Telling the Truth about Money

Foreword by Prof. Dennis Meadows

Arsenic was used as a medicine for thousands of years. It is a deadly poison, of course. But its ability to alleviate the short-term symptoms of distress led many sufferers to use it anyway. Only in the past century has it been mainly replaced by less deadly alternatives. Fiat currency issued by private institutions through the creation of debt has been used by nations for centuries. Its deadly effects are becoming apparent. But its ability to alleviate the symptoms of distress has led to its use anyway. We can only hope that in this century we will begin to use less deadly alternatives. I have been reading the literature on sustainability for 40 years. I have attended hundreds of conferences on the same theme over that period. However, before I first encountered Bernard’s work, I had never heard anyone describe the financial system as a cause of our society’s headlong rush to collapse. Quite the contrary: there is a widespread effort to identify how minor changes in the financial system could move global society over to a path that leads to sustainability. A fish will never create fire while immersed in water. We will never create sustainability while immersed in the present financial system. There is no tax, or interest rate, or disclosure requirement that can overcome the many ways the current money system blocks sustainability. I used not to think this. Indeed, I did not think about the money system at all. I took it for granted as a neutral and inevitable aspect of human society. But since beginning to read Bernard’s analyses I have a very different view. He is not alone. For example Thomas Greco has written on this topic. But the depth of Bernard’s practical experience, theoretical understanding, and historical perspectives on the financial system leave him without peer. I now understand, as proven clearly in this text, that the prevailing financial system is incompatible with sustainability in five ways:

  1. it causes boom and bust cycles in the economy

  2. it produces short-term thinking

  3. it requires unending growth

  4. it concentrates wealth

  5. it destroys social capital

Any one of these is probably enough to derail the most carefully considered plan for a transition to sustainability. Together they are a prescription for disaster, which is precisely what they are giving us. The instability of the financial system should be enough to cause alarm, as the authors point out: “According to the IMF, between 1970 and 2010 there were 145 banking crises, 208 monetary crashes and 72 sovereign-debt crises-in other words, a staggering total of 425 systemic crises. An average of more than 10 per year!

These crises have hit more than three-quarters of the 180 countries that are members of the IMF, many of them being hit several times.” Informed observers of the 2008 crisis, by far the most serious so far, believe that the causes of instability have not been changed. Indeed many of them have grown worse. There will certainly be another global financial disaster.

A common English idiom is, ‘Like a fish out of water’. It refers to someone or something in a very unaccustomed and awkward situation. But unless the fish does move out of water, its experiments will never lead to fire. We are going to have to go through an awkward period, experimenting with new currency systems, if we are to have any chance of our efforts leading to sustainability. Viable complementary currency systems are not alone sufficient to halt our headlong drive towards disaster. But we have no chance of avoiding collapse withoutthem. This text is a rich source of information. It has material for four different books: • a devastating critique of traditional economic thinking • an excellent discussion of the mechanisms through which money is created in modern society • a description of the many problems we may expect from climate change and future collapses of the financial system • proposals for nine different pragmatic monetary complements to the current financial system

The book is therefore a useful starting point for people with very different goals. Our earliest ancestors finally did manage to develop a technology based on fire. But they had to emerge from the ocean to do it. Our descendants will no doubt develop a technology based on sustainability. But they will have to emerge from the current financial system to do it. This book gives the motivation and some preliminary directions for doing that.

Em. Prof. Dennis Meadows New Hampshire, February 2012


Money and Sustainability - The Missing Link A report from THE CLUB OF ROME - EU CHAPTER to Finance Watch and the World Business Academy

Authors: Prof. Bernard Lietaer Prof. Christian Arnsperger Dr. Sally Goerner Prof. Stefan Brunnhuber

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