I am so excited to announce our next Special Feature! In the past we featured The Gibbon Conservation Center and the good work they are doing to help preserve the lesser apes.
This month, I want to present an author who may be an important voice as we face our uncertain future. Charles Eisenstein is an author and speaker. He writes on all variety of topics: economics, politics, environmentalism, the future of humanity. One very refreshing and encouraging quality of his writing is the spiritual aspect that he brings to every topic.
I have read excerpts from 3 of his books but am trying to buckle down and read one of the most challenging of them, The Ascent of Humanity.
This 512 page book includes Eistenstiens’ reflections on all kinds of topics and their intersections throughout history well into our present and their impact on our future choices. He describes the need for our communal transcendence from the “age of separation” to an “age of reunion.” Right up the Life As a Wave alley! There are already too many “YES!” moments to count while I have been reading this book.
To give credit to the person who brought this writing into my awareness and to recruit his help in providing a more thoughtful and articulate review of Ascent, I introduce…my father, ~~~R Wave~~~. Take it away, Dad!
When I was asked to review “The Ascent of Humanity,” by Charles Eisenstein for this blog, I readily agreed, thinking it would be an easy task. I was wrong. My problem is not how I might find something to write about but rather how to choose among the many things I could write about.
Eisenstein is a creative thinker and a prolific writer. He has written four books that I know of and I have read three of them, each two times. Those three are “The Ascent of Humanity,” “Sacred Economics,” and “The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know is Possible.” I have also tried to read a book titled “The Natural Economic Order” by Silvio Gesell upon whom Eisenstein relies quite a bit for his proposed economic solutions.
Many people have reviewed Eisenstein’s works and his books themselves include such reviews. It has occurred to me, therefore, to merely mention my general opinion of his works and then describe the one major problem I have with one aspect of his perspective.
First of all, I want to make clear that I find Eisenstein’s thinking creative, refreshing, thought-provoking and inspiring. I am an avid reader and it is rare that I find an author with so many original insights and ideas. Not only does Eisenstein bring fresh perspectives on numerous problems and issues but more importantly he unifies and integrates these into an incredibly inclusive and broad picture spanning eons of time and vast areas of interest. For example, he weaves language, science, evolution, religion, mathematics, art, music, culture, economics, agriculture, technology and many other areas together into one large narrative regarding the transition from what he calls the “Age of Separation” to what he calls the “Age of Reunion.” It is a narrative I have never before encountered and is, to me, a triumph of creative thinking. However, his view, while acknowledging the tremendous crisis that we all face is, at the same time, optimistic and forward-looking.
As I mentioned, I have one problem with his view that I believe he would be able to resolve for me were I to present it to him. I can’t imagine that he intends to mean what I interpret him to mean in this regard. The problem concerns what he calls, “free land,” borrowing from the work of Silvio Gesell. Eisenstein presents this concept primarily in “Sacred Economics” but it is present in “Ascent” as well.
Simplistically, free land is the idea that since land is part of the commons, it should not be “owned” by anyone but rather should be held by the government and “rented out” at auction to the highest bidder. That way, the land would be put to the best use and only those that could put it to such use would be able to win the auctions and pay the rent. Presumably, Eisenstein would resolve the obvious problem of defining “best use” purely in terms of monetary profit.
However, my primary problem is in reconciling Eisenstein’s repeated excoriation of the commoditization and monetization of the commons with the idea of bidding with money for use of the land. He extols the virtues of gift economies where goods are exchanged without money or expectation of compensation. Yet, at the same time, one must outbid others and pay rent with money in order to use land. If I wanted to use acreage to restore fertility, create forest gardens, provide wildlife habitat, and desired to freely “gift” the outputs of my land to my neighbors, I might not have the money to pay the “rent” to the government. Not only that, but what would prevent the wealthier among us from outbidding the rest of us and monopolizing the land?
I understand that some forms of the commons, such as fisheries or fresh air or water, can be depleted and it makes sense to me to somehow put controls on the uses of those commons. But, although fertility can certainly be depleted and soil eroded, if those problems are prevented, why should all use of land be regarded as profit-making activities? In other words, isn’t requiring bidding and paying rent with money for land use merely another form of commoditization of the commons, a process that Eisenstein decries?
I hope that I am missing something here and I wish I could get a response to all this from Eisenstein. In the meantime, I would highly recommend all his books, despite my reservations on this one issue.
Now is the time, Life As a Wave readers, for you to find out for yourself just what this Eisenstein is talking about. He has generously contributed signed copies of his book to Life As a Wave to be given to two special readers. To enter this giveaway, just share a comment about this post. Do you feel that we are in an “age of separation?” What do you think about “gift economies?” Then, make sure you follow Life As a Wave on Facebook and you’re all signed up! I’ll announce the randomly-selected winner next month.
As always, it is an honor to be connected with each of you. Thank you for visiting, thank you for considering, and thank you for being YOU in this complex world.