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The war against cash continues apace

Beyond Money - June 24, 2017 - 04:36

Thanks to Michael Nevradakis for his excellent article, How Greece Became A Guinea Pig For A Cashless And Controlled Society, that recently appeared in Mint Press News.

The world has long been heading toward a neo-feudal world order headed by a global elite that uses its control of money, banking and finance to fleece and disempower the masses. Georgetown Professor and Bill Clinton’s mentor Carroll Quigley, told us 50 years ago that:
“The powers of financial capitalism had another far-reaching aim, nothing less than to create a world system of financial control in private hands able to dominate the political system of each country and the economy of the world as a whole. This system was to be controlled in a feudalist fashion by the central banks of the world acting in concert, by secret agreements arrived at in frequent private meetings and conferences. The apex of the system was to be the Bank for International Settlements in Basel, Switzerland, a private bank owned and controlled by the world’s central banks which were themselves private corporations. Each central bank . . . sought to dominate its government by its ability to control Treasury loans, to manipulate foreign exchanges, to influence the level of economic activity in the country, and to influence cooperative politicians by subsequent economic rewards in the business world.”
––Prof. Carroll Quigley, Georgetown historian, mentor of former President Clinton, and author of Tragedy & Hope: A History of the World in Our Time, 1966, p. 324.

To anyone who cares to look, it is clear to see how that precise agenda has been playing out over the past several decades, and what the end state will be. The war against cash is a logical next step in achieving the plan that Quigley outlined. I strongly urge the reader to study Nevradakis’ entire article here.


Categories: Blogs

Democratizing capitalism

Beyond Money - June 23, 2017 - 02:16

Cutting Edge Capital’s Vice-President Brian Beckon provides a crash course on investing and community development, and describes how ordinary people can invest some of their savings in local profit-making ventures that conform to their values. The strategies being worked out by his firm are aimed at creating healthier, more resilient and self-reliant communities while enabling small investors to earn a share of the profits generated by businesses that they believe in and wish to support. Approaches like these are essential to building a more democratic and equitable economy. Listen here.


Categories: Blogs

Greece workshop starts Friday

Beyond Money - June 11, 2017 - 09:12

The start of our workshop, Monetary and Financial Innovation for the New Economy, is just a few days away but there is still space available and enough time to make travel arrangements. Here are some additional details about what you can expect from the experience.

The workshop leader will provide enough structure to focus attention and direct the inquiry but leave room for creativity, individual research, and the spontaneous emergence of innovative designs, plans, and implementation strategies. That structure will include:

  • The fundamental concepts upon which the exchange process and capital formation are based.
  • Critical examination of present and past alternatives.
  • The various aspects that must be addressed in design and deployment of exchange and finance innovations.

Everyone will play an active role in an intensive process of inquiry, discovery, sharing and collaboration aimed at:

  1. achieving a deeper understanding of the principles of currency, credit, finance, and the exchange process, and,
  2. developing action plans for the design and deployment of robust systems that can be widely proliferated and quickly scaled up to global dimensions.
  3. assembling a knowledge base that can provide guidance toward achieving more equitable and sustainable structures for value exchange and finance.

As the week progresses, teams may be formed to dig deeper into particular aspects of design and implementation and to develop action plans. Besides Exchange and Finance, the realms of our inquiry will include Change, Innovation, Processes, Systems, and Networks.

Depending on the needs and interests of the participants, the focus of our attention will be on definitions and principles related to some of the following topics:

  1. The essence and role of money
  2. Banking
  3. Reciprocal Exchange
  4. Liquidity
  5. Monetization
  6. Basis of issue, backing, and
  7. Credit
  8. Alternative currency models
  9. Credit clearing and “offset”
  10. Value measurement and units of account
  11. Saving and investment; value storage and capital formation
  12. Intermediation and disintermediation
  13. Usury and interest
  14. Demurrage
  15. Inflation, deflation, and currency debasement
  16. Depressions. The nature and causes of economic depressions.
  17. Exchange Networks
  18. Inter-trading across trade exchanges; Balance of payments/trade.
  19. Broader implications of innovative exchange mechanisms.
  20. Implementation and proliferation of innovative exchange mechanism.

And, there will be plenty of time to enjoy the beach and Greek village life.

Further details and booking are at http://www.kalikalos.com/community/x/exchange-finance-new-economy-thomas-greco/

If finances are a problem, application for discounts may be made by writing to Rachel Davson at rachaeldavson@gmail.com.

Looking forward to working with you,

Thomas


Categories: Blogs

What in the world is going on? — Part 2

Beyond Money - June 7, 2017 - 10:00

Paul Craig Roberts has been inside and outside of the U.S. Government. He served under President Ronald Reagan and was a colleague of Zbigniew Brzezinski at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, where Roberts occupied the William E. Simon Chair in Political Economy. He has had a unique vantage point from which to observe over his long career the dynamics of power and global developments. His website is a treasure trove of commentary that provides clear insight into what in the world is going on.

His recent post, Washington’s Empire Is Not Unraveling,  argues that despite president Trump’s recent actions, the military-industrial-financial complex remains firmly in control and the agenda of “full spectrum dominance” is still on track.

He points out that, with the help of the mains stream media, “Americans and the world are blinded to the fact that there are power centers that constrain a president and are capable of substituting their agendas for the agendas on which the president campaigned.”  Read the full article here.

And for insights into how the global financial system is malfunctioning, in addition to David Stockman, whom I mentioned in Part 1, you also need to follow Chris Martenson via his website, Peak Prosperity. In this video, https://youtu.be/E1g57mjGcGc he talks about the massive inflation of money that has characterized recent actions by three major central banks, the Federal Reserve, the Bank of Japan, and the European Central Bank. All three have been furiously “printing money” which they use to buy securities, thus creating asset bubbles–not a good sign for long-term prospects.


Categories: Blogs

To all my followers...

Matslats - June 6, 2017 - 08:22

As readers of my blog you'll be aware of a new initiative, the Credit Commons Collective, to connect three of the larger complementary currency networks, and invite others also to connect.

I invite you to sign up to a new mailing list, on which news of that initiative will be broadcast.

https://lists.riseup.net/www/subscribe/creditcommonscollective

Thanks for being there...

Categories: Blogs

How to Bring Liquidity Into an Economy, Free of Interest, Inflation, and Boom and Bust Cycles

Beyond Money - June 2, 2017 - 10:52

Abstract
Most economies suffer from a lack of liquidity, especially outside the large corporate and government sectors. This lack of means of payment (liquidity) is a fundamental cause of unemployment and failures of small and medium sized businesses (SMEs). It generally derives from flaws that are inherent in the centrally controlled systems of money and finance and the increasing indebtedness of both the private and public sectors. The surrender of monetary sovereignty by national governments to central banks, and to currency unions, such as the Euro, and their increasing indebtedness, as in  as in the case of Greece, have made it virtually impossible for their economies to thrive.

This article describes how domestic or community liquidity, i.e., means of payment, that enable the process of reciprocal exchange of value, can be created by various entities at various levels, from communities and business associations, to municipal governments and agencies, to national governments. The main obstacles to their implementation are not economic, but organizational and political, yet there is still considerable leeway within which the value of local production can be monetized in the form of circulating private currencies and trade credits created within associations of buyers and sellers. This article describes how that can be done.

Read the complete article here.

This subject will be the main focus of my upcoming workshop in Greece, 16-23 June. You still have time to register and space is still available.


Categories: Blogs

The New Approach to Freedom audiobook

Matslats - May 31, 2017 - 05:11

E C Reigel quotes pop up all through the Money as Debt series, and he is a favourite of Tom Greco as well. This short book (< 50 pages) shows how, by adopting his alternative currency, the Valun, the peoples of the world can be free of government counterfeit money and hence the other evils of government.

Riegel's analysis (from 1949) comes across clearly, but as somewhat simplistic and sometimes grandiose. His condemnation of government and fiat money lacks nuance or historical justification.

Seventy years later his exhortations to set the market free leave a bitter taste, because neoliberal economics uses the same term to describe a global marketplace run by and for the largest corporations.

For this reason the book, as a political tract has dated badly, but it still describes excellently how money systems should work. The proposed Valun system reads like a lot of modern proposals from monetary cranks in that it optimistically describes the monetary mechanics but fails to appreciate the difficulty getting people to actually use it.

For me the books best sentiment is that we are the money power, and we have no-one to blame but ourselves for the system's corruption.

Full text is here.

AttachmentSize New Approach to Freedom.zip33.42 MB
Categories: Blogs

Software needed by the Credit Commons Collective

Matslats - May 20, 2017 - 02:31
The Credit Commons Collective is collaboration between, initially at least, three community currency networks.
  • CES has been providing community currency software-as-a-service since 2002
  • Community Forge has been providing free web sites for LETS and timebanks since 2009
  • CES Australia became independent from CES in 2011, to run its own local web server.

Despite their social impact, these networks find it very hard to engage software developers, to keep up to date, to embrace recent technologies, to be visible to donors. We see the froth of innovation all around us, beautiful new software galore but with zero users, while our networks which have outgrown what any single developer could support, are stagnating.

We want to transition to a new software architecture which

  • uses new languages and approaches and hence has a ready pool of volunteers.
  • allows our different local communities more ways to interact
  • is comprised of smaller, more modular components for ease of maintenance and ownership by many parties
  • has re-usable components so we don't have to reinvent the wheel.
  • allows members to be identifiable within the group, but private from the outside.
  • supports non-community currency groups with tools not tied to a particular ideology.

This probably needs to be done gradually, delivering benefits to users at each stage. So I'm going to describe the series of initiatives which we have in mind.

1. Mobile phone app.
Our platforms and other community currency platforms are way behind when it comes to mobile app development and we are surely failing to reach the young and the poor. However since the functions of community exchange are very similar in all platforms, we should all be able to use the same mobile app. It is a relatively simple matter to extend each platform to serve the same API, and much progress has been made on this. But we need app developers to finish it!
2a. Standardised noticeboard index
There are many, many advertising spaces on various web platforms from facebook.com to streetbank.com. But with different networks competing in the same spaces, users unable to see their next-door neighbours on different platforms are not being well served. We want to create a web service for indexing member ads accross platforms, with a REST interface to interrogate it. Ads should be geolocated and the host platforms should forward messages to the ad owners in order to restrict their identities only to the respective groups of which they are members. We want the ads themselves to be in a politically neutral space (like a blockchain) and to choose which sources of ads to index for our users. We think this tech would be widely useful, and if we had it right now we could migrate off CES ancient platform.
2b. App for searching indexed ads
Once the index service is available, we can populate it but we need an HMTL5/ajax search interface to query and display the results. This could be packaged as a standalone app, and we would want to use the same code in our existing platforms.
3. Standardised ledger service (becoming Credit commons service)
Each community and each platform currently does its own accounting in its own database. This works if you think a community currency is so specialised as to justify its own platform, but if you want to add a currency to an existing community it is less useful. We need therefore a REST service for community currency accounting, so that app developers do not have to build a back end - they can just plug in. Another reason for standardising the accounting function is to make transactions interoperable, as described in our Credit Commons white paper

We imagine other standardised REST services for group applications, for example savings pools accounting, forums, news & events, ridesharing, governance/decision-making. They would serve equally well both the outdated web platforms we now use and the more modern app-only approach.

The collective exists to offer software and coordination not only for complementary currency projects but for, broadly speaking, the rather dispersed relocalisation movement. We believe decentralisation is an important political goal, but not an absolute Good; coordination is critical within decentralised structures.

Will you help us? We are seeking long term volunteers to commit of course to writing and maintaining software, and also to spreading the word, building relationships, seeking funding, translating.

Categories: Blogs

Escape from prison and oppression

Beyond Money - May 18, 2017 - 11:07

In this video below, Professor Jem Bendell of Cumbria University (UK) interviews South African Tim Jenkin about his anti-apartheid work in the 1970s and his more recent alternative exchange activities. Jenkin briefly recounts how he assisted the African National Congress (ANC) in their struggle to end apartheid, work that resulted in his 1978 imprisonment and subsequent remarkable escape. The escape story is soon to be made into a major motion picture, “Escape From Pretoria,” that will star  Daniel Radcliffe in the role of Tim Jenkin. The film is scheduled to begin production on location in South Africa in early 2018, but you need not wait to get a detailed account of the escape, you can read Jenkin’s autobiography, Inside Out: Escape from Pretoria Central Prison, or view the existing documentary film, also titled, Escape from Pretoria.

Later in the interview, Jenkin describes his more recent efforts to demonstrate how people can make a similar escape from the bondage of political money and the global debt-money regime by means of a simple ledger system that records the value of what people give and receive from one another. His Community Exchange platform  currently hosts 921 local exchanges in 86 countries.


Categories: Blogs

What in the world is going on?

Beyond Money - May 2, 2017 - 11:37

Here is a presentation titled, War and Peace in the Age of Trump, by former Congressman and Budget Director in the Reagan administration, David Stockman, in which he points out some “inconvenient facts” and explains “the warfare state” and the “false narratives” that it promotes to shape public opinion.

Among other things, Stockman point out that there is no existential threat to the United States that would justify the massive U.S. military-industrial-intelligence complex, the policy of regime change, and interventions in the Middle-east, Africa, and all around the world. Even the the recent acts of terrorism and the refugee crisis in Europe are blowback from the mayhem that the U.S. and NATO have been unleashing in those regions.

Edit: Paul Craig Roberts adds some further important details to the picture.


Categories: Blogs

Money & Society Mooc ad

Matslats - April 29, 2017 - 00:47
Below is a visual add for the Money & Society MOOC. If you have completed the MOOC, use this html snippet: <a href = "http://ho.io/mooc"> <img src = "http://matslats.net/sites/matslats.net/files/moocAdAlumni.svg" /> </a> or if you just want to promote it, use this <a href = "http://ho.io/mooc"> <img src = "http://matslats.net/sites/matslats.net/files/moocAd.svg" /> </a> The image will expand to fill the available space!
Categories: Blogs

Thwarting an Uber Future for Complementary Currencies: Open Protocols for a Credit Commons

Matslats - April 14, 2017 - 09:17

This paper, co-authored with Jem Bendell is our ticket to stand up at the RAMICS conference in Barcelona next month and invite the major complementary currency networks into cooperation around the next generation of software that we all need.

We will also be presenting developments after the conference at the hackathon.

AttachmentSize Bendell and Slater 2017.pdf531.86 KB
Categories: Blogs

2017 Spring Newsletter

Beyond Money - April 4, 2017 - 12:17

In this edition

  • October 2016 Tour Report
  • 2017 June Workshop in Greece
  • Global monetary system is headed over the cliff—An Open letter to Jim Rickards
  • Solar Dollars
  • Geopolitics

__________________________________________
October 2016 Tour Report

During my October 2016 tour, I gave three presentations in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and was a panelist at the Mitzas Festival in Sardinia, Italy. Two of the Malaysia presentations were at the International Forum on Inclusive Wealth, and the third was an extended presentation and discussion (on October 10) at the Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies titled, A World Without Money and Interest: A pathway toward social justice and economic equity. The latter can be seen in its entirety on YouTube at https://youtu.be/8BejigzDAVY. The audio only can be found here, and the slide show used in my talk can be viewed here.

__________________________________________
2017 June Workshop in Greece

It’s time to get on board for my 2017 summer workshop, Monetary and Financial Innovation for the New Economy. The workshop will run from 16 to 23 June, 2017 at the Alexandros campus of the Kalikalos Holistic Summer School on the beautiful Pelion peninsula in Greece. This is a chance to gain a deeper understanding of the principles of reciprocal exchange, basis of currency issuance and credit allocation, and to engage with like-minded peers to explore innovative designs and strategies for their implementation. All of this while enjoying gourmet quality vegetarian meals, fresh mountain air, and Aegean beaches at bargain prices.

I will again have the assistance of Matthew Slater, and there will be a guest appearance by Prof. Jem Bendell of Cumbria University (UK).

Space is limited so register now at http://www.kalikalos.com/community/x/exchange-finance-new-economy-thomas-greco/.

__________________________________________
Solar Dollars

 If you’ve so far missed hearing about it, you might want to have a look at my Solar Dollar white paper. It describes a way to create more liquidity in a local economy while at the same time providing incentives for a local utility company to generate and sell more energy from renewable sources. Solar Dollars are a win for the environment, a win for the utility company, and a win for the local economy. The implementation of a Solar Dollar currency will involve a partnership with an electric utility company somewhere and the support of local merchants, but by issuing Solar Dollars in the way that we prescribe, their value and general acceptability as a payment medium will be unquestioned. The full description can be found at https://beyondmoney.net/2016/08/26/solar-dollars-a-private-currency-with-multiple-benefits/.

One of my long-time colleagues in Germany was so impressed with the Solar Dollar proposal that he graciously took the trouble to translate the white paper into German. We’ve retitled the German version, Sonnen-taler (meaning “sun thaler,” the thaler being a silver coin that circulated in Europe for over 400 years and from which the word “dollar” is derived). That translated document, in Word format, can be found at https://beyondmoney.net/recent-articles/sonnen-taler/; the PDF version is at http://wp.me/a43RA-Kf.

___________________________________________________________
Global monetary system is headed over the cliff—An Open letter to Jim Rickards

Here is a letter I recently wrote to well-known author and investment advisor, Jim Rickards.

Hello Jim,

I’ve recently read your books, Currency Wars and The New Case for Gold. Your analysis of the global situation and financial instability are largely consistent with my own views, and your perspectives based on your high level contacts in government, banking and finance have been helpful.

I strongly agree with your conclusion that “the global monetary system is headed over the cliff” and that there seems to be, in “policy circles,” little cognizance of it or willingness to embrace solutions. Quite clearly, the control of money has enabled the centralization of power and concentration of wealth that is now reaching extreme proportions. That is why I have devoted most of my energies over the past 35 years to developing private, market-based, innovative systems for mediating reciprocal exchange and providing equitable and sustainable approaches to finance. I believe that reform of the global money system is not possible so we must create exchange mechanisms that do not involve banks nor require payment in dollars, euros, yen or any other political currency. There are established precedents that can be optimized and scaled up to eventually replace the present system that we agree is not sustainable.

In the face of imminent collapse of the global financial system it is not enough to try to preserve whatever wealth a few of us may already have, we must find ways to ameliorate the negative impacts of collapse and develop replacement systems before the crisis reaches the panic stage. The coming breakdown of global finance can also be the opportunity to install decentralized systems that are stable, sustainable, and work for the benefit of everyone. The most promising strategy in my opinion is to bring to market sound private and community currencies and to establish networks of direct credit-clearing circles that enable traders to create their own liquidity for themselves and their communities based on the real value of the goods and services they produce and sell.

Many such circles already exist in the form known as “Trade Exchanges” or “Barter Exchanges.” These enable businesses to trade with one another without using conventional money but instead by allocating sufficient credit to members within each circle to offset their purchases against their sales. So long as a business remains a member of the circle there is no need to settle their accounts provided that their balance remains within proper bounds and there is a reasonable flow through their accounts. One such trade exchange, The WIR Economic Circle Cooperative, founded in Switzerland in the midst of the Great Depression in 1934 as a self-help organization, has been operating successfully for more than 80 years (It is now called the WIR Bank and has added conventional banking services to its activities).

While your investment advice may be beneficial to the relative few who have a nest-egg to protect, survival in the face of chaotic breakdown of social, political, and financial structures (including markets), will require more comprehensive strategies based on cooperative, decentralized, peer-to-peer approaches to reciprocal exchange and finance. Are you willing to apply your significant abilities and resources to developing and implementing them? The very survival of civilization is at stake.

__________________________________________
Geopolitics

Snowden, the movie.

Snowden, the movie, is more than just another expose about government malfeasance. It is an alarm, sounding loud and clear that our government has gone far astray from its founding principles and Constitutional restraints. The story goes way beyond mass surveillance.

Read Brian Wright’s review here, watch Snowden’s 10 minute presentation at https://youtu.be/Fp1q2kv8zQw, then go see the movie, it’s entertaining as well as informative.

World War is Underway

Why is U.S. power being deployed to bring about regime change in so many countries, and to what end? Why is Russia being ring-fenced by the U.S. and NATO? Why is Putin being vilified in the media? Investigative journalist Robert Parry cuts through the propaganda machine to report significant unreported facts that reveal a much different picture. Do We Really Want Nuclear War with Russia? http://ccisf.org/really-want-nuclear-war-russia/

What’s at the root of the Syrian Crisis?

Leaked e-mails from the private US intelligence firm, Stratfor, revealed notes from a meeting with Pentagon officials which confirmed that as of 2011, US and UK special forces’ training of Syrian opposition forces was well underway. The goal then was to bring about the “collapse” of Assad’s regime “from within.” Read it here.

Confessions of an Economic Hit Man

Having read his earlier work, I was eager to get my hands on John Perkins’ new version titled, The New Confessions of an Economic Hit Man. In this book, Perkins adds his voice to many others in demolishing the myth of the United States being the global champion promoting freedom and democracy throughout the world. Instead, he reports how the “Corporatocracy” has spread around the world using subtle methods of seduction and cooptation to persuade national leaders to lead their people into the debt trap from which they have no hope of escape; and when those methods fail to work, threats, intimidation, subversion and destabilization follow; and if those methods also fail, more overt military interventions are employed. Perkins recalls numerous well-know U.S.-led coups over the years, including the 1953 overthrow of Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh, in which the CIA has acknowledged its complicity; the 1954 overthrow of democratically elected President Jocobo Arbenz in Guatemala; the 1973 coup that deposed Chilean President Salvador Allende, as well as others. Reading this book will dispel any illusions you might still have about the purpose of more recent U. S. interventions in other sovereign countries. Besides providing a vast amount of information about the geo-political facts-of-life, Perkins’ story is deeply personal and as engaging as any well written spy novel.

______________________________________________________

Spring is the time when many forms of life emerge anew from their dormant state. The results of last November’s elections in the U.S. seem to have generated enough “heat” to stir Americans from their complacency about the state of our democracy. Let us hope that their actions will lead to better mutual understanding and cooperative actions that promote fundamental human values.

Thomas


Categories: Blogs

Protocol Cooperativism?

Matslats - March 29, 2017 - 02:08

Since 'political economy' became a subject in the 18th century, the predominant political dichotomy has been framed as labour versus capital. Marx talked about 'control of the means of production' as the essential political power that the workers needed to wrest from the capitalists. A great deal of activism and political theory continues in that vein: Gar Alpowitz work What then must we do? is all about rebuilding worker-owned coops and similar institutions. We have 150 years of history testifying to their effectiveness.

But lets face it, as a strategy, the movement has waxed and waned, but never (yet) overcome its antithesis; capitalists have the power to issue almost unlimited credit, and social movements, however popular, seem always to be on the back foot. I am dubious whether worker-owned institutions will ever dominate the economy. On the one hand we see economic justice trying to break out in many forms and places, and on the other dark and powerful forces are suppressing them: laws are being changed to make coops less competitive, and occasionally a countries swims against the neoliberal flow suffer a CIA-led regime change. The Power that controls property also controls the law, the media, the security forces, the military and the banks.

The industrial age needed machinery and factories and hence empowered those with capital and property to invest. That thinking has carried through to the digital era in which a Silicon Valley start-up needs huge amounts of money to engage a raft of skilled people to create (and create a market for) a plethora of unneeded tools, one of which might survive and be sold for a massive profit. Yet there is nothing about the internet that necessitates that capital-centric way of creating wealth. Platform cooperativism is the notion that the digital 'means of production', the platform, should be owned by, governed by and should enrich the participating value creators. As an approach and as a tactic, it is a straight extension of rudimentary 19th Century cooperativism into the digital age and cyberspace. In which case we should anticipate it working as it always has on the sidelines but never to impact the wider economy.

I believe another strategy shows promise. Let us not focus on property and ownership and control, but on relationships and protocols and collaboration. There are plenty of precedents to work with, but I haven't seen this thinking applied in the platform cooperativism space.

By protocol I mean a language, convention, or standard. Use of such things cannot be restricted, prevented or monetised any more than use of a word, gesture, or social code. The Internet is essentially a set of protocols such as TCP/UDP, http, HTML, which led to a highly egalitarian participative infrastructure. That need not have been so: in a parallel universe, Microsoft R&D invented the web and now every page is a visual-basic-enhanced word document; MS Office is the only tool for authoring web-pages, and it costs $5000 for a licence and still looks wrong on Firefox!

Fortunately that particular dystopia was avoided because we had those open protocols. I think that is why the early Web inspired a great deal of optimism about the levelling of the socio-economic playing field - recall John Perry Barlow: We are creating a world that all may enter without privilege or prejudice accorded by race, economic power, military force, or station of birth. We are creating a world where anyone, anywhere may express his or her beliefs, no matter how singular, without fear of being coerced into silence or conformity. Your legal concepts of property, expression, identity, movement, and context do not apply to us... We believe that from ethics, enlightened self-interest, and the commonweal, our governance will emerge. A cyberspace Independence Declaration

The basic internet remains free as designed: we still pay nothing for example for sending an email or retrieving a web page but something has gone wrong. The Internet continued to grow, as with all technologies, as new layers were built; the internal logic of each layer is entirely independent of the others just as the stable atomic model of protons, neutrons and electrons owes nothing to the fuzzy quantum reality on which it is based. Gradually the capitalist interests worked out how to replicate their own logic and structures in cyberspace. On top of the open protocols they built pay walls, monetised services and enclosed spaces. The rules are different at every level. In 2017 it seems normal that platforms large and small, own data and control economic territory for the benefit of private investors. The biggest platforms have the most users and the most money and the most political power and that is why I find it hard to imagine any platform like minds.com competing head-to-head with Facebook, and winning. I want to expand upon this argument: A platform cooperative or a platform company model is not one that takes full advantage of the potential to have a truly distributed network. They still have a central platform operator at their core, providing coordination, quality assurance and, most essentially, trust. However, it is possible to go beyond platforms to protocols - to commonly agreed ways of operating. Thus anyone who agrees to the rules can become a part of the network.Mikko Dufva

Ride-sharing is the poster child of the sharing economy, the pressure point chosen by platform cooperatives, and the current fiefdom of Uber. It could be considered a natural monopoly, which is to say it involves infrastructure which need not be duplicated - users don't want to have multiple identities, apps, user interfaces, price structures etc. So Uber's near monopoly, won as a direct result of having unimaginable access to money, is an invaluable commercial advantage in itself because without serious competition it can squeeze the market for all it is worth. But be careful what you wish for; should Uber fall from grace, the market would probably splinter into many incompatible pieces, which benefits neither the people with cars nor those who need rides.

A platform cooperative ride-sharing service sounds like an attempt to form a cooperative and compete with Uber by recycling profits and remunerating workers better. Its not a very convincing business plan if only because Uber has resources to undercut its competition until they choke and allegedly acts illegally to sabotage its enemies.

But a protocol for ride-sharing changes the game completely. Anyone could sign up to the network and announce their intention to travel or willingness to chauffeur. A simple algorithm would connect them and at journey's end they might remunerate each other in cash, Bitcoin, home-brewed cider or anything; the line between giving a friend a favour and earning a crust would be very grey. There would be no middle men collecting rent or dictating how drivers should behave as representatives of the company. The protocol might be extended to support long distance travel, hitch-hiking, pick-up points, packages or even cargo. The open protocol creates a free market - not in the neoliberal sense of Wall Street being able to flush out the economy of any country it likes with imaginary dollars, but in the sense that suppliers and customers can meet with the minimal of mediation and restrictions. This might not be optimal for collecting taxes, but is optimal for granting everyone access to the economy, and probably much more efficient in terms of using our existing transport infrastructure.

So where is the 'cooperative' in 'protocol cooperatives'? In my view such protocols are are fundamentally cooperative, but there is room for any kind of institutional structures on the next layer. Institutions (like co-ops) are not needed to crunch algorithms and own infrastructure that should be public, but to manage trust and social relations. Transport service providers could aggregate to offer services that individuals could not. For example a group might form to co-own a coach, helicopter, or fleet of electric cars. A co-op might provide a 24/7 private ambulance service, or a house removal service complete with furniture-carriers.

Likely such a protocol widely deployed would render our transport ecosystem unrecognisable. It might obviate most full time driver jobs in favour of hitch-hiking 2.0 approach. The free market would level out the full time driving jobs and the unemployment of drivers and costs and revenues, leading presumably to a more equal society (at least until driver-less cars took over!)

The blockchains are already making this happen because blockchains are basically protocols which allow open participation. This article about Arcade City makes it clear: In the end, Arcade City will be a protocol composed of Ethereum smart contracts supporting a global logistics network with an entire ecosystem of apps and businesses running on top of our infrastructure. What SMTP is to email, Arcade City will become for distributed logistics. For all the bluster about Arcade City being an upcoming platform coop, to me it seems there is no platform in the sense of a thing which can be owned & sold. What then does the brochure site mean when it claims to be owned and operated by its members? It seems to me that the language is wrong.

The benefits and challenges of co-owning and operating a legal entity such a cooperative within a legal jurisdiction, are quite different to the benefits and challenges of using, governing and stewarding a universal protocol. Regrettably Arcade City has now forked after a disagreement in the board, which poses serious questions about the claim that its members were in control. Technology alone will not create the society we want; at a more fundamental level, we have to learn to work together.

Professor Jem Bendell and I have explored these ideas further in our new paper Thwarting an Uber Future for Complementary Currencies: Open Protocols for a Credit Commons especially as they relate to payment systems, which we argue is the ultimate Death Star platform.

Categories: Blogs

The End of Finance (audiobook, unabridged)

Matslats - March 27, 2017 - 05:55

It is my pleasure to offer you this seminal book in audio format, and my tribute to the authors. It cuts to the root of the linguistic, semantic and structural paradoxes not only of modern fiat money, but its several 'paradigm-of-liquidity' precedents; and reminds us of Keynes' genius in showing us a way towards a stable financial system.

Introduction

Download (6MB)

Section 1: Phenomenology

01 Do we know what the financial markets are
02 Liquidity and Risk
03 What is credit
04 What is money
05 Finance starting from the end
06 Capitalism and debt: a matter of life and death
Download (34MB)

Section 2: History

01 From credit risk to liquidity risk (2008)
02 The globalisation of capital (1973)
03 Fiat Dollar (1971)
04 The Eurodollar Chimera (1958)
05 The European Payments Union (1950)
06 Bretton Woods: The Plan (1944)
07 Bretton Woods: The system that found implementation (1944)
08 The standard crisis (1929)
09 Orchestra rehearsal - the international gold standards and the dissolution of gold (1871)
10 Money before and after the gold standard (1717)
11 The invention of central banking (1694)
12 The international currency of the trade fairs (1533)
Download (92MB)

Section 3: Politics

01 Double or quits
02 The way out of liquidity: Gordian knot and Utopia
03 Prevention or cure? The structural paradox
04 Another Finance
05 The (rare) 'green shoots' of a possible reform
06 If not now, when?
Download (45MB)

Categories: Blogs

Recovery? What recovery?

Beyond Money - March 20, 2017 - 12:59

Despite the happy talk coming out of Washington and New York about the supposed economic recovery, the present economic and political order remains on course toward self-destruction. I’ve said it over and over again that the fundamental flaw is the compound interest that is built into the global debt-money regime. The fact that virtually all money is created by banks that “lend” it into circulation at interest causes debts to grow faster and faster with the passage of time. A quick glance at the timeline for public and private debt makes this obvious.

Prof. Richard Wolff, in the video below, does not mention this debt-growth imperative, but he does a good job of explaining how the governments and the central banks managed to temporarily forestall total collapse following the 2008 financial crisis, and why their actions are failing to solve the basic problem of slack demand.

We need to look beyond economic ideologies to find ways of defusing the debt bomb which grows bigger and more deadly with every passing day. A shift toward innovative, interest-free, approaches to the exchange of value and the financing of enterprise development provides the most promising route toward a soft landing. See The End of Money and the Future of Civilization.


Categories: Blogs

December 31, 1969 - 17:00
Categories: Blogs, Economics