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Newsletter No. 28 - January 2010

Links to previous Newsletters can be found here.

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CONTENTS

1. Editorial: The Transition To A New Decade

2. Money System Reform

2.1. The Purpose of the Money System

2.2. Various Aspects of the Money System

2.3. Monetary Reform: Creating the Public Money Supply

(1) A Call for Volunteers

(2) The Coming General Election

(3) New Economics Foundation

3. Lessons From Copenhagen

3.1. "Developed" and "Developing" Nations

3.2. Seeing The Problem Whole

3.3. What Can Citizens Do?

4. Book Reviews

(1) Common Wealth: For A Free, Equal, Mutual And Sustainable Society by Martin Large

(2) Critical Social Theory And The End Of Work by Edward Granter

(3) A Renewable World: Energy, Ecology, Equality by Herbert Girardet and Miguel Mendonça

(4) The Case For Pluralism fromDag Hammarskjold Foundation

5. Next Newsletter

 

 

1. EDITORIAL: THE TRANSITION TO A NEW DECADE

The 'Noughties' have shown that we in the "democratic West", led by a global super-power in the USA, can no longer claim a specially democratic and influential position in world affairs.

The claim to be democratic has been disastrously damaged by our self-imposed dependence on profit-making commercial banks to provide our public money supply, by our elected representatives' money-grubbing, and by the way the US and Britain invaded Iraq and destabilised the Middle East.

The claim to be influential has been shown up at the recent Copenhagen conference on climate change, when the newly powerful nations, led by China and supported by many "less developed" peoples, insisted that their future development prospects should not suffer from the need to repair the global ecological damage caused by Western development over the past 200 years, and that we should bear the main cost of repairing it.

In Britain we face a general election within the next six months. There is a widespread sense that none of our mainstream political parties is capable of responding effectively to the range of national and international challenges we now face. If their election campaigns confirm this, the result could be a temporary "hung Parliament".

We electors and our politicians might then recognise the need for deeper-seated changes than mainstream agendas now offer. A two-year transition to the 'Teenies' decade could then see the start of a deliberate shift to a new worldwide path of co-operative development and democratic participation. It would give us a much better chance of securing the future of our and other endangered species, than trying to restore competitive Business-As-Usual.

 

2. MONEY SYSTEM REFORM

A major aspect of that new path of development has to be a money system fit for its purpose.

2.1. The Purpose of the Money System

The money system's purpose must change from what it has been since its origins in the distant past. It must no longer be designed to provide a stealthy way to transfer wealth from weaker and poorer people to richer and more powerful ones. (If you don't believe that this is a fair description, take a look at my short History Of Money - www.jamesrobertson.com/books.htm#history).

Its new public purpose now must be to enable everyone to benefit from fair and efficient exchanges of goods and services, reflecting what we each contribute to and take from the common wealth. It is a purpose for which governmental agencies at local, national and international level must become directly responsible.

To get the money system reconstructed for this new purpose, we have to understand it as a system of interacting money subsystems which influences our behaviour at every level - personal, household, local, national, and global. We have to understand how it generates a calculus of values, and how that operates as a scoring system motivating us by rewarding some things and penalising others. And we have to understand how its present modes of operation motivate us to behave in ways that hasten our species' suicide.

The following four governmental decisions primarily determine how the money system works - in other words, what values it generates in terms of the prices and costs of everything compared with everything else, and so how it motivates us to behave:

  • how the public money supply is created, by whom and in what form (as debt or debt-free);
  • how governments collect public revenue (for example, what they tax and what they don't tax);
  • what public spending is spent on and what it isn't spent on; and
  • how governments regulate the financial dealings of individual people and other organisations.

Today, all of those urgently need systemic understanding and reform.

 

2.2. Various Aspects of the Money System

I warmly recommend the December 2009/ January 2010 items in Charles Bazlinton's Blog The Free Lunch.

They deal with many of the reforms needed in various aspects of the money system, including changing the way money is created, the need for land value taxation and a Citizen's Income, and how to get rid of the continually growing maze of regulations intended as substitutes for those necessary basic reforms.

I suggest you start with the "hilarious fun and nonsense" lessons of Wallace and Gromit in the 6 January item on the 2010 UK general election, and work backwards through the 16 December free lunch for thousands of people in Trafalgar Square, and end with the 28 November item on Professor Richard Werner's latest interview on monetary matters.

 

2.3. Monetary Reform: Creating the Public Money Supply

In Britain over the past few months public anger has continued to rise against the bankers who landed us in the present mess. It is also widely perceived that, in the leading political parties, virtually nobody knows how to prevent the same thing happening again.

That includes the Lib Dems, although Vince Cable is judged to talk most common sense about the issues as they continue to arise. It also includes Labour, since Gordon Brown as Chancellor was most clearly responsible for encouraging the boom and bust debacle. And it obviously includes the Conservatives - not mainly because they didn't noticeably try to stop the boom and bust, but because they are still known to represent the interests of people, including themselves, who benefit most from continuing high bank profits.

Moreover, the public servants responsible for advising the present government, "such as Lord Myners, Lady Vadera, Lord Turner and John Kingman, were all past or present bankers, or friends of bankers. When they leave public life they are likely to work for a bank" - click here. So what is to be done? Here are some suggestions.

(1) A Call for Volunteers from Ben Dyson - www.call4reform.org

"Join the Campaign for Monetary Reform, and Help to Change the World

Our self-imposed dependence on commercial banks to create our public money supply has a disastrously destructive impact on the economy and society in every country in the world.

We need your help to change it.

Ten years ago Joseph Huber and James Robertson published a clear and effective proposal for monetary reform, to transfer to a public agency the function of creating the public money supply to serve the public interest.

Implementing this reform could prevent future financial crises as well as allowing us to escape from the debt trap that we are currently in. However, one of the biggest problems is that very few people know anything about this issue. The press and politicians either do not understand the problem, or prefer to ignore it.

It's Time To Change That

In early 2010, we’ll be launching the most focused campaign for monetary reform that has been seen to date.

Similar campaigns are needed in other countries. But this one will concentrate on the UK. We will aim for 1 million people from the UK to call for reform of the monetary system over the next year. This will show MPs and the government that they can no longer ignore the issue that is at the root of the majority of social problems, and which caused the worst crisis in the financial sector in 70 years.  

We have already had meetings with some of the most senior politicians in the UK, but they need to know that the public will support them in reforming the system. This is why we need 1 million people to call for reform.

We Need The Help of Talented People

Educating 1 million people requires talented people with a wide range of skills. We need people like you to join the campaign team. You will be able to work from home or elsewhere in your own time but you will be collaborating with a network of people all over the UK. In addition, there will be full-time, paid opportunities arising in the next 12 months.  

Contact Me

If you want to make a major impact on the world and economy, and can offer your skills and talent to make monetary reform a reality, contact me now by sending an e-mail to 'ben at bendyson dot com'.

PS. Other major social issues are all important, but the monetary system is at the root of most of them. By attacking the root of the problem, we can solve social and economic problems that have been unsolvable for decades.

Ben Dyson

www.call4reform.org"

(2) The coming general election also provides an opportunity to support independents who campaign for monetary reform. They include:

Anne Belsey - www.moneyreformparty.org.uk

Dick Rodgers - www.thecommongood.info

For Independent candidates in general, Terry Waites' New Year message to Independent parliamentary candidates has suggested to me that we should persuade as many of them as possible to understand the need for monetary reform and to include it in their manifestos.

(3) New Economics Foundation

Please take a look at the new page on Monetary Reform on nef's website - www.neweconomics.org/projects/monetary-reform. It will be interesting to see how it goes.

Likewise how nef develops specific practical proposals from the findings in its recent report "A Bit Rich" - www.neweconomics.org/publications/bit-rich - and its aspirations in "The Great Transition" - www.neweconomics.org/publications/the-great-transition.

 

3. LESSONS FROM COPENHAGEN

Was the Copenhagen conference on climate change last month a sheer waste of carbon and other greenhouse gases, not to mention money and valuable time? Does the coldest weather ever experienced by many people in many parts of the world now cast doubt on global warming anyway? To both questions the answer must be "No, not really, but ...".

The world community must learn from Copenhagen the need to reconsider both the substance of the key development challenges facing the world in the 21st-century, and the process of deciding how to tackle them.

3.1. "Developed" and "Developing" Nations

At Copenhagen, the formerly dominant "developed" nations were woefully unprepared for the rest of the world's insistence that its development prospects should not be damaged by the payback costs of the ecological damage caused by Western development over the past 200 years. We need to understand that as reasonable.

One of the many people who expressed that view was Sudanese-born entrepreneur Mo Ibrahim in "Africa must exploit all energy sources" (Financial Times, 18 December 2009).

He said, among other things:

"Carbon trading has been touted by many as an important tool for cutting emissions. It may be part of the solution. But we must admit an important premise: Africans account for 13 per cent of the world’s population and are responsible for less than 4 per cent of carbon emissions. That is our carbon credit. It is the only basis for any carbon trading that makes sense."

Another was Thompson Ayodele, director of the Initiative for Public Policy Analysis, Lagos, Nigeria in "North hides nefarious aims under green cloak" (Business Day, South Africa, 17 December 2009).

More recently, on 5 January the President of Bolivia, Evo Morales issued an invitation to a new international conference on climate change:

"Making clear that those most affected by climate change will be the poorest in the world who will see their homes and their sources of survival destroyed, and who will be forced to migrate and seek refuge;

- Confirming that 75% of historical emissions of greenhouse gases originated in the countries of the North that followed a path of irrational industrialization;

- Regretting the failure of the Copenhagen Conference caused by countries called “developed”, that fail to recognize the climate debt they have with developing countries, future generations and Mother Earth."

It will be held from 20th to 22nd April 2010 in Cochabamba, Bolivia. For the full text of the invitation, go to http://cmpcc.org/2010/01/05/call/. (Thanks to Roy Madron for this.)

3.2. Seeing The Problem Whole

In future it will surely make sense for world development conferences to deal with other global problems as well as energy, which are inextricably linked with climate change. They include:

  • population growth,
  • food production and distribution,
  • availability of land and water,
  • reforms of existing international (and national) systems of government, politics and the law*, and
  • reforms of existing international (and national) money systems.

* Fascinating background to one aspect is in Jonathon Porritt's November 2009 report on "The Standing of Sustainable Development in Government", reflecting his nine years' experience as the first head of the UK Government's Sustainable Development Commission.

For a summary of the present challenges of world development by Lester Brown, click here.

3.3. What Can Citizens Do?

In addition to all the "lifestyle" actions we can take as individuals and households and local communities, we can pressurise our governments to bring in policies to change the present direction of our societies' development - for example by persuading parliamentary candidates to support them - see 2.3(2) above.

In his thoughtful and interesting messages of 5 January and 6 January, John Bunzl draws the lesson from Copenhagen that we should adopt an international "Simultaneous Policy" approach to pressurising our governments in that way.

Asking them to adopt the necessary policy changes simultaneously would remove the excuse they now constantly make under pressure from their businesses and industries, that by adopting these policies before other countries do, they will damage their economic competitiveness.

There is more about Simpol at www.simpol.org.

 

4. BOOK REVIEWS

(1) Martin Large, COMMON WEALTH: For a free, equal, mutual and sustainable society, Hawthorn Press, 2010, hardback, 285pp, £15.00.

The book is being launched in London at the Society Guardian Future of Housing Summit in London on 25 January.

I was very glad to endorse this book as follows.

"Only by sharing the value of our common resources more fairly, is humanity likely to be able to avoid the worldwide self-destruction towards which our present path of development is leading us.

In his masterly new book Martin Large explores the changes this implies for the structures of business, government and civil society and the relationships between them. He identifies land value taxation and a citizen's income as among the measures that will help to bring the changes about.

Please read it if you care about the future of our species."

The book's special importance is that, while it concentrates on helping people who "want to get on with building the social future where they are, whether this means developing more sustainable businesses, caring for the environment, renewing democracy or community development", it also recognises that, to facilitate that, "the current captive corporate state can be replaced by a government that works for the common good; the economy can be freed from neo-liberal capitalism by developing an associative, fair trade economy; and public services such as education and health can be liberated from both state dominance and from commercialisation".

It brings together practical grass-roots guidance with wider understanding of the need for national and global change.

(2) Edward Granter, CRITICAL SOCIAL THEORY and the END of WORK, Ashgate, 2009, hardback, 202pp, £55.00.

I have enjoyed this account of the development of ideas about work and its future in the industrial age. Having myself been one of the British authors on this subject in the 1970s and 1980s - www.jamesrobertson.com/books.htm#futurework - I was glad to be reminded of the work of others like Krishan Kumar, Charles Handy, Clive Jenkins and Barry Sherman. I even felt rather chuffed at finding my name in the same company as academic post-Marxist luminaries like Herbert Marcuse and André Gorz.

However, I am still as convinced as I was then that "the end of work" misses the point. We should be discussing the liberation of work.

It is a basic error to assume, as most people seem to do today, that working for an employer is the only way to work, and that that is actually the meaning of "work". In fact, it is often much better to work, if you can, for yourself and your family and your community, doing things and providing goods and services which you yourself value as worth providing.

I am sure that extending the freedom and ability of people to practise that kind of "ownwork" will now gather more support than it has done in the past thirty or forty years. In the age of "sustainable development" it must become clear that to stifle that freedom, by persuading or compelling as many people as possible to increase the job statistics, is unacceptably wasteful.

That is most clearly due to the mass duplication of infrastructure and services between home and workspace, and the mass daily commute between them and back again, which that policy requires. But it inevitably also limits many people's sense of ethical commitment to good work.

Granter's conclusion is that "by pointing to the radical possibilities for transforming work, end of work theories highlight the possibilities for radical transformation of society as a whole". I am sure his work will interest scholars of sociology, history of ideas, and social and cultural theory. I am not so sure how much it will help or inspire people who are actively trying to bring the transformation about.

(3) Herbert Girardet and Miguel Mendonça, A RENEWABLE WORLD: Energy, Ecology, Equality, Green Books, 2009, 256pp, £14.95/$27.95.

For a description of its contents please click on the title (above) of this important Report for the World Future Council. Its last chapter is on "Going Deeper, Looking Further". It recognises that, although the book has placed a strong emphasis on climate change, "even if climate change were not happening, we would still need to change our energy systems, restore the health of ecosystems, create more livable cities, vibrant communities and resilient localities, use less resources, spread wealth, increase international peace and leave behind a world fit for our children and grandchildren. So climate change could be seen as the final wakeup call to create an ethical, sustainable world...."

Although the Report recognises the need for various separate changes involving money and finance, it doesn't suggest a comprehensive and systematic reconstruction of the money system that influences how almost everyone in the world now behaves - personally, locally, nationally and internationally.

So it's good to know that the World Future Council recognises the need for a new financial system at the core of the new economy that humanity now needs, and that a coalition of social banks has provided core funding for the Council's policy work on it over the next three years - www.worldfuturecouncil.org/future_finance.html.

(4) Dag Hammarskjold Foundation, THE CASE FOR PLURALISM; "What Next" Vol. II; Development Dialogue No 52, August 2009, 199pp.

As a participant with the International Foundation for Development Alternatives (IFDA) in the 1970s and subsequently with the Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation on "Another Development, What Now", I was sad to learn of the impending end of the 'What Next' project.

So it was a relief to know that a new "What Next Initiative" - www.whatnext.org - will carry forward the exploration of "alternative paths that can take us to a decent and sustainable future. That requires unconventional thinking, and the consideration of a broad range of alternatives – a strong case for pluralism. And that is what this final What Next volume is all about."

Contributors include Manfred Max-Neef, Vandana Shiva and Wendy Harcourt. Niclas Hallstrom's Introduction affirms that "all actors - governments, business, academia, media - have important roles to play, but little will happen unless concerned and organised citizens act, and act effectively and strategically, thereby pushing and moving the other actors".

 

5. NEXT NEWSLETTER

During the next few months I plan to complete a book on money system reform, with a practical core as summarised at 2.1. above. So my next newsletter may not come out until after Easter. But I know what happens to "the best laid plans of mice and men ..... ".

 

James Robertson

11th January 2010