Capitalisms Last Frontier#20 Property, Hunger and Money


This section has a simple but a bold thesis. Money did not arise as a means for exchanging property.

Rather money arose as a means of storing value and that property arose to enable as a means of exchanging things for money to enable value to be stored.  This store of value, in the first and last instance, acting as savings for hungry times.

This reverses the causation received from 19th century texts – such as Engel’s ‘Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State’ and many similar works in the same vein.

This issue requires re-examination because older theories leave unexplained two critical issues.  Firstly the origin of property.  The origin of property is assumed not explained.  Given the wide functionality of the sharing economy explored in the last section the reasons why private property arose need explaining.  Secondly older theories do not properly explain the origins of money in the light of continuing research, especially the deep roots of money in social rituals of exchange, and how systems of monetary exchange and the sharing economy can and have persisted alongside each other for millennia.

‘Seizure’ views of the origins of property see it as arising from an elite taking what was previously common property, and then exchanging that property with others who have also taken it. We see the literature strewn with phrases such as ‘Once agriculture began men seized control’, as if agriculture by itself somehow bred changes to mans behavior that engendered hierarchy and stratification.  There is no evidence for this.  Modern archaeological evidence shows a remarkable lack of stratification of early agricultural communities, with them being the natural outgrowth of social relationships from intense foraging.

Seizure theories are seen as originary primitive accumulation, with the means of life then seized people are forced into labouring or slave relationships.  The problem with this approach is it conflates two processes into one.  The formation of property, and accumulation by dispossession.  Accumulation by dispossession does not require private property on either side, it simply requires dispossession by one individual or group by the other.  Whereas property can be formed in some circumstances without disspossession, as in the classic Jeffersonian or Lockean concept of ‘free land’ cloven from the wilderness.  Although romanticised this has been the actual process at the margins of cultivation for most of mankind’s history.  They are logically separate processes, although one process can force and assist the other.

In a gift economy how do you secure your kin against hunger given uncertain conditions/harvests?  In previous sections we have seen the importance of dry storage of grain in supplying this security, a more secure diet though not necessarily a better one nutritiously.  But this still has its disadvantages.  It can only be stored for so long, only so much of it can be sown, only so much can be stored given the size of buildings – which take time and effort to construct, and grain is hard to move in bulk. Most critically grain cannot be eaten whilst it is being stored.

This last factor explains the origins of property and money.  Grain surplus saved is insurance against future uncertainty.  At anyone time there may be other groups who desire that grain because they are not in surplus or who find there own stores are running less than that which they would optimally save.  In return for that grain they may offer something else of use to the other group.  This is of most benefit when that other thing is also capable of being exchanged back when the shortages and surpluses are reversed.  This kind of exchange can happen as gifts – but it requires a large extended kinship obligation.  In circumstances where kind groups meet, or where the trade needs to take place over an extended area creation of a store of value that can later be exchanged for food has the advantage that the exchange can be done fairly anonymously, without strong obligations of kinship or trust.  It can even take place with rival groups where trust is lacking.

There are other types of exchange that need to be undertaken outside the immediate kin group and foremost amongst these is marriage.  The desire to avoid interbreeding creates taboo traditions and formalised arrangements for socialisation outside the immediate kind group.  Because of the severe economic loss of losing a productive adult traditions of brideprice arose and these traditions seem intimately connected to the origins of money.

We know that barter not universal, and certainly not an essential precursor to monetary exchange. There is no evidence that all or even most societies relied primarily on barter before using money for trade.  Barter has severe disadvantages in any form of trade.  It requires a ‘double coincidence of wants’ For barter to occur between two people, both would need to have what the other wants.  Money, in whatever form, acts as an intermediary store of value which can be used later to exchange for a subsistence good such as food.  The presence then of some form of money, even if a minority part of economic relations alongside a sharing economy, can make a group more resilient to variations in subsistence than other groups that engage in pure sharing economies.

Money in whatever form requires a good to be exchanged against.  Imagine two sharing economies, one with a surplus of money, the other with a surplus of food.  The group exchanges money for food.  But only at the point of exchange is can this be considered ‘property’.  Afterwards the money is collectively owned as is the food.  This is only a hypothetical example but it shows that money is logically prior to property.  Money does not arise because of a prior conception of property and though the need to exchange that property.  Money is prior to property.  All that is needed is a concept of a group or individual giving away – sharing – a money good in exchange for a consumption good, such as food.  The food is property only to the extent that the whole of humanity are restrained from eating it.

If Boris Island will take 30 years what could be built in 10-15?


A few years ago my friend Tony Hall, together with Peter Hall, wrote a pamphlet suggesting what is now known as Boris Island.

A good idea, if it was doable/  Quite part from all of the technical problems with Boris Island the key problem is the length of time to construct – 25-30 years at least, and the sheer cost of that amount of dredging and construction – possibly £70 billion+.

If one accepts the case is made for a new airport what are the alternatives?  Hooe Penninsula and Upper Heyford are being looked at again.  Both non-starters Hooe for birdstrike, Upper Heyford for poor road and rail links and the cost of putting those in.

What are we looking for then in terms of a low cost, quickly delivered solution?


  • Motorway connection to London and Birmingham
  • On route of HS2 or capable of a slight realignment, with no more that 1/2 hour rail journey to Central London
  • Large area of flat land in few ownerships, preferably with proven ability to host a long runway (such as an existing former military airbase)

Now havn’t such sites been looked at many times, such as the Roskill Commission or RUCSE, well no.  Roskill was before the M40 was a glint in anyones eye, and RUCSE before HS2.

The truth is that there is no up to date options appraisal.

So what options might there be.

There is an obvious new option that is

  • Midway between London and Birmingham on the route of the M40
  • With a minor realignment of the route of HS2 (with no loss of journey time) would be on the HS2 route
  • Is also capable of being served by the Chiltern line and a reopened rail spur connecting through to the Shakespeare Line creating an new London-Birmingham connection
  • Has very few land owners one of which is the Ministry of Defence
  • Already has a long runway that was designed to host V wing nuclear bombers
  • Is dead flat, on land of little landscape value
  • Has limited environmental constraints

I am talking about the site of RAF Gaydon below – for a number of years the headquarters of Land Rover and their test track.


The key would be to take the HS2 route to the South rather than the North of Brackley, it would rejoin the planned route North of Royal Leamington Spa.  This would naturally run the route parallell to the M40 for a number of miles enabling an interchange/park and ride station next to a new junction of the M40.

The site would be this area, currently occupied by the Gaydon test ground and an MOD Ammo store to the immediate south.  As flat and featureless an area you will not find in SE England, on the plane known as the Warwickshire Feldon.  About 2 miles to the South would be the site of the historic battlefield of Edghill, and the very farthest northern extent of the Cotswolds AONB, so the site is seen from the AONB but is outside it.  Although of course it is very largely built on.

Ive overlayed the site of Heathrow Airport to show how a two runway airport can easily fit.


I would suggest that phase one would be to build a two runway airport here, with a single large terminal just off the suggested new rail station and motorway junction.

In the longer term I would suggest a four runway solution with the two northern runways used for landing.  The advantage here is minimum disruption to air traffic patterns.  The existing landing patter to Heathrow should simply be diverted northwards.  The take off pattern would be west of Northampton and over no major towns (indeed neither would the landing pattern there would be few villages affected).    Runways would avoid Fenny Compton house to the South West and the Historic village of Kineton to the South, although the village might need a new approach road.  As compensation for landscape loss a country park on the site of the battle of Edgehill could be created.

Phase two would involve creation of two extra runways which might involve burying the M40 for a km or so as at Charles De Gaul.

This could also be served by three new transport connections.  Reopening the railway connection to Stratford-on-Avon – and Birmingham – the Shakespere Line, with a major business park on the former Royal Engineers Depot at Long Marsden, a new station on the Chiltern Line, with a mororail connection to the two terminals, and a new East-West motorway connecting westwards to the M1 going north of Northampton through to Cambridge and then Lowestoft – the critical missing East West Motorway Link – on the route of the A14/A45.  A dual carriageway connection to the Fosse way and Evesham to the West would probably be wise.

I would finally suggest a new station on the Chiltern Line, rather reopening Harbury Station, linked to the two terminals by the monorail.  The purpose of this would be to get workers in.  It is also possible to constrict a new town between Harbury and Bishops Ishington based around the disused quarries and water bodies, long an aspiration of the landowners, in order to absorb the urbanisation effects of a new airport.

The Airport would be right at the centre of England, serving both London and Birmingham, and generating growth on the East West Corridor – especially to the west at Milton Keynes and Northampton.

Both Heathrow and Birmingham International could close, it would replace both.  And the land value from the disposal of Heathrow could pay for the new airport, as well as housing possibly 250,000 homes.  Birmingham International could be a technology park, a replacement site for Land Rover.

UNESCO Threat to Withdraw World Heritage Status from Liverpool Pierside – Liverpool Stupidly Hits back

We reported earlier in the week the severe threats, especially from the Liverpool Waters Scheme, and continued damage to the Liverpool World Heritage Site.

Now UNESCO is threatening to withdraw World Heritage Status and will send a fact finding mission in the Autumn.

The DCMS has also written to Liverpool CC concerned about the possible loss of designation.

“All parties agree that regeneration of the area is important; however, there is considerable concern that the current proposals from Peel Holdings may have an impact on the Liverpool World Heritage Site,” a spokeswoman for DCMS said.

She confirmed that there would be a joint World Heritage Centre/International Council on Monuments and Sites mission to Liverpool, likely to be in the autumn, to examine the Liverpool Waters proposal and its potential impact, and to assess planning procedures and the overall development strategy for the site.

A spokeswoman for UNESCO said the delegation would be checking that the planned development “would not harm the outstanding universal value of Liverpool”.

Peel Holdings said it would not comment on a live planning application.

Here is the UNESCO minute

118. Liverpool – Maritime Mercantile City (United Kingdom) (C 1150)

Decision: 35 COM 7B.118

The World Heritage Committee,

1. Having examined Document WHC-11/35.COM/7B.Add,

2. Expresses its extreme concern at the proposed development of Liverpool Waters in terms of the potential impact of its dense, high and mid-rise buildings on the form and design of the historic docks and thus on the Outstanding Universal Value of the


3. Notes that the independent Impact Assessment commissioned by English Heritage clearly sets out the significantly damaging negative impact on the Outstanding Universal Value of the property;

Decisions report WHC-11/35.COM/20, p. 150

4. Also notes that the proposed development is not in compliance with the property Management Plan nor with the Liverpool Urban Development Plan;

5. Urges the State Party to ensure that these proposals are not approved, as failure to do so could lead to consideration of loss of the Outstanding Universal Value of the property;

6. Requests the State Party to invite a joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS reactive monitoring mission, as soon as possible, to assess planning procedures and the

overall development strategies for the property;

7. Also requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2012, an updated report on the state of conservation of the property and on the implementation of the above, examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 36th session in 2012.

Against this from Place Northwest

Joe Anderson, leader of the council, said: “Liverpool Waters is an ambitious multi billion pound scheme which has the potential to transform the fortunes of North Liverpool, creating many thousands of badly needed jobs and a better quality of life for residents in our city.

“We believe it is perfectly possible to retain the outstanding universal value of the World Heritage site, while at the same time reflecting the growing needs of a thriving and developing city.

“At the moment, the area is a derelict eyesore which no-one can access. It seems to me perverse that this is deemed acceptable. Peel Holdings have come up with a hugely exciting scheme which maintains its heritage and brings it back into use for people to enjoy.

“I understand this decision was based on a report into which neither the city council nor Peel Holdings had an input, and therefore the committee may not have been in possession of the full facts and have knowledge of the safeguards which are being put in place.

“The Liverpool Waters application is still to be considered by the planning committee and, clearly its impact on the World Heritage Site will be given extremely careful consideration. The views expressed by English Heritage will be taken into account along with all other interested parties.

“We look forward to meeting with representatives of UNESCO and ICOMOS when they visit the city, and we believe a solution will be found that satisfies everyone.”

How can Liverpool now objectively deal with the application – with the leader of the Council without even a committee report from his head of planning (oh I forgot they get rid of him) weigh and balance these issues. It is utter stupidity as this is predetermination of the decision. He or any other councillor expressing similar decisions cannot take part in the decision, before or after royal assent on the localism bill. He also appears to be arguing that anything at all is better than derilication, which noone is arguing for, and seems to think that tyhis can overide all heritage and design concerns, irrepestive of his own authorities statutory duties.  This application now must be called in – that is if will need planning consent at all. There has been a successful bid for Enterprise Zone status for Peel Waters personally backed by the Prime Minister. How can you declare an Enterprize Zone in or in the buffer zone of a World Heritage Site!

Naturally the Liverpool Preservation Trust is jubilant.

Spanish Flashmobs stop house foreclosures


Luis Dominguez got up at dawn to take a 5 a.m. bus to join a human chain around a Madrid home threatened with foreclosure. Three weeks earlier, the crowd had come to him after he telephoned for help.
“I was facing eviction and they saved me from losing my home,” said Dominguez, 74, a pensioner with a walking stick in one hand and a five-foot placard saying “Stop Evictions” in the other. “I came today to show my gratitude and support.”
The 300 protesters, organized by a group called La Plataforma de los Afectados por la Hipoteca, or PAH, managed to win a reprieve for the property’s owner, a single mother with a disabled son. Rising unemployment in Spain may lead to 300,000 foreclosures this year and next, according to Adicae, a rights group representing bank customers.

The Bondholder Plutocratic State


I am told that the primary objective of the ECB in Greece and the FSA in the UK is the same: Protect the bondholders.

Perhaps I am naive, but I did not realise that the FSA saw this as its primary mission until someone at the FSA bluntly told me so and someone in the markets confirmed it independently as only just and proper that this should be so.

If protecting bondholders from bad debt really is the primary objective of the supervisors, then the supervisors have become the problem. Capitalism does not work when capitalists are shielded from the economic risks that they freely undertake for profit when they enter into private contracts for debt finance.

If the objective of current official interaction with the markets is to prevent market determined outcomes, then we are in for a very ugly period of instability. The market is going to force a market outcome. The officials standing in the way can influence who profits from the market clearing, but the market is going to clear. If the officials have decided that the bondholders always win, then the rest of us will always lose. And once the rest of us – the companies, depositors, employees and taxpayers – remember that we have political power, then we will change the system.

This is what we are seeing in Greece on the streets. The Greek people have realised that the government works for the bondholders; the ECB works for the bondholders; the IMF works for the bondholders. They now understand what was not clear before: No one works for the people.

Strangely, this is also the realisation taking hold in Germany too. People are waking up to the fact that their national economic self-interest is subordinate to the claims of the bondholders. The German government’s priority is to protect the bondholders. Germans should know better than most that stuffing the bondholders is sometimes the best policy – having defaulted three times in the last century to lay the ground in each case for economic resurgence.
Perhaps this is what tiny Iceland realised when it determined that it would default rather than protect the bondholders. Perhaps in a small country in a big ocean it is easier to perceive a common interest in economic and political adaptation to protect the future of your children and your neighbours, rejecting the claims of the faceless, pitiless and stateless bondholders.

I suddenly have a lot more sympathy for the Greek people than I did a fortnight ago. Come the revolution here, I may be in the streets too.

London Banker has it spot on – this is not free market capitalism but the capture of the state by plutocratic elites who use state regulation to protect their own interest. Britain with the Murdoch affair is finally waking up to that.

Towns Abandoned in Mexican Drug Wars

Tubutama in Mexico is a 300 year old mission town and once a popular tourist destination. Now 2/3rds of its population have left and grocery trucks deem it too dangerous to visit. Its last sole policeman has been shot dead.

Another sad victim of the Mexican Drug Wars. The collapse in population in some border states is bankrupting municipalities who are now abolishing their police and fire departments to stay solvent.

Committee on Climate Change – Localism poses risks to Strategic Adaptation

Interesting report from the Committee on Climate Change (set on to advise the government) on the effectiveness of measures in the land use planning system.


The land use planning system should enable more transparent assessment of climate change considerations against other, shorter-term priorities. Better information and different approaches are needed in order that decision-makers are able to openly weighup trade-offs between long-term risks such as climate change and shorter-term priorities. This does not appear to be happening widely or consistently at present. There may be a role for developing localised indicators that allow communities to understand how development decisions are affecting their vulnerability to climate risks.

Our analysis has shown that national planning policy guidance on river and coastal flood risk has resulted in the significant uptake of adaptation measures at property level. The effectiveness of this guidance on the design, and to a lesser degree the location of development, has been reinforced by having a dedicated body (in this case the Environment Agency) to assist local authorities with the implementation of the guidance. Other climate risks either do not have specific guidance (for example on heat stress) or existing guidance is not being widely used (for example on surface water flooding and coastal erosion).

There is a risk that the move to more localised planning could make emerging strategic approaches to considering long-term climate risks less effective, although
the forthcoming duty to co-operate has the potential to play an important role here. Our analysis suggests that these partnerships need to have more influence on actual local plan policies.

The capacity of local authorities and statutory agencies is a potentially significant barrier. Research identified capacity issues for local planning authorities in relation to awareness of climate risks and adaptation. Budgetary constraints since this research was carried out have increased with potential implications for local planning authority capacity. It will also be very important to ensure that the important role played by statutory agencies is not weakened.

The Inspector Spells it Out

An amusing handwritten note from the inspector in the Central Lancs core strategy examination (where the inspector has said he will have to extensively rewrite the housing section) – spelling out the pretty basic stuff – IN CAPITAL LETTERS – that needed to be included on housing. This is an interesting case as the objectors are saying that not only the RSS figures should be upheld (with phasing to make up for the recession shortfall – a precedent set in the West Mids RSS and Rossendale Core Strategy) but that the Growth point uplift as well in the light of Planning for Growth.