3: Book Review

'Future Money - Breakdown or Breakthrough?'

Author: James Robertson (Green Books, 2012)

This new book by James Robertson covers a wide range of related issues. He draws on his long experience as Cabinet Office worker and then researcher for British banks before independence as a writer and adviser on future change in economics and its effects on society and ecology. This latest book refers both to his earlier books, his website, and many other websites and other sources, copiously noted in footnotes.

It examines the history of the development of the present national/global money system and its claim to ethical 'neutrality', showing clearly its disastrous effects on society and the wasteful push for 'economic growth', before offering solutions, which are now urgently required.

He notes the fast-growing popularity early last century, of both the Georgist and the Social Credit movements, up to the start of the second World War, which war 'solved' the global 'depression', and allowed the 'Establishment' the chance to suppress both movements, eliminating them from the study of economic history!
He also discusses the popularity and the problems with the idea of return to the 'gold standard' or basing money-value on a 'basket of goods'. Government taxing and spending is the main guarantee of national money's value.

The solutions he proposes start with reform of the national system of money creation by removing from the banks their privilege of creating our money as they make loans of it, making the State the sole creator of it, and having it enter circulation by being spent, not lent.

This would end the siphoning of wealth from the producers of it to the money-creators – the banks – and should be supplemented with controls on derivatives, ending tax avoidance and closing tax havens.

He argues that reform of the national system of money creation is the most urgent reform, but we also need the creation of an international money not, as now, based on any national one, which should then be used to tax extraction from the 'global commons' (e.g. sea fishing, or mineral extraction from the sea bed) and used to fund global needs, e.g. international disaster relief, or peacekeeping, and/or for distribution to nations on a per-capita basis; he also advocates council support for the creation of local, community-created money to serve local needs.

However, this is only the starting point: to achieve a sustainable, fair and peaceful society, the introduction of Basic Incomes is seen as essential, as well as a radical tax-shift, from the rewards for efforts, which should (mostly) benefit society, to what is extracted from 'the commons' by individuals or businesses, starting with Land Value Taxation, and including charges on pollution and extraction of minerals. Public spending should also be reformed, to end 'perverse subsidies' and some dependency-reinforcing services, allowing Basic Incomes to grant a measure of independence.

He is well aware of the power of the '1%' or rather, the '0.1%', who effectively control corporations (including the public media) and governments in the interests of their own wealth and power, but sees hope in the growth of public awareness and resistance, exemplified by the fast growth of the 'Occupy' and 'Transition Town' movements, aided by the Internet.

It is a book that should be studied by every politician, banker and concerned citizen. It deserves wide distribution throughout the world.

One quibble(?): James refers, as do many other commentators, to our present money 'as debt', or 'as interest-bearing debt'. While I am sure he knows that the credits circulating through bank-accounts function simply as 'money', without any interest growing on them; the interest-bearing debt remains with the borrower, until it is paid back. Our money is 'debt-based', not itself 'debt'!

Brian Leslie