The Zeitgeist Movement

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Founded in 2008, The Zeitgeist Movement (TZM) is a sustainability advocacy organization, which conducts community based activism and awareness actions through a network of global/regional chapters, project teams, annual events, media and charity work.

The movement's principle focus includes the recognition that the majority of the social problems that plague the human species at this time are not the sole result of some institutional corruption, absolute scarcity, a political policy, a flaw of "human nature" or other commonly held assumptions of causality. Rather, the movement recognizes that issues such as poverty, corruption, pollution, homelessness, war, starvation and the like appear to be "symptoms" born out of an outdated social structure.

While intermediate reform steps and temporal community support are of interest to the movement, the defining goal is the installation of a new socioeconomic model based upon technically responsible resource management, allocation and design through what would be considered the scientific method of reasoning problems and finding optimized solutions.

This “Natural Law/Resource-Based Economy" (NLRBE) is about taking a direct technical approach to social management as opposed to a monetary or even political one. It is about updating the workings of society to the most advanced and proven methods known, leaving behind the damaging consequences and limiting inhibitions. which are generated by our current system of monetary exchange, profit, business and other structural and motivational issues.

The movement is loyal to a train of thought, not figures or institutions. The view held is that through the use of socially targeted research and tested understandings in science and technology, we are now able to logically arrive at societal applications that could be profoundly more effective in meeting the needs of the human population, increasing public health. There is little reason to assume war, poverty, most crime and many other monetarily-based scarcity effects common in our current model cannot be resolved over time. The range of the movement's activism and awareness campaigns extend from short to long term, with methods based explicitly on non-violent methods of communication.

The Zeitgeist Movement has no allegiance to country or traditional political platforms. It views the world as a single system and the human species as a single family and recognizes that all countries must disarm and learn to share resources and ideas if we expect to survive in the long run. Hence, the solutions arrived at and promoted are in the interest to help everyone on Earth, not a select group.

Natural Law Resource Based Economy (NLRBE)

The core of TZM's proposed social mechanism is the Natural Law Resource Based Economy (NLRBE). Here's some excerpts from the TZM defined book which gives an overview of what the NLRBE is about, followed by some criticisms and questions I have about it.

The NLRBE is not centrally planned. It is a Collaborative Design System (CDS). It is based entirely upon public interaction, facilitated by programmed, open-access systems, that enable a constant, dynamic feedback exchange that can literally allow for the input of the public on any given industrial matter, whether personal or social.

The actual programming utilized by this interactive system would be available in an open source platform for public input and review. In fact, the system is predicated entirely upon the intelligence of the “group mind” and the open source/open access sharing virtue will help bring all viable interests to the surface for public consideration, in an absolutely transparent manner.

Design is the first step in any production interest and this interface can be engaged by a single person; it can be engaged by a team; it can be engaged by everyone. It is open source and open access and it would come in the form of an online web interface.

All submitted designs, in creation or deemed complete, are stored in an open access, searchable database. This database makes all designs available for others to use or build upon. In this way, it is similar to a traditional goods catalog commonly found today, except it contains digital designs that can be sent into production at any time, on demand.

In this new, open source type design approach, the entire global community has the option of presenting ideas for everyone to see, weighing in on and building upon designs, harnessing the power of collective experience and global knowledge.

Any proposed design will be digitally filtered through a series of sustainability and efficiency protocols which relate not only to the state of existing resources, but also to the current performance of the total industrial system.

Distribution can either occur directly from the production facility, usually in the case of an on-demand, one-off production for custom use, or sent to a distribution library for public access in masse, based on regional demand interest.

Connected to the design process, literally built into the noted “Optimize Design Efficiency” function, is dynamic feedback from an Earth-wide accounting system that gives data about all relevant resources which pertain to all productions.

Imagine a scenario where an individual parks his or her bike on a street, without a lock, entering a house. This bike was checked out of a local distribution library for the person's use. Then, a bystander, who is in a hurry, not close to a distribution library, sees this bike and makes an inappropriate decision to take the bike to get where he needs to go. This is a dishonest and rude act. In a property system, this would be called “theft”. In an access system it might take a different term, such as an “access violation”. The severity of the action is very different and it is more of an annoyance than a crime. In a property system the bike would likely be sold for money or kept. In an access system, the original user would simply obtain a new bike and move on, inconvenienced, while the person who took the bike would likely just drop it off after use, as there is no resale value and hence no real reason to keep it. Yet, it doesn't mean the act should be ignored and go unnoticed in its access violation, as such behavior, as rare as it likely would be, would need acknowledgment to serve as a form of operant education. It is no different than how people today learn basic decency, respect and etiquette. Therefore, rather than property rights, a simple access rights rule could be installed to deter such behavior. In other words, any person obtaining items through the system would have access rights to those items for the duration of use and if another comes and takes those items, it is an offense. Reinforcement to deter such future acts would first be warnings. If persisted over time, it could mean a temporary limitation of future access in some genre for that offending person.

Question: how do you stop him taking the resource?
Question: what about other "violations" such as pollution? how do you determine what's a violation and what's not and how do you stop it?

The idea of partially achieving a NLRBE might be confusing to some. This statement is made to express how certain management practices and half-measures, constituting a "hybrid-economy" are not out of the question toward some degree of sustainable, abundance generating progress. This will not be explored in this essay but the possibility is worth personal consideration.

TZM refers to LETS and UBI as transitional tools. Re UBI it's hard to see how that can be supported without involving theft (forced distribution of income). But their idea of distributing the initial output of their costless food to the neediest is a very good one which could lead to UBI-like results without any theft.

Criticism

There's a need for budgets still, so people can choose to have more quantity or variety of certain goods at the expense of others etc... he asks what would someone do with 200 televisions for example, well there's a number of reasons someone may want 200 televisions;

  • a personal project like an enormous personal theatre
  • to try and harm the system in defence of the status-quo
  • pure greed, which will be common during transition

Regarding hacking, he asks why anyone would perform such an act in the new model. Since the entire system is designed to provide for everyone, where is the incentive to disturb it? That's just plain stupid, every system will have it's vulnerabilities exploited eventually, it's just plain bad software development practice to have such an attitude. Also, given that the RBE can't just suddenly materialise, and all the people suddenly change to a post-scarcity mindset. The system will be severely attacked in every way and will need to be built on technology that expects that such as Ethereum (which has learned from the ways that Bitcoin has been attacked). He says "there's simply no reward" in harming the system, but this is a contradiction since he's fully acknowledged that the market system is a protectionist racket, the reward is simply in destroying the RBE to maintain the status-quo.

I'd like the book to cover more about their position on Law. How do they define what's a violation or not? how do they plan to prevent people from committing such violations? When these kinds of questions have been raised they've avoided getting into it by asking "why would somebody do that?", but there's always going to be crime, especially in the transition times when many people are still sick and greedy or want to attack the RBE to maintain the status-quo. I would like their position on Law and force to be clearly stated in the definition. Is it a voluntary system? what constitutes membership or violation of membership? can one be a member and still engage in monetary trade?

Excerpts

The Zeitgeist Movement (TZM) is not interested in the poetic, subjective and arbitrary notions of “a fair society”, ”guaranteed freedom”, “world peace”, or “making a better world” simply because it sounds “right”, “humane” or “good”. Without a technical framework that has a direct physical referent to such terms, such moral relativism serves little to no long-term purpose. Rather, TZM is interested in scientific application, as applied to societal sustainability, both physical and cultural. (page 32)

TZM's advocated train of thought sources advancements in human studies. It finds, for example, that social stratification, which is inherent to the capitalist/market model, to actually be a form of indirect violence against the vast majority as a result of the evolutionary psychology we humans naturally posses. It generates an unnecessary form of human suffering on many levels, which is destabilizing and, by implication, technically unsustainable.

Another example is TZM's interest in removing universal property and setting up a system of “shared access”. This is often quickly condemned to the Marxist idea of “abolishing private property”. However, generally speaking, the Marxist logic relates the existence of private property to the perpetuation of the “bourgeois” and their ongoing exploitation of the “proletariat”. He states in the Manifesto: “The distinguishing feature of Communism is not the abolition of property generally, but the abolition of bourgeois property.” TZM's advocated logic, on the other hand, relates the fact that the practice of universal, individual ownership of goods is environmentally inefficient, wasteful and ultimately unsustainable as a practice. This supports a restrictive system behaviour and a great deal of unnecessary deprivation, and hence crime is common in societies with an unequal distribution of resources. (page 33)

Interviews

Another look at Zeitgeist

Zeitgeist's come a long way in the last few years. It's a far more mature, complete and clearly defined system than it was last time I looked at it deeply. The main problem I had with it was that seemed to be "anti-spiritual". In the first version of the doco they dedicated a full third of it to debunking religions as myths that damage society and hinder positive progress for society. It seemed to be so intense in this aspect as to be almost anti-spiritual.

He still has this same perspective now, but he now articulates his meaning far better and I understand and agree with it. What he's basically saying is that sustainability is more fundamental and assessable than ethics (even the golden rule), and that having a sustainability-based bottom line will inherently include an ethical bottom line anyway.

I agree with all this, I think a resource-based economy is the only real sustainable way to go, and that a free market just cannot avoid plunder since it's a concept that's only applicable within the context of scarcity, which doesn't resolve the economic bottom-line problem and leads to the separation of the population into economic classes and many other problems.

Peter Joseph debates Stefan Moleneaux

I felt really sorry for Peter Joseph in this interview. Stefan reveals that he actually has an extremely simplistic view about how an ideal society could work, believing that a free market could effectively solve everything, and the state is responsible for all the problems in society. Peter tries to explain that it's actually the problem of the scarcity of money that's the real problem, and that there really isn't any possibility of voluntary exchange since it can only occur within a context which itself leads to selfish and violent outcomes. Stefan just can't understand Peter's perspective, and in fact it appears that he's not actually comprehending Peter's sentences, he even at one point accused Peter of not presenting an argument but rather just giving him a "word salad". Actually that "word salad" was explaining clearly the fundamental problems with Stefan's argument but he totally missed it, repeatedly falling back to his superficial and simplistic arguments.

Here's Peter Joseph apologising for getting angry with Stefan and explaining more clearly (i.e. trying to avoid any "word salads") his arguments in the interview.

Zeitgeist splits with Venus

The group discussion about the split

Official sites & resources

Related news

See also