Open Gathering: Saturday 3rd January 2015: THE MONEY ALTERNATIVES PROJECT

We began 2015 with a gathering at Highgate Library, Croftdown Road, London N19 5DJ, on the theme of Alternatives to Money - for anyone who can imagine a world without money, or who would like to see radical change.
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APOLOGIES were received from
• Fran of Cultureshop, who had hoped to film the event, but who was unwell,
• John Cossham of York LETS,
• John Waters, Eclectic Synergy Harvester, Wales,
• Jon Theo, Software Consultant (see note below)
• Leonard Orr of Rebirth International, USA,
• Mardi Williams, musician and associate of North London LETS,
• Michael Penn of Avalon LETS in Glastonbury,
• Paul Brown, member of Parecon,
• Rakesh Mathur, of Londonwide LETS,
• Tim Flitcroft, a key member of Occupy Economics Working Group, who is organising a conference on the Commons in the spring,
• Team vom Talenteverbund, • Ursula Ashworth of Wellington Heath LETS in Herefordshire.
• Adrian Barker, programmer and web-designer,
• Audrey Barker, who gave practical support at the event,
• Andrew Lockwood of the Brixton Remakery,
• Ben Lewis, an investment banker, who blogs about monetary policy, and works with Bitcoin Wallet and Exchange - his idea is to have different types of currency with online wallet, first became interested in these topics via UCLs anthropology department. Also interested in Positive Money and Basic Income Movement, see note below.
• David Ridge, a member of Londonwide LETS,
• Deborah Knowles, co-ordinator of LETS in Brighton,
• Elsa Godfrey, green activist living in Hackney,
• Genevieve Hibbs, former Mayor of Hounslow, multidisciplinary activist, gardener and member of various LETS groups including Ealing, has also worked with Credit Unions, Streetbank and Streetlife
• John Doherty, member of the Open Discussion Group at Birkbeck College, who works on computer repair, and is an allotment holder,
• Jonathan Levin, an economist my training, has a crypto currency background, is very interested in alternative economics and in enhanced ability to measure all different aspects of technology,
• Ros Bedlow teaches permaculture, ran Waltham Forest LETS for two years in the 90s, wants to start practising the gift economy, has been baffled by economic system for decades - they have made it as difficult as possible to understand., is reading Charles Eisenstein’s “Sacred Economics“
• Tony Pritchett, activist film-maker
• Vincenza Palumbo, member of Camden LETS.

PRESENTATIONS were offered in answer to questions posed in a Call for Papers, on • The key problems of our current economic system? • The alternatives, e.g. developing Altruistic forms of exchange, or various forms of Community Currency? • Whether we be putting our efforts into developing on mainstream monetary reform - if so, what should our priorities be? • How we can best collaborate with others who are working for change, in their own projects as well as in ours?

Clive Menzies of Free Critical Thinking : whose topic was: "Interest, Inequality and Environmental Destruction". He posed the question "How do people rule?" There are several key problems with the monetary system, including the private ownership of land, and the lack of a basic citizens income, but his contention was that the mechanism of how we create money is the most significant problem, and referred to Margaret Kennedy wrote a book on interest and interest-free money: She pointed out that 1. Everyone pays interest, 2. Interest doesn’t treat everyone equally, and 3. Interest drives exponential debt grown, causes inflation, and 4. There’s a correlation between interest and exponential growth. The debt interest grows faster than our ability to service it. 3% gdp means that the economy has to double every 24 years....... Major Obstacles to change are the people who benefit from interest, e.g. banking interests, industrialists, Benefit from exclusive land and resource rights, and the means to live is conditional on employment. The new model is the Current Global Political Economy, and the Ruling Clique, hold the levers of power, they create division, ecocide, war, depression, they are leaching off the 7 billion people who create value on the planet, extract interest from them. In the Critcal Thinking project, they see that this is the way the world works, and can interpret everything through this model: Link to full text of presentation with PDF of slides. Contact Clive at:

Robin Upton radio broadcaster visiting from Bangladesh spoke about: "The Stockholm Syndrome of Money - and Altruistic Economics - living our lives without Money". He explained that money shapes our language. It works by limiting our attention to looking for the best item for the best price and focusing on profitability....... If we only swapp the current system to one in which the people have the dollars, this does not do it...... Money works by some people doing better which means that others do worse. Creating an economic system that is similar to the one we have is easy, the challenge is how to make one that's different. In Altruistic Economics, the major factor is whether people have sympathy for each other..... Calculation would be based on: win-win, win-lose, lose-win. lose-lose. These reflect value creation but do not measure interpersonal transfer. A single number can never reflect the value to both parties - each has a different feeling, and if they recorded it digitally we would have a two-dimensional system..... We are all in a network of people who care, this is a more even basis in which to start a new discussion... How possible is self-sufficiency, e.g. Keep Calm and Grow Food, not Lawns. The utility of new systems directly relates to their ability to facilitate healthier patterns of interaction - the mainstream system does not care about you. Robin envisages technology enabling people to manage their local networks for altruistic exchanges, work in progress. This presentation sparked a lively discussion - link to full report with slides. Contact

Mary Fee of (LETSlink London/UK) gave a brief presentation on "Alternative Forms of Exchange", which have been set up in response to the systemic problems of Poverty, Ageing Population, and the Credit Crunch, which as Clive had explained is the event result of money being created as a debt to banks. One solution is to mitigate the effects of the system with charitable provisions, such as food banks, another is to campaign for a change to the system (but will this ever happen in our lifetimes?), another is to create alternative forms of exchange, i.e. Complementary Currencies, which work in parallel to mainstream currency, and are not interchangeable in it. NB recent innovations such as the Brixton pound, are not complementary, because you have to buy them for sterling, they are a voucher which may, however, encourage local trading. Complementary currencies are wide-ranging and take many forms, and over time may result in many of the members simply trading favours, i.e. they naturally move into the informal, "altruistic" mode of trading, which is not zero sum, because when I care about you, "your gain is my gain".
The presentation went on to explain the difference between fiat currency, which is when an authority simply issues the currency, and the way in which community currencies, using mutual credit (with members creating currency to pay each other from their own accounts, and the whole system balancing to zero) can be established as a ring-fenced currency within the mainstream economy. LETS (Local Exchange Trading Schemes) range from the Michael Linton's original top-down business approach to the grass-roots, more democratic model espoused by LETSlink. Timebanks, based on Edgar Cahn's Timedollars, which avoid mention of "currency" by using "hours", are managed by professional staff, and targeted to vulnerable individuals, and can co-exist with LETS in the same communities. LETSlink has been poorly resourced to support organisers, but with web-based software, groups can become much more creative. The ICC (integrated community currency) model, combines the best of existing systems, using some fiat methods, such as project funds, and printed notes, can cater for members who do not have access to the web as well as those who can communicate and trade online, and can establish bridges into the mainstream local economy. As long as they have an agreed rate per hour, currency can be moved from one group to another via an hour-based regional and national hubs (work in progress). Link to slides.

Jazz Rasoul of Energy Diamond whose theme was Collaboration, explained that if individuals could establish their "centre of gravity" for that day, we would conserve the most energy, and increase our ability to collaborate with others. His original inspiration was the riots in Tottenham, when he found a way to collaborate with his neighbours to protect themselves. Over the last 20 years, new technology has resulted in a paradigm shift, with the internet delivering results based on relevance. Even more important is resonance, the realisation that everyone is a source for something. The key words of the new sharing economy are Information, Knowledge, Intelligence & Wisdom, and the new technology is called not software, but "mindware" and is building a new engine to connect people up. See notes of full presentation here:

Message from John Theo: I won't be able to attend as we live on a farm in Devon now and it's rather short notice, but this sounds really interesting and I'd love to attend any future events of this nature.

My personal feeling is that emerging technologies and the internet is now providing the alternative currency movement with a set of tools which has the potential to revolutionise the way currency is created, issued and destroyed. I also think that attempts to create de-centralised digital currencies such as Bitcoin have shown themselves to be highly flawed and that we need to realise that currencies ultimately are backed by confidence. The financial markets are backed pretty much solely by confidence in their stability, despite the fact that they have proven themselves to be, periodically, highly unstable. Therefore we need to look at systems which will be backed both by their widespread take-up and use, and by their extremely prudent oversight by a central authority which is fully accountable to the users of that currency. The responsibility for the oversight of any form money of cannot be left solely to either the users of the currency, or to a central authority. Everyone needs to "keep an eye".

On the issue of monetary reform versus complementary currencies, the answer is of course, both. It is my feeling that the only way to reform the current monetary system is to invent a new system using available technology that simply obsoletes the current one. In the long term, it will be far easier to reform the current system and/or replace it with a new model, if that new model is already proving itself superior. In the meantime, great pressure needs to be applied so that the wider population begins to gain an understanding of the huge inadequacies of the current system. Once open debate in the mainstream media is more common, it's easier to implement change. Of course change is most definitely not on the agenda of the current incumbents, nor is it likely to be until there is widespread public debate on the issue, and a range of alternative systems in successful use.

I hope you will make use of the enabling technologies of the internet etc. and make the information and discourse of the day available on an on-line platform of some kind - even if it's just some videos on YouTube - so that we can all take part whether physically present or not, although as a ex-software developer I appreciate the immense cost in both time and money for that sort of on-line presence. Thanks and regards, Jon:

Extract from Ben Lewis's follow-up message: I struggle to see the benefit of using a complementary currency in a LETS scheme. The usefulness of money is that it enables us to arrange production and consumption anonymously, but the scale of LETS is such that anonymity is impossible..... Perhaps the greatest problem of monetary systems is that unpleasant social outcomes can be legitimised by being expressed in monetary terms. I wrote a short piece on this recently: To which Mary replied:.... This just illustrates how nasty the global economic system is, and this is what we are up against.
See full details of presentations on: