Fair Green Money

Feasta’s Money group is heavily influenced by the thinking of the late Richard Douthwaite (economist and co-founder of Feasta) particularly as developed in his book The Ecology of Money. It believes that the fact that conventional money is issued as a debt means that economies have to grow continually if the financial system is to remain viable. This continual growth is clearly unsustainable and so the group, in collaboration with partners in Ireland and abroad, has been exploring ways in which money can be put into circulation without anyone needing to borrow it first.

A second, but equally important, focus of the group stems from our belief that borrowing to buy a house or to finance a business will prove disastrous for both parties if incomes shrink as energy supplies contract as a result of resource limits – such as difficulty in accessing high-quality oil – and the intermittent (and relatively inefficient) nature of renewable energy. We have therefore been exploring new ways of providing finance. Some of our ideas can be found in the book Fleeing Vesuvius, and in a series of articles by Graham Barnes on the Feasta blog (which are listed below).

In 2021, our ‘Banking on the Community’ webinar, organised in collaboration with the Cork Environmental Forum, focussed on public and community banking. We are planning a second collaborative event in 2023 which will have a more top-down focus, exploring the changes in overall dynamics that are needed in order to green the financial system and make it more just and stable.

In April 2019 we made a submission to the Irish Department of Finance on the potential for community banking to build resilience in local economies and help in the transition to a growth-neutral economy.

With regard to reform of the existing financial system, Feasta supports Sensible Money‘s communications on sovereign money (SM are Ireland’s sister organisation to the UK’s Positive Money group, and like them belong to IMMR, the International Movement for Monetary Reform). You can watch videos and read summaries of the presentations of a conference that Feasta and Sensible Money organised in Dublin in 2013, called the Money Mess, here.

Feasta’s Caroline Whyte attended the IMMR’s conference ‘The Future of Money’ in Frankfurt in November 2018, and published a report on it here.

Feasta also formally supports Claiming our Future’s work pushing for the introduction of a Financial Transaction Tax (the so-called Robin Hood tax) in Ireland, and participated in strategy meetings. Graham Barnes wrote a blog piece supporting the case for FTT for its positive effect on financials stability and rebalancing the economy.

Current interests also include the development of innovative capital financing options for renewable energy projects with the goal of avoiding the burden of compound interest and redirecting the 45% saved into more productive first use; and the visualisation of data to add impactful insight to the flow of money in a specific sub-economy.

On the alternative finance track, Feasta worked in 2016 and 2017 with NUI Galway and Cultivate on the Irish Research Council supported project the Cloughpenny. This project had dual aims – of creating a prototype blockchain-based currency for the 15 inter-trading communities in the Cloughjordan ecovillage and organising a one-day conference in the ecovillage on Blockchain and Sustainable Communities. This involved research into both emerging blockchain ‘middleware’ aimed at making the somewhat arcane underlying platforms of Bitcoin and Ethereum usable to communities, and in the articulation of community needs for innovative Intentional Currencies.

A prototype based on an Ethereum-fork was delivered in June 2017 and acted as a focus for a number of subsequent meetings at the ecovillage to discuss the terms of use and governance of the project. A co-ordinator for the project based at the ecovillage was identified and a work programme agreed pending allocation of funding.

The project was also presented to UCD’s Coding Value team, and initiated a number of important international conversations with leading innovators in the Mutual Credit space, including Sardex in Sardinia.The group has also contributed to a number of other events including the 2016 Liverpool conference of the Guild of Independent Currencies, the Dublin conference on Banking and Monetary Reform and the panel discussion on sustainability at the Irish Film Institute after the showing of Demain in November 2016.

The group continues to field calls regularly from local activists seeking to explore the potential for local currencies to aid local economic development, and assists wherever possible in the scoping, research and detailing of such explorations, seeking to moderate early-stage energy with hard-won experience without dampening enthusiasm. We also host a lively Facebook discussion group with 95 members from around the world.

Limits to Incentives

Means of exchange are never neutral as orthodox economists assume. Intentional Currencies respond by being explicit about the values they seek to promote and the outcomes they seek to achieve. An analysis of the use of incentives in currency design helps to guide that design. It also indicates strategies to utilise incentives to motivate intentional communities, NGOs and other volunteer-based organisations. By Graham Barnes.

The strange idea of negative interest

This article by Graham Barnes addresses the role of demurrage (negative interest) in the design of new currencies. But it takes a roundabout route with diversions around the zero and negative interest rates being currently applied to fiat money; and a detour via positive interest which is itself a stranger idea than we have been led to believe. It suggests that demurrage is worth a place in the designer's kitbag, but not for the reason normally postulated.

A Financial Transaction Tax (FTT) for Ireland

If implementation of an FTT is indeed a no-brainer, as suggested at yesterday's launch in Dublin of RobinHoodTax.ie, it is because of its potential influence in creating a more stable and balanced economy within a fairer society. These may not be the lead messages of a campaign featuring the #MakeBankersPay hashtag and emphasising the dogoodability of FTT tax receipts. But arguably they should be. By Graham Barnes.