The Pool Economy – An Economic System for the Future

The pool of goods and services is a core point of the new global economic system to be developed. Of the twelve rules of the game, four deal with it directly and one indirectly.

In the broadest sense, the pool economy is a further development of the commons economy and the resource economy. Like these, it is based on cooperation, self-organization and management; agreement, trust and the common interest in a sustainable, thoughtful and future-oriented handling of resources and with each other.

This is based on a wealth of empirical knowledge – not least because the commons economy was the economic form of the earliest of cultures. Not only are original forms of it still found today in indigenous ethnic groups, but even in modern societies a few successful commons institutions have been able to survive. However, these have been generally threatened by falling victim to the combination of state paternalism and market economy pressure.  Meanwhile, the pool economy is experiencing a certain revival in so-called commons, where people have been experimenting with the different approaches and focuses of the collective resource economy (for example, in the construction and operation of urban gardens or in open-knowledge projects such as Wikipedia). However, they have all been leading a niche existence by necessity, because within the structures of the global market economy it is practically impossible to create and maintain a parallel economy independent of it.

The occurrence and forms of the commons economy have been intensively researched by the economist Elinor Ostrom and her team, who were awarded the Nobel Prize in 2009 for their work. In their comprehensive studies, they show how the collective use of resources, self-management and self-organization succeed in the commons (presumably derived from: all+ communities) and what clear advantages they have over the ubiquitous market economy. At the same time, these studies show that latent knowledge about this exists everywhere and can be reactivated at any time, for the benefit of man and nature.

The pool economy in Global Alternative takes up this knowledge and strives to develop the commons economy with the help of IT into a highly developed and globally functioning economy. On the one hand, therefore, this is a recourse to demonstrably highly effective forms of resource-conserving interaction with nature, which also encompasses the human body and psyche; while on the other hand, it is a further development of the scientific and technical possibilities offered by the 21st century. This goes hand in hand with overcoming the dead-end of capitalism with all its destructive characteristics.

But back to the pool economy – how is it supposed to work?

The goal of a functioning economy is the intelligent and sustainable supply to all people with everything they need to lead a healthy, dignified, and secure life.

This requires both the production of appropriate goods and the provision of assistance. Goods are understood to be all raw materials and physical and non-physical products that go toward satisfying needs. This encompasses anything and everything; from excavated rare earths to ultrasound equipment to the writing of scientific papers; or from harvested wheat to baby carriages to construction manuals etc.

In the case of aid or assistance services, however, we are talking about anything offered that can be considered as a non-physical service to people or to the community. This includes not only medical care, but also, for example, haircuts, educational services, child-care, the organization of work processes, the maintenance of sewage systems, writing software, or the performance of an opera.

This first shows us which services are necessary to maintain an economy.

But how can all of this be organized, especially without nation states, borders, and hierarchies?

In the pool economy, it is the commons, as the smallest, hierarchy-free and self-organized common property units, that are the supporting pillars of the entire system. They are where local daily life takes place. They ensure that the local infrastructure functions, and join forces with other commons to carry out larger regional projects such as factories, bridge construction, the production of renewable energy, the organization of a soccer match or even supra-regional projects such as maintaining an airport, ensuring the water supply, expanding the rail network, reforesting forests or removing plastic out of the oceans.

Each commons is also required to make at least one contribution to the Global Pool, but more about how this is done in a moment.

First, we need to explain what exactly the Global Pool is.

The Global Pool is the digital center in which all goods and services are listed and from where they can be accessed in order to get from where they are produced or made available to where they are needed.

Therefore, as far as commons pool contributions are concerned, this means that each commons always places the goods it produces and the auxiliary services it provides in the pool, where, in turn, all demands are directed. In this way, supply and demand are coordinated via the pool, and thus both deficits and surpluses are registered and balanced.

If, for example, there is more demand for a material product than is listed, direct inquiries are sent to the commons that previously manufactured the product: “Can production be increased? – And if so, what is needed to accomplish it?”

If production cannot be increased, a general request goes out to all commons: “Please find out if you are eligible to set up production.” Algorithms can help to find out in which commons the conditions are particularly favorable, for example because the necessary infrastructure (buildings, roads, railways) is already available, and the required resources (materials, suppliers) are on site or close by.

Nevertheless, no commons is obliged or compelled to start a new project or production. If a commons gets involved, then it is for reasons of free capacity, interest in the cause, need for the cause, (for example everyone suffers from the deficit, including itself) or because of the recognition that comes with it. There are certainly more reasons, which then become apparent within the course of the game. If a commons (possibly together with other local commons) declares itself interested in setting up a corresponding production, not only all information about the production process is made available in the pool, but also that about those commons which are available as suppliers or come into particular consideration; or about offers of help from those commons which already produce the product and which skilled workers are willing to make their knowledge available to the local commons. If the construction of a new production facility is necessary, the pool of auxiliary services can be used, or a request can be made to the (local) commons for support as well. There are also meta-projects – those projects that serve to coordinate regional, supra-regional or even global tasks, such as research projects on climate change, the coordination of flight movements, the maintenance of satellites, the transport of mail, and so on. Advisory services (such as mediators and arbitrators – see below) are also included.

Finally, a few thoughts on social interaction in and between commons. It should be noted in advance that in this context no idealized image of humanity is or should ever be relied upon.

Nevertheless, 300 years of capital-driven economic activity have shaped an image of man that could not be more reductive. Homo economicus was proclaimed and it was pretended that this was the discovery of man’s true nature. This is as misleading as it is wrong. That ‘man’ behaves accordingly in a society that has to obey the laws of the market economy and money should be obvious to everyone. However, it is the conditions that make him do so, and not his ‘nature’. The latter only provides what it needs to adapt to conditions and to adjust its thinking in such a way that it accepts the conditions (see Nature of Man). Note for Karl Hans: Bieser’s contribution is still in progress, but will be finished soon.

Now it could be argued that after all it was ‘man’ who formed these conditions. But this also falls short (see also Nature of Man).

In capitalism, everyone has to fight for his material existence, his advantage and last but not least his dignity. The monetary system ensures that interpersonal relations become corruptible down to even the most private of spheres, with property providing the corresponding barriers and exclusions. In the form of capital, property enables the exploitation of those who have nothing but their labor to sell, and over all this the state holds its hand protectively and with the powers to use force.

In the pool economy, meanwhile, it is clear that everything this planet has to offer us in terms of nature and raw materials is merely the basis of existence and consequently cannot be anyone’s property and must be used in such a way that it can either regenerate itself or, if this is not possible, it must be used sparingly.

More about the commons: As I said, these are small, manageable, self-determined communities that people have come together to form, whether in the form of a neighborhood community or a village community. The optimal number of members for them to decide this is up to each commons and must result from experience. Likewise, there are different models for the distribution of the necessary work contributions (see Thinking the change). Note for Karl-Hans: This contribution is currently under revision.

For peaceful contact with each other, two starting points are provided: a) there is no hierarchy, i.e. one organizes oneself on an equal footing and in consultation with each other, and b) nobody has to worry about his material, spiritual and medical care. If there are problems in a commons – which is likely to be the case especially in the beginning, because unfamiliar processes of consensus building have to be found and practiced first – every commons and every project can fall back on trained mediators and arbitrators (for problems of system change in the transition phase and open questions see Thinking the Change).

The concrete design and differentiation of the new economy, however, is left to the gaming community. For just as the pool economy itself is based on the core idea (and incidentally also the core experience) that a good, sustainable life for all can only be achieved through cooperation, self-organization and self-management, communication and trust, so too the core idea of the game is that it is capable for a joint, cooperative, open and goal-oriented search for solutions in creating a sustainable global society.

The prerequisite for this is that the layers of our present consciousness are peeled away. Here, too, the game, or rather the few rules of society, help. They form the gateway, so to speak, to the possibilities that come with overcoming the present structures.