Contents. (This edition will be timely but brief).
Back to America
My latest article
Degrowth Conference on Social Equity and Ecological Sustainability
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.
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,
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)
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.
My pictures from my November visit to Penang
Pictures from my February/March visit to Penang and Kuala Lumpur have not yet been uploaded.
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,
Many ecovillages are struggling to live the dream because they have yet to escape from debt and the need to pull money out of the global economy to meet their needs.
I see villages themselves generating very little money, relying on donated money, new members bringing money and property, and sending skilled people out into the global economy.
I have been made an ecovillage ambassador to enable me to explore the ecovillage economies more deeply, and ask the following questions.
- What are the barriers to generating wealth?
- What trading opportunities have not been realised
A catastrophic chain of events is unfolding across Africa as commodity markets tumble, currencies are sliding, derivative markets are vapourising, and the effects are starting to be felt in the civilised world.
European finance ministers, who only yesterday were trumpeting record stock market highs, are bracing themselves for difficult days ahead.
Rumours coming out of Mali are focusing on a visit of the Chinese Ambassador to the stock exchange. Mustapha Ali, a trader in the Timbucktoo Stock Exchange, blogged this less than an hour ago:
You've probably heard of the bitcoin rollercoaster by now, and wondered what different it makes to sharers. Most of us understand that when the Federal Reserve pumps $75M per month into a stagnant economy, our hard-earned dollars lose purchasing power, and that meanwhile the supply of bitcoin is fixed; But at the end of the day, isn't our experience of money the same? Let us consider...
Brief overview of your proposal: Explain how your proposal furthers the Foundation’s mission to standardize, protect, and promote bitcoin.
The Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE) is offering a Community Capital Toolkit that can be downloaded free of charge from the BALLE website.
In case you’re not familiar with BALLE, here is a brief description of the BALLE vision and mission from their website:
Within a generation, we envision a global system of human-scale, interconnected local economies that function in harmony with local ecosystems to meet the basic needs of all people, support just and democratic societies, and foster joyful community life.
At the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies, BALLE [bawl-EE], our work is focused on creating real prosperity by connecting leaders, spreading solutions that work, and driving investment toward local economies.
BALLE equips entrepreneurs with tools and strategies for local success, and we provide the national forum for the most visionary local economy leaders and funders to connect, build their capacity and innovate. …more…
Toolkit includes: The 20-page Guide to Community Capital
Seven FREE past webinar recordings
Access to a community capital library of resources
You can download it here.
Anyone who wants to understand present-day geopolitical phenomena must pay attention to former Assistant Treasury Secretary, Dr. Paul Craig Roberts. Roberts is one of a handful of people who understands what is going on–and is willing to tell people about it. Explore his website http://www.paulcraigroberts.org/, and be sure to listen to his recent interview with Eric King, here.
In that interview, Roberts tells the story of how and why the US interferes in money and securities markets, and the effects those manipulations have on others around the world. He also predicts that the Federal Reserve will soon be faced with the choice of either saving the banks or saving the dollar, perhaps as early as the end of this year. But I suspect that the Fed may not quite yet have exhausted their bag of tricks. Because banking corporations dominate politics in most of the world, and because the dollar’s role as the global reserve currency has served the purpose of Western dominance, the Fed, in alliance with other central banks, will try to save both the banks and the dollar for as long as they can.
What is actually being protected is the global usury-based debt-money regime, that unholy alliance between politicians and top level banks that enables central governments to spend far in excess of their tax and other revenues, thereby thwarting democratic government and the popular will, while enabling banking institutions to privatize our collective credit and charge us interest (usury) to access it.
So what do the central banks have left in their bag of tricks as they taper off their massive amounts of “quantitative easing” (currency inflation)? That’s the question to ponder. I think it’s obvious that they will (1) try to corral everyone’s savings and all surpluses into government securities and Wall Street equities (think, privatization of Social Security), and (2) outright confiscation of bank deposits via selective bank failures and assessments on depositors (ala the recent Cyprus trial balloon).
Still, those can only be, at best, delaying tactics, and not without serious social and political repercussions. The real solution will continue to be denied and delayed by the powers that be. Thus it must emerge from the bottom, from the creative instincts and talents of innovators in many fields who are bringing to market better ways of mediating the exchange of value and financing the creation of sustainable, Earth-friendly, and life-supporting products and services. –t.h.g.
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Every day brings new stories about the successful application of new exchange mechanisms that are helping people to survive and thrive in the face of monetary dysfunctions and misguided government policies that are becoming ever more prevalent.
This report from Kenya is a moving and inspiring account of one aging woman’s efforts to keep her family fed and housed.
Maciana Anyango’s husband died a long time ago, leaving her with 5 children to care for alone. Even though she is 64 now, and most of her children are grown, she still bears the burden for caring for her family. Her oldest son, who might have taken on this responsibility, also died, and her oldest daughter is disabled from a bout of TB. Her surviving son was trained as a driver, but he’s been unable to find work, so he, his wife, and his two children live with Marciana, along with Mariciana’s disabled daughter and youngest daughter (17 years). Marciana didn’t have the money to send her youngest daughter to secondary school. And, although she received some training as a tailor, she is also unemployed.
So, Marciana supports this household from the sale of porridge and a bean and maize soup. The porridge sells for 15ksh ($0.18) and soup for 10ksh ($0.12). She usually makes around 600ksh ($7) a day to feed a family of 7. Technically, this puts her above the international poverty line based on the lower cost of living in Kenya, but, as she leaned her forehead against a pole, looked down at her worn red flip flops and dust covered feet, and told us about her life, we could feel the exhaustion caused by her efforts to keep her family fed and housed, and some sadness at being unable to keep her daughters in school and in good health.
Things are improving for Marciana now. She became a member of Koru’s Bangladesh Business Network in December and started trading the Bangla-Pesa voucher with fellow members. More…
And a world away in the United States, commercial trade exchanges (sometimes called “barter exchanges”) are continuing to proliferate and develop in ways that promise to make moneyless trading mechanisms ever more effective and accessible. Trade Authority is an entity that is promoting the proliferation of member-owned trade exchanges and plans eventually to network these exchanges together to enable members to spend their trade credits over a wider area. View their introductory video here.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 http://beyondmoney.net/.
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:
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.
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,
There is no doubt that the world is in the midst of an unprecedented mega-crisis. It is a time of excitement and rapid change, as well as great danger. What can we do to try to discern how it will all turn out? Every society and every era has had its “seers” or “prophets,” but how does one judge which of them are to be believed? In the modern era, we tend to give more weight to predictions that are based on broad knowledge and rational arguments than upon religion and superstition. Two widely regarded present day seers are Kevin Carson and John Michael Greer. Things get interesting when there is a fundamental disagreement. So it is between these two, as described in a recent web post at City of the Future.
The debate that is described in the article, Catabolic Ephemeralization? Carson Versus Greer, is summarized in this excerpted paragraph:
So which is it? Are we headed for a future in which short-wave radio returns and a rebuilt postal service takes over from failing server farms, as Greer would have it? Or will we be able to “leapfrog” away from our old imploding infrastructure toward a world of distributed, highly efficient, peer-to-peer manufacturing facilitated by open source design?
It’s well worth reading. Find it here.
The current wave of cryptocurrencies, starting with bitcoin, are designed, monetarily speaking, within a very limited paradigm. They generally have a fixed quantity, and a fixed rate of issuance determined at the start, they find their value on the free market based on pure supply and demand, they have no possibility of redemption and no backing of any sort. Participation is open to anyone who can install a wallet.
What will it take to get us to a would of peace where we all have access to what we need to live a dignified life? My thought is that we will need to share and cooperate as never before, to devote ourselves to promoting the common good, and to create new social, political, and economic structures that better serve those ends.
One promising initiative in that direction is Shareable.
Given my particular interest in cross cultural activities and travel, I recommend that you read Neal Gorenflo’s post, #HackTravel: Why No One Will Buy Tourism in the Future. Start by watching this two minute video:
Thanks to Michael Contardi for this question
>I'm wondering about what your thoughts are about the evolution of mutual credit in light of the crypocurrency craze and whether there might be a way to bring together the advantages of both.
We mourn the passing of one of the greatest and most courageous men of the past century, but the ideals that Nelson Mandela espoused and the work that he started must be continued by those of us who remain.
Lest we forget, Nelson Mandela was persecuted and opposed, not only by the Apartheid government in South Africa, but by the global power elite, generally, especially those who call themselves conservative. You may want to read this excellent article from the Think Progress website:
Here are some highlights:
1. Mandela blasted the Iraq War and American imperialism.
2. Mandela called freedom from poverty a “fundamental human right.”
3. Mandela criticized the “War on Terror” and the labeling of individuals as terrorists without due process.
4. Mandela called out racism in America.
5. Mandela embraced some of America’s biggest political enemies.
6. Mandela was a die-hard supporter of labor unions.
The article also catalogs some of the prominent America politicians and journalists who over the years denounced Mandela.
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2 weeks ago Bill Still, producer of 'Money Masters' and veteran of monetary reform, likened the cryptocurrencies to the myriad depression era scrip currencies, saying the situation with the US dollar is so bad that people are taking matters into their own hands, and that these tools are the best we have for now. I took this as my cue to diversify from Bitcoin and dived in.
The cryptocurrency exchanges are pretty exciting places to be. They work just like conventional exchange web sites.
Last week it was announced officially that CES, which I mention frequently, the largest nonprofit exchange network in the world will migrate to Drupal in a project financed by government of New South Wales, Australia.
The exciting part though, is that this project will be open source as much as possible:
Huge gratitude to the timebanking movement in New Zealand which invited me and shunted me around the country introducing me to most of the active people in monetary reform and complementary currencies, and following in the footsteps of such legends as Tom Greco, Nicole Foss, and Margrit Kennedy. Highlights were as follows:
- Lincoln, nascent timebank, starting with Hamlets.