Published by Green Books, The Future of Money restates much of James Robertson’s thinking around monetary reform and brings it bang up to date in the context of the Euro crisis. It focuses a great deal on the arguments for governments reclaiming their right to issue money from the banks, and the enormous potential benefits to society of so doing. In a sort of ‘what I tell you three times is true’ fashion Robertson repeats and restates from different angles the underlying arguments, but the repetition does not grate and may indeed be very helpful for newcomers to the territory.
What does grate slightly is the conspiracy feel to the book. In Robertson’s view the fundamental dysfunctions of the monetary system – its inbuilt transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich; its role in accelerating the over-exploitation of planetary resources; and its smoke and mirrors concealing complexity are ‘unspoken purposes’ by means of which we are kept in our place by the 1%. Whether this is true or whether the money system ‘just grow’d’ piecemeal into the dysfunctional animal it is now (as he catalogues later in the book) is not really important. It needs fixing and fixing quickly and the conspiracist mindset may get in the way of effective action.
But this is a minor quibble. The book is an easily readable narrative in two parts – Understanding the Money System and Proposed Reforms. The first provides a short 20 page history of money followed by a section underlining the fact that the money always carries associated values, implicit or explicit and exploring the ethical implications of this fact. The second suggests the shape of monetary reform in a context of other ‘companion reforms’ including Georgist Land Value Tax (replacing income tax and VAT) and citizens income as a primary money issuance channel. Robertson does outline how these reforms hang together and mutually reinforce but the complete vision is for a far reaching economic redesign.
If there is an omission, it is in the lack of any acknowledgement of the conflict between money’s exchange and store of value functions, but this might arguably have diverted the book from its clear purpose of communicating the monetary problem to the interested citizen.
In a final chapter, Robertson uses the quote that ‘capitalism is the exploitation of man by man and socialism is the precise reverse’ (where is this from?) to distance himself from politicking – wisely since the contents are relevant across the political divide. That quote is about the only un-referenced quote in the book, which has excellent notes, references and onward reading suggestions for those wishing to drill down a bit further on the various topics.
From Green Books £14.95 or downloadable as PDF on surrender of email address. Highly recommended.
Featured image: euro coins texture. Author: Christa Richert. Source: http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1390419
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Graham Barnes is a Currency Innovation Strategist. He is a Director of Feasta and co-organiser of the Feasta Currency Group. He holds a PhD in Computer Science and worked at a senior level in IT and online marketing in a previous life. His current projects include the design and delivery of currencies to be sponsored by a local authority; by a social entrepreneur to complement and enhance a well established sustainability methodology; and by a restaurant chain.