The Collapse, Part Three

Paleo Retiree writes:

This is Part Three of a three-part series. Part One of this series is here. Part Two is here.

As helpful as those resources are, though, I confess that temperamentally I’m not of the “We can make it work” persuasion. I really do hope that responsible people with access to levers of control can nurse the system along. Truly, I wouldn’t mind seeing our current lame-o arrangements last for another 30-40 years. After all, by that point my wife and I will be off the scene and it won’t matter to us any longer. A peaceful, easy slide to the finish line — with lots of opportunities along the way for good food, excellent friends and rewarding intellectual and artistic adventures — would suit me just fine.

Sadly, though, I’m temperamentally someone who looks at the “Where does money come from?” question and thinks “That’s not just terrifying, it’s ridiculous!”

Does this reaction make me a realist or a childish hysteric? I have no idea — but since I seem to have no choice in the matter, I’ve made a point of going where the response has led me. And where the response has led me is in the direction of what’s called the “monetary-reform” movement.

The monetary-reform crowd is made up of people who look at the way money works in what they call our “debt-money” (or “credit-money”) system and think, “That’s rigged entirely in the favor of bankers; it’s bound to lead to collapses of the kind we’re living through; and it can’t go on forever.” Then they try to come up with ways of structuring a money economy that would serve us all better.

Their usual solution, FWIW, is “public banking” — to take money-creation out of the hands of government-backed bankers and to create debt-free money via more public means.

Let me pass along a reading and viewing list for those who might share my temperament. I think of it as Monetary Reform 101.

  • Paul Grigon’s 76 minute long animated picture “Money As Debt” is the fastest way to get onboard here.
  • Ellen Brown’s “Web of Debt” is probably the most popular of the monetary-reform books, and Brown herself has become a staple on fringe-y talk shows. Here’s Brown’s blog; here she links to lots of articles she’s written.
  • I’m particularly partial to a monetary reformist named Thomas Greco. His book “The End of Money and the Future of Civilization” hits many of the same points Brown’s does, but it’s shorter and punchier. It’a the monetary-reform book I’d suggest starting with.
  • Steven Zarlenga runs something called The American Monetary Institute, whose rewarding website is here. I haven’t squared off with his epic book “The Lost Science of Money” but I’ve read, watched and listened-to numerous interviews with him and have gotten a great deal out of the exercise.
  • Dennis Kucinich was the movement’s sole representative in D.C. Dang: Why wasn’t I aware of how cool he is while he was actually in office?
  • Although the heterodox Australian economist Steve Keen (his main book is “Debunking Economics“) identifies himself as a post-Keynesian, I’m happy to group him with the monetary-reform crowd; his critiques of conventional economics make him at least a sympathizer, and like Michael Hudson he sometimes turns up at monetary-reform events. (Mainstream economists tend to be contemptuous of the monetary reformers, and to dismiss them as, at best, cranks.) Numerous interviews with Keen can be found on YouTube.
  • Question Du Jour: Why should the only money we can use be the money that the government demands and requires? Shouldn’t we also be able to create and use our own mediums of exchange? Watch a decent little doc about Switzerland’s interesting and successful Wir Bank here.

Incidentally, if you follow your curiosity down this particular rabbit hole you may find yourself in an Alice in Wonderland world where right and left lose all their conventional meanings. It’s a world where G. Edward Griffin — a guy with John Birch Society connections whose book “The Creature from Jekyll Island” tells the tale of the birth of the Federal Reserve — stands affably alongside smaller-is-beautiful localist-hippies who experiment with local currencies — aka “complementary currencies” — like BerkShares and Ithaca Hours. Some may find this disorienting; I rather enjoy it.

One of the best ways to begin exploring the monetary-reform world is with Positive Money, a U.K.-based outfit dedicated to spreading the word about how insane our financial arrangements are. They’re young, they’re intelligent and they’re very clear in their presentations. Here’s a few short talks by them:

Here are some more talks to explore. They’ve even created a two-hour-long documentary. It takes some patience to get through but it’s well worth the effort. Here it is:

So, should you care to have a fantasy about me, you can picture me living in a granola kinda town, sitting on top of a small pile of precious metals while doing debt-free business both by barter and in a local currency. I feel that such a life would suit me just fine.

How have you reacted to the financial collapse? Have you treated yourself to much research into causes and possible solutions? Any recommendations to pass along?

About Paleo Retiree

Onetime media flunky and movie buff and very glad to have left that mess behind. Formerly Michael Blowhard of the cultureblog Now a rootless parasite and bon vivant on a quest to find the perfectly-crafted artisanal cocktail.
This entry was posted in Personal reflections, Politics and Economics and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to The Collapse, Part Three

  1. Fenster says:

    Lots of provocative ideas and interesting links here to explore. Thanks, I think. Don’t know what I will find . . .


  2. The Question Lady says:

    Phew! Glad he finally got this off his chest! You have no idea how many hours of him talking about this for the last few years I’ve sat through.


  3. peggylacerra says:

    This piece finds its way to me at the perfect time – can’t thank you enough Paleo Retiree (and Question Lady for bringing it to my attention). I’m going to go drop this link on the minds of a couple of unsuspecting legal/financial facebook friends . . . : )


  4. Sir Barken Hyena says:

    “you can picture me living in a granola kinda town, sitting on top of a small pile of precious metals while doing debt-free business both by barter and in a local currency. I feel that such a life would suit me just fine.”

    Me too! And that’s how I’m thinking for the future. I’m 47 and should (better) be an emptynester in the next few years. When I think about what I really need to live on the list is really pretty damn short.


  5. Brent Buckner says:

    Just have legal tender as defined by the government available to you to pay the taxes that the government deems that you owe….


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  8. fnn says:

    Any differences between the economics of Ellen Brown and those of Ezra Pound? Not witch-hunting, just curious.


  9. Nick Szabo’s Origins of Money is absolutely essential reading on this topic.

    Also Moldbug’s Monetary Restandardization is delightful… in a Moldbug sort of way.


  10. Handle says:

    I’m surprised you didn’t mention Scott Sumner (his blog is “The Money Illusion”) and NGDP targeting. When the current period of zero interest rate policy ends (and it’s going to take a few years), NGDP targeting is both the most promising and most likely reform to be enacted to improve our monetary and economic management system.

    I can explain what it is and why it works if you’d like. But if so, then before I do, I’d like you to do a little thought experiment.

    Let’s say you were to create your own new money that people could adopt to use to denominate their transactions and contracts (or equivalently, some non-Federal Reserve institution, one you trust, were to come up with alternative money that you could use in your life.) What properties and characteristics would you want such money to have. Well, to start, you’d probably say something like “a predictable path of real purchasing power over time”. (notice I didn’t say “stable”, which you might, but that has risks). And what else? Maybe “On demand redemption”. And then the technical question would be, “How would your alternative money institution achieve those properties practically?”


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