Free Money Day: Sharing Is Common Cents

Free Money Day Logo
Sharing Is Common Cents

It’s one of the most basic relationships most of us interact with on a daily basis: money. Just like anything else, if you love something set it free (or even if you don’t love it, just value it or put up with it). It’s time we started to challenge our perceptions around money. That time is nearly here – September 15th.

In just a few days you could be giving away your money to start a discussion about sharing economies, community, cash and alternatives to our unstable, unsustainable growth economy. It’s Free Money Day on September 15th, directly from the source:

What Is It?

On September 15th, at various public locations worldwide, people will hand out their own money to complete strangers (two coins/notes at a time) asking the recipients to pass one of these coins or notes on to someone else.

The Aim?

Raise awareness and start conversations about the benefits of economies based on sharing, as well as offer a liberating experience that gets us thinking more critically and creatively about our relationship with money and how we could have new types of economic activity.

The purpose of Free Money Day is to re-engage with money, re-exploring the way we relate with it and use it, and the possibilities that exist outside of it, in order to reinvigorate some of these democratizing ideals and bring them into practice.

You can register to host your own Free Money Day event here, and sign up to receive updates here. All the information you’ll need to organize a fun and successful event is posted on the Free Money Day website. And don’t forget to join the discussions leading up to and following September 15th.  We hope you’ll agree that this provides a great opportunity for us all to have some courageous conversations with the bonus of some fun added in!

Also, check our the Free Money Day video on YouTube:

This is a project that we’ve been working very diligantly on over at the Post Growth Institute (an international collective identifying, inspiring and implementing new approaches to global well-being without economic growth, co-founded by yours truly). I’m incredibly excited about this project and I hope you will join in!

One Good Cut

When you first learn about how our money is controlled, created and loaned you might very well not believe it. In fact, it is both so simple and so outrageous that often people think it is a lie. The reality is that our privately owned, corporate banking institutions have the power to create money out of thin air, then charge you for it. There is no real effective oversight either. Another lesser known fact is that the Federal Reserve, which set interest rates for banks and oversees banking in general, is not a entirely government agency. It is mostly controlled by the very private, corporate banks that it oversees.

All of this information just shows how distorted our banking systems and how reprehensible the actions of these banks are that led to a massive taxpayer bailout. They still show record profits and give out million dollar bonuses. These are just people who manage our money, not doctors or nurses or teachers – people who give real benefit to our society. Instead, because of the economic collapse caused by our bankers we have to lay off doctors, nursers, police officers and teachers while banks pull in still greater profits. Do they really provide such a useful service to our society that they should make millions while our basic social services are cut?

The creation of our money should be entirely in the hands of our publicly represented government, where we can see and control it! Banks provide a very basic service to our society, but when it comes down to it they shouldn’t run the world or have the power to ruin it.

One Good Cut is a great little film put together by Positive Money that outlines this issue and how we can repair it. Check it out:

Check out more on the One Good Cut website and take action!

Misgivings On Giving

Wednesday night I attended a nice little event for Yes! Magazine supporters and enjoyed many great conversations. One conversation in particular, with Jule Meyer Principal of Parkman Foundation Services, revolved around philanthropy and the great Giving Pledge campaign started by Bill and Melinda Gates. Now, I should preface what I’m going to talk about with this statement: I think the world’s wealthiest donating most of their wealth to noble causes is a wonderful idea. I just have a few misgivings around the intention and the implicit idea that the giving is a sacrifice for others.

The Gates’ number one ally in getting the campaign rolling, Warren Buffett attempted to start the giving by pledging that “more than 99% of [his] wealth will go to philanthropy during [his] lifetime or at death.” At face value this appears to be quite the statement: more than 99% of his wealth given away! However, it seems to me that Buffett’s pledge might be more for show and is slightly disingenuously when labeled as philanthropy. Here’s why…

The Richest of the Rich

Perhaps it is difficult for the majority of us to actually realize how much money the top 1% of the world have in their bank accounts. A simply way to think of it: the richest 1% of Americans possess more than all the combined wealth of the bottom 90%. In Warren Buffett’s case, he’s currently valued at around $47 Billion – with a B. That’s more zeros than can fit in most calculators – $47,000,000,000. He recently fell from the #1 richest person in the world to the #3 spot, poor guy.

I wonder if there is even a concept of “enough” with this class of richest of the rich. These top 1% wield an amazing amount of influence and power with their vast sums of monetary wealth. Do they really deserve this power? Is it right for them to have so much while most of the world has hardly enough?

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Ethical Banking Systems

Banks should protect our money, not fleece us for their profit

Our money is loaned into existence and then must be paid back, plus interest. This interest can only come by earning (taking) money from other loans in the system, thereby installing inherit competition and scarcity in our society. Could you imagine a society in which we didn’t have to compete for a scarce amount of funds? How could this alter our communities or the way we treat each other?

An ethical banking system is one that upholds the value of the people who use it. Instead of a institution that values only profit, an ethical bank would value the people that support it. This really shouldn’t be too crazy of an idea, but our banks today do everything in their power to leverage greater profits. The recent economic crash being a prime example. We should support and create banks that support our societal and economic well being, not their CEO bonus checks.

The Reason We Need It

It seems like second nature to me that systems we create as a society should function with the ethics we value, but there is obvious room for improvement. When a lot of our organizations and industries started the room for growth seemed limitless, so it was much easier to gain advantage in the market and grow without sacrificing ethics. Like many things in this era, we’ve run out of that room and the only way to make a higher market share this year and next year is to start finding ethically gray (or black areas) for expansion (e.g. derivatives).

Paper exchanging for paper is now 20 times greater than exchanges of paper for real commodities. This distortion of value from real wealth to phantom wealth encourages a financially dependent system, driving up debt and down real value. Eventually those claims on wealth will be exchanged for actual wealth – even if there are no longer enough. An ethical banking system supports a more realistic approach to real wealth and the money that represents it – as well as environmental concerns with investment and social justice.

An Ethical Banking System is one that encourages stable and equal amounts of material wealth. If you haven’t clued into it yet, our current banking organizations do not function in an ethical way. Our banking system encourages debt, competition, scarcity, and unequal distributions of wealth. What if we created a bank in line with our values? One that supported the people, community, and real wealth?

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Thoughts on Money, Wealth and Value

I might be amongst a rare few who believe that the real worth of a person is based outside of material possessions and economic status. Perhaps our society is right to place value in material wealth and pull away from centuries of teachings valuing integrity, ethics, and community (see valuing what matters). There is strong argument that this skewed approach to valuing material wealth is, in part, why our generation is suffering from a rising “social recession.” What we value, how we value, and where we place the concept of wealth are drastically important parts of our lives and our society.

The chemist turned rogue economist Frederick Soddy was one of the first to lay out the difference of real wealth and, what he termed, “virtual wealth.” Today, “real wealth” is a term being used by the planners of the coming “new economy” to represent physical wealth in the real world. “Phantom wealth” (or Soddy’s “virtual wealth”) is the monetary representation, or store, of real wealth. It is being described as phantom because we have inflated our system to allow money to make more money – money out of thin air is virtual, phantom wealth. But isn’t that money is a store for real, physical value?!

So if we create new money, either by printing it, loaning it into existence, speculative trading, or some other devilish creation of the private banking system, do we also create correlating real wealth? No. This means as we allow money to earn more money, without ever being traded for a real, valuable good or service, we are devaluing those real goods. Banks are essentially stealing real wealth by creating more phantom wealth for themselves. (All the more reason for a Robin Hood Tax)

I just picked up one of Soddy’s books that outlines these concepts: Wealth, Virtual Wealth, and Debt. Soddy set a lot of the ground work for today’s ecological economists and his work was greatly expanded upon by Herman Daly, Richard Douthwaite and Nicolas Georgescu-Roegen. I am excited to read some of Soddy’s work and in researching his (spot-on) views of money, debt, and the banking system I found more great quotes on the subject I wanted to share.

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The Robin Hood Tax

Taking inspiration from economist James Tobin, the new UK campaign for a “Robin Hood Tax” is a great example of the type of social movement for economic reform we need across the world. A global Robin Hood tax is a crucial part of transition from a growth-based economy to one that is people-based. This type of financial policy can be instuted to actually help eliminate poverty and hunger, fight climate change, and put social equality into a system that rewards greed instead of good.

By taxing a minuscule amount of each financial transaction (we’re talking half a percent – 0.5%) you could raise up to $500 billion or more a year, reduce speculative investing (the kind that promoted the recent Great Recession), and put the banks in check (those guys we just bought out with taxpayer money that made $5 million bonuses).

Check out the video here:

The Money Fix

Debt-money creates competition and scarcity
Debt-money creates competition and scarcity

Money. We use it everyday yet our concept of it is limited. When we talk about money, we talk in terms of what it does, not what it is. Despite our ignorance of money it rules most of our lives. I recently finished a great documentary about money that I would like to share with you. “The Money Fix” goes into the detail of money and describes how our system creates money out of thin air, embeds each of us with a “scarcity complex” and incites competition instead of cooperation.

I described in a previous post how money is created by banks out of thin air. We exist in a debt-money system, using bank account ledgers more often than paper money. The way I had previously explained the concept of money creation the banks create money out of thin air through interest on debt. “The Money Fix” describes this differently. The money of the loan is created – all of it, be it $500 or $5 million – while the interest is “earned” money. When the loan is paid back the created money is canceled by the payment on the principle. But where does the interest come from? More debt.

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Citizen or Consumer? A Year in Reflection

One year ago I started writing out of passion (and some anger). My how things have evolved! This blog has seen 75 posts in the last year, some of them great, some of them alright, some perhaps less so. I have tried my best to write about the issues important to me: a sustainable society, a healthier planet, a ethcial economy, and a more just world.

I have also learned so much about life, happiness, sustainability, and where I want to be in the world. More importantly, I have learned there is quite a large group of people out there feeling the same way, and we are all beginning to see the division between economic growth and true prosperity. What do you think? I would really value your input on ways I could make this blog better, both in function and in form. Please comment on this post or email me!

Since today marks Steady State Revolution‘s one year blogiversary I decided to take a look at the very first post and revise it with some fresh ideas (and hopefully improved writing skill). Here’s the 75th post on the 1-year blogiversary!

Citizen or Consumer?

The US Consumer Unit
The US Consumer Unit

Yesterday was the start of the “Christmas Shopping Season.” Aside from the typical trampling of an elderly person at a Wal-mart, this day signifies the beginning of the American Consumer’s busiest time of the year. Between today and New Years we Americans will increase our waste by 25%.

Each year we start sooner and sooner with our Christmas consumption, this year marketers started preparing for the season around Halloween. The average consumer spends about $1,100 a year on gifts, over $800 worth of which is holiday-related purchases. This means 73% of all our gift-related buying is done in the holiday season. That’s a lot of consumption.

Consumerism accounts for a large cog in the economy. Consumption drives the sales of goods, which is incentive to produce more goods. Producing goods is the basis our growth model. In order to grow the throughput (GDP) of our economy, we must increase the production and consumption cycle. What better way to do so than to make it your intuitive nature to spend? What if we could find a way to move people from identifying as themselves, or their jobs, but instead as what they buy? From this the American Consumer is born.

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