Moneylab#3 dispels the notion that anything is too big to fail. Public concern over wealth distribution, economic inequality and accountability has given rise to economic populism and financial counterculture. The black box of finance has been hatched into the imagination of the public and there has rarely been a more generous context to manifest working alternatives for the 99%. Co-operative platforms, de-centralized technologies and direct democracy movements all indicate profound attempts to re-balance the distribution of wealth and power. As resistance towards economic inequality flourishes across Europe the challenge ahead is to find ways to improve and sustain financial experimentation and do more than fail better.
Financial activism has played an integral role to people’s parties in Europe, demanding transparent, open, and more democratic forms of governance. Populist policies, regardless of being left or right wing, inherently form around a general desire to unhook politics from financial corruption. As popular people’s parties near an electoral majority, what can be learnt from these types of de-centralized, bottom-up movements? How are dis-enfranchised citizens making real political progress? Campaigns for universal basic income (UBI) and transparent participatory budgeting should also be contextualized from an increasing awareness of financial corruption and economic inequality. As political reformation spreads through Europe, small alterations within local and national governments have been made, but are these improvements minor repairs to a broken system? Rather than wait to implement changes in traditional legislation, others are attempting to transform governance by writing smart contracts into de-centralized systems. Programmers and designers quickly meet the increasing demand for de-centralized services by building infrastructures that harness the extent of the network and the reliance of the database to enforce new forms of governance with smart contracts. Whilst blockchain offered some interesting visions on future scenarios, the potential has mainly been swallowed up into business logistics, forcing any remaining excitement towards de-centralized technology to be diverted towards the DAO (Decentralized Autonomous Organization). Unfortunately, these new toys are often damaged on arrival or corrupted early on by a handful of hedge fund managers looking for new ways to swindle millions out of the banks. A crucial aspect of the blockchain’s application within banking, is how it raises fresh concerns over citizen privacy and surveillance. As a cashless society looms closer, the virtues of paper money should be addressed as we look towards a future of living in a surveillance economy.
MoneyLab continues to investigate the practical methods created by artists and designers to circumvent and overcome the challenges faced within the austerity economy. In amongst the cacophony of economic dissent they remain at the front line, inventing practical solutions to protect their livelihoods and designing new ways to distribute value and make a living. In their efforts, artists offer perspectives on how collective ownership can provide security or establish terms for contracts and licenses that enable equitable incomes. Writers and publishers also endeavor to create working solutions that circumvent extractive platform monopolies, from p2p distribution models to collective piracy, print and digital publishing demonstrate intuitive alternative means to survive within a digital economy. Musicians are equally desperate to reshape an industry that in attempt to stamp out piracy has turned digital streaming into a murky penniless revenue model that only serves platform-based superiority. They all join a growing creative class desperate for an exit strategy from exploitative platform monopolies and inequitable licenses that siphon off and centralize profits. Many turn to workers’ rights and labor movements to incorporate trade unions and co-operatives in a new breed of entrepreneurial equality. Platform co-ops are not just ethically responsible alternatives to exploitative on-demand business models, they offer practical solutions for providing social security and equitable income for the unnescessariat.
Through observing the expansion of small-scale financial experimentation into collective organizations with political aspirations, Moneylab#3 considers the scale and longevity of social movements actively reshaping how value is created, exchanged and distributed. Whilst financial criticism spreads into alternative manifestations of collective organization, the third moneylab recounts familiar issues surrounding trust, scale and implementation. Bitcoin was unable to implement a global p2p trustless system and time banks and complimentary currencies remain tied down to the communities that they originate from. Should the prospect of ‘scaling up’ be rejected in order to foster and support localized alternatives such as time banks, platform co-ops or community currencies? Amazingly, we see critical economic literature rise to the top of the New York Times best sellers list while offering very little substantive direction other than advising readers to quit their ‘bullshit jobs’ and await for ‘full automation’. What can be gained from the economic fables that repeatedly make the headlines and how can we look further than sensationalist manifestos to produce a more binding engagement between critical literature and social activism?
Moneylab#3 will assess the ambition of financial provocations that have ignited and dispersed from grass-roots movements to people’s political parties, to establish a terrain of social and political reform from de-centralized networks to state governments. The rift we find ourselves in stems much further than the banks. Moneylab#3 will examine how financial retaliation has led to political reformation and ask whether the ambitious advancements in finance & governance offer sound alternatives or are exasperated attempts to fail better.