Saturday, July 11, 2009

Slow Money: Inquiries Into the Nature of Slow Money

Slow Money Book Jacket
The book by Woody Tasch titled Slow Money: Inquiries Into the Nature of Slow Money – Investing as if Food, Farms, and Fertility Mattered was an interesting read for me because it echoed lots of ideas about our economic system that I’ve often thought about but never could articulate. What’s slow money? It’s the opposite of fast money, it’s place over profit, it’s about thinking, acting, investing, and purchasing locally, and underlying it all it’s about restoring fertility to the soil. It’s easy to agree with the idea(l)s but hard to practice them. Every visit to the grocery store becomes a struggle if you ask about the origin of every item purchased. Forget about investments – who knows the exact location of their investments at any given time? But this is precisely the struggle and questions Tasch wants you to deal with.

The principles of the Slow Money Alliance are partly poetic -“bring money back down to earth” – and partly practical - “what would the world be like if we invested 50% of our assets within 50 miles of where we live?” In chapter 2 Reconnoitering, Tasch gives an idea of how fragmented our lives have become writing:

“Producer is separate from consumer. Investor is separate from citizen. Where we live is separate from where we work. Communication is confused with thought.
Diversification is confused with direction. Mobility takes precedence over responsibility. We become a nation of commuters and tourists. We become a nation of migrants and white-itinerant-money-people.”

In chapter 5 War on Terroir, Tasch muses about the differences between homeland and household and threats to both:

“Distant markets and cyberspace do not attack us directly. They come bearing gifts: food out of season, cheap goods made in foreign factories, 24/7 opportunities for shopping and surfing the Internet. But something happens as their influence pervades the household. We lose touch with the notion of the household as a locus of production and settle into the notion of the household as a locus of consumption. Even worse, we slide unawares into the belief that the health of a household and the society of which it is a part are defined by level of consumption.”

Tasch weaves in ideas from the Slow Food movement (the founder of the International Slow Food movement Carlo Petrini wrote the foreword), from E.F. Schumacher (economist and author of Small is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered), Wendell Berry (farmer and writer), and Eliot Coleman (farmer and educator) to name a few.

If you think that this sounds like a book that is anti-capitalism, I’ll leave you with this interesting quote from chapter 2 where Tasch is quoting Tom Miller, the first CEO of the Kentucky Highlands Corporation.

“We are not trying to reign in or correct or punish capitalism. We are trying to complete it.

Capitalism remained incomplete because resources seemed inexhaustible and consumption seemed to cause no harm. Now, as we reach a new juncture in our history on the planet, that is not longer the case.”

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