Beyond Greed and Scarcity: an Interview with Yes! Magazine
In a 1997 interview with Yes Magazine, Bernard explains that the condition of scarcity which plagues many of our societies is actually a product of the kinds of money systems we adopt. He also explains the many great benefits of local currencies for overcoming cash scarcity in communities. Read the Full Yes! Magazine Interview. Read Other Interviews with Bernard.
SARAH: Would you say that the design of money is actually at the root of much else that happens, or doesn’t happen, in society?
BERNARD : That’s right. While economic textbooks claim that people and corporations are competing for markets and resources, I claim that in reality they are competing for money – using markets and resources to do so. So designing new money systems really amounts to redesigning the target that orients much human effort.
Furthermore, I believe that greed and competition are not a result of immutable human temperament; I have come to the conclusion that greed and fear of scarcity are in fact being continuously created and amplified as a direct result of the kind of money we are using.
For example, we can produce more than enough food to feed everybody, and there is definitely enough work for everybody in the world, but there is clearly not enough money to pay for it all. The scarcity is in our national currencies. In fact, the job of central banks is to create and maintain that currency scarcity. The direct consequence is that we have to fight with each other in order to survive.
Money is created when banks lend it into existence (see article by Thomas Greco on page 19). When a bank provides you with a $100,000 mortgage, it creates only the principal, which you spend and which then circulates in the economy. The bank expects you to pay back $200,000 over the next 20 years, but it doesn’t create the second $100,000 – the interest. Instead, the bank sends you out into the tough world to battle against everybody else to bring back the second $100,000.
SARAH : So some people have to lose in order for others to win? Some have to default on their loan in order for others to get the money needed to pay off that interest?
BERNARD : That’s right. All the banks are doing the same thing when they lend money into existence. That is why the decisions made by central banks, like the Federal Reserve in the US, are so important – increased interest costs automatically determine a larger proportion of necessary bankruptcies.
So when the bank verifies your “creditworthiness,” it is really checking whether you are capable of competing and winning against other players – able to extract the second $100,000 that was never created. And if you fail in that game, you lose your house or whatever other collateral you had to put up.
SARAH : That also influences the unemployment rate.
BERNARD : It’s certainly a major factor, but there’s more to it. Information technologies increasingly allow us to attain very good economic growth without increases in employment. I believe we’re seeing one of the last job-driven affluent periods in the US right now. As Jeremy Rifkin argues in his book, The End of Work, jobs are basically not going to be there anymore, even in “good times.” Read the Full Yes! Magazine Interview. Read Other Interviews with Bernard.