14 Slices
Medium 9781609942960

4 The Flying Fish: A New Perspective on Money

Lietaer, Bernard Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

To say that a state cannot pursue its aims,
because there is no money, is like saying
that an engineer cannot build roads,
because there are no kilometers.

EZRA POUND, American poet and economic historian

It’s quite common to think of money in terms of its material representations. Although money has taken many forms throughout human history, from shells to zappozats (decorated axes),1 it is not a material object but, rather, is merely represented as such. For instance, if you are stranded alone on a desert island, a thing, say a knife, is still useful as a knife, but a million dollars in whatever form it takes—cash, coins, or debit and credit cards—ceases to be money. It becomes merely paper, metal, or plastic and no longer functions as currency. For any thing to act as money, it requires a community to agree that the particular object is acceptable in an exchange.

That is why our working definition of money is: an agreement, within a community, to use something standardized as a medium of exchange.2

See All Chapters
Medium 9781609942960

1 The Failure of Money: The Competitive Society

Lietaer, Bernard Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

What need you, being come to sense,
But fumble in a greasy till
And add the halfpence to the pence
And prayer to shivering prayer, until
You have dried the marrow from the bone?

WILLIAM BUTLER YEATS,
Irish poet and Nobel laureate

It’s a cold Tuesday morning, and already the line is forming outside the David Ellis Pawn Shop in the upscale neighborhood of Cherry Creek, Denver, bordering the foothills of the Colorado Rockies. It will be another 10 minutes before the doors open. A woman in a fur coat sits in her parked car with its license tags about to expire. She runs the engine to keep warm while others shuffle around in silence, dodging any direct eye contact.

Denver, the Mile High city, is one of the country’s top 10 metropolitan areas where people are saddled with the highest levels of personal debt. This is a result of high housing prices, a steep cost of living, and a culture of spending—a hangover from better days.1 The David Ellis Pawn Shop has been in business in the same location for over 25 years and during this time has seesawed through multiple financial highs and lows. Trade, however, has never been so brisk or with such a dramatically broadened demographic as it is now.

See All Chapters
Medium 9781609942960

10 Truth and Consequences: Lessons Learned

Lietaer, Bernard Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

In dreams begin responsibility. 1

WILLIAM BUTLER YEATS,
20th-century Irish poet and playwright

It was hard to contain the emotions that were surprisingly welling up inside while I was standing on the bridge in the small Tyrolean village of Wörgl. The bridge was so different from how it had been described in various books and articles. It seemed in real life more diminutive, plainer, and definitely shorter, yet its impact was unexpectedly overwhelming. Back in the dreary days of the 1930s Great Depression, this nondescript yet iconic overpass symbolized the dreams of full employment and a decent standard of living for all. Scholars, government officials, and thousands of others traveled to this Austrian community to personally witness and learn from the miracle of Wörgl. Today, the town has little significance, noted mostly for its railway junction connecting the line from Innsbruck to Munich with the inner-Austrian line to Salzburg. A small museum run by volunteers bears homage to Wörgl’s short-lived chapter in monetary history.

See All Chapters
Medium 9781609942960

2 The Myth of Money: What It Really Is

Lietaer, Bernard Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

So you think that money is the root of all evil. Have you ever asked what is the root of all money?

AYN RAND, Russian-born American writer

It is a slow day in the small Saskatchewan town of Pumphandle, and streets are deserted. Times are tough, everybody is in debt, and everybody is living on credit. A tourist visiting the area drives through town, stops at the motel, and lays a $100 bill on the desk saying he wants to inspect the rooms upstairs to pick one for the night. As soon as he walks upstairs, the motel owner grabs the bill and runs next door to pay his debt to the butcher.

The butcher takes the $100 and runs down the street to retire his debt to the pig farmer. The pig farmer takes the $100 and heads off to pay his bill to his supplier, the Co-op. The guy at the Co-op takes the $100 and runs to pay his debt to the local prostitute, who has also been facing hard times and has had to offer her “services” on credit.

The hooker rushes to the hotel and pays off her room bill with the hotel owner. The hotel proprietor then places the $100 back on the counter so the traveler will not suspect anything. At that moment, the traveler comes down the stairs, states that the rooms are not satisfactory, picks up the $100 bill, and leaves.

See All Chapters
Medium 9781609942960

9 Strategies for NGOs

Lietaer, Bernard Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

Money does not have to be legal tender.
It can be what one might call “common tender,”
i.e. commonly accepted in payment of
debt without coercion through legal means.

RICHARD TIMBERLAKE, former Professor Emeritus of
Economics at the University of Georgia1

Within the space of less than 10 years, the small rural village of Blaengarw, South Wales, with high unemployment and a bleak future, totally transformed itself. David Pugh, a local TimeBanking manager who oversees the currency explains, “On the Welsh index of material deprivation, we were 128th on the scale of 1,800 communities with one being the worst in the country. We’ve now progressed to 735th in just a decade. So we’ve climbed more than 600 places. These statistics are based on such things as antisocial behavior, crime, and of course, unemployment—in fact, there is a whole array of indices. We’ve really come a very long way.”2

The residents of Blaengarw worked their way out of the all-too-common story of social blight and decay by making an assessment of their unused resources and their unmet needs and, in this case, linking these with a time-banking currency coordinated by a regional and local NGO.

See All Chapters

See All Slices