In my home town on the rural coast of Maine,we once had an economic development council, but it was little more than a public-private consortium with a license to spend the public’s money in the manner of a private development corporation.
The council spent taxpayer money on consultants and on advertising campaigns for down town hospitality businesses. For a while, after spending an amount of public resources, the council laid low, before announcing that it was reconvening. Shortly afterward, the pandemic hit, taking economic hospitality development off the table, and the council announced that it was closing down for good, with nary a mention that the economy was being impacted by a pandemic.
The campaign talking points of local politicians habitually extol their high regard for history, creation of year round jobs, the need to attract families and young people to the region, and for affordable housing, but once in office the elected officials passed ordinances to eliminate businesses in the home, with the exception of Air B&B’s. There is a barely known ordinance in my home town of Boothbay, Maine, that states that residents making a living in their own home, even if it doesn’t affect the neighbors, must get permission from the town selectmen. I know about it only because we were one of its targets, but that is a story for another time.
Soon there were no year round rentals available and historic structures are torn down without regard. With economic development structured around real estate values and tourism, the region is steadily becoming the rural version of New York City before the pandemic as it is described in Atlantic’s Medium publication: .
After the fiscal crisis of 1975, New York and its economy were restructured around tourism, high finance, luxury retail, and real estate. ….Beneath that glittering surface was a lot of emptiness. Even before the coronavirus, almost a third of the apartments from East 49th Street to East 70th, Fifth Avenue to Park, were occupied for only two months a year or less. The Atlantic Affluence Killed New York, Not the Pandemic
Distant seismic shifts reaching far and wide
According to reports coming out of New York, in the wake of corona virus, the wealthy residents, large corporations and retailers are leaving the city en masse. In suburban and rural regions across the country, real estate prices are increasing in expectation of an influx of wealthier property buyers.
This is the perfect storm for Richard Florida’s vision, popularized in Maine during the Baldacci administration as “the creative economy”. Richard Florida’s vision is based on the concept of one class of person being more worthy than others, crowned as “the creative class”. In positing such a superior class, it is a fascistic philosophy.
Roger Eatwell defines fascism as “an ideology that strives to forge social rebirth based on a holistic-national radical Third Way”, while Walter Laqueur sees the core tenets of fascism as “self-evident: nationalism; Social Darwinism; racialism, the need for leadership, a new aristocracy, and obedience; Wikipedia
A Centralized System or a Holistic One ?
In the above quote “centralization” should be substituted for “holistic”. A holistic system includes everyone and everything, while a centralized economy is the foundation stone of totalitarian systems, enforcing a singular perspective over an entire society, accompanied by a refusal to recognize anything existing outside of the centralized system.
New York City is more than the financial capital of the world it is also a vibrant, complex, holistic city where people of any walk of life can find a cultural home, as I found at the age of eighteen, when I left Maine, where I had been an outsider up until I moved to New York, attending Pratt Institute in Brooklyn.
The energy of my new home interacted with my identity, which up until then was that of a fly on the wall, or so I thought, Even in New York, I felt comfortable cloaking myself, in my own mind, as an unnoticed and invisible onlooker, a role I was accustomed to inhabit while growing up in Maine. In New York, despite my invisibility, there was eye contact everywhere. It is an easily explained paradox. The eyes are the window to the soul which resides in the invisible world. The invisible world was populated with intriguing New Yorkers who have a habit of looking deeply into ones eyes as strangers passing on the street. It is this human dimension that makes the city unique. That, and the fact that the New York attitude is that anything is possible.
There is a quantum theory that posits the existence of an interactive subquantum field of unbroken wholeness. In The Non-Local Universe, physicist Menas Kafatos and science historian, Robert Nadeau discuss non-locality as a living interactive relationship in which the whole affects the part and the part affects the whole. This characterizes the functioning of a holistic system, but when the top, (government) claiming to represent the whole (the public benefit) dictates the system from top to bottom, as was laid out in The United States Intergovernmental Cooperation Act of 1968, Public Law 90–577, the tendency is not to evolve toward an interactive holistic system, but toward a totalitarian system in which nothing exists outside the state. That creates an atmosphere where nothing is possible unless one is part of the inner circle of the public-private state, aka, oligarchs. Especially nothing is supposed to be possible for those whose income is below the medium income who are expected to serve their state as couch potatoes and to have no ambitions, desires, visions, or promise, and most certainly, no upward mobility, in exchange for wealth redistribution in the form of living rations.
The old Richard Florida idea was that communities should seek to attract the creative class, characterized as a wealthy class of people who work in knowledge-based industries like business and finance, technology, healthcare and medicine, law, and education, industries that compose the targeted sector of Maine’s centralized economy. Florida had a recipe for doing so. He even had a score board in which communities were given points for the creativity quotient based on metrics established by Florida, one of those metrics being “diversity”, although if all the cities followed Florida’s model, they would all be just the same.
Diversity is a popular economic development concept but it is commonly spun along demographic lines defined by race, sexuality, economics and so forth, not the inner soul of man which is too amorphous to capture in a data compiler.
A Cultural Migration
If New York City is truly finished, in its most recent incarnation, then we are entering the age of a new migration which has no precedence.
In seeking a safe haven from corona virus, will real estate continue to dominate choice, or will there be other considerations factoring into what distinguishes a house and a home, a real estate corporation from a community?
What made New York so exotic that outsiders and insiders alike flocked toward it? What will the selection process be that unfolds as great centers of energy disperse? Will development be managed and institutionalized into a more uniform and conformist world? Or will that free spirited energy infiltrate and transform old institutional orders?
Richard Florida now ironically advocates “bringing more political power back to the local level”, but framed within the context of more central planning. The only way that diversity comes about is when it emerges locally from the most individualized point of perception. This is the point of passion, which the federal SBIR grant website identifies as a prerequisite, which bloggers tell us we should not follow as we should instead find our bliss in conforming to the will of the system. This is the ingredient that ignites the faculties of man, the protection of which was once declared to be the first object of government.
The diversity in the faculties of men, from which the rights of property originate, is not less an insuperable obstacle to an uniformity of interests. The protection of these faculties is the first object of government. James Madison Federalist Paper #10
The New York state of mind is a place where anything is possible for anyone. The centralized economy is the system where possibilities exist only for an elite. In a wealth redistribution economy, the flow of fiat money is distributed from the top down, to all the same organizations that are structured into the centralized economy for decades. Despite the fact that corona virus has turned the social ordering of the world upside down, the structure which distributes corona virus relief is the same. The same institutions assert their power over individuality, like trying to force organic formations into geometric containers.
Where Has All Our Freedom Gone?
In my recent blog post about the SBIR grants, I observed the distinctly different philosophy on the federal website and the local economic development system in Maine. The federal literature states in no uncertain terms that a grant does not require paying back and that the applicant retains ownership of his intellectual property rights.
However the economic development support system in Maine is a totalitarian one, for which there appear to be no alternatives. It merges the public interests with special private interests, and it transforms non-profits into for-profits through the mechanism of the public-private state, Grants become loans and investments, and in every which way the system has its means in place for acquiring ownership of intellectual property.
I felt an air of relief when I read the philosophy on the federal website, but thus far all my correspondences at the federal level have gone unanswered. and a creeping conspiracy theory gains steam. Does the federal government know how the program will be transformed through the local proxies?
In this era of great migration, it becomes crucial to understand what local policies are, which are usually not what is stated in the surface rhetoric. In my post on Maine’s Pine Tree Zone legislation, an issue is raised over whether companies will locate in Maine but for the Pine Tree Zone, which is scheduled to sunset again at the end of 2021. Even so, the Pine Tee Zone remains an issue missing a mention across all election campaigns.
“But-for” -No More!
The new migration is upending the terms of everything in impossible to fathom ways, and so the old “but-for” claims no longer hold water. It is my hope that there are other states and municipalities where the America I once thought was, still is. If federal redistribution of wealth programs are filtered through the proxies of the States with no direct link to the federal program other than through the State, then the trans-formative effect by the proxy over the federal program needs to be understood.
America is great because of her spiritual foundations and that greatness has made her into a very rich and powerful nation.
The return of the middle class is the antibody to a rapidly escalating wealth divide. How does this come about, in reality ? How can we, as a society, bring back a middle class when middle class values are not part of the equation?
Middle class values are centered in the most local of local communities, the family, The ideal family is one that nurtures and develops the potential of its individual members, The “system” in the archetypal family emerges from the relationships between the individual members. For my purposes, I am imagining a family functioning in the holistic model in which the parts and the whole are interactive, each having trans-formative powers over the other, dynamics in which the anticipated behavior of each individual is accorded with a long and historical knowledge of how that individual interacts with the world. The ideal is a family in which the members encourage each other to realize their own potential. This is clearly not always the case, but this is a working model.
American middle class values further the realization of individual potential, as embodied in the iconic words “the pursuit of happiness”. Centralized management of the economy isn’t interested if the individuals in society can fulfill their own promise, it is interested in achieving its own agenda and structures economic development as a ubiquitous system in which individuals must fit, and if he or she doesn’t, just wack off a limb or two to make them fit!
A Failure to Make Real Connections
In a recent meeting I scheduled. in pursuit of support tailored to Andersen Design’s specific needs. contingent to applying for an SBIR grant, the consultant with whom I met, did not review the information that I provided before the meeting. Since he did not know anything about us before we met, I had to introduce our complex organization and history as a minimalist snap shot, which he construed as “having a lot of ideas..but”.
I was not describing ideas, I was describing our actual history and assets and what our company does. It was hard for him to grasp since he had not visited our website and had no idea of what kind of a product we make, when the meeting began. Eventually I flipped out on him. I felt like we were being put through a mill. as a futile exercise. It may not have been the most graceful way to handle the situation but it served a practical function of avoidance of taking a wrong turn in the road. I burned that bridge, because all past evidence pointed to it being a bridge to nowhere.
The Transparent and the Opaque in Public-Private Networks
It used to be that when using public money, an organization was expected to serve and engage the public, but as the centralized economy entrenched itself ever deeper, serving the public interests fell by the wayside. When part of the State, the legal status and organization of an entity is a matter of public record, but private entities are less transparent.
As the public merges with the private, a singular and exclusive channel for the concentration and redistribution of wealth comes into being seamlessly crossing the lines of transparency and opacity.
The consultant we were meeting with was a public-private consultant, working with SBDC and CEI.
SBDC’s website states “ SBDCs are hosted by leading universities, colleges, state economic development agencies and private partners, and funded in part by the United States Congress through a partnership with the U.S. Small Business Administration. “
Coastal Enterprises Incorporated states “ CEI envisions a world in which communities are economically and environmentally healthy, enabling all people, especially those with low incomes, to reach their full potential.” .
Like MTI, CEI is a nonprofit organization. The words “Invest with Us” are prominently displayed on its website. CEI has the largest donors list that I have ever come across and it has three subsidiary financial corporations.
According to information provided by Insight Community Economic Development, in Forming a Subsidiary of a Nonprofit, Charitable, Tax-exempt Corporation ,” A subsidiary may be nonprofit (usually also charitable tax-exempt) or for-profit “
A corporate search on the Maine.gov website for the for-profit or non-profit status of the three subsidiaries revealed that there were no listings to be found, only a mention in a couple of documents which did not provide the for-profit or non-profit information. Based on the knowable culture of Maine economic development resources, I will take a wild guess that at least one of the subsidiaries of CEI is for-profit, duplicating the model of MTI as a public charity with a for-profit board. The fact that this information is not easily found increases the likelihood that at least one of the subsidiaries is a for-profit entity.
I searched Coastal Enterprises Incorporated on the Maine.Gov website. It is not listed.
Public Economic Development Resources Function as Private Clubs
A few years ago, the economic development council in my home town hired consultants from New York to write a business plan for our local community.
The remote consultants recommended museums as an important asset to develop for the region. My family business, Andersen Design had been fiscally sponsored to start a Museum of American Designer Craftsmen. I approached the council looking for local support. The response I received from the council leader had not a word to say about the pitch I presented of the museum as a community economic development asset. I was told that the council could not help individual businesses and advised to look for support from my own peer group.
This is the equivalency of being told one is not entitled to any other service funded by property taxes. What if a town resident called the fire department and was told that the fire department can’t respond to a call from an individual property owners, and advised the caller to ask a neighbor if they have a spare hose?
My local economic development council hired remote consultants for seventy nine thousand dollar to produce the Town Plan, recommending museums and became another instance of the Maine government spending tax payer money for a report, which is thereafter ignored.
I didn’t think the museum could happen without local networking support and as such I felt pursuing the idea of the museum was too great a burden on our resources.
In my experience in interacting with the economic development resources in Maine, when presenting an idea in economic development terms, our status is construed as “an individual business” only, when in fact Andersen Design is the pioneer ceramic business in our region from which a cluster industry has emerged. Andersen Design taught the skills of ceramic making on the job since our beginnings in 1952, making all of our glazes and bodies from scratch from original recipes. The functional complexity of our business is the equivalency of several business. Our vision for the future of our production is to develop a network of independently owned ceramic studios as a post-industrial age cottage industry. I wanted to do this before corona virus, but with the move to remote working, which is expected to be a permanent development, a 21 first century ceramic cottage industry is synchronistic with a new wave of smaller working environments.
In the comments section of Remote Work Is Killing the Hidden Trillion-Dollar Office Economy, it is seen that remote working is being embraced as a good change by many remote workers. It is a dispersion of monolithic power and wealth that has given birth to the corporate welfare economy.
At first remote workers will be tied to their corporate employers by a distance determined by the corporation, but as remote employees become remote independent contractors, the configuration will likely divest into smaller size organizational structures and spread out over wider areas. Will local economies be competing for global corporations or for clusters of independent contractor workers?
Millions of Stars in the Sky
The free spirited cultural environment that made New York City an energy center in the world was not a monolithic one, it was thousands of points of light and dark interacting together. Corona virus changes the volume and scale of human interactions. Still, humanity is drawn to the cultural environment that urban living most abundantly provides.
The rural environment will change as the newly dispersed urban energy interacting with its new place, and vise versa. Both will transform the other.
We Have a Wealth Redistribution Economy. Lets Reconfigure It!
So how do we find our way out of this web of monolithic control over the rivers of financialization? Enter the UBI.
UBI is not only a redistribution of wealth , it is a redistribution of opportunity and a dispersion of power.
In the era of Fiat money, UBI has been proposed as a no-questioned asked wealth redistribution. For as long as it stays that way, it cannot be manipulated by special interests as it seeds the economy from the roots up as opposed to the top down. We have been seeding economic opportunity from the top down since the 1970’s. Out of that process has emerged a continually escalating wealth divide. Today the large corporations are breaking up into many smaller businesses as employees become independent contractors.
While government and non-profit wealth redistribution can be manipulated and controlled by special interests, UBI, as a no questions asked universal basic income, cannot be controlled by the oligarchy state. If it can it be that, and stay that way, depends on whom we elect.
A Universal Basic Income should be distributed to the those whose income is at or below the medium, and should be completely separate from social welfare benefits, to be distributed as a 100% discretionary income.
UBI is the most direct path to decreasing the wealth divide, as well as addressing the economic transition from the industrial revolution to the automation revolution. Although automation will likely ultimately create jobs, it is likely that there will be a loss of jobs during a transitional period, which is now also impacted with covid 19.
We are in an era undergoing multiple transitions. A UBI can be used to both stabilize and stimulate the economy as it undergoes radical transformation.
Democrats have been considering a instituting a UBI as part of corona virus relief. This would be good news for Andersen Design because it would provide minimal funds to bootstrap a project working with an independent slip casting studio to produce a mug, and eventually other products. We would have already initiated such a project but lack the resources. Our project would create opportunities for others to increase their income, growing the economy from its roots along multifarious pathways.
A year, or even six months ago, I was against an UBI, but in reconsideration that the wealth redistribution economy is what it is and here to stay, until we develop a strategy toward a return to a true free enterprise economy, and in consideration that our currency is a fiat currency, UBI is a solution that breaks up totalitarian control of our economy while seeding it from the roots.
We have been expansively seeding economic opportunity from the top down since the 1970’s . In the process we created a tax-payer subsidized class of owner of the means of production with mechanisms in place to claim ownership of intellectual property rights, as well. All the while entrepreneurship is discouraged at the bottom of the economy.
To day all roads lead to a reverse in course, toward dispersion of old towers of power,- unless they don’t! In which case the road leads to greater totalitarianism. What’s it gonna be? Its up to you and me!
Vote with your Hope!
Originally published at https://www.datadriveninvestor.com on September 11, 2020.