Browsing articles tagged with " systems theory"
Feb 22, 2013

Seeding a Viable Economic Alternative. Pt 2: The Principal Themes (Outcomes of a Systems Workshop at Future Connections 2012)

This is the second installment of a 4 part series about a soft systems workshop Arkadian ran with 20 PhD candidates at the Future Connections Conference 2012 in St Andrews, all of whom were conducting PhD Research on the theme of Sustainable Development.

Previously, we outlined the workshop structure, and described the session’s major outcome: an Action Plan for seeding a nationwide Viable Alternative to the current economic system. In the last two installments, Arkadian will be venturing some personal thoughts relating to the session outcomes that emerged during the analysis.

This week, however, we will be exploring four Themes that pervaded the discussion about a Prototype Community that might seed a Viable Alternative. As mentioned previously, some ideas here (and in Part 3 and 4) will be developed beyond the original session content as a result of their transaction (via Arkadian) with an ongoing experiment in developing an socioeconomic alternative (‘Wisdom Economy’) on the Isle of Bute: An Tearman.

1) Stewardship of the Diversity, Integrity and Beauty of the ‘Community-of-Interdependence’ (Nature first). It was generally agreed that, if the Community was to have a single guiding principle it should be the pursuit of a reverent partnership with Mother Nature. This combines active observation and experimentation, to enrich our objective understanding of Her systemic workings, and activities which promote a deeper experiential connection, and appreciation of Her intrinsic value.

Although we place Nature first, as concerns practicing empathy for other and placing systemic needs above our own,  our values are equivalent towards both Her and Our Community. We aim to cultivate individual awareness that the two are not separate but together constitute a single Community-of-Interdependence within which every ‘being’ performs a substantive role.

The fundamental goal of the Viable Alternative is to establish an equilibrium where we receive our material and non-material needs as a byproduct of enlightened care for the Community-of-Interdependence, with Nature taking priority. In pursuit of this, we complement Her strategies of achieving systemic integrity, productivity and beauty through diversity, reciprocity and work excellence in our approaches to the local ecology and our social milieu.

2) Performative Knowledge and Learning (Community-as-Process). How a rag bag of individuals, and hang-ups, might operate together effectively, ethically and enjoyably was probably the main, if subliminal, preoccupation of the session. Ultimately, this led to the group insight that ‘Community’ is a continuous reinforcing process, and not a ‘place’ or ‘entity’ as the concept is more commonly used.

To think and act as a unit (‘togetherness’, ‘belonging’, ‘sharing’), our individual purpose, needs and experiences need to braid and coalesce with each others’. This couldn’t happen without the Structure, Principles and, particularly, the Time that would enable the Community to successfully plan, work, have fun and be together.

Also considered essential to acting as a unit is the ability for all members to have some grasp of the whole ‘blueprint’ of their particular Community project and, thus, an appreciation of the role, value and interdependence of all actors and activities therein. This requirement for inclusive participation in, and understanding of, the whole picture, in turn, implies limitations on the scope, size and organisation of the ‘units’ that comprise the wider Community System.

Moreover, there are no ‘experts’ here. Other, that is, than the Community itself. We consider the only real knowledge and learning is that which arises from, and returns to, our collective performance.

Collective BrainKnow-how, erudition, irreverent cross-disciplinary romps, naive childlike experimentation, error and dispassionate collective assessment are all celebrated contributors to our ultimate purpose: a continuous social learning process that calls forth the unknown and unknowable world of the Viable Alternative. In this milieu, articulated knowledge functions as a part of collective activities rather than as an expertise that structures performance from without.

Below is a diagram of a Viable Systems Model (VSM) representing the Community’s organisational structure, which demonstrates the centrality of Community-as-Process’ to its success. A VSM is a systems thinking tool that applies the metaphor of living organism to an organisation, representing its main purposeful transactions with the environment as ‘organs’.

Ordinarily, a VSM presumes an ‘Executive Subsystem’ that monitors and orchestrates the operations of the whole – the equivalent of, say, the ‘The Board’ or the Prefrontal Cortex. However, in the model of the Viable Alternative Learning System, the wisdom of the ‘Director’ has been displaced by that of the ‘Collective’, in the form of the social processes from which our shared self-organising and self-regulating vision emerges.



3) Respect and Empathy for The Experiences of Other. Key to the healthy functioning of ‘Community-as-Process’ is respect for the predispositions and experiential histories of our fellows, even when they give rise to motivations, perspectives and worldviews very different from our own. Necessarily, this also entails developing our aptitude for dispassionate self-examination, so that we may each reflect critically on the roots of our own models, assumptions and prejudices.

To address these inner challenges, our aim is that everyone become adept in the pragmatic application of ‘tools’ that promote mindfulness of self and other – meditation, yoga, mediation, facilitation, discussion circles, non-violent communication, nature connection and systems methodologies such as Rich-Picturing, SODA and SSM.


The practical objective of all this is, to the extent possible, decouple personal experience from its deep cultural (and possibly, natural) entanglements with status, identity and ego, so that it’s performative potential may blossom. Deconstructing our ivory towers to build bridges of consensus. Transforming Knowledge and Experience as immutable personal possessions, into Knowledge and Experience as a dynamic shared property that informs and feeds back from impersonal activities-in-the-moment.

All very well, I hear you say, but what about me? Where do my individual needs fit in and what happens when they diverge from those of the collective? After all, even big happy families stifle personal growth at times, don’t they?

Making space for purely personal development, unsurprisingly, was another central theme of the discussion. As mentioned in the previous installment, a core design objective of the Prototype is to free a third of each week for each of us to pursue our own ‘becoming’ according to our own inclination. Our only constraint is that in exercising this right, we don’t impact negatively on the diversity, integrity and beauty of the Community-of-Interdependence.

The Community may also allocate some of its own ‘activity and decision-making’ time to develop opportunities and environment in response to individuals’ identified or declared needs. This is deemed valuable work because it promotes diversity and redundancy, the magical underpinnings of productivity and stability for both Nature and Community.

DiversityIn summary, we take the view that a social system where individual variety, creativity and knowledge of the local natural environment flourishes according to its own will, where each node maintains positive interconnections to all others and contains the seed of the self-sufficient whole, and which can decide and mobilise effectively as a single organism, is one of optimal adaptability and resilience, and thus best equipped to face the environmental challenges of the future.

4) The Sanctity of Time for Community and The Individual had, by the end of the session, become a central mantra of the Learning System. Time is not perceived here as an abstraction, or an economic ‘obligation’, but as a resource of inestimable importance: the root source of those experiences most responsible for generating meaning, community and well being.

Thus, the need for the Viable Alternative to produce sufficient Time to satisfy our non-material requirements was a thread that pervaded the discussion. An indicator, possibly, of how overlooked, undervalued and misunderstood its role has become in the current economic system.

And so concludes our look at the principal 4 Themes underpinning the discussion, and of the outline of the session outcomes. We hope you’ll join in a fortnight for Part 3, where Arkadian will be discussing some personal views that emerged during the analysis.

Feb 8, 2013

Seeding a Viable Economic Alternative. Pt 1: The Action Plan (Outcomes of a Systems Workshop at Future Connections 2012)

This article is the first in a 4 part series relating to a soft-systems workshop Arkadian ran at Futures Connections 2012. The first 2 parts deal primarily with the outcomes of the session, whilst in the latter 2, Arkadian will be setting out some personal thoughts resulting from the analysis.

Participants were 20 PhD candidates from universities across Scotland, representing a  broad variety of disciplines. All were conducting Research on the theme of Sustainable Development.

An TearmanSince Futures Connections, the outcomes of this workshop have informed the decision-making of another project in which Arkadian is involved: An Tearman, on the Isle of Bute. An Tearman is an experiment in enacting a new socioeconomic model (‘Wisdom Economy’) involving a broad range of stakeholders. A prototype ‘blueprint’ heavily influenced by Permaculture principles is slowly emerging.

As the ideas generated by the workshop have contributed to the An Tearman project, so too have Arkadian’s learnings fed back into the current analysis, impacting on interpretations, and resulting in some development of the original workshop material, particularly in Parts 2, 3 and 4.

Next episode, we shall be discussing 4 Themes that pervaded the discussion, and in the last two installments, we’ll explore some ideas pertaining to the session outcomes. However, to begin we will outline the aims and structure of the workshop and describe its main outcome: An Action Plan for seeding a Viable Alternative.

The session’s Overarching Aim was:

WHAT?: To seed nationwide sustainable development.

HOW?: By building a self-sufficient and sustainable Community which demonstrates an inspiring, working model of a viable alternative to the current economic system.

WHY?: Because if we desire a tolerable future, there is an urgent necessity to begin our transition to a sustainable economy.

Participants were asked to consider 3 questions:

WHAT Personal Project would you bring to this Community?

HOW would it contribute to the Overarching Aim?

WHY is it important?

Responses were written on Post-Its in private and stuck randomly on a wall in What? / How? / Why? groups. The result fueled the group discussion. A Systems Map representing rough categories for the Post-Its and main topics of conversation appears below.

The main outcome of the session, unexpectedly, was an Action Plan for seeding nationwide sustainable development. This was as follows:

1. Set-up a Prototype Not-for-Profit Learning Community, which incorporated all the essential capacities of a nationwide sustainable Viable Alternative to the current economic system (see Systems Map: Essential ‘Capacities’). In other words, a ‘whole-system’ Prototype in miniature.

The original Community is envisioned as a cross-pollination of practical experiment and virtual network. At the outset the burning objective of the practical experiment is to generate zero impact revenue streams and become profitable (see Systems Map: Income / Profit Generation).

The virtual network is comprised of experts representing a wide variety of disciplines and experiential backgrounds who, whilst unable to commit substantial time to the practical experiment, are willing to contribute to decision-making whenever situation-specific expertise is required.

Community Time is split equally three ways:

(i) Collaborative physical transaction with the natural environment.

(ii) Structured time for community activities and decision-making. While this also includes the management of social groups and events, the major proportion of this time involves mindful and transparent group reflection upon both the practical experiment and social dynamics. Models, measures-of-success and next step actions are then co-calibrated in response to what has been learned.

Overarching decision-making and consensus-building are all highly-structured processes. They are third-party facilitated and knowledge is externalised using visual tools so as to depersonalise and depolarise opinion. All members are always involved, irrespective of subject, age or expertise. Thus, judgments and learning are informed by the broadest diversity of experience, and the emerging blueprint for the Viable Alternative is shared by all.

(iii) Unstructured time for personal development according to individual inclination. Spiritual, knowledge and skill development, leisure and recreational activities, time for special relationships, FUN? This is ‘You’ time, however you wish to spend it.

One of the central aims of the physical experiment is to generate a minimum of 4 free days every week for (ii) and (iii). Whilst profitability is undeniably important, it plays, and will always play, second fiddle to the meeting of the Community’s deeper non-material needs.

Urban2. Setting up Community Urban Outpost Units. Now that our Prototype is stable, we use some of our assets to fund the despatch of ‘advocates’ to cities and large towns. As urban areas are where the current economic system is most resistant to change and its inequities are suffered most acutely, we believe it is here that successful exemplars of a Viable Alternative will achieve the most resonance.

What Next3. Engaging the ‘Disenfranchised’. Our advocates seek out and engage those groups that have a vested interest in a Viable Alternative. Perhaps the most obvious are young and disadvantaged peer groups, who have social capital but a bleak, hopeless future under the current system. We share the Prototype ‘blueprint’ with them, and encourage them to think about how they could positively transform their own environment in order to meet local needs.

4. Bringing groups with an Urban Project Idea (UPI) to the Prototype. Groups with strong ideas, a willingness to learn, and a commitment to implement their UPI, are invited to the Prototype for experiential immersion in Community work, principles, values and decision-making. Stepping ‘outside’ of their everyday lives enables the groups to reflect upon their UPI with greater clarity and objectivity, and plan free of those shadowy constraints – models, relationships, habits, cues etc. – that hamper decision-making within context.

The group’s transition into participating in our emergent ‘blueprint’ is facilitated gently and mindfully. It is important we allow time for them to grasp the Prototype’s holistic model and processes,  for their UPI to gestate, and for two fragile social systems (Prototype and group) to adapt to each other and reach the equilibrium necessary for them to operate effectively together.


5. Activating and sourcing capabilities in response to UPI requirements. When the group ‘feels’ sufficiently clear about their UPI, they are given the opportunity to conduct a Pilot within the Prototype.

The Community participates in related decision-making with openness and humility, seeing each UPI as an opportunity to learn and expand our own capacities. Mindful efforts are made to ensure that development is always under the direction of the group, and that our role remains that of a receptive enabler: sourcing and contributing specialism, materials and encouragement in response to the Pilot’s prevailing needs.

6. Helping realise the UPI through ongoing on-the-ground and virtual support. Upon completion of a successful Pilot, the group returns to their city or town to implement their UPI. By this time, they are equipped with ‘blueprint’ and experiences of a working Viable Alternative, and the skills to bring forth their own unique interpretation by transforming their local urban environment.

Guerilla Gardenin

Throughout the realisation of their UPI, we continue to provide moral, specialist and financial support, and a sanctuary for retreat, review and restoration in the face of setbacks and systemic resistance.

UPIs are never colonies or subsidiaries, but rather lateral extensions of an expanding, highly interdependent Learning System. This emergent ‘Viable Alternative in action’ is held together by mechanisms that reinforce interrelationships: ritual gatherings where intent, principles and values are collectively reviewed, work and insights shared, and fun had. In the interim there are ‘dovetails’ – members whose role it is to  participate in the decision-making processes of two constituent groups, thus facilitating the continuous flow of social learning through the whole system .

Community Network

Although language may have represented this Action Plan as a linear sequence of stages, it was conceived as something more dynamic, reflective and feedback-driven, better captured visually in the Conceptual Model below.

And so ends our look at a possible ecology for a Prototype Viable Alternative, and an Action Plan for how it might seed nationwide transition bottom>up, inside>out and city>rural by way of an emergent Learning System.

To conclude this installment, possibly the most notable characteristic of the Action Plan on face value (particularly, one designed by a group of stakeholders operating at the leading-edge of sustainable development) is its humility. Perhaps when the scale, complexity and uncertainty of the challenge we face is spread across a wall for all to see, the only reasonable response is to design a system that acknowledges its own ignorance, creates the future one step at a time, and builds collective experience, reflection, experimentation and endeavour into its core DNA?

We hope you’ll join in a fortnight for Part 2, when we shall be exploring the four major themes that pervaded and informed the discussion of the Action Plan.


Sep 27, 2012

Why Corporate Regulation is a Socioenvironmental Necessity. Part 5 of 5: How do We Create a Diverse and Stable Economic System?

Welcome to the belated final installment of our five part analysis. We have been working towards the title’s conclusion by seeking an answer to the following question.

What difference between natural / social, and economic, systems causes one to tend towards diversity and stability, and the other, uniformity and instability?

In installments 1, 2 and 3, we proposed that in natural / social systems a species or ‘group’ seeking total domination of their environment are constrained and, ultimately, destroyed by the impoverishing and destabilising effects of their actions on the systems upon which their own survival depends, thus leaving the arena open for dynamics that promote diversity and long-term stability (see previous installments if you need an explanation of the model below).

In installment 4 we suggested that the current economic system displays a reverse trend towards uniformity and instability because it allows the small ‘groups’ at the helms of corporations to gain increasing wealth and power from disintegrating social / natural systems without ever personally experiencing the environmental backlash of their actions. (see installment 4 if you need an explanation of the model below).

To clarify, this shouldn’t be taken as a demonisation of businessmen. Some individuals are naturally entrepreneurial, status-driven or materially-oriented, and the prosperity and order we have come to enjoy in recent centuries are largely indebted to their spirit and energy. Indeed, there are few among us that wouldn’t pass up a lottery win and the prestige, security and freedom it affords.

However, in the current era, unconstrained profit-and-power motivated vicious cycles represent a mortal threat to our freedom of choice,  quality of life and, most urgently, our planet’s life systems. If the virtuous feedback mechanisms that promote diversity and stability in natural / social systems do not function naturally in the current economic system, then they they must be imposed artificially with due haste. But how?

First let’s summarise, in a nutshell, the problem to be resolved…

In the current economic system, dominant ‘groups’ are able to benefit from abusing the diversity and stability of socioenvironmental systems without ever experiencing negative feedback from their actions.  

Although many possible interventions occurred to Arkadian whilst writing this series, a coherent regulatory model, which offered an unobjectionable, easy transition from the current economic system was not so easy to imagine (the reason why the final installment has been so long in coming!). Happily, a fully-formed (40yr old) solution presented itself recently in Chapter 19 of ‘Small is Beautiful’, courtesy of the genius of economist, E.F. Schumacher (pictured left).

The Schumacher Business Model, stated simply, rests on 2 systemic ‘tweaks’: (1) limiting the number of people a single corporate entity can employ and (2) introducing meaningful public ownership and accountability into business structure and practice.

(1) Legally restricting corporation size by number of employees. It would seem reasonable that a ceiling should be dictated chiefly by evidence regarding effective human group size (see Dunbar’s number), say between 80-200 persons. Growth beyond the upper limit, Schumacher suggests, should entail the formation of new independent corporate units, which may be linked by joint stock. These restrictions would enable each employee to ’embrace the idea of the business as a whole’ and the value of their role therein, but most importantly to the current argument, it would ensure that ‘the group (i.e. The Board)’ couldn’t claim ignorance of the details of their company activities and, thus, could reasonably be held personally accountable for abuses. 

Furthermore, constraining size, particularly when the exploitation of natural / social resources is involved, is also more likely to physically ground a corporation in a local environment. Bringing ‘the group’ closer to their employees and the raw coal face of their realworld transactions is likely to increase their susceptibility and responsiveness to negative socioenvironmental feedback both internal and external to their organisation. It is also liable to curb the scale of impacts of which a single corporate vehicle is capable.

All very well, the cynics may cry, but what of the ‘groups’ with the thicker skins and thinner moral fibre?

(2) Public Ownership and Accountability. Schumacher advises we put an end to annual corporate taxation (a proposition not disagreeable to most businessmen!). In its place he proposes that for every share sold privately by a company, a further share is issued to the public. Thus, as owner of 50% of the company, we’d collectively receive half of any dividends if and when they are paid out to shareholders (he argues that when a company grows beyond a certain size it loses its ‘private and personal character’ and thus can be considered, in a sense, a public enterprise anyway).

To avoid disruption, our public equity wouldn’t allow us any voting rights in everyday business decision-making. It would, however, entitle us to attend Board meetings as an observer and, if the actions of the business were deemed to run counter to the public or environmental interest, we could apply to a court to get dormant voting rights activated.

To exercise these corporate responsibilities, Schumacher proposes the creation of independent citizen bodies funded from local business dividends. These ‘Social Councils’ would be split into four equal parts: three would have their members nominated by local trade unions, professional, and environmental, organisations, with the final quarter being drawn randomly from local residents in the manner of jury service. Involvement in management processes would, of course, be bound by strict confidentiality agreements.

Schumacher’s model brings socioenvironmental feedback directly into the Board room both as a ‘possibility in the background’ and, when necessary, as a real, prevailing constraint.

It is Arkadian’s prediction that, over time, exposing the ‘groups’ at the corporate helm to these balancing dynamics would drive a new trend towards macroeconomic diversity and stability, and greater corporate responsibility for the integrity of the natural environment (by triggering the ‘Diversity Engine’, described in installments 1, 2 and 3). And to top it all, it would require minimal design and economic / legal restructuring because, in the main, the model utilises existing frameworks and practices.

To conclude, effective corporate regulation is not just a Utopian nice-t0-have. It took till 1960 for World Population to hit 3bn. It has grown by 1bn approximately every 12yrs since, probably hitting the 7bn mark earlier this year. There are more human beings to house and feed today than have ever lived before. Presently, we have just over 2 acres of workable land each, 4x less than a century ago, and this is shrinking each moment as corporate activities and climate change destroy the natural world, and population continues to skyrocket.

Resultant biodiversity loss, whilst often second-ranked in current ‘problem’ trends is, as we’ve established, probably the most dangerous of all due to its inscrutable relationship with macroenvironmental instability. With extinctions currently at 1000x the background base rate, and predicted to rise to 10,000x over this century, we are very rapidly, and very blindly, removing the Jenga pieces of our life systems, largely for the sake of the short-term wealth creation of the small ‘groups’ of the corporate elite.  History is littered with exemplars of total societal and environmental meltdown as the result of human impact on vulnerable ecosystems: Easter Island, The Mayans, The Pueblo Culture of the South Western USA, the Norse Greenland and Iceland colonies to name but a few. If we repeat the same mistakes globally, we may not get a second chance.

Considering the twin pincers of population growth and biodiversity loss, it is quite evident that socioenvironmental stability and sustainability are our most important objectives for the c21st, bar none. Our very survival depends on achieving them and success is contingent upon economic and environmental policy which is underpinned by the principle of diversity=stability=good. If variety is both the spice and source of life, then we must put democratic pressure upon Government and business to make the small tweaks to our economic system necessary for it to produce abundance by its own workings.

For a fascinating and vitally important lesson in the importance of preserving and promoting biodiversity, Arkadian cannot recommend the video below more highly. Essential viewing for all inhabitants of Planet Earth.

Jun 15, 2012

The Root of all Evil: how the UK Banking System is ruining everything and how easily we can fix it.

Whilst no economics ‘expert’, it has become clear to Arkadian from evidence presented by organisations such as Positive Money and the New Economics Foundation that the UK Banking System is (i) rapidly driving us into a new Dark Age and (ii) not nearly as difficult to understand as those with a vested interest in it would have us believe.

As positive change depends on a general understanding, the current article aims to compare, in simple terms, how this system has worked in the past, and should work, and how it works currently to the detriment of you, your children, your community and your future.


To begin, lets look at a diagram of how the UK economy worked in the years following WWII. At that time the country, as now, was stone broke but, unlike now, was driven by people-centred values sharpened in response to the Axis Power’s policies of dehumanisation. It is also a model of a ‘classic’ Capitalist System, as described by Adam Smith. Most people, and politicians, still mistakenly believe it works this way.

A Systems Dynamics Picture of the UK Banking Systems post World War 2

The arrows represent the flow of money, and the boxes: important ‘variables’ in the system. You can start anywhere, but it’s probably easiest to start with the box to the left.

1. Disposable vs Borrowed Income. You made a decent living in a secure job-for-life that allowed plenty of free time for friends and family. Your mortgage aside – which took around 10-15yrs max to pay off – you only bought things if and when you could afford them, thus putting money back into ‘circulation’ (arrow 1A). The remainder went into your savings account or share investments (arrow 1B) …

2. Money and Power: People vs Banks. …Banks were dependent on your savings to function as they were only permitted to lend in relation to their cash reserves. Their business worked by making money from the interest on these loans…

3. Lending for Productivity vs Quick-Win Low-Risk…As banks were still very much focused at a High Street level, much of their investment went into small businesses…

4. Healthy vs Toxic Economy…Thus your savings helped foster a growing, diversifying and stable local economy, which meant more secure jobs and, coming full circle, (1) more disposable income for other people to spend or save as well as a range of other social benefits associated with greater income equality.

5. Government, meanwhile, ‘governed’ the system to ensure it worked properly. In partnership with the Bank of England, they monitored the economy, periodically injecting new printed cash into the system to fill the ‘gap’ created by new growth, via public services that safeguarded citizens’ life dependencies (energy, social security, education, policing, health, telecoms, transport, postal service, military) and provided reliable employment for millions. They also regulated the banks to ensure they lent justly and responsibly.

And so it worked, by no means a well-oiled machine but still one guided by principles of fairness, general well-being, and economic restraint. So what’s changed?


1. Borrowed vs Disposable Income. Whilst you (unlike many) may still make a decent living, you and your partner work doubly-hard out of fear of losing your jobs and being unable to meet your mortgage and debt repayments.

In your absence, your children are raised largely by others. Even when you’re home, it’s tough to find energy for them when what you need is relaxation from the stresses and strains. The cost of a property sufficient to comfortably house your family has meant you’re probably destined to spend your whole life surviving on credit and without savings…

2. Money and Power: Banks vs People…But isn’t ‘no savings’ an issue for the banks? Not anymore! Now, when you need to borrow, they are free to tap the number into a spreadsheet and create it for you out of thin air, irrespective of the amount of ‘savings’ in their reserves  (arrow 1B) . They also decide your interest rate: the ‘money-for-nothing’ (quite literally) from which they’ve grown rich, politically-powerful and monolithic…

3. Quick-Win Low-Risk vs Lending for Productivity…And these global giants no longer have time for long-term, high-risk investment, such as small or ‘ethical’ businesses. They plough your ‘interest’ into quick-win low-risk high-return investments, which are safely recoupable should anything go belly up.

Around 90% goes int0 speculation, contributing virtually nothing to the economy, and, in the case of the food and currency markets, causing the suffering and deaths of millions in poorer countries. Much of the rest goes into property, and loans to big corporations that value short-term profit over the welfare of planet and people – fossil energy, mining, factory farming, mass media, consumer goods, processed food, the military etc.

4. Toxic vs Healthy Economy…Although in good times the economy appears to grow, growth no longer signifies health. Property prices inflate beyond the reach of many: notably, your descendants. Private monopolies supplant public services and local business, and we become increasingly dependent upon them for life essentials, employment, and a functional economy…

A family tree of the world's largest consumer product monopolies

5. Government… So where are they in all this? Precisely! As mentioned in (2.), they’ve handed over the lion’s share of the responsibility for creating and managing the nation’s money to the financial sector. They’ve also permitted a few banks, and other monopolies, to grow so large and powerful that political success now hangs upon prioritising their interests over those of their electorate (with over half of Conservative Party funding now reliant on the banking sector and much of the remainder coming from defence, manufacturing and energy, is it any surprise that voter needs should come second to their sponsors’ return on their investment?) Whilst Whitehall may maintain the illusion of steering the British economy, technically they can’t because they’ve abdicated the controls.

And so the Vicious Circle turns, with each cycle the system becoming more unequal, uniform and unstable. There are three particularly vicious aspects of this system worth noting.

Firstly, it functions irrespective of recession. In boom, you borrow to get the things to which you aspire now rather than having to wait – using credit / store cards, bank loans, mortgages and the like – and the banks get rich and powerful. In bust, you borrow to make ends meet and the banks get rich and powerful.

Secondly, in a recession, because the vast majority of the money in the system is ‘borrowed’, to prioritise the repayment of the bank-invented debt (i.e. ‘Austerity’over strategies for stimulating spending  is guaranteed to shrink the economy further. Simply put, if pennies are taken out of the national purse and vanish into thin air without any being put back in, there will be less money in the purse. Unless, of course, we can find a bank to lend us a more.

A graph showing the amount of money created by banks vs cash created by The Bank of England

Thus, whilst the historically-proven formula for economic recovery has always been to kickstart the Virtuous Circle through public spending and corporate regulation, in this sick misshapen world, crashes, austerity, privatisation and price hikes are great because they force us to borrow more, which  indirectly results in new ‘imaginary’ money getting injected into the economy (arrow 1A).

And although a life of indebtedness for food, housing, clothes, education and so on, may promise an increasingly bleak existence for us and our children, for the environmentally-unconscious one-stop corporate shop that creates our credit, charges our interest, employs us as temps at the minimum wage, and is the only place where we can buy anything, it’s a field day.

Lastly, the unsustainability of this rampant money creation is largely irrelevant to the banks because, ultimately, the public debt is underwritten by the Bank of England, in other words, US! You, yes YOU, are effectively part-guarantor of everybody’s loan, including your own. The bubble will always burst, and more spectacularly each time, and it’ll always be you that is liable for the debt, never those that made billions from the recklessness.

Happily, fixing the system is remarkably simple. You have two choices. The easiest is to pick up the phone and (1) MOVE YOUR MONEY out of the Vicious Circle and into an ethical bank such as The Coop or Triodos, who maintain a responsible lending policy, consult you on your ideas for a better future and invest in them – organic farming, renewables, community development and so on – rather than whatever horror brings in the profits. Do it now and enjoy looking your children in the eye with a clear conscience!

(2) is to PUT PRESSURE ON YOUR GOVERNMENTAL SERVANTS to re-impose the vital framework that regulated the Virtuous Circle.

Most critically, this means returning the responsibility for money creation to The Bank of England. Exercise of this responsibility should involve the immediate injection of real cash into circulation (‘quantitative easing’) via investment in a growing public sector and green transition. This would reduce our economy’s toxic dependence on debt to function, generate employment and spending (the only way out of recession), and begin the change upon which a tolerable future hinges.

Close second, however, involves excising the corporate influence from our political system and allowing the democratic needs of citizens to determine Governmental decision-making, and not the insatiable greed of a small commercial oligarchy.

Thirdly, the ‘ecology’ of the financial sector should be regulated so that a significant percentage of banks are always focused on investment at the local level. This is the approach in Germany, and the greater diversity and stability of their banking system has enabled them to weather the present storm significantly better than most.

In short, if you wish to remain in a world where you are dependent on corporate monopolies for your existence, and where the conditions of your life and planet are certain to deteriorate, then sit back and do nothing. However, if you’d prefer a return to a financial system that works towards the common good then MOVE YOUR MONEY NOW!

A concluding thought: in The Early Middle Ages we were told the Bible was only comprehensible and communicable by The Church. It was a tale that, for a considerable time, maintained vision, interpretation, practice and power in the hands of an elite few.

Arguably, the translation of the Bible from Latin into English and its popular dissemination was one of the driving forces behind the development of the more market led and equitable society of later centuries. Knowledge, as they say, is power.

In the c21st our ‘mystery’ is The Economy, our priests: the politicians, economists and bankers.  Pah! Economics is easy, isn’t it? It’s just about how we can make money work best for us and our loved ones.

So go on: inform your friends and family. Ask them to move their money too. It’s time to debunk the ‘priesthood’ and reclaim control over our lives, planet and future. Forever and ever. Amen!

Want to know more? Arkadian highly recommends following Positive Money or the New Economics Foundation on Facebook, or watching the illuminating video below. Learn and share!:

May 6, 2012

What is Occupy? Collective insights from a ‘Whole Systems’ Session with Occupy followers

This article is about a ‘whole systems thinking’ session Arkadian ran with 15 Occupy followers of all ages and backgrounds. All participants were required to answer 3 questions: –

(1) What is Occupy’s purpose; (2) How should this purpose be achieved and; (3) Why was it important?

Personal thoughts were written on post-its, stuck on a wall, and organised by the group according to content similarity and difference. The discussion fueled by these activities gave rise to 6 collective insights (the 7th is an insight Arkadian derived from the others): –

(1) Occupy is a grass-roots, direct-democratic movement
(2) Occupy is ‘about’ co-creating and enacting a Viable Alternative to the current system
(3) The Viable Alternative is a collective vision
(4) Achieving the Viable Alternative requires building critical mass
(5) Building critical mass depends on making the Viable Alternative simple, relevant and clear to the wider population
(6) Aims could be best achieved through grass-roots ‘campaigns’ connecting the Viable Alternative to local community issues
(7) These insights had implications for Occupy’s organisational design

There follows a brief explanation of each: –

 1. Occupy is a grass-roots, direct-democratic movement: All followers saw Occupy as ‘of the people / for the people’, independent of, and transcending all, other organisations. There was genuine concern that ‘partnerships’, or Occupy chapters becoming formal or political entities, would compromise  the essential qualities of this idea. Nevertheless, it was also acknowledged that high profile support could, and had, delivered some powerful PR.

The solution proposed was that ‘partnerships’ should always be one-way and arms-length only, i.e. limited to inviting, or allowing, third parties to sign up to Occupy’s (viz: ‘the people’s’) aims and principles. But what aims and principles?

2. Occupy is ‘about’ co-creating and enacting a Viable Alternative to the current system: The most powerful theme that emerged in the discussion. To get a handle on some of the structural principles of this Viable Alternative, ask yourself the following questions…  

Power: Would the world be better if people had greater involvement in decisions that affect their lives and future? 

Equality: Would the world be better if the gap between rich and poor were reduced? (N.B. Not to a ‘ Communist’ extreme, merely a lessening of the vast multipliers separating high / low incomes and developing / developed nations, and their toxic impact on society and environment). 


Values: Would the world be better if quality of life and well being were valued over material and status-driven self-interest? 

 Are the big social, environmental and economic challenges connected in any way? Might addressing one have beneficial effects on  others?                                     

Thinking: Should the well being of future generations and the long-term viability of life on our planet be important to current decision-making?


If you answered ‘Yes’ to any, or all, of these questions then you’re ‘Occupy’. Below is a rough summary table comparing the principles of the Viable Alternative to those of the current system.

So what actions does all this imply? Firstly, if they are widely shared, then these structural principles could provide the ideal framework for coherent organisation, action and communications, and solidarity, across diverse contexts.

Secondly, the Viable Alternative is a positive idea: it’s about a happier, better future. Whilst its necessary to highlight why change is necessary, negative news and arguments about the nitty-gritty can drive people away. Emphasising these higher-level, common and cheerful principles, on the other hand, could score greater successes with the wider population.

3. The Viable Alternative is a collective vision: The whole group shared a belief in the urgent necessity for the Viable Alternative, which in turn, seemed dependent upon an understanding of the scale and interconnectedness of the issues.

However, each individual held their own beliefs about what the important problems were, how they were connected, and the appropriate remedies and actions: a product of their life experiences, personal interests and, for many, exposure to new information since engaging with the movement.

Nevertheless, the post-its-on-the-wall represented a truly epic mess, one that evidently required highly situation-specific solutions, each of which defied the analytic or predictive capabilities of any ‘expert’. Recognition of this within the group seemed to drive processes where individual experiences were tools for building, negotiating and informing a dynamic picture of NOW, in order to decide the best next step(s) only, not the grand master plan.

Rather than disagreements about which view was ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, all views seemed appreciated as valuable and partially right. In a sense, the group behaved like a ‘super-brain’, leveraging many lifetimes’ worth of perspectives, knowledge and experience to reach wise ‘objective’ assessments and decisions about an impossibly complex ‘subjective’ situation.

So what are the implications of all this? Firstly, if collaborative decision-making can be so individually empowering and collectively clever, then all Occupy followers should be furnished with simple group moderation skills and ‘whole systems’ tools. Processes that focus discussions on external representations (pictures / post-its / models etc.) should become a sine qua non of the movement.

Secondly, the movement should stress that, whilst expressing a personal view is the inalienable right of any follower, unless its braided into a collective decision, it ain’t Occupy!

Lastly, if action is motivated by seeing the connections between disparate social, economic and environmental issues, then Occupy should underscore ‘stories’ that highlight the ‘connections’, and fast track new members into contributing to collective decision-making – judging by the discussion, it’s difficult not to ‘join-the-dots’ when exposed to the Occupy ecology.

(4) Achieving the Viable Alternative requires building  critical mass: Reflection upon this fact led rapidly to the recognition that human and financial resources were critical priorities, and that there were probably no shortcuts to them.

(5) Building critical mass depends on making the Viable Alternative simple, relevant and clear to the wider population:  The second dominant theme of the session. To successfully engage the wider population, it was deemed Occupy needed communications that were simple, relevant to the differing needs of specific target audiences, and employed clear popularly-understood terminology pitched at the appropriate level of understanding, e.g. stock phrases like ‘socioeconomic justice’ and ‘ecological limits’ were not understood by many in the group. It was also considered important that these messages were backed-up by incontestable evidence and sources, and communicated solidarity.

Everyone also acknowledged this would entail outwitting the ‘guardians’ of the current system ‘at their own game’, exploring channels that they don’t, or can’t easily, command, and responding quickly and devastatingly to opposition. The discussion highlighted that intelligent, reflective information management – researching, screening, organising, tailoring – was central to Occupy’s role and ultimate success.

So, to recap. Occupy needs to…

(i) Organise without being an organisation.
(ii) Communicate a Viable Alternative when no-one can know what it is, and where it is only made manifest via specific situations and perspectives.
(iii) Create an outward appearance of solidarity when structured disagreement is an essential requirement.
(iv) Use channels not covered by the ubiquitous guardians of the current system, whilst building volunteers, funds and critical mass.

What solution to these challenges did the collective propose?

(6) Grass-roots ‘campaigns’ connecting the Viable Alternative to local community issues: Explore and discuss ‘issues’ door-to-door.  Those that resonate, have local relevance, and are aligned with the Viable Alternative could then become the focus of grass-roots campaigns, building to direct ‘visible’ action, and all informed by Occupy’s structural principles, particularly, inclusive community decision-making. Not talking and blaming, but showing the world how things could be: through small-scale collaborative achievement and learning.

(7) These previous 6 insights had implications for Occupy’s organisational design: The final insight, Arkadian’s own, was that attaining all of the previous objectives implied a radically new organisational design, lest rapid growth give rise to hierarchy – the spoiling of many a revolution and NGO, and, in Occupy’s case: a fundamental hypocrisy.

A model where multiple ‘cross-pollinating’ cells are structured around local campaigns / action and mutually agreed principles of the Viable Alternative, perhaps? For a future session…


So, to conclude,  at Occupy’s heart is a Viable Alternative that really is the current system turned on its head. A total paradigm shift, but a necessary one, if we are to share a remotely tolerable future.

Moreover, maybe change is easier than it seems. After all , the principles of the Viable Alternative are neither unfamiliar nor new, are they? Arguably, they, and not those of the current system, have determined how we cooperate with our nearest and dearest since time immemorial. We just need to realise the whole world could and should work this way.

Jan 20, 2012

Why Corporate Regulation is a Socioenvironmental Necessity. Part 3 of 5: Why does A Diverse System = A Stable System?

Delighted that you’ve joined us for the third installment of our first Arkadian analysis for 2012, where over five short articles, we will show how we reached the series title’s conclusion by way of the following question: –

“What difference between natural / social systems and the current economic system causes the former to tend towards diversity and stability, and the latter, uniformity and instability?”

In Weeks 1 and 2, we investigated why ecosystems and ‘civilisation’ tend towards diversity and stability. It was proposed this was attributable to virtuous dynamics that promote long-term systemic stability and resilience by driving increasingly fine-grained specialisation / cooperation, whilst inhibiting environmental dominance by particular species or social ‘groups’.

Next week we will be putting forward an explanation as to why the current economic system displays the reverse trend but, for now, we thought it worthwhile to explain briefly the connection between diversity and stability. Why exactly does a change in the former result in a like change in the latter?  

Put simply, in a diverse system, the health of the whole (‘productivity’) isn’t dependent on the performance of only a few parts.

For example, imagine a disadvantaged family where Dad is the only breadwinner. If he has an accident, no-one eats. If the house blows down in a storm, there’s no-one to rebuild it. Compare the situation with a second family where several other members also contribute to the household income. Because ‘productivity’ is distributed across several people, the overall family ‘system’ is much more able to adapt to an accident-prone Dad and / or a force majeure.

A classic instance of systemic over-dependency at a macro-societal level is Ancient Egypt, which teetered on a single variable: the annual flooding of the Nile (taken from the excellent ‘Water’ by Steven Solomon). The ‘inundation‘, as it was known, rejuvenated the plains with fertile silt and washed away soil poisons, to produce the most self-sustaining and fertile farmlands of the ancient world.

The exclusive focus of the political elite was water management: senior priest-managers led departments for overseeing dikes, canal workers and measuring river levels; and top dog, Pharaoh’s, fundamental godly responsibility was mastery of the flow of the great river.

Unsurprisingly then, the Nile and Egyptian history ebb and flow in perfect synchronicity. Without exception, the Old, Middle, and New Kingdoms, as well as the later periods of Greek and Byzantine rule, bloom with the return of the regular cycle of flooding and crumple with climactic dry periods into centuries of disunity, chaos and foreign invasions. Thus, despite many environmental blessings, ultimately, the stability and resilience of this mighty civilisation and its elite were slave to the caprices of its one water source, in a way that a country with abundant springs, rivers and lakes could never be.

Our third and final example – the current economic downturn – illustrates uniformity and instability at a global level. Here, the world’s banking system was rendered so fragile by the interdependency of a few titanic banks and financial services firms, that massive external intervention was required to prevent total meltdown when one of them, Lehman Brothers, filed for bankruptcy in 2009. It is a crisis and an intervention for which we shall all suffer for many decades to come.

But why had the economic system not behaved like the natural / social systems we looked at in Weeks 1 and 2, and become increasingly diverse and stable as it expanded? We hope you’ll drop in next Friday to find out.

Jan 13, 2012

Why Corporate Regulation is a Socioenvironmental Necessity. Part 2 of 5: Why does (did) Civilisation tend towards Diversity and Stability?

Hello again and thanks for joining us for the second in a five-part Arkadian analysis, where we show how we reached the conclusion of the title series by way of one simple question: –

“What difference between natural / social systems and the current economic system causes the former to tend towards diversity and stability, and the latter, uniformity and instability?”

Last week, we explored why natural systems tend towards diversity and stability. Dynamics were proposed (the ‘diversity engine’) that, through natural selection, weed out species that strive for environmental supremacy and favour those that cooperate, specialise and, by doing so, facilitate opportunities for new evolutionary adaptations.

This week we shall take a brief look at one creature that, at first sight, appears to operate outside these dynamics:  Homo Sapiens.  What is it about the human species that enables it to dominate ecosystems without appearing to suffer the constraining feedback?

MODEL 2 of our analysis below proposes an answer (N.B. If you have trouble reading the text, click on the diagram to open it in a new browser tab and then refer back to the explanation here).


If you joined us last week, you’ll see immediately that MODEL 2 is more-or-less identical to MODEL 1. We propose that civilisation’s social matrix shares the same stabilising dynamics of natural systems and that these confer the ability to adapt more reflectively and effectively to environmental constraints.

Significantly, world population only began to increase appreciably with the order provided by the first civilisations from around 1,000 BC onwards. Many historians argue that the political infrastructure of Ancient Mesopotamia, Egypt, India and China initially emerged from local organisational efforts to coordinate large scale (particularly, irrigation) ecosystem management, rather than these projects being the initiative of an already-ensconced ruling ‘group’.

It is the Arkadian view that the managerial perspective born from these projects enabled infrastructural and organisational tweaks that, in turn, facilitated a trend towards increasing division of labour and role / skill / knowledge specialisation, and it was this burgeoning socioeconomic diversity and interdependence rather than the direct actions of a ruling group that provided the stability required for civilisation to flourish.

Indeed, as many power / status / wealth hungry ruling groups have since discovered to their own detriment, enduring political success hinges not on their own genius, but on the assiduous maintenance of this diversity engine. As a general rule (and as with the overbearing species we looked at last week), (1 and 2) the greater the impact of  the ‘group’s’ rule and resource dominance on local socioeconomic (and environmental) diversity, (3 and 4) the more unproductive, unstable and weaker their regime tends to become.

A tragic example of this self-defeating governmental dynamic is Cambodia under the communist Khmer Rouge. Seizing power in 1975 in the wake of 4yrs of destabilising bombings by US and Vietnamese forces, they immediately shut down all transport and information links with the outside world, declared private property illegal, and established a ‘Year Zero’ for Cambodian society.

Their ‘Agrarian Revolution’ – an economic model founded on the single pillar of self-sufficient rice production – was to have a cataclysmic impact on all aspects of systemic diversity: social, cultural, economic and environmental.

All those who threatened their ideological dominance were murdered or exiled – ethnic and religious minorities, journalists, doctors, educators, writers, anyone with an education – obliterating vital cultural, intellectual and skill resources.

Urban populations were forced to leave cities, towns and former roles behind to slash-and-burn virgin rain forest, set up collective farms, and take responsibility for rice production, whilst the thousands of male peasant farmers with the requisite know-how were press-ganged into military service.

Naive farming communities went hungry rather than risk retribution for failing to meet the Government’s exorbitant rice targets, which soon resulted in a precipitous deterioration in output. Almost a quarter of the population died of starvation or execution under the regime, a disproportionate number of which were male.

Within three-and-half years, the loss of diversity and productivity had rendered the Khmer Rouge’s power base so weak, they were easily overthrown by a Vietnamese invasion.

30 years later, the Cambodian ‘system’ is still suffering. Political instability has resulted in 4 coups over the interim period. The country still has the highest proportion of women (65%), malnutrition and physical disability in South-East Asia (the latter attributable primarily to the Khmer Rouge’s estimated 4-6m unexploded mines).

The country’s economy remains dependent on tenant farmers involved in backbreaking rice production for minimum profit. Necessarily, many of these are women, creating further societal tensions by violating customary rules and roles of a traditionally patriarchal society. International development experts argue that, despite the potential for a full recovery, without external intervention the Cambodian  socioeconomic system will struggle to escape the impoverished, fragile state in which it was left by the Khmer Rouge.

Conversely, ‘laissez faire’ ruling groups, such as The Ancient Greeks and Romans, that implemented policy and infrastructure which nurtured the (5/6) ‘socioeconomic diversity engine’ tended to produce history’s more enduring and resilient regimes. For example, in the mid c14th a nascent Western European civilisation – arguably, the most pluralistic, productive and market-driven the world had yet seen – successfully weathered a perfect storm of catastrophe that would have devastated a weaker social system, including climactic cold spells, famines, widespread peasant revolts, The Black Death, and an overall loss of quarter of the population.

Nevertheless, (6b) although these ‘laissez faire’ strategies yielded prosperity for ruling groups, they also entailed a diminishing of their control over rules and resources as increasingly pluralistic and influential populations demanded ever greater democratic freedoms, rights and representation.  

As we shall discuss in Week 4, this shift would ultimately give rise to a global economic elite whose power, and impact on diversity and stability, would dwarf that of any political ‘ruling group’.  However, before we do, we thought it worth taking a moment to understand why it is that an ecosystem or  ‘civilisation’ is more stable if it is diverse? Hope you’ll join us next Friday to find out.

Jan 6, 2012

Why Corporate Regulation is a Socioenvironmental Necessity. Part 1 of 5: Why do Ecosystems tend towards Diversity and Stability?

Happy New Year and welcome to our first Arkadian analysis of 2012. Over the next five weeks we will be working towards the conclusion of the title of the series by exploring the answer to a simple question: –

“What difference between natural / social systems and the current economic system causes the former to tend towards diversity and stability, and the latter, uniformity and instability?”

In a world where the latter now poses a mortal threat to the former, we considered this to be a question of some significance. Could we learn from the way natural / social systems self-regulate in a way that benefits all, to design an ecologically-and-socially-just economic system?

Our analysis will be set out in five short articles, launching Friday mornings throughout January and early February: –  

(1) Why do Ecosystems tend towards Diversity and Stability? Friday 6th January 2012.

(2) Why does (did) Civilisation tend towards Diversity and Stability? Friday 13th January 2012. 

(3) Why do Diverse Systems = Stable Systems? Friday 20th January 2012. 

(4) Why does the Current Economic System tend towards Uniformity and Instability? Friday 27th January 2012. 

(5) How do we create a Diverse and Stable Economic System? Friday 28th September 2012. 

So without further ado, let’s move onto our first question of the series:
Why do Ecosystems tend towards Diversity and Stability?

As a general rule the longer that ecosystems remain undisturbed by external factors, the richer they become. The oldest – the rainforests – are estimated to hold over half of all species, despite covering only 6% of the Earth’s surface. Why should 70m years of evolution against a backdrop of dynamic climate fluctuations give rise to increasing variety and not just a few dominant species?

MODEL 1 of our analysis below proposes an answer (N.B. If you have trouble reading the text, click on the diagram to open it in a new browser tab and then refer back to the explanation here).

Begin at the topmost variable and follow the arrows clockwise around the loop. (1) Put yourself in the position of a species that pursues total dominance over its local environment. (2) Despite considerable early successes, it’s not long before your manipulation and consumption begin to impact adversely on other species. (3) As local biodiversity diminishes, so too do the health, resilience and stability of the ecosystem as a whole, (4) resulting in ever-tighter constraints on your actions and, ultimately, the collapse of the environment upon which your own survival depends. (5) Your extinction kills off that suicidal gene that motivated your thirst for dominance, leaving an open stage for adaptive strategies that promote ecosystemic diversity and stability.

Thus, coming full circle, (1) Your Environmental Dominance Strategy proved self-defeating because it led to Ecosystemic Weaknesses that constrained and, ultimately, negated, You! In Systems Dynamics a feedback loop like this where the impact of a variable is reduced by the effects it causes is called a ‘Balancing Circle’.

A further notable dynamic here is a pair of ‘Virtuous Circles’ (feedback loops where one delight leads to effects that enhance the first delight, and so on), which we’ve termed the ‘The Diversity Engine.

Here, (6a) the more the processes of natural selection incline towards interdependence, the more opportunities are opened up for new evolutionary adaptations. Thus, through increasingly fine-grained cooperation and specialisation between species, diversity itself drives diversity.

Moreover, as the environment grows ever more rich and complex, (6b) species dominance becomes increasingly futile and improbable, removing a further constraint on the trend towards diversity. And so both circles turn.

But (we hear you say) isn’t there a species that has had a radical effect on its local environment but has (thus far) escaped extinction? We hope you’ll drop in next Friday for Part 2, when we shall be exploring the curious exception of Homo Sapiens.

Oct 18, 2011

What the One Demand of the ‘Occupy’ Movement should be and why.

Today was Occupy Wall Street’s first Global Day of Action. We’re on our way home from our local urban occupation, feeling inspired, hopeful and slightly unsettled. Inspired and hopeful because people of all ages and backgrounds from around the world joined in protest against a corrupt economic system; unsettled due to a heated difference of opinion about what to do and who to battle (thankfully, and topically, resolved democratically and peaceably).

History is strewn with social movements that imploded through infighting, or where, for lack of a clear aim, the chaotic forces of moral indignation were steered by groups, with a plan and organisation, towards their own agenda (and, usually, more of the same).  For either to happen to this beautiful movement would be a tragedy of inestimable proportions.

So is there a single aim that could unite the 99%?

The answer to this, we believe, lies in a further question: how is it that in a democratic system the 99% can be so flagrantly disregarded? This points to a problem with the machinery of Democracy itself. Perhaps, if we could locate the faulty part and fix or replace it, these diverse opinions would be enriching collective solutions rather than jeopardising their own vehicle for liberation?

There follows a 2-part systems dynamics analysis to this end. 

PART 1 proposes two Vicious Circles at work in the current system. These are series of events where one trouble leads to troubles that further aggravate that first trouble, and so on

(N.B. It’s easiest to click on the diagram to open it in a new browser and then refer back to the explanation here. Depending on your screen size, you may also need to zoom in-and-out in order to read the smaller text by clicking on the relevant area).

Vicious Cycles


The best place to start is at the bottom where government policies that serve corporate interests are pursued at the expense of those that serve the 99% and the natural environment.

Whilst this enriches the 1% and motivates them to even greater future investments in manipulating Government policy (the 1st Vicious Circle – inner), it also exacerbates a range of hugely-profitable (in the short-term) c21st century ills: war, recession, inequality, loss of public services and assets, our increasing dependency on corporations for life’s essentials and, most critically, a severe threat to Earth’s life systems.

These factors, together with diminishing quality-of-life and broken political promises intensify our apathy and denial, and reduce time or inclination for political action, thus eroding a key constraining factor on the corporate policy abuses with which we began (the 1st Vicious Circle – outer). And so the Circles turn.

The analysis suggested two potential intervention points (highlighted in red) where action could positively transform the Vicious Circles. These are: –

(1) Dependency on corporate relationships for political success. In short, a business wouldn’t bestow cash or media coverage on a political campaign that didn’t promise a significant return on investment. A third of the world’s 100 largest economic entities are now transnational corporations. Without bowing to these giants, no party has a hope of achieving or maintaining office, irrespective of good intentions and promises. Why pursue a policy or preserve a public service, asset, safeguard or freedom when losing it stands to make somebody a tidy profit?

(2) Ability for politicians to benefit materially from political office as a result of corporate relationships. Whilst we do not share many of Plato’s views (on Democracy, for example), we do agree that the worst form of government is one where the actions that satisfy the desires of the ruler become law. A tyranny. It was with good reason that The Republic went to great pains to isolate its philosopher kings from the temptation of riches and military stardom, the great corruptors of wise governance.

Under the Republic, for example, a former Prime Minister who made $40bn out of a dubious war he instigated whilst in office or a secret council assembled to draft laws to serve its own self-interest would have faced certain execution.

Corporate SponsorshipTo put it simply, if we wish our countries to be run by people motivated by a desire to serve its citizenry and not by material self-interest then, within the political sphere, constraints on the latter must be codified in law and regulated independently. After all, corporate management takes conflict-of-interest very seriously. They know, as Plato did, that a person cannot responsibly wear two hats when money is involved.

For PART 2 of the analysis the ‘Occupy’ Movement collectively waves its magic wand and divorces the public and private sectors, turning our Vicious Circles into its cheerful alter ego, a Virtuous Circle, where a delight leads to delights that further promote the first delight, and so on

(N.B. Again, it’s easiest to click on the diagram to open it in a new browser and then refer back to the explanation here. Depending on your screen size, you may also need to zoom in-and-out in order to read the smaller text by clicking on the relevant area)

Virtuous Circle


Here, diverse opinion (with better access to information about actual environmental and economic constraints) is braided via participatory democratic processes and well-behaved politicians into policies that best serve both public and private interest.

This leads to a host of positive socioenvironmental effects that increase faith in people-power, government and the future. It also confers the time to get involved, thus contributing to even greater participation and ever richer solutions. And so the  Virtuous Circle turns: driven by a commitment to a better world in the long-term.

Call us idealistic, but we believe this vision of an equitable sustainable society where stakeholders are actively engaged in Government is wholly imaginable, achievable and necessary. Moreover, It will not require earth-shattering change and would improve general quality-of-life.

However, we acknowledge that, as evidence of the Arkadian worldviewsteady state economics, new economics principles, Just Transition , equality, environmental restoration, nurturing new values etc. – seeps in here, it would be best to declare the pertinent aspects. We ask that anybody who posts comments extends us the same courtesy as it makes discussion of opinions easier and so much more fruitful.

Arkadian Systems Worldview: That the current economic system has been proven environmentally unsustainable and thus we must explore and enact alternatives or risk socioenvironmental collapse and extinction. That social and environmental justice are so intimately intertwined that treatment of one leads inevitably to reinforcing effects on the other. That decision-making is always wiser when all stakeholders with an interest in the relevant situation are meaningfully involved. ”  

We should also stress that it is only the last of these  – the principle underpinning a true Participatory Democracy that should be considered relevant here. If Democracy is reformed and re-fired, we’re confident the rest will happen all by itself, the right way, and our opinion will be one of millions that make a contribution. So, to conclude,

The One Demand of the ‘Occupy’ Movement should be: 


Insert a robust legal and regulatory framework between the private and public sectors, which enables Government to draft policy and law without conflict-of-interest and according to the principles of Participatory Democracy 

Specifically, this framework should render it impossible for politicians to benefit materially from political office as a result of corporate relationships and should define equitable and corporate-independent alternatives to campaign funding .

For us, this is eminently preferable to smashing the bankers, police, politicians, Capitalism, Consumerism: THE SYSTEM. Trying to fight The System or one of its organs, inevitably results in giving oneself a bloody nose and the awful realisation that, yes, it also includes ME!

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