A recent colleague from Germany I met at a gathering in LA introduced me to the German Social Banking establishment. Germany. There is a very evolved anthroposophical movement in Germany and this seems to be one of the outgrowths of that movement. Apparently, this organization is offering services to the numerous local currencies that have been in development throughout Germany including the Chiemgauer.
One of my favorite websites right now is a site called “Kickstarter.com.” In a rather serendipitous occurance, I met one of the founders of Kickstarter just two days after a friend introduced me to it. I was organizing a social venture salon in lower Manhattan. I had heard that the kickstarter crew was in Brooklyn so I shot them an email inviting them to the social venture salon…about 3 hours before the salon was to take place. I didn’t really expect anyone to come. At the Salon I ran into my friend who had introduced me to Kickstarter who was talking to a young guy named Perry. My friend introduced me to him as a co-founder of Kickstarter. Honestly it was kind of disorienting because I sorta forgot that I had even sent them an email.
I think Kickstarter is one of the many websites that will redefine the way we give. Kickstarter makes giving fun and exciting. Its super smooth user interface makes it easy to navigate the portfolio of projects that range from hipster art installation to the home production of an musical album to the financing of small business. Giving to hipster blurs the lines between giving an investing. Basically when you make a pledge you are making a non-tax deductible donation. But the catch is that you get to choose from a number of “gifts” which depending on how much you give range from an autographed CD to having someone personally call up anyone you want and sing them a custom song about anything you want.
Below is a project that I intend on giving to–these folks are building a guest shack at a Yoga retreat center. One of the cool things is that you can embed project “widgets” into your blog or personal website. So spread the word. Lets milk this baby for everything its worth! Kickstarter is part of the emergence of a new economy where gift and exchange have much less of a distinction. Everything is created in the spirit of the gift and is manefisted with a unique sparkle and flair that makes contributing to it joyful and uplifting for both parties.
INFORMATION EXTRACTED FROM ARTICLES PUBLISHED IN URUGUAY, APRIL 2009
The Executive Power prepares details for a new system of payment which will be adopted to stimulate micro and small businesses.
In two months, the government will release a new way of payment, a transaction network, which will allow micro and small business to interact among themselves, through a new alternative currency, and at the same time to face their obligations with the State.
This was announced recently by the Minister of Work, Eduardo Bonomi, during his participation in the talk “International Crisis and Uruguay 2009”, organized by Montevideo City Council.
Minister Bonomi said that the development of this new system is the result of working together with the Ministries of Work, Economy, Industry and Energy, and with other governmental organisms, as well as state banks and state insurances and city councils of Montevideo and Canelones. Moreover, state companies will take part in this new system as well.
“This new network of transactions will allow small and medium businesses access to credit through an alternative currency, but it will be exchangeable throughout the whole country, where they will be able to pay for petrol, taxes and it will be redeemable into money”, he confirmed. Nevertheless, he made it clear, that this project is about giving support to the production and it’s not a credit for consuming. “Next week I’ll have a talk with the Meyer of San Jose (neighbour city), so that he enters the whole metropolitan area to the system. The idea is that city council providers can also trade through this currency”, said Bonomi. In a first stage, this system would include just micro, small and medium businesses, but in the future it could also absorb privates to the network.
This initiative counts with the support of the ILO, IADB (Inter-American Development Bank) and the General Inter-American Secretary. This project aroused a lot of interest among the region countries such as Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador and Venezuela, which means that in the future inter-regional transactions may be possible.
All over the world similar systems already exist. In this case, the different element is that the administrator will be the State. It works as a network of payments through electronic debits and credits. To join the system the companies must request approval of the State Bank. From there on, the company will be assigned an account in the system. This company will be able to order the payment from its account to be credited in favour of a state organism or a private member of the network. Accounts will be balanced periodically and participants advised of their trading position.
This amount will be redeemable into national currency or used to pay for petrol or taxes. Bonomi said that this idea was presented to the National Association of Micro and Small business and to the Uruguayan Confederation of Cooperative Entities and other cooperatives, arousing great interest among them.
The development of the network doesn’t create any costs for the country, since it was originated in cooperation with the STRO Foundation from Holland, which supplies the network model, known as C3 (Consume and commerce circuit). The name for the virtual money circulating through this payment scheme is called “internal liquidity”, although the technicians working on its development adopted a more native denomination: “charrua” (name of the Indians, that inhibited Uruguay before the colonisation, and who were completely exterminated, therefore it is ironic that the Uruguayans are called like that even nowadays, and more that this name it’s used as a icon of local identity)*.
However, in Uruguay STRO chose a new approach, which might also work out well for other C3s. Small businesses cannot obtain the same payment guarantees that large businesses receive. C3 Uruguay is going to work with a guarantee fund that will assure small businesses of payment on delivery in internal C3 money. In such case these small businesses do not have to wait for months until they receive payment and are therefore able to maintain their stock level. In the capital Montevideo, where over a half of the Uruguayan population lives, the same method of payment on delivery in internal C3 units to small businesses will be followed.
For STRO this new C3 approach is a fascinating experiment, because large partners have joined in. We therefore hope to gain more insight in what a C3 business network can do with a complementary currency in a poor country.
Access to the credit
Operations would be 100% guaranteed and the system will allow access to low cost credit -around 10 to 12% to small business that aren’t currently covered by the traditional banking system. This will also improve competitiveness of this economic unit and its formalization will be stimulated, reducing administrative and transactions costs at the same time. This network won’t create inflation dilemmas, since the financing will be channelled towards production, which will broaden the supply of goods and services.
National System of Guaranties
A guaranty fund of 5 Million US$ is planned to be established as the initial capital to stimulate the credit for small businesses. (What backs this fund?)
Interesting information about Uruguay’s current financial situation
Mario Bergara, President of the Central Bank pointed out that: “the main message from the finance system is one of tranquillity, since it is dealing with levels of solvency and liquidity unknown for the last six years. The liquidity level of the system is currently 60% of deposits, while in the worst financial crisis in our history the withdrawal of money reached 47% of total deposits.
Moreover, in contrast to the 2002 crisis, where the foreign deposits were 42% of total deposits, nowadays this amounts to 18%. The Argentinean deposits among these went from 40% to 16% in the same period.
It might be said that the proverbial emergence of humanity, in the form of Adam and Eve within the Garden of Eden, was, in fact, the emergence of the self-aware human being. By ‘self-aware’, I do not mean in the sense where someone is feeling insecure or out of touch, but someone who is connected to the source of one’s own being, both within one’s own consciousness and also permeating throughout all of nature, the cosmos, the totality of physical and non-physical existence. This primordial enlightening occurred thousands of years ago. The cultures, knowledges and ways of life assumed by these ancestors has been past down to the remnant of indigenous cultures and tribes scattered across the earth. But in modern ‘civilized’ times, these people are dismissed as primitive charlatans; naive savages, who, unable to come to terms with the perilous forces they were confronted by in the wilderness, projected imaginary visions of supernatural beings into the world. Because they did not have the faculties of reason to understand the world around them, or to accept what they didn’t know, these supernatural beings were the result of make-believe stories and myths to satisfy their desire for meaning. However, there is much evidence that there is another side to it. These peoples were, in fact, communing with the deepest depths of their own consciousness — a consciousness that was intimately one with the rest of Creation. They were adept at willingly entering states of consciousness that gave them access to another reality, an alternate reality, yet one that was inseparable from the one of waking consciousness. The Aborigines call this state ‘Dream Time’, because it was literally connecting with the same lucid state that we often encounter in our dreams, where we are connected with a myriad of characters and visions. For these ancient people, it was Sacred knowledge. It gave them, not just faith, but an experiential connection with what may be called the spiritual forces animating the physical cosmos. With this direct experience of a transcendental force, behind the veil of space and time, comes a profound respect for nature and the awesome and mysterious powers, rhythms, and patterns that sculpt its perpetual transformation.
In the world of modern cities, a whole other side of our consciousness reigns supreme. The shamanic and revelatory consciousness has warped into a new perverse form — the religion of Economics. Yet, conventional economics has a fundamental error: it has narrowed our relationship to nature from one being based on a primary respect and recognition to the integration and interdependence of living systems, to a sense that we are somehow disconnected from this rudimentary fountain of life, and that it exists solely to fulfill our unquenchable thirst for material pleasure and our personal pursuits for power and prestige. So, the modern economic system is designed to do just that. It is the proverbial ‘Ring of Power,’ placing God-like abilities to dominate nature and other human beings into the hands of a relatively small group of unspeakably immature and irresponsible individuals. It is unapologetically biased towards the dominance of private finance over all aspects of the economy, the rest of humanity, and of nature in general.
If economics is the religion, then money is the god. After all, what is money but an unholy faith? It puts trust in a system that fundamentally erodes the livelihood of those who are not strong or clever enough to compete, erodes the very ecological system that we depend on for our ultimate survival? Nearly all religions and spiritual traditions bear warnings to humanity. The greater we exercise our powers of creation upon the earth, we must, at the very least, assume a much greater respect and reverence for the cosmic and unknown forces at work. Buried in scriptures and mythologies is an awareness of humanity’s fated, perilous clash with the God of nature — a recognition that should we open up the Pandora’s box of money, capital and economic growth upon the world, we would be fatally undoing the natural balance of things. Yet, whether you believe in religious prophesies or not, our times are wrought with looming catastrophes of apocalyptic proportions: global warming, mass species extinction and species loss, peak oil, global warfare, financial meltdowns. What’s more, they all appear to be moving toward a common, imminent convergence point.
In the face of these disturbing truths, our only hope is to radically transform the systems that are largely responsible for this destruction. Even more importantly, we must transform the elements in ourselves that bind us to the unholy will of global corporatism, militarism and private finance. This economic transformation can be synthesized by creating a new economic practice: the practice of sacred economics.
This new discipline is the inclusion of knowledge and respect of the sacredness of all living beings, of all life, directly into our economic institutions. The means for measuring and valuing wealth must also be designed to account for the health of the environment that we live in, as well as the collective wealth and vitality of communities. Of course, it is essentially impossible to quantify all of these values in numerical terms. Nor is it essentially necessary to account for their transfer. Nature provided for all life forms without the written means of accounting for the exchange of energy. People can live with this in mind. Those who have discovered the art of ‘paying it forward’ have shown that magical transformations can occur in a person, when they awaken to the power and possibility of giving (see groups like www.charityfocus.org).
Here are a few principles of sacred economics. It is a concept and practice I am still evolving, and I would love your feedback on it.
Giving and Receiving
Life is a constant act of giving and receiving. In order for life to thrive, energy must circulate. It is a general principle that in any system the energy that goes out of that system must be replenished. This is true for our breath when we breathe in oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide, and it is true when we consume food and drink and expel human waste. This ecological reciprocity is key to life. In nature, every bit of waste becomes the food of another organism. In our rape and pillage economy, we have overloaded the environment with wastes that it cannot use, so they become toxic and destructive. And so it must be with money, if indeed, money remains a part of human society. Money must be made to account in some way or another for the generosity of the sun, the air, the waters. It must be real reflection of nature, and it must be sure that all things that we extract from nature go back in a way that nature can assimilate in a life-sustaining way.
Chief Seattle said in a famous speech, “How can you buy or sell the sky, the warmth of the land? The idea is strange to us. If we do not own the freshness of the air and the sparkle of the water, how can you buy them?” This principle is shared amongst all indigenous peoples and is central to an economics of the sacred. Putting land, or the rights to land, in the marketplace creates a cultural disconnection from nature, because people become preoccupied with an artificiallyprescribed monetary value, rather than understanding that land’s real value cannot be measured, only experienced by relating to it with gratitude and reverence. ‘Property-fication’ also forces us to relate to land in terms of ‘plots’ and artificially created borders, thereby negating the natural seamless-ness and interconnectedness of ecology.
Information is only scarce, when people make it scarce. If I have knowledge, sharing it does not deprive me of it; it only makes everyone better off. Unfortunately, the modern education system operates on the opposite principle: putting a price on knowledge, so only a few can access it, thereby keeping it scarce. Part of Sacred Economics will be dismantling this scarcity of learning in our lives. It will mean breaking out of the monopoly of schooling, and instead exploring and creating a myriad of learning spaces to connect to the passions, dreams, needs, questions, of each person and community.
Sacred Economics cannot have interest as the principle means by which money is created. Very few people know this, but the fact is, all money is created as interest-bearing debt. This creates a fundamental burden on society to work under stress, to keep ahead of the compounding of compound interest. If you think about it, the mathematics of interest dictate that those who have more money earn greater profits on their money than those with less. This very simple yet profound reality is at the core of our social woes. Nearly all religions have in them some prohibition against usury. Islamic countries, in fact, have instituted this prohibition into their laws. Yet, these warnings have been completely ignored in western society. The recent financial bubble bursts are simply what is destined to happen when we base our system on usury. The bubbles of debt, financial speculation, and real estate grow so big that they overwhelm the physical economy, essentially eating away at it, just like cancer depletes the life force of the body until it collapses completely.
The modern economy is very good at making people feel separate and alone. By creating an intrinsic wealth gap into the system, it tends to build resentment and depression into the minds of those who have less, and it creates a fear of that resentment in the minds of those with excess wealth. It also compels people to exploit the land, so as to get ahead in the market. The result is social and ecological alienation and degradation. This way of being is illusory and pathological. Einstein once said,
“A human being is a part of the whole that we call the universe, a part limited in time and space. And yet we experience ourselves, our thoughts and feelings, as something separated from the rest — a kind of optical illusion of our consciousness. This illusion is a prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for only the few people nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living beings and all of nature.”
I believe that this task is the only thing that will allow human beings to continue living on this earth. To be here, to be alive, is a blessing that needs to be appreciated through the way we interact with one another, by bringing forth generosity and love, consciously, into all dimensions of life. Dismantling the systems of domination that perpetuate the illusion of separation, most notably, the neo-liberal system of economics, but also religion and politics, is the most important step in the liberation of humanity.
However, this cannot be done by any activities that oppose the system. We must do it through dis-engaging from it. We can do this gradually by creating new systems, new social organisms, that, like the emergence of a butterfly out of a caterpillar, will feed off of the energy, resources and knowledge generated by the old system. Once this process begins, it will be unstoppable. I believe that it has, indeed, already begun.
I am in the middle of co-organizing an unconference (meaning it is organized by YOU) on money and credit systems to take place right after the Green Festival in Seattle, WA. The conference will bring together a broad range of cutting edge social-entrepreneurs, system changers, economists, philanthropists, academics and business people, to build collaboration regarding the true role and nature of money, its place in the grand scheme of things and how we can transform the system to build a more just, sustainable, and creative world.I am happy to announce that Hazel Henderson has agreed to give our keynote presentation.The conference is cosponsored by:
On the face of it money is a tool for measuring value. In today’s world it is ubiquitous throughout the entire world, in influencing the way people relate and work with one another. But money seems to be failing us on a number of fronts. The things most vital for the sustenance of life aren’t measured by money because they simply have no quantifiable value, and so they get left out (discounted). How do we turn this around? And furthermore, how do we optimize our “value measuring” systems to be accountable to the real wealth that is created and to the well being of all instead of making real wealth and real relationships beholden to the measure.The conference will be looking at these critical philosophical questions and the obscure world of monetary systems change: complementary currencies, micro credit, slow money and new ways of accounting and book keeping that maximize the amount of wealth creation, flow, collaboration and innovation to occur within and without business and non-profit organizations while accounting for the health of the environment and society. It will be exploring mysterious overlap between spirituality and money. There will be special talks on synergy between the technological space around mutual credit creation, value measurement and wealth acknowledgment. If you are a veteran or simply interested in learning more or getting involved, this conference is for you.I don’t know what will become of this gathering. My hope is that it will be a continuation of an emerging movement to penetrate into the Gordian Knot that is our monetary system. The last conference that I organized under the Schumacher Society I know was a life changing event for many of the people because it invoked in peope the sheer magnitude of this this issue. I expect that this upcoming conference in Seattle will be an appropriate follow up gathering for those who were present and for those who missed the conference at Bard College.For more information email unmoneyconvergence (at) gmail (dot) com
This is an amazingly inspiring talk given by Dennis Kucinich at the AMI 2005 conference. http://www.monetary.org/video/kucinich/quick_broadband.html