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East -vs- West in Evolving Economies
Cooperative Capitalism

by Dr. Nick Begich

I have traveled throughout the world over the last three years in an attempt to initiate change in a positive and productive way. I have found new ideas in science, technology and politics - crystallizing thoughts, discovering some solutions and creating new initiatives. This article is intended to pass along what has been observed with the hope that the story will stimulate and encourage the creation of solutions.

Earthpulse is a small organization, yet we find ourselves increasingly serving as a nexus of activity - freely transferring knowledge to those we meet who are in the best position to use it. We do not believe in chance in the sense that we believe that where we find ourselves is exactly where we need to be. We firmly trust that the places and company we are in is exactly what is needed in the moment. In each instance, I attempt look for the opportunity to contribute, help and learn. Several times during the last year the places I found myself in were extraordinary and provided significant insights.

In May, 1997, I was invited by a group of legislators and parliamentarians to attend a very unique conference in Brussels, Belgium. In attendance were participants from over forty countries. The focus of the meeting was global warming, pollution generated by deteriorating nuclear cores in Siberia, the effect of chemical toxins on children and reproductive systems of animals and HAARP (High Frequency Active Auroral Research Project), which is operating in Alaska. The interesting part of this meeting was that it was not just a discussion to once again identify the problems, it was a meeting intended to stimulate discussion and find solutions. These were the best people in a position to create changes in their home countries - the participants represented political leadership. It was refreshing to see people from all political persuasions seeking solutions rather than being bogged down in political posturing.

In Brussels I was asked to present on HAARP and describe the risks associated with the program. In the group's previous meeting they had viewed a video on the project which had been produced by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). The group received the information we presented with deep concern and began to act on the knowledge immediately. This was a very important step in bringing the issue of HAARP to Europe while, at the same time, it gave us a unique perspective on other extremely important issues, some of which have been incorporated into earlier articles.

After my short presentation, I was approached by Maria Becket. Mrs. Becket introduced herself and said, "this is the apocalypse" in response to what I had just presented on HAARP. I said, "that many people thought that this might be the case." She then informed me that she did some work for the Orthodox Church organizing environmental symposiums. This was interesting because I had never really thought about religion and the environment.

The Orthodox Church traces its roots to the island of Patmos and John the Revelator who wrote the book of Revelations almost 2000 years ago. In the conversation, Mrs. Becket asked if I would consider attending a conference on the Black Sea in September. The conference sounded interesting and like most things lately, chance meetings seemed always to move us into productive directions.

Some weeks passed and then a letter arrived from Mrs. Becket with an invitation from His All Holiness The Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, the head of the Orthodox Church based in Istanbul, Turkey, and Mr. Jacques Santer, President of the European Commission. The series, called "Religion, Science and The Environment: An Encounter of Beliefs: A Single Objective," was the second such meeting held in the last three years. The conference sounded interesting but would have been my third trip to Europe that year and already I had a trip to lecture in Switzerland planned. Not realizing the importance of the meeting and because of our resource limits, the invitation was not accepted. It was a lot of time and some expense which I just could not see fitting into our plans for the remainder of the year. I sent a fax expressing my regret and thanking the group for the invitation.

A few days later my wife and I were talking about the Black Sea invitation and we both had that sinking feeling - knowing in our heads one thing and feeling in our hearts another. We both felt that I had made the wrong decision and should have accepted the invitation. That night before retiring, we agreed that if by some chance the invitation were extended again we would adjust our schedule and see that I went. The following day upon waking, there on the fax machine was the message - the request to reconsider and the economic means to participate. It was clear, I was going to the Black Sea.

The summer passed quickly as we continued to develop our writing projects, research and new authors. The trip was scheduled and soon the time would come to leave for a region and conference that would surely stimulate some new ideas and change my perception of the area forever.

Everything was arranged and I flew to Greece to meet the group. There were about three hundred fifty participants, fifty members of the press and about forty staff members to support the planned activities. We were scheduled to leave for Turkey, where we would begin a ten day trip through the Black Sea on board a ship secured for the symposium. It was an interesting collection of people from scientific, political, business and religious communities who were brought together to create solutions which might improve the conditions in the Black Sea region. The hope was that the ideas generated would have application in other areas of the world as well.

The theme and idea behind the conference was centered on the concept that man is not on the planet to plunder its resources but to act as responsible stewards of the earth. What does this mean? How can this work? What about the need of man to create within the boundaries of the earth? Does this all mean we are to live in a lifestyle reminiscent of some distant past hunter/gatherer kind of society? In order to explore the answers to these and other questions as they related to the region was the emphasis of the symposium.

The idea that religion and science were seeking the same things with a different set of words to describe what was being observed was the exciting discovery of many participants. The idea that words were the separation between the disciplines of religion and science rather than the underlying concepts was discovered during the course of the interactions. It was interesting to participate in discussions which covered wide areas of human interaction and yet, for the most part, we were all seeking to improve the way in which people are free to live. Some describe what they perceive in religious, scientific, political or business terms yet - we see the same things.

On my first day on the ship I received the agenda for the presentations. I had incorrectly assumed that I would be presenting on HAARP, the subject which had brought me to the conference. It seemed strange. I knew with absolute intellectual and internal certainty that I was to be at this conference. I had rearranged my schedule to be there and now it was more of a mystery than an understanding of what purpose my participation would fulfill. As each day passed, I participated in all of the discussions, enhanced my personal friendships with truly interesting people and gained insight into the region. Throughout the first eight days, I was looking for my personal purpose for the trip. There are no chance occurrences - seeking to know how and what might be contributed to those people who felt it was important for me to attend was always in the forefront of my mind.

In the final days of the trip observations were made, ideas generated and concepts crystallized. I had an idea which I wanted to reduce to a paper. In the context of this article I will articulate that concept but first, a little more of the background.

My expectation in going to this part of the world, which included Greece, Turkey, Georgia, Russia, Ukraine, Bulgaria and Rumania, was skewed by what I was taught growing up and by the press reports. Over the last several years, reports in the media described the area and its emerging new society without much balance. My conclusion was that much was missed and that perhaps even the most important factors were lost in the shuffle of information. Contrasting what was observed with what had been heard, I tried to make sense of some of the skewed news from the industrialized west.

Of the countries visited, the most apparently poverty stricken from its outward appearance was Turkey. This seemed odd to me because, as one of the NATO member states and a long time ally of the west, I expected a more economically evolved system. I expected to see a greater example of the benefits of freedom, democracy and capitalism. What I saw instead was an oppressive society which seemed less tolerant of the ideas of others, focused on business and without much evidence of concern for the living environment which was their home. I do not mean to generalize, but these are the observations and first impressions which began to synthesize into a very different perception from this trip.

The average incomes in the parts of Georgia, Russia and the Ukraine that we visited was between $50 and $200 per month for those fortunate enough to find work. Even so, I did not see the evidence of poverty so familiar in the West - things like street people, trash and idle workers. I saw a well dressed population, clean communities and people engaged in work of some kind even if it was limited in the industrialized sense. What I saw, which was the most outstanding, was a very high level of cooperation between people. I saw people talking to their neighbors without fear and children playing everywhere. What struck me was how people could survive on so little when prices were so high. I asked members of our group from these regions how this was so.

In the United States most people are so immersed in their own lives they do not even know who lives behind the next door. In the United States there is a constant high level of competition, and the stress which results, rather than cooperation between people. Perhaps what has evolved over the last seventy years in the eastern block and remained after the fall of communism is a greater degree of human understanding, an understanding which tells us all that we are innately and completely dependent upon each other. The actions we individually take are not isolated islands of activity. In the west we are taught absolute individualization of ourselves as we seek to increasingly project our own realities and create the world around us in our own image of what is right. These were the poles we each had represented to the other in terms of our past politics - a forced cooperation under communism verses a forceful press of self centered individualism under capitalism.

The contrast of realities made me return to a concept I began to evolve and test as a teenager. It was a concept I called then cooperative capitalism, wherein attributes of cooperation might be combined with the vehicle of capitalism in creating enterprises that would improve the human condition while rewarding people in proportion to their creativity and effort. Little did I know that this trip would bring this concept back and actually provide an outline and environment where the concept might be tested.

Western capitalists and politicians have taken the American or the European "good" and exported it as if it is what everyone else in the world needs and wants. We are wrong in this imposition of values on others. Perhaps the role we could better play is the role of facilitator - not making the value judgments for others but respecting the value judgments which have already been made by them. Perhaps the role of the west should not be to place a McDonald's, Pepsi plant and Kmart on every corner of the world. Perhaps we should be seeking to amplify the values already resident in a region in a way which allows the resources of the west to compliment the values and needs of other regions. I am not suggesting that we serve as some kind of "father and mother" but that we act more responsibly and respectfully when engaging in activities in countries which are not our own. If the values we encounter do not mirror our own, and where the differences are significantly irreconcilable, we do not have to participate.

The pressure from the industrialized west to influence the development of these countries is tremendous. Pressure to develop natural resources and create economic activity is huge. What is happening is the same as has happened throughout the world when multinationals wish to access the wealth of a region and appropriate that wealth to their corporate bottom line. They take advantage of the weak governmental structures, exploit the people, damage the natural resources and degrade the image of westerners in the minds of the citizens of those far off places.

The need for infrastructure improvements in developing nations has created a need for large amounts of cash from the west. Obtaining hard currency means that these countries have to create government income streams sufficient to pay for the loans from western bankers. How do governments pay for services when they no longer own the means of production, the farms, businesses and other income producing resources? They create taxing scenarios which assure the repayment of principle and interest on these loans. Such is the case in all developing regions of the world. At the same time, there is pressure to not repeat the environmental and other mistakes of the rest of the world, which have brought conflict between pro and anti-development groups.

There is a strong movement toward "sustainable development," which balances the environment with the need to produce from the things of the earth. Sustainable development provides economic prosperity without destroying the place we each call home. Such development ideas represent balanced creative effort which utilizes the products of the earth in a way in which lifestyles are enhanced and future generations are considered.

What happens when a region needs money to build an infrastructure to support independent business activity? The situation is quite interesting. The World Bank loans money to these developing countries at 4% interest. In the case of the country of Georgia, for example, the central government accepts the money at 4% and loans it to the Finance Ministry at 9%. The Finance Ministry then loans the money to commercial banks at 12%, then it loans these funds to business people at 24%. In the west we call this "loan sharking" or creating a situation where success in business is replaced with a form of involuntary servitude to creditors, a kind of credit slavery. A system is established where wealth is transferred from working people to bankers and governments in the form of interest and taxation for redistribution into other activities. Under the guise of capitalism a new system of slavery has thus evolved.

Is it any wonder why there might be an resurgence of interest in the communist system? Isn't the acceleration of credit card debt in the west creating the same kind of slavery - where increasing percentages of our income are transferred to banks and government? Are we victims of the same system of economic slavery regulated by the interests of corporations? Corporations which keep score by the bottom line on financial statements, organizations which propel themselves on a base value more commonly and honestly called greed. Is it surprising that in the west the multinationals pick the majority of political leaders through contributions to their campaigns, then reap the benefits of tax transfers, concessions and other favorable legislation which provides incredible private benefits to them? Divisive debates over health care funding, social security, welfare reform, birth control issues and capital punishment keep average people fighting over the crumbs dropped from the tables of our national wealth. Perhaps we are consuming goods and services under a new form of serf and master economics.

So is the World Bank some villain in all of this? I do not think so, at least not on the face of it. They are interested in helping develop the economies and 4% is a reasonable rate for the cost of managing the money. I am not passing judgment on anyone here, only pointing out the problems in advance of putting forward a solution in the hope that it might be actualized. The World Bank is interested in solving some of the problems but their attempts are a bit bureaucratic. In one instance, for example, the problem of high interest rates from the commercial banks was addressed by sending in experts to help write more complete business plans. I would suggest that even Bill Gates would have difficulty paying 24% interest on debt and that there isn't an expert anywhere who can routinely create business plans capable of sustaining this amount of interest. There is a great deal of frustration on the part of those trying to create a solution because the needs of people cannot be ignored.

Do not misunderstand my words. I am a believer in capitalism, however we must make sure that the capitalism which we practice reflects the values of our regions and is expressed in more than a bottom line on a financial statement.

I remember one of our group members returning to the ship in tears as she recounted meeting a street vendor in her seventies or eighties who was selling trinkets to tourists. The elderly woman upon meeting my friend first spoke in Russian, then German, then French and finally in English as she sought to communicate. This old soul held advanced degrees in several fields and was reduced to the position of street vendor in attempting to supplement a $12 a month pension to provide for her sustenance. It was a good example of the plight of the elderly in this area and the underutilization of the intellectual power resident in the population.

When we had first arrived at the airport in Turkey we were greeted with protests from an angry group of "gray wolves"(young Muslim fundamentalists). This group was being manipulated by elderly men in their midst as they protested against our arrival in the country. We were escorted by security personnel to our ship, where we were advised to stay on board. This was the only place where we were accosted by violence. Our group talked of the event for a few days, describing each detail as we each saw it unfold. For me it was a series of questions rolling through my mind...why were they protesting our arrival? What had we symbolized which was generating the hatred? What was the catalyst which was polarizing the young people of the country? These young people were frustrated, idle young people, without hope or prospects for success. Were revolutions in the offing? Would these groups be suppressed by their governments in an attempt to control the population? I didn't know it then, but before too many months would pass, Muslims in the region would be pressed underground by political changes in Turkey (see accompanying article). In all of the countries which were formerly in the eastern block, there were underutilized elderly people representing tremendous intellectual capital and idle young people with limited prospects for the future.

Factors of Production

The four factors of economic production involve: Capital (not cash but things which can be used to build other things), Entrepreneurship (risk taking and management of production), Land and Labor. Whether under capitalism or communism, coordination of these factors is required for economic activity. The particular economic philosophy applied determines who gets the benefit from the activity. I believe that there can be a better balance based on a larger picture of possibilities.

  • Capital utilization in these countries is limited, in my observation. It is less costly, on a transaction basis, to bring in goods from the west which are already produced, sell them at a profit and then bring in more goods, repeating the process. The problem is that the resources needed to create wealth are continually exported and local production of the same goods or other similar goods is delayed or never happens at all. I tried to find products which were locally produced to bring back to my family. In several cities, I had to look for hours to find even simple locally produced goods. The goods which were produced locally were excellent and would have good potential in the west if market connections could be created. Cash to create capital resources to produce products and then match them to marketing plans was a great deficiency.
  • Entrepreneurship is evident everywhere. It is apparent in the fact that people with so little money are creative enough to develop and sustain their businesses, reinvigorate farms and create new wealth. There is no shortage of this needed talent.
  • Land is slowly being transferred into private hands. Citrus groves, vineyards, tea plantations and other land based enterprises are returning to production. What is totally surprising is that people are actually able to save money and establish these enterprises.
  • Labor is the most underutilized resource in the region. The elderly, with incredible experience and education, are not engaged in activity which focuses their collective knowledge in an efficient manner. Young people with limited experience and education find themselves in hopeless situations trying to create enough income to have a reasonable lifestyle, raise a family and build their futures. Hope must be restored through successful activity.

Regional Religion

Another observation was that there seemed to be more acceptance of differing religious ideas. Perhaps the years of general religious suppression had the benefit of lending a sense of commonality to these very different groups, which were predominantly a mix of Orthodox Christian, Jewish and Muslim in each major city visited. Perhaps suffering together had created a greater sense of tolerance for the differing ideas of individuals and groups. Perhaps the years of struggling to maintain some religious identity had broken down the old hatreds of men, replacing them with the love that the God of all these religions represents. Perhaps people were learning to let God judge men and let people reflect God's love of the free will of man pursuing truth in his own way. Perhaps a living example of cooperation and consideration would go further than the mere pointing out of differences and historic placing of blame.

How do the people within these countries survive? It is through cooperation - the remnant of the old regime. The idea of cooperation is embedded deeply, multigenerationally, in the minds of citizens. People live in extended family clusters, groups of friends and other informal associations, each contributing to the group so they can do more than just survive. As people become self sustaining they move on to live independently or begin new families. The current generation of the former eastern block nations has much to teach the west about family values, friendship and cooperation. The basis of survival is rooted in their belief system, which places individuals higher than objects. Don't misread what is being said here, there is also all of the corruption wealth brings. People are still people with weaknesses.

A final observation deals with the environment. In the Black Sea there was at one time over one hundred and twenty varieties of fish which were commercially harvested - today there are five species and their harvests are degrading rapidly. The region was a major tourist destination because of the fine beaches which have since fallen into decay. In this case, the ecological degradation had a direct effect on the economic vitality of the area. The type of activities surrounding fishing and tourism are the kind which can be sustainable over generations if properly planned. The pressure now is not to bring these industries back but to exploit raw resources which are not renewable. There is tremendous pressure to do this because of the need for immediate jobs and cash from the west. The gain in this is all short term and may in fact further degrade the environment, putting off further the possibility of bringing back historic sustainable industries.

Cooperative Capitalism

My home is Alaska, once a part of the Russian empire. Perhaps this coincidence is another example of how we can find ourselves in exactly the places we need to be. Alaska can be equated to an emerging third-world country locked within the most industrialized consumer country in the world, the United States. Many parts of our region are not served by roads, rail systems, public utilities or even have running water. There is high unemployment, disease and environmental problems emerging because of industrialization. We are a contradiction in the minds of outsiders when they believe they know something about the United States. We are not well understood by many of our own countrymen or national leaders. Alaska is like night is to day in contradictions. Yet, it is this very set of contradictions within a very well developed democratic republic which has helped formulate the ideas expressed in this short paper. In my lifetime, I have seen large transfers of wealth as multinationals and others historically exploited the region. At the same time, I have seen the benefits of evolving systems which provide for the citizens of the region in a unique way. It is through these observations, the mistakes and the successes in Alaska, that I believe something can be contributed to the Black Sea solutions.

The idea of cooperative capitalism is about building a business plan on the basis of "no-harm," or the idea of creating wealth without undue exploitation of people, resources or the environment. This is not to preclude mining, timber harvesting or other activities generally opposed by environmentalists. These activities should take place, but they need to be responsibly managed so that short term efforts do not ruin long term prospects. Safeguards must be designed into the planned activity. The enterprise must be self-sustaining and, in order to be so, it must make a profit. Sharing profits proportionally to individual effort, creativity and productivity remains central but the enterprise has to be established on a set of higher human values. The concept is not one that can be legislated into existence but must be derived from the expressed values of individuals and reflected in their way of doing business.

So how might the concept of cooperative capitalism work in the area of the Black Sea? I believe there are several things which could lend themselves to efficient production of sustainable activities in these countries. There is a history of wine making, fine linen production, glass works, woven goods, tea production and other low impacting industries. The products are high quality and do not require huge capital investments to manufacture. They do require markets.

When goods are produced in a region by small producers they generally go through many hands before reaching a western market. Each time they pass through a set of hands there is an increase in the price of the goods to cover the costs associated with the goods transfer and a profit. What might be seen in the instance of the region we are considering is that a farmer or raw goods producer will sell his production to a small manufacturer or produce a finished product himself. This producer will then sell to some regional buying organization. The regional organization will sell to an exporter. The exporter will sell to a western importer. The importer will sell to a regional distributor. The distributor will sell to a retailer and the retailer will sell the item to an end user or consumer. Each step in the process adds to the costs and, conversely, each step eliminated either decreases the costs and/or allows for an increased profit. The closer the market is to the producer, the greater the possibility that the producer will receive a higher margin of profit. The better a market is understood, the greater the probability that sales can be generated because goods can be designed to appeal to those markets. Most of the profit made as a result of exploitation of emerging economies is on the industrialized countries consumption end of the equation.

There are significant structural market changes taking place internationally which open the possibility of moving producers closer to end users. The development of internet marketing has created the possibility of connecting people in a way which generates greater profits to producers. Additionally, it allows people in remote areas the opportunity to learn about new markets and most importantly it provides a place where all people exist at once, a place in the aether where we all can live to some small degree through our intellectual exchange on the internet. It is a partial and direct link to international markets and is responsible for my business now being comprised of about 40-50% international sales.

There used to be a program run by the United States Department of Commerce called TOP, which I believe stood for Trade Opportunities Program. The program was set up to function through all of the foreign offices of the United States. It allowed buyers to index their commodity needs so that sellers could connect with buyers. It also allowed producers to define their commodities so that buyers could more efficiently find products. This system was a fine idea and lends itself even more now to marketing on a international basis. This kind of program could be created with a much larger impact considering the possibilities of the Internet. This kind of system would require some resources to set up initially but could be sustained by a fee structure which provided low cost access to information posted and reasonable costs for posting information. Some screening could be done to facilitate market integrity and make sure that companies were credible and met fair standards. This system could be created as a private enterprise with the support of countries who wish to stimulate trade transactions. In developing countries where technical expertise is limited, computer links could be set up in central locations. Linking goods from producers to end users becomes increasingly possible.

Taking the problems of the Black Sea as a backdrop for this concept, I would like to present an idea which could be mirrored anywhere, including within the boundaries of industrial nations. In the region there has been a connecting of environmental organizations via the Internet. Each of these Non-Governmental Organizations, or NGO's, operate as not-for-profit organizations and are not self-sustaining, although the concept of "sustainable development" originated with such organizations. I believe a line of products could be developed from the region on the basis of "sustainable development". These products would be created out of existing production possibilities with attention paid to design, labeling and packaging for western markets. The products would be certified by the regional NGO's as being produced in a manner which minimizes environmental impact according to the standards which are relevant to the area in which goods are being produced. This would create an Environmental Brand Name for goods meeting the standards. An Eco-brand, if marketed in the west at competitive prices, would fill a huge consumer void. People in the west are becoming increasingly aware that their consumption is destroying the lifestyles of others and unfairly exploiting resources around the world. There are significant dollars which would be diverted from consumers into the purchase of these products if given a choice of Eco-brands verses others. This could also create a need on the part of other "unconscious" producers to mirror the activity in order to stay competitive and maintain their market share.

A second major consideration deals with the human rights side of the developmental equation. The idea that people are also exploited, degraded and expended in the pursuit of money must not be lost sight of in this mix of ideas. At the same time, western values should not be imposed on others in trying to define whether human rights considerations are being met. These should again be decided locally.

Talking to many members of the clergy on the ship helped me to better understand one basic truth about each of the religions represented - these men and women are, in almost very case, committed not just to what might happen in the afterlife but what happens to people in this life. The recognition that human needs must be met to increase the likelihood that higher concepts could be individually contemplated was evident everywhere.

An Eco-brand could also have the component of being "human-rights certified" - meeting fair standards in the region of production. A local committee of members of the religious communities in an area could be organized. Such committees would represent each of the predominant religious belief systems in the area. They would meet periodically in order to certify that a specific product is meeting human rights standards. Periodically, production activities could be inspected in order to maintain their status as "human rights certified". The idea that religious organizations would be involved in this area creates some concern for some people; however, in the area of the world in question, where inter-faith dialogue is important for the maintenance of peace, perhaps this model could work toward that end as well. The same committee could be the "whistle-blower" or place where complaints of environmental/human rights violations could be lodged with the complainant maintaining confidentiality so as to not be persecuted by co-workers or managers for having brought the issue forward. The right to complain and gain accountability would be fundamental.

The importance of the integrity of the certification process would be equal in importance to the quality of the goods being produced. Western consumers of the goods would be purchasing two things: the product and the concept of production. The significant factor in making a decision to purchase, assuming all other factors are equal in the market, is the concept of ecological and human rights balance.

The establishment of sustainable business enterprises could be enhanced by the creation of individually owned businesses, producer/employee owned cooperatives, companies or other normal business structures. The problem of cash for use by such businesses in creating their products could be partially overcome by combining parts of two separate models described below. The issue of high interest for businesses has to be overcome and the concept of interest is also objectionable to some religious belief systems. So how can cash be matched to markets?

Cash for the Enterprise

In Alaska over a decade ago our state government established the Alaska Science and Technology Foundation in order to foster the creation and production of goods in our region. The idea was that such a foundation would create jobs and long term employment opportunities and at the same time decrease our dependence on the exploitation of raw non-renewable resources. The fund was established with $100 million U.S. dollars from oil revenues collected by the state. The principle of the fund is invested and managed so that the earnings of the fund pay for its grants to businesses and the fund's operating costs. From the earnings of the fund, money is "granted" to businesses which have workable business plans so they can move their projects ahead. Although each proposal has its own method of repayment defined in their agreements with the fund, they generally do not pay interest on the money. Instead of interest they would pay the fund a fee equal to 5% from all sales made by the company obtaining the grant until 150% of the original grant amount was repaid. This could take six months or twenty years, the main point being that the business would not be paying out more than 5% of its income in managing its debt, thus increasing the likelihood of success for the business. The extra funds collected over time by the fund pay for defaults and inflation and assure that the fund remains viable for generations to come.

The second concept is from an interesting report on "micro-loans" first introduced in Asia and now existing in industrialized nations. Micro-loans are given in amounts of between a few hundred and several thousands of dollars to individuals who can present reasonable business plans so that they can become self-sustaining. These are loan amounts ignored by big banks, which consider them too costly to manage and high risk because of the lack of sophistication of the borrowers. What was discovered was that the risks were very small. In fact, these small producers, when given some informational support, were the kind of people who would seize the opportunity and work very hard to gain their economic independence. Loans were repaid, profits for producers increased and enterprises were born.

A mix of the Alaskan and Asian model could be created. Micro-loan banks could be established with seed money grants from western organizations interested in building economies such as the World Bank, western governments and private foundations. This model would more closely fit western ideas about giving people the means to take care of themselves rather than merely providing money to maintain life. These micro-banks would "grant" funds in a repayment system which could mirror the Alaska model. This would make funds available on a growing basis for future business activities without the compounding of debt by interest requirements. In addition, the efforts of the western lenders in helping small businesses develop business plans in these areas could be very effective. The businesses established would be wholly owned by the residents of the region rather than outsiders and an increased tax base for governmental operations could be created. Moreover, goods which were being imported could be replaced with locally produced goods, with surplus goods being exported.

The other glaring need in the Black Sea region is the plight of the elderly and the despair of the young. The underutilization of labor and intellectual investment is perhaps the greatest it has ever been in the history of the world, considering the changes in eastern Europe. At the same time, young people are not engaged in the kinds of activities which occupied their time and prepared them for work under the former economic system.

In the United States we have a program called "Junior Achievement" where young people are matched with business people in small groups. These groups create a product or service, write a business plan and then initiate and market that which they create. This gives young people real experience and the skilled elderly an opportunity to use their knowledge to support the activities of the next generation. It is a very good intellectual and practical exchange. In the U.S. it is not set up for long term projects, only as an activity for gaining experience in capitalistic models.

In the Black Sea region it might be possible to create an organization designed to transfer and create skills and small business activities with a long term goal. Rather than creating a short term project the activities could be structured around an Eco-Corps or, more particularly, building businesses which are sustainable, environmentally sound and address the higher human values of fairness, compassion and consideration. This kind of activity in the context of the ideas which follow could be attempted on a small scale. This also presents an opportunity to increase awareness of capitalistic ideas on a values based platform, by rewarding in proportion to effort, and providing meaningful work for young, elderly and perhaps physically challenged people.

On the marketing side a great deal could be done. A selected number of products could initially be identified and Eco-brand marketing concepts developed. With the assistance of media, political, environmental and human rights organizations, the publicity for such a venture would be explosive. My company, for example, is tied to several media and marketing organizations which have already been approached with the concept and would be incredible allies in creating this project. The project is not a social program but one based on capitalistic principles which place human values first.

As mentioned earlier in this paper, the majority of money tends to flow away from the producer and toward the distributor. This creates a lopsided concentration of wealth in the direction of the developed nations. These are the market factors which are based on the fact that profits go to those most able to exploit production. This is the debate matrix which led to the the end of slavery, the union movement in the west and establishment of communism in the east. It was the debate over the distribution of wealth based on the relative contributions of economic system participants. In the west we created employee owned enterprises, profit sharing, publicly traded stock companies and numerous other profit allocation schemes - while in the east, centrally owned enterprises were created.

In the context of this paper, I am proposing an alternative idea in support of the concept of cooperative capitalism. First, looking back at the production side, the benefits to the sales organization in the developed countries become clear. The western based sales organization is able to benefit by the development of goods produced at a very competitive price because of the market advantages present in the countries of production. These advantages include natural resource availability, relative labor skills and availability of labor, transportation systems and other relevant factors. Second, by eliminating several steps or "middlemen" in the process of getting the goods to their end consumers, the costs associated with each transaction are significantly less. Third, the excess profits allow for more competitive pricing of goods or the allocation of profits in a more equitable manner. In this paper, I would propose that the market advantages held by the producer and the market advantages held by the ultimate seller are of equal value. The distribution of profits could be changed under a system which allocates back to the region of production one half of the net profits of the selling organization. How would this be done, considering the tax consequences for such profit allocations? The profits destined to return to the country of product origin would be donated to a "non-profit" organization. This would permit the selling company a corresponding deduction from its taxable income. It would only pay domestic taxes on the profits it retained. The non-profit organization would transfer the funds, less the cost of creating the transfer, to a non-profit equivalent controlled by producers. The producers would then allocate that money in a way which stimulated its activities and rewarded members for their effort on the production side. For example, they could divide this return of profits so that 50% went to their micro-bank for building an independent micro-banking system, 25% could be allocated to the employees as a production bonus (proportional to their wages earned in the enterprise creating the products) and the remaining 25% could be allocated to supplemental pensions for the elderly who are no longer able to contribute labor to the business activity.

This piece of writing was not meant to detail every aspect of this concept as it could be applied. To do so would have required a book and a good deal of additional research. For political or other reasons some may find parts of this idea objectionable. This is fine and understood. What I hope comes of these words are productive actions which lead to solutions. Personally, I am committed to the concepts and am actively looking for the combination of resources and factors which might allow my company the opportunity to create this reality. In the meantime, these ideas are freely offered to any who would seek life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness through intelligent human interaction.

Readers, please forgive my generalizations. They are not intended to limit the picture of the regions discussed in this article. They are my personal impressions which led to my conclusions and are important in the context of the paper. It is my sincere hope to return to that part of the world and see these concepts developed. Moreover, I believe that these ideas could be applied to the revitalization of our inner-cities and other economically depressed areas of the United States and Europe. Your thoughts and ideas are always appreciated. In the spirit of Earthpulse, let us each work together to create solutions rather than divisions. The world can change. We are each the beginning of that change.

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