Category Archives: Finance and Economics

No democracy when government has the money power

Think for a moment about the basic necessities of life. One can live only a few minutes without air, a few days without water, and a few weeks without food. We also need shelter from the heat and cold, from rain and snow and sun. We need energy–gas, oil, electricity–to warm us when the weather is cold and to cool us when it is hot, to help us do our work and enable us to move about­.

And how do we acquire those things? Air is still freely available, although it may not always be clean or healthy to breathe. Water is increasingly not free, even if we draw it from the kitchen faucet, and all of those other necessities, we depend upon others to provide. But at every turn there is someone with an outstretched hand saying, “Pay me.” The point is that there is another element that we are utterly dependent upon–MONEY!

As Adam Smith observed long ago, “When the division of labor has been once thoroughly established, it is but a very small part of a man’s wants which the produce of his own labor can supply” (Wealth of Nations). That puts economic exchange and the devices we use to facilitate it at the center of human interaction. Money has become so familiar to us in our daily lives that we hardly even notice it, except when it is lacking. But our ignorance of the nature of money, where it comes from, and how it is created has cost us dearly both in terms of material comfort and increasingly in our loss of freedom.  

Economics and politics are inextricably linked; they are in fact a unitary system which early economists like Adam Smith, John Stuart Mill, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau recognized, using the term “political economy” to categorize their work. Economics as a separate discipline did not exist until about a hundred years ago when latter day academicians sought to cloak the fact behind a mask of mathematical rigor. But it cannot be denied that economic structures and policies have heretofore made implicit choices about who would be the winners and who would be the losers. The challenge before us today is to build political-economic systems that allow everyone to win, not just in terms of material comfort, but in terms of peace, harmony, dignity, and freedom. We cannot change politics without changing economics, and we cannot change economics without changing money.

In my own work I have often credited E. C. Riegel for much of my enlightenment on these matters. He said:

“We have been pursuing the illusion that by voting political ballots biennially and quadrenially, we controlled our affairs. While the government must beg us each two years for our political ballot, we beg the government every day for our economic ballot. Since we are dependent upon our government for our daily dollar ballot, there stands over our political democracy a monetary autocracy. Therefore, we are not democratic governors; we are economic subjects. … The process whereby parchment freedoms become sterile is quite simple. It begins with the fact that we need a constant money supply to effect our exchanges whereby we live. The supply is completely in the hands of government. We beseech the government to issue it. … Is not every public expenditure the result of pressure by some large or small segment of the citizenry? And are not these pressure groups impelled by the necessity of petitioning government since it is the only source of the economy’s life blood? How can we blame the government for spending and on the other hand, how can we blame those who invent schemes for spending, without which our economy would stagnate? It is the false concept of political money power that converts citizens into petitioners, and makes government a dispenser of patronage instead of a public servant. This power of patronage utterly destroys the democratic system of government–since the people cannot be both petitioners and rulers” (Private Enterprise Money (1944. pp. 78-79 in print edition).

Riegel devoted his life to showing not only how the political money system corrupts both economics and politics, but also how it can be transcended, a work that I have taken up and pursued over the past 40 years. My own books, lectures, interviews, and web posts have built upon, interpreted, and extended the works of E. C. Riegel, Henry George, Ralph Borsodi, Ulrich von Beckerath, Heinrich Ritterschausen, and many others. My latest book, The End of Money and the Future of Civilization, is a comprehensive treatment of money and politics and a guide to how to create effective exchange media that are independent of government, banks, and political money. Once we realize that money is credit, and that it is in our power to give or withhold it, we can take back control of the exchange process and our government.

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Move your money, preserve your capital, improve your community and make housing more affordable

Poverty and homelessness have been persistent problems in virtually every community and are becoming worse, and disparities in incomes and wealth have long been increasing. Meanwhile the stock markets are booming while returns of savings accounts have been driven below zero in real terms. All of this has been happening while human productivity is greater than at any time in human history. What’s wrong with this picture?

Clearly, there must be some serious defects in the systems by which our collective production is distributed and used. This is the realm of money, banking and finance which controls the functions of value exchange, saving, and investment. As I’ve repeatedly argued, it is not just a matter of how these systems are managed (policy), but the way they’ve been designed, i.e., their very structure. Whether by intention or by accident, these system are designed to do precisely what they are doing. They enrich and empower the few at the expense of impoverishing and dis-empowering the many.

While there may be little possibility of reforming these systems, they can be transcended. New systems and structures can be designed and deployed that better serve the necessary functions. My work has been focused mainly, but not entirely, on the exchange of value function, which is the fundamental purpose of money. Over the past forty years I’ve written and lectured extensively about private and community currencies and mutual credit clearing as ways of transcending the political money regime. See, for example, How to Bring Liquidity Into an Economy, Free of Interest, Inflation, and Boom and Bust Cycles.

Others have been active in addressing the functions of saving, and investment. Notable in this regard are Ellen Brown and her associates at the Public Banking Institute, John Katovich and associates at Cutting Edge Capital, attorney Jenny Kassan, John Fullerton at the Capital Institute, and community economist Michael Shuman.

Michael, in his recent newsletter, Gimme Shelter (With Local Investment), reports on some exciting developments, one of which is “…the SEC quietly increased the ceiling on a crowdfunding raise from $1.07 million to $5 million—effectively enabling significantly more housing projects to be funded by grassroots investors sick of Wall Street.” Another is the emergence of community investment trusts (CITs), which “allow members of the community to invest in neighborhood projects. Whereas most CLTs [Community Land Trusts] are nonprofit, CITs can be for-profit and issue equity.”

“Still another approach is to buy pieces of equity in homes to make home ownership more affordable. That’s the strategy of a new company called Landed. It strikes a deal with new homeowners to pick up half or more of the down payment.”

For more details on all of that, read Michael’s entire article here.
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Get Ready to Play in the Butterfly Economy

Presentation by Thomas H. Greco, Jr. to the (virtual) 2020 Annual Convention of the International Reciprocal Trade Association (IRTA.) on September 24, 2020.

My Latest Interview

On October 7 I was interviewed by Patricia Cori for her program, Beyond the Matrix.

WE’RE IN AN INFLATIONARY DEPRESSION! NOW WHAT?

Walking Away… Part III — My latest article

Photo credit: Andrew Amistad

This is the third in a series of articles that began in July 2020. Parts I and II can be found on Medium and my website beyondmoney dot net.

In 1979 I took a leap of faith and walked away. What did I walk away from? I had for a long time said that if I had to have a job, I could think of no better job than the one I had. With the rank of assistant professor, I held tenure at an institution of higher learning. The pay at that time was not that great, but the job carried high status and I had plenty of freedom to do the job as I saw fit. That is what I walked away from just a few months prior to completing my 14th year in academia.

What seemed like an insane move to my friends and family was to me a “life” choice; a choice over what- stagnation, security, death, perhaps? I had seen others who had chosen to “hang on” just a few more years so they could enjoy a retirement of comfort and freedom, only to die a short time afterward. I once saw a T-shirt that advised: “Don’t Postpone Joy!”

— Read the full article here.

Go, set, get ready for your mark!

The dystopian world of George Orwell’s, 1984, and Aldus Huxley’s, Brave New World, has been creeping up on us for a very long time. Now it’s coming on at a gallop and seems bound to cross the finish line in just a few short strides. Its pounding hooves shake the earth as they grind into dust truth, privacy, human rights, and all that humans hold sacred. The heat and stench from the monsters fiery breath give fair warning that it means to consume whatever stands in its way. Like the temptation of Jesus by Satan, it promises us the world, but at the price of our very souls.
Read the full article here or on Medium.

A Landmark Event in Exchange Alternatives

Greetings,

This is a heads up to inform you of an important upcoming virtual event in which I will be a featured presenter. It is the annual convention of the International Reciprocal Trade Association (IRTA), the premier organization for the commercial trade exchange industry and a leading force for monetary and financial innovation.  

The theme of this year’s convention is Navigating the Future, something that is becoming increasingly problematic for businesses and individuals alike, especially in the wake of the massive economic disruptions of the past several months. But every crisis brings with it opportunities, both for good and for ill, and we will need to choose wisely.

The presenter lineup is the most diverse and interesting to date, and brings together knowledgeable experts representing all aspects of the exchange revolution, including commercial, grassroots, for-profit, non-profit, and technologies like crypto currencies and blockchain.

The convention will convene virtually over three days, September 23rd-25th, 2020, for four hours each day. You can see the entire list of presenters and the full program schedule at the convention website: https://irta.pathable.co/

My interactive session, titled “Get Ready to Play in the Butterfly Economy,” is scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 24th at 1:45 PM Eastern time (10:45 AM, Pacific and Arizona time).

Here are some convention highlights:
Michael Terpin, the “Godfather of Crypto & Blockchain” will be the Keynote Speaker!

Other presenters will include:

  •  Giuseppe Literra, Founder of Sardex & Local Pay, Sardinia, Italy
  • Will Ruddick, social entrepreneur and founder of the Grassroots Economics Foundation
  • Dr. Lee Oi Kum, SME Visionary, Singapore & Malaysia
  • Caroline Macdonald, COO, BBX, Artamon. Australia 
  • Dariusz Brzozowiec, Co-Author, University Research Paper on Economic Security of Regions During the Covid-19 Period in Poland.
  • And, of course, yours truly.

Because of the key role that the exchange of value plays in the lives of every person on Earth, and in light of the evident failures of existing systems of money, banking and finance, anyone can benefit from participation in this IRTA convention. Don’t miss it!

Ticket prices are extremely reasonable and are available on Eventbrite at: 
https://www.eventbrite.com/e/irta-2020-virtual-convention-tickets-117110644089?aff=affiliate1

Hoping to see you there,
Thomas

New Podcast Episode 10 – Todd Boyle

Episode 10    A conversation with Todd Boyle

ToddBoyleTodd Boyle is a man with a very interesting and unusual life story. In this podcast episode, he candidly tells us about how he grew up in a large Catholic family; served a brief stint in the US navy but didn’t like it and managed to get discharged; got involved for a time in the drug scene; went to college and then worked for many years as a successful certified public accountant. He eventually renounced that career in favor of fulltime activism to promote the causes of peace and justice. He has been a staunch opponent of the war in Afghanistan and the multiple covert and violent interventions by US forces in countries around the world, and in recent years he has been a tireless advocate for the homeless right here in America. Todd’s ideas for ending homelessness, and 50 IDEAS for Cheaper Housing are listed here.

Listen in as we discuss some of the main contemporary issues and Todd’s ideas about how to get through the present deepening crisis with his own version of “walking away.”

Todd is active on Facebook where he says he has been “hanging out 4 or 5 hours a day for the last 15 years.” You can follow him there.

 


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RIP John Papworth

JPapworthCameoOne of the saddest things about getting old is seeing the departure of one’s friends and family. Most recently for me, it was the passing, at age 98, of long-time friend and colleague John Papworth. John, an ordained Anglican priest, was a staunch advocate for peace and indefatigable proponent of community empowerment and human scale.

As I recall, I first became aware of John and his work in the early 1980s through my association with the School of Living, then a bit later we met face to face on one of his tours of the United States when he came to Rochester to meet with a group of us who worked with the Peace and Justice Education Center. John, at the time was publishing The Fourth World Review, a periodical that promoted decentralism and the idea that the gigantic size of nation states, mass media, and allied institutions makes democratic government and world peace unattainable. John argued that, “The way forward is not through mass party machines, but through the development of local community governing powers to a maximum level to ensure we have government not from the top down but as much as possible from the base up, A Fourth World of peoples’ power.”

“Villages and small communities are the bloodcells of civilisation, if they are free and fully empowered they can yet halt the current Gadarene rush to collapse and enable civilisation to flourish in peace and plenty and a splendour to match the achievements of the human-scale world of the Renaissance.”

Searching the Web today, you’ll not find much about it, but I consider John’s Fourth World Review and Fourth World Assemblies to 4thWorldList pdfhave been extremely important elements in the ongoing efforts toward community empowerment and a new, more peaceful society. In 1986 I travelled to Zurich, Switzerland to participate in the 5th Assembly of the Fourth World, and then took it upon myself to organize the 6th Assembly of the Fourth World in San Francisco the following year. Under the aegis of the School of Living of which I then served as President, together with affiliated groups, the next three annual Assemblies were held in Raleigh, Toronto, and Dallas, respectively.

I did find a post about the Fourth World Review on the website of the UK National Liberal Party at http://nationalliberal.org/liberty-wall-3/fourth-world-review, from which the above quotes were taken. That post also contains links to two issues of The Fourth World Review (#153, winter 2011: click here, and #154, spring 2012: click here) that were published under the new editorship of Wayne John Sturgeon and Graham Williamson after John stepped aside. I’ve found no evidence of its continued publication after that.

In this photo below, taken in September 2001 at Papworth’s home in Purton, England, I am with John P. (center) and self-sufficiency advocate and prolific writer, John Seymour (right). At that time, Donna, my then partner and I, were there to participate in the Radical Consultation, a Fourth World event that was held in nearby Swindon. As it turned out, we were staying with John at his home on the very day that the World Trade Center in New York was attacked and destroyed. After John’s son Pierre phoned to alert us to what was happening, we watched on the tele, as did millions of others, the unfolding horrors of that day.

THG_JP_JS_2001Cr

You can find John’s obituaries in The Times of London, the Telegraph, and the Church Times.

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Money and Finance Have Now Been Completely Collectivized

It is almost laughable to see “the powers that be” fumbling around, and bending everything they touch out of shape, as they try to maintain some semblance of life in the deeply flawed zombie system of money, banking and finance. Laughable, that is, if it were not so tragic.

This financial “Titanic” has not been ripped open by a sudden encounter with some unexpected and random “iceberg.” It was doomed from its very beginning because of its flawed design, construction, and operation, which I have repeatedly described over the past thirty plus years.[i] It has been taking on water and shaking itself apart for a very long time, but it is just within the past few years that its inevitable demise has become obvious, and is now imminent.

The Great Revelation of 2008
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This article was first published on Medium