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March 24, 2007

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worth studying and watchin, I am sure.

Someone who knows all too well how the dominant system works, and seemingly with the smarts, creativity and motivation to help others, in community, into a new and better game.

At the heart of her concept is a money making idea, pure investment banking. Public companies trade at 20 times earning. Private companies trade at 4-5 times earnings because they are not liquid. By creating structures of publicly traded securities out of private businesses, she think she can get that kind of "pop." Doubling or quadrupling the market value just by making private securities public. There is more to it than that, involving A and B shares, and who gets the financial gains and who controls the investment trust, the Solari, but the driver here is actually largely greed. She insists on that. She worked under Jack Kemp and Bush I. Yet her interest in preserving small town America seems equally real. An interesting figure, not a utopian at all, not a granola eater, a devout Christian and devotee of truly free markets, as opposed to the rigged game she says it has become.

Every time you post about this woman, I come to the same conclusion. She gives me the willies. I have no doubt she's a well-meaning individual, but there's something very dark in this underlying vision. She and her cronies are still going to be making money hand over fist at the expense of the poor and middle class, even though I'm sure she sees her role as one who is protective and benevolent. No doubt Catherine knows what's best for me and wouldn't hesitate to tell me.

Candidia is the lesser of two evils. No false sense of security. I'll take my chances with Candidia, thank you very much. I'd rather have her contempt than Catherine's condescending paternalistic control.

We are going to be sold, the question is who will be the buyer? Catherine's idea is that your neighborhood form an investment club to buy itself and put itself in trust. You would have a charter, giving control of the trust to a group of neighbors. In addition, non voting shares could be sold to Wall St, so you could put your IRA into shares that were invested back home, rather than in Monsanto, etc. From her writing comes a cold wind, but it is the cold wind of the dark world in which she worked for so long. What she knows is that your fate is already sealed, how and by whom. What she is trying to create is a plan b, one in which she gets rich once again, communities win, and she revenges herself on the insiders who have ostracized and all but broken her. She is only person I know personally who thinks big enough to offer the shape of potential solutions to the problems of centralization, globalization, privatization ("piratiziation"), dwindling democracy, off-shoring of jobs, etc. Progressives sit in a circle and suppose. Catherine sits in the middle and knows, to paraphrase Frost.

I have this horrible feeling of being stuck in a room, ala Sartre's No Exit, where my only two companions for all eternity would be Candidia and Catherine. There are a few worse visions of hell, but not many.

Her vision, in part makes me think of neighborhood associations like my eldest brother and his wife have to deal with or the kind my sister in-law and her husband have to deal with. The first is in Wisconsin. The second in Las Vegas, Nevada, but both are equally intrusive and punitive in their approach. That's not a neighborhood. Not a prison, either, but very stifling and very controlling. No room for individuality. Similar, also, to the peace wreath story I sent you a link to last December. Lockstepping in conformity. If that's the future, then please, pretty please, shoot me now, because I know I will not flourish nor will my children, in her brave, new world.

And, if what you say is true about progressives, then we damned well better get off our collective asses and do something. Fast. Because Catherine's vision of our future might be pretty nifty keeno for her, but it scares the living bejesus out of me. Oh, Fordy.

Plan A, where things are headed now, should terrify you. The Plan B is a defense against it. Imagine that all the water supply in Chicago is owned by a global corporation, and that prices rise accordingly. That kind of thing is the future. Rights not granted are denied.

Oh, I understand what Plan A is about, but I don't buy into that being the future. Plan B feels very oppressive to me. If that is better, then shoot me now.

Well, I think we have to be explicit about what is oppressive about it. I read and skimmed a bit of the "design book", and it is interesting. The type A and B stock is their mechanism, A being restricted in that it can't be bought and sold directly and has voting rights for the board and the B, unrestricted which is strictly capital for return.

I think we can do better with an organizational design for a commons of networked organizations. It seems like her plan would have the solari corp. buying and creating local businesses, which makes them the owners and managers of these enterprises. What I'm thinking of would pool the collective assets of a community by choice as the foundation of an alternative system of currencies, banking and finance. There would be internal markets in an array of alternative currencies that serves to allocate resources and select for productive use of capital. These flows would all be internal to the network, and there would also be external markets to interface with fiat currencies for investment capital and to buy and sell products in fiat currencies.

The expectation is that as a collective entity that averages out the successes and failures of individual small enterprises and applies local knowledge as Fitts suggests for a Solari corp., that capital stocks in the collective would more match the 20-30x PE ratios of publicly traded stock, and the collective can use that difference to its collective advantage in creating leverage for its internal currencies and securities.

Catherine does write about alternative currencies, and is big into the gold as an alternative to fiat currencies. Distributed networks, commons, and alternative currencies sounds promising, Gerry. The Design Book that Catherine did is interesting too. What would a Design Book look like for your idea - what players have to do what to make it happen? Are their low cost, easy, "first steps" that can multiply spontaneously, or is the first step huge? The problem with Catherine thought, at a practical level, is that it costs at least $10 million to fund the design book for the first project. Then many people in the community have to be educated to participate. And a legal budget is needed in case embedded financial interests and political interest retaliate and fight dirty. Even the internet began with a Design Book in government, right?

Yes, that's what I was thinking, a design book for a Commons. I suspect that most of the easy stuff is already being done, that's the gift exchange based open source/content movement, but to turn that into an economic force, that is the challenge. That's a good project to instigate at the "Wealth of Networks" wiki. It is still germinating, but something is coming soon.

What isn't owned will be stolen, legally. Isn't that what we have learned? So how to own what should not be owned? Creative Commons is such an idea. What forms of ownership might preserve or create a commons?

So between Candidia and Catherine, which one most likely to throw me into a re-education camp or otherwise detain me and my girls for being different?

Candidia, for sure. Catherine is not authoritarian in the least; for her the key figure is the small business owner, farmer, rancher, or entrepreneur.

I'll take your word for it, but, still, there's a pesky little something that sets off alarms for me. I wish I knew what it was.

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