The New Financial Times

An Extract from “A Few Notes on The Culture” by Iain M Banks

“Let me state here a personal conviction that appears, right now, to be profoundly unfashionable; which is that a planned economy can be more productive – and more morally desirable – than one left to market forces.

The market is a good example of evolution in action; the try-everything-and-see-what- -works approach. This might provide a perfectly morally satisfactory resource-management system so long as there was absolutely no question of any sentient creature ever being treated purely as one of those resources. The market, for all its (profoundly inelegant) complexities, remains a crude and essentially blind system, and is – without the sort of drastic amendments liable to cripple the economic efficacy which is its greatest claimed asset – intrinsically incapable of distinguishing between simple non-use of matter resulting from processal superfluity and the acute, prolonged and wide-spread suffering of conscious beings.

It is, arguably, in the elevation of this profoundly mechanistic (and in that sense perversely innocent) system to a position above all other moral, philosophical and political values and considerations that humankind displays most convincingly both its present intellectual immaturity and – through grossly pursued selfishness rather than the applied hatred of others – a kind of synthetic evil.

Intelligence, which is capable of looking farther ahead than the next aggressive mutation, can set up long-term aims and work towards them; the same amount of raw invention that bursts in all directions from the market can be – to some degree – channelled and directed, so that while the market merely shines (and the feudal gutters), the planned lases, reaching out coherently and efficiently towards agreed-on goals. What is vital for such a scheme, however, and what was always missing in the planned economies of our world’s experience, is the continual, intimate and decisive participation of the mass of the citizenry in determining these goals, and designing as well as implementing the plans which should lead towards them.

Of course, there is a place for serendipity and chance in any sensibly envisaged plan, and the degree to which this would affect the higher functions of a democratically designed economy would be one of the most important parameters to be set… but just as the information we have stored in our libraries and institutions has undeniably outgrown (if not outweighed) that resident in our genes, and just as we may, within a century of the invention of electronics, duplicate – through machine sentience – a process which evolution took billions of years to achieve, so we shall one day abandon the grossly targeted vagaries of the market for the precision creation of the planned economy.

The Culture, of course, has gone beyond even that, to an economy so much a part of society it is hardly worthy of a separate definition, and which is limited only by imagination, philosophy (and manners), and the idea of minimally wasteful elegance; a kind of galactic ecological awareness allied to a desire to create beauty and goodness.

Whatever; in the end practice (as ever) will outshine theory.”

The full essay is available to read here.

“Modern economics is not true economics at all it is a mere ideological philosophy built upon a series of pre-suppositions given the illusion of permanence.”

– Peter Joseph

Questions to Consider

  • Consider the financial system transaction database as a history of creative decisions, should we be applying acute critical judgement regarding Purchase Power as a creative and destructive tool?
  • Acknowledging species diversity across the financial spectrum: Are there new ways of categorizing different types of rich and poor people?
  • In our economy what level of gain is awarded to assuaging emotional doubt and telling people what they want to hear, and what might the long-term effects be?
  • Does the falsification of emotional output, such as smugness, help create an unbalanced mainstream transmission?
  • TWE does the falsification of emotional output, allow participants the chance to luxuriate in the energetic transference associated with emission of that emotion?
  • What does the phrase “Mind over money” mean?
  • Is there merit to the idea of classifying forms of non-financial wealth (time-richness, culture-richness…)?
  • In what ways is the monetary system affected by empathy?
  • Does culture financially reward the creators of answers more than the creators of questions and how does this affect the type of thinking mainstream culture is exposed to?
  • When considering a transition into a different kind of economy, what would happen to the knowledge base relating to the mathematical impetus of the economic system?
  • Considering art in the marketplace as an exploitation of unique inner qualities for profitability, can you provide other examples where this model applies?   



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