The Politics of Money

Linked with Hazel Henderson – England & USA.

Published by Hazel Henderson on January 31, 2006 – (Read the whole long article on Vermont Commons).

Two excerpts: … As with politics, all real money is local, created by people to facilitate exchange and transactions, and it is based on trust. The story of how this useful invention, money, grew into abstract national fiat currencies backed only by the promises of rulers and central bankers is being told anew. We witness how information technology and deregulation of banking and finance in the 1980s helped create today’s monstrous global casino where $1.5 trillion worth of fiat currencies slosh around the planet daily via mouse clicks on electronic exchanges, 90% in purely speculative trading.

New Fed Chairman, Ben Bernanke opined that the mystery of low bond yields and interest rates was due to a “global savings glut.” Former Fed Chairman Greenspan, whose zero real interest rates flooded the US economy with excess liquidity and helped create the dot-com, housing, and global asset bubbles, declared himself “perplexed.” The anomaly involves the global economic imbalances between the USA, the world’s largest debtor – borrowing the lion’s share of global capital – and the developing countries of Asia and those exporting oil as the world’s new lenders. I doubt there is a “global savings glut” or a “Shift of Thrift” from indebted U.S. household’s zero saving rates to thrifty Asian savers as claimed in The Economist editorial of Sept. 24, 2005.

My view is that there’s a global flood of fiat paper money – mostly trillions of US dollars – amplified by the pyramiding of financial “innovations” (derivatives, hedge funds, offshore “special purpose entities,” currency speculation, and tax havens) vis-ŕ-vis real production of goods and services in the real world.

Today, we see worldwide experimentation with local exchange, barter and swap clubs, such as Deli-Dollars, LETS, Ithaca Hours and other scrip currencies in the USA and Canada. Billions of people still live in traditional non-money societies and the world’s mostly female voluntary sectors. I have described these huge uncharted sectors as the “Love Economy” estimated by the Human Development Report (United Nations Development Program 1995) as $16 trillion simply missing from economists’ global GDP that year of $24 trillion. Others have described these non-money sectors, notably Karl Polanyi in Primitive, Archaic and Modern Economies (1968); Lewis Hyde in The Gift (1979); Genevieve Vaughan in For-Giving (1997); Dallas Morning News financial editor, Scott Burns in Home, Inc (1975); Edgar Cahn’s No More Throw Away People (2004) and his time-banking programs now emulated worldwide (The Time Dollar How To Manual, www.timedollar.org) …

… Before we fall into “either/or” errors, we should avoid doctrinaire “smallness,” ideological localism, and knee-jerk libertarianism. None can protect local communities from the ravages of market fundamentalist-driven globalization. Like it or not, we are all “glocal” now. Communities, like cells in the body-politic and the body, need boundaries or membranes to keep out elements destructive to the cell’s integrity. But all cell membranes are semi-permeable to allow needed elements, information and energy exchanges from the environment to pass through. In today’s information saturated world, communities need to understand anew which elements to reject and which to embrace. Wholesale rejection can lead to rigidity, xenophobia, and misreading of history. Wholesale acceptance of current unsustainable economic global trends will surely lead to loss of local culture and biodiversity and to resource-depletion. We humans have been adept at creating new scenarios and technologies that mirror our lack of systemic knowledge and foresight. From such social changes and unanticipated consequences, we must then learn and evolve – or suffer ecological collapse. (Read the whole long article on Vermont Commons).

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