Category Archives: Developing Alternatives

Walking Away: From the “New (Old) World Order,” into the Old (New) World Order. Part I

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Global pandemic, social distancing, widespread shut-downs, testing and “tracing,” economic crisis, and more recently, massive protests and social unrest, not just in the US, but around the world — What does it all mean? Like virtually everyone else in the world, my attention lately has been focused on that question.

I don’t feel terribly anxious about Covid-19, even though for me personally it poses a significant existential threat. Although I’m fortunate to have no chronic illnesses, I am well advanced in years, and according to some recent reports, my gender, blood type, and ethnic heritage may put me further at risk.

I am more concerned about the social, political and economic impacts of the situation and governments’ reactions to it which may turn out to be more disruptive than the pandemic itself. At the same time I am hopeful, even optimistic, that this crisis brings with it great opportunities for positive changes that are long overdue.

Read the full article here

The true pathway to peace, prosperity and freedom

For the past four decades E. C. Riegel has been my primary source of insight and

E,. C. Riegel

inspiration on the concepts and mechanisms of money and exchange. Writing mainly from the 1920s thru the 1940s, his is vision is acutely penetrating and his expression clear and almost poetic. For that reason I and a few others have made every effort to make his work known to a much wider audience. His most important works are freely available to be downloaded and I have listed the web links on my website under the Library menu item at https://beyondmoney.net/library/.

I realized very early in my peace and justice work, that the primary obstacle to peace, justice, and freedom, lies in the centralization of power and the concentration of wealth. Riegel and others helped me to see that the global money and banking system is the main instrument by which that is made possible. Riegel opened my eyes to the true nature of money and the fact that we the people already have in our hands the power to create true money. He pointed out that “Heretofore, economics has located the source of production at one point and the source of money at another, with the result that synchronization and balancing of issue between wealth producing power and money power were impossible.” Riegel then laid out a way to bring those two powers together, a plan which I, in all modesty, have enhanced and adapted to present conditions.

I’ve lately been in the process of preparing a document containing excerpts from Riegel’s 1944 book, Private Enterprise Money, along with my comments, much as I did years ago with my annotated précis of his book, Flight From Inflation. That may take a while to complete but I would rather not delay in sharing with my readers a little gem from pages 106 in which Riegel presciently described our present predicament. Here it is:

THE SURPRISE WEAPON

Society is in the twilight of a passing day. The state now undertakes to finance the economy, and, since a free economy is manifestly impossible where the state assumes the responsibility of supplying the money circulation, the politician is compelled to choose between fascism and communism. Under either choice liberty is abolished and the people are enslaved. As the planners all over the world adopt their devices for a managed economy, and ideologists and sloganizers prepare their implements to condition the minds of men to their control plans, and the cause of human freedom seems defenseless, there falls into the hands of the people a surprise weapon that will turn the tide of battle and give the people mastery, not only over their private affairs, but over the would-be political planners. This weapon is the people’s money power as defined in the following pages. It will change the whole course of human events into the paths of liberty, prosperity and peace.

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Community Currencies — Questions and Answers

I receive a steady stream of requests for information and advice, which I’m not able to address as fully as I might like. For the most part, the answers that people seek have already been expressed in my various writings, presentation and interviews. Still, I understand and share the desire to save time and effort by finding shortcuts to enlightenment. So I take these inquiries as opportunities to rethink and work out better ways of explaining the ideas I’ve been trying to get across for many years.

Thinking that many of my followers might benefit from my recent responses, I’ve compiled some of them to share in this document.
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Q1: What is money and what is its purpose?

A: Money is a credit instrument that facilitates the exchange of value.
That’s a simply as I can state it.

Q2: Who can or should issue a currency?

A: Any business can issue a currency (essentially an IOU) to suppliers, who are willing to accept it. But to make it credible and acceptable to them, the issuer must be ready, willing, and able to redeem it in a timely manner. They redeem it by accepting it back as payment for the goods or services they sell. That’s all there is to it. But, it’s better if a group of sellers do this together with other others rather than singly. That can be done by organizing a mutual credit clearing circle (trade exchange) as I’ve described in numerous writings and presentations, e.g., Credit Clearing – Pure and Simple.

Q3: Why do communities adopt their own currencies?

A: There are various reasons why communities adopt their own currencies and there are various ways of issuing them.

Most of the hundreds of community currencies that have been issued over the past three decades in various places around the world have had the avowed purpose of keeping money circulating locally instead of “leaking out” to the wider world. The idea is that if money can be kept circulating within the community it will enable a greater number of local business transactions leading to greater community prosperity.

Most of these currencies have been backed by conventional money. That is all well and good, and there are various conditions and procedures that can be employed to maximize the impact, as I have described in my recent article, Monetary alchemy: how to turn bad money into good.

Another reason why communities issue their own currencies is to create “home grown liquidity,” i.e., to make up for the failure of the banking system to provide adequate amounts of exchange media to local businesses, especially the small and medium sized enterprises that for the backbone of every community economy. This type of currency is not backed by conventional money, but by the goods and services that local businesses stand ready, willing and able to sell. This type of currency may sometimes be spent into circulation by a single business then accepted back as payment for the merchandise it sell, but more typically, it will take the form of “trade credits” issued within a cooperative trading circle comprised of several hundred businesses and/or individuals. Illustrative of this are the scores of commercial trade exchanges that are operating in countries around the world, and the grassroots trade networks known as LETS, Local exchange trading system. For a comparison of the effectiveness of different models of currency and exchange systems, see my article, Local Currencies—what works; what doesn’t?

Q4: Do community currencies generally exist to solve a particular problem? In the case of Tenino, WA, I know the money is going primarily to low-income residents, but I’m curious why specifically they’re being given a local currency instead of cash aid in US dollars.

A: Yes, as described above, community currencies generally exist to enable more local transactions and/or to make up for the shortage of official exchange media (dollars).

I had not heard of the Tenino currency before, but after reading the article about it in the Seattle Times I understand that it is a dollar backed voucher currency in which theTenino2020 dollars are provided as a grant from the city government to eligible recipients. The city government may have their own reasons for giving out “a local currency instead of cash aid in US dollars,” but a couple obvious advantages of the local currency are that (1) it can circulate numerous times before being redeemed for dollars, giving a boost to the local economy, and (2) restrictions can be placed on how recipients can spend it. In the Tenino case, according to the Seattle Times, the local currency cannot be used to purchase alcohol, tobacco or marijuana. Of course some clever people will likely find ways to circumvent that restriction.

There are other restrictions that I would suggest be applied to maximize the benefits that derive from such a currency. These relate to who is allowed to redeem it for dollars (e.g., only local business operators), when they are allowed to redeem it (perhaps several months or years in the future), and on what terms (maybe at a 10% discount from face value). Each of these would encourage the local currency to change hands many more times and thus provide a greater stimulus to the local economy.

Q5: Does Tenino’s model resemble any other community currencies you’re aware of? How do these currencies differ from each other, generally?

The Tenino currency resembles a great many other local currencies around the world that are all backed by conventional money and follow the ‘convertible local currency’ (CLC) model. Examples include the Bristol Pound and Brixton Pound in the UK, Toronto Dollars and Salt Spring Island Dollars in Canada, and Berkshares in the US.

Further, Salt Spring Island Dollars and Tenino currency both have appeal as collectibles and will never be redeemed for dollars, thus providing a windfall profit for the community.

Q6: Many currencies base their value on how the public perceives its value. For example, the US dollar is the world’s most accepted currencies because people know they can spend it in most places. How do you convince individuals and businesses to use it and trust it?

A: Political currencies, like the US dollar, have the support of their governments and central banks. The US dollar has the “full faith and credit” of the US government behind it and it must be accepted “for all debts, public and private.” These are the factors that cause it to be generally acceptable as payment. As the global reserve currency, the US dollar is in high demand among the banks and governments of other countries, despite the fact of rapidly rising UD government debt and the dollar’s continual loss of purchasing power.

Community currencies do not have those same advantages so they must stand on their own feet as credible credit instruments. What makes such a currency credible, sound, and acceptable in trade is its redeemability either in conventional money, or in goods and/or services that are generally desired and needed.

Q7: If a community currency wants to survive for the long-term, what does it need to do?

To survive long-term, a community currency must be issued into circulation on a sound basis or foundation; it must be usable as payment for a wide variety of essential goods and services; it must be have the support of the local business community.

Specific design and operation details are provided in my various writings and presentations, including my article, How to Bring Liquidity Into an Economy, Free of Interest, Inflation, and Boom and Bust Cycles, and my most recent book, The End of Money and the Future of Civilization.

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After the Great Pause–toward a New Society

Recent events have made it clear that there is no going “back to normal.” It seems to me that in this time of flux there are many possibilities, but I think they boil down to two fundamental choices. The world can continue on the trajectory of increasing concentrations of power and wealth, and dominance of the many by the few, or society can begin to decentralize and move toward community empowerment and local control.

Many are calling for people to embrace “a new human story founded on the principles of connection and diversity” and argue that such a story is already emerging.

The upcoming online event called World Localization Day promises to move our collective consciousness in that direction. I’ve already registered to participate and suggest that others do likewise. It will be happening next Sunday, June 21. This global event will be streamed three times: starting at 4pm in Sydney, 4pm in New York and 4pm in London. Registration fees are on a sliding scale, or even free for those with scant means.

As the website says:
After COVID-19, we can return to stressful disconnected lives and climate catastrophe, or we can slow down, scale down and rebuild our connections to each other and to the Earth.

Check it out.

My latest article in Medium

The global money system: not the kind of normal we should get back to describes the urgency, and the opportunity, of ushering in a new, more equitable and sustainable economy based on the deployment of the innovative mechanisms of exchange and finance that I have long advocated. We need to ask ourselves what it is that keeps us on the treadmill. We try to get ahead but so often we end up simply standing still or falling farther behind. We are all chasing after that thing that everyone demands from us–money. The problem is that there is never enough money in the right places to fairly distribute the vast amount of wealth that the economy produces. What if we could all stop chasing after money? Money scarcity is an artifact of the interest-based, debt-money regime. Better means of exchange are available; we simply need to organize and use them.

A Conversation About the Dysfunctions of Money, and the Need for Decentralized Exchange Alternatives

This conversation, sponsored by the Praxis Peace Institute, is Episode 8 in our podcast series. It was recorded on April 10, 2020 and covers such critical questions as:

  • What is the essence of money?
  • What are the functions of money?
  • Where does money come from?
  • How does money enter the economy?
  • Who controls the issuance and flow of money?
  • Why does total debt in the world keep growing?
  • Is the system of money, banking, and finance stable, fair, sustainable?
  • Are there better ways to “do” money?
  • Why have local currencies not been more successful?
  • Are there any success stories?
  • Is there a “magic formula” for making an alternative money system work?

It continues with a discussion of the history of local currency efforts in Sonoma County, California and a description of straight forward approaches to creating local liquidity that is independent of banks and conventional money.

The Economics of Peace, Justice and Sustainability

This video is based on a presentation I gave at the Economics of Peace Conference in Sonoma, California in October, 2009. My prescriptions for reclaiming the credit commons and creating a new “butterfly economy” remain completely relevant, and their implementation is becoming ever more urgent.

A PDF of the slide show can be downloaded here.

The Exchange Revolution

In November of 2009, I gave a presentation at the conference on Michigan’s Future Energy, Economy & Environment, at Crystal Mountain Resort in Thompsonville, Michigan. More than 10 years later, this presentation is still timely.

Ken Freeman has recently augmented and adapted recordings of that presentation to produce this new video, titled, Exchange Revolution, which has now been posted on our Beyond Money Podcast site. It is a comprehensive description of the what and how of transcending the political fiat money regime, and building a new equitable system of value exchange.

It can also be found on YouTube at https://youtu.be/MvTMcvVzNuQ. The transcript can be found here.

 

New Year’s Newsletter — January 2020

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The dirty secret of capitalism — and a new way forward
In this TED talk, billionaire businessman, Nick Hanauer debunks the assumptions of neo-liberal economics and shines light on the path toward a new economics that promotes a more sustainable, Hanauer_biz_tedtalks_0517prosperous and equitable society. Hanauer argues that neoliberal economic theory has sold itself to us as “unchangeable natural law, when in fact it’s social norms and constructed narratives, based on pseudo science.” He says that “If we want a new economics all we have to do is choose to have it.” Watch it here.

Of course, implementing that choice depends on “we” having enough power to tilt the political landscape back toward something closer to level. I continue to argue that E. C. Riegel had it right when he said:

We have not even made a beginning in democracy by merely putting at the westPointAdjdisposal of man an occasional ballot to choose who should be his governor under a system that is inherently paternalistic and autocratic. Man must have untrammeled command of a daily – an hourly ballot which he casts in the market place to support the things and services he desires and which he withholds from others and which he transmits to the state or denies it according as it merits his patronage. He must have the power to create this money ballot in a measure commensurate with his power to produce and serve his fellow man without hindrance from his servant, the state. The moment we limit or thwart or bias this money power, which is natural to man, and the very criterion of his sovereignty, we pervert democracy beyond the power of any political ballot or any parliament to remedy. Money power cannot be separated from democratic power without miscarriage and ensuing frustration – political and economic. Democracy implies the sovereignty of man; and, since man cannot be sovereign without the money power, there cannot be democracy under the political money system.

Until, through the assertion of his money power, man can requisition from industry all he produces, and put government under his direct patronage, human aspirations will be unattainable.
— From Private Enterprise Money.

 

How to assert our “money power” has been the substance of my work for more than 40 years. See my books, articles, presentations and interviews at my website, https://beyondmoney.net
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Presidential Debate
I took a pass on watching the January 14 Presidential debate which pitted Bernie against five establishment candidates in what was a predictably bland rehash that Tulsiwas limited in scope. I chose instead to watch the discussion between Tulsi Gabbard, Dennis Kucinich, Lawrence Lessig, and Stephen Kinzer which was live streamed on YouTube. The discussion focused on the key policy issue, the US interventionist foreign policy, and the fact that most Senators and Representatives of both parties in Congress are beholden to the military-industrial [and banking] complex, and are complicit in the immoral, illegal, and wasteful pursuit of global domination. If you missed it you can still see it at https://tulsi.to/discussion.
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All Wars Are Bankers’ Wars
Anyone who wishes to be well informed and understand civilization’s present predicament would do well to watch this video. I may not agree with all the specific details but the basic story is correct and well documented, and congruent with my argument that the global interest-based, debt-money regime that centralizes power and concentrates wealth is the primary obstacle to social justice, economic equity and peaceful relations among people and nations, and indeed, an existential threat to civilization itself. View it here.

Wishing all a happy, productive, and peaceful year,
Thomas H. Greco, Jr.

Fasten your seat belts…

1/30/1981 President Reagan and David Stockman meeting on the economy in the Oval Office

In his current subscription pitch and announcement for his new book, PEAK TRUMP: The Undrainable Swamp And The Fantasy Of MAGA, David Stockman lays out some startling facts, provides a cogent analysis, and makes some dire predictions. As President Ronald Reagan’s Budget Director and long-time political insider, Stockman should be heeded. Here are some excerpts:

“We are in a whole new ball game. The Deep State, the House Dems, the Mueller hit squad and the mainstream media are all going in for the kill.

“They are determined to take the Donald down and preserve the rule of the bipartisan establishment in favor of Empire abroad and Big Government, massive debt and Fed-fueled Bubble Finance at home.

“At the same time, the Donald is now practically handing them his political head on a platter. That’s because he has bombastically embraced the “big, fat, ugly bubble” that he so accurately harpooned during the campaign.

“But that bubble has now reached a fatal triple-top and is fixing to implode, and to take the American economy and Trump’s presidency down with it.”

Stockman says, “We are heading for the double whammy of a political/constitutional crisis and a thundering financial breakdown at the same time.” He argues that it was the failure of “the Washington/Wall Street consensus” that led to Trump’s victory in 2016, and that actions of the Federal Reserve have caused a massive asset bubble along with huge disparities of incomes and wealth.

He goes on to say that “just because Donald Trump targeted the symptoms correctly [during his campaign] that doesn’t mean he had a plan to fix the American economy or the skills and know-how to move the turgid, essentially paralyzed machinery of the Federal government.” Stockman  characterizes Trump as “a political flyweight, megalomaniacal incompetent and bile-ridden bully who stumbled into the Oval Office against all odds.” He decries the massive growth of government debt over the past four decades and boldly asserts that recession will hit the US economy before November 2020, and that “Wall Street, the US economy and the Donald’s fantasy of MAGA will come tumbling down with it.” Whether or not his timing is correct, it is clear that a political and economic shipwreck is just ahead.

Stockman decries the “bipartisan ruling class” which is “in favor of permanent war, unchained entitlements, fiscal incontinence, unsustainable debt-fueled household spending, rampant corporate financial engineering and Keynesian monetary repression and “wealth effects” based central banking that lies at the roots of our current economic malaise,” and referring to the Mueller Russiagate investigation and subsequent impeachment hearings, Stockman says, “the Donald’s fluke elevation to the Oval Office has finally caused the Deep State to come out of hiding and bare its fangs against American democracy itself.”

Stockman criticizes the Fed for “dithering” and delaying “normalization,” by which he presumably means raising interest rates and ending Fed purchases of government bonds. He also calls for “fiscal rectitude” (balanced budgets) on the part of the government, something that even his beloved Ronald Reagan was unable to pull off.

But what Stockman (and everyone else) fails to realize is that, under the interest-based debt-money regime that has prevailed throughout the modern era, it is impossible for national governments to consistently balance their budgets. Here’s why. Since money is created when banks make loans, and since interest is charged on those loans, aggregate debt increases simply with the passage of time. If growth in the money supply does not keep up with debt growth, many debtors will default and the economy will sink into recession. Thus, the banking system must find ways to keep people and corporation borrowing ever greater amounts of money. Over my lifetime I’ve seen banks roll out a succession of creative schemes. Starting with the liberalization of consumer credit following World War II (“Buy now; pay later”), then the widespread issuance of credit cards, then the introduction of “student loans,” then the easing of requirements for people to buy real estate, banks have gotten people to borrow more and more.

Then, when the private sector is all “loaned up” and cannot take on additional debt, the government must step in as “borrower of last resort.” By deficit spending, financed through the issuance of bonds, the national government, with the help of banks that buy those bonds, the money supply is expanded. (When banks buy government bonds they are making a loan to the government). And when all available funds have been sucked up, the Fed must step in as “lender of last resort” to itself buy up additional government bonds while keeping interest rates at acceptable levels. That approach, called “quantitative easing,” is what saved the global system of money and banking from total collapse in 2008 after the housing bubble burst. Thus, the government and the banking establishment are locked together in a deadly embrace and “dance of death” that is spiraling out of control.

It may very well end with a major decline and long drawn out recovery, as Stockman is predicting, but unless a new interest-free money system is implemented after the wreckage is cleared, the ultimate outcome may simply be another round of ever more extreme boom-bust cycles and political chaos.

The good news is that there are credit money innovations waiting in the wings, and now emerging, that can be rolled out, replicated, and networked together to usher in a “Butterfly Economy” and new world order of peace, justice, and human unity. For details about what the Butterfly Economy might look like, and how we might get there, see my video, The Butterfly Economy: How Communities are Building a New World From the Bottom Up, and my article, Reclaiming the Credit Commons: Towards a Butterfly Society. — t.h.g.