The Weekend’s Economic Confluence


Saturday morning I read that Bank of America will be charging its customers $5 a month to use their debit card, starting next year. And as about 700 protesters were arrested for occupying Wall Street Saturday, I was sitting in on this fantastic little Living as Form workshop called Economics as Form.

Economics as Form was led by Amy Whitaker, an artist with an MBA. Her main point was that Beuys was right, everyone is an artist, and that it logically follows that everyone is also a businessperson. We all operate creatively in a social space, and we are all bound socially by material needs, around which we all transact. As artists and businesspeople, we can all operate creatively within an economy to positive effect.

This talk was hosted by the OurGoods team, one of many projects at Living As Form that create an alternate economy. I look forward to writing a thoughtful post about what it means that artists are creating alternate economies. And how unhopeless it felt on Sunday to get an Econ 101 lecture, explore barter, time-currency, microgrants and microfinance for artists.

But first, to capture that sense of hope and pay it forward into the week, here’s some practical information:

Amy Whitaker wants all artists and creatives to have a business plan. A business plan is just a story about where you want to go, an assessment of who else is doing the same things you’re doing and how you’re going to work with them, and a roadmap for getting there that asks you to budget resources. Any creative who thinks in these terms is going to be more effective and more innovative.

protesters on BK Bridge
Occupy Wall Street Protesters on Brooklyn Bridge

Occupy Wall Street is an interesting cultural moment in part because it is so loosely formed and has so many granular demands. Anarchists and Marxists are mixing with people who just have a ton of debt, or who have been unemployed forever, or who want to take Andrew Jackson off the $20, and that complex stew needs to play out. I can’t help but think, though, that some actual Wall Street reforms would be a nice endgame. Financial transactions and banks should be taxed. Carried interest and founder’s stock loopholes have got to go.

As big banks keep increasing fees, you might want to move your money. There are a number of internet banks and credit unions that are not interested in nickel-and-diming the little guy.

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