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Letters from Jordan – IPC10 Conference Day

Roberto Perez Rivero, Cuba, addresses the conference guests
Photo © Craig Mackintosh

It was a full day of varied talks — varied both in terms of the content, and the background and experience of the speakers. I won’t say a lot about the talks, as you are able to watch them yourselves on!

On the morrow we head to the southern end of Jordan, to the famously beautiful desert region of Wadi Rum — where the four-day IPC10 Convergence will ensue. Unlike the conference, we won’t be live-streaming the talks at the convergence, but I will be videoing as much as possible, and will YouTube them as quickly as I can after returning home. Also, because the above-linked conference videos were streamed, they are quite compressed, so not the best quality. I will re-upload those in higher quality when I get home after the events as well. When I do, I’ll post links to the speakers’ respective slide shows, so you can follow along with the talks better.

Stay tuned….


  1. Thanks for all your hard work, Craig. I watched some of the talks today, it is great to be able to see them from afar. It is also good to know that you will be videoing workshops from the convergence. I especially hope to see the workshops by Scott Pittman.

  2. Might just be me, but isn’t it a bit strange that there is so much room between the guests and the speakers? Wouldn’t it be better for the connection between the speaker and the audience if they were a bit closer?

  3. Thank you Craig! It was fantastic to be able to stream the conference yesterday and meet in chat. Looking forward to your U-Tubes of the Convergence and also thankful for the ability to re-play yesterday’s talks. All the best for a brilliant convergence. Hugs from Damanhur!

  4. Job – it was a very wide angle lens. Don’t worry, the speaker and guests were a lot closer than the picture indicates. Different focal lengths give different impressions.

  5. Terrific work Craig! Very much appreciated and we really enjoyed watching it and being online with everyone else. Looking forward to the video of the Convergence.

    Thanks, Chris

  6. Nice work Craig, I’m really glad you managed to pull it off :)

    I really enjoyed the live streaming, it was great to feel part of it all from so far away. I’ll watch a couple of them again uncompressed when you get them up, great stuff.

    Really looking forward to seeing the talks at convergence too.

    I’ll lead you under a cow for that lot, so you can get a well deserved “pat on the head” :D

  7. I enjoyed seeing Tony Rinoudo explain that private ownership rights of trees is the single biggest factor in reforestation success in Niger.

  8. JBob – me also, it’s an important aspect. In addition, I enjoyed it being balanced with the clear message that concerted action based on community-agreed decisions and their resulting rules are also critical:

    Over time, locally agreed upon codes and rules with support from village and district chiefs were established. Without this consensus and support for the protection of private property, it is unlikely that FMNR could have spread as fast as it did. —The Development of Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration

    Hmm… that’s ‘village and district chiefs’ ensuring people take care of their privately owned trees, for the good of all.

    JBob, you constantly cherry pick to say that a completely free market, where all players have complete freedom in the market place, is the way where the ‘invisible hand’ will work its magic and produce a superior result. I, instead, agree that people will not perform or be motivated to perform if they’re stuck in a communist type scenario (I’ve lived in post-communist countries, and still do), but where we disagree is that you fail to see the need for ‘rules’ to be put in place to protect people and place. In the case of FMNR, there were clear rules agreed upon and upheld to ensure certain practices were avoided, and others adhered to.

    We see exactly the same kind of success with the Loess Plateau, another very large and encouraging success tale that also uses the same ‘economic recipe’ – a balance between privatisation and community-agreed regulations:

    Give it a watch, and, as you do, consider what kind of social/political/economic systems would be the most conducive to achieving similar results in other places worldwide. It’s an interesting mix of top-down ‘interference’ (both in terms of blanket regulations and financial investment) combined with land ‘privatisation’, and participatory involvement at all levels. It reinforces for me the need to build resilient, localised, holistically educated and politically engaged communities whose members don’t discard government, but who through greater involvement in the decision-making process (including choosing their representatives) effectively become government and self-determine to build a world based on land stewardship and voluntary simplicity. We cannot act as individuals alone, working in our own self-interest, and achieve the kind of results you’ll see in the video below. We need to work collaboratively, and sometimes sensible, holistically discussed decisions will need to be enforced on individuals who either can’t see the big picture, or who don’t care. — A Call to Large Scale Earth Healing and Lessons from the Loess Plateau

    It’s very clear to me, after many lengthy discussions, that you will, as you expressed above, only enjoy hearing what you want to believe, but are not able to truly look objectively at the issues and to find a workable, viable balance. It’s staring you in the face JBob, but you can only see what you want to see.

  9. Craig I cant see Bill’s piece/ending clip there anymore. Has it accidentally dropped off or been removed for other reasons.

    Thanks for all your efforts on the night I had a guest rock up so missed the last bits and saying goodbye on the chat.

  10. Originally I wrote a long reply that included many fine points about anarchism that you would totally ignore. But then I narrowed it down to something that might actually make sense to you.

    “locally agreed upon codes and rules with support from village and district chiefs were established …for the protection of private property.” This is not a refutation of my solution, this IS my solution. The involvement of chiefs is not necessary, but insofar as they are acting as the only currently available court system, and they are in agreement with basic private property principles, they are acceptable. The only necessity is widespread acceptance of property rights.

    But you say “that’s ‘village and district chiefs’ ensuring people take care of their privately owned trees, for the good of all.” No, it’s not. It’s ridiculous to think the chief is more motivated or more able to oversee the care of everyone’s trees than the owners are. As Rinoudo said, letting everyone experiment with different pruning styles, planting densities, species choice, marketing methods, etc is the great strength of this system. That amazing diversity is the free market at work, not any sort of “community-decision making.”

  11. JBob. I’m sure we’ll go round and round….

    I don’t think it’s ridiculous at all that the ‘chief’ is more motivated than the owners of the trees. The chief, if he’s acting as representative of the owners, has pressure from those same owners to ensure all owners fulfil their obligations — for the good of all. As the old saying goes, it just takes one bad apple….

    As you’ve made very clear in the past, every individual in your eyes should be left to make their own decision. For example, some time ago I wrote:

    Consider the bears… Where I live, people shoot them. But, they are only allowed to shoot a certain number, and they must have a license. Bear numbers are carefully monitored. This is government enforced for the benefit of the bear. It is to protect them from the few who’d like to see them all dead. These laws are a reflection of the will of the majority – a majority who don’t want to see them become extinct. Because of these laws (which are a restriction on the freedom of private individuals working in their own self interest – which is your ideal) the bear population stays relatively stable. What happens if you (somehow!) privatise all the land? Well, all the bear will get killed, that’s what. The bear will be imposing his own restrictions on your freedom of movement, and he/she might even steal some chickens from your yard. If a bad human neighbour did this, in your ideal libertarian world you’d take him to court, but what about the bear? You can’t sue him – so you’ll have to shoot him.

    Your response was:

    Bears: private property rights should apply to wildlife. If you own the land, you can decide what happens to the bears. Some people would kill them, some wouldn’t kill any, most would probably hunt a sustainable number.

    Privatising wildlife is a reprehensible concept to me, as it would be to probably all traditional cultures. You say “most would probably hunt a sustainable number”. You’ve got to be kidding!! This has proven wholly incorrect throughout history. Open your eyes, and you’ll see that almost everywhere where there were no constraints placed on human behaviour, the last bear was killed, the last wolf, the last cougar and even the last tree. Why are there no large predators virtually anywhere humans have settled? You are effectively leaving the right-to-life of the bears and every other creature and organism to chance and the whim of private owners – people who consistently prove that they cannot find a ‘self interest’ reason to keep them alive.

    JBob. Again, you love to find examples of where your thoughts are vindicated, but you pick them out of the pot, ignoring all the other elements in the soup. I truly believe you fail to look objectively at these issues. I fully agree that people having a sense of ownership is important. But you take this as a magic mechanism, all on its own, and don’t manage to find any balance. You take it too far.

    Privatising everything gives us prisons with a vested interest in society having more criminals. It gives us hospitals that incentivise sickness. It gives us schools that incentivise career students who can’t actually do anything. Unless there are regulations in place to ensure balance and ethical behaviour, then self-interest will naturally lead to short-term thinking for the individual, at the expense of the needs of community and society at large.

    If I bring up tangible examples of ‘free market’ mayhem, like Dead Peasants Insurance, for example, you don’t respond — Your way of thinking results in the kind of nonsense we see in the U.S. – where big corporations, without knowledge of their employees, purchase life insurance policies on those employees so they can profit from their death. The husband dies, the wife gets nothing, but the employer rakes it in – and often even though the employee was not even in their employ at time of their death. This is free market capitalism at its finest. The employer is actually incentivised to sabotage their employee’s car, for example, so the CEO gets to fulfil his duty, of increasing shareholder profits on the latest quarterly statement. (‘Dead Peasant Insurance’: see here, here, and here).

    I mentioned prisons above, where if privatised they have a vested interest in society having more criminals. This was well played out in reality with the ‘kids for cash’ scheme:

    This judge and his industry collaborators put children away in a for-profit detention centre when they’d done little to nothing wrong. The prison simply needed paying customers at their detention centre, and the judge was happy to take payment to provide these.

    For you, all problems should be solved in a court. Yet, this situation was fed by a court and its corrupt judge!

    Thankfully, the judge, Mark Ciavarella got a 28 year sentence for his involvement – but this does not bring back the stolen time for these children, nor give them back any sense of respect for the ‘system’ they’re living within, and it certainly doesn’t bring back the life of the boy who committed suicide:

    You want to create a court system to solve everything, but in doing so all you’d be doing is creating a new form of government – one where a privatised, profit-motivated court governs. Where would be the defense for the penniless? Indeed, where in your privatised utopia would whole sections of society fit? The physically and mentally disabled, etc. etc.? These would also be left to chance, like the bear. If they have no value to the monetary system, they’d simply perish.

    I have repeatedly requested you write up a post for publishing, detailing how your libertarian world view would be played out in reality. I’d still love to see it, rather than your constantly spraying your dimly-thought-through magic potions onto this site. Why not take up the challenge JBob? Write down your thoughts, draw the lines from your ideal concepts into the heart of society, join the dots, tell us how it can be implemented and how you expect it to play out. Tell us how you’d keep your system based on self-interest from destroying itself for short-term gain.

    For myself, I’d far prefer to see a system based more along the lines of the more successful traditional societies, where small groups put representatives they respect forward. I’ve shared this already:

    Imagine instead, a lucid, educated populace organising themselves into groups that are like the cells of a body, or a plant. Imagine, say, the ten houses in your street forming a committee to discuss the needs and development of your street. From the people living in those ten houses you would all elect the person who you believe would best represent you all – someone you all respect for their ethics, practical wisdom and egalitarian attitude.

    If other groups of houses in your local community did likewise, then your suburb (if urban) or locality (if rural) would then have localized representatives all representing the needs and wants of these sub-communities.

    Now, taking this further: What if, say, ten of these representatives (each representing ten households) were to get together and elect from amongst themselves the best person to represent THEM, then you’d have one representative for a group of one hundred, all answering to the representatives of the groups of ten.

    You can see where I’m going…. You then get ten of the representatives of one hundred together, and they elect a representative from amongst themselves, so you then have one representative for 1,000 households…. And so on, and so on.

    The end result is a bottom up democracy where everyone is represented by people deserving of respect. If any of these representatives dishonours him/herself or fails to convey and work for the wishes of the people, then they’re simply replaced. Such a situation cultivates social advancement of the best kind – people striving to earn a reputation for being just. And, just as importantly, it creates a stable system. Representatives of cells might get swapped out from time to time, due to retirement, or perhaps someone losing credibility, but as a whole, the system remains largely intact forever – rather than the present situation where we have a complete change of government, and a potential complete change of direction, every four years, which discourages long term planning. (In this sense, monarchies are better than present centralised governments, as at least, if you’re lucky enough to get a ‘good’ King/Queen, they’re thinking over their lifetime.)

    And, such representatives would be seen as servants of those they’re representing, not ‘leaders’ or ‘rulers’ of them.
    Then, when policy decisions are made at the highest levels, they happen because from the ground up they’re reflecting the wishes of the people, or most of them. Such a scenario, combined with the right kind of education – practical and holistic – could transform society in very positive ways.

  12. P.S. JBob

    The only necessity is widespread acceptance of property rights. — JBob

    What about the rights of the landless, penniless and those without property?

  13. If you truly think that chief has more incentive to care for trees than the owners of the trees, then you simply have not been keeping your eyes open during your life. Likewise with wildlife population: wildlife is repeatedly overhunted when owned “in common,” and husbanded far more wisely when owned privately. Examples abound.

    Since you bring this one up every time, let me try to answer it in yet another way:

    “I have repeatedly requested you write up a post for publishing, detailing how your libertarian world view would be played out in reality. I’d still love to see it…”

    Slave owner circa 1850: “How would our economy function without slaves?! They are the basis of our whole system and we need them to pick cotton! You must explain IN DETAIL how things will work without the slaves!”

    Answer: Irrelevant. Slavery is wrong, it must be stopped. No one in 1850 could have even begun to foresee what cotton harvesting and cleaning systems would exist today. Not even remotely. Trying to predict and plan the voluntary interactions of millions of people is a fool’s errand.

    That said, there is ample reason to believe more freedom would result in more happiness and prosperity. If you were at all open this fact, then a smart, educated guy like you would have already pursued the topic on your own. I don’t mind making comments now and again, but how much talking to a brick wall should one do?

  14. JBob, I sure wish you would go and talk to a brick wall on some other site and let Craig do his job, which I dont think is to entertain you, yet he has spent a lot of time doing so over the past couple of years. JBob, in my opinion, you continually drag this site down, why do you do it? do you really think anyone is listening to you? what purpose does it serve to be so annoying? is it just me who is sick of your rot?
    Carolyn Payne

  15. I’m with Carolyn. Craig, as editor, you can moderate (ie in some cases delete) unsuitable comments – why publish nonsense on this site?

  16. JBob,

    The invisible hand and neo-liberal views that you hold are garbage and have been refuted by history. The concept of the invisible hand is simply that, it is an economic idea/model and the basis of the neo liberal free market model. The model is flawed because it does not represent the real world in which we all live. We live in a heavily regulated environment – for good reason.

    The economic concept that you spruik has at its basis the assumption that information is freely and evenly distributed so that people can make rational economic decisions. The two major flaws in this simple economic model is that information is not evenly distributed in the real world and that people are not rational. These two assumptions were included to keep the model simple. The real world is not as simple as you would suggest. Economists are unable to model the real world as it currently exists. If they could, we would not have the turmoil which we are currently experiencing. The model that you spruik is no more than a thought experiment.

    If you understood history better you would note that between the 1890’s and the 1930’s this economic concept drove much of the economic thought at the time. In the real world, what they were left with was many rapid cycles of boom and bust culminating in two massive wars. 30% unemployment during these periods would not have been easy to live with. In addition to this the distribution of wealth / resources during these periods favoured the very wealthy over everyone else.

    During the mid to late 1930’s the school of thought that you spruik was replaced by the Keynesian school. I suggest that you look into this. I agree that in the past few decades much of the neo liberal views have crept back into our society, but look what happens when a bust occurs, your neo liberal friends cry for help and that is another school of economic thought – not neo liberal.

    I understand that culture wars occur and I can see that you are especially enamoured of a particular school of thought, but you need to accept that it has been tried and failed. It is a tool for the very wealthy to accumulate resources at the expense of everyone else.

    It may also be helpful for you to personally acknowledge that you are a lone voice on this website and that whilst you would like to foment dissension here it is pretty unlikely to occur.

    In addition, the neo liberal mode of thinking is quite brutal and you may want to consider what would happen to yourself personally once your economic value has diminished to the point where you are cast aside because this is what you are arguing for.

    To summarise, stop boring us all with your antics.



  17. Thanks for your thoughts Carolyn, Peter and Chris. It’s encouraging when I’m not left to this nonsense on my own.

    Peter, as tempting as it is to just hit the delete key in situations like this, the ethical need to give people a voice (as long as they’re not personally attacking people, etc.) keeps me from doing so. Also, I kind of hope it gets people thinking about these topics. It’s these discussions that, I hope, help permies to think about the all-important invisible structures – an area that I believe is way too neglected. I fear that if we don’t think these things through well, and start making the right moves to collaboratively design and build a better system, then we’ll just continue with the trend of the last half-century – that of leaving politics to political ‘experts’, education to education ‘experts’, etc, whilst we concentrate on simplistic tasks like working to finance the system we hate and letting that system entertain ourselves in every spare moment so we can get distracted/numbed to our own stupidity. Politicians and industry heads are cashing in on our apathy and ignorance. This ‘remove all restraints on the invisible hand’ nonsense is a significant part of this ignorance.

    Thanks again guys.

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