Professor Jem Bendell

notes from a strategist & educator on social & organisational change, now focused on #DeepAdaptation

Archive for the ‘Occupy’ Category

Towards a Multi-Currency Eurozone

Posted by jembendell on July 6, 2015

The New Scientist magazine has published my views on the creation, in Greece ,of parallel currencies to the Euro, at both local and national levels. Unfortunately the mainstream financial press continue to mislead the public about the potential for a multi-currency system.

Even the basics are poorly reported, such as how the major bailouts for Greece were for the creditors, mostly German and French banks, not for the Greek government or citizens (as even the IMF recognises). But when it comes to the possibility of governments issuing their own parallel currencies, mainstream journalists move into a mode of lampooning and scaremongering.

Typically we see reports of banking analysts scoffing at proposals for new Government-issued currencies as ‘extreme measures’ of ‘money printing’ that are ‘liable to devaluation.’ It is only possible for such views to sound credible because most of us do not understand the way the banks currently create our money. In advanced economies, well over 90 percent of money is issued by commercial banks when they make loans. As the Bank of England had to correct economists last year: new loans are effectively new money. This process is difficult to justify when a bank’s privilege to create money from nothing and lend it to government for a nice profit starts to clash with democracy, as it may now be doing, given the protests against austerity. The mainstream media continues to avoid representing the informed views of those who completely reject a system where banks create money from nothing and use it to buy government bonds and charge interest on them, even at a 44% interest rate, as happened in 2012. It is why in 2011 at a European Broadcasting Union organised TEDx event I called on over 300 people in media to offer more insight on monetary issues.

In the last few years, the fame of the digital currency Bitcoin has helped people to see that there are alternatives to official money. However, the answer for Greece and other countries facing austerity is not Bitcoin, or any currency that the average citizen has to buy with their scarce funds of official money. Instead, what is needed are new currencies that turn the future value that citizens can produce into a form of IOU today: the types I mention in the New Scientist article. There are many such innovations around the world, with particularly exciting initiatives in Kenya, as I explained at the United Nations recently.

The former finance minister of Greece, Yanis Varoufakis, is aware of some of these innovations. He told the Telegraph “If necessary, we will issue parallel liquidity and California-style IOU’s, in an electronic form. We should have done it a week ago.” Better still, he should have done that on Day 1 in office. But it seems the mainstream financial press cant deal with such imaginative ideas. Immediately the Wall Street Journal reported various unnamed sources as guessing the government sacked him for that idea. That’s strange, when previous (less left-wing) Greek governments DID EXACTLY THAT IN 2010, when they issued IOUs for payments of medical supplies as I explain in the New Scientist article. Instead, it seems he stepped aside for the reasons he implied, to stop personality issues being the cause for, or excuse for, a lack of agreement.

Why are the mainstream media so allergic to currency innovation, especially if led by a government? Is it

a) they haven’t got a clue about monetary economics or the history of currency

b) they are so immersed in the delusion that money is wealth that to consider how communities and governments can create their own money threatens their whole world view of how society should function

c) they are deliberately trying to undermine government and community currency innovation in order to please some in the banking sector who do not want nations to escape the debt-enforced transfer of wealth to the few, via austerity and privatisation

d) all of the above

I hope Yannis now has some more time to work on alternative currencies. It is important way beyond the borders of Greece. As I say in the New Scientist:

Although people are focused on what to do in Greece and the Eurozone now, the implications are far wider, inviting all of us to think about the kind of monetary systems we want in a 21st century where humanity seeks to transition to a fairer, more sustainable world….

…Once the Greek government joins their citizens and entrepreneurs in creating alternative currencies that can exist alongside the euro, we will see the emergence of truly multi-currency societies. It would be apt as the birthplace of money, with the drachma over 2500 years ago, for Greece to lead the way into this future.”

In preparing the article I’m indebted to my friend and colleague Tom Greco, who has been in Greece for the past month working with communities, business networks, local governments and some members of the national administration to create a circulating exchange medium on the basis of future tax revenues. He calls them “Tax Anticipation Warrants” but I prefer to dub them The Greco, The idea is this currency:

1. Be spent into circulation by the government,

2. In a form that can be circulated,

3. As payment at par with the euro,

4. To employees, pensioners, contractors, and suppliers,

5. In amounts no greater than anticipated tax and other revenues in a six month period.

6. That they not be given legal tender status,

7. Nor be redeemable for euros,

8. But only in payment to the government for any taxes and dues, at par.

9. That they carry an expiration date to be one or two years after their first issuance.

10. But be exchangeable at par, prior to expiration, for any new warrants that the government might issue in the future.

Godspeed to Tom and other volunteer alternative currency designers in Greece and elsewhere.

Excited? Bamboozled? Take our free course starting 23rd August. www.ho.io/mooc

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Posted in Academia and Research, Corporations, Occupy, Sustainable Development | Tagged: , , | 3 Comments »

Why are the British Museum and BBC misinforming us about money?

Posted by jembendell on February 5, 2015

I love the British Museum. An awe inspiring collection of amazing cultural artifacts housed in a wonderful building.

Could anything better ever come from mass theft?

In researching my Institute’s forthcoming free online course on Money and Society, I visited the Museum’s exhibition on the history of money, that is sponsored by Citibank. I was pleased to see that the Museum presents clay tablets from ancient Sumeria as the first examples of money. Over a few thousand years old, these tablets show the earliest known accounts, with promises of beer and other crucial daily items! Despite this, my Museum guide moved swiftly on, to suggest that ancient coins from Lydia were the first forms of money. Was this just one misinformed volunteer? I searched online and found two videos made by the museum and the BBC (see below). They show that the British Museum staff and BBC editors are probably misguided, and definitely misguiding their publics.

They assume money has to be a thing, a precious metal, rather than an agreement about a unit that can enable exchange.

The Sumerian tablets show to us that records of promises are the first forms of money we have on record; that doesn’t mean the commodities that were being promised were the money. Promises, i.e. credit, is the first form of money we can discover from digging things up!

The BBC video for schools also invents another fictional story when they say that Emperors put their faces on coins for ego reasons. Maybe they had egos but that isn’t reason. The origin of coins is that the Emperors made a certain object a currency that they then required as taxes/tribute in order to force a population(s) to provide real good and services to soldiers, who would be given the coins as the armies/authorities controlled the mines and the mints. Unless the coins were then demanded as taxes from the population, the population probably wouldn’t bother wanting them and therefore might not give the soldiers any food, drink or hospitality. So coins were born through war and oppression. The practice continued through the European empires, where colonial powers demanded taxes from Africans, Asians and others be paid in a currency the Europeans invented and controlled.

In a few thousand years people wont be able to dig up the trillions of credit there is in our current economy, but they may find some 20 pence coins. Will they conclude we all traded with 20 pence pieces?

In my research for the course, I’ve discovered how much nonsense is presented about the history and nature of money, by our professional economists, business and finance journalists. One key nonsense is the idea that money was invented to cope with the difficulties of bartering goods. That was a story invented by economists like Adam Smith, who simply invented this history of money emerging from barter as it suited the emerging discipline of economics.

What might the avoidance of the real history of money and banking be about? Do we not want our kids, or the general public, to understand how money and banking evolved, with a lot of push, secrecy, squabble and shove?

The problem is that the projection of current assumptions onto the past, combined with the limits of what we can dig up, and the self-convenient fictions of orthodox economists, collectively maintains a view of money that restricts our sense of what money is or what it could be. At a time when we are ravaging our communities and planet in service of these things we call “money” and “debt” this is delusion that must be exploded now.

It’s why I think our free course is important. After taking it you might wonder if the British Museum and Citibank are distant cousins. Our course starts next week!

Posted in Academia and Research, Occupy, Sustainable Development | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Finding the Opportunity in Crisis – the Greece currency workshop

Posted by jembendell on October 3, 2012

Outside the Academy

The Academy in Crete

Here is the final line up for the 1.5 day event in Greece on alternative exchange and currencies…  There’s still time to register for the summit. Crisis is opportunity!

October 10th

900-1000
An introduction to money and its effects
Thomas Greco, best selling author on community currencies 1hr

1000-1030
Why “Sustainability” Professionals Need to Embrace Alternative Exchange
Professor Jem Bendell, Uni of Cumbria 30 mins

1030
Coffee, 15 mins

1045-1200
The Effects of Different Currencies: The Trading Game
Jem Bendell and Sybille Saint Girons, Les Valeureux, 1hr 15mins

1200-100
Experiences with TEM in Volos and Chania
Giannis Grigoriou, Volos TEM & Giannis Bouleros, Chania TEM, 1hr

100-215
Lunch, 1hr

215-300
Lessons from Argentina’s Social Money Movement 2001-2002
Sergio Lub, Favors.org and Thomas Greco, 45 mins

300-345
Design and Software Issues for Alternative Exchange
Matthew Slater, Community Forge 45 mins

345-400
Tea, 15 mins

400-515
Expert Roundtable
Thomas Greco, Matthew Slater, Giannis Grigoriou, Hamish Jenkins (United Nations) and Sybille Saint Girons. Chaired by Jem Bendell, 1hr

October 11th

900-930
Breakout meetings on key questions, 30 mins

930-1015
Research findings on alternative exchange in Greece
Irene Sotiropoulou, University of Crete, 45 mins

1015-1030
Coffee, 15 mins

1030-1130
Key success factors and limiting factors in mutual credit
Thomas Greco, 1hr

1130-1200
Software Demonstration
Matthew Slater, 30 mins

1200-100
Facilitated dialogue on key questions from breakout meetings
Facilitated by Jem Bendell, 1hr

100-130
Conclusions on next steps
Facilitated by Jem Bendell, 30 mins

130
Lunch
1hr

In the afternoon, depending on interest and attendance, experts and practitioners in community currencies may convene for a hosted dialogue on “Globalising Localisation: how can we help each other?”

Posted in Occupy, Sustainable Development, Talks | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

What has Wikileaks got to do with sustainability?

Posted by jembendell on September 1, 2012

People working on the environment, human rights, and social progress have not always had an easy relationship. The idea of “sustainable development” that first became popular 20 years ago was meant to bring them together. Instead, it has enabled an obsession with profit making to creep into thinking and practice in most areas of environment, rights and social progress. On the positive side, that has led to business and banks engaging with these issues more than they might otherwise – something Ive been involved in for the last decades. But what might have been lost in that process?

A speech on rights and media freedoms was the keynote at a festival to celebrate what an amazing future we have ahead of us if we embrace the transition to sustainability. In Sweden, at FuturePerfect, Wikileak’s editor in chief, Julian Assange, delivered a recorded speech from the Embassy where he has been given asylum by Ecuador.

SBS TV focuses in on laptop as Assange audio address played at FuturePerfect Festival

What has Wikileaks got to do with sustainability? Here are some highlights from the talk, and some reflections on what they mean for the “sustainability profession”, by which I mean those of us who have day jobs working on the social and environmental aspects of business, finance and economy.

Assange believes free media is critical to us understanding our society and what challenges we face. Thats key to enough people organising to promote sustainability:

“there is no civilisation, there is no society without media. That is: let’s take away all media, let’s take away all mediums, let’s take away all ability for humans beings to communicate with each other in the present and also it will learn from past experiences to teach the future. If there is no communication between people, if every person is entirely isolated like a tree in a forest, then clearly there is no civilisation and there is no society.”

“With the best possible communication, with the best possible ability to learn from our experiences, we have a chance of not simply doing the dumb thing. We have a chance of being more civilised to each other, we have a chance of avoiding pitfalls that have been discovered in the past.”

He also explains that our media is now so controlled by incumbent interests, that it marginalises critique, or those who want to see a transformation in society, such as towards a more sustainable one:

“Now the [corporate] media insofar as it is successful and is profitable and widely distributed, as an industrial body is inherently corrupt. And to understand where the corruption comes from, first of all see that an industrial body, an organisation that becomes powerful in influencing others, is able to manufacture consent and suppress dissent. As a result, the people who work within it, and those proprietors who own it, are invited to sit down at the table of power and are given certain concessions in their life and their business practices. They thereby become part of the very establishment that they are meant to be policing.”

The internet provides us with an opportunity to communicate and better understand our common predicaments, but not one that isnt being counter-acted by the amount of content produced by mainstream media:

“it is clear that most of the mainstream media outlets in Sweden are able to publish a truthful article on even perhaps the most controversial issues. But what they cannot do is show any sign of an institutional agenda to do so. They cannot publish in volume on those issues. Of course, when we are dealing with politics, we are dealing with perceptions en masse. And perceptions en masse are affected by communications en masse. It is not enough to simply reveal the truth in one isolated article or one isolated tweet; what is important is to have the truth revealed en masse, where people can see it en masse and where opinions can be affected en masse.”

The answer, Assange says, is therefore for all of us, in our personal and professional lives, to become engaged in developing and scaling up alternative media. Many people working on sustainability are working towards a better future, and can sometimes forget that may be taking for granted existing hard one freedoms and situations. Assange reminded participants at the conference of the situation facing many people today:

“We face a choice of  whether we can have something not just for our grandchildren but even  something for ourselves,” he noted. “We are rapidly approaching continuous war, in fact most of the Western countries have now been involved in war over 10 years and are being
increasingly involved. We see a tremendous increase in the size of intelligence agencies; the border between police and military is starting  to collapse, with the weaponisation of police; increasing amount of body armour that police have. Across the world we see a collapse in the rule of law, politicised and arbitrary justice, with U.S. assassination lists approved by the President in secret with no due process; the continued  detention without charge of children in Guantanamo Bay for over 10 years with no prospect of release.Mass surveillance being introduced into every country with no effective oversight by the population.  The linking up of international companies and networks of influential people of the banking people, all these people lifting up the democratic and electoral control of their respective population bases.”

In the past decades “sustainability” has become a profession, with people working in business, government and civil society on various aspects of the agenda. It is useful therefore, to be reminded of the insights of those who are activists, people who take personal risks and do not have to worry about their employer or client.

“We face a serious global crisis, so we must understand that this is not a choice about doing the right thing, this is not a choice about whether we
appear to be moral, this is not a choice about whether we make friends, or are approved as an effective member of society. We face a choice of whether we will have a civilisation that is civil or not.”

So what should sustainability folk do?

“first of all we must understand the problem, we must understand the severity of the problem, we must tell the others the severity of the problem, we must explain that it is not a choice, that is not something we could get out of, that there is a very real chance of a global technological and political dystopia appearing…”

Thats an useful reminder of speaking it as you see it, rather than worrying about how to frame your message in a positive tone that will help sell some products or votes.

“Then we must link together with people with a similar understanding, we must invent new technological means to fight fire with our own form of fire, we must have absolute unity and determination in the response. If we look back at the previous resistance struggles, similar phenomenon that occurred in the past, that is what has held the day in the end. Unity, determination, understanding and creativity, looking for every possible venue where the forces of darkness can be held back, that is the only way that we are all going to survive that ongoing threat that is against everyone.”

So what has Wikileaks got to do with sustainability?

In a field in Sweden, I learned that we should, sometimes, ditch our silos, labels, and professional affiliations in order to get a better sense of the interconnected causes of the various problems we face. If sustainable development is to be a true integration of social, enviornmental and economic priorities, then we need to lose the blinkers that our desire for an easy life have given us.

You can hear the speech or visit the organisers of FuturePerfect to see more about this great festival project. Im proud to have been associated with the organising of it, and look forward to more conversations and celebrations of how to be fully awake, connected and hopeful in our work at these critical times.

Posted in Corporations, Counter-Globalization Movement, Media, Occupy, Sustainable Development | Tagged: , , | 5 Comments »

The answer to financial chaos lies on an island in Sweden

Posted by jembendell on July 1, 2012

The financial crisis is actually a monetary crisis, and you can do something about it now.

On an island next to Stockholm, leaders in systemic solutions to financial chaos are gathering at a sustainability festival. Join them at the Future Perfect festival in Stockholm on 23-26 August, and hear a panel on monetary reforms and innovations for sustainability, and a workshop for executives who want to start, scale or participate in alternative means of exchange.

Panel: “Currencies of Transition: monetary reforms and innovations for sustainability.”

Chair: Professor Jem Bendell (Lifeworth Consulting, Community Forge and Griffith Business School)

Ben Dyson, director of Positive Money, which campaigns for a systemic solution to monetary crises, by full reserve banking.

Josh Ryan Collins, New Economics Foundation, the Brixton Pound and co-author of “Where does money come from?”

Lynnea Bylund, Board Member, Ormita, the international business barter network.

Matthew Slater, Board Member, Community Forge, a leading provider of open source software for community currencies, and editor of Community Currency magazine.

The panel will address the questions: Is a fair and sustainable economy possible with our debt-driven money system? If not, what needs to change? What is being done already? What can we do to get involved, personally and professionally? How can we make this a movement? What mistakes can we avoid?

Workshop: “How alternative exchange systems work and how to get started”

Trainers: Professor Jem Bendell and Matthew Slater

The trainers work with Community Forge, which provides free open source software for community currencies. This video explains why, what and how Community Forge operates.

You will be able to interact with these experts and others attracted to the topic, at a world class music festival! To book your tickets to the festival, visit http://www.futureperfect.se

The workshop will also be offered in Greece in the second week of October. Contact the European Sustainability Academy for more information.

Posted in Corporations, Counter-Globalization Movement, Lifeworth, Occupy, Sustainable Development, Talks | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Fixing the Global Jobs Crisis: time to leave assumptions behind

Posted by jembendell on June 6, 2012

Mass unemployment is becoming a headache for all world leaders. At the World Economic Forums (WEF) in Davos, Bangkok and Istanbul, people were talking about how to address growing unemployment.

To find real solutions to this global jobs crisis we need to be clear on the cause of the problem. Some of the conversations I heard at the WEF revealed widely shared yet questionable assumptions about key causes of unemployment. The key myths are, as follows:

Myth 1: “Unemployment is due to falling demand.”

Are people’s needs really falling? Or just the amount of money in circulation to employ people/assets to meet those needs?

Myth 2: “Unemployment is due to technology displacing human labour.”

Could we not design systems of ownership and revenue distribution so that the income from technology frees us to work creatively and caringly for each other? How can we govern technology to release us to a world of service, not a life of redundancy?

Myth 3: “Unemployment is due to the cost of hiring and firing.”

Why then do some countries with high wages and labour standards, like Scandinavia, have less % unemployment? Where would competition between nations to lower costs of hiring and firing lead us?

Myth 4: “Unemployment is due to a lack of skills and appetite for the new types of work.”

The world has more skilled labour than ever before, and more labour mobility than ever before, and many people with Masters degrees can’t get a job.

Myth 5: “Unemployment is due to the option to claim benefits.”

Why then was the existence of benefits not keeping people out of the workforce before the recession? Why do some countries with the most supportive welfare states, like Scandinavia, have less % unemployment?

These assumptions may arise from a general lack of understanding about the first key function of a currency, which is to help connect assets, including people’s time, with needs. If a currency becomes scarce in an economy, then there is less ability for exchange. That means needs go unmet, and assets go underutilised. Its called unemployment.

I recorded a short interview for the social media corner of WEF in Istanbul to explain where we need to start looking for real solutions to the global jobs crisis.

Posted in Corporations, Occupy, Sustainable Development, Talks | Tagged: , , , | 3 Comments »

Job Creation Without Austerity or Debt

Posted by jembendell on May 21, 2012

In the face of financial crisis and mass unemployment, do you believe we have to choose between either austerity or debt-funded economic growth? Its a false choice, based on false assumptions. My video-keynote at a forthcoming conference in Denmark, explains how we can achieve job creation without austerity or more debt, by redesigning our monetary systems.

If you are near Denmark, go join the conversation at Rebuild21.

Want to learn more? Access more materials.

Posted in Academia and Research, Counter-Globalization Movement, Occupy, Sustainable Development, Talks | Tagged: , , , | 5 Comments »