Category Archives: Basic Concepts

Newsletter – October 2013

In this issue

  • Changes
  • European tour reportPart 1, the Hague Conference

It’s been quite a while since my last newsletter went out in early June. Since then, a great deal has been accomplished. My European tour, which spanned nine weeks from mid-June to the latter part of August, was successful, productive, exciting, and I might add, exhausting. I’ll say more about that below, but most recently, I provided a remote presentation (via Skype) to a group assembled at Kalikalos on Mt Pelion in Greece as part of the week-long workshop titled Occupy Money. Then, toward the end of September, I participated in the 34th Annual International Convention of the International Reciprocal Trade Association (IRTA) in Las Vegas where I shared the podium with Annette Riggs and Rob van Hilten in a panel session about Understanding Diverse Exchange System Models: From Bitcoin and Berkshares, to Transparent Credit Clearing Networks. Unfortunately, that session was not recorded, but the slides that I prepared as talking points can be seen here. Needless to say it was not possible to cover them all in the short time provided.

Upon my return to Arizona from Europe I had to begin searching for another residence, since the house where I had been renting a room is no longer available. I’ve just moved into another shared housing arrangement which I hope will turn out to be suitable, at least temporarily.

This uprooting, combined with the let-down that followed the summer’s excitement, has caused me to deeply ponder the questions, What’s next? and Where do I want to be? While my energy level is not what it once was, I still enjoy relatively good health and am able to adapt to different environments so long as they provide a reasonable level of comfort for living and working. I’m growing impatient to hear opportunity’s knock, still hoping to involve myself in a breakthrough project that is adequately funded, with an able and energetic team that can achieve results that are on a par with the best business start-ups.

European Tour Report—Part 1, June, 2013

The first 4 weeks of my tour were a whirlwind of presentations, workshops, interviews and discussions. I’ll skip the details and report only the highlights, starting with the Hague conference, then report on the rest of the tour in my next newsletter.

The Netherlands and 2nd International Conference on Complementary Currency Systems (CCS)

It was a great pleasure to again visit (for the third time) STRO in Utrecht and to discuss with Henk van Arkel and the STRO team our various projects and common interests. STRO, with projects in several countries, is one of the most effective organizations working in the area of sustainable economics, community empowerment, and exchange alternatives. Together with Time/bank The Hague, they sponsored my first tour presentation (on June 18) for practitioners and social entrepreneurs. My slide show was titled The Exchange Revolution: Taking complementary currencies and moneyless trading to a new level, which described the various issues that must be considered in creating and managing alternative exchange mechanisms.

The CCS Conference in Den Hague far exceeded my original high expectations. I’m very encouraged and inspired by the quality of the presentations and discussion sessions that occurred during the entire 5 days of the conference. It seems that the movement has reached a new high level of competence and increasing cohesion, and seems poised to achieve significant results in both the theory and practice of community empowerment through the creation of systems for providing local liquidity. That, of course, is a prerequisite to transcending the growth imperative and transitioning to a steady-state economy. I expect that progress will be very rapid from this point onward.

Presentations, documents, and interviews from the Academic portion (June 19 and 20) of the Conference are available toward the bottom of this link. You will find what I think is a pretty good interview with me here, and brief video interviews of 27 presenters from Day 3 (policy makers day) can be found on the YouTube channel of Qoin. More video recordings by Hagen Schmidt of some of the sessions are to be found at this link.

As usual, I took many photos to document my travels and events. The pictures of the Netherlands portion of the tour can be found at this link.

Practitioner Sessions

Among the practitioner sessions that I participated in during the final two days of the conference were the following.

* Intertrading. One of the two discussion groups I proposed in the “open space” was about networking credit clearing exchanges together and development of the necessary intertrading protocols. We had quite a lively and productive discussion, which has become an ongoing process since Sebastiano Scrofina set up a Google group for that purpose. If you want to view the posts or join the discussion, go to this link.

* Measures of value and Units of account. Another session I lead was about measures of value and units of account. This also resulted in a lively discussion. Thanks to Zsuzsanna Szalay, we have a voice recording made with a digital recorder. You can download the file from this link.

* Business Models for Complementary Currencies. Daniel Neis provided input for a session on business models. Pertinent links are provided in his post to a Google group which he has started for discussion on that topic. You can read it, and join the conversation by going to this link.

As a side note, it always amazes me to see how effectively the DutchIMG_2753 deal with personal transportation. Besides having a very efficient network of trains, trams, and buses, their use of bicycles exceeds that of any other people I’ve visited, even urban Chinese. They make bike travel safe and convenient by providing many bike “roads” that keep bike traffic IMG_2754physically separated from motor vehicle traffic, and by providing huge amounts of space for bike parking at train stations and other locations.

I hope you are all enjoying the cooler Fall weather.

Thomas

Understanding the “big picture” of change

The past several decades have seen the emergence of diverse movements that seek to address specific problems and provide general improvements to society. Environmentalists have been trying to stop pollution, climate change and resource depletion; civil libertarians seek to stop the abuse of basic human rights and the erosion of democratic institutions; humanitarians are trying to end hunger, disease, and degrading treatment like human trafficking, genital mutilation and genocide, to name a few.  And yet, the juggernaut rolls on, destroying more forests, polluting more water, concentrating more power and wealth in fewer hands. The need for change is obviously becoming more urgent, but why isn’t it happening?

This latest post by Tom Atlee helps to frame both the fundamental problem and broad approaches to transformation. Please give it your careful attention– then take appropriate action.

Surveillance and parasitism harm society’s collective intelligence

New video describes “A flaw in the monetary system”

This is an excellent video–clear, concise and accurate. If you want to understand why we have recurrent financial crises, dire want amidst plenty, and why debts keep growing faster than ability to pay them, this is a great place to start.–t.h.g.

“The new film ‘A Flaw in the Monetary System?’ depicts in 7 ½ minutes consequences of interest and compound interest in the financial world in descriptive graphics. It illustrates the systematic redistribution of money from the majority to the wealthy.”

See it here: https://vimeo.com/71074210

 

Milestones in Moneyless Exchange

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I often compare the evolution of exchange alternatives to the development of aviation. Just as many early attempts to fly were clumsy and poorly informed by good science, so too have been many early attempts to create private and community currencies. But much has been learned over the past three decades, and conditions are ripe for major advances in our ability to rise above antiquated and dysfunctional means of  payment. My role is to guide the design and implementation of community based currencies and trade exchanges that enable general prosperity and a stable and sustainable economy.

During my upcoming tour of Europe I will be speaking about the power of community currencies and mutual credit, and consulting with communities on doing good things where they are.

With still two weeks to go, our Crowdfunding campaign is now more than halfway toward our goal. Thanks for your support, and please help spread the word. Our campaign site is http://igg.me/at/tomstour/x/31801.

Do Banks Create Money out of Nothing?

One of my correspondents recently referred me to an article and asked for my opinion about it. The article is Creating Money out of Nothing: The History of an Idea, by Mike King, dated April 2012 .

I read the abstract, the conclusions, and part of the body text, but could not bring myself to make a detailed read. “The history of an idea” is not relevant to my interests nor to the debt crisis that plagues civilization. Verbose and tedious, it seems to be an academic exercise that I doubt  will be of interest even to historians.

On the positive side, it did prompt me to write a few words of clarification on the question, words that I think are both pertinent and helpful to those who truly wish to understand the nature of money and the role of banks in today’s world.

The accusation that banks create money out of nothing has, according to King, been made by many famous economists, including Schumpeter, von Mises, and Keynes. I too must admit to having once or twice used that statement as a sort of shorthand criticism of the global money and banking system.

It is surely true that saying that banks make “money out of nothing” is an exaggeration that can be misleading to the uninitiated.

Bank actually create money out of something. The question is, what is that something, and what is wrong with it?

The short answer is that banks create money on the basis of the promises of their borrowers to repay.

Mr. King would have us believe that banks simply take in money from savers and lend it out to borrowers. That is clearly wrong. Even the Federal Reserve, in its own publications, says that,

The actual process of money creation takes place primarily in banks.(1) As noted earlier, checkable liabilities of banks are money. These liabilities are customers’ accounts. They increase when customers deposit currency and checks and when the proceeds of loans made by the banks are credited to borrowers’ accounts.

In the absence of legal reserve requirements, banks can build up deposits by increasing loans and investments so long as they keep enough currency on hand to redeem whatever amounts the holders of deposits want to convert into currency. This unique attribute of the banking business was discovered many centuries ago.–Modern Money Mechanics

As I’ve pointed out in all of my books, banks serve two primary functions. They act as both depositories, reallocating funds from savers to borrowers, and banks of issue that monetize the promises of their borrowers. I’ve explained that in detail in Chapter 1 of my book, Money: Understanding and Creating Alternatives to Legal Tender, and in Chapter 9 of my latest book, The End of Money and the Future of Civilization.

But not all promises provide a proper basis for creating money. As Edward Popp, describes it, banks create both bona-fide and non-bona-fide money. (See Money, Bona Fide or Non-Bona Fide at http://www.reinventingmoney.com/documents/bonafidePopp.pdf).

The vast majority of the non-bona-fide money that banks create, is created on the basis of loans made to national governments (when banks buy government bonds). Further large amounts of non-bona-fide money are created when banks make loans to finance purchases of consumer goods and real estate (see my books for details). This is a violation of the principle that money should be created on the basis of goods and services on the market or soon to arrive there, which includes promises of established producers who are ready, willing and able to sell for money the things they ordinarily offer.

The bottom line remains: the present global, interest-based, debt-money system, is dysfunctional and destructive.

The creation of money on the basis of interest-bearing loans is the cause of the growth imperative, and the creation of non-bona-fide money is the cause of inflation.

If we are to achieve a sustainable society and assure the survival of civilization, we must transcend the present money and banking paradigm and reinvent the exchange process.  – t.h.g.

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Developing a framework for an equitable, harmonious and sustainable global society

The current global mega-crisis is forcing us to confront the flaws and inconsistencies inherent in the present dominant structures of economics, money, and finance. As a result, we have before us a great opportunity to open up a conversation that admits to consideration ideas and proposals that may have heretofore be rejected out of hand as radical, impractical, or utopian, ideas like those put forth by Mahatma Gandhi three quarters of a century ago.

My good friend and scholar, Rajni Bakshi, has recently articulated that possibility and those ideas in her article, Civilizational Gandhi. You can download the full article here. I also recommend her article, Replacing Keynes With Gandhi.

Ms. Bakshi is the Gandhi Peace Fellow at Gateway House: Indian Council on Global Relations based in Mumbai, India.

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The Rev. Billy and his Church of Stop Shopping–a Terrorist Organization?

According to the Mud Report, the FBI has declared that The Church of Stop Shopping to be a terrorist network. Of course, as their sources of money and credit dry up, the majority of people will have no choice about it, but to advocate that they stop shopping prematurely could upset the plans of the global elite. We cannot allow that can we?

Counting the Cost – Money for nothing

Tarek El Diwany and Jem Bendell have done a great job in this Al Jazeera interview program explaining the dysfunctional features that are built into the corrupt global system of money and banking. They also cover Islamic banking and mutual credit clearing. This is a “must watch” video.—t.h.g.

E. C. Riegel’s Money Quiz and the True Money System

How many people in the world really understand money—its essence, its purpose, its proper management, its potential either to free us or enslave us? Sadly the number is close to nil as Riegel discovered decades ago, an opinion that was shared by renowned monetary economist Irving Fisher of Yale University. According to Riegel, Prof. Fisher, in a public speech “indicated that most persons who undertook to discuss money did not understand the subject and that those ‘who understood the real meaning of money’ were very few.” That was sometime in the mid-1930s, but it seems that the same situation still prevails today.

A little later, Riegel wrote a letter asking Fisher to specify whom those few might be, to which Fisher responded with a list of ten names, along with the caveat that the list was by no means exhaustive, and that there were probably several other of which he (Fisher) was unaware.

Next, Riegel, under the banner of the Consumer Guild of America, prepared a questionnaire which he sent out to the ten “experts” that Fisher had named. Riegel then published, in 1935, the results of his survey in a book titled, The Meaning of Money. I’m not aware of the existence of any digital file of that book, but there are a few bound volumes and photocopies still available.

My intention here is not to review or summarize that book, but simply to provide some background showing Riegel’s diligent research of the subject and to set the stage for presenting some of his eventual conclusions.

Riegel died in 1953, but part of the vast legacy he left behind is a one page document that bears the heading, Are These Propositions Correct? This document bears no date, but was probably written late in his life, and seems to be a concise summary of what he discovered and came to believe as result of his many decades of research and cogitation in the areas of money and the exchange process. I have transcribed that document, and present it below for your consideration.

Are These Propositions Correct?

  1. Money is a means of facilitating trade by splitting transactions in halves, giving the buyer value and the seller a claim for equivalent value upon any one or more traders in the community of traders.
  2. The issuance of money arises out of a purchase and sale transaction requiring tender and acceptance. Therefore, it is a bi-lateral function that can be exerted only by a buyer and a seller and there can be no money issue on behalf of another. Therefore governments cannot issue money on behalf of their constituency.
  3. Implicit in the act of issue is the agreement of the issuer (in common with all others in the trading community) to accept the issue in exchange for value when tendered. Therefore, only one who is prepared to accept money in exchange for value, when tendered, is qualified to be a money issuer and all persons so qualified to accept are ipso facto qualified to issue. Thus the power to issue is inherent in all traders.
  4. Money circulation is a cycle wherein the money passes from issuer to acceptor and from acceptor to acceptor until finally accepted by the issuer and thus retired. The money system is therefore a bookkeeping system whereunder money springs from a debit and is retired by an offsetting credit. The instrument evidencing the bookkeeping process need have no intrinsic value.
  5. Money is actually backed by the value surrendered by the seller and potentially backed by the value in possession of the next seller. Therefore, all “reserves” such as precious metals or other values are purely gratuitous and irrelevant.

Conclusion

If the above propositions are correct, we must conclude that a true money system, not only may, but must be established as an integral part of the private enterprise system and the issuing power must be denied to all except private enterprisers, the exclusion to include all governments and non-profit institutions. The true money system must be based upon voluntary cooperation of the participants. Therefore no legislative or political action is required. Therefore, without political sponsorship or boundaries, the true money system is potentially universal and uniting all traders with one monetary language.

Sometimes Riegel’s statements require clarification and elaboration, which I have done in some of my own writings, and there are a (very) few points on which I disagree. But Riegel has given us here a clear view into the simple essence of money and the true nature of the exchange process, providing the material we need for building a solid foundation upon which economic democracy can be erected. –t.h.g.

What and whom do we really depend upon?

 Tom Atlee’s recent article (excerpted below) is a BRILLIANT statement of both truth and necessity. I believe that sharing, cooperation, and restructuring are now gaining speed. The impending disintegration of the money/banking/finance sector will force us to “take off” soon. Let’s hope that we can generate enough “lift” before we run out of runway.–t.h.g.

Emerging EcoNomics #3: The New Sharing Economy

One of the key features of “the new economy” is sharing.  More and more people are sharing housing, cars, bikes, tools, meals, skills, money, books, ideas, music, energy, recreation, projects, transportation, knowledge, problem-solving, visions, jobs, ownership, clothes, stories, time…

Sharing is a resource in hard times as well as a source of intrinsic meaning and satisfaction any time.  To an increasing number of people, sharing offers compelling alternatives to the corporate-dominated money-saturated whole-society bustle we normally think of as “the economy”.

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The existing economy is designed to get us to look out for ourselves so that we’ll consume, compete and work at paying jobs.  It nurtures the illusion that we are independent, building lives for ourselves in a world where everyone else is out for themselves, too.  Closer examination, however, suggests that such independence is largely a myth, a well-promoted appearance obscuring our profound dependence on the competitive buy-and-sell economy which, in turn, conceals our dependence on nature, culture, and each other.

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In the existing economy we experience obligations not primarily to our neighbors, our communities or the natural world that supports everything we do.  We experience obligation to our employers, to governments, and to banks, credit card companies, and other institutions of higher lending.

This entrenched economic dependence hides the fact that we are fundamentally INTERDEPENDENT:  We need each other.  We are intimately connected to intricately interdependent natural world.  And we are co-creating the conditions of our lives and the prospects for our future, whether we know it or not.

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…. Once we become grounded in quality of life rather than quantities of stuff or money, the possibilities for sharing expand exponentially, creating a sense of abundance even in the presence of some physical scarcity.

Whether or not we are inclined to share more with each other, one thing we all share nowadays is destiny.

Read the rest of the article…