Newsletter—2017 Year-end, and prospects for the coming year

  • New web posts:

            Disruptive Technologies Making Money Obsolete

            Limiting Factors in the Operation of Commercial Trade Exchanges

  • Newly discovered video from 2003 interview, Democratizing Money
  • 2017 recap
  • Thoughts on the state of the world, plus recommended authors, commentators, and sources

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It’s been a long while since my last newsletter. It’s not that I’ve been idle, rather, more preoccupied with other aspects of my life. I’ve been somewhat less motivated to keep my nose to the grindstone, and more inclined toward spending time with friends and family, and recreational pursuits like playing bridge, enjoying the outdoors, and reading good literature. My commitment to societal improvement remains, but I realize that it is necessary to have the proper balance in life in order to be both happy and effective.

Now that 2017 is behind us, we can be hopeful that 2018 will bring better conditions and new opportunities for progress in our work.
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New Web Posts

Broadly speaking, technology is the organization of knowledge, people, and things to accomplish specific practical objectives. It includes processes, practices, techniques and systems as well as things. So what are the disruptive technologies in money and finance? Or is that even the right question to be asking? Is it Bitcoin, Ethereum, and other so-called crypto-currencies? Is it the blockchain, “smart contracts,” “big data,” algorithms?

To find out, watch my 15 minute video, which was extracted and adapted from a longer recording of A World Without Money and Interest: A pathway toward social justice and economic equity, the presentation I  made to the International Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on October 10, 2016. It describes how communities and businesses can escape the debt trap and become more resilient and self-reliant? New independent approaches to payment and reciprocal exchange are being deployed which are making conventional money obsolete. It’s not as  complicated as you may think.

You can view the video at either of the following links:

YouTube link: https://youtu.be/ty7APADAa8g

Vimeo link: https://vimeo.com/245661935

Many thanks to Ken Richings for doing all the hard work of editing and preparing the video for publication.

I’ve also posted another excerpt from my book, The End of Money and the Future of Civilization.

This one, taken from Chapter 15, Commercial Trade Exchanges—Their Present Limitations and Potential Future, describes the ways in which present practices of commercial trade exchanges are limiting their own growth and development.
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Newly discovered video from 2003 interview, Democratizing Money

A long-time correspondent recently alerted me to a video that was made during my tour of the Pacific Northwest in 2003. It is an interview on Network X, in which the late Jeff Fairhall and I spoke about Democratizing Money. This is still every bit as relevant today as it was back then. You can find it on YouTube at https://youtu.be/l4zVbNig–g.
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2017 recap

Travel in 2017 was minimal, only two trips, one to South Carolina to visit family on the occasion of my granddaughter’s university graduation, and the other to Greece in June/July to conduct my weeklong workshop at Kalikalos Holistic Summer School and to confer with colleagues in Volos and Athens. I’ll not be conducting another formal workshop at Kalikalos next summer but I may spend some time there at the Kissos campus as a Facilitator In Residence (FIR)

During the first part of 2017 and the last two months of 2016, I participated in a cooperative living experiment in Tucson with two friends and colleagues, Susan and Jock. Susan is an author, administrator and grant writer, and Jock is an expert in community living and the founder of Kalikalos. We took a 6 month lease on a house in central Tucson with the intention of working out some alternative possibilities for seniors to age in place in a supportive community, and to take a first step in establishing a learning center that I call the E. C. Riegel Institute for Sustainability and Financial Innovation. With Susan’s expert help, we submitted a couple grant proposals for funding  the Institute but did not manage to get a grant, so by the end of April when our lease expired, the experiment was wrapped up and, as planned, we scattered. Susan moved back east to be closer to her son and daughter, Jock developed some health problems so he chose to move into an assisted living community in Marin county California, and I moved into another shared house in Tucson.

I maintain regular correspondence and collaboration with many in my peer networks but I’m finding it impossible to keep up with all the email I receive, so I’m having to be more selective about what gets answered. Also, there continues to be a steady stream of groups and individuals asking my advice about their ideas for a new economy, community currencies or credit clearing exchanges. As you might imagine, many of those who contact me have only a germ of an idea and little background in the principles of economics, money, finance and exchange. I try to direct them to resources (my own and others’) that are appropriate to where they happen to be on the learning curve, but there are a few who seem better prepared and have demonstrated abilities in related fields that I choose to work with more intensively. It’s hard to assess the ultimate impact of these efforts, and I’m still hoping to connect with social entrepreneurs and funders who are willing to take my advice to create and take to market an exchange system or currency that is sound, credible, effective and scalable, one that can adequately demonstrate the real potential and effective enough to be widely replicated.

In the meantime, I keep trying to improve my communication skills so that people can better understand, not only what is dysfunctional about conventional money, banking and finance, but also the principles and technical details required to realize the great potential of private currencies and moneyless exchange systems. Last year I published the Solar Dollar white paper, and I will soon be publishing another article in which I will try again to clear up the most common misconceptions, and help the next corps of social entrepreneurs to avoid repeating the old recurrent errors.
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Thoughts on the state of the world

2017 has sure been an interesting year geopolitically, with Trump’s tweets, Russiagate, North Korean weapons tests, mass killings, and continuing U.S. interventions in the middle-east and elsewhere,  giving the pundits plenty of material to yack about 24/7. U.S. politics is playing out like a melodramatic farce. The executive branch seems to be a house divided against itself, and the political landscape is undergoing a seismic shift. The Trump presidency has shaken things up and it’s difficult to predict what might happen next. The corporate and banking oligarchs seem to be getting  enough out of Trump to accept (for now) his presence in the White House, but his rejection of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and his coziness with Putin and the Russians must be exasperating to them.

It’s getting ever more difficult to sort out the real facts from the fake news and propaganda. If you get your news solely from the main TV channels, newspapers, and magazines you’re getting only a small part of the big picture and are thereby being misled. For a more complete picture, one needs to study history, listen to whistle blowers, and consult independent authors and commentators, and foreign as well as domestic sources. My current list of  recommended sites and sources is here. It’s up to you to decide what makes sense and what to believe. As one sage told me long ago, “Don’t believe everything you hear, and only half of what you see.” Over the past several months, I’ve posted five segments in a series I call, What in the world is going on? Go to my website, https://beyondmoney.net/, and search on “What in the world” to find them.

Finally, regarding the economy, since the 2008 financial crisis the central banks have been inflating asset bubbles in stocks, bonds, and real estate by their policies of market interventions (quantitative easing) and low interest rates. Now they are making noises about raising interest rates and reducing the size of their balance sheets (by selling securities), but I don’t expect they will be able to go very far with those moves without causing more economic distress. They are more window dressing than real policy shifts. The Republican tax bill which was recently passed into law will, in the short run,  add to that bubble inflation by giving the rich and the corporations additional funds which they will mainly invest, not spend. Corporations, rather than raising wages or building new capacity, will likely use much of the windfall to buy back their own shares. That added demand will keep stocks pumped up for a while longer. But nothing has been done to remedy the flaws that are inherent in the global system of money, banking and finance (MBF), which in fact have been made worse. Another financial crisis is surely on the way and it’s likely to be more severe than the last one, but when it will break is difficult to predict.

Everyone wants to know how to protect their nest egg. My general advice for communities is to convert financial resources into resilient infrastructure that provides a steady stream of necessary goods and services. But what can individuals do? An inflationary depression is the most likely scenario, so keep enough cash on hand to last a couple weeks and hold some liquidity in a credit union account, but invest a major portion of your money in real things that will be useful and hold their value no matter what. For more detailed advice about that you can read my post Survival Strategies for Troubled Times.
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Wishing you peace, love, and joy throughout the coming year,
Tom

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Disruptive Technologies are Making Money Obsolete

Broadly speaking, technology is the organization of knowledge, people, and things to accomplish specific practical objectives. It includes processes, practices, techniques and systems as well as things. So what are the disruptive technologies in money and finance? Or is that even the right question to be asking? Is it Bitcoin, Ethereum, and other so-called crypto-currencies? Is it the blockchain, “smart contracts,” “big data,” algorithms?

To find out, watch this 15 minute video, which was extracted and adapted from a longer recording of the presentation, I  made to the International Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on October 10, 2016. It describes how communities and businesses can escape the debt trap and become more resilient and self-reliant? New independent approaches to payment and reciprocal exchange are being deployed which are making conventional money obsolete.

Links to this video:
YouTube link: https://youtu.be/ty7APADAa8g
Vimeo link: https://vimeo.com/245661935

Many thanks to Ken Richings for doing the hard work of editing and preparing the video for publication.

The full Malaysia presentation titled, A World Without Money and Interest: A pathway toward social justice and economic equity, can be found here.

Economic justice and the true meaning of the parable of the talents

I have, of late, been attending Sunday services at Grace St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Tucson. What that might say about my views on religion is something I’ll save for a later time, but among the things that have drawn me to involve myself with that place are, first of all, its declared mission of caring, openness, social action and inclusion, and secondly, the deep insights into Biblical and related scriptures of its rector, Rev. Steve Keplinger.

In his sermon of November 19, 2017, Rev. Steve Keplinger explains the meaning of the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30). Looking at it in the context of the prevailing culture at the time of Jesus, and the audience he was addressing, Steve’s interpretation will surprise you, as it did me. It makes a great deal more sense than the interpretations I (and probably, you) heard in your earlier religious education.

The first part of the audio recording is a clip from the soundtrack of the movie, Jaws, in which two of the characters compare their scars from wounds suffered in previous encounters. That sets the stage for Steve to describe his spiritual scars that remain from his earlier encounters with incorrect interpretations of that parable. You can listen to it here or on the Grace St. Paul’s website, or you can read the transcript here.

Central Bank Interventions and the Looming Catastrophe

In this recent interview below, Dr. Paul Craig Roberts describes the “house of cards” that is today’s global regime of money, banking and finance. Since the financial crisis of 2008, the major central banks around the world—the Federal Reserve, the Bank of England, the European Central Bank, the Bank of Japan—have all been active in the securities markets, buying huge amounts of government and corporate bonds and shares of private companies, a process that is euphemistically called “quantitative easing.”

As Roberts points out, these actions are being taken to support the big banks. I agree, but it goes much deeper than that. The underlying objective is to preserve the global interest-based debt-money system which requires continual expansion if debt, an inherent systemic flaw which I call the “debt growth imperative.” The result of these market manipulations, of course, has been the inflation of market bubbles in bonds, stocks, and real estate, and the massive transfer of wealth into the hands of a small segment of the population.

Roberts does not mention it, but the recurrent waves of tax cuts for the rich likewise seem to be designed to keep these market bubbles pumped up. The wealthy class, for the most part, does not spend these windfall gains, they invest them in, you guessed it, bonds, stocks and real estate. If tax cuts were to go mainly to the lower and middle classes, what would they do with the money? They would surely spend much of it, which would stimulate consumption of consumer goods and restore the real economy, but much of it would go toward reducing the massive amounts of debt that these people carry and make it unnecessary for them to borrow even more. A system that requires perpetual expansion of debt cannot tolerate that.
Now, do you understand?

 

Thomas Greco’s Latest Interview

Here is my latest interview on Primo Nutmeg. Discussion topics include alternative currencies, credit, central banks, the Federal Reserve, Austrian economics, the gold standard, bitcoin, geopolitics, and the relationship between U.S. foreign policy and the global system of money and finance.

American Made

How do you take a tragic story about deception, malfeasance, and betrayal at the highest levels of American government and turn it into a farcical comedy? Remarkably, that is precisely what has been achieved in the just released movie, American Made, starring Tom Cruise as Barry Seal. The tag line in the movie publicity says this film is “based on a true lie.” In reality, it’s about the mountain of lies that became known as the Iran-Contra affair, and shows it in a way perhaps that far surpasses what could have been achieved in a dry documentary. As one old enough to remember those times and at least the superficial reports of those events, I came away with an even more cynical regard for the myth of the United States government as the champion of decency and democracy.
See it as expose’ or see it as entertainment, but see it!

 

 

 

What in the world is going on? —part 5. Chris Hedges reports on Russia-gate, media credibility and more.

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, and former New York Times correspondent, Chris Hedges, is, to me, a credible source for real news. In a recent interview he had much to say that gives a clearer picture of the present state of geo-politics, the media, and the global problematique.

About Russia’s swinging the U.S. Presidential election toward Trump, he says, “it’s as ridiculous as Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction. It is an absolutely unproven allegation that is used to perpetuate a very frightening accusation—critics of corporate capitalism and imperialism are foreign agents for Russia.”

This obsession with Russia is a tactic used by the ruling elite, and in particular the Democratic Party, to avoid facing a very unpleasant reality: that their unpopularity is the outcome of their policies of deindustrialization and the assault against working men and women and poor people of color. It is the result of disastrous trade agreements like NAFTA that abolished good-paying union jobs and shipped them to places like Mexico, where workers without benefits are paid $3.00 an hour. It is the result of the explosion of a system of mass incarceration, begun by Bill Clinton with the 1994 omnibus crime bill, and the tripling and quadrupling of prison sentences. It is the result of the slashing of basic government services, including, of course, welfare, that Clinton gutted; deregulation, a decaying infrastructure, including public schools, and the de facto tax boycott by corporations. It is the result of the transformation of the country into an oligarchy. The nativist revolt on the right, and the aborted insurgency within the Democratic Party, makes sense when you see what they have done to the country.”

Hedges, himself a correspondent for New York Times from 1990 to 2005, offers a scathing critique of the paper, saying, “Critical thinking on the op-ed page, the Week in Review or the Book Review, never very strong to begin with, evaporated under Keller. Globalization was beyond questioning. Since the Times, like all elite institutions, is a hermetically sealed echo chamber, they do not realize how irrelevant they are becoming, or how ridiculous they look. Thomas Friedman and David Brooks might as well write for the Onion.

He then adds, “The rules aren’t written on the walls, but everyone knows, even if they do not articulate it, the paper’s unofficial motto: Do not significantly alienate those upon whom we depend for money and access! You can push against them some of the time. But if you are a serious reporter, like Charlie Leduff, or Sydney Schanberg, who wants to give a voice to people who don’t have a voice, to address issues of race, class, capitalist exploitation or the crimes of empire, you very swiftly become a management problem and get pushed out.”

Hedges is equally critical of the broadcast media. He says, “The commercial broadcast networks, and that includes CNN and MSNBC, are not in the business of journalism. They hardly do any. Their celebrity correspondents are courtiers to the elite. They speculate about and amplify court gossip, which is all the accusations about Russia, and they repeat what they are told to repeat. They sacrifice journalism and truth for ratings and profit. These cable news shows are one of many revenue streams in a corporate structure. They compete against other revenue streams. The head of CNN, Jeff Zucker, who helped create the fictional persona of Donald Trump on “Celebrity Apprentice,” has turned politics on CNN into a 24-hour reality show. All nuance, ambiguity, meaning and depth, along with verifiable fact, are sacrificed for salacious entertainment. Lying, racism, bigotry and conspiracy theories are given platforms and considered newsworthy, often espoused by people whose sole quality is that they are unhinged. It is news as burlesque.

Of special significance is Hedges’ description of coverage of the Iraq war: “I was on the investigative team at the New York Times during the lead-up to the Iraq War. I was based in Paris and covered Al Qaeda in Europe and the Middle East. Lewis Scooter Libby, Dick Cheney, Richard Perle and maybe somebody in an intelligence agency, would confirm whatever story the administration was attempting to pitch. Journalistic rules at the Times say you can’t go with a one-source story. But if you have three or four supposedly independent sources confirming the same narrative, then you can go with it, which is how they did it. The paper did not break any rules taught at Columbia journalism school, but everything they wrote was a lie.”

Read the entire interview here. Hedges is a regular contributor to Truthdig.