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Book of the Day: The Producism Manifesto

photo of Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens
1st July 2013


“The goal of this book is to succinctly explain the fundamental problems of society’s current economic system, and to propose an evolutionary solution that consists of 11 new economic concepts. The content will be in text, image, and video form. It offers a unique economic analysis of life as a game to enable easier learning opportunities for readers.”

* The Producism Manifesto: A New Game for a New Economy By Drew Little.

In this excerpt, the author explains: What is Producism?

“Producism is an evolutionary economic model that is designed for the Digital Age. It combines 11 new economic concepts for the goal of revitalizing local economies and communities in a fun and easy way. I say easy because an economic template has already been created for us with the old game; the hard work has been done, we just need to add a few tweaks to get it right (I’ll get to the fun part in a minute). Let me make this very clear, Producism is not a new extreme. It is about balance and integration – filling the gaps that are remaining in the current economic system so it enhances the best practices that are already existing. It’s about bringing in the parts that have been left out to balance the whole. This is not a new extreme, it’s a new balance. You have Socialism on the left and Capitalism on the right, and you’ll have Producism in the middle.

It is an economic science, not an economic philosophy. It focuses on how to repair local economies, not why the problems exist. It’s a way to convert people’s anger of “The Man” into something productive. It’s about replicating an economy that’s been sustainable for ages, nature. It’s about imitating a living cell that’s in our body (a cell produces more than it consumes; which is sustainable for our body- a cancer cell consumes more than it produces, which is unsustainable for our body). It enables local communities to create their own stimulus packages. You can think of it as a decentralized social capitalism that is focused on localism, creative sustainability, and collective economic empowerment. It provides a way for people to self-organize a new, parallel economy. And last but not least, it enables those who choose to participate to become an impactful social entrepreneur to eventually self-actualize in a sustainable world.”

He also explains the reasons for writing the book:

“I was born and raised in New Haven, Connecticut. New Haven, aka “Elm City”, is a small city consisting of around 125,000 people. I was raised in a household that was just below middle class. I had a strong support system from my parents growing up, ensuring my needs were met and that I felt loved. I did pretty well in school (received Academic Honors from 6th Grade until 11th Grade), played basketball in middle school, AAU, and high school teams.

Although I did pretty well personally, I was exposed to a lot of challenges when it came to my personal development. The majority of my immediate family hadn’t graduated from high school. All of my brothers, except one, sold drugs and was involved in a life of crime. I grew up as an adolescence in the Newhallville section of New Haven, where a lot of violence and crime ensued. It’s an area where the top priority of most people was to simply get a good job to pay the bills. I knew I wanted more than that. My first step was to make sure I got out of New Haven. From there, I enrolled in school at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia during the summer of 2001.

My freshman year is what I like to call a “live & learn” year. I was only focused on girls, basketball and partying. I was so excited to be on my own, I forgot the reason I was there, which was to advance academically. My second year rolls around, and I’m on academic probation. My financial aid was cut back and I could no longer afford to go to school. So it was either go back home or dive head first into the real world.

I chose the latter.

From working at Walmart to various sales positions, I jumped from job to job trying to find my passion. I knew I enjoyed sales, but I was searching for an offering that naturally connected to me. I tried starting my own business selling designer brand apparel, but it became a logistics headache. I would always surf the web, exploring what the internet had to offer, but all I would find is bogus MLM opportunities or some boring sales job. Unsuccessful in finding my passion and with rent and bills piling up, I settled with a low pay sales position as my JOB and resulted to selling marijuana to my friends on the side. (Though this may sound bad, when your back is against the wall, people sometimes make decisions they normally would never choose. )

The Turning Point

In 2005, I was just “floating in the wind” with no plans. This was around the time Facebook launched at my former school, VCU. I read about Mark Zuckerburg being CEO of Facebook. He was doing pretty well and seemed to really enjoy it. Everyone I knew around town had a Facebook account. I didn’t know in the future that Facebook would lead to me finding my passion. But before that would happen, my life would be turned upside down.

In April 2006, my Dad died from the complications of Diabetes. This was a huge blow because this was the first time someone close to me passed. Only a month later, I was arrested and convicted of conspiracy to distribute marijuana. To sum it up, I met the wrong person at the wrong time. I was sentenced to probation, but circumstances lead to me violating my probation. I was given the choice to receive 3 more years of probation or choose to spend a total of 4 months in a federal prison and be totally free of the system.

Once again, I chose the latter.

Lewisburg Federal Prison is where I served my time. Since I had a minor offense, I was at the camp, where inmates weren’t in cells. Because of this, we could walk outside around campus. There was an outdoor basketball court, outdoor track, indoor/outdoor gym and a library. These were the places where I spent most of my time. In addition to drug dealers, inmates also included former stockbrokers, doctors, and corporate officers.

That period of being in the system was the most challenging time of my life. Though I now feel it was a blessing in disguise. It taught me how to discipline myself, how to survive on low means, and how the “Game of Life” really works. During my time there, I noticed three things that sparked my interest in economics: One, the majority of people’s charges were related to money in some way (most often, the lack of it, which prompted them to take an illegal route to get it, just like I did). Two, they paid inmates around 30 cents an hour to do strenuous manual labor such as breaking down large televisions for recycling. Three, inmates used stamps and fish packs as currencies to trade various goods and services among themselves.

This period also gave me a lot of time to think about what my passions in life were. I searched deep within myself for the answers. I tried to think about situations when I was particularly enthusiastic about a topic.

One of those topics was the movement that Martin Luther King, Jr. created. I was moved at how he formed a grassroots movement to create equal civil rights for African-Americans and all people in general. Despite the advances minorities have made concerning civil rights, there is still a huge disparity in the economic playing field, which stems from multiple factors; with education at the forefront. I told myself I wanted to create the type of grassroots movement he did, but apply it to help level economic self sufficiency in local communities around the globe. I told myself once I released from the system, I was going to put my all into realizing my dream, no matter what obstacles came in my way.

The Spark

On June 2009, I was finally free of legal system. It’s funny how fast things can change in 4 months.

During that time, Twitter and Facebook was the rage and was growing like crazy. I immediately began reading up on all the wealth being made on the web. I started thinking back to what topics naturally attracted me. I ended up with the Internet, creative marketing, and helping others bring out the best within themselves. Once I understood what made me tick, I put ALL of my time and energy into learning all I could about them. I spent hours upon hours in bookstores reading all the material I could (Barnes and Nobles Education), subscribing to a ton of relevant blogs, analyzing trends, and creating a few websites myself. I also became the Director of Sales & Marketing at a local mobile advertising start-up in Richmond. Basically, I took the self-education route.

Still, I kept digging into information about the causes of the problems we have in the world, which kept pointing to the current economic system we have in place. But what really opened my eyes to the problems of today’s economic system was a documentary called Zeitgeist. This was how I became aware of how the dollar was created and monopolized by The Federal Reserve. I learned that those who control the money, control everything because almost everything in society is linked to money. Learning about this information made me feel powerless, and I was seriously thinking about throwing in the towel about pursuing any goals that I had in mind. Fortunately, that was the exact time when alternative economics came into my reality. Concepts such as social entrepreneurship, worker cooperatives, and people-created currencies provided a lot of hope and triggered something I never had up until then, purpose.

The Economic Evolution

After investigating alternative economics more deeply, it lead to me asking myself the following questions: What if a massive amount of people realized the rigged game we were playing? What if people had a convenient way to self-organize a new economy to get themselves out of the current economic turmoil? What would the world look like if everyone had the opportunity to self-actualize? These questions led to the creation of an idea I call Producism on Labor Day 2010.

Fears and Obstacles

I kept questioning why I was attracted to all of this information which eventually led me to formulate the idea of Producism. I have no formal training or prestigious credentials in the field of Economics. So at first, I was hesitant to share this idea with others. I told some of my friends about it, but they quickly dismissed it as a pipe dream. But I remembered reading how Albert Einstein, Malcom X, Bill Gates, and many others were self-taught in their fields. If they could do it, why couldn’t I. We all have the same potential within us, we just have to become aware of it and ACT on it. We’re all like seeds. If we get what we need for growth, we’ll evolve into what we were meant to be. But many people are used to living in environments that are like “infertile soil.” Maybe it’s time to add a new layer?

So brushing my fears aside, I decided to create some websites to get my ideas out there. I started reaching out to college students at Virginia Commonwealth University to become a part of the cause because I noticed that most profound changes started at the collegiate level. I put a team together, but I didn’t have any capital or connections to really make a strong impact. However, I did have a few things: an old Dell Inspirion 1300 laptop, Internet access, a pocket video camera, passion, dedication, and an open mind. After becoming aware of the Lean Start-up Movement, I learned that you have to start with the resources you have and ACT NOW. If the idea is good enough, you’ll attract whatever else you need.

The Dream Journey

In order to raise awareness about our cause and to put myself in a situation where I was forced to get out of my comfort zone, I decided I had to take a risk that most people would not. For a full year, I would couch-surf, give away 90% of my belongings to the homeless, and have no guaranteed income from any source other than my own entrepreneurial efforts. My goal with this challenge was to show people how you can start with nothing and still build on your dreams. Many of us want to wait until everything is in place to begin that process. I thought if I inspired just one person to begin working on their dreams immediately no matter what obstacles are in their way, maybe that would spark a positive ripple effect.

I started this challenge on Oct. 20th, 2010, and it is still continuing. It has been one hell of a ride so far! I noticed once I fully let go of control of my life and put it in the hands of the Universe, the resources I needed attracted to me.

Initially during this journey, my main goal was to give; give supporters my expertise on how to utilize the Internet to pursue their passions and connect them into our growing grassroots-based network of growth-minded individuals. My team and I met and helped a lot of great people in our local area and abroad. It was more of an experiment than anything else, but a fun one indeed. On June 27th 2011, we formed The Illuminated Ventures Project LLC, and officially became an idea incubator cooperative focused on fusing technology and social good to create startup companies. Our first project is Producia, which is one part online marketplace, one part startup incubator for the new economy. I believe with all of my heart that if it is supported the same way a lot of other popular tech companies are, it will create a new paradigm and empower so many people to take their economic destinies into their own hands, in an interdependent way of course.

I’m currently writing this passage with $2.45 in my account. I gave up almost everything to develop this dream I have. On the days that seem to challenge me the most, I think to myself “What the hell are you doing!! Who do you think you are to believe you can change anything?” Then I remind myself about other change makers that started out with nothing as well, and eventually made a strong impact on the world. I also think about all of the youth who are trapped in a socio-economic status due to no fault on their own, and realizing no matter what society may say about them reaching “The American Dream,” it’s mathematically proven that many of them won’t .

So in closing, I understand some people may judge me based on my past, but I don’t regret it one bit. It made me into the person I am today and it taught me so much. I personally experienced college life, the corporate world, and the challenges that many disadvantaged youth face. This gives me an unique perspective and the ability to connect with “both sides of the fence.” So if you are more interested in where I am going, instead of where I came from, let’s change the world together. If not, I’ll see you down the line.”

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