27 November 2007
I have long cherished a vision of how a caring, sustainable economy will replace corporate capitalism. I imagine a hacienda set deep in the South American jungle. It is covered with graffiti and has broken windows--markers of previous violent attacks which failed. But the jungle is more persistent and powerful than the colonial power and green tendrils creep around the building and through the windows until it is completely overwhelmed by nature.
I was reminded of this vision when I first heard Rob Hopkins talking about bringing productive trees and plants into the city. Why shouldn't our verges and parks throng with whortleberries and wild strawberries? Here in Stroud the town council has agreed that in future trees planted in the town should be fruit-bearing. We already have one of our main cycleways planted as a linear orchard, preserving local apple species and providing fruit and conviviality in the autumn
Shortly after I read about Havana's organiponicos, or urban gardens, often roof gardens, I gave a talk in Birmingham called 'Who Will Feed the Cities?'. Walking back to the station through the urban moonscape that is central Brum I began to imagine the car parks filled with productive raised beds, and vines and fruit trees trained along the brick facades.
It has cheered me no end to see a similar vision being shared by advertising creatives. I first noticed the Baxters Farmers' Market soup advert, where the urban cat is replaced by a piglet and a bride's bouquet is made of carrots. This was followed by an advert for E-On where giraffes invade the office and a beaver is found in the water-cooler.
It seems to me that this is the opposite impulse to that which continues to drive well-paid executives into the countryside, which they immediately neutralise and suffocate with their 'city ways'. How welcome to see an invasion of the city by revolting peasants and their filth. Tweet
24 November 2007
22 November 2007
19 November 2007
In his excellent book Money and Liberation, Pete North describes the struggle to maintain democratic control of the issue of currency in the post-Civil War US. Farmers organised against the 'tyranny of organised capital' and called for democratic paper money rather than the gold-backed money which allowed elites to dominate the economy. Their struggle culminated in the presidential race of William Jennings Bryan as Democratic candidate in 1896. He lost to McKinley, whose campaign had been supported by the plutocrats who reordered US capitalism and tied the dollar back to gold.
In the 1930s, following the collapse of this phase of capitalism, farmers in the South and West of the US again responded by producing their own currencies, known as 'scrip issue'. Nobel Prize-winning economist Irving Fisher supported this development, as did Upton Sinclair in California. His End Poverty in California movement promoted scrip issue as a means of exchange between co-operatives.
In the US today complementary currencies are more about ecological imperatives than poverty, but from Berkshares to Ithaca hours they are providing inspiration and underwriting alternatives livelihoods.
Given this history we should perhaps not be surprised that last week FBI agents raided the offices of the Liberty Dollar in Evansville, Indiana and confiscated the precious metals used to back this local currency. The activists who created it are reacting against the link between the dollar and global hegemony and war, as well as sharing the general loss of confidence in the dollar as reserve currency. Confidence in the dollar is falling globally and several of the nations who are bankrolling the US by buying government bonds could pull the plug on the whole US economy at the time of their choosing.
Aside from control there are sound financial reasons why bankers wish to keep control of the issue of the money we need to function in a complex economy. Conall Boyal has calculated that, if the Chancellor took the seignorage on money created by private banks there would be an extra £80bn. in the UK kitty. At present this money stays as bank profits. See more here: http://www.conallboyle.com/housing/SeigniorageBromsgroveoct07v2.ppt#22Tweet