14 Slices
Medium 9781609942960

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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3 A Fate Worse Than Debt: Interest’s Hidden Consequences

Bernard Lietaer Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

It may sometimes be expedient for a man
to heat the stove with his furniture.
But he should not delude himself by
believing that he has discovered a
wonderful new method of heating his

LUDWIG VON MISES, Austrian economist

The small village was bustling with locals proudly displaying their wares, chickens, eggs, cheeses, and bread as they entered into the time-honored ritual of negotiations and trade for what they needed. At harvests, or whenever someone’s barn needed repair after a storm, the village-dwellers simply exercised another age-old tradition of helping one another, knowing that if they themselves had a problem one day, others would come to their aid in turn. No coins ever exchanged hands.

One market day, a stranger with shiny black shoes and an elegant white hat came by and observed with a knowing smile. When one farmer who wanted a big ham ran around to corral the six chickens needed in exchange, the stranger could not refrain from laughing. “Poor people,” he said, “so primitive.”

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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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12 Our Available Future: The Cooperative Society

Bernard Lietaer Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

What if you slept, and what if in your
sleep you dreamed, and what if in your
dreams you went to heaven and there
you plucked a strange and beautiful flower,
and what if when you awoke you had
the flower in your hand? Ah, what then?

19th-century English poet and philosopher

Since the dawning of the Industrial Age and the instigation of the modern monetary system, no truly cooperative society has been able to operate, let alone thrive on a large scale.

The five scenarios that follow portray how a future society might look once it has transitioned from today’s highly competitive structure to one based on greater cooperation and mutual support, within the span of one generation. The discrepancies between where we stand now and our possible future are enormous. The driver behind each of these transformations is a cooperative currency innovation. Such transformations are possible not because of the amount of money that is circulating but rather from the type of money that is in use.

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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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