Newsletter No. 53 - March 2016
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1. Two Projects
2. The Global Contrast
3. Money System Reform - for People, not Banks
4. Alternatives to the Arms Race
5. Remember Fukushima
6. An Interesting Family of Books
7. Some Coming Events
1. TWO PROJECTS
(1) The Treehouse School
We have given part of our old orchard to Cholsey's Treehouse School. The school - www.thetreehouseschool.org.uk - is "an alternative, non-fee paying primary school, where:
- children's happiness is paramount
- the curriculum is bespoke, designed around children's needs and interests
- there is a commitment to outdoor learning and hands on experiences
- children are motivated and inspired
- all children are successful as individuality is valued
- respect for the environment and healthy lifestyles are honed".
The school needs to grow. It will use this land for new ecological school buildings fitting the school's ethos. The necessary planning permission for them has been granted.
My wife Alison Robertson is the Chair of the charity's Trustees. Funds for the new buildings are now being raised – www.thetreehouseschool.org.uk/wordpress/1-campaign.
(2) A Hard Copy Robertson Archive
This new Hard Copy Archive starts with my working years in 1953 when I joined the Colonial Office, and it falls away in the early years of the present century since this website has increasingly replaced it. The ground the Hard Copy Archive covers will be found in the List of Archive Contents.
The areas covered include my work with The Other Economic Summit and the New Economics Foundation; papers on my work in areas such as monetary reform, basic income, health, local economies, politics and religion; published articles; audio and video tapes of talks and interviews; and outgoing correspondence.
If you would like to receive a pdf copy of any of the files in the Archive, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org quoting the box number and specific file(s).
For the time being, the cost will be £10 per file, which can be paid either directly online by PayPal via the NEF website or upon receipt of an invoice. I am very grateful to NEF for the help they are giving this Archive in parallel with their own.
2. THE GLOBAL CONTRAST
Of course there are many examples of other people's well-meaning projects like those above at point 1. But why is the world controlled by people who behave with less benign and positive motives?
Why and by whom are large numbers of people compelled to migrate from their own countries to others, with many of them and their children being drowned on the way?
Why does what we call 'wealth' create such wide inequalities and injustice between people, and why does it require and result in the destruction of the resources of the planet on which all of us depend for our survival?
Why is so much 'wealth' spent on competing to create 'arms' with which nations or individuals can damage or destroy one another?
Why do so few of our political and business leaders seem to recognise that our species is facing the possibility of suicide before of the end of the present century?
What should we be doing to avoid that happening?
3. MONEY SYSTEM REFORM - FOR PEOPLE NOT BANKS
(1) Mary Mellor's recent book is called Debt or Democracy - Public Money For Sustainability and Social Justice, Pluto Press, November 2015, paperback, £18.99. It has been warmly welcomed.
It will convince you that how the money supply is now created leads to 'austerity' and economic injustice. It describes "the choice between a privatised money system based on debt, for which the public is ultimately responsible, and a debt-free democratically controlled money system as the framework for socially just and ecologically sustainable sufficiency provisioning". It leaves us in no doubt that we should choose the latter.
At the international level, her approach is that "there should be no monetary incentive to globalise production..... Container loads of goods would no longer pass container loads of similar goods going in the opposite direction. Most importantly it would curb the power of global speculative finance, which currently forms the lion's share of global foreign exchange".
Many endorsements of this book include the following extract from a review by Fiorella Lecoutteux in Peace News (February-March 2016) at www.peacenews.info/node/8296/mary-mellor-debt-or-democracy-public-money-sustainability-and-social-justice:
"A power shift needs to take place, she argues, from strong private banks to a renewed state sovereignty: a shift that will allow states to regain control of money creation and curb the power of the banks. A shift, in short, from debt to democracy. Her alternative vision views public money as a means for creating social justice and environmental sustainability rather than the profits that drive capitalist regimes. Instead, it would seek ‘public profit' whereby ‘enough' is preferable to ‘more'. ‘Work that makes a profit need be neither useful nor necessary', she notes. In a transformed public economy, people would work in activities related to their needs. And, whereas capitalism only provides the consumer with the ‘end product', a new democratic economic state would involve people in both production and investment decisions, helping to avoid harmful impacts on the environment and on workers."
(2) Another warmly welcomed recent book is Andrew Purves: No Debt, High Growth, Low Tax: Hong Kong's Economic Miracle Explained, Shepheard-Walwyn (Publishers) Ltd, 2015, paperback, £11.95
See favourable comments at www.shepheard-walwyn.co.uk/product/no-debt-high-growth-low-tax; you can follow up with full reviews in Land and Liberty and Moneyweb.
This book strongly supports the case for Land Valuation Taxation (LVT). My view is that, together with ecological taxes on pollution, resource depletion and waste, LVT should replace uneconomic and inequitable taxes on value added (VAT), incomes and profits, which penalise useful work and enterprise. See page 140 of Future Money.
Newsletter subscribers can download a free pdf copy of Future Money. Subscribe here - www.jamesrobertson.com/futuremoney.htm.
Also see www.thomasattwood.wordpress.com/2016/02/11/a-good-tax-system-one-component-set-within-a-combination-of-sensible-reform.
(3) Lord Mervyn King, who was Governor of the Bank of England from 2003 to 2013, has just released his new book The End of Alchemy.
In it, he says that "the fragility of our financial system stems directly from the fact that banks are the main source of money creation; and most importantly of all, how we can end the alchemy of our present system of money and banking.” (p8)
Ben Dyson is right to say that it's a shame that the proposals in the book are too narrow to address the wider social and economic problems caused by the design of the monetary system. See www.positivemoney.org/2016/03/mervyn-king-advocates-the-end-of-alchemy.
(4) Switzerland's Vollgeld Initiative. See www.thomasattwood.wordpress.com/2016/01/23/switzerlands-vollgeld-initiative.
“In a nutshell, the proposal extends the Swiss Federation's existing exclusive right to create coins and notes, to also include deposits. With the full power of new money creation exclusively in the hands of the Swiss National Bank, the commercial banks would no longer have the power to create money through lending. The Swiss National Bank's primary role becomes the management of the money supply relative to the productive economy, while the decision concerning how new money is introduced debt-free into the economy would reside with the government."
The campaign has now achieved the stage when, with over 110,000 signatures, its supporters are entitled to introduce a referendum on whether this proposal is accepted. They are now raising 260,000 CHF (Swiss Francs) to fund a referendum campaign over the next three years in the three main Swiss languages - German, French and Italian.
See www.vollgeld-initiative.ch, www.monnaie-pleine.ch or www.moneta-intera.ch.
(5) Pat Conaty and others are working together for a better money system at every level, containing many different types of socially useful money organisations such as credit unions, co-operative banks, and other CDIs (community development financial institutions).
Also in 2015 Pat Conaty was asked by Wales Co-operative Centre and Co-operatives UK to report on the social and co-operative economy innovation in Wales and to set this in a policy context, as uneven growth and imbalanced recovery from the downturn persists across the UK.
That will also lead you to the report on The Co-operative Advantage edited by Ed Mayo.
(6) Pressures for a Basic Income Continue to Grow
These two sources of worldwide information clearly suggest that pressures for a basic income continue to grow strongly.
US Basic Income Guarantee newsletter
4. ALTERNATIVES TO THE ARMS RACE
(1) Don't Replace the Trident Nuclear Missile System
As a retired Royal Navy Commander and former operator of British nuclear weapons, Robert Green supports rejecting replacing Trident.
See www.theecologist.org/ blogs_and_comments/ commentators/2986188/jeremy_ corbyn_is_right_to_reject_ trident.html.
(2 ) Common Security: Progressive Alternatives to the New Arms Race
"The UK is in a unique position to play a leading role in this progressive movement, as the first post-military society promoting a new UN disarmament agenda and mobilising a multi-billion pound common security fund for international, economic and environmental development. The timescale for the transformation to a postcarbon economy is urgent but entirely achievable given the will of the international community to end the scourge of war and to promote peace and common security."
(3) Share the World's Resources and Scrap Trident
"As geopolitical tensions escalate in the Middle East and the world teeters on the brink of a new Cold War, it's clear that the only way to eliminate the threat of nuclear warfare is for governments to fulfil their long-held commitment to the 'general and complete disarmament' of nuclear weapons – permanently. A bold and essential step towards this crucial goal is to decommission Trident, the UK's ineffective, unusable and costly nuclear deterrent submarines. Renewing Trident would not only undermine international disarmament efforts for years to come, it will reinforce the hazardous belief that maintaining a functional nuclear arsenal is essential for any nation seeking to wield power on the world stage."
(4) Trident's a Relic of a Bygone Age
The following extract is from an article about a march in London three weeks ago - www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/feb/25/march-against-trident-join-us:
"The £100bn (and counting) lifetime spend on Trident would be far better invested in the foundations of real security and wellbeing – the best possible safety equipment for our troops, our NHS, affordable homes and education, and decent jobs for a future that will increasingly need renewable, sustainable energy sources that don't destroy our environment.
Of course, any move to scrap Trident must not be at the expense of providing decent jobs for people who work in manufacturing, transporting and servicing the nuclear arsenal. It is our firm belief that the abolition of Trident must be matched by a programme of diversification and alternative employment."
5. REMEMBER FUKUSHIMA
The risks and costs of energy provided by nuclear power are unacceptable and unnecessary. Here are a few examples.
6. AN INTERESTING FAMILY OF BOOKS
David Boyle has written many interesting books across a wide range of areas, including economics, social commentary, business and history.
One of his recent books is How to Be English ...in 100 objects, occasions and peculiarities, published by SQUARE PEG, 2015, hardback, £16.99.
For a list of all his books, see www.david-boyle.co.uk/books.
7. SOME COMING EVENTS
17 March 2016, Schumacher College Postgraduate Open Day - see www.schumachercollege.org.uk/courses/postgraduate-courses.
8-9 April 2016, Green Economics Institute Trust, Migration Conference at Trinity College, Oxford -
30 August-3 September 2016, Degrowth Conference, Budapest - www.budapest.degrowth.org/?page_id=105.
29 September - 2 October 2016, 12th Annual Conference of American Monetary Institute - www.monetary.org/2016-ami-monetary-reform-conference.
15 March 2016