Civic Finance & Civitas Fidelis

We’re back. The posts already appearing here on CIV FI were originally written and accessible at a website launched in the summer of 2009 that was taken down for several months, and now appear here as the opening posts on CIV FI, or http://civfi.com. The earlier site was a placeholder, whereas this one is intended to grow into its name.

As stated on the “About” page, “CivFi.com was created to answer a need for greater discussion among and between investors and policymakers on the issues of financial sustainability.” That is a tall order, but it is truly the only theme that feels appropriate as human civilization enters the 2nd decade of the 21st century facing its biggest financial challenges in eighty years. And these challenges are not over. They’ve just begun. But they can be solved. Ongoing, downwardly spiraling financial catastrophe is not inevitable.

Civic finance is not quite the same as economics. Unlike an economic theory, you can analyze civic finance on a spreadsheet. You can reduce it to cash flow projections. You can isolate your assumptions and you can identify your options, often with unsettling precision. This website was created because there is far too little of this sort of analysis available on the internet, and as a result, there is grossly inadequate discussion regarding everything from infrastructure investment to environmental cost/benefit analysis to public sector deficits, and on and on.

Given the times we live in, with far too many consumers still mired in debt to their eyeballs, and therefore unable to buy more products or pay higher taxes, the challenge to finance the advancement of civilization is possibly the central challenge of our time. The challenge of accumulating and deploying massive quantities of capital to build the next big pieces of our advancing civilization has become, inconveniently, a nearly impossible prerequisite. Until resolved, it thwarts our attempts to realize the dreams-come-true that advancing technology already can offer us. Dreams are expensive. Choices are hard. And the old days of endlessly available credit are done.

CIV FI is an abbreviation for Civic Finance, but it doesn’t end there. The more you examine the pair of words, the more they may grow on you. In Latin, the abbreviation “CIV” forms the beginning of the word “civicus,” meaning civic, but it also forms the beginning of the words “civilus” (civil – as in political or courteous), “civilitas” (politics), “civis” (citizen), and “civitas” (community state). Similarly, in Latin, the abbreviation “FI” forms the beginning of the word “fiducia,” meaning financial trust or assurance, but it also forms the beginning of the words “fidelis” (faithful), “fides” (belief, honor, loyalty, truth), “fidentia” (self confidence), and even “fidicen” (a lyric poet).

With all these connotations, CIV FI feels like the right name at the right time. Civitas Fidelis. Faith in Civilization. How can anyone hope to create and conduct an open, utterly transparent forum for the discussion of creative, sustainable, humane and equitable ways to restore our Civic Finance, unless their creed were also one of Civitas Fidelis. In that spirit, let us begin.

Before writing the 19 posts already available here, all written between June and August, 2009, I edited an online magazine called EcoWorld. From early 1995 through May 2009, http://ecoworld.com was a platform where I posted nearly 1,000 articles and commentaries, about half of them written by guest authors, the rest by me. That website began as an attempt to promote free market environmentalism, but as I continued to immerse myself in the environmental movement as well as, much later, within the clean technology industry, I realized there were fallacies surrounding environmentalism so profound that what was necessary was to completely redefine environmentalism.

As a participant in the clean technology industry, I further realized, especially in the last few years, that the funding and the priorities of clean technology were severely skewed. Investment and deployment of worthy technologies were being deferred, while marginal, fanciful projects and technologies were being advanced due to environmentalist concerns – reflected in government incentives – that were often without scientific merit or financial merit. Finally, I realized that these flaws that afflict mainstream environmentalism are part of something much bigger – a struggle to define what sort of political economy we choose to live under. A debate over what model for civilization is optimal, and how to get there from here.

CIV FI aspires therefore to continue where EcoWorld left off, to join that larger debate, armed with not only analysis and commentary, but spreadsheets as well.

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