A conversation with Wouter Veer, entrepreneur, impact investor, founder of Lenteland, about inequality, impact investing, land ownership, unsustainability, Charles Eisenstein, and starting and funding a venture and a movement in the Netherlands.
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What would you do if the company you founded got sold and suddenly you find yourself not having to worry about your financial future at all? Wouter Veer asked himself the hard questions: Where did the money come from? What is enough? What would you do with the rest? And what do you want your legacy to look like?
OUR FINANCIAL SYSTEM IS AT THE CORE OF OUR ISSUES
Wouter argues that there are some big mistakes in the financial system. Money wasn’t designed or meant to accumulate wealth. The property of money has infected all other kinds of things. Today, we find it normal to possess something and to obtain benefits from it, or to be paid for that and accumulate something. For instance, if you own a lot of lands, and someone wants to use it, they should pay you rent. That’s a big mistake.
“I’ve been thinking about the financial system for a long time. And also because I made a lot of money from my company and it was always a bit strange to me to think about, what does it mean, what does this money mean? What does it mean when you have more wealth than you need?” – Wouter Veer
“And while one of my conclusion, after years of studying that , is that the two main problems in the world, I think, are inequality and unsustainability, and both find their origin in the financial system.” – Wouter Veer
“The root cause of every predicament we’re in is the financial system. So, also regenerative agriculture, and all the things we’re doing, it wouldn’t be this necessary if we wouldn’t have this capitalist economy that’s working on advertising and consumption and consuming more than we need… people are being forced in competition with each other, we need to win from each other or from the earth, that’s the only way you can survive in this capitalist game.” – Wouter Veer
WHY INTEREST IS THE ROOT CAUSE OF MOST ISSUES
Wouter argues that the root cause of the trouble is ‘interest’. If we had a money system where your money loses 5% each year, then the economy wouldn’t have to grow exponentially.
“I would loan you 1000 euros easily, and when you pay me back 1000 euros next year, it’s a good deal for me, because then I have more. So then you bring economy in line with ecology actually, and then also inequality becomes less and less, and unsustainability becomes less and less.” – Wouter Veer
“If I had a magic wand, I would change the property of money that’s called interest. Before there was money, all real assets in the world, they slowly become less valuable or you have to maintain them, and it costs a lot of money, or you have to guard them with a lot of money. But every real asset doesn’t increase in value. Yeah, maybe compared to the money system we have now, but in intrinsic value, everything decreases in value.” – Wouter Veer
PRIVATE LAND OWNERSHIP NEEDS TO BE FIXED
Many young people would want to start a CSA (community-supported agriculture) or go into farming, but they can only lease a small plot of land, and two years later, they get kicked out, so they never can start properly. They can only grow annual vegetables.
“The economic game, we’re all playing gives an advantage to the ones that are already in front. So then it’s easy to accumulate more. But going back to land, one of the aspects where you see, this is, of course, land ownership. And we find it so normal that land is privately owned.” – Wouter Veer
“The second seed was the realization that land ownership is a strange thing. And also, you know, of course, it’s you can’t go into farming if you’re not rich, or born in a farmer’s family.” – Wouter Veer
WHAT IS ENOUGH WHEN IT COMES TO MONEY?
Wouter asks questions around excess money and ways to invest it. What do you want with it? What is it, and how did you get it? And where did it come from? And why are you afraid to lose it? Why do you want to make more with something you never can spend? So the question is: do you want more money, or do you want more ecology?
“This brings me back to my thinking about the financial system and what do you do when you have too much money, and too much is not a light word. You know, you can simply calculate what you need for yourself, and maybe you want to give your kids a nice start in life. But everything above that… you can’t take it with you when you’re six feet under.” – Wouter Veer
“I’m just going to start, you know, buy a piece of land and just pay people to do the right thing there and then try to make a business around it, and see where they get you. And hopefully, you’re building something that adds value to the lives of the people around it. And then they will pay you for that.”- Wouter Veer
WHAT YOU CAN DO WHEN YOU SUDDENLY HAVE TOO MUCH MONEY
Wouter decided to start a new foundation, Lenteland, and donated 10 millions to it. At the same time he developed ideas about what they were going to do and how they were going to set up and run the farms, and find farmers for them.
“So, I was making plans for the new foundation and in the meantime, I was talking to all kinds of farmers and other initiatives and projects in Holland, that were doing something with regeneration, something with land ownership, something with small community farms, etc., and I was getting more enthusiastic after every appointment.” – Wouter Veer
“The company I sold in 2015 for the major part, I still had some loans and earnout arrangements there, and they got paid out in the end of 2020. And I thought, I don’t need this money. I’m going to put that all into this new foundation. And then we can start at least four of these projects. And not only one for myself.” – Wouter Veer
OTHER POINTS DISCUSSED:
Koen and Wouter also talked about
- Our legacy
- The future locally owned farms
- The big transitions that are coming towards us
- The conditions for an alternative currency to start
- Sacred Economics book by Charles Eisenstein
- John Liu documentary – Hope in a changing climate
- Charles Eisenstein – Money or ecology: investors have to make a choice on which master they serve
- Armin Steuernagel on how to keep a mission driven company independent and raise capital
- Thomas Rippel, checking in on land ownership, stable coins, pensions for farmers and city folks
- Thomas Rippel, using a blockchain to help Farmland Stewardship Organisations grow
- The role of the crowd in the transition finance for farmers
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The above references an opinion and is for information and educational purposes only. It is not intended to be investment advice. Seek a duly licensed professional for investment advice.
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