Category Archives: Developing Alternatives

Seizing an Alternative-sign up now

Seizing an Alternative: Toward an Ecological Civilization
June 4-7, Pomona College, Claremont, CA
This promises to be the conference of the year.
Get all the details and register here.

A Monetary Reform Proposal for Iceland

I have recently received from several sources word of a new monetary reform proposal. This one, commissioned by the Prime Minister of Iceland, is titled, MONETARY REFORM A BETTER MONETARY SYSTEM FOR ICELAND, and is authored by Frosti Sigurjonsson.

I’ve taken the time to read only the Overview and summary portion, but that is sufficient to discern the crux of the Sigurjonsson proposal, which is this:

The Central Bank will be exclusively responsible for creating the money necessary to support economic growth. Instead of relying on interest rates to influence money creation by banks, the Central Bank can change the money supply directly. Decisions on money creation will be taken by a committee that is independent of government and transparent in its decision-making, as is the current monetary policy committee.

New money, created by the Central Bank, will be transferred to the government and put into circulation in the economy via increased government spending, by reduction in taxes, by repaying public debt or by paying a citizen dividend.

The Central Bank will also be able to create money for lending to banks for onward lending to businesses outside the financial sector.

Sigurjonsson indicates that his proposal draws heavily upon an earlier proposal titled, A Monetary Reform for the Information Age, by Joseph Huber and James Robertson (New Economics Foundation (2001)), which I critiqued early in 2002. That critique, along with subsequent dialog between the authors and myself, can be found at http://reinventingmoney.com/monetary-reform-information-age/.

Since both the Sigurjonsson proposal or the Huber/Robertson proposal advocate the same basic approach, I strongly believe that any serious consideration of either, should also consider my above mentioned earlier critique and subsequent dialog.

While I agree with much of what Huber and Robertson (and presumably, Sigurjonsson) say about the defects in the present money system, I believe that their proposed centralized “solution” does not go nearly far enough in solving those defects. Continuation of the money monopoly in (presumably) different hands does not get to the root of the problem. It is my view that the key to achieving more equitable and sustainable economic interrelationships lies in liberating the exchange process from monopolized money and banking, enabling the creation of competing currencies and credit clearing exchanges, and allowing the needs of traders themselves to determine the supply of exchange media (money) in circulation at any given point in time.

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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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Thomas H. Greco interviewed on Bartertown Radio

My December 13 interview by Bob Prentice and Sandra Harshman on Bartertown Radio considered moneyless trading in general then zeroed in on what needs to be done to take credit clearing and private currencies to scale. To stream it or download it, click here.

Newsletter – 2014 Year end

In this edition:

  1. Upcoming interview—December 13, 11 AM Eastern time (8 AM Pacific time)
  2. My New Course Offering — Principles of Exchange Innovation
  3. Report on California Tour
  4. Major conference upcoming, June, 2015
  5. My next book?, + video projects

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Upcoming Interview

I have accepted an invitation to be the featured guest on Bartertown Radio on Saturday, December 13.

Bartertown Radio, which describes itself as “your educational station for Trade,” is a Live Radio Talk Show every Saturday Morning at 11:00 EST ( check your local time please). My interview will be all about moneyless trading and exchange innovation, particularly as it applies to the commercial trade exchange business. To listen in and/or share your thoughts you can call 1-347-989-8557 for the show. Calls can be made using any phone or by using your Skype account which provides calls at very low cost especially for those living outside the U.S.

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My New Course Offering — Principles of Exchange Innovation

As the years pass I become ever more aware of time as a scarce commodity, and as the global mega-crisis intensifies, I feel a greater urgency about the need to transcend the global interest-based, debt-money system that is driving us to destruction. Thus I am eager to pass on to the next generations the important insights and discoveries I have made over the past 35 years. I am intent on doing this in ways that will have a greater impact than the presentations, workshops and writings I have been producing over the past many years.

While I relinquished my formal academic career decades ago in favor of independent inquiry, scholarship, writing, and consulting, I remain a teacher a heart and am making it my highest priority to offer a course in the Principles of Exchange Innovation. I am quite sure that there is no other course like this anywhere, and I am uniquely qualified to conduct it.

It is my intention to guide dedicated cadres of change agents through an intensive process of inquiry, discovery, and planning to bring to market revolutionary structures and processes for value exchange that promote a sustainable economy and have the potential to usher in a new equitable and peaceful economic paradigm.

I am willing to go wherever suitable venues might be found. I’ve considered offering this as an online course, and that can be one component of it, but I believe that the impetus toward timely and effective action requires the continuity and intensity that comes from the regular face-to-face interaction and ongoing collaboration in a classroom setting.

You can find the detailed course description and syllabus here: https://beyondmoney.files.wordpress.com/2014/12/principles-of-exchange-innovation-course-syllabus.pdf.

Prospective course participants and host institutions are invited to fill out the short form at http://wp.me/P43RA-Ea. If you know of other institutions, departments, or individuals that might be interested in participating, please pass this along to them.

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California Tour-October/November

My two week trip to California in October could not have been better. It started with the Living the New Economy Convergence that was held in Oakland, October 23-24, and ended with a delightful visit with my dear friends, the Lub family, in Napa and Martinez. In between, I gave another presentation at the Institute of Noetic Sciences, attended an open house at the new Oakland offices of Berrett-Kohler Publishers, and conferred with several long-time friends and colleagues.

Living the New Economy Convergence

The convergence was the best conference I’ve attended in many years—well organized, with excellent presenters, and participants that were enthusiastic, well-informed, and intelligent.

A few of the presentations, including one of my own, were recorded by Bitcoin magazine. My presentation during the panel on The Future of Value Exchange can be found in my blog post here. Links to the others can be found here, and a few photos that I took at the Convergence can be viewed on my Picasa Web gallery. If you would like to see a more detailed report on this event, check out this one on the Shareable website.

The convergence was followed by a two day “hackathon” that gave participants an opportunity to brainstorm together and propose ideas, collaborations, and business projects. Sergio Lub’s pictures from that part of the event (October 25) are on his Flickr site.

IONS

The event at the Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS) on the evening of October 30, was very gratifying, drawing about a dozen participants, many of whom I’ve known and worked with over the past several years. My presentation titled, The Evolution of Money and its Potential to Improve Humanity, was followed by a lively discussion that went on for more than 2 hours. The entire proceedings were video recorded by Sergio Lub and can be seen via my blog post at BeyondMoney.net.

Sonoma GoLocal

The day before I left to return to Arizona, Sergio and I visited our friends who run the Sonoma GoLocal project. This is an exciting project that goes well beyond the conventional “buy local” agenda.IMG_4919

A few years ago, Sonoma GoLocal initiated a merchant rebate program, which is gradually becoming more popular. According to Terry Garrett, about 17,000 swipe cards have been issued to consumers and there are now 53 merchants offering “Reward Points,” with each merchant choosing their own percentage rate of rebate that varies from 2% to 10%, with the median rate being 5%.

Over the past year they have experienced a growth rate of about 20% in both the number of participating merchants and the number of cardholders. Between January1 and September 30, 2014, the amount of transactions involving either issuance or redemption of Reward Points was about $3.8 million with that number expected to reach $5.5 million by year’s end. Sonoma GoLocal has been publishing both a printed pocket guide and a free bi-monthly magazine that help to make the project financially viable. You can see some photos from our meeting, including cover photos of the publications here.

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Seizing an Alternative: Toward an Ecological Civilization

I would like to make everyone aware of a major conference that is upcoming next June 4-7. This conference, to be held on the campus of Pomona College, located in Claremont, CA, is the result of several events held in conjunction (10th International Whitehead Conference, 9th International Forum on Ecological Civilization, Inaugural Pando Populus Conference, Pilgrim Place Centennial Celebration, and Process & Faith Summer Institute) and will consist of 12 Sections divided into approximately 78 Tracks. Each Track will have 8 sessions, which will be 90 minutes each.

After my meeting with renowned philosopher and theologian, John Cobb, a couple years ago, he invited me to participate in this conference which he was then helping to plan. I will be presenting in Section I, The Threatening Catastrophe: Responding Now, Track 6, Political Collapse: The Alternative. You can get all the details, and register at http://www.ctr4process.org/whitehead2015/.

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My next book?, + video projects

I’m aware that in today’s information-rich environment people tend to be overloaded and getting their attention is becoming ever more difficult. Short videos on YouTube, Vimeo, or other video showcases are probably the best bet for getting a message across. I’m hoping to find someone with the requisite editing skills to help me parse some of my recorded presentations into short topical lessons. That, combined with a new book aimed at the mass market, might attract the kind of attention, and provide the essential information needed to dispel false beliefs that prevail in the minds of the general public and stimulate the kinds of fundamental structural changes that are becoming ever more urgent. I’m inclined to give this new book a provocative title, like Everything You Know About Money (And Banking) Is Wrong! It would follow a question and answer format that presents first a fundamental question, then the orthodox answer and prevalent belief, then the truth of the matter as I have come to see it.

This project is of course a major undertaking, and if it is to achieve the kinds of results hoped for, calls for some skills and resources that exceed my own. Collaborators and suggestions are invited.

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Finally, on a personal note, after spending the summer in Bisbee, I’ve reestablished myself in Tucson, sharing a house on the far east side, close to the Rincon Mountains and Saguaro National Park. Though a bit distant from downtown, it is in a lovely, peaceful setting—rather ideal for creative work.IMG_4942

My accustomed robust health has been disturbed in recent months by some digestive difficulties. A course of medication and a combination of dietary changes and natural supplements seem to be resolving the worst of it and I’m hopeful that I’ll soon be back to normal.

Best wishes to all for a Happy Holiday Season, and may the coming year bring a great leap forward in creating a more peaceful, just, and sustainable world.

Thomas

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’s Presentation at The Institute of Noetic Sciences: The Evolution of Money and its Potential to Improve Humanity

On October 30, 2014, I gave a presentation, titled, The Evolution of Money and its Potential to Improve Humanity, at the  Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS) in Petaluma, California.

I was greatly encouraged by the high caliber of those who attended and the quality and intensity of the discussion that followed.

The proceedings were video recorded by organizer and master networker, Sergio Lub, and can be viewed at this Vimeo site.