this – the more we share, the more we have”
Leonard Nimoy – actor, director, photographer, author, singer, songwriter and Spock
The commons may be best summed up as access over ownership, with collective responsibility
Go back far enough, & everything was a commons, the air, the water, the land, nature’s abundance, shared among indigenous tribes, nurtured with future generations in mind. At some point however, someone said, ‘this land is mine and mine alone’; followed swiftly by, ‘this land is mine, you work for me’. Arguably it has been all downhill since then
Slowly but surely over millennia, the commons has been relentlessly squeezed, by markets on one side and the state on the other, working together but with shifting degrees of emphasis, enclosing everything for private profit, turning the natural world into either a product or a service, packaged, and sold back to us, just as long as we can afford it
Our innate propensity to share and to cooperate around the commons has been subjugated by the necessity to compete for survival. Put simply, the world has turned into one giant game of Monopoly
What makes this game different from all other games is a much repeated message that it is supposed to go on forever, and if we will all just keep playing, and not question or challenge the rules of the game, then somehow, miraculously we can all win. All around us, evidence would suggest otherwise
For a while, whilst we exploited the earth for all it was worth with no thought for the consequences, the message may have appeared true to many, as we bought into a mass consumer culture with a very narrow materialistic definition of success that atomised us all into individual units of production and consumption
Today however, there is a growing sense that this game, like all games, is indeed coming to an end, especially as the awareness grows that our planet, where the game is played out, is not happy with us
And so more and more of us are seeking out a new game, genuinely conducive to all our needs, as well as to all other living things, and our biosphere. The irony is what we are turning to is not new at all, but is simply a new appreciation of the commons, and a return to a sharing cooperative ethos that rejects the lie that progress, however you may define it, is to be found in a dog eat dog, survival of the fittest competition-based economy
It is only those who still believe they are winning, despite the inescapable irony that we do in fact all lose, who continue to insist that we persevere with this tired old game, and that there is no alternative. But of course there is. Embracing it is for us to choose
“The old economy of greed and domination is dying. A new economy of life and partnership is struggling to be born. The outcome is ours to choose”
David Korten. Author, vocal critic of corporate globalisation
Commons Equity Cooperative
Just Cooperate is at the vanguard of a new and evolving business model designed with the specific aim in mind of rolling back the pincer movement that is the corporate market/state domination of our economy in order to reclaim space where the commons may once again thrive, and where local independent businesses, that exist in harmony with the commons as opposed to devouring it, can flourish.
What grows in this space will be shared resources of equity value, but there will be no shareholders. Everyone within the local community will be considered a stakeholder, or better still a custodian. Value will be based upon the quadruple bottom line, or Four P’s, of people, planet, place, and purpose.
The way we achieve our aims wherever possible will focus on how we may cooperate for mutual benefit.
Hence Commons Equity Cooperative.
The intention of our business and all other businesses that embrace this model is to generate investment capital through various channels to support community endeavours, to ‘buy back the commons’, and to place into trust commons in order to protect them from market encroachment. Our commitment is to shared ownership in order to build regenerative just communities.
This is a paradigm shift from the standard purpose of corporate business, which is legally compelled to extract and maximise profit for the benefit of shareholders by whatever means possible. Any concept of the bottom line beyond net profit is very often little more than sham corporate responsibility marketing spin, intended to disguise the psychopathic pathology of the corporation.
Those who work for Just Cooperate are thinking beyond an individualistic preoccupation that defines reward in solely monetary terms. We believe that self interest is best served through common interest.
Our focus is to meet collective needs from the perspective of sustainability and sufficiency. This does not have to mean frugality. In fact our conviction is that a natural abundance exists when we think beyond a very often artificially created fear of scarcity to drive demand, often manifest in greed and hoarding.
Although it is undeniable that the last century produced unprecedented levels of material production that continues unabated, superficially benefited many, this has been at a terrible cost to community wellbeing. The hope that this may be reversed by top down government intervention, often in cahoots with global corporations, would appear to be little more than wishful thinking. Meanwhile, all the practical initiatives that are truly turning the tide are grass roots bottom up inspired.
The Commons Equity Cooperative may best be described as the ground breaking business model manifestation of these holistic initiatives. Although it may sit within the mainstream in terms of its requirement to compete in order to deliver high quality value for money products and services, it’s motivation, and the motivation of its employees, is very different, namely to help facilitate the regeneration of sustainable resilient communities where the social and ecological interests of all contributors (commoners) are respected and protected, for this generation and generations to come, within the commons.
Commons ‘Just’ Money
Every time you spend money you’re casting a vote for the kind of world you want
Anna Lappe. Author, educator, sustainable food advocate.
It is impossible to consider a commons based economy without re-evaluating the role of money, who controls it, and who benefits.
It is little understood that our money is quite literally borrowed from the banking system. Only 3% of money is in the form of notes and coins. The remaining 97% is lent into existence in the form of bank loans, which of course have to be paid back, plus interest. These loans are electronic ledger entries. Banks do not loan other peoples deposits as is often assumed. The loans are ‘new money’ that is taken back out of the system when repaid.
It is hard to comprehend, but our monetary system is in effect, debt. If we all paid back the principal of our loans, there would be no money in circulation, but the interest element would remain. The only way to keep this system working is with more loans, meaning more debt, to create the money to pay down the existing loans.
What this does is throw us all into competition with eachother to find the money to pay back debts when there is quite simply insufficient money in circulation for us all to do so.
It’s a giant game of musical chairs in perpetual motion. The banks take away chairs as their profit, whilst relying upon us to borrow new chairs to keep the game going. This is an extension of the Monopoly metaphor explained in the above section on the commons. Those who continue to benefit, who make up the rules, including the exclusive right to produce the chairs that we must use in their game, need us to keep playing. We do so because if we stop working, so does the system. It is fear based, and it’s exhausting. Arguably it is a system of economic slavery.
Once we understand the above mechanism we understand the term ‘money makes money’ and why it inevitably concentrates in the hands of fewer and fewer people until we get to today where the world’s richest twenty-six individuals are worth more financially than the poorest half of humanity combined.
So if this system is so disadvantageous to the majority of us, why do we persevere with it? The short answer is because we believe we have no choice, but like so much within our economy, we have far more choice and control than we ever imagine, although we are not supposed to realise that. The fact that how money works is never taught in schools is not an over-sight!.
It is for this reason that a commons based currency is at the heart of Just Cooperate’s plans. Our flagship Just Shop Local campaign and our voucher system is only the beginning.
It is our conviction that money should be part of a diverse system. Much like nature it should not be a monoculture.
Sterling must continue to play its part, not least of all in that it is how we are required to pay our taxes, but beyond that money performs multiple functions, although primarily as a unit of exchange and as a store of value. The problem with this is if we do not have money in the limited definition of the term, the assumption is that we must go hungry and homeless, unless some other mechanism steps into take account of such an unforgiving tool.
For this reason Just Cooperate is very keen to help explore and expand the gift economy. This is where what we need is given freely, without the need for money. This is not charity. The gift economy is one based upon a human desire to give and receive, to care for each other. Such a concept is hated by the market mechanism where everything must have a price, which explains why approximately 1.9 million tonnes is wasted by the food industry alone every year.
The gift economy may be thought of as a form of money in that it is based upon reciprocity with no expectation of immediate return. It exists to this day within the family, between friends, and within our natural generosity of spirit. But much like the enclosure of so much of the rest of our economy, it has been squeezed out of most other relationships and interactions.
We also intend to promote actively mutual credit in partnership with the Open Credit Network. https://opencredit.network/ Mutual credit is simply an exchange system without the need for money. It is an extension of barter in that we can supply what we have today in exchange for a credit until what we need is available from within a network at some future date, or immediately from someone other than the person who received what we supplied.
Then of course there is Just Money, which will evolve from our voucher system. Its unique feature is it converts sterling into Just Money through commerce, and then injects it into the local economy by donating it to local projects. Thereafter as a unit of exchange it represents new liquidity, and must circulate within local economies among our participating businesses. Public listed companies will not be invited to join. Requests to do so will be rejected.
Wherever possible Just Money that is surplus to requirements as a unit of exchange will be invested into local asset portfolios owned by the community as stakeholders, in other words commons. These assets will effectively underwrite the value inherent in Just Money.
And so ‘commons money’ is part of a totality that builds a very different economy that in many ways is diametrically opposite to our current dominant model that is clearly reaching its end game. We invite you to join with us so that we may all contribute to building the genuinely sustainable society that recognises the limits to growth on a finite planet and that puts all living things ahead of profit.