4 Questions that Changed the World, Again and Again

Most of our experience, awful to great, energy depleting or energy enhancing, is determined by how we answer 4 questions.  These 4 questions have influenced the human experience of billions of people for thousands of years.  And people have answered these 4 questions in very different ways.

I invite you to explore what these 4 questions are, how they have changed the world over and over again, and how you can choose your own response to them.  With this you will be able to shift the experience you have and the outcomes you achieve, from a different response to 4 questions.

What are the questions?  Philosophers and practitioners alike have explored the questions that determine humanity’s moral, political, social, cultural, and economic arrangements for thousands of years.  In all of the different societies around the globe, these leaders consistently converge on 4 questions: (1) how much do we see when we look at our resources?; (2) who decides how to allocate the resources and how to enforce that allocation; (3) what criteria is used to allocate those resources; and (4) how do people interact with each other and those resources.  Four straightforward questions.

It turns out that there are technical terms for these four questions.

  1. Resources.  How much do we see?  In economics today, this is the “resource” question.  What are the assets or resources we have at hand?
  2. Allocation Mechanism.  Who decides?  Who decides who will decide how to allocate the resources and who will enforce that decision?  This is the political question of power: who has the power to decide and enforce the chosen allocation of resources.  In economics today this is called the resource allocation mechanism, the way that resources are allocated.
  3. Value.  What criteria do the resource allocators use?  In economic, political, and philosophical frameworks today, this is referred to as the value theory.  What values  guide our decision making?
  4. Organization.  How do people interact with each other and with the resources?  In economics today, human interactions are guided by organization theory.

Historians and observers of comparative political economics show that people throughout the ages of answered these four consistent questions in very different ways.  The different responses have radically changed the world in two ways:  they have addressed different needs across different societies, and they have evolved within each society.  Each geographic region of the world and the cultures that reside there seem to have very different orientations towards what is important in their society and the principles to achieve them.  Additionally, over time, each of these societies has learned about what worked and what did not, and groups within the societies have changed the guiding arrangements: they have evolved.  In other words, they changed the world by trying different responses to the 4 questions, and by learning and adapting their responses over time.

Now it seems that one of the very difficult things about these responses to the 4 questions is that are very hard to see.  At any given time, they seem to be given as fact.  That is simply the way that the universe works.  In one society, the king decides because it is his divine right.  In another society, it is the pope.  That is just the way it is…until it changes.  Then it was the most powerful companies that decided, or the elected parliament, or the richest families.  The responses changed over time.  And they remain difficult to see.

I suggest that the responses to these 4 questions are difficult to see, because they are given to most people in a society as laws, laws that are enforced by the power structure.  You just have to accept that this is the way things are.  I observe that most of these responses are also very abstract, making them difficult to understand and relate to in one’s daily experience.  Let’s see a couple of examples.

Within each of these 4 questions reside a few other questions with which a whole society is designed.  Unpacking these will help us see why these responses seem so abstract and disjointed, thus hard to see.

  1. Resources.
    • How much is there right now?  In economics, these are the “factors of production,” inputs to the process.  Economics cleanly classifies all resources as either land, labor, or capital.  The focus is on “right here, right now.”  Most look into the world and see scarcity, some see abundance.
    • How do these change, over time?  This question looks at the development of resources over time.  This focuses on the dynamics, capacity development, and relationships in influencing how much resource is available at any future time.  Most people think about what resources are available right now.  Far fewer think about the dynamics of generating those resources over time.
    • What are potential resources?  This is about seeing what resources could be available, whether they are now or not.   Very few think about potential resources that could be developed in the future.
  2. Allocation mechanism.
    • What is the motivating objective of the political-economic system?  What is the moral imperative?  What is the system trying to achieve?  Different groups have focused on material or spiritual well-being for the individual, equality amongst the citizens, well-being of the group, balance with nature, and closeness to spirit.
    • What primary relationship(s) best serves that objective?  Who has the “power” to decide, to set the rules of the game, to call upon force to enforce those rules?  What is the chief organizing principle?  Who are the owners of land, labor, capital?  Some groups chose the self as the guiding principle for individual freedom, such as neo-liberal markets.  Some chose equality with the other, such as egalitarian systems of justice and social democracies.  Some gave primacy to the solidarity of the group’s well-being, such as corporations, nation states, and collectivist societies.  Others gave most value to the relationship with nature, such as tribal communities and ecological groups.  And yet others gave the most focus to the relationship with spirit, such as theocratic communities and Buddhist societies.
    • What structure-process does the system use to make decisions in that relationship?  What is the power structure?  How many decide?  Few, representatives, many?  How do they decide?  Whose opinion, whose vote, whose enforcement?  Behind-the-scenes design (invisible), out-front debate (others vote – others opinion), election (you vote – representative give opinion), or participatory (you vote your opinion)?
  3. Value.
    • What is valued?  Material well-being at the outcomes-things level of reality?  Economic surplus?  Possibility, development, and outcomes for all five primary relationships?
    • What is the mode of exchange of what is valued?  What are the currencies?  What properties do they have?  Is everything exchanged through scarcity-based, interest-based money?  Are other currencies used, such as time banks and non-interest-based currencies?
    • Who gets what part of the value generated in the exchange?  Who “owns” the surplus value?  This is the economic value distribution question.  For land owners it is rent, for labor owners it is wages, and for capital owners it is profits.
  4. Organization.
    • Why do we come together?  Economic efficiency?  For a shared higher purpose?
    • How do we agree to interact?  Competition?  Cooperation?  Co-opetition? Collaboration?
    • What form best supports our agreements?  Economic specialization and division of labor around tasks?  Interwoven, integrated collaborative conversations?

Different groups across time and across geography have mashed together sets of the different responses listed above to the 4 questions and their subquestions.  The good news here is that much has been learned as billions of persons have lived in these natural experiments over the past hundreds of years.  The question is whether we can learn from what they have learned.  I suggest we can.

To begin to see how to learn from the insights gained from all of these groups, I have found two shifts to be very helpful.  First, rather than seeing these as four independent questions, much as they are developed and treated today by people in different professions (e..g, resource economists, comparative political-economists, financial economists and philosophers, organizational theorists), I suggest they are four different lenses on the same experience.  The four questions shed light on different dimensions of the same experience.  This leads to the second shift, looking to one’s own felt-experience of the harmonic vibrancy of the group as a pathway to seeing the agreements that influence that experience.  This takes seemingly disconnected, very abstract frameworks such as contract theory, factors of production, monetary theory, pricing theory, and allocation mechanisms and shows how they are actually just ways of looking at the harmonic vibrancy you experience in a group and the outcomes that result from that experience.

The main point is that these 4 questions that have changed the world many times are now available for you to choose a response to.  It is now up to you.  I delve more deeply into these 4Qs, their implications, tools and processes for seeing them, and choosing your response in this blog and in the book Ecosynomics: The Science of Abundance (ecosynomics.com).

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To Be or Not to Be, Happy with Money, That Is the Question

Dunn, Elizabeth, & Norton, Michael. (2013). Happy Money: The Science of Smarter Spending. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Most experiences of money do not increase happiness.  Some do.  So say 2002 Nobel laureate in economics Daniel Kahneman and his colleagues (Kahneman & Deaton, 2010; Kahneman, Krueger, Schkade, Schwarz, & Stone, 2006).  In their new book Happy Money (2013), professors Dunn and Norton show us the research that explains why.  From an Ecosynomics perspective, this research shows that happiness comes from the experience of potential and development and things, light and motion and matterthe interweaving experience of all three levels of perceived reality.  The lack of happiness comes from valuing only the things level of reality.  Dunn and Norton say it so well, that I use quotes from their book to explain the observation.

Only the Things Level.  What happens when people experience money only at the things-matter level? “Material purchases offer clear, concrete benefits, explaining their appeal.  We can see them in front of us and hold them in our hands” (Dunn & Norton, 2013, p. 22).  And the value we experience, in terms of increased happiness, fades quickly with material purchases.  In many cases, we derive more happiness from the anticipation of the purchase than the actual purchase.  “Why do we fail to recognize that consuming later can enhance enjoyment?  Research shows that when something nice is available immediately, the “power of now” dwarfs all else” (Dunn & Norton, 2013, p. 90).  “It’s difficult to overcome the power of now, but it’s possible to harness this force” (Dunn & Norton, 2013, pp. 102-103).

Both the Development and Things Levels.  What happens in experiential purchases (over time) versus material-transaction purchases, when both the development and things levels of reality are perceived?  “Research shows that satisfaction with experiential purchases tends to increase with the passage of time, while satisfaction with material purchases tends to decrease” (Dunn & Norton, 2013, pp. 23-24).  “Because the benefits of experiences are often more abstract than the benefits of material goods, it’s easier to appreciate the value of experiential purchases with the psychological distance that time provides”  (Dunn & Norton, 2013, p. 23).

And the Possibility Level. “The ability to generate pleasant thoughts about the future is a hallmark of psychological health…Anticipating good things produces a distinct pattern of neural activation in the nucleus accumbens, a region of the brain linked to the experience of pleasure and reward” (Dunn & Norton, 2013, p. 82; Knutson & Peterson, 2005, p. 310).  “The same region of the brain that responds when we anticipate something good (the nucleus accumbens) loses interest once we’ve gotten it” (Dunn & Norton, 2013, p. 86; Knutson & Peterson, 2005, p. 310).

The authors suggest five principles of happy money, making choices about how we spend money on experiences we have in all three levels of perceived reality (possibility, development, things), and not just the things level.  They provide the research that shows these five principles will increase the happiness we derive from the use of our money.  I highly recommend Happy Money as a very accessible journey through the research that shows how to get the most value of one’s experiences around money.

References

Kahneman, Daniel, & Deaton, Angus. (2010). High Income Improves Evaluation of Life But Not Emotional Well-being. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 107(38), 16489-16493.

Kahneman, Daniel, Krueger, Alan B, Schkade, David, Schwarz, Norbert, & Stone, Arthur A. (2006). Would You Be Happier If You Were Richer?  A Focusing Illusion. Science, 312(5782), 1908-1910.

Knutson, Brian, & Peterson, Richard. (2005). Neurally Reconstructing Expected Utility. Games and Economic Behavior, 52(2), 305-315.

Measuring Well-being — How Do We Know If We Are Better Off?

How do you know if you are better or worse off today than yesterday?  Than a year ago?  Than ten years ago?  More money in the bank?  More friends?  More memories?  Better health?  These measures we use to determine whether we are better off influence the decisions we make.

When we make a decision, Nobel Laureate Herbert Simon taught us that we use judgments about the future and about how to get there.  In all decisions, we have value judgments about a desired future, and we have factual judgments about the best way to get there.  How we measure what we value in the future guides what we do to get there.  Said another way, how you measure “better off” matters, as it provides the incentives for what you do.

As we have explored in previous posts, you can define the vibrancy you experience in what you value at the things-noun level, the development-verb level, the possibility-light level, and some interweaving of the three levels.  And, we saw that what you value in your experience is very different at each level of perceived reality, from the things you have in this moment to the experience to the potential to the living with all three levels.

The economic systems that influence much of our daily life are guided by similar values of “better off,” using indicators to tell us whether we are better off and to guide the decisions we make.  One of the main indicators we use globally is Gross Domestic Product (GDP).  GDP sums up all of the monetary transactions in a country, indicating the volume of value exchange in a given time period.  More value exchange indicates more capacity to produce and acquire goods and services.  This is good.  It is a good indicator of the things-noun level of value experienced.  It says nothing about the development-verb level, the possibility-light level, or the interweaving of the three.

To expand the measure of well-being beyond the sum of monetary transactions, many systems are emerging, peaking into the broader experience of interweaving possibility-light, development-verb, and things-noun levels.  I highlight two here for you to explore.

  1. Better Life Index.  Documented by the OECD, this index explores your experience of different aspects of life, including housing, education, income, employment, community, and environment.  On their website, you can assign your own values to these indicators.  This index describes a broad range of experiences and, given the focus on your experience of living with these aspects, it describes both the things-noun level and early development-verb levels of your experience.
  2. Inclusive Wealth Index.  Collected by the UNEP/IHDP, this index assesses a country’s manufactured, human, and natural capital assets.  It assesses the sustainability and inclusiveness of the capital assets by looking at how they are managed for short-term benefit, while sustaining the resources for the long-term.  This index looks at both the sustainable development-verb level of resources, and their immediate use at the things-noun level.

If you have other indices you know of that are exploring the interweaving of value experienced at the light, verb, and noun levels, please share them here in your comments.

Values — 5 Quotes

“Values are what we care about.  As such, values should be the driving force for our decisionmaking.  They should be the basis for the time and effort we spend thinking about decisions.  But this is not the way it is.  It is not even close to the way it is.”  (Ralph L. KeeneyValue-Focused Thinking, 1992, Harvard University Press, p. 3).

“Values are like fingerprints. Nobody’s are the same, but you leave ’em all over everything you do.”  (attributed to Elvis Presley)

“Each of us knows exactly one mind from the inside, and no two of us know the same mind from the inside. No other kind of thing is known about in that way.”  (Daniel C. Dennett, 1996, Kinds of Minds: Toward an Understanding of Consciousness, New York: Basic Books, 3.)

“Life is like a ten-speed bike. Most of us have gears we never use.”  (Charles M. Shulz).

“Without question, the most abundant, least expensive, most underutilized, and constantly abused resource in the world is human ingenuity.” (Dee Hock, 2005, One From Many: VISA and the Rise of Chaordic Organization, Berrett-Koehler, 55.)

History of Thinking about Resources, Organization, and Value

In this blog, I have shared my exploration of the emergent ecosynomics of experiences people are having that lead to much better outcomes, including greater well-being, abundance, harmony, and vibrancy.  We are at a turning point in realizing that many people are already living sustainably from these emerging principles — I suggest that there are hundreds of thousands of these groups.

In recent posts, I have used the five primary relationships and three levels of perceived reality to highlight the fundamentally different assumptions these emerging groups have about four basic questions all groups ask: (1) how much resource is there?: (2) who decides how to allocate the resources?; (3) based on what criteria?; and (4) how do the different primary relationships interact?

People have explored these four questions for many years.  If you are interested in the evolution of human responses to these four questions, characterized in economic terms, respectively, as factors of production, resource allocation mechanisms, values, and organization, I highly recommend three recently published histories.

  1. Debt: The First 5,000 Years by David Graeber (2011 Melvillehouse).  An anthropologic study of what people value, how that value is exchanged, and the systems that support that exchange.  These are the three big questions we explored around value.  Graeber finds that economics has completely ignored most of the data of what people have actually valued and how they exchanged it, using a rich basis in anthropology to support this claim.
  2. Grand Pursuit: The Story of Economic Genius by Sylvia Nasar (2011 Simon and Schuster).  Starting almost two centuries ago with Charles Dickens, Nasar paints vivid pictures of the context, process, and insights of influential thoughts leaders who were describing the principles of economics of their time.  This story brings to life what otherwise can be quite dry theory.
  3. The Wealth of Ideas: A History of Economic Thought by Alessandro Roncaglia (2006 Cambridge University Press).  As an economic historian, Roncaglia shows the evolution of the theories of resources, organization, and value since prehistoric times, diving into the specifics of the insights gained at each stage of evolution, as well as some of the incentives that drove those insights.

Transforming Value from Possibility to Need-Satisfaction

This post summarizes recent posts on “value.”  Now you can now see that at the possibility-light level, you experience an invitation to the higher potential vibrancy in you (see figure below).  This fills you with possibility-light.  When you filter out possibility, from the light level of value, you find your choice of the development and relationships you will experience over time, at the development-verb level of value.  This fills you with life.  When you filter out time, from the development-verb level of value, you satisfy your needs here and now, at the things-noun level of value.  This fills you with satisfaction.

 

This highlights the insights gained over the past century at the light, verb, and noun levels of perceived reality, and how they fit together, to experience the total value of available vibrancy (see figure below).  The agreements people make about what value is, how it is exchanged, and who gets it influence all human interactions.  Starting from infinite abundance, at the possibility-light level, suggests a very different experience of value than starting with an assumption of scarcity at the things-noun level.

 

These posts on value used the lens of “what criteria” to look at the value perceived in the vibrancy experienced in the five primary relationships.  This exploration looked at the three big questions of value, in the light of the three levels of perceived reality.  The next series of posts looks at the lens “how the relationships interact.”

What You Have of Value

Verb to noun

To transform the development-verb level of value to the things-noun level requires filtering out time.  You bring the flow of the verb to a particular moment in space and time, to the here and now.  As one flow overlaps with another, you have a moment that satisfies a need, at the noun level.  In filtering out time, you bring the value at the verb level of access to development and relationship into the specific satisfaction you receive from it right now – its utility for you.  Out of the verb level of value exchange, you find the moment of exchange, where you set the specific value you can agree to in the exchange, which you refer to today as the price.  In the moment of exchange, you filter out time from the verb mode of exchange, the value exchange inquiry, to find a mode that captures and retains that value, what is referred to today as money or the currency you use.  It is interesting that currency is a noun denoting the verb of a current.  In the transformation of the verb to noun, you also filter time out of who influenced the resource dynamics around the distribution of the value in the exchange to see what residual remains in the stock being exchanged.  You see here that the verb to noun transformation of filtering out time brings you to the present of what is available here and now.

Noun

At the noun level of value, you experience value as the satisfaction of a perceived need.  This noun is a projection of the shifting verb into a moment in space and time.  This means that it is a choice of where and when to have verbs overlap.  This is a very special instance in space-time, where the energy in the flow of light potential is completely contextualized, and then shifts form.  This is very different than saying that the scarce thing was there and you decided whether you wanted it or not.  From this perspective, choice is drastically limited, as it completely misses the choice in when and where to have two verbs overlap, and only asks if the somewhat arbitrary overlap that we encountered works.  Need satisfaction is the utility you receive from satisfying a perceived need.  This is the realm of utility maximization, as described amply in the economic literature.

Value of exchange

To determine the value of exchange, at the noun level, you integrate the flows of the related verbs, at a specific moment of overlap, in space-time.  This gives you the supply-demand curves of economics.  Supply and demand curves express the rate of change (the derivative) of the value one experiences in the exchange.[1]  Over different prices, the rate each overlapping side is ready to accept and provide changes.  This holds for both the supply and demand sides.  In economic terms, supply and demand determine the price paid for factors of production (land, labor, capital).[2]  This is the noun-level description of value.  The father of modern economics, Adam Smith, suggests the price is a measure of utility, “Nearly all actions of life are governed, at least in part, by desires the force of which can be measured by the sacrifice which people are willing to make in order to secure their gratification: this sacrifice may take many forms…But in our world it has nearly always consisted of the transfer of some definite material thing which has been agreed upon as common medium of exchange, and is called “money.”…Thus then the desirability or utility of a thing to a person is commonly measured by the money price that he will pay for it.”[3]  More significantly, for our exploration of the agreements that guide human interaction, I note that microeconomics starts at the price question, delving into the behaviors of individuals in markets.[4]  This means two things, at this stage.  First, much time and energy has been dedicated to understanding how individuals arrive at a shared understanding of the value of exchange at the noun level – the agreed price.  Second, the microeconomic description of value focuses on the noun level, leaving out the light and verb levels of the human experience of the value of exchange.

Mode of exchange

My colleague Orland Bishop observed that, “Once human beings lose the capacity to give value to something, they have lost the sacred.  They are pursuing something (money) on the planet that others (the Federal Reserve) have said is valuable.”[5]

As time is filtered out of the verb level of the mode of exchange of inquiry in the value exchange, you come to the space-time moment of the exchange itself.  This is where the needs of both parties are potentially satisfied.  The mode you use for this exchange is money.  Money is an instrument that allows the exchange.  Money has a long history of its many, constantly evolving forms, from in-kind exchange to more liquid forms such as the currency you use today.

Interestingly, money is the most taboo topic.  A perceived relationship of scarcity to value, as it expresses in scarcity-based relationships to money, is responsible in our experience for most divorces, family breakups, and community dissonance.[6]  In the scarcity worldview, one’s perceived inner value is an inward projection of one’s accumulation of monetary wealth, a noun.  A projection of a noun is a smaller noun, one’s intrinsic value, which one projects back into the world, unconsciously, as static scarcity.  This is supported by a culture of acceptance of the rules of value generation and exchange as given.  The monetary structures and processes supporting this view of money are defined by scarcity.

Distribution of value in exchange

At the noun level of value, who gets what in the distribution of the value in the exchange focuses on the stock.  At this level, who has something in their stock receives value.  Entering the distribution question from the transformation of light into verb into noun is relatively straightforward.  Entering it from a scarcity-based perspective of the noun is not straightforward.

From the scarcity-based perspective, the seemingly obvious is that who ever has it gets it.  This brings in the question of who has it, which becomes a necessary question of ownership.  While each school of economic thought has the only “right” answer to who owns what, their solution depends completely on the primary relationship they feel to be most important.  For example, in the individualist economics of free markets, the relationship to self comes first.  The individual owns things.  From this perspective, the obvious solution is that whoever has something gets the value generated from that something.  This school of economics suggests, from a theory of surplus, that owners of land are paid rents, owners of labor are paid wages, and owners of capital are paid profits, that which is left over after paying rents and wages.  An innovation that results from this understanding emerged with the perspective on capital describe in the previous chapter on the big questions of resources.  If you have capital, then you can use it to generate more capital.  This is money making money on its own.  Nestled into this example is an assumption of who receives a fixed amount or a variable amount in the exchange.  Typically, rents are paid to owners based on a fixed, negotiated contract over a specified period.  Likewise, wages are paid to labor on a fixed, negotiated contract over a specified period.  These are both fixed, which benefits the land owners and labor, so that they are not at the whims of the manager.  This also allows them to determine whether they are willing to exchange what they have with the managers under the negotiated, relatively risk-free conditions.  The manager has a completely different kind of agreement to value distribution.  The manager’s agreement is variable, based on the net amount of value generated – the value left from what was generated after rents and wages are paid.  This gives the manager the incentive to maximize the value generated, while minimizing the cost of rents and wages, thus promoting efficiency in achieving effectiveness.  Much has been learned from this school.  And, it is not the only school that teaches you something.

The distributive question provides the formal description of what is happening at the noun level of value.  You have an experience of a need that is satisfied here and now.   The formulation is now very simple.  You exchange something (X), thus the formalization of the value experienced at the noun level is:

Value(noun) = X

This formulation shows that whoever has more at the noun level, satisfies more needs at the noun level, and thus perceives more value.  This puts a premium, at the noun level, in having the value – wealth comes from having.  This is the economic formulation of wealth.


[1] For an early description of supply and demand curves, refer to (Marshall, 1890, p. 150).

[2] According to Harvard economist Mankiw, “The price paid to any factor of production – labor, land, or capital – equals the value of the marginal product of that factor…” (Mankiw, 2008, pp. 408-409).

[3] This quote comes from Adam Smith’s famous forging of modern economics, in An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (Smith, 1976, p. 151).  It is curious, from an ecosynomic perspective of light, verb, and noun expressions of value, that most economists today refer to Smith’s work as “The Wealth of Nations,” erasing the initial eight words of the title describing Smith’s perspective on “An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of..”

[4] Economists Heilbroner and Thurow start their explanation of microeconomics, clarifying that “The micro point of view brings us immediately to look into the question of prices” (R. Heilbroner & Thurow, 1994, p. 174).  Likewise, economists Samuelson and Nordhaus write, “microeconomics studies individual prices, quantities, and markets” (Samuelson & Nordhaus, 1995, p. 382).

[5] This insight is from Orland Bishop (Teague, 2010d).  It is currently perceived that money has to be scarce to be valuable.  This is exactly the opposite of the human experience of flow being what is valuable, not the limiting of flow.

[6] This observation on money and life was made by psychotherapist Aaron Kipnis (Teague, 2010b).

Development-verb Reality of Value

Light to Verb

Filter out possibility from the experience of the infinite to get the manifestation of what you can develop in relationship over time.  In value, this means that the experience of the invitation that most enlivens you now comes into relationship with the living into that invitation through the development of specific dimensions of possibility.  In the transformation from possibility-light to development-verb, you see what you can do to maximize the harmonic vibrancy you seek, and how to develop in relationship capacities needed to step into those possibilities.

Development-Verb

The development-verb experience of value is value exchange.  This is what remains from the possibility-light-level experience of invitation – what of the invitation is to be developed, in relationship, for your experience.  At the development-verb level, you experience value as the flow of light, which shows up in the five primary experiences of relationship.  While it is clear that at very low levels of economic wealth (money), more money increases the sense of well-being, it is also clear now that above a minimal level of monetary wealth, increases in well-being are unrelated to increases in money.[1]

In the development-verb level of value, you seek to manifest access to what you choose in your experience in the light.  This is what you see when you take out possibility from light.  In the verb, you experience the light in fewer dimensions.  The light is still there: you only experience part of it, in the verb form.  This means that the infinite abundance of value in its light form is still there.  You are just experiencing the aspects of it that you are giving your attention to.  As you begin to develop specific potentials in yourself, such as your ability to play soccer with your nephew, does not mean that the light value has gone away now – all of the value you experienced flowing through you by being in a clearer invitation with the potential is still there.  In this moment, you are living the manifestation of it, in specific dimensions.  Understanding that the verb level of value is a geometric projection of light and all of its infinite abundance, reminds you that you are experiencing the abundance of the infinite.  This is completely different than thinking of the verb level of value as an expansion of the noun level, which starts from scarcity, which is the perspective of the scarcity-based approaches that add process and relationship to the allocation of scarce resources.

Value of exchange

What you experience of value at the verb level is access to development and relationship.  This is the excitement of learning, of the new, of deepening your understanding, of curiosity, of ever better relationships, of great times that make your friendships stronger.

Mode of exchange

As you experience value at the verb level, you exchange it in your primary relationships.  As you enter these relationships, the sages of thousands of years have prepared a reminder, a warning.  They called this monére – a warning or reminder.[2]  This early word became the word used today, money.  They warned that, as you enter the primary relationships, you must remember that you are experiencing the verb level of the infinite flow of the light level, in a particular way.  Thus, you should celebrate it, looking for the abundant beauty and truth in what is manifesting of the infinite.  You needed, and still need, a warning to remind you of how easy it is to forget this.

Exchange at the verb level is a special case of being in relationship to the flow of light in all five of your primary relationships (self, other, group, nature, spirit).  You do not exchange what you pay for what you experienced when I did something.  It is not $5 for every smile that you get from every moment of my creative brilliance on stage.  This would be: a flow in me – ka-ching! – results in a flow in you – ka-ching!  For $50 you expect 10 smiles, thus I better give you 10 brilliances.  Rather it is the gift you give me, to take me out of the exchange world for a few moments to be in the flow of possibility-light, so that you can be in the free flow of my creativity.

Value exchange is simultaneously the fantastic experience of the actual flow of light through your life and one of the subtlest, complicating factors of your life.  How you enter the flow, through the agreements you accept, consciously or not, influences whether you experience abundance or scarcity.

Communities worldwide are experimenting with the underlying assumptions of money in their communities.  They are doing this through complementary currencies – monetary currencies that are used as a complement to the national currency.  They typically remove the interest associated with national currencies.  These complementary currencies are often designed to increase the local velocity of money, linking unmet needs with unused resources.  The velocity of money is how much a currency is exchanged in a given period of time within a given geography.  Simply defined, the amount of value exchanged equals the amount of money times the velocity of money.  This means that when $100 comes into a community, it is available for increasing the total value exchanged in the community.  Most currencies promote coming into the community, say via wages and then be spent at a large store, which usually takes the money right back out of the community.  It was exchanged once.  That was $100 within the community.  However, local communities that promote local use might cause that same $100 to be used a dozen times locally before it leaves the community.  This would be $1,200 of total value exchanged with that $100.  This greatly increases the local output.

Bernard Lietaer documents over 4,800 complementary currencies globally since 1984.[3]  This includes the exchange of hours for national currency, hours for hours, local exchange trading systems of interest-free money, and systems that put a premium on the flow of money, penalizing the store of money.[4]

As an expression of the five primary relationships, complementary currencies engage the development of the individual’s unique gifts, recognition of the other’s gifts, and the benefit of local circulation for the group.  They also specify what is important within the local currency, promoting the flow of that value in the community.  These systems also acknowledge the high leverage of being explicit about what the group wants to promote, why people should exchange value in a particular way, and making that way most efficient.  Most complementary currencies focus on increasing the sufficiency people experience in their lives, which is a deep move from the scarcity invoked by national currencies.

From the harmonic-vibrancy move perspective, complementary currencies move one’s relationship with their own self from taking jobs for fiat currency to engaging in the flow of creativity through unique services provided.  While the fiat currency promotes self-interest, complementary currencies promote relationship building through value exchange networks.  They also promote and acknowledge contributions to and the health of the group.  One’s relationship with nature and spirit are not directly acknowledged in most of these systems.

Distribution of value in exchange

At the verb level, the distribution of value generated in the exchange focuses on who is participating in the development and relationships in the verb flow.  Simply put, who does and has gets a part of the flow.  Those who participate in the inflows and outflows perceive some of the value.

In economics, capitalism is privately owned land and capital, with capital being everything that is not land or labor.[5]  From an ecosynomic lens, capital is the accumulation of the net-flow – inflows less outflows, which are the manifestations of possibility-light flow, in and out.  Possibility flows through me in the act of creating something someone else needs.  When this creative value is exchanged, when the individual “pays” you, value flows in for you (money in).  When you “pay” for a need you have that someone’s creative flow satisfies, value flows from you (money out).  The net difference of the flow in and the flow out is the “capital” you are accumulating.   If what flowed in and what flowed out were symbolic representations of the flow of light-Spirit (creativity), what does it mean to accumulate the net-flow of light-Spirit?  Massive experimentation is exploring the localizing of agreements of what is valued and how it is exchanged.

There resides within the living of agreements a particular human sense of relationship seldom captured by the rules of economics.  Nobel Laureate Stiglitz describes this, “Alexis de Tocqueville once described what he saw as a chief part of the peculiar genius of American society—something he called “self-interest properly understood.”  The last two words were the key.  Everyone possesses self-interest in a narrow sense: I want what’s good for me right now!  Self-interest “properly understood” is different. It means appreciating that paying attention to everyone else’s self-interest – in other words, the common welfare – is in fact a precondition for one’s own ultimate well-being.  de Tocqueville was not suggesting that there was anything noble or idealistic about this outlook – in fact, he was suggesting the opposite. It was a mark of American pragmatism. Those canny Americans understood a basic fact: looking out for the other guy isn’t just good for the soul – it’s good for business.”[6]

The distributive question highlights the formal description of the verb level of value.  As you live into the increasing development of the potential value you saw, you begin to perceive that value.  You perceive it through both the flow and the change in the accumulation.  This describes your verb-level formulation.  The something you experience changes.  It increases from one level (X1) to another (X2).  The difference you experience is the change in that something (dX).  The change you perceive happens through development, from one time (t1) to another (t2).  The time elapsed between the two is the time to develop, in relationship, the new something you saw (dt).  This leads to the formalization of the value experienced at the verb level:

Value(verb) = dX/dt

This formulation shows that whoever influences the inflows and outflows, through their development and the relationships that influence them perceives more value.  This puts a premium, at the verb level, in being the value, doing the value, and having the value – wealth comes from all three at the same time.


[1] These findings are described in many forum lately.  See the “Happiness (and how to measure it)” cover story of The Economist in the December 23rd 2006-January 5th 2007 issue.  For a summary of this research, see (Kahneman & Krueger, 2006; Kahneman, Krueger, Schkade, Schwarz, & Stone, 2006).

[2] The etymology of “money” is uncertain, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, with possible connections to the Latin monére, which means “to warn, remind,” see (“money, n” The Oxford English Dictionary. 2nd ed. 1989. OED Online. Oxford University Press. 4 Apr. 2000 <http://dictionary.oed.com.ezp-prod1.hul.harvard.edu/cgi/entry/00313968&gt;.).

[3] For an in-depth study of complementary currencies, see (B. A. Lietaer, 2001; Teague, 2010a) and visit spiritofmoney.net.  For the number of complementary currencies, see www.greenenergyinvestors.com/index.php?showtopic=5274 or (B. Lietaer, 2003, p. 12).  Bernard Lietaer estimates there are over 5,000 community currency systems in operation, as of 2009, as cited in (Gelleri, 2009).  Another estimate in 2006 was 4,000 (Wheatley, 2006).

[4] For more on complementary currencies, see www.transaction.net/money/comp/.

[5] This definition comes from Nobel Laureate Samuelson (Samuelson & Nordhaus, 1995).

[6] This quote comes from Stiglitz’s writings in (Stiglitz, 2011).  Economists Heilbroner and Thurow describe the limitation of the free market system of determining who gets what part of the value exchanged, “the system has the defects of its virtues.  If it is efficient and dynamic, it is also devoid of values.  It recognizes no valid claim to the goods and services of society except those of wealth and income.  Those with income and wealth are entitled to the goods and services that the economy produces; those without income and wealth receive nothing” (R. Heilbroner & Thurow, 1994, p. 183).

Possibility-Light Reality of Value

Now I will apply the three big value questions, which I discussed in the last three posts,  to the five relationships at the levels of perceived reality.  The figure below captures this.

 

 

In this post, I will start with the possibility-light level of reality of value.  You experience value in everything you do.  It is everywhere around you.  It is what drawls your attention.  It is the light that makes you smile, as it shows up in everything important to you.  It is what you see behind the physical and flowing state of everything with which you engage.  It is the possibility you see in each experience you choose.  From this perspective, you seek to maximize the possibility-light you experience.  You see the potential for this in the possibilities you face.

Value of exchange

If you seek to maximize this experience in your life, then you assess the value of the light you experience by how much it fills you.  As you have seen from the beginning chapter of this book, you know when you experience greater or lesser amounts of harmonic vibrancy in your life, and you want greater harmonic vibrancy.  At the possibility-light level, this is akin to your reason for existence, so asking the value of this exchange for you is odd.  Nonetheless, you know what you are ready to do and how important it is for you to experience this greater harmonic vibrancy.

You experience light-value in each of the primary relationships.  It is the gifts you see in your self, the possibilities that fill you.  It is the gifts you see in me, and who I can be.  You see it in who we can be, what we could achieve, the vibrancy we could experience through our contributions into the world.  It is presence of the majestic river and the life-energy you experience in the mountains and in being alive.  It is the experience of the infinite creativity and love in spirit.

Mode of exchange

At the light level, you exchange value through the mode of invitation.  An invitation is a curious phenomenon you experience daily.  An invitation requires intending to do something together with others, seeing another to engage with for that invitation, stepping towards that person and sharing that intention, and finally inviting them to participate.  You have to see the we, the other, and step towards the other to bring them into the we.  This is an invitation.  It engages cognition, relation, and volition.  Powerful stuff.  This is very different than wondering why nobody showed up for something you thought would be useful.  Why didn’t “they” do that?  To invite, to be invitational, you must start with yourself, see us in the future, and engage me.[1]

Distribution of value in exchange

Who gets what part of the value generated at the light level of value?  This question brings up the subsidiary questions of what is value and what does it mean to distribute infinite abundance?  You have already seen, from your own experience, that what you most value, at the light level, is always available everywhere at all time.  It is a matter, often a very difficult one, of seeing it.  Distributing that is then more a question of who chooses to see it, and less a question of who gets what was seen by someone else.  This is the realm most often experienced by those people that you think of as creative or lucky.  You give creative people license to live in the infinite possibility, as long as they share some of the fruits of that experience with us.  What they share from that experience opens up portals of experience for us, seeing beauty in things we seldom imagined.  It is a beautiful painting, a smile, an act of kindness, a party, a dinner, a musical moment, a belly-splitting joke – something pulled from a place of great beauty that we get to experience here.  The distributive question of who gets what part of the value generated, in this experience, suggests that it goes to all who participate to the degree of their participation.  The creative person experienced the most value, because through their volition they stepped into the infinite and played there.  The observer experiences value because of the portal they perceive through the creative act.  This is a direct experience of the light level of value, where who gets what is a matter of being, of who is being the light.  Interestingly, people who have this light experience of value more frequently tend to be called lucky.  They sure are lucky to get to have that experience.  Maybe when I retire, I too will be that lucky.  What we don’t see, when we call them lucky, is that we all have access to that, if we only choose.

Jumping ahead a little to give you the punch line, you can see why you experience the most value when you start from the light level and work your way through its transformation into verbs and nouns.  The distributive possibility in working at the light level of value is to experience the value at all three levels of perceived reality – light, verb, and noun.  This cannot be done if one starts from the noun level, as I will soon show you.  Starting from the light level, you experience the infinite possibilities and the power in being in relationship with what most fills you.  You can then choose to be in relationship with the development of specific dimensions of this infinite, experiencing the abundance in working with its development over time in many relationships.  This is also a direct experience of value, at the verb level.  Finally, you can choose the moment of overlapping verbs, to choose the noun level moment in space-time where the need is satisfied in an exchange.  You also perceive value in that exchange.  Thus, the point is that the value to distribute is much greater when you both recognize all three levels of value (light, verb, noun), and when you start from abundance instead of from scarcity.

The distributive question brings us to a moment of formal description of what is happening at the light level of value.  You have an experience of something that begins to fill you as you experience its greater possibility.  This simple description contains a formulation.  The something you experience changes.  It increases from one level (X1) to another (X2).  The difference you experience is the change in that something (dX).  The change you perceive happens through development over a period of time, from one time (t1) to another (t2).  The time elapsed between the two is the time to develop, in relationship, the new something you saw (dt).  In this development is all the possibility that you saw still living in what you saw (dp).  This leads to the formalization of the value experienced at the light level as:

Value(light) = dX/dt/dp

This formulation shows that whoever brings in more possibility at the light level, more development and relationship at the verb level, and more need-satisfaction at the noun level perceives more value.  This puts a premium, at the light level, in seeing the value, being the value, doing the value, and having the value – wealth comes from all four at the same time.  This is completely different than wealth coming from who has the most.

The possibility-light level also shows why the maxim of the one who gives the most, receives the most.  This maxim refers to the giving of the experience of the light value, in three different ways. First, to give of the light value, you have to be in the light value.  You have to be the creative person we just described, who lives in the space of the value potential.  Living in the relationship to the light level of value is where you receive great value.  Opening that experience to others, by giving more fully, opens you to that experience.  Second, you receive more fully by experiencing how the creative light manifests in others, those moments of creativity and possibility that so fill you.  The third way referred to by this maxim is more indirect.  As you open yourself to giving more fully, by our own relationship to the light level of value, you begin to experience it more fully everywhere.  Thus, giving more fully opens up three doors to value, through you own direct experience in the giving, through the direct experience in the other, and through the broader experience everywhere around you.


[1] Orland Bishop describes money from this perspective.  “All modes of exchange have to have intention for them to work, with an agreement between two or more people to be useful.  The mode of exchange is the process of agreement that allows us to utilize this particular thing imbued with the substance of intention.  It begins with the human capacity to give intention.  From that intention sparks a reality that allows something else to come back” (Teague, 2010).  This description makes explicit the manifestation of: light as will – the intention; light as relationship – the agreement; and light as thought – speaking the agreement

Who Gets What in the Exchange of Value?

When value is generated, who experiences and who receives what part of it?  This is a distribution question.  Around distribution is the question of who gets how much of the value flowing through any part of your life.  Big questions here circle around who has the right to what, and who gets to decide how it is used.  These questions deal with issues around taxation, public revenue, and private ownership.  The big question that hundreds of generations have struggled with is, who gets what of the value that flows through the group’s work?

Basically, you can think of three different groups who divide up the pie of what is made in an exchange: those who have resources; those who do work; and those who organize.  Essentially, you pay rents to people who own the resources you are using.  Whether it is an apartment, a warehouse space, land, or large equipment, you can pay someone else rent for the use of the resources they own.  The people who do the work to make the good or provide the service are paid wages.  Whether paid by the hour or day, like most employees, or by the project, like many professional services, such as doctors or architects, they are paid wages for their time.  Finally, after rents and wages come profits, which typically go to those people who organize the work and resources.

Today’s agreements about value tend to be buried deep within the group unconscious, with most people assuming the current rules are given: that this is the way it must be.  There is one national currency.  The government controls how much money there is and how it is used.  One’s wealth is defined by how much money one has.[1]  What if these assumptions are completely wrong?  What would happen if agreements of abundance were made explicit and shared?  Millions of people in hundreds of thousands of groups are actively exploring new forms of these agreements today, and demonstrating that they can be much more effective this way.

Ecosynomics suggests a very different relationship with value in a network of individuals.  The creative force of spirit manifests in two forms: its absolute, pure form; and in its relative, individuated forms.  Value is the experience of harmonic vibrancy (spirit) coming through both.[2]  People experience the manifestation of the possibility-light, as it expresses in relationships.  Exchange is acknowledging how the experience of vibrancy coming through shows up as itself in me, in you, in us, in nature, in spirit.  Ecosynomics is the recognition of the abundance flowing in all five relationships, while economics is the commoditization of the value that previously you exchanged.


[1] For integral perspectives on money, see Bernard Lietaer and Richard Wagner.  For perspectives on the system dynamics of money, see (Ritchie-Dunham & Hulbert, 2009a).  For the impact of strings of agreement of different types of money, see (Ritchie-Dunham & Hulbert, 2009b).

[2] See an interview with me on the ecosynomics of money (Teague, 2010c).