Joe Brewer and Robert Steele share insights on the simultaneous construction of poverty and wealth, and alternative paths forward

By Joe Brewer, from The and the Leading for Well-Being Network

Last year, I worked with a talented graphic designer by the name of Zoe Lowney to help tell this story as a timeline for modern history. This is what she came up with:

We intuitively get that the game has been rigged for some time. But most of us don’t know the details of how things came to be this way. As this graphic demonstrates, the architecture of wealth extraction had to be carefully built up in waves of creative destruction over the span of several hundred years.

In the earliest days, a suite of business innovations (double-entry accounting, the joint-stock company, etc.) were combined with a systematic policy of kicking people off commonly managed lands so that a system of “rent seeking” could be built up for wealthy people to extract money from the working poor. This was done in 16th and 17th Century Britain in what is known as the Enclosure Movement. And it laid the groundwork for a massive colonial empire to grow as the British and other imperial powers spread this logic of wealth extraction across the globe.

The first wave of mass poverty in modern times was the British and French peasantry. When these societies overthrew corrupt leaders and established democracies, the elites had to find more subtle ways to keep syphoning off wealth (thus growing social inequality) that didn’t conclude with rolling heads at the guillotine. So they invaded foreign lands and did their rent-seeking there.

This was how the mass poverty of India and many African nations sprang into being. Accompanied by systems of racial inequality and other “social control” mechanisms at home, they pitted the working classes of their own nations against each other as they took their model of wealth hoarding to new levels in “developing markets” like those of the spice trade and later with oil, coal, and other natural resources.

Flash forward to the 20th Century and you see the high art of wealth hoarding in digital accounting systems, structural debt-repayment programs, “free trade” agreements that privatized public lands, the invention of personal lines of credit to keep people enslaved to mortgages and consumer purchases, and later the so-called austerity programs that gut public coffers to feed private financiers after they orchestrated the deregulation and collapse of financial markets.

Said another way, the seeming lack of choice among political parties has less to do with political ideology and much more to do with the economic ideology that forms the core logic of this planetary-scale system. To really get a sense of just how big it is, consider this:

If we were to tax a mere 10% of the money hoarded away in tax havens, we would have at least $2,000,000,000,000 that could be used to fund (1) universal basic income; (2) universal healthcare for more than 7 billion people; (3) free public and university education for everyone on Earth; (4) fund basic scientific research for all major problems humanity must confront; and (5) make the transition to ecologically-based energy systems and urban design that staves off the potential for collapse of our highly unsustainable civilization.

Think about that for a moment. Let it sink in

The architecture of wealth extraction is a cancer on this planet. It continually corrupts our governments, poisons the natural environment, and pits us against each other in a “race to the bottom” that has only one logical outcome — the wholesale destruction of life-giving capacities for the only home planet we’ll ever have.

I have written elsewhere about systemic corruption, the cognitive science of how we fail to see it, how wealth is really created, and what we might do with that $2 trillion dollars that constitutes a small part of the money squirreled away by sociopaths and those who idolize them.

It is time to systematically dismantle this wealth hoarding system. Now that we know what it is and how it was built, we can tear it apart piece by piece and replace it with something better.

Now THAT is change I can believe in.

We need to know how these harms were created if we want to un-create them. And we need to be able to imagine that things can change at the foundational level of economic systems if we want to replace the paradigm of extraction with its successor, the paradigm of regeneration.

This second condition is only met by taking a look at history to see that human social organization has already been transformed on many occasions. This tells us that a new economic paradigm IS possible. Close scrutiny of that history also gives us hints about how to create an inclusive economic system made for all people alive today. More importantly, it also shows us that the future we want is one that finds harmony with the Earth we belong to and on which we depend for our survival as a species.

Others are beginning to chime in about the transition to “post-capitalism” in some amenable form. Paul Mason has been talking about it recently (see his video here). Jeremy Rifkin wrote an entire book — The Zero Marginal Cost Society — about how profit-seeking is itself winding down because the system is too efficient at what it does to continue much longer. The Next System Project is mobilizing thought leaders to envision the new economic paradigm. Evolutionary biologists and complexity researchers are mapping out its intellectual foundations in the Evonomics Project (full disclosure: I am one of the co-founders).

Other trends point the way to new possibilities as well. The rise of cooperative ownership, deflationary currencies, commons-based management, the Nordic countries that thrive on social democracy. All of these models show us that a different paradigm is not only possible, it is rising up in the places where the current Neoliberal system has failed.

Financial systems bloated with debt. A global web of instruments for tax evasion. Trade agreements designed by elites, for elites. These are part and parcel of the problem. They cannot continue to do their dirty deeds in the name of sustainability and social justice. The people of the world have already started organizing in the many social movements of recent years. Digital communication technologies are empowering us to “organize without organizations” as media expert Clay Shirky has eloquently described in his 2008 book Here Comes Everybody.

Leaders in the field of international development may have suffered from a failure of imagination. Lucky for us, there are many other luminaries out there showing that something different — something better — is available for us to create together. We can create a world without poverty. But we will never know how to envision it if we ignore all that has come before.

Hindsight may not really be 20/20. But it is a lot better than flying blind without ever looking back. It is time to rectify this situation. Look back into the annals of history and combine what we see with the thrilling possibilities and knowledge of the present. This is how we can be inspired to imagine anew.

Daniel Christian Wahl

6 Star Handbook for Saving Civilization & Earth

This book makes the jump from 5 stars (generally I don’t bother to review a book if it is not a four or five star read) to 6 stars — my top ten percent — because of the combination of Questions Asked, glorious color graphics, and the total holistic nature of the book — this is easily a PhD thesis in holistic analytics, true cost economics, and open source everything engineering. Indeed, this book could be used as a first-year reference across any humanities and science domain, they would be the better for it.

It is of value to ministers of government, managers of corporations, administrators of non-profit and educational organizations, labor union and religious stewards, and every single citizen planning to be alive in five years and beyond.

From the cover with its four core value-propositions:

01 Transformative Innovation
02 Biologically Inspired Design
03 Living Systems Thinking
04 Health and Resilience

through each of seven chapters and a conclusion where deep questions are asked and answered, to the references, where a bitly shortcut is easily used for each and every reference, I am simply delighted to have this compilation of life-affirming wisdom in my hands.

This is a practical book and it is a spiritual book. I particularly like the six points made by David Orr in the first of two Forewords, the sixth of which suggests that systems thinking — holistic design — is akin to the core nature of religion in binding us all together in our stewardship of the Earth as a shared habitat.

I cannot over-state the value of the questions asked in each chapter. This is a book that Joan Blades and Living Room Conversations could easily take on as a global starting point for the one conversation that matters most, the question of who we are and why we are more worthy together than apart.

As I go through the book, I see the humility of the questions — this is a book that embraces the idea that “we” can come up with better answers than the author by himself — and the very wide net the author has cast to capture the thoughts of others that are very elegantly distilled in this easy to read, very broad, and also very deep, manifesto for the future of humanity and Earth.

Collective design is what you get when you achieve collective intelligence. The author has done a fine job of tapping into the pioneering works of others such as Elinor Ostrom who earned the Nobel for her book Governing the Commons: The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action (Political Economy of Institutions and Decisions), and Tom Atlee, who did not, but could, for his collected works including The Tao of Democracy: Using Co-Intelligence to Create a World that Works for All.

As the book morphs from introduction to conclusion it comes together with two other books I have recently reviewed, by circumstance also 6-Star books (the portal to all my reviews sorted by 98 categories and each star class is at Phi Beta Iota Public Intelligence Blog / Reviews (Page), Pedro Ortiz’s The Art of Shaping the Metropolis, and Parag Khanna’s book, Connectography: Mapping the Future of Global Civilization. The author ends strongly, to include an introduction to holistic planning of land, biological monitoring, grazing, and finance. He draws ably from others — for example, Figure 25 on page 223, is a redrawn version of The Solidarity Economy building on the work of Ethan Miller.

I am stunned to find that Figure 29 is from The Open-Source Everything Manifesto: Transparency, Truth, and Trust (Manifesto Series) so I cannot help but be moved by the fact that the author detected and understood why we must migrate from an economics for the few to an economics for the many, and the only way to do that affordably and scalably is by embracing “open” across all domains, not just the information technology domain — the five billion poor must be empowered with free energy, free clean water, free pressed-brick shelters, and free Internet access, in return they will innovate and create infinite wealth with a regenerative aspect.

The book ends, and I quote (page 268):

“Living the questions is an opportunity to connect, to yourself, to your community, to your world.”

Somebody give this guy an honorary PhD — he has more than earned it. While I always liked E. O. Wilson, his stuff is hard to read — a precursor in some ways to this book, Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge, gave me a headache despite the importance of the material. Similarly, while very subtly present, the spiritual aspect of this book is in keeping with the very best of other works, such as James Molben’s God and Science: Coming Full Circle?.

On my Latino side, going back to my mother’s family in Spain via Colombia, the family motto was “Que Vivas” — that you might live! Indeed. The author has provided a manifesto for life. I could not be more impressed.

Best wishes to all,
INTELLIGENCE FOR EARTH: Clarity, Diversity, Integrity, & Sustainability

KINDLE Publications (2 Books, many Shorts) can be viewed here.

Amazon Page

Amazon Page

2012 What the world lacks right now—especially the United States, where every form of organization from government to banks to labor unions has betrayed the public trust—is integrity. Also lacking is public intelligence in the sense of decision-support: knowing what one needs to know in order to make honest decisions for the good of all, rather than corrupt decisions for the good of the few.

The Open-Source Everything Manifesto is a distillation of author, strategist, analyst, and reformer Robert David Steele life’s work: the transition from top-down secret command and control to a world of bottom-up, consensual, collective decision-making as a means to solve the major crises facing our world today. The book is intended to be a catalyst for citizen dialog and deliberation, and for inspiring the continued evolution of a nation in which all citizens realize our shared aspiration of direct democracy—informed participatory democracy. Open-Source Everything is a cultural and philosophical concept that is essential to creating a prosperous world at peace, a world that works for one hundred percent of humanity. The future of intelligence is not secret, not federal, and not expensive. It is about transparency, truth, and trust among our local to global collective. Only “open” is scalable.

As we strive to recover from the closed world corruption and secrecy that has enabled massive fraud within governments, banks, corporations, and even non-profits and universities, this timely book is a manifesto for liberation—not just open technology, but open everything.

Amazon Page

Amazon Page

2010 A massive cultural tsunami is sweeping round the world as the five billion poor acquire Information and Communication Technologies (ICT), and the one billion rich realize that the era of Empire Rule Of, By, and For the Few is over. Happily, this is a revolution in human affairs that will be non-violent for the simple reason that no redistribution of existing wealth can match the infinite new wealth that the entrepreneurial poor can create for themselves when empowered with ICT.

We are entering an era in which global networks and the sharing of information can create revolutionary wealth at the micro-level, while enabling the harmonization of investments at the macro-level. This is an era in which transparency of cost and effect will eradicate corruption, fraud, waste, and abuse at the same time that it makes possible global to local engagement and collaboration such that we can create a prosperous world at peace. This is an era in which we will see a bottom-up conscious evolution of humanity that liberates and leverages the one inexhaustible resource we have: the human brain.

In 2004 the Secretary-General s High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges, and Change published its findings as A more secure world: our shared responsibility. Unlike other extraordinary books this remarkable endeavor not only achieved consensus among diverse contributing Members, but actually prioritized the ten high-level threats to humanity as follows: read more at Amazon.

Amazon Page

Amazon Page

2008 The era of collective intelligence has begun in earnest. While others have written about the wisdom of crowds, an army of Davids, and smart mobs, this collection of essays for the first time brings together fifty-five pioneers in the emerging discipline of collective intelligence. They provide a base of tools for connecting people, producing high-functioning teams, collaborating at multiple scales, and encouraging effective peer-production. Emerging models are explored for digital deliberative democracy, self-governance, legislative transparency, true-cost accounting, and the ethical use of open sources and methods. Collective Intelligence is the first of a series of six books, which will also include volumes on Peace Intelligence, Commercial Intelligence, Gift Intelligence, Cultural Intelligence, and Global Intelligence. Ralph Peters: While we may think we’re frightfully clever and sophisticated when it comes to our “information age,” it struck this reader that, in relation to information exploitation, we’re at a point equivalent to the mid-seventeenth century in the physical sciences: We’ve gotten some of the basic parameters figured out, but haven’t yet begun to understand their myriad applications. This volume is stimulating, useful, sometimes brilliant, and always worth turning over the page. Very highly recommended for those involved in intelligence, government or the media–as well as for citizens concerned about our collective future. Brain food for grown-ups.

Amazon Page

Amazon Page

2006 Retired Reader: What is commonly forgotten is that intelligence in the CIA sense of the word is simply processed information focused on specific subjects in such a way as to provide unique knowledge of those subjects. Intelligence does not have to be classified. It usually is classified for one of three reasons:1) to protect the sources and methods by which it was produced; 2) to protect bureaucratic turf from rivals; and 3) to prevent the subject(s) of the intelligence from realizing that unauthorized persons are in possession of knowledge about them. Steele correctly maintains that classification hinders the development of real knowledge about a variety of subjects and is largely unnecessary. The core of the Smart Nation Act and Steele’s primary theses is that an Open Source Intelligence Agency based on the free flow of information, the widespread use of outside experts, and the input from everyone including common citizens would provide better and cheaper intelligence than that now obtained from the existing U.S. Intelligence System. This agency would not be the typical hierarchy, but would be organized into semi-autonomous cells of researchers, analysts and experts. Each of the 50 U.S. States would have a local information processing center that would replicate the national Open Source Agency. These local centers would support state level activities requiring intelligence support and provide intelligence information from such sources as first line emergency response teams. Central to this whole concept is that the intelligence accumulated by these agencies would be available to every one so that the U.S. could actually achieve the Jeffersonian dream of an informed public.

cover IO new clean2006 Robert Steele: My personal view is that the key points of the book are that: 1) inter-agency sharing of non-secret information is much more important than precision delivery of secrets to the top guy; 2) unclassified information on operations, logistics, beliefs, etc. is much more important that technical secret information; and 3) there is a larger process called “Information Operations” (IO) that has been mis-defined in the US as offensive cyberwar and PSYOP on steroids, which in fact deals with a) the full and constant integration of global coverage in all languages all the time (including historical and cultural knowledge at the neighborhood level); b) the technologies of sharing, translating, and understanding; inclusive of online video gaming; and c) the crafting of inter-agency BEHAVIOR and BUDGETS (means) in order to achieve useful ends. In short, it’s not about secret intelligence; it is about global awareness and ethical behavior done across all the instruments of national power, wisely. As Dr. Cambone demands, we need universal coverage, 24/7, at sub-state levels of granularity, but we also need to act on that information in a timely as well as ethical manner, utilizing all of our resources, not just our military, and harmoniously integrating our intelligence and operational activities with those of other legitimate governments and non-governmental organizations.

Amazon Page

Amazon Page

2003 Each year millions of people die, are displaced, become diseased, or suffer severe depravations at the hands of rogue states, predatory ethnic groups or tribes, or ruthless terrorist and criminal organizations. Around the globe, while recognizing the important efforts of selected Nation-States and selected Non-Governmental Organizations, only one organization can be said to be truly concerned with global security and global prosperity in the common interest of all mankind: the United Nations. Unfortunately, the United Nations has chosen to ignore the proven process of “intelligence” by confusing it with espionage. Intelligence is not about espionage, it is about rationalized decision-support in which global sources of information in many languages and many mediums (oral, written, imaged) are deliberated collected, processed, analyzed, and presented to decision-makers in order to reduce uncertainty, suggest alternatives, and otherwise make instability more manageable. This book is the first book to bring together a combination of experienced United Nations military commanders, experienced national intelligence leaders, and scholars of United Nations and insurgency history. It combines the results of the first annual conference on peacekeeping intelligence help in The Netherlands in November 2002, with eight seminal works from the past, and three vital references for the future–extracts from the Brahimi Report with intelligence-related footnotes; a completely new Peacekeeping Intelligence Leadership Digest 1.0 distilled from the entire book into 35 pages; and pointers to both the three North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) doctrinal documents on Open Source Intelligence (OSINT), and to a selective group of recent references, most available online. This book is, in essence, “Ref A” for the future of intelligence at the United Nations.

Click on Image to Enlarge

Click on Image to Enlarge

2002 This book, honored with a Foreword by Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS), at the time Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, is the sequel to ON INTELLIGENCE: Spies and Secrecy in an Open World (AFCEA International Press, 2000). That book, written largely for government and corporate intelligence professionals, remains the basic reference volume for the future of global intelligence enterprises. This book, by contrast, is a completely new effort that is written for every citizen of every country—the “intelligence minutemen” of the 21st Century. In the aftermath of the 11 September 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, attacks carried out by a non-state actor skilled at asymmetric warfare and using our own capabilities against us—attacks followed quickly by a nation-wide anthrax assault that closed Congress and terrified the U.S. Postal Service—it is imperative that every citizen have a clear-headed understanding of what is at stake and what needs to be done to keep not only America, but all civilized communities safe. It is especially imperative that citizens understand that the world is already at war, with millions of refugees in 67 countries, plagues sweeping across 59 countries, mass starvation in 27 countries, and deliberate genocide campaigns in 18 countries. These are “facts of life” that our schools, our media and even our intelligence communities have been unwilling and unable to represent intelligently to the public. It is against this backdrop of global chaos that terrorism rises.

Amazon Page

Amazon Page

2000 This is the second edition of the book, identical in all respects to the first but with the addition of a single page detailing the six intelligence and counterintelligence failures that allowed the 9/11 attacks to occur. Honoed with a Foreword by Senator David Boren (D-OK), past Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, this book is about the reinvention of national, defense and business intelligence within the larger context of an open world–a world where “Evil Empires” and the Berlin Wall have fallen–but also a world where transportation, power, financial, and communications infrastructures are so open as to dramatically increase the vulnerability of America to trans-continental epidemics, anonymous information terrorism, and nation-wide power black-outs and financial melt-downs. As the world enters the Information Century, and simultaneously confronts the fragmentation of many nation-states and the emergence of widespread ethnic, tribal and criminal gang terrorism and confrontation, no topic can be more important to federal, state, and local governments–and to international, national, and local businesses than the topic of “intelligence”. Thankfully, there are many positive lessons and methods to be drawn from the U.S. Intelligence Community, and there are a wealth of open sources and services that can be drawn upon to make both government and business “smarter” about their environment, their customers, and their competitors. This book is a primer on the role of intelligence qua sources, methods, and community at the dawn of the 21st century.

See Also: Articles & Chapters as well as Briefings & Lectures, and About Robert Steele.

Connectography: Mapping the Future of Global Civilization Hardcover – April 19, 2016

From the visionary bestselling author of The Second World and How to Run the World comes a bracing and authoritative guide to a future shaped less by national borders than by global supply chains, a world in which the most connected powers—and people—will win.

Connectivity is the most revolutionary force of the twenty-first century. Mankind is reengineering the planet, investing up to ten trillion dollars per year in transportation, energy, and communications infrastructure linking the world’s burgeoning megacities together. This has profound consequences for geopolitics, economics, demographics, the environment, and social identity. Connectivity, not geography, is our destiny.

In Connectography, visionary strategist Parag Khanna travels from Ukraine to Iran, Mongolia to North Korea, Pakistan to Nigeria, and across the Arctic Circle and the South China Sea to explain the rapid and unprecedented changes affecting every part of the planet. He shows how militaries are deployed to protect supply chains as much as borders, and how nations are less at war over territory than engaged in tugs-of-war over pipelines, railways, shipping lanes, and Internet cables. The new arms race is to connect to the most markets—a race China is now winning, having launched a wave of infrastructure investments to unite Eurasia around its new Silk Roads. The United States can only regain ground by fusing with its neighbors into a super-continental North American Union of shared resources and prosperity.

Connectography offers a unique and hopeful vision for the future. Khanna argues that new energy discoveries and technologies have eliminated the need for resource wars; ambitious transport corridors and power grids are unscrambling Africa’s fraught colonial borders; even the Arab world is evolving a more peaceful map as it builds resource and trade routes across its war-torn landscape. At the same time, thriving hubs such as Singapore and Dubai are injecting dynamism into young and heavily populated regions, cyber-communities empower commerce across vast distances, and the world’s ballooning financial assets are being wisely invested into building an inclusive global society. Beneath the chaos of a world that appears to be falling apart is a new foundation of connectivity pulling it together.

Praise for Connectography

“Incredible . . . With the world rapidly changing and urbanizing, [Khanna’s] proposals might be the best way to confront a radically different future.”The Washington Post

“Clear and coherent . . . a well-researched account of how companies are weaving ever more complicated supply chains that pull the world together even as they squeeze out inefficiencies. . . . [He] has succeeded in demonstrating that the forces of globalization are winning.”—Adrian Woolridge, The Wall Street Journal

“Bold . . . With an eye for vivid details, Khanna has . . . produced an engaging geopolitical travelogue.”Foreign Affairs

“For those who fear that the world is becoming too inward-looking, Connectography is a refreshing, optimistic vision.”The Economist

“Connectivity has become a basic human right, and gives everyone on the planet the opportunity to provide for their family and contribute to our shared future. Connectography charts the future of this connected world.”—Marc Andreessen, general partner, Andreessen Horowitz

“Khanna’s scholarship and foresight are world-class. A must-read for the next president.”—Chuck Hagel, former U.S. secretary of defense