Eddie: Hello, I’m Eddie Farrell. today I’m
going to speak with Clive Menzies of Critical Thinking, Clive, the Critical Thinking project
began when? Clive: January 2012. It came out of the Occupy
movement. Eddie: So what we’re going to try and do today
is to go through a diagram that you’ve put up, of the work of Critical Thinking over
those three and a half years. Starting at the top end of that I see the word ‘Land’.
Clive: Essentially what we’ve been trying to understand is how the world works. In other
words: Where does the power lie? Who wields it? Where does their power come from and how
do they exercise it? And what do we do to change that to improve the way the world works.
Land, if you like, is a fundamental right as a human being. To have the access to land
is inherent just in being born but the problem is we’ve had a system evolve over time where
land is increasingly the preserve of the few who either use it for their exclusive use
or rent it out to other people at vast expense. It’s not just land; it’s resources, and it’s
any other commons. In other words, things that are created in common; created by the
community. So for example the radio spectrum or even knowledge. All of these things belong
to us all but have been appropriated by a relatively small number of people.
Eddie: A branch coming off that [on the diagram] is ‘Shared not Owned’. Is this some form of
Critical Thinking solution? Clive: We’ve developed what we think are three
principles to overcome what we think are three fundamental flaws and this fundamental flaw
of land basically derives from private ownership or any sort of ownership that restricts access
to other people. Our contention is the land, resources and commons are of value either
because they’re God given or else they are created communally and therefore their value
should belong to no individual, group or state but should be shared for the benefit of all.
Eddie: So taking the next branch down which is coming off at 3 O’clock[on the diagram]
we’ve got this Interest on Money and there’s quite a few branches coming off that. Would
you like to say a bit about this? Clive: If land was the original flaw in many
respects, with the enclosures and people being turfed off the land, interest on money, with
the establishment of the banking system, is another abusive and oppressive mechanism within
our economic system and it drives inequality. There’s empirical evidence that it migrates
wealth from those who have too little to those who have more than they need and in that process,
no actual wealth is created. Interest on money isn’t wealth. Money is just a representation
of wealth and so this idea that interest on money is somehow wealth creating is completely
nonsensical. There are no more widgets produced or no more harvest produced. It’s just an
illusion of wealth which is created but it’s parasitic in so far as it’s drawing up wealth
from those who actually create it. So the seven billion people on the planet are creating
wealth and that’s being sucked up through the banking system to the very few.
Interest is also discounting the future, So that, a forest that is standing today is worth
more cut down now, than it is in the future, because money is deemed to have a value and
you’re not going to get it until some year in the future, then you discount its value
that far ahead. The other thing that interest does is that
it creates, or we have, an economic system that has to keep growing, exponentially. People
talk about GDP or gross domestic product growth of 3% per annum being a sort of reasonable
rate of growth but that means the economy has to double every 24 years. That can’t be
sustainable mathematically, socially or environmentally because you’re using more and more resources
and we live in a finite world. Eddie: Before we go on to discuss how that
could be changed, you did use the word ‘us’ there and I was curious because this is a
collective project. All of these diagrams and thought processes have come through a
collective process; is that right? Clive: Yes, very much so. This is very much
a distillation, not just of the work of the individuals directly involved in Critical
Thinking but we’re drawing on ideas, thinking and knowledge that’s been accumulated over
millennia. One could arguably say that, and this comes back to the knowledge and the commons,
this information is contributed by anyone who’s ever though about or written anything
or said anything about these issues, their accumulated wisdom hopefully is synthesised
within this diagram. One cannot claim ownership of that; Critical Thinking itself can’t claim
ownership of these ideas. What we’ve tried to do is bring the ideas together, and the
evidence together, to show how the world works. Our analysis brings us to the point where
we’ve created this diagram, if you like, and a theory of political economy.
Eddie: So that collective synthesis there, just coming down to the branch at the bottom,
says the word �Abolition�. This the solution to this whole interest on money?
Clive: The thing about interest on money is that as soon as you charge interest on money,
basically you’re saying that money has an inherent value of itself which it doesn’t.
And in creating that inherent value, you create distortions in the economy and you allow those
who have money, or create it from nothing in the case of banks, to exploit those who
need it. Therefore debt needs to return to a social construct and move away from being
what is effectively a financial lever of oppression and control.
Eddie: So moving down to 6 O’Clock[on the diagram] we’ve got this ‘Means to Life’, importantly.
So again, starting with ‘Denied Access’? Clive: Well it’s related very much to the
top right hand corner and the land and the commons and access to the means to life because
essentially access to land, before the enclosures and before the privatisation of land, meant
that everyone had access to the means to life. Your could build your own house, you could
find your own food, you could grow your own food but progressively, we’ve been denied
access to the land. One saw it through the enclosures and the Industrial Revolution;
that people were effectively forced into slavery through the Industrial Revolution. So, they
could no longer live of the land and so they were forced into factories; there’s a lot
more that goes behind that in terms of the social impact. Over time, the workers collected
together in unions and fought for better wages and conditions but we reached a point, not
very long ago, where productivity and wages started to diverge. So productivity has continued
to increase, so we now produce more than we need with fewer and fewer people and yet wages
haven’t kept pace. So that gap has been filled by debt and, as we saw in 2008, that debt
is not sustainable. More importantly, from a sort of demographical
point of view, there just aren’t going to be the jobs to do. There was a video recently,
going around the internet, called Humans need not apply and so many jobs, white collar jobs,
even journalists, lawyers, all those people who think they’re going to be untouched by
this march of robotics and artificial intelligence, they’re all going to be at risk of losing
their jobs. So we need… We’re at the moment creating what David Graeber describes as bullsh*t
jobs, jobs that have no value or are even destructive merely as part of this economic
mechanism to find a means of making the thing work. But we should be giving the money direct
to the people, rather than creating this artificial system of work which is increasingly obsolete.
Eddie: Could you see ways in which the Constitutionalists are addressing this?
Clive: Well this is a dialogue and Critical Thinking works with many groups. We work with
the Constitutionalists and we work with many, many other groups. More and more people are
beginning to recognise that our political systems are incapable of implementing the
principles that we’ve laid out: sharing the value of land and the commons, prohibiting
or abolishing interest on money and paying everyone an Unconditional Citizens Dividend.
We don’t have the political systems that either have the will or the ability to implement
it. They are basically owned by the same people that own all the other levers of power. So
we need constitutional change and what we’re working on currently, within Critical Thinking,
is the whole issue of hierarchy and how this structure, this institutional hierarchy emerged
because, and this is not for this conversation, what we need to look at is, how do we dissolve
this institutional hierarchy in order to ensure concentration of power will never again allow
a small minority to extract all the wealth and oppress everybody else?
Eddie: I suppose that’s a good point to leave this podcast which is opening out another
fascinating conversation. Thank you very much. Clive: Thank you.