Lietaer sees four �megatrends� converging, in the next 5-20 years: monetary instability, the �age wave� (the increasing average age of the population), climate change and extinction of biodiversity, and the �information revolution�. In seeing the �age wave� as a problem of provision of needs, he ignores the huge increase in productivity over the last century, and the grossly wasteful use made of it, which if better employed would decimate the need for �employment� to meet needs. He sees the �information revolution� as a problem because it is �destroying jobs�, but does not consider this as a benefit denied to society by its failure of distribution, and easily solved by introducing Basic Incomes�if the money system were to be reformed to allow this mechanism to distribute our potential abundance. Discounting the possibility of reform, he sees �complementary� currencies as the means of moving to �sustainable abundance�.

Despite his awareness of the threats posed to �sustainable abundance� by climate change and extinction of biodiversity, and the role of �monetary instability� as cause of the inability of economies to make the drastic changes needed to achieve sustainable abundance, in dismissing the possibility of reforming the official money systems he omits consideration of the role of the debts generated as a consequence of the way virtually all money nowadays comes into circulation as loans from banks. In identifying the interest added to these debts as cause of the problems listed above, he fails to recognise the growing magnitude of total debts��national�, business and individual�and the consequent increasingly desperate, destructive competition.

Since these debts can only be repaid with official money, this means that the alternative or complementary currencies are severely limited in how far they can in fact compensate for the problems created by the official �debt-money�.

Greco is more concerned with the details of current and potential alternative currencies, devoting much of his book to descriptions of current examples, and a selection of past ones; their strengths and weaknesses, and theoretical possibilities and recommendations for future systems, several of which are his own proposals. He notes that they start and are most successful at times (and places) when the failings of official money are having the greatest impact, and mostly discontinue when conditions improve. (The Swiss WIR and Swedish JAK, essentially the same system, are the only long-lived examples to quote.) As a book of instruction for those contemplating starting a local or �alternative� currency, the book has much to recommend it.

Greco divides historical money systems into �commodity�, �symbolic� and �credit� money, but in declaring as an �essential fact� that �money has a beginning and an ending; it is created and it is extinguished� he exposes the limitation of his thesis. While this is true of all the official and alternative currencies he describes�all of which are �symbolic� or �credit� systems�it is not true of all money, current or past�or potentially, future.

While both authors concern themselves with alternatives to the national currencies, and both books contain a wealth of interesting facts and examples, and thought-provoking ideas and proposals, only Lietaer addresses the issue of international exchanges. Various alternatives to �the money market� and floating exchange-rates have been proposed in the past�and others operated, notably gold as an international currency, before the era of floating exchange-rates�I believe Lietaer�s �Terra� is one of the most promising as an international exchange medium, not least because it would be independent of governments, and based on a �basket� of real traded goods.

As Arthur Edwards wrote in his review of the book, �Perhaps most thought provoking of all is the idea of an international trading currency, backed by a basket of commodities rather than gold or belief, and thus incurring a demurrage charge to offset storage costs. This would have the effect of inverting discounted cash-flows. So rather than chopping down trees to save money to put in the bank to generate income through interest in the future, it would become more profitable to invest money to plant trees to generate income through commercial activity in the future.

�The workability of such a demurrage currency is attested both in theory and in practice (Keynes and Gesell): the advantages are multiple � price stability, 100% backing, straightforward transparent international convertibility, its anti-cyclical working would make it complementary to national currencies, and not least of all, it would be free from political interference. The last point results from the fact that such a currency would be instigated not by national governments but rather by an alliance of international traders. The need for it can already be seen through the increased volume of barter occurring throughout the world by transnational corporations. [Lietaer claims that up to a quarter of international trade is currently done by barter�BL] Plans to bring this global reference currency (the Terra) into being are already under way through the agency of the International Terra Alliance.�

I have to disagree with Lietaer�s pessimism concerning the possibility of achieving monetary reform�which issue Greco does not even address, seeing complementary currencies as the solution to its problems�despite the failure of its advocates to achieve it to date. Though he is well informed on the faults of the present global system, in seeking to promote �complementary� currencies as the corrective, I believe he underestimates the dire effects of the escalating, legally enforceable debts generated by this system, which debts cannot be extinguished by any of the complementary systems, and are the prime driving-force for �economic growth� and �globalisation�. His assessment of the invulnerability, over the last century, of the vested interests manipulating and controlling the current system is indisputable; but the mounting instability and clearly impending collapse make the possibility of forcing reform much more realistic.

In the �30s the movement for reform was rapidly growing until war was used by the financial-military-political global coalitions as the �solution� to the ongoing �depression�. There is never a shortage of money for warfare! Once again, the fundamental problems generated by the financial mechanism have grown to the point where its instability is widely recognised and the movement for reform is growing fast. This makes effective challenge much more possible, as well as vital.

The way events have developed over the last few centuries can be explained either as essentially due to the nature of the money-creation mechanism, or as due to the deliberate manipulation of that system. In fact, both must be contributory factors�among other factors, such as the development of corporate power�which is also, more clearly, due to the influence of vested interests, including the banks which funded their development, and their influence on the legislature.

Historically, there has been an ongoing conflict of interest between governments and private interests over the right to create and control the money supply, with the public interest tending to suffer, whichever was temporarily winning. The first money was commodity money: cowrie shells, iron bars, cattle, or, later, gold and silver, as bullion or coin; which latter was the special concern of governments, and which could be extended by �debasement� with base metal, or supplemented with low-value base-metal coins. The point Greco overlooks above is that with commodity monies, once spent into circulation, they can circulate indefinitely; they do not have to be �extinguished�. The main problem with them is that there is no simple mechanism for matching their volume in circulation with the need for them�matching demand with supply.

This is the main reason for the development by both governments and their subjects of �symbolic� money: tally sticks, bills of credit, banknotes, cheques, etc., all until recently exchangeable on demand for precious metal coin. Greco regards the recent