Introduction to The Tollan Letters
Letter 1
Letter 2
Letter 3
Letter 4
Letter 5
Letter 6
The Tollan Letters Epilogue
The introduction of the Tollan Letters briefly identifies the vulnerabilities of the present-day economic system: structures that date back to medieval times, the fallacy of a rags-to-riches mentality, the irresistible lure of financial sector jobs, and the unfinished work of the Founding Fathers. Most important, the reason government alone cannot solve our problems is explained.
Unchecked (and unregulated) speculation. Off-book investments. Company sell-offs. Creating a debtor nation. The mindless pursuit of paper wealth through a myriad of schemes and short-sighted strategies has produced an economic crisis that is unfortunately all too real. Rather than take responsibility for the situation, its creators are blaming their victims: the unemployed, underemployed, and hopelessly in debt. In Economic Meltdown, the true culprits of the financial crisis are revealed.
Letter 2, written in response to a September 27, 2008 New York Times editorial by Thomas L. Friedman (Green the Bailout), describes the economy based on securities trading as “counterfeit” and asserts that an economy based on true production is the only way to ensure sustainability and wealth creation. The concept of true economic democracy—where people-votes rather than dollar-votes control – is introduced along with a list of places where models of economic democracy can be found.
For years, capitalism and democracy have been linked together, to the point that most assume capitalism is THE economic system of democracy. The careful examination of capitalism in Letter 3 demonstrates that the opposite is true: the roots of capitalism and its practices can be traced back to feudal times. Not only does this explain the lack of control sensed by the American worker, it also explains the ambivalence the rest of the world feels toward America as it attempts to spread “democracy” through capitalism.
The work of the Founding Fathers, in creating a government of checks and balances, was incomplete, and they knew it. Wanting to practice the free enterprise espoused by Adam Smith, they drew on historic models to create a political republic. However, no model existed for an economic democracy, so the feudalistic economic structures in existence filled the void. While there are checks and balances in government to provide opportunity and access for all, no such checks and balances exist in the economic system to provide universal opportunity and access. The dream of the Founding Father still awaits fulfillment after more than 200 years.
Letter 5 distinguishes financial capital from productive capital and explains how our current economic system devalues productive capital (accounting practices relegate much of it to the “expense” category) and overvalues financial capital (as of an investment of money alone creates goods and services). This imbalance between productive and financial capitals has led to 10 government bailouts since 1982 and the rapid transfer of wealth from the middle class to the upper 1% in America. Once these two forms of capital are balanced, then economic equality will follow.
History has shown that regions thrive or languish based on their ability to replace imports purchased from other regions with local production. Through import replacements, innovations and new technologies arise that can be exported and bring in new wealth. Letter 6 demonstrates how this process is vulnerable when ownership of both the productive and financial capital created in this process is controlled by a handful rather than by the community; production can be moved to cheaper labor markets and money siphoned away to other regions. However, communities can reduce or eliminate this vulnerability by implementing alternative financial structures to create an economic democracy.
We need not resign ourselves to the status quo. The capacity to chart a new course is within our power; all we need do is tap into successful models already working and thriving both here and in other parts of the world. That is the goal of the What Works Project. Join us.
Download all the Tollan Letters
Letter 1: Economic Meltdown
Letter 2: The Real Conversation
Letter 3: Democracy & Capitalism
Letter 4: Unfinished Work
Letter 5: Balance of Capital

Letter 6: A Future Worth Working For
Tollan Letters Epilogue