New Orleans The real estate bubble in Spain cratered the economy ushering in an austerity economy with unemployment rates of more than 25% of the population and a staggering 55% for younger workers. We might ask how people are surviving, and the answer from banker Julio Gisbert who has written a book called, Living Without a Job, is that “It is possible to live without a job, and that doesn’t mean living without working.” That observation is a critical distinction.
According to an article in USA Today recently, many Spaniards are making ends mean through the time worn system of bartering, trading various skills for other services and merchandise in what many are calling the “sharing economy.” In Barcelona there are stories of residents renting land cheaply outside of the city, and then trading the fresh vegetables for good. Some use the system of “time banking” featured last year in an article in Social Policy magazine. According to the Association of Time Banks the number of Spanish chapters has doubled to now number over 300 in the country.
Meritxell Mir in her report to USA Today, gives a number of concrete examples of how they are working these issues out collectively in Spain:
SocialCar.com “allows people to rent their private cars”
JoinUpTaxi “makes it easy for people to share” rides to the same locations
Nolotiro.org which means “I won’t throwit out,” allows people to give away things they don’t need anymore like clothes, tools, and other necessities.
Mi Huerto Compartido (My Shared Garden) allows landowners to “lend” ground for a share of the harvest in a form of modern sharecropping.
Truequebook.es “uses barter school books and other goods for children.
My Harvest Ecological Gardens rents 540-square-foot parcels for $40 per month and the new farmers exchange and barter the harvest.
You get the idea, and none of this counts the 100’s of internet based “cybermarkets” that have sprung up for bartering. Using BarcelonActua more than “7000 people participate in a local ‘favor bank’ where people help others without necessarily expecting anything in return” simply good faith triggered by need. Experts in the area are arguing that the economic crises is creating “the sharing economy” as a “gate to a cultural exchange in which people rediscover the power of getting connected with other citizens not only to consume, but also to produce for each other, educate each other, finance each other…”
New Orleans Watching the banks back track and squirm in Spain over foreclosures that ended in several well-publicized suicides that are now roiling the political establishment in that country is a good lesson in how financial institutions can actually be moved when political will begins to coalesce. In the USA we certainly do not seek dramatic suicides, but it would be wonderful in the wake of the recent election if we could finally build the political weight to offset the banker’s financial interests, contributions, and army of Washington lobbyists.
The headline in the Wall Street Journal oversells the Spanish action (“Spanish Banks Freeze Foreclosures”), but still spoke eloquently to the Spanish banks’ recognition in their foreclosure crisis that they had to spin another way, rather than continue to flip off mortgage holders and foreclosure victims which has been the standard USA operation procedure. The banks there claim that they will “suspend” foreclosures for two years due to “humanitarian reasons” when homeowners are “in extreme financial need.”
They had little choice and this voluntary offer might not be enough to meet the political crisis in Spain over this issue. Both of the major political parties have come together, as we have noted elsewhere, to revise bankruptcy laws, which are the impediment in refinancing in Spain, just as they are for many here in the United States, to allow homeowners to reorganize to the market values, which is also a huge part of our crisis. Advocates there are arguing that “the government should implement a law halting all planned evictions of indebted families acting in good faith,” which also sound like a great step forward.
With Geithner finally on his way out at Treasury and the likelihood of removing some of the officials that are standing in the way of restating home values to market in the name of “moral hazard,” even though Wall Street and all banks have eternally sworn off moral hazard for their own accounts years ago, it is worth seeing the issue of housing being part of any agenda for potential bipartisan activity. It can’t be wrong to finally make bankers accountable to the government. It can’t be wrong to finally hold banks and mortgage holders accountable for wrecking the economy and setting back the prospects of “citizen wealth” for millions of families.
Spain is showing the way we need to move. Now is the time!