Everyone now knows that the financial system is corrupt and does not serve the 99%, each by their own reason of mind. Buckminster Fuller is attributed with saying: “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” This page is dedicated to providing examples as remedy for community banks and exchanges.
We, the people do not have control over our currency and value of our labour which is being artificially manipulated and eroded by a corrupt system serving only the 1%.
When the collective giant namely, “we, the people” has properly awakened and is ready for action then the foundations of the new models of society must be easily accessible and user-friendly in order to “trimtab” the system.
Sir William Blackstone, an authority on common law stated in ‘Commentaries on the Law of England’: “However, as it is impossible for the whole race of mankind to be united in one great society, they must necessarily divide into many, and form separate states, commonwealths, and nations, entirely independent of each other, and yet liable to a mutual intercourse.”
Just reading our ‘Banking’ and ‘Capitalism’ pages is sufficient proof that the ‘one great society’ financial system is corrupt and fraudulent while showing all the hallmarks of runaway debt which can only end in a ‘collapse’; a better description would be a pre-planned and staged demolition.
More and more communities of people are wishing for autonomy and self-governance. The remedy is to return the power of banking and exchange back into the hands of the people in a co-operative, mutually beneficial, non-profit, al-embracing system of community banks and exchanges managed by, for and of the people;
Law of the Land v Law of the Sea:
We have gradually moved from ‘local government’ which was people orientated to a ‘city of’ corporate form of government; from a Republic to a Democracy; from peoples’ sovereignty to state sovereignty [which is a cabalistic term]. It is time to return back to law of the land from law of the sea.
Community banks and exchanges ought to be recorded by the law of the land which is a vacant jurisdiction right now and must be re-established;
All banks and financial institutions are registered by enacted admiralty/civil/commercial/law-merchant which all are in reality law of the sea; and, only has subject-matter-jurisdiction over legal fictions such as the ALL CAPITALS NAME/PERSON/CITIZEN which is merely a piece of paper and NOT you, a natural wo/man. Please make the distinction. See https://giftoftuth.wordpress.com/your-rights/
The law of the land and relates to tangible things such as our body, our offspring, our property and natural resources; whereas, the law of the sea relates to intangible things i.e. commercial transactions between legal fictions which in fact only applies to corporate and government employees and bar members;
The law of the land v law of the sea are contra-distinct jurisdictions and like oil and water the two cannot mix; Read further at: https://giftoftruth.wordpress.com/what-is-law/
UZA v Constitutional Court of South Africa:
In order to be truly autonomous and independent, community banks and courts can only be recorded according to the law of the land AND NOT registered according to the law of the sea. The law of the land is vacant and un-used. It is the intention in our international court case [which is currently underway: see https://giftoftruth.info/] to establish lay the foundations for community banks & exchanges as well as community courts which are the two key elements that we have identified as an alternative model and remedy to the current status quo that currently only serves the 1 % at the expense of the 99%.
Community Banks & Exchanges:
Community banks and exchanges are creative and innovative, requiring no formal education and structured in such a way so as to facilitate exchange between as many different community banks and exchanges in as many places as possible; examples are listed below.
The people shall govern:
With autonomy and self-governance comes participation. We cannot give an important service such as banking to others to ‘manage for us’; greed and absolute power corrupts absolutely; there is not a single people in a position of power who will not abuse it; no one;
A simple remedy to greed and power corruption is to establish revolving banking committees, giving member gets a chance to serve the community for a day or a week which can be decided by referendum; much the same with jury duty; the bigger the community becomes, the less frequent each member contributes to their self-governance;
For establishing community banks & exchanges according to the law of the land:
The decree of the sovereign makes the law. The values of the community ought to be expressed in a lawful, un-enacted charter.
The Express Trust as opposed to Corporations and Partnerships is the law of the land remedy; see https://giftoftruth.wordpress.com/express-trusts/
Referendums are most important as they express the will of the people.
All members agree to keeping disputes out of commercial courts and agree to Truth & Reconciliation Commissions according to principles of restorative justice. True justice is seeking reconciliation and not retribution. See https://giftoftruth.wordpress.com/restorative-justice/
For those still investing:
Simon Black is an international investor, entrepreneur, and founder of Sovereign Man. His free daily e-letter Notes from the Field is about using the experiences from his life and travels to help you achieve more freedom, make more money, keep more of it, and protect it all from bankrupt governments.
By Simon Black; February 16, 2016; Santiago, Chile
Here’s the financial advice the government gave me 20 years ago…
It was close to twenty years ago that I sat in my first personal finance class, learning how to invest money I didn’t have for a “retirement” that seemed inconceivably far away.
It was my first year at the academy. And the government thought it appropriate to ensure that its future Army officers had sufficient acumen to manage their finances.
Their sage advice back then was to buy stocks, hold for 40-50 years, and then rotate into bonds. (Funny how the government’s finance class encouraged us to buy government bonds.) The idea was to build wealth through stocks, which conventional wisdom tells us will increase in value. Then, generate stable income from government bonds, which are “safe” and provide much needed supplemental income for retirees. It’s become clear to me over the years that this story is completely wrong.
The belief in finding safety by loaning your money to a bankrupt government that has no hope of ever repaying its debts is completely ludicrous, especially given that their interest rates are either negative or well below the rate of inflation.
For anyone that has the courage to look beyond the mainstream, there are a number of much more profitable and stable asset classes available to grow your wealth and generate income.
- Private Businesses
Private businesses are almost unparalleled in wealth creation, and can offer superior risk-adjusted returns to anything out there in public markets. I’m not talking about investing in tech startups trying to find the next Google (though investing in startups can also provide outsized, risk-adjusted returns). I’m talking about acquiring shares of more mature, privately held businesses. These would typically be medium-sized companies that have a 20+ year history of generating profits. There is a limited market for these opportunities (as there usually is for any great deal). But they do exist.
Business brokers around the world often list these types of companies at between two and four times their annual earnings. This means that it’s possible to generate a 50% return on your investment. And if you have skills or access to management that can grow the earnings, the returns can be even higher. Mature businesses with long operating histories may even qualify for bank financing, thus reducing the amount of upfront capital you need to purchase the business.
I’ve been involved in a few of these deals myself where banks have stepped forward to provide most of the financing necessary to buy a mature business based on the company’s long-standing operating history. In comparison to loaning money to a bankrupt government for a one-percent annualized return, this strikes me as a no-brainer asset class to consider.
- Royalty streams and intellectual property rights
Royalty streams and intellectual property rights are another unconventional asset class to consider. This can include anything from patents to songwriter credits, to income streams from privately held mines or oil wells. Given the weakness in commodity prices this market is starting to become much more attractive from a value perspective, particularly if you have a long-term outlook.
Some friends of mine own the website RoyaltyExchange.com, a platform where royalty owners for film assets, patents, mineral rights, etc. are auctioned off to investors. In one recent deal for songwriter credits, a $15,000 annual royalty stream sold for less than $29,000.
I have another colleague who holds book copyrights through his Individual Retirement Account to generate tax-deferred royalty income.
One of my personal favorites is agriculture. Understandably most people won’t be able to achieve the size and scale of necessary to run an efficient agricultural corporation. But even on a small scale, agriculture works. Apple trees have outperformed apple stock for 30+ years. It’s hard to imagine you’ll be worse off for having a small organic garden or planting some fruit trees in your backyard. Not only will you be putting real food on the table, but with an investment of just a couple of dollars you could substantially increase your property’s value.
Last but not least, the most important investment I believe anyone can make is an investment you make in yourself. For anyone looking to secure greater income and wealth, there is no substitute for real education: business education, financial education, and the development of important skills.
To generate $1,000 in monthly income through conventional investments, for example, you’d have to buy $674,000 worth of US government treasuries based on today’s bond yields.
Or you could invest a tiny fraction of that to learn a skill that makes you more valuable at work or in the marketplace.
This is one of our main focuses in our annual youth liberty and entrepreneurship camp. Each summer we spend an intense five-day workshop developing critical skills, business education and financial education, guided by some of the smartest, most successful people I know. It’s free of charge for those who are accepted.
We’re just about to open up the enrollment window, if you’d like to find out more about how to apply to our Liberty and Entrepreneurship camp, go to the link below.
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Apple Trees have outperformed Apple stock for almost 35 years
September 18, 2015 Sovereign Valley Farm, Chile
It’s a big holiday today in Chile, what they call Fiestas Patrias.
It’s sort of like their 4th of July or Canada Day. And it’s a big deal here… easily as important a holiday as Christmas or New Year’s.
Down here at the farm, all the dozens of workers have the holiday off, and I tended to the chores myself this morning.
The strawberries are already starting to bear fruit, a sign of another good year.
Unfortunately our free-roaming chickens have been invading my garden and helping themselves to the fruit.
So to thwart this criminal behavior I’ve decided to build a wall around the strawberries… and make the chickens pay for it.
In all candor, though, it’s amazing to be able to grow my own food.
Out here I know that the whims of central bankers are completely irrelevant. These trees and soil are going to keep pumping out organic food.
It’s seriously profitable, too. If you had bought Apple stock at its IPO in 1980, you’d be up over 200x your money. And that is truly phenomenal performance.
But had you instead planted an apple tree back in 1980, that investment of roughly $1 would have yielded you THOUSANDS of dollars over the last 35 years.
This is one of the things that makes agriculture one of my favorite investments. With a little bit of care, patience, and maintenance, nature can provide an extremely high return on investment.
And no matter what, people need to eat, regardless of what happens in any economy, there will always be a market for food.
This is one of the things that makes productive land a great investment in both inflation and deflation.
Right now central bankers around the world are terrified of deflation; this is one of the reasons why the Fed left interest rates at 0% in their meeting yesterday.
In deflation, cash is king. It gains value against everything else… so the best thing to own is either a big pile of cash, or an asset that can generate cash.
Productive farmland certainly fits that bill: it’s a cash-producing asset.
But in an inflationary environment, you want to own a real asset– something that can hold its value against mindless central bank policies.
Again, agricultural real estate is a great option… one of the realest of assets.
As a real asset that produces cash, it fits well in either scenario, including if we get BOTH inflation AND deflation at the same time.
Another asset that ticks these boxes is a productive business.
And I’m not talking about stocks.
I mean privately held, profitable businesses. You’re far better off owning a profitable lemonade stand than shares of Netflix (currently trading at over 200x earnings).
If Janet Yellen wakes up tomorrow and decides to raise interest rates, Netflix stock is going to tank. But this won’t affect the profits of your lemonade business at all.
Granted, investing in stocks is certainly easier. That’s why so many people do it.
Owning a piece of a profitable private business is harder. It means you either have to start one from scratch, or you have to find a credible entrepreneur who will sell you a share of his/her business.
But these deals are out there.
I have a friend in the fitness industry, for example, who bought a boot camp fitness franchise for about $70,000. It makes about $10,000. Per month.
No, I’m not suggesting that you go out and start a boot camp franchise. Or even buy a few acres of farmland.
The larger point is that conventional investments are no longer the safest place to put your money, nor are they the only option.
Stocks are heavily manipulated by central banks, commercial banks, and politicians. One person opens his/her mouth and it can rock the market 5% in a day.
Banks are no better. Most banking systems in the west are dangerously illiquid and have undercapitalized reserves.
Yet holding your money in a bank might even cost you interest in Europe. And in the US, you’re looking at a whopping 1% for a 1-year CD.
Conversely, you can make 4% now on a 1-year investment through a peer-to-peer lending platform where your money is backed at a 2:1 ratio by GOLD.
In other words you invest $10,000 and receive 4% interest in one year, with your money backed by $20,000 worth of gold.
That’s seriously low risk, in exchange for receiving a return that’s 4x higher than a typical CD rate at your bank.
There are much better options than there ever used to be. It just takes some unconventional thinking, the right kind of education, and the courage to ignore the crowd.
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Tree Bonds – A New Model
The New Model
“Tree Bonds” is an innovative financing product designed to address the worldwide demand for the long-term financing of perennial tree crops. The focus to start this financing product is the Caucasus, where for millenia, farmers and orchardists have been raising apples, peaches, apricots and other stone fruits for tables around the globe.
The idea is to raise capital from local countrymen, diaspora, community groups, pension funds, and others who believe that long-term solutions are needed to increase the capacity of the agricultural sector and the livelihood of dedicated rural farm families. These investors will become bondholders in an orchard crop such as apples, grapes, peaches, or other stone fruits; even nut, or poplar for plywood, will work as well.
How it Works:
We start by selecting dedicated smallholder families who have fallow land and are willing to join forces with investors in a long-term commitment.
- Smallholders are paid a modest amount and will assign the farming rights of their land to the investors during the orchard development period.
- An orchard management firm will train farmers on the agronomic and managerial skills needed to run a successful orchard.
- During development, the trees, fruit, and money collected from the sale of the harvest are the property of the bondholders, until the bondholders are repaid.
- Bondholders begin to recoup their investment (plus a reasonable rate of return) between five and seven years, depending on the crop.
- Once the bondholders are repaid, the land and farming rights are returned to the farmer without cost, and the farm family now has an income-generating orchard for the next 15-20 years.
Orchard Management – Extension Service
A local agricultural management and farm extension service will:
- Interview, select, and train farmers.
- Implement an approved work plan for each orchard, including site selection, orchard management, harvesting, and crop sales over the life of the bonds.
- Oversee, manage, and protect the financial interest of the bondholders.
In five to seven years, orchardists and farmers in Georgia and Armenia have hands on practical experience with best practices for their crops; bondholders will have recovered a healthy return on their investment; the community and neighbors will have successfully invested in their own country, creating job and economic growth; and, the farm family will own a productive orchard with a useful life of fifteen plus years.
The advantage of this model is that all participants gain benefits from their involvement: the farmers become orchardists and learn new techniques and best practices; the investors (bondholders) make a good financial return on the investment and bring increased economic activity to the larger community with increased employment for auxiliary farm workers, increased produce varieties, quality and quantities of foods for consumers, and increased economic and social stability for community members.
Depending on the kind of fruit tree, a modest production can be expected in the third year. Thereafter, production increases year-over-year until the trees reach production capacity (about six years).
- Farmers are not required to make any financial investment and are paid (albeit modestly during the development years) for the use of their land and the orchard’s development.
- Farmers learn modern farming practices (and some can become master farmers).
- Once the orchard is fully sustainable, it is turned over to the farmer and the farmer’s household income increases substantially (roughly ten times current levels).
- After five to seven years, the bondholders recover their initial investment, plus a reasonable return.
- Bondholders will have financed a productive orchard with a useful life of fifteen plus years.
- Investors help their countrymen while earning a of return.
- Seasonal employment is created for harvesting, spraying, pruning, and processing of products.
- Fruit quality and production increase, thereby increasing export opportunities.
- Food security improves through the increase of food availability and access.
In five to seven years, orchardists and farmers in Georgia and Armenia have hands on practical experience with best practices for their crops; bondholders will have recovered a healthy return on their investment; the community and neighbors will have successfully invested in their own country; and, the farm family will own a productive orchard with a useful life of fifteen plus years.
Why It Works
Let’s look at an illustrative example of an apple tree orchard. According to both US and Caucasus fruit specialists, it costs approximately $25,000 to import rootstock, prepare, plant, and maintain a one-hectare apple orchard for the first four years. This is the bondholder’s investment. The production cycle of apple trees is as follows:
- Year Three: The first crop harvested yields some 10% of the expected capacity yield of mature trees
- Year Four: Will yield 40%
- Year Five: Will yield 90%
- Year Six: Full maturity – 100% production
At full maturity, a one-hectare orchard can produce approximately $95,000 in revenue; with annual farm operating costs of $40,000, this leaves a net profit (before taxes) of approximately $55,000. This is a substantial increase in income for any smallholder farmer.
“Tree Bonds” in practice will leave farmers earning more income and reducing their financial volatility through crop diversification, leading to more life choices and educational opportunities; and, it will leave the bondholders with both a financial and a social return on their investment, not to mention estimated rate of return of approximately 12% annually over six years – a higher rate than many other financial options. Lastly, the community receives healthy produce and new employment opportunities in orchard maintenance, transportation, and processing.
State Bank Movement
Banking for the People
Published on Monday, February 07, 2011 by The Nation, written by Katrina van den Heuvel
The State Bank movement is gaining support among those disillusioned by the failings of Giant Banks.
When you read the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission report released last week, it’s hard to believe that not so long ago banks were downright boring. Citigroups, JP Morgans, Bank of Americas, and Morgan Stanleys weren’t peddling worthless mortgage-backed securities so that Masters of the Universe could collect obscene bonuses. Instead—in response to the Great Depression and some common sense regulations—banks were mostly local, single outlets that collected deposits and made sensible loans. But beginning in the 1970s, bipartisan public policy ushered in a new era of deregulation and consolidation. The argument was that behemoth banks would be safer, more sophisticated and efficient, save consumers money and support economic growth. For the most damning evidence of just how wrong that argument is check out the lost wealth and wrecked lives of this Great Recession. The statistics on the size and wealth of today’s banks are also very revealing: in 1995, small and mid-sized banks with assets up to $10 billion held 61 percent of all US deposits, today they hold only one-third. The Giant Banks—with over $100B in assets—had just 7 percent of US deposits in 1995, but today hold 44 percent. And despite the fact that small and mid-sized banks possess just 22 percent of all bank assets today, they nevertheless make a dramatic 54 percent of all small business loans. (In contrast, the largest 20 banks average $380 billion in assets and yet do just 28 percent of small business lending.) This concentration of financial power is not only dangerous, it also fails to serve the needs of the real economy. Stacy Mitchell, senior researcher with the New Rules Project, says that examining the balance sheets of local and Giant banks reveals “two entirely different types of businesses.” Local banks are still largely engaged in taking deposits and moving money into the community through the likes of mortgages and small business loans, while Giant banks take deposits and engage in speculative trading that privatizes profits, socializes costs, and exacerbates economic inequality.
“We’re fortunate that the small banks are still out there, because if it weren’t for them, a lot of the basic economic activity in our communities—the real source of jobs in our communities—would not have the financing that it needs,” says Mitchell.
Common Weal is a ‘think and do tank’ campaigning for social and economic equality in Scotland.
For 40 years Scotland has suffered from ‘me first’ politics – and we all came second. Politics has made a few extremely wealthy and left the rest suffering from low pay, insecurity, declining public services and fragmented communities.
We believe that ‘to build more we must share more’, that we can create a politics based on working together, where the many benefit and not just the few.
Community Exchange System (CES)
Your Talents are your wealth – A World Free of Money
There are many ways of exchanging what we have and can do for the things we need. Money is just one of them. The internet revolution has brought us new ways without the unnecessary step of acquiring money first. Here we exchange and share what we have to offer for what others provide using a variety of exchange methods: record keeping, time exchange, direct exchange, barter, swapping, gifting and sharing. Simply by keeping track of who receives what from whom we can dispense with the ancient idea of exchange media and the apparatus required to manage them. This helps us focus on providing and requesting what is really needed instead of chasing after money.
Alternative Currencies Are Bigger Than Bitcoin:
How They’re Building Prosperity From London to Kenya
The Brixton Pound, Koru Kenya, and Mazacoin are all attempting to achieve a common goal: empowering people in a monetarily unequal world, from the bottom up…
Money, credit, and currency
To understand the how and why of alternative currencies, it is helpful to know the history of money and the history of credit more generally. Today, most purchasing power—the ability to buy goods and services—is created by governments issuing money and licensed banks making loans. Yet long before the time of modern money, credit existed in the form of people exchanging IOUs without governments and banks acting as middlemen.
Growth in the use of alternative currencies might pressure governments and banks to be better financial stewards.
To better illustrate this distinction, Wartburg College economics professor Scott Fullwiler asks us think of the use of sovereign currencies (like the U.S. dollar) as a “vertical approach” to funding economies. Governments and banks put cash into our hands and loans into our bank accounts. Simultaneously, the government requires us all to pay taxes, thus driving demand for its currency, which we need to avoid legal trouble.
Local loyalty: The Brixton Pound
Unlike Bitcoin, the Brixton Pound is a “complementary currency”: It’s not meant to subvert the national currency nor dethrone pounds sterling. Indeed, the Brixton Pound is officially both pegged and backed by pounds sterling at a 1:1 ratio. There is no issuer, per se. Rather, residents can exchange £ for B£ at various shops and public places across the neighborhood. Because the Brixton Pound organization isn’t making loans, the U.K. Financial Conduct Authority treats the currency as a “voucher scheme,” and thus the team avoids entanglement in the legal morass that plagues small lenders and other financial services providers.
Creating credit: Koru Kenya
Accordingly, Koru Kenya’s currencies do something the Brixton Pound does not: They create credit where there is not enough. Interest free. When Ruddick arrived in Kenya from the United States five years ago, his co-founders introduced him to a world of both waste and opportunity. There were people who could work but weren’t participating in the local economy. There were plenty of goods, but they couldn’t be bought or sold. All for lack of particular pieces of paper and metal.
“If I have forks and you have spoons but we can’t engage in trade just because we don’t have money, I consider this is a human rights violation,” Ruddick asserts.
That may sound intense to some readers, but this is what happens when a nation’s currency doesn’t reach all of its people: The public is separated from its own potential for physical abundance by mere lack of legal tender. Ruddick’s training as a physicist leads him to compartmentalize systems, and accordingly he sees lack of credit as a glaring yet solvable inefficiency in the economic machine: “When you turn one knob, the monetary system, everything changes.”
Ruddick envisions a network of interlocking local currencies contributing to a more distributed banking system.
Ruddick and his colleagues began turning knobs by issuing a new community currency, the Eco-Pesa, into three villages in the Kongowea Location on Mombasa’s north coast. Businesses agreed to trade with the paper currency, and community members could earn extra by taking part in monthly service projects. Every month, people could exchange the vouchers for Kenyan shillings with the Green World Campaign, an anti-poverty environmentalist group.
In 2012, the Koru Kenya team took the concept one step further and issued the Bangla-Pesa in Bangladesh, one of Mombasa’s worst slums. Residents adopted the currency quickly, with many local business groups agreeing to become issuers, handing out the paper from community centers, health clinics, and schools. The network expanded based on trust: All you need to receive Bangla-Pesa free of charge is four guarantors within the network will who vouch for you. Part of your grant is placed in an actual network trust, which is used for administration, marketing, and community programs such as health care for elderly. Then you’re on your way.
In May 2013, the Bangla-Pesa went official. About 200 participating businesses, 75 percent of them owned by women, received currency grants.
…Ruddick welcomes that prospect. He envisions a network of interlocking local currencies contributing to a more distributed banking system and a more democratic monetary system.
“Money is what we make it. We should be asking, ‘What is real value?’” he says. The implications of the vision are enormous: “People won’t have to go into debt to the IMF or microfinance if they can just create their own community currencies.”
Demanding dignity: Mazacoin
On the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation on the South Dakota-Nebraska border, a small team of developers has been attempting to achieve not only economic growth, but economic self-determination—via the Internet. It’s a plan created out of a desperate situation. According to Oglala Sioux Lakota Housing Director Jim Berg, about 40,000 members of the tribe live on the reservation; 80 percent are unemployed and 49 percent live below the poverty line. Furthermore, the tribe has felt the wrath of austerity, facing million-dollar budget cuts from the U.S. federal government, which will worsen housing, education, and health services. It seems that if anyone could benefit from financial innovation in the painful absence of the U.S. dollar, it would be the people of Pine Ridge.
Fortunately, the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868 with the U.S. federal government says nothing about the tribe relinquishing its right to maintain a currency. The Oglala Sioux can thus attempt to go beyond a complementary currency—like the ones in Brixton and Mombasa—and create a limited sovereign currency, to eventually substitute for the dollar.
Innovation vs. inequality
In their own different ways, The Brixton Pound, Koru Kenya, and Mazacoin are all attempting to achieve a common goal: empowering people in a monetarily unequal world, from the bottom up. In an age when governments and banks aren’t always the best stewards of communities’ financial growth, security, or privacy, people deserve the ability to provide for themselves. Collaborative innovations around the world, especially within impoverished communities of color, show reasons for cautious optimism. Most alternative currency projects are not indexed to murder and mayhem.
Alternative currencies have limited scope. Because they’re not issued by powerful governments, their abilities are inherently narrowed. Perhaps, in an ideal world, through either regulation or direct provisioning, sovereign governments and their agents would guarantee their people enough money to live apart from financial predators, support their own neighborhoods, participate in commerce, and maintain basic dignity.
…At the end of the day, for better or worse, most money circulation in the present is backed by guns, courts, and jails. By contrast, Fullwiler sees alternative currencies as representing a “horizontal approach,” in which groups within the public generate, expand, and contract purchasing power. The cooperation required to make a horizontal system work can be facilitated by cryptography, as in the case of Bitcoin, or it can be generated by custom, law, or simply a high level of mutual trust.
Bangla-Pesa is one of many non-profit programs in Kenya to strengthen and stabilize the economy of the informal settlements by organizing small scale businesses into Business Networks through which members can utilize a community currency to mediate trades. The Bangla-Pesa (named after the Bangladesh Slum in which it is used) is a unit of credit within this mutual-credit-clearing (or barter exchange) system which provides a means of payment that is complementary to official money. As such, it helps to stabilize the community in the face of monetary volatility by allowing Network members to trade with each other without using the national currency. The local availability of credit also provides the community with a stimulus to local business incubation and social service projects. Grassroots Economics works with local communities like Bangladesh, Kibera, Kangemi and more in Kenya on planning, doing baseline analysis and survey data-gathering. At our pilot program location in Bangladesh Kenya, the Bangladesh Business Network (BBN) launched a Bangla-Pesa currency in May 2013. Credits are issued in the form of paper-vouchers that can pass from hand to hand as payment for goods and services. These vouchers are not meant to replace or be legal tender in any way, but rather represent the goods and services of the business network.
Democratic Money and Capital for the Commons:
One of the more complicated, mostly unresolved issues facing most commons is how to assure the independence of commons when the dominant systems of finance, banking and money are so hostile to commoning. How can commoners meet their needs without replicating (perhaps in only modestly less harmful ways) the structural problems of the dominant money system?
Fortunately, there are a number of fascinating, creative initiatives around the world that can help illuminate answers to this question – from co-operative finance and crowdequity schemes to alternative currencies and the blockchain ledger used in Bitcoin, to reclaiming public control over money-creation to enable “quantitative easing for people” (and not just banks).
To help start a new conversation on these issues, the Commons Strategies Group, working in cooperation with the Heinrich Böll Foundation, co-organized a Deep Dive strategy workshop in Berlin, Germany, last September. We brought together 24 activists and experts on such topics as public money, complementary currencies, community development finance institutions, public banks, social and ethical lending, commons-based virtual banking, and new organizational forms to enable “co-operative accumulation” (the ability of collectives to secure equity ownership and control over assets that matter to them).
A report synthesizing the key themes and cross-currents of dialogue at that workshop is now available. The report is called “Democratic Money and Capital for the Commons: Strategies for Transforming Neoliberal Finance Through Commons-Based Alternatives,” by David Bollier and Pat Conaty. You could consider the 54-page report an opening gambit for commoners to discuss how money, banking and finance could better serve their interests as commoners.
My co-author Pat Conaty and I wish to thank the participants of the Deep Dive for sharing their deep wisdom on so many important topics, and for helping us refine the text of the final report. To give you a better idea of the material covered, here are the basics of the Executive Summary:
- Why A Transformation of Money, Banking and Finance Is Essential
Neoliberal capitalism, especially in the aftermath of the 2008 meltdown, is demonstrably unable to meet basic human needs in socially fair, ecologically responsible ways. Its obsession with economic growth and private wealth accumulation has become predatory and socially parasitic, and the overall system is wired to produce recurrent, catastrophic booms and busts. But it is not widely appreciated that money and the money system are social creations that act as invisible instruments of social engineering and order. To many, they seem a kind of natural economic order. But it is entirely possible to recapture public (government) control of the ability to create money from the private sector so that money can be used to serve public, democratically determined needs rather than the narrow profit-making goals of private banks and financial institutions.
The general public is not aware that money is created by private banks through the creation of new debt, repayable by governments and households with interest. However, instead of seeing money as something that government must borrow from banks, we might also see it as a common good – a public supply of currency that could prioritize socially necessary expenditures, including investments in the private economy, without first raising revenues through taxes. There need be no “deficit” resulting from public borrowing from banks. Money would simply represent a public source of new currency, a function that private banks already perform by generating money as debt. The difference would be that public currencies would be interest-free and support democratically determined needs; they would not need to meet the commercial, profit-driven priorities of private lenders. Money for the common good could be democratically created as a public service and allocated for the public interest.
- How Can We Finance Commons and Commoning?
The conventional financial system is dedicated to an economy of exploitation and extraction. It amounts to a pyramid scheme with a built-in growth imperative because in order to repay interest – an add-on to the initial sum of money created by banks – the general population must take on ever more debt, and at a faster rate than the economy grows. This debt treadmill driven – by compound interest – invariably leads to speculation and boom-and-bust economic crises. Unlike 1929, which led to Keynesian reforms and a New Deal in the US and the emergence of the modern welfare state, the global banking and money system since 2008 has been shored up without any fundamental reform. Our money and banking system is now based on rent extraction that uses privatization, the division of labor, and the enclosure of common resources to create a surplus.
This process is supported by a diversity of financial instruments that create a variety of constraints and claims on the privatized resources and labor. These financial realities prohibit the generation of new capital for public and common uses and frustrate the capacity of commoners to create their own value and capital for common purposes. Instead the existing production and financial system is designed to siphon all value creation into private pockets. Thus, the only hope for commoners and those committed to finance as a tool for promoting the public good lies in dismantling the existing rentier system and reintegrating the realms of nature and social value into a reconceptualized whole in which capital serves the collective aims of societies.
In short, we need to reimagine and reconstruct the role of money and credit if we are to create a commons-based society that is both democratic and equitable. This means using finance to enable people to engage in commoning and the promotion of economic and social co-operation through a process of envisioning, articulating, and creating shared resources as common goods. This is a very different mentality than the feverish buying and creating of private assets which is the primary aim of conventional lending. It’s about funding a process for mutualization. This requires a wholly different set of institutions, legal regimes and social practices for managing (and mutualizing) money, credit and risk.
III. Nine Innovative Institutional Forms to Transform Finance
But we need not start from zero. The good news is that credit and risk can be reconceptualized to serve the commons. It has been done before in various limited ways. There are a wide variety of historically proven and promising examples that have already emerged to address these issues. The Deep Dive explored nine innovative models of finance.
- Social and Ethical Lending.
Ethical social banks such as Fiare in Spain and Banca Etica in Italy are actively concerned with the social and environmental impact of their loans. They therefore focus on borrowers associated with the fair trade movement, corporate social responsibility, local businesses generating local good work, and other co-operative and social concerns. With its linkage to over 400 local government administrations, Banca Etica has a strong public sector and community component. The co-operative bank’s equity, currently 52 million euros, is owned by over 35,000 shareholders and 90 local groups, which actively help develop the bank’s products and services and hold it accountable to its social mandate.
- Community Development Finance Institutions.
CDFIs are a species of cooperative and mutual lending institutions that have proliferated in the U.S. as a way to democratize access to credit, especially in the face of racial discrimination. Thanks to strong support from Presidents Clinton and Obama, there are now more than 1,000 mission-driven organizations officially recognized as CDFIs, and another two or three times as many institutions doing similar work but without official certification. Their collective assets amount to tens of billions of US dollars. CDFIs have also been developed in the UK and are growing in similar ways.
- Public Banks.
An attractive alternative to the boom-and-bust economy spurred by the commercial banking system is public banks. Public banks can immediately lower public borrowing costs; provide capital to address social needs in ways that are not extractive; and lower the cost of infrastructure investments by half by reducing the interests costs of such projects. One example is the Bank of North Dakota which provides low-interest loans for small businesses, students, and farmers while generating over $300 million in dividends over ten years for North Dakota’s 600,000 residents. Between 1938 and 1974 the Bank of Canada operated in this way through a public banking arm and on a national scale. Some of Canada’s largest infrastructure projects – like the St. Lawrence Seaway – were financed in this way. There are many good examples of public banking internationally, including municipal banks.
- Transition-Oriented Credit.
One key problem with traditional banks is that they struggle in circumstances of non-growth, or when the market rate of interest is low. Some ecologically minded communities are therefore trying to devise a credit or finance model that can work well in circumstances of no growth that can still support a resilient local economy. The Sambruket community in Sweden has concluded that it needs to establish both a natural resource commons and a complementary financial commons to work sustainably. As a co-operative, it is experimenting with a crowd-equity nonprofit mechanism as a way to support local sustainable development.
- The Blockchain Ledger as a Community Infrastructure.
Despite controversy about its role in speculation, Bitcoin is a significant financial advance because of its innovative “distributed ledger” or “blockchain” technology. This breakthrough system allows people on open networks to validate the authenticity of an individual bitcoin (or digital certificate or document) without the need for a third-party guarantor such as a bank or government body. This has far-reaching ramifications because blockchain technology can be used reliably to manage social relationships on network platforms, such as the establishment of “distributed collaborative organizations” based on digital networks, or frameworks for collective governance of a group. If users can avoid the usual need to verify the reliability or trustworthiness of other users, it allows an indefinitely large number of participants to engage in exchange relations on open network systems.
- Complementary Currencies.
Community Forge – communityforge.net – is a social networking platform that lets communities create their own local currency, manage exchanges and member accounts, and advertise individual and collective needs. More than 400 communities use the Drupal-based platform to manage their complementary currencies. By the end of 2014, Community Forge supported 550 LETS projects in France, 113 in Belgium, 63 in Switzerland, and 150 timebanks. One interesting alternative currency is uCoin, a project in France that seeks to implement a basic income through the use of cryptocurrency.
- Crowdfunding for the Commons.
One of the most innovative crowdfunding enterprises is Goteo, a Spain-based open-source platform dedicated to advancing commons projects and principles. Goteo differs from standard crowdfunding sites in that it invites public participation in improving projects and greater accountability to donors. To date, Goteo has funded more than 400 projects, with a 60-70% success rate in meeting fundraising goals. It has more than 50,000 users and has raised more than 2 million euros since its founding in 2011.
- Enspiral and Commons-based Virtual Banking.
Enspiral is a New Zealand-based network of entrepreneurs, professionals and hackers who are “using the tools of business and technology to make positive social change.” The enterprise uses software platforms to create novel organizational structures for hosting new types of collective self-provisioning and financing. One such platform, my.enspiral, allows the members of the Enspiral Services freelancer and contractor collective to use an internal banking system within a walled garden of autonomy and flexibility. Enspiral also has a Cobudget platform that lets participants allocate money in the collective budget in proportion to how much they contributed to it.
- New Organizational Forms for Cooperative Accumulation.
Some organizational forms are showing great promise in fostering new types of “cooperative accumulation” – i.e., the collective accumulation of financial resources for mutual benefit. One notable example is the “solidarity economy” and multi-stakeholder cooperative models, especially as developed in Italy, Quebec, Canada, and more recently in New York City (Solidarity NYC). The issuing of Co-operative Shares, developed in the 1990s by the Fair Trade movement in the UK, has been revived since 2008 to raise capital for a wide diversity of local and community needs, including the development of renewable energy, saving rural shops, the community buy-outs of pubs, land acquisition for local food production, and other purposes. The UK community shares movement, which has spread to Canada, highlights how co-operative forms of equity capital can be raised to help meet common needs.
- Strategies for Moving Forward
<strong1. Democratize Money. Commoners must re-capture the money-creation system for public purposes and replace debt–based money. The government of Iceland has produced a 2015 report showing how to do this.
- Get Beyond Money (As We Know It).Since money tends to promote social relationships that require the exchange of equivalents (agreed upon prices for the purchase of goods) and behaviors that exclude those with no money, many commoners wish to move “beyond money” by honoring the indirect reciprocity of commons and to welcome different types of money in different contexts as ways to give communities greater self-determination.
- Back to the Future: Blending the Old and the New.The historical experiences and wisdom of the older co-operative models associated with the labor movement and left politics should be blended with new models based on digital technologies that are being developed by a younger generation. Many time-tested models such as JAK fee-based banking, demurrage (negative interest) currency and the WIR currency developed during the Great Depression to stimulate local economies, are inspiring innovative forms of money.
- Engineer Systems for Cooperative Accumulation.It is essential to devise new organizational forms (not just financial systems) that have the capacity to enable “cooperative accumulation” – i.e., to accumulate financial reserves or assets that can be mutualized, democratically managed, and mobilized to develop and sustain forms of capital that create commonwealth. Multi-stakeholder co-operatives like in Italy, Quebec and Japan can provide guidance on how to develop convivial legal structures for commoners, co-operators, and sustainable community development.
- Macro-Map the New Monetary System as a Commons.We must differentiate between the “Real Economy” that meets people’s everyday needs and the “Unreal Economy” that is dominated by parasitic “rentier-finance.” A macro-mapping of a commons-based credit and finance system can help us visualize the relationships for structuring and operationalizing the new economy.
A number of specific action steps were identified for moving the above goals forward. They include: Theoretical and conceptual research; policy development and outreach; the development of a richer, broader discourse about finance and the commons; the creation of new venues for collaboration and activism; the intensification of experiments in new currencies; and funding for project development and commons institutions. One immediate proposal was to advise and support Syriza and the people of Greece as they struggle to develop effective responses to the social and economic crisis ravaging that country.
The Deep Dive discussions showed that a commons-based system of money and capital based on democratic and equitable principles is entirely feasible. Many existing and emerging models can overcome the prevailing system of debt and interest, and bring about the transformation that our societies need. The challenge is in achieving root-and-branch change and the creation of transition institutions within a system that has so many complicated and seemingly disconnected facets. It is therefore difficult, both practically and strategically, to transform the current system so that it can be made inclusive, democratically accountable, socially constructive, and ecologically benign.
However, it is also clear from the discussions that there are many options to pursue and that they should not be seen as either/or choices, but as both/and challenges. We can find inspiration and guidance from many historic and current examples of interest-free money, public sector money not based on debt, and forms of public, social and co-operative banking. Each of these innovations serve different needs and functions, but all are complementary and can be integrated in a convivial money system that can provide equitable capital and other ethical and useful financial services for commoners and their communities. The evident problem with developing the available options today is the disjointed and weakly organized character of existing reform initiatives. There is not yet a shared meta-narrative to galvanize and unite a monetary reform movement that is both democratic and devoted to sustainable and humane forms of development.
Commons principles and practices can help establish a dynamic and integrated agenda for change, and draw upon many robust tools and policy proposals. A unifying narrative is also essential for both resisting and offering concrete alternatives to the unaccountable private-sector power of banks to create debt-based money out of thin air. The state and the people need to strip bankers of this sovereign power. Co-operative and democratically accountable forms of organization can provide a feasible alternative social architecture that can protect, maintain, and steward these practices in service to the common good.
But immense popular pressure is necessary to achieve these changes. Money needs to be democratized. Debt bondage needs to be abolished. New systems of co-operative finance, banking, and publicly generated currency need to be established. Only in this way will the commons be protected, promoted, and placed at the service of all – not enclosed and expropriated for the benefit of the privileged few.
Public Banking Institute
* Make affordable loans to small businesses, farmers, government entities, and students
* Save taxpayers up to 50% on critical infrastructure like bridges and trains and schools
* Eliminate billions in bank fees and money management fees for cities and states
* Support a vibrant community banking sector
* Enable sustainable prosperity
The Public Banking Institute was formed in January 2011 and is a national educational non-profit organization working to achieve the implementation of public banking at all levels of the American economy and government: local, regional, state, and national. This is not a new or radical idea – there are abundant successful examples of public banking around the world – but there is currently only one such bank (the Bank of North Dakota) in the United States, where Wall Street has tried to erase the idea from our collective memory for over a century.