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Financial Permaculture Goes Viral

Wall Street is not the only system that crashes:

Due to the immense amount of interest in financial permaculture and the upcoming workshop in Hohenwald, TN the server crashed.  The crash was triggered by an appearance on Coast to Coast radio by Catherine Austin Fitts, Albert Bates and Debbie Landers to discuss financial permaculture.

Ethan Roland has a bit more at his blog: Permaculture Designs

The server is back up and running!

The Financial Permaculture event will be blogged live by bloggers from Gaia University. 

What is it all about? At its simplest the idea is to withdraw time, money, and attention from Wall Street and DC and to invest locally among family and friends in start-ups that do business the old fashioned way - without fraud, graft, lobbying, malfeasance, fuzzy math accounting, or even a think tank.  The event teaches people in rural communities how to start homely green businesses in niches like Ethanol, Incubation, Farm and Food, or Building. You can learn more here.

You have heard the conservative slogan, "Starve the beast?," meaning to starve government of taxes? Well, on this new view, the Beast has one omniverous paunch and two heads, one a corrupt government, the other a corrupt Wall Street. The two heads not only have one stomach, but their long necks twine and intertwine like snakes, the mouths pressed against each other in an unending lover's kiss, nauseating even to contemplate. Now, the hope is in the hinterlands to starve both the monster's mouths.  What would happen, if, in our desire to make the world a better place for ourselves, our children, and our community, we all just turned off the tv, ignored the marketing hype and USian propaganda, and invested our funds and life energy with people we know and trust in our face to face, or mission related, networks? No more Richard Fuld. No more Fuld-Philanthropy. No more Goldman Alums running trillion dollar government bailouts of their pals while doing magnificent philanthropy for the little people, as a mighty dragon might fertilize with its dung the field its mouth strips bare. Instead, let's plant and harvest our own crops, and let the connected Wall Steet philanthropists drink the sorrow-share in prison, or wherever their journey from Success to Significance may take them.

Addicted to Growth

How to Save the World:

The value of public companies listed on stock markets has dropped by about a third in the past year. This means that shareholders believe that this group of companies, which are an important but not dominant factor in the global economy (the public sector, notably health and education, and privately-owned enterprises, are collectively much larger, both in what they contributed to productive output and in the number of people they employ) will generate 1/3 less future total profits than had previously been forecast.

The response of governments to this assessment has been immediate and unanimous -- such a reassessment is unacceptable, so unacceptable that trillions of dollars of taxpayer money (money that governments cannot afford to spend) need to be spent immediately to "increase liquidity". By increasing liquidity they mean creating enough new cash for investors to need to park somewhere (i.e. in the stock market, pushing prices back up again) and for consumers to buy the stuff these companies are producing.

In short, governments and corporations are working furiously together to ensure that all of us -- governments, corporations and consumers -- remain addicted to growth, which means addicted to ever-increasing consumption and ever-increasing debt. This is the fragile foundation on which this portion of our economy (the publicly-listed private sector) utterly depends.

By contrast, what if we took our time, attention, energy and money and invested it locally in firms run by ourselves and friends,  producing needed goods and services sustainably?  That, essentially, is what C.A. Fitts is promoting

Financial Permaculture: How To

I will be attending Financial Permaculture: Greening a Rural American Community, Oct 24-28 in Hohenwald, TN. C.A. Fitts is one of the organizers. As Boomers age and transition from "success to significance," and as it becomes increasingly clear that the solutions (whether or not socially screened) provided by Wall Street are a mug's game, more and more people, I think, are going to be looking for what they can do with their time, money, talents and connections in a closely knit face to face community, whether it be geographic, or mission-based, or faith-based. We will want to cut out the intermediaries and do it ourselves sustainably, humbly, in community with others we know and trust, providing essentials to one another like clean water, healthy food, alternative energy, loans among family and friends, honest locally owned banking, and community traditions of cooperation and mutual aid, as well as of self-reliance and self-respect.  Village life may be more resilient than the national and global systems we now see crashing down around us. 

Systemic Criminality as Root Cause of Meltdown?

C.A. Fitts, former Assistant Secretary of Housing:

Systemic criminality at Fannie Mae can only exist with the complicity of the U.S. Treasury, the Federal Reserve banks and the leading law firms, banks and investment banks.

This realization is the crack in the dam. It begins the shift of a paradigm. Suddenly those responsible for managing trillions of dollars in an economy propped up by a matrix of lies are faced with the urgency of managing a significant shift.

Community Assets - Like Self Reliance and Mutual Aid?

What if you could look down on your town, as might a player at a game of Monopoly, and follow the movement of all the money? What if the money on your part of the game board were gradually, but relentlessly draining into the hands of another player? Would you say, "That is life." Or would you say, "Such is luck." Or would you begin to wonder how you might win? C.A. Fitts, a conservative thinker, is driven to the conclusion, interestingly enough, that our local communities will only thrive to their fullest potential when we act in concert with others in our face to face networks to keep our attention, money, time, talent and civic loyalties among those we personally know and trust. She sees herself, I believe, in the tradition of Adam Smith, but she is equally part of the tradition of mutual aid and civic association that Toqueville noted on his trip through 19th century America. That tradition includes sewing bees, barn raising, casseroles for a bereaved neighbor, church socials, Chattauquas, Rotary, and Kiwanis. Self-reliance, yes, and mutual aid too. Of course, not all community is place-based. Some might be mission-based, cause-driven, or held together by online conversation among civic friends who may never meet, but whose "casserole" to a neighbor is mediated by a paypal account.

Human Flourishing in a Constitutional Republic

Jay Hughes is the best read and most cultured and probably the wisest of those writing about wealth in families. He has taken certain concepts (such as human flourishing and systems of governance) from political and moral philosophy, along with sources in psychology, religion, and literature to create both a vision and a methodology for perpetuating dynastic families. The truth is that this is an aristocratic vision going all the way back, and honorably so, to Aristotle's Ethics and Politics. What Jay helps wealthy families see is that their success is not just perpetuating the family wealth, but optimizing the family's lived life, their human potential, or human capital. So he talks in terms of developing each family member as a family asset. This means nurturing and cultivating human excellence, productivity, virtue, and wisdom. It also means, I would imagine, getting Junior elected to the Senate, and having Sister run the Family-Owned Bank, and Uncle run the NY Times, and so on, so that the family weaves itself into the power centers of our society in such a way as to become puissant and indomitable. From family, to clan, to dynasty. Aristocracy at its best works like that. At its worst such a system devolves into an Oligarchy, or Plutocracy. And in the ambit of these increasingly concentrated and interwoven power systems comes putsch, silent takeover, gilded lies backed by force, or Tyranny.

My question is this: Can we replant Jay's insights back into their native soil, that of the theory and practice of a just society? Can we ask what it would take not just for some disproportionately wealthy families to flourish, but what it would take for all families to flourish, whether they wear shirtsleeves or ermine?

If the goal is widespread human flourishing, up and down the social hierarchy, and if philanthropy, and personal leadership, and public service, are among the levers, and if social investing or mission aligned investing, and local organizing, and political action of informed citizens are among the levers, then we finally have a topic comprehensive enough to offer potential solutions.

With Catherine Austin Fitts I am trading ideas on mission investing, centered on not only giving but also on economic returns, and also on spiritual and humane social capital widely dispersed. I have learned from Jay how to help families last as economic and social forces for generations, "lest they go from shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations." (Becoming in the process much like you or me, as horrifying as that might seem to our dynastic clients.) From Catherine, I am a learning how ordinary people can prosper, even when their efforts are sabotaged by those in high places (be they dynasts or parvenus) who have every advantage, including wealth, political power, secrecy and sometime access to illicit force, and who may act as parasites, or tapeworms, upon or within the body politic, flourishing at our expense.

Of course, it matters whether the "dynasty" an advisor seeks to preserve is a restaurant owning family in Smallville, a farm in Nebraska, a locally owned bank in Canton, or a multi-billion dollar family firm with tentacles in think tanks, media, politics and the like. If we are to build and preserve thriving dynasties, I hope they are small, local, and community-spirited. To that effort I lend, and Catherine, I believe, would lend a willing hand.  And in fact while that (the world of small town entrepreneurial families)  is not Jay's world, it is the world of most wealth advisors and attorneys who read his work.  Philanthropy embedded in community, responsive to ethical, humane, spiritual and democratic traditions, in which families give back to help others flourish as they have flourished; well, that is part of the good life in a just society. That is maybe how Aristotle translates in a Constitutional Republic in which we all have an equal right to the pursuit of happiness, or human flourishing, in our families great and small, whether in pinstripes or work-shirts.  It would also be  interesting to hear from Bill Schambra on such themes.