By Matthew Slater
As a monetary activist, I shun state-sanctioned-commercial-debt money (like the US dollar or Euro) as much as possible. Generally, individual actors making economic protests against state-sanctioned money are little more effective than fish protesting the water. That's because money and the economy are functions of community, and it is only in partnership with their communities that the politically disenfranchised ninety nine per cent can claim back their lives from wage slavery and the permanent shortage of employment. So I'm living by building software for community money; I depend on gifts and occaisionally sympathy to meet my basic needs. In monetary terms, I'm a beggar, but in spirit, I'm a superempowered, superconnected and self-determined individual!
While governments tell us to brace for austerity, they are not acknowledging the full extent or nature of the problem we face. While its true that bailing out the banks was very expensive, what most people don't realise is that the commercial debt-money system has catastrophic failure built-in, once resource extraction fails to keep pace with interest repayments on an expanding money supply. So while people are angry at governments for socialising losses of private corporations, they are not being educated that these debts will never be paid off, that big banks are now effectively able to demand as much interest on national, and personal debts, as we can bear, forever. Therefore, the national currencies themselves have become instruments of servitude and serfdom.
Remember that the banks extract their dues through interest payments on things like mortgages and overdrafts, through taxes spent on managing government debt, as well through derivative speculation and financial services such as pensions. To banks, the little people are but cells in the matrix generating wealth; money, interest, and the stock market are the mechanisms that transfer that value to where banks want it, to them.
So every time you pay pax, interest, bank charges, card fees, or enter into agreements such as for pensions, you are entering into relationship with a vampire squid, as Rolling Stone reporter Matt Taibbi called investment bank giant Goldman Sachs. And consider that most industry is run on credit, a significant portion of the cost of goods is in fact interest. Big banks have a hand in everyone's till. That's why the Age of Leisure expected since the industrial revolution never seems to arrive.
So is it part of the social contract that we each pay an unreasonable tithe to the banking industry?
And is it even possible to avoid such extractive relationships in a so-called free society?
It is just about legal, but not very convenient. I don't earn money, or own property, or a car. In addition I have no phone or bank accounts. Consequently I have to depend on gifts of food, shelter, hardware, cash and flights. This is precarious, but the more people turn from parasitic pyramidical structures, the more they must share and trust one another.
A Range of Solutions
This sharing and trusting takes different forms depending how many people are involved. Here is my list from small, radical bottom up solutions to larger, more moderate top down solutions.
* informal sharing: Using reciprocal gifting and sharing of resources like accommodation, equipment, transport, and cooking and childcare, networks of individuals can improve their wellbeing and 'work' less. Taking it to the extreme however, in a commune, can be a lot of work, and many projects don't survive the intensity!
* Villages: Villages can formalise their sharing networks, engage in group-buying with the help of a premises for redistribution. They can consider medium scale projects with land ownership and energy generation. Once the community is too big for everyone to communicate directly, and trust, everyone else, software can be very useful, especially when it includes accounting tools. (This is what I am making). Accounting helps to monitor where resources are coming from and going to, and to ensure that, on some scale, people are giving and getting in fair proportion. It also indicates where hard currency expenses could be internalised by investing in, say, a windmill, or bakery.
* Industries / Businesses: There are already well established ways for business to save money by using credit clearing with their peers instead of direct payments. Especially in the US there are many legal business to business (B2B) barter networks supporting trade and helping with taxes. By joining such networks, business can reduce their dependence on debt money, as well effectively paying in-kind when dealing with other local traders. Bigger industries sometimes use a technique called Counter trade for international trade, which protects them from currency fluctuations and reduces need for cash. See the International Reciprocal Trade Association to learn more about about business bartering.
* Cities: At this level though the city government can take the courageous step of accepting a local currency for tax, and spending it, all of which adds up to less debt money in circulation and less vulnerability to central government redistribution. One town is Austria, Voralberg, is doing this! There's also room for 100% reserve saving/lending institution like the JAK bank or building societies. Note that such insitutions can never be as profitable as banks, which have the power to create as much money as they can lend.
* States / regions: In the US, the newly formed Public Banking Institute is working to form State owned banks similar to the Bank of North Dakota (BND). North Dakota is now the most solvent of all states due in large part to BND. The bank, I understand, still produces debt money, but the debt is owned by the state, not leveraged, funnelled into private hands and gambled in the derivatives market.
* Countries: Most elected leaders and those in authority do not understand the nature of money. The few who talk sense, such as Ron Paul in US and Douglas Carswell in UK are excluded from the mainstream discussion. There are many possible ways for countries to move forward so decision making is hard, even for the opposition! National level options include public banking, returning to the gold standard, or defaulting on national debts and rebooting national currencies. Working at this level, one shouldn't expect great results in one lifetime.Banking is the most powerful lobby of all.
The so-called austerity measures will last until the 'too big to fail' banks are persuaded not to maximise their profits and political power, which won't be any time soon. The disaster being sold to us as the financial crisis is a grand narrative to convince us to accept the next order of magnitude of financial vampirism and disenfranchisement. Whether through education, medicine, credit cards or mortgages, more and more people are falling into debt. Bankruptcy is not the relief it used to be. And debt is the ball and chain that forces us to work to get money, because the state only recognises debts denominated in money. We must disengage while we still can! I say, we need to be trying all of the above.