What becomes of free gifts in the whole economic process? You will find that capital freely given, gift capital, is the most productive; loaned and borrowed capital is less productive, in the economic process; and the least productive is that which stands directly under purchase and sale.
– Rudolf Steiner, 1 August 1922 (GA 340)
Research that would address directly key problems of our times should result in policy considerations that bridge from ideas to the challenges of today. Three indications demonstrate that Steiner’s approach has lost none of its relevance.
For Steiner, “a 'true price' is forthcoming when people receive, as counter-value for the products they have made, sufficient to enable them to satisfy their needs, the whole of their needs, including of course the needs of their dependants, until they will again have completed a like product.” [29 July 1922.] This addresses directly the problem of inflation that price stability and modern monetary policy find ever more difficult to manage – a problem that in reality depends on the way the real economy is conducted.
Personal credit presupposes the decolateralising of lending, in itself the main cause of today’s endemic property speculation and resultant bubbles, and the bankrupting of so many businesses (as rents become linked to the capital invested in land and buildings rather than the activity of the users). It also presupposes a widening of suitable financial literacy on everyone’s part, especially as taught in schools and universities.
Widespread grant funding is needed to match the aspirations of millions of people, especially young people, whose contributions to society would otherwise fail for lack of finance. At the same time, this would soak up the world’s excess liquidity, reducing today’s massively disproportionate levels of debt (whether by individuals, corporations or whole countries). A challenge to foundations to become ‘spend-outs’ by giving away not only their income, but also (over time) their capital, so that fresh funds can flow in.