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2008 Attwood Monetary Reform Award to MP Austin Mitchell: Molly Scott Cato

 House of Commons, April 22nd 

For those of us who have spent our lives awaiting beneficial change these are interesting times. I work in a Management School and have lived for many years with the slogan that a threat is also an opportunity—suddenly that banal aphorism has taken on an exciting new life! 

Globalisation is an economic system that focuses around money. It is a twisted game where the power to control money allows a minority to extract the energy (usually in the form of work) of the majority and of the planet itself for their own exclusive benefit. If the money system fails the game falls apart. Suddenly we are all equal—we become limited only by our own expectations. 

To remake the world along just and equitable lines we need two things: a plan and the courage to execute it. It is because Austin Mitchell has demonstrated the wisdom to choose the right plan and the courage to publicly stand by this choice that he is being given the 2008 Thomas Attwood Award. 

Courage is a personal matter—a matter of the heart. If we believe in something better we must overcome censorship, embarrassment and fear and stand up for that belief. But the plan is always changing as we learn more and our ideas develop: open minds are invited to engage. I will spend the rest of these few words discussing the outline of plans to change the way our money system operates at three levels: personal, national and global. 

First, at the personal level, what should we do about our need to have a bank account and a credit card? There is an easy solution here, since the Co-operative Bank offers both, and other mutuals such as the Nationwide also provide bank accounts. The same applies to other financial services such as insurance and mortgages, which can be switched to CIS and the mutual building societies. It is no coincidence that they are not facing the same instability and are rather having to close their doors to new business because of rising demand. Co-operative businesses do not exist to maximize profits but to provide services, and their financial services are more reliable and more ethical than those of their private-sector competitors. 

At the national level, we need to be arguing for the reclaiming of the system of money creation so that it is democratized, rather than left to the vagaries of the market and the profiteering of the private sector. Banking also needs to be decentralized, so that local banks can profit from the creation of money to be invested in their local economies, as they did in Atwood’s day. To build resilience in our local communities governments should encourage the flourishing of local currencies through exempting them from tax—at least in the initial phase. And government should take on the major role for the creation of money, as Austin Mitchell’s various EDMs have argued. 

Finally, at the global level, we need to go back to the drawing-board, or rather the Bretton Woods conference table. We need to renegotiate an international financial system that uses a neutral currency, as Keynes argued in 1944, and that links to a balanced international trade system. We can go further than this, and by linking the currency to carbon dioxide emissions, use it as a means to tackle climate change as well as global poverty. 

We know that the money system we have is flawed, that it is breaking down. Even in its heyday it created massive inequalities and pressurized the planet; now it is failing even in its own terms. What I am proposing here is a massive, radical change and it is easy to lose heart. But the manifest failings of the existing system should give us the courage to believe that we are right.# 

Molly Scott Cato lectures in Social Economy at the Business School of the University of Wales, Cardiff – working as part of the Welsh Institute for Research into Co-operatives. She has a PhD in economics from the University of Wales. She studied politics, philosophy and economics at Oxford, before moving on to undertake an MSc in Social Research Methods. Molly has wide-ranging research interests in the fields of economics, politics, epidemiology, and the philosophy of science. Her thesis focused on work motivations in the Rhondda-Cynon-Taff area of South Wales. It formed the basis for a book, The Pit and the Pendulum  (2004)  – published by the University of Wales Press. She is the economics spokeswoman for the UK Green Party.




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