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2016 Summer Newsletter

 Greece Workshop Report

During the last week of June I conducted a weeklong workshop and colloquium on Innovation in Exchange and Finance at the Alexandros campus of the Kalikalos Holistic Summer School on the beautiful Pelion peninsula overlooking the Aegean Sea in Greece.

I had planned this to be a collaborative, interactive and problem-centered workshop that would bring together skilled and accomplished people to produce significant innovations in the areas of exchange, finance, and economics. We were fortunate in being able to draw together an excellent cohort of participants having diverse knowledge, skills and experience. Nine of these were full-time and several more participated in various parts of the workshop, particularly the June 25-26 weekend when we had a number of Greek participants from Volos and Athens. The Volos contingent shared their experiences over the past four years in creating and operating the Volos TEM trade exchange. It was very useful for all of us to hear about their difficulties and false starts and the lessons they have learned which will be applied as they move forward into the next phase of their project.

In addition to the registered workshop attendees who came from Australia, India, Ireland, Serbia, Sweden, the US and the UK, several Kalikalos staff members participated in some aspects of the workshop. We were disappointed however that one registrant from Saudi Arabia was unable to attend because his entry visa was denied by the Greek government.

Our work sessions were loosely structured to allow space for each person to share not only their questions but also their experiences and insights, and for the spontaneous emergence of ideas action plans. In addition to my presentations of foundational concepts using slide shows and videos, the format included a number of participatory exercises. Participants had opportunities to showcase their ongoing or planned projects and receive feedback from the group, and as is usual in any such gathering, informal discussions and networking were an important part of the experience.

Kalikalos has invited me to return again next year to conduct another similar workshop on monetary and financial innovation. It will be scheduled in the general timeframe of the second week of June (exact dates to be determined soon). My colleague Matthew Slater, one of this year’s participants who has particular expertise in IT, crypto-currencies, has agreed to assist me in that workshop, and over the coming months we will be working to further develop the format and the program.

I am hoping to once again attract participants who are ready, willing and able to put their knowledge and understanding into action. As Malcolm Gladwell points out, it takes mavens, connectors, and marketers working together to make a project successful, but most of all I think it takes entrepreneurs who are able to bring harmony to the mix, to hold the vision and to dedicate themselves fully to its realization.

As the time approaches, we and the Kalikalos team will be asking you to help us get the word out to our target groups— trade exchange operators, social entrepreneurs, local government officials, serious students, and enthusiastic agents of change.

In the face of the ongoing global economic and financial crisis and increasing political uncertainty, the creation and deployment of innovative decentralized mechanisms for reciprocal exchange and equitable finance are becoming ever more urgent and the opportunities have never been greater. We are now on the brink of ushering in a new more just and sustainable economic paradigm that will enable small producers and local enterprises to thrive, and communities to gain more control over their own destiny and quality of life.

Before and after my workshop I spent an additional three weeks at Kalkalos living in community at the Kissos campus. That in itself was an enlightening and enjoyable experience.
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Upcoming presentation – Malaysia

In October I’ll be presenting at the International Forum on Inclusive Wealth (http://www.ifiw.my/) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. I’ll be outlining my revolutionary plan for a decentralized global exchange network based on direct control of credit by producers.
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“IMF admits disastrous love affair with the euro and apologises for the immolation of Greece“

In a July 29 article in The Telegraph, journalist Ambrose Evans-Pritchard dissects a recent report by the IMF’s Independent Evaluation Office (IEO). He says the report, “goes above the head of the managing director, Christine Lagarde. It answers solely to the board of executive directors, and those from Asia and Latin America are clearly incensed at the way European Union insiders used the fund to rescue their own rich currency union and banking system.”

He concludes that “The injustice is that the cost of the bailouts was switched to ordinary Greek citizens – the least able to support the burden – and it was never acknowledged that the true motive of EU-IMF Troika policy was to protect monetary union. Indeed, the Greeks were repeatedly blamed for failures that stemmed from the policy itself. This unfairness – the root of so much bitterness in Greece – is finally recognised in the report.” Read the full article here.
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Recommended reads and views

Chris Hedges: The Revenge of the Lower Classes and the Rise of American Fascism.

Michael Hudson interview: The new global financial cold war

Basic Income gaining ground:

General Wesley Clark, former Supreme Allied Commander of NATO, testifies in this 2-minute video that the US planned to overthrow seven countries after 9/11.

Wishing you a relaxing and enjoyable summer,

Thomas

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Newsletter – January 2016

My upcoming course, Exchange and Finance for the New Economy: Principles and Practice.

LEARN    *    WORK    *    PLAY

Come to Greece next summer to participate in my week-long course

View from Alexandros

View from Alexandros

in innovative finance, exchange, and economics, and collaborate with like minded peers to create a new economy that works for everyone, while enjoying a delightful summer holiday on the magical Pelion peninsula.

This course is designed especially for social entrepreneurs, enthusiastic agents of change, local government officials, and serious students who are eager to co-create a new sustainable and convivial economy from the bottom up. In this highly participatory workshop, we will use a combination of presentations, discussion groups (some on the beach), videos, and simulation games, to dive deeply into the process of exploring and developing innovative methods of finance and exchange, like community currencies and credit clearing exchanges.

Our venue is the beautiful, modern and comfortable Hotel Alexandros, a calm and serene retreat center perched on the hillside overlooking the Aegean Sea within walking distance to the pristine Plaka beach and the clear waters of the Mediterranean.

Course fees are extremely affordable but a few fee concessions may be a available for qualified low income participants.

The course runs from June 24 thru July 1. Course description and registration form can be found at http://www.kalikalos.org/exchange-finance. Space is limited so register early.
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The Big Short and other revealing sources

If you have not seen the movie The Big Short, I encourage you to do so. It is based on the book by Michael Lewis, a former Wall Street insider with an unusual talent for telling a good story and making complicated things understandable. In this book and others of his that I’ve read (Boomerang and Flash Boys), Lewis does a superb job of describing Wall Street corruption and providing important insights about our dysfunctional systems of money, banking and finance.

I also recommend the new book, Healing Capitalism, by my friend Prof. Jem Bendell. The printed book is priced for the academic market (pricey) but the digital format is much more reasonable. In the introduction, which you can read for free, Bendell quotes E. C. Riegel: “we need not petition Congress and we need not waste time to denounce bankers, for they can neither help nor hinder our natural right to extend credit to each other, and this is the perfect basis for a money system.” You can download the Introduction here, and links to free downloads of Riegel’s works can be found at http://reinventingmoney.com/library/.
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In Memoriam

On a personal note, it is in sadness that I report the passing of my dear sister, my only sibling, Mary Lillian (we always called her Marylil) on the second day of the new year. Marylil was a genuinely nice person who was loved by everyone who knew her. Her absence is deeply felt.

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2015 Fall Newsletter

In this edition

  • Back in the USA
  • My latest article: 50 Ways to Leave the Euro: Greece and the Global Crisis
  • Raising the debt ceiling—again…, and again…, and..!
  • Seizing an Alternative—conference recordings
  • Homage to Peter Etherden
  • The case of Iceland – Is democracy more important than financial markets
  • Gates Foundation chooses Cyclos for E-pay Innovation Award

Back in the USA

I’ve been back in Tucson since early October, resting and recuperating from five months of travel and an exhausting summer tour of Europe. I’m corresponding, writing, advising and waiting to see what new opportunities might present themselves.

My tour of Europe included presentations, interviews, and/or workshops in Greece, Italy, and Ireland. As recordings of my presentations become available, I will be posting them on my website https://beyondmoney.net/. So far I’ve posted interviews from Athens and Sardinia, and the slide show from the workshop I conducted in Athens. The audio of my August 28 Dublin presentation, The Liberation of Money and Credit, can be heard at https://soundcloud.com/flanagankev/thomas-greco-dublin-august-28-2015.

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My latest article

Common Dreams has just published my latest article, 50 Ways to Leave the Euro: Greece and the Global Crisis. In this article I provide my prescriptions for how Greece (and other countries) might relieve their impossible debt burden, and I describe ways in which domestic liquidity can be created apart from the euro regime and without inflation. You can read it here. I’ve also posted it on my website as a PDF file.

As an aside, in addition to Greece’s economic and financial problems, the country has been overwhelmed by a flood of refugees and migrants. It is reported that more than a half million have arrived on Greek islands just in the past 10 months. This refugee crisis that is now threatening all of Europe is a direct result of the destabilizing actions by the Western powers attempting over the past several years to reshape the politics of the Middle-east and North Africa. Their agenda goes way beyond oil, but few people are paying any attention. Former Reagan administration official Paul Craig Roberts is one of many sources that provide deeper insights, for example in his article, The Re-enserfment of Western Peoples.

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Raising the debt ceiling—again…, and again…, and..!

Every few years the U.S. Congress goes through the charade of debating whether or not to raise the limit on the government debt. In the end they always do. According to Wikipedia, “the US has raised its debt ceiling (in some form or other) at least 90 times in the 20th century.[11] The debt ceiling has been raised 74 times since March 1962,[12] including 18 times under Ronald Reagan, eight times under Bill Clinton, seven times under George W. Bush, and five times under Barack Obama.”

Why continue the pretense that there is any choice about it? Why can’t the government balance its budget and why does the national debt keep increasing? The real answer, which I wrote a quarter century ago, will probably surprise you. To learn what it is, see my recent post at https://beyondmoney.net/2015/10/15/why-cant-governments-balance-their-budgets/.

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Seizing an Alternative—conference recordings

Recordings made at last June’s Seizing an Alternative conference at Pomona College are being compiled and made available at the Pando Populus website. These include several sessions from Track 6: Political Collapse in which I participated.

Session 1 featured presentations by John B. Cobb, Jr., Ellen Brown, and Thomas Greco. In this recording, John Cobb’s introduction is followed by Ellen Brown’s presentation (starting at minute 6:45) and Thomas Greco’s (starting at minute 22:24 and ending at minute 44:15). A Q&A session runs from minute 44:15 to the end. In my portion I provide a brief overview of private currencies and exchange systems and present some of my early prescriptions for addressing the Greek debt crisis.

Session 7 featured presentations by Ellen Brown, Thomas Greco, and Kevin Clark. My presentation begins at minute 27:18 and ends at minute 54:30. In it I answer the fundamental questions about money and the exchange process, and how to reclaim the credit commons. _______________________________________________

Homage to Peter Etherden

I was very sad to learn recently that Peter Etherden has passed away. Peter was one of my very good friends with whom I always enjoyed visiting and discussing our mutual interests. I’m glad that 2169889106PEI got to see him a few weeks ago in London just prior to my return to the U.S.

I first met Peter in 1986 in Zurich where we both attended the Fourth World Assembly that was organized by John Papworth. Over the subsequent years we corresponded regularly and we were able to meet several times during my visits to England. One of my fondest memories is of my visit in 2002 when he and his partner Connie lived aboard their boat in Rye harbor. During that visit the three of us sailed across the English Channel to Bologne where we spent a few days at mooring in the harbor. I also recall 2001 when my then partner Donna and I visited Rye and the four of us went off to explore Devon and Cornwall, a very beautiful part of Britain.

Peter was a diligent researcher and prolific writer whose interests were wide ranging. He will be greatly missed. Many of his research compilations and his writings under various pen names can be found at http://www.cesc.net/.

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The case of Iceland – Is democracy more important than financial markets?

In his 2012 CBC interview, the President of Iceland very articulately describes the situation as it played out in his country during the global financial crisis that began in 2008. He describes the ways in which the failure of Icelandic banks was handled, the strong reaction from the British and Dutch governments, the reasons behind his government’s actions, and what really is at stake, not only for Iceland but for every country in the world. See it at https://youtu.be/7zlzC_X MQzI.

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Gates Foundation chooses Cyclos for E-pay Innovation Award

In case you missed the news, as I did, the Social TRade Organisation (STRO) last year was chosen by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to receive the prestigious E-pay Innovation Award for its Cyclos secure payments platform. Cyclos was chosen to receive the award over 9 other contenders from around the world. The $50,000 award was given at a ceremony at the annual conference of the Electronic Transactions Association in Las Vegas.

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Finally, as Thanksgiving day in the U.S. approaches, I’m reminded of how blessed my life has been. It is in the spirit of gratitude that I thank you for your support and wish you all a happy holiday season.

Thomas

Newsletter — Summer 2015

Upcoming Ireland Events and My Remaining Tour Itinerary
My Activities in Greece, an abbreviated sketch
The Greek Crisis
Sardex

The summer has gone pretty much according to the plan I laid out in my Spring Newsletter, with of course the inevitable addition of things that have popped up spontaneously. I’m sorry I’ve been too busy to report about all of it, even though I’m sure many of my readers would want to know. My main reason for writing now is to highlight the agenda for the remainder of my summer tour in case some of you happen to be in the neighborhood of Ireland, Scotland or England. I hadn’t really planned to visit Italy but here I am—in Rome after visits to Tuscany and Sardinia (more on that below). I’m now in Ireland for the final events of my summer tour.

Here’s what I’ll be doing.
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Ireland Events and My Remaining Tour Itinerary
25 to 27 August 2015. I’ll be at Cloughjordan Ecovillage to participate in the P2P Summer School program on The Art of Commoning. Then on Friday, 28 August, I will give a lecture at Trinity College, Dublin, followed by a panel discussion. And on Saturday, 29 August, I will conduct a workshop at the same venue. Here are the details.
Friday August 28th 19:00 – 21:00
Talk: The Liberation of Money and Credit
Where: CONNECT (Formerly CTVR) Dunlop Oriel House, 34 Westland Row, Trinity College Dublin, Dublin.
On the evening of Friday August 28th, Thomas Greco will give a presentation on The Liberation of Money and Credit, outlining the fundamental importance of reclaiming the credit commons and showing how communities and businesses can reduce their dependence on bank borrowing and conventional, political forms of money. After the talk Thomas will join a panel with Michel Bauwens and Kevin Flanagan of the P2P Foundation, Dr Rachel O’Dwyer of Trinity College Dublin and Graham Barnes of Feasta for a Q&A session.

Saturday August 29th 10:00 – 16:00
Workshop: The Exchange Revolution: Taking Complementary Currencies and Moneyless Trading to a New Level
Where: CONNECT (Formerly CTVR) Dunlop Oriel House, 34 Westland Row, Trinity College Dublin, Dublin.
On Saturday, Thomas will run a workshop for currency activists, practitioners, researchers, and social entrepreneurs on The Exchange Revolution: Taking complementary currencies and moneyless trading to a new level, also at the CONNECT venue in Dublin. Anyone with a specific interest in developing and extending the impact of community currencies, mutual credit, and other complementary exchange mechanisms is invited to attend.
Both events are sponsored and hosted by CONNECT (formerly CTVR – http://www.ctvr.ie/), at their Dublin city centre venue and supported by Feasta, the Foundation for the Economics of Sustainability (http://www.feasta.org) and P2P Foundation Ireland.
Both Dublin events are free but people are asked to register at:
http://www.eventbrite.com/e/beyond-money-events-with-thomas-greco-tickets-18131016358
Tuesday, 1 September, at Queens College, Belfast
Evening Lecture, Communities, Currencies and the Commons: Democratising money creation & enterprise after the Euro-Greek crisis, with Thomas Greco at Queens College, (Senate Room) at 7.30pm (registration at 7.15pm) hosted by the School of Law partnered by Positive MoneyNI. The talk will be followed by panel discussion.
Coordinator – William Methven, methvenwilliam@gmail.com

From Belfast, I will travel to Edinburgh, Scotland for a few days of exploring, then to London. I’m scheduled to fly back to San Francisco on September 9.
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My Activities in Greece, an abbreviated sketch
Altogether, I spent a little more than three weeks at the Kalikalos Holistic Summer School during the months of June and July. Kalikalos is located on the Mt. Pelion peninsula where the views are spectacular, the mountain villages delightful, and the nearby beaches inviting, all of which provides a good balance of work, play and living in community with people from diverse places. In this ever-changing community of students, workshop leaders, volunteers, facilitators-in-residence, and staff, everyone pitches in to prepare meals, clean up, and share their special gifts. The daily program routine leaves plenty of time for recreation and many people choose to go down the mountain to the beach in the afternoons (about a 20 minute ride) or to hike the ancient donkey trails that connect the villages. Healthy living is a fundamental aspect of the Kalikalos experience with plenty of opportunity for yoga, meditation, tai chi and whatever other modes of centering people care to share. Meals are vegetarian and based mainly on fresh whole foods and traditional Greek ingredients—local olives. olive oil, feta cheese, locally baked bread, tomatoes, cucumbers, and vegetables from Kalikalos’ own gardens.
During my first week there I gave two presentations and conducted sessions in which we played two of my simulation games, Money Monopoly and Free Exchange. Then in July during the workshop on Solidarity Economy, I participated in most of the sessions and gave two presentations on the money problem and exchange altenatives.

While my work on exchange alternatives in Greece has been mostly with private groups and activists, I have developed proposals for creating domestic and community liquidity at all levels ranging from the bottom upward to include grassroots initiatives, business associations, municipal governments, and even the national government. I will be publishing specific details about these proposals in the near future. I am also continuing to work with colleagues in Volos on laying out the framework for a nationwide network of localized credit clearing exchanges.
During the last weekend in July I conducted a two day workshop in Athens for a sizable group of participants interested, or active in programs to create complementary liquidity. In the first session our discussions were based on my slide show on the Greek situation, and in the second, my presentation on the issues that need to be addressed in Taking Moneyless Exchange to Scale. That slide show is posted on my website at https://beyondmoney.files.wordpress.com/2015/07/workshop-athens.ppsx.

On Wednesday, July 29, I was interviewed on Porto Kali internet radio in Athens (in English with Greek translation). You can listen to it at http://wp.me/a43RA-Ge. _________________________________________________
The Greek Crisis
The Greek debt crisis has been all over the news lately so most everyone is aware of it, but most people are not aware of the underlying causes or what is being done to the Greek nation by the financial and political powers-that-be. Several of my recent posts at http://beyondmoney.net have dealt with that topic. In addition, there have been some very good recent articles that clearly explain it. These three are especially enlightening:
GREECE’D: We Voted ‘No’ to slavery, but ‘Yes’ to our chains, by investigative reporter Greg Palast.
The Rest of the Story About Greece: EU’s economic demands seek to derail small business and local communities, paving the way for multinational corporate giants.

• Ellen Brown’s fine article “Guerrilla Warfare Against a Hegemonic Power”: The Challenge and Promise of Greece

And if you want to understand the larger agenda of which the Greek situation is indicative, be sure to listen to Ellen Brown’s interview with Dr. Paul Craig Roberts, Greece-y Mess – 07.08.15, at http://itsourmoney.podbean.com/e/greece-y-mess-070815/
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Sardex
Last week I had occasion to visit the Italian island of Sardinia and spend a few hours meeting with the founders and managers of a commercial trade exchange called Sardex.
I’ve known about Sardex since almost its beginning five years ago and have corresponded over the past few years with Giuseppe Littera, one of its founders, but this was the first opportunity I’ve had to get an inside look at their operation. I came away with a better understanding of how they operate and the impression that the Sardex structures, procedures, and protocols come closer to optimal than any other trade exchange I’ve seen. It appears to be a developing model that can be both scalable and replicable.
You can read my brief but more complete report here, and. you can get a pretty good picture of the distinctive features of Sardex by viewing Giuseppe Littera’s presentation (in English) that was made at a conference in Volos, Greece, in 2014. You can find it on YouTube at, https://youtu.be/rvaL2A8juz0.
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All best wishes for a playful and enjoyable summer,
Tom

2015 Spring Newsletter

In this issue:

  • Summer in Greece (and elsewhere in Europe)
  • The Greek Debt Crisis, an Opportunity for Innovation
  • California Events
  • African Currency Projects Proliferating
  • Good Reading, Listening, and Viewing

IMG_2099 Summer in Greece (and elsewhere in Europe)

The fates have conspired to draw me back to Greece this coming summer. I’ve recently had a lot of interesting correspondence with people in Europe who are working, in one way or another, on solutions to the intensifying global financial crisis. The eastern Mediterranean seems to be at the leading edge of the global debt tsunami so that’s the place to be.

I have been invited to serve as a Scientist in Residence at the holistic Kalikalos Summer School on the mythical Pelion peninsula near Volos, Greece. I will be there during the periods 12 to 19 June and 10 to 17 July, and possibly some other times in between or after those dates. During the 12-19 June period, Kalikalos will also feature a course, The Big Picture: Toward a new way of relating to self, community and planet, led by Jennifer Hinton and Theoharis Tziovaras, and during the 10 to 17 July period, Jonathan Dawson of Schumacher College (UK) will be offering a course, Economics of Solidarity, in which I will assist. My residency there will provide lots of opportunities for idea sharing and collaboration.

The school’s website describes it as follows: “The Kalikalos living learning centers in Pelion, Greece are dedicated to demonstrating the power of authentic community as a vehicle for building a new holistic world of peace, partnership and sustainability. Our three campuses offer an educational programme of workshops, retreats, workcamps, conferences and living-in-community guest weeks in the summer months that include healing (self, society & planet), creative arts, communication science, and Self-enquiry. For the latest information about the Centres, please subscribe to our bi-monthly newsletter at: www.kalikalos.com/eNews.”

In addition to my stay at Kalikalos, I expect to be spending some time elsewhere in Greece during June and July. Besides Athens and Volos, Crete and Cyprus are also possibilities. At the moment, August is open, but I plan to remain in Europe until early September. My return flight is booked from London, so I will be spending at least a few days in England prior to my departure. As always, I am open to visiting, presenting, and conferring in places along my routes. Proposals can be sent to me at thgreco@mindspring.com.

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The Greek Debt Crisis, an Opportunity for Innovation

Since the January elections there, and in anticipation of my summer visit, I’ve been looking closely at Greece,—researching its history, politics, and economy. A lot of media attention has been given to the new government of the Syriza Party and its populist agenda. Especially prominent in the news has been their new Finance Minister, Yanis Varoufakis who has been wrangling with Angela Merkel and the rest of Greece’s European creditors over restructuring the countries debt and relaxing the austerity conditions that were accepted by the previous administration.

Varoufakis has an impressive background and some unorthodox ideas about how to address the debt crisis that threatens to not only crush Greece, but to unravel the entire Eurozone. He is to be admired for his courage in standing up to the “troika” (the European Commission (EC), International Monetary Fund (IMF), and European Central Bank (ECB)), and for exposing the failures and pretense of the economics profession. Varoufakis’ blog provides links to many of his interviews and presentations, and his book, The Global Minotaur: America, the True Origins of the Financial Crisis and the Future of the World Economy, published in 2011 and updated in 2013, is now gaining wide attention.

That is not to say that he gets everything right. He may have the right approach to dealing with the immediate crisis of national insolvency, but he seems to be lacking when it comes to understanding the more fundamental flaws of money that is created by banks on the basis of interest-bearing debt, nor does he seem to appreciate the vast potential of innovative exchange mechanisms like mutual credit clearing and private currencies issued by trusted domestic producers.

He has however posted one currency idea on his blog that might be of some help if some features were to be changed. I have posted my suggestions about that as a comment to his post. You can find both his proposal and my comment at http://yanisvaroufakis.eu/2014/02/15/bitcoin-a-flawed-currency-blueprint-with-a-potentially-useful-application-for-the-eurozone/#comment-148955.

Besides accessing many web sources, I discovered, quite by accident in a local bookshop, a new book that is proving to be invaluable in providing me with essential background and insights into how things operate in Greece in the post-WWII era. The book is, The Thirteenth Labour of Hercules: Inside the Greek Crisis, authored by journalist Yannis Palaiologos (Portobello Books, 2014). Reading it has shown me the many dimensions of Greek politics and the domestic and foreign basis of the present crisis. It seems that there is plenty of blame to go around.

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California Events

I will spend the month of May going back and forth between California and the East Coast to visit family and friends. Then in early June prior to my departure for Europe, I will be occupied with events in California. On June 2, I will lead a discussion in Martinez (San Francisco Bay area). This event, sponsored the Mt. Diablo Peace Center and Friendly Favors, is titled, Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea: What Greece needs to do to extricate itself from its economic and financial predicament. We will discuss the various options that Greece and other debtor nations might employ, both in dealing with their immediate problem of insolvency, and in rebuilding their sovereign domestic economies. Please see Details and RSVP at the Events page of www.favors.org.

Then, from June 4 thru 7, I’ll be participating in the conference, Seizing an Alternative: Toward an Ecological Civilization, to be held at Pomona College in southern California. This is shaping up to be a huge event with 12 sections and 80 tracks. I’ll be playing a major role in Section 1, The Threatening Catastrophe: Responding Now, Track 6: Political Collapse (http://www.ctr4process.org/whitehead2015/section-1-track-6/). I will be providing input on how the geopolitical order is determined by elite control of money and banking, and outline some promising strategies for empowering people and communities by reclaiming the credit commons.

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African Currency Projects Proliferating

We are finding great cause for optimism as we see successful programs in Africa being replicated and expanded. Will Ruddick and his team are continuing their excellent work, helping people to discover their own power by collaborating to establish exchange mechanisms based on the value of their own production. In a recent message Will reported that, in Kenya and South Africa, they are “in the process of implementing 8 community currency programs effecting [sic] well over 100,000 people.” Building upon their success with the Bangla-Pesa currency in Mombasa and the Gatina-Pesa in Nairobi, they expect these community currency projects will unlock the potential for local producers to greatly expand their trading with each other and to pull themselves up out of poverty. Will says, “We will be launching a 2nd community currency in Nairobi’s slums (Kangemi-Pesa) on April 4th… It will be a large event with marches through that area…These programs represent the foundation of what is rapidly becoming a global movement toward democratic and decentralized monetary systems. Creating resilient networks of markets across Africa is the path toward truly sustainable development”

Will also reports that they “have recently made the move to develop a non-profit foundation called Grassroots Economics to house these programs, and are looking for partners that really understand the seriousness of the monetary problem and the urgent need for community based solutions.” A quick update on the currency projects can be found here.

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Good Reading, Listening, and Viewing

Richard Werner is one of the few academic economists worth listening to. I recently read his

paper, How do banks create money, and why can other firms not do the same? An explanation for the coexistence of lending and deposit-taking. This is an excellent and clear explanation of the accounting sleight-of-hand that enables banks to create deposits (money) without the vast majority of people, even most bankers, realizing what is happening. Of course, many of us in the alternative exchange movement have long recognized that banks do this, but Richard’s explanation of HOW they are able to do this must be compelling even to his academic colleagues. This paper is a very important contribution to the literature of monetary and banking reform and transcendence because it also outlines the positive implications of some small changes in banking laws and regulations that could be made if there were the political will to do them.

Of course, understanding how the flawed money system operates is only the beginning, and political approaches to reform seem very unlikely. That knowledge must be used as a departure point from which to design and implement innovative market oriented approaches to extra-bank exchange. Mutual credit-clearing circles and private currencies spent into circulation by trusted issuers, can be organized by businesses and communities to provide “home-grown” liquidity. To my knowledge, there are at present no major legal obstacles in most countries that would impede such innovative technologies from being widely deployed. The Swiss WIR and the existing commercial “barter” exchanges are imperfect models that provide proof of concept. In the US at least, commercial barter exchanges are officially regarded as “third party record keepers” which are not subject to banking and money transfer regulations.

You might also enjoy viewing the documentary video, Princes of the Yen, which is based on Richard’s book by the same name (subtitled, Japan’s Central Bankers and the Transformation of the Economy). It makes me wonder if there might be a place for directed investment and allocation of credit by central governments in temporarily addressing the worst effects of the European debt crisis (other than bank bailouts, that is).

Students of innovation will be interested in The Innovators: How A Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution by Walter Isaacson. The audio version, which I have just finished, held my attention throughout the entire 15 CD set.

Since listening to his Black Swan in audio format a few years ago, I’ve been a fan of Nassim Taleb, so I’m now in the process of listening to his book, Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder. This is another work that is both iconoclastic and filled with original ideas. Highly recommend.

Finally, if you really want to understand what’s happening in the world, you need to follow Dr. Paul Craig Roberts, former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration. Dr. Roberts is one of the few commentators today who see what is really going on and is willing to tell about it. His recent interview by Greg Hunter is especially timely. View it in my post at BeyondMoney.net.

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Newsletter – March, 2014

Contents. (This edition will be timely but brief).

Back to America

My latest article

Degrowth Conference on Social Equity and Ecological Sustainability

Malaysia

Hi, Well it’s just a matter of hours now before I board my flight that will take me back to the United States. I always find other places and cultures interesting, but four months abroad has been long enough and I’m looking forward to being back in more familiar territory, seeing friends and family, and discovering what the universe has to show me next. To begin with, I’ll be enjoying the relative calm and quiet of the Arizona desert, then looking for a more permanent place to hang my hat.

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My latest article

I spent a good amount of time over the past few weeks writing an article that I was invited to submit for publication in an online journal, Transformation, published by Open Democracy. I’m pleased to announce that my article, Money, debt and the end of the growth imperative was published yesterday. You can read it here,

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Upcoming Degrowth Conference on Social Equity and Ecological Sustainability. Call for papers extended to March 14th

A recent message from Birte Ewers announces that the 4th International Degrowth Conference to be held in Leipzig Sept 2-6, and that the original deadline for submissions of short papers has been extended. The deadlines for other formats have expired but deadline for “short papers” is now March 14th. The review process will be concluded by the end of April. See the conference website at http://leipzig.degrowth.org/en/http://leipzig.degrowth.org/en/ and the Call for Papers at  http://leipzig.degrowth.org/en/call-for-papers/ for details.

About The Conference:

4th International Degrowth Conference on Social Equity and Ecological Sustainability – Bridging movements and research for the great transformation.

The International Degrowth Conference has reached its fourth venue. Since Paris 2008 the debate on how to move away from a growth-oriented economy towards a more sustainable society has drawn world-wide attention. The fourth international conference will take place in a country that is considered as the European engine of economic growth.

Different traditions of growth critique, such as the concept of a post-growth society stemming from the German-speaking community and the French and Southern European degrowth debate, are invited to a fruitful dialogue. The conference seeks to bring practitioners, activists and scientists together and encompasses various formats for presentations, interaction, workshops, and exchange.

The 4th conference will address following thematic threads (abstracts for short papers can be submitted to any of them):

– Organizing Society (Emancipatory politics, participation, institutions)

– Building a social and ecological economy ((Re-)productivity, commons, society-nature relations)

– Living conviviality (Buen vivir. Open knowledge. Convivial technology)

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Malaysia

For my current journey in Southeast Asia, Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur) serves as both my entry point and exit point. Flights to and from KL tend to be cheaper even than Bangkok, and I always enjoy spending some time in Penang, which is only about a 4 ½ hour bus ride from KL Thailand is easily reached from there.

Malaysia is quite a developed country, though it still has some third world charm, as well as annoyances, like the roar of motorbikes zipping around through every available space, making it difficult and dangerous for pedestrians to cross the streets. Sidewalks, if they exist at all are usually obstructed by parked motorbikes, or food stalls, or even workshops that flow out into the public spaces.

One interesting thing about Malaysia is language. Almost everyone speaks some English and signage is usually in both English and Bahasa Melayu, or Malay language, which derives many words from English. Malays have developed what seems to me to be a very reasonable pattern of phonetic spelling.

Here are a few familiar English words with their phonetic Malay spelling, which I think we should adopt.

Complex

Kompleks

Bus

Bas

Central

Sentral

College

Kolej

Bicycle

Bisikal

Community

Komuniti

Counter

Kaunter

My pictures from my November visit to Penang

https://picasaweb.google.com/112258124863172998784/201311Penang?authuser=0&authkey=Gv1sRgCMnztYHzp4268gE&feat=directlink

Pictures from my February/March visit to Penang and Kuala Lumpur have not yet been uploaded.

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Joke of the month

Certainly not original, but here it is; some of you may appreciate it.

You know you’re old when you and your teeth no longer sleep together.

May you enjoy this season when life springs anew,

Thomas

Newsletter – January 2014

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.

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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.

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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.

CentralBanksInflating

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.

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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/.

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Travels

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:

Istanbul: https://picasaweb.google.com/112258124863172998784/201311IstanbulTurkey?authuser=0&authkey=Gv1sRgCJv3nPOd34igcQ&feat=directlink

Malaysia: https://picasaweb.google.com/112258124863172998784/201311Penang?authuser=0&authkey=Gv1sRgCMnztYHzp4268gE&feat=directlink

Cambodia: https://picasaweb.google.com/112258124863172998784/201312Cambodia?authuser=0&authkey=Gv1sRgCL_hyunb-fnu4gE&feat=directlink

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Contact

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.

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Events Upcoming

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,

Thomas