From Chapter 2
Community Currency and the New World Order
Money will decide the fate of mankind. --Jacques Rueff
THE FOUNDATION OF POWER and centralized control in today's world is the power to create and manipulate the medium of exchange. Because money has the power to command resources, and because most of us take current monetary practices for granted, those few who control the creation of money are able to appropriate for their own purposes vast amounts of resources without being noticed. The entire machinery of money and finance has now been appropriated to serve the interests of centralized power.
The key element in any strategy to transform society must therefore be the liberation of money and the exchange process. If money is liberated, commerce will be liberated; if commerce is liberated, the people will be empowered to the full extent of their abilities to serve one another; the liberation of capital and land and the popular control of politics will follow as a matter of course. Once equitable exchange mechanisms have been established, it will no longer be possible for the privileged few to appropriate the major portion of the land, productive resources, and political power.
Why Community Currencies?
Community currencies are complementary to, and operate in parallel with, the dominant national money systems. They are intended to serve purely as a medium of exchange that circulates among a limited group of associated traders who may be geographically proximate or widely dispersed.
The need for community currencies stems from the fact that the mechanisms of money, banking, and finance in the dominant political-economic reality are designed to promote the accumulation of capital (wealth) in the hands of a few corporate entities that serve insider interests at the expense of the mass of society and the physical environment. As these entities become ever more powerful, the traditional countervailing forces of government and other organized societal groups (such as labor unions) are either neutralized or co-opted and become ineffective in asserting the interests of the majority of people.
Usually, within most community economies, there is plenty of demand for goods and services that remains unfulfilled, and there are plenty of skills and talents which go unused. Why can't the unused resources be employed to fill the unmet needs? Mainly, it is because there is a general lack of money circulating within the local economy, and what money there is does not reach those who are most in need. Official money can, and does, flow anywhere. But it does not remain in circulation for very long within the local economy. Rather, it provides a means by which absentee owners can extract their gains from the local economy and allocate them to more profitable investments elsewhere.
Everyone who works for a livelihood is thus forced to compete in markets that are increasingly global in scope and are dominated and controlled by the biggest players in the global monopoly game. With the increasing mobility of capital, workers are being driven to the lowest common denominator of wages, working conditions, and environmental quality, and communities are increasingly deprived of control over their own quality of life. The result is a race to the bottom" that everyone is forced to enter.
Is there no escape? More and more creative thinkers are saying that there is, and that community money must be part of the solution. Humanizing globalization requires that money be reinvented, so that the new rules work in harmony with deeper values that most of us cherish.
The New World Order
It was a close friend and colleague who first impressed upon me more than thirty years ago the truth of the saying, "The chains that bind are in the mind." It is what we believe, or refuse to believe, that limits us, both individually and collectively. But it is not belief alone that limits us. We must also have the courage of our convictions. We must be willing to act on our beliefs if we are ever to realize our dreams. While it may appear that our liberation is mostly constrained by external forces and the material aspect of our being, we are actually more powerful than we are willing to admit.
Many of us have a sense that all is not right with the world, that maybe we can do something to make it better. My own struggle has taught me some important lessons, the most important of which is that I cannot change anything without first changing myself. Freedom is not free. It has to be earned. Freedom cannot be had without taking responsibility. When we seek to make change in the world, we must make it at every level, beginning with ourselves. Change at the personal level then enables change at the inter-personal level, then at the societal, structural, and institutional level, and maybe even at the biological level.
For me, the process has been one of opening up to a greater Spirit, of being vulnerable, of allowing even my cherished values, attitudes, and beliefs to be called into question. Taking greater guidance from within and letting go of erroneous and limiting beliefs has allowed me to better grasp my connectedness with my fellow humans, my environment, and the entire web of life.
When we have taken the "beam" out of our own eye, we can see more clearly to take the speck out of our brother's eye. Then we can begin to heal our relationships. We have to find a way to transcend disputes and differences, to be able to accept one another as we are and relate to one another in compassion and love. Healthy relationships in functional communities provide a stable platform from which we can examine the adequacy or inadequacy of the economic, political, and social structures we have inherited from the past and then start creating structures that are more consistent with our highest values, dreams, and visions. We can abandon those that are flawed, dysfunctional, and beyond repair, and we can build new ones that support greater realization of the human potential.
I believe that there is something beautiful trying to be born in the world. The new world order will not be dictated from the top down. It will not be something arranged in private by some global elite. It will emerge from the bottom up, revealed by a higher Spirit accessible to everyone. We humans, in our role as cocreators with the "higher power," have plenty of work to do. There is work to be done at the personal level, confronting our own fears and doubts and taking responsibility for resolving our dilemmas; at the community level, using inevitable conflicts as opportunities to transcend our petty selves and limited perceptions; and at the societal level, building new structures that support and nurture rather than coerce and brutalize.
Gaia Consciousness and Human Unity
The past four decades have brought a new period of enlightenment in which humans in increasing numbers have become aware of their oneness as a species and their place in nature, not as dominator or controller, but as an integral part of the whole web of life. Many cultures have held the view that Earth is a living being in which each living species plays a vital role. It is a view that is now becoming current in our own culture and that sees humans as the "global brain," the Earth's center of self-awareness. This changing identity is beginning to have profound effects on the way we live our lives and, if we allow it, can change the course of history. Imagine a world in which war and abuse are only dimly remembered, in which everyone has enough to live a dignified life, in which harmony among the species prevails and the rape of the earth has ceased.
In order for us to realize that vision, we must believe that it is possible; then we will find a way to make it happen, for "faith is the substance of things hoped for." Our actions emerge out of our visions and ideals. Yet they are also grounded in current realities. Economics drives politics, and money is the central mechanism through which economic power is exerted in the modern world. The history of the United States shows how power has progressively migrated from the people, local communities, counties, and states toward the federal government in general and the executive branch in particular. It is only through a study of monetary history, however, that a clear picture can be gained of how this has happened.
Humanizing globalization requires that money be reinvented,
so that the new rules work in harmony with deeper values
that most of us cherish.
Among the primary obstacles to the improvement of the human condition are the general reliance on the current structure of global finance and the nature of its primary element, money. The dominating nature of these institutions is akin to that of the monarchies and ecclesiastical hierarchies of past eras. Their time is quickly passing.
New, transformational structures based on different values and assumptions are being developed. These structures need to be more equitable, democratic, and "ethereal." They must be established in ways that promote the expression of values such as service, fairness, fellowship, and cooperation rather than greed, privilege, and self-seeking. Thus, they will not compete with existing institutions but develop in parallel with them, providing operational alternatives that can better serve the needs of people and the earth as the old order continues to decline.
Correcting Past Errors
Many of our fundamental social contracts and conventions are based on notions that are erroneous and self-defeating. Among the most insidious of these are
1. The belief that the universe was created for humans and that we should dominate creation and manipulate it for our own ends; that humans are separate from the earth and that nature is an enemy to be subdued and controlled
2. the division of people into classes or castes -- "us" and "them"; "nobles" and "peasants"; "aristocrats" and "commoners"; elites who are suited to govern and the masses who must be governed; clients who are defective and need to be "fixed" and professional fixers who are certified as competent to do the fixing
3. the belief that it is just for a majority, in the name of government, to coerce the conscription of either person or property for the use of the state
4. the belief that land and natural resources, which are the common heritage of all humans (and indeed, all life on Earth), can be treated in the same way as other property, to be bought and sold, to be used or abused, and to be held as an object for speculative gain
5. belief in the legitimacy and efficacy of the practice of granting to a few the privilege to create money based on debt and to charge interest for its use
While all these conventional notions require reexamination, the last of them is the main concern of this book.
The entire world is now in thrall to the central bankers who create and control the official exchange media. In almost every country, official money is kept intentionally scarce, much of it is improperly issued, it is expensive, and it is increasingly unavailable to those who cannot compete in the global economy or will not be drawn into the "race to the bottom." Communities that wish to preserve a higher quality of life need to find ways to protect themselves from the pernicious influences of conventional money and the machinations of global finance. Community currency and exchange systems can provide the foundation for revitalized and healthy community economies.