Apr 18

Richard Ankrom is an ordinary Los Angeles resident who had a very common problem.  He often missed the freeway exit when he was trying to get from the 110 freeway to the 5 freeway.  But his response wasn’t so ordinary.  While most people would just get annoyed and think “somebody should fix this!”, Ankrom did just that.  A professional sign maker, Ankrom created a replica of freeway signage that read “North 5″ and affixed it to the existing freeway sign that read “Pasadena 110″.  Not only did he make the sign, he made a CalTrans uniform and installed the sign in broad daylight!  CalTrans didn’t even notice his handiwork for several months – and when Akrom finally outed his handiwork, CA left it there.  It was too helpful to remove!

Until now.  CalTrans finally removed Akrom’s sign because they replaced the entire Pasadena 110 sign with a new one – but his improvements were incorporated into the new signage, a testament to his insight and initiative.

Ankrom has photos of the sign on this website.

Here is another story about the Akrom project that includes an interesting video.

Feb 25

I read an article on the Huffington Post yesterday that highlighted the psychological toll of not working.  Many on unemployment feel the government is wasting money by paying them to do nothing, and they are going stir crazy at home.  So, why don’t they just take a job?  Money.  They can’t find jobs that pay them more than unemployment does, and they are afraid that if they take a low-paying job, it will do permanent damage to their future earnings.  They have a point – if we need money.

But what if we don’t?  What if the criteria for the passing of resources from one person to another was simply that you had a job, but no one was paid?  Using our current infrastructure, this could happen.  We could freeze everyone where they are – you live in your same home and keep your same job if you have one.  Then, we would just need a registry.  The registry would simply record your home and your job.  An established job would then allow you to get groceries, gas, clothing, personal items, medical care, etc.  by swiping a card.  We use credit cards now, all we would need is one card that identifies us and our job.  The type of job doesn’t matter, only that you are working.  Those without jobs would simply log on to Craigslist or some jobs site to find out where people are needed.  Then, they would show up and interview.  If they have the right skills, they get hired.  No salary negotiation necessary, because it’s about having a job and not an income.  Once they have a job, they get access to all of the resources they need.

Under this system, a job would simply be defined as “performing a necessary service”.  Some people would be drifters who go around doing various jobs – as long as they swipe in to get a record that they showed up, that’s fine.  Some people would be homemakers with children.  Kids under 4?  We’ll take your word for it.  It’s obvious that they need to be cared for.  School-age kids?  Register as a homemaker with children and then swipe your card at parent-teacher conferences, open-houses and other school events.  That establishes that you’re actively involved in raising your kids and not just slacking off while they’re at school all day.  Changing jobs is easy.  Find someone who needs what you do and go do it.

Changing homes – not so easy.  The best way to handle this is to just register homes and have people sign up for them.  The only criteria for getting a home is that you have a job (or are a registered retiree) and you need the space.  This makes sure everyone gets a home, but also allows people with several children to get larger homes while singles can grab smaller homes and condos.  Want a home office?  Sure.  One “extra” room is allowed with no justification necessary as long as there isn’t someone with a child who needs the room that is ahead of you on the list.  Once you get your home, do you need remodelling? Then you put an ad on a jobs website and you become an employer, and get people to come work on your home.  They get a job and you get your home remodelled.  No money necessary.

Supply and demand would still be in play.  It’s just that if something is demanded, more people will be recruited to supply it.  Being educated for different work would be considered a job, and it would be easy to get enough teachers and enough students to create a supply for whatever types of jobs we needed to get done.  On the other hand, there wouldn’t be much incentive to steal anything because you could get anything you needed based on the fact that you have job. 

Would some people attempt to game the system?  Sure.  But there is value in teaching people to have a work ethic.  Not meaning to work long or hard, but to find something productive to do that benefits society in some way.  A lot of people long for something meaningful to do, so if everyone could contribute and everyone’s contribution was equally valued, there wouldn’t be much incentive to cheat.  With the energy it took to cheat the system, you may as well have gone out and done some work.

Of course, there are other nuances that would need to be worked out, but this is a pretty good start. Without money, we wouldn’t need a tax system, but we would have a strong infrastructure because the government c0uld hire people right now to go out and pave the roads, renovate bridges, etc.  Farmers could get hoards of young people or just active people to work the farms and care for the animals so there would be enough food.  People who like being outdoors would work outdoors.  People who like being indoors would work in buildings.  People would do what they were drawn to and what they were passionate about without worrying about how much the job payed.  For everything that is produced, whether food or fashion, there is someone who will want it and find it useful.  There would be enough of everything for everyone.

Will there still be greed?  Of course.  Human nature is still what it is, but how would greed play out if productivity was valued over money?  Everyone has the same 365 days a year.  Everyone could get what they needed as long as they contribute work to society.  What is there to hoard?

In essence, there are plenty of jobs to be done and a psychological incentive for people to do them.  Do we really need money?  I think not.

Aug 21

What does your handbag say about you?  Does it flash and say you’re a party girl?  Is it conservative because you’re a business woman? How about “no-nonsense” mom?  Do you change your bag for different occasions?

What if your handbag could say something else?  It could say that you support freedom.  It could say that you empower women.  It could say that you care.

Freeset bags are made of Jute – and love.  They are made by women in Kolkata, India who have been rescued from prostitution.  Some of these women were kidnapped and trafficked.  Others were sold by parents because they couldn’t feed one more mouth.  Still others do it voluntarily because it’s the only way to care for their families.  For many women, there is no escape and there are no other options.  Until now.

Freeset rescues women from prostitution and employs them.  These women make the beautiful, environmentally friendly handbags sold by the company.  With gainful employment that they can take pride in, these women have formed a compassionate community within the company – and have become agents of change outside its doors.

Women who work at Freeset are paid a salary and also receive health benefits and a retirement plan.  The company also provides a supportive environment that caters to their emotional needs as they transition out of the abusive sex trade and into Freeset.

One of the most amazing things about Freeset is the company philosophy.  From their website:

Freeset uses an “upside down” model that turns the normal principles of running a business on their head. Businesses generally choose the best people for a job and pay them the lowest possible wages. Here, women are employed on the basis of their need for freedom, rather than their qualifications – many have had little or no schooling. They are trained and then paid well above the going market rate. The transformation in women’s lives is clearly apparent, simply because they’ve been given a chance.”

Now, they’re giving you a chance.  A chance to participate.  A chance to help.  A chance to change lives.  A chance to stand up for freedom.  All while maintaining your sense of style.

Buy a Freeset bag. Set someone free.