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Bird’s Eye View

Why is the transformation of our monetary system so critical to answering the call of our times?

Just as river banks and dams determine where water is encouraged or discouraged to flow, our monetary or currency system (from the Latin verb currere – to flow) determines the directions in which human energies are encouraged or discouraged to go, and what we can individually and collectively create as a result.   Since the dawn of times, our monetary system has been shaping the flows of human activity in every realm of endeavor (food production, education, health, business etc.) by determining how we value, apply and exchange our creativity, and the fruits of our labor.  It is for this reason the most influential of all our man-made systems.

From Blind Spot to Leverage Point

Most governments, communities and organizations working to create a sustainable world are painfully aware that access to money is the key bottleneck to their efforts.   There never seems to be enough of it to clean up the environment, create better schools, ensure proper access to health care, create green jobs, and eliminate unemployment or poverty.   And yet, while most people tend to see money as a key obstacle, hardly anyone seems to really understand why that is so.   Most of us do not usually grasp how our monetary system works, when we notice it at all.  Specifically, we tend to misunderstand (a) what money is, (b) how it is created, and (c) how our monetary system shapes our behaviors, relationships and circumstances.   You can see for yourself by answering the questions in the  Monetary Literacy 101 section of the site.  Historical research actually shows that different types of currencies encourage or dissuade their hoarding or speculation.  Some currencies induce competition while others encourage collaboration, and therefore strengthen or weaken community ties.  They determine the kind of time horizons upon which business decisions are made, and produce or prevent financial and economic instability.    If I am passionate about monetary literacy and committed to the transformation of our monetary system, it is because 40 years of research and work in various parts of that system have convinced me that our monetary system plays a critical role in causing the challenges we face, and is continually interfering with our efforts to resolve them.  It is our biggest blind spot and our best leverage point for turning things around.

The fundamental problem with our current monetary system is that it is not sufficiently diverse, and as a result it dams and bottlenecks our creative energies, and keeps us trapped in a world of scarcity and suffering, when we actually have the capacity to create a very different reality by enabling our energies to move more freely where they are most needed, including toward cleaning up our environment, building adequate housing, providing good quality health care etc.  To ensure such diversity, we need to actively support the circulation of different types of currencies for different types of purposes.   Specifically, I believe that we need to support the introduction and expansion of three different kinds of currencies alongside our national currencies: (1) an inflation-proof global complementary currency designed to stabilize the world economy;  (2)  business-to-business currencies designed to counteract the effects of conventional money shortages during periods of economic crises and  contraction; and (3) community currencies that address a variety of social problems and strengthen the fabric of society.

Entering New Agreements to Create a World of Sustainable Abundance

Money is an agreement within a particular community to use some standardized object as a means of exchange.    The problem is that most of the fundamental rules and agreements we have around money were created centuries ago, at a time that was widely different from ours, and by a small group of stakeholders concerned with a narrow set of interests.  As a consequence, these agreements are ill-equipped to serve the challenges and objectives of our current world.   As long as our monetary system remains a blind spot to us, we remain unable to alter its powerful influence on the way we think and act.  As soon as we gain monetary literacy, we can begin examining the nature and implications of the monetary agreements in which we unconsciously participate.  We can start identifying the conditions under which they serve or do not serve the needs of our times, and begin create agreements that better serve our needs.

For the last twenty years, a growing number of businesses and communities around the world have been creating new agreements and using new tools to connect untapped resources and unmet needs through complementary currencies.    In 1984, only two such complementary currency systems existed.  By 1990, their numbers had grown, but there were still fewer than 200 systems operating in the world.  Today, there are thousands such currencies worldwide.   Hundreds of Time Banks operate in 22 countries.   And in the United States alone, there are already 700 business to business complementary currency systems in which 500,000 businesses participate.  This movement is greatly facilitated by new technologies–specifically, inexpensive computing and ubiquitous access to the Internet.   Though many of these changes remain invisible to the mainstream media and the general public, these new sub-systems are beginning to create upward (life-affirming) spirals within the larger system, slowly causing the latter to become more decentralized and diversified, and therefore more resilient and flexible.

Every time anyone of us chooses to enter into new agreements (for instance, by using or accepting a local or regional currency, or joining a business-2-business mutual barter network), we contribute to diversify our overall monetary system, allowing more connections and exchanges to take place than would otherwise be the case under the monopolistic use of national currencies.  The time has come to free and leverage our gifts and resources to address the great challenges of our times, and create a world of sustainable abundance, based on true human wealth, which is our creative energy.

Getting Started

If you are new to this field, here are my suggestions for getting started. I encourage you to study the Monetary Literacy 101 section of this site, and explore the resources available to governments, businesses and communities who want to learn about currency tools to leverage untapped resources to address currently unmet needs. Reading the paper on business-to-business currency solutions, as well as the article which describes the best way governments can deal with our now chronic banking crisis could be very useful.  You can dwell deeper by reading the many interviews, talks and articles available on this website.  If you are scientifically minded, I also invite you to take a closer look at the academic researchwhich provides the evidence for my claim that introducing a greater diversity of currencies is critical to solving the challenges of our times.   This site also offers a Q & A section where I will do my best to answer frequently asked questions.   If you run into concepts or words which you do not understand, please consult this website’s glossary.