Princeton native’s book is on creating sustainable societies

Princeton native John Boik has recently written a book that proposes a new economic system involving a “Principled Society” that Boik says would help sustain local businesses and the environment.

He says the current economic system seen in the U.S. and much of the world has serious problems regarding the environment, global finance, corporate management, lack of transparency in governance, and too many special interests in control of govenrment.

Boik, 54, of Orange County, Calif, was in town in July and discussed his book.

Participation in his proposed system of buying goods and services and financially assisting local businesses and non profits would be voluntary, he explained. He also noted that his proposed currency of tokens would not replace the current dollar. His “principled society,” he said, would be like an “overlay” to what exists.

Boik, one of five children of Dolores Boik, of Princeton, and her late husband Jack Boik, left Princeton nearly four decades ago after graduating from Princeton High School. Since  leaving Princeton, John Boik has made his mark in the cancer research world.

He is founder and president of New Earth BioMed, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the discovery of natural product mixtures useful against cancer, according to Boik’s website, and has written books on cancer.

Boik received a BS degree in civil engineering at the University of Colorado, Boulder. He then studied traditional Chinese medicine at Oregon College of Oriental Medicine, earned a PhD in cancer biology from the University of Texas Health Science Center, Houston, and studied statistics at Stanford University.

Boik wrote the books, “Cancer and Natural Medicine,” and “Natural Compounds and Cancer Therapy” before writing “Creating Sustainable Societies.” The latter book is subtitled, “The Rebirth of Democracy and Local Economies.”

“Creating Sustainable Societies” contains favorable commentaries about the book’s contents. The commentaries are from 20 persons in fields ranging from theology and economics to agriculture and the environment. One of them is Andrew Heintzman, president and CEO at Investeco, board director for Tides Canada Foundation and author of “The New Entrepreneurs.

Heintzman wrote that “Creating Sustainable Societies” presents intriguing ideas for simultaneously addressing a number of deep-seated and seemingly intractable social and economic problems. Will it work? I don’t know. But it is worth opening a dialogue. I recommend this book to any who are seeking fresh ideas for achieving a more balanced society.”

Boik visited Art Skarohlid, president of the Princeton branch of Bremer Bank, when Boik was here in July. Skarohlid said he hadn’t yet read the book, but intends to. He saidthat Boik told him about the book’s basic contents during their visit. Skarohlid called  Boik’s “concept interesting,” in which people could use tokens for purchases from participating local businesses, and the businesses could also use the tokens for purchases.

The first approximately 60 pages of the 132-page book (not counting references) is heavy on an explanation of why Boik feels his proposal has value. Then on page 64 he lays out the details of his proposal more comprehensively, in which he envisions 5 percent of businesses, and 5 percent of adults participating in the “principled society” within a community. The adults would be employees of the participating businesses under the concept.

The details:

• There would be an annual membership fee of $120 to participate. Half of that would go into an account for making dollar loans in what Boik refers to as the Principled Society, or Society for short. The Society would also charge businesses a 2 percent fee in dollars on token transactions.

• Each member would receive 100 tokens, each worth $1 in purchasing power, in their account.

. The average token share of commerce in the Society would be 5 percent. Boik gave an example of a $20 shirt selling for $19 plus one token.

• Each members would agree to accept 2.5 percent of their base wages in tokens and would be given a 2.5 percent raise, paid in tokens. Boik figures that the average base salary would be $40,000. Therefore the average member would receive 2,000 tokens per year from the employer, half of which would come from the raise, Boik states in the book.

• The system would have earmarks in which members would have to divert 15 percent of their tokens to fund businesses and the same percent to fund nonprofits.

The infrastructure for making the system possible would be the Internet and software, Boik noted.

Boik’s book states that the $120 membership fee could be lowered if other revenue is found and that a sliding fee scale might be used. About half the fee would go to help pay the Society’s governance staff and other expenses, while the other half would go into the member’s dollar account. These dollars would be earmarked for interest-fee loans to businesses.

Members would choose which businesses would receive their dollar loans.

Skarohlid said he likes the idea that the tokens would keep more business local, comparing it “somewhat to a coupon system.”

Boik says his concept in “Creating Sustainable Societies” uses the same approach that he has taken in cancer research, saying he uses a “systems biological approach,” dealing with the “whole cell, the whole person . “He called it “the big picture of how all things work together to affect an organism.”

Motivation for book

Boik says the ideas in his book came to him like rushing waves during Christmastime 2010. He said he had been asking himself how he could get more funding for non-profits, and remembers thinking about writing to a congressman, but “gave up in frustration. As he thought about how he could make improvements to the world’s economic system and environment, ideas came to him in so frequently that they disrupted sleep. “I was beside myself for three days, welled up with concepts,” he said.

He explained that the city of Princeton then (late 1950s to 1976) was “quite vibrant,” Boik recalling a thriving Weisbrod’s Bakery business, and a downtown drugstore with a counter where he could get a banana split. Local residents also supported the local businesses more than they do today, he said, and called his growing up years a “very pleasant time.”

Boik allows that societal changes have led to less of such small town commercial vibrancy, one being that there is now a more mobile society, and that there are proportionately fewer people working locally.

Also, there has been the “corporization of America, where very few businesses are independently owned,” he added.

If local incomes were spent more locally, the money would circulate more within the community, said Boik, who hopes his concepts, if implemented, would “address very fundamental problems at the national level.”

He said the nation’s economy is at odds with environmental protection, because the driving force is profit, which requires economic growth, which he says hurts the environment.

Boik, in his book, asks if continual growth can be sustained “over the long haul,” and continues: “The basic laws of physics tell us that economic activity produces some degree of waste and resource use no matter how efficient the activity begins. This suggests that there are ecological limits to growth. Some scientists believe we exceeded those limits back in the 1970s, when the population was just over half of what it is today.”

Boik writes that he believes that if “economic expansion causes excessive harm, entire ecological systems might collapse, which could force the economy to shrink to zero.”

Boik cites the concerns many scientists have expressed about the ocean, as Boik puts it, “moving into a phase of extinction due to human-induced over fishing, pollution and climate change.”

Under Boik’s sustained societies approach, a local economy would not have to expand but yet could be vibrant, he said.

Boik also shares the concerns of many about the increased disparities in wealth and income in America. Boik states that the American distribution of income and wealth are “the most extreme of all developed countries and cites data to support that. The present economic system “rewards greed,” and through that, he said, “we end up with a society with self interest and greed.” He added that “the middle class is the engine of our economy,” referring to the erosion of the middle class’s standard of living.

His concept, he said, would include the motivation of people wanting to benefit the community overall. “Society is about cooperation,” he said,” noting that the E pluribus unum phrase found on many American coins, and on the American great seal, is Latin for Out of many, one.” It means, Boik said, to help one another and that he believes the new system he is suggesting would make that easier.

While Boik’s total concept would be new for Princeton, he points out in his book the various forms of currency used in various parts of the country alongside regular currency. Even chamber of commerces have used a type of promotional currency at times. One example is the “chamber dollars” that the Princeton Area Chamber of Commerce has given as prizes in competitions. Chamber dollars could only be spent at participating chamber businesses.

Boik suggests that if there is ever a time to try bold, new approaches for remedying problems in what he calls the global society, is is now.

Boik calls this time in history the age of transformation, which he deescribes as a period of struggle and change and hte confluence of “three profound historic trends: 1. loss of confendence in institutions, be they economic, financial or political; 2. high population growth resource depletion and global ecological damage; 3. an exponential expansion of technology.”

Boik’s approach is to work at the local level and he says in his book that if implemented, it “would be the world’s first comprehensive Internet project aimed at a fundamental transformation of society.

“Think of it as components of Facebook, Kiva, Quicken, RocketHub, KickStarter, LendingClub, MindTools, Groupon, LinkedIn, Innocentive and more, all integrated into a single application developed and managed by users.

“It’s purpose,” Boik continues, “is to stimulate local economies, demonstrate direct democracy and maximize the common good. In short, it is the maturing of social media into a powerful, user created, agent of change.”

(Creating Sustainable Societies was published in June this year by SiteForChange, Irvine, Calif.)