This blog is a copy of a final assignment written for the Money and Society MOOC online course I have been enjoying very much for the last few weeks. Because of the word length required, quite a lot of the detail is in the footnotes, sorry about that. I am very grateful to Jem Bendell and Matthew Slater for a great piece of learning. I heard about it through the Positive Money group, so thanks to them also.
Enable Sustainable Reforms: an Ethical Guild for Developers?
Missing from the Money and Society course is a Systems Perspective approach[i]. The course analyses ‘moneystuff’, offers information and ideas[ii]. Systems thinking brought a recommendation to the surface.
Systems thinking asks questions about underlying factors, for example, not what makes Fiat or Commodity the same or different, but why are they both called “money”?[iii] In the system, what is a part, and what is a container of parts? Can parts be expressed in different containers? System is personal, I am in it, so what I bring is not just about me, but also provides partial system information[iv]. A systems account takes holism as its start point, however unfocussed, as each individual aspect carries information. It is more like a hologram[v] than a flowchart. First, free association vignettes, then a search for connections and commonalities in the picture.
- In Michael Connelly’s crime fiction[vi], the detective Bosch has a credo: everybody counts or nobody counts. The stories tell how Bosch can only do the job, feel valued, when he works for the others, the least important, the forgotten. Without this valuing, everything flips to nothing, is meaningless.
- Some years ago, I queued behind a woman offering a cheque to pay for her purchase. The assistant declined, only cash or card, woman distressed, humiliated, assistant helpless. I paid for the goods with my card and accepted her cheque. Everyone happy, woman and I chatted. She was afraid of cards and going into debt, reluctant to change how she managed her life. She decided to ask her bank for a debit card, explained as ‘like a cheque’. She managed life well within limits she could choose. Knowing more would not have helped.
- Following links, I was on Ethereum[vii], thought I would get a “wallet” and learn something about crypto-currency. Click went to a “Security Warnings” list from “You are responsible…” to “SURE I UNDERSTAND AND AGREE”. As part of the 21st Century, I have entered sites, bank accounts and passport renewal, playtime apps, computer upgrades, and happily clicked “agree to Terms and Conditions”. Ethereum, transparent and detailed, scared me with my ignorance. I do not understand, I would not click. I did not want to spend the time it would take to learn its meanings.
The woman in the store stands as symbol for all Bosch’s others: me with limited time to learn among other commitments, the teenager with disability seeking independence, the lecturer in literature asking her kids to program her phone, anyone anywhere with inner self-image ‘not capable, don’t know’. We all count, and we are all capable of adapting, but adaptation is sometimes choice (me), sometimes according to previous experience and help available (woman). Guy Standing has identified loss of “time control”[viii]. It is easy to adapt and adopt when either I already know this system or I can easily learn it. The woman and I represent the inevitability of change, how we adapt and manage real limits. We want systems we can safely use, not always becoming well-informed users.
This is about autonomy, BOTH taking personal authority AND having trust in someone else’s. Monetary systems cannot return to ‘tally sticks’, nobody believes in the divine right of kings to issue them[ix]. Instead, we know we are dependent on imperfect others, and vulnerable to their goodwill, their human qualities[x]. Limits in our capabilities and capacity for education are real[xi]. Life chances are not equalized in exchange systems, however devised, but unfair practice can be minimized by an ethical protocol[xii]. I believe this means a restoration of “Commons”[xiii]. ‘Commons’ or not, an autonomous system requires a code of ethics, an infrastructure that maintains ethical direction, and a means by which failing system parts are corrected. From Ann Pettifor:
- a) Money is a social relationship: the promise to pay;
- b) there has to be a third party that upholds the promise;
- c) a system relying on promise is a claim on real resources (with limits and uncertainty) otherwise the supply is not valid[xiv]:
Money systems should be explicitly ethical, as banking is not[xv]. However, reform depends on perception[xvi] not just the quality of the proposal[xvii]. We can learn from history: advances in knowledge practice lead to the formation of guilds, or professional bodies[xviii]. New techno-systems will come[xix]. Let us have planned ethically informed change[xx], not a chaos echoing the old, just as likely to fail.
- The ethics of new proposals should be explicit.
- Individuals devising monetary systems or currencies should create a professional guild, characterized by transparency, statement of purpose, and ethical code of practice [With or without expertise everyone can choose their involvement and risk].
- There should be sanctions, educational and legal.
Books, journal articles, URLs to sites, articles and video are listed by author, editor or organization, alphabetically, not by item type. All weblinks accessed 14 March 2017.
Bendell, Jem, and Thomas H Greco. ‘Currencies of Transition Transforming Money to Unleash Sustainability’. In The Necessary Transition: The Journey to the Sustainable Enterprise Economy, n.d.
Bendell, J and M. Slater (2015) Money and Society, free course, www.iflas.info
Beuys, Joseph, ed. What Is Money?: A Discussion. Forest Row, England: Clairview Books, 2010.
Bollier, David, and Silke Helfrich, eds. The Wealth of the Commons: A World beyond Market and State /Ed. by David Bollier and Silke Helfrich. Amherst, Mass: Levellers Press, 2012.
Brock, Arthur, MetaCurrency Project, http://metacurrency.org/portfolio-item-tag/deep-wealth/, SourceTree Commons, http://sourcetreecommons.org/
Crawford, Elspeth  Making, Mistaking Reality, https://transitionalspace.files.wordpress.com/2016/02/makingmistakinginterchangedownload.pdf
Crawford, Elspeth  https://transitionalspace.wordpress.com/2016/02/26/twist-or-psychopathy/
Davies, Glyn. A History of Money: From Ancient Times to the Present Day. 3rd ed., With revisions. Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2002.
Faraday, Michael (1839). Experimental Researches in Electricity, vols. i. and ii. Richard and John Edward Taylor.; vol. iii. Richard Taylor and William Francis, 1855
French, R. B., and P. Simpson. ‘The “Work Group”: Redressing the Balance in Bion’s Experiences in Groups’. Human Relations 63, no. 12 (1 December 2010): 1859–78. doi:10.1177/0018726710365091.
Hoggett, Paul. ‘Perverse Social Structures’. Journal of Psycho-Social Studies 4, no. 1 (June 2010): 57–64.
Fresco, Jacques, The Venus Project https://www.thevenusproject.com/
Greco, Thomas H, Beyond Money, Devoted to the liberation of money and credit, and the restoration of the commons, https://beyondmoney.net/
Gupta, Vinay , Ethereum, https://www.ethereum.org/
Gupta, Vinay , https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FHFSvttMg6E and
Helfrich, Silke. ‘The Logic of the Commons & the Market: A Shorthand Comparsion of Their Core Beliefs’. In The Wealth of the Commons, n.d. http://wealthofthecommons.org/essay/logic-commons-market-shorthand-comparsion-their-core-beliefs
Hutton, Jean, John Bazalgette and Bruce Reed, Organisation-in-the-Mind https://www.grubbinstitute.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/034_Organisation-in-the-mind.pdf
Menzies, I. E. P, and London (GB) Tavistock Inst. of Human Relations (TIHR). The Functioning of Social Systems as a Defence against Anxiety: A Report on a Study of the Nursing Service of a General Hospital., 1984.
Money and Society MOOC, IFLAS, see Bendell and Slater
Ostrom, Elinor. The Future of the Commons: Beyond Market Failure and Government Regulation. Occasional Paper / IEA 148. London: Inst. of Economic Affairs, 2012.
Pettifor, A. Thinking Allowed – Money – how to break the power of the banks – @bbcradio4 http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b08gy87s
Roesch, Ulrich. We Are the Revolution!: Rudolf Steiner, Joseph Beuys and the Threefold Social Impulse. Forest Row: Temple Lodge Publishing, 2013.
Slater, Matthew, Community Forge http://communityforge.net/en
Sweeny (1977) The capital hill baby sitting coop, http://cda.morris.umn.edu/~kildegac/Courses/M&B/Sweeney%20&%20Sweeney.pdf
The Merchants of Doubt, documentary film, http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3675568/
Waddell, Margot, and Tavistock Clinic. Inside Lives: Psychoanalysis and the Development of Personality. London: Karnac, 2002.
Further reading and media:
Armstrong, David, and Robert French. Organization in the Mind: Psychoanalysis, Group Relations, and Organizational Consultancy: Occasional Papers 1989-2003. Tavistock Clinic Series. London ; New York: Karnac, 2005.
Bion, Wilfred R. Experiences in Groups, and Other Papers. London: Tavistock/Routledge, 1989.
Bollas, Christopher. The Christopher Bollas Reader. London ; New York: Routledge, 2011.
Coleridge, Greg, The Power Elite’s Ten Strategies Opposing Money Reform https://www.afsc.org/story/power-elite%E2%80%99s-10-strategies-opposing-monetary-reform
Four Horsemen, documentary film, https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=5fbvquHSPJU#t=1226
Hoggett, Paul. Politics, Identity, and Emotion. Boulder, London: Paradigm Publishers, 2009.
Maizels, Neil Is That Really What It Is! Capitalism un-emperored, http://www.academia.edu/28713577/Is_That_Really_What_It_Is_Capitalism_un-emperored
Rowbotham, Michael. The Grip of Death: A Study of Modern Money, Debt Slavery, and Destructive Economics. Charlbury, Oxfordshire : Concord, MA: Jon Carpenter ; Distributed by Paul and Co, 1998.
Pettifor, Ann. Just Money: Society Can Break the Despotic Power of Finance. Commonwealth Publishing., ///.
Solms, Mark, and Oliver Turnbull. The Brain and the Inner World: An Introduction to the Neuroscience of Subjective Experience. New York: Other Press, 2002.
Standing, Guy. The Precariat: The New Dangerous Class. London, UK ; New York, NY: Bloomsbury, 2014.
Standing, Guy. The Corruption of Capitalism: Why Rentiers Thrive and Work Does Not Pay. London: Biteback Publishing, 2016.
Zarlenga, Stephen. The Lost Science of Money: The Mythology of Money, the Story of Power. Valatie, NY: American Monetary Institute, 2002.
[i] Aronson: “The approach of systems thinking is fundamentally different from that of traditional forms of analysis. Traditional analysis focuses on the separating the individual pieces of what is being studied … Systems thinking, in contrast, focuses on how the thing being studied interacts with the other constituents of the system—a set of elements that interact to produce behavior—of which it is a part. This means that instead of isolating smaller and smaller parts of the system being studied, systems thinking works by expanding its view to take into account larger and larger numbers of interactions as an issue is being studied. This results in sometimes strikingly different conclusions …”
[ii] In Money and Society, assignment 1, I defined “moneystuff”, Crawford , as everything this course would be about. We got: Introduction, money as social technology, History, trust and backing properties, Problems/Impact, issues of mindsets, challenge to worldview, and Alternatives, old and new ideas. Gupta  and Bendell specifically state their belief that monetary systems should benefit all people; Slater, Community Forge website is purposefully aimed to help communities and transparent about its methods.
[iii] In a totally unrelated but analogous systemic process, in 1832 Michael Faraday began a series of experiments called “the Identities of Electricity” in which he asked – remember this is 1832 – Why do we think the spark from a cat’s fur and a thunderstorm and the jump of a frog’s leg etc. are all called “electricity”? Fast forward, his study of commonality led to the discovery of electrochemical theory, the production of steady current, Daniell’s production of the first chemical battery in1838, and many other developments in chemistry and physics.
[iv] I can ask: What would I consider the essential property of a monetary system, or of a currency? see CEPTR values levels, or Brock. Or, I can heed my feelings and more idle thoughts, and wonder what information these carry. See Crawford  “Use of Self”, and Hutton, et al.
[v] Hologram characteristics: because of interference between two beams of light, the hologram carries information about the illuminated object at every point it occupies, see http://www.holografia.wz.cz/holography/Characteristics_of_Holograms.php
In analogy, a system that consists of many parts, layers and levels, can show some information about each part at any point, depending on the perspective from which the view is obtained. In human systems, feelings and atmosphere offer perspectives on levels differing from that accessed by cognitive rationality.
[vii] links from Money and Society, lesson 4.25, Gupta , and Ethereum
[viii] Standing: “What are the crucial assets over which the precariat must struggle? … they are socio-economic security, control of time, quality space, knowledge (or education), financial knowledge and financial capital. All are unequally distributed, and in terms of control are becoming more so. One can even claim that many of them are more unequally distributed than income itself.”
[ix] Davies, and Money and Society, lesson 2.10 identify the tally system parts, but the overarching ‘protocol’ that makes it possible to accept the inherent risk of credit was the hegemonic belief that all kings had divine right. They could demand trust.
[x] For authors writing with reference to money and factors inherent in a holistic life, see Beuys, Roesch, Fresco. For depth psychology, Waddell may be a place to begin.
[xi] In a group/cultural phenomenon, as Money and Society, Davies, Gupta, show, each kind of money or currency fails in some respect. All relate to power (issuing and backing), all affect the group that uses them, in a complex feedback loop, people become like the money system they first devised and now are using. Analysis of this phenomenon, that helps us understand the growth of hegemony, is variously called ‘institutionalization’, ‘groupthink’, basic assumption process etc. See Menzies’ seminal paper in social understanding, French, Hoggett, and for an example from Money and Society course, see Sweeney.
[xii] Gupta  brings this to the fore this when he notes that Bitcoin is political.
[xiii] The most realistic ethical society I know of is a return to the idea of “Commons”, see e.g. Ostrom, Bollier, Greco, Helfrich.
Ann Pettifor identified these three money properties. It seems to me that Money and Society analysis agrees with these properties, as I do. Consider ‘backing’ for example, or whether money is Commodity or Fiat. History has had chiefs and priests and kings, and law and judiciary play their part, as they always have, with sanctions that operate or not, as in ‘bailing out the banks’ and exporting of the credit risk where a promise cannot be kept.
[xv] NB “Ethical Banking” does not refer to having a code of ethics that governs ones own behavior and direction. It uses the word ‘ethical’ [wrongly?] to refer to particular types of investments and their impact on externals in the environment.
[xvi] see Waddell, Crawford , .
[xvii] for opposition and propaganda as well as simply mistaken perception, see Coleridge, and documentary film The Merchants of Doubt.
[xviii] The purpose of guild or professional body is usually ethical: the protection of both future knowledge and of those who use the expertise offered. Examples:1377 printers Guild of Stationers, https://printinghistory.org/timeline/ ; Doctors, 1832, revision 1855, British Medical Association. https://www.bma.org.uk/events/venue-hire/our-history All are in danger of institutionalization, becoming the establishment, see note x above, and suffer from politicians’ failures to represent needs of constituents even though they take oath to do so, etc. Ethics code and infrastructure should address this.
[xix] See Standing: “proficiens, a growing group who live as contractors, consultants, self-employed “businesses” and the like. They earn high incomes, but live on the edge of burn-out and constant exposure to immoral hazards, often breaking laws with abandon. Their numbers are growing, as is their influence on political discourse and popular imagery”? Do “proficiens”, often anti-authority personality types, need education regarding autonomy – independence within a system, and the nature of personal authority – inner recognition of rights, responsibility and ethics?
[xx] Consultancy on code can be available, free, should include “this code is to be re-visited in [insert time scale here] or when request for revisit is made by [proportion of guild members here] or [number of external referrals here], and other guards against institutionalization, note x above. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.