baha'i inspired economics - notes

Wilmette Institute
Economics and Community Building
2019 March 1 - May 28 online class

chris' personal learning plan  march 5

More About Timebanking  may 15

A Remedy for Global Economic Desperation  june 9

chris' personal learning plan

 -  2019 march 5

for Economics and Community Building class

Hello, and thanks to all of us

for applying our attention to this important subject.

i'm very hopeful and interested in the baha'i faith's patient, practical and balanced approach in promoting and demonstrating peace and harmony on a global scale!

here's something about me,

and my personal learning plan for this course...

i'm a technology consultant and facilitator for artists, musicians, and ethical activists, with about 20 years experience in peer-counseling and community-building, and 40 years in computer software & hardware.

on the spiritual side, i'm a student of sufism and buddhism, and religion, art, and culture around the world.  my family is canadian, i was raised and educated in the u.s.

in the past 10 years, i've been focusing on alternative economic systems & methods, beginning with obvious internet-based technical solutions (see metasofa.org/vansprouts/ccccc).  i soon discovered timebanking, which very much includes the most essential but often-neglected components of economics - humanity and community.

since 2011, winona, kacie, and i have been coordinating the Tucson Timebank - metasofa.org/timebank - and i'm also contributing technical work for the international timebanking movement in the Timebank Knowledge Commons, an online resource directory & reference library - metasofa.org/tb-kc

personal learning plan

  0 - use the online software as transparently as possible :)

  1 - do all the assigned-suggested reading-listening-viewing

  2 - looking forward to connecting-discussing-consulting with everyone, i will try to participate regularly and often... (daily email digest is working well)

  3 - looking forward to our timebank team (winona kacie chris) studying together in this course, and hoping to expand our timebanking service in collaboration with some baha'i projects...

More About Timebanking

 -  2019 May 15

for Economics and Community Building class
(cc) by-nc-sa  Chris Vansprouts, Winona Smith, Kacie Johnson, metasofa.org/timebank

In the original design for timebanking,

currency is measured in hours of service, and each person's time is considered equally valuable.  Although this idea of equality may seem chimerical [1], it has in fact proven to be practical, useful and dependable, and everyone in a timebank agrees to this modest attitude while participating in timebanking.

In a timebank community, the mutually beneficial win-win game is continually circulating all of the community's abundant always-newly-created wealth (ie, members providing services), while member accounts float around zero between credit and debit.

Each service is recorded (openly in the community) by giving time-credit to the provider's account and time-debiting the receiver's account, so symmetrical exchange ("bartering") is not necessary, and the sum of all accounts in the timebank is always exactly zero.  When members accumulate excessive credit or debit, this indicates an imbalance in community participation, which can be moderated by just doing the opposite (receiving or giving services).

Timebanking is -not- "the usual" win-lose profit-loss

game of secretive competition & endless accumulation, re-valuing and trading of scarce-ified stale depreciating stuff, debts, speculations, etc.

By practicing timebanking, we can better compare the massive mainstream economic system with alternatives, and learn how any community can create a new economic system "from scratch" if necessary, thus empowering community resilience.

Here are the Core Values of Timebanking

as listed on our timebank website [2]...  (different timebanks have some variations in wording, but the basic concepts are consistent around the world)

We are all assets

- Every human being has something to contribute.

Redefining work

- Some work is beyond price.  We need to value whatever it takes to raise healthy children, build strong families, revitalize neighborhoods, make democracy work, advance social justice, make the planet sustainable.  This kind of work needs to be honored, recorded, and rewarded.

Reciprocity

- Helping works better as a two-way street.  "How can I help you?" becomes "How can we help each other build the world we both will live in? (and our children and grand-children...)"

Community

- We need each other... people helping each other reweave networks of support, strength and trust.  Communities are stronger than individuals, and community is built on mutual respect, trust, and commitment.

Respect

- Every human being matters.  Respect is a foundation for freedom of speech and freedom of religion, and supplies the heart and soul of democracy.

Some Notes on the Core Values

  1 We are all assets

- this is a remedy for economic discrimination against youth, women, mothers, elders, disabled and anyone...

Everyone in the world can learn from each other and benefit from associating.  Even someone sick in bed can help someone learn compassion generosity humility, for example when Abdu'l-Baha directed Lua Getsinger to attend a helpless sick man [3].

  2 Redefining work

- this is about the invisible "core economy," the abundant & under-valued non-monetized work of family & community service, which is absolutely necessary infrastructure for supporting the monetized scarcity-economy [4].  (another invisible and under-valued resource which supports the monetized economy is "nature")

Imagine a hospital without janitorial services... how could surgery be preformed safely?  When everyone in your family helps to maintain the house, it runs smoothly.  Baha'u'llah and Abdu'l-Baha had servants that were treated with the utmost respect and never made to feel their acts of service were less than anyone else [5].  Each hour gifted to another is different, but equally worthy.

  3 Reciprocity

- this is about community consciousness and the circulation of living wealth, sharing, cooperation, collaboration, generosity.  Also see this bahai.org news report from Uganda [6] which is a perfect example of "co-production" [7], an important concept in timebanking.

How can highly-paid professionals like doctors, lawyers, architects, engineers, etc work within a timebank, and also benefit from the community in turn?  Informally giving advice to community members (as they might give excellent "free advice" to members of their own family) for example, who to talk to, what questions to ask, what options are important, interpreting test results, correct language, terms, jargon, etc...

An hour of such conversation would be well spent on both sides, and with time-credit thus earned, the professional could find good trusted help within the community with handy-work, repairs, cleaning, gardening, child-care, or even professional advice...

  4 Community

- members of a healthy community can truly depend on each other, thus remedying fear and inconsiderate or unethical behavior, for example.

Children's story in Ruhi, "The Boy Who Cried Wolf" - if people can't trust you, the community can't help when you need them, building capacity for trust & trustworthiness...

other related virtues - honesty truthfulness honor respect accountability commitment helpfulness courtesy consideration cooperation flexibility generosity appreciation gratitude friendliness empathy love

  5 Respect

- everyone needs respect for what they do, and who they are...  other related virtues - understanding humbleness modesty dignity

The Core Values are overlapping in a sense, but inside of that overlap is community building, and each one of these plays an integral part of each person being respected, being an asset, understanding one another... hence this helps towards greater peace and unity.

from Baha'u'llah,

"O Children Of Men!  Know ye not why We created you all from the same dust?  That no one should exalt himself over the other.  Ponder at all times in your hearts how ye were created.  Since We have created you all from one same substance it is incumbent on you to be even as one soul, to walk with the same feet, eat with the same mouth and dwell in the same land, that from your inmost being, by your deeds and actions, the signs of oneness and the essence of detachment may be made manifest.  Such is My counsel to you, O concourse of light!  Heed ye this counsel that ye may obtain the fruit of holiness from the tree of wondrous glory."  - Baha'u'llah, Hidden Words, Arabic 68 [8]

"O Son Of Spirit!  I created thee rich, why dost thou bring thyself down to poverty?  Noble I made thee, wherewith dost thou abase thyself?  Out of the essence of knowledge I gave thee being, why seekest thou enlightenment from anyone beside Me?  Out of the clay of love I molded thee, how dost thou busy thyself with another?  Turn thy sight unto thyself, that thou mayest find Me standing within thee, mighty, powerful and self-subsisting."  - Baha'u'llah, Hidden Words, Arabic 13 [8]

Footnotes & Links

[1]  Abdu'l-Baha, 1911 - Paris Talks, Part 2 The Sixth Principle, Means of Existence (UK, 11th ed, 1972 reprint) - http://bahai-library.com/writings/abdulbaha/pt/3/sec-8.html

[2]  Tucson Timetraders Timebank - http://metasofa.org/timebank/

[3]  Howard Colby Ives, 1937 - Portals to Freedom - http://bahai-library.com/books/portals/6.html

[4]  Edgar S Cahn, 2003 - The Non-Monetary Economy (tb-kc) - http://mir.metasofa.org:81/timebanks/cahn-2003-non-monetary-economy.pdf

[5]  Baha'i Universal House of Justice, 2000 - Servants in the Households of Baha'u'llah and the Bab - http://bahai-library.com/uhj_servants_household_bahaullah

[6]  Baha'i World News Service, 2007 Nov 29 - "Ugandans study approaches to development" - https://news.bahai.org/story/590/

[7]  Timebank Knowledge Commons, find "co-production" - http://metasofa.org/tb-kc/find?q=co-production

[8]  The Hidden Words of Baha'u'llah - http://bahai-library.com/bahaullah_hidden_words

Short Bibliography / Further Reading

 (also see class forum & resources list)

Baha'i Universal House of Justice, 2017 March 1 - Regarding Economic Life - http://bahai-library.com/pdf/uhj/uhj_regarding_economic_life.pdf

Gregory C Dahl, 1992 - Evolving toward a Baha'i Economic System - http://bahai-library.com/pdf/d/dahl_bahai_economic_system.pdf

Justin Scoggin, 2012 - Forging the Divine Economy - http://bahai-library.com/scoggin_forging_divine_economy

Karla Ballard Williams, 2019 - Can an app cure loneliness and isolation? - http://shareable.net/blog/can-an-app-cure-loneliness-and-isolation

A Remedy for Global Economic Desperation

2019 May 15  (rev June 9)

for Economics and Community Building class
(cc) by-nc-sa  chris vansprouts, metasofa.org/vansprouts/bahai-economics

Thank you Jean, Hooshmand, Badi, Selam, Arlette, Betsey, Alan, Samantha, Winona and Kacie for all of your information, stories, and stimulating questions, some very important ideas which are new to me, and useful ways of looking at local and global economics!

Some of my biggest questions

about the current global economic situation are about an underlying economic desperation which makes everything so much more difficult.

I've just learned another way people are saying this: "J.O.B." = "just over broke", which is the best we seem able to do, no matter how good & diligent & hard-working & well-behaved we are...  No matter how much real value we produce, no matter how much money we earn, it all goes right back to "the company store" - rent or mortgage, insurance, interest & fees on more debts and loans, medical bills, car repairs, etc - just so we and our families can keep on driving and working to pay the bills, around and around in the rodent-wheel (aka "rat race")...

Who are we working for?  Where is this coming from?  Who invented this?  Is it God's will?  Is it a universal work ethic?  a capitalist imperialist "work ethic"?  Is it a lack of ethics, compassion, fairness, respect, unity, community and spiritual connection?

Why do the wealthiest people in the world seem so oblivious to the desperation and suffering of the poorest (and everyone in between), and so concerned with taking possession of, and having control over wealth produced by others?  Is it wisdom? responsibility? arrogance? nerdiness? fear? neglect?  (also see Abdu'l-Baha Paris Talks [1], and Wim Wenders "Person to Person" [1a])

Badi has listed some very relevant everyday practices, including "Create a consciousness that your welfare, wellbeing, and happiness depend on the welfare, wellbeing, and happiness of every poor, needy and underprivileged person in the world..." [2]

At this point, after years of various projects & experience, along with prayer, meditation, and patience, here is my plea to God and the world, for a remedy for global economic desperation -

Dear All,

Can we please focus, prioritize, and succeed soon in making these basic resources as basic human rights, and unconditionally free for everyone ?

+ air & water

- good clean (truly non-toxic!)

+ food & medicine

- good clean non-toxic, healthy, appropriate

+ clothing & shelter

- including laundry, bath, toilet, compost, etc

+ communication & info

- internet, transportation, meeting space, libraries

+ education

- universal basic literacies, including ethics & virtues

Great thanks and appreciation are deserved for much work already done, and continuing progress toward these goals...  Yet these resources need to be freely available & sufficient for everyone (no exceptions), respectful & compatible with differences of people & culture (eg, not imposed), and in good relationship with nature, inner & outer. [3][3a]

with love,
 chris v

If anyone is ever in need of any of the above resources, it should be considered urgent and remedied immediately!   (and ironically, even "comfortable first-worlders" are seriously missing clean air & water, healthy food, and appropriate medicine...  so we all need to look at this)

Yes indeed this is a big project,

but is anything really preventing us from taking care of it now, and is anything more important?  Maybe 50 years ago it would've been overwhelming, but by now humans have already accomplished projects of certainly much greater complexity & expense (and less value).   (see footnote [4] for some real numbers in 2010)

And by now we certainly have a "critical mass" of spiritually connected people to motivate and guide and work for this.  At this point in the history of humanity, it's only a matter of right intention...  leading to less desperation, more clarity, improved community & spiritual connection, for everyone in the world...

When everyone's basic needs are free,

each person is free to choose how to spend their time, for example - working for the good of society and the world, taking care of one's family, creating beauty in music art architecture etc, running a business for fun & profit, watching tv, getting fooled by dishonest marketing, methodically destroying the ecology, designing & manufacturing weapons of mass destruction, etc...

When no one is driven by economic desperation,

then persons, organizations and projects which are un-ethical or un-conscious will end up with less wealth, power, status and influence, and will hopefully dry up and blow away!  It will be easier to identify them, and easier to avoid empowering them by trading with, working for, or employing them (as long as they remain un-ethical or un-conscious).  And more of humanity's time & energy will be available for good work elsewhere. [5][6]

For those concerned with status and competition, knowing the life-choices people are making voluntarily for themselves is much more significant than counting money!  And poverty can be voluntary and boring, instead of difficult and cruel.

May all beings be well and happy. [7]

Footnotes & Links

[1]  Abdu'l-Baha, 1911 - Paris Talks, Part 2 The Sixth Principle, Means of Existence (UK, 11th ed, 1972 reprint) - http://bahai-library.com/writings/abdulbaha/pt/3/sec-8.html

[1a]  Wim Wenders, 2010 - "Person to Person" (short film) - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2sQWSdDpHCI

[2]  Badi Shams, "Practical Economic Suggestions for Everyday Use" (Baha'i Blog, 2016) - http://bahaiblog.net/2016/12/practical-economic-suggestions-everyday-use/

[3]  the United Nations 1948 "Universal Declaration of Human Rights" (at un.org & archived) has been adopted by an ever-growing and significant number of nations around the world, and has "been elaborated in subsequent international treaties, economic transfers, regional human rights instruments, national constitutions, and other laws..." [wikipedia].  In 1948 it was a definitive response to the unconscionable war crimes of World War II, but it does not as courageously address global economic atrocities, nor does it seem to recognize alternative economic cultural values which are unlike our traditional competitive & scarcity-based assumptions.

[3a]  also see the United Nations 2000 "Millennium Development Goals" and 2015 "Sustainable Development Goals" (at un.org & wikipedia)

[4]  "Stark are the contrasts between the consumption of luxuries and the cost of provision of basic needs: basic education for all would cost $10 billion; yet $82 billion is spent annually on cigarettes in the United States alone.  The eradication of world hunger would cost $30 billion; water and sanitation $10 billion.  By comparison, the world's military budget rose to $1.55 trillion [$1,550 billion!] in 2008." [emphasis & equivalence added]  - from "Rethinking Prosperity", Baha'i International Community's Contribution to the 18th Session of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development, 2010 - http://bahai-library.com/bic_rethinking_prosperity

[5]  "What if they had a war, and nobody came?"  - peace activist slogan, 1960's

[6]  "The world's got enough for everybody's need, not for everybody's greed..."  - from "Consumer" on "Wizdome" (music cd) by Colby Jeffers, 2018? - http://colbyjeffers.com

[7]  "May all beings be well and happy..."  - traditional Buddhist metta

Short Bibliography / Further Reading

 (also see class forum & resources list)

Hooshmand Badee, 2019 - Principles of Spiritual Economics  (see class resources or amazon)

Baha'i International Community, for United Nations, 2010 - Rethinking Prosperity - http://bahai-library.com/bic_rethinking_prosperity

Baha'i Universal House of Justice, 2017 March 1 - Regarding Economic Life - http://bahai-library.com/pdf/uhj/uhj_regarding_economic_life.pdf

Gregory C Dahl, 1992 - Evolving toward a Baha'i Economic System - http://bahai-library.com/pdf/d/dahl_bahai_economic_system.pdf

United Nations, 1948 - Universal Declaration of Human Rights - un.org - archived - wikipedia

United Nations, 2000 - Millennium Development Goals (for 2015) - un.org - wikipedia

United Nations, 2015 - Sustainable Development Goals (for 2030) - un.org - wikipedia

Wim Wenders, 2010 - "Person to Person" (short film) - youtube.com/watch?v=2sQWSdDpHCI - part of the film "8" illustrating the UN's Millennium Development Goals - letempspresse.org

Free remix license for "More About Timebanking" and "A Remedy for Global Economic Desperation"

creative commons (cc) by-nc-sa - attribution "metasofa.org/vansprouts/bahai-economics" - only non-commercial use & distribution - ok to share-alike with excerpts, improvements & translations, but please preserve the intention & meaning of the text (and this license).  thank you!

baha'i inspired economics - notes

also see - tucson time traders - timebank knowledge commons
- get over it - fire water - remover of difficulties