Monday, January 31, 2011

Mondragon Cooperative Built on Sweatshop Labor?

Editor's Note: This protest speaks to the need for relocalization in conjunction with economic democracy, as well as a scaling down of the materialistic lifestyle encouraged by Western culture. I knew years ago that Mondragon was creating high tech exports to partially support their cooperative project (many people wondered how did they do it and why haven't we been able to?). This raised a red flag as most high tech is environmentally unsustainable, as is the environmental burden of transporting exports and related packaging. Most high tech goods are produced in sweatshops to be competitive on the global market. Sometimes despite good intentions, the distancing of the supply chain leads easily to environmental, economic, and social abuses. It become much easier to both hide these practices and to emotionally and socially distance one's self from the effects. Hence all the problems with tracking sweatshop and green goods. A truly sustainable economy would be focused on local/regional productions, with minimal production of necessary specialized goods by the global fair trade market. In the meantime, these workers need fair wages. In the long term, they should be building their own regionally produced, democratically controlled, sustainable, cooperative economy. Nothing else will substitute.

FagorMastercook Protest
ZSP Admin, pon., 07/21/2008 - 20:10
Fagor's not a Workplace but a Workcamp: Mondragon Capitalists F#$% Workers in Poland. Strike is Imminent

Fagor is a large appliance manufacturer owned by the Mondragon "Cooperative" capitalist enterprise. In Poland it cooperatives FagorMastercook in Wroclaw. Currently there are serious labour problems in FagorMastercook. Members of the Wrocław group of Union of Syndicalists (ZSP) went Friday to a protest in front of the factory.

The place has become quite militarized. On Friday the firm had over 200 armed security guards from the notorious firm Impel there to protect the factory. The place was surrounded by metal barricades and each worker going in was throughly searched. Some employees say that there is often heavy security and searches.

Despite the heavy security, or perhaps because of it, about hundreds of workers joined in the demonstration on Friday. About 300 people, workers and supporters, were there after the morning shift, and about 200 before the afternoon shift began. The demo was organized by the August 80 union which has been negotiating with the firm for many months to get people a pay raise.

The workers in FagorMastercook have noted many instances of people being fired for belonging to unions or even just agreeing with their postulates. At least 20 members of August 80 were fired.

In FagorMastercook there are a few unions: Solidarity, August 80 and OPZZ Metalworkers. Solidarity and August 80 are calling for pay raises. In June a warning strike took place. Over 90 percent of the workers went on strike. Then a wave of repressions started. Besides firing some unionists and others who supported them, they started to pick out people, have supervisors stand behind them on the line watching their every move, threatening to fire them if they got even a second behind production. This sort of intimidation was probably used to show people that if they tried to organize themselves, the company would find any small pretext to fire them.

On July 9, two members of August 80 were fired for "leaving their workstations". They had been collecting votes on a strike referendum.

Members of ZSP at the demonstration were told that people were threatened with dismissal for demanding pay raises. They also heard that the workers will probably vote to go on strike.

Production workers at FagorMastercook make around 1200 zloties (400 euros) a month. Minimum wage in Poland is currently 1126 zloties a month but this will be raised to 1276 next year. So workers at this highly profitable factory are making almost nothing. That's why one of the slogans of the workers is FagorMastercook: A Workcamp, not a Workplace.

At the end of 2006, the EBRD decided to give 17.5 million euro to FagorMastercook. This money was given as part of a restructuring project. FagorMastercook wants to increase production in Poland and achieve economies of scale while making Poland its production hub for Central Europe. The company moved production from Spain when it started new production of gas stoves in Poland about 5 years ago. The production of refrigerators also got moved to Poland. Over 80 percent of the production is meant for export. They increased turnover by about 29% last year.

FagorMastercook works in a Special Economic Zone and received subsidies from the Polish state; it received a direct subsidy of 3.5 million zloties for creating jobs, plus a CIT and corporate real estate tax exemption. So in addition to money from the EBRD, FagorMastercook got help from the Polish state of about 52 million zloties. That's equal to the EBRD's 17.5 million euros at the current exchange rate. This means that the EBRD and Polish state invested more in the FagorMastercook facilites in Wroclaw than Fagor.

Although Mondragon still pushes its "cooperative" worker-friendly image, publishing bullshit reports on how it is concerned about the effects on globalization on the local workforce, for example in Spain, Mondragón Cooperative Corporation (MCC) is a typical capitalist employer operating plants in low-wage countries like Poland, Egypt, Morocco, Mexico, Thailand and China. Employees in these countries are not co-op members. (Some employees in other countries, even in Spain are also non-members; as many as 1/3 of Mondragon workers are not cooperative members. Any cooperative can also apply to MCC to employ up to 40% non-cooperative workers.)

It pretends to be "one of the world's top 10 best employers" and pays completely shit wages here in Poland and is actively repressing unionists. This is even worse than having typical capitalism disguised as a cooperative; it's just typical exploitation of people from poorer countries by those in the richer ones.

ZSP is calling on people to send letters to Mondragon and to Fagor expressing their disgust with the appallingly low wages in Poland and with the recent incidents of repression and intimidation against protestors. We also ask people, if they meet anybody spreading naive reports about Mondragon, to point out what's going on.

Sample protest letter (please write your own version):


José María Aldecoa
Mondragon Corporation Cooperative
Pº Jose Maria Arizmendiarrieta
Nº 5 20500 Mondragon
Guipuzcoa, Espana
Fax: +34 943- 796 632
Fax: 34 943-779-300

Fagor Electrodomésticos
Fax: 943 79 68 81

Fagor Mastercook
Fax: 48 22 639-8985

We are writing to support the demands of the workers at Fagor Mastercook in Wroclaw and to demand an immediate end to its repression of unionists.

Workers at Fagor Mastercook are demanding an pay raise of 1000 zloties since salaries there are barely above minimum wage and are well below the national average. Over 90% of the workforce participated in a warning strike in June. Afterwards, many union members and leaders were fired. Workers have complained that they have been harrassed and intimidated. Peaceful demonstrators were met by 200 armed security guards.

This type of exploitation is a disgrace. Enough of your hypocrisy !

We are looking forward to the workers' imminent strike and ultimate victory.


If you sent a protest, let us know. If you sent a different text, send copies to:

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Unmarketing. Stop Marketing, Start Engaging.

Book Review by the New Economics for Humanity

AWESOME BOOK!!! I seriously loved it. Scott speaks as if his way is the way, but I don't mind it, that's what works for him and it resonates with me. I too recommend what works for me.

One of the topics that have come to my mind when I think of the Financial Institution of the Future project is, what are economic transactions for?? Why do we want to measure them?? and, what is it about value that makes it so important. Recently, I have repeatedly heard phrases that have led me to conclude that economic transactions are all about social relationships.

Paolo Ricciardelli, from a Skype group that discusses complementary currencies, said that "The core idea is that relations of exchange between individuals are more valuable than the goods or services exchanged."

In another conversation with Helen Dew from Living Economies, she told me that "we know that good relationships mean good trade". A relevant for my local exchange group which is wondering about why we are becoming stagnant.

Well, the author of this book takes this conversation about good relationships to the world of business in a way that no mainstream businessman could do. Although he apparently also works as a consultant for old-age type of business, I see great potential for using his wisdom in evolutionary businesses. "Marketing happens every time you engage (or not) with your past, present and potential customers" he says. It is not about a department of your business that will put an expensive ad and hope that someone will call, which the author calls the 'push and pray' method. It is about engaging with your customers, it is about establishing human conversations. Furthermore, he doesn't get tired of saying that honesty, authenticity and transparency are key to success.

So, in a mainstream/old-age company, the employees normally do not care about their job, they do what they do 'to survive', 'to pay the bills'. The employer cares about his employees as long as they bring sales. There is no engagement between them, therefore, employees will never be part of the positive marketing process for that business. They will never tell their friends to visit the factory where they work because it is awesome and have great products for them, for example. What Scott seems to be telling me is that your employees need to be as passionate about their job, as you are about your company. You need to be passionate about what you do so that you can go out and talk to people about it.

How does passion comes about?? or how do you motivate your employees?? Engage with them, be honest, authentic and transparent so that they trust you. When they trust you, they will be honest, authentic and transparent to you, so you'll trust them. Then, every one will play a key role in the Unmarketing process.

I concluded that marketing is about imposing, unmarketing is about creating trust. Scott even talks about a social currency!! something like, every time you build and strengthen your relationships with potential costumers, that is to say, with anyone, you are crediting your social account with a social currency. Eventually, the time will come for you to use it!

With the Financial Institution of the Future project, I am struggling a bit because I have got people joining the team on the BetterMeans Platform, however, I haven't been able to engage with them in a conversation that would motivate us to actively participate. That is because the platform does not allow us to keep contact with each other through email. If I want to email them, I need to go to my personal email account and select the recipients one by one. Same would be for them, which is an issue since not everyone has everyone else's addresses. So before we can go out to talk about this project, we need to develop passion for it, we all have to own it, to feel we belong to it and it belongs to us. We need to love the project...but we need the tool to engage and have conversations. I'd like to ask to current and future contributors, how do you think we can overcome this if BetterMeans cannot solve this issue for our project, which they are aware of??

My abstraction of the book can be summarized in the next sentence: Conversations start the process of building trust, which creates and strengthens good relationships. These are essential in building community, which process engages the public and promotes good trade. Social cohesion is key to healthy and sustainable economic activity. I chose the fractal spiral to indicate that, to me, this is a never ending process, it is an iteration, it feeds itself and when you look at it closer, you find more of the same stuff..."to infinity and beyond"!!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

St. Louis Timebank Brings MORE for All

Grace Hill is comprised of sister agencies, Grace Hill Neighborhood Health Centers, Inc. (GHNHC) and Grace Hill Settlement House (GHSH). Each is controlled by a separate governing body. Grace Hill Settlement House was founded in 1903 by the Episcopal Diocese to help immigrant families "settle into their new neighborhood" on the near north side of St. Louis. Now it serves neighborhoods throughout the City of St. Louis and St. Charles County with its MORE system.
The Grace Hill Settlement in St Louis is one of the pioneers of Co-Production using Time Dollars. Their Member-Organized Resource Exchange (MORE) now underpins community involvement in 11 neighborhood centers and four health centers. Their involvement in the Head Start program dates back to 2001 when they won the contract to deliver the program to half the city of St Louis, mainly because of their proven ability to involve hard-to-reach groups through MORE.

Since MORE was fully computerized in 1991, service activity by residents has generated over 670,000 Time Dollars which, calculated at minimum wage, would have an equivalent monetary value of $3.5 million.

MORE for all
The Member Organized Resource Exchange (MORE), a hallmark Grace Hill program, has become the organization’s most vital way of engaging neighbors in helping neighbors.
Shaped by community members who build their leadership skills on one of seven MORE Boards, the program can involve everyone – children and parents, youth and seniors. In MORE’s inventive “time dollar” system of barter-exchange, community members of any age can offer a service – whether babysitting or house painting – within their skill set. Hours of service not only help their neighbors, but translate into “dollars.” They can then use “time dollars” to exchange services with neighbors, purchase services at Grace Hill Neighborhood Health Centers, or buy everyday household items and larger purchases, such as major appliances and furniture, at MORE stores. The exchange builds self-confidence as community members see the value of their work converted into tangible assets.
MORE also operates the Neighborhood College, where community members can strengthen their skills in 40-hour certificate courses on subjects such as parenting education and financial literacy. Like everything about MORE, the curriculum changes when neighbors see a new need arise.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Midwestern Utopian Dreams

by Mira Luna

For the holidays, I flew to Lawrence, Kan. and St. Louis, Mo. to meet my partner’s friends and family. I was also being introduced to the area to get a feel for whether or not we might want to move there in a few years to build a community around a number activist projects like a timebank, a shared community space, and a bike kitchen.

It is often assumed that the west and east coasts are the geographic centers of cutting-edge social change and the Midwest lags far behind in consciousness, so my expectations were pretty low. But I left with hopeful utopian dreams. My experience there taught me not only that the consciousness is ripe in pockets of the Midwest, but also that the terrain may provide even more fertile ground for radical change.

In Lawrence, a couple of working class activists bought a commercial/residential building across the street from a large cohousing complex. The building will be green retrofitted into a community-run space called the Cosmic Beauty School, including healing services, sharing libraries, community events, sustainability classes, co-working spaces, and an alternative exchange system similar to the Share Exchange space in Santa Rosa, Calif. The Cosmic Beauty School hopes to provide a much-needed hub, gathering point, and resource center to catalyze other important social change projects that might otherwise have trouble getting off the ground.

While living in the nascent School for a few days, we learned about efficient fire wood stoves and the challenges of winter urban farming in a cold climate, as well as how to scavenge and chop firewood (an amazing art form with all the different kinds of wood), how to reuse water through a grey water system.

Next we visited St. Louis. Economically devastated and crime ridden, it seems particularly ripe for change. A neighborhood center in a low-income, African-American community has one of the best timebanks in the country called MORE (Member Organized Resource Exchange), with time dollar stores providing peer-to-peer mutual aid and self-help among the poor.

Nearby, a nonreligious group that calls itself Catholic Worker (after Dorothy Day’s work to address social and economic justice) has bought up nearly a whole block to provide free housing for low-income folks, with an adjacent urban farm, aquaponic system, and chicken coop. Many other buildings nearby are successfully squatted long-term by activists and low-income folks keeping the neighborhood safer. The Catholic Worker also bought a huge abandoned church for just $1.

BWorks, an umbrella organization in St. Louis, offers participatory (l)earn-a-bike, (l)earn-a-computer, and create-a-book literacy programs to low-income youth and is expanding to a larger location this coming year along with a community center called CAMP that incubates all kinds of activist projects and community services. On our way there, we stopped by the Black Bear, an anarchist café and community space.

St. Louis reminded me a lot of Detroit (another destitute Midwestern city), which I visited at last year’s U.S. Social Form. There, activists have been gaining access to large tracts of land for urban organic farming to feed the poor and revitalize the economy with healthful employment. Similarly, in Cleveland, sustainability-oriented worker cooperative development organizations are getting significant support for addressing high unemployment with more empowering green jobs.

Disillusioned by the economic downturn, the mainstream economy is being questioned by those hardest hit. The empty urban centers of St. Louis and Detroit create both physical and mental openings for opportunity. People are exploring new, local, sustainable livelihoods like urban farming, free collective housing, and worker cooperatives. The empty buildings and rock-bottom real estate prices allow radical projects that would normally struggle for extensive capital funding from outside sources like foundations to easily thrive on grassroots community volunteering and donations.

I have utopian dreams of making more projects like these happen in the San Francisco Bay Area, but there are significant roadblocks due the cost of implementation here. Buying a building is pretty much out of the question in San Francisco, which means my friends and I must continually put lots of effort into fundraising or working primary, full-time jobs just to pay for rent rather than focusing on the work of change itself. My energy gets siphoned off into the mainstream economic system or trying to find funding in a haystack of other nonprofits.

Another challenge is that, unlike many urban areas in the Midwest, San Francisco has yet to see the ubiquitous face of desperation that often catalyzes consciousness for real, deep change, while the saturation of the nonprofit industrial complex reinforces the status quo by putting band aids on the situation.

Activists in Lawrence noted Midwest brain drain -- many comrades leave there to find the holy grail of social change in the West. Maybe it’s time to switch directions and start cultivating the fecund fields of the Midwest. Breaking free of our economic chains is a great first step down the path to utopia.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Illusion of Money

Real wealth or phantom assets? David Korten explores the difference between the kind of wealth that makes life better and the phantom wealth created by financial speculation.
by David Korten
Yes! Magazine
posted Jan 18, 2011
This is the third of a series of blogs based on excerpts adapted from the 2nd edition of Agenda for a New Economy: From Phantom Wealth to Real Wealth. I wrote Agenda to spur a national conversation on economic policy issues and options that are otherwise largely ignored. This blog series is intended to contribute to that conversation. —DK

People often fail to recognize the difference between phantom financial assets and real, living wealth.

In business school, we were taught to assess investment options to maximize financial return. I don’t recall that the professor ever mentioned that this meant maximizing returns to people who have money—to make rich people richer. Or that money is a system of power and that the more our lives depend on money, the greater our subservience to those who control the creation and allocation of money.

Nor do I recall asking my professors, “What is money?” “Why do we assume that maximizing financial return maximizes the creation of real value?” “How does the conversion of natural living wealth to financial wealth create real value?” “What about the many fortunes built through financial speculation, fraud, government subsidies, the sale of harmful products, and the abuse of monopoly power?” I may have had some doubts, but kept them to myself for fear of being dismissed as hopelessly stupid.

The market makes no distinction between the dollars acquired through means that enrich society, those created by means that impoverish society, and those simply created out of thin air.
Perhaps those who taught us economics, finance, and accounting did not themselves recognize the difference between real living wealth and phantom financial wealth.

Real wealth has intrinsic value. Examples include fertile land, healthful food, knowledge, productive labor, pure water and clean air, labor, and physical infrastructure. The most important forms of real wealth are beyond price and are unavailable for market purchase. These include healthy, happy children, loving families, caring communities, a beautiful, healthy, natural environment.

Real wealth also includes all the many things of intrinsic artistic, spiritual, or utilitarian value essential to maintaining the various forms of living wealth. These may or may not have a market price. They include healthful food, fertile land, pure water, clean air, caring relationships and loving parents, education, health care, fulfilling opportunities for service, and time for meditation and spiritual reflection.

Money, a number on a piece of paper or created with an accounting enter, has no intrinsic value. Wall Street generates it in astonishing quantities through accounting tricks, financial bubbles, and debt pyramids. It appears from nowhere and can disappear in an instant, as a phantom in the night.

Those engaged in creating phantom wealth collect handsome “performance” fees for their services and walk away with their gains. When the bubble bursts, borrowers default on debts they cannot pay and the bubbles and debt pyramid collapse in a cascade of bankruptcies.

What is Real Wealth?
John Robbins: We've been measuring happiness in all the wrong ways. How can we find true quality of life?
It is easy to confuse phantom financial assets with the real wealth for which they can be exchanged. Indeed, the illusions of phantom wealth are so convincing that most Wall Street players believe they are creating real wealth.

The market, of course, makes no distinction between the dollars acquired through means that enrich society, those created by means that impoverish society, and those simply created out of thin air. Money is money, and the more you have, the more the market eagerly responds to your every whim. It is still only a number with no existence outside the human mind.

It is easy to confuse phantom financial assets with the real wealth for which they can be exchanged.
Those who benefit from the creation of phantom wealth may never realize that their gain is unfairly diluting everyone else’s claim to the available stock of real wealth. They may also fail to realize that Wall Street and its international counterparts have generated total phantom-wealth claims far in excess of the value of all the world’s real wealth, thus creating expectations of future security and comforts that can never be fulfilled.

The deceptions are built right into our language. We refer to speculation as “investment” and to phantom financial wealth as “capital.” Indeed, when we hear the terms wealth, capital, assets, or resources we have no way to know whether the reference is to a real asset or only to a phantom financial asset. Our language gives us no way to make this essential distinction. It is no wonder we get confused and fail to recognize that Wall Street produces nothing of real value.

David Korten ( is the author of Agenda for a New Economy, The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community, and the international best seller When Corporations Rule the World. He is board chair of YES! Magazine and co-chair of the New Economy Working Group. This Agenda for a New Economy blog series is co-sponsored by and based on excerpts from Agenda for a New Economy, 2nd edition.

Friday, January 21, 2011


From Business Alliance for Local Living Economies

• Connect local businesses with local lenders, investors and donors.
• Earn a "living rate of return" while supporting the local economy.
• Create jobs by strengthening family farms, local manufacturing,
and independent business.

Monthly Webinars: Every first Tuesday, launching Feb 1, 10:00am PST/1:00pm EST

Full-day Intensive: June 14, Bellingham, Washington (opening day of the BALLE Business Conference)

First webinar on February 1st free!

Webinar Topic: Introduction to Community Capital Strategies and Solutions with Michael Shuman, BALLE Research & Economic Development Director and Don Shaffer, President & CEO of RSF Social Finance.

Following webinars will be free to BALLE network leaders, and at a discounted rate for BALLE network business members, RSF and Investors Circle investors, and members of either Slow Money or AEO.

Series Overview: As investors worldwide assess the damage from the most recent financial meltdown, a growing number are considering—for the first time ever—local options. With a new generation of local investment institutions and supportive public policies, literally trillions of dollars could move from Wall Street to Main Street and create millions of new jobs. What are the most promising new innovations to connect your local businesses with local lenders, investors, and donors? How can you earn “a living rate of return” while supporting your favorite businesses support local food, renewable energy, and independent retailers? What are the potential benefits for investing in your home, your own energy efficiency, and your family? This webinar series, which will run all year and include an all-day workshop before the BALLE Annual Business Conference in June, will review pioneering efforts around the country with respect to local banking, credit unions, slow-money investing, cooperatives, self-directed IRAs, local investing clubs, and local stock exchanges. It will explore how communities can better tap capital through New Markets Tax Credits, CDFIs, and various tax incentives. This series is aimed at community investors, instigators, organizers, foundations, innovative bankers, businesses looking for capital, and anyone else committed to unleashing local money to build local living economies.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Small town launches its own stimulus: a local currency

Two residents of North Fork, a former lumber town near Yosemite, developed a scrip to encourage residents to shop locally. It's catching on slowly because most businesses still want to be paid in old-fashioned greenbacks.

January 15, 2011
By Alana Semuels
Los Angeles Times

Reporting from North Fork, Calif. — Located almost in the dead center of California, North Fork is like a lot of other rural outposts: It's losing businesses and hopes for a turnaround.

But there's nothing typical about the town's biggest booster, Josh Freeman. His efforts to resuscitate this tiny town include launching a local currency emblazoned with butterflies and hummingbirds in a bid to keep wealth in the community.

Freeman grew up in Pacific Palisades and drives a car powered by vegetable oil. Until a few months ago he wore dreadlocks down his back. To make a living, he repairs computers and develops websites. And he has an unshakeable belief that small-town life is not only worth reviving, but also essential to preserve.

"Wall Street is making more money than it's ever made, and Main Street is evaporating," said Freeman, sitting in his studio, which also serves as the town's yoga studio, karate classroom and concert hall. "That's unsustainable."

Nestled in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada near Yosemite National Park, North Fork is one of scores of struggling towns across the United States. Many rural areas in eastern California and western Nevada shed residents between 2005 and 2009, according to recent census data. The rural California county of Inyo, for example, lost 2.8% of its population from 2000 to 2009. The U.S. population grew by nearly 10% over the same period.

A former lumber town, tiny North Fork is on a two-lane road dotted with rustic barns in long-suffering Madera County, where the unemployment rate in November was 15.7%. Businesses in the town of about 2,400 are finding it harder to keep their doors open.

"We're all kind of hanging on by our fingernails," said Bob McKee, who has run the town's hardware store for 21 years.

In the last two years on Main Street, an insurance company, a beauty salon and a boutique closed, leaving behind empty storefronts, he said. Even McKee's store is in trouble. Many of the town's residents, who commute to jobs in Fresno, find it easier and cheaper to shop in the Central Valley.

"Everyone comes here and then they realize there's no economy," said Johnnie Rae Ruiz, a wedding singer who has lived in North Fork for eight years but is contemplating a move to Los Angeles or Fresno. He isn't making enough money in town to make ends meet.

Freeman moved to North Fork from San Francisco with his wife and daughter in 1991. He wanted to be closer to a nearby meditation center, where he has spent up to 10 days in complete silence. That would seem an unlikely state for the 45-year-old, whose answers to questions sometimes resemble a pool ball bouncing off many rails before finding the mark.

Freeman's efforts to jump-start the town's economy run the gamut from cultural to financial. He founded a weekly coffeehouse held in a studio where residents gather to play musical instruments, read poetry and listen to an eight-piece ska band Freeman put together by recruiting residents. He's trying to organize a living chess match using townspeople dressed up as pieces, and play one another. He and other residents formed a group that gets together every weekend to perform chores for their neighbors, similar to an Amish barn-raising.

His efforts at community building are evident when he sits down at a local Mexican restaurant and is greeted warmly by two groups having lunch on the patio.

"When the [stuff] hits the fan, what do people choose to do?" Freeman said. "We can shoot each other from gated communities, or we can work together."

Perhaps the biggest of Freeman's projects is North Fork Shares, the local currency he created last year with resident Dan Rosenberg, also 45. The pair developed the scrip — which is worth $12 per share — to encourage residents to spend their money in North Fork. If someone needs help fixing their car, for example, they pay a local in North Fork Shares, rather than driving elsewhere for repairs. That money will then be spent on another local service — on homemade food, say, or gardening supplies.

Freeman describes the currency as a type of bartering service. One share is worth roughly one hour of labor, so if someone mows a lawn for an hour, for example, they can get paid a full share. People can also obtain the bills by buying them or by attending meetings about the shares, where they're sold at a discount.

The money spent on the shares helped defray the cost of the ink and paper used to print them. Leftover money — a few hundred dollars — now sits in a group bank account. Those involved in the project are discussing what to do with it. They are considering issuing loans, throwing a party or creating a scholarship.

"We all believe that the way to strengthen our community is to strengthen the economy in our local community," said Rosenberg, who was a congressional candidate in 2000, winning the Democratic primary but eventually losing to his Republican opponent.

A local artist designed the three paper bills that make up the North Fork currency, which are slightly smoother and smaller than U.S. bills. The so-called quarter-share, worth $3, features a Mariposa lily and an insect and green ink. The $6 half-share, with words in red ink, depicts a hummingbird and a compass. The full share, which has blue printing, features a picture of a woven basket.

A group of residents hand-printed about 1,400 bills in an abandoned garage on Rosenberg's property, a process that took about 900 hours. They're made of a special waterproof, synthetic paper called yupo.

Currency collectors from overseas have contacted Freeman about buying some. But he wants it to circulate.

"The only way you can spend it is to interact with others in town," he said. "It's never going to end up in a corporate headquarters."

North Fork isn't the first community to launch its own currency. Probably the most successful is Ithaca, in upstate New York, which launched a local scrip in 1991. About $100,000 worth of Ithaca currency is now in circulation; it's accepted by public transit and a number of local businesses.

Most efforts have failed, however, including Freeman's initial push in North Fork. He first attempted a local currency in 1998 but abandoned the project to work on Rosenberg's congressional campaign.

His latest experiment has been slow going. Only about 100 shares are circulating, mostly between individuals. Freeman has used the shares to pay a friend who helped pull his car out of the mud. A local family farm accepts it, as does an auto repair shop, a dentist, and a resident known for making bread. But most businesses in town are still looking for old-fashioned greenbacks.

Some residents don't know about the shares — although Freeman is quick to educate them. Even those familiar with the experiment are skeptical, though.

"It's going to take a long time," said John Telenos, an unemployed pump technician hanging out in a North Fork gas station.

Freeman said he won't be disappointed if the new currency flops. The point of starting North Fork Shares, he said, was to create one more excuse to bring the community closer.

"It's about getting people connected to each other in ways they weren't before," he said

Freeman already seems to accomplish those connections as he wanders around the sloped streets of North Fork, where he can barely make it a block without being stopped by residents who want to rub his newly shorn head and talk about the weather. He encourages them to stop by his coffeehouse and get more involved in town events, sometimes not even mentioning the currency.

"In a small town, you tend to look out for each other," he said. "With the changes in economy, the more we support each other in positive ways, the better the quality of life is for everyone."

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Citizen Dollars Instead of Federal Reserve Dollars

A new era of security and opportunity through the democratization of money

Perhaps you’ve noticed that the national economic picture is a bit grim these days: layoffs, long
term unemployment, foreclosures, bankruptcies, oil spills, public bailouts of private industries,
lack of access to healthcare and education. Out here in California, the crime beleaguered city of
Oakland recently laid off 80 police officers. San Jose is currently debating which fire stations to
close. Schools are cutting classes and laying off teachers. Economic insecurity for average
citizens seems to grow by the day.

How does it come to this?

With present day level of resources, knowledge, and technology, with our breadth of moral and
philosophical perspective, with millennia’s-worth of historical lessons, why can we not run our
nation and its economy in a way that offers greater stability, comfort, and security for all citizens?
Shouldn’t progress have created a heaven on earth by now? Could we not just as well create
socioeconomic conditions in which each citizen can greet the new day with hope and enthusiasm,
secure in the knowledge that he or she has the resources available not only to care for
themselves, but also to engage in meaningful activity that contributes to the betterment of self,
community, and society as a whole? What stands in the way of this?


Regarding the problems listed above, the traditional solutions - “growth”, “stimulus”, more
regulation, more taxes, less regulation, fewer taxes - are starting to ring a little hollow. Perhaps it
is time to step back and question more fundamental assumptions. Perhaps larger issues are at

Currently, many people are in need of work to do and there is much work that needs doing, yet
the above problems persist. Where is the bottleneck? In any of these scenarios, the likely initial
explanation is “lack of money”. Yet the irony is that this comes at a time when there is
theoretically more money in the system than at any point in history.

I propose that our current plight comes from an incongruity between the goals and methods of our
political system versus our economic system. Politically, we are a democracy, whereas
economically, we still function largely as a feudal system. Corporate entities are typically run
through a relatively autocratic top-down structure - it is merely that kings and high priests have
been replaced by CEOs and bankers, nobles are now middle managers and, well, the peasantry
is still pretty much the peasantry. Standing in for the king’s army, enforcement now comes
through public officials who are increasingly dependent on private money for their continued
political survival.

Then as now, the lynchpin around which this all turns is the creation, management, and control of
a nation’s wealth.

What would a more “democratic” economic system look like? What follows is a thought
experiment proposing a system based on some fundamentally different premises: public and
private institutions in service of the citizenry rather than the reverse, motivation by more “carrots”
and fewer “sticks”, a starting premise of abundance rather than scarcity - ultimately conditions
under which society could be relieved of the many costs of dealing with the social ills that spring
from desperation. While a shift so fundamental may seem tantamount to altering the planet’s
orbit, a relatively discrete change in one sector of the economy (monetary policy) could largely
produce this effect.
Political Democracy, Economic Feudalism Bill Miller

-- Page 2 --

Despite its ubiquity, most people don’t realize how money actually comes into the system. Only a
tiny fraction (about three percent) exists as actual coins and bills. The rest is created by a process
so bizarre that most can’t believe it upon first hearing. The bulk of money is actually created when
banks make loans - and goes away when the loans are repaid. (That’s why a “credit crunch” as in
the Fall of 2008 is such a threat to the economy.) We tend to think of high levels of national debt
as a horror, yet in a debt-based currency system such as ours, debt is basically an indicator of
economic activity. Clearly, there’s a lot of it going on. If the average citizen or community is not
benefiting from it, it is simply because it’s not flowing properly. That happens when the roles of
debtor and creditor are not properly assigned.

I suggest this situation arises because money enters the economy through the wrong gate - large,
private (i.e. “undemocratic”) financial institutions funding large-scale projects. As financial
institutions get larger, they are increasingly disinclined to fund smaller ventures - “Main Street”
rather than “Wall Street”. The biggest returns come from large, capital intensive projects - office
buildings, industrial parks, and the like. In the textbook theory, the money so invested is
supposed to “trickle down” to feed smaller supporting businesses, workers, and eventually the
average citizen. Yet recent decades seem to reveal a number of stoppages in the pipe. Money
apparently doesn’t trickle down; rather, it needs to “well up”.

Many would doubt that the current financial system could undergo a major reinvention. Money so
pervades our lives that we tend to think of it as an immutable law of nature, something simply to
be contended with or endured. We tend to forget that it is an entirely human-created institution -
an idea that we’ve all agreed to. And the nice thing about ideas is that they can be changed when
they cease to serve.

Toward a Democratic Monetary System

What makes for a more democratic financial system? Clearly, it lies in putting control and benefit
more directly in the hands of the people it is intended to serve. In a truly democratic system, that
would be the citizenry - you and me. If money fails to trickle down to the average citizen, how else
might it enter and flow? The remainder of this article outlines an alternative system based on
several fundamentally different premises: financial empowerment of the citizenry first before
abstract institutions, a starting point of abundance rather that scarcity, and money as primarily a
medium of exchange, not a store of value.

Caveat: In considering anything new, there is an overwhelming tendency to evaluate it by
comparison with what currently exists. Please bear in mind that what follows is a fundamentally
different system. Accordingly, concepts such as loan, interest, debt, payment, exchange, savings,
investment, and the like will not have the same meaning, nor will they always translate from one
system to the other. (If they could, it wouldn’t really be a new system.)

Our current economic model is based on a premise of scarcity - things take on value by being in
short supply. People are induced to participate substantially through fear of lack. In contrast, the
model below starts with a premise of abundance - all the resources, knowledge and technology
presently exist to enable all persons to create lives of comfort, meaning, and security - were they
made properly available.

Secondly, the existing model grants the power to initiate creation of monetary wealth to abstract
institutions like banks, investment houses, and corporate entities. The actual citizenry is then
subordinated to these institutions in order to obtain the resources needed for living. In contrast,
the following model makes each individual citizen the originating source of wealth. (This isn’t so
radical when considering that even now, the taxpayer is ultimately the source for corporate
Political Democracy, Economic Feudalism Bill Miller

-- Page 3 --
“bailouts” and the guarantor of the “full faith and credit of the United States”. At the moment, we
are simply not receiving the benefit and acknowledgement for it.)

Further, since the current system is based on scarcity, participants must compete, and cannot
fully trust or rely upon each other for collective survival. Because of this, economic security
comes primarily through storing up a hoard of material and monetary wealth that ideally will see
one through a lifetime. However, inherent factors prevent this strategy from working for all, so
competition must become ever more fierce. This dynamic is largely removed in the model
described below, enabling citizens and workers to operate more effectively as collaborators and
teammates rather than opponents.

The Essentials of the Model:

The proposed system - “Citizen Dollars” - centers around two novel features (the numbers quoted
are merely for illustration. The national economy is complex, and the actual figures will depend on
a variety of factors):

1) Federal government removes money creation powers (i.e. fiat currency created through the
principle of fractional reserve) from the private central banking system. Instead, each individual
adult citizen is granted the right to create (spend into existence) a fixed amount of new money -
“Citizen Dollars” (say $10,000 per year) that is allotted in monthly increments.1 (Note that this is a
grant, not a loan.) The goal is to put sufficient money in circulation to fund needed economic
activity, but not so much as to cause inflation. The banking system then takes on a more limited
role as the logger and manager of transactions.

2) Money so created is subject to a demurrage charge2 of one percent per month, causing held
money to slightly lose value month by month. (On this schedule, money issued on a particular
date becomes valueless in about nine years.)

An knee-jerk reaction to #1 will of course be that this is some sort of massive new welfare or
“government giveaway” program. Not so! No benefit is given away here that is not already being
granted to the central banking system. We are simply transferring the right to create fiat currency
from private institutions directly to the citizenry - cutting out the potential waste, inefficiency, and
corruption of a long string of middlemen. Again, this isn’t such a big step when one considers that
the taxpayer is the ultimate backer of the current system.

This now enables money to be allocated where needed by millions of citizen venture capitalists
who are directly in contact with the pulse of the economy, not an elite corps who may be out of
touch - or even at odds with - the needs of the country.

Why the demurrage charge? For two reasons: If money is the “life blood” of the economy, it must
flow in order for the system to remain healthy. Circulating money funds business activity and pays
workers. Conversely, hoarded money starves the economy. Accordingly, money that is worth
more today than next month is likely to be put to work now rather than later.

Secondly, money that is held does no work - and will lead to inflation if supplemented with more
money. Therefore, money needs to have a lifecycle. Currently, money is ultimately removed from
circulation by taxation, loan repayment, and inflation - all rather objectionable methods, judging
from popular sentiments about each. In contrast, demurrage gives a precise schedule for the
lifecycle of each dollar, and puts the end user in charge of the amount of value he or she controls.

Note: in keeping with the times, this system is all handled electronically by debit card, and by
computer or smartphone for those who are more technically savvy. This saves the cost and risks
of printing and managing a vast amount coins, bills, checks, renewal stamps and the like.
“Demurrage” is a fee imposed for holding an asset longer than is intended - for example, the
storage charges for parking a vehicle for an extended period.
Political Democracy, Economic Feudalism Bill Miller

-- Page 4 --
If you’re worried about the effect of demurrage on saving for the future, remember, next year (and
every year), you’ll have at least another $10,000 to work with.

For rough illustration then, with a population of 300 million adults, three trillion in new money
would be pumped into the economy each year. The demurrage charge renders each issuance
valueless in about 9 years, so by these numbers, the economy would eventually stabilize with
about 13.5 trillion dollars in circulation. If this proves to be recessionary or inflationary, the annual
allotment would be adjusted accordingly.

Further Aspects and Implications:

Beyond the above, the day to day economy world work largely as it does today - workers still
work for pay, products and services are still bought and sold. There would however be several
major differences - some that even a “Tea Bagger” would love: No taxes (at least federal income
tax), no need for welfare, retirement, or other entitlement programs, vastly diminished “financial
services” activity (stocks, loans, third-party ownership), fewer large-scale (national, global)
publicly traded ventures and more small and employee-owned businesses (fewer General Motors
and more Teslas), price stability due to little or no inflation, and more robust local economies.

Employment: Because individual citizens are now the originators of monetary wealth, they are no
longer mortally dependent on having a “steady job”. This changes the nature of the employer/
employee relationship, making possible a more egalitarian contractor/ contractee relationship
where workers are engaged for specific tasks and are compensated for their particular talents.
This offers efficiencies for the employer, and relieves workers of the low morale which results
from feeling chained to a job. Further, the employee benefits that formerly were used as
inducements to stay chained, are now more readily obtainable independently, for reasons
indicated below.

Public Infrastructure: Large infrastructure projects - roads, bridges, airports - would be done by
public agency. However, financing these with tax money would not make sense under these
circumstances, being literally a case of giving with the right hand and taking back with the left.
Rather, public projects would be financed by allowing workers to create an amount of money
additional to the annual base. As in the previous paragraph, such workers would be engaged on
a delimited basis, as contractors, for defined tasks - no need for governmental agencies to carry
large payrolls of workers, who may not always be effectively utilized.

Private Ventures: Large-scale private projects would be more difficult to finance by conventional
means, since loaned money loses value through the demurrage mechanism. (Egregious rates of
return would need to be charged.) This encourages businesses to be smaller and more tied to the
local community and economy. That said however, money that would otherwise be held in a
depreciating savings account can be invested in a productive business as a hedge against
demurrage - provided that the venture is successful. This enables larger projects, but primarily
those where the principal investors have a direct involvement in a business that is carefully
chosen to create real value.

Local Economies: As indicated above, the proposed system favors smaller, locally owned,
employee owned and operated businesses. Such businesses can be more responsive to
community needs, and they empower workers who now have a personal stake in their success.
Again, empowerment of the many (Main Street) rather than control by a few (Wall Street) is the
essence of a truly democratic system

Worker Incentive: Although some might be content to live minimally on the annual grant, most will
want a higher standard of living, and further, will want creative, productive, meaningful outlets for
their energies. (One can only stomach so much daytime television.) Yet even in the former case,
people aren’t necessarily slacking - their “job” is to creatively invest $10K in support of the
Political Democracy, Economic Feudalism Bill Miller

-- Page 5 --
economy. For the rest, with the newly supportive climate for small business, workers will be better
able to realize personal vision and ambitions as opposed to feeling like a cog-in-the-machine or a

Pricing and Price Stability: In the current economy, prices have been wildly skewed by decades of
inflation, marketing, competition, fads, corporate wheeling and dealing, real and engineered
shortages, debt and interest fluctuation, and other manipulations. (Remember how much your
parent’s first house or automobile cost versus the same today?) Because the new system
provides basic economic security now and in the future, and discourages the long term storing of
wealth, prices can become more reflective of reality and be stable in the long term.

Loans, Interest, and Inflation: Presently, it is the interest charge on debt that primarily leads to
inflation and price instability. In a debt-based system, the money to pay interest on debt is not
created, and so must be appropriated from elsewhere. This eventually requires either that
someone go bankrupt or that the economy be expanded, through more debt, in order to cover the
interest cost. This steady debt increase, plus the relentless need to appropriate the money to pay
interest, drives up prices and further erodes the value of each dollar - the result being inflation.

Loans will play a much smaller role in the proposed system for several reasons: it is based on
credit rather than debt, economic activity is intended to occur on a smaller local scale, prices are
expected to moderate and stabilize as described above, and the long term holding of cash is
discouraged through the demurrage mechanism.

Economic Growth: Despite the current political fractiousness and polarization, everyone seems to
speak with one voice when affirming the desirability of economic growth. “Growth” is a benign-
sounding term - flowers grow, children grow. We hope that knowledge, understanding, and
opportunity will grow. Yet unqualified growth is not always good. Children who reach maturity but
continue to grow become medical anomalies. Bodily cells that grow continuously, while pursuing
“self-interest”, are better known as “cancer”. In any finite system, a population that continues to
grow will eventually exceed the limits of sustainability.

In the current context, “growth” is a euphemism for “debt expansion” (a term that sounds a little
less benign). For the reasons indicated in the previous section, our present monetary system
demands constant growth in order to pay mounting interest charges, and to avoid bankruptcy on
a massive scale. In contrast, the new model has minimal need for interest, so can allow ventures
to stabilize at a steady state upon maturity. The “growth” energy can then be redirected toward
goals like “refinement”.

Foreign Trade: Greater localization of economic activity, coupled with a reduced incentive to
continually amass wealth, will reduce the pressure for businesses to relentlessly seek the most
dollars at the least cost through means like off-shoring and globalizing. At the same time, we do
live in an increasingly interconnected, interdependent world, and there will always be need for
foreign trade. Initially, this might seem a problem for an economy in which currency is designed to
lose value. However, the same dynamic that boosts economic activity locally also holds
internationally - dollars that are subject to demurrage, received in payment, are more likely to be
re-spent quickly, and in the issuing country. This boosts the economy, whereas debt-and-interest
bearing dollars are a drain upon it.

Environmental Sustainability: Once again, the diminished pressure to increase the corporate
bottom line as much as possible and by whatever means necessary, can allow for business
practices that manage resources responsibly for the long term, and increase public safety.

Political Democracy, Economic Feudalism Bill Miller

-- Page 6 --
One Major Rethink

One major philosophical reframing that might take some getting used to is that the proposed
system calls into question two values currently promoted as sacrosanct: personal savings and
the profit motive.

Savings: Americans are regularly chastised these days for being financially imprudent - spending
too much and not saving enough. Part of this may be a greed problem. Another part is a debt
problem. We live in a debt-based economy in which average people are having trouble servicing
personal debt, due to real income that has been flat or declining for several decades - while the
cost of living continues to rise.

From a systemic view, the current financial system needs savings as reserves against which to
issue more debt. And personally, people need savings to see them through times of need -
because we live in competitive, individualistic communities that are not designed to offer sufficient
support in such instances. We must rely on money rather than people.

The intent of our proposed new system is to have money actively working in the community, not
stored or narrowly focused on investments designed primarily to generate interest payments. The
financial system’s need for reserves largely goes away in the new system, since it is based on
credit, not debt - and there is an effective penalty for holding cash reserves for an extended
period. For the individual, the need for cash reserves is vastly diminished by the annual allotment
and by stabilized pricing.

Profit: If something is worth doing, I’ve often wondered why people need additionally to be bribed
to do it. That seems like a bad system design. Profit is essentially the extraction of more value
than one puts in to an endeavor or trade - an inequity that is designed in from the start. It is the
only (legal) way however, to accommodate the need for the savings and interest payments as
described above.

Sometimes profit comes by legitimately expanding the economy with new value. All too often
however, the relentless need to show profitability is met by externalizing costs - which eventually
come back to bite us as oil spills or acid rain or layoffs or too expensive health insurance or
bankruptcy or ... well, the list goes on.

In contrast, in a system where one’s needs are met, where there is economic stability and
security for the future, the need to constantly acquire, accumulate, and hoard is vastly diminished.
“I’ll be happy when...” can turn into “I’m happy now.”

Long Term Outcome

Apart from immediate economic comfort and security for the general citizenry, an abundance-
based monetary model has a range of secondary benefits. Presently, the chronic threat of
scarcity, deprivation, and impoverishment, the chronic conditions of insecurity, stress, and fear,
the ongoing pressure to compete with and mistrust others results in a long list of social and
psychological ills - and the economic costs of avoiding or dealing with the same.

While some people can adapt, function, and even flourish under such conditions, others cannot
and become disempowered, hopeless, ashamed, desperate, cynical, or angry. They may strike
back at the system out of pure malice. Those who fall out of the system may end up homeless,
destitute, and desperate - a prime motivator for criminal activity. In addition to harmful effects on
health, chronic stress often leads to maladaptive coping mechanisms like addictive behavior.
Powerlessness, shame, bitterness, jealousy, and anger can result in domestic abuse and other
violence. All of these factors impose psychological, medical, legal, and financial costs to society.

Political Democracy, Economic Feudalism Bill Miller

-- Page 7 --
On the other hand, when people feel secure, now and for the future, the energy formerly
expended on dealing with basic survival can now be directed toward productive activity -
discovery and creation that adds value to their personal lives and to society at large. No one has
to fall below the line. Accordingly, fewer resources will need to be spent on fixing social problems
and defending against threats.

Some will maintain that competition is essential for progress. While it is true that competition can
drive innovation, collaboration offers the benefits of far more collective knowledge, perspective,
and energy toward the same end.

A More Diverse, Vibrant Culture and Economy

As noted above, most money presently enters the economy through large, capital-intensive
ventures that are designed and funded by entities with narrow, specific interests. Because of this,
people, products, services, and other activities that do not directly serve these interests tend to be
devalued monetarily and therefore ultimately neglected. Yet many of these are vital to the health
of society - fulltime parents, teachers, libraries, after school programs, various forms of public
maintenance and civil service, a healthy environment. Others professions such as writers,
musicians, actors, and philosophers add richness to the culture and further human development.
Yet we’ve all heard stories of single parents who must work two jobs to make ends meet. And the
“starving artist” is a cliché that virtually everyone understands.

Currently, workers in such professions have to put their main focus on finding some “job” outside
their calling in order to survive. This diminishes or thwarts the unique contribution they might
otherwise make. In an abundance economy, basic survival is not an issue, therefore people are
freed to develop and offer their unique talents, to their own benefit and to the enrichment of
society as a whole.

Getting There From Here

Although the money system pervades nearly all aspects of modern life, it is not set in stone. As it
works less and less well for more and more people, the pressure for alternatives will increase. A
number of alternative or “complementary” currency systems already exist and have functioned for
years alongside the mainstream economy - LETS (local exchange trading system), Time Dollars,
Ithaca Hours - even coupons and frequent flyer miles are considered such. These generally do
not attempt to replace a national currency but rather supplement it by focusing on limited contexts
like elder care, farmer’s markets, travelers, or local business communities.

It is far easier to introduce something new if it can be implemented gradually, building acceptance
as it functions alongside the existing system. That approach may be difficult in this case because
the existing system and the one here described work on several opposing principles - “top down”
(bankers) versus “bottom up” (citizens), scarcity versus abundance, currency units with perpetual
value versus expiring value. Accordingly, a change-over might have to happen relatively abruptly.

In such a transition, several looming issues would have to be confronted - primarily what to do
with existing debt and existing wealth. A detailed analysis of these is beyond the scope of this
article, but in general, we may simply have to revisit the ancient Hebraic tradition of jubilee and
forgive most debts. This of course would initially leave great inequities, but if that cost enables a
more functional society for all members, perhaps the majority would decide it is worth it. As to
existing wealth, if the current Federal Reserve dollars were put on a depreciation schedule along
with the new currency units, perhaps this transition could happen more gently. Ultimately, the
demurrage principle and the more egalitarian nature of the new system would tend to even things
out over time.

Political Democracy, Economic Feudalism Bill Miller

-- Page 8 --
However, even if such a new economy were to benefit the vast majority, there are powerful
entrenched interests who benefit by the current system, and their efforts to resist any change to
the status quo probably cannot be overestimated. Further, they seem to have increasing control
over our major institutions. The contention and paralysis we’ve already seen over seemingly clear
public issues like healthcare, unemployment, and financial reform suggest that a much more
fundamental restructuring might lead to all-out political nuclear war.

Yet in the realm of governance, there was a time when kings with vast armies ruled over a
populace with far fewer resources than we have today. In the realm spirit, there was a time when
high priests and popes controlled access to the divine, and enforced their decrees with
sometimes shocking brutality. Somehow, democracy still managed to struggle and prevail in
these domains. People can now vote, run for office, and pursue whatever religious beliefs make
sense of their lives.

In the economic realm, there too may come a tipping-point, when a critical mass of people turn
away from the glitter and distraction of “American Idol” long enough to realize that the kings and
high priests of finance are driving the economy toward failure for the masses - and it doesn’t have
to be this way. Perhaps we will then insist upon growing from our status as mere consumers of
value, using dollars begged and borrowed from the temple priests, toward becoming direct
participants in the creation of an economy that works for all citizens.

Some religious traditions teach that humans were created in the image of God. Perhaps this
refers to our ability to shape the world in which we live. To date, by design or default, we’ve
created conditions where life for vast numbers of people is, as Hobbes noted, “nasty, brutish, and
short”. We can now do better. Given our present level of knowledge and resources, we could just
as well create conditions of comfort, security, and opportunity for ourselves and for future

In the final analysis, it comes down to a simple question: In view of all that has happened to date,
in whom would you place greater trust to do what is best for the country, a cabal of Washington
and Wall Street elites, or millions of American citizens?

For a truly bright future for all, let democracy prevail!

Bill Miller
September 2010
Half Moon Bay, CA

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Sustainable California State Bank Initiative

Volunteers needed:

1. We need thirty thousand on-line members who are willing to print out each state bank initiative and collect twenty signatures for each initiative from the same twenty registered voters. This will allow us to put multiple state bank initiatives on the voter’s ballot in record time. This will also create enough free publicity to educate the general public about the many ways public banking can cure our economy and environment. We will be applying to the board of elections to begin collecting signatures for the Sustainable California State Bank Initiative by February.
2. We need volunteers who are willing to print out the brochure/flyer promoting this website and hand it out at public speaking events. I think the best place to hand out the flyer is when a well-known author is talking about a book they wrote about the current financial crisis. Any public events about the environment, democracy, politics and social action are appropriate places to hand out fliers.
3. We also need a list of books about the financial meltdown and the Wall Street crooks that are ruining our economy and democracy.
4. We need to list of when and where financial authors are speaking in public along with a review of their books to post on the events page.
5. We need editors combing over this website and offering suggestions and links to important related articles.
6. We need legal scholars who want to help us formulate our initiatives.
7. We need volunteers to help us construct a stand-alone complementary currency initiative based on the WIR in Switzerland.
8. We need volunteers to help us construct a stand-alone initiative that is based on the Kucinich monetary reform initiative and the proposal to monetize Minnesota infrastructure debt (debt free money).
9. We need volunteers to research additional proposals and initiatives being offered in the United States and around the world that might offer useful legalese that we can incorporate into our state bank initiatives. For example there is a movement in Ireland to create greenback dollars to invest in sustainability.
10. We need economists who are able to offer financial analysis of how each initiative will work in the real world and how it will affect the economy. The technical information we need to create a manual and check list for starting a state bank that can be applied to California and all states.
11. We need volunteers to research the possibility of using the ballot box to create public banks on a county and city level. Are there citizen’s proposals that can be offered on a county and city level? For example can we gleam useful information from this county public bank proposal in Florida? Can a similar proposal be adapted for other counties?
12. We need volunteers to research the original California state bank proposal that Governor Pat Brown reportedly offered back in the 1960s. We need to modify that proposal and offer it to the current legislature for consideration. Somebody told Ellen Brown about the Pat Brown proposal. We need a volunteer to write Ellen and ask her to help us track down the the source of her information. Once we have the proposal it would also be interesting to write an article titled “ Governor Brown Proposes a California State Bank”.
13. We need volunteers to adapt and mirror this website for all fifty states.
14. We need to find copies of the two legal challenges to the Bank of North Dakota that went to the US Supreme Court. We need legal scholars who can anticipate additional legal challenges to each initiative and devise strategies for defending public banking on all levels of government.
15. We need someone to find a copy of the 1919 law that created the Industrial Commission that oversees the Bank of North Dakota. The North Dakota historical society will do the research for a fee. We also need a copy of the law that allowed the BND to offer a two million dollar Bond that was the start-up funding for the bank. We need to post this information on the website under 1919 North Dakota. We need to study this approach and come up with our own adaptation for Public Bank start-up funding.
16. We need technical assistance figuring out how to organize this website in an efficient and failsafe manner. The ultimate goal is to allow each on-line member to democratically participate in making decisions about the content of each initiative.
17. We need volunteers to offer sustainable infrastructure proposals big and small that can be posted under the technical page of this website. We need low tech solutions that only require micro funding and the best high tech solutions that might require large amounts of start-up funding. We need research proposals and honest business plans. The primary source of income for all of the mega financial institutions is skimming off Wall Street profits and gambling in derivatives. So any sustainable real economy proposals are welcome.
18. We need additional proposals for reform initiatives that will create a paradigm shift. Initiatives that represent a fundamental change in the economy, democratic participation, the environment, sustainability, local control and improving the middle class. We need to figure out how to decentralize the economy. We need to figure out ways to stop the wealthy corporate elite from hoarding resources. We need local proposals and initiatives that will build up middle class jobs, create a sustainable economy and increase public participation in a real grass roots democracy. For example this existing initiative would transfers all state revenues ( income taxes, sales tax, corporate taxes etc.) on to the rental value of raw land.
I believe this initiative would release a huge amount of pent up wealth in California. California has an underutilized gold mine of sustainable resources yet the wealthy elite and transnational Corporations are using property in California as a physical location to hoard (dump) tremendous wealth. If the tax structure where changed to force the elite to develop their properties or sell them to companies that will invest in improvements than great levels of stored wealth would be unleashed. Once we have 30 thousand on-line members who will committee to gathering 20 signatures each we can put as many far-reaching initiatives on the ballot as we want. This will create a flood of grassroots enthusiasm and renewed democratic participation at all levels of government. With-out a huge influx of democratic involvement our hopes of creating real change will fail.
19. Those who want to donate money can use their resources to creatively advertise this website. I think the best way to gather on-line activist is to keep this organization free of monetary influence. We do not seek donations except to pay for specific cost. For example we need to pay $200 to the board of elections before collecting signatures for each initiative.
20. We need volunteers who will post a link to this website on blogs, twitter, facebook and their own websites.
21. We need to develop a large forum that is broken into many topics that cover all of the areas mentioned above and all other areas of specific interest.
22. We need volunteers to write and publish U-tube presentations that explain what we are about and how people can participate in an interesting way.

For more information contact Jeff Heaton at

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Charles Eisenstein on Timebanks and the Gift Economy

In this video, Charles breaks down the false dichotomy of gifts versus money. Timebanks look more like traditional gift economies where reciprocal relationships and recognition were encouraged not shunned as part of a healthy, ecologically sound, gift culture...something I've been trying to explain for a long time.