Category Archives: Exchange Design

Phone-to-phone payments already bringing massive changes to Kenya

Try to imagine what your life would be like if you had no bank account, no credit or debit cards, and no cash, and on top of that, you lived in a country where poverty, crime, and corruption were rampant. I’ve never been there, but by many reports Kenya is just such a place. How do people cope?

As in other places, like India and Thailand, that I have visited, it seems that the majority of people in Kenya are micro-entrepreneurs who eke out a living by producing and selling products or services of some sort. And, like everywhere else, having a means for exchanging those goods and services and “paying” each other is crucial to survival.

Ultimately, as private currencies and moneyless exchange mechanism proliferate, we all will have numerous payment options.  The Bangla-Pesa project operating near Mombasa is one such model that is now being replicated in Nairobi and other parts of Kenya. But even technologies that only provide new ways of paying with national currencies are proving to be beneficial in many ways.

Kenya’s Safaricom company has led the world in implementing phone-to-phone payments with the M-pesa. All it takes is a text message from the buyer’s phone to the seller’s phone to make a payment. Almost everyone in Kenya has access to mobile phone service and they may draw cash from their accounts at any of the 45,000 independent agents scattered around the country.

A recent Business Week article documents the ubiquity of this payment mechanism and its positive effects in such diverse areas as security, renewable energy, crowdfunding, and economic development . You can read it here: Ten Days in Kenya With No Cash, Only a Phone.

When mobile phone payment systems include complementary currency options, the beneficial effects will be multiplied manifold. — t.h.g.

An open letter to the Financial Times

Dear Martin Wolf,
Your article, Strip private banks of their power to create money, highlights some of the problems of the global money and banking system, but falls short in the proposed solution.

The problem is not private money creation, per se, but the monopolization of credit (money creation) in the hands of a private banking cartel and the collusive arrangement between bankers and politicians.

In today’s world, banks get to lend our collective credit back to us and charge interest for it while central governments get to spend more than they earn in overt tax revenues, relying on the banking system to monetize government debts. These two parasitic drains on the economy, interest and inflationary government debt monetization, create a growth imperative that is destroying the environment, shredding the social fabric, and creating ever greater disparities of income and wealth.

Turning over the money monopoly to politicians (what I call the “Greenback solution”) will not change things very much. It will be the same people wearing different hats. The political process has been so thoroughly corrupted and taken over by this small elite class that political approaches to solving the money problem have no chance of passage anyway. I articulated that argument a few years ago in my Alternet article, The End of Money: Take Power Back From the Money and Banking Monopoly.

True solutions must emerge, and are emerging, from society and from associations of small and medium-sized businesses. Money is first and foremost a medium for facilitating the exchange of goods and services and other forms of real value, but the exchange function can be effectively and efficiently provided outside the banking system and without the use of conventional political money. This is being done for associated businesses through credit clearing exchanges and through the issuance of private currencies or vouchers by businesses that produce real value. Both approaches have the capacity to provide exchange media that can be used by general public as well.

So, rather than ban private issuance of currencies, such private issuance needs to be proliferated and encouraged. There needs to be competition in currency so that there will be a sufficient amount of exchange media, and so that political currencies cannot be abused without losing patronage in the market. Rather than establishing the state as the money power, we need to have a separation of money and state. That argument is more fully developed in my latest book, The End of Money and the Future of Civilization.

Best wishes,

Thomas H. Greco, Jr.

Excitement mounts over upcoming IRTA Convention!

The International Reciprocal Exchange Association (IRTA), the premier association of the commercial “barter” industry, has been for more than forty years promoting the interests of small and medium sized enterprises by assisting its member trade exchanges to provide them with liquidity and effective opportunities for moneyless trading.

Since 2005, IRTA has been reaching out to the wider grassroots community of researchers, developers, and organizers of private currencies and complementary exchange mechanisms and has broadened its advocacy to include them.

The upcoming 34th Annual International Convention of the IRTA in Las Vegas will provide a unique opportunity for social entrepreneurs and monetary activists to further consolidate programs of cooperation with the well-established commercial “barter” sector of the moneyless exchange movement. The Convention will be held from Sept. 19 thru 21 at the Venetian Resort in Las Vegas.

Along with IRTA President and experienced trade exchange operator Annette Riggs, and Rob van Hilten, Executive Director of QOIN, a consultancy for community currencies, I will be a panelist in a Saturday session (September 21) titled Understanding Diverse Exchange System Models: From Bitcoin and Berkshares, to Transparent Credit Clearing Networks. This session will consider three basic topics of discussion:

Bitcoin, the good, the bad, and the ugly.

The benefits and limitations of cash-based local currencies.

The emerging global exchange network.

There is still time to register for this important event. You can get details about the convention program and secure your place by visiting the IRTA website at http://www.irta.com/.

#     #     #

Will we ever see a world without money?

If you doubt it, think about these famous words from experts of the past–t.h.g.

“The bomb will never go off. I speak  as an expert in explosives.” – – Admiral William Leahy , US Atomic Bomb Project

“There is no likelihood man can ever tap the power of the atom.” — Robert Millikan, Nobel Prize in Physics, 1923

“Computers in the future may weigh no more than 1.5 tons.” — Popular Mechanics, forecasting the relentless march of science, 1949

“I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.” — Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, 1943

“I have traveled the length and breadth of this country and talked with the best people, and I can assure you that data processing is a fad that won’t last out the year.” — The editor in charge of business books for Prentice Hall, 1957

“But what is it good for?” — Engineer at the Advanced Computing Systems Division of IBM, 1968, commenting on the microchip.

“640K ought to be enough for anybody.” — Bill Gates, 1981

This ‘telephone’ has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us” — Western Union internal memo, 1876.

“The wireless music box has no imaginable commercial value. Who would pay for a message sent to nobody in particular?” — David Sarnoff’s associates in response to his urgings for investment in the radio in the 1920s.

“The concept is interesting and well-formed, but in order to earn better than a ‘C,’ the idea must be feasible” — A  Yale  University management professor in response to Fred Smith’s paper proposing reliable overnight delivery service. (Smith went on to found Federal Express Corp.)

“I’m just glad it’ll be Clark Gable who’s falling on his face and not Gary Cooper” — Gary Cooper on his decision not to take the leading role in “Gone With The Wind.”

“We don’t like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out” — Decca Recording Co. rejecting the Beatles, 1962.

“Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible” — Lord Kelvin, president, Royal Society, 1895.

“If I had thought about it, I wouldn’t have done the experiment. The literature was full of examples that said you can’t do this” – – Spencer Silver on the work that led to the unique adhesives for 3-M “Post-It” Notepads.

“Drill for oil? You mean drill into the ground to try and find oil? You’re crazy” — Drillers who Edwin L. Drake tried to enlist to his project to drill for oil in 1859.

“Stocks have reached what looks like a permanently high plateau.” – – Irving Fisher, Professor of Economics,  Yale University , 1929.

“Airplanes are interesting toys but of no military value” — Marechal Ferdinand Foch, Professor of Strategy, Ecole  Superieure de Guerre ,  France .

“Everything that can be invented has been invented” — Charles H. Duell, Commissioner, US Office of Patents, 1899.

“The super computer is technologically impossible. It would take all of the water that flows over Niagara Falls to cool the heat generated by the number of vacuum tubes required.” — Professor of Electrical Engineering,  New York  University

“I don’t know what use any one could find for a machine that would make copies of documents. It certainly couldn’t be a feasible business by itself.” — the head of IBM, refusing to back the idea, forcing the inventor to found Xerox.

“The abdomen, the chest, and the brain will forever be shut from the intrusion of the wise and humane surgeon,” — Sir John Eric Ericksen, British surgeon, appointed Surgeon-Extraordinary to Queen  Victoria 1873.

And last but not least…

“There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.”  — Ken Olson, president, chairman and founder of Digital Equipment Corp., 1977

“There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.”  — Ken Olson, president, chairman and founder of Digital Equipment Corp., 1977

Complimentary Currency Systems: Richard Logie at TEDxLeeds

Richard Logie has been for a long time one of the leaders in the commercial  barter industry. As owner and operator of The Business Exchange in Scotland and developer of GETS, a moneyless trading platform, Richard has a wealth of knowledge about moneyless exchange in general. His presentation below provides a valuable learning tool for anyone, either in the entrepreneurial realm or at the grassroots level, who is starting or operating a currency or exchange system.

Please pay particular attention to the way in which Richard determines the credit lines to be provided to members’ accounts, the list of advantages that membership in a credit clearing exchange provides, and the elements that need to be standardized in order for exchanges to be effectively networked together.–t.h.g.

An innovative currency project in Kenya achieves impressive social benefits

A currency project that was conceived and operated by Will Ruddick in Kenya last year has reportedly achieved significant social benefits at very little cost. A full report titled, Eco-Pesa: An Evaluation of a Complementary Currency Programme in Kenya’s Informal Settlements can be found at the International Journal of Community Currency Research.

New Ways to Pay and Be Paid

I had a Skype chat recently with Ken Banks who pointed me to an excellent article about m-Pesa, a system operating in Kenya that uses mobile phones to provide an easy way of making payments. The article is, The Invisible Bank: How Kenya Has Beaten the World in Mobile Money, by Olivia O’Sullivan.

In his introduction to the article, Ken Banks says this:

 Click a few keys, exchange a few numbers, and it’s done. With just a mobile phone and a registration with Safaricom, Kenya’s mobile service giant, you can pay for anything in seconds – no cash, no long journeys to towns to reach a bank, and no long lines when you get there. This is m-Pesa, the revolutionary approach to banking which is changing economies across Africa. The service allows customers and businesses to pay for anything without needing cash, a bank account, or even a permanent address.

Here is a brief description from the article itself

So how does it work? m-Pesa relies on a network of small shop-front retailers, who register to be m-Pesa agents. Customers come to these retailers and pay them cash in exchange for loading virtual credit onto their phone, known as e-float. E-float can be swapped and transferred between mobile users with a simple text message and a system of codes. The recipient of e-float takes her mobile phone into her nearest retailer when she wants to cash in, and swaps her text message code back for physical money. There are already more m-Pesa agents in Kenya than there are bank branches.

This case demonstrates how any credible entity (like a phone company or power company) can now become a depository “bank” that enables credits denominated in any chosen units (hopefully, objectively defined units like phone minutes or kilowatt hours) to be easily transferred from one account to another via cell phones.

Networks of existing storefronts (like 7-Eleven convenience stores) are being added on top of cell phone technology to enable deposits into and withdrawals from any account. That could potentially be done in any desired currency. As an example, 7-Eleven stores in Thailand have begun to accept payments for purchases made online. The advantage is that no credit card is required. I’ve used this service myself when I booked flights online with NOK Airlines, a Thai low cost carrier. Once booked, one has 24 hours within which to trot on over to any conveniently located 7-Eleven and pony up payment, usually in cash. In my case, I paid in Thai Baht notes that I drew from a nearby ATM using my debit card and drawn on my credit union account in Arizona. 7-Eleven also sells prepaid cell phone minutes. They could easily add acceptance of cash payments to add credits denominated in any desired units to an account (i.e., deposits).

While m-Pesa fees are relatively high for small transactions, that is likely to improve as competing companies enter the field.

Here, is a chart of the m-Pesa fee schedule.

(Chart prepared by Will Ruddick)

The monetary and financial revolution is just a matter of putting existing components together. The hardest part will be in negotiating the minefield of laws, regulations, and taxation policies that protect existing monopolies and fiefdoms. But once begun, it will be increasingly difficult to stop this snowball from rolling downhill. –t.h.g.

Cyclos, worth another look??

I Just received a message from one of my advisee groups on the west coast. They are seriously considering Cyclos as the platform for their local exchange system.

Here is what they say:

Cyclos offers a complete Open-Source on-line banking system with additional modules such as e-commerce and communication tools. Check this out at http://project.cyclos.org/

The objective of the project is to develop open source complementary currency software that is easy to use and maintain, flexible, secure, and highly customizable. The Cyclos structure is entirely dynamic.

This means that it is possible to ‘build’ a monetary system from scratch. Organizations that want a standard system can use the default database that comes with basic configurations and can be easily enhanced. Cyclos is used for mutual credit systems like LETS, Barter systems, administration of Micro credits or remittances, Time banks and backed currency systems such as a C3 (consumer and commerce circuit). Cyclos just started to be used as a back-end for mobile banking services in Africa, and various Universities are studying the possibility to use Cyclos as a campus payment system.

It seems that the newest version of Cyclos may have the functionality, ease of use, and customizability that we have been looking for.

I’d be interested to see or hear expert reviews and people’s actual experience with using the Cyclos platform. Please send them as a comment to this post.

The Language of Money and Accountancy

One of E. C. Riegel’s most important published articles is, Money Is the Language of Accountancy, which was published in The Journal of Accountancy, the official publication of the American Institute of Accountants, in November 1945 (pp. 358-360).

In this article, Riegel outlines the benefits of a proposed “Private Enterprise Money” system (which I have highlighted), explains its elegant simplicity, and shows how it can be the key to solving myriad economic, social, and political problems.

The article achieves Riegel’s usual high standards of incisive reasoning and eloquent expression, but there are a few points on which I disagree. I therefore find it necessary to write and publish my critique along with it. While Riegel’s explanation of the nature of money is superb, I have some serious disagreements with him regarding the measure of value and the requirements for implementation of the mutual credit system. We now have the advantage of six decades of actual experience with clearing systems of the sort that Riegel envisioned. I also find it necessary to clarify a few of Riegel’s points. I urge the reader therefore to read both the article, which appears below, and my critique which follows it.

Anyone who truly wishes to understand money and to discover the way forward toward justice, freedom, and economic democracy should study Riegel’s works starting with his book, Fight From Inflation. These can be found at http://www.newapproachtofreedom.info/—t.h.g.

Money Is the Language of Accountancy

By E. C. Riegel

Proceeding from the assumption that the study and comprehension of money is an integral part of accountancy, this author explains his own conception of the function of money and credit, proposes the establishment of a “private-enterprise money” system, outlines it’s operation, and lists some of the advantages which he believes would result from the point of view of accountants, in particular, and the national welfare. Mr. Riegel, who is president of the Valun Institute in New York, describes himself as “a non-academic student of credit and money.” He is the author of several books, including a recent volume entitled “Private Enterprise Money,” which develops the proposal outlined in this article.

SINCE money is the language of accountancy, an unstable unit plagues the accountant with a confusion of tongues. This year’s statement is written in a tongue different from last year’s and perhaps even last month’s. Figures are not merely black and red; they are also gray and pink. Taxes are impossible of estimation because when the government runs a deficit there is a hidden tax that manifests itself in inflation. Depreciation cannot be gauged because property may show appreciation in terms of the changing dollar. Profit-and-loss figures are deceptive. Reserves may depreciate or appreciate in terms of the unit. All is confusion. Is accountancy futile?

The problem is serious enough to challenge the profession. If it is not solved accountancy must suffer. If accountants master the problem the profession will be raised to new levels of prestige in the business world. The study and comprehension of money is an integral part of accountancy and must not be left to the voodooism of monetary economics.

Money can best be understood by inquiring into the purpose of it. In simple or whole barter there is no need of money. When barter is to be split into halves, i.e., one trader is to receive full satisfaction in value, and the other is to receive only a promise of value, there arises the need of an accounting system and money is a system of split-barter accounting. It is essential to remember that in the process of trading by means of money, there is no departure from barter, but merely a facilitation of barter by splitting it into two parts, one half finished and the other half prospective. Values still continue to exchange for values with money acting as an interim device, but itself having no value.

Perhaps the easiest way to comprehend money is to imagine ourselves in a position where we had to initiate a system that would enable us to escape from the rigidity of whole barter to the flexibility of split barter. Let us approach the problem as one purely of accountancy, completely divorced from politics.

The problem would be one of providing the means whereby trader No. 1 could receive value from trader No. 2 by the former giving the latter an order for an equal value which order would be acceptable to any trader at any time. An IOU would not be sufficient; it must be converted into a WeOU. In other words there must be a conversion from private credit to composite credit underwritten by all the participants in the trading circle. Obviously, this calls for a pact of all the traders agreeing to honor the promises of each as if issued by all. Mutual or social or composite credit is, therefore, the foundation of a money system and the device that liberates traders from the limitations of whole barter.

Before such common agreement can be obtained two questions must be determined: (a) what is the promise of each that is to be credited by all? (b) what is the limit of such promises? In other words we must define the meaning of the credit and the limit of it. Since the purpose of money is to split barter in two parts with one trader receiving value and the other “holding the bag,” it is obvious that the money must issue from the former (the buyer) and must pledge not money but value and the buyer-issuer promises to deliver value when any money is tendered to him from whatever quarter. Thus we see that the essence of credit under a true money system is not to promise to pay money but a promise to receive money. To comprehend this is to liberate private enterprise from the control of finance.

As to the limit of the credit of each participant, this can be agreed upon on the basis of the needs of various trades, and industries, and professions rather than passing upon the applications of each member thereof. This being done, each participant would be authorized to draw checks against his assigned credit without giving any note or other instrument. The credit would have no term but would be in the nature of a call credit since the pledge is to deliver value on demand by tender of money.

Realizing that we have a mutual credit agreement whereunder the credit can be offset only by delivering value (selling goods or services), it is obvious that we cannot afford to admit to our money exchange as a money issuer any factor [entity, ed.] that is not engaged in the business of buying and selling. Ipso facto governments are excluded since they have no way of making good their promise which is implicit in the issue power. This explodes the delusion that governments back money. It is only private enterprisers that back money; governments merely depreciate it by freely issuing it but never backing it by over-the-counter transactions.

Establishing a Monetary Unit

Before we can give meaning to our agreements we must determine the size or power of the money unit. This may seem formidable but is quite simple. Few people realize that our dollar was given its meaning by merely making it par with the Spanish dollar already current in the colonies and the states. Thus we can agree that our unit (I suggest the name “valun” from VALue UNit) shall be equal to the current dollar or some multiple thereof and set our prices in valuns accordingly.

Having agreed upon the three essentials: (a) the definition of the credit, (b) the extent of the credit, (c) the size of the unit, we are ready to set up a clearing house through which our bookkeeping can operate and to provide the means of covering its expenses. This latter can be accomplished by the simple device of a check-clearing charge. No investment is needed, the
Exchange being able to equip itself on credit based upon its prospective income from check-clearance charges. The Exchange itself would have no money-issuing power but could draw only upon accrued income. To provide currency in bills and coins would be very simple. The Exchange would purchase the bills and coins and they would be subject to requisition by members by cashing a check. Such requisition would bring a debit to the account of the check writer and a credit to the account of “the currency controller.”

A deposit of currency would, of course, bring the reverse action. The cost of printing the currency and minting the coins could be charged to each drawer or thrown into overhead and covered by the check-clearing charge just like the cost of printing check books.

Private-Enterprise Money

These are the general outlines of the establishment and operation of a private-enterprise money system. For details I must refer the reader to my book, Private Enterprise Money. Since the substance of the whole plan is mutual credit there is no occasion for anybody to pay interest to anybody and, of course, there is no place for the promissory note. Check drafts and deposits are the only instruments of record and the “money-makes-money” principle is absent. Money is made the instrumentality of the private profit system but of itself is valueless and profitless. This revolution has tremendous significance in the issue between private enterprise and collectivism because the criticism of the former is due entirely to financism.

The reason a private-enterprise money system assures stability of the unit and gives definite meaning to accountancy is that no units will be issued except for value received since each trader in self-defense must restrict his issue to selfish purposes. There could be no issues for boondoggling, or relief, or subsidy, or war, because the government would have no issue power. There could be no inflation or its reflex, deflation. This does not imply that the government could not carry out any project that the taxpayer approved, but it does mean that such approval would be necessary since the taxpayer would be the sole source of money and the government would be powerless to tax by the deficit process of changing the power of the unit through inflation. In brief, we would have government of government—democracy at last. The private-enterprise money system would accomplish the following:

Provide a stable price level.

End the debt-money system. Credit would be extended solely on the promise to pay with goods and services.

Abolish interest within the system.

Take the money-creating power out of the hands of government and banks and place it in the hands of private enterprisers.

Make government operate on a cash basis; prevent deferred and delusive taxes through inflation.

Assure distribution of goods by distributing money power.

Prevent inflation and deflation.

Defeat bureaucracy, fascism, and communism by taking the money power from government

Defeat hidden money control from any quarter.

Assure full employment and a high standard of living.

Give the people the veto power over war and all government extravagances.

Supply the perfecting element in democracy and private enterprise.

If the accounting profession will interest itself in the establishment of a true money system it will render an incomparable service to business and the public. The study of the subject is not extra-curricular; it is part and parcel of accountancy. No profession can gain so much from its solution; none must suffer so much from its non-solution.

Money and Reconversion

The reconversion problem with which the nation is now engaged is basically a problem of dollar-power conversion from the prewar power to the current power. By rationing and restraints upon spending, the action of demand upon supply has been cushioned. This cushion must be removed and since there are now about eighteen available dollars for each dollar of consumer goods (at 1939 prices) we face a tremendous potential inflationary price rise. If through the self-restraint of the people, or by artificial restraints imposed by government, the accumulated dollars are not permitted to come into the market, industry will stagnate and relief and public-works payments will increase the unbalance between a dollars and goods. When the flood breaks prices will skyrocket into runaway inflation. The dollar must be converted, sooner or later, from its prewar power to its natural current power which will grow progressively smaller and I believe will not be arrested short of complete fade-out.

The creation of a private-enterprise money unit is, therefore, imperative if we are to escape chaos and bloodshed. The subject is one of greatest urgency and I hope that the accountants will actively participate in the project.

This article was published in The Journal of Accountancy, November 1945, pp. 358-360. (Official Publication of the American Institute of Accountants).

#   #   #

A Brief Critique of E. C. Riegel’s article, Money Is the Language of Accountancy

By Thomas H. Greco, Jr.

Riegel says,

“Having agreed upon the three essentials: (a) the definition of the credit, (b) the extent of the credit, (c) the size of the unit, we are ready to set up a clearing house through which our bookkeeping can operate and to provide the means of covering its expenses.”

I agree that “the essence of credit under a true money system is not to promise to pay money but a promise to receive money,” but I cannot fully agree with his proposals for b) and c).

Regarding b), he says:

“As to the limit of the credit of each participant, this can be agreed upon on the basis of the needs of various trades, and industries, and professions rather than passing upon the applications of each member thereof. This being done, each participant would be authorized to draw checks against his assigned credit without giving any note or other instrument.”

Surely, the nature of the member’s particular business must be considered, but it cannot be the sole criterion for determining credit limits. I would want each account limit to be based, at least, upon their historical volume of business, plus perhaps one or two additional factors, like their reputation and overall contribution to the welfare of the community. Also, he does not make clear that there must be some formal underlying agreement defining rights and responsibilities of membership in the clearing exchange.

Regarding c), the size of the unit, it is not enough to set its initial value equal to the dollar at the time of commencement, as Riegel suggests. That is only a logical starting point, considering that dollar valuation is what we are all accustomed to. Dollars is the value “language” we understand. But unless the system unit is defined in physical terms, it will simply depreciate along with the dollar as debasement of the dollar by the monetary authorities continues. I’ve written about that before in my books. In order to maintain its value over time, the credit unit (Riegel calls it a valun) must be defined in terms of something other than the dollar. My choice of definition has long been a “market basket” of basic commodities, because that will be the most stable measure over time and is impossible for any group of entities to manipulate.

Further, I think it is naive and inconsistent for Riegel to say that, “No investment is needed, the Exchange being able to equip itself on credit based upon its prospective income from check-clearance charges. The Exchange itself would have no money-issuing power but could draw only upon accrued income.”

I agree that the system should support itself through transaction fees, i.e., what he calls “check-clearance charges,” but if the Exchange itself has no money issuing power, how is it to cover its start-up costs? Either some up-front investment will be needed, or the exchange must be given a credit line. I favor the former as a safer alternative, but if the exchange is given a line of credit it must be strictly limited on the basis of its anticipated near-term revenues.

Regarding Private-Enterprise Money, Riegel is quite correct in saying, “Since the substance of the whole plan is mutual credit there is no occasion for anybody to pay interest to anybody and, of course, there is no place for the promissory note.”

By way of clarification, what he means is that mutual credit does not require that anyone borrow money into circulation. Thus, there is no need for the issuer of credit to sign a promissory note to a bank or anyone else, or to pay interest on negative account balances. There is however the need for each member of a mutual credit exchange to sign a general agreement that outlines the rights and responsibilities of their participation. I have provide a draft of such an agreement in my book, The End of Money and the Future of Civilization.

The key provision, as Riegel states, is that “no units will be issued except for value received.” That means no monetization of government debts or the inflation of credits on the basis of valueless or non-marketable assets. It is Riegel’s objective and mine to deprive government of the power to exceed its budget by debasing the currency, but Riegel’s insistence that “the government would have no issue power,” may be both impractical and overly restrictive, especially with regard to lower levels of government, like counties and municipalities. Nonetheless, government spending at all levels must be strictly limited to their legitimate tax revenues as approved by the people. Their participation in a mutual credit system must limit their credit issuing power to some small fraction of their annual anticipated tax revenues.

Finally, I wish to make a point about one of Riegel’s predictions. In the final section of the article titled, Money and Reconversion, Riegel says, “The dollar must be converted, sooner or later, from its prewar power to its natural current power which will grow progressively smaller and I believe will not be arrested short of complete fade-out.” Obviously, he was wrong about the “complete fade-out” of the dollar in the post World War II era. There was, indeed, a significant increase in prices at that time, but the tremendous increase in productive capacity that America achieved during the war enabled an unprecedented flood of consumer goods to reach the market rather quickly and absorb the very large savings that people had accumulated. While dollar debasement has continued up to the present day, and the purchasing power of the dollar has continued to decline, the monetary authorities have found many ways to forestall an acute crisis—until recently. Now, concerted action can no longer be deferred. The usury-debt-money system must be transcended, the credit commons must be reclaimed, and a decentralized and democratic network of mutual credit clearing circles is within our power to create. Riegel has provided us a torch to light our way.—t.h.g.

CES, a prototype global exchange system for the 21st century

In a new article titled, Reinventing Money – A Community Exchange System from South Africa Conquers the World, Tim Jenkin describes the development and operation of the Community Exchange System (CES) which he founded in 2002. Beginning as a single local credit clearing exchange, CES has evolved into a global network of more than 340 local exchanges distributed over 34 countries.

“The CES web site is just a tool for managing exchange groups, for keeping accounts and for advertising. Each group administers itself and has its own rules and conditions of use. This keeps the overall system democratic and provides the basis for a multitude of separate but interacting local economies. Some groups base their unit of value on the national currency while others use time (e.g hours or minutes)… The long-term vision of CES is to democratise the entire network.”

“The CES has been operating for nearly nine years now and, though it is still minuscule compared to the global financial system, has demonstrated that it is as versatile as the conventional money system, and indeed more efficient in many ways. It caters to fairly large volumes of trade, permits international trade, provides an extremely efficient means of tax collection through an optional transaction levy, handles multiple conversion rates seamlessly and clears accounts instantaneously.”

While the CES prototype needs some refinement, it provides an operational “proof of concept” for the creation of a locally controlled, yet globally useful system of exchange that transcends the dysfunctional interest-based, debt-money system that is driving the world to destruction. I fully agree with Tim’s conclusions that:

“In the new era of declining energy and other natural resources, the global economy is inevitably going to have to contract. The debt-based money system looks increasingly unstable in the current low-growth environment and definitely cannot operate in a steady state or degrowth environment. A new exchange system  that operates something like CES will be needed. Such an exchange system simply reflects the economic situation, it does not drive it. When  interest is removed as a factor in exchange, the growth imperative is removed along with the debt bondage that most of us live under.

Extraction mechanisms such as speculation, derivatives, securitisation, hedging and other casino-like activities that allow a parasitic class to skim off the wealth of a society are also excluded. The decentralisation of control and lack of opportunities to hijack the exchange system for private gain will return the money power to ordinary people. No longer will those who currently control the financial system be the ones who decide where society puts it efforts and how it allocates its resources.

The realisation that money is information and not real stuff is hugely liberating because it means that a local community can create its own exchange system and not be dependent on the dysfunctional global one that is driving humanity to the brink of disaster.

This has all been made possible by our ability to share information on the internet. Local communities should jump at the opportunity to be able to define and control their own destinies instead of allowing financial institutions and governments to do it.”

I encourage all to read the entirety of Tim’s article. You can read it online or download the pdf file here.–t.h.g.