Is it really possible to create a money-free exchange system? Join this latest experiment
Open2019 gave us a chance to reconnect with Dave Darby of Low Impact, also a collaborator on CtrlShift. For those who are not familiar with Dave’s journey to understand money, we fully recommend his substantial blog ‘My Mutual Credit Journey’. Here’s an excerpt:
There was always something nagging at the back of my mind – that nothing’s really going to change as long as we have a money system that sucks money from ordinary workers, homeowners and taxpayers and continually dumps undeserved and enormous amounts of wealth into the banks. When I saw Jem Bendell’s talk on theMoney Myth, it made me believe that actually, there must be a way to build an alternative money system based in communities, and not controlled by the banks..
Dave’s journey takes him through explorations such as Tim Jenkin’s After Capitalism, Matthew Slater’s Credit Commons (and more recent ongoing experiments with mutual credit in an Athens ‘anarchist enclave), ’Tom Greco’sThe End of Money, Bendell and Slater’s Money and Society MOOC which led him to Will Ruddick’s Mutual Credit scheme in Kenya. You’ll need an afternoon off to get up to speed.
Even so we asked Dave to drop us in at the deep end of a UK based collaboration between OpenCoop’s Oli Sylvester Bradley and Low Impact, called Open Credit Network (OCN). Here’s Dave’s text:
What is OCN?
It’s a new money system that is being built by a group of rebels, innovators, coders, finance specialists and academics. A system that:
• isn’t based on debt
• doesn’t charge interest
• doesn’t belong to, and enrich banks
• doesn’t belong to, and enrich the state
The seminal book on the subject of mutual credit is Tom Greco’s The End of Money and the Future of Civilisation. Tom is now in our advisory group; as is Matthew Slater, author of the Credit Commons white paper, which contains a plan to connect mutual credit schemes all over the world to create a global moneyless trading system.
Why are we doing this?
Because we’re headed in a very dangerous direction. We don’t believe that we can prevent ecological, and therefore civilisational, collapse as long as the current banking system remains in place.
Meanwhile, the state gives banks monopoly control over the money supply, and in return, they receive loans from the ‘magic money tree’ of zero-reserve banking, and the global debt mountain grows and grows.
We don’t have to settle for a global economy dominated by multinational banks and corporations. We can pledge to trade with each other, preferentially, by guaranteeing to be each other’s suppliers and customers.
2/3 of us are employed by SMEs (small- and medium-sized enterprises) – they form the backbone of the economy, but find it incredibly difficult to obtain bank credit. It’s just not worth the admin, risk and small profit potential for banks. Mutual credit can help solve this problem for SMEs.
How does it work?
Businesses (and eventually, individuals) get an account. When you buy from someone else in the network, your account goes into debit, and the person you buy from gets the same amount of credit. No money changes hands. When you sell, you get credit, and the buyer goes into the same amount of debit.
There are limits to how far you can go into credit or debit.
No-one can receive credit without someone else getting exactly the same amount of debit. So even if the system encompasses the entire world, all credits equal all debits, and it all balances at zero.
There is, therefore, no value inherent in the system, and so there is nothing to extract and to accumulate in tax havens, nothing to corrupt the political system with, nothing to create multibillionaires. This is the crucial, world-changing point.
The OCN is a co-operative that will include the businesses that are members of the network. We will also use free / open source software. This approach is very important to us. We’re not in this to extract profit from our members, and we don’t want to be secretive.
We want to make our systems freely available for anyone, anywhere, to set up an open, co-operative network, that can then plug into the Credit Commons.
Is it realistic?
One thing is for sure – there are big upheavals coming in the global finance system. What we don’t want is for Facebook’s LibraCoin to take over, and to transfer control of the money supply from undemocratic banks to undemocratic Facebook.
We want to democratise the global finance world via the Credit Commons. But can it work? Well, it already is working. Here are a few examples (there are many more):
• Sardex is a business-to-business credit network in Sardinia, run socially (i.e. for more than just profit), and restricted to SMEs. There were trades worth the equivalent of over 40 million euros in 2017 – on an island with the population of Birmingham!
• The WIR Bank started in Switzerland during the depression between the wars. In 2005 there were trades equivalent to 6.5 billion swiss francs (about £4-5 billion) – but with no money involved.
It works in extremely poor areas, because lack of money is not a barrier to trade. The idea is spreading via Grassroots Economics to parts of Kenya and South Africa.
What you can do
Right now, we’re looking for expressions of interest. Small business owners can click the ‘express interest’ button on the OCN homepage, and they’ll be added to the list of businesses who have already signed up.
Then, pretty please, can you help spread the word – re-blog this article, tweet, like, share – in fact tell anyone you know who owns or works in a small business.
We’re holding a public event in London on July 18th (7-9pm), and we’d like to invite you to come along. You’ll get to meet the team, and to hear what we’ve been up to, including Oli’s recent visit to Sardex, and the launch of our new directory for participating businesses.
You’ll also get to ask questions, and to hang out with lots of interesting people, who will also be attending.