Category Archives: Basic Concepts

Beyond Money—Learning the basics of value exchange

We need to get beyond the confusions and obfuscations that surround the concept of money.

To do that we need to distinguish between what money is, i.e., its essence, and what money does, i.e., its functions. Conventional definitions of money, the ones that are universally taught in schools and universities, tell what money is supposed to do, not what it is.

The essence of money is credit. It is the issuer’s i.o.u. or promise to reciprocate, i.e. to provide real value to the market and accept his currency back as payment for it.

With that in mind, we can begin to make sense of money and effectively address the problems that arise from conventional forms of money.

Conventional thinking lists money as having these functions:

  • Medium of exchange—what we use to pay one another.
  • Store of value—what we use to save our temporary surplus.
  • Measure of value—what we use to quantify the market value of all the things that we buy and sell.

But, as I have argued for almost 30 years, these are separate and distinct functions that need to handled by distinct and different means. (For more about that see my book, Money and Debt: A Solution to the Global Crisis, Part III).

Let’s focus on the exchange function, for this is the fundamental and proper role of money, and this is where attempts to solve our global financial and economic problems must begin. Anyone who has studied my work will know that I have thoroughly articulated these concepts in my books and my various presentations. But theory and practice develop together, each informing the other, and finding ways to improve the process requires that we look at both.

Over the past several decades, numerous innovations in the exchange function have emerged, including virtual commodities like Bitcoin, LETS systems, community currencies, and commercial trade (“barter”) exchanges.

Of these, the greatest market success has been achieved by commercial trade exchanges which enable their member businesses to buy and sell without using conventional money. Rather, trading is enabled by using the members’ own credit in a process called credit clearing which simply offsets debits from purchases against credits from sales. (For a more complete description of how this works, see my book, The End of Money and the Future of Civilization, especially Chapter 10).

Over the past 40 years, much has been learned from the operation of commercial trade exchanges, and while they have achieved some modest levels of success, they have barely scratched the surface of the potential market for credit clearing services. It remains for exchanges system designs and procedures to be optimized and standardized and for local exchanges to be networked together into a vast moneyless marketplace.

The trade exchange industry has two trade associations that have been instrumental in helping practitioners to share information and in promoting standards and best practices. These are the International Reciprocal Trade Association (IRTA) and the National Association of Trade Exchanges (NATE). But over the past year a new voice, Bartertown Radio, has emerged that seeks to disseminate the knowledge and wisdom of practitioners to a wider audience. Its mission is to provide an “Educational Program for Business Owners, Entrepreneurs, Barter Exchanges, Owners or New Owners of Barter Exchanges or anyone interested in Alternative Economies.”

Broadcasts are archived and can be accessed on demand at the Bartertown Radio website. Particularly relevant is the April 18 broadcast featuring Richard Logie, a man with 20 years of experience as a trade exchange operator and software platform developer. During that interview, Richard shared his experience and knowledge about a wide range of topics including the factors he considers in allocating credit lines to exchange members, how tax issues are dealt with, and ongoing efforts to establish and enforce good standards of operation. That interview with Richard will be continued next Saturday, April 25 at 11 AM Eastern time (UTC-5). Be sure to tune in at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/educate4barter/2015/04/25/richard-logie-part-2 .

Other archived broadcasts that may be of particular interest are the April 5 interview with industry leader, Harold Rice of the American Exchange Network, and the interview with yours truly from December 13, 2014. Besides operating his own trade exchange company for almost 40 years, Harold Rice has provided consulting services for entrepreneurs and other exchange operators. He is a fount of knowledge about the details of exchange operation and has special expertise in accounting and tax issues.

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Money and Society: Free university-level online course being offered

A free online course (MOOC) in Money and Society is being offered by Professor Jem Bendell, PhD (IFLAS) and Matthew Slater, under the aegis of the Institute for Leadership and Sustainability of Cumbria University. The four lessons of the course, intended to” explode myths about the history, nature, present and future of money,” will commence 16 February 2015 and conclude 18 March 2015. For details and registration go to http://iflas.blogspot.com/2014/12/money-and-society-mooc.html.

 

Thomas Greco’s presentation at the Living the New Economy convergence, Oakland, CA, October 23, 2014

At the recent Living the New Economy convergence in Oakland, I was the first speaker on a panel that addressed the question of the Future of Value Exchange. Here it is below:

If you would like to download the slide deck of that presentation, you can get it here. I had only enough time to show the first 15 slides; the other were included for possible discussion.

You can also find some of my other presentations and interviews on my YouTube playlist.

You can find video recordings of several other sessions from Living the New Economy convergence here.

Thomas Greco presenting at the Institute of Noetic Sciences, October 30

On Thursday, October 30 I will present, The Evolution of Money and its Potential to Improve Humanity at the Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS). in Petaluma, California. If you happen to be in the San Francisco Bay area or northern counties you might want to attend. Details can be found here.Please RSVP here.

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