“Bucky” didn’t get very far, or did he?

I was asking: How does Reform or Change Really Take Place? Psychoanalytic work, and work on organizations, change processes etc were at the centre of my professional life. My personal history contains history of science and philosophy, especially of scientific discovery. I believe that monetary reform is needed, and that the need for it is known and evidenced, but very little movement takes place.

The world seems to be repeating its dysfunctional history at present even while it is full of real resources and technological advance. The problem of a crazy dysfunctional monetary system seems to be unheeded in wider contexts, even though its history and problems are visible, and probably known. Is it that it is deemed impossible to resolve, as no-one is in a position to have effect on enough parts of the dysfunctional system? I came across Buckminster Fuller:

“In order to change an existing paradigm, you do not struggle to try and change the paradigmatic model. You create a new model and make the old one obsolete. That, in essence, is the higher service to which we are all called”.

[see also a documentary on Resource Based Economy, Thinking out Loud]

Then I found more quotes from ‘Bucky’ Fuller. I want to agree with all of them; but if they are indeed correct, why are we still dysfunctional? What is missing?

Evolution is integrating all of humanity…

Race between Education and Catastrophe…

Highly feasible to take care of all of humanity at a higher standard of living… everybody can enjoy the whole earth… by 1985…

Like many highly intelligent men, thoughtful scientists, believers in social justice, he tried to persuade all to see the vision he saw, the possibility of paradigm. His biographers say he did not fit anywhere. He did not fit in the systems or cultures around him.

The elementary principle of all deception is to attract the enemy’s attention to what you wish him to see and to distract his attention from what you so not wish him to see – [General Sir Archibald Wavel] The world’s power structures have always ‘divided to conquer’ and have always ‘kept divided to keep conquered.’ As a consequence the power structure has so divided humanity – not only into special function categories but into religious and language and color categories – that individual humans are now helplessly inarticulate in the face of the present crisis. They consider their political representation to be completely corrupted, therefore, they feel almost utterly helpless”
R. Buckminster Fuller, Critical Path

“If you want to teach people a new way of thinking, don’t bother trying to teach them. Instead, give them a tool, the use of which will lead to new ways of thinking.”

The new favorable-to-humans environment constituted by the technological inventions and information must demonstrate that new inanimate technology could now accomplish what heretofore could not be accomplished by social reforms. I sought to reform the environment, not the humans. I determined never to try to persuade humanity to alter its customs and viewpoints.” In this declaration, we find Bucky’s thought that one way to help and change people for the better is not to try to change their thinking, but to change their environment for the better. The change will do the work of allowing others to find their own betterment of thought. He was suggesting that social reform does not always help people because their physical environment is so unimproved.

“Since the initial publication of the chart of the electromagnetic spectrum, humans have learned that what they can touch, smell, see, and hear is less than one-millionth of reality.”
I live on Earth at present, and I don’t know what I am. I know that I am not a category. I am not a thing—a noun. I seem to be a verb, an evolutionary process—an integral function of the universe.
I would never try to reform man—that’s much too difficult. What I would do was to try to modify the environment in such a way as to get man moving in preferred directions. … I must commit myself to reforming the environment and not man, being absolutely confident that if you give man the right environment, he will behave favorably.

And, many more, hence the following remarks from others writing about his work.

“Bucky was very clear that he felt there were two major areas of human endeavor that needed this prosperity understanding: politics and big business. Both of these fields are guilty in his mind of doing what is best for their personal goals rather than what is best for the well-being of all. I’m sure he would have acknowledged exceptions to this thought, but in general he felt human progress depended on these two areas changing their views on how to prosper. The welfare of others must become the driving motivation behind their efforts. Can you imagine politicians who always voted according to their inner guidance without any concern about what would get them reelected, or corporations that depended on the value of their product to boost sales without trying to sell people on why they have to buy it? There are many other selfmotivating problems that go with modern politics and big business.”
Phillip M. Pierson, Metaphysics of Buckminster Fuller: How to Let the Universe Work for You!

“The drifting of continents—now universally accepted as plate tectonics—is far too gradual for humans to perceive. The same is true for other highly significant phenomena. When Charles Darwin first proposed natural selection, he faced at least as much resistance as Wegener; although his theory explained myriad observations, nobody had actually seen finches evolving. Likewise, the effects of our own collective activity—such as climate change and loss of biodiversity—are almost invisible to us, because the impact spans the whole planet, growing over centuries. Like plate tectonics and evolution, the arrival of the Anthropocene epoch is not a human-scale phenomenon. Buckminster Fuller conceived the Geoscope as a tool to help humans attain a global perspective, to see worldwide events and to probe geological time. It was to be an instrument for scoping Earth’s patterns—an instrument of comprehensive anticipatory design science. And though it was never built adjacent to the United Nations, he always carried one in his head. In order to anticipate comprehensively, the present-day design scientist must do as he did. Design scientists must be sensitive to natural patterns of change and human patterns of activity, extrapolating from fragmentary evidence. In the Anthropocene, these patterns will be interrelated. And since human activity is the driving force, they not only can be observed but also can be impacted. However, patterns must be detected before they become settled, before the consequences are foregone conclusions. Unlike Wegener and Darwin, the design scientist cannot be passive. Jonathan Keats, You Belong to the Universe: Buckminster Fuller and the Future

Extract from from this last quote – human activity is the driving force

Analysis of human activity – not its effects, but its inner motivations – is at least one thing apparently missing from Bucky’s understanding, or from those who quote him. Many others also try to follow “the call to higher service” in monetary reform and in other ways, there are many websites and books proposing new models to make a better world. [One of the best is Joseph Beuys, that I drew on a few months ago when developing my own thinking.] Let the old become obsolete. If the root problem, the driving force is human activity, then what part of human are we going to make obsolete? Can this be done? I think not, so the path to reform is not just through the new modelling, nor is it through “changing the mindsets” which is something I have often said myself. It is both these, and also vigilance in feeling and paying attention to the “human” in all its aspects, and in all its contexts.

Thus the last quote from Bucky is the one that matters most.

I would never try to reform man—that’s much too difficult. What I would do was to try to modify the environment in such a way as to get man moving in preferred directions. … I must commit myself to reforming the environment and not man, being absolutely confident that if you give man the right environment, he will behave favorably.

[An aside – It is a pity he said “man” not human, of his time, he did not listen to female perspectives that ask that 100% of humanity be heard, the powerful and the weak, the brave and the cowardly, even the gender-certain and those of gender different from the accepted either/or norm. ]

However, the real pity is that he did not say: It is humans who create emotional as well as physical material environments, the humans and their environments are a complex ecological system. To develop, and change, we must find our way through and beyond a system that we are already in.

Those who assess physical and mental health now know, and say: “It is a public scandal that children who suffer adverse conditions are not offered the appropriate support”. For example, in one book, “The Body Keeps the Score” Bessel Van der Kolk draws on 30 years of experience to argue powerfully that trauma is one of the West’s most urgent public health issues. The list of its effects is long: on mental and physical health, employment, education, crime, relationships, domestic or family abuse, alcoholism, drug addiction. “We all want to live in a world that is safe, manageable… predictable, and victims remind us that this is not always the case,” says van der Kolk. When no one wants to hear about a person’s trauma, it finds a way to manifest in their body. From this body of knowledge, we now know that trauma may not be the major abuse that finds its way to a newspaper or a court of law, trauma can be invisible, a paradigmatic view of upbringing, that leads to states of mind that function by resisting change.

As Einstein said “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” and “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”

The Monetary System will only change by both establishing the ‘new model’ that can be believed, and by fighting the damage that has been done to all through the adherence to the ‘old model’. Doing either and both of these needs to heed the psychology of emotion, mind and cultural embeddedness, the nature of being human.


Money and Society: Review

I really do recommend taking this free online course, MOOC Money and Society. It is well run and accessible whether or not anyone has previous experience in the areas covered, but for those who do, it is thorough and offers reliable information with a very interesting perspective. I wrote a review with my personal comments at the end, and I have added a reply from Jem Bendell.

Summary of Money and Society MOOC: Lessons 1-3, then Lesson 4.

[Bendell, J and M. Slater (2015) Money and Society, free course, www.iflas.info]

An overview of Lessons 1- 3, then Lesson 4, Alternatives

These give a good view of the current Monetary System, analyzed from the perspectives of 1: Money Functions, Forms and Fallacies; 2: The History of Money; 3: Impacts and Problems with Money. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vWeQfNpW9sQ gives Jem Bendell’s twelve minute recap, but without references and sources this feels too general, only convincing if one is already convinced. Many of the resources available through reading, online audio and video, etc. were provided, and excerpts well chosen. Documentaries, available on you tube are informative, especially the three hour tedious Money Masters [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UrJGlXEs8nI], from Bill Still and made in 1995 but not out of date, and all three of Paul Grignon’s Money as Debt. [The documentary “The Four Horsemen” was not mentioned by Bendell and Slater, but other participants besides myself did. It is also a convincing account of history, problems and impacts, referring to the way cultural hegemony builds, and the need for cognitive change in mind-sets, but unfortunately in the last ten minutes it opts for a return to the gold standard and classic capitalism as a solution. Maybe this is why the MOOC did not recommend it,]

In lesson 1, the functions of money, , are identified, and forms of issuance [fiat, sovereign, commodity, etc]. Eight “traits” that money has are stated, as these are necessary to make it acceptable to the people who use it, whether they understand its function and issuance or not. These are:

  • Backing / intrinsic value
  • Nominal / face value
  • Incentives – put in place by issuers to create greater circulation, i.e.tax is the way government creates demand for its currency, local currency convertible to national may create demand by offering a % discount on exchange. Incentives and local currency can be banned by legal tender laws.
  • Payment technology – how people experience “the money” coins, notes, cheques, now often digital, via card or a pattern on a smart-phone screen.
  • Trust in the issuer
  • Cultural prevalence
  • Unit of value
  • Value over time

Along with lessons two and three, history and problems, the Current Monetary System and can be understood, and the analysis separated necessary issues from obfuscating details. The flaws are shown, and also how this system came about, through human construction. The groundwork necessary for Lesson 4: Alternatives, is laid. This makes the view of money as a tool for human need much clearer, at a meta-level, and opens up thinking about how to answer those needs.

In brief, whatever the system/s, or type of currency, the summary of my understanding is:

a) Money (and use of a currency) is a social relationship: the promise to pay;

b) There has to be a third party that upholds the promise, enables trust;

c) Although the system relies on promise, it is a claim on real resources otherwise the supply is not valid.

d) Real resources (planetary and human capital) are both limited in the present and uncertain in the future. Monetary systems are not neutral regarding these resources. The false belief that it can be is one of the reasons why the current system is flawed.

The Money and Society MOOC aims to look at alternatives, and actions that can be taken, rather than claiming a solution.


Lesson 4 Alternatives.

The first distinction made is between alternatives that have been tried, known to history, or as workarounds when economic failures have occurred, and alternatives that have not yet been implemented, or have only very local application. In considering alternatives, the capacity for trust, risk and governance needs to be transparent, hence the following groups of ideas were analyzed illustrating possibilities and issues.

Banking Reform, and other re-makes within the present system

“…we have explored in this MOOC that the root of the problem lies far below the day to day practices of globalised banking institutions, psychopathic though those practices appear to be. Even if banks broke no laws they would still be stewards of a constant transfer of wealth and power from the poor to the rich, the commodification of everything, and the consumption of every resource.

Consequently banking reform could be seen as a distraction …”

There are however proposals worth considering such as that of Public Banking [Ellen Brown] and a similar proposal from the New Economics Foundation to turn state-owned RBS into a network of local banks, modeled on Germany’s Sparkassen. These have not received much media coverage, nor have attempts to create the legal framework that would enable them been made. On the contrary, some countries have tried to prove in court that national central banks are unconstitutional. The other alternative form of banking that already exists is Islamic Banking. Although lending and borrowing of money at interest is prohibited, the Islamic banking movement has copied the institutional framework and product range of the interest-based sector so that in practice fractional reserve banking and interest-like financial products dominate.

In recent times, some leading voices within the monetary reform movement have called for greater reliance on equity financing, the promotion of investment funds rather than banks as financing intermediaries, and the separation of financing activities from payment transmission services. There are proposals for regulation rather than reform, narrow banking, where the institution is not allowed to take risks by giving fresh loans to business. Instead, it would use the incremental funds to invest in zero risk government securities, a very restricted form of banking.

Following the discussion of banking, there are brief discussions of:

  • The Gold Standard – backing can be any tangible substance to prevent issuance abuse, but it is noted that what actually gets traded is the promise of gold, not the gold itself, and that the gold can be ‘cornered’ by the already powerful. The dichotomy of ‘gold’ vs ‘fiat’ is the first level of the monetary reform debate, and neither solves the problem of trust without proper government.
  • Free Market Money [Hayek] – suggests that currencies of any kind could be treated in the same way as other commodities, and traded similarly, without the legal tender laws that privilege those nationally defined. Those issuances of currency that inspired confidence and trust would survive.
  • Or, New World Currency has been proposed, and the IMF already has a facility called the Special Drawing Right, originally created in 1969 to replace gold and silver in international transactions. SDRs could be global, replacing national currencies, in the same way that the Euor become a European currency.

I agree with the authors of the MOOC, Bendell and Slater, “We, your authors of this lesson, are very cautious about ANY global currency. There is a problem if one currency becomes the dominant or only currency across a diversity of economies, as then, as we see in the Eurozone, it can prevent countries from setting their own policies. But the main problem with a global currency is governance. The IMF is not a democratically accountable body to all governments or citizens of the world. A global currency could centralise political power, more so if and when it became global legal tender.”

Reforms and Alternatives needing Government Action

Bendell and Slater call these “Neo-chartalist Solutions”. They include Positive Money, the American Monetary Institute and Modern Monetary Theory. [AMI even has a bill prepared for Congress to enact, but there is no uptake by congressional representatives.]

In all of these, government (or governments, one by one, internationally) have to be convinced and take the action necessary to bring monetary reform. The challenges are listed:

  • What kind of reforms would be needed to ensure the government could be trusted with monetary policy?
  • How would the banking industry respond to losing the income stream from creating credit?
  • Government issuance, banks at 100% reserve and onward lending guidance for money from government.

Bendell and Slater also address the idea of Universal Basic Income. [They do not refer to Social Credit as proposed nearly100 years ago by Douglas, although it seems similar, nor to modern proponents of UBI such as Standing: The Precariat, last chapters on basic income and recovering the commons, and the Basic Income Earth Network, BIEN].

Bendell and Slater finish this section saying:

“While engagement in public policy can and should continue, given the limited prospects for deep analysis and informed policy debate on monetary policy today, where else might reformers put their attention?”

Complementary Currencies and Local Actions

Local, complementary or community currencies are social processes agreed by a group, say by exchanging legal tender notes for locally issued notes in a way that traps value in the local economy, creating more circulation there (the multiplier effect). Various means are employed to enable the exchange with legal tender. See for example Bernard Lietaer. Bendell and Slater acknowledge that complementary currencies do nothing for monetary reform, but are nevertheless proposed as actions that informed people can and should take. Slater stresses a vital value recognition:

“If a community currency was simply a printed note or an accounting system, then you could make a 1 2 3 recipe for starting one in your community, like boiling an egg. However this approach is unlikely to succeed, because a currency is more than just tokens and symbols. Currency is a social construct made from trust relationships; creating a currency involves deep work in your community. Because the Necessary Transition [to environmental sustainability] cuts across all areas of life, and because money is a symbol of value and not value in itself, a currency project should be an integral part of a wider … agenda in your community.”

There are many examples of complementary currency projects existing, and ‘recipes’ for helping the start-up. All involve work and support, possibly but not all need initial financial support, from many others. Certainly time has to be volunteered. The Money and Society MOOC finished with many of these examples, of the following different types: localized legal tender, collaborative or mutual credit, self-issued currencies, and crypto-currencies. It is clear that Bendell and Slater believe these are worth doing, for the human value and local benefit in the present, but also, because should more global monetary reform happen, they would favour a system that included a plurality of currencies, interchanged collaboratively, rather than reproducing a dominant national or global currency.

It was not stressed, but is notable, that all forms of complementary currency have to grapple with the problem of governance: What kind of ‘third party’ upholds the social contract that validates the currency? Many attempt to form a de-centralised or non-heirarchical self-correcting process, in the ‘rules’ by which they are set up. Crypto-currencies like Bitcoin may claim that this is built in to the blockchain by which they operate, but Bendell and Slater say:

“We would like to clarify the meaning of decentralisation in blockchains because the concept is often seized upon by apologists. Decentralisation can apply to many different aspects of a thing. The blockchain is a technology for decentralised data storage, but everything else about Bitcoin, we would argue is centralised. There is ONE currency, with ONE ledger, running on ONE protocol. In addition, the issuance of bitcoin has been to early adopters or those with the most powerful computers, leading to a distribution that is not at all decentralized. We do not think that bitcoin should be called a decentralised currency or that the expression is helpful. Decentralised data storage though is very useful as it inspires trust in the one true blockchain.”

It also seems inevitable that some form of crypto-currency, a digital currency, is likely to arrive within global and national monetary systems, whether reformed or not, and whether complementary currencies of digital or other types exist or not. Other open source blockchain currencies that have been proposed were also brought to attention. Whatever the kind of complementary currency, Bendell and Slater show that they want to see a plurality of types, and also, that a Commons type of governance [Elinor Ostrom] is established, so that the currency serves local and human need.

Absolutely recommended:

Greco, Thomas, Reclaiming the Credit Commons: Towards a Butterfly Society, in

The Wealth of the Commons: a World Beyond Market and State (2012) http://www.wealthofthecommons.org

My personal response:

I was convinced that complementary currencies are worth beginning, but see that much time and energy is required. I also am pretty sure that crypto-currencies will be developed, and indeed advance with properties we have not yet thought about, just as ways of exchange are also advancing and changing. I have negatives:

I believe that to spend time on complementary currency development of any kind, although worth doing in ones own community, may be a distraction from the real need for global reform. We must continue to tackle the need for reform of the global monetary system via representatives, government educational processes and planned campaigning. We should join with and collaborate with groups whose aims are different but overlapping or affected by money matters. My most important reason for campaigning to educate representatives is that I do not believe that ‘most people’ are ignorant, or even if they are, that they need to become experts in money matters. I believe that most people function as best they can in the system they are in, that their wish, like fish in water, is to spend time swimming, not examining and changing the water quality. This is the job of elected representatives, and I want them to be brought to realise that this establishment of good governance is their responsibility. I know I will not become a crypto-currency developer, may never work out how to use my smart-phone, nor do I want to be an economist, even a better informed one. Similarly I understand that in varied and different ways, this is true of most others.

The underlying humanness is about ethics – the inner attitude to living collaboratively, that is easy to demand, hard to enact when it seems that ones own life has to be protected.

Many references, sorry they are unsorted.

Wray, L. R. (2013). Modern Money Theory: A Primer on Macroeconomics for Sovereign Monetary Systems. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Bank of England Quarterly Bulletin Q1 2014 http://www.bankofengland.co.uk/publications/Pages/quarterlybulletin/2014/qb14q1.aspx

Positive Money http://www.positivemoney.org/2014/11/press-release-uk-parliament-debated-money-creation-first-time-170-years

NEF, A Green New Deal (2008) http://www.neweconomics.org/publications/entry/a-green-new-deal

UNEP Global Green New Deal (2009) http://www.unep.ch/etb/publications/Green%20Economy/UNEP%20Policy%20Brief%20Eng.pdf

Dyson, B. (2014, pers com) Personal communication with Jem Bendell

Ryan-Collins, Josh and Tony Greenham, Richard Werner, Andrew Jackson (2012) Where does money come from? New Economics Foundation.

UNEP (2014) “Inquiry on the Design of a Sustainable Financial System.” http://www.unep.org/inquiry/




Brown, Ellen Hodgson. The Public Bank Solution: From Austerity to Prosperity, 2013.

Bendell and Greco (2013) Currencies of Transition, in The Necessary Transition, McIntosh ed (2013), Greenleaf Publishing.

Ryan-Collins, Josh; Werner, Richard; Jackson, Andrew (2012). Where Does Money Come From?: A Guide to the UK Monetary & Banking System (2nd ed.). London: New Economics Foundation. p. 178. ISBN 978-1908506238. OCLC 816167522.

Werner, R., Jackson, A., 2012, Where does money come from: a guide to the UK money and banking system, 2nd edition, nef (the new economics foundation): London

Simmel, Georg, The Philosophy of Money (1907)

Dodd, N, The Social Life of Money, (2014) Princeton University Press.

Riegel, E. C, The New Approach to Freedom (1976) or full PDF book: https://duckduckgo.com/l/?kh=-1&uddg=http%3A%2F%2Fnewapproachtofreedom.info%2Fdocuments%2Fnaf.pdf

Lietaer et al (2012) Money and Sustainability, The Club of Rome.

Adams, J (1787) Letter to Thomas Jefferson, August 25, 1787. http://www.john-adams-heritage.com/quotes/

Standing, Guy. The Precariat: The New Dangerous Class. London, UK ; New York, NY: Bloomsbury, 2014.

BIEN, Basic Income Earth Network, http://basicincome.org/

http://www.unwelcomeguests.net/Debt,_The_First_5000_Years Or PDF of full book: http://www.datafilehost.com/d/ddc62659

Some excellent explanations: http://wfhummel.cnchost.com

The Cobden Centre, a collection of writers giving a broadly Austrian perspective

Episode 1 of this podcast:


Grignon, Paul, Money as Debt III: Two kinds of money 6 min

Martenson, Chris, Crash Course:

-chapter 6 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U8dq1bH1X6s 6 mins

-chapter 7 Fractional Reserve Banking https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qIxhsF6JLEA 4 mins

-Chapter 8 Government money creation with treasury bonds https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p3_Q1SiRN-A 7m

More on Margrit Kennedy

BCCI bank of the CIA

Cobden centre, a blogging platform for Austrian Economists

First UK debate in 170 years in parliament

New Economics Foundation: Inequality and Financialisation,

Money as Debt shows all money is promises, even Gold money at the end of the day

Hudson, Michael, The Bubble and Beyond (Book)

Frederick Soddy, The Role of Money (PDF Book)

Rickards, James, Currency Wars (Book)

Money and Life https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YL4cPujObDA

The Money Fix https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TwmM5Nb6hiE

Peter Joseph creator of ‘Zeitgeist’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MBRXuKVEBaY

“People Money” and free tools from http://www.communityforge.net

Wizards of Money Podcast 6 – Democratizing the money system. http://www.robinupton.com/people/WizardsOfMoney/

Regulation http://www.coindesk.com/future-commodity-bitcoin-regulation-cftc


Hearn, Mike, Turing Festival 2013: Future of Money (and everything else) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pu4PAMFPo5Y#t=255

World Islamic Mint Study Centre http://www.islamic-finance.com/study_reading.htm


Davies, G (2002) The History of Money: https://archive.org/details/HistoryOfMoney

Ferguson, N (2008) The ascent of money , Penguin Books. Documentary: http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/the-ascent-of-money

Graeber, David, 5000 years of Debt (2011) Chapter 8. Audio is here: http://www.unwelcomeguests.net/archive/audiobooks/Debt, The First 5000 Years/5000-debt-08-Credit-Versus-Bullion,-And-the-Cycles-of-History.mp3

Zarlenga, S (2002) The lost science of Money

Martin, F (2014) Money: The Unauthorized Biography.

Rickards, James http://www.internationalman.com/articles/jim-rickards-decline-of-the-petrodollar-system-is-good-for-gold

 Reply from Jem Bendell

Dear Elspeth

Thank you for taking the time to review the MOOC. Does your report feed into a consultation and any decision making within the Positive Money network?

Your report is timely as we will be making upgrades to the content in August. We will also tweak the system to allow every other MOOC to run over 2 months not one month. We will also make a decision in August about whether to create a bespoke version for a specific profession, eg. development professionals, and whether to seek funding to record the history lesson as a video and promote it as a stand alone that could be watched by anyone and generate interest in the topic and the MOOC.

Please, anyone who receives this email and has done the MOOC, consider coming to our summit on April 22nd in London. Its free. We will discuss various ideas.

My thoughts on your comments Elspeth:
– It is important to emphasise that the first 3 lessons provide the context whereby most people conclude to support fundamental monetary reform
– The MOOC is very critical of many currency innovations, for instance we prepare students to critique Ven in lesson 1 and we are critical of bitcoin in lesson 4
– A range of alternatives are discussed and these all imply different theories of change and some different emphases on principles. We spend a little bit more time on collaborative credit forms of complementary currencies in Lesson 4 as this is what we consider has less attention than crypto, local pounds or monetary reform and is what we know more about. However, we do not argue these are the things students should focus on, as it depends on what your opportunities and skills are

You wonder whether complementary currency work “may be a distraction from the real need for global reform.” My view is that it could be an aid for such global reform as well as comprising an element of that global reform. It “could”, because it depends on how it is done. In the first two Positive Money retreats, I gave a presentation on whether currency innovators and monetary reformers are “Foreigners, Friends or Foes,” where I made the case for having a strategy to engage for mutual benefit. Your review makes me think I should write that up for publication as a blog. The benefits are for giving Positive Money campaigners more ways to engage on a daily basis in building monetary consciousness, and enlisting currency innovators in monetary reform campaigns. You wont get bitcoin fanatics to go along with that, and that’s the point… there are good and bad currency innovations with people involved for a wide range of motives, and we need to differentiate and promote what is useful for the common good and aligned with democratic reform of national monies.

Once I write the blog Ill send to everyone here… but it will take some time. Better to discuss in person on April 22nd.

Here is a link to the certificate course that runs in April in London

Thanks, Jem

Dr Jem Bendell
Professor of Sustainability Leadership
Institute For Leadership And Sustainability (IFLAS)

Enable Sustainable Reform?

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.


  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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:

  1. a) Money is a social relationship: the promise to pay;
  2. b) there has to be a third party that upholds the promise;
  3. 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.

  1. The ethics of new proposals should be explicit.
  2. 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].
  3. 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.


Aronson, http://www.thinking.net/Systems_Thinking/OverviewSTarticle.pdf

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/

CEPTR, http://ceptr.org/

Crawford, Elspeth [1] https://transitionalspace.wordpress.com/2017/03/03/love-hate-relationshipshistory-of-money/

Crawford, Elspeth [2] Making, Mistaking Reality, https://transitionalspace.files.wordpress.com/2016/02/makingmistakinginterchangedownload.pdf

Crawford, Elspeth [3] 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.

Ethereum, https://www.ethereum.org/

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 [1], Ethereum, https://www.ethereum.org/

Gupta, Vinay [2], 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

Standing, Guy, http://www.guystanding.com/files/documents/Precariat_and_Class_Struggle_final_English.pdf

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

Ferguson, N (2008) The ascent of money , Penguin Books. Documentary: http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/the-ascent-of-money

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 [1], 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 [1] 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 [2] “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.

[vi] see http://www.michaelconnelly.com/series/

[vii] links from Money and Society, lesson 4.25, Gupta [2], 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 [2] 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.

[xiv] In a recent radio programme, Thinking Allowed – Money – how to break the power of the banks – @bbcradio4 http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b08gy87s

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 [2], [3].

[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 elspethcr@gmail.com.

Love-Hate Relationships/History of Money

While taking a really good online course [Institute for Sustainability and Leadership: Money and Society] I have had to write an assignment for the first time in many years. Having been taken through Monetary History with a series of slides and associated papers, we were asked to develop our own theory on the main factor influencing monetary history, using examples, recurring themes etc. This is what I found myself writing, it was supposed to be 500 words, but this is over 1000. [Luckily, online courses do not assess.]

Human Interactions and System Creation

Sorry, I am out of time to shorten this … but very grateful for the way the assignment gave me an opportunity to put the ideas into words within the monetary context.

Systems, their Currencies and Functions (Moneystuff) are inventions of humans, not universal laws. Money stuff comes from human minds. How do brains/minds work to make these artefacts, cultures, organizations, institutions?

Theory: Bio-social-psychological learning from neuroscience, anthropology, sociology, psychoanalysis, suggest states of mind result from dynamics of experience through feedback loops (amygdala, hippocampus, cortex) acting on and responding to the complexity of internal and external happenings, bringing artefacts, cultures and institutions into the loop.[1]

LAW: Moneystuff is a product of mind-states projected onto the outside world.[2]

The states of mind existent in humans give rise to three different types of “projected cultural interactions” applicable to monetary history.[3]

These interactions conflict, are productive or degenerate, depending on use and particular context. Each can become a self-fulfilling prophecy, as the feedback loop resonates; hegemony takes hold. If projection is of a single interaction mode it will in time become dysfunctional, even though at first it may have shown promise of wellbeing. A single interaction mode may be useful by itself in particular circumstances, but reality requires flexible engagement with each as circumstances change.

DEPENDENCE – An experience of all humans (birds, mammals also) engenders a state of mind that obeys authority, feels envy and gratitude, seeks and gives help and security[4]. The monetary systems of Mesopotamia, Yap stones are decreed by law or custom equivalent to law, and refer to human necessity, agriculture, food, shelter. In authority and obedience responsive to need, they represent dependency interactions. The example from Rome seems to show how what was at first a productive fiat currency, Dependence, became dysfunctional, causing a switch to the next mode.

INDEPENDENCE or SURVIVAL As it develops, mind engages with attachment, separation, anxiety, loss of unconditional provision, but at the same time, gains experience of mutual support, and/or competition. “Me” realizes “Us” and “Them”. Entering the world of siblings and others, we echo how humans moved from hunter-gatherer living to settlements about 10,000 years ago, necessitating brain development overlaying more basic biology [Solms]. When competitiveness, fear, anxiety about scarcity or other threats to survival exist, the projection becomes fight or flight, us or them. Money becomes a commodity, capital, of which there is enough, or not enough[5].

Where Survival and Dependence co-exist, co-operative and collaborative systems develop. The Tally Sticks of the Middle Ages may look like “fiat”, and are established by the king’s decree, but in practice are exchange between the king and his subjects enabling the aims of each. However, it could be said that Survival became the sole interaction after the death of Charles I and the brief puritanical republic. Central banking and capitalism emerged at this time, alongside colonialism, fear of scarcity bringing exploitation. Laws passed in the 17th century allowed debts to be freely bought and sold, a social interaction became a commodity. In Survival mode plenty is achieved through “survival of the fittest”. Survival dominates later monetary history, helped by Adam Smith and the enlightenment putting reason above emotion not seeing the way in which emotion underpins all reasoning and enables it to be in tune with reality. Later, living within an already formed Survival understanding of Money, many believed the free market promised well-being. Neo-liberal philosophy is a degenerate form of Independence/Survival that diminishes both Dependence and the third interaction mode.

FUTURE (called Pairing in psychosocial literature) is the human ability to plan, perceive future, remember past, use tools, and join with others to regret, repair, and reproduce to find hope in the future, rather than repeat. This mode contains memory and desire, used alongsid ethe other two is genuinely creative. However, when used without the other two, pairing allows emotionality, fantasy and prejudice unchecked by evidence, to dominate. Many utopian proposals and conspiracy theories that hope to trigger monetary reform probably belong in this interaction, but I cannot find examples in monetary history where money or currency could be considered a projection of this type.

A monetary system that issues money as debt with interest diminishes this third interaction. It makes a destructive charge on the future of ourselves and our planet. Possibly Islamic Banking that restricts usury, may be one form of money that recognizes some aspect of “Future”, micro-finance schemes may also do so, but I do not know enough about either.

Prediction: Recognition of the failure of the neo-liberal monetary system, will lead to either a different form of Survival, or to a Dependent mode. For example, the film The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse analyses the system failure, then supports a return to a regulation and gold standard, i.e. commodity money, exchange, limited by authority. This is again Survival, with a reach for something that can be identified as secure with competitive problems deemed soluble by appeal to authority. Positive Money seeks a monetary commission, but its own solution is to have a Money Committee taking the power of issuance away from banks, and deciding on how much or in what currencies money will be issued. This seems to be a return to a Dependent mode, though with good listening parents, the family will be allowed to participate. This could be reconcilable with the third interaction, but equally might see-saw between Dependence and Survival modes, as most solely rational functioning has done in monetary history.

A transformative system would include Future Pairing mode, acknowledging human gift, all our interaction modes, our capital. This may grow in small local cooperatives or transition groups, but none that has appeared has gained much traction[6]. I am intrigued by Bendell’s “Acknowledgement” function of money that seemed to me similar to “paying forward” or “what goes around comes around”, in which trust in goodness, remembrance of past worth, allows different ways of thinking about what money might become. If money were used according to observed circumstance for human-and-environment wellbeing rather than economic growth, its interaction mode would vary. I do not see any government at present able to formulate such a flexible monetary system. My hopes from this course are to be more able to so, but I cannot predict it.


Beuys, Joseph, ed. What Is Money?: A Discussion. Forest Row, England: Clairview Books, 2010.

Bion, Wilfred R. Experiences in Groups, and Other Papers. London: Tavistock/Routledge, 1989.

Bollas, Christopher. The Christopher Bollas Reader. London ; New York: Routledge, 2011.

Davies, Glyn. A History of Money: From Ancient Times to the Present Day. 3rd ed., With revisions. Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2002.

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. 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.

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.

Waddell, Margot, and Tavistock Clinic. Inside Lives: Psychoanalysis and the Development of Personality. London: Karnac, 2002.

Zarlenga, Stephen. The Lost Science of Money: The Mythology of Money, the Story of Power. Valatie, NY: American Monetary Institute, 2002.


[1] See e.g. Solms for neuroscience, Waddell for states of mind, Hogget for processes of cultural formation.

[2] Psychosocial references: Solms, Waddell, Maizels, Hogget, French.

Monetary History and socio-political references: Rowbotham, Standing, Davies, Zarlenga.

[3] Adapted from Wilfred Bion’s theory of basic assumptions in group unconscious and Robert French’s development of it in leadership studies where the assumptions are considered to be universal interaction modes that can be both positive and negative. The names above are mine, to apply the ideas better within 500 words.

[4] Maslow heirarchy of needs – food and shelter

[5] Neil Maizels:

[6] Joseph Beuys “What is Money?”


Why we need to know what money is!

Money Talks, or just a Money Talk:  I have become a campaigner – hence the following talk given at the Island Free Library in my local community – that grew out of realization that I did not know what money is, is just thought that I did, because I knew a bit about how to use it. [You can use and share, note it is Creative Commons Licensed].

This is a link to Slide Share: where the videos work, but you have to be online while presenting.

This is an uploaded power point file: moneycreation (I don’t think the Positive Money short videos I inserted work with this upload, their URLs are below at Slide 3 and Slide 13, if you download and re-insert.) You should use the slide share unless your internet is bad.

Below is more or less the verbal accompaniment to the slides – anyone using them should use their own story, mine belongs to me!

Notes on Money Creation

Slide 1

About four or five years ago I had retired, I took up some sporadic editing work for a Pakistani Women’s NGO [KK, or Khwendo Kor, means Sisters Home, they work to improve education, health, independence of women, prevent violence against women, and work for men too]. My job could be done online, someone had translated annual reports and case studies from Urdu into English, to help dissemination of their work, my job was make it English speaker English. Easy, do it now and again, when I had the time. Feel-good too.

A piece about independence referred to “micro-finance” and Islamic Banking. It was confused as written, but I knew nothing about either. I couldn’t see what was wanted nor the correct way to rewrite. So I started a quick surf – google and wikipedia – how lucky we are to have these libraries of information – just there!

And I met Positive Money. And I met questions:

What is Money?

Who creates Money?

What happens when we realize something counter-intuitive? It is not that we were wrong, exactly, it is that the perspective we had, the way we looked, the system we were looking inside, was … not really REAL. We had a story in our heads that seemed to work … most of the time … then one day it didn’t.

I realised I had no idea what money was.

I have not become an economist, nor a historian of how the world arrived at its present system. But I have become a campaigner, because people who have done a lot of work and thinking have let me to see that asking this question matters to almost everything any of us care about.

Slide 2

There is confusion about what money is. We are all familiar with the essential quality of money as something we own, which can be exchanged for other things that are up for sale, or given to us for work we do. Most people are aware that money has ‘been’ different things in different places: gold, silver, beads, stones with holes in them, etc. This lets us realize that it is actually an idea, rather than anything in particular, a something decided upon that people will trust.

Provided there is agreement, anything will do. The agreement is now an unspoken consensus, seldom considered. Money can be used all over the world, currencies exchanged etc. goods bought and sold, according to various methods, some is notes and coins, some is figures in accounts that can be exchanged electronically (it used to be figures written in a book, essentially the same idea). What I found difficult to grasp, is in fact the case: MOST MONEY is CREATED FROM NOTHING. The short video “Is Money at the Root” explains this. [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I_QC15C7o4A&feature=youtu.be]

Slide 3PM video Is Money at the Root of All Our Problems?

Having watched, this is what money is: Money is DEBT – created from nothing as a speculative risk. The risk is not borne solely by the speculator, it is also borne by the borrower whose work or assets must hold their value in order to repay, and also, value has to be gained for payment of interest. In other words, work has to be done, energy expended, something of worth repays the money created. In particular, if the borrower is government, it is the public, the common people, served by government, who hold the risk and repay with worth, their work and skills .

Questions? Comments? Feelings – can’t be true?

Slide 4

[history – not needed – just available for the curios]

The British Parliament passed the Promissory Notes Act 1704, a law that allowed debt to be ‘negotiable’ – something to be freely bought and sold – as if it is a commodity, rather than an agreement or contract between two parties. Once debt is negotiable, value can be created in a variety of different ways. for example, a government borrows, gives the lender a ‘government bond’, equal in value to what it has borrowed. For the lender, a bond is equivalent to money, an asset and the lender loses nothing by lending, BUT the public (government) is put into debt. (The process therefore takes from those who work and gives to those who have had assets already.)

US history includes Alexander Hamilton, Jefferson; later Lincoln offered a different system; Federal Reserve came into being in 1912, the system is institutionalised.

Negotiable debt is a very versatile source of ‘created value’. New ways of creating value based on negotiable debt are still being invented: derivatives, CDO’s, CDS’s, repos and ‘shadow’ banking are some fairly recent additions. However, in 1700s and 1800s, negotiable debt, bank-money and government debt, was the foundation of a new form of power, that of FINANCE, an industry where financial assets can be used to bring further assets, or change the value of those already in existence. British international activity, led by the power of this system, forced the adoption of negotiable debt as the way in which money is created and placed into the world economy of goods, services, work and energy. Similar legislation was subsequently adopted by most if not all commercial nations (including USSR where money creation followed the same system during the communist era.)

The system is maintained by governments and capitalists (the assets holders), with commercial banks and central banks acting as intermediaries between them in a way that also enables banks themselves become corporate owners of capital.

Note a speculative risk is taken, but the bank can choose the safest project, not the most necessary, and, can see who will bear the risk, and who the gain – not the same people!

Slide 5, 6, 7 consequences

For me, the impact on humans is that more and more we become divisive and competitive – in order to survive or manage well enough. It forces US and THEM thinking, we care , they don’t. They are thoughtless consumers, we are just needing a holiday, a decent lifestyle, we work hard enough etc.

Slide 8

Change Regulations:

keeps the possibility alive of creating value out of nothing. Splits based upon ideological views, e.g.

Left: The State should be entrusted with providing a money supply: public good – environmental improvements – nationalized goods and services.

Right: Distrusts the power of government. Human freedom produces goods and public services more efficiently. For people with needs – welfare, personal and communal responsibilities

Change fundamental laws

The laws which enable banks to create money also enable governments to create national debt – little or no expense to the lender/bank, great expense to the rest of the population.

The governor of the Bank of England: ‘Of all the many ways of organizing banking, the worst is the one we have today.’

Yet talk of fundamental reform is more-or-less absent from any agenda.

Slide 9

Why no reform – questions suggestions comments

Slide 10

If we think about the changes that have happened…

Monetary System will face crisis…again…this time maybe fundamental.

Power Elites will lose credibility

A justice (economic and political) opening/vacuum will occur.

We must be prepared to move into that opening/fill that vacuum.

Slide 11

When the history of change is recorded, often find that some have just been unaware – that is ignorant, but others who hold power do act to keep it, and act against the common interest. We should look out for these things

Which do you see at present?

Slide 12

There are well researched routes to reform, where to look, e.g. video

Slide 13PM proposals video

Slide 14 where to look

Lobby representatives, Talk/Share, Sign petitions, or create one.

A new Paradigm for a new Monetary System [4]

Read Part 1 here, and Part 2 and Part 3.

Based on philosophical and psychological inquiry, part 1 referred to the philosophy of science in order to show the need for a new paradigm approach to a world problem: to think how “money” or a monetary system might be better planned to support life. Part 2, supposed three interlinked relationships within life as the foundation of this holistic approach [transcendent, rights, and exchange]. Then in part 3, a thought experiment began where “exchange” was left out, so that some notions of what “money” might mean without that aspect we are so accustomed to viewing could emerge. This “out of the box” thinking helps the realisation that the current paradigm (a hegemony in thought) allows exchange to dominate. This can be seen again, but each time a little differently, when the exchange aspect of life is paired with each of the others, but all three are not in combination. Leave out “transcendence” and inevitably, the view moves to conflicting aspects of sociology and psychology. The “elephant in the room” is that we talk about cultures, spirituality, the uncertainty of future, as if we were not in the experience. This is OK if we do not forget that there is a wider perspective, but when that perspective is forgotten, it can be observed that thinking tends to become reductionist, about short-term, immediate issues.


Politics tries to balance the needs of economy – seen as market – without which aims (even self-interested aims) for the well-being of all cannot be begun, nor rights advanced. The viewpoints shift from ‘left’ to ‘right’, neither seems to succeed.

If “exchange” is paired with “transcendence”, leaving out “rights”, observation from this view shows another familiar dichotomy, that between simplistic reductionism, and a more utopian idealism. The idea of “rights” gets dragged in to discussion, almost as an afterthought, again linear thinking as if either ‘left’ or ‘right’ had the answer, overwhelms more complex thoughtfulness. People are again in US and THEM mode, one group being thoughtless consumers, the other utopian idealists, depending which sort of US group one happens to be in at the time.


One aspect of life has become dominant, so that it is almost impossible to use the word “economics” as meaning life management, it refers primarily to “exchange”, trade, things with technical meaning like “balance of payments”.

In a more holistic view, considering disparate fields of inquiry, every discipline* has proposed a different theory of living that contains some truths. From each particular lens, a version appears, of three, sometimes four, drives, instincts, or needs, differently named, but similar in quality, to the threefold approach being used here. Finding correlations, or links, or even differing semantics, is welcome, a collaboration in understanding from a variety of perspectives. 

The foundation chosen here, although it refers to Beuys, an artist with a deep interest in economics and money, is a re-wording of discovery from the psychoanalysis of groups. Over the many years that psychoanalytic thinking (an experiential observational inquiry) has developed, it has left behind early cultural misapprehensions, it has found affirmation from the newer discipline of neuroscience, as well as from practical results in particular applications (therapy being just one of these). For psychoanalytic thinking, often called psychodynamics, one of the biggest problems now is that of expressing valid and useful findings in ordinary language, so the information can be used by all, rather than using the specific technical language that is just as hard to understand as the languages of physics or literary criticism, or any other depth inquiry.

The next part of this exploration of how to make change in a monetary system will use this basic understanding of human life and its motivations, applying it to economics, the idea of “money”.

return to  Part 1 here, or Part 2 or Part3.

*look up almost any discipline and search for “basic human” …: Cultural anthropology, Sociology, Psychology, Genetics, Evolutionary biology, Economics, Neurology, Philosophy


A new Paradigm for a new Monetary System [3]

Read Part 1 here, and Part 2,or go to Part 4

These produced questions, that are counter-intuitive to how we often consider money: First: Could we, creative people, conceive of a money system that is like life? [Life is a gift] Second: What would money as gift look like?

Before damning this as totally unrealistic, playing games, think instead about breaking the paradigm, gostarting from what is in life that is indeed a gift: the sunlight, the seeds that know how to grow, the seasons, and ourselves with myriad capabilities, including those of death and destruction. This post is about real, not a fantasy wish-list.

People created money as we think of it at present, and most of us think about it as something it is not!! It is not concrete stuff, it is an idea, an artifact of mind, that we use to represent necessary relationships.

Look back at the foundation diagram (in part 2), and take it apart from different venn1perspectives, remembering that it is a whole. Or, at least an attempt to represent something holistically.

Leave out the exchange part, that has become so dominant in recent history.

Surprisingly, historical research[i] into money creation suggests that it first emerged as a combination from the Transcendent and the Rights sectors, not using exchange at all! And, it allows me to think about children, dependents generally, as well as those bugbears of power and authority, both inner world perceptions and beliefs as well as the outer world effects. These are so evidently part of the necessary debate about money and its uses and abuses that somehow it feels like a good road to take. [Reflexive thought, inner awareness of feelings plus outer observations, evidence, combination to assess truth or prejudice. Keep going.]


This brings notions about holistic think methods – basically the well-known brainstorm process. Brainstorm “money as gift” or “life as gift” or just “what kind of money do we want”? What do you get? What did I get? Words like money is relationships between people, payment for service or product, trust, risk, not enough, root of all evil, work reward, many things to many people…

I also discovered that brainstorming alone is not a great idea, so looked at the record of an earlier brainstorm process with others, at a recent Positive Money Retreat a brainstorm about good or bad groups, produced the flip-chart below. It seems to me that the “bad” group represents pretty well how our society has sleepwalked its way to the monetary system we have at present, and the good group processes have been pretty much absent when it comes to designing what we want from money, or monetary system.


Using words from the ‘good’ group brainstorm – do they apply to money? Effective, common purpose, synergy, … why not use these alongside the other words that are more commonly used to describe the meaning and use of money.

Also, would the other parts of the diagram reveal interesting aspects of what we really want from “money for life”?

go to Part 4, or return to  Part 1 here, or Part 2.

[i] See Stephen Zarlenga, the New Science of Money

A new Paradigm for a new Monetary System [2]

read part [1] here

How do we set about creating a system that would represent life better? Inadequate as it is, the Venn diagram below helps me think about how we can stop seeing money as only a means of transaction between people, helps me start from something more whole in human experience. There are three interlinked relationships within our life, expressed in many different ways and differently divided by other writers[i]. However they are expressed, all agree that without each and without each in combination, the picture of life fails in some important respect. Joseph Beuys[ii] proposed a basic foundation that encompassed what he called the Spiritual Life, the Rights Life and the Economic Life. A little differently, I consider the life of the transcendent, rights, and exchange[iii]. Suppose a foundation could look like this:


If we said the need was for a money idea that covered life needs, human and world in which we live, then it is not utopia to say this is a final objective, but on the way there will be lesser aims, transitional shifts. Whatever these are, they need to be seen to be stages in heading towards a monetary system that might be uncertain but would even so be more genuinely reaching for real requirements than the present pseudo-science that is too frequently taught as economics[iv]. The direction in which proposed change takes us matters.

In brief:

Could we, creative people, conceive of a money system that is like life?

What would money as gift look like?

read Part 3 here, then part 4

or return to Part 1

[i] Interactions: see 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; The Threefold Social Impulse: see Roesch, Ulrich. We Are the Revolution!: Rudolf Steiner, Joseph Beuys and the Threefold Social Impulse. Forest Row: Temple Lodge Publishing, 2013; add your own knowledge from whatever perspective e.g. ecology, religion, sociology, philosophy, etc.

[ii] Beuys, Joseph, ed. What Is Money?: A Discussion. Forest Row, England: Clairview Books, 2010.

[iii] This is roughly comparable to Wilfred Bion’s unconscious theory of group behaviours, pairing, dependency and fight/flight. see French and Simpson above for development of this idea as basic interactions.

[iv] References, many include:

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.

Jackson, Andrew, Ben Dyson, and Herman E. Daly. Modernising Money: Why Our Monetary System Is Broken and How It Can Be Fixed. London: Positive Money, 2014.

Ivo Mosley, and Positive Money websites.

A new Paradigm for a new Monetary System [1]

Equity, Fairness and Worth

We, or our governments, spend time talking of economics and money, and even more esoteric things like fiscal policies, and when some idea is proposed, there is an instant antoinettequery about “resources” which usually means, “Where is the MONEY?” Our societies and their institutions are made up of people, made by people, they may seem fixed, but are, like our minds, more plastic than we may wish to acknowledge. The word “money” is also not concrete, not fixed, it is in fact an idea rather than a thing, and throughout history has had many forms. However, when the talk is of values, what is valued, it is the future that is envisaged in many different ways, with all its uncertainties, and over and over again, the wishes, for something fair, and something worthwhile, something equitable. “Be the change you want to be” is now a mantra, a useful one. What it may mean is that things will be different, will become different, when we are different in both thought and action, when our minds have changed along with our behaviours. We do now know that body, mind and action are not separable, but interlinked.

Thinking, the process or the way people think, has many forms, patterns if you like. It often seems natural, indeed often is instinctive, to start with parts, and build towards a whole, understanding the organism by seeing what each bit does, and then trying to find relationships. This is classificatory, cognitive, rational, and has often been mistaken for the “scientific process”[i]. However, this is only one aspect of scientific thinking, indeed only a part of any kind of thinking or thoughtfulness. There is another equally important, probably more important aspect to thought. This more inclusive, but more uncertain, way of thinking starts with the “whole”, allowing perception, feeling, intuition, experiment, and allows the parts themselves to show their enfolding into each other, so that understanding follows the actuality of their relationships. A better idea of whole emerges into the thinking mind.[ii] This is creative thought, reflexive, situated in the reality of observation, aware of bias in the self. Reflexive thinking moves mindfully between subjectivity, feeling experience, and logical connections, towards a stronger more enduring objectivity. This fluid thought process properly acknowledges that understanding is a matter of direction and probability, never complete, but what it grasps, is real. The parts, and logical patterns previously observed will fit in somewhere if the idea, so far, so good, matches reality. If parts don’t fit, if the process becomes mired in confusion, complication, anomaly, contradiction, then it does not matter how rational the theory sounds, it is a mess, not fit for purpose. The history of science, and politics and human endeavour is full of paradigm shifts, as theories were seen to fail, rather than succeed. In science, think Copernicus, Galileo, the wave theory of light, and in human interactions, remember the Berlin Wall, the Industrial Revolution, the outlawing of slavery, all the way back to the iron age replacing the stone age. Thought shifts towards the future, based in reality, when something whole is grasped, even if at first it is not at all understood.

Anyone attempting to follow modern 21st century economics theory, economics policies, government fiscal and monetary understanding, boom and bust, austerity, debt bonds, scarcity and wealth, the deficit, the borrowing, etc.etc. can see that economic theory, in particular neo-liberal economic theory, is not fit for purpose.

Economics is a study of a very important aspect of life, how people interact to produce the goods they and others need or want, how governments enact policy in particular ways to enable people to interact within markets to get what they want or accomplish certain goals. Or not, sometimes. It purports to study the production and consumption of goods and the transfer of wealth to produce and obtain those goods. Within the theories there will be parts that are in tune with real lives, as they are lived, and parts that are plain wrong. Without a new frame we cannot at the moment tell which is which.

Economics requires a rethink, a different paradigm, emerging from the sense of life. We may seek equity fairness and worth, but they can be put aside, temporarily, while life is observed as it is lived by all, not just some, not just in general, but by particular people each of whom lives their own story, connected to the stories from others. Life is a gift. We forget. How can we remember?

The next posts will look for the forward aspect of economics, that would happily not require too many major shifts in many of the ways we use money and production, as those parts of thinking and practice that do work well, will find a better home, and those that do not become redundant. Much of the detail and analysis, especially the details of economics and its history, owes a lot to Positive Money, to Ivo Mosley and to all those people who by active enabling listening and thoughtfulness have helped me to think. Positive Money ask that anyone who comes to see this need for a new way forward in economics, sign petitions here, asking that quantitative easing be directed towards the productive economy, and here, asking for a money commission.

Read part 2, then parts 3 and 4

[i] This is actually only the justificatory aspect of science, the checking out if the theory works, to see what evidence supports it, see by reasoning and logic if the theory stands up in practice. To create a theory, explore uncertainty, scientists also use a heuristic process, and this is more often than not an emotional and instinctive, highly subjective way of engaging with the world being explored.

[ii] Charles Darwin’s wife reported in the appendix to his autobiography that he had stated “it is fatal to reason whilst observing, though so necessary beforehand and so useful afterwards” Collins Edition, 1958. p.159. To work holistically from the real world of observation and experiment, not being afraid to see contradiction and anomaly, is how real understanding of anything has proceeded – and there is no “total” real understanding, no “certainty” just perspectives from which one can go outside of one’s mind and thought into the world, and find a fit with what is there. [Psychological references from Wilfred Bion, Learning from Experience, Daniel Seigal, Mindfulness, and Bessell van der Kolk, The Body Keeps the Score, and many others.]

Will: what is it?

WILL – a noun, something we have. Dictionary definitions stress the consciousness, and this is a puzzle for those who understand that we are human with our unconscious not the opposite of consciousness but the deeper unknown dynamic states of emotion, impulse and body, from which our separate consciousness arises. So – is ‘WILL’ any of these?
  1. the faculty of conscious and especially of deliberate action; the power of control the mind has over its own actions: the freedom of the will.
  2. power of choosing one’s own actions: to have a strong or a weak will.
  3. the act or process of using or asserting one’s choice; volition: My hands are obedient to my will.
My definition: Will is indeed an outcome of conscious deliberate action, but not any old action, a very particular one, that has effect on all the other subsequent choices we make, consciously and unconsciously determined. We can make a conscious decision to attend to the self and observe what we can of its impulsive reactions.We are being willing to look at and distinguish two processes in our states of mind, that affect both inner and outer world view: the processes which Bion called “truth” and “lie” (the first primarily interested in what is actually there, the second primarily interested in gratification of what is wanted, as if it would be there). This willingness to look increases the probability that unconscious urge and conscious intent are in tune with each other, or indicates when and how they may not be. Then, to me, the notion of deliberate action in other spheres of decision making and choice makes sense. We have WILL because we have been willing in a particular way that is more interested in ‘truth’ than in ‘want’.
I find that this definition addresses problems of unconscious determinism, as though we could not be consciously responsible for our actions, and also addresses the problems of relativism: if everything is in part subjective how can anything be consciously willed?
It is of course an act of being: what is now called “mindful”. I have written about it previously as “use of self” an everyday use of the psychoanalysts’ “transference and counter-transference”.
If one is not mindful, then unconscious force, reactivity to circumstance, takes the place of willed aware intent. “Willy nilly” – what a really good word for this unhappy process. Willy nilly we are in it whatever it is, up to our necks, fooling ourselves that we know what we are doing. This is the state where “the road to hell is paved with good intention” because the mindful intention is not present.
In mindfulness, Will is taking a risk on the future, deliberately trusting interaction with the world. Truth will out, whatever I want. It is a promise. I will.