Newsletter May 2021. Upcoming podcast series on “Our Money System,” and other news

In this issue:

  • Upcoming podcast series
  • Conversation with Tim Jenkin, Edgar Cahn, et al
  • Latest post–How, Then, Shall We Live? — What we might learn from the Amish
  • Markets and finances in today’s world
  • U.S. foreign policy, the primary threat to peace
  • Travel plans

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Upcoming webinar series

I will be conducting a free three part webinar series for the Henry George School of Social Science. Here is the description and registration link:

Our Money System – What’s Wrong with it and How to Fix it
A critical look at money & credit, their political and economic implications, and innovations that are making conventional money obsolete.

About this event

HGS_WebinarIn this webinar series, renowned monetary reformer Thomas Greco Jr., will present our system of money and banking, how it has evolved, why it is problematic, and where it is trending. The series will also look into past, present, and future exchange and payment alternatives, like Depression-era script, local and private currencies, commercial trade exchanges and LETS systems that apply the “credit clearing” process, and the more recent emergence of crypto-currencies and blockchain ledgers and their potential role. It will include discussion of how these have evolved, their advantages, limitations and future potential and what needs to be done to take them to scale.

The speaker, Thomas H. Greco, Jr., is the author of The End of Money and the Future of Civilization. For more than 40 years Mr. Greco has been studying, writing and lecturing and advising on the subjects of money, exchange, and political economy. His distinctive insights into these subjects and his innovative approaches to a more equitable and sustainable economy have made him a sought after speaker and advisor worldwide. His full bio can be viewed here.

Topics

  • WHAT is money?
  • WHY do we need money?
  • WHAT is wrong with our money system?
  • Can we live without money?
  • How can business be conducted without money?
  • What are the economic, social and political implications of monetary policies and systems?
  • What is the likely impact of present day monetary innovations?

May 21 – Session 1 will provide an overview of the present system of money and banking, how it has evolved, how and why it is problematic, and where it is trending. Mr. Greco will talk about the interest-based debt-money system, how it causes the growth imperative and the politicization of finance and exchange, and the political and economic consequences of its continuation. He will outline the fundamental concepts of exchange and finance and the principles upon which sound and sustainable systems are being developed. Participants will be asked to read or listen to some specific materials in preparation of the subsequent sessions.

June 4 – Session 2 will be a more interactive webinar that will provide ample opportunity to discuss whatever questions have been evoked by the previous session and the assignments. These might include topics like inflation, depressions, asset bubbles and busts, the savings and investment functions, and government responses to shocks like the 2008 financial crisis and the more recent pandemic. This will lead into a discussion about possible solutions to the problems that the present system causes, and the role of local currencies and other alternatives for the exchange of value.

June 18 – Session 3 will concentrate upon past, present, and future exchange and payment alternatives, like Depression-era scrip, local and private currencies, commercial trade exchanges and LETS systems that apply the “credit clearing” process, and the more recent emergence of crypto-currencies and blockchain ledgers and their potential role. It will include discussion of how these have evolved, their advantages, limitations and future potential and what needs to be done to take them to scale.
Please note that each session will start at 6 PM Eastern Time (3 PM Pacific and Arizona time), and end at 7:30 PM (4:30 PM).

Register Now!

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Conversation with Edgar Cahn, Tim Jenkin, et al

I was recently the featured guest on Taking Back Our Economy, a podcast series hosted by the Community ExchangeEdgar-Cahn-photo-600x599 Alliance. In this episode I discuss principles of exchange, the various kinds of systems that have been tried, and what needs to be done to realize their full potential, with Tim Jenkin, founder of the Community Exchange System, Edgar Cahn, founder of Time Banking, Anitha Beberg, Christine Gray, and Martin Simon.

You can tune in to the discussion on YouTube at https://youtu.be/BtIG9YLySD4.

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My latest post: How, Then, Shall We Live? — What we might learn from the Amish

While most of us have been caught up in the high-tech, consumerist, debt-ridden rat-race, there are certain groups that have been thriving on low-tech, low-consumption, earth-friendly, cooperative approaches to living. Notable randy-fath-Amish-Cramong these are the Amish communities which are characterized by their strong social bonds and mutual support. In the present chaotic times as we struggle to reinvent civilization there may be something important to be learned from the Amish. Read about it here.

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Markets and finances in today’s world

The biggest players in money and markets today are central banks and central governments. Their market interference is massive and largely overrides the effects of other market player’s actions. If you have not already done so, please read my article, Money and Finance Have Now Been Completely Collectivized.

One complicating factor that market analysts and investment advisors universally fail to mention, and probably do not even recognize, is the withdrawal of large segments of the population from the work force, and from the “old civilization.” In my view, a new civilization has been emerging for decades from the bottom upward and that process is now accelerating as people lose faith in the dominant centralized financial, economic, and political systems and structures. The new civilization is being built on relationships of trust that already exist among family members and friendship groups and within local business and political circles. As corruption, malfeasance, and errors in the dominant centralized structures become more egregious and apparent, this process is bound to accelerate further until the old systems become irrelevant. My “Walking Away…” series of articles (Part I, Part II, Part III) articulates in more detail my thoughts about that.

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U.S. foreign policy, the primary threat to peace

Two or three years ago in my efforts to gain a deeper understanding of the political dynamics of the Middle East I came across Graham E. Fuller, a Middle-east analyst and former CIA operations officer. Reading his book, Turkey and the Arab Spring, gave me an appreciation for the pivotal role the Turkey plays in the region and in the Muslim world generally. Since then I’ve been following Fuller on his website and on Facebook.

In his recent editorial, US primacy is a self-fulfilling threat generator, Fuller provides an excellent overview of US government foreign policy and the US role in the world. In it, Fuller states:

I have no wish to launch into a litany of American sins, failures, or mistakes by omission, or more often commission, that have by almost any measure been disastrous for so many foreign countries “visited” by U.S. military operations. The list is long and well known — Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya, Pakistan, Somalia, indirectly in Yemen in most recent times. He then nicely summarizes the essence of US foreign policy, saying, “…it’s hard to get off that enemy list when you actively assert your independence from Washington.”

The editorial is brief and well worth reading. You can find it on Fuller’s website.

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Travel Plans

As spring passes and summer begins, we wonder about the possibilities for travel and tourism to return to anything like normal. Will “vaccine passports,” testing, and/or masking be required to travel? If so, what form will those passports take, paper certificates, digital apps, chips embedded under the skin? Will governments impose quarantine requirements for people entering their country, as many have been doing for more than a year? If one does travel abroad, what are the chances of being stuck there and not allowed to leave?

Considering all that, it seems unlikely that I’ll be doing much traveling this year.

Stay alert, keep learning, and seek your inner peace,

Thomas

How, Then, Shall We Live? — What we might learn from the Amish

I grew up in the 1940s and 50s, a time that I consider to be the Golden Age of prosperity and promise, a time when the middle-class was growing larger and more prosperous and it seemed that things would only continue to get better. It was a time when a family could manage quite nicely, as mine did, on a single modest income. My dad was a “debit agent” for a big mutual insurance company, selling life insurance and collecting the premiums from policy holders within his territory, or “debit.” On his modest income he was able to provide us with a nice home, put both my sister and me through college, and allow my mother to remain at home to take care of us kids, keep house, and prepare our meals as middle-class wives typically did in those days.

The social revolution of the 1960s and 70s brought some massive cultural changes, including the rise of the environmental, civil rights, human potential, feminist, gay-rights, back-to-the-land, and peace movements, along with a relaxation of sexual mores, a shift to more casual modes of dress, the hippies, the flower children, experimentation with psycho-active substances, and experiments in communal and cooperative living.

The leveling of class distinctions and income distributions that characterized the post-World War II era continued up until about 1980. Around that time many of those earlier trends seemed to run out of energy, and reactionary forces threw many of them into reverse. Notable among the latter has been the massive reversal of economic fortunes of the middle and lower classes. Despite huge increases in productivity and increased material abundance, class and wealth differences again began to increase and have by now reached unprecedented proportions. For most families, the income from one job is no longer sufficient.

But my purpose here is not to recapitulate the history of that era, nor to critique it, but simply to introduce the reader to a drastically different way of living that has been thriving for decades, if not centuries right alongside the high-tech, consumerist, debt-ridden rat-race that most of us are caught up in, and to suggest that there may be something important to be learned from the Amish as we try to reinvent civilization amidst the present intensifying chaos. 

Photo by Randy Fath on Unsplash

Given my interest in social justice, economic equity, personal freedom, intentional communities, and the social phenomena of the 60s and 70s, it is not surprising that I would discover Donald  Kraybill’s book, The Riddle of Amish Culture, which for me was an eye-opener that showed me a much different way in which people were able to thrive. That was sometime in the 1980s, the same time as my involvement with the School of Living which caused me to make frequent trips into Pennsylvania where School of Living headquarters were then located. Those trips took me through parts of the state where Amish farms and businesses were numerous.

Recently, as I was sorting through some of the many boxes containing my archives and personal records, I came across a photocopy of an article titled, Amish Economics by Gene Logsdon that appeared in the September-October 1986 issue of Community Service Newsletter. Rereading that article after so many years and in the present day context of social, economic and political upheaval, it struck me as being even more pertinent now as we struggle to reimagine how we ought to be living on this finite planet. I’ve scanned that article, converted it to a PDF file, and am making it available here for your edification.

In spite of what many consider to be their backward ways and their inclination to eschew much of modern technology, the Amish have managed to thrive both as a religious and social community as well as economically while many in the conventional world have struggled to survive. According to Wikipedia, “The Amish are among the fastest-growing populations in the world.” Between 1920 and 2019, the Amish population in the United States increased from about 5,000 to 350,000, and they have spread beyond Pennsylvania into many other states, notably Ohio, Indiana, Wisconsin, New York, and Michigan.

Now I am not advocating that we all live as the Amish do, but I think we might do well cultivate some of their attitudes about community and mutual support, and adopt some of their agricultural, land stewardship, and small business practices. Amish communities also enjoy certain freedoms from government policies and dictates because of their religious beliefs and practices.    

If you’d like to dig deeper into what the Amish might teach the rest of us, you can learn a lot from the links in this article and from the Amish Times.

Your comments on this article would be welcomed.

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There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch: Principles of Credit, Exchange, and Finance

“There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.” That’s a well-known adage that goes back a long time, but it was popularized by famed economist Milton Friedman and expressed in his 1975 book titled, There’s No Such Thing as a Free Lunch.

But the abuses of political money by national governments, central banks and the banking establishment and the consequent separation between the financial economy and the real economy have made it appear that there may be a free lunch after all. But we must not allow ourselves to be misled. It may not be immediately apparent but there is always a price to be paid when fundamental principles of reciprocal exchange are violated.

There have been many in the alternative currency and exchange movement who seem to think that this principle does not apply to their proposed schemes and the landscape is strewn with the wreckage of their folly, but the lessons from that experience are yet to be learned. Political currencies have the power of governments and huge financial institutions behind them and are able, through legal tender laws and taxation, to compel the circulation of their currencies and hide the ill effects of their malfeasance. Private and community currencies however must stand on their own merits without the crutch of legal compulsion and must therefore demonstrated their superiority in enabling the reciprocal exchange of goods and services in the marketplace.

Any would-be innovators in this realm must therefore understand the fundamental principles of currency, credit, investment, saving, and the exchange of value. That is a rather vast territory that I have been writing and lecturing about for a very long time. In this post I wish only to state explicitly the fundamental principles that must underlie the design and implementation of any private, community or complementary currency.

Principle #1, the essence of a currency: A currency is a short-term credit instrument of the issuer.
Currency is created when a provider of real value accepts it in payment from issuer, and it is redeemed and destroyed when the issuer accepts it back in payment for the goods or services that they provide. It may change hands many times between issuance and redemption.  

Principle #2, Currency circulation: The circulation of a currency is driven by the issuer’s obligation to accept it back.

Corollary #1.a.: To be sound, credible and effective, a currency must be spent into circulation by one or more trusted issuers who are ready, willing and able to deliver valued goods or services that are in regular demand, and to accept the currency back as payment.

Corollary #1.b.: A currency that is issued in such a way monetizes the value that is inherent in the goods and services that the issuer is ready, willing and able to sell immediately or in the very near future. In other words, it takes the value that is inherent in those real goods and services and converts it into a form (currency) that can be used to make payments.

Definition: Liquidity is the ability to pay, i.e., to meet immediate and short-term obligations.

It has long been recognized that the issuance of private, non-governmental currencies is not only possible and desirable, but also necessary if true freedom and government “by the people and for the people” is to be achieved. It is entirely feasible that any community can create its own liquidity (means of payment) by monetizing (in the form of its own currency) the value inherent in the goods and services produced within that community.

This is not a new idea. Arthur Kitson made the same point 125 years ago:

To the average man, a currency that has not the authority or stamp of government is inconceivable; and yet there is no good reason why communities should not create and control their own currency without the aid or intervention of governments, just as they incur debts or liabilities without such aid or intervention. —Arthur Kitson, A Scientific Solution of the Money Question (1895), p. 279.

Addendum 1: This may help to further clarify the matter:

Credit is given and received in each transaction as follows: a seller gives credit to a buyer when he delivers real value in exchange for the buyer’s promise (his/her currency or i.o.u.) to reciprocate at some time later. The buyer reciprocates when he/she later becomes a seller and accepts his/her previously issued currency as payment.
ReciprocityCircuit

Addendum 2: One of my correspondents on LinkedIn replied to my post saying this:

During high interest phases, credit clearing so clearly offers many benefits. In the current low or no interest phase these seem to be less obvious. Unless the community currency can avoid inflation maybe? But in a way inflation helps productive businesses to repay their debt. So where do you see the biggest benefit now?

That comment highlights some common misconceptions which I answer as follows:

Interest savings are a minor benefit of direct credit clearing. The BIG benefit is that it makes buyers and sellers independent of money and banks. This is especially important when money is made scarce, as it usually is for small and medium sized businesses (SMEs) who are often not able to get credit from banks, and when they do it is on onerous terms: high rates of interest, burdensome repayment schedules, pledge of collateral, and the inclination of banks to foreclose and force liquidation of assets rather than help a business through a difficult period. Credit clearing provides a friendly independent source of liquidity that is limited only by the value produced by businesses that are part of the credit clearing circle.

Regarding inflation, it is never a good thing for SMEs or for most consumers. Inflation “helps productive businesses to repay their debt” only if the business has sufficient market power to raise prices of the things it sells and/or to keep the cost of inputs like labor and materials low. That may be true of big corporations that dominate those markets, but not for SMEs who get caught in the squeeze and are unable to raise their prices enough to keep up with inflation or to prevent their costs from rising.

The corporatocracy would like us to believe that the effects of inflation are the same for everyone but they are not.

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My latest interview with Greg Magarshak

This discussion between Thomas H. Greco, Jr. and Intercoin founder Greg Magarshak covers a wide range of topics including the principles of sound currency issuance; mutual credit clearing; proper allocation of credit; the problems of centralized power, depression, and inflation; empowerment of small businesses and local communities; crypto-currencies; universal basic income (UBI), and more.  

Moneyless Exchange in One Easy Lesson

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.  – Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations.

We have become so accustomed to using money to get the things we want and need that most people find it nearly impossible to conceive of any other possible way. Whenever I tell people that my work is about exchanging goods and services without using money they invariably ask, “Oh, you mean barter?” Then I go on to explain that barter requires a coincidence of wants between two people — I must have something you want, and you must have something I want. No, we must think beyond barter.

Through intensive study of monetary history and exchange principles extending over a long period of time I’ve come to a deeper understanding of the exchange process and the possibilities for advancing beyond our present dysfunctional and destructive monetary system.

“Mutual credit clearing” is a process that enables producers to trade goods and services directly among themselves without the need to use money. The credit clearing process is not a new invention; banks have been using it for a long time to settle accounts among themselves. But businesses can also use it to trade with one another and settle accounts among themselves, and they have been doing so for the past several decades. There are now scores of commercial “trade exchanges” operating around the world to provide credit clearing services for their tens of thousands of member businesses. While these exchanges are often referred to as “barter exchanges,” they do not do barter in the conventional meaning of the word. Rather, they utilize the collective credit of the members themselves as the internal payment medium. Members earn “trade credit” when they sell goods or services to another member, and they spend trade credit when they buy goods or services from another member. It is a simple process of accounting for value given and value received. When a member sells something their account is credited (increased) and when the buy something their account is debited (decreased). 

What enables the system to work is the fact that some trusted members who offer for sale goods and services that are in high demand are allowed to spend trade credits before they earn them. In other words, these trusted members are given a line of credit against their future sales; their account balances are allowed to be negative, up to some predetermined limit that is based mainly on the amount of value they are ready willing and able to sell to the other members.

Here, in a minute and a half, one of the major trade exchange operators explains the processes in its utter simplicity:

Note, this is not meant to be an endorsement of Bartercard or any other company. I refer to this video only as a good description of how credit clearing works to enable producers to trade among themselves without needing to make payment with conventional money, nor the need to borrow from banks.

And in this video a member of another trade exchange describes how credit clearing works for his business:

Properly organized and managed mutual credit clearing exchanges provide an effective, stable, and sustainable means of creating interest-free local liquidity and enabling companies and individuals to enhance their opportunities for success despite the adverse policies of banks and governments.

A more complete description of the credit clearing process can be found in my book, The End of Money and the Future of Civilization, particularly Chapter 12, Credit Clearing, the UnMoney.

Addendum: This subject is further explicated in my recent conversation with Greg Magarshak, founder of Intercoin, in which we discuss the essence of money, reciprocal exchange, credit allocation and whether or not cryptocurrencies and/or blockchain have a role to play in the reciprocal exchange process. A particularly pertinent clip is here. The entire two hour conversation can be seen at https://community.intercoin.org/t/interview-with-thomas-h-greco-community-currency-economist/1341.

The time is now for a new civilization

In 1997 I produced a monograph titled, The Cooperative Community Commonwealth: A Prospective Outline for a New Socioeconomic Framework. Over the ensuing years I’ve revisited and edited it a few times. It was when written and until now ahead of the wave, but the peculiar turn of events of the past few years, and especially those of 2020, have intensified both the urgency and the opportunities for the kinds of actions described in this visionary plan. After making a few additional minor edits I’ve published it on this site and on Medium.

The Cooperative Community Commonwealth: A Prospective Outline for a New Socioeconomic Framework

The present state of civilization, even in so-called “democratic” or “free” countries, is one of dominance by massive hierarchical structures which are centrally controlled by a relatively small group of people. These individuals wield enormous power by virtue of their control of the established structures and mechanisms, especially those of money and finance, and through their ownership of the vast majority of the land and capital.

The further development of civilization and the fuller realization of the human potential depend upon the further liberation of people within a context of increasing global awareness and concern. This, in turn, requires broader, more democratic access to land and capital, the devolution of power to the community level, and progress beyond familiar modes of domination and coercion. Such a process will require reliance upon the gentlest of means, higher levels of awareness and personal responsibility, the creation of new, inclusive structures, and their implementation under popular control.

…. Read the full article here.

Truth, Propaganda and the Media

Today I received a link from a correspondent in Ireland that featured this Dilbert cartoon.

I think that clearly sums up the the main thing that divides people in today’s pandemic world. There are those who still trust “the system,” including the media, the government and medical establishment, and those who don’t. Each faction has their own good reasons for their position. What can possibly bridge the divide?

Ultimately, I think it comes down to emotion. People believe what they want to believe and will hold fast to that belief until the weight of evidence becomes sufficiently dissonant to flip them. That threshold level is different for different people. We also are inclined to screen out evidence that runs counter to our preconceived notions and to add more weight to evidence that supports them, this is known as “confirmation bias.” Then there is the fact that competing interests send out messages that are designed to promote their particular agenda. This is the stuff of advertising and propaganda, and those that have a bigger megaphone tend to drown out competing messages. Thus the battle for freedom of speech continues and becomes ever more crucial.

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Alternative History — What If?

This Power Point slide show presentation was delivered virtually to the Alternative History Festival in Poland in September 2020. It highlights several historical turns as modern civilization has evolved that led to our present predicament and then asks how things might have been different and how they ought to be.

You can download it here.

Newsletter February 2021 — The Impending Failure of Wikipedia and other news

In this issue:

  • “Artificial Intelligence,” Bots, and Censorship: Why Wikipedia can no longer be trusted
  • Censored on Facebook
  • Consolidating and Preserving my Legacy
  • The Farm
  • Now, for your edification and amusement

Read it on my Mailchimp site.

James Corbett addresses the topic of alternative currencies

In his presentation that was part of The Greater Reset, James Corbett (of the Corbett Report) provided an overview of alternative means of exchange. In it he mentioned community currencies, LETS, trade exchanges, and my book, Money: Understanding and Creating Alternatives to Legal Tender, as well as this website.

You can view his excellent presentation here. Scroll down to find James Corbett: Why We Need a Survival Currency