I’m writing this on December 5, 2011. The global economic debt crisis is getting worse. Later this week the European Union is scheduled to meet to find some solution to the sovereign debt crisis of several of its members. The Eurozone might collapse if a satisfactory agreement is not reached by December 9. Civil unrest is expected in Europe and even in China as economies buckle under massive debts and the only solutions to the problems created by banks, corporations and governments are repression and austerity for the ordinary citizen.
In the meantime in the United States, our constitutional form of government, including the Bill of Rights is being eroded, as it has been continually since the 9/11 attacks, by more and more police state legislation. Somehow, since the passage of the Patriot Act, a simple fifth grade civics lesson seems to have been forgotten by everyone: the average citizen, the media, most judges, and especially legislators, governors and the president, regardless of party; a statute cannot override a constitutional provision. The latest assault on our civil liberties may be the platform upon which martial law and the declaration of World War III is based. It is the defense authorization bill, which contains in it provisions for the arrest and indefinite detainment without charge or trial of American citizens even if they are arrested on American soil. The claim is that this applies only to terror suspects who are “making war” against the United States, but we know about mission creep. The government spreads fear, fear, terror, terror, Al Qaeda to get the people to acquiesce. But we know that today’s Al Qaeda terrorists could be tomorrow’s Occupy Wall Street protesters. And even if the problem were specifically Al Qaeda or a group of that ilk, shouldn’t our judicial system be able to handle trials? I would think that if it cannot, if we must resort to the kinds of detention and torture and lack of charge or trial that we found reprehensible in places such as the Soviet Union, then the terrorists must have won.
But we should know that terrorism has economic roots, and that the tactic of terrorism does not always involve bombs and bullets. In fact the true terrorism is being perpetrated on us, all around the world, every day, by the bankers and their complacent, bought politicians. There is a solution to the sovereign debt crisis in Europe, the United States, and globally. And there is a solution to global terrorism. It’s the same solution. It doesn’t involve political repression, martial law or global warfare. It’s a simple solution, really. The difficulty is getting people to accept it. It means giving up an addiction even stronger than oil.
The solution is the abolition of money.
We would begin by wiping out all debts: public, private, corporate and personal. Call it jubilee and point to Leviticus in the Bible if you will. Or call it universal bankruptcy. Or call it universal debt forgiveness. Or call it the repudiation of odious or onerous debt. What ever you decide to call it, you have various age old principles to use in wiping the slate clean for everyone. Right now, the insistence on repayment with interest, benefits only an extremely tiny portion of the world’s population: the mega-bankers, the financier class, who believe they have some right to rule the world. At the 1991 meeting of the Bilderberg group, David Rockefeller said,
We are grateful to the Washington Post, The New York Times, Time Magazine and other great publications whose directors have attended our meetings and respected their promises of discretion for almost forty years… It would have been impossible for us to develop our plan for the world if we had been subjected to the lights of publicity during those years. But, the world is now more sophisticated and prepared to march towards a world government. The supranational sovereignty of an intellectual elite and world bankers is surely preferable to the national auto-determination practiced in past centuries.
No, David, I don’t believe that the supranational sovereignty of an intellectual elite and world bankers is preferable to national auto-determination and neither do most people who consider the subject. The latter may not have been well practiced in past centuries, but that does not mean that for the future it cannot be improved. In fact, it would be very much improved if we rid the world of banks, and buying, selling, paying, and owing.
The first thing we must do in a new system of producing and distributing goods and services is to abolish the concept of interest. This is not some new utopian ideal. Aristotle of Greece, Cato and Seneca of Rome, Exodus, Deuteronomy, Ezekiel, Leviticus, and the Psalms in the Old Testament, and Luke in the New Testament as well as the writer St. Jerome were all against it. The Koran also forbids it. Could that be a reason the West has fostered Islamophobia?
Some people believe that the Koran only forbids usury, meaning excessive interest, and not interest per se. But even if you accept this argument, what interest nowadays is not excessive? By 1978, usury laws were repealed in the United States. Adjustable rate mortgages, credit cards charging 30%, and payday loans whose interest rates can be as high as 300% are common-day examples of usury in the United States.
The end of interest will hurt fewer people than one would assume. Dr. Margrit Kennedy of Germany, author of the book “Interest and Inflation-free Money” and quite a fan of money, pointed out that a study of the German population showed that 8/10s of Germans paid more interest than they received, another 1/10 received slightly more than they paid, and the other 1/10 of the population received most of the money that the 8/10s of the population paid in interest. She wrote:
In other words within our monetary system we allow the operation of a hidden redistribution mechanism which constantly shuffles money from those who have less money than they need to those who have more money than they need.
Debt service, which should really be called debt slavery, is one of the major problems with today’s money. When you are paying interest, you are continuing to pay for past economic activity: the deal made in the past to finance construction of something, for example, or the past purchase of a thing that may no longer even exist. Annie Leonard, creator of the book and movie “The Story of Stuff” discovered that 1% of total materials flowing through the materials economy are still in product or use in North America 6 months after their date of sale. That statistic in itself is a terrible tale of waste that bespeaks another ill of the monetary system. But that’s another essay. Right now we have to focus on how much of our time, effort and energy, nationally and personally, is spent on past endeavors, as represented by the interest we pay. We have gotten to a point in the world where whole nations are being told to greatly lower their expectations for the future because their have to further enrich a tiny portion of the population – the financier class, continuing to pay them for past efforts far in excess of any benefit the financier class may have rendered.
Interest allows people to make money from money, turning the time, resources and attention paid to that away from the “real” economy, those goods and services that can really improve people’s quality of life. Making money from money also distorts the real economy, as we do things that will please the money-lenders. Have you ever wondered why some neighborhoods in your town have no grocery stores but a liquor store or convenience mart on practically every street corner? Everyone has to eat. But what were the bankers willing to back?
Rather than asking how the financiers would make a living if we forbade interest, we should be asking, “why have financiers at all?” We are the only species on the planet that uses money. Why must we pay to live on the planet we’re born on?
We can still have mediums of exchange, and units of account (which are two, useful, traditional functions of money) but we need ones that have no intrinsic value. Newspaper coupons, local currencies, entries in a computer database, bills of lading, many things will facilitate movement and account. But nations will not sacrifice their sovereignty or go to war over newspaper coupons. We can also, where practicable and desired, barter.
We can also call into question the idea of exchange itself. The entire idea of a quid-pro-quo is now somehow seen as the highest good. But as Genevieve Vaughan, author, lecturer and researcher on gift economies points out, we owe our very existences to gift-giving. Her favorite examples are the mother-child relationship and the symbiotic carbon dioxide-oxygen relationship between the animal and plant kingdoms. Or as I like to put it, you didn’t whip a dollar from your diaper every time you wanted milk, and the tree in your front yard does not send a squirrel to your house every month with the bill for oxygen services rendered.
Is it all too much that you never even considered? You took the existence of money for granted, like the air you breathe. And like air, you probably only thought of money when you didn’t have enough, or thought you didn’t.
OK, one thing at a time. We are faced with continued war, repression, austerity, and loss of civil liberties all in the name of debt service and the enrichment of even less than 1% of the world’s population: the financier class. We can choose to accept all of these hardships, and illegal and immoral conduct on the part of the financiers and their government agents, or we can find new ways to produce and distribute goods and services, and to organize our lives and societies, based not entirely on new, utopian visions, but on old ideas in philosophy, theology, and indigenous wisdom.
But we have very little time to at least accept the idea that we the people have power, that we can change, that we have choices, that we have more choices than we have been led to believe for centuries, and that there is more to life than accumulating odd bits of paper, metal and pixels on a computerized spreadsheet. If we don’t see the folly of our monetary ways very soon, maybe as soon as this week or this month, our fates may be sealed for another century.
K?llia Ramares-Watson is an independent journalist in Oakland, California, who is working on a book tentatively titled, “After Occupation: Creating prosperity and sustainability for all.” Her e-mail address is mailto:email@example.com. She collects economics news stories and editorials around the web at her Facebook page The End Of Money. You are welcome to visit and join.
CC 2011 K?llia Ramares-Watson. BY-NC-SA