14 Slices
Medium 9781609942960

13 Rethinking Money: From Scarcity to Sustainable Abundance

Bernard Lietaer Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

The debate on the future of money is not
about inflation or deflation,
fixed or flexible exchange rates,
gold or paper standards,
but about the kind of society in which
money is to operate.1

GEORG SIMMEL, German philosopher and sociologist

Scarcity, particularly our warped view of monetary scarcity, which we inherited, can best be summed up in the following allegorical tale.

A fisherman encounters a philosopher and happily informs her about his discovery: that all life in the sea is at least two inches long. Furthermore, the fishmonger has repeatedly made several market tests that prove his position unequivocally. Consequently, nobody wants fish smaller than two inches because they have never seen one. The philosopher smiles kindly and advises him gently, “There is a simple explanation for your findings: Your net has a two-inch mesh. If you were to use a net with finer-gauged netting, or employ another method, you would find that the ocean is a lot richer than you think. In fact, it’s teeming with life. There are thousands of smaller species of fish in the sea, and oysters, clams, and snails that your nets will never catch. What’s more, your research is skewed, since anyone you’ve ever surveyed could only buy seafood that’s greater than two inches long, or wide, for that matter. Your fishing nets, dear man, predetermine your perception of reality.”2

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1 The Failure of Money: The Competitive Society

Bernard Lietaer 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?

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.

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6 Strategies for Banking

Bernard Lietaer Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

Of all the many ways of organizing banking,
the worst is the one we have today. Change is,
I believe, inevitable. The question is only
whether we can think our way through to a
better outcome before the next generation is
damaged by a future and bigger crisis.

SIR MERVYN KING, Governor of the Bank of England

Ordinary people all over the world have been rethinking money in an effort to resolve their pressing cash problems. Rethinking money leads us to reconsider the entire banking sector as the source of money and loans. This has generated some interesting and provocative innovations, some by clear intent, others by happenstance.

Dissatisfaction with the banking sector is at an all-time high. The Facebook movement Move Your Money materialized when Bank of America announced plans to increase its bank fees. Within 90 days, 5.6 million U.S. adults changed banks. “Of those switchers, 610,000 U.S. adults (or 11 percent of the 5.6 million) cited Bank Transfer Day as their reason and actually moved their accounts from a large to a small institution.”2

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2 The Myth of Money: What It Really Is

Bernard Lietaer 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.

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11 Governance and We, the Citizens: An Ancient Future?

Bernard Lietaer Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

The economy of the future is based on
relationships rather than possessions.

JOHN PERRY BARLOW, former lyricist for
the Grateful Dead and founding member of
the Electronic Frontier Foundation

Bali is a small island in the Indonesian archipelago that fervently embraces and preserves its Hindu culture, though it is situated in a huge, mostly Islamic nation. What makes Bali compelling is the longevity of its complex cooperative currency system, which is inextricably interwoven with its cultivation of rice, allocation of vital water rights, celebrations of festivals, and hyperdemocratic system of governance.

From this ancient civilization, there are gripping and undeniable guidelines and strategies that may have some useful lessons relevant for our collective future.

The community at large is organized into three main networks:

Banjar: the most important civic organization, which is in charge of the social aspects of the community

Pemaksan: a group responsible for the coordination of religious rituals

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