Cargo Cult Economics describes the unwitting occupancy of two different fiscal paradigms. One is Economics as sustained by Capitalism and another is Economics as sustained by Vernacular / Subsistence Mutualsim. It is hard to remain comfortable in a fiscal paradigm that requires 100% State Based Currency (dollars). Our everyday survival sees us adjusting our position to base ourselves within one, while accommodating parts of the other. It is easy to abandon economic honesty when in a dilemma.
Daily life is mostly spent paying tithes to marketplace gods and gurus in the hope that eventually, fortuitously, magically, the comfortable life will arrive. This comes from an ingrained belief that if you just play the game right, perform the right rituals, admire the right people, and buy the right items, position and wealth will be given to you.
Instead of accepting sufficient for a practical life through mutually supportive transactions with close allies, and with small local businesses that accept social and ecological responsibility, it is easier to purchase cheap and shoddy cargo that keeps arriving in the globalised two-dollar shops. When faced with dilemmas and contradictions at the personal level , it is all too easy to abandon economic integrity and return to worshipping that which makes for physical comfort. And thus sustaining Capitalism.
It takes courage to change.
Mutualism requires parity, equity and guardianship. Some current and even popular forms called “The Mutuals” might still be beneficial but another descriptive handle is required. They might be more consumer friendly than the profit-driven services they separate themselves from, but their mutuality might not survive scrutiny if measured by egalitarian standards or if compared to a different form of service delivery, such as those within vernacular or subsistence economies.
If all members are not actually in it together, with each wearing the gains and the losses in due proportion; if some work is paid work and other work is unpaid work – then where is it mutual or equitable?
Mock-Mutuals continue to keep the word captured because the majority of members are blissfully unaware of political sub-texts or the contrived advantage flowing from installed but invisable mechanisms that support the patriarchy and capitalism. These mechanisms play themselves out through sex, gender, class, caste, commerce, locality, age and race. And thus the members are mocked by the processes in use.
I want to be with people who submerge in the task,
Who go into the fields to harvest,
And work in a row and pass the bags along.
Who stand in line and work in their places,
Who are not parlor generals and field deserters,
But who move in a common rhythm
When the food must come in or the fire be put out.
Extract from “Why Bother” by Joe Toscano. “We understand the freedoms, liberties and rights we want for ourselves cannot occur without those around us enjoying the same freedoms, liberties and rights. Our liberty is linked with other people’s liberty, our security is linked with other people’s security. That’s why we bother and continue to bother to be involved in social, community and political struggles. Unless we bother, nothing will ever change for us as individuals and the people around us.” [Anarchist Age Weekly Review No. 985 Jul/Aug 2012]
Essential Mutualism means parity, equity and guardianship. PARITY = on a par by using benchmarking and measuring tools. EQUITY – fair share achieved by linking what you contribute to what you receive. GUARDIANSHIP = giving conscious non-authoritive support by watching out for mission drift, refusing to over-look corrupting activities, avoiding false argument that distracts from purpose, and having honest reasons for including or excluding people.
Mutual Enrichment is a process of accessing each others skills and resources by agreement – without ripping each other off! A system can only get a life of its own after two people who are motivated to be involved act upon this desire and proceed in an equitable manner.
I wrote this circa 1998-9: “The Way we Work”.
“We cannot work for structural change through any organisation that within itself reproduces or replicates the relationships of power that are dominant in capitalism.
We are confronted by, and participate in, invisible organising patterns that are forms of social abuse, and these patterns of working are installed into our daily lives. We have to understand the way in which we disburse power within our groups as well as the relationship between each of us to that power. We need to change the perceptions of our individual roles in the economy.
We need to dismantle the machinery that is delivering us towards new forms of economic ghettoism. We need to take our tools to this machinery because it is breaking up society, and we need to do this with the same spirit and precision that has inspired and focused social resistence for centuries.
At the same time as we dismantle these forms of abuse, so must we build the replacement forms that are restorative and mutually enriching. In action that is conscious of its purpose, we can remove the distorted and dysfunctional patterns of organising, and replace them with functional patterns that deliver equity.
We have to share the fruits of our work in right relationship to its production. In this way we start to correct the distortions imbedded into the current social forms that we participate in. We serve no gain if we only replace one abusive form of social organisation with another.”