Debt cancellation without chaos – a programme for the Occupy movement?

Oct 16, 2011 11 Comments by

“And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.”(Matthew 6:12 – King James Version of 1611)

Debt forgiveness is in the news and beginning to circulate as an idea which might be a solution to the financial crisis. In the UK, premier David Cameron got in a mess when headlines claimed that he intended to say that people should pay down their debts. Of course, most would love to do so, but can’t as they don’t have the money to pay them back. It prompted remarks in newspaper articles like this one in the London Observer, by William Keegan:

“The nation’s credit card debt is £67bn. So why does the government not copy Solon the legislator (circa 638BC-558BC), who cancelled all debts, and wipe out that credit card debt? Cheaper than quantitative easing…”

http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2011/oct/09/david-cameron-macmillan-chancellor-in-trouble?INTCMP=SRCH

The next day, Keegan was followed by George Monbiot writing in the Guardian about the threat of a depression. He took up the ideas of critical economist, Steve Keen, and called for a Jubilee – which means a unilateral write-off of debts.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/oct/10/stop-another-great-depression-debt

Jubilees occurred in some parts of the Ancient World every 50 Years – e.g. in Mesopotamia c 2000BC. For those who have a copy of the Old Testament they can find a description of a Jubilee in Leviticus 25.

Similar ideas calling for a Jubilee have begun to appear in the USA too with the suggestion that it could help kick start the American economy:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/erikkain/2011/10/05/could-national-debt-forgiveness-help-kickstart-the-american-economy/

This is important because the “Occupy” movement is growing fast and is looking for simple ideas that people could get behind to resolve the debt crisis. It seems inevitable that the idea of a debt write-off will grow and in this article I suggest a way in which a Jubilee could be administered effectively and fairly. For let us be under no illusion: merely writing off debts leaves a few problems and isn’t even that fair. As a simple solution on its own it would it leave the banking system broke and thus no payments coming out of the cash machines. And people like me, who have never been in debt in our lives, would wonder why people who had been reckless and imprudent with their money were being rewarded and not those who had been more cautious.

Despite the reservations and problems there is a way that it can be done fairly. There is an approach that would leave the banking system to some degree intact and I want to describe it here. I will then go on to suggest that after the banking system is cut down to size through a jubilee it should have its wings permanently clipped so that it cannot get us into the same mess again. However, before describing this solution, let us get a proper understanding of what the problem is. Why is it not possible just to unilaterally cancel all debts?

Getting out of the Banking Catch 22

Key among these problems is that a large part of the bank sector would go bust. There seems to be a Catch 22 here which has politicians and officials going round and round in circles. This problem is that if the banks collapse there will be no money there when ordinary people put their cards in the cash machines or try to pay with these cards at supermarket check outs. Since almost all of the money in circulation is created by banks when they lend it follows that almost all the money is backed by debt. If you cancel the debt this bank money is backed by nothing. The banks would go bust and would not be able to pay out when you put your card in the machine in the wall.

So, if we want to have a functioning finance system, then at the present time we must keep the banks healthy. That’s a nice situation for them to be in and they are using ths dilemma at our expense. They can gamble on developments in international finance markets and if they win they keep the profit. If they lose then we pay – because they have to be bailed out by taxpayers. But this clearly cannot go on because now the taxpayers in some countries are on the hook for so much that states are going bust too – and, guess what, banks are gambling against those states going bust…..

To let this continue to happen is crazy. As Steven Keen argues in the second edition of his book Debunking Economics

“When borrowing is undertaken to speculate on asset prices debt tends to grow more rapidly than income. This growth causes a false boom while it is happening, but results in a collapse once debt growth terminates – as it has done now.

“Though borrowers can be blamed for having euphoric expectation of sustainable capital gains, in reality the real blame for Ponzi schemes lies with their financiers – the banks and the finance sector in general – rather than the borrowers. That is blindingly obvious during the Sub-Prime Bubble in the USA, where many firms wilfully wrote loans when they knew – or should have known – that borrowers could not repay them.

“These loans should not be honoured. But that is what we are doing now, by maintaining the debt and expecting that debtors should repay debts that should never have been issued in the first place. ” (Steve Keen, Debunking Economics, Zed Books, 2011, p354)

But Keen then recognises that this would not be easy to implement as it would bankrupt much of the finance sector. So do we come around full circle? Is there a way out?

The answer is ‘yes’. As I have just explained – the current dilemma is that if you cancel debts then the bank deposit money created by lending is no longer backed by anything and the banks goes bust. However, this is solvable if the central bank creates an equal amount of non debt money to replace the deposits that are no longer backed by anything.

Deficit Easing and Debt Cancellation

A few months ago on the Feasta website Richard Douthwaite wrote about an idea call “deficit easing” which is an alternative to “quantitative easing”. Put simply he proposed that the European Central Bank (or any other central bank) create non-debt money and give it to governments to spend. http://www.feasta.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/Deficit_easing_RD.pdf

As part of this idea he suggested that some of the money might be given straight to individuals so that they could either pay down their debts or use it to invest in green projects. This is the core proposal which I think should be suggested to the Occupy Movement.

Note here the additional idea that some of the money created could be used by households to invest in green projects. This is an important part of the scheme for reasons of social justice and ecological efficiency. It is not only the banks who would not be too happy if ALL debts were simply cancelled. The fact is that some people are very much in debt, some people are only a small amount in debt and some are not in debt at all – like me for example. There are many reasons for this disparity and I dare say that in my case it was partly good fortune – for example I did my higher education at a time when there were student grants and not loans. However, I am not in debt because I do not own a house, I do not own a car and in fact I own very little. I do not have a consumerist lifestyle. I don’t mean to be ‘holier than thou’ but, at least in part, the reason some other people are deeply in debt is surely because they took on the consumerist values which are so damaging to the ecology of the planet and also because some of them burned their fingers speculating. To use the more moralising terminology of Adam Smith, some of the debt is by “Prodigals and Projectors” and their use of finance has not been good for the economy or the environment. Bailing each individual out for up to the full amount of their very different levels of debt does not seem to me very fair either – and might even be seen to reward prodigality and recklessness.

Instead we need a scheme with a pattern of rewards and incentives that is more appropriate to the times that we live in. This could be achieved by giving people the wherewithall to reduce their debts if they have debts, but also giving the same amount to people who have no debts, or have low debts, which they could use too – not on a consumption binge, but on green investment to bring down our ecological debts (the carbon intensity of our lifestyles).

So how would this be organised?

Here’s how it might work (in the UK – you could adapt it to your country if you don’t live in the UK).

Every adult individual gets a voucher for, say, £25,000 (in the UK) – or some other sum……

On the voucher it explains that the voucher can be used by the person to whom it is addressed in one, or both, of two ways:

to repay debts or money owed to any lender organisation or company in the UK registered with the Financial Services Authority – all such lenders will be obliged to take early re-payment on receipt of a voucher up to the whole value of the voucher, or whatever percentage of it that the voucher holder wishes to use for debt repayment purposes. FSA registered lenders receiving re-payments with the vouchers can then claim cash from the central bank which will be paid into accounts set up for them at the Bank of England.

and/or

the vouchers could be used to make payments for invoiced services or products for energy efficiency or renewable energy work from companies or organisations already existing as at October 2011 which are also part of recognised industry trade associations like the Energy Systems Trade Association, the Federation of Environmental Trade Associations, the Energy Institute, the Renewable Energy Association etc. Some people do not own their homes so alternatives would be needed too – for example allowing people to invest in bonds that support renewable energy development. The green economy sector could be invited to submit proposals for what would qualify.

The requirement for these to be pre-existing organisations registered with trade associations is to prevent cowboys getting in on a bonanza. Over time proposals might be worked out for accreditation to allow new firms to set up with suitable skills. Companies wishing to apply for this work, or source of capital, will be obliged to register their interest with their trade association and will submit proof of payment of a voucher or part of a voucher to their trade association which will maintain an account with the Bank of England.

Vouchers must be presented for repayment of debts within so many months of receipt of the voucher.

Vouchers (or parts of vouchers) used for energy efficiency, renewable energy work or investment in clean energy can be redeemed over a longer time period – as it would take time for suppliers to gear up and increase their capacity to deliver.

In his article Richard Douthwaite suggests that if governments are timid lest this kind of money creation and money use sparks inflation, there is the option of doing it in incremental stages. So, in my example, this might mean something like £10,000 per individual now , £10,000 next year, and £5,000 the year after, with the state and monetary authorities feeling their way. If a recession or a depression is starting the creation of new money would be no bad thing to help to prevent the downward slide. When banks do not lend and people and companies are paying back their loans they do so by using their deposits to pay back to the bank so the money in circulation actually falls and deflation sets in. The process described would work against this.

When the central bank redeemed the vouchers they would do so by paying non-debt money into accounts of Financial Services Authority registered lenders at the central bank. So bank assets in the form of loans would fall but bank assets in the form of money reserves at the central bank would rise by equal amounts. There would now be £25,000 more than previously in each individual’s account, equal to the non-debt money created by the central bank.

The bank reserves of newly created central bank money would be inactive and not in circulation unless and until the banks lend it out again. On the other hand households whose debts were reduced would now be paying much less in debt service charges and be more inclined to spend a higher proportion of their income.

So the banks will find themselves with lots of cash but far fewer remaining loans outstanding from households. Because the banks make their money through loans the profitability of banks would fall – but they will still be solvent as they will be sitting on lots of cash. Unlike a straight bank loan write-down this will mean that most banks would probably survive. However, they would shrink in size and importance as their importance is based on the debt they own. If debt is being paid off their power would shrivel. Conversely the burden on households would be reduced – although those imprudent enough to borrow very large amounts would still be on the hook for some of their earlier borrowing.

At the moment quantitative easing is not leading to increased lending to the real economy by the banks because economic activity and confidence is collapsing. The banks fear to lend and businesses fear to borrow. So the part of aggregate macro economic demand which was based on debt creation is no longer there. However, with this scheme aggregate demand would be be lifted because people would be relieved of their debt servicing costs and because of their spending of some of the vouchers to transform the energy sector.

This scheme could also be combined with policies like Cap and Share which would give an even more powerful direction to the post-Jubilee economic transformation. With Cap and Share carbon is driven out of the economy by demanding that fossil fuel sellers have permits for all the oil, gas and coal that they sell. There is a ceiling set on the number of permits and it is brought down over time so the amount of carbon allowed to enter the economy when fossil fuels are sold is forced down. This is made palatable for the public because when the limited number of permits are sold to the energy suppliers most of the money from the sale of the permits goes to them, the public, on a per capita basis.

This would give the banks a clear direction for their new lending when they restart after the Jubilee – but not operating in the way that they did before. This must not be allowed to happen.

Having brought the banks down to earth they must permanently have their wings clipped so that we do not have this situation arising again. There is a famous quote that we should take to heart. It is from a 1927 lecture by Sir Josiah Stamp who became Director of the Bank of England in 1928, though the veracity of the quote has been challenged:

“The modern banking system manufactures money out of nothing. The process is perhaps the most astounding piece of sleight of hand that was ever invented. Banking was conceived in inequity and born in sin . . . . Bankers own the earth. Take it away from them but leave them the power to create money, and, with a flick of a pen, they will create enough money to buy it back again. . . . Take this great power away from them and all great fortunes like mine will disappear, for then this would be a better and happier world to live in. . . . But, if you want to continue to be the slaves of bankers and pay the cost of your own slavery, then let bankers continue to create money and control credit.”

Whether Sir Josiah Stamp really did say this, or not, it nevertheless contains an important truth. If people repay their debts to the bankers but the banking system remains in its current form, within a few years we would probably be back in the same situation again. A permanent solution is needed and that permanent solution is provided by applying and adapting ideas currently being put forward by the Positive Money campaign in the UK. ( http://www.positivemoney.org.uk/ )

The Positive Money Campaign makes a number of proposals but the one which concerns me here is the one that takes away from bankers the right to create money when they lend. What this would mean, if implemented at this time, is that the cash that the bankers now have from repaid debts could be used by them to make loans – but it would not be allowed for them to “leverage” it. It could not be used in a fractional system to create ten or twenty times the level of credit and new money that they were left with after the Jubilee.

No doubt that banks will scream and shout and protest at ideas like this. But they should be grateful that they would be allowed to receive a pay-back payment for cancelled debt at all. In the new arrangements they would have to risk their money if they then lend it out again. If they wanted to lend the “pay-back money” out again the accounting procedures would be different. When they lent it that money would leave their accounts and enter the accounts of the borrower. They would get it back when the borrower repaid. It would not be possible to lend a multiple of it as is the case at the moment. (Footnote 1)

In conclusion

The main problem at the moment is the very high level of debt plus the deep uncertainty and the lack of a common direction and orientation for economic activity. An ecological jubilee and cap and share would solve that.

This is explained here in a rather long winded fashion for the technically minded but it can be summed up much more punchily. If one is trying to get ideas into a mass movement then one needs to have slogans or phrases for short leaflets not essays. The slogans to match what I have said would be:

Create non debt based money – and use it to help the 99% pay down their financial debts and/or to reduce their energy costs

Or

Create Non debt based money – and use it to help the 99% pay down their financial and/or their ecological debts

Or

Bail out people not banks. Create money to pay down the people’s debts and to spend on energy transformation.

Postcript

After writing this article Andy Ross pointed out to me a Financial Times article by its chief economics commentator, Martin Wolf. There is a certain similarity in ideas because MW proposes “credit easing” through money creation to give each person in the UK £1,250 – however there is clearly a crucial difference in magnitude.

If one imagines someone with £25,000 debts, paying 5% rate of interest then Martin Wolf’s £1,250 would pay their debt interest costs for a year. The proposal here is to make a substantial difference to write down their debts – not to leave them unchanged and pay off service costs for one year. For the record the average debt owed by the individual in the UK, including mortgages, is circa £30,306.

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/f4d3fdce-f42f-11e0-bdea-00144feab49a.html#axzz1asPYJ1JL

Note: Those who might want to use or adapt a more agitational leaflet on the same theme can download it from here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1C9LkTf4h-Wqzw_ITod2qpX-Mhp8qkDFSSDZ8mf5M6no/edit?hl=en_US

Footnote 1: I am aware of an issue raised by critical economists like Keen, which criticises common misperceptions about how credit and money is created by the banks. This misperception is called the money multiplier and describes a process as if banks only extend credit, creating deposits, after the central bank has created new reserve money – whereas the truth is that the central bank creates new money as reserves to accomodate their private banks credit creation. However, this would be a unique event and situation. What is being said here is that, in these unique conditions after a Jubilee of the type described, and without further reform, banks would be re-starting with high levels of reserves and very few loans and would then likely expand following a money multiplier process if business conditions generated by the energy transformation allowed them to.

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Featured image: Occupy Wall street spreads to Portland. Author: S51438. Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Occupy_Wall_Street_spreads_to_Portland.jpg

Disclaimer: Feasta is a forum for exchanging ideas. By posting on its site Feasta agrees that the ideas expressed by authors are worthy of consideration. However, there is no one 'Feasta line'. The views of the article do not necessarily represent the views of all Feasta members.

Commentary, Discussion Paper

About the author

Brian Davey trained as an economist but, aside from a brief spell working in eastern Germany showing how to do community development work, has spent most of his life working in the community and voluntary sector in Nottingham particularly in health promotion, mental health and environmental fields. He helped form Ecoworks, a community garden and environmental project for people with mental health problems. He is a member of Feasta Climate Working Group and former co-ordinator of the Cap and Share Campaign. He is editor of the Feasta book Sharing for Survival: Restoring the Climate, the Commons and Society, and the author of Credo: Economic Beliefs in a World in Crisis.

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11 Responses to “Debt cancellation without chaos – a programme for the Occupy movement?”

  1. derfel cadarn says:

    The hole in this plan is the renewable energy provision. “Green energy is a pleasant fantasy,but is in no way practical in the real world as those living in the UK can attest. The sun only shines so many days and shockingly does NOT shine at night and there are days on end that the wind does not blow. Other than half your premise the idea has merit. But subsidies by proxy for the non-starter green industry (corporations)was what the cretins in the Occupy movements were against.

  2. Adrian says:

    I think this is an excellent idea. I well appreciate the issues surrounding debt based money. I recommend readers watch http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vVkFb26u9g8. I haven’t seem any other solutions which enable us to ease our way out of the current predictament.

    Of course no doubt lots of people would complain, not least the banks and I can’t see politicians going for it – yet anyway. But people would clearly benefit from it so I think its quite sellable.

  3. gillies says:

    it does not really matter whether debt is forgiven, or dumped out unilaterally by default. same result.

    if , one sunday night, debt repayment is looking dodgy – by monday morning, that’s it. no more credit.

    the price of diesel might halve – but don’t cheer too soon. it will be cash in the hand only. where will you replenish your wallet ?

    the country now has no debts – and 24 hours to balance the budget.

    it doesn’t matter if you have no debts / overdrafts / loans / mortgage. the price of property in a cash only market is peanuts. no one is very interested in ‘security’ for a loan. it is a cash only environment. or a punitive rate of interest to cover the mounting risk.

    so asset values melt down. cashflow is all. do you produce milk, beef, potatoes – or bake bread ? life in the city becomes intolerable. life in the country becomes primitive. there is heavy security around farmers’ markets.

    it is not a moral question, it is a cascading collapse of trust.
    ‘please do not ask for credit as a refusal may offend.’

    the globalised empire has declined, and fallen, overnight.

    it’s called the ‘limits to growth’ . . .

  4. gillies says:

    people insist upon seeing money as a commodity. it is not.

    if a farmer delivers milk to a creamery – and purchases feed, the money is just an account of who got what. chalk marks on a wall will do, if there is trust.

    when there was no money in ireland, there was still an economy. who owed what to whom was regulated by kinship and custom.

    the advent of money made transactions at a greater distance possible. the first money being gold and silver – commodities used as money. (money is only a measure.)

    it doesn’t matter much who issues the money, as long as the money can be spent again by the recipient, and again. what matters is when the money loses touch with the actual goods produced in the economy – then you get inflation. sometimes disguised as rising asset prices.

    also people who earn money, but produce nothing useful, are non contributors to the economy. again, this does not matter much until they become too numerous or too successful

    if there is no money, we go back to the early mediaeval economy – at least until we work out new local systems.

  5. gillies says:

    this is my slogan : (sign in window.)

    ‘this shop supports the debt free money system.

    – no credit.’

  6. Brian Davey says:

    Adrian writes about “cretins in the Occupy movement” which I think says a lot. As it says in the Talmud – we do not see things as they are but we see things as we are. So Adrian obviously lives in a world where there are intelligent and well informed people like himself and “cretins”. As one of the inferior cretin types that he loftily critiques I’d like to suggests that he actually takes the trouble to find out a little more before he rejects renewable energy out of hand – the intermittancy problem is obviously well know and a lot of work has gone into addressing it. There are various partial solutions but they are not ideal. I wasn’t claiming panaceas just options better than extreme climate change and living in a world without energy sources at all.

    As for Gillies I’d make much the same point – the global empire will indeed fall because of limits to growth – virtually everyone reading the feasta blog knows that. The issue is whether it is possible to semi-manage the descent in a way that has a modicum of social justice about it and which makes it any less chaotic than it will otherwise be. Unless by asserting the right to social justice and organising around it can you get the trust that you speak of.

  7. gillies says:

    i would be afraid that some will interpret ‘social justice’ as equality – while others will interpret ‘social justice’ as the producers being those who most deserve to consume. in other words a modern version of the communist / fascist polarisation of the thirties ? there will be social tension – that has to go somewhere, has to find some outlet.

    whoever seeks to manage the descent, has to balance and manage those forces in society, also. that is a big ask.

  8. Brian Davey says:

    Apologies to Adrian as it was Derfel Cadarn who made the remarks that I criticised.

    To Gillies – indeed – there are different ideas of social justice – the idea that producers most deserve to consume excludes “useless eaters with lives devoid of value” as the fascists described them in their deathmaking logic – in other words the old, the sick, disabled people, children of minorities….that’s the way that barbarism creeps into societies in serious economic crisis. You say that its a big ask – but its the difference between a society worth living in or barbarism – because at some times in their lives EVERYONE AND ANYONE is dependent and unable to produce. In this respect it is worth noting as regards health expenditures one third of the cost of a health service is spent on people in their last year of life – (or that’s true of Germany so probably roughly the same in other developed countries). So will today’s young people, be prepared to spend that when we have trashed their future?

  9. Oswald says:

    Excellent contribution. I am writing about similar issues. I have to say, although I too am worried about sustainability issues, I think there is little gained by linking the debt issue to it now. To push the necessary debt reform we need a broad base of support. The money system reform will increase the chances of better environmental practices for a number of reasons, so it is crucial just to get those changes first. Tying the two issues together narrows the base on this issue greatly and will confuse many as well.
    This and similar plans which leave some existing institutions in place, and some debt, are still treating symptoms and not root causes. The system can and should move to a completely non-credit monetary system (as described by Yale economist Irving FIsher in the 190s). A completely new system would have no place for the type of debt that exists now. It is true that this is in some ways not perfectly fair for some now, but that is one last infliction by the old system on a class of people now. Overall, the benefit of a fair and transparent system (including in aiding greatly in sustainability even without the calls for some kinds of green vouchers) would be worth it. Any sufficiently effective changes in the current system will cause some unfair side affects. But completely starting over with a non-credit driven system will PRIMARILY hurt the ultra-rich, and it is the only move that will lead to a truly stable and fair long-term monetary system.

  10. Tim says:

    An interesting idea, but many possible problems.

    1) Would the vouchers be tradable? It is hard to see how this could be prevented, especially how you could prevent the selling of “bonds for renewable energy development”. Even if they could somehow be legally tagged to individuals, those individuals could compensate by selling other assets of the same value, which comes to the same thing. If people sell the vouchers, they in effect have had 25k of cash as a free gift. This would be *very* inflationary. If it’s inflationary, then the scheme will ultimately be paid for by pauperizing savers, e.g. persioners on fixed incomes. Brian Davey says that inflationary effects will be avoided by doing the program gradually, and stopping as soon as inflation arises. So, wouldn’t the program stop almost immediately, before any significant debt cancellation has occurred?

    2) As I understand it, everyone gets an equal voucher. Although the average debt per person is 30k, many owe far more than this. A lot of debt is mortgages, which are often many 100ks. So a large portion of debt will not be eliminated. OK, some will, but will the amount be significant, compared to the inflationary risks?

    3) Will the people who receive these vouchers include: recent immigrants? foreign nationals (it might be illegal not to include nationals of other EU-states)? prisoners (don’t infringe their “human rights”!)? fat cats? expats who pay tax in the UK? These questions are just details, you might say, but they will have an effect on whether the public agrees the scheme is “fair”.

    4) Do children and young adults get these vouchers? Nice for families on benefits with 10 kids!

    5) Nice too for those lucky enough to live in areas where 25k goes a long way. Not so great for poor people living in London.

    6) Oswald thinks it’s a shame to link green issues to the debt one. I agree, but for the opposite reason. The link with green issues makes debt jubilee harder to sell. There is a wide-spread view (and I am not knowledgeable enough to say if it is correct) that a lot of green spending is inefficient. Dumping 100s of billions of pounds of extra spending on any industry overnight is inevitably going to make any inefficiency worse. The owners of the existing firms will be billionaires, and your rules to prevent “cowboys” entering the industry, maximise the profits of those already in it. In summary, linking a debt jubilee to Greenery makes the scheme seem like fantasy, not something voters will vote for. That’s a problem if you want elected politicians to implement it.

    Therefore, while regretting derfel cadarn’s use of the word “cretin”, it seems to me he makes a valid point, and that the vouchers should be available for investment in a wide range of industries, including the manufacturing industry Britain needs to diversify away from financial services. That’s not a very green conclusion is it? Sorry.

  11. Brian Davey says:

    These are interesting. However – a propos the possibility of inflation – my response would be: So what? This proposal is to avert a debt deflationary melt down in which millions of people are ruined. Richard Douthwaite, whose ideas these originally were was never afraid of an inflation because he felt that as oil and energy prices rose there would be relative price changes as energy became more expensive so energy intensive products would rise relative to energy light products. In his view it was better to let that happen in an inflationary environment so that all prices went up and energy intensive product prices the most. Attempting to hold the average price level stable during this adjustment would be powerfully destabilising/ Of course an inflation is also a way of reducing a debt burden – and from the point of view of the general populace the fairest kind of inflation is one in which the extra money in circulation goes into circulation through everyone getting an equal amount.

    You refer to residual debt and that would help reduce it. It was never my intention to get rid of all debt whatsoever – that would have a powerful moral hazard (get out of prison free) effect.

    On some of the other points.

    Why insist the residual (non-debt pay down component) is green – because the situation in relation to the climate is absolutely desperate, as is the situation in relation to oil depletion. Any responsible government will be putting all its focus in the future into preventing a limits to growth crisis. Chris Martenson has suggesteed that by 2013 peak oil will be globally acknowledged – if so by then no sane person will be denying the need to capitalise a massive transformation programme – though there may be no idea in the conditions of debt crisis how to do it. Having a general across the board splurge on “getting growth going again” is pure irresponsibility.

    “Dumping 100s of billions of pounds of extra spending on any industry overnight is inevitably going to make any inefficiency worse.”

    That is pure assertion. Prove it. It is not necessarily true that big programmes led by states are always failure – that’s market fundamentalist propoganda. Ha Joon Chang in his book “23 Things that they don’t tell you about capitalism” gives lots of examples of where states, working with and guiding the private sector, have made successful developments in Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, France, Finland, Norway and Austria. And we desperately need a state backed energy transformation with plarge scale public involvement at this time.

    I haven’t gone into detail about what the energy bonds might look like but we need hundreds of billions to capitalise the energy transformation – giving people a share in energy bank would make sense and probably be on requisite scale. If just 10 million people were to get £25,000 each (because they did not fall into the group of people who had debt to pay down) then they might get that it in a way that would capitalise a Green Investment Bank with £250 billion. That would probably be about the right figure to start with when you consider this from the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee:

    “The UK has a legal commitment to reduce its carbon emissions by 2050, and also to generate a higher percentage of energy from renewable sources by 2020. The Committee on Climate Change and others have called for a ‘step change’ to deliver the new low carbon infrastructure required to meet these targets. The scale of investment needed is unprecedented: most estimates range between £200 billion and £1 trillion over the next 10-20 years. Traditional sources of capital for investment in green infrastructure can only provide £50 to £80 billion up to 2025, leaving a funding gap running into hundreds of billions of pounds.”