Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Monetary Reform

Just briefly, I want to draw my tiny audience's attention to Stephen Zarlenga and The American Monetary Institute. Stephen Zarlenga has dedicated his life to monetary reform. Dennis Kucinich works in close affiliation with him, and the U.S. Green Party have recently adopted his monetary reform proposals (August 2010). Here is a sample from their statement:

3. The new money that must be regularly added to an improving system as population and commerce grow will be created and spent into circulation by the U. S. Government for infrastructure, including the human infrastructure of education and health care. This begins with the $2.2 trillion the American Society of Civil Engineers warns us is needed to bring existing infrastructure to safe levels over the next 5 years. Per capita guidelines will assure a fair distribution of such expenditures across the United States, creating good jobs, re-invigorating the local economies and re-funding government at all levels. As this money is paid out to various contractors, they in turn pay their suppliers and laborers who in turn pay for their living expenses and ultimately this money gets deposited into banks, which are then in a position to make loans of this money, according to the new regulations. [My emphasis.]

What excites me most about this reform and Zarlenga's work and efforts, is that they are accumulating significant momentum around the powerful recognition that money is not wealth. Let me repeat that: Money is not wealth. Money is a ticket denoting best-guess value, and which also enables complex trade and economic activity. It is not a commodity, nor can it possibly store value. It should not in and of itself create more money (interest or usury), it should not concentrate power and real wealth to the criminal few, while the multitudes suffer, desperately waiting to be needed for their labour by the powerful.

In the end, and for environmental and technological reasons, I strongly suspect, as do Jacque Fresco and Peter Joseph, that we will outgrow our need for money. In the meantime we need a money that can get us on the path towards a resource-based economy. Stephen Zarlenga and The American Monetary institute have designed a money capable of such a direction change, and have my full support. I wish them well.


Debra said...

One of the things that will be needed to further this realization is for us to find new ways to VALUE our land.
The feudal system had the advantage of assigning VALUE to land, and NOT EXCLUSIVELY to liquidity. And the feudal system curbed money idolatry by REMOVING the aristocracy from the money making equation, and insisting that THE LAND be transmitted by other means than exchanging.. liquidity. By so doing.. the feudal system recognized the SACRED value of land, and sacred means.. OUTSIDE OF THE BUYING AND SELLING arena. Among other definitions of the word.
In our minds. Historically.
Spending money into existence... why not ?
But.. the INHERITANCE question is a big problem. In an age when our society has become SO dematerialized , and when many of us have NO LAND (not to mention no property...) the problem of trying to leave something to the kids ? becomes a strain.
We have fallen back on liquidity which is of course a poor substitute for.. LAND and property. What, in the long run is MORE MATERIAL than the land, I ask you ?

Alex said...

I believe that the World's financial centres have already, accidentally, done away with money as a thing of any value and that the conflict we are all experiencing in western societies now is coming to terms with this. Is not the wishful thinking of the American right to return to the Gold Standard or the English belief that if it could just pay off its debts... a conservative attempt to go back to what worked before, when money was real?

Debra said...

Alex, I think that we agree on this one to the extent that I say that we have fallen into idolatry of money by lack of faith/belief/trust in ANY OTHER VALUE, thus putting enormous strain on our MONEY to be the measure of ALL things.
Bottoming out money, as it were. So.. we may agree on this one..
But we sure are in one hell of a transition as something else come along, right ??
I'm not sure just exactly WHAT is slouching towards Bethlehem...
A little early to tell, maybe ??

Toby said...

Money has never been 'real,' except perhaps as a control mechanism in the hands of the rich, or as a hopeful and enabling medium of exchange in the hands of sufficiently wise governments.

John Locke: "Observe well these rules: It is a very common mistake to say that money is a commodity ... Bullion is valued by its weight ... money is valued by its stamp." (Quoted in "The Lost Science of Money")

Money is a legal, not a natural thing.

Might I humbly suggest that as many people as possible either buy and read "The Lost Science of Money" or at least check out Zarlenga's musings on various YouTube-stored podcasts. We must stop thinking of money as a store of value, it creeps into our reasoning as value itself so easily.

Money spent into existence means no debt, which means taxation for 'saving for a rainy day' is unnecessary, and much else besides. Indeed, the very notion of debt, as it relates to money, changes. Private banking, under Zarlenga's plan, would no longer have any right to create money, so no money would be created as debt. What a profound change that would be! No more making money from money itself. No usury. Money would no longer be a commodity. This is a huge and profound change of culture, politics, etc.

Value is a subjective thing. Money attempts to measure it, and of course fails, for value lies in the eye of the beholder, as does beauty. What is an ounce of gold worth? Close to 1,200 dollars. What is dollar worth? Some amount of gold. What then is one Euro worth? One pound sterling? And so on. There is NO ground here to stand on, everything is relative when it comes to value. Value is necessarily a subjective comparison.

A money wisely spent into existence would stabilize much inflation/deflation, which is useful positive, but it will not hurt us to stop trying 'scientifically' to measure value like we measure length or weight. It does not matter how many rulers I produce, a centimeter will ALWAYS measure one centimeter. Not so with money. If money stored value, or even measured it, there could be no effect on value, in terms of inflation/deflation, when money is printed or destroyed.

As for land and ownership, without ownership, there we would need good management of the commons. Another area for study and improving cultural expertise. Very complicated I'm sure. Inheritance is not something I'm in favour of, though I have benefited from it greatly.

A quote I heard recently which I love, "The Earth is the World Bank." There is no value anywhere to any human if this beautiful (subjective) planet can no longer host us. It's that simple.

Debra said...

I clicked on your link, and have started reading... I hit the article on Aristotle vs Adam Smith, Public vs Private Money...
Ironically enough, over at Volitility, a link available from Edwardo's little saloon, I said this morning that our biggest difficulty STILL remains.. the longstanding effects of rampant secularization of our civilization, and the STILL incredibly potent faith/belief IN science as the ONLY LEGITIMATE WAY of thinking the world.
This belief is so OMNIPRESENT that our noses are truly glued to the page, and we just don't see the extent to which it CONDITIONS ALL of our thinking, our ways of formulating... the problems that we see.
The site's authors, LIKE SO MANY OTHER ANGLO SAXON PEOPLE, are STILL convinced that our medieval ancestors were backwards.
They really DO NOT UNDERSTAND what separates us SO RADICALLY from them, and why we truly need to be opening up OUR FEUDAL HERITAGE in order to find a way OUT OF where we are now.
The constant harping on Enlightenment values WILL NOT SAVE US, because they are TRULY a great part of the problem.
Two nights ago I lay in bed thinking... about all my childhood reading of my children's Bible, and what Sunday school TAUGHT ME about Israel's history. (Go ahead and laugh if you want.. if you do... think about what that MIGHT say about.. your BELIEF IN SCIENCE...)
How Israel's history is one long series of repetitions of... Israel finds God... Israel lives according to God's precepts for one or two generations. Then... Israel forgets God. And buying and selling begin taking over the people's minds. Soon... they can think of NOTHING BUT buying and selling.
Some prophet comes along and says... "God is NOT HAPPY because you have forgotten ALL HE HAS SET UP TO PROTECT YOU FROM YOURSELVES AND IDOLATRY OF MONEY (that's me...), and YOU WILL BE PUNISHED IF YOU DON'T REPENT".
Most of the time, the people pay no attention.
And.. catastrophy happens.
Every time.
You would think that over time, WE WOULD LEARN, heh ??
No way.
THIS WAY OF LOOKING AT THE WORLD has as much legitimacy, and validity in my book as.. the "scientific" attempt to explain away our world in order to proclaim ABSOLUTE CONTROL of it. And... it is not because people will laugh me out of the saloon that I will give it up, either.
We are heading into the wall. Once again.
The way our ancestors did, time and time again.
From what I saw on the site... the stuff STILL looks.. rather simplistic in terms of its analysis. But, granted, I am a VERY DIFFICULT PERSON.

Toby said...

"From what I saw on the site... the stuff STILL looks.. rather simplistic in terms of its analysis."

The book goes into detail, and is close to 700 pages long. It is about what money is. That's all. The site is a shallow introduction to that.

"Some prophet comes along and says"

There are always prophets, and warnings, and impending catastrophes. Even before written language, before spoken abstract language, there were 'catastrophes,' and before humans too. Life was almost wiped out about 2.5 bn years ago because the creatures of the time produced too much oxygen. If they hadn't hit upon the solution to the problem, we wouldn't be here. The universe is always changing, shit happens. Humans are not the centre of everything.

Science show us this, makes us humble when deployed properly. Science is not about the truth, it is about the next most probable. And we are always learning. I'd say the problem is not science, but money's poor design poisoning the rest of culture. If we fix that, we can start looking at e.g. education. Fixing practical things allows less 'material' aspects of our lives to flourish.

"and why we truly need to be opening up OUR FEUDAL HERITAGE in order to find a way OUT OF where we are now."

But how do we do this? What is it about feudalism that so attracts you? What are your suggestions?

Debra said...

Just like even... READING about it.
Trying to replace our prejudices about it.
As I said to a friend today, it is rather suspicious that we are STILL convinced that our ancestors were backwards.
But we SHOULD KNOW by now that every ideology discredits the preceding one in order to step into ITS pulpit and start converting.
So our prejudices are there for a reason.
I happen to believe that our trajectory corresponds to the playout of Renaissance thought.
So... we need to go back before to see how THOSE ancestors were living.
How can it hurt to look at it, and see how they organized their society ?
Can't we learn from that ? Why are we STILL clinging to our attempts to discredit feudalism ?
What does THAT mean ?
The book is 700 pages long ??? Have you read it ??

Toby said...

"Just like even... READING about it.
Trying to replace our prejudices about it.
As I said to a friend today, it is rather suspicious that we are STILL convinced that our ancestors were backwards."

OK, openness is good, recognizing the necessity of prejudice and being on guard against it is good too. To do this (and more), we need an open and flexible education system with a money design that allows an ongoing investment in social infrastructure which does not sink the nation into unnecessary and crippling debt. Before we can be noble, everyone must have a good shot at dignity. To have dignity, you need access to good quality basics (food, warmth, shelter, freedom of movement and speech) in a community that does not value monetary profit above all things. Hence my support for Zarlenga. It will be an almighty fight to bring such a system about, because the sociopaths who love THE MONEY POWER (as Zarlenga denotes it) love nothing else. (Love is probably the wrong word, but you get the point!)

I'm about 500 pages in. The author's grammar is often poor, but his command of the material is very impressive. Right now I'd say it is a must read, as is The Ascent of Humanity (close to 600 pages, and I read that one twice. I read a lot!). I'm reading From Dawn to Decadence too, about 200 pages in, and just finished Ostrom's "Governing the Commons", which I am about to write a blog on. Did I mention I read a lot?

Debra said...

I'm impressed, Toby.
I no longer read a lot.
Because I am a nomad hermit. (if YOU have problems sticking those two words together, think how many problems i have...)
I like to be out in the world, watching what is going on. Relating to people too.
Seeing the beauty of the world.
When I was a kid, I spent most of my time out of doors, like so many my age.
It's always been a tear for me between reading (which I love...) and running around outdoors.
When I was a child... most of my friends were in books. And when I was an adolescent, EVEN MORE of my friends were in books, too.
These two to three hour a day meditation at the piano has cut into my reading time...