Newsletter – January 2016

My upcoming course, Exchange and Finance for the New Economy: Principles and Practice.

LEARN    *    WORK    *    PLAY

Come to Greece next summer to participate in my week-long course

View from Alexandros

View from Alexandros

in innovative finance, exchange, and economics, and collaborate with like minded peers to create a new economy that works for everyone, while enjoying a delightful summer holiday on the magical Pelion peninsula.

This course is designed especially for social entrepreneurs, enthusiastic agents of change, local government officials, and serious students who are eager to co-create a new sustainable and convivial economy from the bottom up. In this highly participatory workshop, we will use a combination of presentations, discussion groups (some on the beach), videos, and simulation games, to dive deeply into the process of exploring and developing innovative methods of finance and exchange, like community currencies and credit clearing exchanges.

Our venue is the beautiful, modern and comfortable Hotel Alexandros, a calm and serene retreat center perched on the hillside overlooking the Aegean Sea within walking distance to the pristine Plaka beach and the clear waters of the Mediterranean.

Course fees are extremely affordable but a few fee concessions may be a available for qualified low income participants.

The course runs from June 24 thru July 1. Course description and registration form can be found at http://www.kalikalos.org/exchange-finance. Space is limited so register early.
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The Big Short and other revealing sources

If you have not seen the movie The Big Short, I encourage you to do so. It is based on the book by Michael Lewis, a former Wall Street insider with an unusual talent for telling a good story and making complicated things understandable. In this book and others of his that I’ve read (Boomerang and Flash Boys), Lewis does a superb job of describing Wall Street corruption and providing important insights about our dysfunctional systems of money, banking and finance.

I also recommend the new book, Healing Capitalism, by my friend Prof. Jem Bendell. The printed book is priced for the academic market (pricey) but the digital format is much more reasonable. In the introduction, which you can read for free, Bendell quotes E. C. Riegel: “we need not petition Congress and we need not waste time to denounce bankers, for they can neither help nor hinder our natural right to extend credit to each other, and this is the perfect basis for a money system.” You can download the Introduction here, and links to free downloads of Riegel’s works can be found at http://reinventingmoney.com/library/.
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In Memoriam

On a personal note, it is in sadness that I report the passing of my dear sister, my only sibling, Mary Lillian (we always called her Marylil) on the second day of the new year. Marylil was a genuinely nice person who was loved by everyone who knew her. Her absence is deeply felt.

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Solar Dollars: How to promote renewable energy by providing local liquidity

Solar Dollars: How to promote renewable energy by providing local liquidity
A concept paper by Thomas H. Greco, Jr.  Sept. 23, 2013 (rev. Dec. 13, 2015)

Preamble

In good times and bad, local economies find themselves short of liquidity. Communities always find that, to some degree or other, there is unused business capacity alongside unmet consumer needs. What is lacking is sufficient money circulating in the community to connect these unmet needs with the unused supplies. This situation derives from our banking system that is increasingly centralized and reluctant to provide credit to local businesses, especially the small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that are the backbone of every economy. If and when banks do provide credit, it is on onerous terms, including high interest rates, burdensome repayment schedules, and the demand for collateral assets to secure the loans.

The defects and instabilities inherent in our system of money and banking increasingly appear to be insoluble. In the credit expansion phase, banks create asset price bubbles based on government guarantees, subsidies, or the expectation of government bailouts when the loans go bad; then, in the contraction phase, they become risk averse, choosing to invest in “safe” government securities rather than financing the legitimate needs of businesses in their communities, especially SMEs.

At the same time, industrialization and population growth are causing other problems including despoliation of the natural environment and climate destabilization. It is clearly desirable to shift our energy production from fossil fuels to renewable sources but the incentives for doing that have not been adequate to propel this shift quickly enough to stave off severe environmental, economic, and political consequences.

Solar Dollars (SD) are intended to address both of these problems simultaneously. SD can provide liquidity to the local economy while at the same time providing a strong incentive for energy providers to shift from fossil fuels to energy from renewable sources.

Q1. What are Solar Dollars (SD)?
A1. Solar Dollars are currency vouchers that are issued into circulation by a local Electric Power Company in some limited proportion to the annual amount of energy from renewable sources that the company is selling to its customers.

Q2. How are  Solar Dollars issued into circulation?
A2. Solar Dollars are spent into circulation by the utility as payment to suppliers and employees who are willing to accept them as partial payment for the goods and services they have rendered to the company.

Q3. Why would suppliers and employees want to accept SD instead of taking all that is owed to them in US dollars. What makes Solar Dollars valuable?
A3. SD are valuable because the company stands ready, willing, and able at all times to accept SD back as payment for the electric services it provides, or for any other payment owed to the company. SDs represent credit obligations of the issuing company that are solidly backed by the energy that it produces and/or sells.

Q4. What’s the point? What can be accomplished by such a project.
A4. There are several advantages that derive from a project of this sort, including the following:
1. Financial and Economic Benefits
*  Vouchers, such as SD, that are spent into circulation provide an interest-free source of working capital to the issuing company. As such, they provide significant savings over the interest costs on bank loans.
*  Vouchers spent into circulation by a trusted entity such as a local utility company provide the local community with home-grown liquidity, i.e., a supplemental means of payment that is independent of the monetary policies of banks and central government, providing the community with a greater measure of self-determination and making the local economy more resilient.
*  Vouchers, such as SD, that are spent into circulation by a trusted issuer can change hands many times between their issuance and their redemption, thus stimulating local business.
*  Home-grown liquidity based on the production of real goods and services provides sound exchange media that stays local and encourages local economic development. Locally issued currency vouchers, by their nature, stimulate local production and prosperity because they tend to stay within the community, and even if they do range more widely, must ultimately come back home to be redeemed by the issuer when accepted as payment for utility bills.

2. Environmental Benefits
*  Anyone who is concerned about problems like global warming, pollution, depletion of fossil fuels, the ill effects of resource extraction like fracking and offshore drilling, will want to encourage a shift to renewable energy sources. Accepting the company’s own solar energy vouchers as payment will provide that encouragement and help move the company toward the goal of providing more of its energy from renewable sources. The more renewable energy the company produces or distributes, the more Solar Dollars it will be allowed to issue, providing it with a greater amount of interest-free credit.

3. Public Relations, Publicity, and Image
*  There has been for some time a great and growing amount of media interest in stories about community currencies, local self-help initiatives, green energy, and alternative finance. This innovative project can provide a tremendous image boost to the utility company, the municipality, and the state, and establish the region as a hub of creativity and innovation. As the significant benefits of the project become apparent, all the involved entities will gain in prestige, and other communities will follow its lead.

4. Educational Benefits
*  A private local currency that is spent into circulation by some trusted issuer like an electric utility is an important step in promulgating new memes and weaning the public away from their illusions about political currencies, like the U.S. dollar, as the only way to pay bills or settle accounts.

Q5. What form will Solar Dollars take?
A5. We’re talking about using the credit of the local utility to provide local liquidity. That can manifest in a variety of forms: Paper vouchers or coupons, stored value cards, prepaid debit cards, or ledger credits that can be accessed with cards and point of sale card readers, or via mobile phones. There are advantages and disadvantages to each of these and it will probably be advantageous to use some combination of these forms depending on the local availability and cost of the required technologies.
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Technical note

The essence of a currency, its form of manifestation, and methods of transmittal are three separate things. This point must be thoroughly understood by anyone who contemplates the issuance of a currency.

The essence of a currency is credit, it is the issuer’s i.o.u. or promise to reciprocate, i.e. to provide real value and accept his currency back as payment for whatever products or services he sells.

A currency can manifest as a paper note, a number in a ledger (written or computerized), a smart card balance, etc.

It can be transmitted hand to hand or electronically.

Of course, the same concept that has been articulated above for SD issuance could be applied to monetizing ANY locally produced goods or services, like locally grown organic farm produce, that we wish to promote and are in general demand.
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Banks create money by making “loans”

Here’s a short and sweet video that reports on court case (Daly v First National Bank of Montgomery) in which it was clearly shown how banks create money by making loans, and the illegitimacy of that process.

And if you are facing foreclosure on your mortgage, the three magic words that might forestall the action are “produce the note.” This Fox news report explains it.

2015 Fall Newsletter

In this edition

  • Back in the USA
  • My latest article: 50 Ways to Leave the Euro: Greece and the Global Crisis
  • Raising the debt ceiling—again…, and again…, and..!
  • Seizing an Alternative—conference recordings
  • Homage to Peter Etherden
  • The case of Iceland – Is democracy more important than financial markets
  • Gates Foundation chooses Cyclos for E-pay Innovation Award

Back in the USA

I’ve been back in Tucson since early October, resting and recuperating from five months of travel and an exhausting summer tour of Europe. I’m corresponding, writing, advising and waiting to see what new opportunities might present themselves.

My tour of Europe included presentations, interviews, and/or workshops in Greece, Italy, and Ireland. As recordings of my presentations become available, I will be posting them on my website http://beyondmoney.net/. So far I’ve posted interviews from Athens and Sardinia, and the slide show from the workshop I conducted in Athens. The audio of my August 28 Dublin presentation, The Liberation of Money and Credit, can be heard at https://soundcloud.com/flanagankev/thomas-greco-dublin-august-28-2015.

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My latest article

Common Dreams has just published my latest article, 50 Ways to Leave the Euro: Greece and the Global Crisis. In this article I provide my prescriptions for how Greece (and other countries) might relieve their impossible debt burden, and I describe ways in which domestic liquidity can be created apart from the euro regime and without inflation. You can read it here. I’ve also posted it on my website as a PDF file.

As an aside, in addition to Greece’s economic and financial problems, the country has been overwhelmed by a flood of refugees and migrants. It is reported that more than a half million have arrived on Greek islands just in the past 10 months. This refugee crisis that is now threatening all of Europe is a direct result of the destabilizing actions by the Western powers attempting over the past several years to reshape the politics of the Middle-east and North Africa. Their agenda goes way beyond oil, but few people are paying any attention. Former Reagan administration official Paul Craig Roberts is one of many sources that provide deeper insights, for example in his article, The Re-enserfment of Western Peoples.

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Raising the debt ceiling—again…, and again…, and..!

Every few years the U.S. Congress goes through the charade of debating whether or not to raise the limit on the government debt. In the end they always do. According to Wikipedia, “the US has raised its debt ceiling (in some form or other) at least 90 times in the 20th century.[11] The debt ceiling has been raised 74 times since March 1962,[12] including 18 times under Ronald Reagan, eight times under Bill Clinton, seven times under George W. Bush, and five times under Barack Obama.”

Why continue the pretense that there is any choice about it? Why can’t the government balance its budget and why does the national debt keep increasing? The real answer, which I wrote a quarter century ago, will probably surprise you. To learn what it is, see my recent post at http://beyondmoney.net/2015/10/15/why-cant-governments-balance-their-budgets/.

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Seizing an Alternative—conference recordings

Recordings made at last June’s Seizing an Alternative conference at Pomona College are being compiled and made available at the Pando Populus website. These include several sessions from Track 6: Political Collapse in which I participated.

Session 1 featured presentations by John B. Cobb, Jr., Ellen Brown, and Thomas Greco. In this recording, John Cobb’s introduction is followed by Ellen Brown’s presentation (starting at minute 6:45) and Thomas Greco’s (starting at minute 22:24 and ending at minute 44:15). A Q&A session runs from minute 44:15 to the end. In my portion I provide a brief overview of private currencies and exchange systems and present some of my early prescriptions for addressing the Greek debt crisis.

Session 7 featured presentations by Ellen Brown, Thomas Greco, and Kevin Clark. My presentation begins at minute 27:18 and ends at minute 54:30. In it I answer the fundamental questions about money and the exchange process, and how to reclaim the credit commons. _______________________________________________

Homage to Peter Etherden

I was very sad to learn recently that Peter Etherden has passed away. Peter was one of my very good friends with whom I always enjoyed visiting and discussing our mutual interests. I’m glad that 2169889106PEI got to see him a few weeks ago in London just prior to my return to the U.S.

I first met Peter in 1986 in Zurich where we both attended the Fourth World Assembly that was organized by John Papworth. Over the subsequent years we corresponded regularly and we were able to meet several times during my visits to England. One of my fondest memories is of my visit in 2002 when he and his partner Connie lived aboard their boat in Rye harbor. During that visit the three of us sailed across the English Channel to Bologne where we spent a few days at mooring in the harbor. I also recall 2001 when my then partner Donna and I visited Rye and the four of us went off to explore Devon and Cornwall, a very beautiful part of Britain.

Peter was a diligent researcher and prolific writer whose interests were wide ranging. He will be greatly missed. Many of his research compilations and his writings under various pen names can be found at http://www.cesc.net/.

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The case of Iceland – Is democracy more important than financial markets?

In his 2012 CBC interview, the President of Iceland very articulately describes the situation as it played out in his country during the global financial crisis that began in 2008. He describes the ways in which the failure of Icelandic banks was handled, the strong reaction from the British and Dutch governments, the reasons behind his government’s actions, and what really is at stake, not only for Iceland but for every country in the world. See it at https://youtu.be/7zlzC_X MQzI.

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Gates Foundation chooses Cyclos for E-pay Innovation Award

In case you missed the news, as I did, the Social TRade Organisation (STRO) last year was chosen by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to receive the prestigious E-pay Innovation Award for its Cyclos secure payments platform. Cyclos was chosen to receive the award over 9 other contenders from around the world. The $50,000 award was given at a ceremony at the annual conference of the Electronic Transactions Association in Las Vegas.

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Finally, as Thanksgiving day in the U.S. approaches, I’m reminded of how blessed my life has been. It is in the spirit of gratitude that I thank you for your support and wish you all a happy holiday season.

Thomas

50 ways to leave the Euro: Greece and the global crisis

My two month visit to Greece last summer prompted me to develop some proposals that might be applied in Greece and other countries where the government has become insolvent. I’ve written these up in an article that was recently published in the online journal, Common Dreams.  You can read it there or here below. It was also republished on Resilience and can be found there.

50 ways to leave the Euro: Greece and the global crisis
By Thomas H. Greco, Jr.

The problem is all inside your head, I told the Greeks
The answer is easy, you need only stop the leaks
The power is yours to claim the freedom that you seek
There must be fifty ways to leave the Euro
(Apologies to Simon and Garfunkel)

Following the resounding “NO” vote by the Greek people on the bailout conditions in the July referendum, the negotiations between the Greek government and “the institutions” resumed with the expectation that a better deal for Greece would ensue. The outcome was quite the contrary. Greek negotiators ended up agreeing to a bailout deal that was far more onerous than the one the voters had rejected. Why?

The harsh reality is that the Greek government is insolvent. Having been lured into the debt-trap and the shared euro currency by western oligarchs using a combination of measures, including outright fraud, Greece was forced to accept the onerous conditions attached to the first two bailouts. Now it has been bludgeoned into accepting a third. The weapon of choice is the euro currency itself which is being wielded by the European Central Bank (ECB). By throttling the flow of euro currency into the country, the ECB last summer created near chaos in the Greek economy. This, and the threat of even more severe punishment in the future, was enough to bring the Greek government to heel.

With sovereign debt up around 180% of GDP, there is no way that the Greek government will ever be able to grow its way out of the current mess. The draconian measures demanded by the creditor institutions will just make it worse. Even the IMF has acknowledged (with apparent reluctance) that some debt relief is necessary for the Greek economy to recover. The new agreement forces the Greek government to yield even more sovereignty and to open its economy and its people more fully to exploitation by corporate interests and transnational banking institutions. Read the entire article…

State of Texas passes bill to establish a gold depository bank

In a landslide vote Texas lawmakers approved (by a margin of 140 to 4 in the Texas House and 27 to 4 in the state Senate) a bill to establish a gold depository bank. The bill was signed into law in mid-June by Republican Governor Greg Abbott.

In this interview Texas State Representative Giovanni Capriglione, author of the bill explains how this new law came into being and what it does.

The full interview can be heard here.

This is a surprising turn of events that is reminiscent of the private NCBA (National Commodity and Barter Association), a gold depository that was harassed and finally put out of business by government thirty years ago.

This bank, if it ever comes into being under the aegis of the Texas state government, will not so easily be quashed by the feds, After all, you “don’t mess with Texas.” It could lead to a payment system that is independent of the Federal Reserve and provide depositors with some protection against the continuing inflation of the US dollar.

But the gold market is very much manipulated and controlled by the big holders, the various central banks and national governments around the world. It would be better to hold an assortment of basic commodities on deposit to better assure that depositors’ purchasing power will be maintained. Better yet, state governments should support the creation of credit clearing exchanges that enable buyers and sellers to trade with one another without using money at all but simply offset each trader’s payments for purchases against their receipts from sales. In that case, the commodity assortment need only be used to define a unit for denominating members’ account balances. This and other innovative approaches to exchange are all explained .in my books, especially The End of Money and the Future of Civilization, and in my various interviews and presentations on this website.

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Why Can’t Governments Balance Their Budgets?

This is a question I answered more than a quarter century ago in Part I of my book, Money and Debt: A Solution to the Global Crisis. It is a question that gets scant attention from politicians and economists who are willing to speak only about the need for perpetual economic growth and keeping the government debt at “manageable” levels, never asking why government debt is necessary or how it might be eliminated.

When I first undertook to answer this question, the debt crisis was already well underway and global in scope. Since then the situation has become more critical with debt levels reaching astronomical levels.USDebt&deficits

What I said in 1990 began with this:

The whole world today seems to be awash in a sea of debt which threatens to drown us all. Many Third World countries, despite their huge increases in production for export, are unable to pay even the interest due on their accumulated indebtedness to Western banks and governments. In the U. S., the levels of both public (government) and private debt are increasing at alarming rates. The Federal budget deficits of recent years far exceed anything thought possible just a decade ago. Why is this happening and why is it a problem? In order to understand that, one must first understand some financial facts of life.PublicDebt

Here are the essential points of my argument:

  1. Almost all of the money in every country is created by commercial banks when they make loans either to the private sector or to governments (by purchasing government bonds, notes, etc.),
  2. Money is extinguished when loan principal is repaid,
  3. The interest that banks charge on these loans causes the amount owed to grow as time passes,
  4. Causing the aggregate amount owed to banks to always exceed the supply of money in circulation,
  5. Requiring that banks make additional loans to keep the supply of money in circulation from falling behind the amounts needed for existing loans to be “serviced” (repayment of part of the principal plus the interest due) in order to avoid a cascade of defaults and economic depression,
  6. And that this “debt imperative” that is built into the global money system is the driver of the economic “growth imperative” that results in superfluous economic output and its attendant depletion of physical resources, despoliation of the environment, increasing disparities in income and wealth distribution, and many other problems that plague modern civilization.
  7. That physical limits to economic output on a finite planet make this money system unsustainable over the long term.
  8. That there are practical limits to the amount of debt that the private sector is able or willing to incur.
  9. That chronic government budget deficits are therefore a political expedient that is necessary to keep this flawed system from collapsing as governments assume the role of “borrower of last resort.”
  10. That politicians are quite willing that governments play this role since it gives them the power to take much more value out of the economy than the revenues available by means of overt taxation.
  11. That bankers, for their part, by monopolizing the allocation of credit in the economy and charging interest on it, are able to enrich themselves and exercise tremendous power over the political process making a sham of democratic government.

The empirical evidence strongly supports my analysis. You only need to look at charts showing the growth of debt over time to see it growing at an accelerating rate (geometrically), a pattern that reflects the compound interest function that is an inherent feature of our global political money system.

You can read my original 1989 exposition of these points at Money and Debt: a Solution to the Global Crisis, Part I, and their subsequent elaboration in my latest book, The End of Money and the Future of Civilization, http://beyondmoney.net/the-end-of-money-and-the-future-of-civilization/.

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