What need you, being come to sense, But fumble in a greasy till And add the halfpence to the pence And prayer to shivering prayer, until You have dried the marrow from the bone? It will be another 10 minutes before the doors open. A woman in a fur coat sits in her parked car with its license tags about to expire. She runs the engine to keep warm while others shuffle around in silence, dodging any direct eye contact. This is a result of high housing prices, a steep cost of living, and a culture of spending—a hangover from better days. Trade, however, has never been so brisk or with such a dramatically broadened demographic as it is now.
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People across the globe have lost faith in the ability of government and business leaders to resolve the problems facing humanity. The global economic depression has shattered the lives of Andean peasants, African fishermen, corporate executives, and the average household alike.
Despite claims that the current economic malaise is ending, the general public remains unconvinced, suspicious, and shaken. In our cash-strapped economy, privatization is proffered as a solution for many of our financial woes. The fire sale is so intense that we cannot be faulted for thinking that there is a going out of business sign over the doors of governments on every continent. Officials at all levels are hocking whatever they can—roads, bridges, national monuments, prisons, and even water—to stave off what seems like inevitable bankruptcy.
Furthermore, and perhaps most disconcertingly, the very foundations of our social contract, the institutions we once believed would always be honored such as educational and social ser vices, are gutted and sold to private companies.
Today, the U. Although the public is told that these solutions are more efficient, the fact is they are usually more costly in the long run.
Government ownership of these sectors has served us extremely well. Circumstances like these generate revolutions. The Agricultural Revolution. The Industrial Revolution. The American Revolution. We have entered such a time. Future historians, I believe, will define this as a Revolution in Consciousness.
People around the world are waking up to the fact that a very few extremely wealthy individuals are enslaving the rest of us. The shackles take the form of the currencies and debt that are interwoven with global monetary systems. It exposes the fallacies of privatization, austerity, tax reform, banking legislation, stimulus packages, and so many other fancy-sounding strategies, and illuminates a path toward a sane and sustainable future.
Writing for the layman, the authors explore a largely unexamined culprit—the monopoly of our centuries-old monetary system. They reveal its primary role in the current crisis.
They then proceed to answer the essential question: What can we do about it? They illustrate how new currencies can resolve not only the inadequacies of regular money, but also how they can energize new behaviors and outcomes with incentives that will help create the world we fervently desire—for ourselves and future generations.
The monetary innovations described in these pages remove the creation of money from the hands of the banking system. The power returns to communities operating at different levels of society. This allows for the linkage of resources in a given locality to the unmet needs of that community. The ingenuity of the local population can be FOREWORD xi galvanized; with their own money they are empowered to create the transformations they desire and need.
Surprisingly straightforward in their clarity and simplicity, Lietaer and Dunne point out that money is a human invention. Our current monetary system was designed some years ago, during an era that knew nothing of natural limits and had a completely different set of objectives and priorities. And since it is a man-made construct, it can be re-thought, re-imagined, and redesigned. None of this is mere theory. The transformation of money and thus our culture and society is underway. This inspirational book chronicles stories of ordinary people and their communities solving critical problems by using new money systems in tandem with conventional ones.
The stories range from addressing hunger to revitalizing neighborhoods, from the crisis of health care to creating work, from providing education for all to the building of sustainable networks. This is a book that will strike a chord with readers eager to find meaningful, thought-provoking solutions that can be implemented right now—readers who want to take part in this new Revolution. There are no inches. We have been using too many of them and there are not enough to go around. From this limited vantage point, the usual solutions for scarcity are trotted out, such as austerity measures, cutbacks, and privatizations.
The rhetoric on all sides of the political divide is stale and has grown cold, turning glacial and unmovable in its stance. Money is to humans what water is to fish. In the case of money, its 1 2 INTRODUCTION dynamics and distinctions are obfuscated or forgotten over time, and further complicated by the fact that the professionals in the field, economists, never actually define what money is; they just describe what it does: how it plays the role of a unit of account, a store of value, a medium of exchange.
At present, our unexamined money system perpetuates scarcity and breeds competition. Are you aware that money is created out of nothing, as bank debt? And how that particular process of creation breeds systematic competition among its users? Did you know that the prevailing money system generates several other harmful consequences, including short-termism, compulsory growth pressure, cyclical recessions, unrelenting concentration of wealth, and erosion of social and physical or natural capital?
All these factors together create a wholly unsustainable financial structure that is, indeed, disintegrating. So, how did we get here? Modern money, the type we use today, was invented in a very different time with a different worldview and another set of priorities and challenges than we have today. Money is not a product of nature, something that grows on a tree and can be harvested. Rather, modern money is a human construct that was conceived and fashioned back in the s in Europe and then evolved, first in England, to become the engine for the Industrial Revolution.
Up until that point, the vast majority of people eked out meager existences, while real wealth was obtained mainly through the spoils of war or colonization, marriage or inheritance.
Through the emergence of modern central banking and its conventions during this time, it was possible to make money out of money. This gave birth to the new merchant and middle classes. A contrivance of competition, it pitted one against the other in a fabricated Darwinian contest of survival, reflecting and perpetuating the values and the Zeitgeist of that time.
This epoch produced remarkable advances, thrusting society out of the shackles of superstition and stagnant social order that had preceded it. It enabled the individual, no matter how lowly his birth, to scale the heights of his unbridled imagination and keen ambition through learning and labor. The mercantile miracle over time became codified as a success story.
Those who succeed are free to take their share of the profits after taxes, and those who suffer losses have to bear consequences such as humiliation, bankruptcy, and possible litigation. This has brought about unmatched attainment of wealth, facilitated through competitive markets and driven by a competitive financial system, which, in turn, has spurred on even greater striving for more innovation, ingenuity, and originality.
This is the underpinning of the great American dream, which has been triumphantly exported to the rest of the world after the fall of the Berlin Wall and rise of the Iron Curtain. Today, for instance, China, India, Brazil, and Poland, with their meteoric growth and the rise of their own meritocracies, are prime examples. That dream, however, has turned into a nightmare. We now have scientific proof that the monoculture of a single type of currency is a root cause of the repeated monetary and financial instabilities that have manifested throughout modern history.
According to the International Monetary Fund, in the four decades between and , there were no fewer than banking crises, monetary crashes, and 72 sovereign debt crises. Essentially this would make bank-debt money illegal and government instead would issue a new currency. While this reform would eliminate the risk of bank crashes and sovereign debt crises, there would still be monetary crises.
The portraits on or colors of the paper bills may have changed, but the fundamentals of its core structure have not. The answer is this: Money is the last great taboo. The topic of sex was opened up in the s and s, and death and dying during the AIDS pandemic and natural disasters of the s and s.
But the subject of money is still shrouded in darkness, assumed by many to be untouchable. An even deeper obstacle to examining our system of money resides in the recesses of our collective psyche: We are motivated both by a fear of scarcity and by greed.
Fear of scarcity often carries with it a tendency to avoid facing the reality of our finances, and greed brings an obsessive focus on money. The conflict between these two forces leads to a state of approach-avoidance in relation to money—an inner struggle that further exacerbates the trickiness of the inquiry.
Money itself becomes highly emotionally charged. Ironically, financial markets portray themselves as bastions of cool rationalism. Although economists frequently present their work as neutral, objective, and based on irrefutable science, sometimes crucial underlying epistemological or conceptual orientations and presuppositions remain unstated and are thereby kept shrouded from view.
The real problems are money and the monetary system itself, and not in the way one might first suspect. We will see that since money is a human invention, it can be changed. INTRODUCTION 5 Currently, in thousands of communities globally, there are networks of businesses that span a country or a continent and groups of netizens who are reassessing and reengineering money with astonishing results. Individuals, entrepreneurs, businesses, communities, and governments in many countries around the world have already created new cooperative money systems that link unmet needs with resources that remain unused by the dominant competitive currency of each country.
These new strategies do not replace the conventional monetary systems but rather work in tandem, shifting the predominant features of scarcity and hypercompetitiveness to ones that provide new options and additional resources for everyone. Regular people have discovered not only that it is possible to create money in sufficiency for their needs but also that it is simultaneously possible to build their societies with greater cooperation, care, and collaboration.
In other words, they are proving not only that it is possible to redesign money but also that doing so fosters very different and highly desirable outcomes.
These cooperative currencies are often called complementary currencies. Examples include community or local currencies such as time dollars in the United States, longestablished business-to-business systems like the WIR in Switzerland, and newer currencies like the regio and the terra. There is also a huge potential for more scalable cooperative currencies. In other words, the emergent cooperative currency movement now has behind it enough proven successes to grow up and start tackling the core challenges of the 21st century.
This book provides the road map for this to happen. You will read real-world stories of ordinary people making an extraordinary difference by pulling themselves up by their own boot straps. There are reports of communities going from high unemployment, despair, and high crime rates to self-sufficiency, mutual support, and sustainable abundance.
This new approach makes possible a potentially radical transubstantiation, a profound shift from a postindustrial era to an Age of Wisdom. Perhaps even a Diamond Age of unprecedented technological breakthroughs may emerge, where the universe becomes malleable in our hands with unparalleled and exceptional advances.
The book is divided into three sections: Part One, Scarcity, comprises the first three chapters. These chapters also show how it is now possible to tweak and make changes to the money system that result in a completely different set of outcomes. This will enable greater discourse and debate and, hopefully, grounded action.
Prosperity, the second part, Chapters 4 through 9, chronicles the pioneers and implementers of cooperative currencies both in the United States and abroad. It reports on their stories of inspiration and transformation under the categories of banking, entrepreneurship, government and NGOs, and we, the citizens. The third and final part of the book, titled Rethinking Money, projects into an available future and shows how a truly cooperative society would function with both competitive and cooperative currencies working in tandem.
It then reaches back into recent history and reveals the lessons learned from modern history and how various missteps can be avoided now.
Rethinking Money: How New Currencies Turn Scarcity into Prosperity
People across the globe have lost faith in the ability of government and business leaders to resolve the problems facing humanity. The global economic depression has shattered the lives of Andean peasants, African fishermen, corporate executives, and the average household alike. Despite claims that the current economic malaise is ending, the general public remains unconvinced, suspicious, and shaken. In our cash-strapped economy, privatization is proffered as a solution for many of our financial woes. The fire sale is so intense that we cannot be faulted for thinking that there is a going out of business sign over the doors of governments on every continent. Officials at all levels are hocking whatever they can—roads, bridges, national monuments, prisons, and even water—to stave off what seems like inevitable bankruptcy. Furthermore, and perhaps most disconcertingly, the very foundations of our social contract, the institutions we once believed would always be honored such as educational and social ser vices, are gutted and sold to private companies.
May 13, — am 3 Comments Bernard Lietaer Image credit: Willi Filz, Brandeins We are deeply saddened by the loss of our dear friend, Bernard Lietaer, who passed away recently at his home in Hoherhagen, Germany with loved ones. Bernard was a financial justice warrior; a fierce advocate, sharp businessman and revered educator who dedicated his extraordinary career to exploring global monetary systems, uncovering truths about their effect on civilization and shaping their evolution through rigorous research, eloquent writing and heartfelt lectures around the world. Later, as a central banker, he designed the European Currency Unit, the precursor — and what many have said was a superior approach — to the Euro we have today. As the Great Recession wreaked havoc in , and austerity measures constricted the flow of national currencies in debt-saddled nations like Greece, Bernard urged Greek cities and towns to adapt and create their own parallel currency system.
He does a good job of ripping back the cover that hides how and where modern day fiat currency comes from, and the problems with its risk, opportunity costs, and interest charges as issued debt which has been conjured up completely from elitist imagination. Unfortunately, after perfectly describing the vision and contours of the mountain peaks to be climbed Early on he points out the problem of interest, which is naturally demanded for loans of money due to the lost opportunity costs of that money, along with the risks of lost buying power time value of that money. But, what makes it so important is that it describes monetary systems that are operating either in other countries or right under our noses. From the Berkshares, a local currency, accepted by five local banks, to the Swiss Wir, a parallel currency that is used mostly when the major currency is most under stress. These systems have the benefit of not being based on scarcity and I would rate the book lower than five if I took off stars for over-enthusiasm and too many stories about the topic. These systems have the benefit of not being based on scarcity and competition but on local or national cooperation.