Hi, This is my first newsletter since mid-October. An excuse, if I need one, is that I’ve been traveling. To be truthful, I’ve been lacking in motivation and I’ve felt the need to reassess both the scope and the methods of my work. Pondering the question, “What makes an old man grumpy,?” I think I’ve begun to figure it out—
Despite a half a lifetime of work and dedication, the world has yet to heed my advice and conform itself to my view of how it ought to be.
So there it is. There’s the root of my late-life discontent. My muse tells me that I ought to lighten up and enjoy whatever time I might have left; the world will muddle through, with or without me. Maybe I’ll take up the challenge to become a stand-up (or sit-down) comedian. In the meantime, while I try to hone that skill, I offer below a few bits of hopeful (and not so hopeful) news and an overview of my recent travels, including links to my photos which you can browse at your leisure.
Bangla-Pesa officially relaunched in partnership with the Kenyan Government.
You may recall earlier reports about the Bangla-Pesa community currency project that launched in Kenya last May. One of the most promising community currency projects on the current scene, Bangla-Pesa quickly ran into a major roadblock in the form of government interference that included unfounded criminal charges against the organizer and five board members. We are extremely pleased to learn that all of that nonsense has been sorted out and the Bangla-Pesa project is now back on track. According to project founder, Will Ruddick, Bangla-Pesa has just been relaunched, this time with official government support. Ruddick states that the relaunch celebration included several government representatives who have unanimously requested that the program be replicated in other areas in the county as a means of reducing poverty. You can read the details at http://koru.or.ke/bangla-pesa-relaunch.
Ending the Growth Imperative
Richard Heinberg, in his recent article, Shutdown and default: the worst-case scenario (http://www.resilience.org/stories/2013-10-10/shutdown-and-default-the-worst-case-scenario ), stated that, “Almost nobody in the commentariat mentions that the US economy is currently being held together by deficit spending and quantitative easing. Rapid economic growth as experienced during the mid-20th century is over and done with.”
Heinberg is surely right about that, but how are we to get out of the predicament we are in? I have said repeatedly that our financial system is set up to require continuous and accelerating growth, that creating money based on banks’ lending at interest results in exponential growth of debt, which, in turn, forces exponential growth in economic activity to justify further growth in debt to prevent financial collapse. All of the major central banks, the Federal Reserve, the Bank of England, The Bank of Japan, and the European Central Bank, have been buying government bonds to keep the system going and avoid the inevitable shift to a steady-state, resource efficient, non-polluting economy.
How long can the monetary authorities continue to inflate their currencies under the euphemistic rubric of “quantitative easing” (QE), without causing prices to spin out of control? If they were to stop, however, that would cause a cascade of defaults, financial market chaos, and major global economic depression. They are between a rock and a hard place.
Heinberg goes on to say, “In 2008 it became clear that, as limits to growth are encountered, the inherent instability of financial systems can precipitate a much faster crash than would otherwise be the case. It also became clear that governments and central banks will undertake extraordinary measures to avert a fast-crash scenario. The rapid expansion of household debt, which had kept the growth balloon inflated since 1980, effectively ceased with the advent of the Great Recession. The balance sheet of the Fed stretched dramatically, and the Federal Government’s debt levels soared, as policy makers strove to keep the economy from imploding.”
He concludes with this advice: “Pass a new debt limit and re-open the government, no conditions attached. Then get to work designing a post-growth, post-fossil fuel economy that protects people and planet. Do it in that order. Simple.”
Well, not quite so simple. The debt limit has been raised and the government shutdown ended as everyone knew it would be, but there is still no sign that the powers-that-be have any interest in promoting a “post-growth, post-fossil fuel economy.” To undertake such a mission would require that they give up the “usury game” and the central banking system that has enabled them for so long to centralize power and concentrate wealth in their own hands, and that they surrender power to the people in a government that is truly democratic. No, the massive changes required must come from the bottom, from creative efforts that result in new structures, especially of exchange, finance, and cooperative enterprise, that reduce our dependence upon the dominant systems and make them irrelevant.
The prescription I’ve provided in my books and presentations for creating a new world order in which the people govern instead of a global elite oligarchy is to Share, Cooperate, and Restructure. We must recognize that the seat of sovereignty is the individual, not in isolation, but as a free moral agent within a convivial community, we must assert our independence from the dominant political, economic, and financial power structures, and we must organize new structures, under local control, that empower people and provide for the basic needs of all.
Our urgent need is to transcend the global interest-based debt money system, but digital commodities like Bitcoin are not the answer any more than a return to using gold, silver or other real commodities as payment media. The better and more complete answer to the money problem in the one I’ve been proposing in my books and presentations for many years. What I foresee is a global network of small credit clearing exchanges that proved a means of payment that is locally and cooperatively controlled, yet globally useful.
ReinventingMoney.com website redesign and relaunch
Thanks to the good graces and enormous efforts of Matthew Slater, my ReinventingMoney.com website has been redesigned and relocated to WordPress. The url remains the same, http://reinventingmoney.com/.
ReinventingMoney.com is mainly an archival site for researchers that was compiled several years ago. If you are aware of any useful material, such as case studies, correspondence, or academic treatises that are particularly important, please send us a description and the link or file. Also, I’d be grateful to have a volunteer willing to help maintain that site. My active site is https://beyondmoney.net/.
My current odyssey began on Nov 13 when I boarded a plane for Istanbul where I gave a presentation at the Green Economy and Commons conference. After spending a few more days exploring the city, I flew on to Kuala Lumpur, then a couple days later went by bus to Georgetown on the island of Penang, a world heritage city and my favorite place in Malaysia. On December 5, I began my month-long Cambodia adventure, making stops in Phnom Penh, Sihanoukville, Otres Beach, Kampot, Kep, and Siem Reap where I visited the amazing ruins of Angkor Wat. Since January 3, I’ve been in Thailand. Chiang Mai is one of my old haunts and a good place to get my teeth cared for at very reasonable prices.
My Cambodia visit got off to an inauspicious start. After checking into my hotel, I decided to take a stroll down by the river. While crossing the street through relentless traffic, I got sideswiped by a motorbike that went roaring past in the far lane. I managed to get to the other side and sat down on a convenient bench where I almost passed out. My left shin was skinned and bruised in a couple places, but needed no stitches. I got some aid from a British friend I had been traveling with for some days, and a Polish couple who happened to be passing by. My wounds have fortunately healed well by now and I seem to be none the worse for it.
Siem Reap and Angkor
One should not miss an opportunity to visit Siem Reap and Angkor. The ruins of Angkor are numerous and cover a vast expanse. Angkor Wat is only part of it. Exploring them requires a lot of walking and climbing, though, as vehicles can take you only so close.
Cambodia is certainly a third world country with much inferior infrastructure but it is rapidly developing with help from outside and gearing up to be a major tourist destination. The people are friendly and helpful, and you can find accommodations at every level from backpacker hostels to luxury hotels. In Kampot I had a nice clean room with private bath, hot shower, free Wi-Fi, and cable TV for $8 per night.
No coins in Cambodia
One thing that is noticeably strange about Cambodia is the fact that I had no coins jingling in my pocket. Strange, too, is the fact that market transactions are conducted mostly in U.S. currency. Yes, Cambodia has its own currency, called the Riel, with an exchange rate of about 4,000 riels to the dollar, but ATMs dispense dollars, and riel notes are used only as small change. Prices are typically stated in whole dollars and quarter dollars. So, if I buy a restaurant meal for $3.75 (not an uncommon price there) and I tender a five dollar bill to pay, I’ll generally get back in change a one dollar bill and a 1,000 riel bill. The smallest denomination note I saw, though not a very common one, is 100 riel, which is considered to be worth one fortieth of a dollar or two and half cents (and we in North America quibble about keeping the penny).
If you want to see images from the places I have visited, my photos can be viewed at the following links:
By the way, I’m keeping my Verizon wireless account active. The number is 520-820-0575. I don’t keep that phone turned on while I’m abroad so you won’t reach me directly that way, but you can leave a voice message (I cannot retrieve text messages) and I will get it when I check messages every few days.
I do have another mobile phone with me and as long as I’m in Thailand, you can reach me at +66 93 170 2910.
The New Economy Coalition is convening a gathering at Northeastern University in Boston, MA from June 6-8, 2014. You can get more information and signup here: http://neweconomy.net/content/june-6-8-2014-national-gathering-new-economy-movement?utm_source=New+Economics+Email+List&utm_campaign=2a4c2d8654-New+Economy+Newsletter+-+October+2013&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_6f7a9ab0ed-2a4c2d8654-18189817
Wishing you a happy and productive New Year,