On developing an alternative to laissez-faire capitalism
Thomas Attwood would have been interested in James Bruges’ review of a new book about the nature of money.
“Spiralling inequality, chaos in the financial world and the Occupy protests force us to engage with economics. A Guide to the UK Monetary and Banking System is about money itself, a subject that has, surprisingly, received little attention and about which there is widespread misunderstanding.”
Tony Greenham, Professor Richard Werner and Andrew Jackson studied the implications of bank-created money through talking to key people in the City, including members of the Independent Commission on Banking, and referring to 500 documents from central banks and regulators.
On receiving a copy of the completed book, David Miles of the Monetary Policy Committee, Bank of England, said, ‘the way monetary economics and banking is taught in many – maybe most – universities is very misleading and what your book does is help people explain how the mechanics of the system work.’
Banks charge interest on loans, necessitating the amount of money in circulation to increase each year in order to cover this interest. The choice is either growth or recession. It was a Quaker philosopher, Kenneth Boulding, who quipped, ‘Anyone who believes in indefinite growth in anything physical, on a physically finite planet, is either mad or an economist.’
The government wants banks to finance the productive sector but ‘the government has in practice no involvement in the money creation and allocation process’. It is not surprising that little of the vast sums given to banks have been loaned to small businesses, which they regard as risky. The banks have invested most of their windfall in assets such as prime property, the value of which is enhanced by Russian oligarchs.
The book discusses financial instruments that ‘are increasingly traded in a money-like fashion, moving around the world at great speed and frequency by investment banks and hedge funds’. The financial elite, joined by African dictators and corporations, have salted away £3 trillion tax-free in secret locations, many – perhaps most – of which are UK protectorates or ‘British Overseas territories’, the City of London itself being one of them. The UK loses £70 billion in tax annually. The value of trade in financial derivatives is ten times the value of all goods and services in the world. No one knows what’s going on but these activities are the cause of global instability and deprive governments of funds to help those in need.
James concluded that the present monetary and banking system is at odds with Quaker testimonies to integrity, justice, equality, community and the environment and called on Quakers to help to develop an alternative to laissez-faire capitalism that relates to real life in all its local variety, provides social welfare, and encourages cooperation, creativity, relationship and play.
A Guide to the UK Monetary and Banking System, by Josh Ryan-Collins, Tony Greenham, Richard Werner and Andrew Jackson is published by nef publications for £14.99.
The whole article, first published in The Friend, 9th December 2011, may be read here.